Illustration by Fay Shelton
Fifteen minutes of fame
For those of you seeking fortune and fame, Barcelona might not be the best place to be. Rising house prices and low wages mean it’s difficult to make a fortune and, short of committing a crime, how can non-native speakers of Spanish and Catalan get their 15 minutes of fame in this foreign country? In Chipper Cooke’s case, having a killer singing voice was the answer.
Cooke (whose real name is Stanley Miller Cooke III), is a 34-year-old American who eventually placed third in the most recent run of Operación Triunfo (OT), the Spanish reality TV talent show that introduced David Bisbal to the world back in 2001. The first non-native Castilian-speaking contestant ever to appear on the show, he had only been in the country for two months when he went to the audition. He could hardly speak Castilian, had never seen the programme before and had no idea how popular it was. “He’s very brave,” said OT’s director, Tinet Rubira. “You might think that Chipper’s low level of Spanish would be a hindrance, but in fact it’s helped to keep him out of the daily squabbles that plague life in the Academy.”
Chipper Cooke isn’t the only American to feature on the show this year. English teacher Morgan Malvoso was chosen to be OT’s English pronunciation teacher and she has had the task of guiding the Spanish contestants around those tricky English vowel sounds. She was asked to appear on the show by one of her regular students at Gestmusic Endemol (the show’s production company) and at first she thought the offer was a joke. “I agreed because I didn’t think they were being serious and then before I knew what was happening, it was the first night gala performance and I was doing a live feed from the academy.”
It’s not just the North Americans that have made a name for themselves on the small screen in Barcelona. Derry girl Ella King was asked to appear on Canal 33’s Karakia, a popular cooking show that takes a look at the lives of people who have come to live in Catalunya by nosing round their kitchens and watching them cook traditional dishes from their native countries.
King’s appearance on the Irish edition of the programme came as a shock to her family and friends back in Ireland for the simple reason that she hates cooking. King, who has lived in Barcelona for five years, organises Irish dancing shows and classes, and when the show contacted her, she thought it would be great publicity. Nerves started to get the better of her however, when she finally realised that in addition to having to speak Catalan, she would also have to cook. With only one Irish recipe to hand, she had to spend a week perfecting it before the TV crew arrived. “I nearly had a heart attack when they told me I couldn’t use the pressure cooker because it was too noisy,” she laughed. “It’s the only way I knew how to cook it!”
www.youtube.com (see the Irish episode of Karakia featuring Ella King)
www.soloactores.com (web page for actors in Spain with news of open castings)
For fame-seekers who can’t carry a tune or rustle up a soufflé, there are other ways to get their faces on screen. Hobbies or skills that are commonplace back home can be of great interest here. Anyone who can Morris dance, understand the finer points of cricket, play the sitar or speak cockney should publicise their skills, as it could be just what TV researchers are looking for.
The novelty value of being a foreigner can sometimes open doors. Local TV and radio stations occasionally hold open auditions, and 27-year-old Barcelona-based, Chicago-born actress Jenny Beacraft was happy with her reception when she went to a recent open casting for Badalona TV, which she read about on the actor’s website, www.soloactores.com. “I’ve yet to get a call, but they were surprised and interested that an American turned up for the audition."