The Italian cinematographer & photographer Dario Bellini talks about the "Giants of Rock n' Roll" & walks with Gregory Corso in Roma

Dario Bellini:

Like to beat the rhythm of blues and jazz, what it means?

Nautical school but, started freelancing with photography and published pictures and reportages on major italian and international magazines as Espresso, Panorama, Epoca, Nouvel Observateur, The Economist, Time (cover in 1976). Co-founder of DFP agency in Rome and correspondent of Gamma (Paris).

At the end of seventies, when social photography was dismissed from many newspapers and magazines, a restart with moving images as cameraman and cinematographer in some future films and several documentaries (Sun Splash Jamaica, Cinema 2000 in NY, LA and Santa Fè), also worked with F. Fellini for Ginger &Fred's special effects. After that again a new working experience with Sony Broadcast for almost ten years in communication activities then back freelancing in TV production (in 1997 author of the RAI TG3 Morning News).


Have also worked through several years with Studio Pontaccio in Milan (experimenting compositing and new cine-tv techniques for art, news, and entertainment). From 98 to 2005 works with EBU-Eurovision as editor/cameraman in many news operation in Europe and during three of the last wars (Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq) in Belgrade, Podgorica, Pristina, Peshawar, Doha, Amman and Baghdad). Now is working as cameraman in RAI- Radio Televisione Italiana. Dario was close friend with the American poet Gregory Corso, the youngest of the inner circle of Beat Generation writers. Together made the autobiographic documentary "Gregory Corso talks and Walks in Roma" (1989)


Interview By Michael Limnios


When was your first desire to become involved in the Beat generation?

On the road and Gasoline, my very first readings on the road experience


Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

By chance working as stage manager at the concert in Rome “The Giants of Rock and Roll” in 89, the worst selling pictures of pope in front of a church in San Francisco


                                                                      B.B. King - Photo © by Dario Bellini

What are some of the most memorable tales from Rome's “The giants of rock and roll” in 89?

It was by chance to work with Tall Pony LA production of the event as third stage manager, very simple microphone switching but challenging to welcome the artists on the stage and giving the mike to the artists between exhibitions, only few words to say but you know with Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, BB King, Fats Domino and the Dave Edmonds band was the emotion of the historical jam . To give an idea of the mood just at the beginning of the concert I'm asked by walky talky to go in the front of the stage where is happening that a guy is hanging on the big lumacrane and the poor Ikegami camera is temporarily ripped away. James Brown stops singing, his band is continuing while a boxing mach between two rival groups of punks takes place down in the middle of audience: five minutes of band keeping up the rhythm, continuing to play to the end of fight when the two romano quite creep leaders were making peace and James Brown restarting hi performance. A clock some like 15 min each all the artists alternating through their rivalries but respect like Little Richard at the end of his performance jumping into the piano to tune out the chords for the next playing Jerry Lee Lewis continuing dialog with audience, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDvLVM7I6EU being on piano too and picking up a 100 lire coin that somebody throw on stage, spitting on it, and sticking it on his brow continuing to sing with high mood until the final fun engaging and really historical jam session http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmHDWgkktzk .


What does BEATS mean to you & what does Beat generation offered you?

The freedom and the right to express the mood of your belonging to the world


                               Gregory Corso with Dario Bellini and friends. Photo by © Piero Cefaloni

Any of Beat poems or novels has any real personal feelings for you & what are some of your favorite?

The poem Proximity of Gregory makes me think “as far as my eye can see and as near as my eye is near to me”, Botticelli’s spring push me to restarts

 

What mistake of Beat generation you want to correct?

Probably missing a kind of collective beat strength to change things, to get the freedom of sharing that beat mood


Which of historical BEAT personalities would you like to meet?

Lawrence Ferlinghetti to get the point now of views on the latest and listen to beat suggestions


                  Gregory typing in a rare book room at New York 1989. Photo © by Dario Bellini

Do you think that Beat Literature comes from the heart, the brain or the soul?

It would be like saying love, experience and instinct, I would say coming from universe


Tell me a few things about the story of “Gregory Corso talks and walks in Roma”, how that came about?

Five days or a week by a self made production in Roma with talking views decided of course in a bar, just because we liked filming, and feeling ancient beauties with Gregory who wanted to name the video “Harold a Roma” inspiring music of Hector Berlioz

Gregory Corso talks and walks in Roma part 1 & part 2


What are some of the most memorable tales with Gregory Corso?

What to say, maybe that evening when he came back to the vineria (winery) of Campo de Fiori dressed with a very elegant suit and coat… and all new theets smiling. All received as payment from the set in Cinecittà where Gregory was acting in the “Il Padrino 3” (The Godfather) of Francis Coppola (also playing monetine, coin game at the vineria), or driving in Palermo (invited to perform poetry by Fiumara d’Arte), with the Carabinieri (police) escorting him to pick up the daily methadone dose in the hospital…

Gregory Corso & Godfrey Reggio in the vineria of Campo de Fiori. Photo © by Dario Bellini

What is the “think” you miss most from Gregory? Which memory from Corso makes you smile?

His precise and discreet views with concise sentences and his eyes pointing the mood of happenings and people


What advice has given Corso to you? What kind of a guy was Gregory?

Learn to appreciate beauty, quality and valuable people among art and poetry of human being


Are there any BLUES memories from Gregory Corso, which you’d like to share with us?

Yes one in Athens as the recorded voice Gregory is telling on our footage of about his lost passport and the lamp of Venus recovered:

During our recordings we arrived at the amphitheater “Quercia del Tasso” and Gregory remembers when many years before he lost his passport in Athens, “Tasso! Me piace (I like)Tasso.. Tarquino ahh.. Torquato Tasso va bene (is fine), he was from Sorrento, his casa in Sorrento.

This teatro reminds me of another teatro on the Acropoli. Lì notte, I go in the teatro, solo persone, drink my retsina (Greek resinated wine) and I get in the center where I said poesia to the io. I sit down like that, in Atene.. you have been to Athina, conosci the teatro Tainassio? It is more antico, this not Greco, this not even romano. Oh I don’t forget the natural high I had in Athina. In the teatro I went to the gate: chiuso, and I climbed over, to get to the teatro but, when I climbed over my passporto fall out.. oh oh, and the luce came out by mattina, the police said they know who went, so I run back and get the passporto.. because I take some… Under the Acropoli there is a temple of Venus, Venere and I take a little lamp.. I take it to the casa.  They know I take because they see the passporto. So I returned the lamp and I get the passporto, I give it back.. sure. Ahh.. this venti trenta anni ago. Nineteen fifty seven, un mille novecento cinquantasette. Trenta.. trentauno anni ago! You know it would be nice if all gente would do that.”  (*transcription from footage of video recordings)

Gregory Corso at the Acropolis, Athens, c. 1959. [Credit: James Burke - Time Life Pictures/Getty Images]


What is the “think” you miss most from the Beat “family”?

Well I don't know much about beat family to belong but I miss probably the nice people I met and that feeling of rights for a free life to go with.


Why did you think that Beat writers, continued to generate such a devoted following?

The generation now is of course different, I do not know if beat means beaten or beatitude or sputnik (as I've checked …on wikies) but I know that beat writers have pushed forward the message and the experience that is still alive among many. One thing more I forgot to say that another great beat personality I would meet (have speaker with him by phone a couple of times) is Ed Sanders, still very active in Woodstock NY where lives, reporting on Woodstock Journal, also renewing Fug's "Thirsting for peace" messages. Missing  either at the same time Janine Vega, another very good friend of Gregory Corso, author of poetry books, utill the end in passionate touch with prisoners through all United States.


Do you know why the words of the BEATS are connected to the blues & jazz?

Like to beat the rhythm of blues and jazz, what it means?


                                                                                  Muddy Waters - Photo © by Dario Bellini

Is there a parts of Corso’s poems that you like most?

Probably a complete short poem about Roma, with the reasons why he was going back to the States, really not yet published I’m copying it here for you:

Gripes & old loves in Roma

WHEN IN ROME DO AS THE ROMANS DO

Never!

It would mean reading the Corriere dello Sport

Calling ugly man Bello

Owning or stealing a pain-in-the-ass vespa

Loving a roman girl who talks and gesticulates like a man

It would mean deeming anything below Rome Africa

And anything above Rome Barbarian

It would mean calling Maradona God

And the Communist Party the Socialist Democratic Party

It would mean stealing the cameras off the shoulders of tourists and the radios from cars

It means when in Rome I do as I do

And still I’m not happy

Why?

I’ll tell you why:

I once loved Rome

Because I was young

And knew to walk the Pillars of Venus

The via Appia from night to dawn

                                                                                      Via Appia - Photo by © Piero Cefaloni

I slept in the Colosseo

And looked upon Caravaggio’s in Church

Without having to pay for the light

Now I’m tired in Rome

Maybe because I’m older

And lost my love for ancient beauty

Now I only know to drink in bars

Walk the same walk year after year

From Campo de Fiori to the Piazza Navona

Seeing and dodging cars, only cars

When in Rome at least speak the language!

I don’t because what’s there to talk about?

Football? Where to eat?

Even where artist drink

It’s always the pretty ass of a girl or

The Communist jealousy of America or

Great projects never completed..

I am not missing anything not talking the language

And then again they aren’t missing anything either…

In the old days

At least old statues and I

Spoke the same language

Beauty...

But stone must peel even as an orange do…

Eternal Rome is here and now

These living statues who stand in bars

Eternally like Castor an Pollux

Speak no tongue

And I listen without ear

“Then why do you stay Gregory?

Because I pray that maybe old Rome

Will return me to truth

And back home to my youth”

Gregorio Nunzio Corso


Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

As freelance cameraman and editor with EBU in several news operations, getting in touch with people and friends in Belgrade, Pristina, Peshawar and Baghdad. Working with very international crews of friends at a life frontline


What experiences in your life make you a GOOD musician?

Not having that dedication to learn but feeling so in a club in lower Manhattan the Sun Ra Arκestra in concert all night long playing the latest news from Neptune, until 4 in the morning high mood for to few in the club


Would you mind telling me your most vivid memory in USA?

I'll tell you my first in 1975 driving with two members of the Youngbloods band south from San Francisco to Laguna beach to paint a house there. Quite an adventurous night in a search of affordable motel trying to show up in two instead four, stopped then by police with guns and flashlite in a dark suburb near Venice, sustaining legacy of the suspicious roaches in ashtray and qualude pills of the guitarist but because a prescription for sister. Jumping then in the morning in the middle of a parade like real easy riders. Quite a lot years ahead again a special mood in New York when I saved my Leica under the scarf while three blacks with bandanas and knife on my throat, passport and 200 stolen but was ok, 4 in the morning walking up a peaceful promenade... from Canal st. to mid town with Elaine (* not the same Ewliane as Gregory writes on some notes left at my home in Campo de Fiori where he was living for few month):

How can you know somebody well

bye bye Gregory


Is the “BEATS” a way of life & what does the BEAT generation mean to you?

Again please find here the short incipit on a Gregory’s lecture of many years ago on a book of American Contemporary Poetry which I found, interesting to believe, in the market of Almutanaby street in Baghdad in 2003:

“Poetry and the poet are inseparable.

I cannot talk about poetry without

Talking about the poet.  In fact I,

As a poet, I am the poetry I write.”


If you go back to the past what things you would do better and what things you would a void to do again?

I would redo any that came from soul and genuine wills, probably regretting not having pointed on single goals, on one thing only to do the better is possible, even if on a kind of interesting clock change but still jumping  from a job to another.


                                                                              John Lee Hooker - Photo by © Dario Bellini

 

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