Do you remember The Cisco Kid TV show and movie franchise? You probably need to be a Boomer or B&W TV fanatic to picture them riding across the Western landscape. The Cisco Kid was the clean-cut hero. His sidekick was Pancho, the rumpled, funny, salt-of-the-earth buddy we thought we could grow up to be if we kept our cowboy boots on.

What I didn’t know until last week was that Pancho was played by Leo Carrillo. Heck, I thought Leo Carrillo was some kind of Spanish Explorer, and that Leo Carrillo State Beach up near Malibu where I used to surf and camp was named after a Spanish Conquistador.

But no. Leo Carrillo was born in 1881 in Los Angeles and grew up to become a famous actor with hundreds of movies to his credit long before The Cisco Kid came into my living room. In fact, Carrillo was 69 years old when the first episode aired in my Tarzana home. He was also an early environmentalist, helping to save beaches and park lands we take for granted today.

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I found out about Carrillo when I went down to Carlsbad last week to visit friends and we took a trip to his home in the hills above the coast (see the Gallery link below for photos). The homestead is a modest 12 acres now; but when Carrillo bought it in the 30’s, he had over 2500 acres of ranchland and out-buildings that he carefully constructed to recreate the vanishing Spanish and California traditions of centuries before, his attempt to keep the modern world at a distance.

The LC spread (his brand) was a hangout for the Hollywood elite, like Cary Grant, Claudett Colbert, Will Rogers, John Wayne, etc. I picture them driving south from Hollywood in a cool 1938 Pierce-Arrow convertible on the two-lane highway that was the San Diego Freeway of their day, then making their way inland a few miles to the Carrillo spread. They hung out around the pool while steaks were cooked on the handmade stone bbq and were served cocktails on the flagstone patio under the spectacular canopy of the diamond-studded sky.

As I walked through the grounds in the brilliant morning last week, peacocks honked and spread their regailia. I caught a glimpse of a sole albino peacock as he scurried to hide himself in his colorless shame. I looked up as a lazy hawk was climbing high on the updrafts driving off the sea along the skirt of the hills. The blue sky, the bright sun, the soft breeze in the eucalyptus, the timelessness that Leo Carrillo hoped to create on this sacred spot was revolving silently in my mind.

I’ve posted some photos of my day trip to the Leo Carillo Park (including the albino peacock) on my Gallery page at Leo Carrillo – Pancho. I’ve also listed a couple of links below for background on Carrillo and a YouTube snippet of The Cisco Kid TV Show. Check ’em out if you have a minute or two on your hands in this busy, modern landscape we inhabit today.

Leo Carrillo – Wikipedia

The Cisco Kid – YouTube


14 Responses to Leo Carrillo – Pancho to The Cisco Kid

  1. I lived in Chicago and the Cisco Kid and Poncho made an appearance at Wrigley Field that I will never forget. As a kid that watched every show it was quite wonderful that I lived near Wrigley Field on Southport Avenue and was able to see them both. I still watch all the re-runs on TV

  2. Pancho Carrillo says:

    If your a fan of The Cisco Kid and Pancho, checkout The Cisco Kid Fan Club on Facebook, full of rare photos and stories

  3. My mother was an assistant seamstress in Hollywood during the 1930 s and was madly in love with Leo Carillo.
    She lived in a sod roof house on a hill overlooking his place and would watch him swim in his pool and dreamt of meeting him.

  4. Dennis says:

    I was clicking through channels the other day and ran into a rerun of ‘The Cisco Kid.’ I was surprised to see it in color and wondered why they’d colorized it and not other programs on the same channel such as ‘The Real McCoys,’ ‘Naked City,’ or ‘Hopalong Cassidy.’

    Well, I looked it up and discovered the show was actually filmed in color and in fact was the first show on TV to be in color. The producer must have been thinking ahead because almost no one had color TVs then, when the show was made between 1950 – 1956.

    Carrillo was amazing. I would have never guessed he was in his 70s on that show.

  5. Gene says:

    What a beautiful site and thank you for what you have spoke to us about LC

  6. Carol McCarthy says:

    I love your posts! I always enjoy reading life from your perspective. Whether it is potatoes thrown by the curb, free trees or this fascinating character in California’s history. You always teach me something. Thanks, Frank!!

    • fz says:

      Thanks for your delightful comment and your continuing interest. It’s for people like you that I keep on posting. Cheers.

  7. I loved the Cisco Kid also when I was growing up. Like me, he and his partner Pancho had accents and like me also they were always wandering around far from home (Poland in my case) and getting in trouble with the locals (the Americans).

  8. Ursula McNeil says:

    Keep it up, Frank! Everytime you post I go to it and delight in it. Now I know another reason you left the island – there wasn’t much to write about there that anyone would have enjoyed.

    • fz says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Ursula. It’s great to know you’re enjoying these posts. It’s real encouragement for me. Hope all is well on the East Coast.

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