Don Francisco Reveals Why He Never Retired: ‘It’s Like Hanging Up One’s Soul’
Don Francisco, the iconic Chilean host who brought Latin American idiosyncrasies to international television, is a name we all know. His show, “Sábado Gigante,” debuted in 1962 and became a must-see in the living room of Latino families.
Sixty years later, retiring from his professional life is out of the question.
“I never did this job for anything other than vocation,” said the Chilean host in an exclusive interview on the program “La Nave de la Sabiduría,” answering the question, “Why didn’t Don Francisco ever retire?”
The answer was lapidary: “retiring is like hanging up one’s soul,” said the presenter.
A career like no other
Born in 1940 and the son of Jewish immigrants who fled Nazi Germany, Mario Luis Kreutzberger created the character Don Francisco to animate events at the Club Israelita Macabbi in the Chilean city of Talca.
Once he arrived on television, Don Francisco became his identity and even the name of one of his sons.
Since the arrival of television in his native country with the 1962 World Cup, Don Francisco knew that this was his vocation.
“That’s how I operated for sixty years,” he told Marko, host of the program “The Ship of Wisdom.” “With an irresistible vocation to communicate, entertain, do my best for that audience.”
A ‘Giant’ show
Since his entry into Chilean national television, Don Francisco was the host of the Sunday show that would go on to be called “Sábado Gigante” in 1965. Although he was fired after the show’s pilot, the public demanded his return.
“My salary has been the applause,” said the Chilean host. “And my debt, the criticism.”
Don Francisco faced criticism from the Chilean media for his lack of professionalism and for the humor that would transform him into a legend many years later. But the risk was worth it, and his program became an audience success in Chile.
Conquering the world
“Sábado Gigante” lived up to its name and became one of the most important shows in Latin America. In 1988, it took its franchise to the United States; the rest is history.
Even so, for Don Francisco, the most important thing has been — and always will be — his family.
“There are few who do well when they live a success that demands a lot of their time,” the presenter said about balancing family life. His secret, he added, has been the support of his wife of 61 years. “She covered a lot of parts that I should have covered.”
Don Francisco thus recalled how every Saturday, he had to travel from Santiago de Chile to Miami and return to his family every Wednesday night.
“I left the family aside a bit,” he confesses.
Don Francisco and the advice of a lifetime
Now, as he crosses the 80-year barrier, Don Francisco has a lot of wisdom to share. Not only does he publish a book every 20 years, but, as he assured in his interview, he believes that the engine of life is to always have a project and to know how to adapt to the times.
“I believe that all generations are different,” she assures. “You can’t compare my life, which started 80 years ago, with yours, which [has lived] half of mine. Everyone thinks differently because the world is very different.”
Don Francisco reflected on the immediacy of information and how the world has changed with technology, shortening distances, and globalizing experiences.
“One of my most successful segments was ‘La Cámara Viajera,’ where I would show people the world,” he recalled. “If I did the show today, it would be ridiculous.”
“You have to adapt to the times,” Don Francisco said. “Because if I keep reacting as I did in my younger days, I’ll be totally left out.”