Vigil, Suicides, Suspicions Follow Rodrigo Bueno's Death

Four teenagers kill selves, others pray in wake of Argentinean 'cuarteto' star's tragic demise.

Rodrigo Bueno, the Argentinean singing star who died in a car wreck on June 24, lived a dream.

Nicknamed "El Potro" (The Stallion), Rodrigo, 27, was a colorfully coiffed idol whose 1999 album, A 2000 Cuarteto Característico Rodrigo (En Vivo), topped national charts, selling 750,000 copies.

Yet some questioned the validity of his success.

"Without knowing it, he has become a paradigm of how the media-frenzied society, the music mafia, uncontrolled ambition and public pressures form a shredding machine that is difficult to survive," declared the magazine Noticias in a February cover story on Bueno headlined "Use and Throw Away: Our Disposable Idols."

But his status was very real to the four distraught teenage girls who committed suicide in separate incidents following his death. One 18-year-old left a note that read, "I can't live without you. Rodrigo, I love you." Another hung herself after church on Sunday with a photo of Bueno in her pocket.

Thousands of people kept a vigil at his funeral in Buenos Aires. According to the Argentinean singer Gabriela, "His casket was open and everybody waited out in the rain for hours just to get a look at their idol, to touch him and bid him farewell. There were hysterical tears, with six medical units working incessantly as girls constantly fainted. His mother talked to the crowds, asking them not to cry and led them through Rodrigo's songs."

Bueno's death occurred after a show, when his red Ford Explorer was clipped by a Chevy Blazer on the freeway. Bueno, who reportedly was driving drunk and not wearing a seatbelt, was flung through the windshield and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The scene of his death quickly has become a shrine, Gabriela said. "There's an unending procession of people in tears, bringing their personal belongings and their children. Unemployed people are kneeling down where he was killed, begging him for work."

The incident has given rise to conspiracy theories. Some have speculated that organized crime or music industry executives killed Bueno. Twenty-nine percent of one poll's respondents believed he had been assassinated, although no one could offer a reason why. Police investigations have thus far turned up no foul play, but "we still haven't seen the end of it," Gabriela said.

In a country where the entertainment industry makes and breaks its stars with clocklike regularity, Bueno recently had reached pop's pinnacle. His success lay in exporting the provincial "cuarteto" style (similar to Colombian cumbia) from his native Cordóba to Buenos Aires, Argentina's cosmopolitan capital. With its upbeat rhythms and happy lyrics, cuarteto appealed to teens as well as parents and children.

"He made it and now he has to keep himself at the summit before the 'star system' that invented him throws him in the garbage," Noticias concluded eerily. "He knows the price is high but he is willing to give his life for it."