Havana, Cuba – Ailing dictator Fidel Castro left his sickbed on Tuesday to appear on Cuban national television. The occasion was a visit from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, known to music aficionados as “The Randy Jackson of South America”.
The two socialist leaders are reputed to have engaged in several private talks over the past two years, and the topic of discussion frequently roves from feeding and housing their people to a shared enthusiasm for the #1 television show in the U.S. – American Idol.
“El Comandante is a huge Taylor Hicks fan.” said Carlos Lage Davila, one of six Cuban Vice Presidents “He even bought a ‘Soul Patrol’ t-shirt off of eBay last year. His health problems initially kept him from pursuing his dream of starting a Cuban Idol program, but he revived the idea when Presidente Chavez agreed to appear as a celebrity judge.”
Despite a tremulous and halting rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, Castro is the odds-on favorite to win the finals, which are held in Havana, where his power is unquestioned. Chavez put him through with his typical verbal swagger, saying “Mira, Jefe! Dat was da bomb, perrito! You’re going back to Havana, amigo, 1,000 percent!” The other two judges, Castro’s second cousins Ivan and Carlito, saluted smartly, and the iconoclastic leader was through.
Finalists in the singing competition are rewarded with a complete style-and-uniform makeover by El Jefe’s own tailor, along with a contract to appear in weekly in-show advertisements for the 1946 Chevrolet Fleetline. The winner, to be announced in a lavish live ceremony on March 1st, receives a contract to perform the national anthem at the Pan Am Games, a crate of hand-rolled cigars, and a Cultural Advancement Grant from the Venezuelan Treasury valued at 9 million pesos.
The U.S. Commerce Department continues to enforce an embargo that prevents American pop music from entering Cuba legally. The blockade has done nothing to erode Castro’s power base, but has considerably eased the aural suffering of the average Cuban citizen.