I remember when he first entered my life. I was cleaning the house, wearing old sweats and sporting a bad hair-do. As I vacuumed around the couch, I saw him on television.

Oh, he was just delicious. He was a tall, Latino man with fabulously long, thick, gorgeous hair. (I’ve always been a sucker for men with luxurious locks — it’s a symptom of 1980s exposure).

His eyes sparkled, as he asked one of the main characters on “General Hospital” what kind of martini they wanted.

The new actor, playing “Bartender” in the script, was Oscar worthy, I determined, although he only said one sentence.

“That man is so incredibly beautiful, there’s no way he’s just going to be an extra,” I said out loud, as the guy in the white shirt, wiping glasses in the background, clearly became a scene-stealer.

“Oh, this is my new bartender, Miguel,” said Mac Scorpio, as Ned Quartermaine extended his hand.

“Very nice to meet you,” Miguel said, with a thick accent that I swore was made of chocolate fudge and hot tamales.

“Yes, very nice to meet you,” I purred from my housewife existence. “Where did they find that one?”

After that day, I made it a point to never miss my soap opera — ever. We had a bar and grill in Elgin at the time — with the Mel and Miguel Hour (also known as “General Hospital”) starting at 2 p.m., it was perfect. I could watch while cleaning up from the lunch hour and getting ready for the evening. Usually, at that time of day, I was alone — well, not completely. I now had the pleasure of my new character, Miguel the Bartender, as he kept me company.

Our relationship blossomed over time. Of course, I was right (I always was when it came to daytime drama). Miguel shone so brightly from behind the bar, they had to bring him out into the forefront. He was “discovered” by the local music promoter (fictional character), as someone heard him singing while cutting up limes at Mac’s fake bar. Of course they did.

“Do you sing?” they asked, as he playfully tossed his hair back and said, “Just a little. I didn’t have many opportunities in my home country.”

Well, give him some opportunity here, I thought.

They did. The soap opera writers created a situation in which the character Miguel would sing during an amateur night at the bar, everyone would clamor to put him in a band. Of course, the locals of Port Charles (fictional town, where General Hospital is located) loved him.

And so did I. And so did millions of other women around the nation, as we became mesmerized with our new Latino Love.

As I predicted (again, I’m always right), the character Miguel ended up moonlighting as a private investigator who fell in love with the Mob Boss’ girlfriend, Brenda; was the target of a murder investigation; was found to be the long-lost brother of a woman with amnesia whose father survived a mine collapse and a boat explosion.

Didn’t you just love soap operas?

While he was keeping up his active pace on “General Hospital,” the daytime television magazines were taking notice. “Who is this new heart throb?” the headlines asked as I bought milk at the grocery store.

“Yes, who is he?” I asked as I stared at my mysterious obsession.

That’s when I learned his name, in real life, was actually Ricky Martin.

Ricky Martin. Hmm, I thought. That’s pretty plain. I was expecting something like Adonis De La Hoya Fabuloso.

Ricky Martin. This guy made all my younger-life crushes, such as Shaun Cassidy and Rick Springfield, look like road kill. This one was a keeper for the fantasy file.

Now, known as Ricky to me in regular life and Miguel from 2-3 p.m., on weekdays, he started to ooze from between laundry detergent commercials into the mainstream world. Then, he erupted like a volcano in his first prime time, live performance in a spectacular called “Livin’ la Vida Loca,” on the Grammys.

The crowd rose to their feet, asking one another, “Where did he come from? Who is that guy?”

All the while, I screamed from the living room that he was My Miguel, he was Ricky Martin! I, along with millions of other housewives had literally discovered him. He was ours, but I guess we were willing to share.

Ricky Martin became a star. Now everyone was in on our daytime secret. In his tight black jeans and trademark leather jacket, the Latin Stallion started to talk about his passion for acting and singing. His concerts sold out south of the border and now it was time to take America by storm.

Unfortunately, about the same time Jon Bon Jovi cut his hair, so did my beloved Ricky. I mourned the loss of those locks — but grew accustomed to the updated version.

Let’s be frank — he was still hot as a jalapeno.

Eventually, the character of Miguel went away because the real person became a mega superstar and I suppose ABC could no longer afford to pay Ricky soap opera wages.

Eventually, my time with soap operas went away as well . . . as my job requirements changed and I no longer had that time slot open to indulge in “General Hospital.”

Alas, the relationship between Miguel and Mel fizzled out . . . although I have continued to follow the real life version of Ricky Martin from afar.

I heard he had – or still has – a residency in Las Vegas. I don’t get to that venue very often these days, so we haven’t had any interaction for a while.

Then the other day, I saw there was going to be a segment on some entertainment show about Ricky aka Miguel . . . he’s still Livin’ la Vida Loca, as am I in my own non-glamorous way.

We may not be as close as we used to be, but we will always have our “General Hospital” days.

What we had was special – those hours of me washing glasses in our business while he washed fictional glasses on television will forever be in my heart.

Yes, that 2-3 p.m., Monday through Friday, time slot was precious to me and Miguel . . . even if he didn’t know it.

He’ll always be my Miguel la Vida Loca Extravaganza.


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