Archived 2007 Articles


Pieter-Dirk Uys

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How to get 'it'

Maybe I should also try this ‘spaghetti’ that made Sophia Loren what she was?

– Pieter-Dirk Uys, Women24.com, 2007

'Everything I got, comes from eating spaghetti!' she was reported to have said. When I read these words in a magazine in 1958, I don’t think I knew what spaghetti was. Back then, Cape Town wasn’t that familiar with such foreign fodder. McDonald was just a surname, usually attached to a teacher.

The magazine in question was Stage and Cinema, a weekly glossy about movie stars that was sold at local bioscopes. I usually went secretly on Saturday mornings, because Pa did not approve of the cinema.

‘Once a month!’ he would thunder over lunch when I hinted at yet another new film starring Debbie Reynolds opening at the Alhambra (or Coliseum or Metro) in the heart of old Cape Town.

So, come Saturday morning, I would announce with resignation that I was going to browse the Cape Town Parade fleamarket and, of course, pop into the library to find a book about… about Napoleon! Or any other name that popped into my head.

‘Napoleon?’ my mother would ask, her eyebrows slightly more raised than usual. ‘Yes,’ I would fib, ‘we’re learning about him at school.’

As always, I’d slip into the cinema once the lights were down — after Bessie the buxom usherette had sold me my latest Stage and Cinema and let me sit in the back row, even though I had bought the cheapest ticket.

That saved my hide. One Saturday, as the film ended — could the national anthem have been playing at the end? — and I was about to scamper out, I saw Pa come up the aisle! And it was not even a nice film …

But in the train on the way home — and I made sure to take the one to Mowbray and take a bus to Pinelands from there, knowing Pa was on the Pinelands train to collect his bicycle from the station shed and then cycle home — I read my new Stage and Cinema.

And there it was written: ‘ Everything I got, comes from eating spaghetti,’ said a beautiful Italian film star called Sophia Loren.

When I got home, I went straight to my room to cut out the picture of this gorgeous woman and stick it up on the wall along with my other heroes: Hendrik Verwoerd, D F Malan, and Debbie Reynolds. I was a normal Afrikaans boy and took to heart what I had been fed at school. The outsider here was Debbie Reynolds. So Sophia Loren, formed as she was by this thing called ‘spaghetti’, was squashed in between Debbie and Oom Hendrik.

At lunch, Ma was full of fun as she sorted our plates and served the food.

‘How was the office?’ she asked Pa. He nodded gravely. ‘As usual,’ he said. ‘Ooooo,’ I tick-tocked inside. ‘Lies!’

‘And what about you, Pietie? Did you find your book about Napoleon in the library?’

‘Julius Caesar,’ I corrected. ‘No, I didn’t,’ I lied.

Pa narrowed his eyes. The film had been some rubbish about Caesar and Calpurnia, or it might have been Samson and Delilah, but it definitely had men in robes and leather sandals.

‘Well,’ said Ma with a happy smile. ‘You’ve both worked so hard today, I decided to treat you both to something special. I bought tickets for a film.’

Horrors! It was the same rubbish Pa and I had sat through that morning! But, for the sake of our reputations, neither of us showed a hint of dismay.

I had to avoid Buxom Bessie in the bioscope foyer in case she said: ‘You again?’

The movie was even worse the second time . Both Pa and I gave deep sighs of resignation.

‘Did you two enjoy that?’ Ma asked as we stumbled out.

We both nodded and, I’m sure, prayed she would change the subject .

Back home I went to my room, sat on my bed and looked up into the slanted cat’s eyes of Sophia Loren. Maybe I should also try this ‘spaghetti’ that made her what she was.

Sophia looked disappointed because I had lied to Ma .

‘I’ll never do it again,’ I whispered.

‘I promise.’

Maybe she even smiled, because the picture of Dr Hendrik F Verwoerd flopped forward and slowly fell off the wall. Forever.

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