TV giant Don Francisco celebrates 50 years of ‘Sabado Gigante’
An entertainment institution in the Spanish-speaking world, Don Francisco aims to stay on top of the game with his long-running variety show ‘Sabado Gigante.’
By Yvonne Villarreal, Los Angeles Times
MIAMI — Don Francisco is running late to his own party — peculiar, considering he arrived six hours before it started.
One of Latin America’s top entertainment personalities is holed up in his dressing room at Univision‘s studios as frenzied fans just outside line a red carpet where celebrities are slowly making their way into the big show. As he quietly watches the procession on his dressing room monitor, his longtime assistant begins the intricate ritual of preparing his pre-show meal that includes branzini fish with rocoto chile paste and a tossed salad.
“After the break,” announces one of the hosts from the red carpet, “Don Francisco!” The adoring throngs scream in delight as the ringmaster of the longest-running variety show in TV history squeezes a lemon over his salad and chuckles. After a half-century in show business, he knows they can wait a little longer.
At 71, Francisco is an institution in the Spanish-speaking world as the unmistakable and singular host of “Sábado Gigante,” which means “Giant Saturday.” The sturdy Chilean-born showman is the enduring attraction in a weekly three-hour cavalcade famous for its bikini-clad models, slapstick sketches and madcap contests, and which has become a welcome weekend siren call to the Latino diaspora.