The Surreal Life of Being Sweet and Tender Hooligans

JANUARY 23, 2020 | By Leeza London
It was June 1992, and summer break was upon me. It was time to find a temp job to last me until September. My college friends gave me tips on who was hiring, and how much they were willing to pay students. Most of my friends ended up working as bartenders or waiters / waitresses, some as lifeguards…. and I even had one friend who was hired as Prince Charming in Disneyland’s Main Street Parade. As for me, since I was a film major, I thought it would be a great idea to do “extra” work. I’d learn on the set, and get paid while I was doing so. Little did I know that this decision would make me a bit player in the SWEET AND TENDER HOOLIGANS origin story.
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Before I explain further, let me just briefly fill you in on who (and what) Sweet And Tender Hooligans are.  To quote their website, they are “The Ultimate Smiths & Morrissey Tribute Band,” fronted by Jose Maldonado (aka The Mexican Morrissey). This name was given to him by El Vez (the Mexican Elvis). Also playing staring roles in this origin story are David Collett, Danny Garcia, Joe Escalante Art Barrios. If you’re a Smith’s or Morrissey fan, there’s a very good chance that you’ve not only heard of this band, but you’ve also probably seen them perform.  And if you have seen them perform, there’s a 100% chance that you were totally blown away!
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In fact, Morrissey, himself is a big fan of the band, and Maldonado in particular. In a recent interview, he told us about the time he went to see one of Morrissey’s solo shows. Morrissey took the stage and his opening line was “Hello, we’re the Sweet And Tender Hooligans, and I’m Jose.” This caused Jose to slip into a coma and miss the whole show. OK, maybe he didn’t really slip into a coma, but let’s just say the room spun wildly, and Maldonado still can’t believe that wasn’t a dream.
Now, back to the origin story. Anyone who has worked on a set, or more specifically as an “extra,” knows how boring it can be. I suspect the term “hurry up and wait” was created by and extra. Back in ’92, we couldn’t check e-mails on our phones, or text, or tweet, or use any social media in the downtime, since none of those existed. We either had to rely on books, or conversations with the other extras. And although being in a Hollywood film may sound like a glamorous and exciting job, it was largely dull… until I was booked on “Mr. Saturday Night,” staring and directed by Billy Crystal.
The scene I was booked on was the recreation of the Beatles’ performance on the Ed Sullivan show.  It was set in 1964, in an old theatre. All the women had their hair done in a Beehive, a Bob, or a Flip (mine was a Flip), and men had either a  Mop Top, or a Quiff.  We were all dressed in fabulous late 50’s or early 60’s outfits. Now, you might think it was the period, or the Beatles lookalikes, or even Billy Crystal, himself, who made this project more entertaining than the many others I had worked on that summer, but you would be wrong. It was actually another extra named Jose Maldonado. Yes, that’s right, your very own Mexican Morrissey.
Jose didn’t bring a book to the set; he brought his guitar. And I don’t need to tell you what hairstyle they bestowed on him that day, since he’s still wearing it. I can’t remember who came up to whom, but I do remember we talked about music, and I told him I was a Smiths’ fan. So, in between shooting he sang Smiths’ covers to me. It was a long shooting day, maybe 12 hours, and I’d guess for about 6 of those hours, Jose was singing. I still remember vividly his version of “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want.” He was so cool and dreamy. I couldn’t wait for Billy Crystal to yell “Cut” so Jose could sing me another song. I couldn’t believe how much he sounded like, and even looked like Morrissey. I was sad when we wrapped, but happy to have made a life-long friend. 

Now, I can’t tell you if Jose had that Quiff before that day, or if my constant requests for Smiths songs during the shoot influenced him to turn his band into a Smith’s and Morrissey Tribute band. However he got there, I’m glad he did; because SWEET AND TENDER HOOLIGANS RULE!!!
Circling back to the band, they are as electric as it gets. With Maldonado on the mic, the band can teleport you to any time, any place the Smiths played; and you’d believe you were there. The band features Vandals bassist Joe Escalante, David Collett on lead guitar, Art Barrios on rhythm guitar, Thomas Lennon also on rhythm, and Danny Garcia drums. Their collective sonic vision leaves nothing to the imagination.
Sweet and Tender Hooligans are playing the House Of Blues in Anaheim on Saturday, January 25th.  7pm. If you love Smiths music, or just a great performance band, I highly recommend checking out this show.
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