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Oscar J Molinar (Center) on set of SA Live

El Pasoan Overcomes Stroke to Fulfill Wildest Dreams

There are many people who know the name, Oscar J Molinar. Some may know him from Austin High School, others from the Miss El Paso USA Pageant, or as the youngest editor of “Inside El Paso,” or from so many other events.

I first encountered Oscar when he was on the Jimmy Kimmel Show’s Wall of America, facing the Dare Wheel. He destroyed a shoe, but I’ll get to that a bit later.

I was able to meet Oscar at the Barnes and Noble at the Fountains. It was a slow Wednesday, and the perfect day to sit and talk to someone that has become more than just a friend.

I have been thinking of just how to write this piece since my interview with Oscar. I figured I was going to approach this as any interview and article concerning an actor. Halfway through our interview Oscar shared something with me, and that caused me to rethink a lot of what I was going to write about.

What started out as a basic interview very quickly turned into a tale of hope and determination. In a way, Oscar has become someone I can look up to.

Oscar had a promising future, a career he loved. Then, one day without warning, it all came to a sudden stop. Oscar had a stroke.

His first performance was at Austin High School. “I took drama as an alternative to PE class. It was my senior year, and it was considered an English class,” he says. “My role, I was in a wheelchair. It was a very serious role, and I was very humorous. She wanted to give me a role that was opposite to me.”

1929019_103266273690_4212319_nOscar’s teacher said that he didn’t have to show up for class. After he had read for her, she said he was going on the stage and that was the end of it. All he had to do was to know his role and be ready to walk on stage. “The class was ready for me to fail,” he said. Not having been to rehearsals I could see why. “But I ended up getting a standing ovation.”

This is not what he wanted to do with his life. Oscar always wanted to be a photographer. “I had five sisters, so makeup just came into the picture. I would practice on them. My sister gave me my first 110 cameras, and then I moved up to a 126. Then the Polaroids. The 35mm. Then at Community College, I took Media Production.”

Behind the camera is where he wanted to be. “I wanted to be a producer, a director. I wanted to create.” After community college, he had another opportunity, the chance to work with Guy Rex, and the pageants that come to El Paso.

“My first time on TV was Crosno’s music show on 14,” Oscar said. “I did a couple of commercials for McDonald’s in 1986. And then I did a Millar’s Outpost commercial. Those were my first things on TV.  That was it; there were no other appearances until he was living in San Antonio. “I was working in cosmetics and make-up. I bought an 110-year old home and was taking down a fence one Sunday in flip-flops. I stepped on a nail.”

Like most people, Oscar didn’t think about getting the wound treated. “My mentality back then was probably like a lot of people today, theyIMG_0533 don’t have time to go get a tetanus shot.” Oscar, instead of calling a doctor called his insurance company to ask how long he had to go and get that shot.

“I waited a little bit too long. I was getting sick on Friday of that week. I started getting stiff, locked up. I was getting very ill.” At that point, he was rushed to a hospital in San Antonio.

Oscar had a stroke. He calls it a minor stroke, but is there such a thing as a minor one?

“I was done. I felt so horribly sick,” he says. “I was ready to throw in the towel and come back to El Paso.” He was getting better, slowly. Oscar decided to sell his house and began to pack it up. He was still working, as best he could, for Neman Marcus. It was there when he was cleaning his brushes, during his last week that he saw someone he recognized.

“I had the stroke two months ago. My memory was slow. But I had a portfolio of all the stuff I had done, so I remembered what I had done. All I saw was the back of his head, and I remembered and called out his name.” He did recognize the person he saw, and the man recognized Oscar from El Paso.

The man Oscar recognized, Quentin, worked at KCIK thirty years before this meeting at Neman Marcus. “Talk about destiny,” recalls Oscar. Oscar and Quentin had met before when Oscar was working the pageants in El Paso.

Quentin told Oscar about a new show he was starting called SA Live. “They needed a make-up artist. The one they had was not working out. I was told I would have to audition for the producers.” The audition was set up.

“I remember when I got to the audition there was just a bunch of men in suits and two women with blank faces.” They had asked Oscar to talk about himself and what he does.

Oscar J Molinar (Center) on set of SA Live
Oscar J Molinar (Center) on set of SA Live

“Then a woman asked me what I could do with him, pointing to the guy next to her, who was the owner of the station. I said I’m a make-up artist, not a plastic surgeon!” Oscar recalls everyone began to laugh. They said that he was who they needed. “The rest was history.”

There were still challenges for Oscar. The stroke was still affecting him. “I remember Fiona; she was very instrumental in getting me where I am at. It was live television, and we had to do the make-up, and I still didn’t have the feeling in my hand. I would drop the brushes. I’d get home with major headaches.”

Fiona encouraged Oscar to reach deep inside himself. He did.

“I remember going on air, worried that I wouldn’t know what to do, or say. I wasn’t fully recovered, and my speech was still slurred. I don’t know what happened, but when we got on the set, and the light turned on, I turned into this different person. I spit all this knowledge about makeup out, and Fiona and I looked at each other!”

Oscar said that they were shocked. He had to go home that night and watch the tape. He couldn’t believe he had done it. “That kind of helped me recover and get back on track.”

Oscar is proud to say that he is one-hundred percent recovered. “From a minor stroke, you can recover from it. For me, the people around me were very instrumental. I call them my TV family. It was every day I would walk to the studio, because I couldn’t drive, and then walk back. Every day it was going to the studio, go home, and sleep.” He used it as exercise.

Oscar recalls riding the bus during this time as well. “I would get on the bus, and these women would be like ‘is it him?’” No one on the show, Oscar included, knew how popular they were becoming. This too, I think, helped him in his recovery.

Oscar didn’t give up when faced with this life changing event. I’ve known two other people who had strokes. One minor, the other major. Both, like Oscar, were ready to give up.IMG_2046

Unlike Oscar, they didn’t try; they simply resigned themselves to a fate that could have been different, could have had a different outcome. These two friends gave up.

They gave up, and within eighteen months they had both passed away.

While Oscar was working on SA Live his shot at Jimmy Kimmel Live, and the Wall of America. “While working with the ABC affiliate in San Antonio, they said they needed people to audition for a new segment called the Wall of America. I sent my picture and information, and they decided to use me for a segment on Mother’s Day.”

The producers had called Oscar and discovered that his mother had passed away. The assured him that he would be on a future segment.

“It ain’t going to happen. I thought they had just said that to be nice,” Oscar says. Then, two weeks later, they call him back asking if he would like to audition for Dare Roulette. “They set up a Skype interview with Jimmy Kimmel. He was in Palm Springs, and I was at Fiona’s house. The interview was about two minutes long. He asked me some questions, and I would answer, and he would just laugh at my answers.

He said he liked my facial expressions.” They had him ready for the segment to air, and then the show went long. It didn’t happen. “I thought this was never going to happen. That is wasn’t meant to be. So, I pushed it aside. Then, they e-mailed me and said they were going to try again. But this time they were going to put the segment at the top of the show. We didn’t know what was going to happen, but they said to be ready to destroy something.”

Oscar, when the shot the segment was at a friend’s house. The only things he had with him was a dog and a pair of shoes. The show was the unlucky victim of the segment (There is a link at the bottom of this article that will take you to some of Oscar’s videos, including this part).

I remember watching him, live. The other two contests destroyed a journal and an award. Oscar didn’t win; he beat out by a man who destroyed the award he had received. You should see the look on his face when he was told what he had won, a stack of blank CD-Rom’s and a humidifier. It’s a funny segment.

Seeing Oscar on the show, you could see that he was doing something that he loved, being on television.

His expressions were hilarious and over the top. Oscar was good. Good enough so that this was not the end of his time on television.

Oscar is now working on Queen of the South. This show tells the story of Teresa Mendoza, a woman who is forced to run and seek refuge in America after her drug-dealing boyfriend is murdered in Mexico.

In the process, she teams up with an unlikely figure from her past to bring down the leader of the same drug trafficking ring that has her on the run.

In this series, Oscar is going to be in the second season. He will be in five shows as a lead extra, meaning he has speaking parts. I hadn’t heard of the series before this interview, but have binge watched it (It’s on the USA Network). It’s good, and I’m looking forward to seeing Oscar, one of El Paso’s own, on the show.

“I went from being an extra to a principal extra,” Oscar says. It took him ad-libbing one scene. In the scene they were searching for someone in a bar. They were to look at them and let them go. “I took it one step further in the scene. I grabbed this woman in a red dress and took her to the Captain to ask if it was her.” He took her off camera to “kill” her the show.

After that, the producer wanted to know who had done that, ad-libbed the scene. Everyone was looking at Oscar, and he said it was him. “That was genius!” the Director had said. “Do it that way again, and we’ll shoot it with all five cameras,” Oscar said after a day of shooting she had his hand print on her arm.

That was his first credited role on the series.

“They called me back,” he said. “They said I was going to be security at a Chicago nightclub, but we were really at the W in Dallas on the twenty-second floor.” As Oscar talks about this series and his parts in it you can see he enjoys what he does. He may not admit it, but he was born to be in front of the camera.

“They said I was going to be security at the elevator, checking ID’s. The other gentleman was to be the one interacting with the actors. But he had no facial expression. He was like a block. After a break, the director said they would try it again with me.” Hearing him describe the scene you can almost see it in your mind’s eye. The checking of ID’s and pushing the guy as he came off the elevator. The woman is running out with drugs. It sounds exciting.

“I’m hoping to go back for a third season. If I don’t get a pink slip, I’ll be back.” It seems a pink slip in television means they are going to kill you off on the show.

He’s also shooting the Gospel of Keven, which stars Jason Ritter, is about a man named Kevin, a down-on-his- luck man who is tasked by God with a mission to save the world. “I was filming Queen of the South, and my agency called and said there is this very small role in the Gospel of Keven, and it’s in San Antonio, and you’re in Dallas, and it’s a one day shot,” Oscar said that he would do it. “If the opportunity is knocking I’ll do it!”

That night, after shooting on Queen of the South Oscar as quickly as he could to get to San Antonio to make the shoot. The Queen of the South was going to stop shooting until four in the morning, and the Gospel of Keven started at six am till eight pm. He then had to be back on the set of Queen of the South at midnight.

Oscar is also in the running for a role in another series to be shot at Ft. Hood and Killeen, Texas. The project in Killeen is The Long Journey Home Martha Raddatz who is the ABC political reporter who also writes for National Geographic. The series follows her book where each chapter will be an episode.

“I’ll be playing an insurgent,” he says. “They built a set in Killeen that is about three blocks long, and it looks like you are in Iraq. It’s right off the base in Ft. Hood.”

This episode will be using both the set and the barracks within Ft. Hood. “I haven’t taped yet because my schedule has been conflicting. But we are going to be taping it soon.”

The other project he is up for is one by Fox and Marvel that will be shooting in Dallas. “I don’t know if I’ll be doing that on because I am moving to LA.” He said if he does he will be playing the part of a government agency that is created to kill all the mutants.

I told him he needs to take that role. He does!

For fear of repeating myself, I’ll just say this. Oscar is a down-to-earth person. He has not let fame get to him, or change him. He’s still the same Oscar J. Molinar who was on that stage at Austin High School his senior year.

“No matter where I am I have reminded of that stroke two years ago. I’m just grateful to be where I am.” And he is grateful. On top of it all, he is a fighter.

He had an opportunity presented to him when he was ready to call it quits. As he said, he was ready just to sit in a wheelchair for the rest of his life, however short that may have been.

In the end, he didn’t give up. Ho took that opportunity and had started to turn it into a career that will be long and stellar. We’ll be seeing more of Oscar; I can promise you that.

Videos featuring Oscar- From SA Live and Queen of the South Promo

Part one of the Dare Roulette  |  Part two of Dare Roulette

 

About Steven Cottingham

Steven Cottingham is an artist, poet (haiku, tanka, senryu) as well as a photographer. Growing up, he wanted to be a columnist, as well as photojournalist. Life, and poor decision, led him down a different path. Today, Steven is chasing those dreams.

He is currently working on his next book, as well as starting a small poetry journal. You may visit Steven, online, at www.StevenCottinghamPhotography.com

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7 comments

  1. Rabbi R. Zimmerman

    This Oscar, I used to watch him in SA Live with my two younger girls. They used to love seeing him on the television. Grace even saw him at Macy’s, where she works, when he went to buy shoes after he made the show cutting his up! Good to see he has moved to bigger things.

  2. I think this is the most inspirational thing I have read in a very long time. I can’t wait to see what Oscar does with his future.

  3. I wanted to thank you for your sharing of this article, and allowing Steven and Oscar a voice.

    My brother had a stroke not too long ago and was ready to call it all quits, and end his life. He was that set on no living that kind of life. We showed him this article, and now, two weeks later he has a renewed hope and strength that he didn’t have. We just all wanted to thank you for this.

    This paper does seem to publish more positive news than the Times, and I find that refreshing. And this article is proof of that. Thank you Chris for doing this.

    • You are very welcome; I’m beyond humbled by your kind words, and to know that our work helped someone makes it all worthwhile. I will make sure that my entire staff reads this. And do not hesitate to keep us updated on your brother’s progress. We wish you the best, and thank you for your comments.

    • I am beyond words. To know that something I wrote was able to help someone in need is humbling. As Christ said, do let us know how your brother is doing. If either of you needs anything, feel free to reach out to me.

      I will be sharing your comment with Oscar so he can see that he has inspired your brother as well.

      You are in my thoughts and my prayers.

  4. To rabbi and Andi thank you for your kind words and to the Vargas Family no words can express the joy i felt this morning knowing my story has inspired someone else to keep the faith.

    Please let your brother know that the road to recovery will be bumpy at times but to continue to press on. Listen to music as it help me recover my vocabulary and
    Continue to live a normal existence as much as possible. It took me over a year and a half to get the feeling back in my right fingers and the pain of straighting my hand was excruciating but i knew i had too and my faith for recovery made me want too. The next time im in El Paso i would love to Meet him and see that he is on the road to recovery. The ? is a supporting and loving family and friends such as i am lucky to have and i know he does too. to visualize where he will be a year from now no matter how foggy the road up ahead seems……consider this a journey…not the end of the road.
    To chris thank you for allowing a platform to tell my story and steve for relaying it in print…..i am deeply humbled by the response and excited to know that the three of us comming togeather to tell my story can continue to inspire others…….that is true Journalism!!!

  5. Thank you all. Thank you very much for your kind words and prayers.

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