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ASTOL, LEONARDO GARCÍA [LALO]

Lalo Astol in Studio
Picture, Lalo Astol in studio circa 1950. Image courtesy of the University of Texas at San Antonio. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

ASTOL, LEONARDO GARCÍA [LALO] (1906–1994). Leonardo García Astol, also known as Lalo or Lalito, was a popular stage actor, radio announcer, and television personality in Texas.  He was born to Leonardo F. García and Socorro Astol at Matamoros, Coahuila, Mexico, on December 2, 1906.

The son of parents who had made their careers in the theater, Lalo Astol made his stage debut at two months of age. His mother, Socorro Astol, was a leading Mexican actress who performed in the major theaters of Mexico City and the provinces throughout the early twentieth century. The daughter of a family of actors, she was a member of a professional dramatic acting company which included her mother, Consuelo López de Solano, also an accomplished actress in Mexico. His father served as prompter in Mexico City theaters at a time when prompting was a vital part of the theater company organization. Leonardo later formed his own company in the United States and organized a successful and long-lasting dramatic acting company in Texas under his leadership as actor-manager. The union of Socorro and García also produced another son, Francisco (Paco), who also enjoyed a long acting career on the Mexican stage. 

Lalo Astol received his early education at the Colegio Salesiano, a religious school in Mexico City. His parents would leave him and Paco at the school while they toured. When Astol’s parents divorced, he lived with various families until he was fifteen years old at which time he came to the United States to join his father. 

Lalo Astol began his acting career in his father’s company, the Compañía Leonardo F. García. At this time, the actor decided to retain his mother’s surname as was typical in Mexican family names. His career quickly led to roles with other larger companies that toured the American southwest, including the theater enterprise of Manuel Cotera. Lalo Astol also appeared  in the Spanish-language theaters of San Antonio and developed an expertise in comic roles during a time when dramatic companies provided roles for actors in specific lines of business, either comic or serious (see MEXICAN-AMERICAN THEATER).

Lalo Astol became a pioneer in Spanish-language radio in San Antonio. In 1946 he was the first program director as well as announcer and traffic manager for KCOR-AM. Owned by Raoul Cortez, KCOR was the first all-Spanish-language radio station owned and operated by a Hispanic. Astol wrote and adapted many scripts for radio programming and drew from his earlier stage and vaudeville experience. He introduced various actors to radio and was responsible for introducing the Spanish-speaking audiences to the repertory of modern drama which he preferred. He created well-known comic character types for the theater, radio, and later television that Texas audiences soon came to associate with his long life in programming. 

Lalo Astol Performing
Picture, Lalo Astol in the middle of a performance at KCOR-AM studio (standing). Image courtesy of the National Museum of American History. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

In January 1955 Astol directed and produced the first broadcast of KCOR-TV, of which he was also a founder. KCOR-TV (later known as KWEX, Channel 41) has been credited as being the first Spanish-language television station in the United States. He also worked for KUKA-AM radio in San Antonio. On June 30, 1981, San Antonio leaders gave Lalo Astol a city-wide tribute at the Teatro Alameda for his contribution to Spanish radio.  

Lalo Astol listed no political affiliation. He had two children from his first marriage to Otila Cuellar. In July 1935 he married María de Jesus (Susie) Mijares, a former member of the Fernandi Circus of Monterrey. Her entire family was involved in the Mexican circus, and one brother later worked with Ringling Brothers. Besides her training in athletics, balance acts, and dance with the circus, Susie soon became Astol’s partner in comic roles for the stage, radio, and television. Susie and Lalo Astol had three daughters. 

Astol retired at the age of eighty and continued to reside with his wife in San Antonio. He died on April 13, 1994, and was buried in San Fernando Cemetery No. 2 in San Antonio.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Lalo Astol, Telephone Interview by Elizabeth C. Ramírez, September 26, 1989. Lalo Astol Papers, 1879–1982, Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries, University of Texas at Austin. Elizabeth C. Ramírez, Footlights Across the Border: A History of Spanish-language Professional Theatre on the Texas Stage (New York: Lang, 1990). Elizabeth C. Ramírez, “Spanish-language Combination Companies on the American Stage: Organization & Practice in Texas, 1915–1935,” Theatre History Studies IX (1989). San Antonio Express-News, April 16, 1994.

Elizabeth C. Ramírez

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Elizabeth C. Ramírez, "Astol, Leonardo GarcÍa [Lalo]," accessed November 18, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fas08.

Uploaded on December 8, 2015. Modified on June 14, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.