I’d think a page about the inner workings of a teen-age fan club dedicated to a female teen-idol would be an interesting subject to pursue.
I have been a member [or a sympathizer] of at least three different fan clubs dedicated to Italian teen-sensation Rita Pavone who burst into Brazil’s consciousness on a Thursday night, 25th June 1964, when a video-tape of her theatre-show recorded two days earlier was broadcast by Channel 7, TV Record. Her vivacious charisma was instantly taken on by a whole nation. Her boisterous rendition of Italian-style rock’n’roll tunes were wildly applauded. Her bold routine of stepping down from the stage and mingling in the midst of the audience, sitting on grandpa’s knees or making grandma sing along a few bars of ‘Datemi un martello’ had never been seen before and it was a sensation in itself. Rita could do no wrong. She enthralled the city of São Paulo and the whole of Brazil in one single night.
Her album ‘Meus 18 anos’ [Non è facile avere 18 anni] shot straight up to Number One. Her two EPs [‘Quando sogno’ and ‘Come te non c’è nessuno] were number one and two at the charts. ‘Datemi un martello’ had been at the top for 8 straight weeks when the follow-up ‘Scrivi’, went to number 2 and ‘Sul cucuzzolo’ to number 3. Rita Pavone was the greatest sensation of 1964. While the US was into Beatlemania, Brazil and Argentina were into Pavonemania.
It took a while for Rita Pavone Fan Clubs to start popping up but when they finally did [from mid-1965 on] there was a plethora of them spread all over. Propective fan-club-presidents would advertise for members in teen-age oriented magazines like Jeanette Adib’s ‘Revista do Rock’, edited and printed in Rio de Janeiro, TV Guide-like ‘Intervalo’, an ‘old music’ publication like ‘Revista do Radio’ or even an illustrated magazine like ‘Fatos & Fotos’ that was trying to cater for the teen market.
Fan-club organizers wrote to the ‘Letters section’ of these mags inviting fans to join up. They had their addresses or PO Boxes numbers printed and eventually were flooded with mountains of letters from avid fans asking for photos, lyrics, friendship, records that were not distrubuted in their out-of-the-way towns etc. Sometimes a less-informed fan thought they were writing to their idol herself and not simply a fan-club. Some invarialbly asked for money which was a joke because most of the FCs were managed by teen-agers who didn’t have any income.
1966-1967 the golden years
Toto Faria organized his own ‘Fan Club Rita Pavone’ in São Paulo. There was a variation on FCs’ names: ‘RP Fan Club’ or ‘Fan Club RP’. Some would spell the word ‘fan’ as ‘fan’ and others as ‘fã’ which is also possible in the Portuguese language. Toto’s was ‘Fã Clube Rita Pavone’. I wrote him a letter asking to join in his FC and that’s how I met him. He was a lad of 15 who liked music and would spend whole weekends answering fan letters received through a magazine add. One day I ended up going to his house uninvited but he was not home. He worked as an office-by since he was very young. I talked to dona Tina, his mother who showed me the stacks of letters he’d received only that week.
At the same time I had written Toto I also wrote to a ‘Rita Pavone Fan Club’ located in São Carlos – a mid-sized town some 250 km from São Paulo. That was a much more organized FC with a president in the person of Fabio Miranda and Sonia Oliveira as a secretary, both in their late teens.
Some of the fans were more interesting than others.Through Toto’s mailing list I found Silvia Jentsch who was a ‘serious’ fan. Silvia had a few imported vinyls like ‘Volvió la Pecosita’ a 1965 Argentine album that had a few songs never released in Brazil. That was the ultimate Graal chalice of a Pavone fan. He/she who had the supreme happiness of being the owner of an ‘imported record’ was king/queen among their peers. Besides being a fortunate fan Silvia was a skillful drawer and painted on china; ran a family business straight from home and was independent economically.
Silvia’s house eventually became the ‘de-facto’ Fan Club post where we went to on Saturday afternoons to listen to the latest Pavone releases from here or imported from far-away places like Germany, Italy or the USA.
Silvia as it turned out was a member of three different RP fan-clubs. Toto’s, Fabio’s and Leda Gonçalves’s 'Fan Clube Rita Pavone Comanda'. Leda lived in Sorocaba a city not far from São Paulo. Silvia actually had already visited Leda whose family owned a roller-skate rink that swarmed with teens who danced and roller-skated to the sounds of “Datemi un martello’, ‘Quando sogno’, ‘Clementine Cherie’ and all the rock’n’roll hits belted out by the Italian Vocano.
Silvia’s family had a WV beetle and that’s how she, her brother Glu and mother Paula would drive from town to town. They had already been to Sorocaba and I went along with them in their next trip that took us to São Carlos where we finally met [in person] Fabio, Sonia and other teens we only knew by letter-writing. We all became fast friends instantly.
There was a hint of competion and jealousy among the various fan-clubs but we who belonged to two, three or more of them did not take part in this internecine activity.
1966 and 1967 were the golden years of the many Rita Pavone Fan Clubs. In 1967 there was a ‘national meeting’ in São Paulo where lots of kids got together at Walter Tsutsui’s house in Vila Madalena, a São Paulo suburb, where we did the usual: listened to Pavone’s records and talked about how much we loved her.
Little by little the kids started talking about other subjects other than Rita Pavone. Subjects as differente as sexuality, religion or sports were developed among the fans in an intellectually charged atmosphere. Some of us tried desperately to learn Italian to get culturally closer to our idol. Most of us bought Italian magazines which we barely understood but we kept on trying to read them with the help of dictionaries. Many lasting friendships were formed in those halcyon days.
1968 – the year all hell broke loose
1968 was a disruptive year to me particularly because I was conscripted into the Brazilian Army. The military dictatorship ran supreme and there was a lot of resentment in the air with students protesting on the streets and the military police killing indiscriminately. I think that atmosphere contribuited to the demise of Fan Club activities.
Besides there was a big denouement in Pavone’s private life: Rita married Mr. Ferruccio Ricordi, her long-time manager, record-producer and Svengali on 15 March 1968. Mr. Ferruccio Ricordi was known in the show-business as as Teddy Reno and had been a romantic singer in the 40s and 50s.
Many fans, like my dearest friend Silvia Jentsch, felt betrayed by Rita’s decision who up to then had a rebellious attitude and all of a sudden had ‘given in’ and married an ‘old man’ double her age. It was a big let-down to some fans, especially the most influential ones.
Rita’s having left RCA Italiana was also negative. She recorded now for Ricordi [no relation to her manager-huband], that was distributed in Brazil by Chantecler a ‘no-frills’ label.
But worse than that was Brazilian RCA’s total lack of interest in keeping apace with Pavone’s latest recordings like ‘Solo tu’, ‘Stasera con te’, ‘Questo nostro amore’ etc. Ever since Rita’s last personal appearance in 1965, RCA’s RP’s new releases had dried up. Brazilian RCA were caught unawares with the surge of Brazilian native rock’n’roll – Jovem Guarda’s sudden popularity. CBS [Columbia Records] was on top now with Roberto Carlos and RCA that had been the top dog until 1964 was floundering with no clear way out of the dolldrums.
Hard-core fans had to rely on Italian imported magazines such as ‘Giovani’ and ‘Big’ – or ‘Gente’, ‘Oggi’ and ‘L’Europeo’ to read the latest news about Pavone. Those magazines were expensive and arrived in South America two or three months after their publication. It was the only source of information for the avid fans.
I well remember ‘Non dimenticar le mie parole’, Rita’s last recording for RCA Italiana. I thought it was a marvellous achievement! The song itself was an old Italian hit from the 1940s... but Rita made it sound as if it was a soul recording. It was hip, it was modern and it had soul. Rita’s rendition was a tour-de-force. Would Rita Pavone become the Italian Aretha Franklin? She had what it took! But that was only a flash in the pan! When Rita moved to Ricordi the quality of her records was abysmal. Well, never mind. I guess it was time to grow up anyway!
Some idols grow up with their fans others don’t. I guess Rita Pavone got lost when she entered a difficult marriage – at least publicly it was the wrong step to take because Mr. Ferruccio was still a married man with a son and a stranged wife. Italy did not recognize divorce and the Italian Press was dead-set against such a union. The marriage also festered a lot of bad blood between her and her father splitting the family in two camps and the Press having a ball out of it.
I guess the dream was over. The dream had been shattered, crushed to the ground. I went my own way but I kept as my friends a lot of the people I had met during those two or three wonderful years that turned out to be the most beautiful years of my life.
Luiz Amorim, 24 April 2011.