Chimichanga-lovers unite and reminisce.
If you lived in Tucson during the 1980s and 1990s, you probably remember Al Valenzuela — but you might not know him by name.
As the owner of Gordo’s Mexicateria, Valenzuela was the guy in the nostalgic Gordo’s commercials excitedly belting out, “if you like chimichangas, I mean if you really like chimichangas…”
Believe it or not, the commercial doesn’t exist online. Anywhere. Well, until now. (If you just want to view the commercials scroll down to the bottom to view.)
Not too long ago, I tried finding the old Gordo’s commercials. I tried every Google search term I could think of: “gordos tucson”, “gordos mexicateria”, “chimichanga guy”, “chimichanga tucson”, “chimichanga guy tucson”, and “if you really like chimichangas.” Nothing.
I even called up television stations.
“Oh no,” said a KVOA production employee. “We don’t archive anything going that far back. You might want to try the ad agency.”
Yes, of course – the ad agency. Except, I knew these weren’t ad agency commercials. They weren’t well produced. They were just really memorable.
Months later, during a press dinner with Janos — the legendary James Beard award-winning chef — I casually mentioned that I was looking for the original commercials. He suggested reaching out to the family. This path led to Valenzuela’s daughter, Marguerite Brown. She happily provided me with a grocery bag of old VHS tapes which I had converted to digital.
“He had a ball doing the commercials,” said Brown. “He was very comfortable and confident on the camera.”
Turns out, Valenzuela had been an announcer at the rodeo. But even with the announcer experience, he had originally hired voice talent for the first Gordo’s commercials — which were only radio commercials at the time.
While Valenzuela described to the producer and voice talent the way he wanted the commercial to sound and what he wanted it to say in detail, the producer — unknowingly to Valenzuela — recorded what the passionate Gordo’s owner was saying and it was that recording that ended up being used. The rest is history.
“Later, when they went in to do the television commercials,” continued Brown, “he didn’t think he was going to be the right guy. But, he did one take and nailed it.”
Due to poor health, Valenzuela sold Gordo’s in 2000. He was a character, and beloved member of the community — see original Diego Alfonso Valenzuela obituary here. At one point, Valenzuela even talked a gunman down during an attempted Gordo’s robbery.
Enjoy the embedded videos. There are 9 total. Actually, there are many more, but these are the versions we found most entertaining. To view on YouTube directly, visit the Tucson Foodie YouTube channel.