Noe Valley Voice December/January 1996-97


Madonna's Baby's Dad Shops in Noe Valley

By Denise Minor

The hot celebrity news in Noe Valley the first week of November was that Madonna's hunky boyfriend, fitness trainer Carlos Leon, had bought an outfit for the couple's new baby girl at Small Frys clothing store on 24th Street.

But before the week was out, the talk had turned to praise for store owner Carol Yenne, as the woman who'd said "no" to the tabloids.

"I asked him [Carlos Leon] if I could take a picture," said Yenne. "He said sure, as long as I didn't sell it to Hard Copy. Then a few days later someone from the Star called and wanted me to sell them one of the pictures -- we'd taken four or five. I said I'd think about it, but the woman said she was going to lunch in a half an hour and had to know by then."

Yenne refused to be bullied into it, and the next day, without asking how much the tabloid would pay, she told the editor no.

"A lot of people have said I should have sold them," she said. "I've heard estimates that I could have gotten anywhere from $1,000 to $100,000."

But Yenne said she only wanted the photos so they could hang in her shop, and she thought that if Leon didn't want them sold to the TV show Hard Copy, he might not be happy about them being published in the tabloid press either.

She did not see anything wrong, however, with offering them to the Noe Valley Voice. "I thought it would be fun for the neighborhood readers to see the photos in their hometown paper, so I called [advertising director] Steve Steinberg to offer them to him." (Little did Yenne know that we'd already dispatched our photographer, Joe Hakim, to the scene.)

But before the Voice had a chance to scoop the Star, San Francisco Examiner columnist Rob Morse got wind of Yenne's rebuff of the tabloids and wrote up the story in his Nov. 10 column.

"I had no idea this would turn into such a big deal," said Yenne.

The chain of events that brought superstar Madonna's significant other into Small Frys began the morning of Nov. 4, when the cast and crew of the television series Nash Bridges were filming a couple of doors away at Selecta Auto Body, above Noe Valley Auto Repair. Leon, who lives and trains with Madonna in Los Angeles, was a guest actor in the episode.

Yenne's daughter, Azia Yenne, and Small Frys employee Cassandra Huysentruyt walked down the street to see the action.

"We went up to see the scene they were shooting, and I recognized Leon and Cheech Marin." (Marin is a big star in his own right, who first gained fame as half of the comedy duo Cheech and Chong.)

"I asked if we could take a picture of them and they said sure," said Huysentruyt.

After snapping the shot, the young women chatted with the two celebrities for a few moments, then encouraged them to go into Small Frys to buy something for their children.

To their surprise, the two fathers walked in a short time later.

"Carlos is very nice, very good-looking," said Huysentruyt. "A major heart thumper."

Carol Yenne also liked him. "The first time he came in, Carlos was very quiet. Cheech did most of the talking," said Yenne. "I showed him something in blue, and he didn't want that. Then I showed him something in pink, and he didn't want that either."

Leon ended up picking out a cream-colored jumpsuit with a faux snow leopard fur trim on the collar and a matching jacket. The suit cost $87. "He only took a few minutes to decide."

After news spread of Leon's purchase, 9 of the 11 identical jumpsuits that Yenne had in stock were snatched up by other customers.

Marin, who plays Don Johnson's sidekick in the Nash Bridges show, picked out a jacket for his daughter.

The Hollywood honchos didn't have any money on them, but Yenne wrapped their packages and told them to come back and pay when they had the chance.

Marin phoned in his credit card number a few minutes after they'd left the shop. But Leon came back in person.

When he returned, he opened up a bit more.

"When he came back, I was the one who asked him all the personal questions," said Small Frys salesperson Doreen King. "I asked him if they were going to really name the baby Lourdes, because that's a name that has so much significance for Catholics." (According to the Ex, the baby's full name is Lourdes Maria Ciccone Leon.)

"He said yes, and that they even were going to raise the baby Catholic. They're going to have her baptized and everything," King continued. "I was blown out of the water, because Madonna has done so many things that go against the Cath-olic Church. She's criticized the church in magazines and had books with sexual photos published, and on stage has done some wild things with crosses," said King.

But Leon told her that he had gone to Catholic schools for 14 years, and that Madonna (who can be seen after New Year's, performing the title role in the long-awaited film version of the musical Evita) actually goes to church once a year.

Like Huysentruyt, King was very taken by Leon. "He's much nicer, more intelligent, and more attractive than I imagined he would be," said King. "And Cheech is great. He is very funny and very polite."

Carol Yenne was also charmed by Leon's obvious delight in being a dad. "He said that it was the baby's two-week birthday, and that this was the first time he'd been away from her since she was born."

And besides letting Yenne take the photos, Leon handed the women one more scoop by letting them in on a little secret.

"The magazines have reported him to be 30 years old," said King, "but he told us that he is actually 28. Ten years younger than Madonna!"