Interview with PALOMA SAN BASILIO
Conducted 17-18 January 1981 at the Teatro Monumental and various Madrid cafes
It was the end of a long week. Very late, too. Paloma San Basilio is star of the first Evita in Spanish and Madrid's heavy theatrical schedule means she is taking off her makeup after 1 a.m. She's just given the sixth and seventh of her nine weekly performances this Saturday night. [Alternate Mia Patterson gives two more for a weekly total of eleven shows.] The first, at 7:00, was a royal performance for Spain's Queen Mother. Present at the 10:30 performance was Julio Iglesias, the popular singer. She has received both Spain's King and Queen in her tiny dressing room.
'I have a cold, too,' she says. But she received visitors during both intervals and after both shows. 'The makeup is complicated. I have this tiny nose that
goes up [she gestures as she removes the appliance] so to look more like Eva, I wear a false nose--just like Julio [Catania--who plays Juan Peron].' She looks
as much like Eva as the other women who've played her, 'but I like to do the extra--it helps me feel the part,' she says. The chignon on her blonde wig is also more like the real Eva's hairstyle. She removes it and shakes out her long dark auburn hair.
'I was cast in August, but the show was delayed because I was cast in another musical show and they had to secure my release.' She finds it exciting to play a character. 'I have never acted before,' she says, 'I can't believe the fantastic challenge of this part. To sing it is one thing, but each night I get a special thrill singing each note as Eva would have. It is so much more exciting than singing as me. I don't know how I'll ever go back to just being a singer again.'
She doubts that anyone should do the part more than a year and a half. 'Look what happened to Elaine [Paige]...burnt out and where is she now?' [Elaine, Patti, Loni and others had vocal problems initially, but with no serious aftereffects.] 'Yes, it's a strain,' she says. 'My doctor kept coming backstage with a worried look on his face. He tells me to hold back on the balcony speech...it's the most damaging part of the scene for the voice. But I can't hold back--it's my best moment in the show.' As for the rest? 'Well, when you've done four shows a night in clubs, this isn't really different.'
What about the real Eva? 'Eva is a mystery to Spaniards too. Many people remember her visit here in 1947. Madrilleños have a picture postcard image of her but I think I understand her, at least in this context. I have read all the books but they were confusing because each author says different things about her.' Has anyone from Eva's past come to visit her? 'Yes, many. Isabel [Perón's third wife] lives here now. She's crazy. I worry that some night she'll come backstage with a gun!' she laughs.
Arturo, her personal assistant, is there and shepherds the dainty star out of the now empty theatre. She glances back at the stage, seeing the front cloth [different from the other major productions] by a famous artist. 'We're so proud to have that,' she says, 'he's so famous.'
There is a group of 15 or 20 fans waiting in the lobby--most under 15 years of age. Paloma stops to sign autographs and the whole scene becomes like the 'Charity Concert' in the show. 'But real life is here, with the show,' she says, looking through the glass doors, pointing to grafitti on a wall nearby. 'Evita is freedom, it says. Well, Evita is freedom for me to a whole new career.'
Paloma is a very famous vocalist and pop singer in Spain and has done many recordings. She is covered in the local equivalent of the tabloids frequently with speculation on her love life and career. She appears regularly on a number of Latino television variety shows.
At nearly 3 a.m., Paloma takes her guitar from Arturo and stars playing softly in the now-deserted cafe. 'It helps me relax and unwind,' she says.
Paloma's recordings may be ordered at SongSearch.
These interviews were done by the author on the date(s) stated.