Lucas Tomás Muñiz Ramírez
4 February 1922
|Died||15 January 2009 (aged 86)|
|Known for||Actor, comedian, Host, businessman|
Lucas Tomás Muñiz Ramírez (4 February 1922 – 15 January 2009), better known as Tommy Muñiz, was a Puerto Rican comedy and drama actor, media producer, businessman and network owner. He is considered to be one of the pioneering figures of the television business in Puerto Rico.
Muñiz Ramírez was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico on 4 February 1922, to Don Tomás Muñíz Souffront and Monserrate "Nena" Ramírez. His father, Don Tomás, was a marketing executive who later became the administrator (and eventual owner) of various radio stations, as well as a radio producer.
Although Muñíz was born in Ponce, he was raised in the capital city of San Juan where he studied. Muñíz developed an interest in the entertainment business thanks to his father and to his uncle and godfather Félix Muñíz, who also produced radio programs. He started by being the messenger of the marketing firm where his father and uncle used to work, and eventually became a radio scriptwriter.
Radio and television career
Muñiz was a successful radio producer in Puerto Rico during the mid- to late 1940s. Five of his radio programs -comedies for which he was often the scriptwriter, sometimes with the assistance of Sylvia Rexach- would consistently earn a strong following, as judged by the attendance to personal presentations of the artists featured in them. He was responsible for introducing more than a dozen new artists to the media. He bought Radio Luz 1600 (WLUZ-AM) a radio station in Bayamón, Puerto Rico
During the first years of commercial television in Puerto Rico, and after a brief period during which revenues from his radio productions trickled down, Muñiz opted to start producing television programs as well. He was producer or executive producer for dozens of television programs and specials between 1955 and 1995. At one time in the early 1960s, five programs produced by Muñiz were in the top five television rankings in local audience surveys. One of the programs even spawned a 1967 film, "La Criada Malcriada", starring Velda González, Shorty Castro and Muñiz, among others.
He is credited for producing most of José Miguel Agrelot's television programs during his career. He is also credited with discovering and promoting other television artists as well, particularly Otilio Warrington.[dead link] In the 1970s he was the owner of WRIK-TV Channel 7 in Ponce.
At one time or another, Muñiz also owned a restaurant (La Campana) in Cayey), a pet shop in San Juan, a zoo (Monoloro) in Carolina, a thoroughbred stable, and a summer camp for children ("Camp Gualí"). He later delegated many of the administrative functions of his production company as to concentrate in scriptwriting and acting.
Actors labor dispute
Muñiz was persuaded by his executive staff to produce Spanish soap operas, known as telenovelas. The lackluster performance of these programs as measured by television ratings contrasted significantly with the enormous success of his comedy productions. As a result, decisions were made to reduce the number of novelas produced and cut the company's payroll. As a consequence, at least one local actor, Jose Reymundi, lost his job. As a result, in November 1973, Puerto Rico witnessed one of the largest labor disputes between the local Actors Union and Tommy Muñiz Productions.
In solidarity with Reymundi, seven actors left Muñiz's productions demanding fringe benefits from the company. Production on Muñiz's programs stopped for two weeks, with many unionized technicians joining the protesting actors at the picket line. The actors then formed Astra, an actors' conglomerate inspired by the origins of United Artists. Astra produced the experimental television programs Ahí va eso (There Goes That) and Sin ton ni son (No tune no beat). The conglomerate dissolved shortly after. The strike left a lasting impression in Muñiz that sent him into a depression. Some of Astra's actors eventually reconciled with Muñiz.
Los Garcia: Memorable TV Hit
In the late 1970s, Muñiz revived a comedy format that he had successfully used in three previous radio and television productions, the family sitcom. He produced and acted in a comedy series named Los García together with his real-life son Rafo Muñiz, and with longtime friend Gladys Rodríguez. Also starring were William Gracia as Pepín, Gina Beveraggi as Gini, Edgardo Rubio as Junito, Manela Bustamante as Doña Tony, Emma Rosa Vincenty as Doňa Cayetana, and a number of additional actors in various roles. The show became the most successful television show in Puerto Rican history, having a mostly successful six-year run and staying for three of those years at the top of local television ratings.
During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Muñiz was the owner of a radio station (Radio Luz WLUZ) and a television channel (Teleluz). Both were named after his wife, Luz María. In 1988, he became one of the largest minority owners of another channel, TeleOnce.[dead link]
In 1989, he and Rodríguez reunited to act in the movie Lo que le Pasó a Santiago, directed by Jacobo Morales, a longtime friend of Muñíz. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film becoming the first and only Puerto Rican film so far to do so.[dead link]
As a consequence of his part in Lo que le Pasó a Santiago, Muñiz was selected to act in the 1991 television comedy film Crazy From The Heart, directed by Thomas Schlamme and featuring Christine Lahti and Rubén Blades. In the movie, Muñiz played Blades' father, a Mexican peasant with a proclivity for setting billboards on fire as a protest. The movie was eventually broadcast by Turner Network Television (TNT).
Muñíz was married to Luz María García de la Noceda and they had eight children: Rafael (aka Rafo), Ruby, Hilda, Mario, Luzie, Tomito, Manolo, Pedro and Félix Antonio (Toño). Rafo and Pedro are both well-known actors and producers and Toño currently is Production Manager for various promoters in Puerto Rico. In the 80's and 90's Toño was the producer of the yearly top Salsa event in the Caribbean, "Festival de Salsa Winston" ; Pedro directed a dramatic film, Cayo. Manolo was a businessman before his untimely death in July 1995.
Tommy Muñiz's life is described in two books: an autobiography named "Así he vivido" ("That's the way I've lived") and "¡Juan, Juan, Juan! Crónicas de la televisión en tiempos de don Tommy" by Puerto Rican author Beba García.
- El Colegio de la Alegría (comedy)
- La Familia Pérez (comedy)
- Adelita, La Secretaria (comedy)
- Gloria y Miguel (comedy)
- ¡Qué sirvienta! (comedy)
- Las Aventuras de Andy Tenorio (comedy, based on the Archie comic strip)
- La Novela Fab (drama)
- El Show de Shows (for which Muñiz produced the comedy section only – 1955)
- El Colegio de la Alegría (the radio comedy program, moved to television)
- A reírse con Fab (first of four different names for the time slot – comedy)
- El profesor Colgate (amateur talent contest)
- Carnaval Del Monte (variety show)
- La Taberna India (variety show, based on the American show Duffy's Tavern)
- Hogar, dulce hogar (sitcom)
- Lotus lo divierte (variety show – 1956)
- Garata Deportiva (sports commentary – 1956)
- El chiste Camel (comedy – 1957)
- Telefiesta de la Tarde (variety show – 1957)
- Reina por un día (prize show – 1959)
- Desafiando a los genios (comedy – various inceptions between 1959 and 2004. This was a personal favorite of Pablo Casals)
- El Show del Mediodía (varíety show)
- Encabuya y Vuelve y Tira (comedy / news / community service)
- La Criada Malcriada (sitcom)
- La Cámara Cómica (comedy / reality television, based on Candid Camera – various inceptions)
- Esto no tiene nombre (comedy, based on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In – various inceptions)
- Ja, Ja, Ji, Ji, Jo, Jo con Agrelot (comedy / variety)
- Gloria y Miguel (sitcom)
- Viernes de Gala (variety)
- El especial de Corona (variety specials; first appearance by Otilio Warrington on television, 1967)
- Caras y caretas de las mujeres (comedy)
- El show de Tommy Muñiz (talk show)
- Hello, Puerto Rico (variety special)
- Las Almas No Tienen Color (novela – 1969)
- Historia de dos mujeres (novela – 1970)
- Cuando los hijos condenan (novela – 1970)
- Los Juanes (novela – 1971)
- Borinquen Canta (folk music / variety show, 1971)
- María del Mar (novela – 1971)
- El silencio nos condena (novela, 1972)
- Mami santa (novela, 1972)
- Claudia y Virginia (novela, 1973)
- Llanto para una mujer (novela, 1973)
- Marta (novela, 1973) Casting decisions caused the ASTRA strike against Muñiz's production company
- Los García (sitcom, 1976–1981)
- There is a statue of Muñiz at the Parque a los Caballeros de la Television (Park of the TV Gentlemen) in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
- Chronicle of his life in Primera Hora Archived 4 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine
- Article about his death in Primera Hora Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine
- García, Beba, ¡Juan, Juan, Juan! Crónicas de la televisión en los tiempos de don Tommy, Terranova Editores, San Juan, 2009; pg. 28