When I first moved to Mexico City, I was perplexed by a figure named Jairo Campos. I saw his name on an enormous marquee outside the Hotel Diplomático on Insurgentes Avenue, which announced the show he gave in the hostelry’s bar. Several days later I saw the same name on an equally huge sign on Avenida Álvaro Obregón – only this time, the billboard broadcast his services as a dentist. Could they be the same person? How many people named Jairo Campos could there be in the same city?
I never went to him to get my teeth cleaned, nor did I catch his act at the Diplomático. Yet his legend increased: Friends mentioned that some years ago the good doctor appeared on TV commercials, performing dental chores on less-than-spectacular models.
Recently some friends recommended that I visit the bar of the Hotel Prim at the corner of Calle Versalles and Calle General Prim in the Colonia Juárez. It’s a blurry, amber-colored joint, which looks like a Technicolor movie from the 1960s. The regulars refer to it as la catedral del bohemio de la ciudad de México. During the day, Jairo Campos still puts in crowns and operate on gums, but several nights a week, the Prim’s stage belongs to him.
Plump, with dyed hair and goatee, the dentist has an adoring public, most of whom know the words to all the songs he croons, and sometimes go onstage to sing alongside him. Between numbers, Campos makes remarks that are intermittently coherent, often evoking memories. For instance, before singing Prohibida (Forbidden), he will recall a girlfriend he had in his youth Jijilpan, as well as the changungas and chimbiriches that he ate in Apatzingán.
On some nights at the Prim you can also catch the estimable Polly, more or less a Mexican Liza Minelli. She is a dyed blonde who gives it all she's got and then some, and whose passion mounts with each cocktail she consumes during her act. Sometimes, during her break between shows, she relaxes with members of the public. The other night she sat with two fans with white hair and black suits, who may have had some connection with the funeral parlor across the street.