Like Bilbao, there is something rather English about Félix Linares. He is elegant, amusing, always in his place, and he always finds the mot juste. They do not come much more English than this bilbaino, born in calle Zugastinobia in 1947. He studied at the Indautxu School, now Indautxuko Eskola, and discovered an attraction to films when he was just a boy. His parents went to see a film every Sunday, and his mother, the family’s main critic, narrated the film afterwards in her own way. The fascinated Linares child sometimes persuaded his grandmother to take him to the Olimpia cinema. The first film he remembers seeing is Ten Tall Men. He then also discovered the pleasures of reading, and began to buy comics —El capitán Trueno, El jabato, Apache…— at a newspaper kiosk on the corner of calle Zugastinobia and calle Gordoniz. It was this kiosk he was going to one morning when some local women told him he was in the newspaper. The newsagent confirmed that the ladies were right, and showed him the front page of the paper. Linares saw a large photograph with some children aged about seven or eight, and asked: Which one am I? Surprised, the newsagent pointed to one of those smiling faces. That was the first time Félix had ever seen his face: there were no mirrors in his house. The story is more than relevant, because that face he did not even recognise himself at the time was to become one of the country’s most popular.
Aged fourteen, he left school and went to the Euskalduna Shipyard’s School for Apprentices. There one of the teachers set up a radio station, and he liked Félix’s voice so much that he put him in touch with Radio Bilbao presenter José Manuel Sánchez Tirado for him to teach the boy the ropes. That decision by the teacher changed his life, because it was not long before a vacancy came up at Radio Popular, and he filled it. So it was that the young film buff, avid reader and music-lover – he loves Bruce Springsteen, and started off with the band “Los alacranes”— moved away from a future at the shipyard, and became a radio presenter. A voice like his could not go unnoticed. He worked at Radio Popular from 1966 to 1984, when he found a job through one of the official exams arranged by Radio Euskadi, where he has headed up programmes such as “Iflandia” or “Pompas de papel”, the longest-standing exponent of the literary spaces co-directed with Kike Martín. Television also awaited this tall young man with his blue eyes and impeccable speech. And on 19 September 1995 he emerged as the face of the now legendary programme “La noche de…”. There is one curious fact about those initial steps on television which I do not remember, but I know it is true: for a time, Félix Linares would appear on our televisions with rather disturbing brown eyes. Yes, brown. An optician advised him to protect his rather delicate retinas against the spotlights, and that was why he began to use dark lenses, which not only covered the blue iris, but also a large portion of his eyes. The effect must have been rather disconcerting. Luckily he soon found lenses that protected his eyes, but did not affect his gaze. In any case, “La noche de…” quickly met with success. The camera loved him, and viewer ratings for the portion of the programme before the film have proved this over the twenty-five years he has presented it. His appearances on the small screen transformed him into a well-known communicator who – and I am a witness – was approached while out and about by many people wishing to say hello, congratulate him, or have their photo taken with him. The Englishness I mentioned at the beginning was a must because never, under any circumstances did we see any frowns or indications of annoyance at these requests. The affection people have felt and still feel for him over all those years is reciprocal.
His television success caught the attention of national channels, which made him attractive offers to go to Madrid, but he refused, saying that he likes eating at home. Linares demonstrated that innate wisdom some people have to realise that they are happy, and do not need more of what they already have. The Madrid sky failed to seduce him, and he preferred to stay in Bilbao, and, in fact, walk home from EITB for a quiet lunch.
Félix Linares still works on the radio, but this year he announced he was going to give up “La noche de…”. Recognition of his work was then as multitudinous as it was unanimous, and he took this in and showed his gratitude with admirable serenity. Of course, he still goes to the cinema; in fact, he has occasionally said that when he retires he will do the same as he did before retirement: read, go to the theatre, watch films, and listen to music. Linares is a person who has lived through films. He says that his life is anodyne and he is the sedentary type, but the big screen has also brought him turbulence and adventure. His favourite directors include Ingmar Bergman, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and Federico Fellini. With his encyclopaedia knowledge, totally familiar with audiovisual narrative, he claims that good films must combine entertainment with some kind of philosophical or social concept, although he is aware this is a difficult task. Despite such professional ties to films, he has never felt the need to sit behind the camera. He thinks that filming is a real nightmare, and jokes that, to be a director, you have to have a touch of nastiness that he lacks.
Félix Linares, admired by his colleagues in the profession, still lives very close to calle Zugastinobia and has never betrayed that little boy who started going to the cinema on his own when he was still in short trousers, and bought comics at the newspaper kiosk whenever he could. That loyalty to himself and the way he goes through life, generous and elegant, are so scarce that they are like the plot of a film. If he were English, I would call him “Sir Felix”, but since he is from Bilbao, I will simply call him one hell of a guy.