Reprinted with permission

instru1.gif (27352 bytes)Albert Torres, The World’s Most Famous Latin Entertainment Promoter

By Edie, The Salsa FREAK

There’s no place like LA, no place like LA Salsa clubs, and no one who ensures who makes it happen like Promoter Albert Torres.  Albert Torres lives, breathes, and thinks about Latin entertainment 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Thousands of people buy tickets to attend his world-class events and concerts.  Dancers talk and rave about the “extraordinary” time they had at his clubs all week, anticipating and checking his calendar for the next “extraordinary” evening they’re certain to have.  

Albert’s secret? 

His number one priority is taking care of his most cherished clientele...
The DANCERS.

What good is Latin music if you don’t allow anyone to dance, or make it so difficult for them because of poor location, floor, or sound system, that dancers literally cannot dance there?   You’ll lose your clients, your band, and your reputation.  I’ve seen it happen, first-hand. 

Albert is one of the few promoters in the world who caters specifically to the dancers. A dancer himself, Albert not only realizes that dancers are much more sophisticated and intelligent than most spectators, but also how fast rumors and word-of-mouth advertising can spread amongst them.  He understands their excitement, their desires to self-express, their passions, their thirst for knowledge, and their sophistication. 

Albert pays exquisite attention to detail.  His staff is dedicated to making sure his clientele get world-class treatment.  Whether it’s his event, or someone else’s, it’s no secret Albert will go the extra mile to ensure the dancers, performers, and bands are well taken care of, and treated with respect. 

Albert Torres takes the word Responsibility to a different level.  He’s in your face if the dance floor is not up to dancers standards.  He’ll turn down a club offer if it’s in a questionable neighborhood, keeping in mind the many single women whom he ensures their safety at his clubs.  He’ll make sure the atmosphere is well lit enough so dancers won’t fall because of a missed lead in a poorly lit club.  Years ago, when smoking were still allowed in Los Angeles, he never allowed smoking in any of his clubs.  His clubs are impeccable, his bands are spectacular, the instructors are world-class, and his reputation, spotless. 

Often referred to as a ruthless businessman, Albert Torres is one of the fairest people you’ll ever meet.  Albert grew up in New York City, the product of a tough and harsh life, with painful lessons and experiences that explain is hard-earned wisdom.  Now a clean, non-drinker and non-smoker, Albert Torres has won the respect of his peers and clientele all over the world.  A man of his word, Albert’s impeccable reputation sets him far above and beyond other promoters. 

As the world shrinks with the advent of the Internet, and as Latin Entertainment continues to reach all-time highs, more and more dancers who travel the world, realize just how hard Albert works.  Until you leave LA, you don’t truly appreciate his clubs, or what he offers the dancer, performer, and bands.  When you get back, you want to kiss the ground he walks on.

I’ve taught and performed Salsa in seventeen different countries, and not a single promoter anywhere in the world comes close to Albert Torres’ standards of excellence and quality in Latin Entertainment.  My hat goes off to he and his dedicated staff.  Like Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”  Thank you Albert, for taking care of us here in LA.  You’re the best. 

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very proud to introduce to you, The World’s Most Famous Latin Entertainment Promoter, Mr. Albert Torres….
 Interview By Edie, The Salsa FREAK

 

How long have you been promoting Latin Events?
On the West Coast, for between seven to eight years.  I used to go to places like Miami Spice, and a few other smaller clubs that I personally didn’t feel very comfortable going to.  Even as a guy coming from the streets, because of how dark it was, you didn’t know if you were dancing with someone’s ex wife, and you didn’t realize it.  Before, there were other clubs, like the Shark Club that I enjoyed going to.  There was certain amount of dancers that were just starting to get going. 

In my first year of promoting there were more and more people showing up at these clubs.  I saw Josie, the Vazquez brothers, and Cheryl Bush frequenting these clubs.  Rojellio was just starting to come around as well.  Josie was starting to teach with Pedro.  Then Jerry Najarra starting promoting the Mayan, and it was a progressive snowball that just kept growing and growing, until it became the monster it is today.  Watching Edie, The Salsa FREAK eventually getting so into it, then creating Salsaweb, and getting it off the ground.  Salsaweb was very instrumental in getting what was happening in Los Angeles to the world. 

 

Why did you choose Los Angeles, instead of New York or some other big city?
I had been living in Los Angeles for about 12 years.  When I started looking at the Salsa scene, I had lived in San Francisco for about two years.  I started getting sober, and I looked at myself, gave a hard look at myself, and when I went to various clubs, I noticed that LA was known everywhere as a dead city for Latin music.  There had never been any promoters or producers that were former dancers that could really work for the dancer instead of just screwing over dancers.  I remember walking into the first Bacardi Salsa Congress in Puerto Rico, and I remember saying, “I won’t let any of the dancers dance on that stage”.  I care about the dancers.  Most promoters that are not dancers don’t really care about the dancers.  One of the ways that I started getting known was my Descarga events.  It gave a means for the public to see the talent that we had here.  It opened up a venue for private events and parties to hire dancers.  This was never heard of before I started promoting out here.  I merely opened up an opportunity for people to really show their talents. 

The interesting part is that the public appreciated it more back then.  Now, when they see so many great dancers out there, they give me hell for displaying dance troops or exceptional couples on the floor.  I think people are no longer starting to become not as appreciative of the talent that they have here.  Maybe they are getting so used to seeing extraordinary talent, that they’re not easily impressed anymore.  I don’t believe the public appreciates anymore, the amount of time and effort it takes to put a routine together.

What does Los Angeles have to offer that other cities don’t?
For me, LA is my home first of all.  I will continue to live here until I transition to whatever next world I end up going.  When I started promoting, it was like virgin territory.  I wanted to put Latin music in a respectable form.  Back then, when you said the word “Promoter”, it has a negative tone, like they did drugs, or were pushy.  I wanted to be able to take this kind of virgin territory that really wasn’t respected worldwide, and make something special of it.  Today, I just received three phone calls from different bands who want to play here.  They know that they are respected here, and can sell CDs here.  In fact, I had a gentleman come up to me and was in tears.  He said that for so many years he was involved in Rock en Espaniol.   He never appreciated this type of music.  He got angry and started crying when he heard this music, affect his soul.  He was disappointed that he missed out on so many years of this incredible sound.  Los Angeles needs to be more educated in the history of Salsa and Mambo.  For example, I’m honoring Cacao this year.  Not that many people really know who he is.  He was the first man who created the Mambo notes in 1938. 

There comes a time in our life when we can’t do the moves that we used to be able to do.  The kids are doing moves that we used to do, even better.  We have to, as dancers, figure out what to do after the dancing moves on to others.  David Melendez for example will be talking about his studio, and how he’s been able to sustain it for ten years.  God knows that there are fewer and fewer people who know who Hector Lavoe is, or Beny More anymore.  My goal is to educate the people about the history of the music.  If I had to write a mission statement, it would be somewhere along the lines of, “We have to walk the talk, by educating our youth about the history of our music so that we can enjoy it in the present and be able to take it to the future.”

Every week, I see a little girl, about three years old.  She can’t wait till Sundays at the Boathouse.  Every week she can’t wait to start dancing.  When she went outside on the patio, and wasn’t able to dance, she started to cry.  When her parents brought her inside, where she could dance, she started smiling and laughing.  There were at least six strollers there one Sunday.  A lot of people ask me “Why do you open up a place, and let kids come.”  My answer to that is that it’s not about the money, I don’t charge them.  I’m willing to take the risk of bringing kids (accompanied by an adult), because they are our future. 

If I didn’t allow kids, we would have never allowed the Johnny Vazquez’s, or the Stephanies, or Cindy’s or the Olivia’s, or the Carolines, the LA Salsa Kids, or Rumba Brava’s or any of the other dance companies.  They came to the first Congress, and they just sat there and watched in amazement.  One year later, they performed there.  You see, it’s about the “kids”.  Our future. 

If the kids are dancing on a Friday night, that means they’re not on a street corner. 

What made you decide to become a promoter? 
About 1993, there were some circumstances happening in my life that I have been open about.  I wasn’t using substances or drinking, but I was gambling on a daily basis, sometimes with money I had and money I didn’t have.  I worked at a treatment center helping people.  I was in denial of my own illness, which was gambling.  Unfortunately, because of my gambling debts, I took money that was not mine.  I didn’t want to live.  I was in so much shame that I considered suicide.  I needed to look inside myself.  I was in a marriage that lasted about a year and half.  I needed to move from a beautiful home.  Everything on the outside looked good but I was dying on the inside.  I went to a twelve-step program, and I spoke to a few people that gave me hope.  They said that as long as the money I took could be paid back, it didn’t matter.  They told me, “You don’t need to take your life, you don’t need to run and you don’t need to hide.” 

I can truly say that seven years later, September 20th of each year, I celebrate a birthday of not gambling.  All of the money I took has been paid back.  It is about to be taken off my court record.  The judge that originally sentenced me was really happy about this.  The judge started chuckling when he saw my name on this huge marquee on the 405 Fwy the other day.  It was on a sign in a gambling facility that said “Albert Torres Productions, Inc Presents…” where I am promoting Latin Entertainment in Los Angeles.  

If you put half the energy you used in getting high, and using drugs, you could do anything in the world you want.  We have a saying, “You’re as sick as your secrets.”  By sharing my experience I can allow others to see that they’re not the only one that’s going through it.  If I can be of any help, call me, I’ve been there.  Seven or eight years ago, I would have never of believed that I could live the life I have today.  Believe it or not, I was homeless, I was hungry, I thought I was a total failure.  In the first 3 to 4 years of promoting, people were intimidated of me.  The reality was that whatever anger they saw on my face it was only out of fear on my part.  I was very insecure.  I didn’t know how I was going to pay my rent the next month.  I had so much fear, that it came out as anger.  Today if I get angry, it’s more out of a feeling that someone is not respecting me.  I know that when I wake up every day, that day I’m going to do the best I can to promote Latin Entertainment. 

Describe what it was like to change people’s lives with dance therapy during drug rehabilitation
I helped put together some sober dances.  They weren’t Latin dances.  They were the music of that day, like the Disco era.  Many of the people that attended these events were able to stay sober.  But on the other hand, I buried over 65 people who just couldn’t do it. Just in the last month, I buried three people that I knew, that just couldn’t stay off. 

What happens is that these people after years of being sober just can’t take a hit anymore like they used to.  Part of the addiction is an allergy of the body coupled with an obsession of the mind.  It is a person that has an addictive personality.  When they use a substance, it produces an allergic reaction in their body.  The allergic reaction is that they want one more.  They need a little more, and a little more each time.  The obsession of the mind is that little voice that tells you “You know, nobody will know, I’m your best friend.  Who’s going to know?  You’re cured now.  No one will know.”  Normal people don’t get that.  But that’s the reality.  People have food addictions; it’s the same thing.  Many people can relate to this in whatever is going on in their life.  All those elements are different seats on the Titanic.  There may be different floors of the Titanic, but the reality is that the boat is going in the same place.  It just may take some longer to get there than others. 

What do you offer that other promoters don’t?
When I look at an establishment, I want my clientele to leave and say, “You know, I really got my money’s worth.”  I want them to have safe parking, the ladies to feel comfortable going there alone, I want a good dance floor, good bands, good lighting, no smoke machines nor strobe lights.  I never allowed smoking in any of my clubs, even before the no smoking law was put into effect in 1998.  

Why do people trust you?
I don’t think they trusted me initially.  Because I was so honest with my past, I’m sure there were those that were judgmental.  But over the years, I’ve always paid my bands, my artists, always walked my talk, and have always done what I said I was going to do.  I live for dancing and promoting events.  I’m always pushing the bands to play more. I ask them to play fifteen minutes more.  That’s when I fight for, “you” the dancers.  They’re going to go tomorrow and buy your CD, because you gave them more than the last artist did.  I always try and give my clients quality.  I always deliver.  I realize you can’t please everyone, but I do my best.  When the public pays for the ticket, when my name is on an event, there will always be dancing.

My mom is a single mom.  She raised me as a single parent.  A lot of my clients are single.  You don’t necessarily have to come with a date.  It’s a place where a lot of singles can come and feel comfortable.  I’ve had many experiences where people have lost a jacket, or a watch, and the next week these items have been found.  There has been very few times where something was taken that hasn’t been found. 

Who has been the most influential person in your life? 
My mom first and foremost.  I love here dearly.  She suffered a lot.  I would not be able to have the life I have today if I had not gotten clean fifteen years ago.  Papa George was another person, who was like a father to me.  He was the first person that I allowed into my life and learned about the words “unconditional love”.  He would make sure I would go to my meetings.  I was going through detox, and getting rid of the substances that I was on.  He was a gentleman here in LA that saw me shaking at these meetings.  He became one of my sponsors in the twelve-step program.  He let me see how to live life on life’s terms.  He taught me about spirituality.  For the last four or five years, we weren’t as close, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for George.  Today, there’s Alicia and Raul.  My fiancé Maya, whom for the first time in my life, I can tell anything to, without any hidden agendas.  I think in the past, I never thought that I could receive such unconditional love like this.  The relationship that I have with my brother and sister is incredible, and last but not least, my relationship with my daughter Torrie, whom I love very much. 

I used to label myself as an egotistical maniac with an inferiority complex.  I’m redirecting my ego as EGO (Edging God Out) to GOD (Good Orderly Direction).  As much as I can be a hard-ass, I can easily meditate about these things and eventually become a better person.  I didn’t start thinking like this overnight.  It took some time. 

How did you and Maya meet?
She saw me MC’ing in Puerto Rico.  She lived in San Diego at the time.  I don’t believe in coincidences.  Coincidences are God’s way keeping anonymity.  She later moved to LA, and saw me again at the Boathouse, introduced herself, and told me she saw me in Puerto Rico, and that she had attended last year’s West Coast Congress.  I kind of brushed her off. 

One day I saw her dancing at El Floridita, and I told Alicia, “Now that’s something I want for my birthday.”  Alicia laughed, but little did I know that those two were scheming a belly dance for my birthday.  The rest is history. 

Besides getting sober, asking her to marry me was one of the best decisions of my life.  Many people see her beauty, but they don’t realize how incredible she is on the inside. 

What other promoters have you admired and have set an example for you?
The number one is Richie Bonilla out of New York City.  He’s promoted some of the top names since the sixties, and I hope one day to be as calm as he is.  I was with him in Toronto for the Salsaweb Convention out there to make sure everything was OK.  He is a man of his word.  He respects me a lot.  We’ve done events together, in Curacao, New York, Japan, Toronto… we’ve been in many cities working together.  He’s been with his wife for forty years.  He always has a joke that makes me laugh.  He’s is highly respected by everyone.  He’s incredibly ethical, and is just an all-around good guy.  I’m really proud to recognize him at the Congress this year.  He will be staying an extra week so he can attend my wedding. 

What do most promoters fail to recognize, prepare for, or expect? 
They forget that sound is really important.  Sounds checks are important.  They need to oversee the level of the music, the quality of the dance floor, and ensure a safe environment.  Sometimes they just want to pack the place and they don’t care who comes in.  That’s why I have Fernando at the door.  He knows people, and knows what to look for.  If he lets someone in that’s questionable, I know about it in five minutes.  Fernando and I have been friends for about ten years.  He used to work the door at Miami Spice.  They were all my acquaintances even before I started promoting.  In fact, I am very proud that he will be my best man at my wedding. 

Where do you plan on getting married?
Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City, CA

What is your secret to keeping such a long-time, dedicated staff?
I think you should ask them. I have not had an employee turn-over since I started. 

What is your secret to keeping such long-time, dedicated bands?
I pay them!  Johnny started out as a friend of mine; last year he did 321 gigs in one year, which is unheard of.  Some paid more than others.  I took ten guys that all had day jobs, and now all they do is play music.  They have their first CD out, their second one is coming out soon.  They knew that I wasn’t just going to come and leave.  What amazes me is some of the promoters that have done events and have not paid my bands.  They leave for two or three months, and come back again to promote, still owing us money.  I have world-renowned bands that sign on with me because of my word.  Whether one person or 1000 people show up, they know they will always be paid. 

What is your favorite part about promoting events?
Seeing the smiles on people’s faces. Seeing children with their parents. Seeing people meeting others.  Seeing people being married through meeting at my events.  Seeing the diversity of all the different nationalities.  It’s like a rainbow.  I love to see the magical three minutes between two people.  I love watching the dancers grow in this environment. 

That’s something that you can’t put a price on.  The more time I spend with people, I’ve learned so much about how Salsa has changed their lives – for the better.  Salsa has been an escape for them; a way out. 

What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
Pleasing everyone.  No matter what you do, there’s always someone that has something negative to say.  Down deep inside I’m sensitive, and it hurts.  What I tell everyone is that if you can do it better, go open your own club.  It’s a lot easier to pay you the $15 at your club, than it is for me to invest the thousands it takes to open a club. 

What was the most successful event you have ever done so far? 
My West Coast Congress here in LA last year. 

What was the most disastrous, “Murphy’s Law” type of event that you’ve ever experienced? 
I haven’t had any real disasters, but most of them have been financial.  The biggest was the Fania All Stars event in 1999.  “All” of the Fania’s were there… Johnny Pacheco, Papo Luca, Ismael Miranda, Roberto Roena, Bobby Valentine, Yomo Toro, and many many more, all flew to LA just for a one night experience.  People flew all the way from Costa Rico to experience this incredible event.  The most incredible legends in history were there that night.  I had a space for 3,000 people to show up, but the people from LA just didn’t show up.  What I was told later on was that half of the public doesn’t know who they were.  Because of this, by means of the West Coast Congress, I always have a section on the history of the music.  This year, Cachao and Richie Bonilla will host it. 

What is the key element that has been most responsible for your success as an Internationally recognized promoter of Latin Entertainment?
Exposure on Salsaweb has certainly helped. Being recognized as the person who worked real hard in the movie “Dance with Me”, Mambo Kings, danced in the Academy Awards, being one of the two couples selected to dance there with Kim Blanc.  Also,dancing with Laura Canellias for the past ten years has certainly been a highlight of my life. 

What is the most important thing to remember about promoting? 
To give their public their money’s worth, and to be honest.  To pay, even when the people don’t come through the door. Even if the result at the door isn’t what you expected, you still have to maintain your commitment to your employees.

What are your goals for the next few years?
To go international with Albert Torres Productions, Inc, co-produce my second event in Japan.  Signing with Guadelupe next year.  Co-producing the East Coast Salsa Congress in August of this year (Aug 17th – 19th), co-producing Amsterdam Holland (June 15th – 17th), in Tokyo Japan (Nov 9th-10th, 2001), as of this interview, my contacts in Cuba are finalizing the details to produce the first annual Salsa Congress in Cuba starting 2002. 

What is your ultimate lifetime goal? 
That has changed in the last year.  Now that I’ll be getting married in June, I would like to have a child, and be able to pass this on to my children.  I would like them to be able to enjoy the beauty of the music and the dance.  If they want to take on the business, that would be fine as well.  Continue to create Unity through Salsa.  It was really beautiful in Guadalupe to see people not even being able to speak the same language, getting together and having a ball.  I was honored there as “The Godfather” of Salsa. 

Any advice for the “budding, wanna-be” promoters out there?
Anything I can do to help them I will.  When you call me, if you are negative, I will help you face the reality of it.  Make sure you walk into your club being able to afford it.  Keep your word.  Be honest. 

What do you have in store for us at this year’s World Salsa Congress in Los Angeles? 
Many surprises!!  For complete details, see my website at www.salsaweb.com/albert

Will this be the largest event you’ve ever organized?
I’m expecting over 3,000 people, 65 dance teams, over 30 workshops, seven live bands, international DJ’s, dancing till 4:00am every night.  Today, my publicist called, and she’s never received so much media.  We already have received more media attention this year than we did at the end of last year’s congress.  I’ve worked a solid ten months on this congress, and have already started for next year’s congress. 

Where in the world, have you been to promote Salsa?  
Japan, Amsterdam, Canada, Curacao, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guadalupe, Cuba 

What are your future plans? 
Hong Kong, Italy, France, England, and Brazil 

If you had to live your life all over again, would you have done anything differently? 
I accept the good and the bad as it’s happened in my life.  I don’t believe I would be the person I am today without having experienced what I’ve been through.  The only thing that I would have changed was if I had done any harm to anyone, I regret that ever happened. I may not be the man that I always wanted to be, or that I should be but thank God I’m not the man I used to be. 

If you had the opportunity to sit yourself down, and have a conversation with your “self”, what type of advice would you give “Albert Torres”? 

Stay open, calm, don’t jump to conclusions, remember to keep taking care of the little boy inside of you, and have fun.  Try not to take yourself so serious. 

 

The Boathouse

By Edie, The Salsa FREAK

The Boathouse on Santa Monica Pier is an all-time favorite for many Salseros in the Los Angeles area.  It opens under the sun at 2:30 in the afternoon with a one-hour Salsa lesson taught by instructor, Laura Canellius.  It ends under the moonlight at 10:00pm, making it the world’s longest-running, non-stop Salsa club.  It is located directly on top of The World Famous Santa Monica Pier, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the city of Santa Monica. 

On a warm Sunday afternoon, one can come with the kids to spend the whole day enjoying the amusement park of the Pier, dine on everything from burgers to seafood, watch the sunset, and dance inside our outside on the Boathouse patio.  Kids are definitely welcome!  From the patio, there is a beautiful view of the mountains against the ocean’s horizon.  DJ Robby jams slamming hard-core Salsa the full eight hours.  This Cuban-born DJ is one of the best in the city.  Spectators and dancers alike are drawn from miles around by the tropical and hard-to-find Salsa music that he plays.  The Boathouse is where I will always go to experience a surreal Sunday, having fun, laughing, and dancing the night away under the soft moonlight. 


The Sportsmen’s Lodge

By Edie, The Salsa FREAK

Sportsmen’s Lodge has been a long-time favorite of many Salseros in the Los Angeles area.  Its sophistication has brought the likes of Robert Duval, Goldie Hawn, Chayenne, and other famous movie stars and artists in Hollywood.  Albert Torres has created this magical Friday specifically for the sophisticated Salsero, who enjoys getting special treatment from the moment they step out of their car.  Valet parking by very swift and efficient attendants is the first treat you receive.  Upon entering through two glass doors, one can find the warmth of a huge fireplace and couches in the lobby.  A winding staircase up to the VERY elegant restrooms gives the dancer a feeling they are in an extremely classy place. 

The ballroom boasts one of the best wooden dance floors in LA.  Huge chandeliers give both dancer and spectator plenty of light to see your partner’s hands and pick up moves from some of the top Salsa dancers in the world. 

The best of the best in talent come here to not only be seen, but to learn from each other.  Talent scouts, Hollywood agents, and producers will often come to find talent for the next television commercial, video, Mambo Kings or Dance with Me movie. 

Dancers are not only exposed to great music from LA’s top bands like Son Mayor, Cost Azul, and Charranga Cabanarra, but fantastic hard core, slamming DJ music played by DJ Frank, one of the city’s most popular DJ’s. 

The Sportsmen’s Lodge is a favorite for birthday celebrations.  Albert and his staff go out of their way to take reservations weeks in advance, and ensure balloons and birthday nameplates are placed on the tables for everyone’s view.  Birthday gang dances are the norm each week, along with an occasional dance showcase by a local performance team or couple.   Albert brings top talent from around the world to perform Tango, Swing, Samba, and other dance numbers for his sophisticated crowd to enjoy.

Each year, Albert hosts his annual dance competition   Here, Amateurs, Semi-Pros, Pros, and the Over-40 age groups compete for thousands of dollars given by such great sponsors at Chivas Regal, and Seagrams.  Going to Sportsmen’s Lodge is like going to a weekly family reunion.  It’s a get-together of Salseros ranging from 5 to 105, who simply want to get together with friends, dance and go out to breakfast at nearby Twains or Jerry’s Deli just down the street.  It’s a soirée of good clean fun, in a very elegant and very safe atmosphere.