Cognac, Character & Cachao with Andy Garcia - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Lifestyle Reporter Mar Yvette

Cognac, Character & Cachao with Andy Garcia

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Andy Garcia is best known as an A-list actor from movies like "The Godfather Part III," "When A Man Loves A Woman" and "Ocean's Eleven" (and Twelve and Thirteen), but when I ask the Cuban-born leading man to name his first love, he says "music" without a moment's hesitation. This love of music–not to mention an affinity for fine cognac–is part of what led to Garcia's partnership with Martell Caractère, the newest spirit from the venerable Martell cognac brand that's been around since 1715.

So how did I end up sitting on a tufted red Naugahyde couch (or was it real leather? these are the things I think about) at a cool event space in Culver City talking to this talented actor I first saw in "Stand & Deliver" when I was still a tween?? Well, like the hundred or so other guests (who didn't get to interview him--I'm bragging), I was invited to the launch party of the Martell Icons of Caractère campaign, which celebrates inspirational icons of character in the Latino community.

For our generation, Garcia might well be one such icon. But for Garcia, that person would be Israel "Cachao" Lopez, the Grammy winning "inventor of the mambo" who first made his musical mark in Cuba and around the world in the early 1950s. He was also Garcia's mentor, kindred spirit and close friend from the 1990s until his passing in 2008. "I was approached by Martell to make a film that represented the spirit of [founder] John Martell and what he stood for as a person and as a visionary" Garcia offers. "I said, well, I knew a man who exemplified all those qualities and his name was Cachao. I told them who he was and that I had all this archival footage dating back from the 90s and they came back to me and said they'd love to do this project together."

That project is "Mi Maestro," a spirited and inspiring six-minute film directed and produced by Garcia that showcases the relationship he had with Cachao and how one icon of character inspired another. "Cachao took me in not only as a musical protege, but really as an extended member of his family. As a musician, the majority of what I know comes from him," says Garcia.

So what exactly does character mean to Andy? (Yeah, I'm calling him Andy now. Let's not try to stay all formal about it.) "I think it has a lot to do with being someone who is a man of his word. Someone who is dedicated and has a passion for life. All the qualities that we aspire to have."

And who in Andy's family most helped to develop his own character? "My father," he quickly responds. "He taught me about work ethic and that a man's word is gold." Word is bond, right? "Yeah, exactly. That's how contracts were done back in the day. A handshake and it was as good as done."

Ah, those were the days. Could that ever be possible today? Especially in Hollywood???

"Yeah, with some people. Yes, I have done that," he says. "There are still people out there with a strong sense of character." And he's not talking movie characters either, folks.

Let's raise a glass of cognac to that!

Watch: "Mi Maestro" by Andy Garcia

PHOTOS BY: Dano Photography

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