El Cachafaz

Real name: Bianquet, Ovidio José
Nicknames: Benito
(14 February 1885 - 7 February 1942)
Place of birth:
Buenos Aires Argentina
Néstor Pinsón

is story is part of the tango mythology, a legend, today very few who had witnessed his life or his art remain. His image was captured on the film Tango, premiered in 1933, where he can be seen with his partner Carmencita Calderón, just a girl under 20 years old.

He looked like as if he were not very smart from waist downwards, with a well upright body, but with too much feet movement, possibly due to the film maker´s instructions, to attract people's attention.

His nickname remained for our everyday history as his definitive first and last names: El Cachafaz.

According to the lunfardo dictionary by Adolfo Enrique Rodríguez, cachafaz, means: rascal, shameless, insolent, rogue, idler.

It is possible he had been and it is possible he had not, his face inspired doubts. Combed a la gomina (with a sticky paste), the hair tightly pulled backwards, Indian-like features and pock-marked, he always appeared with a serious countenance on pictures and on movies.

His true name was Ovidio José Bianquet, although his name for some was Benito. Here is where don José Gobello's knowledge is needed, and on an article he stated his opinion: «That was a nickname he was given when a child and in a confusing incident. He lived on La Rioja street in the neighborhood of south Balvanera when somebody went to the police precinct to report that a shop window glass had been broken by someone who had thrown a stone at it. He was accused and when the police arrived, his mother , a native from Córdoba, could not believe it and only was able to utter: «No puede ser si él es buenito, es buenito» (It's not possible, if he's so good).

«The police officer mistook Benito for buenito and so he handed the report: Benito Bianquet. (See note The famous dancers..., where there is another opinion)».

And why El Cachafaz? According to Gobello, again, because when a young guy he was daring with women and more than once he took undue liberties. One of them complained to his father about his behavior and they say that he exclaimed furious: ¡Mi hijo es un cachafaz! (My son is a scoundrel!) The boys in the neighborhood, or all who were, did the rest.

He was born on 14 February 1885 on the corner of Boedo and Independencia streets, today neighborhood of Boedo.

In 1911 he traveled to the United States and on his comeback in 1913 he put a dancing parlor.

Between 1910 and 1929 he had Emma Bóveda and Elsa O’Connor, later an outstanding dramatic actress in theater and cinema, as his partners, in love and in dancing. Subsequently, Isabel San Miguel and since 1933 Carmencita Calderón, exclusively as dancing partner.

In 1919 he was in Paris, they say that to perform at the mythical El Garrón, where the Argentine musician Manuel Pizarro was playing with his brothers, but the European way of life and his did not match, so he returned.

Gobello says that he was well paid for dancing lessons to high society people, and he ends with a sharp remark: «Had he been or not the greatest tango dancer, as such he will always be considered».

He died after a performance in the city of Mar del Plata on 7 February 1942.

Interview made by the journalist Irene Amuchástegui to Carmen Calderón after 55 years of El Cachafaz's death. Clarín newspaper, Buenos Aires, 7 February 1997.

«He had a special gift —says Carmencita— elegance and a unique timing. He was a great step creator, but also he had many «cortes» (figures) in common with José Giambuzzi El Tarila.

«Don Benito impeccably made them, without bending and with a delicacy that deprived tango dancing of its indecency. Because it needs to be said that tango, sometimes, is somewhat rather loathsome, there are cortes where the woman places her leg between the man's legs.

«He did it with excellence. He was the best.

«He was dressed with a black jacket and fantasía trousers (striped in black and gray) for tango with cortes, and for saloon tango dancing he wore a tuxedo.

«He was not good looking, he was ugly as a dark night and with that pock-marked face, but his way of behaving was suave and pleasant. But, when he got angry everybody trembled.»

«He never wore a gun, a blow of his was enough to put them to sleep.»

«I met him at the Club Sin Rumbo” (which still exists). I went there with my younger sisters whom I had brought up after my mother’s death.»

«I was sitting and somebody insisted on my dancing with a man who was there. I knew he was El Tarila, I accepted and at the end of the number he told me: “Would you accept being my partner and El Cachafaz's partner?» When I heard that name I held on to him like caltrop.»

«I made my debut with don Benito at the cine-teatro San Fernando, Pedro Maffia’s orchestra was playing, the best bandoneonist. We worked hard for Francisco Canaro´s revue companies. We also traveled, but there El Cacha had a bad time, he missed a lot, because he was used to sleep everynight at his mom’s place. Furthermore he liked to arrive at the café placed on Corrientes avenue and Talcahuano street every evening at six, where he always took the same table and met with his friends, among them, Gardel.»

«We danced the last evening, it was at a local named “El Rancho grande”, in Mar del Plata. We had finished our performance and I went to a room with the owner to listen to a soccer game between Argentina and Uruguay. All of a sudden, he appeared and told me: «Carmencita, I'll be waiting for you to drink half a glass of whisky after the match.» —he always addressed to me formally—. Soon afterwards a woman came in shouting to say that don Benito was lying on the courtyard. When I saw him lying on the ground I thought it was only a fall. 55 years have already passed».