Three Movida icons

Article published on April 25, 2007
community published
Article published on April 25, 2007

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

‘If you can remember it, it’s because you weren’t there!’ runs Madrid's 'la Movida' exhibition slogan. Profiles of three artists who influenced Spain’s most excessive cultural movement

The seventies 'La Movida Madrileña' (The Madrid Movement') represented an unprecedented and downright brazen artistic boom that challenged and revolutionised values that had guided the previously rather puritanical Spanish cinema, music and painting scene.

It marked a period that was characterised by transgressive rather than transitional tendencies. It was a need which called for extravagance, rather than demonstrating mere difference. Spanish society found itself confronted with an entirely new way of interpreting life after 36 years under Franco's dictatorship. 'La Movida' was an acerbic artistic expression, dressed with scandalously high heels, lashings of make-up, drugs, sex, and party after endless party.

Fabio McNamara - Movida Queen

‘If a man wearing platforms causes a stir in 2006, you can just imagine what people would have said at the beginning of the eighties!’ Words from the book God Save la Movida, by writer and music critic Silvia Grijalba. She was describing actor, painter and singer Fabio de Miguel, better known as Fabio McNamara or ‘Fanny’.

McNamara was one of the key figures of la Movida. Born in Madrid in 1957, he was La Mancha film maker Pedro Almodóvar’s artistic soulmate in the musical duet Almodóvar & McNamara. He also acted in the director’s first films. Without a shadow of a doubt, he consolidated his name as the supreme queen of the Madrid fiesta in the eighties.

However, many Spaniards weren’t prepared for the change represented by figures like McNamara. When a flamenco dancer-attired McNamara came onstage at a heavy metal festival at Las Ventas, Madrid's main bullring to introduce punk group ‘Alaska and The Pegamoids’, he was pelted by bottles and hecklers shouting abuse. It was words of encouragement from the likes of American artist Andy Warhol who declared 'You are a star!' that convinced him to continue performing.

Today however, the movement that he formed a part of has largely forgotten Fabio McNamara. He continues to be a multifaceted and versatile artist forming part of the band Sarassas Music (slang, meaning 'gay music'). Their latest album Mariclones ('Queer Clones') was released in 2006. When asked for his opinion on the characters that formed part of the Movida he declares, ‘they became rich and famous - and rather dull.’ (http://www.20minutos.es/galeria/1791/0/0/Perez/Minguez/movida/)

Olvido Gara - Movida muse

In his first full feature length film ‘Pepi, Luci, Bom and Other Girls Like Mom' (1980) Olvido Gara plays a young artist who showers a sadomasochist housewife with ‘golden rain’. It’s a scene that has remained forever in the memories of many Spaniards. Better known as 'Alaska', Gara was initially seen as the Movida movement’s golden girl, and would later be considered its muse.

Born in Mexico in 1963, at the age of fourteen Alaska published an amateur futuristic punk magazine entitled ‘The Lightness of the Safety Pin' together with some friends. At fifteen, she was a band member in the group Kaka de Luxe ('Deluxe Shit'), none of whose members could play a musical instrument or even sing! The band didn’t last long - she quickly moved on to form the famous punk band ‘Alaska and The Pegamoids’, later known as ‘Alaska and Dinarama’.

The generation of kids who grew up in the eighties will remember a gothic-looking Alaska presenting children’s programme ‘The Crystal Ball’ broadcast by Televisión Española (Spanish Television).

Together with Almodóvar, Alaska has been one of the movements’ figures that has best adapted to life post-Movida. Alongside musician Nacho Canut, she is the voice of spin-off electro-pop group Fangoria. Their last album ‘El extraño viaje', ('The Strange Journey', 2006) reached number two in Spanish charts sales.

An iconic figure for a variety of protest movements, including the gay movement in Spain, Alaska is highly respected for her well-founded opinions. She recently had a run-in with the SGAE (Society of Spanish Authors and Editors) over the controversy surrounding distribution of CD sales royalties. Alaska declared that one of the possible reasons for the existence of the so-called ‘top manta’ (the sale of pirate copies of CDs and DVDs on the streets) was due to ‘very expensive’ CDs.

Pedro Almodóvar - Movida King

Born in 1951 in Calzada de Calatrava (a Ciudad Real province), the cinematographer and writer from La Mancha became internationally famous after Penélope Cruz’s scream of ‘Pedrooooo’ when she opened the envelope for best foreign film at the Oscars Ceremony in 2000. Almodóvar received his very first statuette with ‘Todo Sobre Mi Madre' ('All About My Mother’, 1999). Three years later the Oscar for Best Original Script followed this for 'Hable con ella' (‘Talk To Her’, 2002).

But the director’s origins are a lot less glamorous. During the mid seventies, Almodóvar worked as a clerk at Telefónica (Spanish International Telecommunications Company) in order to pay for his short films. Although he was the oldest member of the Movida group, he soon learnt to steer the course of the transgression movement.

I’ll call him Lucifer, I’ll teach him to criticise, I’ll teach him to make a living from prostitution and I’ll teach how to love. Yeah, I’m going to be a mother!’ So go the lyrics from the song ‘I’m Going To Be A Mother', by punk-glam-rock parody group Almodovar & McNamara. Their artistic duo brought the kitsch side to the Movida spirit to life.

Almodóvar's artistic career had begun writing in Moon magazine under the pseudonym of 'Patty Diphusa' (patidifusa meaning ‘flabbergasted’). He also collaborated with other publications like the magazine El Víbora ('The Viper'), left-wing daily newspaper El País ('The Country') and former current affairs magazine, the centre-left Diario 16. His first film 'Folle, Folle, Folleme, Tim' ('Fuck, Fuck, Fuck Me, Tim') (1978) represents his work at its most acerbic and punk. From then on, the writer-director would begin a lengthy trajectory of films. He earned increasing success with 'Laberinto de Pasiones' (‘Labyrinth of Passions’, 1982), 'Entre tinieblas' (‘Dark Habits’, 1983) and '¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!!' (‘What Have I Done To Deserve This?') (1984). They all form part of the legacy built up by Almodóvar over the years, bearing testament to a brilliantly crafted Spanish hard pop artistic movement.

Thanks to Albert Salarich

Translation from Catalan to Spanish by José Luis Dolz