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Icon: Don Francisco

In May we became 20 years in the United States and 44 years since we started with the program. We're going again into the 'Guinness Book of Records.'

Don Francisco
Don Francisco [Photo: Brian Smith]
My real profession is another profession. I'm a men's clothes designer. My father sent me here in 1959. I never saw television before. I saw it for the first time when I went into the room of a very humble hotel in New York, the Stanford hotel, still there at 32nd and Broadway. It used to be for Spanish people; now it's for Korean people.

I went back to Chile at the end of 1961. After awhile I got the (television) opportunity. I was 21. I'm doing the same program since I'm 22.

Today especially I'm tired. There are some days when you are tired and some days when you're OK.

The time of Jack Paar, Art Linkletter, the beginnings of Johnny Carson, Ed Sullivan -- there was a lot more interaction with the audience than today. I have to do this show on the side of the audience. I'm always with the audience, through the audience, talking to the audience.

I'm working here with the company trying to have subtitles in English. When I'm traveling around the states, many people say, 'You know, I don't speak Spanish, but I watch 15, 20 minutes. It's entertaining for me.'

I was making money in Chile. I couldn't make enough money here. This was a very humble show. (So) I flew every Saturday night from Santiago to Miami, every Wednesday night from Miami to Santiago. I did that for three years. Only the ego can keep you going. When I got to the level I was respected here, then I stayed here and went back to Chile only once a month.

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.

I love what I do, and I feel I have this big responsibility with my audience.

I think it's heaven for Latinos here in Florida relative to other places, especially in Miami. The community is very big, and they have a great position in society. You have here bank presidents and workers in the field. You have everything. The community is more respected than in other places.

Celia Cruz was a very good talent for interviews. Julio Iglesias is very good too. And Gloria Estefan is too.

I'm doing a documentary on the Holocaust.

I have nine grandchildren. I've been married 44 years. I married my wife and the television at the same time. I'm a bigamist.

Success and failure is the same line.

I like the traditional shows like Jay Leno, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey.

This is my fourth language, English. For me, learning language is very easy. If you send me to Japan, I'm sure in one year -- not that I will talk perfect -- but I will understand.

It's terrible the television in the world today. Everything is, as you know, gossip and reality shows. (But) musicals are coming back, the game shows are coming back, the traditional shows are coming back.