Juan Gabriel's Last Day: 'Full of Joy, Laughter and Love' (Exclusive)
The last people to spend time with Juan Gabriel before his untimely death Sunday morning (Aug. 28) were his good friend Guillermo Rosas, a manager, concert promoter and executive who now handles the careers of Gloria Trevi and Chiquis Rivera, among other clients; and Guillermo's fiance, singer-songwriter Julio Reyes. Rosas spoke exclusively with Billboard about the Mexican star’s last 24 hours.
We initially met 12 years ago. I wanted to promote his concerts because he was the artist I most admired in the Latin music industry. But we finally got to speaking in 2006, when a friend took me to see him perform at a Palenque in Aguascalientes. We had dinner at a hotel, talked business and a few days later reached an agreement for Roptus [my company at the time] to produce his shows. We immediately clicked. I was fascinated with him and two years later, when the contract ended, we remained friends and saw each other often.
He used to live in Los Angeles, which allowed us to spend a lot of time together. At one point in 2008, when I was managing [pop group] RBD and we were going through a particularly successful moment [the group was the top-selling Latin act in the U.S. for several years in the mid 2000s], I called and told him I was having dinner in my home with the six RBD kids and their producer. It was well into the evening, and we were by the pool barbecuing, when Alberto called and said, come outside. I did, and there he was. He had come as a surprise to make my night more special. We walked inside and I said, “Meet my friend Juan Gabriel.” They couldn’t believe it. We stayed until three, four in the morning, just talking. It was one of the most amazing nights we had with the group.
But that’s the kind of thing he would do, suddenly, with people he liked and loved. He’d surprise them just like that. One time, I was with him in Cancun, and he told me, "I’m going to surprise Paulina Rubio in her wedding tomorrow." He called his mariachi at midnight and asked them to arrive at the reception, all dressed in white. "Don Alberto," they said, "We don't have white mariachi outfits." "Find them," he said. "We’re going to Paulina’s wedding."
I couldn’t go see his show Friday night [Aug. 26, in Los Angeles], so we made plans to have dinner Saturday night, his free day, before he flew to El Paso Sunday for his show there. I’m getting married September 10 in Italy, and because he wouldn’t be able to make it to the wedding -- he was going to play Fresno on the 11th -- he wanted celebrate with my partner [Julio Reyes] and I and bless us.
We picked him up at his apartment in Santa Monica around 4 p.m., Julio and I, and had Thai food for dinner. Afterwards, we drove around Santa Monica. He was a little nostalgic and wanted to drive around the streets he liked there. Julio took out the Zillow real estate app and [Juan] was so enthusiastic about the possibility of buying a home again in the area. At one point we drove past this amazing house, and I said, ‘This one would be perfect.’ But he laughed and said, ‘What do I need such a big house for? Everyone who used to visit me is dead.’ It was the only allusion to death.
Then he directed us to a house in Pacific Palisades, in front of the ocean, and he told us it had been his very first home in Los Angeles. He had to leave it after the [1994 Northridge] earthquake because it suffered structural problems. He said he had spent the happiest year of his life there. I see it as a blessing, that I was able to take him to a place that brought him joy. We spoke about everything: Life, music, history -- he loved to talk Mexican history -- love. We spoke about love in all its facets. He said the secret was to understand, accept and forgive, and that as a couple, my responsibility was bigger because I was older. He spoke a lot about trust.
Later, we went to his house and chatted about music in his dining room. Julio is a singer-songwriter, and [Juan] would always give him pointers. We didn’t drink alcohol. Alberto [Juan Gabriel's given name] never drank since I met him. In fact, I used to drink a lot when I first met him, and he’d always tell me to tone it down. That night he had a mango shake and we had water. He wanted us to stay longer, but I knew he had to travel, so at 11 p.m. or so, we hugged and took the picture. He always used to say, ‘Don’t look at the camera; we have to think of something beautiful.’ And that's what we did.
He looked healthy and I told him so; that it made me happy to see him so well, and so energetic, because there had been times when he wasn’t nearly as well. We said goodbye and made plans to see each other at his Anaheim show in four weeks. He walked us to the door, and we left. I feel so privileged and blessed to have shared such an amazing day. It was a day full of joy, laughter, and love. Juan Gabriel was to me the most extraordinary artist that I have met and my long-life, dearly fascinating friend.