Show Business: Hail the Conquering Crooner

  • Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 2)

So far the gamble has paid off handsomely. Tickets for Radio City sold out in only a day and a half, as might be expected in a city with a vast Hispanic population. But he has also had sellouts in the heartland, where Spanish is still a language heard mainly in high school classrooms. "A year ago, someone asked me when I would consider myself a success in America," says Iglesias. "I told him I'd be happy the day I put 10,000 people together in Ohio. In Cleveland, I got nearly 20,000." His first album in English, 1100 Bel Air Place, was released in the U.S. last month and sold a million copies in its first five days on the shelves. "Real Americans are coming to hear Julio now," says his press manager, Fernan Martinez. "He has shown that he's universal."

What Americans are seeing, and hearing, is nearly two hours of Mr. Universal. He jokes about his bad English, his age and gives an engaging Latin spin to sentimental favorites such as La Vie en Rose, Begin the Beguine and, of course, As Time Goes By. He demands little of either ear or eye, rarely even moving around the stage, and soothes rather than ignites. "The American people are looking for romance and class again," maintains his business manager, Ray Rodriguez. "Julio hit this country right when it needed him."

His relaxed performance is the result of endless discipline and labor, and Iglesias is rarely satisfied. "He always wants more—more love, more houses, more records, more success," says Martinez. His marriage of eight years was annulled in 1979, and although he remains devoted to his three children, who live most of the time with their mother in Spain, he has very little else in his life but singing, rehearsing and singing some more. He has four houses scattered around the world, but his real home is a Mystère-Falcon 20, which jets him from gig to gig. "Everything has to be quick for Julio," says Martinez. "Once he thought the water was too warm in his Miami pool. I offered to turn down the thermostat, but he said that would take too long. We had trucks dump five tons of ice into the pool."

He is never alone, yet he seems lonely to most who know him. Though there is frequently an attractive woman near by, his only real romance is in the lyrics he sings. Is he a sex symbol? He laughs and pulls up his trouser legs to reveal skinny legs above white socks. "Not when I look in the mirror in the morning," he says. "But my goal is to make people dream. When they see me onstage, their fantasy of me and the reality meet. I seduce them. But I must seduce myself first."

—By Gerald Clarke. Reported by Elaine Dutka/New York, with other bureaus

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. Next Page