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At 70, Julio’s still got ‘it’

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TO Eglesias

MOMENTS before our meeting, one of Julio Iglesias’s female assistants charges into the hotel room, rushes to the window and starts pulling frantically at the taffeta curtains.

“No, no, no! Who has opened these curtains? The lighting must stay as it is when you came in. It has been prepared!”

Only when all natural light is safely expunged does the great man appear in the doorway, swathed in a giant black cashmere scarf.

He does not look like a legendary Spanish swordsman – the man who once claimed he’d slept with more than 3 000 women (before he gave up counting some time in the 1970s), said he couldn’t function without having sex every day, still inspires grannies to plaster their bedroom walls with his picture and, apparently, once bought a fan to an orgasmic climax with his singing voice alone.

No. Today he is a bit wobbly on his surprisingly small feet. His lustrous hair is thinning and frizzy in places. His teeth are blindingly white and his face is even more orange than I’d been led to believe. He is 70 years old. But then he looks up, makes eye contact and starts to talk, very quickly, rather breathily, in his heavily accented English.

“When I am performing, I feel everything of my body, darling. I feel from here…” he touches his orange forehead, “right down to my feets. I cannot walk very good because I have pain in my feets. I just jumped the other day in my bed and my leetle toe, where I have a bone, he is hurting like crazy…

“People ask me: ‘Do you get nervous?’ No, I’m so crazy when I go on stage. My blood runs stronger. No. To be on stage is the biggest privilege of someone who wants to expose himself in front of people.

“You just project the music to the people. Everything is about the passion. I would not be an artist if I did not have passion. I would not be able to reach people. When people react, they react from the heart.”

Julio has never had a problem reaching people. He has sold more than 300 million albums (outselling Elvis and The Beatles), has duetted with everyone from Willie Nelson to Diana Ross to Frank Sinatra and, recently in London, was crowned best-selling Latino artist of all time.

“My inspiration is always the people. The idea that the people still follow me or want me to sing for them. They invite me again and again. It is a wonderful thing.”

His entire career was a happy accident. Aged 20, and while playing in goal for Real Madrid and studying law and diplomacy, he drove home far too fast from a night out and crashed into a ravine.

At first he seemed unharmed, but two months later he collapsed, suffering from compression of the spinal cord. He didn’t walk for three years.

In hospital, a nurse gave him a guitar so he had something to do with his hands. He started writing songs, and the rest is history. Two years later, he made his singing debut in a pub in Cambridge, where he was studying English.

He was paid £3 a night, £6 at weekends. The following year he’d sold half-a-million records.

In 1970 he came fourth in the Eurovision Song contest, representing Spain with Gwendo-lyne, about his first girlfriend. When we meet, he is delighted with Eurovision’s newest and bearded winner, Conchita Wurst.

“I think she is a super singer, an amazing girl, she is very sensitive. I’m very happy for her. You know, artists take different situations in life and she is in a very different situation, I think it’s great.”

In his heyday, Julio’s fans were extraordinarily industrious – smuggling themselves into his hotel rooms, hiding in his wardrobes, squeezing under his bed, even secreting themselves under his duvet to deliver a really special late-night surprise.

Perhaps not surprisingly, his first marriage – to socialite Isabel Preysler – failed. They had three children: Chabeli, Enrique and Julio jr. His relationships with Julio jr and Enrique – both pop stars – do not sound good.

“You can ask to your sons to do something…. Enrique and Julio jr are very independent. How I can know if they want to sing with me? I hope so. I hope it is not too late because there is not too much time for me. I don’t even know their girlfriends.”

Which, given Enrique has been dating former tennis ace Anna Kournikova for 12 years, does not suggest they’re very close.

After years of extreme sexual adventuring Julio met Miranda Rijnsburger, a Dutch model 22 years his junior, at Jakarta Airport.

They have been together for 24 years, married for two and have five children. (Amazingly – something he has in the past put down to “good discipline” despite all those women – he doesn’t appear to have fathered any other Iglesiases.) And although he had a bit of a struggle adapting to a monogamous relationship, recent years have been strictly “Miranda only”.

But Julio is not just a pretty face. He speaks six languages, sings and records albums in 14, including Japanese and Tagalog and, to honour an agreement with his late father – a gynaecologist who was kidnapped in 1981 by Basque terrorists and held for 20 days – did finally finish his law studies in 2001.

He is also fantastically rich – worth nearly £200 million – and doesn’t scrimp when it comes to the little luxuries in life. He has never ironed a shirt, changed a nappy (despite all those children), washed a dish or loaded the dishwasher. At his main home in the Dominican Republic, he employs more than 40 full-time members of staff.

His teeny shoes are handmade from the finest leather, his socks are silk, his jackets are cashmere and the wine cellar in his private jet alone is said to be unrivalled.

“I started buying wines 40 years ago and I now have one of the best collections in the world,” he says.

He is still hard-working – constantly touring, recording, churning out albums, signing autographs with a great Latino flourish. Which, even with all that boring domestic stuff taken care of, must be a bit exhausting when you are 70 and have five kids under 17.

So, does he feel old?

“What? Old? No. I’m not feeling old. I don’t feel old,” his eyes flash. “I feel conscience. That the time is marking my life more and more. It is not the same to be 4 years old and 70 years old. The air on the mountain is getting thinner. But I still can breathe, ha ha.”

But surely he gets a teeny bit tired? His schedule and lifestyle sound completely knackering.

“Tired, darling? I get tired when I sleep in the night. I hate to sleep. I sleep three, maybe four hours a night. I don’t need to do it. I make more money sitting at the table. I travel all the time.”

Earlier this week he was in Holland, before that California. Soon it’s back to California and Mexico. He reels tour dates and places off the top of his head.

So why does he keep going? Isn’t he tempted to settle down with a cup of tea and a Sudoku?

“I work to make the time left longer. When I get sleepy I’m afraid to sleep. When I’m awake, my blood starts to run.”

And is he content?

“No, I’m not content. Content is nothing! Happy? Happy is nothing to me. Happy, what’s the point? I am excited! I don’t take drugs, I am a natural. I eat correct, I drink a good wine at night and I love what I’m doing. Wine, wine, wine, darling, that’s the thing. The wine makes your relationship beautiful. A man who has had a drink with his wife can make love for the whole week.”

Julio’s once phenomenal good looks have slipped a bit in recent years – in part, apparently, because of a disastrous face lift when he was 40. And some of his chat is staggeringly cheesy.

But somehow, in person, it doesn’t make you laugh out loud, even though it probably should. You just want to hear more.

But that’s possibly because he still has “it”. He is tactile in a good way, not a dirty old man way, has beautiful hands and extremely bright eyes. The sexual confidence is very much there and he really does possess that strange animal magnetism so many women have enthused about, despite the fact he’s rather too orange and now prefers to be gently lit.

And so, finally, 300 million records and nearly half-a-century on, do women still hurl their panties at him on stage?

“No, never. They know I can’t bend down and pick them up any more!” – Daily Mail


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