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Leopard-print Pasolini and Gambarotta’s Rai

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Leopard-print Pasolini and Gambarotta’s Rai

Bruno Gambarotta in his long adventure as a programmer and Rai official also spent 12 years in Rome (without losing his Piedmontese accent), and they were years of important meetings, of work sometimes pioneering and sometimes routine, of leisure neatly hidden under his mustache . But also of lightning-fast and seemingly irrelevant observations. Let’s take Pasolini, icy and distant, who wanted to discuss structuralism and cinematography. They saw each other only once, and Gambarotta hardly opened his mouth, or at least quickly forgot everything, except for one detail: «I haven’t taken any notes, unfortunately – he writes in “Fuori programma, le mie memoirs dalla Rai” (just out for Manni) – and of Pasolini I only remember the shoes: they were leopard-skin moccasins, on the morning of that same day I had seen them in a shop in via Condotti. They cost 220,000 lire, my salary at the time».

The book is a mosaic of micro-stories (there are 185 in all), often ironic like this one (which however contains one would say a moral), and although they are very funny they are not just a collection of anecdotes: in fact a thin thread unravels through them , which tells the Rai of a time and what it has become; and a little bit, let’s face it, also our imagination, and what it has in turn become.

They range from hiring as a cameraman to the passage to programmer, propitiated by Franco Antonicelli, a prestigious Turin intellectual, close to the Agnelli family (first told the press “If this is a man”, initially rejected by Einaudi) to the sudden eruption in video – it was 1987 – on the occasion of a Celentano program where the singer stumbled upon explaining the mechanism of a prize competition dedicated to Splendid coffee, and asked him to support him. His appearance on the show immediately made him a much loved character.

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“Thus Splendid gave meaning to my life, up to that moment boring and gray”, he writes: but he sins of understatement, and his book amply demonstrates it. “Out of plan” is narrated in a way we will not say dreamy, but almost careless. As if everything had been simple and almost natural. The young Gambarotta didn’t look for shortcuts, he worked hard and hoped to do well; but sometimes they did. Antonicelli’s, for example, arose from the task of arranging for him (voluntarily) 40,000 volumes for a move. The story is hilarious, the tasty portrait of a fierce bibliomaniac comes out of it. In fact, the volunteer performs the task entrusted to him in the best possible way, but putting aside a large number of duplicates, thinking that perhaps they would have been given to him. Antonicelli, however, tells him to order them together with the others.

Not only that: the same principle applies to another large series of volumes that bear the stamp of the civic and national libraries of Turin. “If you want, I can go and return them,” he suggests. Antonicelli doesn’t flinch: «Put them together with the others». They were finally returned, yes, but by her daughter after her death. During his lifetime, the great intellectual had even been suspended from his loan.

This time however he was very happy with the work, and asked the young man if there was anything he could do for him. There was actually a competition at Rai for programmers, all employees could participate provided they were graduates. Otherwise they had to take a general culture exam and present qualifications. It was his condition.

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Gambarotta therefore asked for two lines of presentation with the description of the work performed which would serve as his title. And Antonicelli not only wrote to her (“tracing my profile as if I were the new Pico della Mirandola”) but did more: without saying anything, he reported it to his friend Marcello Bernardi, deputy director general of Rai.

It is true that chance continued to work for the young aspirant: during the exam he spoke of Gruppo ’63 and above all, with favour, of Angelo Guglielmi, present in the commission, but whom the candidate could not recognize because he had never even seen him in photography. The wonders of intelligent simplicity.

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