Sunday, March 7, 2010
After the Hurricane
Since it was published in 1985, I never opened Furacão Elis (Hurricane Elis) again. It seemed that I had paid back this great singer and ravishing woman, hot blooded and of a fascinating personality. During a languid afternoon at pool-side of her house in the mountains of Cantareira, we had had a long talk about life and the future. We had agreed that one day, I could write a book about her.
Years after her death, in delivering a book to the world, I had a deep feeling that I had finally accomplished my mission. What ensued corresponded exactly with what one might have expected. In the end, I decided to tell the tale of a controversial person, a woman whose life was partitioned into 8 or 80 parts, love or hate. Many were upset, indignant, angry. Honestly, I didn't know what it was like to be on the other side. I had spent many years writing about a work that was alien to me, and it was important, in order to better understand my profession, that I discover what the critics felt. It's nothing good, I admit, but neither was it a pain that hindered me from doing the work. The book was done. That's why I waited so many years - almost ten - before releasing it again.
Because of a useless legal discussion about author's rights, I broke with the Publisher who issued the first edition. Useless because the issue of author's rights in Brazil is far from settled.
After seven editions sold in bookstores and almost 15,000 copies for the Círculo do livro, Furacão Elis ceased to exist. It had become a collector's item. I had to turn down so many telephone calls, letters and other requests because I did not have any copies of the book left!
So many people - including her children - still do not forgive me for having written this book. I feel for them. I never ran from the truth, and I live by it. The journalist Renato Sérgio, from Manchete, didn't hide his indignation because I omitted to say that he directed Elis' first show. Errors are committed and can be mended. But the journalist was irreconcilable. I tried to locate him through a common friend before the re-edition, but he continues to be very angry. I wouldn't have any reason to doubt his word and even less to omit to include the information. The record is here now.
Anyhow, as my late husband Hamilton Almeida Filho used to say, the work was already done. It belonged to the past. OK. But it continued to bother me not finding Furacão Elis in bookstores.
In deciding to finally reissue Furacao Elis, I had two options - either to rewrite the entire book, adding new information or testimonies, or touching the strict minimum, making necessary corrections and considering, as I really felt in the bottom of my heart, that the work was already done. I opted for the second option, taking into account the good things that happened to me because of my having had the privilege to know and be able to write about Elis Regina.
One of the best surprises, for sure, came from Canada and from my correspondence with Robert St-Louis. By one of those incredible twists of fate, Robert discovered Elis in a record he received as a gift from an Argentinean friend. From that point, he didn't let up in his search to find out who was that singer, using all the means at his disposal. He found out about Furacão Elis through the Library of Congress, in Washington DC, and through "electronic friends" (linked computer networks providing communication between different countries. Letters through computers. Friendships through computers), in São Paulo, finally obtained my address. Our exchange of impressions and information about Elis was so good that, even though he didn't master the Portuguese language (he had read Furacão Elis with a dictionary beside him), Robert decided to translate the book into English.
In another twist of fate, Gerri Williams, cultural aid at the American Consulate in São Paulo, also discovered my telephone number - Another one impassioned about Elis. I was able to introduce these two to each other, and through the system of Electronic Friends, started a friendship. Robert and Gerri told me about numerous people around the world, in the most unexpected places, who are part of this fan-club of love for Elis Regina. For me, that was more than enough.
Not to mention the indispensable incentive of friends, of the fan who, on every anniversary of her death, calls me from the cemetery to say, sad and inconsolable: "There wasn't anyone here, only me. I left some flowers". Or the painter who sent me spiritual cards during all the time I was investigating and writing the book. Drops in a universe.
On the tenth anniversary of her death, I told the magazine Manchete that Elis was forgotten.
It was true. Twice, for example, television specials were attempted - one based on the book, the other barely based on it. In both instances, César Camargo Mariano intervened (once through legal means) on behalf of the younger children. We never spoke again, and I can't imagine the personal injury that Elis' death is still causing him, after so many years, as well as to João Marcelo, Pedro and Maria Rita. I don't feel I have a right to judge. Only to lament the fact that they don't take pride in her story, even though she came to such a tragic end. Elis just doesn't belong with the other idols who died of an overdose.
On the contrary. There are some who already forget this, in the name of the major art of this singer with brightness in her eyes. In May 1994, the ex-soundman of TV Record, Zuza Homem de Mello, presented us with the musical sound of good times. Passionate about the music, Zuza had recorded the shows of Fino da Bossa, sought out specialists to enhance the sound, and issued, through the Velas recording company (with the help of Vitor Martins, who Elis liked so much, Ivan Lins, who she introduced, and Paulo Albuquerque) three historic CDs.
Hearing once again the sounds of my adolescence, a certainty comes onto me with the strength of a hurricane. Elis was years ahead of her scant 36. She was a great presenter of new authors, composers and trends. How many times we would anxiously await the release of her new record in stores to see how she would record a certain song, what sonorous surprises she had in store for us? She was a partner to composers, musicians and arrangers. I witnessed several times the sauciness with which she directed her band. And why not, since she considered herself one of the orchestra? Queen Midas, the journalist Inês Godinho used to call her, everything she sang turned into pure gold. May the future heal the injuries, and may Elis be heard as simply the most beautiful voice that this country has ever produced.
This is my story about Elis Regina Carvalho Costa. Please, tell me other ones.
- Regina Echeverria