Our meeting with Jerry Calà
The great showman, Fortemarmino by adoption, talks about his beginnings to his latest successes
The undisputed star of Italian comedy, eighties icon and acclaimed showman with a record-breaking number of performances to his name, including the legendary event that has filled La Capannina di Franceschi at Forte dei Marmi for 26 years. This is Jerry Calà, who’s felt at home in Versilia since making a film 40 years ago that became generational, Time for Loving. A cult movie by the Vanzina brothers, who managed to get the green light from Gherardo Guidi to shoot some scenes in his classic night club - at the time in its heyday - not knowing that this would create an indissoluble link with Jerry, making him one of the symbols of the Capannina. ‘A life of lust’ - to quote one of his many catchphrases - filled with cabaret, music, his debut with I Gatti di Vicolo Miracoli and later in films, with comedy roles and more, like his performance in Diary of a Maniac, the drama by Marco Ferreri that won him the Best Actor award from Italian critics at the 1993 Berlin Film Festival.
Do you remember the first time you set foot in Versilia?
As a child I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who frequented Versilia. I first came here in the 70s for work, when we brought I Gatti di Vicolo Miracoli (a musical and cabaret group, ed) to a venue that doesn’t exist now, Oliviero ai Ronchi. After that I came back to Forte for Time for Loving. That was when I first came across the legendary Capannina, where we shot several scenes, including one of the final scenes with Marina Suma, which has been called one of the best moments in Italian comedy.
And after that first visit, you went back to the Capannina many, many times…
Yes. A few years later Gherardo Guidi saw me singing in a TV show, Serata d’onore, and he called me and said “Jerry, why don’t you come up with a show to remember Time for Loving?” and that was the beginning of this ‘never-ending story’ between me and the Capannina, a story that will be 26 years old this year on 19 August, when I perform for the club’s anniversary. In the past I used to do two months of shows, with two performances a week on Wednesdays and Fridays. Plus every New Year’s Eve, Easter, the first of May.… so many evenings, which have allowed me to really get to know Forte dei Marmi and the whole of Versilia, make lots of friends here and feel at home every time I return.
How would you describe this special place?
Gherardo and his staff have had the intelligence to keep the place fresh, refurbish it but without changing too much, and retain all its appeal. My favourite place is magical for me: the little door that leads from the changing rooms to the stage: I suddenly find myself in front of the audience, all there to see my show.
Films like Vacanze di Natale and Time for Loving were the forerunners of what would become Italian-style comedy, which made Italy world famous. How important is it today, in view of what we’ve been through?
The pandemic brought everything to a sudden halt. From all to nothing. What I’m noticing now is a an unrestrained desire to have fun, go out, see shows. Events are over-subscribed; I myself have a lot of dates this summer, and they’re all sold out. I’ve already started, and as soon as I step onto the stage I feel the audience is completely engaged with the show; I feel the desire to sing, have fun, remember the good times and relive them.
Your new album Jerry Calà - Professione Entertainer is just out.
It’s extracts from a performance I did last winter at the Teatro Nuovo in Milan. From the 2-hour show we made a compilation of tracks which together trace the story of Italian music. It’s a really enjoyable disc, perfect for a party.
Capito?!”, “Lust”, “I’m not good-looking but they like me”… so many of your lines have become real catchphrases. Which has left the greatest mark?
Even more than “lust”, people seem to like “lust with bows on”.
And which of your songs are you fondest of?
I sing more than 40 songs, and they’re all equally wonderful. It’s impossible to choose a favourite. But for audiences it’s definitely Maracaibo. They won’t let me leave the stage if I don’t do it!
Your greatest satisfaction?
My family, my only son Johnny, who was born late, when I was 53, and who I love more than life itself.
Does Jerry Calà still have a dream on the back burner?
Many of my dreams have come true. But there’s one ongoing one: to continue working, because it thrills me, even at my venerable age. And I’ll do it: as long as my heart beats faster when I go onstage, I won’t stop doing my shows.