Julio Iglesias: A Latin lion in winter - The Buffalo News
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Julio Iglesias: A Latin lion in winter

MIAMI – Julio Iglesias spends much of his time in the air these days, crisscrossing the globe in his private plane to sing in concerts from Singapore to Transylvania. But for the several months of the year he is at his home in Indian Creek, in Miami Beach, an exclusive island enclave, his circle is much smaller.

“I live a very secluded life,” says the 70-year-old legend, buzzing the island’s single road in an electric golf cart. “I don’t go to parties for the last 20 years. I don’t go to the Grammys. I don’t go anywhere. They invite me, I don’t go. I don’t have anything to say except when I am singing.

“I know the road to the microphone and from the microphone back. I put on my jacket, put conditioner in my hair. And I think I am the luckiest man in the world.”

Iglesias is not quite as lucky as in his glory days in the 1970s and ’80s, when he broke concert ticket-sales records and sent legions of women swooning. When he performed Saturday night at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena, it was the largest venue of a U.S. tour that’s taking him mostly to casinos and smaller cities.

But for millions of fans from China to Chile, Arizona to Israel, Julio Iglesias still embodies the Latin crooner, the suave seducer, the romantic fantasy. For Latinos, he was the man men wanted to be and women dreamed of being with. He is a global icon who has sung and recorded in more languages than any other artist, crossing over before crossover was a concept.

Iglesias’ move from his native Spain to Miami in 1979 helped give the city an aura of international glamour, and was instrumental to its becoming the capital of Latin music and entertainment. Though his latest album, “1,” which reprises his many hits, sold a very respectable but not earth-shattering million copies, Guinness World Records last year decreed that his 300 million sales of 80 albums made him the best-selling male Latin artist of all time.

The power of his image lingers even as he roams farther for concert bookings in smaller venues that, he says, often don’t cover the cost of his private plane and entourage.

“I travel with 40 people from Finland to China,” he says. “It costs me the same money that I make, because I don’t put 25,000 people together anymore. But for me to sing gives me a feeling that … makes my blood run much stronger in my body. I look in the mirror every day. Without singing, I would not look in the mirror.”

He buzzes past the medium-size mansion he shares with his wife, Miranda Rijnsburger, a former Dutch model 23 years his junior, and their five children, Michael, 16; Rodrigo, 14; golden-haired twins Victoria and Cristina, 12; and Guillermo, 6. (“He is the only one in the family who thinks I am young,” Iglesias said earlier, sitting in their living room and patting his youngest boy’s back affectionately. “He comes from heaven, this guy.”)

Their mother, slim and deftly graceful in white jeans and flowing beige cardigan, explains that the family used to spend most of the time at the Iglesias estate in the Dominican Republic, or traveling the globe with their patriarch. But as the children grew older they craved school friends, not private tutors, and they now live most of the year in Miami, where they attend private school.

He was with Rijnsburger for 20 years, sending out Christmas cards with glossy pictures of their expanding clan, before he married her in 2010.

“If I did not feel the freedom to be independent, I would not get together with anyone,” he says. “She understands that, and so we are a marriage forever. ... She is my love, my companion. I don’t understand my life without her.”

Iglesias, who launched his career by winning a Spanish song contest in 1968, says he would never make it in the era of “American Idol.”

“Not just me, but Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, would never make it today,” he says. “Everybody looks the same, everybody acts the same, the same gimmick, the same dance. Everybody sings better than we sang. But there is a vulnerability that makes you much more attractive than people who have everything.”

Among those contemporary stars is his son Enrique, 38, the youngest of three children from his 1971 marriage to Philippine socialite Isabel Preysler, who grew up during Iglesias’ jet-setting prime. Enrique’s first album was dedicated to his nanny, and father and son have been dogged by rumors of competition and estrangement.

Iglesias admits that Enrique might have had reason to feel neglected.

Iglesias says he loves and is proud of the only one of his children to follow his career, but adds that he talks to Enrique, who lives in Miami, only two or three times a year.

“We are not compatible,” he says. “He has an extraordinary, deep life and I have another.”

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