When the final curtain falls Sept. 19 on Sábado Gigante, one of Spanish-language television's most iconic programs, host Don Francisco — aka Mario Kreutzberger — will certainly be missed.
Kreutzberger will also miss entertaining generations of viewers who have enjoyed his kitschy variety show since The Ed Sullivan Show commanded top ratings.
In an interview with Miami TV station WPLG, the Chile-born Kreutzberger said he’ll miss "everything" associated with his role as Don Francisco, and that he's going out on a high.
"We have high ratings, we're doing a good program, and I think this is the right moment to close Sábado Gigante and open a new life," Kreutzberger told Victor Oquendo, a reporter for the ABC affiliate, on Sept. 11.
Update: Univision has confirmed that Hispanic entertainment heavyweights including Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Juanes, Marc Anthony, Prince Royce and Gloria Estefan will appear on the September 19 finale.
He also offered fans a hint that his visage may not be disappearing from the small screen anytime soon.
"I'm not retiring and I don't think I have to retire ... That would damage my mind and my health," he said. "I am so used to communication with the audience, even though I don't see them, I feel them and I need them."
The comments are intriguing, as Telemundo saluted Kreutzberger by presenting him an award as an icon for his work on Sábado Gigante — despite its long-time presence on its top competitor, Univision.
Such honors are an extreme rarity in Hispanic media, let alone English-language media. Telemundo Network president Luis Silberwasser would not comment when asked by Hispanic Television Update if Don Francisco could appear, even if only occasionally, on the forthcoming Saturday-night variety show ¡Que Noche!.
Officially, Kreutzberger will continue working for Univision on specials and promotional campaigns. He will also continue to host TeletonUSA, an annual pledge show that raises money for disabled children.
Meanwhile, New York City on Sept. 8 saluted Kreutzberger by renaming a section of a street in Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood as “Don Francisco Boulevard.”
Later that day, The Paley Center for Media hosted a special Q&A session with Kreutzberger; Lili Estefan, host of Univision's weekday entertainment news program El Gordo y La Flaca; and Entertainment Tonight reporter Nina Terrero, reflecting on the host's 53 years in television.
Univision also donated a collection of specially curated Sábado Gigante episodes to the Paley Center’s permanent archives. They represent some of the series’ most important episodes and include classic performances and interviews with world leaders.
Sábado Gigante is certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running variety show in television history, with more than 2,600 episodes aired.
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