Amnesty International had approached Richard with the idea that something needed to be said on behalf of the artists, poets and musicians who had ‘disappeared’ or had been persecuted for their resistance by the Chilean dictator Pinochet who was still in power when Mr. Mister headlined the Vina Del Mar Festival in Santiago. This was an annual government sponsored concert that was broadcast on television all over South America along with 25,000 plus people in attendance.
After arriving in Santiago, a man wearing a disguise (fake moustache, wig and walking with a cane) came to the hotel to meet with Richard about what to say the evening of the first of two nights shows. Written in Spanish, it basically said, “We stand with the artists who have been persecuted”. This didn’t go over well as one would imagine with the government connected people in the first ten rows of the venue. Boos and thumbs down gestures were directed at the band and yet the regular folks that made up the majority of the audience were wildly applauding and screaming their approval. The show was abruptly stopped, Richard was escorted down a hallway lined with soldiers with automatic weapons and into a room where the very aggravated TV producer said to him, “I invite you to my house for dinner and you shit on my table!”. Calmly, Richard responded, “In my country we say whatever we want.” To which the TV producer yelled, “This isn’t your F-ing country!” When Richard refused to go back on stage and apologize, the show was cancelled and the band went back to their hotel thinking they may never get out of the country.
A long, sleepless night followed with the band and crew huddling in one room wondering if drugs would be planted and they all would be arrested.
The next day, Richard was driven to the office of the local mayor who was a very friendly, tall, articulate woman who asked in English if he would please apologize and say he was given the note and didn’t know what was on it. Again, he refused and after some negotiating, he agreed that he wouldn’t say anything political that night and the band was allowed to play (actually they had to let them play because there was no other headliner and the fans would’ve rioted).
That evening’s show was a huge success. Mr. Mister received ‘The Torch”, the award given to the best artist of the festival.
Later that year, Pinochet was removed from power and Chile became a democracy. One would like to think that Mr. Mister’s public denouncement of Pinochet’s administration had something to do his removal, but we will never know.