Asked about his most memorable encounter during a 50-year career as a musician, world-famous Dominican salsa bandleader Johnny Pacheco replied that it had been, unquestionably, his meeting fellow Dominican playboy Porfirio Rubirosa at the old Palladium Club in New York. Realizing that Rubirosa was in the audience as he was going up on the stage, he could only gasp: “ese tipo es un barbarazo.” A truly Dominican phrase that can be translated perhaps “that is quite a guy” or “he is a man’s man,” but which conveys a certain type of über maleness greatly admired on the island-a sort of macho’s macho.
Pacheco’s comments add one more grain of stardust to the myth of Rubirosa, reminding us of a figure that could only have materialized out of the excesses of the “era de Trujillo.” Describing his memorable encounter, Pacheco adds, that Rubirosa was “impeccably dressed,” without a single flaw in his appearance, “he was exquisitely groomed, from his nails to his hair, and he was accompanied by two well-known personalities, Kim Novak and Doris Duke.”
Rubirosa, Pacheco comments, was “very elegant and looked like a real man”-he was “impressive and loved” despite the fact that he “beat and later abandoned Trujillo’s daughter” (Flor de Oro, his first wife).
Conversations about Rubirosa tend to get slightly bawdy. Truman Capote famously wrote in his unfinished novel Answered Prayers, that Rubirosa’s principal attribute was “an 11-inch cafe au lait sinker as thick as a man’s wrist” while his state of permanent erection won him the nickname of “ever ready.” Trujillo, who continued to be loyal to Rubirosa even after his daughter divorced him, called him “an excellent diplomat because women adored him and he’s a liar.”
Asked if Rubirosa was his idol, Pacheco replied: “Anyone would like to be Rubirosa.”
Pacheco’s comments were made during a recent interview to mark his having been awarded the “Soberano,” the most important of the Casandra Awards of 2009.
For more of the interview (in Spanish) go to http://elnuevodiario.com.do/app/article.aspx?id=145007