Julio Iglesias spends much of his time in the air these days, crisscrossing the globe in his private plane to sing in concerts from Singapore to Transylvania. But for the several months of the year he is at his home in Indian Creek, an exclusive island enclave just off Surfside, his circle is much smaller.
“I live a very secluded life,” says the 70-year old legend, buzzing the island’s single road in an electric golf cart. “I don’t go to parties for the last 20 years. I don’t go to the Grammys. I don’t go anywhere. They invite me, I don’t go. I don’t have anything to say except when I am singing.
“I know the road to the microphone and from the microphone back. I put on my jacket, put conditioner in my hair. And I think I am the luckiest man in the world.”
Iglesias is not quite as lucky as in his glory days in the 1970s and ’80s, when he broke concert ticket-sales records and sent legions of women swooning. When he performs Saturday night at the AmericanAirlines Arena, it will be the largest venue of a U.S. tour that’s taking him mostly to casinos and smaller cities.
But for millions of fans from China to Chile, Arizona to Israel, Julio Iglesias still embodies the Latin crooner, the suave seducer, the romantic fantasy. For Latinos, he was the man men wanted to be and women dreamed of being with. He is a global icon who has sung and recorded in more languages than any other artist, crossing over before crossover was a concept.
Iglesias’ move from his native Spain to Miami in 1979 helped give the city an aura of international glamour, and was instrumental to its becoming the capital of Latin music and entertainment. Though his latest album, 1, which reprises his many hits, sold a very respectable but not earth-shattering million copies, Guinness World Records last year decreed that his 300 million sales of 80 albums made him the best-selling male Latin artist of all time.
The power of his image lingers even as he roams farther for concert bookings in smaller venues that, he says, often don’t cover the cost of his private plane and entourage.
“I travel with 40 people from Finland to China,” he says. “It costs me the same money that I make, because I don’t put 25,000 people together anymore. But for me to sing gives me a feeling that . . . makes my blood run much stronger in my body. I look in the mirror every day. Without singing, I would not look in the mirror.”
Elegant in narrowly cut but relaxed pants and pullover, he is still tan and slim, though with a fine matrix of wrinkles not apparent in his soft-focus publicity photos.
He buzzes past the medium-size mansion he shares with his wife, Miranda Rijnsburger, a former Dutch model 23 years his junior, and their five children, Michael, 16; Rodrigo, 14; golden-haired twins Victoria and Cristina, 12; and Guillermo, 6. (“He is the only one in the family who thinks I am young,” Iglesias said earlier, sitting in their living room and patting his youngest boy’s back affectionately. “He comes from heaven, this guy.”)
Their mother, slim and deftly graceful in white jeans and flowing beige cardigan, explains that the family used to spend most of the time at the Iglesias estate in the Dominican Republic, or traveling the globe with their patriarch. But as the children grew older they craved school friends, not private tutors, and they now live most of the year in Miami, where they attend private school.
Iglesias guides the golf cart to an enormous, immaculately landscaped lot that could hold several mansions, the site of his first home on the island. He tore it down in 2008, when he didn’t get his asking price of $25 million. He might rebuild, he says, if he has time.
For now, it is a small, private park on a private island, where Guillermo is playing soccer with his mother. The boy is defending a practice net, shrieking with delight as he kicks the ball into the dusk. When Iglesias was 19, he, too, was a goalie — for Spain’s famed Real Madrid soccer team, until a car accident left him paralyzed. He spent three years learning to walk and talk again and, to help him regain use of his hands, to play guitar, and finally, to sing. “I learned to go to the end,” he says. “I am a champion because I am a survivor.”
Half a century later, that determination drove Iglesias to shed the indulgences he enjoyed for so long. “I love to eat, I love to drink — I bought the best wines. But I cannot eat so much, I cannot drink so much now,” he says. “At 70 years old the stage demands absolute discipline. If I don’t rest, I don’t sing. If I don’t take care of myself, I don’t sing. Before I took everything for granted. Now I take nothing for granted.”
He contemplates the sun glowing orange-pink between a lattice of palm fronds and on the glimmering surface of the Intracoastal Waterway. “I have been watching this for the last 35 years,” he says. “I will continue watching this until I die, maybe.”
Guillermo’s shouts turn to wails as the sky darkens and his mother urges him home. “He doesn’t want to leave,” Iglesias says, with a hint of a smile.
There’s a flash of his fabled seductiveness. “In two hours you cannot discover my life,” he tells the journalist interviewing him. “To discover me you would have to sleep with me for six months, darling.”
The ladies’ man
But he dismisses tales of his sexual voraciousness, including tales that he once needed two women a day.
“Let me tell you that story, because it’s very funny,” he says. He was in London in the 1970s, in the midst of a sold-out run of 10 concerts – or was it 12? – when his manager came to the hotel with a newspaper interview in which Iglesias had boasted that he’d slept with 3,000 women.
“After five minutes he says, ‘I think it’s a great promotion.’ So when they ask me about that now, so many times, I say, ‘Oh, that was in 1975. Now it’s like a million!’ ”
However many there were, Rijnsburger has outlasted them all. He met her in an airport in Jakarta, where he invited her to one of his concerts.
“She had a boyfriend, naturally — she was beautiful,” Iglesias says. “Maybe I was no better than the boyfriend.”
He was with her for 20 years, sending out Christmas cards with glossy pictures of their expanding clan, before he married her in 2010.
“If I did not feel the freedom to be independent, I would not get together with anyone,” he says. “She understands that, and so we are a marriage forever. . . . She is my love, my companion. I don’t understand my life without her.”
Iglesias, who launched his career by winning a Spanish song contest in 1968, says he would never make it in the era of American Idol.
“Not just me, but Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, would never make it today,” he says. “Everybody looks the same, everybody acts the same, the same gimmick, the same dance. Everybody sings better than we sang. But there is a vulnerability that makes you much more attractive than people who have everything.”
Among those contemporary stars is his son Enrique, 38, the youngest of three children from his 1971 marriage to Philippine socialite Isabel Preysler, who grew up on Indian Creek during Iglesias’ jet-setting prime. Enrique’s first album was dedicated to his nanny, and father and son have been dogged by rumors of competition and estrangement.
Iglesias admits that Enrique might have had reason to feel neglected.
“I feel a little guilty when I talk about this subject,” he says. “It’s true, maybe, I was not as good a father as I am now.”
Iglesias says he loves and is proud of the only one of his children to follow his career, but adds that he talks to Enrique, who lives in Miami, only two or three times a year.
“We are not compatible,” he says. “He has an extraordinary, deep life and I have another.”
He describes their separate paths as “the perfect relationship between a father and son who live in the ocean of life, and when they get to port they say, ‘Hello, how was your trip? Good, father, good. How was your trip Papi? Good, good trip. Are you happy? Yes, I’m happy. Let’s see each other on the next trip.’ ”
The real world
Iglesias’ trip continues, endlessly, it seems, and to ever more corners of the earth. In 2011 he helped the king and queen of Malaysia inaugurate a mall in Kuala Lumpur and played a New Year’s Eve concert in Georgia — not the state, but the country that was part of the former Soviet Union. Last year he received awards for being the first and most popular international artist in China.
His travels do not extend to the virtual world, however — he admits that he knows nothing about social media or the Internet. “I don’t follow anything,” he says. “I don’t know how to go inside the Internet.”
Except to check the weather as he prepares to cross the Pacific again. And while he admiringly mentions artists like Bruno Mars and Beyoncé, he doesn’t try to keep up with pop music.
“I don’t have time anymore,” he says. “They ask me sometimes, ‘Julio, why don’t you drink young wines?’ Funny question, because I bought good wines in the ’70s, now they are perfect, great wines you bought for $20 or $30 today are a fortune. I don’t have time to drink the old ones. How am I going to drink the young ones? Music is quite the same.”