The first time Luis Miguel’s classically succulent voice enchanted Jennifer Halpin, she was living in Oklahoma City – not exactly Latin Music USA. It was on Muzak in a mall, no less, with Okie music stores that didn’t sell his albums. She had to special order them, and nine years later, the now El Paso resident is a fan club member who took special measures to get a good view of “El Idolo” at his concert October 27 at the Don Haskins Center.
Waiting fruitless hours in line for floor tickets, Jennifer resorted to paying 30 percent more for a seventh row seat from a ticket broker. A former teacher who doesn’t speak a word of Spanish, she hears hints of Chicago and Earth Wind and Fire in his pop style horn and brass songs, but she loves his traditional boleros the most (charmingly pronouncing them bow-LAY-rows).
“I’ve been in his audience several times, mainly with Mexican Americans that knew all the words. I don’t see many people like me when I look around, people who aren’t Spanish speakers,” Jennifer said.
But at the recent Las Vegas concert, Hispanic fans graciously embraced this Luis Miguel-loving gringa, who went to the show by herself. A couple sitting near her even bought her a glass of wine.
“He sings with an incredible amount of emotion,” Jennifer said. “That is what comes across and breaks the language barrier for me.”
His sensual style even transcends the Atlantic Ocean to England, where Manchester-born Vivien Wray is flying to El Paso to catch the show. “I first saw him about six years ago on a televised music awards show,” Vivien recalled. “He ran on stage so full of life and so handsome, and then he opened his mouth and I was hooked forever.”
So hooked, the trip to El Paso meant a better glimpse of him than the three Luis Miguel concerts she’s been to in Madrid, Spain at the Vista Alegre. Getting a good seat in El Paso would have proven impossible, were it not for a generous Jennifer, who is giving Vivien her precious seventh row seat.
“I am fulfilling my dreams by coming to America and seeing him from a front row seat: mi idolo, mi rey, mi sol,” Vivien added. “Crazy for a woman of my age, maybe so. But I cannot help myself, and I am not alone in my obsession, am I?” No Viv, you’re not. And it’s not just British women starving for some passionate Latin lovers – a scarce commodity in the frigid UK.
In fact, the local Amigos de Luis Miguel fan club, initiated locally by Miriam Bland in 2001, is a 20-member group of equally intense fanatics who help travelers attend shows and pay for the $54.75 to $106.75 ticket price. In turn, Luis Miguel promoters make their unwavering support worthwhile.
“In 2000 when he was touring in El Paso, we were sitting close to the stage and he came down to say ‘hi’ to us during the show,” Bland fondly recalls. Luana Cruz says “hi” to him every day she steps into her office at Sierra Medical Center. Nine posters plaster the photo-technologist’s walls, including one Luis Miguel sticker on her microscope. Her coworkers bought the life-sized poster that made her scream the first time she saw it in her office.
“I like romantic music, the way he executes his songs,” Luana said. “A lot of people say they’re all just remakes, but the way he belts them out are really good. Grandmothers like the romantic old style, but he remakes them in such a style that the younger generation likes them, too.”
If fan club member Isabel Herrera ever gets to meet him, she’ll ask about the origins of her favorite Luis Miguel song, “Isabel.”
“I love his voice,” Isabel explained. “It’s the type of voice you don’t hear anymore.”
It’s a fascination that doesn’t stop at adoring women.
“When he finished the first song at one concert, my husband screamed,” Juarez fan Gloria Valadez said.
Fan club member Joe Ramirez is another manly fan, one who scoffs at Barry White or Luther Vandross to set the romantic mood; Luis Miguel’s “Romances” album is his first choice.
“It’s a way to share music with the woman that you love,” this single Latin stallion said about the album, “with the old songs our parents used to listen to by Armando Manzanero. He can touch a woman’s heart with his music.”
Joe likes earlier concerts that once featured the El Paso Symphony Orchestra strings section and recalls Luis Miguel carrying a fan’s baby on stage during one show. But some say he’s not always that loving and attentive. Joe has heard a fair share of rumors:
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who know him and his band members who say he’s a very conceited person. He’s very egotistical. My friend at Southwest Airlines confirmed he flies in on a private jet, takes two steps and is already inside a limousine. He doesn’t really give autographs or attend parties given for him. He’s very reclusive. He doesn’t travel with his band or singers. When he has a sound check, everyone has to vacate the arena. Once in Mexico City, he wanted one hotel’s best room, even though President George Bush was staying in it. It’s not a bad thing because if he wasn’t that way, he wouldn’t be Luis Miguel.”
However, Isabel once met his musicians, who say “He is one of the nicest people,” despite his snobby reputation.
“I don’t think he is a snob. He’s a lonely guy. He’s gone through a lot that’s what made him what he is today. I see him as a person and I look in his eyes and he seems like an unhappy man who needs something,” Isabel philosophizes.
To find out for sure, she almost got to meet him when a tour manager invited her to an after-tour party in Acapulco. She had to cancel at the last minute but plans to encounter Luis Miguel this time around – somehow.
Meanwhile, as his new album “33” climbs the charts, tickets for the upcoming show in El Paso are going so fast they can barely keep up with the hearts that pound for him.