Story 9 -My Father, the Real Artist
The artist in the family was my father. No one has or ever had any doubt of that. Least of all my mother.
Born Antonio Mauricio de Sousa, father was a poet, writer, painter, ferocious pamphleteer, radio announcer, composer, circus performer, chronicler (like I am now) for the “Earth Journal,” and a participant in all literary movements that came anywhere near him.
Father was a thousand things.
From an early age he exhibited his artistic leanings, to the desperation of my grandmother, who could see no future in sonnets and paintings. She insisted that Father take up a “decent,” normal profession like any other. Barber, for example. So she called upon a few friends, good experienced barbers all, to teach the trade to my father. And she even set up a barbershop equipped with the finest, most elegant trappings to attract select patrons. Neither crystal mirrors nor Italian marble were lacking.
At my grandmother’s insistence and having no other option, Father began to attend clients. But between shaves and haircuts he found time to compose poems, sonnets and acrostics, mostly requested (and paid for) by love-stricken Romeos.
Local politicians (among them the mayor) also delivered beautiful speeches that were discreetly produced in the back room of Father’s barbershop. In one of the shops where he worked (there were several -- his own or his friends’) he set up a printer to produce two venomous critical journals, similar to Pasquim, whose names are indicative of what was to be found on their pages: one was “The Death’s-Head”; the other, “The Wasp.”
Sometime in the late 30s, a series of articles entitled “Letters from Madalena” brought an end to the journal because of the critical response the material drew from the reigning bishop.
But Father didn’t stop there. He ventured into the area of musical composition and became more prolific than ever, composing everything from rousing sambas to sorrowful country ballads, assisted by my mother, Petronilha, an excellent lyricist.
But most of the songs composed during those creative nights of Father’s never bore his signature. I would hear them first at home when they were brand new and then after a time on the radio, by other famous songwriters and singers. I didn’t understand at the time, but Father was a ghost writer.
Nor did his phantasmagoria stop there: stashed away in drawers which I could barely open (I was very small), I would find sheaves and sheaves of paper carefully filled out in lovely, perfect script, with the most incredible love stories. Father never published that material under his name. But he produced it for years... for whom or for what publisher I have no idea.
I should add here that I barely knew how to read at that time, and much less could I have understood those stories. Only many years later, when I came across some pages forgotten during a move, did I finally understand.
Then came the golden years of radio (the 40s decade) when Father worked at the “Southern Cross” radio station in Sao Paulo, the station in those days. Although he started out as a prompter, it wasn’t long before he was a member of the cast of the soap operas.
And he could have gone even further if it weren’t for his temperament, averse to petty politics or flattery. Father returned to his native town, Mogi, and worked for a time at the local radio station there. Between his comings and goings at radio stations, he tried his luck as a barber in the distant town of Maringá, in the southern state of Paraná.
Eventually Father worked with a famous Brazilian circus troop (Nho Pai & Nho Fio), playing all kinds of parts, from clown to bandit or good guy in the closing numbers of the show. He was also a member of the public service department of one of the major radio stations in Sao Paulo and later helped me distribute my comic strips to the Brazilian newspapers.
After that, Father went to his rest.
He left behind a trail of accomplishments and wishes. A collection of ideas and things he wasn’t able to complete in his time. But he explained to me, patiently, what he desired, what he wished for and dreamed of achieving.
Some of those many dreams I held on to...and am now fulfilling in his name, in his honor and as a continuation of my father.
Mauricio de Sousa