Good-Bye to Lisbon’s “Mr. Hello”

Senhor do Adeus

A couple of years ago, in a post about unusual or strange things in Lisbon (“Weird Lisbon“), we told you about a gentleman who had become a local celebrity by simply waving hello on the street, at night, in the center of the city. He originally did it in Saldanha Square uptown, but in recent years he was mostly seen in his neighborhood, Restelo, by the Belém district. Although known as “Mr. Good-Bye,” he said he prefered to be called “Mr. Hello.”
His real name was Mr. João Serra, and today we’re sad to report that he passed away yesterday at the age of 80. In print and television interviews he recognized that what he did was unusual and that he understood if everyone thought he was crazy. However, that doesn’t seem to be the opinion of the thousands of people who waved back at him over the years, many of whom will today be standing in his honor at 10PM on his spot in Saldanha Square, doing what he did for years — saying hello and hearing the cars honk back and cheer in return.
Mr. Serra was born into a wealthy family, never really worked, but was a well-traveled and cultured man. He went to the movies every week and there was even a blog created with his insights. His reason for standing in the middle of the city was to “connect with people,” something that arose from solitude at home, and the need to bring “life” to a city deserted at night ever since “television took people away from the theaters and the streets.”
Despite his celebrity status, Mr. Serra said his actions were not for exhibitionism, and that was the reason why he refused so many invitations to appear on television. His actions, he said, were purely “therapeutical.” It wasn’t clear if he meant that for himself or for the people of Lisbon, as for a couple of seconds those who saw him would at least crack a smile.
Mr. Serra preferred “hello” to “good-bye,” so in this case we’ll only say “Cheers!” to him and the hours he dedicated to brightening Lisbon’s nights.

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