In November of 1978 when I was living in Oxnard, Sonny and his brother, Rudy, came to my house looking for me, but I didn't know who they were. They told me they were doing a show in the area and wanted some local assistance with it. At that time I was not at all involved with the magazine. I was more of a promoter on the entertainment scene, and I was doing all the dances for the local car clubs. They were looking to do the show in November of '78 but decided to postpone the show until May, in time for Memorial Day weekend. I asked them if there was anything that I could do in the meantime, and I started delivering the magazines in Ventura County for them. In just three months, I tripled their route circulation from $900 to $2700 in sales. Basically we already had a built-in or captive market from dropping off the flyers for the dances and car shows we were promoting, so I just followed my old route and redeveloped it to work for the magazine.
With the success that I had in Ventura County, they asked me to help with Los Angeles and San Fernando. I started to go further and further, moving into Central California, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, San Antonio, River Grand Valley, Austin, New Mexico, Denver, and wound up circling back into Phoenix. Eventually, I created the beginnings of sales development for the magazine, and we really set up and established a strong subscription route for the magazine.
At the time I didn't know how to use a camera, so I used to set up photo shoots for different photographers that I would take with me. Unfortunately, some of the photography was marginal, and not fit for print. Sometimes, the photographer wouldn't show up at all because he was out partying the night before, or even worse, he would end up paying more attention to the girl we were shooting than the vehicle itself.
Little by little, I started developing an interest in photography and tried learning from anyone I could. Robert Rodriguez, one of the key photographers for Lowrider, finally taught me how to use a camera in 1979. The first picture that I shot was in Glendale, Arizona, of a 1962 Impala nicknamed "The Deuce" that the magazine had bought from Lifestyle Car Club. The image appeared as a two page spread in Lowrider and was the first color picture that I took. Then, a German magazine named Auto Rarity came to the U.S. and visited Lowrider to purchase some images. After going over thousands of images, they eventually printed eight images. My color image of the '62 was the biggest one, and this really inspired me to further my eye for photography and improve my skills.
I used to follow the "pisca," as Sonny used to say back in the '80s, meaning that I would follow the harvest into Arizona. While I was there, I was able to cultivate the market and concentrate on building and promoting the Super Events Super Show. We just recently celebrated our 30th anniversary show. This show is like a reunion, as there are some attendees that have been coming every year for 25 years. We have people from Texas, Los Angeles, New Mexico, Las Vegas-all engaging in dialogue with each other and becoming long distance friends to the point where some clubs have developed chapters just because of the Super Show. We call it a carnalismo or brotherhood.
I was fortunate enough to work with Sonny Madrid, who had the vision. Because of that, I developed the equivalent of a Harvard degree in lowriding. I learned a lot from Lowrider Magazine-it taught me different skills, communications, aspects of public relations, photography techniques, marketing tools, and showed me different perspectives of life and our culture. Through Lowrider Magazine I was able to learn to work with different groups, whether they were corporate, car clubs, or even politicians. It taught me that I could accomplish different things on different levels with different individuals. I realized something that I didn't understand in my youth-that I could be all I wanted to be if I took the right risks combined with a little bit of vision.