My first time in Naples was when I was on tour with Hair-the musical. Since then, I have returned frequently, but the havoc that entertained us that first time has yet to be repeated.
Famous last words…
“Remember guys, don’t go into the Spanish Quarter. It is very dangerous. Yes, even if you are from the Bronx.”, our company manager had warned, as our tour bus arrived. “Why are you lookin’ at me for, I’m from Jersey. Just ’cause I’m Latina I’m automatically from the Bronx?”, came a voice from the back.
We were at the top of the city, which cascaded down on all sides like a full length gown, just opposite the witch’s profile of the Vesuvius, when the bus unloaded the cast and our belongings in front of what was to be our home for at least two weeks. Immediately afterwards, having instantaneously thrown our luggage in our rooms, several of us had congregated in front of the startled hotel clerk in search of directions into the centre of town.
“Turn-ah left-ah in da next-ah block-ah. Taka da funicolare to da last-ah stop-ah. Walk-ah to da end-ah of da street-ah and-ah you will be in centro di Napoli.”, explained the clerk in his musical English overflowing with vowels as we responded in our limited Italian.
The eight of us poured out of the rusty cable-car and into the grey stone piazza below where, feeling like caged birds, we felt the intense concentrated stares of several miniature Stallone-like street thugs who stood at a distance but could pounce at anytime.
“Why do I get the feeling we just walked into the Spanish Quarter?”, someone joked.
“Check them out, they look like Disney villains!”, said another as we laughed. We noticed Jafar, with his raised pointed eyebrow and shifty gaze, as he visibly checked for our possessions, while Scar, Hades and Chernabog considered whether to stare with their evil eye or slither towards us.
“Are they serious? They’re so obvious!”
We had already been warned not to carry any purses, jewelry or bags. We were not frightened. These characters seemed ridiculous rather than dangerous. Like the caricatures found throughout the famous piazzas of Italy. They merely made us laugh. Our racially mixed group was far taller than everyone in the piazza, which led me to think that perhaps our height had been a deterrent as well as not being able to categorize us into any particular group.
What I learned years later was that we had been fortunate. Stumbling into the wrong area in Naples can get dangerous. The calm in that area could swiftly shift in a sneeze. The Camorra, the mafia of Naples, could suddenly surround you at gunpoint and take all you have, regardless of their lack of height or the cartoon-like faces they make.
“I’m hosting a dinner party…”
Our hotel was located in front of an old stone monastery at the peak of the city in the chic neighborhood of Vomero. Our show was playing at the Diana Theatre, which was in the centre of Vomero, near many shops and restaurants.
Our first night after the show, we all went to eat together at a nearby restaurant. Eating together was common practice for our first night, but other days several cast-members prefered to cook in their hotel rooms in order to save money or eat lighter. We had just finished paying our bill and everyone was walking out when our attention was slowly attracted by the continual sound of metal clanging. We had all turned to witness our cast-mate with mouth agape, backpack unzipped and a pool of forks and knives at his feet.
“I wanted to host a dinner-party in my room, but I needed more silverware.”, he explained with laughter filling the room as the waiter began to remove all the remaining silverware from the tables, just in case of a repeat performance.
“Che brutta figura!”, said my Italian boyfriend, when I retold it. La bella figura is about keeping up appearances and looking good at all times. This act may have been hilarious to witness at the time, but it made us all look bad.
Seek and you shall find…
Hair is a musical that takes place in the 60s during the Vietnam War, with hippies as the main characters. In such a musical, there are always those who resemble the characters they play in personality, lifestyle and even attire. These cast members quickly found that marijuana could be found just outside of our hotel. All of our musicians and technicians were Dutch, where marijuana is tolerated. Those who freely enjoyed marijuana back home in the Netherlands, also enjoyed it abroad. The rest of us, enjoyed the blood-red wine, sometimes, perhaps, too much.
Irresistable Italian cars…
On our way back from the enoteca, we laughed at how little Italian cars were.
“I bet you we could lift one up.”, he said.
“Let’s see.”, said she.
“OK”, I added, approaching a red sports car that was parked in front of a pizzeria.
“Hey, what are you doing with my car?!”, yelled a fat middle-aged man who ran faster than we thought possible, out of the pizzeria in an apron.
We vanished out of sight, leaving him with the trailing sound of our laughter. Realizing we should try with a car that was not on the main road, we moved on to a car parked next to the funicolare.
“1-2-3 huuuugh, 1-2-3 huuuugh, 1-2-3 huuuugh”.
“That was easy. Next!”, we laughed, satisfied with having moved the car and proceeded to walk down the next street.
“Let’s do this one, it has a flat tyre!”
“OK, but let’s turn it all the way around.”
We left that car in the middle of the street facing the opposite direction. The next morning we saw cars having to turn back when they reached it.
“Oh, we have to move this shiny little blue spider.”, I said, after having moved seven cars and had nearly reached our hotel.
“Can you imagine what they’ll think when they find it in the middle of the street?”
“Ok, 1-2-3 huuuugh, 1-2”
“Watcha doin’ there?”, came a voice from the darkness. We noticed two tall male silhouettes heading towards us.
“Oh, nothing. Just hanging.”, we said, trying to appear stereotypically innocent as one whistled and I twisted a lock of my hair. What do you expect from actors?
“Need any help?”, they said, the street lamp permitting us to recognize two of our Dutch technicians, “We’ve been admiring your work along our way home.”
“Sure, we’re moving this car into the middle of street.”, we said, regaining our excitement.
The next morning, as we walked to the theatre, we bubbled with laughter at the proof of our inebriation of the previous night.
“You guys were lucky to be in Vomero.”, I was told again, years later upon retelling this account.
“If you had moved the wrong person’s car, it could have gotten dangerous.”
“They would mess with girls?”
“You weren’t all girls.”
“Well, sort of, he dresses like one every now and again.”
Trust me, you guys were lucky.”
All Hollows Eve…
If you ever plan a romantic stay somewhere, make sure there is no Hair cast staying in your hotel. Otherwise, you will not sleep, nor rest and will lie awake to the sounds of grown-up children running amok. I still have no idea what was in their cigarettes or perhaps there was a full moon. It was Halloween and the show was over, so the party had begun.
Witches, vampires and ghouls roamed the corridors. The couple who had unluckily chosen our hotel for their romantic honeymoon getaway were at their wits end. Two Dutchmen – musicians, of course – were urinating from the rooftop, while someone – you know who you are – was screaming at the top of his lungs and was never able to tell us why.
Someone was sleeping with someone…perhaps one of the fans who had seen the show and had followed someone home or perhaps not, while someone’s roommate was…oh, maybe that is why someone was screaming. Someone was waiting for someone to make a move but the drugs had numbed someone’s libido. Someone else was happy no moves were made for someone wanted to get in there personally, but lacked the courage. Someone was serenading someone who had not even noticed…but time would change that. Someone was listening with a glass to the wall, but they were speaking Dutch, dammit! Someone was fooling around with someone many years younger/older but someone’s conscious made someone not go any further than far enough. Several were watching an Italian porn version of Snow White and getting grossed out instead of excited. Someone was doing strange things with someone, leaving the roommate in shocked horror upon discovering the proof of their acts. Someone was inventing stories about someone and someone was subsequently informed. Many were enjoying a wonderful All Hollows Eve. No one imagined how it would all end.
…in the after-Hair…
No one imagined a child would be born… and what a beautiful child it was. No one predicted falling in love when courage was found nor losing it all in a year’s time and finding love again back in the same city where love had previously been found. No one could imagine sex leading to happiness and then marriage, for to say it out loud sounded like a nursery rhyme.. No one believed they would lose a close friend. No one ever thought a loved one would die, not so soon, nor did he imagine how much he would be missed. He is still missed, for he is always remembered by a multitude of someones.
Hair is a thread that has weaved a tribe together. We are all connected, somehow.