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Adultery, greed and hypocrisy: The dark side of Chespirito

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Roberto Gómez Bolaños, the Mexican comedian best known for creating the massively popular El Chavo del Ocho show, passed away on November of 2014. He was 85.

Even though its executives consider it “shoddy” and “in bad taste,” it was recently announced that Globo, the largest television network in South America, would be purchasing the rights to the soon-to-be 50-year-old-show, whose first episode aired in June of 1971.

Brazilian viewers apparently still love Chespirito, but Mexican audiences — the main demographic the show was created for — always had mixed feelings about El Chavo del Ocho.

Bolaños has been considered Latin America’s biggest purveyor of safe, family-friendly, and “white” (inoffensive) humor, so how can anybody hate that? To begin with, many people believe Roberto actively reached for the lowest hanging fruit with his brand of comedy. He also engaged in plenty of personal, rotten practices.

Here are highlights:

1) Bros b4 girls: Breaking up Quico and Doña Florinda

Believe or not, Quico, played by Carlos Villagrán, used to date Florinda Meza, his mom on the show. It’s kinda gross, I know, but not as gross as Roberto’s behavior since, according to Carlos himself, Bolaños asked Villagrán to break up with Meza because “the company” (Televisa) didn’t approve of relationships between coworkers.

Florinda Meza, aka “Doña Florinda,” and Carlos Villagrán, aka “Quico.”

Months later, Quico found out Roberto, who was married to one Graciela Fernandez, his baby momma of I-don’t-know-how-many-kids, started dating Meza in secrecy. The comedian eventually divorced Graciela and married Florinda, but Quico ceased speaking to his former bro for over 22 years.

And considering she became the main reason Roberto divorced his first wife, Meza lived “in shame” for many years among “judgy” Mexicans, she later revealed to Paty Chapoy in a scandalous interview.

2) Pinochet better have his blood money because #dealswithdictators

Even if it was through ill-advised gigs, or nefarious friendships, Roberto loved getting his greasy, torta-stained hands on dirty money.

The Chavo del Ocho cast performing live in Chile in 1977.

Case in point, in 1977 Bolaños completely ignored an industry-wide boycott many of his colleagues had enacted against Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. He toured Chile throwing caution to the wind, and claiming that he was doing it for his audience.

Years later, “Chespiro” performed in a private party for Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela, leader of notorious drug cartel in Cali, Colombia.

3) Get your hands off Chavo’s tortas — and characters

“I’m a little flea who’s been pitted against a giant monster,” said María Antonieta de las Nieves, who played Chilindrina, one of the most popular characters on El Chavo del Ocho, about her decade-long legal battle against Roberto and Televisa.

Having earned close to two billion dollars in syndication fees for Televisa, María’s former boss made millions off residual royalties from the show. But shortly after the series ended in the ‘80s, the rest of the cast members couldn’t land a job to save their lives.

Since acting was no longer working out, María put together a circus act in order to get by, but greedy Roberto quickly tried to halt its production through the Mexican legal system.

The actress manged to popularize la Chilindrina by adding her own quirks to the character’s personality. Still, Chespirito didn’t want anybody making money off what he considered his sole creation.

The courts eventually sided with María.

4) Your body, Bolaños’ choice

Considering he had no problem engaging with shaddy dictatorships, it made sense for Roberto to become one of PAN’s strongest supporters.

The ultra-conservative political party — themselves famous for trying to ban public kissing, among other hilarious nonsense — put Roberto front and center in their campaign ads, which included one to keep abortion illegal (your body, his choice):

Then again, it’s hardly shocking to know that the “Red Grasshopper” was a hardcore right-winger since he was fond of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, possibly the most-hated Mexican president ever.

(Having gone through Carlos Salinas and Enrique Peña Nieto, two other grade A assholes, that’s saying a lot.)

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Andrés Cantor, the most important sportscaster of a generation, liked my Tweet

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This past Sunday I logged on to Twitter to see what 45 was up to, and a friend had tweeted a video clip of Andrés Cantor, the Argentine sportscaster, belting an elongated “gooooooool” after Colombia had scored against Poland. I immediately replied with a simple innocuous response acknowledging I grew up listening to him, and his emotion never gets old.

Monday morning I woke up with a notification on my phone: “ANDRES CANTOR liked your reply.” Having worked around celebrities in a previous life, something like this wouldn’t make me  giddy, but this was different. I remember Andrés, along with Norberto Longo, announcing the Italia 1990 World Cup matches on Univision.

At the time, Univision was the only broadcaster airing all the matches, so non-Spanish speakers also got to experience Cantor’s signature phrase.  He made watching the matches so much more exciting. It wasn’t just his particular enunciation, but his narration, which adds nail-biting suspense, and has a way of scrambling one’s feelings.

He knows his audience very well; just this week, during Mexico vs. Sweden, in the last minute of the match, he began to narrate the results of the match, which allowed Mexico to advance to the next stage. His energy matched those of the stadium, as he announced in Spanish: “Korea takes out the champion (Germany), Korea advances Mexico!

OH. MY. GOD. How can you not get caught up in the drama?

It’s not the same, but there have been some improvements with soccer matches called in English. Fox’s F1 has the English language rights for the world cup. They had two Latinos with thick accents announce Mexico vs. Sweden, and they added their own flair with dramatic cadences in English. But it’s Andrés Cantor who has laid the foundation for dramatic futbol game calling.

I remember during the 1998 World Cup, when Mexico played Germany in the round of 16, the match was tied 1-1. Pavel Pardo tried to do some fancy footwork against a German player, and Cantor quickly commented to stop it and not to do this against Germany. I was thinking the SAME thing — what an idiot! That match had me on the edge of my seat, and Cantor read my mind. Mexico ended up losing the match and getting eliminated.

I heard Andrés for the first time during the 1990 World Cup, but it was in 1987 that he was hired at Univision to call the matches for the Liga MX. For most, it wasn’t until the 1994 World Cup that Cantor came into the limelight. He was recognized with several awards, including a regional Emmy and a National Career Achievement Emmy, for his work during the tournament. He even made an appearance on the David Letterman show.

From a 1994 interview in the LA TIMES:

He said his ‘Gooooooaalllll!’ call isn’t really a trademark, and not even unique. That’s the style of the announcers he listened to as a youngster in Argentina.

Andrés Cantor is very much the voice of soccer in the USA. He came up a time when there was only one network broadcasting the World Cup, and he called the matches like the announcers from his childhood. Ultimately he’s written the announcers playbook, and many who’ve come after him have been influenced by his style. Yes, Cantor’s booming voice has become an unmistakable trademark, but for me his observations are just as important. He’s always saying what I’m shouting at the screen, and, apparently, liking my tweets.


Tizoc Schwartz co-wrote a short film on the word ‘Chingar’ and has written other stuff you’ve never heard of.  He’s a carb enthusiast, and dislikes social media.


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Drunkards in the night: A hallway, two keys, and one lasting memory

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Last night I met a student from upstate New York. She was drunk and locked out from the apartment across from mine, which she leased through Airbnb. She was given two keys; one unlocked the front door of the building, the other one unlocked her anxiety, frustration, and some other door elsewhere, but not the front door of her leased apartment.

I asked her if she was okay and she said “yes” with plenty of confidence. I entered my apartment only to be distracted by her weeping a few minutes later. I don’t know my neighbor — I mean, I’ve seen him, we wave at each other. But I don’t know his name and definitely don’t have his number because, well, it’s New York. Not having to speak to your neighbors about pleasantries — or at all — is one of the perks of the city.

I walked back to the hallway and asked the woman, who was in her early twenties, at most, if she had my neighbor’s number. In her state, my question barely registered, so instead I asked for her name, and to unlock her cell phone, which she was fumbling with. “Nawn…cie. Here.” She handed me her phone where, coincidentally, a group text was blowing up on the screen.

I got in on that: “This isn’t Nancy, but a stranger who found your drunk friend in a hallway in the LES. Someone should come get her. She’s locked out.” I offered her a glass of water, but instead she bolted inside my apartment, ran directly towards the toilet, and threw up. She figured out the layout of my place almost instantly, which was very surprising considering her altered state.

After handing her a wad of napkins and the glass of water, Nancy crawled towards the living room. “Sorry. You’re so kind, and decent, I think. I’m from Ithaca. That’s not relevant to this situation, but yeah, I’m from Ithaca,” she explained while climbing on top of an office chair (I don’t have real living room furniture).

Her friend, Rachel, texted back: “OMG. I’ll be there in 20 minutes! Please take care of her.” I relayed the information to my sudden guest. “Well, Nancy. I guess Ithaca rolls pretty hard on Monday nights,” I quipped. “Naw. Just me,” she replied, before adding that she’s a “computer science student.” “Is that relevant to this situation?” I asked. “Yes. There’s nothing wrong with computer science, actually, but my dad forced me to study that. I’m not good at it, so I’m always getting wasted.”

Nancy’s struggle was all kinds of endearing, but it wasn’t my place to dish out advice because 1) she didn’t ask for it, and 2) she already knew shit was wrong, but simply decided to deal with it in an unhealthy, self-destructive way, just like most young people. It’s actually an important stepping stone in youth, the kind that simply needs to play out.

Rachel finally showed up, adding: “Thanks for taking care of her. We didn’t think she was this drunk when she left the bar.” Still woozy, Nancy looked in my general direction before she left, and mentioned a parting gift. “It’s next to your toothbrush. Thanks, dude.”

She left a memory — yeah, figuratively, but also literally. A 4 gigabyte Samsung DDR3 RAM laptop memory module.

Nancy’s funny. Nancy’s gonna be alright.

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