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Welcome to the Church of Luis Miguel
Orange County Register
03/05/2004

The Mexican pop idol's fans - about 8,000 of them - faithfully packed Thursday's concert at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, cheering, screaming and swaying to his deep, smooth, velvety voice.

It was a typically rapturous response for Luis Miguel, whose latest million-selling album, "33," celebrates his age. Since beginning his career as a 12-year-old, he has grown into a sex symbol often compared to Frank Sinatra, crooning romantic ballads while women swarm the edges of the stage in hopes that he'll drop them a towel drenched in sweat.

"It's difficult for anyone to survive in the world of entertainment when they've been a child star," said Armando Correa, People en Español's senior editor, who recently interviewed the performer. "Nonetheless, Luis Miguel has based his successful career on the talent of his powerful voice and knowing how to choose music that helped him transition from child star to adult idol for the masses."

Luis Miguel is a reclusive star who seldom gives interviews, which makes him a favorite target of paparazzi and regular fodder for tabloids. The fact that he shuns the spotlight seems to make him more intriguing - people want to know more.

"He looks so lonely," said Claudia Otero, 26, of Los Angeles, who attended last week's concert. "I wish I could talk to him and ask him what he's searching for in life. He just seems so lonely."

In concerts, Luis Miguel usually steers clear of personal comments, instead offering a strict regimen of light shows, jumbo video screens and flawless orchestral arrangements in a manner that's scripted much in the same way a Barbra Streisand show is.

One intimate moment at last week's show came when he thanked his father, Luis Rey, before singing some of the songs that made him a teen heartthrob, wearing tight pants and cool leather jackets. The singer acknowledges that he might not have had a career if it wasn't for his Spanish-born father, who passed away in 1992.

The brown-haired singer could have easily been washed up by his late teens, but what happened in his early 20s changed his life forever. In 1991, he released "Romance," a CD of classic romantic songs known as boleros, 50-year-old Mexican standards by beloved composers such as Armando Manzanero. It was the turning point that made him a superstar.

He followed up with about half a dozen similarly themed albums that firmly established his staying power. He has sold more than 50 million CDs, which has allowed him to live the life of a jet-setting millionaire.

"There are very few singers who can do what he does," said Valdemar Ortiz, 31, who, with his band Grupo Neutro, sings Luis Miguel cover songs at Orange County nightclubs and bars. "He has worked his entire career to get here. His voice is one of a kind."

Luis Miguel's climb to the top comes with a price: his privacy. It is, for example, inevitable that Spanish-language television shows focus on his past romances with such notables as model Daisy Fuentes and songstress Mariah Carey. He is currently romantically involved with Myrka Dellanos, a high-profile television journalist who works for the Univision Network.

The Mexican singer, who has been dubbed "El Idolo de Mexico" or "Mexico's Idol," relies on a slew of publicists, who push to protect him at every move.

Last week, his fans in Anaheim couldn't have cared less about his private life as they rocked the night away with their "Luismi," the singer's nickname. Some had paid $120 a ticket for the show, and all had to wait an hour beyond the scheduled starting time for their idol to take the stage. But once the lights went out and the band began to play thunderous beats of pop music, it was clear why a Luis Miguel concert is always electrifying.

"I want to marry him," said 24-year-old Mabell Gutierrez of Rancho Cucamonga, who attended the show with her twin sister, Anabell. "He is such a great performer. There's something about the way he moves. I have all of his CDs."

The Gutierrez sisters stood for most of the concert raising their hands and oscillating between their seats and the aisle. Their idol gave them a sampling of pop tunes such as "Suave" and romantic ballads such as "La Media Vuelta."

"Luis Miguel does not need to reinvent himself, because he has loyal fans and new generations keep discovering his music," Correa said. "He is not a product of the market; he is a product of his own talent."

As he matures, Luis Miguel seems to be finding more stability in his personal and professional life. The multimillion-selling superstar ended his show last week with the crowd-pleasing pop hit "Te Necesito" from the current CD.

People stood.

Lovers held hands.

And confetti fell from above as fans bid farewell to Luis Miguel as the singer waved goodbye before fading into a backdrop of twinkling lights.

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