He opened the door and Antonio Flores appeared. It was one o’clock in the morning. He looked drunk, looking tired, somewhat ragged, and his left arm was in a cast. He had broken it when he punched the wall upon learning of the death of his mother, Lola Flores, a few days earlier. Still, he seemed happy. “Come in, come in,” said the owner of the house, his friend Paco Martín, the man who signed him for his record company (Twins) and who launched it artistically. They were in the middle of a meeting to celebrate the birthday of Martín’s couple, in his chalet, in the Madrid urbanization of Berrocales del Jarama. The recent death of La Faraona floated in the atmosphere. They were all there: Lolita Flores, her sister Rosario, Carmen Ordóñez, Guillermo Furiase… Antonio started dancing in the kitchen with Sara, Martín’s six-year-old daughter. “It was a very Antonio image, he was very affectionate”, remembers this one. He never saw the musician alive again. Two days later, Flores’ body was found in the cabin Lola had had her son build in El Lerele, the plot where the family lived in La Moraleja. He was 33 years old and had a daughter, Alba, nine, today a famous actress. The musician’s death, as a result of a mixture of drugs and alcohol, ended 15 days of Lorca tragedy, which elapsed between the death of Lola Flores, on May 16, 1995 (this Saturday 25 years ago) and that of his only male child, on the 30th of the same month. A script written by a black hand. And with all of Spain following him on television, an excited country splashing in a puddle of morbidness.
That same country knew well the powerful connection between mother and son. Antonio Flores had a habit of slipping into his mother’s room at El Lerele at night. He was growing up, even in the last days of La Faraona’s life. Lola was waiting for him and they spent many nights talking, sometimes until dawn. The two of us alone. They talked about life, art, spirituality, the cosmos, death … They lived an armored, particular love in their world. And they recognized each other: they were both impetuous, artistic, intuitive, generous and with a solitary point.
That close relationship included night outings, according to Eduardo Lago, Chirro, a key figure in the emotional and artistic evolution of the Flores family. A friend of Antonio since he was 15 years old, Chirro started a representation company and worked with Lola, Lolita and Rosario. But the relationship with Antonio was the closest: it was his right hand, his representative, his confidant, his party partner … “Lola called us on the phone at night,” recalls Chirro of those years. “Guys: Where are you. In [la discoteca] Pacha? Well, I’m going there, ‘he said. She would show up alone, to accompany Antonio and me on a spree. Sometimes we would say to him: ‘Lola, let’s go to the top of the disco, that there is a booth.’ And she refused: ‘I have not fixed and painted for reserved. I want people to see me. ” Antonio Carmona, singer of Ketama, also treasures a few anecdotes about that indestructible relationship: “They looked at each other and there was fire. We were in a meeting of 60 people and at a certain time in the morning you would see them sitting, talking, for four hours in a row, alone. I was thinking: ‘What are they saying to each other?’ It certainly wasn’t a relationship like we all have with our parents. ”
The body of Antonio Flores was discovered by Irene Vázquez. She and her sister Chelo were that night with the musician at El Lerele’s cabin. Together they were known artistically as the Chamorro Sisters. Irene had a first contact with the Flores in Marbella. Her father owned an antique shop and he met Lola in the casino. The children met at a Michael Jackson concert in Marbella in 1988. In 1993, Irene, who was then 20 years old, her sister Chelo and Alba Molina (daughter of Lole and Manuel) went together to Madrid to do some tests for a movie. They wanted to be artists. The first day in the capital they went to the Archy disco. There they coincided by chance with Antonio Flores. “He said, ‘You have such big eyes.’ We start talking and we don’t stop. At 72 hours I was already installed in El Lerele’s cabin, with him, ”says Irene Vázquez from her house in Marbella where she is confined alone with her two dogs.
Over the next two years, the last of Lola and Antonio, Irene spent many seasons with the Flores family. A quarter of a century later, she still remembers the connection between mother and son: “It was like a best friend relationship. Everything was told. I remember that Antonio loved fried eggs and Lola always went behind and put the bread in the yolk, spread it and ate it. “Mom, don’t do that, I don’t like it,” protested Antonio. Lola answered: ‘What do you say, son, that I have very clean hands, that I wash them with Heno de Pravia”.
Beyond the gigantic shadow of the mother, Antonio Flores was a brilliant musician, someone who lived the profession in a pure way. His first steps were complicated. Unruly, he did not meet the demands of the directors of the record companies, who saw in him an extension of the figure of Lola. Attractive and wild image, they tried to sell it as part of the fan phenomenon. It was a Flores: you had to take advantage of it. He refused, until he gained a reputation as a rebel in an industry that does not tolerate those who leave the pot. Paco Martín was the only one able to tame it. In 1992, Rosario Flores released the album De ley, a great success with songs like Mi gato or Sabor, flavor. Most of the songs were signed by his brother Antonio. “He was a talent. Bohemian and undisciplined. Working with him was not easy because he was a free spirit and it was difficult to set an agenda for him. I signed him for RCA [la multinacional donde recaló después de fundar la independiente Twins] against the opinion of the entire company, because that reputation for rebellion pushed back managers, “says Martín.
Music promoter Miki Camacho often attended Antonio’s creative process, who spent nights at Camacho’s house, listening to music and composing. They were very close friends: “He had overwhelming energy. She did not sleep. I would go to bed and he would listen to my Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Creedence records [Clearwater Revival]… And writing. When I got up I was there, with the guitar and the room full of folios with lyrics, ”he comments today. Camacho assures that his friend “did not stop creating, he was like this all day”, and he regrets having thrown many of those letters in the trash. “He would go away and leave them scattered around. The same returned in two days. I had to pick up the house, of course, ”he says while laughing.
Antonio Flores had a time of hard drug use. And several relapses. He never denied it. “I have had a history with drugs that has made my life impossible. I did not like that experience. I wanted to take off without my parents finding out and then tell them: I have been hooked, but I have taken off. But it is impossible, you need help. When I was already screwed, I was defeated, and since my mother is not stupid and neither is my father, they would see me and say to me: ‘Something’s wrong with you.’ Until I told them: amá Mom, Dad, you are right, help me, ”he declared for a Weekly Report that was issued days after his death, on June 3, 1995.
His mother began to be more aware of him; He was trying not to get into bad company. A source remembers this scene: “Lola showed him her arm and said:‘ Put me in what you put in and we both died. Come on, sweetie, see if you dare to see how your mother gets what you do. ” In December 1994, five months before his death and in another television space, Cita con la vida, Antonio told Nieves Herrero: “I have a daughter [Alba, con Ana Villa, relación sentimental que se rompió] which I cannot miss and I have to last a long time. I don’t think I have the right to have her suffer. If before I didn’t care about my life because of h or because of b, now I do because because I can’t afford that people who love me suffer. ”
And the one who did it was his mother. Chirro worked with Lola Flores in the last months of the artist’s life. He was one of the people in charge of Ay Lola, Lolita, Lola, a variety show for TVE that Lola Flores and her daughter Lolita hosted. “He was working until the last breath. You saw her sitting in the dressing room and she was really bad. It looked like he was going to die. Her arms and neck were swollen. But when they said “Lola, you have to go out,” he would draw a smile on his face and burst onto the set. The energy I had was incredible, ”says Chirro. Lola had 25 years (since 1970) fighting against breast cancer.
He had long since become an icon of modernity, someone with a sharp talent for connecting with people of all walks of life. A spell that has made rivers of ink run, also in the academy, and that ended up undermining her artistic achievements, according to Alberto Romero, professor of Spanish Literature at the University of Cádiz and author of one of the most profound analyzes of the artist, Lola Flowers. Popular culture, sentimental memory and history of the show. “I vindicate the Lola Flores without flowers and without lights, to that of the 40s and 50s. With the Spanish Civil War not all bridges are broken. There is a cultural one, which connects with Lorca, with flamenco and with the generation of ’27. And that is supported by Lola Flores in the 1940s. She is a transgressive Lola, of very high interpretive quality. While the rest of the women were pacata, she goes against all canons: barefoot, with her hair down and provocative movements. We are talking about the 40s and 50s in Spain, with a strong dictatorship in power. But in the last stage the character she created partly buries her artistic value. In the end the Lola that remains is the ‘if you want to leave me’ and other occurrences. And that comes when it is delivered to television, “says the professor. “Lola took flamenco out of the taverns and the houses of the young men and brought it to the stage and throughout the world since the 1940s. Its importance for the spread of flamenco is vital,” says Antonio Carmona.
“Dying smelling of penicillin, no. I go to my home”.
In her last months the artist had to visit the clinic frequently to receive treatment. Chirro programmed everything so that there would be no recording that day so she could rest. One day it could not be and it coincided. Chirro proposed to postpone the recording. Lola did not want to. “They removed a liter and a half of fluid from the pleura and then went to the study,” says the representative. In the last episodes of Ay Lola, Lolita, Lola appreciates that she leans heavily on her daughter, or on a piano. In her last television appearance, a few days before she passed away, she is seen reclining in a green wicker chair. Struggled with pain, she writhes, dances sitting and, although she sings in playback, she leaves her guts with the interpretation of Forgive me, by Armando Manzanero. When he stops the music, a violent breath and a grimace between pain and emotion are drawn on his face. Weeks before dying, he summoned Paco Martín to El Lerele: “She came down all dressed up: she was beautiful despite the illness. And he said: ‘Paco, we have to make a different album, I want you to make an album for me with the Ketama’s.’ He had tremendous energy even in the past few weeks. It was a sight to see her. ” When the doctors told her that she had little life left and that she might be better cared for in the hospital, she blurted out: “Dying smelling of penicillin, no. I go to my home”.
Lola Flores died at dawn, on May 16, 1995, in El Lerele, at the age of 72. As Lolita explained days later, at a press conference, she was hugged by someone who was not from the family: “She fought until the last moment, although she has suffered a lot in the last hours. None of your children have been fortunate enough to have died in our arms. He has done it in those of Carmen Mateo, who has been his secretary, his confidant and his friend for many, many years. ” Shortly before she died, she told her husband, Antonio González El Pescaílla, with whom she had been married for 40 years: “I want to apologize to you, for many things.” He cut her short: “You don’t have to ask me for forgiveness for anything.”
When her son Antonio arrived, the house was full of friends and family. Everyone saw how he broke his hand when he punched the wall before shouting: “Where’s my mother?” He entered his mother’s room, everyone came out and was there for hours. Attendees heard their moans, their cries, screams and wails.
The following day, La Faraona was transferred to the Cultural Center of the Villa, in the Plaza de Colón, so that the people could say their last goodbye. For 19 hours 150,000 people went to say goodbye to a body lulled in a white blanket by their friend Carmen Sevilla. These are testimonies of people who waited in line, collected by television. “I sang and danced. It was the revelry and the joy of Spain ”, pointed out a gentleman. “She was very good, very honest and very hard-working. Everything that is said is little ”, sentenced a lady with a carnation in her hand. “He had a very big heart,” said one teenager with nervous laughs about being on television. “I don’t understand cante jondo or dance or stories like that. But I come to pay tribute to her as a Christian for her hard work, for her work and for her family, ”said a nun. There was never such a noisy wake. In the long queue people sang, danced, The blackberry, Ay pena, penita, pena. A farewell worthy of it.
The burial was held on May 17 in the Madrid Almudena cemetery. Antonio did not attend. It was planned: he had already told his mother; he preferred to remember her alive. That day was followed by two weeks in which he barely slept, in a career that seems set for his personal demolition. Decades later, Lolita, on the Blood Ties program, recounted: “My brother called us and said:‘ I can’t live without her. I adore my daughter, but I lack my light, I cannot live without her. ’ People who knew him knew that it would be difficult for him to live without her. ” Those around him have no doubt that he wanted to move on. “Logically he was depressed because his mother had died, but he wanted to live tremendously. I wanted to work more than ever. And the proof is that 10 days after the death of his mother he would go on stage, “says Chirro.
Indeed, on May 26 Antonio performed in Pamplona. “I was exhausted, but looking forward to that concert. We went on the plane painting his arm cast, “recalls Irene Vázquez. “Life goes on and what my mother wants is to see me on stage triumphing,” he said at a press conference prior to the recital, collected in a recording in which he was shot. Then at the concert, dressed in hippy clothing that eventually became a famous print (a laced vest on the sides, a wide wool sweater with tribal prints, brown corduroy pants, and a large silver crucifix hanging on it). thanks to a black rope), he added: “This is the first gala since my mother’s death. I am tired, sleep deprived, very excited. Besides dedicating the show to all of you, I dedicate it to Lola Flores, ”he said as he looked and pointed to the sky with his injured arm. Next, a muffled and angry voice came out of his mouth with the verses of his song Una espina: “You know what my pain is, please give me warmth.” It would be the last concert. The next day was the party for Paco Martín’s couple, the dance in the kitchen with his daughter.
“Antonio had arranged to meet someone whom he had not seen for five years. That meeting was not a good thing ”
Eduardo Lago, ‘Chirro’, friend of Antonio Flores
His last day, Antonio spent it accompanied by Chirro, his sister Rosario, Antonio Carmona, El Pescaílla, Irene and Chelo Vázquez… most of the time he stayed at El Lerele. “It was a normal day as demoralized as we were by Lola’s death. We were very aware of Antonio because he was very affected, “says Antonio Carmona. Something happened: an unexpected visit. Chirro: “He told me that he had met someone he knew from 10 years ago, but had not seen him for five years. That meeting was not a good thing for Antonio, not a good thing ”, laments his friend. Chirro sees Antonio for the last time around 10 pm, in El Lerele.
They stayed with the musician in the cabin (a space of about 70 square meters, with a small study, a large living room and a room) Chelo and Irene Vázquez, the Chamorro Sisters. Irene (who was 23 at the time) tells today, with pauses due to emotion, what happened: “He was very thin. He did not sleep and hardly ate. He drank a lot and took tranquilizers that were prescribed for him. That night he said he was sleepy. We hug. He told me that we could go to Gredos, to play sports. I tucked him in and left him on his bed. I went to sleep on the sofa with my sister Chelo. About 6:45 am I entered the room. He was just like when I left him, in the same position. I panic. I put my fingers to my nose and mouth to see if he was breathing. I didn’t notice it. And I ran out screaming in the garden. ” It was May 30 in the morning.
Very soon, El Lerele was filled with almost the same ones who went to fire Lola Flores 15 days earlier. With the difference that no one stopped to make statements. In the television images that are preserved from that day, Carmen Ordoñez is seen getting out of a car and, when she sees the journalists, running away avoiding cameras and shouting: “Leave me alone.” Carmen Sevilla, with dark glasses, begs: “Please, please. No. Oh, no, please. ” Ana Belén and Víctor Manuel walk fast, mute. Miguel Bosé the same. Norma Duval is one of the few who says something: “Please, there is a lot of pain here. I understand that you have to do your job, but there is a lot of pain. This is tremendous. “
Lolita described those moments in Bertín Osborne’s program, In yours or mine, in 2015: “When the Samur arrived, I said to them: lo Leave it to him, who has no choice, and save my sister Rosario. It was that he gave one meter boats, like in El Exorcista ”. After that, the family lived what Lolita described as “a year and a half in which we were deranged.” “I became crazy. I drank. He punched the doors. I had a revolution within me. I didn’t understand about my brother. Thanks to my children I redirected him, ”said the older sister. “I was devastated and wanted to kill me without my brother. But at eight months I became pregnant with Lola and the destruction and mistreatment is over, “Rosario said in Lazos de sangre.
In the two months after his death, Antonio Flores’ last album, Cosas mías, which had 150,000 copies shipped, reached one million. It was the last triumph of an artist who never fit in either the music industry or life. Lola Flores and her son Antonio left early in the morning, at that time of day when together they talked about life, art, spirituality, the cosmos, death …
Coordination and format: Guiomar del Ser
Design: Ana Fernández
Layout: Nelly Natalí
Art Direction: Fernando Hernández