08 September 2014

Marcelo Lartigue (1953 - 2014)

Marcelo Lartigue, owner, editor and one of the founders of Búzios’s 33-year-old weekly newspaper, the Perú Molhado, or Wet Turkey*, was quite possibly the single most important person in Búzios. Argentine by birth, he was the heart and soul of the irreverent, often scathing, sometimes vulgar and always polemic newspaper, analogous to France’s Le Canard Enchainé and Britain’s Punch. Whether you liked Marcelo or didn’t like Marcelo, found him humorous or just provocative, gentle or biting, there was no getting around it. Marcelo was a force and a personality. Hard to think of any city and newspaper that reflected each other better, and to the greater honor of both.

I never understood a word Marcelo said. Really, not one. Even after all his years in Brazil, his Portuguese came out as Spanish as — well, as Spanish as his Spanish. I’m not sure when or how we all first met, but as soon as he learned that Mark was a writer, you could see the light go off in his head. From that day on we would hear "Bocha" being shouted at us, whether from a car veering off the road in our direction or from the depths of some restaurant we’d be walking by. (Bocha was Marcelo’s nickname for Mark. Don’t ask.) Anyway, there was Marcelo, hoping to get Mark to write something — anything — for the paper. Well, Mark didn’t need courting. He happily complied. And although Mark always wrote in Portuguese, together we once did an entire English-language version of the Perú Molhado for distribution at a tourism event in Las Vegas.

(See http://issuu.com/operumolhado/docs/1109ingles for the whole issue.)

Marcelo died last week from two heart attacks suffered after undergoing a liver transplant. Not just any liver transplant, either. The story is much more compelling. In an attempt to save her father’s life, Marcelo’s 18-year-old daughter Eva donated a portion of her own liver the week before. I don’t know Eva well — maybe I met her all of two times? — but I admire her enormously. Hers was an act of great love and astounding courage.

Some years ago Marcelo came by the house to ask Mark and me to give him English lessons. For some reason or other he needed to be fluent in six weeks. It wasn’t easy turning him down, but we did. We tried to convince him that if he couldn’t learn Portuguese after 30-plus years in Brazil, he probably wouldn’t do that well after six weeks of English lessons, either! Marcelo noticed my artwork all around the house. We talked about it a bit, and I showed him my studio. After that day, whenever he had a chance, Marcelo would ask me for one of my abstracts. I never gave him one. Now I wish I had.

Mark begs the privilege of adding a word:
Over the years, I’ve worked with a good many of the world’s great editors and publishers — Harold Hayes of Esquire; Daniel Filipacchi, who owned half the magazines in France; Hefner. Marcelo had more energy and imagination than any of them, and for shameless exhibitionism he rivaled my late lamented friend Al Goldstein. Marcelo was the paper as much as the paper was Búzios. How our little city can survive this loss is beyond my comprehension. It will certainly never again have the same heretic charm.

*Actually, there's more to the name than meets the eye, because peru is also a slang term for penis. Typical Marcelo.

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