New Primitives head honcho Stanley Kipper calls with a heads-up, word that there’ll be a benefit for Diane Perez and can I provide some ink? Diane doesn’t know me from Adam’s housecat, but Stan is a fond professional acquaintance. So is Diane’s husband Chico Perez who, with Kipper, comprises the nucleus of ace Afro-Cuban rockers New Prims. I hang up, sit there, and think, Chico is not having the best of times. He lost his brother, Randy, last year. Now, Diane is struck with Non-Hodgin’s lymphoma. The benefit is, of course, to help with the bills. If Stan hadn’t asked I would’ve volunteered.
A week or so later, at Nye’s, where New Primitives do their weekly Thursday thing, I walk in and, setting up and tuning his congas is Chico. I go over and briefly exchange words. I don’t have the heart to bother the man with interview questions. I offer my best wishes.
Stanley, however, I never have any problem bothering. I go back outside, where he’s parked by the curb. We sit in his car, listen for a bit to music from the perennially about-to-be released new album. It’s incredible. Then, I pull out my tape recorder. Stan, Chico, and Diane go back, he reflects, “a long way. She’s a great girl. A wonderful lady. Great homemaker. Very intelligent. She sure keeps Chico cooled out.” Pausing to kind of look off into space, he adds, “I didn’t really meet her until I came back from California around 1990. Her and Chico had been together for a while, and they seemed to be a wonderful couple. I know she’s been really good for him. She’s also Bobby Jones’s sister. [He] plays bass in Gypsy. So, she’s a [New Primitives] family member.”
Taking another beat, summing up, he states, “To have her be sick like that was a surprise. I never saw it coming. Y’ know what I mean? So, the benefit, everybody that’s there playing is connected to her. It’ll be beautiful music. Chico’s sisters are doing the food. And you know how those girls can cook. They are legendary. I defy anybody to try to walk by anything that they put on the table. I dare you to walk by any plate Chico’s sisters fix. I rest my case right there.” There’ll be, courtesy of said culinary wizardy, a slew of tasty Mexican food. A bake sale. Also a silent auction. Vikings tickets. Merchandise from venues Stan and Chico have played throughout the years. Total Music is providing all amps, drums mics and sound equipment. You get the sense that there’s no shortage of love for the lady.
Before I get out of the car, Stanley makes a point of having me look up Roxanne Ross to say a few words. Roxanne, a dear friend of Diane’s, gets back to me by e-mail. “Diane truly is one of the nicest people I have ever met,” Roxanne writes. “Her heart is big and tender. She is the kind of friend one is very blessed to have, an awesome listener, non-judgmental, fun, great sense of humor, kind, will doing anything for you and always there. Her two grandchildren mean the world to her and do they love their grandma. I love Diane very much and even being faced with cancer she remains positive and her primary concern still remains others and not herself. Diane is surrounded by many people that love her and support her. We all remain positive and have faith in the almighty.” Like I said, Diane Perez certainly has a special place is in the hearts and minds of those whose lives she’s touched.
There’s reason to believe the benefit is going to be some kind of beautiful event. Along with New Primitives headlining, are the bill are Gypsy, Crow, Del Counts, and a reunion performance by Colla. It’s at the Coon Rapids VFW, 1919 Coon Rapids Blvd., 2 p.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, November 7, with cover of $10.