Fernando Hidalgo, Cuban-Born TV Host, Dies at 78

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Every weeknight for 14 years, Fernando Hidalgo burst into the living rooms of Spanish-speaking households across the United States to lively Cuban fanfare, as dancers in colorful lingerie shimmied to bongos and trumpets and a theme song bearing his name.

Broadcasting from a studio in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., just outside Miami, Mr. Hidalgo filled his show with interviews, monologues, skits with winking double entendres, scantily clad dancers who shocked abuelas and a generous helping of live Cuban music for nostalgic abuelos. At 7 p.m. or 11 p.m., “El Show de Fernando Hidalgo,” which aired on América TeVé and later on MegaTV, was appointment viewing in Latino households, particularly in South Florida, New York and Puerto Rico.

Mr. Hidalgo died on Feb. 15 at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables, Fla. He was 78. His death was confirmed by his son Marlon Corona, 28, who said the cause was complications of Covid-19.

América TeVé said in a statement that Mr. Hidalgo showed an “enormous talent for interpreting the sensibilities of our community, as well as his impressive capacity for improvisation and thematic renewal.”

Fernando Corona was born in Marianao, Cuba, on Sept. 18, 1942, to Robert Corona, a Cuban soldier who later owned a flower business, and Concepción (Hidalgo) Corona, a homemaker, his son said.

He was an adolescent when he moved with his family from Cuba to Chicago, where he got a job reading poems about Cuba on the radio, said Nereida Dellan, his former wife.

As he established himself as a performer and a broadcaster, Mr. Hidalgo took his mother’s maiden name as a stage name, Ms. Dellan said.

His career took him to Puerto Rico and Venezuela and back to the United States as he acted in and hosted shows, including a situation comedy, “Cómo Ser Feliz en el Matrimonio,” or “How to Be Happily Married.” He also hosted a game show similar to “The Newlywed Game” called “Los Casados Felices,” or “The Happy Married Couples.”

The first episode of “El Show de Fernando Hidalgo” aired in September 2000. Mr. Hidalgo had closely studied American television hosts, particularly Johnny Carson, and adopted a comedy-variety format that catered to Latin tastes and interests.

He worked hard to build the show into an institution, even going door to door to businesses in Miami in its early days to sell advertising, his son said. Every night, he would watch his own show and critique himself, Ms. Dellan said.

Mr. Hidalgo was fiercely proud of his Cuban heritage and brought that spirit to the show. He ended every episode with a performance of the popular Cuban song “Guantanamera,” changing the lyrics to reflect current events.

In addition to Mr. Corona, he is survived by two other sons, Ronald Corona and Fernando Corona; his daughters, Barbara Corona and Shayra Corona; nine grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

A network executive once asked Mr. Hidalgo how he expected to make his show interesting every night. Mr. Corona recalled Mr. Hidalgo as saying, “Don’t worry, every Cuban in Miami has an interesting story.”

“It took a lot of convincing” to establish the show, Mr. Castro said, “but that was one of his strengths, selling and convincing people.”

In 2012, the show moved to MegaTV, which created new episodes until 2014, Ms. Dellan said. Mr. Hidalgo starred in and produced a film, “Ernesto’s Manifesto,” in Los Angeles in 2019, fulfilling a longstanding dream.

“He died with his movie,” Ms. Dellan said in Spanish of Mr. Hidalgo and his film. “It was his crown of gold.”

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