Américo Torchelli

Rubistein - Interview to Mauricio Rubistein

ntroduction by the Editor’s Office.
Mauricio Rubistein neither wrote lyrics for tangos nor did he pretend to compose music. His métier was talking about the subject in his radio programs such as that Diario de la música popular which was aired on Radio El Mundo and other similar programs. He also wrote notes in magazines connected with the show business milieu. With Ukrainian parents, the Rubistein brothers were born in Argentina and lived on 945 Catamarca Street. Mauri was the creator of PACA, Primer Archivo Cinematográfico Argentino (First Argentine Movie Archive), which supplied extras to movie studios on their request. Below there is the interview made by Américo Torchelli in 1982 for the Status magazine, today disappeared.

With the look of an ordinary man, his passions are varied: journalism, reading, friendship, paintings, which save for his bathroom and kitchen, cover nearly every space on all the walls of his 300-square-meter apartment right in the heart of the city. He said: «My house is the one of a wealthy bohemian». Most of his books and paintings are dedicated, one of them by Gardel, so I asked:

—In his time was Gardel so famous and did he receive the wide popular acclaim as he does now?

«He was an important singer. But as for popularity, there were some who surpassed him. Such is the case of a fairly standard singer, Santiago Devin, who became famous —only for a time— with a tear-jerker waltz, “A su memoria”, by Antonio Sureda and Homero Manzi. He even had three performances a day. The last time Gardel was in our country he made two performances with a half-full audience. Others who were more popular, but not better, were Ricardo Ruiz, Domingo Conte and even Agustín Magaldi who included protest songs in his repertoire. Movies, being successful in Europe and the way he died helped Gardel. I insist: he was the best. Because of that he lives on».

—You talk about that time as if that had been yesterday and as if you had lived it very near.

«We were ten siblings and we lived on Catamarca Street between Estados Unidos and Carlos Calvo. My old man was a cobbler and had arrived in the country in 1906. He lived in the tenement house known as Las Catorce Provincias. My brother Luis sold pictures in the Street and I, who was five years old, with another brother, used to sell shoe polish and shoestrings. And every day we brought our Mom ten bucks. At age twelve I started with journalism. Later I played soccer in the sixth division of San Lorenzo. Thereafter I practiced boxing and I had a heavy beating on my debut. That took place at the Mármol Boxing Club. I never came back».

—Journalism at age twelve?

«Yes, it was back in 1928, in El Alma Que Canta. I was in charge of the letters from the readers. Of course, many times the reader was I. I worked in Sintonía, since its inception until it ceased to appear, although it was the most important magazine in its time. I spent there 25 years. We have to add Caras y Caretas, Radiolandia, Antena, Estampa, radio programs about tango, and many other things. I came to know a lot of people, I make a cult of friendship and every Saturday I invite twenty or thirty people to a lunch. Among them are painters, writers, even some politicians and people of our show business milieu and with them nothing is hidden, we talk about everything without any repression. Once I warningly told a minister: «Look that someone may tell you’re a fool and you’ll have to stand it». Women only once a year. These are meetings for men».

—It is a typical stance of the porteño. I mean friendship and modesty because they would be unable to speak freely.

«Buenos Aires and porteño are irreplaceable. I travel very much, but I come back. We are very hospitable. Here when you become acquainted with someone soon you invite him to dine before knowing him well. This does not happen in other place in the world. Here you find very special, almost unique, people. I remember Roberto Noble, the founder of Clarín. I came to know him when I worked in his Caricatura Universal magazine. He was a lawyer for some hours, later in the afternoon he was journalist and in the late hours he was the King of the Night. Another one was Poroto Botana, a brother for me. I learnt a lot from his father Natalio (creator of the Crítica journal). Others were Samuel Eichelbaum and César Tiempo».

—Must our job be fun?

«For me, if it isn’t fun I don’t take it. Even though I realize that every day is more difficult to have fun with the difficulties of modern life».

—When you began was it like now?

«In the past it was different. There was a privilege and sadness. The latter were low wages, lack of protection and the privilege was getting a peso and making it last. You were able to have a stew at El Tropezón and still were left over twenty cents for the bus. There were less needs, less anguish, less tricks to survive. Recently a minister said that enterprises went bankrupt but impresarios did not. We want to travel in first class with a fourth class ticket. These things give us an air of superiority, we are kind of boastful. And later in the 40s the need for consumption was created and many things changed. At that time there was a joke which became famous. It was about the idiosyncrasy of certain Argentines and the trap. A kinsman, a Jew like me, tells his wife: «Look, Rebecca, if a business I’m in turns out well we’ll to Israel for a month. And if it doesn’t?, she asked. Then we’ll stay in Israel to live». But not only have I met that kind of people. They were a few, because there were always honorable men, honest guys. I always remember, as an example, someone whom I was much in touch with: Magaldi. I used to frequent the Confitería Real, on Corrientes and Talcahuano, with Enrique Cadícamo, Gerardo Matos Rodríguez, José Razzano and others. He was a sad boy. When there was cold weather he used to wear a reddish-brown overcoat. They used to make fun of him. He was of a humble origin and with an incomparable nobleness. One evening he was reading Crítica and asked me that I would accompany him. We took a taxi cab and he mentioned Perdriel Street in Parque Patricios. I remained in the car and he entered a very old house with a rotten wooden staircase. He soon came back. When I inquired about the reason of it he did not answer. Later at home I began to read the newspaper and in a text box I found that the following day the house of an old woman would be auctioned because of lack of payment. He went there to give her money. And I have some more about Magaldi».

—A couple of stories you remember and then we’ll finish.

«We do things without intention, we are betrayed by our subconscious. One case is Lucio Demare with “Malena”. Homero Manzi gave him the lyrics so that he would write its music. When after several months he remembered it, he wrote it in a jiffy. It was soon recorded, it was sung by many and it was a great hit. Thereafter Lucio called me. When playing it on the piano he realized that the melody belonged to a classical composition. He was worried or sad. But “Malena” was now famous, there was nothing to be done. Even today many ones, most people, have not discovered it. And later this about Troilo and “Una canción”. As soon as it was released the widow of Francisco de Rose, composer of the music of “Qué viejo estoy”, went to see him. The refrain was very similar. El Gordo was astonished so he transferred his royalties to the widow».