By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid
Sometimes there’s love in laughter. And the cast and crew bringing the new web series East Willy B have a lot of love for the real-life neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn, and (most) of the fictional characters.
The series’ heart is Willie Reyes, Jr. (Flaco Navaja) the 30-something Puerto Rican-proud bar owner who inherited the business from his dad, including the barfly crushing on him, Giselle (Caridad “La Bruja” de la Cruz). Wille is trying to keep his bar, which has served as the nabe’s hangout and nerve center, from closing down due gentrification in the form of his ex-girlfriend Maggie (April Hernandez) and her new white beau (and Willie’s longtime rival), Albert (Danny Hoch), and the incoming white hipsters looking for cheap(er) rent.
Transcript of the premiere episode after the jump.
(Music plays in the background. Willy and Gisele laugh. )
Willie: What do you need, Gisele?
Gisele: What I need or what I want? ‘Cause, if you ask me what I want, I’ll tell you.
Willie: OK, what do you want?
Gisele: I want me…a little bit of what you got going on right down there.
Willie: You’re crazy! You want another one?
Gisele: You asked me what I need? (Laughs)
Willie: (under his breath) Jesus!
Gisele: (Grabs for Willy) Oooo-hooo—
Willie: Hey hey heeeey! I’m working here!
Maggie: …yeah. (Laughs.) Si, mi amor. I’ll talk to you later. ‘Bye. (Blows kiss. Sighs.) I saw you, Willie.
Maggie: We need to talk.
Willie: Yeah, I’m sure we do.
Maggie: So. I was thinking: I have some ideas on bringing this bar alive.
Willie: Yeah, where’d you get ‘em? From your mom?
Maggie: Funny. OK? You know I’ve been taking classes—
Willie: Where at? Nuyorican College? That shit ain’t school.
Willie: That’s like ghetto babysitting or something.
Maggie: (exasperated) OK, anyway. Listen: I’m thinking…we can make this bar? More. Emo.
Willie: What the fuck is “emo”?!
Maggie: “Emotional!” You know: slightly depressive dive. We can have some 80s video games, some confederate flags. You also need to start selling $6 malt liquors. Those rich white hipsters love that shit!
Willie: This is still a Latin bar, aiight? I don’t know why everybody’s trippin’.
Maggie: Because no one cares, Willy. OK? You need to let go.
Ceci: Oh hell no! The dog run is around the corner.
Maggie: Whatever, Ceci.
Ceci: Por favor, Willie. You’re not still sweating this bougie-ass bitch, are you? She dumped your ass! Really?
(To Maggie) Looook, whatever it is you’re selling? We ain’t buying it.
Maggie: Shouldn’t you be chasing dudes with tattoos and bulldogs?
Ceci: Are you going to kick her out or do I gotta to do everything around here?
Maggie: Look! Mama? I own half this bar, and I’ll come here whenever I want.
(To Willie) This is what I’m talking about. If you want more people, get rid of these hoodrats.
Gisele: You bitch! (Screams)
Maggie: You know what? I don’t need this ghetto shit anymore! As a matter of fact, I’m gonna sue your ass.
Willie: For what?!?
Maggie: I am going to get controlling interest in this bar.
Willie: Like hell you are!
Maggie: Yeah? OK. You’ll be hearing from my lawyer.
Willie: Fine! All right? ‘Cause I got your Colby and Meyers, and they got TV commercials and all that. So bring it!!
Ceci: Yeah? When you gonna grow your balls back?
Gisele: Don’chu worry, Willie. I’ma get her next time!
I’ll admit it: it took me a minute to get into East Willy B. Part of it is simply being an ethnic outsider: I’m not Latina and felt odd laughing with—and sometimes at—the jokes. Then I had to check myself: like I couldn’t recognize That Alcoholic Lecherous Auntie in Giselle (don’t lie: I know some of y’all Racializens have a Giselle in your fam and y’all love her antics at the family gathering); got-your-back (and sometimes gotta-be-in-your-face) Ceci (played by EWB co-creator Julia Ahumada Grob) ; or even soft-hearted-though-over-his-head Willie. And like I couldn’t recognize laughing in the face of New York City’s ongoing gentrification.
What I think East Willy B does best is put a biting laugh on the class politics aggravated by gentrification, ongoing colorism and “authenticity”, and ethnic pride (which comes out sometimes as ethnic chauvinism). Yes, there’s the leitmotif of the white hipsters seen as invading Bushwick, but for the most part, they are a joke in absentia. (And we can argue about the presence of hipsters and other gentrifiers of color. However, it’s also real that the face of this demographics shift is white for quite a few communities. This definitely holds true for Bushwick.) And Albert, the “token white guy,” isn’t viewed as “white” (the website describes him as “browner-than-thou,” complete with Latina girlfriend). White gentrification, says East Willy B, is aided and abetted by people from within the community who may see the financial and social upsides of it but may get caught up in some form of false consciousness due to getting some post-high school education (Maggie) or just overall sleaze (John the Realtor). (It’s also that awkward relationship with education that’s my biggest critique of East Willy B.)
And what I love about East Willy B is that it’s a complete online experience, reflecting Internet use among Latin@s. Yes, there’s the show and a vid of the on-camera and off-camera crews, but there are spot-on commercial spoofs and an emerging web series about the real Bushwick, with local activists speaking about the changes. (I like what Jesus says in the vid: “We’d love to have more people come by and see us, but don’t replace us.” I think the same holds true for enjoying East Willy B.) More importantly, the viewer is invited to be a part of East Willy B, both online and offline: the creators asks us to get the word out about the new web series (they have more episodes lined up for the summer) by hosting viewing parties and attending upcoming East Willy B-related events during the summer.
If the events (and the viewing parties) are anything like the series, then I think you’ll have a great time.
Photo Credit: John Walder