The Man Who Made Generation Ñ

A decade after Newsweek named him tops, Bill Teck is back.

Angie Martinez, an alluring, curly-haired entertainment lawyer, poses near a walk-in closet exploding with limited-edition Pumas, heels, and secondhand purses.

It's a random steamy Thursday afternoon in Coral Gables.

"Tell me about this outfit," says Bill Teck, a 40-year-old in blue jeans, as he turns his Sony video camera on Martinez.

"I bought this in LA," explains the 31-year-old, referring to her clingy white and brown tank dress. "I have big bazongas, so this thins me out." Then she raises her leg to display a lace-up leather camel boot. "These are my shit kickers," she adds.

"For you being so stylish, you're actually being pretty medida," says Teck, meaning her outfit is more moderate than usual.

"Así," she says, to end the style segment. "This is generation ñ."

Welcome to ñ redux. Teck dropped from the public eye soon after Newsweek named him one of the top 20 young Latinos to watch in 2000. Now he's back, a graying beard contrasting the youthful glint in his eyes, and he hopes to capitalize on the term he coined to describe millions of young, bilingual Americans influenced by their heritage. His plan: Market a new website catering to that group that dishes up locally produced content including sitcoms, documentaries, blogs, music, and indie film downloads.

"On the web, for the first time, like-minded people can really build their own channel," he asserts. "I know it sounds really bullshit Internet bubble but, unfortunately, I believe it."

He believes English-speaking Latinos are underserved. Media companies pander to them as if they're all one group rather than treating Mexicans as being unique from Cubans or Venezuelans. "You're not walking around in a Carmen Miranda wig or like, 'Hi, I'm Latina,' but it's part of you,'" he says. "I would rather create something that's really emphatic that people take to heart."

Among the current choices on his site — www.generation-n.com — are Novela, a sexy sitcom with short episodes that gives a behind-the-scenes look at four Miami guys creating a telenovela, and Planet Rosemary, which stars a self-described Cuban-American princess who offers astrological insight and wardrobe tips ("Make sure to wear a lot of bright colors," she advises when the moon is in Leo). Both are produced by Teck and his partners.

Teck is the only child of parents from the two worlds that made modern Miami. His father hailed from a New York Jewish family. His mother was Cuban. They fell in love in high school. His father, a salesman, worked nights and weekends at an adult bookstore. His mother was a secretary and managed real estate properties.

The family lived near Coral Way and SW 37th Avenue. He spoke English at home and Spanish to his Cuban grandmother, who had a place next door. He grew up watching Star Trek, drinking his abuela's café con leche, and listening to rockers such as Bob Seger (introduced by his Cuban mom).

Young Bill later attended military school, and his passion for cinema bloomed when he'd ride his bike to see art-house flicks at the University of Miami. At age 18, he enrolled in Miami-Dade Community College, where — he chortles — he was on the nine-year plan. By age 23, he had earned associate's degrees in broadcasting and cinematography.

He worked as a teacher and bummed around South Beach until, a few years later, he had an epiphany after watching the film Slacker. Maybe it happened while he was in the shower. It was 1995. He was in his late twenties.

His clutch of Cuban-American and Latino friends didn't connect with Generation X, the tag popularized by Canadian author Douglas Coupland to describe millions of that era's twentysomethings. His friends weren't slackers; they were bilingual go-getters nostalgic about their family roots. They were generation ñ.

His then-girlfriend, now wife, Lynn Norman — also Cuban-American — loved the idea. "I thought, What a great name! It's an interpretation of pop culture by someone who is bilingual. We laughed about being arroz con pollo and apple pie. It was 'God bless America' and abuelita too."

Teck trademarked the term immediately and began hawking ñ shirts on South Beach. The next year, he and Lynn wrangled $3,000 to start a magazine. Teck became publisher and editor. They printed Rolling Stone-style interviews with Celia Cruz and Tito Puente and his son Tito Jr., as well as articles featuring the Beastie Boys and Andy Warhol.

And they freely mixed languages. "People really responded to the Spanglish because no one was doing it at that time," Teck says. "My partner asked me if we should use footnotes. I said, 'We're in Miami. People can just take it to a Latin person.'" One early fan was Delio Nuñez-Menocal, who was then 21 years old and selling advertising for a Spanish-language entertainment weekly. "It was about me," explains the Cuban-American. "It was about life on the hyphen, growing up with Celia Cruz but knowing the words to every Led Zeppelin song."

The two met over burgers after the first or second issue. "In walks Bill in Chuck Taylors and a jean shirt, and I said, 'Dude, I thought you were rich.'" Nuñez-Menocal remembers. "And he's like, 'No, dude, we're broke.'"

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