.Former Metro Columnist Carlos deVillalvilla Passes at Age 61

Colleagues remember the journalist, who chronicled the music scene in the ’80s and ’90s

In the mid-1980s, when Metro came into being, pre-redevelopment downtown San Jose was a far different world. Metro shared a wall with the Pussycat Theater; across the street was a sex club that became the home of the Cactus Club, one of the early arrivals in the new downtown scene.

There to witness the changes and write about them was Carlos deVillalvilla, one of the newspaper’s first entertainment columnists. The 61-year-old former Metro writer passed away March 22 after undergoing triple bypass surgery on March 15.

A native of Southern California and graduate of Loyola Marymount College, deVillalvilla stepped through the doors of Metro in its early days, joining fellow columnists Sammy Cohen, who penned the Jazz Notes column, and Rebecca Smith, whose Neighborhood Noise column chronicled local bands.

In Sound Check, his weekly column, deVillalvilla kept tabs on the burgeoning scene, which began drawing major music acts to the area at such new venues as One Step Beyond, F/X and the Shoreline Amphitheatre.

On Twitter, deVillalvilla posted this in his bio: “I am a former rock critic for the San Jose Metro now a retired stockbroker writing movie reviews.” His career involved working with Charles Schwab in Florida from 2000 to 2007, according to his LinkedIn page, where deVillalvilla met wife Doreen. And the reference to movie reviews highlights his most recent passion: writing at least daily for his own WordPress site, Cinema365

During his time at Metro, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, deVillalvilla was an integral part of the South Bay music scene. So it’s fitting that news of his passing was noted in the Facebook group San Jose Music Scene of Yesteryear. “Sad news to share,” posted Steve Bennett, who worked at the Cactus Club in the late 1980s. “If you were in the SJ music scene in the ’80s and beyond, you picked up Metro each week to read the music column from Carlos DeVillalvilla.” 

Bennett added, “Carlos and I spent many a night in the lobby of the Cactus critiquing bands together. I always looked forward to how he put that to words in the pages of the Metro in the coming days. He was a smart, kind and gentle man.”

Fishhook guitarist Jeff Ebbage wrote to the group, “Carlos was a huge man. With a huge heart. One of the sweetest I’ve ever met and it cannot be overstated about how his writing talents and love of music shaped the San Jose music scene. I am truly saddened.”

Familiar names from the San Jose music scene who remember deVillalvilla fondly include Fil Maresca, founder of F/X and organizer of the SoFA Festival. “Carlos was instrumental in the foundation of a new little neighborhood called SoFA,” Maresca told Metro. “It was his dedication to the local live scene that helped evolve both the Street Fair and the SoFA clubs into a super-supportive music community. Plus, he may have been the FIRST person to actually use ‘SoFA’ in print, in one of his columns.”

Raffi Nalvarian—aka King Raffi, a South Bay music scenester and former KSJS DJ—told Metro that “Carlos was one of the most important people in advocating and supporting the South Bay music scene for many years. I am just so sad that he is no longer with us.” Nalvarian also posted on Facebook, “We became very good friends over the years and shared some pretty fun times together. I have so much I want to say about how important he was to me as a friend and a supporter early in my career. Carlos was my honorary Armenian friend. His Armenian name was Kevork and he would always leave me messages saying ‘Hey! It’s Kevork! Give me a call!’ I’ll never forget how much we laughed together and shared zillions of stories at California Sushi in downtown San Jose.”

Greg Camp, founding guitarist and songwriter for the band Smash Mouth, recalled the writer’s work well: “A legend and a very sweet man gone too soon. I can still see Carlos lurking in the shadows of the Cactus Club, taking notes, and all of us San Jose bands trying our hardest to play our best for him. It was always exciting to rip open the Metro on Thursday to see what he had to say about whatever happened the weekend before.”

Longtime colleague Richard von Busack, who was the paper’s leading film critic when deVillalvilla was a music columnist, muses about what made deVillalvilla special. “You think of a certain kind of person as the big-rock act critic for a weekly newspaper—a name dropper, a gladhander, a patronizer. The late Carlos deVillavilla was none of those things. He was a genial and witty figure, sort of resembling a shorter and stouter Ben Franklin. And he was there at the very beginning of Metro and thus, sadly, a person who did the work before things went digital in ’96. The back issues repose in the basement of the MLK Library, though. His writing is waiting for anyone wanting some of the color of what I’d consider the really happy rocking days of San Jose, when there were entourage-free nightclubs and a good back and forth between performers and crowd.”

Later, von Busack kept in touch on FaceBook during deVillalvilla’s “tranquil days in Florida,” sharing thoughts about the elections and “agreeing that Guardians of the Galaxy Volume II highlighted the universe’s greatest evil: baby boomer dads who go away and start up new families.” But von Busack’s fondest memory is “running into him front and center at the excellent Oingo Boingo show in July 26, 1986, at what was then Marriott’s Great America; he’d got me a free ticket, and we were shoulder to shoulder watching Danny Elfman do the scythe dance.”

SoFA SCENE Carlos deVillalvilla on South First Street

You worry too much

You make yourself sad

You can’t change fate

But don’t feel so bad

Enjoy it while you can

It’s just like the weather

So quit complaining brother

No one lives forever

Carlos deVillalvilla leaves behind wife Doreen and mother Maryann Devillalvilla as well as sister MaryAnn Dube, niece Elisabeth Dube and aunts, uncles and cousins.

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