adidas spikes Jaime Bayly is dying
Contact Us,Jaime Bayly’s Mega TV studio is a sparse, alien world. A pair of solitary white chairs sits on a slightly elevated stage. Two freshly poured glasses of water, sweating under the spotlights, are placed on a tiny table. The talk show star’s last name is spelled out in giant, glowing letters in the background, their neon colors changing during commercial breaks.
It’s Thursday, December 2, 13 episodes into Bayly’s triumphant return to the Spanish language television station he left more than a year ago. Mar Antonieta Collins, a respected Mexican journalist and tonight’s guest, sits just off camera. She shifts her legs underneath a high table and nervously looks around the cavernous Hialeah warehouse. Sporting violet eye shadow, pearls, and a tight blue dress, the perky former anchorwoman knows anything can happen on the show, which Bayly insists on airing live.
Suddenly, upbeat jazz music blares from loudspeakers above. A small audience of 30 or so mostly Cuban Americans claps on cue as the 45 year old saunters out from behind a black velvet curtain. Dressed in a baggy suit, with shaggy black hair and a trademark grin, Bayly looks like an oversized child. He starts by describing the cradle robbing details of his relationship with his 22 year old fianc Silvia N del Arco: “For the past five months, I haven’t been able to have sex with her. But you have to show solidarity with your girlfriend while she’s pregnant. She can’t drink, so now I don’t drink either. She can’t smoke cigarettes so I’ve given them up too. She doesn’t feel like having sex, so I don’t have sex with her. I have sex with other women.”
When the monologue ends, Collins takes her seat on stage. “I am in shock, Jaime,” she says. “Just imagine if someday someone shows these videos to your son. He’s going to be tremendously hurt and confused.”
“By then I’ll be dead,” Bayly responds. “Besides, I hope my son isn’t so solemn and pompous not to have a sense of humor.”
“Behave yourself, Jaime,” Collins scolds.
“When I make jokes, I’m not misbehaving. I’m trying to make people laugh,” Bayly shoots back. “I’m fulfilling the principal role of television.” After a tense 15 minute interview, the stage lights fade for a commercial. Bayly and Collins stand up and kiss on the cheek, but their microphones remain on. “Don’t come here just to complain about my behavior,” Bayly says angrily over the outro music. “And don’t be so damn boring.”
Bayly is a man of many parts. He’s both Letterman and Charlie Rose; comedian and serious interviewer;
straight and gay; shamelessly self promoting and relentlessly self deprecating.
After a one and a half year hiatus, he has returned to Miami screens with his snarky and unsparing show simply entitled Bayly that premiered on Mega TV in November. He is the LeBron James of the late night Latino TV circuit: both fiercely hated and widely admired. In his native Peru, he is a political force. After years of failed forays into politics in that country including a botched 2009 bid for presidency he has emerged as a deciding force in recent elections. Last September, he almost single handedly destroyed a conservative candidate’s campaign for mayor of Lima by leaking an audiotape in which the political aspirant said she didn’t give a damn about the office. And a series of scandalous revelations stemming from a dinner conversation between Bayly and current president Alan Garc have thrown this year’s presidential election into disarray. With 13 novels, a syndicated newspaper column, and prime real estate atop every tabloid in the country, Bayly is the fifth most powerful person in Peru according to the magazine Peru Econ New Times first approached Bayly, he declined an interview but suggested a good scene to start this story: “You can say in the article that we met, that you came to my house, that we spent some very pleasurable time naked in the swimming pool, and we drank a bottle of vodka each. You can color the interview with a little fiction.”
But Bayly’s life already reads like fiction: He’s a rich boy who ran away from home, nearly destroyed himself with drugs, flirted with suicide, and came out of the closet with a best selling book that made him one of the most recognizable faces in Peru. He has hosted a dozen popular TV programs, but has also received death threats and broken off contact with nearly all his family and friends.
“People are always shocked to hear what Jaime has to say,” says close friend Mar Celeste Arrar the host of Telemundo’s nightly news show Al Rojo Vivo. “At the same time, they admire that he’s got the guts to vent his secrets and tear open his life every night on TV.”
It’s hard to overestimate the grasp Bayly has on the Peruvian psyche. Imagine a child of privilege like Bobby Kennedy Jr., but openly bisexual, prone to drug abuse, dying of mysterious liver problems, and intent on exposing all of his family’s darkest secrets. Now envision giving him free rein on TV every night.
Jaime Bayly Letts was born in Lima in February 1965, the third of ten children. His father, Jaime Bayly Llona, attended college in London but returned to Peru to work as an executive at his father’s bank. Later, Grandfather Bayly gave his son’s family a mansion with domestic servants and vast manicured gardens in a tony suburb of Lima called Los C It was about as distant a setting as you could find from the cramped, dirty callejones of downtown Lima where little Jaime would eventually find himself. But the beautiful landscaping hid a divided family. Jaime’s father and grandfather shared a frigid relationship.
Jaime’s family mostly declined to speak with New Times for this article. For his part, the talk show host remembers his childhood as a bitter standoff with his distant father. They interacted, he recalls, mostly when Jaime Sr. would punish little Jaime for no apparent reason. After any impropriety, the father would call the boy into the bedroom and order him to strip naked. Then he would lash his backside with the end of a leather belt until it bled.
“It wasn’t until years later when I had grown up that I remembered that and thought: ‘What the fuck? That is a very strange way of punishing your son,’ ” Bayly recalls. “My father had a comfortable, even luxurious life, but demons and phantoms were eating at his soul.”