Why watch a documentary about a man you’ve never heard of? Do you really need to learn “more” when you know nothing?
To be fair: millions of people DO know his name. He was the world’s #1 astrologer for decades, but because he broadcasted mostly in Spanish, he never made it into my home or into my cultural lexicon (and to be super fair, I can’t name a single English or French speaking one either; astrology just isn’t my thing).
Whether you know his name or not, you should probably check out this documentary. He is indeed a curious character. Lin-Manuel Miranda describes him as dramatic and fabulous, and in Mercado’s case, those are vast understatements.
Androgynous? Asexual? Those are not words people used in Puerto Rico in 1969, when he got his start, nor are they words Walter Mercado uses even today. Labels? He’s not above them – he’s beyond them. Today Mercado resembles a cross between Julie Andrews, Joan Rivers, and Sean’s recently deceased Granny. His wardrobe isn’t so much a cross between Liberace and Elvis as a one-upmanship of both, with a touch of Siegfried & Roy, and a cape collection that would make Lando Calrissian cry. He admits to “a little arrangement” when it comes to plastic surgery, and some botox “like Nicole Kidman.”
Mercado has an origin story to rival a super hero’s, a primo sidekick in faithful assistant Willy (who warns us not to get too bitchy with him), a legendary catch phrase, and a super power. Unfortunately, he’s also got a nemesis because every story worth telling has a villain. And if Walter has a kryptonite, it would be trust.
Trusting his business manager Bill Bakula was his downfall. They battled in court rather than in Gotham, but there were hits, there were injuries, there was damage. Neither had a mother named Martha.
At times known as a miracle-worker, a magician, a psychic, and a sorcerer, most remember him simply as a source of inspiration. Mercado knew there was power in positivity and his horoscopes gave people a reason to believe in themselves. His fandom has keenly felt his absence and many in the community would champion a reboot of the Mercado franchise but not all super heroes are meant to rise again (especially not when their jewel-encrusted capes weigh more than 30lbs).
This is a fascinating documentary, well told, and well worth the time. Mercado is quite a character, and if he is a Hispanic hero, this movie is his legacy.
I only read the 1st 2 paragraphs to avoid spoilers. I remember seeing this guy on the local Spanish language channels and my head filing with question marks. The doc is on my watchlist. I think I’ll go turn it on now!
My word! Walter Mercado! Of course I know him! I lived in Miami and there, during the eighties and until his death, he was everywhere! He was on the radio, on the tele, and his horoscope was published in the daily El Nuevo Herald (The Spanish language edition of the Miami Herald)…great memories, I did not know about the documentary, but I will certainly look for it. Thank you Jay!
Thanks for bringing this documentary to our attention. I’ve never heard of him, but would love to know more.
That was a wonderful and uplifting documentary!!
Thanks for inspiring me to finally watch it!!
Yeah, he is something of a regular at my home since my mother often watches Telemundo/Univision (I don’t remember what channel he did his thing) though she wasn’t a really a fan of his stuff though I kept telling her that the doc about him is something she can watch on her iPad.
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Sounds fascinating. I’ll have to check it out.
This is a brilliant documentary. It falls like a snowflake into the Netflix documentary sweet spot. It’s almost as good as The Tiger King and it’s better than Voyeur. Great review.
Jay, I watched this documentary last night (07/26/20) and was truly smitten by Walter Mercado. What a character! Thanks for the recommendation.
I loved watching this documentary! I have so many memories of watching his astrology segments with my grandparents. He is a legend in the Latino community.
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I found it so interesting that this documentary appeared on Netflix right after Alexis Matteo played him on Drag Race Snatch Game–I had no idea who he was, but now I can appreciate her performance better!
Appreciate you bblogging this