Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Hola! or La Prensa Rosa
“I moved back after five years, and nothing had changed. It was like re-discovering old friends.” The two French women and I were talking about the Spanish magazine “Hola” and the cast of characters that regularly grace its pages. In Spain, these people are called “Los Famosos.” Outside of Spain, with two or three exceptions, nobody has heard of them. The fact that three foreign women living in Spain, with respectable educations and otherwise challenging intellectual preoccupations and jobs had become aficionados of Hola! was intriguing, to say the least.
My Spanish mother-in-law explains it this way—“It’s a mental vacation. I can read the same article a second time and not even realize I’ve read it before.” Hola! was started in Barcelona, in the 1940s to focus on “la espuma de la vida”—(poorly translated by me) as “the frothy side of life.” Someone once told me it is the largest circulation magazine in the world. I have not verified this. What I do know is that Hola! pays people for exclusives and that many of its regulars earn all of or a decent supplement to their income selling “exclusivas”.
The Hola! formula never wavers: the photographs are authorized by the subjects and, to the extent that such a thing is possible, are always flattering. The call-outs inform us that the Hola’s cast of characters are “ready for love”, “in love”, “deceived by love”, or “recovering from love.” “So and so is thinking about getting pregnant”, “is pregnant”, "offers us exclusive photographs with her beautiful new baby.” These people give us exclusive tours of their homes, discuss their deceptions, tragic losses, projects and aspirations.”
Sus Majestades Los Reyes
At the top of the Hola! pantheon are their Majesties the King and Queen; their two daughters, the Infantas (my French friends agree there is the nicer looking daughter and “la moche”—the ugly one); the heir, Principe Felipe, who usually looks very dignified; and his brunette Barbie wife, Leticia; and the grandchildren. Their Highnesses are in Hola! by grace of who they are and tolerate the media attention with a certain bored “noblesse oblige.” Unlike the British Royals or the Princesses of Monaco, the Spanish royal family generally behaves itself and doesn’t offer much in the way of juicy scandals. This makes them less entertaining than the sub-deities of Hola, who make a concerted effort to maintain their status as regulars in its pages.
The Woman Who is More Noble than Everybody
People who know about Spanish history will tell you that among the Grandest of the Grandees of Spain, are the Albas. The Duquesa de Alba is so noble that if she were in the same room as the Queen of England, the Queen of England has to give her precedence. This is because back when the Queen of England’s ancestors were backwater Hanoverian electors, The Albas were Somebody’s. When Spain ruled the Holy Roman Empire, the Duque de Alba was at the center of things, suppressing rebellions in the Netherlands. He was immortalized as a bogeyman for later generations of Dutch children: “If you’re not good, the Duque de Alba will get you.” One of the Duquesa de Alba’s ancestors may have been the model for Goya’s “Maja Vestida” and “Maja Desnuda.”
What does the Woman Who is More Noble than Everbody look like? She has a distinctive white person’s Afro of frizzy gray hair and a face that sports the plastic surgery Masque of Death—facial skin pulled tight and immobilized by Botox, the Surprised Eyes, lifted up and pulled at the corners, and the Joker Mouth, stretched wide and tight for a perma-smile on the sides, offset by the puffy Collagen Lips. The Duquesa de Alba has an affectation for “hippie chic” clothes that might be in the closet of your teenage daughter. Occasionally, she has a health crisis and is wheeled into the front page of Hola! with mini-skirt hiked up around her waist and wild pattern stockings on her frail legs. The Duquesa de Alba has a “novio” or boyfriend. He is her son’s age and has some sort of time-punching, civil-servant job. Before her current novio, she had a second husband, a former Catholic priest, named Jesus. Real toffs debauch their Jesuit confessors. Before that she was married to some nobleman who fathered her five children.
When the Duquesa has a health crises, which happens more frequently these days since she’s getting on in age, her novio wheels her around and otherwise appears attentive to her needs. Hola! is very interested in the progression of her relationship with her novio. The Duquesa’s children are also interested in the progression of her relationship with her novio. If this relationship progresses too far, it’ll cut into their inheritance. None of these children appears to have done anything interesting with their lives besides appearing in Hola!
Tita Cervera—dite la Baronesa Thyssen
Tita Cervera also sports the plastic surgery Masque of Death, but instead of the grey Afro, she has a blond beauty shop “do”. Her wardrobe tends to Couture and is more restrained than the Duquesa of Alba’s (when you’re born Very Noble, you don’t need to make such an effort). I don’t know who Tita Cervera was but apparently she likes Art. At some point in her life she married Lex Baxter, an American actor who played Tarzan. Baxter was as a Stepping Stone. Thanks to him, she got a villa called Mas Mananas (More Tomorrows) and an introduction to the better sort of Society. In Society, she met a rich old German, called the Baron Thyssen, who inherited lots of things and also liked Art. Tita Cervera married the Baron, and became a Very Great Lady, or at least a very rich one. At some earlier point, she had a son. Nobody knows where he came from, but the Baron Thyssen adopted him. The Baron Thyssen finally had the good taste to die and leave Tita Cervera with lots of money and lots of Art. Tita Cervera had the good taste to make sure the Baron left a lot of this Art to Spain, so now you and I can go look at it in the Thyssen Bornemisza museum.
Tita Cervera has a son who looks a bit like a Spanish redneck—or maybe that’s just the rockero wardrobe and all the tattoos. He appears a lot in Hola! with his wife and their son, giving exclusive tours of their villa in Ibiza. Apparently, his mother doesn’t like his wife very much because she demanded that her “grandson” submit to a DNA paternity test. I guess that’s publicly calling your daughter-in-law a whore. Much ado about the DNA test, but the grandson passed. I think the only reason the son and daughter-in-law put up with Tita Cervera is because, otherwise, they’d have to give up their villa and get real jobs.
Tita Cervera may have the last laugh. She either adopted or genetically concocted (lots of speculation here) twin daughters. All we know is that she got them from some birth mother/rental womb rental womb out in California. Now we see lots of photos of the beaming Tita Cervera with her (not-so-cute) twin toddler daughters. Apparently it’s not just enough to triumph over the physical indignities of aging, but the limitations of childbearing as well. In the process, you can show up your ungrateful oldest son and his trashy wife.
Isabel Preysler, or How to be a Successful Ex-Wife
Isabel Preysler used to be married to Julio Iglesias and is the mother of some of his children. I think she also married a succession or combination of the following: Political Bigwig, Captain of Industry and Member of the Nobility. I can’t keep track. Since they didn’t have the good grace to leave her a widow, she divorced them or maybe they divorced her. My mother-in-law has a theory that powerful men like to be collectors, so they seek out women whose CV lists the names of many of their peers. She also says that La Presyler is rumored to have a special trick of passing out during the er, “little death.” Powerful men must really go for that too.
Isabel Preysler either has a better plastic surgeon than these other women or has the good fortune to possess the holy trinity of aging well—good skin (likely due to her Asian ancestry—she’s Filipina), good bones, and not putting on weight. My mother-in-law adds a commentary here based on the Spanish expression: “Las mujeres se enjamonan o se aparchimientan.” (With age) Women either become ham-like or parchment-like. She also offers some consolation for those of us who might be leaning in the ham direction. Subcutaneous fat does one have one advantage. It smoothes out your skin. The Hams can always console themselves with the fact that they’ll have fewer wrinkles than their Parchment friends.
La Preysler’s age-defying looks serve her well because she is one busy woman. In addition to posing for Hola!, she appears in print ad campaigns endorsing various products. Twice a year, she travels over to the US and takes a picture with George Clooney to promote Porcelanosa. There was some disagreement among the French people at the party as to whether Porcelanosa is a line of “chiottes” aka plumbing fixtures, or tiles. I think the tiles won out. To be fair, la Preysler isn’t the only one. Once you come to Europe, you realize how many “serious” American actors supplement their income here pimping out various products. George Clooney is also the face of Nespresso coffee and Hugh Laurie did a big Schweppes Campaign.
Isabel Preysler has one successful son, Enrique Iglesias, and a few other children who don’t appear to do much of anything besides appearing in Hola!
Carmen Lomana in “The Rich Also Cry”
I used to wonder what Paris Hilton would look like in her 60s. Now I know. She’s going to look like Carmen Lomana. Actual Hola! readers may wonder why I included a B-lister like Carmen Lomana. They may not even know who Carmen Loman is. That is because they haven’t seen Carmen’s YouTube video hit “The Rich Also Cry”—“Los Ricos Tambien Lloran”. Unlike her younger counterpart, Paris Hilton, Carmen Lomana’s video does not involve any physical exertions. Thank God! Carmen’s Chilean industrial engineer husband had the good taste to die at 49 and leave her a very wealthy woman. Her male-servicing days are over, thank you very much. What does Carmen Lomana do in her life/video? She shops, trys on clothes and shares her opinion about La Crisis. Researching Carmen Lomana on the Internet, all I learned is that her cleavage is a “feat of engineering” and that she wears a lot of Couture. Her interview with the journalist includes such gems as:
“Do you have lots of closets for your clothes?”
“I don’t have closets, I have rooms?”
“What do you do with your time?”
“I don’t know. What do you do? I get up at nine, I take my breakfast in bed. I spend an hour there reading the papers. I look at my agenda. I take calls from my bankers and lawyers to discuss business. I plan my day. I have a doctoral candidate who’s writing a thesis on me. That’s the ultimate luxury.”
“Carmen, are you feeling the Crisis?”
“Not personally, but it affects you…seeing my friends…people who have lots of assets but don’t have “dinero cash” to go to the supermarket…I mean those that were always poor, you know--the ones that beg--they’re used to it…but it’s tragic to see somebody who used to have a job in reduced circumstances.”
“Are you doing anything for La Crisis. For instance do you go to mercadillos (flea markets)?”
“Well, I do try to shop less, out of political solidarity. I’m wearing things that I haven’t worn in five years, and you know what? They still look great"…”Mercadillos?” You mean like those ones in the villages? Oh I love them. I’ve never been, but I’m sure they’re great.”