Walter Mercado's Family and Fans Reflect on the Astrologer's Legacy
The new Walter Mercado documentary Mucho Mucho Amor, directed by Cristina Costantini and Kareem Tabsch, explores the life and legacy of the Puerto Rican astrologer, who died last year. The Netflix movie has delighted both old and new fans, some of whom appeared in the film. Here, read some of their best recollections of Walter.
The documentary follows Walter to the HistoryMiami Museum, where he was honored with the exhibit "Mucho, Mucho Amor: 50 Years of Walter Mercado." One week before the opening, he felt frail after suffering a fall that fractured some of his ribs. “Nothing scares me and nothing stops me,” Walter says in the movie, overcoming his physical pain to attend the event. In November 2019, three months after that opening, the astrologer died in San Juan, surrounded by loved ones.
“I just think he is this positive force. He is literally sending positive vibes through the television at you one astrological sign at a time and then signing off with mucho, mucho amor," says Lin-Manuel Miranda, a fan who was starstruck when he met the astrologer in Puerto Rico in January 2019.
“Growing up with Walter Mercado, I just remember thinking how dramatic he was, and how fabulous he was. I can’t think of an English-language astrologer that would command the attention of millions of households. It was just Walter,” says Miranda, whose emotional meeting with Mercado was captured in the documentary. “It was just a staple of our childhood. If you went to visit anyone, Walter Mercado was on and you would be quiet until you got to hear your sign.”
A Man of Many Talents
Mercado took dance classes at the University of Puerto Rico and was an actor who did telenovelas, series, and plays on the island. In the documentary, we see him visit Teatro La Perla in Ponce, where he remembers the performances of his youth and the live audience clapping.
A Star Is Born
The late Puerto Rican producer Elín Ortiz had a show on Telemundo and invited Walter to come on and promote a play he was starring in. He spoke about astrology while wearing a white cape, jewelry, and makeup, and that’s how his TV persona was born. The audience was starstruck. His appearance was so successful that they asked him to come again as a guest for three months. He launched Walter, Las Estrellas y Usted in 1969.
Circle of Trust
Mercado’s assistant and longtime friend Willie Acosta also shared his story in the documentary. “I protect Walter from anything, from everything,” he says, adding that he took Walter shopping, went to the movies with him, and traveled with him. “Willie belongs now to my family,” Walter said. “He knows everything, all my secrets.”
A Loving Family
The documentary includes interviews with Walter’s beloved nieces Ivonne, Betty, Dannette, and Bibi Bennet Mercado and Carmen and Charo Mercado, and shows the unconditional love and strong bond between them. "It's been very difficult," Ivonne Bennet Mercado tells People CHICA of Walter's death. "We really miss him. He left a huge void."
Written in the Stars
“I’ve known Walter since I was a young man watching him on television,” Bill Bakula, Walter's ex-manager, says in the film. “He made you stop, he had the ‘stop’ quality.” After doing a spiritual consultation with Walter, Bakula offered to produce a new television show for the astrologer titled Walter and the Stars. “Every talent needs somebody behind them. I was the coach for one single purpose: Walter’s message to get out to as many people as possible," says Bakula.
A Bitter Battle
The relationship with Bakula eventually turned bitter, which led to a legal battle that lasted six years. Walter claimed he signed a contract with Bakula without reading it, trusting his lawyer’s advice. Under the terms of the contract, he signed all rights to his past and future work over to Bill’s company. He also signed over rights to his name and image. Bakula argued that “both parties understood the agreement." Even though Walter did later get his name and rights back, his family claimed the stress caused him to have a heart attack in 2012.
The astrologer and psychic recovered from his heart attack after being treated at Cleveland Clinic. He died of kidney failure on November 2, 2019, leaving a legacy of love and positivity. "It was very emotional," says Ivonne Bennet Mercado about watching the documentary after his death. "We really liked it. Seeing him [on the screen] after losing him was like having him again with us. We cried a lot. We also laughed at a lot of scenes. It was very intense for us."