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January 17, 2009

Goles Son Amores

Did you know that I was on the Most Ridiculous Spanish TV Show Ever?

When I was living in Madrid in 1992-1993 my roommates and I saw an ad for a new TV show, "Goles Son Amores", and we immediately reviled it as the worst of the WORST of Spanish TV. Get this...it was a variety show, and not like that's not bad enough, it was a variety show revolving around soccer. But not very informative, rather it used futbol as a loose theme around which to parade a series of dancing girls in states of tacky undress, costumed clowns, extremely bad jokes, a near-naked Brazilian samba troupe (because you know, samba > Brazil > soccer...see the connection?) and showcase the toothy skills of the host Manolo Escobar (a tiny yet bombastic singer from the 1960s, see him singing one of his hits, "Viva Espana" below), and his blonde sidekick Loreto Valverde, about 30 years his junior. Occasionally they would actually interview a player or coach, but mostly it was like "The Donny and Marie Show", except with a goofy Spanish cast of characters, and a whole lot of half-naked girls gratuitously scattered about.

Don't you love the over-the-top evening/stripper-wear combined with belted, acid-washed mom jeans? That is a hot look. So 1992.

Here is another short clip, with a rabid group of soccer fans cheering their team, the toothy Manolo looking on in apparent disbelief at their fervor. He was quite an odd choice for host of this program, since he didn't really seem to care about soccer too much.

Anyway, I had seen the ads for this new show and had been making fun of it for a while. Cut to the biggest disco in Madrid, Pacha, which, unbelievably, is still around. I was there with my friend Andres, and at one point a wiry, average-looking guy approached me and asked me if I was interested in being on TV. Since I had been hit on about a hundred times already that evening, I assumed that this was just another come on, and I blew him off. Before he left, he put a card in my hand. "If you change your mind, here is my card." I put it into my coat pocket, and there it stayed.

Months passed and my boyfriend Andrew arrived from the States. He was looking for work as a fashion photographer, so he was going around to modeling agencies. We were at an agency one day, and the street name sounded familiar. I pulled the card out of my pocket, and the street was the same, the address was nearby. I figured that since I was already almost there, and had time to kill, I might as well check it out.

It turned out to be an agency, which was promising. I was surprised to find out that this guy had been for real, and started to get a little excited. "I have this card from one of your scouts. Can you tell me what openings you have?"

The receptionist said she would check. She went back into the offices and I waited in the front. When she came back a few minutes later, I was all ears. "Yes?"

"We have openings right now for someone like you in a new television program."
"What is the program?"
"It's called 'Goles Son Amores'."

That took more than a few seconds to sink in. The program that I had been reviling as the stupidest possible thing on television, out of an astoundingly bad pool of candidates...THAT was the show that wanted to hire me?

Well, whatever. I got over it and decided that the experience was just too rich to pass up, so I went to the audition, and, being blonde, female, young and pretty, I got the job right away. Not sure what I would have to have done to NOT get the job.

I didn't go to Madrid to be on a cheesy TV show. I had gone to Madrid to study at the Universidad de Madrid through a San Francisco State University exchange program. Unfortunately, when I arrived I found myself with a group of whiny, obnoxious 17-18 year olds (I was a sage 22 year old)who complained about everything...the food, the people, the language, the culture. I was looking forward to the end of orientation, so that I could rid myself of my fellow ugly Americans and go to real classes with Spaniards at the University.

Orientation ended and I went to my first day of school. Horror when I entered class and found myself with exactly the same group of people! What? I went to complain to the director of the program and found that I would not be in standard university classes at all, instead, my classes would all be with members of the group that I had come over with, and not integrated at all. You would think that I would have figured that out somewhere along the way, but I didn't.

I asked the director for a full refund of my university and program fees, and set out finding a place to live. Along with two of my fellow program compatriots, I found a dark yet decent and fairly inexpensive apartment in Moncloa and we moved in. OK, now what? I was there to become fluent in Spanish and become part of the culture, so I set about doing that, and it was in that frame of mind that I took the job on "Goles Son Amores"

Surprisingly, I was the only foreigner among the "azafatas", which technically means "stewardess", but is also used as the term for pretty girls hired to promote products. Telecinco TV5 was the station running "Goles", and it was known for having scads of girls in the background of every program, no matter how irrelevant they were. So I was one of 20 girls on the show representing the 20 Spanish soccer teams in La Liga, the professional soccer league. My team was going to be Cadiz, one of the bottom-ranked. Sigh.

Our job was to come out at the beginning of every show and serve as a line of eye candy behind the host Manolo Escobar and his two hostesses, Loreto Valverde and Inma Brunton. We 20 girls were not sufficient though. There was also Cacao, a Brazilian samba troupe, and another group of half-naked dancers called...Mamachicha, I think.

Every Monday I took the Metro to the Telecinco studios outside of Madrid and stayed there all day for about USD$60. Sometimes Manolo would throw a fit and the "stars" would have to do a million takes, and then it really got to be a very long day indeed. We chicas would wait for our call in a tiny closet-sized windowless room, every single last one of the girls chain-smoking the entire time, so that the room was completely fogged with thick, choking blue cigarette smoke. I shudder to think of how many years I lost off my lifespan sitting in there for sometimes as little as $6 per hour.

As I mentioned, my team (Cadiz) was ranked at the bottom of all the teams in La Liga. As they would announce the teams one-by-one, the girl representing that team would run out into the spotlight and do something to act out how her team had done that week, while the announcer gave a quick summary of wins/losses.

Since my team always lost, I usually had to run out and do a pantomime of crying and being sad, wringing my fists into my eye sockets and flinging the back of my hand across my forehead in mock agony. Occasionally the producers would ask me to do a particular kind of dance, which would have been fine if I had known what any of them were, but a tarantella? Beats me. So I would just snap my fingers and do a mock flamenco kind of thing. Nobody complained, so I guess my blondeness made up for the fact that I really had no clue what the hell I was supposed to be doing out there.

Or maybe it was my outfit, which was a tight-fitting Cadiz jersey on top, tiny little Dolphin running shorts on bottom, knee-length tube socks (!) and cleats. Oh, plus a ton of garish stage makeup and poofy teased sky-high 80's hair. Stunning, right?

I would often forget that I was supposed to be *performing* on camera. Manolo would be bantering with Loreto and Inma, all with us girls arrayed in a semicircle behind them. The camera would often pan behind, down the line of pretty girls, all of them smiling brilliantly at the camera and posing perfectly, except for ME staring goggle-eyed at at the presenters with not a scrap of smile on my face. I would totally forget that the camera was there, and that I was actually part of the show and expected to smile and pose etc. at all times onstage.

The other girls were all Spanish, and rarely took any notice of me, dismissing me as a foreigner. One day in the cafeteria I was listening to the conversation around me and I absent-mindedly squeezed a slice of lemon into my glass of water. All conversation stopped and heads swiveled. Apparently that was an utterly strange thing to them...squeezing a lemon, into WATER! Personally I didn't find it so strange, but it simply was not done. Who would do a thing like that?

Their concept of California was hilarious. "Oh, I have a friend who lives in California, do you know her? Maria Jesus Fernandez?"

And this: "Since you are from California, you must have acted in a lot of movies and TV shows. What famous people do you know?"

I had to explain delicately that things were a bit different in California, and usually they had *auditions*. Most people who tried out for a role on TV or in a movie actually had some acting experience, and weren't just chatted up in a disco as their sole qualification. You usually didn't get hired just for showing up.

Then I tried to explain that San Francisco wasn't really like Hollywood, and the film industry wasn't so big there, but I lost their attention at that point and they went back to ignoring me. Which hey, I don't blame them...what a boring answer. I should have just made up a few crazy stories to entertain them and boost my status, but I was quite the serious bluestocking and stuck to the hard, cold, facts.

Here's Manolo singing one of his early hits, a patriotic number from 1973 called "Y Viva Espana":

I love Spain and all, but who are all those non-Spanish elves in the background marching around? Couldn't they find a torero or two? Love Manolo's sideburns though.

This is my personal favorite Manolo song, it's catchy and he's hot in this video from 1969, the year of my birth. Those ultra-mobile eyebrows, the way he points it out to you, and shouts out the words? Drama!


In case you don't speak Spanish, the song lyrics translate loosely to "Dude, Where's My Car?" This video was later extended and re-made as a movie starring Ashton Kutcher. Kidding, kidding.

"Goles Son Amores" was filmed in 1992-1993, so even back then he was about 20 years off his prime. Not that he was so bad-looking as a strapping young man, and what a set of pipes! Even as an old man, the dude could definitely belt it out with the best of them.

The big climax of "Goles Son Amores" came when Manolo sang the theme song, "Goles Son Amores". The clapping! Take a listen, press the play button below:

Manolo Escobar - Goles Son Amores| Track details |

The lyrics are, of course, intelligent and complex.

Y es que goles son amores,
un programa de televisión.
Y es goles son amores
espectáculo y diversión.
Y es goles son amores
Telecinco marcará el mejor.
Y es que goles son amores
vive el fútbol pero con humor.

(Goals are loves,
a television program (this is the best line, isn't it?).
Goals are loves,
entertainment and fun.
Goals are loves,
Telecinco will make the best.
Goals are loves,
soccer, but with humor.)

Y si el martes duele la derrota
para el miércoles ya estás mejor.
En el jueves vuelve la esperanza
para el viernes te ves campeón.
Llega el sábado estás preparado
y si el domingo vuelves a perder
vente el lunes a nuestro programa
fuera penas y diviertete!

(And if defeat hurts on Tuesday,
for Wednesday's you'll be better.
On Thursday, hope returns,
Friday you are a champion.
When Saturday arrives, you are ready,
and if Sunday you lose again...
come on Monday to our program,
no more pain, have fun!)

Y es que goles son amores
un programa de televisión.
Y es goles son amores
espectáculo y diversión.
Y es que goles son amores
Telecinco marcará el mejor.
Y es que goles son amores
vive el fútbol pero con humor.

(Goals are loves,
a television program (this is the best line, isn't it?).
Goals are loves,
entertainment and fun.
Goals are loves,
Telecinco will make the best.
Goals are loves,
soccer, but with humor.)

Deep!

After a year of this nonsense, I was fed up with sticking around Madrid just to show up at Telecinco every Monday and lose lung tissue and brain cells for only $60. I wanted to go travel around, so I did. I quit my "Goles" gig. Enough was enough. My friend Carlos Perrino did manage to record my last appearance, but I doubt he still has that video. Would be a treat to watch, just for the comic value.

Shortly thereafter, the program was canceled. RIP, Goles.
Now you know more than you ever wanted to know about my TV career. Short but sweet. Well....short.

January 07, 2009

Recipes from our New Year's Day Open House

I made this soup, bread and punch for our New Year's Day party and they were big hits. Along with the leftover ham, you should be set for a few days if you make a batch of soup and a batch of bread, and both recipes are super-easy, though not fast. Start soaking your beans the night before for a meal the next day.

If you make a full batch of the champagne punch for yourself, you will be too drunk to care about eating, but try it for your next adult get-together.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
STEWED BLACK-EYED PEAS WITH HAM

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 8 hr 0 min
Cook Time: 55 min
Level: Easy
Serves: 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
2 cups roughly chopped ham pieces (I buy one of those big uncured spiral cut hams at Trader Joe's, use 2 cups for this and make sandwiches on buttered bread with avocado with the rest, or just eat it straight. Mmmm, ham....)
1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked in cold water overnight and rinsed well (if you use a slow cooker you don't have to presoak - see below)
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup cold water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
(1/2 package of Trader Joe's precooked bacon, cut with scissors into little strips)

In a medium stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and country ham. Add the black-eyed peas, chicken stock, and 1 cup cold water. Bring the liquid up to a boil, partially cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the peas for about 25 minutes, uncover and cook an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the peas are tender. Season the peas with salt and pepper as needed.

Alternatively, you can throw everything into a slow cooker and let it go on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for 4-5 hours.

If you got the bacon, you can throw that in right before serving. If you put it in too far ahead of time it gets a little too soft.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

SPEEDY NO-KNEAD NYT BREAD

3 cups bread flour

1 packet ( 1/4 ounce) instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Oil as needed. (Spray Olive Oil from Trader Joe's is the easiest)

1. Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups water and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy. Cover bowl with a plate or with a larger bowl placed upside down on top. Let dough rest about 4 hours at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Lightly oil a work surface and place dough on it; fold it over on itself once or twice. Clean your original bowl, oil it, and put the dough back in for about 45 minutes to rise again.

3. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6-to-8-quart heavy covered pot or dutch oven (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats.

When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Dump the dough from the oiled bowl directly into the hot pot. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

4. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 10 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: 1 big loaf. You can easily double this recipe, just make sure that you use a bigger bowl to mix it in and let it rise. You can use the same amount of yeast, just double the flour and salt.

When you go to do the second rising, split the dough into two equal pieces and put each in its own oiled bowl. Bake one, and then when it is done, plop the second one into the already-hot bread-baking pot.

This is my slightly edited version of the NYT bread recipes from Mark Bittman.
See http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/08/dining/08mini.html for the original article and
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/08/dining/08mini.html?ref=dining for the faster updated version and all the details, plus photos of how it should look at each step.

-------------------------------------------------------------
CITRUS CHAMPAGNE PUNCH

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup superfine sugar
1 cup vodka
1/2 cup limoncello
2 teaspoons vermouth
1 (750 ml) bottle chilled dry Champagne or sparkling wine
Ice
Lemon twists, for garnish

Combine the lemon juice, sugar, vodka, Limoncello, and vermouth in a large nonreactive bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 1 to 2 hours. Add the Champagne and stir to combine.

Serve over ice in highball glasses, garnished with lemon twists.

Yield: about 1 1/2 quarts, 8 to 10 servings

January 06, 2009

6th wedding anniversary


6th wedding anniversary, originally uploaded by mslaura.

It was actually last Saturday (our wedding date was 1/3/03), but we celebrated today at our local seafood bar with oysters on the half shell, ahi tuna, calamari, baked oysters asiago, lemon drops, gin and tonics, and a glass of excellent pinot grigio. Good times!

Dan asked me on Friday night, "Do you know what tomorrow is?"
I responded, "Of course, it's the day before our anniversary!" and that's when the endless ribbing began. Because hello...our anniversary was the next day.

I remembered that it was the 3rd, but for some reason I got confused and thought that the 3rd was Sunday. Anyway, Dan has been teasing me ever since. But I DID NOT FORGET OUR ANNIVERSARY. I just got confused about days, that's all. OK?

Anyway, we had a great time on the actual day, (which we spent playing, chatting, eating and drinking over at Jeff and Susanne's house), and at our official celebration.

Still need to take our rings in for their annual polishing. Platinum gets scratched up so easily.

It has been a good 6 years so far. Lots of hard work making and raising two little boys, but we are happy and more in love than ever. Life is good!


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