Before I went to
the Proms, I went to the Leigh Bowery, the fantasist, exhibition.
I found his creations to be incredible. However it was not
only his creations that attracted me, but the fact that he
is immortalised by Lucian Freud in the exhibition at the Tate.
Bowery has called the attention to the club scene, designed
costumes for the dancer Michael Clark and had a night-club
called Taboo. Many people were fond of him and
were saddened when he died of AIDS in 1994.
He was from Melbourne,
Australia; his parents worked for the Salvation Army in a
town called Sunshine (I love this name for a place).
He came to London in the 80’s, when he was about 19 years
old and become a club icon. I can detect a bit of a
fetish in the way he expressed himself in his costumes and
in the way he posed for the photographer Fergus Green (a photographer
for the Sunday Times). I have seen Bowery’s costumes
and graphic portrayals of transvestism and homosexuality.
He became famous around the world for his outrageous performances
simulating giving birth and turning himself into a series
of bizarre living sculpture. One shot reveals his face
painted in different shades of pink and orange. Boy
George, the pop singer, is playing Bowery’s character in the
play Taboo in London’s West End.
Later I went to
the Proms, which turned out to be a real pleasure. I
heard Wynton Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Orchestra as
I have many times in the past. It was a late night concert.
If only I had a car! I wouldn’t have had to wait ages
for the bus. I could have been home in 10 minutes.
But it was all worth it to see the man at his best in swing
performance. The ending was great containing a selection
from Marsalis’ Big Train Suite, the trumpeter Wynton
Marsalis and company performed the train better than the original
with “foot stamping and steam effect”. The ways they
used their feet and mouths really made it sound like a real
train. As they played, Marsalis invited us to dance
like they used to; I danced around. Marsalis said, “swing
was on the menu” and I swung without shame to Stompin’
at the Savoy. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
with timbre and timing of Count Basie’s band selections from
Duke Ellington’s Swing is central to the Marsalis version
of Jazz when Jazz had direct connection with black social
and cultural _expression. There was no free Jazz.
He is dedicated to Jazz education with videos, sheet music
and teaching training young musicians in the Lincoln Center.
As Albert Murray wrote, “America’s only hope is that Negroes
might save us – we’re trying to do it with Wynton and Stanley.
That’s all we are, just a bunch of Negroes ‘trying’ to save
America.” This re-creation of past renditions of Jazz
is to show “Jazz as America’s classical music”. I went
dancing all the way- I mean I was really moving my bottom
and head as much as the small crowded space would allow me
to. I could have really let loose, if only I had more
room. Gosh, I truly enjoyed myself!! It is incredible
to think of how completely lonely I was in London for years
and now I am having so much fun. Ah, music for me is
the best thing man can do.
The drummer Herlin
Riley’s featured Dreamin’ an a Wash-board with his
swing drumming of 1930’s arrangements. Marsalis’ final
encore was a bravura of solo trumpet. Man, it was great
swinging with this fantastic music! Marsalis, a youthful-looking,
40 year old man, is considered an American cultural icon as
he has recreated the big band hits from the 1930’s/1940’s
(in March of 2001, he was named a United Nations Messenger
of Peace by the United Nation’s Secretary General, Kofi Annan).
Although still comparatively a young man he has achieved a
lot in his life including receiving a Grammy Award for Jazz
and classical performance. He is an extremely talented
trumpet player, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and Time magazine
voted him as one of the 25 Most Influential People in America.
Since 1991 he has been the Artistic Director of the new Jazz
department at the Lincoln Center. He is trying to change
the view of black music by raising the status of black music
and Jazz for social change in America. He is inspired
by the ideas from the book Stomping the Blues by Albert
Some say that Marsalis
is the killer of Jazz, but I think he is a wonderful musician
and I don’t believe that he is killing anything. As
the “King of Swing”, he is drawing in new audiences and the
Usually, I follow
Jazz in Italy. For my first Jazz concert, I went to
the Umbria Jazz Festival – I went to the inauguration day
– travelling from Roma with Pepito and Picchi Pignatelli.
I was a much younger women at that time. There was good
food, good spaces, and GREAT Jazz players! For years
Miles Davis was in the stadium playing for masses of people
who had come from all over the world to hear him. I
loved meeting Gil Evans and the year he played with Sting
in the stadium was beautiful. From Umbria Jazz we went
to Pescara Jazz, then to Roma Jazz Festival and in the winter
I went to Jazz clubs. The clubs that I remember most
were Pepito and Picci’s club. Their first club was called
Blue Note, then they had the Jazz Music In.
I used to work in the cloakroom at the Blue Note (in
the 70’s) and I used to charge 1,000 lire when all Pepito’s
aristocrat friends would come into the club. Coming
from the hills of Mina Gerais, I fell for the charms of a
Roma Borghese Prince and a Sicilian Prince Lanza Scala.
Particularly as regards to the Borghese Prince, the bloodline
goes back to Roman times. All I can really say about
my experience with the Princes’ was that their blue sperm
was most memorable. I did also have on my list some
‘blue blood’ counts and dukes but the Princes’ where ‘top
rank’. I must say though I have kissed a lot of frogs
that did not turn out to be princes.
I have asked many
people that used to know Pepito and Picchi to send me some
memories and jokes from those days to go on my website but
they have all refused. I have some photos of Pepito
as a young man. He was a controversial, colourful person,
for it was rare to find a prince (“Prince Dell Sancro Romano
Impero”) who played drums. He was not a particularly
good drummer, but all the great Jazz musicians loved to play
with him because of his passion and great love for the music.
He was a drinker, liked lots of women and used to swear a
lot when he got drunk. He used to dress and think like
a prince but didn’t have the money to behave like one.
Finally, after borrowing money from his aristocratic friends,
which he never paid back, he was cut from society for his
bad behaviour. Everything went wrong in his life and
he died so young; he was only 48. But I will remember
Picchi and Pepito as two of the funniest and nicest people
that I have ever met in Italy. But their passion for
Jazz was their downfall, for because of it they ended up losing
I can remember
a family Christmas with Picchi’s family in Parioli with the
most delicious turkey. Picchi had a beautiful name –
Maria Giulia – which she didn’t like and changed it to Picchi.
I never could understand why she did that because I really
like the name Giulia. Also at the dinner was a Basset
Hound called Pippo, a cat, and Picchi’s sweet parents.
Picchi went to school in Switzerland and as a child had a
driver to take her to school. She was one of the beauties
of the 60’s in Rome. Giorgio Forratini was one of her
admirers and other many men lost their head for Picchi, but
she had an immensely devoted love for Pepito (even when he
would be drunk and obnoxious). I remember I went to
work in Palermo in Sicily long after Pepito’s death and Picchi
asked me to go to the cemetery for her. She could not
remember were his tomb was; she only remembered Pepito showing
her that it would be next to his father when he died.
Picchi wanted me to go there to visit his tomb and make sure
that she had a place under him in the private chapel of the
“Aragone Cortez Pignatelli Family”. The gate of the
chapel was in metal with the family coat-of-arms. All
Pepito’s family was there. The beautiful chapel in the
cemetery is along side all the Sicilian noble families (the
cemetery is small but very exclusive). I loved the place,
with its greenery and flowers it was all in very good taste.
It was with some
difficulty that I finally found the cemetery. Something
that caught my attention was a tombstone of one of Pepito’s
rich aunts with her name and date of birth on it, but her
date of death was blank. She was still alive!!
I found Picchi’s place and let her know that her place was
still there. She felt comforted knowing that she had a space
under her beloved husband and would be placed next to him
for all eternity; unless, of course, an earthquake separated
them, which is very common for this area.
Of my memories
of Pepito, I loved when he used to tell about his father’s
second wife and about when he was a small boy and used to
clean his axe in the curtains of his father’s villa.
He would make the funniest faces and laugh like mad remembering
the stories of when he was a little boy. My favourite
story of Pepito was the story of him trying to sell decorators’
paints. Pepito had a Pope in his family. As I
mentioned Pepito was selling decorators’ painted and did not
know who to sell them to. So he asked the Pope (I think
it was Paolo VI) for an audience. The Pope agreed.
But of course it all went wrong and he lost his job of selling
paints from door to door (he was what, in England, would be
called a ‘commercial traveller’). Poor Pepito, he had
the worst of luck! Actually, to be honest, Pepito was
not well prepared for life as he was very rich as a young
man. But in the 40’s-50’s his father lost everything
and Pepito was left fragile without money or a home.
He could not get anything put under his name after his father’s
death, for tax purposes. His only hope was to marry
for money, but Picchi had lost everything too. What
an unfortunate couple!
Above all, I am
grateful to Pepito for giving me my first job in Italy at
the Blue Note in the cloakroom (no salary, but I could
keep what I made with the aristocratic audience). Pepito
also asked Giuliano Salvatori del Prato, a nobleman, to help
get Francesca’s father his first job at a newspaper.
He started working at Momemto Sera newspaper, writing
about classical music. Gianni Amico introduced me to
Pepito and Picchi and I also met Francesca’s father at their
home, who was a young man and part of Pepito’s ‘court’.
Pepito always had his ‘court’ of young Jazz lovers.
When they were all together they would put on a Jazz records
and play a game to see who could guess the performer or instrumentalist
first and so on – they were fanatical.
Pepito and Picchi
were apart of my life for many years. Again I will ask,
if anyone has memories of “Pepito and Picchi” that you would
like to send to me; I will include them on their site.
I have wonderful memories of Jazz time in Italy and now after
tonight at the Proms, in London as well.
Jazz night babes
– missing you.