Fernando Gaitán: November 9, 1960 – January 29, 2019

Hola a todos. I wanted to make mention of the unexpected death of the brilliant Fernando Gaitán, responsible for (in my opinion) the best telenovela-comedy ever created, “Yo soy, Betty la Fea (BLF).” Gaitán died suddenly of a heart attack on el 29 de enero de 2019/29 January 2019 in Bogotá, Colombia. So sorry to hear this. Rather shocking really. He was only 58. The only person connected with BLF that I know of who has died as of this writing is Doña Catalina Ángel. She was one of my favourites from BLF and she (Celmira Luzardo) in the telenovela helped and supported Betty in so many ways while some others were making fun of her. The last I had heard about Fernando Gaitán, he was head of the major television and radio network, Canal/Channel RCN de Bogotá and the network that produced “Yo Soy, Betty, la Fea.”

If you’re never seen the original Colombiano “Betty la Fea,” you missed something in your life. Other than “I Love Lucy” I can’t think of anything that continues to be praised, loved and so respected approximately 20 years after it was first shown. How el hombre/the man, Fernando Gaitán created that piece of art is beyond me. Well, he said it was in part based on his experience in offices and with the moda/fashion industry, as I recall. If I remember correctly, there are 169 capítulos/chapters for the original BLF.

And the ending of the original BLF was excellente and brought tears to the eyes, but one would have to watch the novela from the beginning to the end to fully understand the ending. And I learned a lot about Bogotá — a sprawling Los Ángeles-type megalopolis of a City (see the view from Monserrate here) — from watching Betty. From my understanding, a lot of Betty was filmed in La Candelaria, considered Bogotá’s most beautiful and historic barrio/neighbourhood as well as Chapinero. Spoiler alert: Does everyone remember when Don Armando was required to go to the gay bar with Don Hugo and all the Drag Queens? LOL. That was quite a night!

One of the most attractive parts of Betty for me and others was the incidental music used throughout the telenovela. It was perfectly chosen and mood-setting and even though these various melodies and arrangements repeated themselves throughout, one never got tired of them because they always set a specific mood, such as the music used for the cartel/the executive secretarial pool in Eco Moda, the moda/fashion firm and the setting for BLF. One always knew something was up when that music started playing! Oh here we with Bertha and her eating addiction or Patricia, or Sandra, or Mariana or Sophia, or someone. Spoiler Alert: Off to the bathroom which was the cartel’s conference room where they held their important meetings, and would occasionally go to pee as well. LOL.

Because so many Latin countries subsequently did their own version of the original BLF for their own country, I had the impression that Gaitán was comfortable with the original being on U-toob. (I saw part of the México version of BLF although it wasn’t called that. They changed the name but I found it to be dumbed-down and silly, unlike the original.) At one point U-toob pretty much scrubbed it all so there was no where to watch it. I tried to watch a BLF video while writing this and was not allowed to due to a “copyright” warning coming up saying that Canal RCN blocked this is my country due to copyright. BLF (produced in 2000-2001) was being shown about every-other-year or so on one Latin network or another and shown in 30 minute segments and ran for about 9 months. But too often the novela was disrespected by the networks making cuts in it — to put in more commercial$? — to the point where the story line didn’t make sense if one were watching it for the first time. And because telenovelas are dying from what I’ve heard, I read sometime ago that Televisa de México — who produces most or all of the telenovelas for Univisión, had a new rule that no telenovela could be longer than 3-months, which is quite a major change. For those who don’t know, Latin novelas don’t run for decades the way “soap operas” do on the US English networks. The Latin telenovelas have a finite number of capítulos/chapters. And even though BLF originally aired about 19 years ago — I read that activity in Colombia shut down when BLF was on; that’s how popular it was — there’s nothing in it that’s dated today. It’s still very current, as if Gaitán made sure it would not date itself too soon.

I’m not a “Rest in Peace” type person — I mean, when you’re dead how else can you rest but “in peace?” I suppose — so I’ll just wish Fernando a good trip wherever he is, which is the same wish that Jorge Enrique Abello (JEA, who played “Don Armando” in BLF) wished for Celmira Luzardo/Doña Catalina when she died. I would suspect that Jorge is rather devastated by this because Fernando Gaitán was a very special person in his life. He gave Jorge many roles in telenovelas. Gaitán’s funeral was the day following his death which was rather soon. I know that Don Armando (JEA), Doña Marcela and Sandra were at his funeral. I imagine other BLF cast members were there too but they were the three I saw interviewed.

Also, for those who don’t know, “Don” for males and “Doña” for females are terms of respect. They’re not people’s names, in case you’re wondering. So for example, many of the females regardless of their age were referred to in BLF as “Doña” as in Doña Marcela or Doña Catalina. On the male side, there was Don Armando (Betty’s boss) and Don Hermes (Betty’s father). I thought I’d throw in that little bit of Latin education for readers who may be unfamiliar with the terms. But BLF was produced in Colombia and I’ve talked with Latinas from other Latin countries where apparently Doña, for example, is only used in their country for senior women, so a younger mujer/woman can be offended by calling her Doña (name). I once did that to a younger female I know and she said, “Doña makes me feel old” even though she’s a grandmother but you’d never know it by looking at her. So I didn’t call her that again. I didn’t mean to offend her. As I recall, she was from Guatemala. So there are these regional differences in word usage and in some instances in pronunciation. And also in BLF, the executives of Ecomoda were referred to as “Doctor” (male) or “Doctora” (female) whether they had a Doctorate degree or not. Again, it was another term of respect used in Colombia. Betty referred to Don Armando as “Doctor” and to Doña Marcela as both “Doña Marcela” and “Doctora” for example. Of course our favourite Patricia Fernández and her signature hair flips was just called “Patricia.” Spoiler alert: Does everyone remember when Armando was over at her desk and, having had enough of her, grabbed her hair and pulled it? That caused Sandra over at her desk to stand in shock. I don’t remember seeing Patricia doing any hair flips immediately after that. The script was well-written and well-thought out. We all remember how Patricia — always trying to “keep up appearances of being elitist” — tried to impress others by telling everyone she knew (and people she didn’t know as well) about her, “seis/six semesters studying finances at San Marino Universidad/University.” LOL. At one point, the cartel (the executive secretarial pool along with Inés who worked for Don Hugo, the fashion designer of Eco Moda, having heard about San Marino umpteen times, recited it along with Patricia when she was telling someone else about San Marino. LOL.

Mi amigo/My friend and I watched part of BLF again as I was writing this article. He said something which we often said when watching it before: “There’s so much going on in the foreground or the background or somewhere that if one watches BLF once or twice and then watches it again, you’ll always see something new. So true. Chau.—el barrio rosa


Yo soy Betty la Fea videos

Yo soy Betty, la Fea

Disrespecting Yo Soy Betty, La Fea

Murió Celmira Luzardo, la recordada Catalina Ángel en ‘Betty, la fea’