Ricardo García Blaya

Farewell to the beloved Héctor Lucci

ndoubtedly, he was a wise, self-taught, generous man, and a great reader. Possibly, he is one of the major record collectors in the world, especially, in the tango, opera and Argentine folk music genres. His house is a permanent exhibition of his passion for music and sound. Once he told me he had over 250 music players, among phonographs, gramophones and combination players. As for records, he never guessed a figure, but he even had as a warehouse, a house full of them besides his own home and his workshop.

He died the day before the day we had planned to shoot a film in his apartment on Mansilla Street. Our intention was that he would tell us his life story and his anecdotes. Those tales that many times we, the ones who were lucky to be his friends, had heard. It could not be.

Gabriel Clausi, aka El Chula, Bruno Cespi, his partner of nearly all his life, Néstor Pinsón, who made him have his debut on radio, the singer Osvaldo Ribó and the one who subscribes this portrayal used to go to his workshop on the San Mateo thoroughfare, a couple of blocks from his house, for his barbecue meetings. On several occasions, friends from Palermo, his beloved neighborhood, other collectors and tango people were also there. Several times, as if they were gala evenings, Nelly Omar joined the party.

One of his activities, not so well known, was amateur cinema, to call it in some way. He filmed many great artists and, in some cases, that is the only chance to watch them on screen. Such is the case of the bandoneon player Alfredo De Franco playing at the Tortoni. He also has footage with Héctor Marcó singing and playing guitar, Roberto Rufino, Leopoldo Díaz Vélez, Federico Scorticati, El Chula Clausi, and many others more, all tango and popular music artists. A great number of novice singers came to his house to hear his advice. He knew how to explain, with that intuitive knowledge that was his own, what good singing meant. And he always ended his lesson by playing a Gardel’s record, the top example of excellence in singing.

He was editor of two of the best books about tango: Carlos Gardel y los autores de sus canciones by Orlando del Greco and El tango en la sociedad porteña. De 1880 a 1920 by Hugo Lamas and Enrique Binda.

When he was young he used to repair and make the maintenance service for music player devices in barrooms and tearooms. When he told the stories of those days, he always associated the place with the great musicians that appeared in those venues. He told entertaining yarns that gave a lift to the narration, making them true depictions. I remember his tale about the origin of the name of the Bar La Paloma, located where today is Juan B Justo and Santa Fe, where now there is a branch of a chain of paint stores. «There played Juan Maglio Pacho and El Pibe Ernesto Ponzio. The latter, between one set and another, used to have a «vicious behavior» in the surroundings». And he went on: «The train engineers of the railroad that came from Retiro Station, when they were nearing the barroom, above the bridge, a brightness, because the sun was in their eyes, blinded them by whitening all the visual panorama and they used to say that the café seemed to be a dove. And so it remained.»

It was quite common that in reunions he commented he had got a rare record, hard to find, an incunabulum. The obvious question was: where? And he replied: «when tidying the service bathroom, beneath the water closet». His collection was so disordered that, possibly, that record had been there since the very day he had bought it. He always said that the most important pieces of his collection were the result of his wholesale purchases.

He was proud of having never left the country and, had he had to decide, he would have never left Buenos Aires. He loved Palermo, its hideouts, its streets, its past and he came to know the most eminent families of the neighborhood. Somehow, he always longed for the old times of his youth that he permanently recalled.

Héctor Lucci was a laborious, honest man –in the old style- that achieved a good position and always helped his children and friends. He worked in fine die-stamping until the last day of his life. It was in his workshop, precisely, where he was found, holding his machine, by his elder daughter and his granddaughter.