Ser Argentino. All about Argentina

50 years after the inauguration of “The pregnant chicken”

In 1970, a group of actors created the first café concert in Argentina without knowing it would be the first link in a format that was a success in our country.

 By Elio Marchi 

It was 1970. The man had come to the moon, the “until victory always” was reduced to the face of  Che stamped on t-shirts and the hippies left inheritance next to the “let's make love and not war”, Batik, the Musk and the one I wanted, trunks.

In Argentina he had passed the Cordobazo and the milicos continued to play the “dance of the armchair” and while Levingston took it off from Onganía, Lanusse waited turn guarding the polls well.

Edda Diaz, Nora Blay, Antonio Gasalla and Carlos Perciavalle had converted Help Valentino! and La Recova en leenda and Marilina Ross, Federico Luppi and a group of actors put with “El tiempo de los carozos” the cornerstone of what would be the future Argentine coffee concert.

By that time, Lino Patalano, who was the right hand of Luis Mottura and Maria Luz Regás at the Regina Theatre, and I who made a living in a fruit exporter and wanted to be an  actor , we had already written, produced, performed and directed “Journey to the Adventure”, a children who successfully premiered at the Embassy theatre along with a group of friends including scenographer, designer and visual artist Maggy Risdon and actress and singer Valeria Vanini. Soon Monona Frías joined us and the five, inoculated with the  theater virus, decided that that year we were going to go for more.

Di Tella was closed and there were only two spaces where artists could perform, sing and protest freely and without fear of censorship. They were La Botica del Ángel de Bergara Leumann and La Fusa de Coco Perez and Silvina Muñiz. So it was that one day Lino, with that spirit of leader he already had and feeling that behind every crisis always hides an opportunity, told us: Che... what do you think if we put a café concert?... Give it! , we answered, without knowing that this way we were going to create the first link in Argentina's most successful concert café chain, whose billboards would shine until 1977 the names of the most important figures in show business.

By that time, although we were leading a life of bacanes thanks to the swaps Lino got at Regina and the good salary I earned on my job, we were always without a handle. We started looking for premises, without having any idea how we would do to pay the rent and pay for the expenses that would require the facilities. I don't know how long it took us to find him, but miraculously one appeared in Libertad almost Santa Fe, meters from Regina. It was a dark, humid and unhealthy semi-basement that we were told had been the kitchen of the beautiful petit hotel upstairs, which was now an antique house. It had the advantage of an accessible rent, its own entrance and a huge window to the street but the drawbacks of a wall that divided two rooms, more noisy that hid something behind the bricks. But for that Lino had the solution: a mace and his frustrated vocation as  an architect . Fortunately, the owner was the famous designer of bridal dresses of the atelier Raimunda and she was endowed with a young spirit and unconsciousness that allowed us these and many other mismans, in addition to enduring the arrears in the payment of the rent.

Everything that came after was dizzying. The five of us put the spine, face, salaries and work so that in a short time that dark hole would become one of the most sophisticated premises of the moment. We threw down the annoying wall, discovered behind some bricks what had been the elevator gap that quickly transmuted into the cabin of light and sound; we bleached the walls, Atlantis gave us the carpeting and Rosenthal the glassware. Susana Mazuh, the one in charge of the decoration and furniture house Sapire, gave us lapacho fraileros tables and benches, which were very glamorous but had no support. To conceal that discomfort, Maggy designed them beautiful cushions in different colors, with ad-hoc pompoms and the print logo of La Gallina. The ceramist Carlos Martinelli made us some nice ashtrays and both things turned out so beautiful, that they were objects of theft by many of the future spectators.

We installed a tiny stage in a corner of the premises and a comfortable dressing room in the hall. We set up a kitchen. We had an arrangement with Hiram Walker that would give us free Old Smugler, the whiskey that was fashionable and we bought soda and some dubious fruit juices from a bottle with which we miraculously never poisoned anyone. The makeshift waiters would be my brother Jorge, my cousin Darío and two of his best friends, Rafa and Russian who many years later were going to become the accredited jeweler Rafael Rennis and the tailor of the stars José Valosen.

There were also countless people who collaborated with us. With some we obtained loans or credits which in turn we could repay thanks to others exchanging our checks for cash. But I want to highlight especially the day when Linda, Lino's mom appeared around the place. The place was chaos but she, very quiet, sat in front of us and pulled out of her black wallet an impressive wad of banknotes that she put at our disposal to settle debts. They had suspected we were in trouble and with her husband Luigi decided to mortgage the house. That extraordinary act, worthy of Italian neoralism, became a custom nothing more than Lino's parents, it was his sister Maria and his brother-in-law Juancito who, in addition to answering on his phone Villa Ballester the reservations for the local, from time to time put without doubt your property title in our hands.

The arrangements were running at full swing and we still didn't know what show we were going to open. It was then that Edda Díaz - who was already well known for Los Campanelli- went to Regina to propose Maria Luz y Mottura a show. Since the theater was already scheduled, it was impossible. So Lino told him about the café concert we were putting together in front and took her to see it. That was still in full work and Lino used his best arguments to convince her that this cochambre, which we would baptize “The pregnant hen”, would become a decent and appropriate place. Meanwhile, Edda walked around the space with a mix of horror and admiration. After a few seconds that seemed to us hours, he looked at us, and throwing his famous laughter, he exclaimed: “I love it! When did we debut?

From that moment on, we only had to finish the arrangements and put together the premiere. At the behest of Monona we decided to get lucky to the pool and, crossing our fingers, we played a good sum to the number 1069, which was the direction of the bowling.

The night of Friday, September 18, 1970 came, we broke the egg that covered the door and opened with a show in which Edda made a couple of numbers — including my poem La Gallina Embarzadada- and Valeria Vanini sang the best covers of Mina and Ornella Vanoni. There was another artist, a very good boy, who sang very well and from whom I don't remember the name but he was sharpened to one of our three members. For that night, in which thanks to Lino's contacts for Regina we had invited “al tout Buenos Aires” we sent ourselves to make tailor-made clothes. The girls chose extravagant robes that accompanied with necklaces, hoops, rings and bracelets. Linen was sent to make an elegant Mao suit in black gabardine and I with much less qualms, I risked a Hindu cut set in electric blue velour velour. The jacket, reaching almost to the knees, closed from the neck to the bottom with small lined buttons and tiny eyelets that defy anyone's patience. Underneath, a furious orange embroidered silk shirt that I had read was associated (sic) with youth, good vibes, fun and intense social life. The inauguration was a tremendous success and the night was very long. I don't know how it was, but we dawned up drinking coffee at Tabac on Avenida Libertador. When I went out into the street, the sun was shining unpiadously and my electric blue suit and orange shirt were an attack on the retinas of those who were still drowsy to have breakfast. There were those who looked at us as if we escaped from Sergeant Pepper's band. But we didn't care. The world was premiering a decade and we, with life ahead, were starting to make history.

PS: We forgot to play the pool and of course that weekend 1069 came out with the four figures leading not only in Buenos Aires, but even in the New York lottery.

Rating: 3.50/5.