Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chapter 7


"It was a relationship akin to dynamite. I would do all the work and she would get the glory. When everything was over, I was completely crazy."
- Miriam Muniz

It was around that time that I first knew Elis Regina. I was twenty-four years old and had been working for three years as reporter at the Jornal da Tarde. I was nervous when I went down Xavier Street in Toledo for my first meeting with Elis Regina. She was rehearsing Falso Brilhante (Fake Diamond) under the Viaduto do Chá (Tea Viaduct), under the very feet of thousands of paulistanos (1). The place - a suspended runway - belonged to the Municipal Cultural Secretariat, and was where the Dance Corps had their rehearsals. It was located in the Ramos de Azevedo Paza, and was full of people and cats.

Over there, Elis, César, and the musicians Natan, Crispim, Nenê and Wilson worked incessantly under the orders of Miriam Muniz, the director. José Carlos Viola worked with the dance corps. Exercise, a lot of exercise. The psychiatrist Roberto Freire lent a hand. When the situation in the experimental groups proposed by Miriam Muniz would get heavy, Roberto would intervene. When the genius and temperament of Elis and Miriam would cross with sparks, he would mediate.

As I descended Xavier in Toledo that early evening, I was thinking, already somewhat disoriented: is she going to like me? It was totally absurd, but I had the strange feeling that something awful could happen: I was afraid of becoming paralysed with shyness in front of her.

And the newspaper? The material just had to go out. It was a very bad interview. She seemed to me so sure of herself, so intelligent and so interesting that I was carried along. This also happened years later, during the more intimate contact that I had with Elis: any person at first meeting would not be the same at the next one, neither at the following ones. She always had a fresh conversation and liked very much discussing politics with me. She adored running down the government, cry out against injustices. During the seven years that we were friends, we also had great, long, foolish and deep conversations about life, and I could see who Elis Regina Carvalho Costa was from very close-up. My head swimming, I left our first encounter. I went to the editorial room and wrote my article, which was published in the Jornal da Tarde on December 10, 1975, one week before the opening of Falso Brilhante.

While I was doing this article, I was a client of Roberto Freire and was simultaneously taking a course called "psychotransotherapy" with Miriam Muniz and Sílvio Zilber. They were in fact exercises to liberate hidden emotions, given at the Centre for Macunaíma Studies. I was afraid of the teacher Miriam Muniz. She frightened me with her strength, her audacity, and her obsession for deep things. It was aggressive, but I liked her. Ten years later, we met again for this testimony and our lives had taken great turns. I wasn't twenty-four years old anymore, Miriam was no longer married to Sílvio Zilber, and she had fought openly with Elis for monetary reasons. I encountered again the same strong Miriam Muniz, brilliant in her observations. Her testimony, in its entirety:

- I became extremely curious about Elis' invitation to direct Falso Brilhante. I already liked her very much because, when I appeared at the Arena Theatre, she had been a spectator. She was very vibrant, cross-eyed, very happy, talkative. And she was a fan of mine. And I didn't know if I would become a singer or an actress, because I was doing both things.

"It brought me great pleasure to see that young woman being my fan. She was going out with Solano Ribeiro, and after that I didn't see her anymore. Fauzi Arap told me later: 'Do you know that that woman is a fantastic singer? She moves in an incredible way'. Those hairdos, that atomic bomb, that dress full of ruffles. She didn't spare much, with everything and in everything.

A little perturbed, she inherited this perturbance from my generation, an anxiety, the fear of not succeeding. And that fear gave her that confusion. She was on the border of perfection. She was exceptional. A very strong sexuality, a sensitivity, slight perfumes. I was quite impassioned with her and she turned my head around, that's why I went to work with her.

"I am a Scorpion and she was a Pisces. At the time, I wasn't involved with astrology, but I felt that she had an energy that attracted me. She was all disoriented with me because I am mysterious. She reacted, attacked me, I fought a lot with her. I fought for real. I spoke about everything openly, and she did the same with me. It was a relationship akin to dynamite. I would do all the work and she would get all the glory. When it was all over, I was completely crazy. To this very day, all that is still running around in my head, because I broke up with them for monetary reasons. I never broke up for artistic reasons. I don't know what it gave me, because I only got bitter at the time, and only became aggressive. And it had to be that way because I was very shy.

Just like her. But that was nice. Halfway through the work I was in a rotten state: I was separating from my first husband, I was taking pills to sleep, to wake up, to be happier, literally destroyed. My artistic side was good, I was almost dead, but I had to manage. I penetrated into Elis' intimate world, I went to her house, I saw her relation with her husband, with the children. It looked very much like me. A woman that adored to be the lady of the house. At the rehearsals, there in the basement, she organized a kitchen in order to save money, and a cook - she was the one giving the orders and at dinner time, would fry the steak. She derived pleasure from serving people, from putting on a meal. Something characteristic of gaúchos, Italians, Portuguese.

"For four months, she sang in front of me, for me alone. Imagine the pleasure! If I started to find faults, to criticize more or ask for more, she knew that I could. But at times there would come a day and she would come, and give everything - and you had to submit yourself entirely to her conditions, or else she wouldn't give anything. You had to give in to her. Then, yes, she would give you everything. I knew that she liked me, and we had a very strong relationship. We didn't know how to approach each other, become affectionate, didn't know how to get closer, be more soft. Then Falso Brilhante happened, and I felt, before even starting, that it would be something very good, because I admired her very much. I wanted to do a story about her. She liked the idea, in general. Elis listened to everything and could visualize, she had an extremely fine intuition. She was like a little dog melling a scent, and knew perfectly well when she should listen to something, and when she shouldn't. And when she did listen, she listened very intently, with extreme attention to small details. And she did this so much that she would give you despair. She listened well, she perceived well, her instinct was all in one piece. She didn't need to think much, only to feel. And the script was like this, she would feel it, become interested, become passionate, having pleasure.

She said at the start of the work that she was exasperated, that she had had problems in her separation from her first husband, that she had a five year old son that the husband would come and look for with the police in São Paulo. He sat in my lap in the theatre, but at his mother's side he was a torment. And this was bad, but at the same time it was good, because it helped the interpretation, because she could then act out a drama perfectly. Authentic. No one knew how to sing a bolero (2) any better. A Brazilian, an illuminated person.

"After having been an actress for a while, and having been much perturbed by the actress that I have inside myself, I understood Elis, because I knew what it's like to be on stage and to have to play the role of a mother.

She had a light: from time to time during those four months, she turned on that light, and when I saw Elis all illuminated it gave me such a pleasure, gave me an urge to go there, get up, applaud, thank her, kiss her.

"That artist was doing and giving all her brilliancy, and was enjoying herself on top of it, because she loved to make people laugh. She also had a side that was like a perfect little enchantress - a little witch that was both good and evil, which the artist needs. Elis was a very nice thing in my life.

"The outline of Falso Brilhante was created with everybody around the table. And I coordinated, though I can't very well explain how, because I had never done anything like that before. I was learning right along with them. Elis was very intelligent - she immersed herself in it, and you have to be courageous to do that. Generally, people remain very superficial, enjoy the money they receive and continue just the same way. Naum did the scenery, Viola the choreography. If Roberto Freire hadn't got into the picture, I don't know how I could have managed. It was hard. I attended the show until ten days after its premiere. From then on I never went back. Since I had been happy with the artistic result, and since the money problems turned into a battle, I preferred not to go. I earned very little, when I could easily have earned enough to buy a house to live in, something I don't have to this day, at fifty-three years old. And I could be sitting on my butt, able to work without having to pay rent. But I later found out that she would say every night: 'Pay Miriam Muniz!'

"Naturally, it wasn't her that took care of the money. It was the father, the lawyer. I earned very little, but I didn't give up. I didn't have anybody looking after my affairs, I didn't have a lawyer - I think that I have since came out of the Middle Ages - and I was an independent woman and didn't know what was being said. Independent my ass, a fool, an idiot, who didn't allow suggestions in my life. When I came back to reality I was a perturbed imbecile.

"Elis must have felt that to a greater degree, because she wanted to go to USP (3) - imagine! - in order to make herself better, not be gross anymore, learn to behave. Who knows, maybe by putting her intellect in order, the other things would have fallen into place. And I decided to stand my ground, because Naum, as scenery-painter, had the right to earn a percentage. I wanted to push the issue, thinking of the Flávio Império (4), that had never happened. I wanted to force the game. I found myself having to share with Naum. I had been the coordinator of the show, of the creation, the text was written by me, two things to which I renounced my rights. I was so impassioned with her and didn't preoccupy myself with what I was going to be earning. And at that time, I was quite crazy not to think about those things. I always held such things as sacred in my art, a foolish trait of my generation. I believed that it wasn't right to mix money and art. I was mistaken. Because she had people who took care of this for her. It was my foolishness.

"When I finished putting up the show, I went home and slept for five days. I fainted and became ill. I earned five hundred thousand cruzeiros (5), I think it was a million that was split between Naum and myself. I went to the Macunaíma, put a cheque stub in front of me, and went on to do other things. Sílvio spent the money until there was only fifty thousand cruzeiros left, with which I bought Christmas presents. I had worked on that day and night, just like Tancredo's illness. I left the Macunaíma and when I left, Sílvio game me a hundred thousand cruzeiros from the Institute. In other words, I can't even begin to talk about financial things. Today, when it comes to business, I have someone who negotiates for me.

"When Elis arrived at the Macumaíma and started to work with us, she said that she had a problem of restraint in her voice. That she couldn't let out everything that she was capable of. When it came time to sing it would hurt so much that it seemed that her voice was gone. And it was a very strong emotional thing with her. She was exaggerating, exaggerating... If Roberto Freire hadn't been there, I couldn't have held on. He was always close by, like a ghost. He was very patient. It wasn't just the two of us that had mixed-up heads. Everyone did. One day there were seventy people up on stage. Things that exceeded the limit. And one day we were rehearsing at the Macunaíma and she said: 'I can't sing, I just can't. I'm exasperated'. And that day, she got up on a little table and everyone gathered around, singing louder and louder, and she said: 'I can't'.

And everyone got together and begged her to sing louder and she did. I went out into the middle of the street and screamed at her: 'Louder, so I can hear you out here!' And she screamed and screamed until the people in the street starting opening their windows, and then she broke. She
crawled under the table and cried, cried, shattered. And then I had to beg her in God's name to stop. I think that she needed someone who could scream louder than she could, and I did. And she enjoyed shouting during rehearsals.

"On opening night I was dressed in an indian jacket that I hadn't taken off in a week, and I hadn't taken a bath in a week. I remained standing in the pit, leaning, watching the first act. Already, I didn't care about anything, I had drank there inside and I was just standing. And I liked that, because it looked like a circus. Everything came out the way I had wanted. The public obviously liked it, at the end of the first act they were already on their feet, applauding.

"With César Mariano I never had any complaints. Only at the end, when he started playing the macho type and acting a certain way. Then I had a real fit. I went up the stairs to the stage, sat at the piano and said: 'I'll stay here and play and you can assume my role of director'. And I began to beat and do stupid things on the piano. They all stood there and watched. Elis had her scenes, César had his, and I had mine. We said everything screaming, hysterically even. Elis must have found all this to be fantastic, exorcising the demons. And I looked like the general forcing a breach. Opening a path like a colonial explorer. Brazilians...

"After the argument, we met again in a nightclub. And then Plínio Marcos, a great gossiper, wanted to bring about our reconciliation, at the microphone. When I realized what was going on, I crawled my way out of the place. In other words, I was very afraid. She stayed there. I think that I became an embarrassment for her, because I had handled myself so poorly as a business woman, so unbalanced, so uncontrolled, so insecure, so completely ignorant, that I became an embarrassment.

I became too insecure to expose myself to all this. I had shared so many ultimate moments with her, why become disagreeable? I was very happy because she earned loads of money and everything that she could and deserved. And she changed. She transformed herself into someone else, and understood that she was better."

Six months after its opening, and at the peak of a resounding period, Elis felt the need to inject new life into the show. She went to get people from the theatre world. The director Ademar Guerra, respected and rewarded, was chosen:

- I received a dramatic call from Elis. Incidentally, she always made these kinds of calls and when I would get there, there would be nothing. But I went to meet her at the house on Califórnia Street. I didn't understand. It felt like I was at a wake, it was a very strange affair. Present were her mother, Lígia de Paula, the actress in Falso Brilhante, and I. I couldn't understand what it was that she wanted. And she wouldn't say. Then I realized that she was having problems with the show. And in reality, there was no problem whatsoever. She said that it didn't have any soul anymore. If the director was close, he could inject this into the show. If not, the actors didn't know how to inject it by themselves. She felt that lack of soul but couldn't put her finger on the cause. I explained that in cases like these, I couldn't interfere for ethical reasons, but that we could talk about it. And we went to the theatre because she had to practice a number with César. And then I realized that the cast was divided into groups - the singers, the musicians, and other such nonsense. I told Elis that she had to bring the whole cast together and talk, have a conference, building on the work of Miriam Muniz, what she had done and the importance of it. There comes a time when an actor wants to change. This is very common in the theatre. That day I told her that the Joan of Arc that people know from cinema isn't the real Joan of Arc. She was a soldier who cut off people's heads and whose mission was not to become the patron saint of France. I told Elis:

"If your mission is to sing, then sing well or else never sing again. If that's the way it is, catch on fire, but don't make a drama out of it when it's time to burn, because that is very annoying". During the time of Falso Brilhante, the desire for change was so strong in Elis that she decided to be radical all the way into the house, and separated from César Camargo Mariano. The show didn't stop. César recalls:

- During that phase, Elis was feeling the need for a total renewal and I didn't realize it. I was also very much involved with the others in the show, totally immersed. And, for me, a separation process from Elis just didn't exist, because in my stupidity - it was really stupidity, for lack of better understanding -, I didn't understand why with such a show, with good children, perfect health, Elis would be looking for renewal. Within this renovation, I had to put aside. With all modesty, and in spite of everything, I can say that I feel I understand women fairly well, but I didn't realize that Elis wanted to separate from me.

"Elis was tired of the general routine. I left, stayed away from the house for four days, and when I returned on Sunday, she invited me to a fish-fry on Monday. We got back together. Evidently in her fantasies - which were part of her insecurity - I had other lovers. And there was a more serious problem, which affected us until the end of our marriage, when the first reviews started to appear in the newspapers: Elis is excellent, in an excellent phase, thanks to the arrangements. Elis before César and Elis after César. After this situation, the pseudo-friends, the people that remain on the periphery, mainly of the female sex, that must think that I am handsome to this very day, based on those reviews, began to say thing to Elis. César was brilliant, they would say to us. He is so charming on stage. And Elis said to me: 'Is it an advantage for a woman to marry a handsome and charming man? Is that all there is?' These things hurt me deeply, and Elis started to check to see if it was true that I had other lovers. She didn't succeed. And she transferred everything that she had lived through in her previous marriage, in spite of distance, thinking that all men are equal."

With the same will that enabled her to break up with César Mariano, Elis now wanted to return to him. She was like this. Impossible to predict her behaviour. At that time, Rita Lee (6) was amazed when she left the courthouse in August 7th and, found guilty of possession of marijuana, went to prison. There, she received a note from Elis. It was a sheet torn out of a spiral notebook, a small letter:


Kisses. Kisses. Kisses.

I am worried. I like you very much. From a long time ago. I can't talk much. One never knows. But, as much as possible, I would like you to continue to think on a high level. That you should remain calm, very calm. That no one is stupid and that everyone knows everything. I saw you yesterday, in passing. Red hair. So were you eyes, from crying.

I cried with you because I like you. Because I understand you. And because I remember the reverse. You laughing, dancing, doing a Roberto Carlos kind of thing, giving everything of yourself, loving. Everything was the same. the same. We are all alike. Loving. And giving to us because you love us. We are at peace. We are of smiles. We are of flowers. We are of calm. I will see you! I swear. I went today and João, my little one, became upset.

That's why I sent this to you.

Tomorrow, later, at some time, we will meet. Near or far, we will always meet again.

Until later! We all love you. And will always be with you.

Kisses. Kisses. Kisses.


Rita Lee recalls today how she felt when she received that note:

- I became very scared. I had never spoke to her. Much later when I left the prison, I owed money to Sigla and Elis knew it. She knew everything. She invited me to be part of her year-end special on TV Bandeirantes. I was so moved by this that we wrote a special song for her, Doce pimenta (Sweet Pepper). A pepper, but sweet. The first time I spoke to Elis was the day of the recording of the special. She was extremely sympathetic with me, neither did she mention anything about the prison. She commented on the song, on the rock music scene and said that she wasn't against rock. She commented about something that Henfil (7) had said about me - that I was doing harm to Brazil, that Brazil didn't need me. And I said that this had made me sad because I thought that Henfil was great. She became crazy, and said that she was going to reconcile us. I remember that César was somewhat strange during that recording, I think that he didn't like the idea and refused to play with us. So we did the number with Elis' band, without César. We sang, practised a little bit, and I was sacred shitless to be with the greatest singer in Brazil. I remember that we went to the bathroom to touch up our make-up. I mixed up my things with hers. She mixed hers with mine. We experimented with each other's lipstick. It was something new to me, I felt that she didn't have the least intention to hurt me, to chase me away because I played rock, which until then was a blasphemy. What I felt was a great will on her part to understand how to play rock.

She didn't have any preconceptions. She all of a sudden would appear with her hair dyed red and would say: "I got my hair dyed just like yours", without the least discomfort, without saying anything. She was always that way with me, ever since that meeting in the bathroom.

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Copyright Regina Echeverria – Robert St-Louis

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