Sunday, March 7, 2010
"With me it's simple: I share everything, my clothes, my friends. But my stage, I don't share it with anyone."
- Elis Regina
Our pieces are beginning to fit into the new character that put on a veil and garland and got married in one of the most coveted galas of that time. Maybe Elis became disenchanted with the quarrelling that installed itself inside her intimacy with Ronaldo. He told me one time that he got fed up with her naiveness. But what naiveness, the question must be asked, if Elis Regina, at the height of success, already seemed to know very well where she was going to go? I can't believe that she didn't do what she wanted all through her life. And, even if she was influenced at certain times, her instinct always consented. Elis was nothing more than an ardent fire both on and off the stage. When seeing her sing live, she didn't burn us. When coming close to her, one had to love her and understand her. Her hurricane (1) bothered and provoked people. Her ping-pong of hate and passion drove crazy anyone who looked for coherence in her.
The Figueiredo family - Abelardo and Laura, the daughters Mônica and Patrícia - accompanied Elis from that period. Abelardo Figueiredo, owner of the Beco and director of the show Spot Light on Tupi, was the first to know Elis. Not long after, she was already part of the family. Laura recalls:
- I didn't like Elis very much, but when she started to go out with Ronaldo, who was my friend, things changed. And she was very timid of going out with Ronaldo, who was the most sought-after bachelor of that time, a stud from Rio de Janeiro. He came to my house and she came with him. But the relationship was incredible. The two hated each other, each spoke badly of the other. It was like something out of Virginia Woolf, only funnier. It was also their violence.
"It was then that she started to go out with me, to become my friend. She was very young and very lonely. And she was already carrying the load of being the best singer in Brazil. And I became better friends with her than with Ronaldo. She changed in my house, we did everything together. Both of them asked me to be in their wedding party.
At that time, I thought that Elis had difficulties in establishing a relationship with people, but not with me. I became a sort of defense attorney for her. I would go to the newspapers, and speak to the journalists to explain her temperament, because I didn't want them to see Elis the way she showed herself. I wanted them to know Elis the way she was. But everything was in vain, as Elis spoiled everything when it came time for an interview. At her wedding, I think that I did the most stupid thing in my life. I convinced her that it should be a marvellous wedding and called Denner, who was a dazzling person, and who had the same mind-set as I had at the time. We transformed Elis into a spoiled "high-society" lady, and after that she got mad at us. I also think today that she shouldn't have been induced to have a wedding with so much pageantry, because it had nothing to do with the kind of person she was. It had to do with me. At that time, we were Elis' family - she had a terrible temper and a problem of upbringing, a different upbringing: she was very wild, and had no restraint."
Around that time, Elis wrote a letter to Laura Figueiredo:
" Laura (guardian angel of mine and of 'many others'). You know that you are responsible for my good half. For this I promise you, today, to be more, much more than what I am or pretend to be. Many thanks, I love you. I adore everything that you are. And some day I intend to see you as a mirror. You know about everything. You give everything. For this, you will always and always receive everything. And whoever says the opposite will be a great son of a bitch. With Mandrix and everything else I kiss you. Your Patrícia (2), Elis."
Roberto Menescal is the director of the Polygram record company. He is one of the most gracious record people that I know. There are two types in the field: those who come from the bottom, usually from the sales department, and who rise because of their Brazilian form of marketing, and those who intellectualize, who create strategies between the business and the art.
Roberto Menescal knows how to get around in both worlds, as well as having the advantage of being an artist as well.
- When Elis started going out with Ronaldo, she was living in an upper-floor apartment in Ipanema, close to my house, and we often got together. From the personal relationship grew the professional one. She asked me to put a group together - which I didn't really want to do anymore, but she brought together some very good people - and we put on a show at Ricardo Amaral's Zum-Zum club.
Afterwards came the opportunity to travel to MIDEM, the international msuic and entertainment conference. The show was so good that an impresario asked us to go on the road, from that very spot. We agreed to it, made the arrangements and left for several countries, a crazy thing, a different country every day.
"During all that time, Elis was excellent. There were days where she did two shows, each one in a different country. We did radio shows, TV, a record and a video with the harmonica player Toots Thielemans, we even won the Eurovision prize for that video, recorded in Sweden. She was already married to Ronaldo, but he didn't come along. He was afraid of planes. We returned to Brazil and then went to England, to record the LP 'Elis in London' with the conductor Peter Knight.
What is interesting is that their methods over there are totally different from the ones in Brazil. It took a month for Elis to record an album in Brazil, over there she did it in one day. Before leaving, we had recorded a practice session and had sent them a tape of this. Peter Knight wrote everything on top of that. When we arrived, there were forty-three musicians in the studio, and we were five. We did everything in a morning and afternoon. Elis even recorded everything right along with the orchestra, because their recording union did not allow the use of playback. She came through with flying colours, and everyone was very impressed with her.
"Afterwards we did a show on TV and then returned to Brazil for a long run of the show Elis, como e porquê (Elis, How and Why) - at the Praia Theatre and at the Maria Della Costa in São Paulo. We made three records with that group, and after that I stopped playing with her. I had been called by Polygram, so wasn't even in a position to continue. Her thing with Ronaldo was sliding fast and, being very close, we witnessed many fights, and the vibes weren't good. After that we got together, I as her recording company man, and her as artist. I produced a record with her which featured Águas de março (Waters of March) and Atrás Da Porta (Behind the Door) (3).
There is a funny story that happened around then. Francis Hime (4) had sent a series of songs for Elis to listen to. We listened to the recording, but none tickled our fancy. At the end of the tape, he told Elis to choose any one of them, and then started to sing a song that was in bits and pieces. It was clear that we liked that one. When we called him, he said that that song was over a year old, but that Chico Buarque had never finished the lyrics. We recorded it like that, and when the lyrics were missing, Elis hummed the melody.
We sent the recording to Chico and he was enthraled: he finished the lyrics on the spot: the song was Atrás Da Porta. With Águas De Março another story happened. I was at Tom Jobim's house and he was writing a book, not the song lyrics, which he told me weren't ready. There appeared a telex of them that was quite long. According to him, that was only the introduction. We recorded it as is.
1972's 'Elis' was a very nice record, the first time that Elis recorded Fagner (5) and Sueli Costa. I think that I was able to expose Elis to the work of some people that she wouldn't have heard normally. I researched her repertory for her, which no one had done before. When we listened to the results, we were alone and in silence. And she looked at me with eyes full of tears and told me, with no one listening: 'I am a whiz at choosing the repertory'. In other words, from that day, I removed my name from her records and learned to deal with a real artist. It wasn't a question of bad character, no. We were alone, and I perceived that at that moment, she really believed that she had chosen that repertory herself. After that, we broke up with Polygram. I think that it was because of a foolish thing, something that she said to me over the telephone. And we had already talked a great deal about that recording company, and she was saying very strong things about the place where I worked, and where she had also worked.
"I think that the marriage brought a great change in her life, and even in her career. Because Ronaldo really entered her life. The first day that she came out of the closet, I thought that she looked tacky. And she spoke frankly and openly to everybody. I myself had to leave many times because it's not a pleasant thing to be present at a quarrel between a married couple...
"When we were at the Olympia, she had received a letter from Ronaldo and I found her crying in the dressing room. She showed me the letter which said: 'Look at this son of a bitch here'. I read and didn't think anything much. I told her: 'Elis, there isn't anything, I don't understand this thing, no'. She turned and said: 'Me either...' She read again and entered the show in a better mood: 'Ronaldo, Ronaldo, I want to return to Brazil'. And it was the same letter...
"Do you remember those little china dogs that one saw in the old days? One was white and the other black. You could never get them to match up. Elis and Ronaldo were like that. One day I couldn't stand it. They had a boxer dog named Clay. And Ronaldo said: 'Elis, make Clay sing'. Elis had a way of whistling that made the dog go uh, uh, as if it was singing. And she said: 'I'm not going to do anything, don't get on my nerves'. And he: 'Gee, but you don't do anything that I ask'.
And it was like this until he said: 'All right, you can drop it'. Then she started and began to make the dog sing. The argument started again. It was just a crazy conversation. It was like that all the time, and preferably in front of everybody. He would say to Elis: 'You're so cute, you look like a cake'. Elis was a pretty woman, even though her language wasn't that of a pretty woman."
Luís Carlos Mieli, Ronaldo's best friend, tries to explain:
"I started to play the role of bouncer for newspaper reports about the couple. One day, people from Claudia called me saying that they wanted an interview, but didn't want to go alone because they knew there could be a fight. And then I went and acted as mediator. Bodyguard for the interviewer. And even then, there was usually a fight. That day, when the journalists arrived, Elis was fine. She made lunch herself, showed everyone to their place at the table. Then Ronaldo said: 'Can you pass me the salt?' Elis: 'Why? The food isn't salted?' Followed by something like 'you get on my nerves' or other such things. The two journalists didn't lift their eyes from their plates. And as things began to worsen, suddenly Ronaldo said: 'Have you seen such-and-such a film that is showing at such-and-such a theatre?' And Elis said: 'What is it, let's go, let's eat lunch and then let's go there. Here's the salt'. Thereafter, we got up from the table and went to take pictures, in the bedroom, on the matrimonial bed. A kind of see-how-happy-we-are. There aren't philosophical reasons that explain..."
Whenever there is talk of André Midani between André Midani specialists, one often hears: he is fire. And in fact, this lebanese from birth, a genetic mixture of jew and arab, born in France, is indeed fire. One can disagree about his methods, but one can't help but being impressed with the speed and ability of his reasoning. André Midani directed a great cast of artists at the Companhia Brasileira de Discos (ex-Polygram), and especially looked after their production under the Philips label. Later on, he took a big jump to represent a new company, WEA, where he continues until now:
- When I returned to Brazil in April 1968 to take charge of Philips, Elis Regina was married with my best brazilian friend at the time, Ronaldo Bôscoli. The two of us had been close friends during my first stay in Brazil (1957 to 62). When I returned, the Elis and Jair duo had split up, and I saw myself at the head cast of a hundred and eighty-five artists. Most of them could not record because the recording studios were crowded and there was no available space. At that time, Elis wanted to leave the company.
During my first weekend in Brazil, I went to Bôscoli's house, and there, as his best friend, I told her: "The only thing that we have in common is your husband, for the love of God, don't leave now". And she didn't leave. We became very close, the three of us.
And I can say that already then, in April 1968, there was no longer any passion between the two of them. There was already an open war. And a war that showed that both had a complete physical insecurity regarding the other. Elis couldn't talk to young men, couldn't stay with girlfriends, because Ronaldo went crazy. And she rooted through his wallet, finding proofs of infidelity. Elis' insecurity was only equalled by this very definition that she gave me one day: "With me it's simple: I share everything, my clothes, my friends. But my stage, I don't share it with anyone." This was perhaps the only place where she felt in control of the situation.
Elis Regina saw a father in Marcos Lázaro. He managed, in his own way, the first star that he considered "a Sílvio Caldas in skirts", "a Roberto Carlos (6) in skirts", a singer for the masses, popular.
- She didn't discuss things with me, I don't know if she was afraid of me because of our age difference. With me she preferred to converse. We would write a contract, she never complained, and everything that I asked her to do she did. Afterward, she changed a bit, mostly because of influences from the men that she loved. She had Bôscoli, César Mariano, and some others. But Elis was always a one-man woman. When we went to France, the owner of the Olympia was crazy about her, she signed her first contract with him, and her second one as well. And Elis would have been a star there soon after, if she hadn't said in an interview that she didn't like the French people.
Bruno Coquatrix didn't like that and created problems. After that, Elis did a few tours through Europe- Sweden, Germany -, financed by Philips. She went with me to Mexico two or three times, she went to Portugal with Jair and the Zimbo Trio, and stopped to do so much travelling because her husband did not like to travel by plane. If she had gone onto an international career, she would have been one of the top five singers in the world. But she preferred to stay in Brazil.
Nelson Motta got into journalism through music. He was a composer and frequented bossanova session even as a child , many of them taking place in his own house, since his mother and his father, Dr. Nelson Motta, respected lawyer in Rio, liked music and get-togethers. Nelsinho is a gentle and courageous figure. He is always paying attention to everything around him. He and Elis had a quarrel. Nelson Motta recalls:
- I was great friends with Ronaldo Bôscoli. He was a friend of my uncle, my father, and when I met him I was fifteen years old. When bossa-nova appeared, I was enchanted, and Ronaldo brought many people to the house, Nara (Leão), Menescal, and Ronaldo was a reporter, made love to all the women, was cariocan (7) through and through, and had a great sense of humour - he still does. Back then I was glued to Ronaldo and went to the Boca every night. He would teach me, I would go to his house, and he was always very kind with me. I loved the texts that he wrote, those texts were the standard back then.
Until I was eighteen years old, Ronaldo was the greatest thing and my father was dying of jealousy. He spoke very badly of Elis, and would mock her. At that time she was living with Mila Moreira, in the Visconde de Pijára, a penthouse. I know that after many incidents, Ronaldo said that he was going to pick up Elis and transform her. We always went to watch football on Sunday, as fans of the Fluminense team, myself, Mieli, Ronaldo, Hugo Carvana, and when Ronaldo started going out with Elis, naturally they became closer, and naturally she didn't like Ronaldo's friends, and they fought a lot, it was the same bad scene, the same arguments...
And Elis even started to change, she cut her hair short and it seemed that she found her identity. It also appeared that, at a certain time, a change took place. And she wanted to plan a right marriage, to have a house, what you can see was already a certain recklessness. I know that I was in Ronaldo's wedding party and that my parents were in Elis'. I was married at that time with Helena Gastal, and when we visited the couple, there was never really a fight in front of us. Around that time, she sang O cantador (The Folk Singer) at Record's Festival and it was a blast. It was the biggest advantage for Dori Caymmi and I that Elis interpreted our songs. She won as best interpreter and yet, because it carried much political content, the song didn't win a prize.
"At that time I was a producer at Philips with André Midani and I was invited to produce a record for Elis. It was in 1970, when João Marcelo was born, as well as my daughter Joana, daughter of Mônica Silveiro, whom I had married shortly before. Elis and Ronaldo were in my wedding party. Elis sang in the university auditorium with a string quartet directed by Luisinho Eça.
I produced two LPs for Elis and one single ('Elis Em Pleno Verão' in 1970 and 'Ela' in 1971; plus the single Madalena) and I never had the least artistic problem with her, none. I think that she was aggressive with whoever forced her to be that way. And at the time of producing those records, it was difficult, censorship, total terror, target of repression, everything very dangerous, a climate of lack of trust. In these productions, we shared equally all the errors and successes, and Elis was very
docile with me.
We asked Caetano (Veloso), who was living in London at the time (8), to send us a song, and he sent Não Tenha Medo (Don't Be Afraid), but we recorded it wrong, we hadn't perceived the intent and did a heavy arrangement. At that time, Elis was antagonistic to Caetano because of influence from Ronaldo, who was against tropicalismo. It is possible that she even liked it. But after he was exiled, she asked to record something by him. On that point, I think that I exercised a certain influence on her in establishing a bridge with the baianos (9), with electric guitars, and with rock music. Cinema Olímpia is a rock song, because until then, brazilian music was divided into MPB (Brazilian Popular Music) and MP of B (Popular Music of Brazil). The authentic and the dissidents.
"I was already, at that time, totally in love with her. Because of the production, we were always together. I was her full-time producer and the inevitable happened, at the same time that her marriage with Ronaldo turned sour. I became totally enamoured with her. Because Ronaldo held firm to his positions, I managed to free myself and already, we didn't have much in common anymore. I liked Caetano and the Beatles. He didn't. It was quite a situation.
"From there I obtained a separation, getting out of a dubious situation, but she didn't. And during all the time that we were together, we never had a fight. Of course, it was a clandestine love-affair, which is different from a marriage. This gave a certain excitement and didn't leave time for arguments. We didn't think of marriage. It was an absolute and hidden paradise. It lasted for about a year, and we always travelled together with Som Livre Exportação (10) (Free Sound for Export).
It was a very nice dream. Until one day, suddenly, Elis called me to put a hold on everything, denying everything and cancelling our trip to London, which was what we were talking about at the time of the modernization. The telephone call came abruptly. I became catatonic. In a state of shock. I tried to talk to her every way possible, leaving messages, sending notes, Rogério and dona Ercy even tried to help me. I went to London alone."
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Copyright Regina Echeverria – Robert St-Louis
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