He returned to Chile determined, and in 1962 convinced a reluctant station manager to give him one hour of airtime on a Saturday. "Sábado Gigante" ran from 7:00 to 8:00. "Then he gave me from 6:00 to 8:00, 5:00 to 8:00, 4:00 to 8:00, 3:00 to 8:00, 2:00 to 8:00, 1:00 to 9:00. Eight hours, live, during 22 years," Francisco said.
So, Rocca asked, "When did you go to the bathroom?"
"During the commercials. I was fast at that time, when I went to the bathroom!"
In 1986 Univision, the network that airs "Sábado Gigante," moved the show's production to Miami, the gateway to Latin America. And the show itself became a gateway to a mass Latin audience for future superstars like Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, even U.S. presidents -- all of them courting an audience that's muy importante.
This son of German immigrants may be the most recognizable face in all of Latin America. Just take a walk with Don Francisco through Miami's Bayside Market, where he is mobbed by fans from many countries, and you'll get a sense of how far his reach extends.
One woman from Cuba asked Francisco why he was leaving "Sábado Gigante." He replied, "I'm getting old."
"You are not old!" she retorted. "Don't leave the program!"
"Sábado Gigante" is ending its run next Saturday. Over the last few seasons the show's ratings with younger viewers have fallen precipitously.
Still, as Rocca found out as a recent guest on the program, it's hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the loud, brash, flamboyant "Sábado Gigante":
Rocca: "¡Cincuenta y tres años! Más que David Letterman. Más que Johnny Carson. Más que Jack Paar. ¡Usted es el rey de entretenimiento!"
Others have been called the King of Entertainment, but none has matched the reign of Don Francisco.
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