I was born in Maranguape, in Ceará, one April 12, at 5 o’clock in the morning. It was the arrival of the fourth child of Coronel Oliveira and Dona Haydée, who for seven years would be their youngest. It was a poor household, with a floor of beaten earth and an open tiled roof and a shed at the back, leading into the bush. Then, just behind, there was a river which in wintertime flowed past the entrance to the cane-fields that stretched green for over a kilometre up to the sugar-mill facing the town-square, next to Padre Quinderé’s church. I spent my life playing all the games I could in the back-yard of this house, which still stands to this day, fearless and imposing (as it seems to me). I played at "goal-a-goal" with a cotton ball, and marbles (there called "cabeçulinha"), and rode a palm-frond hobby-horse and went swimming in the pools formed when the river-bed dried out in summertime. In (the state capital) Fortaleza, I lived in the neighbourhood of Benfica, on Av. João Pessoa, in a house where the buses from the company my father managed to set up came in through one of the side-walls to be garaged for the night out back. This house is also still there, resisting the passage of time. My father was president of the Ceará Sporting (Club) and he introduced professionalism to the region. I supported the Ferroviário football team just in order to argue with him. My older brother Elano, the great pride of the family, went to Rio de Janeiro to study. Alone. A serious case of machismo. I stayed on in Ceará, studying with Dona Adalgisa in the Rua Padre Mossoró. I never went to college in Ceará. I think I didn’t even need to, since I learned to read all by myself. Whilst my mother was doing her sewing I would ask her what such-and-such a combination of letters meant, and such-and-such and so on and so on... until one day I said that I could read and my father promised that if I read a wedding-invitation he had just received, he would take me to Fortaleza for a day-out. I read all of it. I don’t remember what we did in Fortaleza that day, but I’ll never forget the shocked look of joy on my father’s face when he saw me reading that document, filled with Your Excellency’s and all that stuff.

My father started to get rich. He had the biggest and best buses in Brazil, with radios, velvet seats, air-conditioning – pure luxury. One day the seats were ripped with a knife or something. My father got mad and ordered wooden benches to be installed, as well as removing the air-conditioning and radio. My childhood was splendid. Being the son of Colonel Oliveira Paulo was something grand. Until one night – after Zelito was born – a fire wiped out everything. Nothing in the garage survived. The Empresa São José (Tel: 1254) was turned into a pile of ashes, and provoked our return to poverty. My father wanted to stay up there to start over again alone, and he sent the family to Rio. We travelled on the boat Itapagé, which I heard was later torpedoed by the Germans (during World War II). We went to live in a small hostel run by "Seu" Bernardino, on Rua Silveira Martins 135, and which also still exists to this day. My mother received a monthly allowance and noted all her expenditures in a book marked "Advances", because money was very tight and everything had to be accounted for. And it was there, in the neighbourhood of Catete (in central Rio) that I became an adolescent. I’ve always lived around there, between Catete and Cosme Velho. I was living in Cosme Velho, in a house on Rua Marechal Pires Ferreira, No. 80 (which is also still there), when I went to take a test at Rádio Guanabara, taken there by my sister Lupe and her friend Oromar Terra. I took two tests – as radio-actor and as reader – and was approved in both. So, pronto, now I was working in radio. It was 1947. I was sixteen years old and appeared to have some talent, because I’m still here today doing what I can to make the Brazilian people (the greatest passion in my life) happy – because it’s to the people of Brazil that I owe everything I have and all that I am. And especially to you, who has read all of this up to here.