With the news that Sabado Gigante, the longest-running variety show in Spanish-language television history, is coming to an end after 53 years on the air, fans of the show have taken to social media to express a mix of shock, sadness and nostalgia. Others have sent heartfelt messages to its host, Mario Kreutzberger, better known as Don Francisco, who will bid farewell to a vast trans-generational Latino audience when the final episode airs on Univision on Sept. 19, 2015.
Sabado Gigante and its iconic host were so huge, in fact, that even Stephen Colbert parodied the show on his Colbert Report, in a skit he dubbed “Colberto Reporto Gigante” (watch the hilarious clip here).
Members of the Latin music community have a unique attachment to Don Francisco, though. The Chilean TV legend gave many of them a shot at fame long before they became household names.
Reggaeton king Daddy Yankee told Billboard, “Don Francisco was the first person who gave me a shot on national television. I’ll always be indebted to him. His contribution to — and influence in — the Latino community has no limit. He is an example and a true leader.”
Bachata singer Prince Royce sent this statement to Billboard, “Don Francisco and Sabado Gigante have been hugely important in my career. It was the first show where I performed on television even before I was known. Mario opened the doors to Chile for me by inviting me to be a part of his beloved telethon and I’ve joined him for two years in that beautiful labor of love which he puts on from the heart for the kids and families of his country. He has a giant heart and that’s why he’s so big, our dear Don Francisco.”
Merengue superstar Elvis Crespo also reacted to the news, telling Billboard, “It was always a dream of mine to sing on Sabado Gigante and thanks to God and Don Francisco, I was given several opportunities to do so — even to this day. It is such an iconic platform. The production team always went the extra mile to make sure my performances were special. Thank you Mario, I’ll never forget it! God bless you.”
In a statement to Billboard, Puerto Rican icon Olga Tañón said, “There is so much you can say about Don Francisco. When you’re an artist and you’re starting out, you just hope to one day be a guest on the show. I have always admired his dedication to the Latino audience, how disciplined he was at his craft, and not just when it came to having great entertainment on the show, but also when it came to topics like family and our collective wellbeing as a culture. Thank you, Don Francisco. I give you my heart and just know that in the life story of Olga Tañón, there’s a chapter just for you.”
Bachata artist Leslie Grace told Billboard, “Sabado Gigante, while being the center of many of our household memories, has also offered the opportunity to so many new and young talent over the years, as it once did for me. I know I’m not alone in saying it will be forever missed but always remembered!”
Venezuelan pop duo Servando y Florentino told Billboard, “We had a chance last December to go back to the Sabado Gigante studios and share with Don Francisco in a very emotional show because of the way he surprised us on Christmas. During our 23-year career, we can honestly say that Sabado Gigante was always supportive from the beginning. We just want to say thank you to Don Francisco and his team for always supporting our music and being an important platform for Latin talent.”
Mexican pop singer Sofia Reyes told Billboard, “Today we bid farewell to a great show and a great television personality with whom I grew up. Thank you for the laughter that you have gifted us through the years. Thank you for the support you have given my career and the career of so many new artists such as myself.”
Enrique Iglesias, who first visited the show in 1995 when he was still a relative newcomer (see video here), said via Associated Press, “Fifty-three years on TV is easy to say, but it’s an incredible record. Don Francisco will always be unique and irreplaceable. I am so grateful because I started my career on the show and I’m sure a lot of my colleagues will agree with me that he has been like a father figure to all of us. Thank you Don Mario.”
Cristina Saralegui, another legend of Spanish-language TV, thanked Kreutzberger via Twitter for “giving her a shot.”
Award-winning Univision News anchor Maria Elena Salinas tweeted, “Aside from a consummate professional, he is a friend. I love, admire and respect him.”
News anchor Martin Berlanga of Telemundo Houston tweeted that Don Francisco is “the reference point for all journalists.”
On Twitter, Dominican American group Fulanito thanked the show for the good times.
On Instagram, Chilean actor Cristian De La Fuente thanked Don Francisco for “all the advice.”
“The Voice of New York” Angie Martinez lamented the show’s end on Instagram.
— Sábado Gigante (@SabadoGigante) April 17, 2015
Mi querido Don Francisco, te deseo todo lo mejor. Muchas gracias por haberme dado mi primera oportunidad en TV. Te quiero mucho.
— Cristina Saralegui (@CristinaOpina) April 17, 2015
— Maria Elena Salinas (@MariaESalinas) April 17, 2015
— Martin Berlanga (@martinberlanga) April 17, 2015
Thanks for the memories… https://t.co/UruKo3wg7m
— FULANITO™ (@Fulanito) April 17, 2015