Me & Julio – and Slash – Down By The Hotel

• Who, me? Disrupt a news conference?

• Julio Iglesias thought he was going to skate through his presser until I piped up.

• It took the Washington Post interviewing me about Grenada to bring it all back.

I don’t think of myself as the type of reporter who would try to upstage a public figure holding a news conference. But I have to admit there is some evidence that once or twice I did kind of steal the spotlight momentarily. Inadvertently or otherwise.

There was the time U2 held a press event at a Kmart to release their album, Pop, and I asked them, “By holding your news conference in this setting, you don’t mean to suggest that your music is flimsily constructed from cheap materials, is discountable and ultimately disposable, do you?” Bono replied, “I agree with everything you say! Apart from ‘discountable!’ ” Everybody laughed. Except Kmart execs who wanted to strangle me. The moment wound up as part of an ABC-TV documentary special.

And there was that time in the ‘80s when I stood up to ask a question at a Howard Stern news conference and Stern acknowledged me, saying, “You there, in the back of the room, Tim Conway,” referring to the Carol Burnett Show regular. Again, laughter broke up the event as everyone turned to look at the red-faced Conway lookalike, yours truly.

Read the book!

But, for some time now, I’ve been trying to recall exactly what it was that happened at a 1989 news conference where Spanish crooner Julio Iglesias was launching a line of fragrances. I knew I had asked a question that had caused a small ruckus but I couldn’t remember what, exactly, I’d asked. I queried a retired music industry publicist but she hadn’t been involved and couldn’t help me find someone who was and who might have jogged my memory.  

It took a call from the Washington Post to help bring it all back.

A WaPo audio team working on a podcast for the 40th anniversary of the US invasion of the tiny island of Grenada (this coming October) had come across my blog posts about covering it. While interviewing me on a Zoom call, they asked if I had any tapes from that assignment that they might use to add natural sound to their pod. I found a few items, but in the process of sorting through dust-covered boxes of cassettes, I stumbled across one labeled “Julio Iglesias.”  

And there it was. The raw tape of a news conference held in a large ballroom at a Manhattan hotel (I want to say maybe the Pierre or the Sherry-Netherland on 5th Avenue).

He was launching “Only, by Julio Iglesias,” a women’s perfume. By 1989, he was on his way to selling more records than any Latin artist in history, more than 100 million. Along the way he earned, or cultivated, a reputation as a ladies’ man, a hoary, anachronistic label. No surprise, one of his biggest hits was a duet with Willie Nelson on “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before.”

In fact, it was claimed that Iglesias had racked up “3,000 conquests in a decade,” as London’s Daily Mirror noted. But the tabloid also quoted Iglesias’ former manager as saying the number of women in a secret “little black book” the singer kept “didn’t even add up to half the mythical 3,000”. Among the names, he claimed, were Priscilla Presley and Bianca Jagger.

Curiously, in a 1991 book, retired NBA superstar Wilt Chamberlain claimed to have slept with 20,000 women to that point in his life. Was his scorebook entry prompted by Julio’s boast?

In any event, the reporters from the perfume trade at the Iglesias presser didn’t have a lot of hardball questions to ask him about the development of the fragrance, although one asked him which cost more, the perfume or the bottle it came in. The questioning inevitably went toward Julio’s libido-driven persona.

 “What type of woman do you envision wearing Only? Blonde, dark-haired…?” asked one reporter. Iglesias handled that one easily. All women, of course.

Another said “ I wonder if you tested it with any of your girlfriends.” In a bit of an upset, he replied, “The perfume came into my life at a time when I don’t have a girlfriend.”

But I came at this assignment with a different sort of agenda. The hard rock and heavy metal groups of the ‘80s were, as usual, under fire for vigorously over-embracing the core concepts of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Acting out, you might say. Tipper Gore had led the charge and “Parental Advisory – Explicit Lyrics” stickers became customary on CDs. As the news conference was winding down, and despite a poorly functioning microphone for questioners at the back of the room, I wanted to lob, if not a softball, then a question that might liven things up a little.

Here’s how it went:

Me:          Question in the back!

PR Host:  Last question, please.

Me:          One, two, test. Hello…

Host:        Let’s take something from… Is there anything in the back of the room?  Someone all  the way at the back with the mic..?

Me:          Hello, is the mic on? Yes.  Julio, the very popular rock group Guns N’ Roses, uh, their guitarist, Slash, said recently, in defending his musical aggregation, he said of you – and I’m quoting here: “That guy screws more chicks and creates more havoc in one day than all of us do in a month!” Is this true?

[Crowd murmurs, with whoops, wows]

Julio Iglesias:   I don’t understand. What is said? Sounds weird, heh, heh, heh.

[Crowd continues low roar]

Iglesias:   Not answer! Heh, heh.

Host:        Okay, that’s it for the questions.

[Applause starts, crowd still rumbling]

Host:        One more. We’ll take one more question, but let’s make this last one about the fragrance. That’s why we’re here today. Okay? The last one, about the fragrance.

[Tape ends]

So, maybe I did have an appetite for disruption after all.

Can you imagine any of this happening today? I hope not.


2 thoughts on “Me & Julio – and Slash – Down By The Hotel

  1. You sure didn’t phrase your question for a PG audience Mark. Kudos for that one. At least your fellow reporters heard the question that Julio sppearedcv to ignore.

    1. Thanks, Bill.
      With a direct quote, I could always say, “It wasn’t me that said it! It was Slash!”
      By the way, Bill, I owe you an apology. You should have been thanked in the Acknowledgements of my book, for steering me to Steve White and for the examples set by your books. You will be — in the second volume which I’m beginning work on. – Mark

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