Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Selena follows her heart


Houston Chronicle

Note: This is the second of two excerpts from Selena: Como la Flor (Little, Brown and Co., $22.95), a biography of Tejano superstar Selena Quintanilla Perez. ""Selena: Como la Flor," copyright 1996, by Joe Nick Patoski.. Reprinted with permission from Little, Brown and Co.

Selena's social life revolved around the band (Los Dinos).

Her circle of friends consisted of people she worked with - family - and people she met while entertaining. No matter where they played, someone was waiting backstage to talk and take photos and provide nice company. But after the show, it was back to the motel room. Her contact with the outside world was carefully screened by Abraham (Quintanilla Jr., her father).

Keeping her image up was a constant challenge. ""Her figure was not by accident. She worked at it," said Ramon Hernandez. ""On the road, it's not that you let yourself go; you have no choice. I've got pictures of her walking between the convenience store and the bus, carrying a pile of goodies - Twinkies, cakes, ice cream." But at home, downtime was spent working out and playing racquetball at the athletic club, as well as shopping and working on her designs.

On the road, everybody was Selena's best friend; at least, that's the way she made them feel. But she couldn't really count on any single person in the truest sense. Family remained the binder that held her life together, with her father keeping a tight rein on the whole affair. They all knew their roles and shared an element of trust that did not extend outside of their immediate circle. ""We're a very unified family," Selena said. ""Within the family we have aggressive and dominating personalities, but we believe the family is the most important thing of all. We're all stubborn." Within the unit, there was a distinct division of labor. ""Everybody knows their position in the band, nobody steps over their line as far as my dad's being the manager. We don't get into business or tell tell him what to do. My brother creates the music and we let him take care of that. My sister is in charge of the marketing. We don't step over that line. We all have our little jobs. We are just like a team."

Selena had made the transition from gawky teen to full-blown woman before everyone's eyes. Gone was the perky Brenda Lee cut, all function and little form. Instead, she let her raven hair grow thick and full, augmenting what nature denied with hairpieces. Her lips had filled out voluptuously; so had her figure. She was the total Latina.

Selena had worked with (her guitarist) Chris Perez for two years. She'd met him in 1988 while he was still playing behind Shelly Lares, a pal of Selena's from San Antonio. He'd become a Dino just after the band had finished recording Ven Conmigo. She liked him a whole lot as a band member. His playing was impeccable, he showed up on time, and Dad liked him. He was also really fun to be with on his own. She loved the little wrinkled smile he had, his shy, demure manner, the way he carried himself on and offstage, how he let his guitar do the talking, as he used to tell her. He was a good listener. And he was a good friend, like all the guys in the band, all of whom were considered family.

Now she found herself liking him in another way, too, in a way she'd never felt before in her life.

One day, (Selena's older brother) A.B. took Chris aside. ""What do you think about Selena?" he asked.

""She's cool," Chris replied nonchalantly.

""No." A.B. asked again, ""What do you think about Selena? Because she was asking about you."

Chris' face reddened visibly as he shyly smiled. He was a loner, a quiet one, who found release through his guitar. Selena interested in him? He felt more embarrassed than anything. No. Her? No way.

Selena's infatuation with Chris did not, would not subside. They saw each other every day on the road, but it wasn't the place to develop a relationship. They first admitted to each other the feelings that they each had at a Pizza Hut in the Rio Grande Valley, talking about it intimately in the parking lot.

Chris, it turned out, was just as smitten as she was. ""I never wanted to see anyone else, I never went out with anyone else. It was just Selena and me." And Abe and the band.

To outsiders Chris seemed an unlikely choice. They were opposites, fire and ice. He was introverted and retiring; she was loud and boisterous. She could have had any man, and she picked her guitar player. But Chris wasn't a goody-goody by any stretch of the imagination. In December he'd been convicted of driving while intoxicated and evading arrest in San Antonio, which cost him $670 in fines and court costs, plus attorney's fees, lost work time, and having to explain himself to Selena.

They had to settle for stolen moments, on the road, back home, wherever and whenever they could. Abraham didn't mind Chris going places with Selena, as long as it appeared to him to be band-related business. Even he didn't suspect.

When he caught them embracing, Abraham didn't miss a beat. What did Chris think he was doing? Selena was no tramp. They were just kids. Sooner or later, Selena would realize it was just an infatuation. She'd see the light, if he had anything to do with it.

For the first time, though, he didn't have anything to do with it.

Try as he might, he couldn't smother the flames of passion. He'd given his daughter all he could, nurturing her, protecting her, managing her, guiding her career and her personal life. But this was one void he could not fill. As much as it troubled him, he couldn't control Selena's feelings for Chris.

When Abraham fired Chris (from Los Dinos), he hadn't anticipated Selena's reaction to Chris moving back to San Antonio and picking up a gig playing behind Patsy Torres.

All it took was Selena's misery over the next four months for the angry father and protective manager to come around.

His daughter would be accommodated, but on Abraham's terms. He asked Chris to come back, but said he could be with Selena only if they married and only if they lived next door, in a house Abraham owned. A.B.; his wife, Vangie, and their two children already lived on the other side.

""I'm sure that any father who has a daughter has mixed emotions about her marriage," Abraham said. ""All I could do was teach my kids as my parents taught us, that marriage is a sacred covenant."

On April 2, 1992, Selena told her parents she was going shopping and went with Chris to the Nueces County Courthouse on Leopard Street. The twenty-year-old bride wore a Coca-Cola jacket, the twenty-two-year-old groom, a white shirt. Both had on jeans. Judge Joaquin Villarreal III waived the normal 72-hour waiting period, and Selena Quintanilla was married to Christopher Perez by Ben Garza Jr., Justice of the Peace, in Precinct 1 in Nueces County, who interrupted his lunch break to preside over the ceremony.

""Ever since I was a little girl, I'd dreamed of having a big, wonderful wedding, with a long white gown and a bouquet of flowers," Selena later told a friend, Maria Elida Saldivar. ""But my love for Chris was so strong. I couldn't wait any longer for us to be husband and wife. I couldn't even wear my nicest dress because that would have made my father suspicious."

Judge Garza said, ""I remember thinking, `Where are their parents?' They were so happy together, they deserved to have their family and friends around them."

Abe felt that publicizing the marriage would damage Selena's career, so he soft-pedaled the news, telling only those who asked. He told Selena it wasn't cool to talk about it in interviews. ""He doesn't want to emphasize it," she told one reporter. Like it or not, career or no career, Abraham couldn't stop her.