Not long to go ...
May the 5th be with you.
For the very merry month of May, there is a very mixed bovine bag of bull runnings, but why don't we start with an old nursery rhyme, as it seems a nice gentle way to begin things...
In the merry month of May,
When green leaves begin to spring,
Little lambs do skip like fairies,
Birds do couple, build and sing.
Ahhh...so, what do we have then for this month's meanderings. Well, I thought I'd try and update the little ditty above and make it a little more relevant to fiesta and taurine matters, and there's a great clip from Andalusian TV filmed on the Miura Ranch, showing how the bulls are rounded up. Then there's the story of the day a super hero visited Pamplona, a couple of photos of the post encierro herd taking a stroll back to the corrals, a "spot the difference" type thing to celebrate the 90th birthday of something, and a small but I think rather touching addition to last months words from his friends regarding the passing of Joe Moskulak.
Finally, a clip of the big summer music hit in Spain (and hence fiesta) from 1976. Why? Because I found out about it, and as music can take us back so wonderfully to a particular place and point in time, I hope that for those lucky enough to be there that year it will bring back some magic memories...and maybe some happy hangovers from hell too! Whether you like it or not, I bet you'll have the "tune" in your head all day long. Sorry about that...
So, back to that sweet old nursery rhyme that celebrates the arrival of May, and in my part of the world at least, the start of summer. Hopefully. But May also heralds Star Wars Day, and "May the Fourth be with You". But I'm not talking about nursery rhymes here or Luke Bullrunner, but the "Escalera" of course, and the fifth day in May which is, for all us Sanfermineros, our day.
Of course I hope that if you make it for San Fermin the force will be with you, (goodness knows we need it!), but I also hope that as we approach ever more quickly the start of fiesta, that May the Fifth will indeed with you too. Because there's really not very long to go now...
Maybe an updated, Pamplona and fiesta related version of the little poem above should read:
Ah, in the merry month of May,
When fiesta's about to spring,
Big bulls do roam the prairies,
And it's close to San Fermin.
Okay, okay, no more poems, I promise.
The Round Up.
It is around about now that the bulls have been chosen for the bullfight in what ever part of the country they'll be going to, and hence in Pamplona's case for the bull run too of course. Which bulls are going where is a closely guarded secret, but I was sent a couple of years ago by my friends at Kukuxumusu the great clip above of just how they round-up the bulls when their destiny is almost upon them, and you can see that clip above. And yes, they're being rounded up to go to Pamplona.
It's from Andalucian TV I think, and apart from being fascinating, it also shows one bull, Peleon, that just refuses to be rounded up, until Antonio Miura himself decides enough is enough, and he saddles up to do the job himself. It's a dangerous job, (you know what happens in the bullring when the bull attacks the picador on his horse...if anything untoward happens the picador is immediately surrounded by the cuadrilla, the team), well, here you can see Antonio Miura practically on his own, and sometimes his horse is just inches from the bull. It's superb horsemanship, no doubt from a man who, as they say, could probably ride before he could walk.
The Day Superman Buzzed The Bullring
As I've mentioned before and as many of you know, anything can happen during San Fermin...actually, for those of us who return to Pamplona anytime outside those magical dates of the 5th to the 15th of July, we know it's not just during fiesta that anything can happen. Why, I once saw Elvis Presley get out of a taxi, honest to god...anyway, one year during the bull fight, of all things, Superman swooped over the crowd and eventually landed in the ring.
Now you may think that I'm, well, how can I put it, bullknitting here, about Superman and San Fermin, but I promise you I'm not. There is photographic proof! It was back in 1979, on Sunday July the 8th, on one of those hot fiesta days that when you're inside the bullring the heat is becomes like a furnace.
There's a bit in one of Johnny Cash's live prison albums, either the Folsom Prison one or the San Quentin one, where he asks a guard to get him something from "that bag that's got all the songs I stole in it", well, as ever with any of these pieces from the archives, I've nicked them from either a book or the papers, in this case Diario de Navarra's Supplement Special from 2009.
Now, the 8th of July was a special date and 1979 a special year, as just one year before another kind of heat had permeated the bull ring and the surroundings, causing the suspension of the entire fiesta after a riot started due to the politics in the region, and the shooting dead by the authorities of a young man, German Rodriguez. This is not the time or the place to go into that, but it has to be mentioned as General Franco had only died in late 1975, and democracy in the country had only just recently been formalised when elections were held on June 15th, 1977.
So imagine the scene: it's exactly one year after the riots of '78 that caused the entire fiesta to be suspended, and just over two years since the first free elections had been held since the 1930's. No one is quite sure how fiesta will take off, what might happen, and how not just the authorities but the public will react. Democracy is in its infancy, politics are on a knife edge, terrorism is rife, and there are doubts and worries floating over the whole town that year.
Whatever atmosphere was permeating not just fiesta, but the city that year, Superman's arrival certainly added something special to the goings on.
Superman skimming above the crowd (and, though it’s not too clear), smoking a cigar.
Okay, okay, I bet you're thinking, "Hey, that can't be Superman, he doesn't smoke", (but he does, you know, as I saw him several times smoking outside Bar Txoko in the mid-eighties). He must have been down on his luck as he was doing some busking street theatre act...but he was smoking.
And no, his off duty name wasn't Clark Kent, that would be a silly name for a Navarran to have. His name is Fernando Lizaur Gomez, and he initiated one of the greatest acts of spontaneity ever seen in fiesta. Earlier that year he was so impressed after seeing the first Superman film with Christopher Reeve, that as fiesta approached he phoned four Californian friends that he knew from previous years and asked them if they could bring a Superman costume with them when they flew over for San Fermin. No sooner asked than done, and he met his friends when they arrived at Barajas airport in Madrid, and after arriving at their hotel in the centre of town the windows of a 3rd floor room were thrown open and there appeared, to general amusement of the passers by below, Superman. With a moustache.
Once back in Pamplona the plan was hatched, and that hot Sunday afternoon saw Fernando with his peña, Anaitasuna, and the band, going around the streets on the way to the bullfight, with said joker in full costume, and the balconies filling up as word went around that Superman was in town. He managed to get into the bullring due to knowing a couple of the doormen, and once he was amongst his friends he remained hidden during the whole of the starting proceedings and the period of the first bull.
Then it was the turn of the second bull. He was from the ranch of Guardiola Fantoni and was called Ollero and weighed 505kg. The torero was from Jerez, Fransisco Nuñez, known as "Curillo". During this fight Fernando made his way cautiously down from his place where he had been hiding to the edge of one of the tiers and, with cigar in mouth and pose perfect, suddenly stood up on one of the ledges and made his entrance.
Well, there was widespread laughter and cheering all round. Everybody stopped looking at the bullfight and turned their attention to this character. Then suddenly, and without warning, Superman launched himself off the edge...where he was caught by his friends below, who began to "glide" him around the area. Superman was flying! There was uproar in the ring, of course, in the nicest possible way. Superman then noticed a lady dressed up in a wedding dress, who beckoned him over to her (this is all true, I promise) and, ever the gentleman, he "flew" towards her and landed next to her on the little balustrade.
The crowd all chanted a phrase that is shouted at all Spanish weddings that basically means: kiss - "que se besen, que se besen". "Kiss, kiss, kiss," sang the crowd...and so they did. There was a huge ovation and roars all round. But then he noticed that the bullfighter Currillo was having problems killing the bull. A new flight took him nearer towards the ring, at which the crowd all shouted: "Let Superman kill it! Let Superman kill it!"
For those of us who know the special kind of madness that takes over the locals of that town when those "Pamplona moments" happen, well, we can only imagine the mix of hilarity and good natured pandemonium that was going on inside the ring. And, no doubt contrarily, how nervous the Policia Nacional and the Guardia Civil were getting.
Well, the idea of this particular Superman killing the bull himself obviously complicated the script, and Fernando needed to buy some time, and quickly. So in all seriousness, he posed a question to different parts of the ring: "Hey, you lot, do you want me to kill the bull?" "Yesss" came back the reply. "And you lot, do you want me to kill it?" "Siii" was the answer. "And all of you over there, do you also want me..." Well, finally, Curillo did his job, the bull was killed...and Superman was saved!
By this time, Fernando was parched, and somewhere in the ring he bumped into a local councillor, who hugged him, which made the crowd shout and clap once more. He then made his exit where he met another local dignitary who offered him a drink and his thirst was quenched.
When the bullfight was finally over he joined the peña down on the sand, and eventually made it back with the band to their club house. And so ended what Diario de Navarra in their pre-fiesta supplement of 2009 called, "one of the most spectacular, enjoyable, spontaneous, funny and crowd-pleasing acts in the history of our fiestas".
Grounded. Superman lands in Pamplona.
Back at home, his mother had been listening to the bullfight commentary of Pepe Trujillo live on Radio Popular, and had heard about the arrival of Superman in the bullring. She of course had no idea it was her son until he went home to say hello...still dressed up as Superman. We can only imagine the look on her face as he popped his head round the doorway and said "hello, mum", and her reaction, he says, was of course one of priceless incredulity, saying "It was you? My son?!..."
Back on the streets, he lived up to his character by helping anyone in trouble. This, amazingly, included copying a scene from the film where Superman saved a busload of passengers from falling into a ravine. With the full complicity of the driver and its passengers, "Superman" saved the day by stopping one of the local buses in it's tracks and "lifting" it up.
What had started out as just a prank in the ring had become a truly memorable and yes, moveable farce, a joke that developed it's own momentum and not only flew around the ring but also spilled out onto the streets and lasted for hours...a happy and joyous event in stark contrast to the tragic occurrence of just one year before, and one that has gone down in fiesta history. Hollywood would have been proud.
The night carried on in one long party, as you'd expect.
The stories in the press the next day and beyond were impressive. Papers from all over Spain carried the story, including from El Pais, and the journalist Joaquin Vidal: "The best cape work (alluding to what the bullfighters do), was done by Superman on the 8th of July, the day of the anniversary of the grave events of the previous year, that broke the tension within the ring. Ole! to the joker who was that bizarre, flying and moustachioed Superman".
In Days Gone By.
Herd about the traffic. From 1965. Foto de Zubieta y Retegui / Ayuntamiento de Pamplona.
Things have to change with the times, I suppose, but it is rather a shame sometimes. This year is the 40th anniversary of the last year that the herd, after the bull run was over, was transferred on hoof as it were, back to the corral. After all they needed to be returned from where they'd started from, they couldn't hang around the bullring all day.
So as the photo from 1965 above shows, after the mornings fun was over the herd were taken by the shepherds from the Plaza de Toros all the way back to the Corrales de Gas in Rochapea, through the people and the traffic going about their daily business. However, as traffic increased year on year something had to be done, and so it was that 1972 became the last year that the shepherds guided the herd back along the crowded streets. A shame, but understandable. Since then they have been taken by truck.
1972, and the end of an era. The herd leaving the Plaza de Toros. Foto de Zubieta y Retegui / Ayuntamiento de Pamplona.
I just wanted to add one more thing I received about Joe Moskaluk, who passed away in March and was mentioned in last month's piece. It's another quote from someone who knew him, and apart from being a lovely thing to say, it's also a nice excuse to use another photo of him, because the man just exudes charisma, does he not? It's from James Curly Baillor, and this is what he wrote:
One more for Joe Moskulak
Thanks for including Big Joe. He was, without question, one of the best story-tellers you could ever hope to be in the company of. Look up raconteur in the dictionary. If his picture's not there, it oughta be".
Happy Birthday, Plaza de Toros.
A photo from between 1918 and 1920.
The present Plaza de Toros in Pamplona is 90 years old this year, so for those who don't know, can you spot "the difference" between the picture above, and the one below? Obviously they are different photos, but can you see the major difference in the direction of the run?
If you look carefully at the photo above, you can just see a first floor "covered balcony" overhanging the street, with a large, wide arched doorway at street level to the bottom left, with the runners running past it, and the bulls behind them having emerged from the Estafeta.
7th July 1924 / Ruipérez
Now, that photo above is a great shot isn't it? The runners are heading towards the ring, and in the background you can see the fair, where one day would be the Telefonos building. But look closely at the top right of the photo, and you can see, yup, that overhanging covered balcony, with the large, wide, arched doorway below and to the left...and it's only when you look at the two pictures together that you can see the final part of the run is going in two completely different directions.
In 1922 they inaugurated the new bullring, which was built a couple of hundred yards to the east of the old one, and ever since that year, runners, as they have exited Estafeta, have turned left to the "new" ring, and not right as they used to do, in days gone by...More on that another day, as I bet you'd like to hear about how they used to run through the square, too, once upon a time...
The San Fermin song from 1976.
For me and my crowd, (and know doubt this went for many other groups of foreigners too), apart from just looking forward to returning for fiesta, there were other little things we looked forward to. For example, what would the fiesta poster be like? There was no way of knowing, as there is now, you had to wait till you got there...or at least got close! Now of course everything, but everything is out there for all to see, and it does take some of the mystery away, but yet adds to the fun in a different way as we all get to comment on it.
Anyway, I digress...another thing we looked forward to was to see what would be the big music hit of the summer, and hence fiesta. Having read in one of my old papers that the summer smash in Spain for 1976 was, well, this song by this man, I'll leave it with you. Whether you like it or not, I hope it makes you smile. Fernando Estoso and "La Ramona".
Take it away, Ramona! Ya falta menos! Viva San Fermin!