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Aaaaiiiii!!! It's Latin heartthrob Luis Miguel!
By Gissela SantaCruz / www.austin360.com

Mention Luis Miguel's name to any female fan, and almost without fail you can see an imaginary cartoon bubble pop over her head with images of being personally serenaded by the dreamy Mexican crooner.

Luis Miguel — whose latest CD, "Mexico en la Piel," is one of Mexico's top-selling albums of 2005 — makes his way to the Erwin Center tonight as one of the biggest Latino acts to ever play Austin.

Since starting his music career at the age of 12, Luis Miguel's allure has been credited to several aspects of his persona: his charm, his good looks, his suave singing voice, his sharp attire and his seductive eyes. But, for many, including the media, it is Luis Miguel's insistence on keeping his personal life private (a difficult task with so many tabloids claiming to offer a peek into Luismi's — as he's known in Latin America — very busy romantic life with some of the world's most beautiful women).

His style of music, which sways from dance pop to boleros and other traditional Mexican sounds, has given him access to a diverse audience and a loyal following in Latin America and Europe.

It's this tension that makes him a profitable commodity for promoters, especially those trying to lure more eclectic acts to their venues, like Tim Neece of the Performing Arts Center at the University of Texas.

"Mostly, I'm excited what the success of the show could mean to us," says Neece, assistant director of programming for the center. The "Mexico en la Piel" tour is creating new paths for Luis Miguel and the arts organization. Despite his basic popularity, Luis Miguel has been unable to experience great success outside of Latin America. It is with this tour, his most ambitious to date, that he hopes to capitalize on previously untapped cities within the United States. For the arts center, it's the first show presented at the Erwin Center.

Booking Luis Miguel makes sense for a promoter: It's no secret that the demand for his appearances goes beyond the average fan to include politicians and businesspeople alike. Last year, Luismi was given the keys to the city of Panama. And just last month, a Chilean winery named one of its wines Único: Luis Miguel.

Despite his notoriety, the concert was still a risky move. Even with a growing Hispanic population that includes immigrants and more acculturated Latinos, Austin is not always seen as one of the top markets for high-profile Latin acts. This concert could change that.

"I brought in Luis Miguel for a show in Dallas a while back," says Neece. "The place seated a good-size crowd. We ended up selling about 6 or 7 thousand tickets to that particular show. So I knew we could sell about the same here in Austin."

To ensure a successful event, Neece relied on a wise promoter's formula: finding the perfect size venue to create the perfect image of the show. Neece says he knew he could sell out the Bass Concert Hall twice over, but it is a relatively small space with only 2,800 seats. He wanted something with more impact.

"If a promoter goes with a larger venue, say one with 7,000 seats, and only sells 4,500 tickets, the feeling the audience walks away is much different from that of an audience that experienced the same show in a full house," says Neece.

That's where the Erwin Center became an important piece of the puzzle.

In early October, Luis Miguel performed at the SBC Center in San Antonio, a venue with 18,797 seats. Like the Erwin Center, the number of seats at the SBC Center fluctuates with the requirements of a particular event. For instance, the set-up for a concert may result in less seating than for a Spurs basketball game.

The night of the San Antonio Luis Miguel concert, despite the small stage set-up, the SBC proved too large for the show, according to the San Antonio Express-News, which reported in a review that the venue seemed half-empty.

But that hasn't discouraged Neece.

As of Tuesday, 5,500 of the 6,500 tickets to Luis Miguel's show (about 500 to 1,000 more are set aside for give-aways and promotions) had been sold.

"It all looks good. I expect for the remaining 1,000 tickets to be sold by the time of the concert," says Neece. "I think it will sell out. I check the ticket sale numbers every day, and every day the numbers go up."

If things work out his way, Neece could use the results of the show as leverage, especially when dealing with promoters of other Latin acts.

"It would be great if it sells out. I can tell them: 'Look, it was Luis Miguel's first time here, and he sold out,'" says Neece. "A sold-out show is a good thing; it carries a lot of weight."

So much weight that the outcome of Luis Miguel's show could influence negotiations with Colombian heartthrob Juanes, whose growing popularity could prove successful for him in Texas.

"Talks with his people have already started, but this could definitely help seal the deal," says Neece. If it works, Austin could be hosting Juanes in 2006, and who knows who else will follow.

The life, loves and career of Luis Miguel

Birth name: Luis Miguel Gallegos Basteri
Nicknames: Luismi, Mickey, El Sol de México (the Sun of Mexico)
Birthdate: April 19, 1970
Birthplace: San Juan, Puerto Rico, but Luis Miguel was raised in México and considers himself Mexican
Siblings: Sergio and Alejandro
Parents: Luis Rey Gallegos and Marcella Basteri Tarrozzo

Significant ex-girlfriends:
Myrka Dellanos, 2003-2004
Mariah Carey, 1999-2001
Daisy Fuentes, 1995-1998
Mariana Yazbek, 1997

'Fiebre de amor' ('Love Fever'), 1985
'Siempre en domingo' ('Always on Sunday'), 1984
'Ya nunca más' ('Never Again'), 1984
'Luis Miguel; aprendiz de pirata' ('The Pirate Apprentice'), 1984

Career highlights: Since his first hit album, Luis Miguel has made more than 25 records. Here are a few highlighting his career:
'México en la piel' ('Mexico Skin Deep'), 2004: Completely dedicated to the 'ranchero' mariachi-infused sounds of traditional Mexican songs in honor of his adoptive country.
'Aries,' 1993: Marks his return to the pop style that brought him initial success. Includes hits like 'Suave' ('Softly'), 'Tú y yo' ('You and I') and 'Hasta que me olvides' ('Until You Forget Me').
'Romance,' 1991: On this project, Luismi pays homage to the boleros, a symphonic romantic genre from Cuba that is very popular in Mexico. Includes the single 'No sé tú' ('I Don't Know about You'), which is on the soundtrack for 'Speechless' starring Michael Keaton and Geena Davis.
'Palabra de honor' ('Word of Honor'), 1984: Includes the Grammy Award-winning single 'Me gustas tal como eres,' ('I Like You Just the Way You Are'), a duet with Sheena Easton.
'Luis Miguel . . . un sol' ('A Sun'), 1982: Launched Luismi's career at the age of 12 and includes the hit single, '1 + 1 = 2 enamorados' ('1 + 1 = 2 lovers').

Has been romantically linked to (in no particular order):
Aracely Arámbula, Mexican actress and current squeeze
Stephanie Salas, niece of famous Mexican actress Silvia Pinal
Lucía Méndez, Mexican singer/actress
Brigitte Nielsen, former wife of Sylvester Stallone
Sofía Vergara, below, Colombian actress, star of TV's "Hot Properties"
Gabriela Sabatini, tennis star
Princess Stephanie of Mónaco