Archive for December, 2010

1911, December 31 – BIRTH OF AMANDA LEDESMA

Singer (Capricorn) – working  in a dress shop, shy Amanda was beloved by the customers for her sweetness and her attentive service…when she was not working she was singing but she did not think she was particularly good; she just hoped some day the right boy would ask her to get married and take her away…her friends would ask her to sing at their celebrations…one day one of them  told her about a singing contest at the Gaumont Theater and encouraged her to enter but she was highly reluctant; eventually she was convinced…she did not win but a director of the renown Radio Prieto happened to be present and like her voice and ask her to do a tryout at the stati0n…for her debut she sang “Alma En Pena” where she was accompanied by non other than Miguel Calò on piano…it was a success and invitations from other radio stations followed and then performances in the one-act theater farces which were all the rage at the time…

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Eventually Luis Moglia Barth picked her for his second film “Dancing” which was a box office failure; still Amanda was one of the few bright spots in the film…in her career she would star in 21 films…for her first recording in 1937 she sang “Condena” and the waltz “Primavera”…She was to see her greatest success however, in Mexico to where she moved in 1942…there she was “The Blond Goddess of Tango”, an image she cured assiduously by dyeing her hair blond and taking  fanatical care of her skin that it remain white…indeed it was rumored a film contract stipulated that she was never to sunbathe….for her appearances she tended to dress in white; never provocative….her film “Cuando Quiere Un Mexicano” in 1944 with Mexican singer and Latin American heart throb Jorge Negrete skyrocketed her fame….she was the first Argentinean star to move to Mexico to further her career; many others were to follow including the legendary Libertad Lamarque….in 1956 at the age of 45 apparently she had had enough and returned to Argentina and retired

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1936, December 30 – BIRTH OF MIGUEL VILLASBOAS

Leader, Pianist (Capricorn) – surely the stellar career of Miguel Villasboas can put to rest the controversy of whether tango belongs to both Montevideo and Buenos Aires…his career involved collaboration with the legends of tango Osvaldo Fresedo, Miguel Calo, Juan D’arienzo…critics rate his contribution to tango among the two top in the history of tango in Uruguay; perhaps second only to that of Donato Racciatti…his output in recording is immense 60 LPs, 10 cassettes, 10 Cds recorded for different labels in both Argentina and Uruguay…he earned rave review and standing ovations  during tours in South America; among the most memorable before discriminating audiences in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Brasil…he garnered ecstatic receptions  in Australia,  in the cities of Melbourne, Sidney and Adelaide…in the United States, especially in Miami and New York and in 2001 an   especially memorable tour of Japan….in 1976 the London label of England awarded him a gold disc for the sales success of his recording “De Pura Cepa”

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He was born in the Pocitos neighborhood of Montevideo, Uruguay where from a very young age he showed keen musical ability which pleased his father, a piano teacher; in fact he was his first teacher…he finished his studies in the history of musical education and began teaching in high schools; an activity which he loved and which he continued until his retirement in 1993…at the age of 16 he formed his first musical group “Quinteto Miguelito”; they appeared in cafes and dancehalls and on television…he was still only 18 when luck broke his way, renowned maestro Nicolas Agapaios asked him to play piano with his orchestra…he later formed a sextet which would be in much demand; through it ranks passed some of Uruguays best musicians including Pedro Severino a virtuoso violinist who would remain with him for 30 years…in march of 1964 in his last appearance in Uruguay, the mythical Roberto Firpo invited Miguel to play with his group at the Palacio Sud America.

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1933, December 29 – PREMIERE OF “FLYING DOWN TO RIO”

For this film Vincent Youmans composed the tango “Orchids in the Moonlight” which would be a smash hit and another leap forward in the tango craze in the United States and consequently the world…it is sung by Raul Roulien and danced by Fred Astair with Dolores Del Rio who was considered the female Rodolofo Valentino…”Orchids in the Moonlight” would be subsequently recorded by many other artists including the Platters in 1960 and by the legendary mexican trio Los Panchos in English; Ricardo Montalban and Cyd Cherise were to do an unforgetable dance to it in the 1948 film “On An Island With You”…this was the first time that Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers had worked together…Interestingly, Fred had been reluctant to work with her; having danced with his sister for many years, he now dreamt of finally breaking away to a solo career…

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The film was originally conceived as a showcase for silent film beauty star Dolores Del Rio, instead the unexpected chemistry between Fred and Ginger usurped the headlines and buzz and created the greatest dancing couple in history; they were to make nine other films together…”Flying Down to Rio” , directed by Thorton Freeman,  follows the adventures of  Roger Bond a band leader and aviator who falls in love with the Brazilian beauty Belinda de Resende (Dolores Del Rio) even though she is already engaged to Julio played by Raul Roulien…Roulien was the first Brazilian actor to make it in Hollywood; in the later part of his career he successfully produced and directed a number of films…Vincent Youmans composed some successful broadway hits although his career was relatively short; like the legenday Eduardo Arolas, he finally passed away relatively young  from complications of TB and alcoholism

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1913, December 28 – GARDEL MEETS MADAME JEANNE

One thing is clear about Madam Jeanne, she ran the Chatecler, one of the most chic brothels in all of Latin America…she claimed that her name was Giovanna Ritana and that she was French; she may in fact have been Lucia Combe who had been one of the many young prostitutes who had come over from Italy…the evening had started at the upscale Peru Cafe on Avenida de Mayo, where Pancho Teruel, painting visions of “creme de la creme” of  Buenos Aires,  had prevailed upon Gardel and Razzano to reunite in a performance for a group of politically and socially important people…the event was a great success and a prominent member of the group suggested that they continue the evenings festivities to the Chantecler…it is there that he met Madam Jeanne for the first time; which along with that of Isabel Del Valle, was the beginning of  Gardel’s longest lasting relationship…a relationship that would lead to his brush with death three years later…

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Madam Jeanne, had been in a longstanding relationship with a shady, underworld figure by the name of Juan Garesio….Juan became immensely jealous and intense and violent fights between him and Madam Jeanne were to follow; eventually he hired one Roberto Guevara, apparently the father of future legend Che Guevara, to kill Gardel…on December 11, 1915 Gardel had just finished a performance at the San Martin Theater and was walking away from the place when Guevara caught up with him and shot him….the newspaper La Nacion reported that the victim had been rushed to Juan A. Fernandez hospital where he was in serious condition; the bullet remained lodged in Gardel’s lung and eventually doctors decided that the most prudent course was to leave it there and let him heal without further intervention….weeks later, Gardel now fully recovered, hired Juan Ruggerio to negotiate a settlement whereby no further attempts on his life would be made…on the night of June 24, 1935 when his lifeless, burned body is pull from the plane wreckage in Medellin Colombia, the bullet from the lung that was recovered in autopsy confirmed that the deceased was indeed “Charles Romuald Gardes”, alias Carlos Gardel, singer.

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1908, December 27 – BIRTH OF SANTIAGO DEVIN

Singer (Capricorn) – as a young boy, his gruff boss would frequently scream at him “Santiago, paint, work or you will find yourself on the street”….indeed he was fortunate to have a  job as a car painter but instead of concentrating on the task at hand he would sing all day to the ire of his boss ..but alas, the boss grudgingly forgave the boy; the truth was that he admired his voice…Santiago Devincenzi was born to poor Italian immigrant parents and very early in life, had quit school to work to help support the family; almost as soon as he had started walking, he started singing, not always welcomed by his struggling, nervous father…his first audition was at the Radio Cultura where to his deep disappointment he heard the director say “go study and come back later when you are ready”….he continued painting cars and singing among the toxic fumes and dreaming…his first public performance was at “Nacional Cinema Theater”; when it was finally over, only the guitarist was paid…the next day he continued painting and singing and hoping…

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His first break came when Antonio Alfonso Roman, although not completely convinced, hired him for his orchestra; he helped him correct his technique and young Santiago began to win smiles and nods of approval from the public… he would later work with noted orchestras like those of Juan Carlos Cobian, Julio De Caro and the legendary Carlos Di Sarli…he then launched himself as a soloist and was successful in the best cafes and cinema theater of his day; he was to do some of his best work during a stint with the Sureda Trio…it is recounted that Carlos Gardel had once said of him “during my last tour of the province of Buenos Aires, I worked with a half-filled room in the cinema theaters and the kid Devin with Sureda stole me the public”…at the point of his career when things were finally coming together for him, he began to have symptoms of  a strange illness, perhaps connected with the toxic fumes he had breathed as a car painter; he passed away suddenly at the age of 42

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  • CLICK HERE – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPdFMIKY27Y to hear Santiago Devin sing “Cicatrices” with the Carlos Di Sarli Orchestra…the music was composed by Adolfo Aviles with lyrics by Enrique Maroni

1906, December 26 -BIRTH OF IMPERIO ARGENTINA

Singer (Capricorn) – Adolf Hitler was so enthralled with her that he had Joseph Goebbels request an audience with her; she came and he asked her to film the life of the exotic dancer Lola Montez…at German studios UFA she met Marlena Dietrich with whom, credible rumors said, she had a lesbian affair..but the night of “Kristalnacht” opened her eyes on Nazism and she left…nevertheless it was true that her political sympathies were with fascism; during the period of dictatorship she was one of “Franco’s Untouchables”; for a time she was boycotted in New York, Mexico City, and Buenos Aires…she was born in the neighborhood of San Telmo, Buenos Aires to a guitarist English father and an actress mother from Spain…when she was six years old she debuted as “Petit Imperio” at the Comedia Theater in Buenos Aires…Now back in Spain, she debuted at Madrid’s Romea Theater in 1924…when she was only 21 years she auditioned for Spanish Director Florian Rey who was so taken by her that he not only offered her the lead role in the film “La Hermana San Suplicio”, he also insisted that she sing in it even though it was a silent film; it was an immediate hit….

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Seven years later Rey would divorce his wife and marry Imperio; together they would produce Spain’s most successful films in the pre-civil war era…the marriage however, lasted only briefly and she then married the Count of Cabezuelas Ramon Baillio in a storybook church ceremony but when she divorced him, she incurred the wrath of the catholic church…she starred alongside Carlos Gardel in two films “La Casa Es Seria” and “Melodia de Arrabal”; the later made her enormously popular in the United States; following an appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York, a star-struck, young Fidel Castro timidly approached her and presented her with a sketched portrait…in 1992 at the age of 82 years old and practically forgotten she made an appearance  at the World Exhibition in Sevilla Spain where she thrilled the audience and earned a standing ovation…at the age of 93, ill and bedridden, reflecting on her life she became solemn for a moment remembering the painful passing her two children while they were still young and then, suddenly, she her face lite up, she asked her granddaughter Teresa for her castanets and died singing

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1983, December 25 – ARMANDO PONTIER COMMITS SUICIDE

Perhaps his tragic ending was somehow foretold in his moving, heart wrenching music; tangos like “Trenzas”, “Corazon No Le Hagas Caso”, “Cada Dia Te Estrano Mas”; he was to compose many beloved tangos in his career…Armando Pontier was born on August 29, 1917 (Virgo) in the town of Zarate just outside of Buenos Aires to a very poor family…his dream was to play piano but that was too expensive; one day, to the thrill of young Armando, his father showed up with a bargain bandoneon which he had bought from a street vendor for a few pesos…with considerable sacrifice, he enrolled him in the Juan Ehlert music school where he befriended two other boys who themselves would become legends of tango, Enrique Francini and Hector Stamponi…

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All three were invited by maestro Ehlert to play in his personal musical ensemble…it is with Francini that he forms his first orchestra…their major break came when they were invited to play for the grand opening of Tango Bar on September 1, 1945…a key event in his career occurred when Radio Belgrano invited him form a staff orchestra; he was to have a 10 year-long association with that station…his period with the Miguel Calo orchestra was an especially fecund one for him, producing some of his most important work…he was especially smitten with the culture of Japan; he made two successful tours there…fourteen of his compositions in collaboration  with Anibal Troilo, were recorded by Roberto Goyeneche….depression was a problem that he had battled with for many years; for mysterious reasons, the pain of existence was difficult for him to bear…on Christmas Day of 1983, this time he was not able to silence the voices that haunted him and he took his own life…about tango he was to say, “tango is no accident…a person who loves tango, had tango in him when he was still in his mother’s womb”

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