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Friday, February 3, 2023

Luis del Olmo: “I took to the streets and people looked at me like an idol”

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Luis del Olmo is 85 years old and looks there at the heights of his head more than 190 centimeters communicator, a coat of white hair, into which clutter does not penetrate. Only a decade after his retirement, the announcer maintains a sharp silhouette, connoisseurs say that he watches his diet and does not lose his stylish pose even in the sweltering heat of a hot summer. He takes part in the visit from his refuge Roc de Sant Gaietà in Roda de Berà (Tarragona), a curious corner of the beach next to the Roman arch that dominates the ancient Via Augusta and where the journalist landed in the seventies with the audacity to settle “a music festival like the one in Benidorm”. For a dozen summers, Expo-Canción programmed eye-catching artists: Julio Iglesias, Montserrat Caballé, Lluís Llach, Joan Manuel Serrat, Miguel Ríos, Demy Roussos or Mike Kennedy, who marched through a place that was difficult to locate on the map. “The city didn’t even have 1,000 inhabitants,” says Del Olmo.

The weight of time has messed with his memories, but it has lifted the heartfelt mood of a man who’s harvested a hurricane character. He strides through the rooms of his radio museum while explaining the history of each device and the hundreds of photos that make up the exhibition. He has German, American, Chinese or Russian radios that he acquired on his travels. “I did programs from New York, Beijing or Moscow. Of all the devices he keeps, he stands next to the one he refers to as “Aunt Maria’s radio”. He points out that the first radio broadcasts of his life were filtered through this speaker.

Del Olmo always knew how to speak like someone singing a lullaby and patented his intonation as addictive material. “I started doing radio short films because it entertained me, but I wanted to be a mining doctor,” he says. Born in Ponferrada, the Bierzo mining footprint was present in the boy who stood in front of the microphone when leaving the Institute. His first years in the profession were a career full of coincidences: some wise Asturians who spent the summer in León warned about “that interesting voice” that this boy had, playing on the local radio. They took him to Oviedo, to the SER, where he had a brief stay before returning to his homeland: “They doubled my salary.” His mother, Doña Emérita, fell ill and had to have an operation in Madrid. “I went to Radio Juventud for a walk and that’s where I met Matías Prats father.” They talked and he learned that an opposition had been called to fill vacancies. “Suddenly I saw myself giving the informative bulletins that National Radio Talking Newspaper” He says.

He asserts that he was a naïve and sincere young man who left a piece of his heart in every study he walked into. Not so much because he indulged in the mic, but also because he was a die-hard crush and fell in love with “the editor on duty” wherever he went. Before meeting Mercedes González, merchHe, his wife and companion, and their three children, the spokesman said he was “a bit silly.” The accusation is clothed in velvet as it pours out of the throat of the popular presenter, the iconic voice of a time and a country. His program protagonists marked the informative pulse for almost 40 years. It swept audiences along and was a controversial piece for the networks and advertisers. Only Iñaki Gabilondo in the SER could endure this pulse. “I lived very well with the radio,” he admits. “I went out on the street and people looked at me like an idol, I lived it with great joy,” he admits. It was squandered by Radio Nacional de España, Onda Cero, Cadena COPE and Punto Radio, always with a common beginning: “Good morning Spain, this is Luis del Olmo speaking”. In the museum, in front of a life-size portrait of him, the retired narrator now repeats it, and it seems as if the scent of coffee and milk fills the air.

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The communicator, who was the undisputed leader of the morning radio, is 85 years old. Carlos Ribas

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Grandfather of nine grandchildren and settled between Barcelona and Roda de Berà, he lives a much quieter life than when he was chained early and had to live with escorts because he was an ETA target. He claims to keep his head busy, “I don’t have time to get bored,” and carries a small journal full of doodles. “Here’s my memory,” he says. You don’t have to refer to the notes to recall details of the scam you suffered at the hands of your administrator and close friend.

Del Olmo is considered an innovator because he brought talk shows to the radio (a genre that has triumphed to the point of indigestion) and forged a more direct relationship with the listener. He degreased the treatment of current politics with sections of overwhelming success such as: The State of the Union Debate, by a selection of top-class comedians such as Tip, Coll, Tito B. Diagonal (Jordi Estadella), Mingote or Forges. Another humorous tightrope walker who worked with him was Juan Carlos Ortega. In a report broadcast by TVE, Ortega compared Del Olmo to Beethoven: “Today we consider him a classic, but then he turned his profession upside down.” Iñaki Gabilondo has often said that his competitor “was the first to embark on a path that the rest of us follow”. Del Olmo recalls those glory days with gratitude: “I had the best professionals by my side.”

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