louis runs into THE GREAT ANTONIO
From Vol. 1 No. 1, 1996
I was walking down St. Laurent with two friends & my kitten when I saw him. As usual, he was sitting on a bench & trying to sell pictures of himself to people passing by.
I should interview him for Fish Piss, I thought- so I stood around & waited for him to stop haggling with the person he was with.
“You want Julioiglesias? Come, here, you know Julioiglesias- Julioiglesias-”
He said the name as one word- the guy couldn’t understand what he was saying. I looked at the guy & said it slow- “Julio Iglesias.” The guy’s hesitant smile & eyebrows cut loose with an “Ahhhh”, Antonio shot me a quick look & got back to pointing at the picture for the guy. There he was in the picture, wearing a humongous tuxedo, smiling next to Julio Iglesias.
“That’s fifteen dollars, it’s a real picture, it’s not a copy, that.”
The guy didn’t look too interested, but smiled & haggled anyway.
“Fifteen dollars! No, I already gave you- no, I can’t.”
He held one of Antonio’s postcards where he’s pulling five buses in Japan, plus a big laserprint of him holding his two hair-braids out from his head (they’re massive, dirty-looking braids, at least four inches thick and ten feet long. I’m amazed they stay straight like that when he holds them out. He told me recently that now they’re twelve feet long & weigh thirty pounds- he wraps them around his waist like a belt.)
“Here, I got something else for you”, he said to the guy, giving up on selling him Julio. He fished around his many bulging pockets, flipping through pictures & press clippings & stuff. A little eager-looking old guy who looked like he was in the landscaping business stopped behind Antonio, looked at me standing in front of him, smiled a big high-eyebrow smile & mouthed while bopping a pointing finger at him: “The Great Antonio!” He nodded & smiled at me again, whispering “He’s phenomenom!”, basking behind the giant. I smiled back, thinking man, everyone in this town knows him, & everyone knows that, too.
He finally found the thing he was looking for- it was an article in La Presse about him, how he’s still around and willing to pull feats of strength if anyone’s willing to pay him enough. (Last time I saw his name in the paper was when he’d written Donald Trump, daring him to pay him $75 million to pull a 747 with a rope.)
“This from last week” he said while pointing vigourously at the article. “See, I’m still in the news.”
The guy’s celphone rang. “Hey, I’m standing right next to the Great Antonio- yeahyeah, right now!” Antonio was busy flipping through his stuff again, hoping to find something else to sell to this guy (that laserprint the guy already bought must’ve been at least twenty bucks- Antonio must’ve thought ‘this is a live one, I’m milking him’.)
For a little while the celphone guy was on hold- he pointed at my kitten & smiled, said to Antonio “Look at the cat!”. He looked at where the guy pointed, saw the cat, & looked right back at his papers.
“OK, she wants to talk to you”- the guy held out his celphone.
“Who, who wants to talk to me”, grumbled the Great.
“She works for television, she does a show.”
“What show- what network”, Antonio insisted. “I only do NBC, ABC, CBS, CBC, and in England, BBC.”
“It’s cable, channel twenty-four, a community channel.”
“Cable? No, no good, cable.”
“She might be able to get you on CBC, you should talk to her.” He held the phone out to him- Antonio looked at the blunt end of the phone being held out & leaned into it as if it were a microphone & yelled “Hello!”
“No, no”- the guy put the phone in his hand. It was tiny against his massive head, looked more like it should be a hearing aid. He didn’t sound too interested in whatever that woman had to say- he grumbled a bit, then passed back the phone. The guy prattled on, trying to explain Antonio’s fame to the woman. I guess his phone eloquence alone didn’t convince her that he was a somebody.
“What was that movie you were in?” asked the guy.
“Which movie? I’ve been in lots of movies. You know La Guerre du Feu? Enh? La guerre du feu-” the guy was drawing a blank. “You know, Jean-Paul, Jean-Paul….” He was groping for a name.
I was straining to think myself… “Jean-Jacques Annaud,” I said. “Quest for Fire!”
“That’s it, Annaud, Guerre de Feu” he said to the guy.
I’d been waiting for awhile to talk to him by then, somewhat anxious to get my kitty back home.
I tapped him, didn’t get any attention, then outright poked him. “I’d like to do an interview. Are you going to be here for awhile? I’ll come back with some questions.”
He shook his head as if to say I was getting way ahead of myself here.
“Who are you? An interview for what? Is it the Gazette?”
“No, no, just a local magazine.”
“Show me copy, I want to see a copy first. How much you pay?”
“We don’t pay anyone, we’re just starting- it’s the first issue. I’ll buy one of your postcards, though.”
“Let me see copy, then I tell you.”
“There is none yet, this is for the first issue.”
“Who’s in it?”
“Well, local people like you, so far- let’s see, Corpusse is in it.”
He half-nodded- I doubt he knows about Corpusse, but since I said it as if it was a big name he felt he should at least pretend he knew & went Mmhmm.
I went on for a little bit, & he stopped me & slowly explained himself. “Listen. Me, I’ve been in People, Newsweek, Time, you know Time magazine? They pay me two thousand dollars for an interview. All over the world, they know me. I’m big star, me.” He paused & said again, “So how much you pay?”
The guy with the phone wanted to talk to him again- I looked at Antonio with my hand out & tilted my head, like ‘No go, sorry’. I lost his eyes, & moved on.
Oh well- guess he won’t be in our first issue after all. At least I didn’t have to think of any stupid questions to ask him.