The Tejano Entertainment Network


It is April 16, 1986 and on a stage set up in a San Antonio
shopping center parking lot, I get my first introduction to Tejano
music. On stage performing that evening is a group of young
people mesmerizing the audience of about 100 people with their
singing, dancing and gyrations. It is the lead singer's birthday …
the crowd sings in unison … wishing the female lead singer a
happy fifteenth birthday. Selena and her family are performing
before a crowd that will one day remember her every move, her
every song and every smile. I quietly start up my camcorder and
videotape this new artist and youthful group. The music is fresh
and new, a definite Latin flavor with a Top 40 beat. A rough
looking man walks up to me and tells me that I cannot videotape
this performance. I do not know who he is but he sounds very
convincing. I pack up my video camera and continue to enjoy the
music. It is later when I review my 30 minutes of videotape that i
realize that the woman singing is very special ... very captivating.
I later find out that the man at the concert was her father, Mr.
Quintanilla. First impressions tell me that he is the man in charge
of this group and his word is "the word." It is my first of many
confrontations with the Mr. Q. Even now as I play back that first
videotape of Selena, I am in awe. This new artist was at this point
actually a seasoned veteran having been performing in South
Texas for six years. After the concert, I approach the group
backstage and I am amazed that Selena really doesn't speak much
Spanish. Almost all of the music I had heard in the last hour had
been in Spanish!

Several months pass … I am called to La Bamba, a local club in
Dallas Texas, to videotape a Selena concert and to provide a
videofeed for television monitors throughout the club. Again … I
meet this young star. The group arrives early in the afternoon to
setup their instruments and perform a sound check. Selena has
just received the "Female Vocalist of The Year" award at the
Tejano Music Awards, a category that she will dominate until her
death. Through the years, her concerts at La Bamba become sold-
out events. Her on-stage dancing and moves make my videotaping
very difficult. She never stays still in one spot … always moving …
gliding … always dancing. Mr. Q is impressed with the digital
effects I add to the live feed and he and his son talk backstage
about using effects like that for a possible music video.

It is the staff of La Bamba that convinces Mr. Q to allow the local
Spanish language radio station to broadcast one of Selena's
concerts live on the radio. He is very reluctant, stating that he
fears the sound mix and quality will not be good enough to
broadcast. On their next visit, the radio station is ready to
broadcast the concert. Selena performs her first set and Mr. Q
hasn't allowed the performance to be broadcast. Right before the
second musical set is about to begin, he gives the go ahead to
broadcast. Engineers at the club and the radio station rush to
complete the communication links and with little warning to the
listening public, Selena's performance is broadcast live from La
Bamba. For the next 45 minutes, my cassette recorders are
receiving the broadcast … it is awesome… another piece of Selena
memorabilia that I will cherish forever.

It is now the 1989 and Selena is signed by EMI/Latin. She will
produce many gold and platinum albums for EMI, including a
Grammy in 1993 for the "Best Mexican American Performance"
for the Selena "LIVE" album. Her popularity soars.

Selena performs at a Quinceñera in Dallas, Texas. It is here
where I see fear in her face for the first time, as twice during her
performance, young men from the crowd jump up on the stage and
try to grab her for a kiss and/or dance. Mr. Q quickly stops the
show and announces that the show is over if anyone tries to
approach Selena again. Selena restarts the performance and the
celebration continues without further problems.

I am called to a local television studio to photograph a new artist
that will perform on a midday television variety show called
"Noches Latinas." Yes, it is Selena. During the taping of the show,
my 35mm camera jams and it will not work. I have lost all the
photographs of the performance and I am forced to sit in with the
studio audience and watch the live broadcast. Again I am in awe
of this performance.

Selena now becomes the main act at almost all of the Tejano
concerts throughout the Southwest. I see her at various functions
and she invites me into their tour bus "Bertha" to show her my
picture albums. She enjoys looking at all of my pictures of the
various concerts and special events I cover. She tells me that this
is the only way she can see what her fellow artists look like since
she is always performing herself and does not have time to attend
other events. It is during one of these visits that she proudly
shows me a "little surprise." She displays a beautiful dress which
bears a label on the back collar … a label with the "Selena" logo.
She tells me that this is one of the many things she has designed
and that she is considering opening a boutique in Corpus Christi to
sell her own fashion line. She is so excited … it is something she
feels she has accomplished on her own. She is very proud of the
little label.

It is now Cinco De Mayo and a celebration is held at Fair Park in
Dallas, Texas. It will be a few hours before Selena performs, so
we spend time backstage talking with several members of her
family. Selena carries a Chihuahua dog … it is the family dog …
named "Dino"… it is like her baby. It is at this concert that I learn
that a few weeks ago she has married Chris Perez, a member of
her band. Her Mom speaks of the heartache and despair that Mr. Q
has experienced because of her decision. All appears calm among
the family members, but Selena and Chris remain apart from the
others throughout the afternoon. She has broken many young
men's hearts … but now she is experiencing real love.

I travel to Houston to cover the "Tejano Superfest" concert held
at a local racetrack. Again Selena will be one of the last
performers. She spends the day backstage meeting and greeting
fans, fellow musicians and reporters. She never refuses anyone
and she continues for hours. Her smile never wavers and she
poses for a thousand pictures so it seems. Mr. Q and Chris remain
always near but do not intrude on her space. It seems that there is
a serious security problem ... there are more people backstage
than in the audience ... so it seems. Nevertheless everyone
behaves and the show continues. She asks me a question that
surprises me … "What is your favorite song?" … I answer back
quickly, "the Keys song" … she is confused … "the Keys song???"
... "Yes", I answer back," ... you know … Ya Vez !!!!!" … she
smiles and slugs me!

It is not the only time she slugs me ... we are backstage at Artist's
Square in Dallas, waiting for the stage hands to finish setting ue
stage for her closing performance. I am drinking an ice cold Dr.
Pepper … it has been a very long day. She walks over to me and
slugs me ... making me spill my D.P. … she says "that stuff will kill
you" and hands me a can of ice cold Coca Cola. I will always
remember that mugging! Siempre Coca Cola, Siempre Selena.

Perhaps the beauty of Selena as a woman could be seen at every
appearance and performance she made at the Tejano Music
Awards in San Antonio. It was here where we saw the beautiful
gowns and dresses she had made especially for the awards. She
was a very different person at the awards. She was the "Queen of
Tejano Music ... La Reina!"

The late October breeze sweeps across the record attendance
crowd of over 65,000 people at the State Fair of Texas. They
have come from all parts of the Southwest to see Selena perform
one more time. This will be Selena's last performance before her
fans here in Dallas … but no one can sense that. Her private tour
bus arrives and parks a few yards from the stage. The bus
nameplate reads, "NO ONE YOU KNOW" … it is ironic that within
a few months, many will know her name, see her face and finally
hear her music. Before Selena takes the stage for this historic
performance … Mr. Q orders and demands that all photographers
and video cameras be removed from the stage. He points at me
and says, "You can stay ... but don't get in the way." I am relieved
… how lucky can I be??? I begin snapping away … my camera
hums as I try to capture this moment for history. Selena's band
begins the music and Selena hides behind the massive
loudspeakers and begins singing "Como La Flor" … the crowd
cannot see her, but they recognize the voice … within seconds she
jumps out to center stage and begins what will be the concert I
will always remember as her best … her last. With the freedom to
move about the stage during the performance, I try to capture the
excitement, the thrill, the sensation on film … the pictures speak
for themselves. I took over 100 photographs of the concert that
day … and all remain unpublished except for one ... photographs of
a Superstar ... for the next generation.

As I sit at my desk … I am stunned of the reports that are coming
out of my little Sony TV sitting on the corner of my desk.
Univision, the Spanish language television network, is beaming
live pictures from a motel in Corpus Christi where Selena's
alleged killer is held up. The telephone rings off the wall as friends
and associates call to confirm the rumors or news. Several friends
stop by the office to view the events as they unfold live before the
television cameras. We are in shock … no words can describe the
feelings and emotions that we are experiencing as we hear of the
death of a dear friend.

It is not until months later when I visit that same motel in Corpus
Christi that the reality finally sinks in … she has died. I visit her
home and I am surprised to see the fence that surrounds her
house covered with flowers, notes, posters and messages to
Selena and her family. The sidewalks are covered with poems,
letters and words of comfort written in chalk, magic marker,
florescent paint, crayons and pencil. It is a touching tribute from
her fans, neighbors and admirers. A quick stop at the Q Production
Studios … it appears empty and locked up ... but in the fenced
parking lot I notice a red Porsche, the new tour bus and several
big trucks with Selena's likeness next to the Coca Cola symbols
we have all grown accustomed to. Never again will the bus or
Porsche carry Selena to her destination … it is a sad and
disturbing sight.

22 years later .. I sit here still in disbelief that we have lost such a
wonderful friend. Her accomplishments in Tejano music have yet
to be matched. I lost an amiga I am glad I had the opportunity to
know and meet … a person I could call "friend" … in my heart ..
she will always remain close and her smile will always stay in my
mind. With every Selena song I hear, I am reminded of those days
we took for granted … all we have now are "fotos y recuerdos." -
John Zapata