Sunday, March 7, 2010
"It was a dangerously delicious relationship. We would be floating in the air and then suddenly would clutch each other in passion. We did strange and beautiful things."
- Ronaldo Bôscoli
I met with Ronaldo Bôscoli in May 1985, in a visiting room of the Barramares apartment-hotel, located in Barra da Tijuca in Rio, where he lives, at the age of fifty-five. We were both nervous. "Because this is a book, not a newspaper story", he told me.
Ronaldo Bôscoli was already Ronaldo Bôscoli when he met Elis Regina. He was a sort of bossa-nova leader in Rio. Through his contributions to the magazine Manchete, he revealed the bossa-nova group as being a movement. Besides being a bossa-nova intellectual, Ronaldo was charming, handsome, a famous ladies' man, a heavy drinker, a poet, and a man of the night. Elis spoke to me very negatively about Ronaldo Bôscoli and always behaved this way, even in front of their son João Marcelo. He knew that I was Elis' friend, and he was suspicious because of this.
A long time before our meeting, incidentally, Bôscoli reported on this book in his column in the Última Hora (1) with a warning: "As far as I'm concerned, I recommend prudence, a lot of prudence". But I wasn't armed with any preconception. On the contrary, I was interested in Ronaldo Bôscoli's version of the story, because such a ferocious hate must have had very deep roots. To understand Elis Regina, one has to know and understand Ronaldo Bôscoli.
It's possible that Elis could have seen in him many possibilities for her professional career.
But this wasn't everything: she must have been impassioned with his intelligence, his charm, his insolence, his conversation, and by the desire to be protected by an older man. Bôscoli was thirty-eight years old when he married Elis. She was twenty-two.
At a certain point in our conversation, we decided to go to a bar. And we were there for hours, when I finally perceived the crazy adventure, the fiery and incompatible passion to which Elis and Ronaldo abandoned themselves. In its entirety, here is the testimony of Ronaldo Bôscoli, from the time where the two of them met again in 1967, for a job at TV Record, on the new O Fino.
"On that day Elis was pestering me all the time, and I looked like someone in need of work. I was on a drinking binge, in need of a shave, and I didn't know that on that day I was starting to fall in love with her, with her partly childlike attitude, with her insecurity, that vulnerability. So silly, so childlike, so needy. On that day, I quit my binge, brought Elis home and started to notice her cute little legs, and the poor way she dressed herself. I had already been involved with Mila Moreira for almost a year, and my affair with Maysa (2) was somewhat on hold, and we weren't living together. In reality, I was a bachelor. I had a lot of experience with women, but thought that marriage involved becoming a parent. When Elis asked me to take her home, I already had asinine ideas in my head. I was thinking: 'Gee, what a crazy thing, I'm going to have sex with the boss, this whole thing is disgusting, but I need work so bad'. And I was also thinking: 'This woman is like fire'.
"Elis, in fact, was a great cyclothymic, she had a behavioral arrhythmia without major explanations - one moment she was a bitch, another she'd be laughing, and yet another she'd be crying. I parked the car at the door of her house in the Peixoto district - she lived with a secretary whose name I don't even know, because I never went into this apartment -, and I asked her if she wanted to come with me that night to see a show. She asked me to give her a call. I said that I didn't have a telephone and that I would come by later to pick her up. When we entered the Rui Bar Bossa, there was a reaction as if we had entered embracing, Maluf and Tancredo (3).
No one understood. I had already had a few drinks, and I was in a very friendly mood towards her. I was a self-dressed and self-made man. We entered with some fear, everyone looking, and Elis there.
When she saw ex-girlfriends of mine that were there, she commented: 'Gee, you have a lot of girlfriends!' I ordered a fruit cocktail that had everything, even a drink. Elis started to loosen up and, of course, cried in the middle of the show. After a while I invited Elis to go somewhere else, but I told her that I didn't have any money. She said: 'I have some.' I said: 'You're not paying for me.' We went to the El Cordobés, a small nightclub where I had credit. When the waiter, who is Alberico Campana's (4) brother, saw us, he literally dropped his tray to the floor.
We sat at a table behind a column. I was already getting excited. There, she admitted that she had great respect for me, and that it would be better if I worked for her in São Paulo. We talked many times until five in the morning, either at my apartment in Rio or hers in São Paulo. And I maintained a certain distance, affectionate, but we never had sex. And she didn't understand anything. I don't know, but I thought from this loftiness of hers that she had been very mistreated by life, and thus explained these things: Elis didn't know how to eat, she didn't know how to dress, she didn't know anything. And I, who had been born in a splendid cradle - later my family lost everything and it was misery -, had learned to speak french before portuguese, and had a good upbringing. My sister always followed fashion, and the only reason I didn't become a pansy is because I didn't have time.
"But Elis had all these problems, mainly of affectionate origins, and that insecurity was also impassioning me. I had many things that could fill her voids. I, who had experienced a bitter childhood. I had been very rich and then lost everything, suffered so much with my mother going on incredible drinking binges. I came from the top and fell. I put on shows and got involved in journalism. I had the ideal profile for Elis, because I knew about all her deficiencies and could complement them, and she knew that she could do the same with mine. This symbiosis resulted in love. It doesn't explain it, but at least it justifies it. And I knew that Elis had been exploited from the cradle by her father, her mother, and all her family. She was something like the hen that lays golden eggs. All of them saw me, obviously, as an enormous threat, as someone else who would exploit Elis.
"We started going steady in Rio, then went to São Paulo, and I waited almost twenty days before making love to her, for strategic reasons. Elis was living on Rio Branco Avenue and one day she couldn't put up with it and pressed me: 'Do you think that I am a piece of shit?' From that moment we spent five days making love day and night.
"I had seen Mia Farrow with short hair and I don't know if I was thinking that I was Frank Sinatra (5) when I suggested that Elis cut her hair short. No one else was wearing short hair around here, only Mia Farrow, and a few years before Ingrid Bergman, when she had interpreted the role of Maria in For Whom The Bell Tolls. As well, the fashion at that time was for loose-fitting clothes.
And Elis appeared to the astonishment of everyone, totally manufactured by me. I would say to her: 'Take out the lacquer from your hair, no one uses that; take out the eyebrows'. I brought Elis to Denner (6), along with Abelardo and Laura Figueirido. When Elis showed up to accept the Roquete Pinto (7) of that year (1967), it was a surprise: short hairdo, mini skirt, space-like silver. Very cute.
"Elis played life by ear. Someone would say something to her, she would turn it around and soon after would start to teach what she had learned. And I think that people who don't have a strong foundation abhor witnesses, and I was a witness of Elis. This created resentment, hate, as if she would say: 'This face has seen me in shit'. Witnesses are dangerous.
"But she didn't have the least bit of power over me. It was as if she was my own daughter, who had the right to have sex with her father. In other words, what an opportunity. I taught her how to eat and then proceeded to teach her etiquette. It's with forceps that one eats escargot!
She learned to speak French better than I could after having spent a single week in Paris. She had an uncanny ear, for life as well as for music. Many people forget that Elis could not play a single note on a piano. She and I did not want to get married in the church, for obvious reasons. But later on many people told me: 'You are much older, labelled as a disgusting person, who eats women and then walks away', and I had already got over my problems with the Church and with the fact that I had studied in a college run by priests. And so we got married in a church at the request of Laura Figueirido and other people who thought, out of good will, that Elis should have a husband.
"Seduced by Laura, by Denner, by Maria Stela Splendore, Elis started to become somewhat intoxicated. Cinderella. It was then that I started to lose control over Elis and that our little arguments increased. I lost control, she was already very self-sufficient, and I, a witness to all this. But in spite of all this, we got married.
"I am an Ipanema boy, but I always wanted to live somewhat far away, and when we wanted to buy a house in Rio, we went to look at the one on Niemeyer, 550, house number 7. It was a marvellous house of moroccan construction. It was located in front of the ocean. I said to Elis: 'You want to know something? If you buy this house I will marry you'. She said: 'Do you swear?' I swear. From this game, Elis managed to buy that house for a hundred and seventy million cruzeiros, which was very cheap at the time. She paid half of it in cash and the rest over twelve months. From then on, we got married in a hurry, and she didn't know that I was going to demand from the judge a marriage with provisions for legal separation of estate, and a marriage contract. That is to say, everything that was hers remained hers, before, during and after the marriage.
"We got married, with Elis already under the dangerous tutelage and increasing influence of these socialites. I didn't want Denner to be in our wedding party, for the simple fact that I didn't know him beyond saying 'Hi' to him. I also didn't relish the thought of appearing on the cover of Manchete (8). At each such decision, I would get closer to the most difficult thing in the world, to penetrate the ntimate world of Elis, into her innerself [in spite of her wide-openness]. Everyone said that I was a tremendous scoundrel. Everything she had in her head about the wedding, my God, every ridiculous garland, seemed to be like an indian under a trance. She would cry and say: 'But I have a right to this kind of wedding!'. For her, it was like a Cinderella dream. But I now realize that I was somewhat aggressive at times, because I already felt that many people wanted to be a witness to the whole thing, actively participate, be in the picture.
"Our arguments were public because we were in the public eye. We never had physical fights in public. She drove me to exhaustion, as if sticking a drill in my head to the point where I would say: 'I'm going to hit you'. It was a dangerously delicious relationship. We would be floating in the air and then suddenly would clutch each other in passion. We did strange and beautiful things.
"Elis didn't like it when I drank - she didn't drink anything regularly - and censured from six o'clock on, when I arrived home, and also used my mother to scold me. My mother's nickname was Bill, and she used to say: 'You're going to be just like Bill'. I would reply: 'If I can't drink in my house, and if you force me to drink in secret'. Elis censured me on this too.
"But we led a good life, a delight, and passionately aggressive. It was incredible. Her frustration was mine, and mine hers. Everything that we talked about had to do with the other. It was a perfect symbiosis. I had education, a foundation, information, schooling. She was the woman that I totally loved the most. The maximum that I can love - my reservoir is a bidet, compared to the swimming pool of many people, this full bidet of mine loves myself very much, and loves things that I don't know a great deal. Until now, I should be undergoing analysis, but I gave up after a year and a half. There is no one more egotistic than a neurotic. Then, I loved Elis with everything I had. But after a while, she started to be seduced by other people. Our great confusions in life were resolved by fights, physical fights at rare times, but everything was resolved, yelling, talking. The press had bad luck with us. When we were supposed to be separated, we were already together. When we were supposed to be together, we were fighting. And we would laugh a hell of a lot. When we would go to give a serious interview, we would agree on something beforehand. She would change her mind at the last minute and say something else. I would be in a rage and say the opposite. And so it went, a very infantile thing, illogical, irrational. She was a great id. And this debauchery was an attraction.
"One day, Cidinha Campos came over and Elis didn't want to see her for a reason or another, and so I agreed to the challenge, and faced her. Cidinha was very angry, having come all the way from São Paulo, and just as was finishing telling her that there wouldn't be an interview, Elis came down shouting: 'Cidinha, Cidinha'. So Cidinha stayed, I took care of the house and in the evening, Elis suggested: 'Why don't you stay the night? I enjoy our conversation so much!'
"Elis was an id. I was another, but much older. I was an aged id. She, a young id. This scolding, this resentment that she had of me for being witness of all the things, put an end to our marriage. At the same time that she was proud of me, she hated me.
"We lived for a year in my apartment, after having spent one year in the house on Niemeyer, and then one year in the Danúbio Hotel, in São Paulo.
"This sweet person that should be here with us now was really such a person. I never met anyone more intelligent than Elis. Intelligence, in my opinion, has many levels. But the immediacy, the capacity for adaptation and acuity, the sensibility that Elis had were things that enchanted anyone. People were dazzled around her because, suddenly, she would commit stupid Portuguese errors, but in a text that gave the impression that Fernando Pessoa (9) had written it. Marvellous.
"We reserved sex for our acute moments. Of great quarrel or of great love. It was partly a cyclothymical thing with which we lived with quite well. I was a reasonably jealous guy, but I was very self-confident. I had total control over Elis - at least, I suppose that I had. When I got married, at thirty-eight years old, having eaten up Brazil at that time, whatever was in my reach, I had an enormous past, and as I was getting married, I thought: 'I'll never get rid of my past.' I gathered everything in a trunk, which I locked well and guarded. She told me to open it, saying that I had compromising photos, but she lied. She destroyed everything. My high-school report cards, my pictures as a child, my history. When I found out in the morning, I was so depressed that I cried. I felt bad. She became afraid that I would beat her, she was afraid of me, at times. She said afterwards: 'Forgive me, I didn't have the right to erase your past'. She felt bad also, but then became excited in the discussion, and ended up saying that it was all my fault.
"I was part of Elis' life from a personal, emotional and also musical aspect. If I was able to collaborate to something, it was the fact that Elis was able to correct her diction problem after she married me. She was a musician who did vocal juggling, which damaged the lyrics. And I was a lyricist. Strangely, she recognized it. When she left me, she started to sing with a mocking tone, accentuating her pronunciation of the words. She exaggerated the syllabication to poke fun at me.
She had fun with the Baden Powell song Última Forma (Final Form), which she said was for me. She also said that Me Deixa Em Paz (Leave Me in Peace) was also for me. And when she sang Quaquaraquaquá (10), I also felt that it was for me.
"We were separated three times, seriously, and she always came back to find me. The last time, she came to find me in a hospital. I was very stressed, with a heavy emotional load, and drinking a lot. Elis was travelling, and I was torn up, thinking that these trips were going to separate us in the end. On opening night at the Olympia (11), she called me about ten times at the Danúbio Hotel: 'I am going to go on, I'm going on, think of me'. She gave me satisfaction for everything. But Alik Kostakis wrote that Elis was in Paris with Pierre Barouh (12), and I also decided to go to war. She loved a little war. From then on, things started to get dirty.
"I never wanted to be Elis' impresario and married to the profession, trust me. I could have travelled with her, earned more money than the others. But by that, I wasn't going to look after her little needs, by any means. Imagine her presenting me: 'This is my husband'. The guy would think right away: 'What a disgusting guy, having sex with this young girl'. I also didn't want to be her exclusive producer, I was producing Simonal, who was at his peak, and this independence of mine fascinated Elis. I didn't travel with her because I was following my own career and, after, she was would throw a lot of things in my face and there would be this gigantic fight. I also never produced one of Elis' records, and she only recorded one of my songs in Brazil, Carta Ao Mar (Letter to the Sea), by Menescal and myself. It was when she went to Europe and made a record in England in two days that she recorded O Barquinho (13) (The Little Boat) and others. But under my management she never recorded any more. Why would she record it, if she detested bossa-nova? My independence bothered her, and she would have wanted me to be totally dependent on her.
"I am talking about many things because you've got me on the carpet. It will go better tonight. Then, I had all the tools needed to explore Elis. After that, my run-in with the Jornal do Brasil, which had the gall to publish that I was receiving a pension from Elis after our separation. I entered into the marriage with five suitcases and came out with only three. She destroyed one and the other, full of Frank Sinatra records, she threw out the window. It was after a fight, and she went to the balcony where, with a certain ability to throw something, you could reach the ocean. It was raining Sinatra from Niemeyer. She had a sick jealousy for Sinatra because I identified with him very much.
Sometimes I even thought that I was Sinatra. When she decided to have a child, I thought that it was crazy. With everything the way it was, how would it be for a child? She later told many people that she had had to work during her nine months of pregnancy. To pay for what, hey? In another version, for Fatos e Fotos (14) (Facts and Pictures), she said that a pregnancy is not an illness. In either case, do you think that I would force Elis to work when I was expecting my first child? I didn't earn a plugged nickel with that show (at the Canecão Theatre, Rio, 1970).
"I was like a superman for Elis. She knew my strong side as well as my fragile side, and she anipulated my alchemy. I only knew two people who changed drastically when they went on stage: Elis Regina and Roberto Carlos. Then João Marcelo was born. She decided to call her parents, during one of those crises where she would tell me in bed: 'Do you think it's fair, me living in this beautiful house overlooking the sea, and us here in this bed, while my parents...' I said: 'You want to bring your parents here? I just don't think it's going to work out.' But live in our house, no, I didn't want any part of that. She had an apartment in Joatinga. We got her parents, and they went to live there. Elis sent cheques and cheques over there. I don't know what Romeu did with the cheques, but her mother wrote her a desperate letter. And then everybody started to appear at the house. There was much gossip. I didn't want to have anything to do with the family there in the house. Then we separated.
"During the last big fight, she came with João Marcelo to pick me up at the São Vicente clinic. Vinícius de Morais, Baden Powell and Grande Otelo were also staying there. It was fantastic. We had homeric drinking binges. It was total confusion. At night, we would sneak out in a car, and the doctor noticed that every day, my liver was more swollen. She came to get me with João Marcelo. I was hung over, stressed, drunk even. I needed a bath. I was almost dead, even. She payed the hospital bill, and when I asked, she told me: 'I already paid, you know who I am'. And then she started to quarrel all over again, and I was saying that she was already throwing it back in my face, that it was insane.
It was the last time that we were together. After, she wanted to separate, but then I realized that I loved her. In no way did I want to separate. And she was going out with Nelson Motta, a protege of mine. That day I met Heloísa, with which I would later get married, and decided to give the final blow. I always gave the final legal blow. I was dying of passion for her. I said to Elis: 'Can I send my woman to pick up some things?' Her: 'Your woman, you son of a bitch?' I wanted to start anew in order not to end up a loser. A childish thing. She said: 'I would like to see her come here'. It was on that day that she threw my records out the window. I used that woman (Heloísa) as a weapon, she was with me for a week and agreed to get married.
"At the time of João Marcelo's illness, Elis didn't have any milk because she she had had her breasts operated on. She had had plastic surgery without asking me - that was also the cause of one of our fights. Elis said in interviews that I was so irresponsible that the day that João Marcelo was born, I had gone with some friends to see a football game. It's there in the annals - João Marcelo was born at seven-forty-five, or eight in the morning, or ten to eight, on the day that Brazil beat Uruguay 3 to 1 in 1970, and I am crazy about football. The game was in the afternoon.
I saw João Marcelo being born, Elis returned to her room, and in the afternoon I went to see the game.
"Another important episode was the story of the gun shot. I had told Elis that she was feeding a crazy thing. Because he drank like crazy and came looking for more and more money. One day, Romeu ordered a servant to say that he didn't have any money until the end of the month.
I was in the bathroom of our house when he pulled the trigger. I jumped to the floor. Elis became totally crazy, and I came out and somehow managed to hit him. Elis jumped in front of me and asked me to let her resolve the issue. She took the gun from my hand and went to talk with her father. She gave him a slap across the face and asked Rogério to pick him up.
(Allow me at this moment of Ronaldo Bôscoli's testimony to recount the version of the story that was told by dona Ercy and Rogério. According to them, Elis had telephoned the apartment in Joatinga saying that she had been beaten by Ronaldo. They said that Romeu went crazy and left with a revolver, saying that Ronaldo was going to pay for it. They also said that Ronaldo hid in the bathroom. The two other players in that story, - Elis and Romeu - are now dead.)
At that point, Ronaldo Bôscoli asked how old I was and if wanted to know anything more. I wanted to know about the Army Olympics of 1972, where Elis sang the national anthem at the head of a group of artists, and about which she had told me years later that she had been threatened by the security forces. Ronaldo recalled:
"When she travelled with Menescal, in 1969 - Menescal is alive and can testify to this, then again everyone is alive. Because she was travelling, she ingeniously supposed that since she was in Holland, she could criticize Brazil. She said that the government was made up of gorillas. Gorillas, and this was published in dutch. Menescal told me later that he almost broke her leg under the table. The following day, the embassy got the newspapers and sent them to the Serviço Nacional de nformações, SNI (National Information Service). Armando Nogueira called me and said that they wanted to arrest Elis. He and the general told me: 'Elis was saved only because of the lack of a compromising situation in Brazil'. They were very angry that she had called everyone gorillas. She had to deny and make a retraction.
"Elis wasn't secure, no. She started on top of you with a knife and fork, and then would come apart at the seams. She wanted to fight for her rights and massacre me, and she really massacred me. All of my rights were taken away. The proceedings for the custody of João Marcela were held in São Paulo in order that I wouldn't have access to them in order to defend myself. I lost practically everything. I was forced to give three minimum salaries, of which I gave one and then stopped because already, I couldn't see João Marcelo anymore.
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Copyright Regina Echeverria – Robert St-Louis
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