Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Girl From Ipanema

You've probably heard the music.
But did you know that there really was a girl from Ipanema?
Her name was Hêlo Pinto and, in 1962, she was a statuesque brunette living on Montenegro Street in the fashionable Ipanema district of Rio de Janeiro.

There was, and still is, a drinking establishment on a corner of that same street, situated about halfway between her home and beach.

Back then, it was called the Bar Veloso.

Tom Jobim was one of the regulars. He was a musician, fond of whiskey.

Vinicius de Morães. another regular, was a diplomat, playwright and poet - even fonder of whiskey. (He once called the stuff "man's best friend - a dog in a bottle".)

Tom and Vinicius used to hole up in the Veloso to drink the afternoons away. Hêlo, the heartthrob of the neighborhood, often passed-by on her way to the beach The composer and the poet, struck by her beauty, wrote a song about her, A Garota de Ipanema. It became an instant hit, first in Brazil and then around the world. 

Vinicius, at the time, was already famous. He'd written the play that gave rise to the film Black Orpheus (Oscar Winner; Best Foreign Film of 1959).

He died in 1980 at the age of 66. The street where the Bar Veloso stood has been renamed in his honor.

Tom went on to compose many jazz standards recorded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. He died in 1994 at the age of 67.

Rio's International Airport is named after him.

Hêlo, at 61, now Hêlo Pinheiro, is very much alive.

She's dyed her hair blonde and has a lovely daughter.

And the Bar Veloso is now named after the song that made it famous. It's now called A Garota de Ipanema.  If you click on the image to enlarge it, you'll be able to see the name above the blue roof.

On the walls you'll find a number of Vinicius's poems. Here are two appropriate lines from one of them:

"...the love I had was not immortal
But it was infinite - while it lasted."

Leighton - Monday


  1. Hi Leighton,

    That was a fun story, too bad the men who wrote the song died so young.

    I'd like to look like the girl from Ipanema when I'm her age. She looks prettier at 61 than she does in the black and white photo on the beach.


  2. Wow, what an amazing story. What made you think of writing and researching it? I like to read blogs that give great tidbits of information such as this.


  3. Susie
    About Tom and Vinicius: They did, indeed, die young. Booze helped to bring them both down. I have fond personal memories of Tom, and can personally attest that he loved his whiskey (and cigars). Vinicius I never met, but everyone who knew him tells me he was an even heavier drinker.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the story.
    The writing: I was inspired by a recent post on Peter Rozovsky "Detectives Beyond Borders". (If you are unfamiliar with this blog, go there and check it out. It's terrific!)

    Peter's musings about Brazilian music brought to mind musicians I have known.

    One of them was Tom Jobim , of whom I have the fondest memories.

    And I can't think of Tom without thinking about The Girl From Ipanema.

    As to research, I didn't have to do much. I've lived in Brazil for many years. Just about everyone in the country knows Hêlo, because she went on to be a famous model. I already knew the bar, knew the music in its orginal version, knew the story of its creation, and can spout the poetry of Vinicius, in Portuguese, by the yard.

    All I had to do, really, was to look up the dates - and find a few pictures.

    Thanks for taking the time to leave us a comment. We appreciate being read! Please come back and visit us often.

  4. Olha! Que coisa mais linda!

    I had never seen Hêlo's daughter before. She could inspire musical thoughts in the mind of some idly dreaming poet just as her mother did.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"