Ramon Garcia, Ramontxu for four generations of viewers who have grown up or aged watching his entertainment programs, he makes an appointment in his dressing room at Televisión Castilla-La Mancha, where he arrives every day, from Monday to Friday, driving from Madrid. “In five years I have been 250,000 kilometers to the hump”, but it compensates, he says of his work in front of In company, the program that he presents, to which elderly people come alone in search of a partner or the human warmth they long for. Garcia, the friendly and complicit Celestino who welcomes them, laughs, cries and gets as excited or more than they are. Here he is, now, in street clothes and sneakers, ready to give this interview without a cape, armor, or reservations. This New Year’s Eve he will give the Chimes with Ibai Llanos, the man in fashion on the networks, in a kind of astral conjunction between generations and the media. Lets start by the beginning.
Who called who?
Me to him. I saw the one he put together last year giving the Chimes on Twitch from his home, with four friends, bringing together more than half a million people and I was fascinated by the phenomenon. Have you ever heard that he was a fan of Grand Prize. Ibai is one of my children, just as I was a child of Miliki. So I called him, he put me on the phone and everything has been rolled to give them together. And then the Basque connection worked: we are both from Bilbao, that helps.
There are those who deny that Ibai is a mass communicator.
Out of fear and envy. They are deniers of a reality: Ibai is an excellent communicator. It is not the future, but the present. I have always liked to go ahead. TV has changed. Probably, the Chimes are the only thing that all generations see together, even if it is by compromise. And that night, all the family members are going to meet, if not both of us, then at least one of us.
You are the one who has presented the most Chimes in Spain. Nobody takes that away.
With these, 18. The first they proposed to me were those of 1993. I presented the What do we bet, with Ana Obregón, and I had the nerve to say no to the great boss of RTVE, Ramón Colom.
A bit suicidal, right?
With two balls. I told him that my sister was coming from Colombia, that I had not seen her for five years and for me that was more important than anything. The following year, he told me: this year you give the Chimes, I don’t care about your sister, you bring whoever you want. And they came, for me family has always been the most important thing.
It’s his first Christmas apart. How do you deal with them?
I don’t know, frankly. I am not very fond of Christmas.
You? What do you tell me?
Once, a TVE editor told me: Ramón, you are Christmas. I thought it was very nice, because it is true: I have presented 18 Chimes in four decades, 16 Telepassions, 14 New Year’s Eve specials. But I hate Christmas. My parents were hoteliers, and at this time they were always working, we went against the others. That stuck with me since I was a child.
Well, it hides it phenomenally.
I try to reconcile what I feel with what I transmit. I understand that people want to have fun, but I don’t like happiness being mandatory on any given day. Christmas is perfect when you’re a kid and all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. But when you get older, the pieces are missing and some are irreplaceable. My parents have died in two years, my mother on November 2, and I have been divorced.
A difficult year …
2021 has been the hardest year of my life. These parties I was thinking of going to Bilbao with my mother, but she is gone. It is hard and on those dates my feeling of loneliness is accentuated. Always be surrounded by people, singers, celebrities. All around light and happiness and me in the tuxedo saying, well, I’m going forward, looking forward to January 7th.
I had never heard him say it.
Maybe he hadn’t said it in public. Now I say it to you. Before, if you said you were anti-Christmas, you were a weirdo, a bitter. I think that more and more of us are saying it. We are freeing ourselves of stigmas. Miguel Ríos told me that he would see me on New Year’s Eve from the Caribbean, because he also left here fleeing Christmas. The same is about changing the scene.
Your program seeks company for others. Is it frowned upon to be alone?
The worst thing is not that it is frowned upon, the worst is being alone. They are people who have been widowed, whose children have flown, retired people with no environment in which to socialize. There are doctors who tell them: “What you have is loneliness: go to Ramón.” I see the change. When they meet someone they come prettier, healthier, happier. Some who were taking pills for depression stopped taking them. I may be the presenter who has done the most entertainment programs in Spain, but seeing the looks of those people is the greatest prize of my life.
Is it something like a television Tinder?
A Tinder with a heart. This program cannot be done if you don’t have a good heart. These formats only work when you put your life into them. They tell me their life because they know me, I give them confidence. I don’t have a script, just four notes on a file. But as soon as I see them, and listen to them, I know what they are like, perhaps because before in front of the camera I have been behind, and before that, a long time behind a bar, which has been my life university.
What have so many years given you in front of the cameras?
Experience, credibility, but what I value the most is respect for the profession and affection, inside and outside of it. Because, just as there are very good professionals, there are also very bad people. Many trips. I am from Bilbao and I jump them well, but I have seen people go to funeral homes to see if the dead man was really dead and they have told me right there: “I come to see if this son of a bitch is really dead.”
What a good roll. So, TV is not just ‘brilli-brilli’?
Nothing is you shine-shine. We are all mate, and you wear you shine-shine to look bright, but that the camera sees. He absolutely undresses whoever is in front of him. There are very good actors, yes.
Has it been folded in?
Some, but I’ve been more disappointed in real life.
Do you expect 2022 to be better than 2021?
Nothing that improves a little will be. A divorce and the death of a mother in such a short time has been very difficult to cope with. Still, every day, I wait for my mother’s call at nine at night to see how my day has gone. And, with the pandemic, I have not been on vacation for two years, I have not missed a single day from work. It has been tough.
He could have delegated.
No, I am not an essential service, but this program is essential for many people. And doing it is hard, but it is also therapy for me. Many times I see my life in the files of my guests. It is a duel that must be passed. I have not had a vacation for two years, but I will take it. Those of us who like our work are so lucky. We will have time to sleep and rest when we retire.
RIDES SO MUCH, RIDES SO MUCH
Ramón García (Bilbao, 60 years old) presented his first Chimes on Spanish Television welcoming 1995, the same year that his countryman Ibai Llanos, the streamer most famous in the country. This year, they both inaugurate 2022 on the Llanos Twitch from Puerta del Sol. Ramontxu will wear his legendary cape. Ibai’s outfit is still an enigma. García, a myth of television entertainment who has presented classics of the genre such as What do we bet Y Grand Prize is in front today of In company, on Castilla-La Mancha Television, a program attended by older people in search of a partner and which, he says, is also serving as therapy to overcome the recent death of his mother and his still close divorce. Regarding his professional pairing with Llanos, he thinks that there are no hierarchies that are worth. He both rides, rides so much, Ibai and Ramontxu, he says. Despite his tendency to hyper-perfectionism, he considers himself “good people.” “I have been a boss and I like that the people who have been in my charge continue to call me a boss with affection,” he presumes.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.