[Thanks to Harry Franqui for bringing this item to our attention.] Suzanne Ramírez de Arellano (NBC News) features Puerto Rican iconic vedette Iris Chacón, explaining her multigenerational appeal and trailblazing, outré performances since the early 70s. Ramírez de Arellano stresses that the singer and dancer is much more than an iconic sex symbol. Here are excerpts:
“Ahi viene Iris Chacón!”
For more than two decades these four words, sung at the start of a show, brought a world of glamour, campy outrageousness and laughter to millions of living rooms in Puerto Rico, Latin America and the United States. It made Iris Chacón – known as La Vedette de America – a household name and a beloved icon that still endures 45 years later.
The curvaceous and risqué singer, dancer and entrepreneur known as “La Chacón” – dressed in flamboyant outfits that showcased her main asset – her ample derrière – paved the way during very conservative times for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian. Dancing while scantily clad and backed by male dancers, she revolutionized the world of show business and became the phenomenon known as La Bomba de Puerto Rico — the Puerto Rican Bomb.
In a testament to her multigenerational appeal, the young and not so young at the festival chanted “Ahí viene Iris Chacón,” holding up signs that read “Te Queremos Iris” (We Love You Iris) and singing every word of her signature tunes – Tu Boquita (Your Mouth) and Caramelo, Chocolate (Caramel Chocolate), cheering her on when she displayed her signature moves. “I have been in this job for more than 45 years,” Iris Chacón said in an interview with NBC Latino. “It’s three generations and the work that I have done still lives on. I am thrilled that I can be an example for these new generations,” she said. “And with social media this has become a new wave.”
Chacón’s career began in 1969. News events of that year reshaped the world. The internet was born, Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon, the Vietnam War was coming to an end, and the Stonewall riots broke open the door for the gay, lesbian and transgender civil rights movement. In the small town of Puerto Nuevo, Puerto Rico, Iris Belia Chacón Tapia broke through age-old stereotypes to become a phenomenon not seen since Josephine Baker. As a shy, little girl from humble and religious beginnings, Chacón just wanted to sing and dance and bring joy to others. [. . .]
Chacón’s has an impressive list of firsts. She was the first Latin artist to sell out Radio Music Hall in New York during three consecutive seasons, her show a hit in 15 countries. She was the first female independent producer in Puerto Rico, at the helm of a large production office with 20 employees, not counting extras. [. . .] Chacón was also the first Hispanic presenter to grace the front pages of the Wall Street Journal, as a result of a television commercial for an automotive coolant that played on the Spanish word for La Bomba de Puerto Rico’s main attribute, her voluptuous backside. Even today the ad stands as one of the most famous television commercials in Puerto Rico’s history, a hallmark of a generation.
[Photo above: Puerto Rican entertainer Iris Chacon poses for a portrait backstage in April 1992 in New York City, New York. Catherine McGann / Getty Images.]