Friday, May 29, 2009

Spain is different

It's Friday night, which means I'm watching my favorite TV show from Spain, Donde estas, corazon? which lasts literally FIVE hours and is comprised of a panel - or firing squad if you are facing them - of gossip columnists/paparazzi/society commentators and a moderator, the delicious, closeted, youthful Jaime Cantizano, interviewing a stream of people in the news.

Tonight's show brings to mind the tourism slogan coined by bloody dictator Francisco Franco's Minister of Tourism Manuel Fraga, "Spain is different." He is now a nonagenarian drooling Fascist inexplicably believed to be a convinced democrat and still serving in the local government of Galicia, his home region under the aegis of the allegedly constitutional right-wing party he founded. 

Normally the first person is more famous, prestigious, and/or the subject of the most notorious scandal of the week's news cycle. As the evening wears on, we see what in Spain are called frikis, from the English freak. By the end of the night it can get pretty dirty as well, with centerfolds and the like appearing to talk about their sex lives. And by that time of the night I have been asleep for hours. 

The show has a series of familiar tropes and performative moments -- all in predictably poor taste -- that reassuringly recur week after week. A video recap is shown framing the guest, who is asked softball questions by Cantizano, then the panelists gradually ask more aggressive questions, putting the interviewee more and more on the defensive. There is a lot of screaming and interrupting going on, but nothing out of the ordinary if you have sat a dinner table with family members of Hispanic descent. But I digress. They have a number of dysfunctional multi-generational family disputes that recur on the show, but the accusations get grislier as the years go by. 

Tonight we have a new family saga starring Junior, the Filipino former ye ye singing sensation now grieving widow of national sweetheart Rocio Durcal. Known as La Señora, she was admired for her ideal family life and was a former child star who gained fame as a ranchera singer drawing thousands throughout Latin America. Junior is being sued by his children over the Estate and also by a disgruntled domestic worker, with allegations of alcohol abuse, sexual harassment, and financial misdeeds. 

Rocio Durcal singing one of my favorite songs, ever, Gata bajo la lluvia

Later in the show they are promising an interview with the disowned daughter of the late El Fary, a Lilliputian Cuban heel-wearing mutton-chop side-burned former taxi driver who pursued his dream of being a rumba singer until he became a singing sensation with his songs about "moros" (Moors - a pejorative term for North Africans commonly-used in Spain) or his signature hit "Torito Bravo," an ode to a bull used to impregnate cows, complete with ribald lyrics that are a none-too-subtle paean to Spanish machismo. El Fary's eldest daughter was literally ejected from her father's funeral two years ago. She is now back to promote her cover and centerfold in Interviu Spain's version of Playboy magazine. Still seeking revenge even beyond the grave, the disowned daughter is proudly asserting that her machista father would be humiliated and outraged by her nudity. She's claiming that it's mere coincidence that the lurid photos appear on the second anniversary of her father's demise. 

El Fary singing Torito Bravo

Another feature is the "telefono de aludidos" the number posted on the screen to entice people not in the room being named in the conversation to call in and respond. Often the gossip journalists are getting texts or calls from people whose lives are being talked about. This makes it quite exciting, as you never know who is going to call in. Better than a live telenovela, you see breakups, marriage proposals, grave accusations of spousal abuse, financial misdeeds, paternity scandals, record and book launches, tearful reconciliations, you name the drama, they have it - live! 

Tonight Toñi, the hot blooded Cougar half of the world-renowned Gypsy duo, Azucar Moreno, bitch slapped her cancer-stricken sister for breaking up the group, took a phone call from her young ex-boyfriend who she dumped for being too jealous, and sang a new song a capella that graphically and melodramatically described her passion for another ex lover. OLE! During her interview, the young boy toy called in and they engaged in a violent and dramatic fight. Azucar Moreno made it big when they won the fabulous Eurovision singing competition, and they plied every possible stereotype of the Spanish Gypsy, the passionate hot-blooded Andalusian woman, and the tourist image of Spain as a hedonistic paradise of sun, sex, food, drink, all with maniacally happy natives.

Azucar Moreno in the 1990s when they were still speaking to each other, doing a cover of the classic salsa sensual song Devorame otra vez

After the first bombshell guest, other journalists join the panel to discuss the weeks' news in a round table format. This is great because it gives you a gloss on the weekly plethora of gossip and society magazines. These are led by the old school, large format, deluxe HOLA which features the royals, Hollywood actors, and prestigious personalities shown as they'd like to be seen. HOLA is the mouthpiece of the Monarchy and is known for buying lurid photos in order to prevent them from being published, thereby earning undying loyalty from the high and mighty. They pay large sums for exclusive interviews or events such as weddings, baptisms, and first communions. All published photos are photoshopped though they need to finesse their technique since often it's not consistent. Sometimes I think some catty person purposely screws it up to snidely reveal a hint of the real person behind the rose colored lens of HOLA. 

I have a whole section in this blog just related to the kinds of personalities that appear in HOLA, my absolutely favorite reading material. Of course, the other publications are far freer with printing unflattering stories and photos. In fact, my sister, mother, friends, and I enjoy comparing the week's stories in HOLA with how they are covered in other magazines. You see the unflattering photos, the un-retouched images, and the darker sides of the same news. The journalists on the panel work for the whole range of such publications, which only adds to the virulence of the attacks on each others' points of view. Some of them are the mouthpieces of famous people, like Chelo Garcia Cortes, the butch groupie/confidante of the late Rocio Jurado, of the hapless only son of the Baroness Thyssen, and of sinister Copla singer Isabel Pantoja. This gives her a lot of cache, because she gets the exclusives from her posse for HOLA. 

Isabel Pantoja on the cover of HOLA. In this exclusiva, she announces her breakup with a former mayor of an andalusian city jailed for a corruption scandal. 

Tonight's episode has truly been the trifecta of the pop culture that makes the Spain is different slogan come to life- Azucar Moreno, Junior and Rocio Durcal, and El Fary. 


John said...

gracias, Petite Maoiste, for this peek into soem of what makes Spain "different"! In all of my trips there, I am ashamed to admit that the television has provided me with as much entertainment and satisfaction as the incomparable museums, architecture, food and culture... !

Anonymous said...

Bueno Miriam, este tono Warholiano lo conocemos quienes hemos comido arepas, tapas y comida "étnica" contigo. Ahora esperamos algo más, un libro académico, una novela sobre la República, o un melodrama caribeño de esos que hacen llorar a los más duros. Ya sabes, si te animas a escribir una telenovela sobre los curadores especializados en el arte de América Latina, me ofrezco como voluntaria....
Berlusconi y Chávez han demostrado que todo es posible.