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Suave sets the record straight 

Now I'm bothering Gerardo. My life has fallen into a decade-old time warp. For those paying attention, I apparently left my heart somewhere in 1991, and am back peerlessly to venge the victims of that year's heaviest rotation: Bryan Adams, Milli Vanilli, now "Rico Suave" himself -- Gerardo. Except Gerardo has avoided my phone calls for two weeks, which means I can't possibly be nice. "Es Gerardo, leave a message," is all I've heard until now, and the message is clear. I'm out to get him.

Earth to Gerardo! Can you hear me, Gerardo?

"Definitely, man. I'm on the freeway. I'm straight!"

Ooooh, bad start. Clearly, he means the freeway is straight, or his head is sort of on straight. Or something. So, what's the word? Why, oh why, is there a new Gerardo album imminent 21 years after he last scored gold with the single "Rico Suave"? And did I mention that the album is called "Fame, Sex y Dinero?" Somebody call the Spanglish police!

"One of the reasons is because, in '91, it was an idea for me to come out with a record 10 years after 'Rico Suave' came out," he nonsenses. "And, um, I had friends -- people in the industry, A&R people -- saying, 'Hey, dude, you gotta do something!' So the idea was to come out with a single for a compilation on Universal. So we did. It started getting some play, so the people at Thump Records were like, 'Why don't you finish an album?' I was like, 'I don't think I can. I don't have the time.'"

You don't have the time. That's like me saying I don't have a drinking problem.

"I also do A&R at Interscope Records," he finds time to say. (He's responsible for recent hit signees Enrique Iglesias and Bubba Sparxxx, natch.) "But they kept on coming at me, and finally I was like, 'Let's do it.' So in three months I got the record finished."

"So why didn't you sign yourself?" I hedge, aware that this is not a very good album ... at all.

"I have the people that work there, like the radio-promotion people that work my artists," he deflects. "It was just going to be really awkward to say, 'Why isn't my record playing!'"

Because that would have nothing to do with the fact that it really, really, really isn't very good. But then, neither was "Rico Suave" when you think about it. I should stop thinking about it.

"I was a young cat giving it a shot, you know," he purrs.

You were cocky.

"Of course. You gotta come out making noise.

The whole thing was that it was this character, this 'Rico Suave' character," he deciphers. "It was the right moment. There was nothing else like that coming out."

There's a reason for that, dear.

"The people who are doing it now, like Ricky and Enrique and all that, they see me as like the pioneer, you know," he knows. "The godfather of the crossover."

Dubious. Dubious at best.

"But this is the last album I will ever do. This is it," he decides.

"This is the last album?" I fret, tiny tears rolling suavely down my sunkissed cheeks.

"This is it baby."

Baby? Did you just call me baby?

"Watching the artists I deal with on stage, the bug kind of hit me again. ... But you know, I've got a family now."

"How old are you?" I flirt.

"I'm 36," he thirty-sixes.

"Do you still look the same?" I quiver.

"Yeah, you can say that," he flexes. "Except I don't have the long extensions and the bandana."

Wait a minute; that was all you had. That and a cut-off flannel situation masking a nearly perfect physique. Coooh.

"You didn't get fat or anything?" I double check.

"No. I'm working out hard," he sweats.

"People expect me to look like that still. I had a sixpack for years."

A sixpack lasts me about half an hour. Which was about the length of your career, no? "Do people still know who you are?" I stomach crunch.

"Still to this day, people recognize the thing," he things. "Especially Anglos. You know, 'Rico, Rico, Rico,' how can I hate that? It's part of my life."

Oh, Rico. Did I mention how much I love Puerto Rico? (He was born in Ecuador.)

"That's like my island, man. It's so funny. The new `single`, 'Still Rico,' it's so blowing up over there," he explodes. "I go there like twice a year, because there is a lot of talent coming out of that little island."

"I hear you're allowed to drive drunk down there," I offer, because I do.

"Oh, man. You can walk around with a drink in your hand anywhere," he stumbles. "It's out of control, but it's a lot of fun. The people there are so, so great."

So I hear. Anyway, when did you know that you were "great"?

"The moment that I knew that things were really big, I was in Minneapolis, and we did the Special Olympics."

I like where this part of the conversation seems to be going.

"I opened up for Prince, and I was like in heaven," he boasts. "And then, after that, Prince invited us to his house. In his limousine, going to Prince's house, was Warren Beatty, who was my idol, because he was the biggest pimp of all time."

Of course, dear.

"So, it was me, Warren and Kirstie Alley. I was looking out the window going, 'Damn, I finally made it. It can't get any better than this.'"

It never will. You're straight.

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