Yost Theater Whitewashes Its Own History When Not Telling Outright Lies

In the next couple of months, you're going to hear and read all about the grand reopening of the Yost Theater in downtown Santa Ana, that old structure most famous in the Orange County story for serving as the focal point for Latino life for decades--but not anymore! You'll hear stories about how its debut after a couple of years of refurbishing (this, after nearly 25 years as a Pentecostal

Latino church that let no one in who didn't believe in the Rock) points to a "renaissance" of SanTana, that it'll inject energy into a "vibrant" area and all those other buzzwords the Brave New Urbanists have used to celebrate the de-Mexicanizing of the area.

Most reporters will rely on the words of the Yost's boosters or a quick Google search, will accept their version of history verbatim. Too bad that version is riddled with errors when it's not outright lying or hiding the true story.

The Brave New Yost, getting ready for its closeup
The Brave New Yost, getting ready for its closeup

Just look at the theater's history, currently compiled on the Yost's website. Composer Ernest Ball (who wrote "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling") did die at the Yost, as the theater states--but onstage, not in his dressing room (can't always trust Wikipedia!). It was Louie Olivos Sr. who owned the Yost during its Spanish-language heyday, and while Vicente Fernández and Antonio Aguilar did star in hundreds of movies between them, they were brought to the Yost to perform their music, as they were first and foremost musicians. And it was Louie Olivos Jr. who brought in English-language acts to the Yost, and the Olivos clan the very people whom Dennis Lluy's current patrons ripped off in a move that ruined the family, a move Lluy characterized as necessary.

What's even funnier about these errors is that the Yost wouldn't have existed all these years if it weren't for the Olivoses helping to keep downtown Santa Ana alive long after gabachos largely abandoned it. For all this, they get an error-filled bullet point? WEAK SAUCE.

The most telling omission and errors comes with the Yost's relationship with the Centro Cultural de Mexico. The website states the Centro "hosted the first cultural event at the Yost after the theater had remained dormant for years" in April 2008--when, in fact, the Centro had opened the Yost anew in November 2007. I know this because I was there both times, serving as an MC for the April 2008 event. I remember taking a walk through the Yost before that evening, from its dressing room to its offices, from the massive upstairs open space to the tiny box office. Then, the Centro was excitedly planning to move its cultural center into the Yost, with the blessings of owner Irv Chase. There were meetings, hopes, promises.

And then Dennis Lluy of Koo's Cafe fame came in--and not out of nowhere. As he admitted in a Riviera interview, Santa Ana's fathers approached him with the idea of swooping into the Yost after a Los Angeles Times article announced to the world Chase wanted to reopen it. Lluy worked himself into Chase's world, leading to an uneasy working relationship between the Centro and Lluy; eventually, Chase sided with Lluy and left the Centro hanging, a move santanero lifers view as the city's second betrayal of the Yost and a complete sellout by Lluy given his Koo's days. Somehow, this didn't make it into the official Yost history--thankfully, there's a documentary that did get all that.

RIP, Fatty
RIP, Fatty

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Forget the Aztlanista shit, though. The New Yost's biggest sin deals with the movies. To try to make it even cooler for the Brave New Urbanists, who love nothing more than a bit of scandal and vice, the Brave New Yost mentions that silent-screen god (and former Santa Ana resident) Fatty Arbuckle once performed there. "In what was one of the first Hollywood scandals," the website breathlessly states, "he was later arrested and tried for the murder of a young starlet named Virginia Rappe."

Way to piss on Arbuckle's grave, Brave New Yost! Although Arbuckle did get tried for Rappe's death, any Film Studies 100 student at Orange Coast College knows Arbuckle faced three trials for the alleged crime and wasn't convicted in any of them--two mistrials and a final acquittal--and that the true guilty party was the Hearst press who demonized the mild-mannered Arbuckle. Arbuckle is one of the saddest cases in Hollywood--but who cares about the facts when you have a new ruse to sell?

All the above facts, by the way, are very easy to ascertain--but who cares about the past when there's a beautiful day ahead of us? The Brave New Yost opens in early May--prepare the hype machine. Now, excuse me while I go barf.

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