Happy Birthday, John Leguizamo, Passionate Preservationist
John Lequizamo, arguably one of the Village’s funniest residents, was not always a preservationist. As he remarked in a recent interview in the New York Times, his therapist recommended that he “get a hobby.” The entertainment business is notoriously rife with stress, and Mr. Leguizamo has been in the business of show for quite a number of years. The strain begins to wear. So he decided to sell his rowhouse on the Lower East Side, and purchase another one in the West Village to restore. For fun. And distraction.
He and his wife Justine, who happens to be a Trustee of GVSHP, spent about a year restoring the 4,500 square foot West Village brownstone to its original 19th century glory. The result is something that gives Leguizamo a place to rest, be with family, and to create. His basement office is where he wrote his most recent critically acclaimed one-man show “Ghetto Klown.”
His heart has been in the Village for a long time. “Ghetto Klown” describes the early stages of his career when he would frequent the clubs on the Lower East Side and in Alphabet City (which he also discusses in his interview with GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman at The Strand in 2014 here). The vibe of the LES at the time was one of freedom to experiment with form. Non-linear, non-comedy club type of performance art was the order of the day. He was able to find freedom to find his voice in these off-the-beaten-path venues. He said, “The neighborhood used to be alive with all different kind of artists. Musicians, poets, painters, actors, singer, dancer. The then rich came in and all the squatters left and went to Brooklyn.”
His own work has been prolific and varied. From his high energy monologues Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama, Freak, and Ghetto Klown, to his work in film and television, Leguizamo is non-stop. This writer’s favorite performance of his is the Baz Luhrmann version of Romeo + Juliet, in which the actor play Tybalt, the Capulet cousin of Juliet. A firebrand of a character, Lequizamo burns up the screen with his portrayal.
Today happens to be John’s birthday! We celebrate him and all he has done for GVSHP and the Village we know and love. John was also one of the many very generous contributors to our book, Greenwich Village Stories, available for purchase here (with proceeds benefiting GVSHP). John has also been a great supporter of many of our preservation efforts in Greenwich Village, including our fight to save the Provincetown Playhouse and Apartments, against NYU’s overwhelming expansion plan, and for landmarking the South Village.