Don Francisco

A local television program opened its doors and became the opinion leader for the Latin world.

Don Francisco, or Mario Kreutzberger, and the bolero singer Lucho Gatica are the only Chileans with a star in the Hollywood walk of fame. He is the most famous Latin American TV show host ever in the United States. He was born in rural area of Talca in 1940 to Jewish parents. His mother, who had been a famous opera singer in Germany, was influential in his professional development.

At age 16, he began hosting shows at Club Maccabi, which was popular among the Chilean Jewish community. A few years later, he abandoned his career as a clothing designer in order to pursue a career in television. To this day, his entertainment style is evident in his program Sábado Gigante (Giant Saturday), where he refers to himself simply as Don Francisco instead of his more lengthy given name of Mario Kreutzberger Blumenfeld. In 2005, he was included in the Hollywood walk of fame.

Presently, Don Francisco hosts Sábado Gigante on Univision and has interviewed public figures like Barack Obama and George W. Bush, and continues to be an important figure in US society. According to the Guinness World Records Sábado Gigante is the world’s longest running TV variety show, and the program has been broadcast every Saturday evening since 8 August 1962.

Early on, while still in Chile, Don Francisco persevered and overcame criticism of his unorthodox style.  However, only a few years later, he had already become one of the most recognized figures in Chile and Latin America.  His program began reaching a wider audience in the 1970’s when it was broadcast from Miami by the Univisión network.

He receives special recognition for his central role in the Teletón, an annual show that began in 1978 and runs continuously for 27 hours in order to generate donations for handicapped children.  Other notable honors include the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit and an Emmy for Spanish Television Leadership.