Back in the heady 90's I was lucky enough to get some work writing for the Independent. Here are the unsubbed results of the joyous couple of hours I spent with Margarita Pracatan published in August 1995.
“I sing Hell-or, and la Bamba, and a few more, you know. And then people say you know people really like it, you wanna send another video? I say yes, send another video, another song. And last year people they say you know they want to know something about you more, can you send a resume. So I send my resume and then after that they say, you know, they really want to know more about you do you want to have it by satellite with, Clive James? I say of course I want to do that, so they did that the last May, 1994. So they did the satellite, and everybody love it, so after that they say do you want to come here and do it, and I say yeah of course and I am here!”
If only all evolutionary theories were quite so simple! Margarita Pracatan arrived in Britain hurtling down the entertainment superhighway that was ‘The Clive James Show’. The homes of 7.5 million innocent bystanders have now been hit by this Cuban bolt of lightning, doing the strangest things to some very well known tunes.
Wild and vivacious, colourful, flamboyant, camp and capable of some very ‘individual’ signing, she was first introduced in a previous series as one of James’ satellite link ups to that strange and warped world on the other side of the Atlantic. She sang Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ and with one foul blow had the population humming “Hell-or, is me you look for” in a pseudo Mexican accent. Now she is back as James’ regular end piece, each song sung making it harder and harder to define what constitutes music.
If Margarita Pracatan had not existed, Clive James would have had to invent her. As it was, a lady called Ingrid got in there first. “I guess one day I was playing piano in a party, and then this lady that name is, Ingrid, so she a programme in television over there. She say, do you want to play the piano and sing one day on my programme? I say O.K because we are drinking, you know. So she called me the next day, then I went and I play.”
Following Ingrid’s cultural coup, Margarita decided to get her own Public access show, which has now been running for four years; it was here that Clive James spotted her. “People say, Margarita that is nice, so then I went to the public access, and I fill out an application to see if I can have my own programme. And then they accept it.” When Margarita was initially prompted by a friend to send her tapes to Clive James she was very relaxed about what this new horizon could offer her. ”I didn’t care, because I never think about nothing.”
Except she does. She has had to think about it all on her own for a long time. She has done all her own promotion, printing of flyers, arranging of venues. “I’ve been doing my show from my own pocket, I pay everything, whatever I do. I’ve been doing that all my life, nobody help me.” She realises of course that she is not a classical performer who will reach the top through skill and expertise, but rather through her appeal and wit. “I think that the audience like me because I am different, and I got the guts to go in front of the audience and do things you know, because sometime people they are very professional and things like that and they do things. I am very natural, like the audience I make part of my family.”
James on the one hand has presented her as a circus act. Still Watchmaker Productions seem to be pulling out all the stops. As well as interviews and the possibility of performances in clubs and even a fan club, Margarita will be performing at this year’s Edinburgh festival. The press release says simply ‘Bob Downe meets Jackie Stallone for an evening of triumphant cabaret’. I just hope that the Fringe has enough diamonds and feather boas hanging from it. She is very grateful towards Clive James and stresses that his plucking her out was the first time someone else had wanted to do anything for her. “I’ve been doing that all these years, and no one has said, come on we’re going to do this seriously, you know, we’re going to do something for you and I am happy that I have been with Clive James, he takes me seriously, and I am so happy that I want to do my hundred percent, yes.”
Margarita regards fame in much the same way she regards sex; She may have had her fifteen minutes, but it’s what happens after that counts. “It’s only a hobby, you don’t have to have sex, because sex will be like ten, fifteen minutes, O.K you fool around maybe you get thirty minutes, maybe you do it one hour, maybe all night long, but the essence of sex is when it is stopped.”
For now Margarita is happy to sit back and enjoy the ride. She says she loves performing for her audience as much as she hopes they enjoy her performance. She has a special place in her heart for God, children, Gay men and everybody at Saks 5th Avenue, but is open to receive and give love to everybody. “I think they like me because I am natural and I talk to people like they are part of my family, like a human being. Come on! I am here, accept me. I am here to have a good time. I like it to be a big party, you know, when I am with my audience, not like to be there to adore me, want me. I want to be reciprocated.” I’m not sure whether the Windsor’s will have booked their seats for the festival yet, but they need fear not. “I wish they would invite me there, I would love to go there to see the Queen Elizabeth, and Diana, and the husband, to see Prince Charles. Oh that would be good. To be normal, don’t be too much ceremony, to like a family reunion, a private party, not too many people. And then to film it, and then put it on television, with their permission, that would be beautiful”
Only time will tell if Margarita Pracatan sparkles for as long and as bright as her diamonds and eyes, but at the moment there is no way of avoiding her. Her energy and charisma are her strongest cards, both being played to full effect. “I don’t have sex” she confides, “I am celibate, I mean it I am celibate.” Then pointing to her crotch says, “This thing is closed forever. I have a more good time, and have more energy. People say how come you’re so happy all the time, I say it’s because I have everything inside of me.”
Margarita Pracatan will be performing her one woman show at The Palladium, Broughton Place, Edinburgh.(venue 26) On Tuesday 22nd August at 7.00 pm. Booking information: 0131 556 6969 10 am - 6 pm.
At the end of the interview Margarita looked at me and said 'What is your name?' I told her, and she said 'William - I love you!' A very special day.