Who’s the Hunk with the hat?
Who’s the Hunk with the hat?
Anyone that knows me knows I love good food, great beer and live music. I am blessed to live in Miami where not all our music is synthesized and supplied by a DJ, we actually have some great bands and singers in our own back yard! I am a big supporter of local music and follow many local acts on Social Media when I remember to write down their IG or Twitter or whatever else they use to promote their music. I travel light when I go out, so a pen is rarely something I have handy, so I rely on stickers, groupies sharpies writing info on my forearm, drunk girlfriends of band members shoving beer smelling napkins down my bra telling me to find them on Facebook, band business cards and good old fashion pictures of important information with my camera phone.
So where do I go for live music? Well one of the oldest and most reliable spots for live music in Miami is Churchill’s Bar. The place hasn’t changed much in the million years it has been open and I am pretty sure the bathroom gets cleaned every five years. I remember sneaking in when I was underage and listening to bands play, it was hard to get there often when you were 1) Puertorican with an overprotective mother 2) Barely had money to pay the door and get gas for your Dodge Neon because you were poor and 3) The security knew I was underage and would just let me listen from outside to keep me “honest” (that’s code for not letting me getting shit faced and in trouble). The 90’s…those were the days…anyways I digress down memory lane. Churchill’s is still the place to see local live bands who haven’t made it big, but you can still rock out to their music.
I never went to Churchill’s during any of those advertised “music fests” and shit. I thought it would bring out too many groupies and I was not excited about being squeezed and crammed and possible drinks spilled on me while I stood there waiting for the bartenders attention. I wanted to listen to live music, drink a beer with the regulars and not worry about bumping into anyone I may know (I get anti-social sometimes). I finally caved and went to a music fest, it was the 10th Annual FemmeFest and I was intrigued and actually looking forward to it. I had been expecting many shaved headed tattooed lesbians in pussy hats and feminist in their best t-shirts. What I found was an eclectic circus of people and the coolest Ringleader directing them all, Oski.
March 18th 2017 is the day I came face to face with the Godfather of Cool, Oski of the Oski Foundation. He was the promoter and head ring leader of this circus. There were 3 stages of music, poetry and spoken word happening almost simultaneously, newer acts asking when they go on and a line at the door. The Godfather of Cool wasn’t even breaking a sweat and that is pretty hard not to do when you are a big guy standing over 5’11 and 300 plus pounds. That night the Godfather met La Diva and he’s been a great friend ever since. Once you have a chance to speak to him and get to know him on a deeper level you will fall in love with his charisma, his swag, his love for his family and the pride exudes as he puts on these great shows for the public.
When I started writing I knew I needed to interview this man and get his story so that other people can appreciate his art and his drive. He’s living his most authentic life, in the spotlight and we can all use a little of his badassery in our own. Here is the transcript of our quick interview, enjoy!
Me: Everyone knows you in Miami, you have an amazing social media presence, you’ve worked really hard at this and it shows. How many years have you been doing this?
Oski: When I was seven years old I came in 2nd place in a talent show. I sang Donny Osmond’s “I’m leaving it all up to you” and that was the beginning of everything. I have been doing this my whole life. My dad is Jose “Potaje” Gonzalez, a very well-known percussionist, my godfather was a very established piano player and conductor named Francisco “Papi” Pena and these guys together made me who I am. My dad taught me how to play congas at a young age, my house was always filled with musicians and I have been around it since a young age. My dad used to play with La Lupe and Hector Lavoe and people like that, so I have been around this scene basically my whole life. My dad would have parties at the house and my job was to keep the music going, even then I was keeping the show going. When I quit school at a young age to become a rap star, my first two albums did pretty well, and then I got into rock music and I auditioned for a funk band called “Continental”. I was with those guys for a year, they provided my basic training. Being the person that I am and growing up the way I did, it is very hard to contain me, so I started The Oski Foundation and it’s been going since 1999. This is what I do make music, create shows and just provide people an escape.
Me: It’s funny you said that it is hard to contain you because I remember the first time I met you were like bigger than life, and I mean that figuratively. Your presence on stage commanded attention. I remember watching all these bands looking up to you for directions. Literally nothing happened without your blessing, how did you master that? How do you master keeping all these different personalities in check?
Oski: Well it goes back to being raised the way I was, I was born in a nightclub, when it comes to show business I run a tight show. I know what it is to sing in a band, to be a roadie, to work a door, to be the soundman and I take all of that into consideration when dealing with the performers. This is why I have meeting before every show, you can’t have a show with 20 bands and not have a meeting with them all at the same time. I make sure they send at least one delegate to the meeting, I set the ground rules and this is my process of elimination. These meetings help me identify the bands that are lazy or disorganized and those are the ones that won’t play an Oski show again. There is a process and it needs to be followed. I am here to put on a great show and give the audience the opportunity to become exposed to some great local artists. Anytime that process is not followed chaos happens and life is too short, we are not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time, so let’s rock and roll and enjoy it.
Me: With that being said, there is a song, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles, when MTV came out everything became about a “look”. You had acts like Milli Vanilli who used these two guys as the face of their music to appease the general public, you know to give people that “look” they felt the world needed, you don’t fit that industry look. We live in a very superficial city, Miami, everything that comes out of here is perfect, party town and a very different representation of our curvy latino culture and yet here you are, this big handsome man with a million kilowatt smile that could light up Miami and you have success. You have a following and people look up to you, I see groupies trying to get closer to you, your dynamic and more importantly, you don’t fit the industry “look”. Do you feel that your size, in any way has hindered you?
Oski: I’m gonna tell you something, some true stuff, I was managed by a guy named John Tovar, and he got Marilyn Manson his record deal and worked with a lot of famous acts from Miami like Expose, you know people like that and he was my manager. He became my manager when he saw me performing and opening up for Cheap Trick, and he was big dude. We sent our music to a couple of people that he had known in the entertainment business and so we met with the producers of Matchbox 20 and the first things that came out of this guy’s mouth was “oh he is too big, this guy is too fat”. I was like “excuse me” he said “yeah you are just too fat man, we just can’t market you”. I was like ok, and I told my manager you see, I told you should never have this guy to a closed environment. We were in a rehearsal hall, it was closed, he wasn’t seeing me in my natural space, he could not see the reaction from a crowd or the women or the way I worked off a crowd’s energy. He wasn’t the only producer that said the same thing basically, they couldn’t market me. They never said anything about my talent, it was about being marketable. He pointed out something to me, and it always stuck in my head, he asked me if I knew who Blues Traveler was, and I said of course, they are awesome. He told me to watch their videos, that they were deceiving, they made it look like the “normal sized” guy was the lead singer when in reality it was the big guy, I forgot his name, but that’s what they did. It stuck in my head, buy you know what I never let that stop me. That is the last problem I have, I am very comfortable in my skin, and if I was allowed I would walk down the street naked. I am very comfortable in my skin, one of the first things I do when I get home is get naked. I have never had a problem with my size, I have never had a problem dating or in relationships. The only problem I’ve ever had is with society and people who want to be rude, people who will be driving by and yell out “Hey Big Pun” or “What’s up Fat Boy” and I have trained myself to ignore that. I teach my son, he’s a big boy too, I teach in that in life you’re gonna have that, God makes different people for different reasons. There is a reason why I am a big dude. I enjoy being a big dude, I enjoy eating and I love my life. I try to keep my weight down for health reasons, people who know me and love me want me to stick around longer and not die young. But as far as I am concerned, if I die tonight and I’ve lived such a full life and I am so content with my life. And I’m good, I’m good and the secret to what I do is that I love myself, I believe in myself and I believe in the team of people I assemble around me.
Me: I have noticed that you like to uplift people and I don’t mean just your performers, I mean in general and in life. You have a tendency to refer to women as queens no matter what their age, size or station in life is. What is it that makes you want to call all women queen?
Oski: I think all women are queens, women, fortunately or unfortunately, bear our children. It goes back to the bible thing, you know the beginning. Women, man its tough being a woman. I am a momma’s boy, you know, and I wasn’t always a good son, I was bad and as I have gotten older I have come to understand and respect that all women are queens. Women give birth, they nurture, and they withstand pain that a man could never understand. Now don’t get it twisted, there are some chicks out there that are not queens, they can be real bitches, I don’t mess with them, and I won’t call them out either, but I know where they come from and they are not queens. I refer to my wife Gigi as Empress, she is the Queen of all Queens, and so it’s just respect. I tell people all the time, I am a King, I am the King of my tribe, I have been blessed with 4 incredible children from 3 amazing women and no one has a problem and we are happy. Everyone gets my time, my mental and financial support, and I like to just spend time with my tribe, my family. This is one of the hardest things to balance, family and career. I am very blessed, I wouldn’t be where I am today if not for my family and my amazing team.
Me: Tell me about that team!
Oski: I always show respect to my partners, I make sure that we are always insync and without them I wouldn’t be me. First of all I have an amazing partner, Queen of the Scene, she is a big beautiful curvy woman and we have been partners for over 12 years. If it wasn’t for her these multiple band shows that we have put on and continue to plan with anywhere from 10, 15, 30 to 40 bands performing all at once would not have happened! My partner Rod from Xotic Yayo, he and I do shows in Broward County together. My other partner David Neri, he runs the sound and stage managing for me at my events and also we do shows in Fort Lauderdale Beach together. My other partner Mike Mcsween of 1000 pounds of thrust, he owns his own venue in Broward called The Gate . My other partner Yader, between him, Queen of the Scene and I we started the Kryptonite metal festival and tt’s the biggest underground metal festival in South Florida. And the most most important is my son little Oski Gonzalez, he works the door, helps sets up the event and tears down at the end of the evening with me, the kid works! And most of all most of all this is very important. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be heard. Blessings to you Queen.
Me: You truly are a King, thank you so much! So do you have any advice for people who are not loving life right now and just going through the motions?
Oski: I tell people all the time, if you put in 9 hours a day at work, let’s say you work in an office or Publix, or where ever you work, but you put in 9 hours a day for someone else, or someone else’s dream then you make sure you put in 9 hours for yourself and your dream. At the end of the day you are going to be old and bitter and when they ask you what you did you are just going to say you worked for 20 years for Joe Schmoe, and when they ask what else you did and you did nothing else because you gave up on your dream. Never give up on your dreams. Me, I just want to live a life making music, if I get wealthy great, if not, I get to be happy living my dream making music, and I mean that.
Me: Oski on behalf of Curvy Ventures we want to thank you so much for proving that big handsome men can run this world. I personally feel that the Miami Music Scene would not be the same without you. You have exposed us to so many great new acts and talent and the fact that you do this with suck love and grace and professionalism makes it all the better. We want to wish you luck and many more years of success!
Oski: You’re making blush, likewise, I love what you guys are doing, I am all in, and I’m in 100%. I think this is something that is needed man, I will go back to when I was younger and I had a complex about being a big dude. As I got older I realized that being big has nothing to do with your happiness, and this is great. This is the last thing I would say, It’s all about your happiness. If it takes your unhappiness to make someone happy then let that shit go. My first album was named “In the pursuit of happiness” and my second was “Love and Life”, so, life is good, enjoy every day and God Bless.
Written by: Nancy Nawaz
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