Moreno - The memories of the poet Eduardo Moreno
n February 27, 1993 I visited him at his apartment with my tape recorder at hand. On several opportunities he had written to me to praise my radio program Siempre el tango. As he used to do with the people he liked, he even sent me a sonnet written on a faked parchment. I had a warm welcome, but after saying hello he warned me: «Please don’t ask me about the composer of the tango “Recuerdo”...» I said nothing and he talked about his health problems for a while.
«I’m from Palermo, when I was a kid I lived on 4900 Santa Fe Avenue. I was about 11 years old when I got used to jumping the wall of my house facing the street to go straight to the Agua Sucia café, which was in front of us. In fact, it had no name, but it was called like that because to get there you had to walk a distance between Santa Fe and Cañitas (today Avenida Luis María Campos) which was a large muddy way.
«It had good installations and by that time the brand-new Juan Pedro Castillo quartet was playing. I used to spend a long time watching and I was amazed that the title of the piece to be played was written on a small blackboard. I recall Castillo himself writing with a piece of chalk “Déjeme que la acompañe”, H. Canaro, “Pura uva”...
«Later when I wore long trousers I frequented La Paloma Café located on Santa Fe and the Maldonado creek. By that time there was a little street called Almeira, in memory of the physician Hilario Almeira who stood out in the Paraguay war. At that venue paraded the outfits led by Agustín Bardi, Vicente Greco and, for a short time, Roberto Firpo... and Juan Maglio, of course.
«When I was sixteen I worked in the Última Hora daily paper, I was already a journalist. They assigned me alongside the playwright Julio Escobar, by then in his heyday, because four of his plays were staged simultaneously. I started as theater critic and was present at the premieres. As Escobar was quite busy with his task as playwright, I was the one who wrote the commentaries. In fact, he was not the head of the theater page, he was replacing the boss, Samuel Linnig, by then ill.
«His demise took place when his play “Puente Alsina” was staged at the Teatro Nacional with Santiago Arrieta, Olinda Bozán and Manolita Poli. The latter sang “Campana de plata” with lyrics by Samuel Linnig and music by Carlos Vicente Geroni Flores. He could not see any of its performances.
«The play that had launched Escobar was La víbora de la querusa... See what a title! He split with the newspaper and I followed him. We appeared in Crítica.» Here Moreno made a long pause, he closed his eyes and began to recite a fragment of “Tu cuna fue un conventillo”, when he was back he made me a hint by arching his eyebrows and then he continued.
«Alberto Vaccarezza always emphasized tango. I recall that I accompanied him to the premiere of Juancito de la Ribera. In it Enrique Muiño began with a prologue by which the playright answered back to his critics. The latter used to say about him phrases like: «Mr.Vaccarezza repeats his previous sainete (one-act farce)». They didn’t either accept his use of lunfardo terms and his tango settings.
«¿Carlos de la Púa? Look, El Malevo was a sublime friend, we were like brothers. I became acquainted with his poems very early. The one in charge with sales in the Crítica paper, «El Diente» Drughera was who contributed the money for the publication. A libel was spread by then saying that the lines were written by people in prison and later where sent to him because they knew the argot much better. A complete foolishness. I recall him writing by my side at a café several of his poems, such as “Los bueyes [b]”. But he used those expressions only when he wrote, otherwise he was quite polite. He was a learned journalist, anyone who has read his notes about politics will agree... an honest man in everything, and humble.
«I approached tango in 1924. Due to our friendship, the violinist Emilio Marchiano added music to a lyrics of mine, “La sombra de Milonguita”.
«I used to go to a café on Canning and Gorriti where Vardaro, Cayetano Puglisi and some other member of the then Firpo's orchestra frequently turned up. I had a close relationship with Vicente Salvador Pugliese, Osvaldo's eldest brother. He was known as Fito, he was violinist and was estranged from his family because he was always in bad terms with his father. Those were familiar questions I'm not interested to talk about.
«That tango was recorded by Francisco Canaro. Later came the lyrics of “Recuerdo”... The one who recorded it first was Rosita Montemar and among the men, Roberto Díaz. The renditions I like most are the two released by Julio De Caro (1926 and 1952).»
—Don Eduardo, please tell me about some figures you had met, the first ones you remember.
«Yes... I was very close to the man in the box-office of the Teatro Porteño. One evening we were having a drink and a girl, about 22 years old, turned up. He introduced her to me as a female singer coming from Chile. By that time the team Vardaro-Pugliese was putting together its outfit and they were auditioning female singers in Pugliese's own house on Rivera Street. After explaining this to her I dared to give her the address. She was chosen.
«She was Malena de Toledo. This was the last name of her first husband. And she was Chilean, neither Argentine nor Uruguayan. I was agent for that outfit and held her documents in my hand.
«I had friendly relations with all the musicians and poets of my era, but my relationship with Anselmo Aieta, Firpo and Enrique Delfino was special. When Delfi died and his coffin was being taken to the vault, I stopped the mourning procession. No one had said a word in his memory. I did it. SADAIC sent no one.
«Another one... I don't know why it came to my mind: Did you know that Bardi didn't like the tangos with lyrics? Before me one day he told that to Alfredo Bevilacqua. I respected him, but about that I didn't agree then and I don't agree now. Many of his tangos had a widespread acclaim precisely because of their lyrics: “La última cita”, “Nunca tuvo novio”, “Madre hay una sola”.
«Hey, look! Here's a nice story. Héctor Blomberg was a good friend of mine. He was correspondent for the newspaper La Razón in Paris. His secretary had accompanied him. She was a thoroughly learned person, a university graduate in the school of philosophy and letters. She had worked as secretary for Linnig in Última Hora. She was a passionate advocate of tango but her destiny made her get ill and die there. This unfortunate event inspired Blomberg to write “La que murió en París”. Her name was Alicia Elsa French.
«A review of my teen years: listen, I already frequented the dancehalls around Plaza Italia and one night I saw José Ingenieros and also a man of letters, Alberto Ghiraldo, entering a local called Palermo located one block from Santa Fe Avenue. They were going to that venue to dance tango. They, as well as many others at that time, had a passion for tango. Tango was not plebeian, it did not belong only to the neighborhood or the tenement houses. That is something to highlight.
«Shall I talk about Carlos Gardel?... Gardel could have recorded my tango “Barra de oro”. He showed much interest in it as well as in others I presented to him, but it was when he was about to start his last travel. With my lyrics I went to an office he had on Diagonal Norte and Suipacha which was managed by a Spaniard named Ruiz Catalán, leader of a rondalla years before. There my papers remained waiting for his return.
«As for his abilities, he was unique. There is no place left for any argument. If I have to mention another one, as a singer, as a person, as a successful man with a generous heart: Ignacio Corsini.
“I had much respect for Eduardo Pereyra. El Chón was an inspired composer. He was only fourteen when he composed “El africano” on request of the owner of a café with the same name in the city of Rosario. He was the most successful pianist I've ever known, a player with finesse, different from everybody in his time. A great artist but also a great bohemian that liked traveling very much.
«He composed numerous tangos that others signed. There were names that became popular with their music. The same happened with many composers. A book ought to be written, Greatness and misery of tango, in it you'd get the information about all the impostors and all the mechanisms that surrounded tango fallaciously, with a complete lack of honor. People who did not reach success but had the intuition to buy compositions from others. Eduardo Pereyra, was somewhat careless in his life, he had no ambitions, he was satisfied with the money he received by his music delivered and soon he forgot about it all.
«Turn off the recorder!» He asked me after a long whisper... «Here's a case, one of the Lipeskers on several occasions gave me five pesos to hand them to Pereyra. When I came back I brought written music. Many of them turned out the best tangos signed by Hugo Gutiérrez: “Torrente”, “Fruta amarga” and many more.»
—You worked in SADAIC for many years, tell me something about Canaro.
«He had been a person who seemed to attract slander. Since he began he was calumniated. Francisco Canaro kept the tango flame for fifty years, people always envied him.
«How were the lyrics of “Recuerdo” born?... Pugliese made me listen to the melody, I don't remember if it was at his place or at the café ABC, and I kept it in my head. In the evening I dropped by the place where I used to meet with my friends, Blomberg, Enrique González Tuñón, a painter whose name now I don't recall, and that evening Tesorieri, the Boca goalkeeper, was also there. All of a sudden I began to write and the lyrics came out from beginning to end. I mention a café concert in it because that venue was that. I mention Mimí, because a woman named Mimí was there. She was a French girl that was paid to talk with men.
«It was the café run by la «Negra Carolina» at La Boca. She was a fat woman from the Antilles, half-crippled, but very wise was she, she had traveled a lot. She always talked about the barrooms she ran in different cities. It seems that she came to Argentina escaping from some problems she had had. We accompanied her up to 1927 when she got ill. Blomberg took her to the Hospital Argerich. There she died alone. Her true name was Carolina Maud.
«During the absurd period of censorship I was summoned because of “Recuerdo” and “Barra de oro”. They told me that the word barra was lunfardo. I persuaded the employee, but he finally told me: ûIt's all right, but change it because barra sounds like lunfardo». As for “Recuerdo” they criticized the part which says: «En las suaves noches del ambiente del placer» (In the soft nights in the milieu of pleasure) and also «café concert». They said it had to be «Yesterday's café». As I started to argue they told me I had to talk to the chief. It was a big room with two large tables, on one side there were around twenty women and on the other, about twenty men. All them working with lyrics that had to be modified. When the chief appeared I recognized him immediately. I had seen him on several occasions at a café of Villa Urquiza. He used to sing with a guitar and after that with a tray he asked money for his show. A «venue beggar» turned out into a chief of censorship. He had a brother who sang boleros. They were the brothers Vicente and Emilio Crisera.
«Celedonio Flores had many problems. I talked to Canaro and he soon destined 500 pesos a month as a loan until his situation was better. All his lyrics had lunfardo idioms so he did not get any money to survive.»
After this meeting he wrote to me several times. One day he phoned me. He wanted me to attend to a simple event held as a homage to him. A bronze plate with his name would be placed on a corner on Corrientes Avenue. I promised to go but something happened that day, a strike, a general strike or something like that. It was postponed for another occasion. I don't know if it finally took place but soon later he passed away. He was so kind, before knowing me personally, to mention my name, among many other ones, in his last book: “De la bohemia porteña”.
His pieces filed in the record are over 120, although many of them were never committed to record. The standouts are: the waltzes “Dulce amanecer”, with Adolfo Pérez Pocholo; “Madre inolvidable” and “Sonoro cascabel” with Juan Canaro; “Navidad [b]”, “Marga (Un pensamiento)”, “Noche de Mayo”, with Osvaldo Pugliese; and the tangos: “Y a mí qué me importa”, with Elvino Vardaro; “Fantoches”, with Roberto Zerrillo; “Brindemos esta noche” with Anselmo Aieta; “Canta muchachita”, with Emilio González; “Tu perfume rosa”, with Eduardo Pereyra; “Noche de bohemia”, with Armando Baliotti; “Ausencia”, with Osvaldo Pugliese; “Gigí” and “Viejo sillón”, with Enzo Valentino; “Barra de oro”, “Pálida princesa” with his own music.
On request of the publishers he added lyrics to three pieces composed by Eduardo Arolas: “Nariz”, “La cabrera” and “Bien tirao”. He worked on the radio as reciter of criollo poems, as lecturer and, especially, as playwright of soap operas. He had experience as theater actor and, later, he led his own theater company. He founded a journal, a magazine, and contributed to the scripts of several movies, but all, unfortunately, without the acclaim expected. He was a stubborn bohemian, who lived a long life, with a body which was withering according to his age, but with a clairvoyance enviable for storing memories. Precisely “Recuerdo” (Memory); he wrote the lyrics for a tango that will not be forgotten and in whose lines he will last forever.