May 15, 2022 12:11 am

my criminal past

When I was twenty years old, in 1985, I stole a bathing suit from a department store in Denver, Colorado. I didn’t need such a garment. It was winter in Denver. I stole it for fun idiot. Since I didn’t get caught, I thought I was a genius and should keep stealing.

I was in Denver visiting a friend, the son of wealthy Argentines, who was studying in that city. Actually, my friend did not study, he did not even attend classes at the university. His parents wanted him to be a mining engineer. My friend had a different vision of his future. He wanted to dedicate himself to planting marijuana, distributing it and smoking it. At the risk of going to jail, he grew this herb at home, distributed it among his friends without selling it to anyone, and smoked it morning, noon, and night. It was supremely fun. I did not accompany him on his discreet marijuana distributions around the city. I was afraid they would arrest us. Even then I was on television.

A year later, when I was twenty-one, in 1986, I stole four silk ties from a department store in Miami, Florida. To cover up the theft, I bought eight ties and, after paying for them, put four more ties in the paper bag. I felt like the consummate rogue, a refined bank robber, an evil genius. If I hadn’t been caught stealing in Denver, I wouldn’t be caught in Miami either.

I didn’t need the ties. He already had many that he used on television. I stole them for pure idiotic fun. He had money to pay for them. But I found it exciting to steal them, sneak them out of the store, display my ridiculous petty thief roguery in passing. Leaving the store, no alarms sounded. I felt safe. I walked slowly so as not to attract attention. How cute were the stolen ties! I would wear them the next day on TV!

Ecstatic because I had once again stolen some clothes I didn’t need without anyone stopping me, I didn’t notice that two security men from the store were following me. Shortly thereafter, they stopped me. I was accused of stealing ties. I vehemently denied it. They told me to go back to the store. I said that I had paid for all the ties. They didn’t believe me. I claimed that he was on television, that he was famous. They didn’t give a damn. They took my crime bag from me and shoved me into a security room inside the store. Once there, they showed me the four stolen ties. Worse yet, they showed the video of me sneaking those ties into the paper bag that also contained the ties I had paid for.

Since the evidence of the theft was unequivocal and irrefutable, I told them with all the cynicism in the world that it was a misunderstanding, that I had forgotten to go to the register to pay for them, that I had the money to buy them. I opened my wallet and showed them the hundred dollar bills, to see if they were tempted to ask for a bite. They didn’t ask for it or even hint at it. I offered to buy the stolen ties. They told me that it was too late, that they should report the theft and call the police. I insisted that it was not a deliberate theft, but an oversight, an involuntary error, a misunderstanding. They didn’t believe me. They asked me for my personal data. They began to fill out a form. Before they called the police, I offered them money to settle the matter amicably. I was used to bribing whoever had to be bribed in my home country: school teachers, university professors who preferred bottles of whiskey or champagne to vile cash, traffic police, certain lovers. Outraged, the security men, who looked like retired boxers, said that I had wronged them in their honor and that, in addition to reporting the theft to the police, they would also report my bribery attempt.

When the police arrived half an hour later, I thought they would put handcuffs on me and arrest me. It was not so. To my surprise, they were kind to me. I don’t know if they recognized me from television. They made me sign a paper in which I confessed my failed robbery attempt, admitted my guilt and agreed to appear in court, when I was summoned, to accept the punishment that a judge would impose on me. I had no choice but to do exactly what they asked me to do. But they didn’t take me out of the store in handcuffs, they didn’t push me into the police car, they didn’t take me to the police station. Luckily, they exonerated me from such shame and set me free. Before leaving the store, I paid for the four stolen ties. The security men escorted me to the exit and told me that I could never go into that department store again. My name was on the blacklist. I was registered as a thief.

Weeks later, the court summoned me so that the judge could impose the punishment that he considered appropriate. Again, and now before the judge, I admitted my guilt. I immediately apologized. I told the truth: that I hadn’t stolen out of necessity, but out of sheer idiotic fun. The judge imposed an onerous fine on me. I paid it without saying a word. I thought: these have been the most expensive ties of my life. But right away I thought: it wasn’t that bad, they didn’t arrest me, I didn’t spend a night at the police station, nobody in my family or in the press found out, the matter was settled, shelved. Finally I thought: it will never be known in public that a Miami judge fined me for tie thief. I had only told my Argentine friend living in Denver what had happened to me. I could trust him. He was discreet and loyal. Unlike me, he knew how to keep a secret.

Many years later, when I was thirty-five years old, in the year 2000, after a successful cycle doing an interview program in Miami with celebrities from politics, entertainment, the arts, and sports, a program that was seen on direct, every night, from Canada to Patagonia via satellite, the president of the most powerful and influential Spanish-language channel in the United States, Univisión, summoned me to lunch on the top floor of a skyscraper, an exclusive business club, and He told me that his television company wanted to hire me. He was probably the most powerful man on Spanish-language television in the United States: astute and refined, elegant and calculating, shrewd and visionary, he proposed that I sign a three-year million-dollar contract as soon as my contract with the television station that had broadcast the successful run of my celebrity talk show, CBS en español. So when my contract with CBS ended, I told my bosses in New York that I would not renew with them. Surprised, they offered me more money. I declined. I told them the truth: my dream was to move the show to Univisión, the most watched channel by far, and Univisión was offering me a fortune, much more than what CBS was paying me. CBS bosses were stunned. They thought I was disloyal, ungrateful, opportunistic. They told me that with them my program was seen throughout the Americas, from Canada to Argentina, and that, on the other hand, with Univisión my program would be seen only in the United States. I told them that my agreement with the president of Univision was so good that it gave me exclusive rights to syndicate the program in certain Latin American countries, meaning that I would earn a millionaire salary and could also sell the program in Latin America.

So, I left CBS en Español and, certain that a major success awaited me on Univisión, and that I would be rich in a few years, I organized a spectacular party, celebrating in advance the contract that I had not yet signed. I announced to my family and friends, and even to certain journalists whom I trusted, that very soon I would have a talk show on Univision, earning fortunes. For once, my father seemed proud of me: I invited him to dinner, he ordered a duck and he smiled when I told him how much Univisión would pay me: one and a half million a year, a three-year contract, and if they revoked it they had to pay me the contract. in all its extension, with which they promised to keep me on the air, on the air, for at least three years.

A few days before I signed the contract with the president of Univisión, and the press was called to announce it in a hotel conference room, making calls to line up the first guests, all big celebrities, something completely unexpected happened to me. The president of Univisión summoned me to his office, looked me in the eye and coldly told me that he had changed his mind and we would not sign the contract. I froze, as if an ice cube had been thrown at my head. I asked him why he had changed his mind. He told me, disappointed, with a gesture of bitterness:

-Because you have a criminal record.

Then he told me that the chain’s lawyers had reviewed my judicial, criminal and police records for doubts and had come across the surprise that, in 1986, a Miami judge had fined me for stealing four ties in a store. by departments. He showed me the papers that revealed that I had admitted my guilt and paid the fine to avoid going to jail. Told me:

-Due to professional ethics, at Univisión we do not hire people with a criminal record.

I explained that it had been a stupid prank, an adrenaline rush. He listened to me, he nodded, but it was all in vain, he did not change his mind. When we said goodbye, he didn’t give me a hug, just a cold handshake.

For stealing those four ties when I was twenty-one, I lost a four and a half million dollar contract. They were the most expensive ties of my life.

It didn’t take long for me to call my old bosses at CBS, asking them to come back on the show. They refused. They had already hired a replacement. They had already found out about my criminal past.

Worse yet, a gossipy journalist from a rival network’s talk show spent an entire hour inflammatoryly denouncing to her audience that I was a thief with a criminal record. He showed the papers. He read the judge’s sentence. He screamed like it was the end of the world. He almost asked that they give me a life sentence.

Humiliated, unable to deny my criminal past, I had to return to my country of origin. They gave me a talk show to fashionable politicians. Since those politicians had a criminal past and, above all, a criminal future, the channel’s owners didn’t care that I was a tie thief.

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