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Monte Carlo Rally 1972

January 1972, we were off again to Monaco for the Monte Carlo Rally.  The team consisted of Paul Badin, Julian Botras, Vittorio Della Valle, Jacques Hubinet and his soundman Monsieur Corsi.   Pierre Deus was handling the UPITN News coverage, but he was invariably working alongside us during the Rally.   He was the great provider.  He knew everyone in Monte Carlo and they knew him.  He obtained our passes and permissions.   He arranged for a police motor-cyclist to take our rushes to Nice Airport for shipment back to England. He is also well remembered for his crew lunches where we could partake of tuna and anchovies that he had caught in the Med the previous year and bottled for the winter.

We were a merry band doing what we knew best and doing what we loved to do – make films.  We tried not to allow ourselves to become trapped in a routine and endeavoured always to put a new slant on what we were doing.  We came up with something  different on each of the Rallies we did.

Apart from the Start line, we always managed to find some new locations which, we thought, would provide dramatic pictures of the progress of the cars.

By now, we were also interested in finding a different restaurant for a leisurely lunch before the hard work had to be done.  We chose an Italian restaurant in the Boulevard des Moulins.

We were joined by some of Hubinet’s cameraman friends M. Bianci and M. Gaudin, from Marseilles and we had a very enjoyable meal.  Badin and Della Valle, as usual,  shared their meals, sitting opposite each other at the long table we occupied.  I had a Chicken Kiev, however, as it was an Italian restaurant, I suppose it would have been called a Cordon Bleu, which is French.  Perhaps the Italians don’t have a word for it.

M. Bianci, M. Gaudin, M. Corsi, Paul Badin, Pierre Deus, Terry Gallacher, Jacques Hubinet, Vittorio Della Valle

M. Bianci, M. Gaudin, M. Corsi, Paul Badin, Pierre Deus, Terry Gallacher, Jacques Hubinet, Vittorio Della Valle

We always indulged in animated conversation after these meals and, often, the subject was the cost of living.  We knew at an early stage that to talk in terms of currencies was useless, meaningless, so we devised a method of comparison based on how many hours work would be required by the average wage earner to purchase a given object.  Now, it all made sense.

Today, we are still being told by the media that people in various parts of the world have to live on “$2 a day”.  If they do not tell us what they have to buy and how much, what does it mean? I can recall a family of nine that managed to survive on an income of less than $4 a week. (At today’s rate of exchange) That was my family of eight thirty-five years earlier in London.  But then, the rent was about 60 cents a week and vegetables were one or two cents a pound.

In Brazil, about this time of our discussions, we had a freelance cameraman who was paid $150 for each day’s work which might occur six or so times a month.  He was averaging $750 per month.  In the beginning, this made him considerably poorer than a Brazilian  schoolteacher, bank manager or even a skilled technician.  Within a year, he was earning the same $150 a day, he became one of the highest paid artisans in the country because the Cruzeiro was collapsing and he was being paid in dollars. You have to compare like with like.

The visit to this restaurant was one of the only times we did not use the Roxy for lunch.  That was on the other side of the road and further west.

We all crossed the road and slowly walked past the Roxy.  Andrew (our Roxy waiter) was standing inside looking out of the window.  He waved an admonishing finger at us, so Della Valle pulled out a toothpick and stood there pretending to pick his teeth to illustrate that he had an enjoyable meal.

We had a free afternoon and Jacques Hubinet and Paul Badin mentioned that a former Movietonews cameraman, whose name I cannot recall, had recently died and that his widow was living in Grasse, some miles west of Nice.  Badin had been a Movietone cameraman as was Jacques Hubinet’s father.

It was a fine afternoon, so they decided that we should all to go to visit her.  She was a delightful person living alone in her small house which looked down on the hills which descended towards the coast.  On these hills were grown the herbs and flowers of the French perfume industry.  One could only wonder at the sweet smell of perfume that would rise from the fields all around her.

We had tea and biscuits and Paul and Jacques chatted a lot about her husband.  It was a memorable afternoon.

Datsun 240Z 1972

Datsun 240Z 1972 (Photo credit: ardas:ardas)

Once again Badin was flying in his Alouette helicopter from which he obtained some remarkable shots of the Datsuns, now easily identifiable in their new roof livery. At our first rally in 1967, I had pleaded with the organisers of the Rally to be allowed to put a big white disc on the roof of the Datsuns.  This was to allow Badin to identify “our” cars from an altitude of 800 feet.  Reluctantly they gave permission and then I had to get permission from Nissan Motors in Tokyo.  They agreed.

However when Paul reported back, after his first shoot this year, he told me that now almost all the competing cars had put a huge white disc on their roof with their number in it.

The owner of the Forum Hotel, where we were staying, ran a separate business but based in the hotel.  He was a provider of display lighting and public address equipment.  He   supplied us with Walkie Talkies, as well as the lights so that we could light the finish line. Using the Walkie-talkie sets,  as the cars came down the mountains behind Monaco, our cameraman there would give us a five minute warning of their approach at the finish line.

Back at the office, everyone thought we were on to a good time. I would not pretend that we did not enjoy the work, but work it was.  We would be getting up in the dark at five or six in the morning and sometimes not going to bed before two in the morning.  On occasion having only one or two hour’s sleep.  The final night of the rally, we were all up at the Col de Turini where the cars went round in a lengthy circuit passing the Col several times.  There, in a section of roadway that was about two hundred yards long, all the television and films crews spread out and lit the road with flares.  No one company could have done it without spending a lot of money.

The sides of the road were up to six feet high with piled snow and the road surface was solid ice.  We left there at about three in the morning to get some sleep before getting up to film the finish of the rally down at the harbour.

Rauno Aaltonen and Jean Todd came in third overall while the team of Fall and Wood came in ninth, both teams driving the Datsun 240Z.  The rally was won by Sandro Munari in a Lancia.

On the Saturday morning, Della Valle and I went up to the Palace for the prize giving and Concorde d’Elegance.

When it was all over, and I had collected my annual bunch of  Carnations with Deus, Della Valle and I went, together, to Nice Airport for our flights home.  We were very early, we  checked in and went in to the departure lounge.

There we spread ourselves out in the seats.  There were few other people around.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi

Mangosuthu Buthelezi

Gradually people started to come in.  Unnoticed by me, as I was dozing, two gentlemen walked past my chair where I had my legs stretched out before me.  The first man tripped over my foot, I woke up with a start to be confronted by the smiling face of Denis Eugene Hurley, Most Reverend Archbishop of Durban.  His travelling companion was Mangosuthu Buthelezi, chief of the Buthelezi tribe in South Africa, a position to which he was appointed in 1953.

In 1970, Buthelezi was appointed leader of the KwaZulu territorial Authority and in 1976 he would became chief minister of the quasi-independent Bantustan of KwaZulu. The emerging Black Consciousness Movement of the 1970s branded him an Apartheid regime collaborator, because of his strong anti-Communist belief. He consistently declined homeland independence and political deals until Nelson Mandela was released from prison and the African National Congress was made legal.

The Archbishop and the Chief were on their way, as was Vittorio, to Rome where the two were to meet the Pope.  They sat with us and we chatted until my flight was called about half and hour later. I told the Archbishop that I had recently bumped into the Papal Nuncio in Nairobi and that, in spite of that,  I did not make a habit of colliding with the higher ranks of the Roman Catholic Church.

That was the last time I saw Vittorio Della Valle.  Later that year he became very ill and the following year, he died.  He was sorely missed by all his colleague who respected him as one of the finest documentary cameramen in the world.

I remember him being asked  by another cameraman in Monaco how he obtained such perfect exposure.  Vittorio said “I look at my exposure meter and interpret what it tells me and then……” Here he made a gesture.  His hand, with his palm facing his left side, level with his right breast. He then described an arc with his hand so that the gesture finished with his hand level with his left breast and, now, facing the floor.

He said nothing more, but his small audience knew that he was illustrating a part of his photographic calculation that he could not quantify or even describe with any clarity.  It was just Vittorio.  He had been a combat cameraman with the Italian Armed Forces during the Second World War.  While in the Libyan Desert, he suffered problems with his eyes having been almost blinded in a sand storm.  For the rest of his life, he had to use eye drops every hour or so.  He suffered other internal complaints with his liver and, in the end, it was this that killed him.

My overseas travels were not universally appreciated and the office was not the only scene of discontent.  I had no choice.  It was my job and, as it was, I, often, either passed up the opportunity to travel or curtailed a visit so that I should not be away too long.

In the office, there were some folk there who thought that every trip was some kind of jolly.  We tried to enjoy ourselves when not actually working, but the work was arduous, leaving us often hungry and short of sleep.

The travelling itself was not to be envied: queuing up at airport desks, laden with baggage,  negotiating the cost of excess baggage,  passport control,  arriving an hour or so before departure and having to sit around in  departure lounges with nothing to do but stare at the information screens.

For the likes of UPITN management, they would travel first class whenever they could and travelled directly to some five star hotel and then to an air-conditioned office and then back to the five star hotel and then to some high class restaurant.  They had it real tough.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2014.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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