Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Rita Pavone goes to New York City

After selling a few million records in Italy and Europe, Rita Pavone's manager thought it might be a good idea to get her into the 'greatest marked in the world' and took his protege to the USA where she recorded an album of new and not-so-new songs in English and appeared at American TV's top rating 'Ed Sullivan Show' on CBS. 

After that, on 25 May 1964, The New York Times carried a small article about the Italian teenager sensation (Little singer from Turin stops here) and Rita's photos started popping up in teenagers' magazines all over the country. One could say that the onslaught devised by Mr Ferruccio Ricordi had been successful up to a point. Rita Pavone actually scratched the surface of the US show business but it would have taken a lot more to consolidate it and Rita & her manager were running against time. 

The New York Times article written by Paul Gardner, published on 25 May 1964, the day after Rita appeared at 'The Ed Sullivan Show' on CBS-TV.

Until Rita Pavone appeared last Sunday (24 May 1964) on 'The Ed Sullivan Show', the only Americans familiar with the 18-year-old rock'n'roll singer were executives at RCA Victor, who hold the Pavone recording contract. One impressed official said, 'She's a cross between Elvis Presley and Edith Piaf'. 

Miss Pavone has less hair than one shorn Beatle, and, in a business where the gimmick makes the cash register ring, the Pavone sound is coming through.  

According to Teddy Reno, her enthusiastic manager, about 8 million copies of Miss Pavone's records have been sold in Europe. Miss Pavone, who used to earn 10 dollars a week as an assistant seamstress in Turin, now earns around 20,000.

Miss Pavone is here for her first United States tour. On Wednesday she began her trip in Boston by visiting disc jockeys and presiding at what is called a record hop. While teen-agers danced, Miss Pavone sang. She intends to repeat the performance in 15 cities acrros the country. 

Before leaving, Miss Pavone and her manager held a joint interview. She cannot speak English, so Mr. Reno talked. ''I am a professional talent scout,' he said. 'I discovered Rita at the Rally of the Unknowns, an amateur musical competition. She had long hair then.' 

Does Miss Pavone like her short-short bob?

'Si, divertente!' she said, crinkling up her freckled nose.

When Miss Pavone completes her tour, she will appear twice more on the 'Ed Sullivan Show' and then go to South America. Last Monday, she filmed a TV program for Eurovision, 'Rita in New York'. 'She's a little tired today,' Mr. Reno said, 'because she gave all she really could on TV.'

Miss Pavone is little, very, very little, just a little bit shorter than 5 feet. She performs wearing dark blue slacks. She also wears suspenders, to keep up her slacks, of course. Her blouse is light-blue, and a benie completes her outfit. The beanie is black. 

Although she sings most of her numbers in Italian - 'Amore twist', 'Alla mia età' - Miss Pavone has learned German and English lyrics phonetically. Her manager and RCA believe that her career and voice will grow. But what does she want to do by the time she is 30?

'Niente', Miss Pavone cooed.

Traveling with her on her United States tour are her mother and Mrs. Angelucci, a chaperone. Her summation of New York was, 'Dio mio! È magnifico!' 

Miss Pavone carries an Italian-English dictionary in her leather jacket. Urged to say something, just anything, in English, she hesitated a moment and then called out, 'You're a gas!'.

Mr. Reno was surprised. 

Rita Pavone - 'Teen, September 1964
Music, 1960s, Culture

Rita Pavone was an Italian singing sensation in the mid-'60s who rose to international fame. The Italian singer was a striking departure from the ultra feminine yé-yé girls coming from France, with a "boyish" androgynous look that was not very common back then and sparked controversy. 'Teen magazine did a profile on the singer when she was touring America in 1964. Here are some excerpts from the story:

Glancing quickly at the rusty-haired singer's looks it's obvious that she's no rival to the Sophia Lorens and Gina Lollobrigidas of the world. Her height is barely five feet and her figure is a flat-chested 80 pounds. Her usual working clothes, as described in Vogue Magazine, are a pair of men's slacks, a shirt, boots and a cap. The slacks are dark blue and the blouse light blue. She also wears suspenders and a black beanie.

"Slinky gowns couldn't do much for me," Rita admits. "I feel more natural in slacks and a shirt, and I can be more agile on the stage. And I don't want any gimmicks. I just want people to like my singing."

One of the main controversies surrounding her image was that she was cast in the lead role on Italy's Dennis, the Menace (Il giornalido di Gian Burrasca). "Playing a boy on Italian television is certainly an unusual role for a birdlike girl singer. But her performances endeared her to thousands of TV watchers in Italy. Many however, did not buy her antics and as a result, she's sometimes referred to as "horrible" and "abominable." 

Of course, as with most child stars, she had a manager who would be quite influential. Teddy Reno, who was a founder of one of Italy's first record companies in 1948 and was a popular recording star in the '50s. His focus shifted in the '60s to seek out and develop new talent, particularly through his "Festival of Unknown," which Rita Pavone was a contestant and winner. Shed later marry Reno, which would spark another controversy - particularly because he was still technically married (divorce was still illegal in Italy), and there was around a twenty year age difference between the two.

Rita's image was constructed primarily to defy the yé-yé girls, and to shift focus to what matters - the music. Rita's stage presence was also quite a departure - she commanded the stage and had a toughness, street-smart sensibility, and infectious energy that starkly contrasted the soft and sweet French Lolitas.

Defying what a girl should look like, sound like, act like was quite radical in an era where androgyny was not so common in pop culture (that would change in the '70s).

Her ability to both rock and to carry torch-song ballads shows amazing range, and in the mid to late '60s, Pavone was on top of the world, and much of that success is attributed to the fact that she stayed true to herself, dressed how she felt (although, as her star rose, she'd be wearing dresses for her performances), and didn't seem to care that people thought she looked "like a boy." The proof was in the music, and the music is everlasting.

In the '70s, Pavone slowed down a bit, but recorded the novelty hit in 1977 "My name is Potato" which is pretty silly, but delightful and charming nonetheless.]

This article appeared originally at: https://www.periodicallyvintage.com/home/2017/9/4/rita-pavone-teen-september-1964

Rita at RCA Victor studios on 24th Street. 

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