Cherising Chico

Isaac's Community Service & Awards
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In my own words. A message from Isaac Ruiz
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Movies and Television
If you don't have Schlitz, You don't have gusto.
Amgo's forever
Meeting Mando. A fan and dear friend get together
Mando drops by Ed Brown's Garage
Cruising at 15 MPR can be so stylish!
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Isaac and friends
Fun with Dick and Jane
Cherising Chico
Isaac on Charlies Angels
Roaming the Desert. Suzanne's visit with Isaac
Isaac's tour of duty .


Cherishing Chico



Ruiz made  the audience go 'nuts'
Dave Petruska
Citizen Assistant Living Editor
Tucsonan Isaac Ruiz still laughs about his favorite performance as Mando, Chico's pal, on the set of NBC sitcom "Chico and the Man."
The 1974-78 hit series starred Freddie Prinze as Chico the mechanic and Jack Albertson as garage owner Ed Brown ( the Man.)
In Ruiz's  favorite show from the first season, he spoke only a few lines.
"It was an episode during which  all this contruction was going on around the garage, and Chico was trying to convince Ed to take out a loan to improve the place," Ruiz recalled. "I  go in to use the restroom and  just disappear behind the door.
"So all this activity is going, the plot moves along, and just near the end of the show, I pop out of the restroom with this satisfied look on my face.
"The studio audience went nuts. Everyone had forgotten about me being in there. The timing was perfect."
The episode will air Tuesday night at 10 on TVLand. The cable network recently picked up the rights for the series.
copyright 2001 Tucson Citizen

Cherishing Chico

Tucsaonan Isaac Ruiz almost had the lead role in the 1970's sitcom 'Chico and the Man' and became great friends with the man who beat him out, Freddie Prinze.
Citizen Assistant Living Editor
Ruiz made the audience go 'nuts'
Cable TV network TVLand kicked off a 48 - hour marathon of the classic situation comedy "Chico and the Man" this morning, running through 4 am. Monday. It's a show that Tucsonan Isaac Ruiz looks back at with fondness and sadness.
Ruiz was on the show from 1974-77, playing the role of Mando, the friend of Chico's, played by Freddie Prinze. Jack Albertson played garage owner Ed Brown ( the Man), and Scatman Crothers played Louie the garbage collector.
"I think the humor will stand up real well, especially the shows from the first season, all of them directed by Peter Baldwin," said Ruiz, now a corprate relations officer for Dedicated Dental Service. "Peter really pushed for quality, regardless of the cost.
"There was tremenous chemistry on the show. There was that spark between Jack and Freddie. We worked hard to get things right, but we had alot of fun too."
The show will go on a regular weekly rotation on TVLand, starting Monday. It will air at 10:00 p.m. Tucsan time.
Ruiz left the show after the 1976-1977 season following Prinze's death on Jan. 29,1977, from a self - inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  Prinze had a drug problem and was going through a bitter divorce at the time.
"What a waste. That was so sad, some of the toughest days in my life," said Ruiz.
Ruiz had dropped by the set earlier on Jan.27, even though he wasn't in that weeks episode, because Prinze had seemed so unhappy when they had talked on the phone the day earlier.
"Freddie was in bad shape that, barely able to work," Ruiz recalled." I had my wife and baby boy with me, and he came up and hugged us and held my son for a while. He was going through the divorce and wasn't able to see his son ( now actor Freddie Prinze Jr.) and he missed him terribly. He asked me how I was, and I said I was surving. And the last thing he said to me was,  "Zack, you've always been a survivor.' And a little while later he was gone."
Prinze shot himself Jan.28 but wasn't taken off the respirator untill the following day.
" I was hoping for a miracle, but there wasn't going to be one," Ruiz said.
Ruiz had a close relationship with Prinze, who would often try out his stand-up- comedy routines on him.
" He thought I was his toughest critic, so if he  could get me to laugh, he knew his stuff was good," Ruiz said. "He was a good guy. A lot of stories floating around him are just not true."
Ruiz chuckled about how after Prinze's death, people were making a big deal about Prinze showing up late for rehersals and tapings  that last season.
"Well Freddie was always late. He was never on time," Ruiz said, laughing. " He would peek into our meeting room from an angle where only  I could see him, to get the reaction about how mad Jack was. Jack was always early, and he'd get bummed sometimes about Freddie being late. So  I'd give him a sign, and then he acted accordingly to try to smooth things over with Jack."
Ruiz originally tried out for the  Chico part. He, Prinze and Larazo Perez made the final cut. The actors, along with James Komack, the show's executive producer, and other NBC brass went to Toronto, where Albertson was preforming the stage version of " The Sunshine Boys", so screen tests could be made.
"Jimmy Komack told me that it was really between me and Freddie for the part of Chico, that only NBC president liked Lazaro, "  Ruiz said. "A little while later, Jimmy showed me  the test of Freddie with Jack. They obviously worked well together, and I was naive enough to say that to Jimmy when he asked me about it. I should of said, " No, I was better." But they liked me so much, they made sure I was a part of the show."
Ruiz, 57, was 31 when he auditioned for the role of Chico.
"I lied about my age," he said with a laugh. "They all thought I was 22. Freddie was only 20, I believe, at the time, I looked 22, but if they had known how old I was, they would have gone with someone younger to play Mando."
The show dragged on for another year without Prinze, with 12 year old Gabriel Melgar joining the cast, the ratings sagged, the show was canceled.
"Who knows? Maybe we could have gone on for years if Freddie had lived," Ruiz said. "It was a groundbreaking show with a Hispanic in a main role. It really opened the door for alot of people."
Ruiz continued to act after the series ended, doing guest roles on TV series, filming several movies and doing many commercials. But he got tired of the Hollywood scene and left for Arizona in 1983.
He has a couple of photo albums his mother compiled from those days and hopes to meet Freddie Prinze Jr. this year to show them to him.
" I'm sure I have alot of things that he has never seen, that a few people have never seen,"  Ruiz said.  "I'm glad Freddie Jr. is doing well. I know his dad would of been proud of him."
COPYRIGHT 2001 Tucsan Citizen