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The founders of Mondo Beat


Caught in Amsterdam in a police raid and deported to Milan, Vittorio Di Russo landed at Linate airport on October 12, 1966 and his picturesque image bounced from one newspaper to another.

(Corriere della Sera - October 13, 1966)
Vittorio Di Russo was an activist in the Provo Movement in Amsterdam
Vittorio Di Russo deported from Amsterdam to Milan.

The journalist of the newspaper "Corriere della Sera", assigned to the police headquarters in Milan, where Vittorio Di Russo was brought after his arrival from Amsterdam, wrote an imaginative article, namely that Vittorio Di Russso had torn his passport on board the plane, claiming to be a "citizen of the world" and had urged the other passengers to do the same with their passports.
In reality, Vittorio Di Russo, who was a Provo, was arrested in Amsterdam by police during a raid and ordered to leave the Netherlands within 48 hours. But then he asked for help from the Italian consulate and there, in a moment of frenzy, he tore up his passport, as a result, he was boarded on an Amsterdam Milan flight and deported.
After reading about his arrival, being in Milan, I tried to find him, and the day after his arrival I met him in the center of the city, Piazza Duomo, where he was with those twenty longhairs that usually wandered there, which were all around him.
Vittorio Di Russo and I were bound by a friendship which dated back to the early Sixties, when we attended the same existentialist milieu in Gamla Stan, the Old Town of Stockholm.
When we met again in Milan, we looked each other in the eyes and exchanged a nod, and two days later we founded the Mondo Beat Movement. In the meantime, Vittorio Di Russo was able to connect with Giuseppe Pinelli and the anarchists, Pietro Stoppani and the radicals, Carlo Masi and the university students, while he was also attracting youths who had fled their homes.

(AGI - Il Giorno)
Vittorio Di Russo in a photo taken in Piazza Duomo a few days after his arrival in Milan
Mondo Beat. Vittorio Di Russo


Vittorio Di Russo was born in Scauri di Minturno (Lazio) on August 12, 1936.
He enlisted in the Navy at the age of 16, but two years later he deserted and clandestinely entered Corsica. There he lived in rugged mountains for a few months. Eventually he obtained a regular Italian passport and traveled to many European countries.
Vittorio Di Russo spoke very linearly, never using circumlocutions. In addition to Italian, he was fluent in French and German. He was a professional sculptor.

*

Umberto Tiboni, one of the 3 founders of Mondo Beat, has been underestimated by many who have written about the history of the Movement. This, because he didn't write articles for the magazine "Mondo Beat" and avoided to appear in the media. But ignoring Umberto Tiboni, or marginalizing his figure, is a serious mistake, since Mondo Beat would not have existed without him.
He was in charge of finding a suitable place as a venue for Mondo Beat and he located that famous seat, which was nicknamed "La Cava". Thanks to La Cava (which from now on I will call "The Cave") the Mondo Beat Movement was characterized by those subterranean connotations that made it so original and appealing.
The Cave exercised an irresistible call, that Italian boys and girls would have heard even in the most remote suburbs. Frequenting The Cave and participating in the events that were conceived there, with the personal risks that this involved, gave charisma to those who did it. They would have written a page of history and would have understood this in real time, by leafing through newspapers and magazines.
Legally and actually, Umberto Tiboni was in charge of The Cave and his management was as discreet as impeccable. And it was not at all easy to manage The Cave, as it was the heart of the Mondo Beat Movement, open to anyone 24 hours a day.

(Agenzia Franco Sapi)
Umberto Tiboni's management of The Cave was as discreet as impeccable
Mondo Beat. Umberto Tiboni

Umberto Tiboni was born in Sesto San Giovanni (Lombardy) on February 19, 1941.
He was a graduated industrial expert. He dressed casual. At the time of Mondo Beat, he had not yet embarked on travels. He understood English and French quite well, but only spoke Italian fluently.

*

The personal history of Melchiorre Gerbino is so intrinsic to the history of Mondo Beat that they cannot be extrapolated from each other. Melchiorre Gerbino was one of the 3 founders of the Mondo Beat Movement. He conceived, structured and directed the magazine "Mondo Beat". He was at the head of the Movement at public events and since the most important of them were not authorized, he had to face the police. He was the creator and leader of Barbonia City campsite, where a sexual revolution was triggered, due to which Italian women emancipated and all of Italian society with them.
As Melchiorre Gerbino has never denied his past, I let you imagine how they have defamed, vilified, diminished him, in movies ("The Prophet" and "Satyricon") in books ("Underground: a pugno chiuso!" and "I viaggi di Mel") and in so many writings that I don't know from where to begin to mention them. And I let you imagine how many times they have tried to kill him (Italian secret services, CIA, Mossad, French secret services, Polish secret services...) and how they have annoyed him with the judiciary.
This, because the Vatican wants the history of Mondo Beat to be forgotten, as it fears that today's young people may be inspired by it and raise a new wave of Contestation.

(Agenzia Franco Sapi)
Melchiorre Gerbino formulated the models of the Contestation and tested them in the squares of Milan
Mondo Beat. Melchiorre Paolo Gerbino

Melchiorre Gerbino was born in Calatafimi (Sicily) on August 30, 1939.
Before the foundation of Mondo Beat, I had been on the road for more than 5 years. When in Sweden, the first girl I made love with, called me by the name of another, "Paolo". In those days (1961) I was an existentialist and I kept the name Paolo for myself. In Stockholm, Vittorio Di Russo knew me by this name. When we met later in Milan, the first thing Vittorio said was "Paolo!", consequently, I was Paolo also at the time of Mondo Beat.
At that time, I was fluent in Italian, French and Swedish, I spoke also a little English and Spanish. At school, I had studied Latin and ancient Greek.

*

Gunilla Unger and Melchiorre Gerbino met for the first time in a cellar in Gamla Stan, Stockholm's Old Town, the day Gunilla Unger turned 18. Melchiorre Gerbino was 23 and had already spent two years in Stockholm.
In the early Sixties, in Gamla Stan, very close to the Royal Palace, there were some small cellars owned by young Swedes. To make these small cellars larger, illegal passages had been opened towards other basements, which had remained walled for centuries, barns that had belonged to aristocrats. To enter these cellars, you had to pay very little money and for drink a coke, you had to go out and look for a vending machine.
These cellars were frequented by youths of various countries and among them were the first globetrotters who were on a complete journey around the world. The Swedish girls, who frequented, were fluent in at least three languages.
There, we danced jazz, sometimes live, when African American musicians came to play. Those musicians played for free, as they liked the acoustics of these cellars. Some of them were famous, but they came to play incognito. Those were the days when the world opened up to the world and African Americans in Sweden found no racial opposition if they were in the company of white women.
As it is understandable, the milieu of these cellars was really original, as it happened that two girls were sitting, one on one of your legs and the other on the other, and while you kissed them, you were talking with an Australian, a young professor of philosophy, who had arrived to Stockholm by hitchhiking from Singapore, who was telling you about places of the world you had not yet visited... In this milieu, Melchiorre Gerbino and Gunilla Unger spent a time of their youth.

Due to the Provo imprinting that Vittorio Di Russo gave to it, Mondo Beat was kept under pressure by secret services, police and carabinieri (Italian federal police) from the very beginning. Police and carabinieri often raked up boys and girls who used to meet in Piazza Duomo and in the underpasses of Cordusio metro station. Youths arrested in the raids, if they had not a registered residence in Milan, were subjected to a mandatory expulsion order (foglio di via obbligatorio) and forced to stay away from Milan for 5 years. Those who did not comply with the police injunction, if arrested again, were sentenced by the court to one month in prison; if repeat offenders, sentenced to three months; then to six... This situation created a state of tension in the group, from which we freed ourselves at night, when we used to meet people who owned large houses, where we partied and relaxed. In one of these night parties, one of the first, Gunilla Unger was sitting on one leg of Melchiorre Gerbino and Carmen Russo on the other, when it suddenly happened that all boys and girls have undressed and participated in a sort of group sex, which was neither ostentatious nor vulgar, which Carmen Russo, Gunilla Unger and Melchiorre Gerbino observed with due detachment.
Admittedly, if Gunilla Unger, who was Melchiorre Gerbino's wife, had been jealous of Carmen Russo and angrily had left his leg, Melchiorre Gerbino would not have written the history of Mondo Beat, because the Movement would not have existed, since Mondo Beat would have been characterized by that sexual spontaneity which characterizes true revolutions. In a time when machismo habits raged in Italy, at Mondo Beat there would not have been a single episode of jealousy, which seems incredible, considering the intertwining of thousands of human situations and the fact that never people were asked to identify themselves. What is certain is that without Gunilla Unger, who was the reference for the first girls who joined Mondo Beat, the Movement would not have been characterized by the kind of Scandinavian fair play that somehow has connoted it. Nor, without the sexual brotherhood they shared, would the youths of Mondo Beat have been able to stage public events that paralyzed the heart of Milan, during which some of these youths would have ended up in a stretcher with two ribs broken by the police.
Gunilla Unger was not one of the founders of Mondo Beat, since she was not at the Crota Piemunteisa tavern, Via Pontaccio, on October 15, 1966, with Vittorio Di Russo, Umberto Tiboni and Melchiorre Gerbino on the occasion of the foundation of the Movement. But her personality was so fundamental in the history of Mondo Beat, that Gunilla Unger must inevitably be counted among the founders.

(AGI - Il Giorno)
Gunilla Unger gave a touch of Scandinavian style to the Mondo Beat Movement
Mondo Beat. Gunilla Unger


Gunilla Unger was born in Solna (Stockholm - Sweden) on March 10, 1945.
Gunilla Unger and Melchiorre Gerbino were married in Stockholm City Hall in April 1965, when their son Nino was 4 months old. They married because they had decided to travel to Italy, where the Vatican, maneuvering its political creature Democrazia Cristiana, had imposed a law that prohibited unmarried couples from sharing hotel rooms.
At the time of Mondo Beat, Gunilla Unger spoke Swedish, Italian, English, French and German. A graduate of the Swedish high school, classic line, she also knew Latin.


The Foundation of Mondo Beat

On the afternoon of October 15, 1966, six of us met at Crota Piemunteisa, Via Pontaccio, a tavern located in the center of Milan, a short walk from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts.
Crota Piemunteisa was a popular tavern, with an entrance as wide as the premises, as there were many in those days in Milan. But this tavern was original, because in addition to the rooms on the ground floor, it had also a loft, which created the theatrical atmosphere of a stage. We sat at a table of that loft, Melchiorre Gerbino, Vittorio Di Russo and four others who had come along with him. We ordered hard-boiled eggs and Oltrepò Pavese red wine.
When Vittorio Di Russo and Melchiorre Gerbino started talking about young anarchists whose actions would have shaken Milan and the whole of Italy, events that had never occurred in history, three of the four, who had come with Vittorio, left discreetly. Only Umberto Tiboni remained with us.
Umberto Tiboni had a weakness for boys and girls who had fled their homes and he housed as many as possible in his small apartment in Cinisello Balsamo, on the outskirts of Milan.
In the Crota Piemunteisa tavern, while Vittorio Di Russo and Melchiorre Gerbino were making prophecies, Umberto Tiboni listened carefully. At our request, he would intervene in the discussion, but after a good moment of reflection, and then he would have confirmed the goodness of our prophecies, offering common sense judgments to support them. And Umberto Tiboni would always have been like this. In the evolution of the history of Mondo Beat, even when risky, if not crazy, actions were conceived, Umberto Tiboni would never have disagreed, but he would have reviewed the matter to propose it in terms of good sense.
At some point, there were discussions about name and structures to be assigned to the Movement. Finding the name was laborious. The term "Provo", which we would have liked to adopt, could not be taken by us, since it was already taken by a dozen students associated with the "Sacco e Vanzetti" anarchist section. Vittorio Di Russo insisted on the term "Beat", of which Melchiorre Gerbino was not enthusiastic, since it would have reminded the Beat Generation, a generation which was older than our. Melchiorre Gerbino had Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement as American reference.
But Vittorio Di Russo was adamant in imposing the term "Beat". At one point, Melchiorre Gerbino had the inspiration of putting the term "Mondo" (world) before "Beat" and all three of us have liked the formula, so the Movement was named "Mondo Beat".
Then we considered how to structure the Mondo Beat Movement and we agreed to create a magazine and have an editorial seat. We easily decided to name the magazine with same name as the Movement, "Mondo Beat", and we decided that, before having our own seat, we would have found support in the Sacco e Vanzetti anarchist section.
In conclusion, we decided that Vittorio Di Russo would have led the Movement at public events and would have maintained contacts between Mondo Beat and the other extra-parliamentary groups who operated in Milan; Melchiorre Gerbino would have been the director of the magazine "Mondo Beat" and the ideologue of the Movement; Umberto Tiboni, the administrator and treasurer.
When we got up from the table, Melchiorre Gerbino was sure that something historic would happen. In fact, ordinarily, if two anarchists meet to try to see in perspective, in order to achieve some goal, the two will seem visibly perplexed when they will separate. If three anarchists seem firmly convinced of the feasibility of what they have foreseen and they are ready for action, then one can expect something historic to happen.

History of Mondo Beat - Chapter 2