The Meeting . . . ( Carnevale ! )

When writing of the life of any man, or woman, it is hard to separate the ‘myth’ from the ‘truth’, and Simbari is no exception . . .

Tempera on canvas
© SIMBARI 1958

It has been my privilege to have known Simbari for 50 years, intimately - - as his wife and companion through the good times and the not-so-good times! My life, my experiences, up until the day I met Nicola, could not have been more different from his, and yet, somehow I “knew” what he wanted to “say” with his incredible talent, where he dreamed of going, and what “arriving” meant for him . . .

Perhaps, if there is such a thing, we had met our Soul Mates.

This is my voyage through the Life of a truly great master-artist . . . He shows us our own time, with humour and superb colour, expressing for us, emotions and dreams that take us out of the mundane Everyday. He sets for us the mood; his extra-ordinary insight tells us “our story”, each on-looker’s ‘Truth’ being different and unique, and yet, we are looking at the same works.

To set the scene of our first encounter I must try to describe the Fellini-esc Rome where our meeting took place in January, 1957.

This was Carnivale!
“Campo dei Fiori”
pen sketch

Rome’s “International Set” gathered to celebrate - - - there were Polish and Hungarian Counts - - American actors, famous and infamous, working on the many films being produced in Rome at the time - - intriguing and mysterious men with no particular ‘profession’ - - stunningly beautiful young women from all over the world - - painters, sculptors, writers, poets and composers, musicians actors and dancers - - many were already famous and some would become legends of Now . . . the list goes on and on. It was not an Elite Club, anyone could be a part of it, all you needed was a Dream, and a ticket to the Eternal City . . .

Who was I?    I was one of the players, though I did not see myself as anything but me trying to accomplish my most fervent desire - - - to be a singer and an actress, doing what I loved to do most. I suppose I could describe myself as a Hopeful. I had come to Rome to continue my singing studies with the great Italian opera singer, Lina Scavizzi.

I was offered parts in several American and Italian films; worked as a fashion model with some of the great Roman “Couturier” Houses (then fashionable all over the world); and did ‘presenting’ for TV. Oddly, as I look back, I realise I had no Agent, no “casting couch”, just wonderful luck to be in this rarified place at this amazing time. . . .

Parties were happening

“Doney – Via Veneto”
pen drawing

I had been invited by the “American Ambassador to Via Veneto”, Charlie Fawcett, to his incredible gathering of friends, to celebrate one of the final days before Lent (when all good Romans went mad!). Charlie was an extremely charming and good-looking actor, with a wonderful Southern American accent - - - he knew Everyone in Rome - - - how could I refuse?

Charlie and his friend, Kurt Polter, a German painter, were very popular, and Kurt’s studio was full to bursting. The music was playing loudly, when I arrived, and everyone was having a good time. There was such confusion all around me, I could not see my hosts, and it seemed that I knew no one, so I thought I might not stay. Just as I was about to face the stream of more people arriving, and descend the five flights of stairs, a voice asked me, in Italian, if I would like a glass of wine . . . .

“No”, I said “but thanks . . . I’m just leaving.” As an answer, I was handed a chipped glass, filled to the brim with local Frascati wine, and the questions began - - - “What’s your name?” - - - “What are you doing in Rome?” - - - “Do you know Kurt and Charlie?” - - - “Did you come with someone?” Then, without warning, he said, “I’m giving a party, tomorrow, at my place, and everyone will be coming. Will you come?” I shook my head. “O.K.”, he said, “I will come and pick you up. Where do you live? . . . I’m Nicola . . .”

“Carnevale” Acrylic on canvas ©SIMBARI

“Oh dear!” I thought, “this is going to be ‘difficult’.” “Grazie” I said aloud, and gave him the address of the hotel where I was living. I met some friends and moved off to join the party and say “hello” to Kurt and Charlie. Most of us were speaking English, and my new-found friend disappeared into the crowd, so I forgot all about him, and the invitation . . .in Rome, I had learned, it was quite normal to “invite”, but most unusual to mean it!

The next evening was the last day of Carnevale. I had worked, during the day, on the set of an Italian comedy film, and was rushing to get ready for my date with a group of fellow dreamers, when the concierge of the hotel called me to say that I had a visitor - - - it was Nicola, and he introduced himself again! He had come to make sure I would be at his party! I explained that I was going somewhere with friends but that I would try to come by later, if they could come - - - “It’s a promise!” he said, and left. I did not go and forgot the ‘promise’ and I did not see him again . . . until, one day . . .

I was waiting, in a café, for a French girl-friend to join me for coffee and to catch up on her ‘news’ . . . since she was very late, I decided to leave. Just as I got up from the table, she rushed in with Nicola behind her. “Sorry, I was held up.”, she explained, as Nicola stepped forward and sat down, saying angrily, “Where were you?” - - - I had no idea what he was talking about and said so! Once the mystery was uncovered, I said I was sorry, making some feeble excuse and we left for Piazza del Popolo, one of the IN places to meet, for the Roman artistic community. Nicola seemed to know everyone and was very popular and soon our table of three grew into a large busy group of gesticulating, laughing, arguing League of Nations!

Nicola said he had free tickets to the Theatre and off we went to see a Neapolitan comedy, for which Nicola had designed the costumes and posters. It was THEN, that I realised that HE was the artist who had had a show a few weeks back, to which I had been invited by an American friend - - - I had fallen in love with the wonderful humour and view of Italy of this exciting artist - - - SIMBARI.

“Piazza del Popolo”
pen sketch

That was Rome. It was fun and spontaneous! I loved the unplanned way of life. Every day was a new adventure . . .

Little did I realise, then, that this was the beginning of the most unbelievable Adventure of a Lifetime! A Hollywood film in gorgeous Technicolor . . . A Fairy-tale . . . A Myth . . .

© Elfrida 2010

Back to the top back

New !






Again ?



Are They?