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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

To All the Girls . . .

From the Vault Dept.: The Philadelphia Orchestra returns to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center tomorrow evening for three weeks of familiar classics. That summer season is an underappreciated legacy, and I’ll dip into the archives for a few vintage pieces from my own past quarter-century of writing about it. On one occasion in 1986, however, I was dispatched (why me?) to cover a different kind of event. Here’s my report.


Julio Iglesias
THE POSTERS FOR HIS American tour show him in a casual suit of white, hands in pockets, smiling as if struck by an old, sweet secret. “Ooh, I hope he’s dressed in white tonight,” a woman beside me whispered.

This was in the packed house at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center Sunday night, where a crescendo scream indicated the arrival onstage of Julio Iglesias. He wore a dark business suit and looked, characteristically, as if he’d just combed his hair with his fingers.

The crowd was made up of people of all ages, both sexes well represented, but the ladies were dressed to the nines, ready for adventure.

What is it about this man that is so attractive? He is a very talented song stylist, no question about it, although the songs are dressed in electronic hangings of reverb and cute percussion.

He is handsome the way Chevy Chase is handsome: it’s a utilitarian appearance that needs a personality to set it in motion.

No, the attraction is that Julio seems slightly dangerous. He’s got smooth moves and the nerve to use them. The guy your mother warned you against.

While at the same time he projects a baa-lamb vulnerableness. His halting English, for one thing, makes you want to work on his parts of speech. And the nature of his songs is so sentimental that you’re sure you alone can nurse his weeping heart back to health.

Thus, “Begin the Beguine” is a perfect opener, telling its sad story of a lost love connected to an exotic rhythm.

When he recreated his hit “All of You” with one of the back-up singers taking the place of Diana Ross, the audience gasped as the two drew close: nobody wants anyone else to share the sense of intimacy his songs project. “Don’t worry,” he assured us after the song. “She has a boyfriend who is a big football player. And he is standing right there.” He pointed offstage. As he worked the apron of the stage, an enthusiastic fan presented a bouquet and got a kiss in return. Suddenly flowers appeared from all over the audience.

“Why is it that every time I ask a woman in America if she has a boyfriend,” Julio wondered, “she tells me, ‘Kind of’?”

He invited the boyfriend of one fan to join him in singing “To All the Girls I’ve Ever Loved,” but the man proved more cooperative as a raconteur. “You’re very funny,” said the singer. “That must be why she likes you.”

“If I was as handsome as you, I wouldn’t have to be funny,” the man retorted.

Iglesias paid tribute to the singers he likes; among them Nat King Cole with “When I Fall I Love” and Frank Sinatra with “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

He did a good job of silencing the boisterous crowd with a mezzo-piano “Feelings” and swung into high gear with an extended treatment of “The Girl From Ipanema.”

The presentation featured a 16-piece orchestra and three back-up singers, always in shoulder-swinging, hand-clapping motion. The lights were, as you might expect, crisply timed to go with the music: a show like this also becomes a tribute to electronics.

Opening with a short set was comedian Roseanne Barr (“I bet you all envy me: fifty dates with Julio!”), whose suburban housewife routine took shots at the barbecue-crazy, couch-reclining husband. It was Blondie and Dagwood brought into the 80s, but Barr’s delivery, in an insouciant, Fred Allen kind of voice, gave freshness to the material.

Besides, I like her observation that fat moms “are better than skinny moms. Skinny moms make you jog away your problems while fat moms give you pudding and ice cream to chase the blues away.”

– Schenectady Gazette, Aug. 5, 1986

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