Certain songs and experiences are sometimes welded together in our hearts and memories. For me, The Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” will always be the song I listened to in a London pub on the night of December 7, 1980 — hours before the death of John Lennon. “Synchronicity” is the soundtrack to my so-called West Hollywood + Hollywood Reporter life of ’83 and ’84. Chumbawumba‘s “Tubthumping” will always be the anthem of the 1997 Mill Valley Film Festival, which the boys and I attended start to finish. And Simply Red/Mick Hucknall‘s “Sunrise” will always always always be the theme song of the 2003 Locarno Film Festival — another great adventure shared by Jett, Dylan and myself
“To escape the damp, jungle-like Paris of the summer of ’03, the boys and I decided to attend 2013 Locarno Film Festival. It began on Wednesday, 8.7.03, and closed ten days later. A smart, elegant, sophisticated gathering. Locarno is in southern Switzerland, of course, but it’s northern Italy in almost every tangible sense — culturally, atmospherically, architecturally. The gelato stands were a daily blessing.
I remember Roger Ebert‘s face being all pink and sweat-beady during an outdoor discussion panel. The guys and I were constantly soaked, of course. Every afternoon around 3 or 4 we took an hour-long dip in Lake Maggiore.
“I can say with utter confidence, however, that we’re here, we’re credentialed, and we’re rockin’ and sockin’,” I wrote in an 8.5.03 filing. “That last verb referred to the fact that the dirty socks and T-shirts are boiling in a big pot of water on the stove. Not the best way to clean clothes, but we were on a budget. If you stir the clothes around in the steaming water and then cool them off and wring them out and then sun-dry them on the sundeck, they’ll at least “feel” cleaner when you put them on later.
We arrived after an all-night train ride from Paris in a second-class compartment — six bunks in a space the size of a large foot locker. Locarno was scenically beautiful, the pizzas tasted better than in Paris, black and yellow leopard-skin motifs were printed on every exploitable object and surface (that breed of cat being the festival’s theme) and the festival looked, smelled and talked like a class act.
The kids and I were having breakfast Thursday morning on the outdoor terrace at the Hotel Arcadia, where most of the journalist freeloaders were staying, when film critic and scholar Harlan Jacobson walked over and said hello. ‘Welcome to Switzerland, guys,’ he said to Jett and Dylan. ‘It’s a wild place. Drugs and girls are very plentiful here so you’ll have a good time.’ Harlan was drolly alluding to Switzerland’s reputation as the world capital of complacency, order and tidy-ness.
A guy was openly smoking weed later that night while sitting in the middle of a big crowd watching an open-air screening of Vincente Minelli‘s The Band Wagon. Fred Astaire, Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant…stoned.