This is one of my favourite Durch Die Nacht Mit shows so far – again directed by Hasko Baumann – this is the one where Franco Nero meets Fred Williamson. Absolute classic, you need to track it down if you’ve not already seen it. Here we go:
So what’s on the itinerary? A visit to an old man’s club, a meeting with a young stuntman, then the Libreria Cinema where they meet Barbara Bouchet, dinner at a restaurant where they meet the writer Lorenzo de Luca and Franco joins in with the house band, then finally a meeting with Enzo G Castellari at the cinema before calling it a night.
For me, Franco Nero comes across as a lovely, friendly laid-back chap who will shake hands or give an autograph to any fan who accosts him on the street (it’s a very regular occurrence), but Fred Williamson seems to be trying to impress the whole time and goes in for one-upmanship. In his defence I should say that Fred is not on his own territory in Rome – everyone knows Franco and loves him and maybe they’re not expecting to see Fred Williamson on the streets of Rome, so they might not want to go up to some big guy and say, “Excuse me, are you Fred Williamson?” in case they’re wrong. And maybe it is something to do with his background in professional sports, but he always seems to want to compete. I bet if they had bought ice cream Fred would have wanted to see who had the biggest scoop. Anyway, I am sure he is a nice chap, it’s just that Franco was far more laid-back and I like that. There’s nothing of the star about him – very down to earth and silly.
Here’s my summary of their evening out:
- Women – Fred Williamson has brought his wife along for the trip and left her back at the hotel. He says of her, “All my money goes there”. Later he tells Franco that he had spent the day walking around Rome with his wife and she was “spending money like crazy”. When they look in on a women’s clothing store next door to the old man’s club, Fred says the women don’t come into the social club because they are in the shop spending money. That is clearly what Fred thinks of women: they spend money. Here’s what I think of Fred: he is obsessed with women, or at least he wants to give that impression. He says he wouldn’t go to Franco’s club because there are no women there. Franco says, “Forget the women”. He just goes to the club to unwind with his friends – they play cards and watch sports on the TV. It’s like their equivalent of having a garden shed or an allotment – somewhere to go to get away from the women. In this respect Franco and Fred are total opposites. Or so it seems. In the film bookstore, Fred complains to a customer that he wanted to meet the “beautiful women of Rome”, but Franco points out that Fred’s wife is waiting for him back at the hotel. Fred tells Franco: “I get the women in all my movies; I want you to know this.” Franco responds, “I’m not bad too, I tell you.” Fred has the last word: “Yeah, but you marry them all. I never had a wife, only girlfriends.”
- Competitive sports – when Franco says he still plays football and only needs to get 3 more goals to achieve 2,000, Fred tells him that he played competitive American football for 10 years and that it is “more violent” than the “soccer” Franco plays. Franco says he went fishing in Palm Springs (where Fred lives) and Fred tells him that fishing is for old men. Later, when they meet Enzo Castellari, Franco says he is still fit and young and plays tennis – Fred says he doesn’t run around though, so Franco calls on Enzo (clearly the father figure in this scenario) “I run, tell him!” and Enzo confirms that he has seen him and he does. Franco, cheekily, getting back at Fred for the earlier fishing comment, says: “He plays golf; old people play golf”. Franco may have been the White Ninja, but Fred was the Hammer and he is an expert in Gun-Fu!
- The Stuntman – I don’t know what this guy Alex Mariotti has done to Fred Williamson, but he really has it in for him. First off when Alex says he understands they will kick his ass, Fred says “No, I don’t beat up people smaller than me.” He is 6′ 3″, so maybe it’s his get-out clause cos that’s pretty tall and even Franco Nero looks small next to him. That way he gets out of fighting. That’s my theory. Then Alex asks him for tips with the ladies and Fred immediately writes him off as a lost cause: “Well, you have to be tall, dark and handsome first of all, so that eliminates you right away. You’ve lost already.” Ouch! Then Fred slags off modern day stunts, saying that they’re just not realistic looking these days – Alex is a modern day stuntman, so it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to realise that Fred is saying his stunts aren’t worth watching. O dear… Fred loves to do his own stunts though, “I love it! I love to hit!”
Fred Williamson hits Alex Mariotti where it hurts
- The film industry – Franco says there used to be 13,000 cinemas in Italy but at the beginning of the 1980s the number had gone down to just 1,600. Fred and Franco discuss people they know from the film business: Menahem Golan, who Fred says has now opened an amusement park, he also alleges that there is not one person that Menahen doesn’t owe money to; producer Ibrahim Moussa, who looks quite geeky, but who somehow was quite handy with the ladies, including Nastassja Kinski, Candice Bergen and, apparently, Isabelle Adjani bought him a Rolls Royce for some unspecified reason. Franco thinks he knows the reason why – he whispers, “The women say he has the biggest cock in the world. That’s what they were saying. Can you imagine it?” Apparently Fred can imagine it, but he also wants Franco to know that black men are blessed in that respect too. Franco has heard that as well. Fred also helps to clear up the conspiracy theories about Bruce Lee’s death. Lorenzo de Luca says Jean-Claude Van Damme told him Bruce Lee died because of drugs, but Fred is not having that. Fred knows what happened to Bruce Lee – here’s the story: Bruce Lee hurt a lot of people for real in Enter the Dragon and so they told him he should never come back to Hong Kong or there would be trouble. Bruce Lee came back to Hong Kong and there was trouble – he got into a fight with 6 or 7 guys and he won the fight but when he got home he felt ill. Eventually he was taken to hospital and he died of a blood clot to the brain. And that is what happened to Bruce Lee. Fact! (According to Fred Williamson, anyway…)
- The film bookstore – Poor old Fred, you have to feel for him really. When they head off to the Libreria Cinema to meet Barbara Bouchet, Fred can’t get the door open and pretends to kick it down. Franco puts his hand on the door knob and turns and, Open Sesame!, the door opens no problems. Fred asks Franco if he’s ever made a film with Lucio Fulci cos he’s done 2 with him; turns out Franco has done 3 or 4 films with him. Franco shows Fred a book about R.W. Fassbinder – Fred doesn’t know Fassbinder, so Franco describes him as “a genius, one of the greatest directors of our time” and tells him that he acted in his film Querelle, which was, he says, “a masterpiece about homosexuality.” Fred’s response? “Was it a sexy film? Franco , you did erotica!” Things don’t get much better when Barbara Bouchet turns up – one hour late, after getting a manicure done – and she doesn’t seem to remember Fred at all much to his chagrin. During their conversations about films, Tarantino and Fred’s background in American football, it suddenly dawns on Barbara that she has a photograph of herself with Fred. She doesn’t remember at all even when he tells her that they had previously met several times at the Taverna Flavia and through their mutual agent Rosanna Policia. To make matters worse, Barbara has been invited to a Tarantino retrospective in LA and Fred hasn’t and, furthermore, she knows Franco really well and even played his wife in a film. You can feel Fred’s embarrassment: “Maybe next time you’ll remember that we know each other?” (Sad Charlie Brown walk…)
- Franco’s theory on small dogs – Fred wonders out loud why Italians have such big dogs; Franco thinks it because they make them feel safe. He also has a theory on why women have small dogs: “You know the small dogs, what they do with women? They lick the pussies. That’s what a woman told me. A woman told me. Believe me!”
- Fred Williamson the First: Fred was the first black cowboy, the first black sportsman in martial arts films, the first black James Bond. Fred Williamson likes to come first
- Franco’s (ahem!) singing: It doesn’t take a lot to get Franco up and “singing”. He takes Fred to a restaurant where he made his film Forever Blues and when the house band start to play his favourite song When You’re Smiling there’s nothing you can do to stop him joining in. If someone knows better and there is something you can do, please, someone just do it! Just look at Fred’s face to see what I mean
- Enzo Castellari – Now, surely this should be safe since both the boys know Uncle Enzo (a very smiley chap)? Erm, not so much. Fred did 3 films with Enzo. Fred asks Franco: “You only did one film with Enzo?” No, Fred, No! Franco tells him he did 10 films with Enzo. Fred is just not going to win this competition, is he? But, nonetheless, they all seem to have fun and there’s a great sequence where Fred suggests they all make a film together because now they are more “mature” they can “go deeper into the characters” (he says, making a digging gesture with his hand). Franco joins in and then Enzo suggests that they can do it with two hands instead. Haha! Maybe you have to see it or be there – it was a great way to end the evening
A fun watch – thoroughly recommended for a viewing or two!