CityGate Payphone

Pay phone at CityGate in Casa Grande.

Last month I went to the Home & Garden Show held at the vacant CityGate outlet mall off Jimmie Kerr Boulevard near Interstate 10. I arrived late in the morning and found the parking lot jammed with cars.

A well-attended Chamber of Commerce event, I should say.

I had to park behind the mall and as I was walking from my car along the side of the building I noticed something that threw me for a loop — a pay phone.

It looked like it had just been transported from the 1980s and installed days ago. My first reaction was: “How did Danny Vega miss that?”

Vega is the comedian who grew up in Casa Grande and famously, or infamously, posted a video on YouTube poking fun at his hometown. One of the downtrodden sites featured in his production was CityGate, where he poked fun at the defunct Wendy’s.

His video went viral and the now-New York-based entertainer has capitalized on this new-found format. He has begun roasting other communities, soliciting suggestions from viewers on hometowns to visit and poke fun at.

His first target was Boston.

“I am eager to start roasting hometowns on a request basis (Great Neck, Long Island is next), but my (girlfriend) dragged me to old Beantown (Fun Fact: Bostonians HATE ‘Beantown’),” Vega said in an introduction. “Anyway, Beansville is where we had 3 years of long distance relationship and I actually liked visiting quite a bit.”

The videos are popular and he has received numerous requests. However, most of the suggestions have been for big metropolitan areas like Philadelphia and New Orleans rather than smaller communities like Casa Grande with their hometown charm.

So who is to credit, or blame, for Vega’s comedic fame?

Back when Vega was in high school and a member of DECA, the student marketing, management and entrepreneurship organization at Casa Grande Union High School, he attended one of the DECA New York Experience trips.

Kathy Jue, a retired teacher and DECA adviser who works part time in the newsroom at Casa Grande Valley Newspapers Inc., remembers that particular trip.

When the DECA students are in New York, they usually spend their time attending preplanned tours of certain sites in the city and seminars together as a group, Jue said. When they have a little free time, they are allowed to venture out of the hotel in groups of three or four to go shopping, out to eat or sight-see nearby. They are supposed to report to their advisers who is in their group, where they are going and when they will return.

Jue said one of those times, Vega and his group said they were going out to eat. When they failed to return at the designated time, the advisers started looking for them.

“They arrived late back at the hotel and gave some lame excuse about where they were,” Jue said. “Much later we found out that they were at one of the comedy clubs in New York.”

Was that the start of Danny Vega’s career as a comedian? He ended up graduating from CGUHS in 2008, then Arizona State University and heading off to New York, and the rest is history.

And for those wondering: The pay phone at CityGate doesn’t work. There was no dial tone.

I did instinctively check for quarters in the coin return, though.


You can contact Andy Howell at