Counting down to the end of ‘Sabado Gigante’ with Don Francisco

Mario Kreutzberger, better known by his stage name Don Francisco, hosting "Sabado Gigante."

Mario Kreutzberger, better known by his stage name Don Francisco, hosting “Sabado Gigante.”

(Getty Images)

There are just three episodes left before the lights dim on the larger-than-life Spanish-language TV staple “Sábado Gigante.”

After 53 years on the air, the madcap variety show is ending its run on Sept. 19. And we tagged along with its zany ringleader Mario Kreutzberger — who is better known under his stage name Don Francisco — during the final days of the Miami-based show.

Here are some things we learned along the way:

—We met up with Kreutzberger at his home in Indian Creek Village, a gated community on an island in Biscayne Bay for some of Miami’s most wealthy. Inside his home is an area that could basically be dubbed the “Sábado Gigante/Don Francisco Museum," where you are surrounded by wall-to-wall photos of Kreutzberger with luminaries such as Michelle Obama and Pope John Paul II, as well as various awards and certificates he’s received throughout the show’s run. Most impressive were the stacks and stacks of bound press clippings that his wife has collected through the decades.

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—Kreutzberger doesn’t use a chauffeur to get to work. The 74-year-old drives himself. Aside from the occasional honk or two from other motorists, it’s a smooth ride. He even manages to do a phone interview (via his car’s hands-free phone system) with relative ease.

—Speaking of phones, Kreutzberger has three. And he can’t be talking on one without another ringing. His attachment to the phone is hard to ignore — as he’s walking into a restroom, one will be pressed against his ear; as he's getting groomed before taking the stage, he'll be answering texts and scrolling through emails.

—He brings his own lunch to work, always has (“I have to watch my figure.”)

—Kreutzberger is not as loud and boisterous off-camera as his Don Francisco persona. In between shots during the taping of the final installment of “Ritmo Dieta,”, an in-show weight-loss competition, which will air this Saturday, Kreutzberger is serious and stone-faced. But when the red light on his camera flashes, the booming voice and energetic body language take control, dazzling the studio audience to cheer and applaud.

Did you grow up watching "Sábado Gigante?" Share your favorite memories from the show in the comments section or tweet your memory with the hashtag #adiosSabado. We'll be looking out for them.

Check back later for our live coverage of Don Francisco's final show.

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