With one of the most anticipated concerts of the summer just weeks away LatinTRENDS had the opportunity to speak with the manager of superstar Romeo Santos, Johnny Marines. The upcoming historic concerts at Yankee Stadium have kept the Manager, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Public Speaker and retired NYPD sergeant quite busy but he gave us an opportunity to learn more about his past and his success with Aventura and Anthony “Romeo” Santos.
LatinTRENDS: How did you and Romeo Santos meet and and how did you become his manager?
Johnny Marines: That’s the interesting part of my story, is that I was a New York City cop. I’m now a retired sergeant from the NYPD. And ironically in 2002 I responded to a 911 job of a guy who had stolen a lady’s purse at a restaurant in Times Square and when I went to the restaurant and I made the arrest the witness to the crime was a Dominican kid, his name was Juan Carlos. And he had to go testify with me at the grand jury 3 days later. He was this kid that even though he was managing this restaurant his inspiration was really to be a bachata singer. He literally would not stop talking about it and he would talk about how he wanted to be a huge star and how he knew Romeo and he wanted me to meet Romeo.
Before we met I made a suggestion that I would like to work security for him and the group. I started looking into them and I saw a lot of potential. And sure enough he told Romeo and Romeo liked the idea. The funny part about the story is that Romeo stands about 6’2 and I’m only 5’7. I’m thinking to myself well how am I gonna do security for this guy? He’s so much taller than I am. But, luckily for me he didn’t really care. He wasn’t trying to get anybody who was big, muscular or taller than him. He wanted to hire a professional and since I was a New York City cop he felt that I had those qualities and that’s what he was interested in. [Later] they asked me if I could become the manager. These guys had now become my friends and I wanted to help them out you know? And they saw that and they said you know even though I didn’t have any experience at the time in music, there was one quality I had that it was more important to them than experience, and it was trust. They trusted me.
LT: What are some struggles you’ve faced personally getting to where you are today?
JM: I don’t think my story’s too different from a lot of kids that were born and raised in the inner city, low income household. My father passed away when I was 12 years-old, my mother’s working at a factory 6 days a week, and basically she’s raising 3 kids and making $150 a week. I’m living in the projects and all I see is a lot of drugs where I born and raised in the lower east side. Luckily for me from a very early age I wanted to be a cop. It was something that caught my interest, from what my mother says when I was 5, and that kind of kept me on track because I had my eye on the prize which was to become a cop. So I knew I couldn’t do anything to get me in trouble because then I was gonna jeopardize my dream.
I was born blessed because where I am today. I worked extremely hard to get where I’m at, but at the same time I was given an incredible opportunity in 2002 by Romeo. We both have similar visions and I think that that’s what allows us to continue to still be working together 12 years later.
He had a vision and I could relate to his vision. We always had a lot of similarities as far as goals and achievements that we wanted to accomplish.
LT: Can you tell me a bit about your entrepreneurship ventures?
JM: I have a business partner that I grew up with. He’s not involved in any of my music stuff but outside of my music he’s involved with some delis that I’m a partner in, in the lower east side and a liquor store that I’m a partner in, in Harlem. Hopefully in the near future we’ll be able to maybe open up some sort of restaurant or something and try to bring our culture to wherever it is that we open up the restaurant and share that with the community. I’m always trying to better myself. I’m not one of those people that I feel like ‘I made it.’ I don’t feel like I made it. I’m so aware that there’s so much more to accomplish. And we have so much more work to do that I can’t sit down and celebrate what we have accomplished. And maybe one day I’ll look back and be like ‘Man, I should’ve been celebrating the fact that we’re doing two Yankee Stadiums and we’re making history but right now that’s not where my energy is going towards. My energy is focused on what is it that we need to get done to continue to grow?
LT: What is the foundation you are starting?
JM: I’m actually in the process of establishing my own foundation. It’s called the Johnny Marines Blessings Foundation. Throughout the years I’ve made it a priority to always go back to where I grew up in the LES and give back to my community. I’m in this position where I was given this great opportunity and I feel like God put me here but he didn’t only put me here for me. He put me here so that I can serve as an example and try to help as many people as I can. So I make sure that I go back to the neighborhood and I do toy drives for the kids for Christmas because I remember growing up where I was limited at getting gifts or toys. There’s probably some kids out there that are in a similar situation to how I was growing up or maybe even worse. I just want to be able to give them something to smile about during times of celebration. Same thing with turkeys, I like to go back and give turkeys out right before thanksgiving. And right before school starts, Labor Day weekend, I usually hold a basketball tournament where I give 250 kids backpacks and school supplies. I don’t want any kid to have an excuse and say I went to school unprepared because we can’t afford it or whatever the reason is. I want to give you a backpack with the essentials that are necessary to give you the best opportunity to succeed in life. You have to show them and lead by example and show these kids it’s okay to come back and be successful. And it’s not just me. It’s the team that I have around me and I’m very grateful.
LT: You also founded the Lower East Side Sports Academy correct?
JM: I’m one of the co-founders with Frankie Alameda, a kid I went to high school with and it was actually his idea. It has like 200-300 kids and we supply uniforms and give them a league to play in during the summer because it’s just one more thing to try to keep the kids out of trouble especially with the way the city has cut down on so many of the youth programs. They don’t offer that to the kids and I want to make sure that the kids have an extracurricular activity to do and be out there not only staying out of trouble but also getting some exercise at the same time.
LT: We know Romeo will be performing at Yankee Stadium in July. No Latin artist has headlined the stadium since Tropical ensemble Fania All Stars performed and recorded “Live At Yankee Stadium” in 1973. That’s a massive accomplishment. How did that collaboration take place?
JM: This idea came from Felix Cabrera, which is the promoter of pretty much all the shows that we’ve done in NY after 2007 on. He came up with the idea and he presented it to me and Romeo and to be quite honest in the beginning I thought to myself this might be a crazy idea. I wasn’t really sold on it right away.
We’re very aware of the historic moment that is before us. It’s been a long time since we had a Latin superstar in Yankee Stadium and and I know when the Fania All Stars did it, it was a lot of groups. And here we have a solo artist stepping into the new Yankee Stadium, so in that sense it really is even more historic when you really think about it.
I don’t even honestly have words that I can say other than we appreciate the loyalty of all the fans who have given us this big opportunity because without them you have nothing.
Without the fan base you don’t have anything and we’ve been very fortunate that the fans are very loyal and they supported us throughout all these years and this journey with Aventura and Romeo. We look forward to put on a great show for the people especially the Bronx which is the same borough where Romeo was born and raised.
LT: What advice do you have for those who would want to follow in your foot steps?
JM: You have to believe in yourself and never get discouraged because you’re going to get a whole lot of no’s before you get a yes. You have to believe in yourself before anybody else believes in you.
Romeo will be performing at Yankee Stadium on Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12. For tickets visit ticketmaster.com