One of the special treats for a lover of tango was to sit up all night drinking wine and listening to Gavito talk about tango as he knew it. His knowledge was extensive; his insight and passion inspirational.
When I met Carlos, he was starring in Forever Tango. I was married at the time to Cristina Rey, who was Carlos' first professional dance partner when he joined the Copes company in 1974; so it was a "family" affair, these nights of him discussing tango with me.
He had spent most of his dancing life in Europe and the Middle East - he was unknown in his native Argentina until he won his fame in the Broadway show and parlayed that into a profile in Buenos Aires. He spoke English so well that he made more friends than other touring dancers were able to. And becuase he was a true milonguero, he had more influence in growing the scene than a typical stage performer could.
He was slightly possessed with recovering lost time. It seemed his outer personality changed with the adulation he garnered. For a time, receiving so much adulation, he came to be seen by many as vain, it's true. But one who knew him could see that it seemed right for him to work to earn his rightful place in the tango pantheon; and he had to go, go, go to do it. In fact, he had little time - and he must have sensed it.
Carlos certainly enjoyed a full social life. Everywhere he was, women were flying in from out of town to visit. He was a masterful agenda juggler, as well. Perhaps the best!
He saw that having his own style would be the key. He used his particular "lean" nearly to excess - almost becoming a caricature of himself. But, it worked. His partnership with Marcella Duran was the key. She gave him the look, the feel, the expression which catapulted him to stardom.
By bringing his new-found fame back to Argentina and advancing his name with videos and exposure on television, he did become as well-known in Argentina as he could have wished over the last 8 years.
He inspired so many people (I tell how he influenced me elsewhere on this site) in a piece I wrote in 1997). I have been collecting remembrances of others which will be published here soon.
Ed Cherrie, New Orleans Tango dancer, posted this report:
"I went to Carlos Gavito's wake last night. I have never seen anything
like it in my life. He was laid-out in one of those beautiful angular
caskets that you sometimes see in National Geographic. It took place in
a funeral home in the Barrio Abasto. The whole place was covered with
flowers to the street. Gavito was in all white with a rosary in his
hands. He looked like a Saint. Many famous Tangueros were there
including my friend "el Turco" who introduced me to Gavito's 97 year
old father (Don Tomas) and his 98 year old mother, wife and the rest of
his extensive family. They seem to be wonderful people.
I also met Marcela Duran (his dance
partner). She is a very beautiful dark-haired statuesque woman. I
envisioned what it must be like to dance with her. Don Tomas was
dressed in a beautiful black suit with the tight bottom cuff (like the
Gauchos wore) and a white neck scarf. He looked exquisite even at his
I think the wake went on all night.
People were still coming in at 11:00 PM.
He will be buried today in la Chacarita with the rest of the Tangueros
who have passed away."
A last interview with Gavito by Jackie Ling Wong.