April 16, 2014

Florida Icon

Icon: Don Francisco

Mario Kreutzberger/Don Francisco, 65, TV host, Miami-based

Mike Vogel | 6/1/2006

I was a big fan of Johnny Carson.

I did documentaries in 168 countries during the 40 years. I had the opportunity to interview Golda Meier, Bush, the other Bush, Indira Gandhi, big people in politics, in Hollywood.

I do a telethon for handicapped children. We've built 11 hospitals, and we have raised over $250 million in 40 years. I got the idea for the telethon from Jerry Lewis.

When you're 45, you think you're going to end at 50. When you reach that time, you like to stretch it. It's not a money question. It's being happy. It's feeling that you can do something, right?

The audience, they retire you. When your program doesn't appeal to the majority of the audience, then they tell you, 'My friend, that's it.' You have to be prepared for that, but you're never prepared.

In my 44 years, I was not in the show only one time, when my mother passed away.

I have Type 2 diabetes. I try to control that.

This is a work that's 24 hours a day, every day. It's not that you have to work always, but you have to think, you have to be creative, you have to find always new segments.

I'm Jewish. I was in a Jewish club. I was doing an impression of a Jewish guy that couldn't speak Spanish well. I had a big stomach -- they put me with feathers like a pillow here -- and I was telling jokes. That was Don Francisco. I went one day to a contestant program, and they asked me what's my name? 'My name is Mario Kreutzberger.' That's a very difficult pronunciation in Spanish. The host said, 'You don't have another name?' And I said, 'Don Francisco.' That night I won, and I'm very superstitious.

I'm a quiet person.

Tags: Florida Icon, Around Florida

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