by Christiaan Sorensen
Careers in the entertainment industry are tough to come by. Millions of people try and fail daily. Although some may get a second look, very few actually get to spend their lives on stage, whether it be TV, movies or music. It takes a combination of talent and luck to find a niche in entertainment and Jerry Velasco, a local San Clementean, is one of the fortunate ones.
A consistent presence on the village music scene, Jerry has been at it for over 40 years. He is a singer and musician at heart, but has dabbled in TV and movies as well, appearing in the original “OCEAN’S ELEVEN” film, showcasing big names like Sinatra, Martin and Davis, Jr. He was also a regular on the set of “HAWAII 50”, and has appeared in other TV shows since. Music, however, is the water that floats Jerry’s boat.
Primarily a keyboardist, Velasco also has a knack for writing and singing his own music. He sang the theme song to the original “OCEAN’S ELEVEN” movie with Sammy Davis Jr., and one of his original compositions, “My Maui”, is the theme song for the Kapalua Invitational Golf Tournament, held annually in Hawaii and televised throughout the country.
Jerry got a taste for life on the road when he toured with Lionel Hampton throughout the United States and cities abroad. More settled now, every Thursday night from 7-10pm he can be found jamming with Jerry Mandel at CJ’s Lounge, above Miller’s Outpost in Pico Plaza.
“My love for singing and music in general has a lot to do with the spiritual benefits I feel when I hit a key note or really nail a song that has the whole crowd cheering,” Velasco said.
Growing up in the Velasco family must have been like a nightly talent contest. Jerry is one of eight siblings, and six of those have made a living in the entertainment industry, whether it be music, television or the theatre. Jerry’s children have followed suit, both finding work in show business. He says he loves that his children have a fondness for entertaining as well.
Velasco’s latest passion is a project to place an outdoor amphitheatre somewhere in San Clemente. He has teamed with the President of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Jerry Mandel, to realize a vision of an outdoor theatre where weddings and concerts, high school plays and art pageants can be held almost year ‘round, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the local economy. As chairman of a group spearheading the push to create this outdoor venue, his days are now spent lobbying for this newest dream.
Dreams are the stuff of life. Many people dream about a career in the entertainment industry. Everyone has that uncle that knows so-and-so, or a friend who has a friend who is roommates with a girl who once dated Mr. Big. Jerry Velasco was a dreamer who has done the impossible, finding a way into show business, staying in it for more than one or two hit songs, and finally passing the dream along to his children.