Discover more from By Tony Russo
I Watched a Man Get Killed on YouTube
It was uncomfortably satisfying
As I’ve written before, I get weird inspiration from a crossword book I have around the house. Sometimes the questions line up with what’s going on in my world. I’ve started a section of notes about it here.
Not too long ago I was listening to a podcast (I can’t for the life of me recall which one, sorry) where the hosts went on a kind of tangent about actors who slept with bullfighters. Now, no one looks at me and says, “That dude is clearly a hardcore feminist,” but the conversation felt more than a little reductive.
Two that I recall right off the top of my head (I barely researched this story) were Ava Gardner and Rita Hayworth. Certainly, there’s more to recall about them than Spanish flings. There were others, though, as if it were a fad among the Hollywood elite to collect matadors at some point.
What got me, what always gets me, is the attraction to the matador. Bullfighting is vulgar and primal, as is (I guess) being attracted to someone whose career and vocation is public animal torture. Maybe these women saw themselves as Carmen, teasing and torturing the bullfighter until they got the horns.
Knock yourself out in the comments if you must, but bullfighting’s the cruelest of the bloodsports. Cockfighting and dog fighting don’t have “spectacle” on their side. Tens of thousands don’t attend. Instead, a couple dozen or so attend those in the filthy, secretive, underground conditions they’re morally due.
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A quick bullfighting primer
There’s a guy on a horse (the picador) who stabs the bull in the neck over and over until it can’t hold its head up. Then there’s another guy (the matador) with more stabbers who shows up and stabs the bull in its back and legs to slow it down and weaken it. Eventually, he stabs it to death.
If the matador looks as if he might be in trouble, another guy comes out, rodeo-clown style, to distract the bull. The animal doesn’t have a chance unless there’s a screwup on the matador’s part. Even then, there are multitudes who will come from the shadows to help the matador escape and also to kill the bull if necessary.
Three guys dressed like cartoon dandies torturing and killing an animal as the throng celebrates is just gross. Imagine if they held bullfighting in secret, like cockfights, with the day-glo heroes standing around a bull in a shed stabbing it to death while 30 or so people looked on. It’s surreal and a little depraved, like an acid peep show.
Born to Die
Bloodlust and gambling addiction drive dog- and cockfighting, but cultural relativism is the backbone of bullfighting. Locals and tourists alike pack out the stadiums and scream for literal blood in a way unique to the experience.
The tourists intrigue me the most because they can pretend to be morally neutral, as if they’re amateur anthropologists watching barbarians instead of tourists playing at being barbarians.
That was my headspace a month ago when I saw the crossword puzzle clue, “Encouragement for Manolete,” three letters. He wasn’t one of the lothario matadors (I checked), though I was tempted to write “sex” anyway for my own amusement.
Manolete was dating an actor named Lupe Sino who was crushed by his death. There are movies about them, one of which stars Adrian Brody, who bears more than a little resemblance.
Reading on, I discovered he likely was, if not a fraud, certainly not the hero his statues portray.
Remember in Rocky III when Rocky was able to stay champ for a long time because they never let him fight anyone he couldn’t beat? It was like that, except for bull torture.
Manolete became so lucrative for his major sponsors they would pre-weaken the bulls even before they let the little picador at them. They would shorten a bull’s horns and soften the points to protect the greatest bullfighter ever.
So the “greatest bullfighter” seems to be defined by his team’s ability to augment his already ludicrous advantage. Like if racecar drivers also had to run down kittens and the pit crews hobbled and drugged the kittens first.
Manolete got killed anyway.
A couple times.
I was bothered by how much it didn’t bother me. I mean, if you watch him torturing this bull knowing the fix was in, it’s hard not to root for the bull. You can see glee in the crowd during the cutaways. I enjoyed a peculiar satisfaction knowing they were moments away from being horrified as their hero faltered and the bull got the upper hand, if for just a moment.
When he does, it’s honestly not as violent as I’d hoped it would be. That’s a story for another time, but I’ve also written elsewhere that there’s a latent rage that I feel a lot of times gets played out as schadenfreude, at least in my mind.
I’m not ready to take to the streets, but I’m always happy to see misery visited upon the idle rich and entitled. I think what I wrote was, I won’t build the guillotines, but I’ll certainly show up to see if they work. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for the bull getting one last lick in.
I’m a heartless monster, too, but for the left.
The bull didn’t “kill” Manolete. Manolete was stupid and careless and got too close to an animal he’d been torturing.
Here’s a fun fact I left out earlier. If the bull won’t go after the picador’s horse (don’t get me started on the horse aspect), they stick the bull as a “penalty.” It’s fucking barbaric.
So anyway, Manolete still manages (with the help of his team of professional bull torturers) to kill the bull. The matador died of his wounds a little later on. I read somewhere that the wound may not have been fatal but he got the wrong blood during a transfusion.
I love that story, that all those sponsors spent a blue fortune hamstringing an armored cow just to lose their poster boy to a cut-rate doctor.
Keep the Faith,
I still love Carmen. She’s the only matador I hate to see gored.
I gave a talk last night about Dragged into the Light. I was on a nonfiction panel with another journalist, a memoirist, and a self-help author.
I don’t know how differently my talk would have gone if I knew the self-help woman was the author of a Christian self-help book. I guess on some level I knew that was an industry, how could it not be? Like, if you don’t know, Google Christian Self-Help books. There are more than 60,000 on Amazon.
I have a special hatred for that genre because it is so mercenary. They should all be called, “The Bible for Dummies by Dummies.”
Anyway, whenever I talk about Sherry Shriner religion comes off poorly (as you might imagine) but often there’s also a question about why people believed her. My answer is always the same: Some people know there are Christians out there who will buy anything as long as someone tells them it will give them a better understanding of what Jesus wants them to do.
Ten minutes later, this poor woman had to talk to people about how to get a better understanding of what Jesus wants them to do. I felt a little guilty, as if maybe I would have been more ginger about religious con artists if I’d known.
She was a nice enough lady, but she used a PowerPoint and went too long as the last speaker in a night of overruns. I could hear the door behind me open and close as the odd person slipped out. Once she stopped talking, though, the room emptied before the applause faded.
She didn’t hang around either.
Here are some notes you missed followed by a video of Manolete’s goring.
You can see the “goring” here if you want. I skipped all the bull murder highlights, so this starts right before Manolete gets his.