A GUIDEPOST REPRINT: “The Spanish Scene” 57 Years Ago This Month

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Smoke or not to smoke • Princess in love • Bullfight fights • Boni, the amorous elephant

“The Spanish Scene”
by Sonia Copeland 
First published in Guidepost
31 January 1964


It’s been a to smoke or not to smoke week and Spain is smartly following up the current U.S. scare reports on the effects of cigarette smoking (41,000 Americans die of it each year) with her own caveat cancer campaign. Newspaper, T.V. and radio have responded throughout the country with alarming stories and reports on the wear and tear effects of tobacco smoke on the body mechanism and the radioactivity and poison content in tobacco. And by now most eminent Spanish doctors and heart and lung specialists have given their stern reports. Says principal professor of the Madrid University: “All my throat – cancer cases have been smokers.” Says Mr. Pedrola Gil: “32,000 Spaniards die each year of cancer,” and so on. So far results of it all include a certain amount of alarm, growing; not a drop on cigarette sales however as yet; and Madrid now boasts the first Club of Ex-Smokers in the country opening tomorrow (Sat) on the 10th floor of the Torre de Madrid, inaugurated by an ex-smoker of 60 a day, plus pipes and cigars. Incentive conditions of membership are that you don’t smoke and haven’t for a minimum of three months. We add an encouraging remark subtracted from the report of one of Spain’s most prominent doctor’s, Dr. Pescador of the Cuadro Medico de la Asociación de la Prensa: “If you’ve been smoking for 90 years, there is no reason to stop it now.”

Just Royal Good Friends

The delight of the Spaniards on the possibility of a romance between Princess Irene, second daughter of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernard of Holland, and a “young Spanish marqués of excellent lineage and large fortune” was brought to an abrupt anti-climax last Saturday by a curt note from the Princess’s private secretary to say that the whole story was no more than a misinformed rumor.


It all began when Holland’s main social newspaper Het Vrije Volk mentioned in its columns that Princess Irene had returned to this country, ah yes, for turismo, that very comprehensive, favorite word of Spaniards, and also to perfect her already word-perfect Spanish, but that the real reason was, the paper had been informed, a certain incognito Spanish nobleman.

Spanish papers took up the theme delightedly, pointing out the number of times the Princess has visited this country in the last months remembering her radiance on arrival and at several public functions in the City… and the excellence of her Spanish which she says she has been practicing hard for her job as a top interpreter in her country. And of course speculations buzzed nineteen to the dozen on those escorts who had helped her pasarlo bien in this country.

…..Last lingering word being casually dropped by observers is just that old saying about no smoke without there being a fire somewhere.

Early Start To The Toros

June sunshine in January encouraged Madrid’s second Plaza de Toros, Vista Alegre, to get one jump ahead of La Tercera in San Sebastian de los Reyes who had already announced the opening to their temporada on the first Sunday in February. Last Sunday’s novillada in Carabanchel was the first bullfight in Madrid in January since 1925, when, incidentally, it was very, very cold and very, very wet. This year the tendidos were packed, both in the more popular Sol and the rather more chilly Sombra, where a distinguished audience watched José Segura, Curri de Camas and Eduardo Ordoñez fight novillos of Domingo Ortega.


The bulls were lively and well presented, although the sixth was returned to the corral on the alleged but dubious grounds of lameness and a little becerrito was substituted. José, closely watched by famous elder brother Luis Segura, had bad luck; first he tripped, then he cut his hand on a banderilla, as he went in to kill his first bull. The cogida, fortunately, was without consequences, and José proved to the critics that he was muy torero, although with his second, unlucky with the sword, he received two avisos. Curri de Camas, who achieved considerable popularity in the same Plaza last year, did adequately but not outstandingly with his ballerina, Chamaco style. Sensation of the afternoon was Eduardo, young cousin of the famous Antonio  Ordoñez. This valiant young man, making his first appearance in Madrid, showed both with the cape and the flannel, that he is a worthy bearer of one of the outstanding names in tauromaquia. Astonishingly, the President failed to award him an ear for his first enemy, thereby earning one of the loudest broncas in the history of Vista Alegre. So Eduardo was compelled to take three vueltas and there would have been more if the embarrassed President hadn’t waved his handkerchief for the next bull. Eduardo Ordoñez is certainly a torero to watch out for this season. And the novillada, attended by such celebrities as Luis Miguel Dominguin, Gregorio Sanchez, aficionado Orson Welles and Luis Segura, was an auspicious if possible premature start to the Toros in ’64.


Boni – A White Elephant?

     Talking of romances, it was a sad day last week when Boni, the elephant, became too enthusiastic in his admiration for pretty little 16-ton Barbati, his dancing partner in the excuse-me waltz in the popular elephant act at Althoff’s Circus, currently on at the City’s Palacio de Deportes. He completely ignored the excuse-me claim of Barbati’s next partner, so startling the poor female out of step that she tripped and rolled onto the front row of spectators. Sixteen tons of upturned elephant tragically pinned down and injured six spectators, until the embarrassed elephant was set on her feet again by the prompt action of circus hands and Mr. Althoff, the owner himself, who had been directing the trouble at the time of the unfortunate accident.

BONI IN CHAINS. A slip-up in an elephant’s love

Frowningly, Mr. Althoff told reporters afterwards: “Boni is behind bars. He will not return to perform again. Had it been a simple stumble, it would have been different. But this was a clear case of elephant jealousy and Boni must be punished. Barati is the best behaved of the whole troupe. It is an example to all my other animals that nothing short of perfection is required of all who take part in acts before the public.”

Most of the spectators injured have recovered after a few days in hospital – except 8-year-old Francisco Baura de la Peña, who had been brought to the show by his parents as a much begged Christmas treat. Suffering from multiple head wounds in the Clinica Covesa, the little boy is bulletined muy grave.



GP COVER 31 January 1964












Ed’s note: Indeed it was “a misinformed rumor” that Princess Irene was in love with a “young Spanish marqués of excellent lineage and large fortune”. No sooner had “The Scene” gone to press than we learned that the true object of the princess’ affection was not a marquis. He was  Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma and Piacenza (8 April 1930 – 18 August 2010), the controversial Carlist pretender to the throne of Spain. A direct descendant of Louis XIV, he was a French prince before he became a naturalized Spanish citizen in 1980 with an eye to the Spanish throne. 

Princess Irene and Prince Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma, in 1964, left, and in 1978, right. Photos: The Dutch National Archives, 1949-1989, CC BY-SA3.0 nl

Irene secretly converted to Roman Catholicism before her engagement to Carlos Hugo which the Dutch Royal Family did not formally announce until January 1964. The royal romance touched off a constitutional crisis in the Netherlands. Irene forfeited her place in the royal succession on marrying Carlos Hugo on 29 April of that year in Rome.

The newlyweds honeymooned in Las Palms de Gran Canaria off the Spanish mainland after which they settled in Madrid.

Despite the love-conquers-all romance, the couple divorced on 26 May 1981.


Featured image (Princess vector)/OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay