Will Raider Nation super fans like Gorilla Rilla, El Cucuy survive move to Las Vegas?

ByJuan Carlos Guerrero via KGO logo
Saturday, September 7, 2019
EMBED <>More Videos

John Silva, known as "El Cucuy," and Ray Perez, formerly known as "Dr. Death," are Oakland Raiders super fans with very different plans once the team moves to Las Vegas next year.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- John Silva's day begins earlier than most Raider fans.

He gets up around 4 a.m. to shave his head and head over to his aunt's house near Rio Vista. That's where he begins a transformation into his alter ego for Oakland Raiders games as El Cucuy.

"In Mexican culture, El Cucuy is a monster that will eat you if you don't go to sleep, so you get scared into falling asleep," said Silva as he sat in his aunt's kitchen and began gluing rubber spikes onto the top of his scalp.

Over the next three hours, his aunt will use an air brush to cover his face with white and black face paint, and then on scary teeth and skull marks on his head.

Silva has been a season ticket holder since 2010. He's not letting the Raiders' move next year to Las Vegas interrupt his fandom. Silva has talked to his employer about transferring from the Bay Area to Las Vegas and has already been to Nevada several times to look at housing.

Someone who won't be making the move is Ray Perez. His love for the Raiders started when he was just 5 years old when he went to his first Raiders game at the Oakland Coliseum. By the time he was 8 years old, he began dressing up. It wasn't long before he adopted the persona of Dr. Death, a nickname given to former Raiders cornerback Alonzo Thomas around the time of the team's first Super Bowl win.

"I took my fandom to the next level with other Raiders fans and involved myself with the community," said Perez at his West Sacramento home, which has a shrine of memorabilia dedicated to the Raiders.

Along with other well-known super fans like Violator and Gorilla Rilla, Dr. Death appeared at fundraisers and community events.

He thinks back fondly of his character, but it all came to a sudden halt on March 27, 2017. Perez attended the NFL owners meeting when the league approved the Raiders' move to Las Vegas. Shortly afterwards, he turned on his Periscope account and told his followers that he was quitting his Dr. Death persona in protest.

"I told people for the past five years, if they leave I will quit," he said. "I will no longer put my passion and energy into this team because they didn't reciprocate it. Dr. Death lives and dies in Oakland."

Perez lobbied heavily to keep the team in Oakland and has not yet thrown away his costume, which included a wig, a helmet with fake knives and face paint. They are all stored in his home and he said he will resurrect the character if the team returns to Oakland.

The Raiders' move is creating uncertainty for other long-time super fans.

Mark Acasio has been dressing up as Gorilla Rilla for 24 years. He bought the base costume at a garage sale and added to it. He wears a shiny silver necklace that he said pays homage to his Hawaiian heritage and the Raiders' three Super Bowl wins.

"I wear beads," he said. "The three big ones represent the three trophies that we have won and the little ones are accumulating to the big trophy."

Gorilla Rilla is one of the most beloved characters among the Raider Nation super fans. In the past month, he handed out school backpacks in Oakland and officiated a wedding in Portland.

Acasio takes his role seriously. He does not like to take off his mask in public, even during hot days. He is sad the team is moving away. He was upset for a while and said it took him a while to accept the team is leaving Oakland.

"The fans are the kids of a big divorce," said Acasio, who admitted that he has several close friends who are not going to dress up anymore or travel to see the team play in Las Vegas. "Not everyone is going to make it out there."

He said he still has to figure out how many games he will be able to go to in the new stadium. Price is a big factor. So is the heat.

"I probably won't be out there tailgating, just the hotel to the stadium," said Acasio, in reference to the strain of wearing his costume in extreme hot weather. "I am going to do it until I can't do it no more."

Wayne Mabry, known as The Violator, was one of the first super fans to paint his face and put on a costume. He first "donned the war paint" as he calls it in 1991 when the team was still in Los Angeles.

"Fans really didn't get up and raise hell, so I figured I am going to bring something to get their attention," said Mabry, who doesn't know how many games he will be able to attend in Las Vegas.

RELATED: Oakland Coliseum Authority okays deal to keep Raiders in town for at least one more season

"Finances are a little bit different since I retired. But hey, the love ain't faded. I have to go get my therapy when I can," said Mabry during an event honoring in Modesto honoring him and Gorilla Rilla for their super fandom.

There is still some doubt about whether fans will be able to dress up in costume during the games in Las Vegas.

The rumors got louder after the team announced restrictions to tailgating in Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that the head of the Las Vegas stadium operations, Don Webb, said he wanted the experience to be more "family friendly" in Nevada.

"I think there will be some changes, frankly, to the fan base," Webb was quoted as saying in September of last year.

RELATED: Raiders fans express mixed emotions over potential last game at the Coliseum

Silva said he was warned by his season ticket representative that he may not be able to dress up in costume in Las Vegas.

We reached out to the Raiders organization for comment. Director of Public Affairs Mike Taylor responded "that rumor is false" in a short email.

Silva plans to go to the games whether he goes as El Cucuy or himself.

"For me, it's a game-day experience," said Silva. "Dressed up or not, it is still going to be what I enjoy doing."

Take a look at the latest stories and videos about the Oakland Raiders.