The Kely we knew, in loving memory   9 comments

The Kely we knew, in loving memory

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Kely Posadas turned 69 on December 24, 2008. She passed away after losing her battle with lung cancer on April 27, 2009. The news made its way slowly through various Internet groups, and as it seems characteristic of the narcissist tendencies of many people involved in the business of tango, the two things that were most mentioned in context with the news of Kely‘s passing were “I shared the stage with Kely,” and Kely’s “one show dress being her modest and limited wardrobe,” preceded by a ‘no disrespect meant‘ by the disrespectful offender. Banality, vanity and selfishness could very well be a cover for the inability for some humans to behave in a human way.

The Kely we knew was born Clara Raquel Lamdam in 1939, just as the Golden years of the tango got underway. Just before the Thanksgiving holidays in 1952, Bill Haley‘s band had changed their name and their image for the last time. Off had come the cowboy boots and the white Stetsons. With some regrets and more than a little apprehension, the four young musicians, had turned their backs on their beloved country/ western music and had bravely faced an unknown future as “Bill Haley and his Comets“. Shortly after, Kely became a teenager as the wave of rock and roll captured the imagination of sons and daughters of the upper, middle, and lower class families. With Bill Haley and his Comets came Little Richard and Elvis Presley leading the way with their rambunctious music into a craze that lasted way into the mid sixties.

It was around 1958 that she met Facundo Posadas and they both became an item taking the dance floors by storm with their unique brand of rocanrol. Eventually they parted ways and for almost thirty years they lived different lives until they run into each at the after hours dance at Michelangelo. They both had been married and they were now divorced hanging out at the dance halls with other aging rock and rollers who were discovering the fascination of foreigners with the tango. As the renewed enthusiasm for the tango grew, Facundo and Kely became part of the flora and fauna of the traditional milongas in Buenos Aires, being affectionately known as the “roqueros.”

Jorge Firpo, Facundo Posadas, Alberto Paz, Kely Posadas and Valorie Hart at Club Akarense

Jorge Firpo, Facundo Posadas, Alberto Paz, Kely Posadas and Valorie Hart at Club Akarense in 1997
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We met them during our first trip to Buenos Aires on April, 1997. Our popular and prestigious magazine El Firulete was a powerful calling card. We received an invitation to their upscale apartment in Barrio Norte, as guests of one of their classes for white collar professionals. We were surprised when a few days later they joined Mingo and Esther Pugliese, Pupi Castello and Graciela Gonzalez at La Galeria del Tango for a special exhibition at a surprise birthday party for Alberto given by Graciela Gonzalez.

Mingo and Esther Pugliese, Pupy Castello and Graciela Gonzalez and Facundo and Kely Posadas, dance for Alberto Paz on his birthday party in 1997
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During our memorable stay in Buenos Aires, we witnessed Kely enjoying life on the dance floor, first at Club Akarense, a legendary milonga in Villa Urquiza run by Rodolfo and Maria Cieri, then at another legendary Tuesday hang out, Club Almagro, and finally, on the night they announced their engagement to be married at Club Sunderland.

Los Angeles, CA

In the dead heat of the 1997 Southern California summer, we had been planning a major event for a Japanese dancing company, Tango Libertad. Actually it was a birthday party with a tango theme for one of the leading dancers of the troupe, Shizue Endoh. She invited her teacher, Tahei Kobayasi and his partner Yuko Eguchi to stage a show and hired us to plan, organize the event be part of the show as well. Just about that time we received a message from Facundo informing us of their pending arrival in Los Angeles, on their way to a “fabulous tour of the USA” managed by an “undisclosed personality of the tango.” Considering it a natural gesture of professional courtesy on our part we squeezed the budget for the party and included Facundo and Kely in the show for Tango Libertad. Watch their first ever USA performance HERE.

While waiting for the mysterious tango personality to materialize, we took Facundo and Kely under our wings and spent an extra week in Los Angeles. Here is Facundo first experience with an American steak and french fries.
A visit to the Universal Studios in Hollywood, CA is something that a foreign visitor can appreciate, especially when they have seen many of the products coming out of this studio on local television. Here is Kely posing for posterity under the famous sign.
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Kely in a a couple of poses in and around Universal Studios. Twelve years before Michelle Obama, Kely was already making a fashion statement claiming her right to bare arms on a summer day.
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The Hollywood hills are a magnificent place to spot the smog covered city of the Angels from a vantage point. The Apollo 13 capsule was a hit with Facundo and Kely, and here is proof they were there and then.
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A candid camera moment capturing Kely’s stroll through the Universal Studio food court.
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A life size bronze statue of Charlie Chaplin at the historic Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, steps away across the street from the Chinese Theater. The temptation to join Chaplin for a rest was too hard to resist.
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On the left, they stand outside the Roosevelt Hotel with the Hollywood Boulevard street sign in the background. On the right, in the lobby of the hotel in front of a giant poster of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
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At the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, Kely leaving her hand prints
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The sense of friendship and camaraderie is something a photo can only begin to suggest.
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One last pose at the magnificent and imposing gallery of the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood.
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A surprise encounter with Michael Walker and Luren Bellucci at a Los Angeless milonga
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A week had gone by and still no news from the mysterious tango personality Facundo still refused to identify, so we had one final look at the Los Angeles skyline before we headed home to Sunnyvale in the Bay Area, with our newly adopted guests in tow.
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Northern California

Back in our neighborhood we were very happy to open our home to Facundo and Kely, and decided to contribute to their cause by showing them around at the various milongas, organizing a series of workshops (that’s when we first coined the term “milonga candombera” to add some exotic touch at the promotional blur). We finally ended up turning over to them the proceeds from our monthly milonga at the Dance Spetrum Studio in Campbell, CA. At the same time we enjoyed showing them around the beautiful sights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, CA
Kely at the steering wheel
Sweeping the leaves from the porch
Out for a stroll
Grocery shopping
In the kitchen
In the living room

A whole month went by. Facundo was becoming very uptight about the lack of news from his mystery tango personality, although the writing in the wall was so obvious that we had already figured that he was talking about Carlos Gavito. For reasons only they knew, Gavito was missing in action, perhaps not aware that the promises he might have made on a night of excesses in Buenos Aires, had been taken seriously by a pair of 57 year old kids.

In the meantime our first Labor Day Weekend Tango Getaway in Reno, Nevada was in full swing of preparation. We had gotten the commitment of Daniela Arcuri and Armando Orzuza to join us, and we now were trying to figure out what to do with Facundo and Kely, still stranded without a plan of action and hanging around the house.

Reno, NV

Finally, we decided to forgo our own share of the proceeds (making money for everybody else, including hotels, airlines and self appointed tango legends seemed to have been our motus operandi at a time when we were driven by the purity and innocence of what the Argentine tango and its ambassadors symbolized) and add Facundo and Kely to the roster, making the festival a three couple event. Little did we know about some past feud between Facundo and Daniela involving a taxi ride in Europe, but at the Johnny Rocket‘s hamburger join inside the majestic Reno Hilton, Facundo went ballistic at the suggestion that we were going to get together with the other couple to plan a course of action for the following three days of the festival. That was perhaps the first time that he was reminded who was the boss and who was the paid help. This is worth mentioning because in over a month and a half of  having them living with us, Kely had been a grand lady and the big momma catering to every whim of a spoiled overgrown  “teenager,” from the choice of what to eat to what souvenirs and mementos to collect.

Reno, NV is indeed a little city with a feeling of grandeur. It is definitely a gambling city but nothing to do with the hype and hustle of Las Vegas.
We had been lucky that the Reno Hilton seemed to be idle during the Labor Day weekend, and we got to use their facilities at a very reasonable cost. Not only that, but its location just a skip and a hop away from the airport and far removed from the strip, gives it a unique resort like quality. The charm of the city soon calmed the egos, and we actually proceeded to have a good time.
On the left, Daniela Arcuri, Valorie Hart and Kely Posadas taking stroll on the main strip of Reno. On the right, Facundo and Kely look proud and pleased with their first promotional festival poster in the USA
Somehow treating these people with class and quality,  like using a limousine to and from the airport plus to drive around the city seemed like the right thing to do at the time. Perhaps it was that understanding that the more one gives the more likely one is to receive as time goes by. Armando Orzuza, Daniela Arcuri ,Valorie Hart and Kely in the luxury comfort of a stretched limo. We do know how to treat tango people with class, don’t we?
In the lobby of a Reno casino waiting to go see the musical show Smokey Joe’s Cafe
An impromptu chorus line on the lobby of a casino denotes happy times and a certainty that nobody can take away what we danced.
At the theater, waiting to see a great musical show, the last photo of Kely with Valorie

Shortly after we returned to Sunnyvale, we realized that we would have to intervene and do something to help Facundo and Kely get on with their journey. We called on our newly created network of good friends, the ones we had set up and put on business organizing workshops for Carlos Gavito during the first triumphal tour of Forever Tango in 1996. By the way Gavito was still AWOL.

In a matter of days, we put together a tour for Facundo and Kely that would take them to Chicago, New York and Montreal. Bob Dronksi in Chicago volunteered to buy their airline tickets and Danel in NYC agreed to host them, house them and eventually send them to Montreal.  Then it was time to leave. Things didn’t go very well, we kept hearing, so we flew to New York to offer support and rescue them from a far away place where they have been housed. We called upon another friend, and this time Facundo and Kely stayed in Manhattan for the rest of the week.

This would be the last time we would look back at this month and a half experience as the beginning of a great relationship. By the time they arrived in Montreal, Facundo blew another gasket because he confused having to pay back Bob Dronski for his generosity in buying their tickets with his own money, with us shortchanging him of the money he felt entitled to regardless of what it cost to put him on the road to stardom. In a matter of days, we had gone from being these great hosts with the open ended generosity to a couple of crooks stealing Facundo‘s God given right to pocket everything in sight regardless.  He has forgotten who took take care of them while stranded for a month and a half, and he has never given us credit for all we did to launch his career in the USA at age 57. This need to be said because not only he has forgotten, but has made up a story that never happened the way he tells it.

Years passed and we witnessed from the sidelines the rise in popularity of Facundo and Kely. We read the accolades from newly acquired hosts and promoters, and we heard about the growing tales about their accomplishments. Then, on the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, after spending four months on the road, we set anchors in Buenos Aires. It was on a Sunday evening in the month of December, 2005 when Kely walked across the crowded floor of the Circulo Trovador in Vicente Lopez to  greet us, to welcome us and to tell us how concerned she had been about our well being when the news of the flooding of New Orleans reached her in Buenos Aires. It was like time had never passed.

We saw her one more time at Niño Bien and then, months later we learned about her illness. She stopped traveling on advice from her doctor after her last US appearance sometime in 2007. News from her and the condition of her health were less and less forthcoming until the dreadful subject line of a message on April 28, read, Kely passes away in Buenos Aires.

Suddenly the realization of that ray of hope that one day we would resume the wonderful friendship we cultivated in the summer of 1997, took an irreversible turn for the worst as the reality that this time she had left forever set on.

We didn’t realize at the time that this would be the final good bye to Kely, the friend, and we now sadly say it again this time with our prayers for the eternal rest of her soul. Rest in peace Kely.

9 responses to “The Kely we knew, in loving memory

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  1. Apreciado Fabian,
    Te agradecemos sinceramente tus palabras y apreciamos tus sentimientos con respecto a nuestra experience con tu madre.
    Su presencia marco un momento muy importante en nuestras vidas y por siempre la recordaremos.
    Alberto y Valorie

  2. Hola Alberto y Valorie
    Ante todo quiero disculparme por la falta de cortesía al no contestar el mail en que con tanta amabilidad respondieron mi pregunta.
    Entiendo perfectamente lo que me decís. De hecho lo viví muy de cerca con alguna que otra persona que abandonó a Kely en el momento en que la enfermedad le complicó su carrera.
    Te aclaro que lo digo con mucha más sorpresa que rencor. De verdad.
    En fin, creo que Dios fue muy generoso al darle a Kely tantas cosas hermosas: su talento, su carrera, el aprecio de su gente.
    Y por sobre todo el amor de sus tantos buenos amigos, como por ejemplo ustedes dos, que fueron la frutilla del postre para coronar una vida que -sin ninguna duda- valió la pena vivir.
    Gracias por ayudar a mantener viva la memoria de mi amada madre.
    Con todo afecto,
    Fabián M. Yahbes.
    Mendoza, Argentina.

  3. Hola Fabian,

    Que placer enorme y que emocion nos produce el recibir tu mensaje.
    Nosotros tuvimos el privilegio de conocer a tu mama al comienzo de su carrera profesional. En cierta forma fuimos quienes le dieron el puntapie inicial. Fue un momento magico, un periodo de tiempo donde tuvmos la fortuna de convivir con ella en nuestra casa en California por mas de un mes.

    La pregunta de Anahy encierra una verdad lamentable del ambiente del tango en el exterior cuando lo dominan gente sin escrupulos o con poco sentido de la etica profesional y el respeto personal. Los artistas se convierten en juguete de sus propios egoismos.

    En el caso de Kely, ella fue una persona muy querida, muy respetada y muy admirada. Una verdadera artista que siempre dio de si mismo lo mas genuino que el baile puede ofrecer. No fue una “estrella” de esas que se venden, se corrompen, y se revuelcan en cualquier lado para conseguir un mango. Por eso, su desaparicion solo fue sentida y difundida por la gente que la conocio personalmente, que fue tocada por su angel y aprecio su presencia en sus vidas.

    Nosotros tuvimos la fortuna de tener recuerdos muy gratos y al enterarnos de su muerte quisimos compartir con la eternidad un momento muy especial donde Kely fue parte de nuestra vida.

    Un abrazo grande, y un dia iremos a Mendoza a saludarte personalmente.

    Albert Y Valorie

  4. Hola Alberto & Valorie
    Mi nombre es Fabián Yahbes y tengo el enorme orgullo de ser el hijo menor de Kely.
    Les escribo principalmente para agradecerles por el espacio que, con tanto afecto, le dedicaron a mi madre. Alguien me hizo llegar el link del video que subieron a Internet y que me hizo brotar más de un par de lágrimas. De allí llegué a esta página web donde me deleité leyendo las palabras tan dulces que escribieron sobre Kely.
    Muchas gracias. Si alguna vez visitan Mendoza (Arg.) sepan que ahí tienen un amigo que los espera con los brazos abiertos.
    Aprovecho para hacerles una consulta ya que al no haber estado muy metido en la carrera profesional de mi madre hay algunas cosas que no llego a comprender. Una de ellas es justamente la respuesta que le dieron a la pregunta de Anahy.
    Insisto: al no conocer muchas cosas del ambiente del tango esa respuesta me pareció demasiado hermética y no la llegué a comprender. Y como yo me hice en su momento una pregunta parecida me encantaría entender lo que quisieron decir.
    A la espera de su respuesta me despido -quedando desde ya a sus gratas órdenes- con un muy cálido abrazo.
    Con afecto,
    Fabián M. Yahbes
    Mendoza, Argentina.
    Hello Alberto & Valorie
    My name is Fabian Yahbes and I have the enormous pride of being the younger son of Kely.
    I’m writing mainly to be thankful to you for the space that, with so much affection, you dedicated to my mother. Somebody passed me the link to the video you posted in the Internet and that made me shed some tears. From there I found this blog where I was delighted reading the so sweet words that you wrote about Kely.
    Thank you very much. If you ever come to Mendoza (Arg.) I want you to know that you have a friend here who awaits for you with open arms.
    I take the opportunity to ask you a question, since not being very involved in my mother’s professional career there are some things that I do not understand. One of them is precisely the answer that you gave to Anahy’s question.
    I insist: not knowing many things of the tango scene, your answer seemed to me too hermetic and I did not understand it. And since I asked myself a similar question at times, I would like to understand what you meant.
    Looking forward to your answer I say goodbye – remaining already at your pleasing orders with a very warm hug.
    Fabian M. Yahbes

  5. La respuesta esta en la pregunta misma…

  6. aaay, Alberto… ? como no supimos antes? p/q no hubo noticias? cuando Omar murio los anuncios dispararon?

    te agradezco por tus palabras.

  7. Hi Guys,

    How small the world really is. I, only briefly and casually, met them in NYC during the visit that you mentioned (with Danel). Of course, I wouldn’t meet you guys until a year later. I did not have the opportunity to know all that I wanted to know of them, but somehow always felt that they…she…was one of those special persons who can, if invited, enhance one’s life.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. hola, alberto…..

    what an amazing story… are amazing……
    i imagine that valorie is amazing as well, but you will have to use your voice to confirm that, as yours is the one i always read in emails and in the links to your other writings….

    tango is such an interesting adventure…. personalities and politics can be so confusing….i know this well….

    i had never met kely, but i did see her occasionally in salon canning in the several months before she died…..what do you say to someone you have never met, when you know they are suffering a debilitating physical condition and perhaps also the emotional distress of heartbreak that happens
    all too often around tango partnerships….

    i feel like we (you, valerie & i) have been ships in the night, although we have never quite passed, alberto…..someone recently sang your praises to me, and i said that i did hope to meet you and valorie before this tango trip is done….

    next year in buenos aires???

    un abrazo cariñoso…. ~ judith

  9. Hi,

    Thank you for this, we had the pleasure to have Kelly and Facundo in several ocassions at Corrientes (in its early days). Great spirit, lovely dancer and generous teacher.

    She will always be remembered.

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