Néstor Pinsón

Vidal - A troubled debut

n the daily language that men use it is possible to find hints that mark some of their facets. That day of 1992 when I met with El Negro Jorge Vidal in his office, the first thing that he told me was: «Wait a minute that I have to go to the viorsi (toilet). And with this single word that is already out of fashion, even in old lunfardo, the guy was sketching his own portrait. When he returned he touched my shoulder: “Yes, brother, tell me...” And he sat down to please all my questions.

«From an early age I had a clear position towards life, concerning social and political matters. And I was very lucky, God was always on my side. There were many bitter times, characteristic of the humans, but I was putting them in a corner». And he finished his introduction with this hard sentence, without concessions, easy to express, but not so easy to take into practice: «Man should always have the interest to continue ahead and to keep on fighting. When he loses his capacity of astonishment, when there is nothing that may draw his attention, when he no longer has an interest that allows him to keep on living with enthusiasm and he doesn't have strength to improve, well, he'd better kill himself.

«I was born in the neighborhood of Caballito in 700 Méndez de Andés Street. My old man was from Mendoza and my mom from San Luis. I was the fourth child and the only son after three sisters. He died when I was two years old, in the street, just in front of the building of the Congress, of a heart attack. It was the time of the crisis of ‘30, Yrigoyen was near to be overthrown, misery was awful. For many days our family was fed mainly on bread with fat and some cans branded “La Negra”. There were no jobs and for women it was worse. In her desperation my mom left one morning to go to the government's house and she waited until the President went out. When he got into his car and he started up, she evaded the police custody and she threw herself against the car that hit her and threw her to the floor. Don Hipólito got down immediately and she was able to tell him her reasons. The president gave some orders and then they gave her my dad's job in the mail service. She held that office for over twenty years until her death in 1954. With the passing of time and experience I managed to understand that Yrigoyen was a nice guy, quite honest and humble, but also I understood that he was an exception. He might have been the only decent radical that ever existed. Had peronism not appeared I should have become a conservative or a communist.

«Luckily I attended grammar school in my neighborhood, Canalejas and Cucha Cucha and my complete secondary school studies in the Bernardino Rivadavia school. Later I entered the Naval School of Río Santiago, it was 1943. When I was in the fourth year in 1946 and I was in the promotion the number eleven, there was a revolution attempt, led by Vernengo Lima. I was about to be a midshipman and was to sit for an exam to become a naval aviator. They expelled seventy students and I was among them.

«I was good in sports, soccer in San Lorenzo, in the inferior divisions and court tennis in Huracán. I stood out in the latter. Even my picture appeared in El Gráfico.

«Singing was something natural since I was a kid, I learned listening to the radio. Mom sent me to study sight reading and guitar and also singing with maestro Deferrari. A short learning that later proved of great advantage to me.

«Before entering the Naval School I was begging money at some cafes. In all the places where they didn't throw us out, a schoolmate was the one unembarrassed to collect money with a cap among the patrons after my performances. I had got hold of a guitar and people were curious about a kid with such a strong voice. I did that to raise some coins. By that time I recorded a disc on my own, an acetate in the Grafoson label. It turned out OK, neat, but I lost it. I had begun a good friendship with the guitarist Jaime Vila and then my career began. We started to rehearse. Other three boys had been added: Huerta, Fontana and Moreno and some simple stints appeared. It was then when we found out that at the café La Paz of Barrancas de Belgrano, almost in front of the railway station, on Mondays, new artists were introduced. On the other days an all-girl orchestra played. They accepted us for the opening Monday.

«The boys, with white paper, gotten in a bakery, prepared some hand-made rustic posters, that were stuck on the walls of the surroundings. When the time to go to the place came it began to rain. Our disappointment ceased when from a distance we saw the number of people that entered the venue. Not only I was making my debut but also the new owner who sat at a long table with his wife, children and friends. The first part of my show lasted half an hour and was warmly welcomed.

«When I was ready for the second part, a young boy entered the cafe —later I knew that his last name was Zalazar—, he wore a small parcel under his arm. He was half drunk and he began to sing among the tables. The owner and some others, in a good way, tried to discourage him and he finally left. But soon he returned and resumed his singing. When the owner approached him the latter took out of the package a very long knife and unfortunately stabbed the heart of the former. He also seriously wounded a waiter. The police came, there was a terrible commotion and I, terribly scared, came out running wearing a borrowed tuxedo. When I stopped running I was near Cabildo. The poor brand-new owner died.

«Some time later a good friend introduced me to the owner of the café Argentino, the one in Chacarita, 6800 Corrientes Street. He was somewhat reluctant because someone had said that the above problem had happened because I had a following that belonged to a bad environment. That was not true. My performances attracted people, I used to sing without a microphone. And it was usual that the local was crowded, it was in the early 1949.

«By chance, thanks God or whatever, Osvaldo Pugliese's bus used to stop to wait for the boys of his orchestra about thirty meters farther on the same sidewalk. Of course, the leader paid attention to what has happening in El Argentino when he saw so many people on the sidewalk. To find out what was there he sent Jorge Caldara and Osvaldo Ruggiero. They later told him.

«Some nights I didn't have a place where to sleep, so when the public left, while they cleaned and got everything ready for the following night, with my coat neatly folded as a pillow, on a billiards table, I slept some three hours. One day at dawn somebody softly knocks on my shoulder and, when I open my eyes a guy tells me: «I am Osvaldo Pugliese». Yes maestro, I know you. I had already jumped to the floor and I tidied my hair, my coat... «Do you want to sing with me?» Don't pull my leg, maestro, I answered. «No, come tomorrow to the Atlantic cinema theatre that I have some orchestrations ready for you». What a humble guy, a character like him with such an attitude.

«When I arrived at the appointment it was not for an audition, I was already in the orchestra, Balcarce asked me the tonality and the rehearsal began. They were “Isla de Flores”, “Titiriteros”, “Puente Alsina”. With the latter tango I made my debut on record, in August 1949. Possibly, the last one in which Pugliese wrote an arrangement. Later eight numbers followed until November 1950: “Barra querida” and “Un baile a beneficio (La podrida)”, among others.

«With Pugliese I learned, among so many things, to have respect for rhythm. I was very successful alongside him, but I didn't like to be an employee, like one more instrument of the orchestra, like Chanel and Morán had been. I preferred to be independent accompanied by guitars. The human quality of Pugliese understood the reasons when I decided to quit. He told me that the doors were open, he hugged me and gave me a kiss.

«And I began to work on my own, I put together a group of guitars with Jaime Vila as leader and the first gig was at La Armonía, daily. As for the recordings they soon began for the Pampa label and later Odeon, it was in June 1951 and I no longer stopped. I appeared on radio, at all the clubs and locals. After Perón's fall, in 1955, I was prohibited on the radio by several years. My partners guitarists were also the Remersaro brothers, Roberto Grela, José Canet. For Pampa, in 1951, I recorded six numbers accompanied by the Argentino Galván's orchestra and, later, with the orchestras led by Héctor Artola and by Héctor Stamponi.

«Tango still hit strong and I was in a good stage of my career, furthermore I was kind of handsome and everything helped. So the possibility of the movies arose. They proposed me a movie El tango en París. Maybe the producer thought of the Gardel's movies, I don't know. It was a good experience alongside Enrique Serrano, Julia Sandoval, Olinda Bozán and other actors that supported the lead role that I played, with a simple and trite argument. Arturo Mom directed it and was premiered at the Suipacha cinema, on August 9, 1956. Then they proposed me for a one-act farce entitled Juan Tango which had been the winner of a contest. I accepted and with a cast of beginners was premiered at the Cine Boedo.

«One evening during the interval they told me that Canaro was in the audience and suddenly pum! the door opened up and he appeared. And out of the blue, like Pugliese before, he tells me that he is preparing his new revue Tangolandia and he proposes me as the lead role alongside Alba Solís. He made an appointment for the following day in his offices of COMAR. «Do you know some of my tangos?», he said at once. «All of them», I boasted. «Sing “Yo no sé por qué te quiero”», I sang it to him without hesitation. «Now “Cuando el amor”», I sang it to him and also two more. I saw in him an expression of happiness.

«In 1960 I pretended to be manager in the Astral theater, fifty-fifty with the impresario Gallo. Only for the summer season. It was Vaccarezza's sketch: Juancito de la Ribera, with Nelly Panizza, Augusto Codecá, Juan Carlos Palma, the guitars led by Canet, dancers, 40 people onstage and also, a luxury, Luis Sandrini in charge of the staging. I remember a phrase of his, an advice: «When one speaks, it's more important the silence of the pause than the sound of the word». And that I applied to singing and I saw the result.

«I appeared in North America at the Carnegie Hall, in Central America and in many tours. Thereafter, in important programs of television. I was in SADAIC, I was the founder of La Casa del Cantor (The Singer's House), a type of mutual for so many boys that are broke. I have students, I record, I go on living, I am happy.

«Francisco Canaro, was a great guy. He liked me so much that I was the only singer allowed to sing in one of his plays a number he had not composed: “La fulana”, by Alberto Mastra. The one who said that he was a miser is a shameless liar, and envious. He took care of the people of his cast so that they didn't lack anything, he had money and he took a risk with each play, with big orchestras and big casts. I got much money with him.

«The numbers that more satisfaction offered me were: “Tres esperanzas”, “Confidencias” and the jolly milongas. The greatest singer, unsurpassable, was Carlos Gardel. Later, Oscar Alonso and Alberto Marino, the great friend I found in tango. The orchestra: the one led by Aníbal Troilo. He loved his singers and the whole orchestra was for showcasing them, he preferred to be unnoticed so that they were featured.»

On his own, for the sake of mere pleasure, and with his vocal capacity in decline, he continued recording, until the mid- nineties. We can estimate around 250, the numbers of recordings that he has bequeathed us.