by ANDREA SCARPA - Photo by ANDREA COLZANI
MILAN, PORTA ROMANA
I was born in Piazza Ferrara, near Piazzale Corvetto. Like my parents. Piazza Ferrara continues with Via Bessarione, Piazza Gilberto. Once it was a small village… I moved not far from there, today I still live in Porta Romana but closer to Piazzale Libia.
THE MAGIC BOX
The gift was from my grandmother Giuditta, who died young, at 59 years old. I don’t remember much, I remember that my brother and I ran and went up to her, she lived in a banister house, on the top floor. Today I wouldn’t make it all the way up, I opened the refrigerator and drank all those sodas, Ginger, all those things that were fashionable in the ’60s. The Cedrata, the Giommy, Chinotto… ‘You boys come up here to drink, not to see your grandmother’. And then we would run off…
THE CYLINDER, THE CARDS AND THE BALLS
In ’64 I found this box, Arco. It was all black with a stamp on it. Inside there were a cylinder, the cards, the balls… The magician’s tools… I was amazed by this box.
THE LOST AND RE-BOUGHT BOX
Over the years that box got lost but I found the same type at a junk shop, I bought it back. It was the same one by Arco. ‘Take it, take it. It’s a gift’, years ago. Another time, much more recently, I had to pay a hundred euros for it.
IL CIRCOLO DEI MAGHI
At 17 I joined the Circolo dei Maghi, a clan, and today I’m the President.
THE FABBRICA DELLE CAMPANE
We have very beautiful headquarters, the Fabbrica delle Campane, at the Isola, in Via Thaon di Revel. It is beautiful because it is a 19th century environment, with bricks walls and a small stage.
SALES REP AND SHOWMAN
When I worked as a sales rep I was the entertainer at all the company parties. The company was called American Dental, it was based in Genoa and the owner was Furio Belloro, that I remember with great respect because he was a very good person. We sold dental products, products that we imported from Sweden and America. I worked as a demonstrator together with the reps, I showed the products.
It always ended the same way… At the end of a meeting, the owner stood up to said: ‘And now, to end our party, here is Raul Cremona with his show!’.
IL CAPPELLO SULLE 23
Then one day I ended up going to the Rai TV show Il Cappello sulle23 directed by Mario Landi, with Paolo Mosca, Federico Monti Arduini and Rosa Fumetto. During the theme song as Raul Cremona I did my tricks, I entertained the stars who arrived to the show. One day Barbara Bouchet was there as a guest, another day it was Agostina Belli… In short, personalities. During a meeting at some point one of the sales reps looked at me in a strange way… ‘Excuse me, can I ask you a question?’. ‘Yes sure’. ‘Is there any chance you were on television last night with Barbara Bouchet?’. And I said: ‘Yes, why?’. ‘What are you doing here? Go, go… go to Barbara Bouchet’.
THE TURNING POINT
It was the hint of a change that would take place shortly thereafter. So much so that I resigned. I was very lucky because my dad, who was a character, and my grandfather as well, never created problems. I don’t come from a middle class family in which limits and duties were heavy. Never heard things like, ‘You need to become…’, ‘You have to do like we did…’.
DAD AND GRAMPA WERE BARKERS
My father was a barker, my grandfather was a barker… My grandfather was a popular character in an extinct Milan, that no longer exists… he was a phenomenon.
FAMILY OF ENTERTAINERS
Tradition has it that those sellers, before the war, sold also shows, costumes, special clothing… In addition to a number of useful – more or less – items for everyday things. For example, a defogger for car glasses, which was nothing else than sliced soap wrapped in aluminum. As you pass it over the glass, try it, the glass doesn’t steam. It was that kind of a job.
THE DUOMO AS A STAGE
My father had the permit for the center, it is important to say this because it meant that he had Piazza del Duomo, Corso Vittorio Emanuele, as a stage. So, as a child, my family took me to Piazza del Duomo to see my grandfather talking to all the people around him… I wondered, I was six years old, what my grandfather’s job was.
THE MAGICIAN’S INCOME
My father was happy when I told him: ‘I’ll be a magician…’. My father, however, at some point asked me ‘the’ question: ‘How much do you earn?’. I told him what I could get and then he replied: ‘Well, so do it!’.
After all these experiences, I worked a lot with my father, I stole from him all the things that were in that square, all about the psychology of people… In the meantime I practiced my magic tricks, the classics ones, the Egg’s bag, the Chinese rings, the handkerchief that changes color… I had in my hand, or in my pocket, three or four games that I used here and there. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, Raoul Cremona!’. I enjoyed that.
THE STEP INTO THE DERBY
One evening, orbiting around the various clubs, I ended up at the Derby. In ’83 its crisis was beginning, it would then close in ’86, but the legendary Ms. Bongiovanni kept telling me: ‘Here we don’t want magicians, no magicians here, we do not want them…’. One evening, however, she could not take my pestering anymore and she said: ‘Go up on the stage, go’. I stayed a week. I remember all the people who were with me on those nights: Claudio Bisio, Antonio Catania, Paolo Rossi, Giorgio Porcaro… Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo who played the acrobats!
THE MAGICIAN AND THE COMEDIAN
At first I was just a smart magician. I went on the stage, took the handkerchief, it changed color… Then I started to tell a few jokes…
BETTER SAY SOMETHING
The idea of wearing an elegant suit with the Chinese rings and make a silent three minute sketch was not for me… Once, I’ll always remember, I put the rings down, I grabbed the microphone and said, ‘Hello!’. I didn’t know what to say, but I knew it was better to speak.
THE MAGIC OF HUMOR
Mine was a humoristic approach to magic because I realized I could not be very serious… I had to, and I wanted, to be brilliant and funny.
LIKE SILVAN? NO, THANKS
And I in fact what did I do? I watched the rivals. There were many who spoke like Silvan: ‘I will choose a spectator in the audience…’. I said to myself ‘No, you can’t do that!’.
Then I change again, I’ll make a joke, the joke becomes a sketch, the sketch becomes a character, the desire to get out of that body… to invent another one, to invent tricks and also to destroy the classical repertoire.
ZELIG, MY HOME
When I landed at Zelig I could finally experiment all these things, in front of the audience, for two hours… Let’s try!
THE BEAUTY OF THE CURTAIN
In another place that no longer exists that was called Non solo musica I asked the owner to put up a curtain. ‘Do it because it is beautiful…’. He put up the curtain, but I didn’t know what to do: ‘Now how do I justify this expense?’. When the curtain closed he would say to me: ‘It closes, it opens but nothing has changed, you keep doing the same things’. Then at home I worked on it, I started to sing, another mutation, I sang Frank Sinatra…
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, FRANK SINATRA!
The curtain opened and… ‘You Make Me Feel So Young, You See The Pearl Of Fluffing Eye And Suddenly…’. People looked and said, ‘What? Is he crazy?’. However, the curtain opened and closed…
IL MAGO ORONZO
Now it’ll open again and so I said: ‘I have to do something else’, let’s do characters. The first one was the oafish magician, Mago Oronzo.
I NEVER FALL IN LOVE
I have a pretty destructive attitude towards myself, meaning that I don’t fall in love with the things I do, I’m cold about them. I look at my things, I don’t see the good things, but I see only the bad ones.
The Milanesi, like all audiences around the world, must be educated. Those years when cabaret was very popular the audience was educated, Zelig’s audience has always been this way. These last few years things have changed, the idea that each of us can be a leader through the media vehicle is a bit limiting for those who perform on the stage. Because there is not that kind of respect… I mean, who is on stage is not there because (he is a fool or a miracle survivor).
LIKE MY GRANDFATHER
My technique is doing things like my grandfather, as a barker, would have done. What would he have said on that occasion? If Claudio Bisio bothers me, I tell him what my grandfather would have said ‘Allora, Ciccio t’è rott i ball’ (Milan’s dialect for ‘Don’t break my balls’). But I can’t say it in Milanese, I have to say it in Italian, and how does it come out in Italian? ‘Listen, have you ever tried to walk on the gutters of a building? Why don’t you try, so you make us happy’.
Being Milanesi means having a kind of cynicism that others do not have. My cynicism appears through a clear and frank Milanesità…
I’ll tell you a joke that makes you understand who the Milanese is. There is a child who falls in the Naviglio and a guy saves him. The father comes and says to the guy: ‘Te ste ti che te salvà il mio fiol?’. Was it you who saved my son? And he says: ‘Yes’. ‘Good. Where’s the hat?’. This is the Milanese, the Milanese always looks at the useful side of things and comes up with dry cynicism. ‘Kids, please don’t play here. Go play on the freeway’. These are not jokes, these are natural emanations of the Milanesità. ‘Here, go down there where there are open drains’.
I’m full of regrets but I’ll never list them, who cares. There’s not a comedian in the world who would not want to have even more… One would like to become a popular comedian in Lombardy, another one would like to become popular in Italy, the one that has become popular in Italy would like to become popular in the world…
THERE ARE TWO RAULS
There are two Rauls: one speaks negatively and the other one is positive, one says, ‘what a shitty world…’ and the other says, ‘you’ve been lucky, what do you want more than what you had?’. So what is the right choice? It is always in the middle. Nothing good comes from saying to people: ‘I was unlucky, because I would have had more opportunity if… Take that guy, for example, is not worth a shit frankly, but how the hell did he do it… He makes all these films… What the fuck! And someone like me?’. If we go for this game, we’re going to ruin our lives. What we need to tell us within ourselves is: ‘Antonio, Silvia, Giulia, Raoul… You were lucky!’.
WITH MY MAGIC WAND?
More than making people disappear I would make habits disappear, wrong attitudes, this bureaucracy, this inability to understand and manage, to be fluid. Is it possible that, let me give you an example, in the municipality offices there are already electronic identity cards but there is only one machine that makes them? Is that possible? If I had a magic wand… Puff! The folders would disappear and the machines would appear.
A NOVEL ON MENTALISM
Now I’m writing a book entitled Il Grande Zirmani, about magic, about a clairvoyant who lived in the last century and I took the trouble to transcribe the repertoire and understand it. And I discovered that he was a charlatan, everything he claimed to have – powers and visions – are really just bagatelle, magic tricks that I disclosed in the book giving everyone the opportunity to become like him. By reading this book you will know that you don’t have occult powers but that you will have the nerve to use them… it comes out in March published by My Life.
MY DEAREST MILAN
Milan is a city that was sadly devastated by bombing and so my favorite places are imaginary… That hill behind San Giovanni in Conca, which makes you understand exactly where the Bottonuto was, a sort of Trastevere in Milan, demolished in the 50s – after the bombing – for the construction of the great Via Larga. It makes me think when, back in time, San Giovanni in Conca had a different façade, it has been moved to where the Sormani is. Piazza Missori was a little bit narrower, there loomed a range of restaurants, theaters that are now gone, that ended up in the Cinque Vie. So I stand there in Piazza Missori, I look at Via Larga, and closing my eyes I make a 100-year leap. At the end I say to myself: ‘Is it all a magic trick? Raul you are a magician and should understand, it is a sleight of hand, it is an illusion…