Ricardo Vidort
.The Last Compadrito
Part 4 )


Whether it was justified or not, after the memorial in Santa Fe I began to feel bad about Ricardo. I wanted to tell him how much he had helped me, and how I had finally learned enough to see how great he was. But it was too late. In the end, all I think he really wanted was friendship, but I didn’t do a very good job of returning it.

I remember seeing him once during his last two years, and although he was sick, he seemed as happy and enthusiastic as ever. He began talking about travel plans to Europe, and he was full of stories from the old days... and of course he was the hero in all of them. First, he told us how Nestor Rey (a very good milonguero who lived in the U.S. for awhile and died a couple of years ago) was a young shoeshine boy in his neighborhood, and whenever he would see Ricardo dressed up and heading out to a milonga, he’d say, “Hey Ricardo… you watch. One day I’ll dance as good as you!” Then he told us that Osvaldo and Coca had just won the World Tango Championship, and that he was very excited because Osvaldo was his old tango partner! As Ricardo told it, he was the senior tango dancer in the neighborhood, so Ricardo would lead, and Osvaldo had to be the follower. According to the story, Osvaldo learned tango on the street corners in the arrabal by practicing with Ricardo… and now he was World Champion!

With Ricardo at that time, I was never sure what to believe. Every time we saw him, he was on his way somewhere in the world to teach tango—but he never seemed to leave Buenos Aires, and the next week we’d see him back in the milongas. So I was kind of surprised a few weeks later when I happened across an article about Ricardo being on a tango tour of Europe! Alej didn’t believe it, and I had to actually show her the article. After that, he began to travel a lot, and we didn’t see much of him, until about a year or so later when we went into a club in Barrancas. As soon as we entered, I saw an interesting couple dancing, so I grabbed the camera and started to film as quickly as I could. Maybe Ricardo wasn’t quite as chanta as we’d thought. Here's what I shot:


Ricardo with Osvaldo, his old dance partner from the barrio.
Osvaldo's not bad, but I think Alej has prettier feet. (2006)


What an interesting piece of videotape: First, Ricardo dances with Osvaldo, his old partner from the arrabal. Then, Ricardo’s novia Ewa dances with Osvaldo, while Ricardo dances with Coca. For me, it’s especially important because it was Ricardo’s last night in BsAs. He told us that he and Ewa were leaving the next day to fly back to the U.S., so they needed to leave the milonga early. But just as they were getting ready to leave, Ricardo came over to our table. He came up, and in the formal manner of an old compadrito, he respectfully asked for permission to dance with my wife. They went out on the floor, and as always, he gave it everything he had. He put all the meat on the fire as we say—but he really wasn't very strong. He was only able to finish one dance. And then he came over and told me he was looking forward to visiting Alej and me in the States. He gave me a kiss on the cheek, and left.

I never saw him after that. We heard he had to cancel a workshop in the U.S. because he was sick, and that he returned for a short time to BsAs. They said he went around to visit in the milongas, but he was too weak to dance. After that, he went back to New Mexico where he passed away with Ewa taking care of him. So it looks like it came down to this. After almost seventy years of dancing, I think this was Ricardo's final tango in Buenos Aires:


Ricardo and Alejandra. (2006)


(continued on the next page)