Singer, dancer and actress Lola Flores became a legend in her own lifetime on account of her immense charisma and stage personality. She came from a humble background in the Jerez de la Frontera and started singing and dancing in local bars at the age of ten. She moved with her family to Madrid as a teenager to pursue her career, initially suffering great hardship during the war and post-war years. She landed her first film role at the age of 17 and from then until the end of her life she appeared in countless films and television programmes as well as producing a huge number of records.
Lola Flores represented popular Spanish culture for generations of Spaniards and had millions of fans in Latin America. She travelled to the United States in the fifties and was said to have conquered the hearts of some of Hollywood’s greats. On stage her passion and powers of expression made up for some technical imperfections. After her performance in Madison Square Gardens the New York Times film critic famously wrote “She can’t sing, she can’t dance – don’t miss her!”
In 1957 she married the flamenco guitarist Antonio González and they had three children, Lolita, Antonio and Rosario. Many anecdotes are told about her more outrageous behaviour. On one occasion she lost an earring on a television set and halted the performance while she searched around for it. Before continuing to sing she told the programme director on camera that he should make sure it was returned.
Another famous occasion was the wedding of her older daughter Lolita, when the church was so overwhelmed with thousands of well-wishers that they were unable to conduct the service. Lola took a microphone and spoke to the crowds saying “If you love me, go away”, a phrase that has remained popular to this day.
In 1991 Lola Flores was convicted of five consecutive years of tax fraud and sentenced to 16 months in prison, although she was released after paying a hefty fine. She said in her defense that she didn´t understand the paperwork and didn´t realize that the punishment for tax fraud was so great. She announced to the cameras – if every Spaniard gave me one peseta I would be able to pay what I owe.
Lola Flores continued with her television performances until just before her death from cancer. Two weeks later her son Antonio committed suicide. Her two daughters still are both well known singers.