George Lopez was his usual irreverent self during a ceremony Tuesday morning dedicating the auditorium at San Fernando Elementary School in his name.
“You can thank me for getting you out of class,” he told hundreds of cheering kids gathered on blocked-off Mott Street, while their teachers and dignitaries such as San Fernando Mayor Mario Hernandez and LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy looked on and laughed.
“And for closing off the street! We closed off the street! Usually, there’s police tape when they do that, but not today.”
The kids chanted “par-ty par-ty par-ty” as Lopez cut a blue ribbon from the old auditorium’s door and unveiled a plaque above it engraved with his name and the inscription “Sabes Que?” (translation: “Know What?”) “If You Don’t Believe, You Can’t Achieve.”
Before the ceremony, inside the building where the 50-year-old TV, film and stand-up star first performed, Lopez was considerably more humble.
“Nothing that I’ve ever done has been expected,” he noted, “but if there is any place I would have picked to be named after me, it would probably be this auditorium. I was very young – 6, 7 years old – when I came to school here, and I wanted to perform even back then. … This is where you’re either hopeful or hopeless.”
The school’s principal, Maria Awakian, has been working since she arrived at San Fernando more than a year ago to meet all of the LAUSD regulations for naming the building in honor of Lopez.
“Our school community – the parents, teachers – wanted to do something special for him,” Awakian said. “He has been coming here for years, and donating. He’s helped with technology. He’s helped with P.E. equipment. And now the auditorium, he’s putting a new lighting and sound system in.
“And each Christmas, he brings a brand-new toy for every child in our school, over 1,000,” Awakian added.
The students, most of whom come from low-income immigrant families, appreciate Lopez for more than just the Transformers and “Twilight” Barbies he personally hands out at holiday time.
“This is awesome,” 10-year-old student Sebastian Sandoval said about the day’s festivities, which included performances by nearby San Fernando High’s crack mariachi band. “I watch George Lopez on TV and think he’s real funny. I’m inspired by him.”
Earlier this year, Lopez quietly ponied up $12,000 for his hometown high school’s baseball team, which could not afford to buy rings for the players when they won the City Section championship.
Though he’s previously avoided publicity for his contributions to San Fernando, his name on a public building could only boost that mayoral run Lopez has talked about in the past.
“It’s not a bad step,” Lopez acknowledged, though he added that launching a new TV sitcom is his current priority, and he probably wouldn’t run for mayor of San Fernando for another eight years or so.
In the meantime, he’ll be back at SF Elementary often. And not just during school hours.
“It’s not a bad place to have my name on,” Lopez said. “I’m sure there’ll be some nights when I drive by and just look at it.”