Catch a Falling Star

Ricky Martin is in a show-biz tailspin. The boy needs help. And he needs it now.

Many people say that Ricky Martin's crazed career was never going to get any better than on the night of February 24, 1999, when his electrifying performance at the Grammy Awards jolted Anglo America out of its indifference to barely Latin pop music.

Others say the pinnacle was achieved on September 9, 1999, when Ricky's performance of his mega-don't-let-the-name-fool-you-this-ain't-Latin-music-hit "Livin' la Vida Loca" stole the show at the MTV Video Music Awards.

We respectfully disagree with those Rickymania scholars and suggest another, less publicized moment: July 18, 1999. On that day, in the highly respected British publication The People, an article appeared under this headline: "Ricky Martin Was So Good in Bed I've Not Had Sex Since He Dumped Me!" The confessional subject of the story was one Adriana Biega, a 27-year-old Miami model and actress who reportedly met Ricky last year when she danced in the video for his single "La Bomba." Read the excerpt on the following page and you'll instantly appreciate the significance of this publishing milestone.

"Ricky, where's that fake psychotic smile you normally have plastered on your face? Cheer up, kiddo, we've got career advice."
"Ricky, where's that fake psychotic smile you normally have plastered on your face? Cheer up, kiddo, we've got career advice."

Regardless of the precise moment, though, everyone seems to agree that "Vida Loca" just didn't have that same crossover charm at 8 o'clock in the morning on the Today show. Anyone who witnessed that frightening spectacle had to agree that Ricky's career had crested.

The sober truth of the matter is that unless the Artist Never Known Professionally As Ricardo Martinez Because That Might Not Be So Crossoverrific comes up with another hit, he'll become the answer to a trivia question quicker than you can say, "Rico . . . Suave." Our advice to Ricky is simple: Cash in now, mi amor. Line up every endorsement and money-grubbing scheme imaginable as soon as possible.

Sure, he's already signed a big deal with Pepsi, but in this fickle world, one deal isn't nearly enough. Plus, there are a zillion opportunities besides carbonated beverages Ricky probably hasn't even considered. Knowing he's a busy guy, we thought we'd take a crack at managing the twilight of his career. Otherwise, you'll be catching him muy pronto on VH1's Where Are They Now?

Television

Ricky needs a sitcom. The safest bet is to write him into a proven winner. It shouldn't be too difficult to persuade network bigwigs to bring in a recognizable Hispanic face, given all the heat they've been taking for the dearth of prime-time minorities. So why not start with the whitest show in America: Friends? The top two points we'd make in our pitch for Ricky to replace Ross:

• How believable is a Manhattan without a single Puerto Rican?

• David Schwimmer must be stopped.

Or how about a remake of I Love Lucy in which Ricky Martin portrays Little Ricky, only all grown up? And he's in a band. And he's living in an apartment with his crazy new wife, played by Madonna. And they're best friends with the building's super and his wife, played by John Goodman and Roseanne, and . . . oh, screw it. Here's a better idea: Just superimpose Ricky into the original Lucy series and delete Desi Arnaz. Imagine Ricky singing "Babalu."

Games

Kids have money. Lots of it. And when they don't have enough, they steal what they need from their parents. Legions of young fans have already bought Ricky's CD. Now we have to get them to buy something else. So what do kids like? Kids like games. What's the hottest game kids are playing these days? Pokémon.

At nearly four bucks a pop from Toys "R" Us, Pokémon cards are not cheap. Which guarantees a profitable launch for Rickymon cards. The Rickymon are incredible creatures that share the world with humans, and they have many amazing abilities. The Miguel Morez card from the General Hospital-theme deck, for example, features a hip-shaking attack that does lethal damage to the defending Rickymon.

More traditional games might also work, such as Operation. That's the one in which you try to remove little plastic bones from a body using a pair of tweezers and without setting off a buzzer. The Ricky version would be similar, except it will involve only hip- and knee-replacement surgery.

Finally, an obvious tie-in: the classic Milton Bradley board game Life. Here the game of Life could be transformed into the game of Loca Life, complete with all the requisite rites of passage: Boy joins all-boy musical group; boy turns 16 and gets booted from group; boy plays doctor; boy Anglicizes name; boy appears on Rosie.

Movies

We hope Chayanne's performance in the 1998 megaflop Dance With Me hasn't queered all film deals, so to speak, for sexy Hispanic cantantes. For his debut, Ricky needs to attach himself to big-name talent and a script that will offer the audience something new and fresh. Something like Ricky starring in, say, The Three Amigos II: Destiny Rides at Dawn.

This would be perfect. Build on the success of the first Amigos movie, which starred Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short. Only this time we move the story forward. Having successfully smitten the bandits in the first film, the three amigos -- now played by Ricky Martin, Vanilla Ice and Pauly Shore -- head back to Hollywood to resurrect their comatose movie careers. This sort of clever casting is critical for Ricky. Having a pack of has-beens playing has-beens would give the movie a cerebral edge that'll make it a hit with the critics while giving stoners in the balcony plenty to laugh about.

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