When I got the groovy email from my sparkling, vivacious Italian publicist Allesandra Izzo, (Alex) telling me I had been invited to participate in the ninth annual Just Like a Woman Festival in Savona, Italy, it felt like I had just won the rock & roll lottery! The subtitle: A Tribute to the Queens of Music made me feel very special indeed. Previous honorees include Joan Baez, Rickie Lee Jones, Patti Smith and Miriam Makeba, so I was ‘dead chuffed’ as they say in jolly olde England. Aaaaahhh, ITALY! How I that sexy, steamy colorful country, dolls! The fact that Allesandrahad just nabbed tickets for the Boss at the massive Olympic Stadium was the ultimate bonus, so I made plans to spend a few days with Alex and her charming, tall, handsome husband, Dido, in Roma before the festival commenced.
The loving couple made me feel like a family member, even gave me their fab bedroom for privacy (and great air conditioning- it’s HOT there!)and I traipsed around the glorious city, marveling once again at the beauty and obvious sensuality of the Italian people, so warm, vivid, and accepting. Italians are very upfront with a ‘no bullshit’ attitude, which I wholeheartedly embrace. And I adore the way they use your hands, your arms, their entire bodies to express themselves.
After drinks and snazzy snacks with other lucky press people, Alex, Dido and I settled into our amazing box seats to watch Bruce Springsteen captivate the crowd of 60,000. I had seen the Working on a Dream show in Los Angeles, and it was awesome, but the concert in Rome was an entirely different panting beast. It was obvious right away that Italy is dear to the Boss’s soul. He proved it all night (3 hours!) but the ecstatic audience (everyone seemed to know all the words!) was just as enthralling to watch as the Boss! He captures moments and in turn, creates unforgettable moments for his fans. It was as if we all became one huge beating heart, barreling down that Thunder Road together. He had me weeping and wailing and stomping and shouting and feeling united with the universe, as usual.
I’ve heard Bruce that got a faceliftand people are ‘up in arms’ about it. Hey. It’s show biz! He has to look damn good up on those massivescreens! Give the Boss a break dolls! He is so energetic and sensationally on fire up there, giving his ALL every damn night, his face might as well look as good as his awesomely tight ass.
As soon as I arrived in Savona, beautful Genoa, and quickly donned a flirty frock, I found myself in an entrancing cobblestone square, on stage with the energetic co-founder of Just Like a Woman, Ezio Guaitamacchi. (His longtime partner is Massimo Sabatino) In between my titillating tidbits, slinky folk singer Andrea Miro chimed in with songs by rock goddesses, (my fave was Sheryl Crowe’s “Run Baby Run”) while an incredibly fast artist, Carlo Montana, painted huge portraits of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix as Ezio translated my tales about those classic rock lords. It made me happy that one of my fans, a pretty little sweetheart named Ilaina, traveled 8 hours on the train with her mother to get her copies of “I’m With the Band” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together” signed. I hope the naughty stories I told about my long night with the Lizard King didn’t freak her mama out too horribly!
The organizers actually thought I needed bodyguards, so everywhere I went I was trailed by two very handsome fellows, one of whom, Mirko, had a wicked tattoo that fascinated me: a portion of Dante’s Inferno emblazoned from elbow to wrist. Mirko had a deep philosophy (as well as hunky muscles) and we gabbed backstage while I waited to judge the annual Janis Joplin Award contest. I had seen last year’s winner, saucy, blonde Simona Scarano, belting out a Leonard Cohen tune and Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer” earlier that evening, and couldn’t wait to check out this year’s contestants.
The three judges – myself, my longtime pal Geraldine Sullivan (a best-selling UK astrology author, along for the ride) and an elegant Italian songstress, Luisa Cotti Fogli, sat in the front row, ready to look and listen with wide open ears. The three jazzy, talented dolls came from all over Italy, and the contest was very close, but it was soon apparent that the second singer, Tuscany’s Sara Calvetti, dressed in shimmering silver, was going to take the prize – a recording contract and a crystal clamshell holding a pearl, since Janis Joplin’s friends and bandmates used to call her ‘Pearl.’ While the points were being counted, Ezio invited me up on stage once more, pulled out a copy of “I’m With the Band” and regaled the large audience with another of my raucous rock renaissance stories. Since I don’t yet understand that lovely language, the only words I recognized were ‘Led’ and ‘Zeppelin!’ It was finally time for the big moment, and all three contestants stood proudly in the spotlight. When I announced Ms. Calvetti’s name and handed her the shimmering award, Sara shined. Aaaawwww.
I was in for a deluxe treat when my co-judge, Luisa, took the stage with a band of strings and horns and proceeded to blow me away with her outrageous, many octave vocals and stunning imitation of various instruments. She told me her music was “jazz/experimental/ethnic,” but that doesn’t do justice to how totally unique and jaw-dropping her performance was. Luisa was all over the world map – Africa, India, Chicago, Illinois and New York City. I wish she’d come to L.A. and play. She’d be a smash!
Geraldine and I had a swell time catching up and buying little trinkets and saucy silk undies. I always stay with her when I am in London and vice versa. We have been pals since she was living with Chuck Wein who lived next door to Don Johnson. (1972-See Chapter 8! In Band!) ;-}
It sure was a joy to see copies of the Springsteen issue of Italian Rolling Stone at newsstands all over town. I kept wanting to turn to the lst page and show passing strangers my Backstage Pass column and that yummy photo of me grinning like the Cheshire cat with the divine Jack White.
I have decided to study Italian, so next time I’m in Italy, I’ll be speaking their language. Ciao, mi amores.