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 V.15 No.13 | March 30 - April 5, 2006 

Punch Line

BurqueThe New L.A.?

Pink is the new black. Forty is the new 30. And Albuquerque is the new L.A. Not Los Alamos, silly, Los Angeles.

Hipster Magazine has dubbed Burque “the new Los Angeles, with fewer posers but more concrete per capita.” According to a new poll by Hipster, 64 percent of Albuquerqueans (the cool locals call themselves Burqueños) have had some version of plastic surgery. Of those, 52 percent had “miscellaneous implants,” 33 percent had “lipo with the money” (mostly tummy tucks or as they are known to Burqueños, “panza pulls”) and 12 percent had various “enlargements” (“say doc, can you make this bigger?”). The poll found that 44 percent of those over 30 were working on a screenplay, 27 percent of twentysomethings had an agent and 3 percent of 13-year-olds had auditioned for a commercial in the last month.

Like L.A., it seems like almost everyone is “in the business.” You are as likely to see Albuquerque Police Department Captain Rob DeBuck in a film or television commercial as you are to catch him busting someone on Central for cruising. Most of the Albuquerque Fire Department is now being represented by local modeling agency Maja for their beefcake calendar gigs. And who could forget Sheriff Darren White's starring role in the New Orleans rescue effort or that Oscar-worthy television commercial line from our own celebrity governor: “You drink, you drive, you lose.” True that.

My waitress the other day forgot my order and brought me the wrong drink. She apologized and said she was “between auditions” and was trying to memorize her lines for an audition for a film. When I asked which film, she said “all of them,” referring to the several films in production on any given week in the new film capital of the Southwest. Still, I couldn't help but think, where's my drink?

With the booming film industry here in the Duke City, you are as likely to run into Richard Gere at the Flying Star as Dick Knipfing at the Frontier. Gere is more talkative, even if he is less balanced in his opinions. Walking Downtown, you are more liable to bump into Jennifer Lopez than you are Cynthia Izaguirre (although I don't recommend it). And when he's not getting state employees fired, Christopher Coppola has become a local socialite and filmmaker, splitting his time between L.A., Albuquerque and Palermo.

Come to ponder it, L.A. and Albuquerque have quite a bit more in common. Only we're better.

Venice Beach? We got Tingley Beach. Less surfers and more fishies. In-and-Out Burger, meet Lotaburger. Umm, double meat, double green. Uggs and miniskirts? Meet thugs in minivans. Beverly Hills? We got Nob Hill. No valet parking, but you are less likely to be carjacked. Disneyland? The lines are shorter at Uncle Cliff's. Too hip to buy your jeans at Old Navy or the Gap? You can get your L.A. designer blues at Elsa Ross and Aqui in Nob Hill. Rose Bowl? OK. We don't have one of those. Yet.

No doubt, there are some notable contrasts. We eat more sopaipillas than scones and drink more Pepsi than Pellegrino. And no self-respecting Angelino would be caught dead chowing on a chicharron. But rumor has it Graze will be serving a soy-chicharron burrito on a wheat-free tortilla with chipotle demi-glaze, coming this fall.

The beauty of Albuquerque is we don't need to create an offbeat city to nurture our stories. They are part of our everyday life. The soul of Burque, is, well, kinda weird. Watch the local evening news on any given night and you'll see news “stories” that rival any reality series being conjured up by struggling Hollywood television pilot creators.

In Albuquerque, “all the city is a stage.” Great natural light. Kooks on every corner. Some of them elected to public office. It is a mecca for those looking for inspiration for a quirky song, silly story or scary scene.

So, L.A., get ready to be roughed up in the battle for the title of entertainment capital of America. Albuquerque is all dolled up and ready to audition for the big role. We even have Perry Como booked at three casinos next year.

This is serious business. Rumor has it Albuquerque city leaders are planning to install zias along Central with the names of famous Burqueños. Dennis Chavez. Rudolfo Anaya. Tony Hillerman. Doogie Howser. Freddie Prinze Jr. Pete Domenici. Eric Griego. That other dude, whose name I forget.

More rumors are swirling that Randy Newman may do a new sequel to “I Love L.A.” called “Te amo Burque.” (Linda Cotton is considering a duet.)

And I hear Al Hurricane may be cutting a record with Snoop Dogg. The title cut will be called “Burquizzle is Chingizzle.”

Nelson Martinez and Gwen Stefani are working on a “project.” Mariachi-ska-hip-hop at its finest.

The possibilities are endless.

If you think this is all wishful thinking, or convention and visitors bureau hype, think again, mi amigo. Albuquerque has arrived. If you don't believe me, ask my agent.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. E-mail griego@alibi.com.

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