Gianni Clerici – Success paid dearly – Il Giorno 03.09.1966

By Gianni Clerici – Il Giorno
03.09.1966

THERE ARE more tar marks than words in the notebook of the meeting with Mina. Together we spent six hours on the roof of the huge hangar-workshop in Fiumicino, a construction by architect Morandi all hanging from huge concrete ropes: Mina was to shoot carousels, and Piero Gherardi, the scriptwriter of Fellini’s last films, had chosen that astral location and more suitable for an Antonioni film… Here I am reminded, thinking of so many more or less successful Vitti, that the authentic sadness, despair, but polite, full of modesty, is certainly that of someone like Mina, and not of characters like the Great Alienata. During my meeting with Mina, I noted very little: and not because her impresarios, Gigante father and son, had warned me to do so. It was she, Mina, so un-diva-like, so obviously burned and mistreated by fate, who was forcing me, in a way, not to write. Why? But out of respect, come on! For shame to be like those others who ask her if she will be reconciled with the man by whom she had a child, and also the rest that everyone knows very well, interested as they are above all in Dramas and the Heart, so much so that, one evening when I was passing through a Sicilian village, I happened to hear a storyteller illustrating to those present precisely the life of Mina: and although it lacked the murder and the fine final trial required by the structures of such comic strips, the spirits of the spectators vibrated.
Constantly harassed by the shots and incitements of her exclusivist photographer Pascuttini, harassed by the kindly suggestions of her impresario Gigante father: that one wants her smiling while the other convinces her to leave immediately for Naples, where the next morning at seven Gherardi would have a splendid light at the top of I don’t know which skyscraper over the gulf. And then there’s me: – But come on, ask me something, don’t just stand here and tell me your business, and teach me songs in dialect. “But they are the real ones,” I object, “not the mala’s.
Usually, I am ashamed as a dog to sing in public, but there, to make Mina laugh, to make her a little happy, I am delighted to become ridiculous.
As a rule, I never tell people my facts: in fact, I get a rotten annoyance from those who, after ten minutes of acquaintance, open the sluices and flood them with interesting stories just for them.
But with Mina, it’s a disaster: having established the common ethnic and linguistic background, and that she is the kind of Lombardian who doesn’t need illustrative notes at the bottom of my sentences, I go at it, making her laugh, and telling her everything from scrambling to my little girl’s feats. And why should I interview her? Just because this is my job, the newspaper pays me for it? But it’s not like I’m a hit man, come on!
Of course, now at the table, I’m here wondering. Is respect for privacy sufficient? Might it not have been because Mina is a luscious big woman, barely touched by fatigue and motherhood, too-rapid weight loss and pressure at 65, and I wanted to look like an exhibitionist? But no, no! Haven’t you noticed that when you meet an unfortunate person, after a moment you are there, we too, telling about our misfortunes, our affairs? And maybe, after the saddest dramas, even jokes, very bad taste stuff, just because you don’t want to accept the other person’s condition of pain, the contamination… I exaggerate, perhaps. But I didn’t let her talk too much: she said two or three very dry no’s to me, the Mina, and then a few common things in between. She would come to me, the Mina, and give me her arm, take a walk along the entire roof spine, under the metal tie rods, looking out at the sea not more than a kilometer away, with a great desire to swim in it. That one she repeated, it wasn’t even a bad day, she had, after all, slept late, at ten o’clock, and, apart from the wax melting off her face and very bare back, and the tar entangling her very high heels, apart from the sun and the gnats, she almost enjoyed herself. The best part would be within about ten days, at the beginning of the Evenings, as the Giants call them: a frightening 45-day tour of Italy, changing every night arena balera stadium theater. A victim of an enthusiasm that shows no signs of abating, for nine years, since she was singing at 30,000 a night, and her current impresarios understood that she was already very good: little girl as she was, just out of Blessed Virgin and provincial stereotypes. Since then, singer Mina has improved by working, singing and listening to herself, without ever studying, doing exercises. He has learned to remember, in three hours, four Turkish songs, singing them on TV before the astonished Mohammedans: or not to be too surprised at being offered, on departure from Japan, ten meter-long pearl necklaces: real pearls, of course.
But these are exoticisms, I tell them precisely because you have to put some sequins on them, too, in a failed portrait of Mina. Regrets, for his profession, he has only one: Mahagonny, which sang the Laura Betti, at the Small Scale, and should have been his, without the obstacles of the Evenings, records, television and the rest.
However, hearing her sing very loudly, despite the fact that the recording must then take place in the studios, the doubt arises that Mina was wasted out of lust for life and at the same time out of laziness, enthusiasm and indifference.
But how is it possible, I ask her, to be born into a certain society in the Lombardy province and-with that voice-not to want to be a real singer? So what about Opera, when has it been realized that Opera is not a show to be laughed at, but one of the few great things in the country? “I would love,” she replies seriously, “to do all of Puccini. And – she looks at me to see if she can say it – especially Mimì.”
I hugged her: said my plane was leaving, and ran, in a hurry, to the airport, seeing her up there at the top, unwinding in her magic dress singing loudly amidst the roars of the jets, wasting her beautiful voice for the pasta advertisement, making that man-eating vamp face and immediately laughing at herself like a little girl who has seen herself in the mirror in a part that is not hers.

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They say about her

11 November 2023

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