Adventure in Los Angeles - - - !!

I have just received a photograph from the past . . .

from The Hon. John Gavin and his family

Memories are flooding back from sensational moments in our “Fairy Tale” !

Nicola Simbari and John Gavin - 1957
Nicola Simbari and John Gavin
©John Gavin (1959)

. . . this was Rome,
1959 - - -

in Nicola’s studio in
Via dei Riari - - -

a part of old Rome,
known as Trastevere
(‘across the Tiber’)
“Women of Acitrezza” - detail - Nicola Simbari
( inset left )
“Women of Acitrezza”
©Nicola Simbari (1957)

- - - we lived here when we were first married - - -

We had a huge terrace which backed onto the Horticultural Gardens of Villa Corsini . . . . it was “our” personal garden ! The huge terrace looked over the superb ‘Orto Botanico’. . . our regular visitor was “Silvester” . . . a large black and white cat . . . !! who, one day, brought us “Foodina” in his mouth - - - - He proudly “gave” us this little gray and white kitten to bring up “as ours” . . . Silvester was named (by us) because he was like the cartoon cat and Foodina received her name because she would hear the small refrigerator door open and would “appear” with a plaintive “Miao” !

Each noon, there was a canon-blast on the Gianiculum Hill, above us, - - - everything  shook !!

We loved this Studio - - - we were “free” . . .

“Saltimbanchi a Porta Portese” - Nicola Simbari
“Saltimbanchi a Porta Portese”
tempera on canvas ©1957 Nicola Simbari

       we would jump into the old Fiat, and drive to Capri or Venice,

              or to Florence . . .

. . . or

to visit Nicola’s


"Nonna" Rafaela,

in Calabria . . .

“Calabrian Beach”
tempera on canvas
©1957 Nicola Simbari
Calabrian Beach - Nicola Simbari
“Praia a Mare” - Nicola Simbari “Praia a Mare”
tempera on canvas
©1958 Nicola Simbari

The Studio was just across the Tiber river, to Piazza Navona, where we often ‘dined’ with our many friends . . . or a quick drive to Via Veneto to enjoy watching “the world go by” at Doney, or Café de Paris . . . which is 

WHERE we met Jack and Cicely Gavin ! Italian Cafe Scene - Nicola Simbari

At our many parties and gatherings in the Studio . . . actors and writers and artist friends, from all over the world, would join us for pizza and wine, and we would sit on the terrace , , “chatting” into the night ! . . . often, a regular visitor and a great friend of Nicola’s, Armando Romeo, (the renowned Neapolitan musician and guitarist) would play and sing for us . . . “Dolce Vita” - - - the actual meaning “sweet life” - -was true !!

Then - - from “nowhere”

an invitation came from John Gavin, in Los Angeles ! . . . would Nicola consider sending a group of paintings to California, for a Show, to be held at The Tony Duquette Gallery, in the ‘old’ Norma Talmedge Studios - - -?

How amazing - - - HOW THRILLING !!

Nicola and I were to go to Florida, for his Exhibition at The Palm Beach Galleries, in Worth Avenue . . . Here he was wonderfully received, and was becoming quite a “celebrity” - - - we were invited to many of the superb houses and mansions in this ‘ mysterious millionaires’ ’ town, on Florida’s Atlantic coast . . . as the guests of George and Ethel Vigouroux, in their beautiful ocean-view house, Nicola had “established” his studio in the pool-house, which overlooked the Atlantic Ocean, and he  was in Seventh Heaven!!

Before going to Florida, Nicola had illustrated the book published by JB Lippincott “Dear Friends and Darling Romans”, written by Mary Chamberlin, which led to him to creating “GENNARINO”, a delightful children’s book, which won him much acclaim and the New York Times Best Children’s Book Award in 1962. . . plus he was asked to design 2 Christmas cards for UNESCO !

Dear Friends and Darling Romans - Cover - Nicola Simbari


JB Lippincott
Gennarino - cover - Nicola Simbari

- - - and now - - - - CALIFORNIA - - - !!

So, in February/March of that year (1960) we flew to Los Angeles as John and Cicely’s guests - - - and the opening of Nicola’s ‘First Californian Show’ - - - it seems like a Dream!

BUT … Nothing  has ever been ‘normal’ in our lives together! . . .

We left Miami, for Los Angeles, on one of the first jets to cross America . . . this was exciting, indeed! . . . but on landing in St.Louis, (where the airport was being extended to accommodate the new jets) our plane skidded across the runway hitting a small building, on the edge of the airfield - - - ! We had to use the emergency exit and slide down the chute to the ground and from there were taken by bus to the terminal . . . and then a long wait for another flight to LA . . . on a turbo-jet!

I remember thinking, as we shot off the runway . . . “I’ll never see Disney World!” . . . (but I DID . . . how amazing it was and what an experience!)

SO - - we arrived at LA. Airport, and John was there to greet us, and all the ‘drama’ of the flight evaporated . . . Cicely and John were the most superb and generous “hosts”, with a gorgeous house in Beverly Hills - - -

I never  wanted to return to “reality” ! - - - or Italy

“Mercato dei Fiori” - Nicola Simbari
“Mercato dei Fiori” oil on canvas ©Nicola Simbari

Nicola loved California (he often thought of moving there!) . . .

. . . we were to return to LA and San Francisco many more times . . .

plus one trip, to La Costa Spa Hotel . . . and the special Exhibition, they arranged, of Nicola’s works, in the 1980s . . . with some of the gorgeous SIMBARI Retablos, hanging in their elegant rooms and chalets . . . !

LOS ANGELES . . . . we’ll be back!

© Elfrida 2011

Back to the top back

New !






Again ?



Are They?