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Golden Joy

Millie Corretjer has brought calm to Oscar De La Hoya

September 09, 2002|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BIG BEAR — It was the kind of phone call that could make a woman think she was hallucinating, on the end of a wrong number or the object of a cruel prank.

On the other end of the line was someone claiming to be Oscar De La Hoya, young, single, available, good-looking, an athlete, a singer, an international celebrity and a multimillionaire. And he was pleading for a date.

As far as Millie Corretjer was concerned, the joke was on him. She wasn't interested.

Corretjer wasn't much of a sports fan, certainly not a boxing fan. As a Puerto Rican, all she knew about De La Hoya was that he had been beaten by Felix Trinidad, a fellow Puerto Rican, and that was fine with her. As a singer who has been seen and/or heard on television, videos, CDs, albums and the Internet, she is accustomed to being pursued by men.

But this was not just any man, those around her told her as she cradled the phone in her San Antonio hotel room on that day in February 2000, this is Oscar De La Hoya.

"What's the big deal?" she said. "I don't care. He's just a pretty boy. I'm not an easy girl. I don't go for pretty boys. I go for people with good heads and good hearts. Who does he think he is? I don't have to be anything for this guy. He's not going to get anything from me."

It was an unusual position for De La Hoya to be in. He was not accustomed to being the pursuer. Women had been throwing themselves at him since he won an Olympic gold medal in Barcelona in 1992. Squealing as if he were a rock star, they would toss their underwear at him or hold up signs saying they wanted to have his baby. In El Paso in 1996, while on a media tour to promote his first fight against Julio Cesar Chavez, De La Hoya found his limo under an attack by a mob of mostly female fans who jumped on the hood and clawed at the windows as he arrived at a hotel for a news conference.

So why all this effort to land a date with Corretjer, a woman he had never seen in person?

It began in a recording studio weeks earlier, where De La Hoya was making his first CD. Things were not going well in the mind of his producer, Rudy Perez. De La Hoya was supposed to be singing about heartbreak, yet he wasn't showing enough emotion.

"I've never had my heart broken," De La Hoya told Perez. So how could he express that feeling?

Perez's eyes lit up.

"I'm going to give you someone who will do it for you," he said.

Perez flipped on one of Corretjer's videos.

That did it.

"It wasn't just that she looked beautiful," recalled De La Hoya last week at his Big Bear training headquarters where he was wrapping up his preparation for Saturday's 154-pound championship fight against Fernando Vargas at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center. "I've seen many beautiful women before. It was something beyond that. I don't know what an angel looks like, but I felt like I was seeing one. I couldn't even record after that. I just wanted to see that video. I was watching it 20 to 30 times a day."

When De La Hoya found out Corretjer was performing in San Antonio, he took a detour on his way home from New York where he had beaten Derrell Coley.

Finally, Corretjer agreed to see De La Hoya, but there were strings attached. Nearly a whole orchestra, as a matter of fact.

"We can take a walk as long as I can bring along some chaperones," she said. She wanted to include her dancers, musicians and chaperone, eight people in all.

"Fine," De La Hoya said.

And so they strolled down the famed Riverwalk, De La Hoya, his dream date and eight chaperones.

"It was very weird," Corretjer said.

De La Hoya, undeterred, waited a few months and then invited Corretjer to fly to L.A. to be his date for the Latin Grammy Awards. She accepted, as long as she could bring along chaperone Marisela Diaz. De La Hoya agreed. He was making progress. The chaperone list was down to one.

"He put me up in a nice hotel," she said, "but that didn't make any points with me."

Corretjer stuck around for four days, allowing De La Hoya to show her Southern California, including a trip to Disneyland.

"He was very respectful," Corretjer said. "He was very sweet. Because he was a boxer, I would expect him to be a monster. I couldn't imagine this guy being a boxer. He didn't try to kiss me or even grab my hand."

Of course with Diaz, the chaperone, still acting as Corretjer's shadow, De La Hoya didn't have many options.

When they parted at the airport, however, De La Hoya and Corretjer exchanged their first kiss.

"On the way home," Corretjer said, "I cried. Then I knew I missed him. I didn't like that feeling because I had heard the stories about Oscar [He has had two children--Jacob, age 4, and Atiana, 3--out of wedlock and was twice accused of rape though no criminal charges were filed].

"I thought I was all wrong for him. I am in show business, but I'm not into the celebrity scene. My friends are my high school friends. I have a very strong family feeling.

"I knew that when I got married, I wanted it to be forever and I wanted it to be to the father of my children."

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