Menudo and Jose Menendez

Menudo was a Puerto Rican boy band formed in 1977 by producer Edgardo Diaz. Menudo found initial success in Puerto Rico, and later became very popular throughout Latin and South America. In 1983, New York-based RCA Records, where Jose Menendez worked as executive vice president, signed a multimillion-dollar recording contract with Menudo. (According to a New York Daily News article, Jose personally flew down to Puerto Rico to negotiate the deal with Edgardo Diaz.) In 1984, Ricky Martin joined Menudo and stayed in the group until 1989.

According to Keith Greenberg’s 1983 photobiography titled “Menudo!”, the name Menudo (roughly translated as “little guy” or “small change”) was derived from a comment made by Edgardo Diaz’s sister. Before the group had begun performing, Diaz was at his home practicing with the boys one day. Enter Diaz’s sister, who – surprised to see her brother palling around with friends so much younger than he was – asked, “Cuánto menudo tenemos aqui?” (Translation: “How many little guys [menudo] do we have here?”)

A ground rule of Menudo was that each member must leave the group before his sixteenth birthday. In his photobiography, Greenberg explains how new Menudo members were chosen: “You have to lead the Menudo lifestyle: no drugs, good marks, a positive attitude. You should also be cute, stand 5’2“ and be between 12 and 14 years old. You must be a good dancer and a good singer – and be ready to take on a serious challenge.”

Greenberg also describes how life as a Menudo member was anything but easy: “Some say it’s harder than being in U.S. Marine boot camp. Boys who are overweight must trim down. Practices take as long as 13-14 hours a day. Menudo has 46 different dances, which every member must master. Five days a week, the boys sweat themselves to perfection. All this is in addition to academics. Menudo has three tutors who work with the members three hours each day. And the boys get homework!”

Jose Menendez’s “obsession” with Menudo
In the 1994 book “Blood Brothers,” Ron Soble and John Johnson write: “Menendez watched over the group’s every move. He attended concerts with his sons to chart fan reaction and worked hard to spoon-feed the group’s pop pablum to American kids.”

In the 2018 book “The Menendez Murders,” Robert Rand writes: “Menendez took an obsessive personal interest in the group, which was unusual for the head of a record label. He spent weeks on tour with Menudo in Brazil and Italy. He hired a tutor to teach the group English.”

Abuse allegations
In May of 1991, freelance photographer Bolivar Arellano appeared on a Puerto Rican talk show and made allegations that several members of Menudo had been sexually abused and regularly plied with alcohol and drugs. Arellano pointed the finger of blame at three men, including the group’s founder Edgardo Diaz. Arellano did not make any allegations against Jose Menendez. (UPI News)

Rumors about possible sexual abuse within Menudo were reportedly circulating prior to Arellano going public with his allegations. In the 2022 docuseries “Menudo: Forever Young,” Ray Acevedo, who was in Menudo from 1985 to 1988, states: “From the beginning, there’s rumors that there’s pedophiles involved, and, you know, something was going on.”

Several members of Menudo have gone public with allegations that they were subjected to physical, sexual and mental abuse while they were in the group. (Latin Post; MEAWW; New York Post; The Cinemaholic)

Edgardo Diaz has always denied abusing any member of Menudo in any way.

Ron Soble and John Johnson write in the book “Blood Brothers” that Steve Wax, a consultant during Jose Menendez’s RCA years, said Jose “would joke about” the abuse allegations connected with Menudo.

Rumors about and allegations against Jose Menendez
Ash Ruiz was a member of Menudo from 1991 to 1995. On June 24, 2022, Ruiz was interviewed on the podcast “Reality Life with Kate Casey.” During the interview Ruiz was asked if he remembers hearing any stories about Jose Menendez during his time in the group. Ruiz responded: “I do remember hearing his name. I do remember hearing rumors of, you know, I don’t know which members it was, but there are rumors that, you know, pretty much Edgardo pimped out some of the guys to get that RCA contract to this man.”

On January 11, 1994, the New York Daily News published an article with the headline: “At Menendez Trial, It’s Wait a Menudo.”
The article reads in full:
Only in America can a former member of Menudo be mentioned in the same breath with the Menendez brothers. While a jury deliberates the fate of Erik and Lyle, accused of murdering their parents, a rumor is circulating among everyone close to the trial that the boys’ father had a sexual relationship with the former band member. The man heating things up, Bolivar Arellano, is a Post photographer and former long-time pal of the group. Two years ago, Arellano charged that several of the underage boys were sexually abused by the men who made millions off them, including the group’s founder, Edgardo Diaz. The accusation put all of Puerto Rico into shock, tagged Arellano with defamation charges in Puerto Rico and brought an eventual admission from Diaz that there had, in fact, been drug, sex and emotional problems in the group, but he had not been involved.
It is now coming to light that a former Menudo-ite allegedly had a relationship with Jose Menendez, after Diaz introduced the band member to the boys’ father. The Menudo-ite has told our sources that Menendez “inappropriately touched” him, but that there was never any sex involved. When Erik and Lyle’s attorney, Leslie Abramson, was asked whether she planned to subpoena the former band member, she said it wasn’t appropriate. “I’m aware of the story,” she said. “I might not even need him, the jury is deliberating. But even if they weren’t, I wouldn’t want to drag him in. He’s got a career.” Hmm, somehow we don’t think her clients are willing to fry for the sake of his career.

The June 22, 1999 edition of Globe magazine featured an article with the headline: “Was Ricky Martin Victim of Sex Attack by Menendez Father?”
(Cover, pages 4-5, page 5, page 9)
The article reads in full:
STEAMY Latin singer Ricky Martin is being dogged by allegations he was sexually molested by Jose Menendez, the music exec who later was brutally murdered by his sons Lyle and Erik!
That’s the shocking claim of Darrin McGillis, who for years was a concert tour promoter and booking agent for Ricky’s former group Menudo.
Lyle and Erik are now serving life in prison without parole for the 1989 shotgun slayings of their parents.
According to McGillis, during the trial police investigated whether Ricky was molested on a trip to Disneyland.
Pop music’s hottest star already is embroiled in controversy over his sexuality.
As GLOBE revealed exclusively three weeks ago, the hip-swiveling hunk is being marketed as the heartthrob of millions of gals, but some fans and music industry insiders have questioned whether he is gay.
Ricky, 27, does nothing to kill the persistent speculation, say insiders. He simply refuses to comment.
In a world-exclusive GLOBE interview, McGillis disclosed that two homicide investigators contacted him regarding allegations of Ricky’s molestation by Menendez in a September 1993 phone call.
“The officers wanted to know how to get in touch with Ricky and other kids who’d been members of the teenybopper group Menudo between 1983 and 1987,” said McGillis, 32.
“Those were the years Jose Menendez served as a vice president at RCA Records and was instrumental in signing Menudo to a $30 million record deal.
“They asked me if I’d heard about the Menendez murder case. I told them I had, and asked what that had to do with Ricky or the other kids.
“They said part of Lyle and Erik’s defense was that they were molested by their father.” At one point in the trial, allegations surfaced that the Menendez brothers had drawn Ricky Martin into their father’s circle of molestation victims.
“The police said they were investigating claims that an ex-Menudo member had been molested.
“Their story caught me by surprise, but not totally off-guard, because I knew that many of the people around Menudo were involved in the gay scene.
“Jose used to invite the Menudo boys to stay as guests at his home in Beverly Hills whenever they were performing on the West Coast.
“He often took them to dinner and amusement parks.
“It seemed to me Jose obviously had special feelings for Ricky and often hugged him.
“More than once I noticed him running his fingers across Ricky’s back and shoulders or through his hair.
“And he’d sometimes taken the boy along on trips with him.
“That should have raised eyebrows, but it didn’t. Afterall, Jose Menendez was a very successful businessman who wore expensive suits and wrote multimillion-dollar contracts.
“The detectives told me about allegations concerning an incident involving Jose Menendez and Ricky around 1984, when Ricky was about 12 years old.
“He told me that Menendez had asked permission to take the boy to Disneyland.
“While en route, the investigator told me, Menendez allegedly pulled over to the side of the highway and tried to put his hands down Ricky’s pants.”
A second source close to the Menendez case told GLOBE he’d also heard charges that Ricky had been fondled by the record honcho.
Another insider who attended the Menendez murder trial in Los Angeles told our reporter: “People were saying around the courthouse that Jose Menendez sexually molested a member of Menudo.”
Former L.A. Deputy District Attorney David P. Conn said: “I remember hearing an allegation that Jose Menendez had molested someone in Menudo.”
The investigating officers declined to be interviewed by GLOBE. Ricky had no comment on our story.
But McGillis noted: “If Lyle and Erik are telling the truth about being molested as kids, did that drive them to kill their parents? My instincts and information tell me that what they said was true.
“Lyle and Erik claim to have been friends with Ricky and the other members of Menudo, and I have no reason to doubt that’s true because I know the boys used to stay at the Menendez home sometimes.
“People close to the Menendez family truly believe Lyle, at least, was molested by Jose. If that’s true, what would stop Jose from molesting other boys?
“If this happened as people say, I fear some of the Menudo boys – there were more than 30 of them – were molestation victims. God only knows what sordid stories are hidden deep within their souls.
“Only two people know if Ricky was molested by Jose. One of them is dead and the other isn’t talking.
“But Ricky should come forward. He has nothing to be ashamed of – he’s the victim.”

(A lengthy article about Darrin McGillis can be found here: Miami New Times – His Sister’s Keeper)

Ricky Martin denies sexual abuse tale
Ricky Martin denied that he was molested by Jose Menendez. An article about the matter appeared in the Page Six section of the New York Post just days after Globe ran its story.
The article reads in full:
RICKY Martin denies he was molested by Jose Menendez, the record exec who orchestrated Menudo’s meteoric U.S. rise and was later murdered by his sons Lyle and Erik.
“On the record, Ricky denied anything untoward had happened between them,” the Menendez brothers’ biographer Robert Rand told PAGE SIX.
Rand was responding to a report in the tabloid Globe this week quoting a former Menudo promoter as saying that, during Erik and Lyle’s first trial, cops investigated whether Martin – once one of Menudo’s hottest members – had been molested by Jose during a trip to Disneyland.
“While en route, the investigator told me, Menendez allegedly pulled over to the side of the highway and tried to put his hands down Ricky’s pants,” former promoter Darrin McGillis told the Globe.
Investigators confirm that molestation allegations did surface about Jose and an unnamed Menudo member during Erik and Lyle’s first trial. The two brothers, now doing life for killing their parents in 1991, contended their dad molested them.
It was Jose Menendez who put together the 1983 $30 million RCA record deal that put Menudo on the map here – and the then-teenaged Martin later became a heartthrob idol to millions of young girls.
Martin’s rep, Kim Jakeworth, insisted to PAGE SIX: “Ricky never, ever even met the Menendezes’ father, or the two kids. Check your clips. Ricky wasn’t even in Menudo when Jose Menendez was involved with the band.”
But in fact, Ricky did know Jose. Martin joined the mite-sized marvels in 1984, the year after Menendez inked the band’s record deal, and Martin himself said he and the exec did cross paths.
“Ricky told me he remembered meeting Jose Menendez,” says Rand, who interviewed Martin in Mexico City in 1993, and asked him about the Jose rumors.
Rand, though contending McGillis’s molestation account is hogwash, says he uncovered “a lot of other information about Jose and his apparent obsession with the boys in the band.” It’ll turn up in his Menendez tome, “Strange Sins,” due out next spring.
Rand wants to make one thing clear: “Regardless of whether there was any connection between Jose and members of Menudo, it doesn’t necessarily support the brothers’ claims they were molested by their father.”

Victor Gutierrez book – Ricky Martin quotes, and a new allegation
The Spanish-language version of Victor Gutierrez’s book “Michael Jackson Was My Lover” contains a chapter about Ricky Martin. A rough-around-the-edges translation of a portion of the chapter was posted on a World of Wonder website blog post in 2005. The chapter contains purported quotes from Ricky Martin about Jose Menendez:
”I was a kid & I met many people, but I really don’t remember this man much”, states Ricky. ”When I saw his photograph in the press that he was murdered, his face looked familiar, and it was my assistant that told me that I knew the guy when he was President of RCA. But to say that I had any type of relationship with this man, and add to that, any type of abuse, I would remember that, I would definitely remember that, nothing like that ever happened.”

“I don’t know what it is about me that they involve me in the sexual abuse charges when I was a boy. It’s incredible that I’m involved in these stories, “Menendez & now Jackson”. People sure do have a lot of Imagination.”

The book chapter also contains an allegation that Jose Menendez had a romantic relationship with a member of Menudo: “Strangely a close friend of Ricky’s who wish to remain anonymous, states that the idea of Jose having a romantic relationship with one of the members of the group Menudo is not new. “We all knew it & many others new [sic] it, the problem was that it was with a minor, it wasn’t Ricky Martin, it was with another member of the group.”

Larry King Live
On August 20, 2003, the Larry King Live show took “A Look Back at the Menendez Brothers Murder Case.” Guests on the show were, among others, Dr. William Vicary and prosecutor David Conn. During the show, a viewer called in and asked a question about Jose Menendez:

CALLER: Good evening, Larry. My question is for the panel. I wanted to know if anyone is familiar with the rumor that Jose Menendez was an alleged serial child molester and I just wanted to know if anyone has ever come forward to substantiate those….
KING: Dr. Vicary.
VICARY: Yes, that’s actually a fact.
KING: That is a fact?
VICARY: There were people…
KING: Oh, you mean allegations — the fact is there were allegations.
VICARY: There were allegations and they were investigated. They were followed up. People were interviewed and admitted that they had been either molested or approached by the father sexually. However, because of their position — some of these people were in the entertainment business. They did not wish to make this a public statement, and so this information, thus far, has not come out publicly.
GRACE: Wait a minute. With these guys facing the death penalty, Larry? They wouldn’t come forward? I find that a little tough to swallow.
CONN: We saw no reliable evidence during the trial that was true. We heard about that rumor and I don’t think that was substantiated.

[Full show transcript]

Although Vicary doesn’t identify any of the people making allegations against Jose Menendez, Vicary’s statement that, “some of these people were in the entertainment business,” may provide a clue. Given the fact that the music industry is part of the entertainment business, it seems reasonable to speculate that Vicary was at least in part referring to a member of Menudo.

Although David Conn doesn’t specifically refer to Menudo, it is quite possible that Conn in his answer to the caller’s question indirectly incorporated a reference to the Menudo rumor.

If you would like to learn about the history of Menudo, I recommend watching the 4-part docuseries “Menudo: Forever Young.”

I owe gratitude to a poster on the MenendezBrothers subreddit whose post about “The Ricky Martin Rumor” provided much useful information.

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