George Lopez: New Host for Playboy Jazz Festival

Ed Hamilton on comedian succeeding Bill Cosby as the event’s emcee

For the 35th Playboy Jazz Festival’s press conference at the Playboy Mansion, a new sheriff was in town and he was a low-rider with Mexican flare. Senor Jorge Lopez, aka George Lopez, was introduced as Bill Cosby’s successor to continue Cos’ 35 years hosting the 2-day festival. Cosby has given the Playboy ears to George who will wear them over a sombrero.

Why George, some say? George and Cos have similar credentials. George had the first Latino comedy show on network; Cos was selected by producer Sheldon Leonard on the first network dramatic Show-I Spy and The Cosby Show. George had the George Lopez Show-the first Latino show in Prime time. And like Cos, he’s done standup and recorded comedy albums, has a philanthropic organization and is dedicated to children's education.

When George was asked about being selected, he quickly said, “That weekend is going to be amazing. I’m a huge fan of Playboy and never been to a festival. It’s an honor to be associated with Playboy and with such a wonderful genre of music—jazz. We’re celebrating Q’s [Quincy Jones’] 80th birthday at the Playboy this year. A tremendous honor. We got a call from Cos asking to take over and he said, ‘Don’t let the musicians into your room ‘cause they will drink all your drink and eat all your food.’ I’m excited. With that much talent in two days—all day watching it go from Saturday and Sunday to dark. Jazz, the whole weekend: Q’s Birthday,Herbie, Sheila, Poncho. We’re gonna cover the whole spectrum of jazz. And we gonna have a big party.”

Headlining Saturday and Sunday will be George Duke featuring Jeffery Osborne; Naturally 7 with Herbie Hancock; Poncho Sanchez’ tribute to John Coltrane-Ole Coltrane with James Carter; Angelique Kidjo with Hugh Masekela; and singer Gregory Porter--Sunday Taj Mahal, Bob James and David Sanborn; India Arie; Brubeck Bros’ salute to their father Dave; Sheila E.

In tandem with celebration of 35 years of Festival jazz is Darlene Chan, producer for 35 years, and Nina Gordon, publicist.

Darlene Chan’s on the exhilaration of being the sole producer since 1979: “I am honored at being the sole producer of the festival. I’ve been doing it since the beginning. This is the 35th year and it’s still great with great support from Playboy and great support from the public And my hopes are that it goes way beyond when I’m gone.”

Nina Gordon’s response to her 16th year as publicist: “I’ve been associated with Playboy about 16 years. A long time, lots of fun. I’ve always like jazz since I was a kid; and when I first started, I promoted a small jazz club in Beverly Hills. We are so excited that George Lopez is going to be our new host for the 35th anniversary festival, June 15 and 16 at the Bowl. Everybody should come on down. It’s gonna be a great show—Sheila E, Herbie, Naturally 7—a lot of great groups. So we hope to see everybody there.”

Poncho Sanchez, Lopez’ compadre (he and George are not from El Este- East L.A., but Norwalk and Mission Hills---both suburbs in L.A.) is the first Mejicano Playboy Jazz Festival artist and has 15 years on Lopez as new host: “Oye Como Va…we gonna party and present Ole Coltrane, this Spanish John Coltrane music with outstanding reed man James Carter.”

George in closing: “It’s gonna be off the hook. You know when Bill Cosby anoints you, we’re trying to find a new pope. This is your equivalent to that of jazz---Q’s birthday, 35th anniversary and Father’s day and I don’t have a pop. I’m very excited and love Bill to death. I’m excited about being here. I will do my best to make Bill proud.”

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Ed Hamilton