Jean-Pierre Reveals His Alamo City Roots as He Prepares for a Comeback
EXCLUSIVE: Long Hidden Secret of Garibaldi Finally Revealed
By Ramón Hernández
Jean-Pierre Reveals His Alamo City Roots as He Prepares for a Comeback
Not only will you, the reader, learn what happened to Jean Pierre Korngold, but also one of the biggest secrets in Mexican showbiz in this exclusive interview during which he reveals a never-known fact about the “All-Mexican” musical group that performed to sold-out arenas, stadiums and festivals throughout the Latin Hemisphere and Spain. And it’s something that will make San Antonio proud.
The original Garibaldi wore a free version of the tradition mariachi charro outfit because of the fact that their name comes from Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi, the home of numerous mariachi bands, hence the take-off of the mariachi outfit.
This musical group, created by Luis de Llano Macedo in 1989, produced five actors (Rafael Amaya, Sergio Mayer, Víctor Noriega, Charly López and Xavier Ortíz), five actresses, radio and television hosts (Patricia Manterola, Pilar Montenegro, Ingrid Coronado, Luisa Fernanda and Katia Llanos), as the Mexican version of Puerto Rico’s young, all-male Menudo singers. However these were a mix of sexy, good-looking male and female vocalists/dancers.
As Menudo, they also went through several members, who in 1998 were renamed Garibaldi XXI to indicate they were to be the 21st century version of this popular teen group. Most important is the fact that they had great pride in their nationality and were therefore touted as an all-Mexican group.
“Little did the world know that I was born in Lima, Peru to Isidoro Korngold and Mina née Grunfeld,” Jean Pierre revealed over lunch at El Ceviche de Waldito, his favorite Peruvian hangout at 5526 Evers Rd.
Jean-Pierre sang and danced along with Rafael Amaya, Agustin Arana and Stefano Bosco, who we recently learned was Italian. However, this is what we are now finding out.
“I was four months old during the devaluation of the Peruvian currency, the Sol, and my father moved the family to San Antonio.” That was this artist’s second shocker.
For seventeen years, no one knew that this internationally-famous ex-Garibaldi grew up and went to school in the Alamo City.
“That’s right, our first home was in the Turtle Creek area, I was raised here and I don’t mind being called Tex-Mex or Tejano,” Jean-Pierre said with local pride. As a matter of trivia, Jean-Pierre’s great grandfather was a Moroccan Jews and his grandparents, who were from Germany, Poland and Austria, fled to Lima, Peru to escape the war in 1939. Now he’s proud to also be identified as a Texas and San Antonio has claim to another world-famous celebrity and the following – in a nutshell — is how it all came to be.
“My mother, Mina, whom played accordion and piano by ear, loved to sing and we would sing together all the time, at home and in the car, but without my father’s knowledge. At five, my parents bought me a Kawai grand piano, but my dad’s reason for me to take lessons, was so I could entertain his clients. Shortly thereafter, I began entering talent contests and would win every single one of them; and at six, a professor at Solomon Schechter School noticed my vocal talents.
“At ten, I won a fifth grade talent contest with ‘The Tiger Song,’ my own piano composition. And at 13, I was able to sing without having to look away from my father since I was intimidated by his mere look. But when I became a member of the Jewish congregation at my coming of age Bar Mitzvah, I sang a Hebrew song with so much emotion and so much passion, he was touched.”
After Jean-Pierre, who is fluent in Spanish, Hebrew and English, graduated from Tom C. Clark High School, he did one semester at the University of Tel Aviv, Israel and one semester at the University of Seville, Spain. Then he came back to the Lone Star state and graduated with a Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA) from the University of Texas at Austin because his father wanted him to follow his steps in the family’s wealth management business.
“After I graduated from UTA in the top ten percent of my class, I told dad, ‘thank you for my education, but I can, I am and I’m going to become a singer. Now I’m ready to go to New York to pursue and live out my dream and I don’t care if I have to take a bus to get there.’ This was in 1995 when my mom became paralyzed and I taught her how to walk,” Jean-Pierre continued.
Much to his son’s surprise, his father saw his determination and had a change of heart. He knew Guideon Waldrop, then the dean at the Julliard School of Music, and they flew to New York. To make a long story short, Beverly Johnson, the head of the music department, accepted the proposal for Jean-Pierre to be home-schooled with a team of Julliard professors that consisted of Pei-Wen Chau, music composition; Helen Hobbs Jordan, music theory; and Robert White, vocal training.
Mrs. Jordan, an exacting and tart-tongued music teacher who instructed generations of performers including Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Paul Simon and Melissa Manchester was 95 when she took Jean-Pierre under her wing. She died at 99.
In addition, he also took acting classes from William Esper and music composition from Doris Eugenio.
Two years later, Jean-Pierre was vacationing in the Dominican Republic with his mother when he met William “Willie” Spanbleochel, who put him in a video and promised to record a two-song demo if Jean-Pierre would go to Austria. The result was “Adios María” and “Si Puedes Entenderme” (“If You Could Read My Mind”) and while he was in Austria, Jean-Pierre went to Madrid and Galica, Spain where he met Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco and his older brother, Mohammed VI, who is now the King of Morocco, who he says, “were just like family, we became lifelong friends and I love them.”
Demo in hand, Jean-Pierre went back to the Big Apple, dropped out of his Julliard classes and told his father that he was ready to go knock on doors in Mexico. His well-known, high-profiled business savvy father got him the plane ticket and now pushing him said, “Okay, you want to sing now? Go and paint the art.
“Thanks to my dad and my stepmother, Rosario, I got in the door to meet with Luis de Llano Macedo, who wanted to reinvent Garibaldi because all the original members had moved on to solo careers or had become actors.
A little known fact is that Llano Macedo has a San Antonio connection since it was in 1962, that the then 17-year-old started out as a technician at KWEX-TV, Channel 41.
Now getting back to our story, Jean-Pierre said, “After he heard the demo, he asked if I wanted in and of course I said ‘yes.’ That’s he started all over from the bottom, when I came in — in July 1997 along with Rafael “Rafa” Amaya, Agustin Arana and Stefano Bosco, and the female side consisted of Ana, Rebeca, Paola and Alyn.
The group needed no jump-start for fans were anxiously awaited to make the new Garibaldi XXI an overnight sensation. Dicho y hecho (Said and done), after some intense rehearsing and lessons from vocal coach Seth Riggs in Hollywood — whose clients include Luis Miguel, Barbara Streisand, Madonna, Josh Groban, Michael Bolton, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Natalie Cole and countless other superstars — Jean-Pierre and the group started touring all over Mexico.
“Sometimes we would do two Mexican states in one day; and we had so much business because of the hits off our first compact disc that sometimes the only sleep we would get is when we would board our private jet to go perform throughout Spain, the Caribbean, Central and South America.
For a sample of the Garibaldi fever plus to her and see Jean-Pierre in action, check out two of their hits, “Las Mujeres Dicen” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qzT_suy0hU and “El Ombligito” at www.youtube.com/watch?v=KaymsrWmWew.
“We were on the go 18 hours a day and having to do three hours of workouts at the gym because we couldn’t show one inch of fat, but when you are doing what you love, that is not work,” Jean-Pierre said.
Asked how he felt about saying he was Mexican, the muscular, six-foot-tall artist said, “The truth is that because of my father’s business, I have been going back and forth to Mexico since I was five, so I feel very Mexican. Besides, that country gave me the opportunity to enter the world of show biz. This is where I got my first break and I was so excited to live my dream. Therefore I love and thank Mexico for that.”
After almost three years of performing before tens of thousands of adoring fans screaming at the top of their lungs at the mere sight of him, or being mobbed for autographs and pictures, teen mag centerfolds, beefcake calendars, countless radio, television and newspaper interviews plus magazine covers and full-color, multi-page layouts in national publications, Jean-Pierre now yearned to be a solo artist, so on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1999, he told the group he was leaving to go on his own.
“They gave me their blessing and I was off to pursue my dream.” He was soon replaced by Ricardo (last name unknown).
Following one disappointment after another, Jean Pierre decided to fill in the gap by working for his father, where he dealt with numerous high net worth individuals and companies.
“I hated it and never could get out the fact that my soul and love for music was taken away from me.”
Along the way, there were movies offers because of his leading-man looks, but as he said, “I’ve never wanted to be an actor.”
Nonetheless, one has to financially survive and the singer-songwriter-musician-dancer eventually entered the mortgage business. Meanwhile there were intermittent sparks of hope from José Felicano’s manager, Phyllis Kietien plus César Lemos in Miami, Nora Barragan, Patrice Villastrigo and Arturo Álvarez García in Hollywood, who Jean-Pierre paid to record an eleven-song CD. However, nothing came to fruition and he continued in his lucrative business as an insurance broker.
Nevertheless, the music bug is still there and as one who loves to give back to the community Jean-Pierre has, for years, been a regular volunteer at Golden Estates as an active participant in Shabbat service, playing the piano, organizing activities and playing games with the residents. And he also did a piano recital for Lee and Dr. Philip D. Zinn, MD in honor of Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan.
While this Pisces’ vocal talent was suppressed and dormant, he says that he felt that he was like in a jail and a prisoner in his head; and now it’s time to take action by releasing his long-awaited CD on his own label.
“All of a sudden there’s a renewed interest in me and everything seems to be falling into place,” Jean-Pierre said during a second interview at the Hispanic Entertainment Archives.
The video to his first single as a solo artist, “Loco Enamorado,” can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mygG5X5-C7E and it generated enough interest to warrant an in-depth 24-minute interview — www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBMmgIYGrDM — on TV de Houston, Canal 43.3 with Marcela Rodríguez.
Another interesting video is a 13-minute piece taped when the entire Garibaldi group stopped to visit his mother’s house in Peru. This one is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuAchabAiWw.
Yes everything is starting to click and as Jean-Pierre reiterated, “It’s not over until it’s over. Don’t ever stop fighting for your dreams and your goals. Always tell yourself, ‘I am, I can and I will.
For more information or to book Jean-Pierre, call (210) 317-2835