Streaming: Walter Mercado film was written in the stars
The star of the new documentary “Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado” bridges the gap between the sequined fabulousness of Liberace and Lil Nas X. The title comes from the sign-off line of Walter Mercado, a world-famous astrologer and television personality. We meet the man late in his life, wearing your grandmother’s glasses and hairstyle but still sharp as a tack.
Co-directors Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch (a man not afraid of risk, having directed “Dolphin Lover”) try to match Walter’s lively spirit as they tell the story of his life. They uncover photos of a young Walter starring in Puerto Rican theater and telenovelas. On those sets he began reading palms for castmates and, when a producer saw his astrological charms, the rest was bedazzled history.
With a prodigious work ethic, Walter became omnipresent in Latin America and also gained a foothold in the U.S., where he was ubiquitous on Psychic Network commercials and talk shows from Howard Stern to Sally Jessy Raphael.
Constantini and Tabsch use tarot card animations to depict Walter’s major life changes, and employ a fun array of talking heads. There’s Walter’s coterie of nieces and their lapdogs, a woman whose profession is listed as “witch,” his right-hand (“and left-hand”) man, Willie, and also Lin-Manuel Miranda. The most controversial subject is Walter’s unrepentant scam artist manager, Bill Bakula, who once bilked Walter out of the right to his own name and then recycled the maestro’s old horoscopes without stating as such. Needless to say, this takes the science out of the predictions.
Walter has a framed photo of Oscar Wilde and has endured decades of rumors but demurs on the subject of his sexual orientation: “I have sexuality with the wind.” It’s more important to him to emphasize, “I’m just like Dorian Gray—the picture on the wall is growing older and I’m growing younger…” And there’s no shortage of pictures of Walter on the wall. His retirement home in Puerto Rico contains mounds of bejeweled bric-a-brac: there are gold-threaded capes, paperweight-sized brooches, rings with gems the size of tealights, and at least one chunky amethyst bracelet so heavy he can hardly hold up his wrist while wearing it.
The film culminates with Walter’s appearance at the opening of a museum show dedicated to his life—and sciatica be damned, he still hits his angles on camera as ferociously as Lady Gaga. He also claims to be, “The only virgin in town,” when asked by a reporter.
Walter’s a wonderful subject—he speaks naturally in aphorisms like Wilde and we sense he might have been an even bigger star had he told our futures in this Meme Era. Despite the scientifically dubious nature of his work, Walter rarely seems a charlatan, instead radiating the calmness of a man tapping all religions to serve as an interfaith fount of positivity and fabulousness.