Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

Andy Garcia Interview -

His office is full of road maps of Cuba but so is his face which is pure Havana , a matador mix of sleepy machismo and haunting burned sienna eyes. ' Have a cigar?,' asks Andy Garcia pushing back a brown pork pie hat as he settles into a seat in what was once his back garden.

He puffs on his torpedo of tobacco and grins with the confidence of an actor who, at 38, is one of the most sought after leading men in the world. His assistant provides what appears to be a thimble of black mud with sugar. As he sips his cofee Garcia admits he adores his heritage. And, of course, like all exiles, what you can't have the more you want.

The 'office' is a rambling house on the outskirts of Los Angeles which before 'Godfather 3' , 'Black Rain', '8 Million Ways to Die' and a string of films including last year's 'When A Man Loves A Woman' with Meg Ryan was the fulltime home for Garcia and his wife and three daughters. It still bustles with activity.

But today it's not babies crying but power players wanting his time for this film deal or that charity concert or personal appearance. He has a reputation of being difficult but I've never found him that. He's a decent man -- Un buen hombre. And never more than now. He's made and is making his dreams come true.

He has a bigger family home in Los Angeles and a $1.1 million dollar beachfront property in Key Biscayne , Florida , but, more important to him than the trinkets of Hollywood success, is that he can call the tune.

He made his debut as a director with a documentary about Israel Lopez better known as Cachao ( pronounced ka-CHOW) a bassist, composer and band leader who helped create the mambo and revolutionised Cuban and Latin music from, you might say, the bottom up. Cachao recorded the first mambo in 1939 as well as being a Latin legend responsible for the Cuban musical form known as the danzon and the biggest influence behind the descarga -- jam sessions.

The highly praised documentary led to Garcia producing more of Cachao's work and 'Master Sessions, Volume One' was a major success last summer in America and went on sale in Britain last month (December 1994). Now, the musician is writing the music for Garcia's next film.

Cachao was born in Havana in 1918 and left Cuba in 1961 with a couple of suitcases and more than 3,000 songs. Garcia was born in Havana in April,1956, and was five when his family fled Castro and settled in Miami .

Both refugees from the Communist regime they finally connected in San Francisco . By then Garcia was a star -- not the swaggering teenager hanging around the music clubs on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach :

'Back then we'd drink coffee at the Royal Castle on 71st Street . The ocean was right there. We'd wait for the American girls to come around and try andf pick them up.

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