Silverio Perez, King of the Bull Ring

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Mexican bullfighting legend Silverio Perez died last week. Former bullfighter and author Barnaby Conrad discusses Perez with Linda Wertheimer.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Thousands of fans are expected to gather tomorrow at Mexico City's main bullfighting ring to pay their respects to one of the country's most beloved matadors. Silverio Perez died last Saturday at the age of 91.

Nicknamed The Pharaoh, Mr. Perez's skill in the bullring was legendary. Joining us on the line from Carpentaria, California is a former bullfighter, Barnaby Conrad.

Did you ever see The Pharaoh bullfighting?

Mr. BARNABY CONRAD (Former Bullfighter): I not only saw him but I knew him.

WERTHEIMER: What was it that he did that attracted people to him?

Mr. CONRAD: Well, your normal reaction when you see a bull charging at you is to jump back out of the way. These are wild animals that have been bred, not trained. They never see a man - a dismounted man until they go into the ring. And his reaction was to step forward and to take the bull, not three feet way - cause that's no trick. You can learn to do that in a year or so. But to take the bull within inches of your legs, and absolutely gracefully, and not do what your legs are telling you to do, which is to step back in mutiny. And he could do that day after day.

WERTHEIMER: The thing that I've always thought was amazing is the bull is going fast, I mean when the bull charges.

Mr. CONRAD: Well, the bull's faster than any racehorse that ever lived for the first couple of hundred yards.

WERTHEIMER: But the bullfighter, part of the deal is the bullfighter has to move slowly.

Mr. CONRAD: Well, he has to stand still. He moves his arms, but he - as the bull goes by, you're not going to hear people say Ole if you jump back out of the way, which is - any reasonable person would do. But if you do, 10,000 people will insult your mother. If you see a master like Silverio Perez, you will know that what you're - you will say, oh, it looks so easy, I can do that. Then you're watching a master.

WERTHEIMER: Tell us about the famous match in 1943, the bull Tangito(ph).

Mr. CONRAD: Well, I didn't happen to see it. I would have loved to have seen it, but I've seen magnificent photos of this gorgeous bull.

WERTHEIMER: And was that what made this a special bullfight?

Mr. CONRAD: It was special because the man rose to the occasion. This bull kept charging and charging and was an enormous bull and was so brave. And they begged for the bull to be spared, as often happens, and the bull was spared, and they put him out to pasture.

WERTHEIMER: Then what was his life like, do you suppose?

Mr. CONRAD: Probably marvelous, out there with 50 or so cows and living - they live to be about twenty, twenty-one or two years old.

WERTHEIMER: Mr. Conrad, thank you very much for speaking with us.

Mr. CONRAD: Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: Barnaby Conrad is a former matador. His new book about bullfighting is called The Death of Manolete.

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