Mussolini’s Bad Hair Days Become a Book

by Nicole Martinelli? posted: Wed. Dec. 14 15:23 pm
All of us have probably destroyed a photo highlighting a triple chin or lopsided smile, but things are a bit different when you’re the symbol of a political regime.

Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was ruthless when it came to discarding photos that showed him in, well, a less than a flattering light.

The trouble is that thousands of these snaps, with Il Duce’s cursive ‘no’ scrawled on them, made it into the hands of Italian historians who have put together a book of the rejects.
“Il Duce Proibito” (Forbidden Duce) serves up 140 pages of nixed photographs taken over a 15-year period.

What exactly did he want to keep people from seeing?

Topping the discards, all personally screened by Mussolini, were photographs portraying the normally lantern-jawed authority figure as jovial, informal or just plain awkward.

Take the one where Mussolini, in a slightly lumpy suit topped with a jaunty cap, gives an enthusiastic handshake to a uniformed and plume-hatted King Victor Emmanuel III.
The photo got the red light because Mussolini, in addition to the casual attire, standing in front of the royal car, might have been all too easily mistaken for the chauffeur. Other candid cast-offs immortalize him in tennis shorts and an overcoat, presiding over an empty piazza and making an ungraceful exit from an airplane in a puffy white aviator suit.

The forbidden Duce comes to light at a time when Mussolini is likely on spin cycle in his tomb in the northern Italian town of Predappio. Gianfranco Fini, leader of the neo-fascist National Alliance party, criticized the fascist regime during a recent trip to Israel. In the ensuing clamor granddaughter and senator, Alessandra Mussolini, left the party to form a new one amid speculation that her political clout has run dry.

Authors Mimmo Franzinelli and Emanuele Valerio Marin found over 2,000 ‘forbidden’ photos forgotten in the archives of Istituto Luce, which served as a propaganda arm for the fascist government.

The increasing number of photos rejected as the years went on make for a fascinating study in impression management. Mussolini became more and more fearful of his public image, prohibiting publication of photos where he was placed near priests or nuns, whom he was convinced brought him bad luck, and those where people around him appeared not to be paying ‘enough’ attention to his presence. ?1999-2003

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

American Criminals Take ”Mafia Lessons” in Italy staff
Members of the Mafia in America were sent across the pond to perfect the criminal trade from pros in Sicily, according to a turncoat don. Antonino Giuffr?, arrested in 2002, confirmed FBI reports that members of the Bonanno crime family in the US were sent to the province of Trapani for training.

The penitent mobster, describing these ‘Mafia Lessons’ sounds like something out of a Godfather movie: “They send them here to make good men of honor out of them, to practice — because,” according to Giuffr?, “In American they’ve lost the values, there’s no more respect.” He added that there’s nothing more dangerous than an ignorant mobster — one not properly schooled in the internal ethics and hierarchy necessary to carry out the racketeering, prostitution, illegal waste dumping and drug trade of the organization.

One of the hardest lessons of an effective criminal organization to teach the Americans? To shut up. Giuff? said the code of silence, or omert?, was alien to the garrulous Americans: “They just couldn’t stay quiet, they always talk too much.” The improvised professors of crime were Cosa Nostra dons who agreed to take in the Americans on a learning-by-doing tour of how things are done in the old continent.

The Sicilian Mafia may have to do more than offer master classes in crime to stay afloat — with the arrest of Giuff? cohort Salvatore Rinella March 7 another dent was made in the criminal organization. It’s part of a major push by Italian authorities who have arrested several people close to the reputed head of the Sicilian Mafia, Bernardo Provenzano — although the top boss, on the run for 40 years, still eludes them. There’s also an economic incentive for fighting crime — the Italian government estimates some 7.5 billion euro in lost income a year to the country’s southern regions. ?1999-2004

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.
Related resources:

Excellent Cadavers: The Mafia and the Death of the First Italian Republic

Mafia Town Becomes a Brand Name

Mafia Boss Gets Life Sentence, Thanks to Movie

Italy Mourns Actor Alberto Sordi

Sordi with Federico Fellini & wife Giulietta Masina

by Nicole Martinelli

A tide of emotion swept through Rome today when 250,000 people said a last good-bye to Alberto Sordi, one of Italy’s most beloved comic actors. Sordi died Monday night of bronchitis in Rome at age 82. Thousands of Romans passed by his villa in piazza Numa Pompilio to leave flowers and notes and or visited the open coffin to pay respects for two nights in a row. The funeral, attended by luminaries and everyday folk, had to be moved to the larger Basilica of San Giovanni to hold the crowds.

Like many Italian actors, he started his career with dubbing. He gave a quirky accent to Oliver Hardy in the Laurel & Hardy comedies and then went on to lend voice to a young Marcello Mastroianni. Sordi graduated to acting with Federico Fellini, first starring as the “White Sheik” in 1952 then as an overgrown adolescent in “I Vitelloni” a year later.

Sordi, nicknamed “Albertone Nazionale,” racked up more than 190 performances as an Italian everyman — whether he played a policeman (“Il Vigile”), a taxidriver (“Il Tassinaro,” “Il Tassinaro a New York”) an Italian who emigrates (“Bello, onesto, emigrato Australia sposerebbe compaesana illibata”) or one obsessed with America (“Un Americano a Roma”). Long considered an icon, he put in an amusing cameo as himself in Fellini’s “Roma,” and won numerous awards including the Golden Career Lion from the Venice Film Festival in 1995.

“Alberto’s death is one of the saddest events of my life,” said Sophia Loren who acted in ‘Two Nights with Cleopatra’ with Sordi in 1954. “We were very good friends, even though we didn’t get the chance to work together as much as we would’ve liked.”

After co-writing many of his films, Sordi put himself behind the camera as director in “Fumo di Londra,” in the mid 1960s and kept acting and directing until recently with “Incontri Proibiti” in 1998 where he played opposite blonde starlet Valeria Marini.
On his 80th birthday, Albertone was named honorary mayor for a day in Rome. Current Mayor Walter Veltroni had this to say about him,”It’s a great loss for our city and out country. Both Romans and Italians will miss the artist who, above all others, knew how to interpret with intelligence and love the full spectrum of life and the contradictions of society. Personally, I’ll miss a friend that I had come to love before I was lucky enough to know and spend time with.”@1999-2008

Related resources:
Sordi’s official site — film clips, photos, sound bites…

The White Sheik

Italy’s Oldest Former Prostitute Turns Consultant

Just don’t call her Granny. Fiorina Siliprandi, 85, is one of the last living former prostitutes from Italy’s legal brothels and has much to say on the subject.

Siliprandi, who has recently published her memoirs, has offered herself as a consultant to the Italian government as it struggles to stem the country’s flourishing illegal sex trade.

After joining the ranks in 1939, Siliprandi, nicknamed “Velvet Tongue,” worked in Ethiopia, Tunisia and landed in Bologna where she became the madame of a first-class brothel in 1956. Her career ended shortly after when the pleasure houses were closed forever by law two years later.

“I’m ready to lend my expertise if brothels become legal again,” said the former prostitute who has racked up about 60 years of experience. “The book tells the story without any kind of censure, because the truth is we were taken care of in the bordellos.”

Lawmakers, particularly those from the conservative Northern League, may want to take her up on the offer. Leader Umberto Bossi made a controversial proposal for government-regulated ‘Eros centers’ (apartments shared by a few prostitutes) last year that is still causing heated argument.

Italy’s sex market consists of an estimated 50,000-70,000 prostitutes, about 70% are illegal immigrants lured to the Bel Paese with the promise of a job then forced into sex work, according to Eurispes data. The study reports almost half of all Italian men regularly frequent the so-called “fireflies” (lucciole), some 70% of these are married.
Embarrassing would-be johns into staying home has been the object of numerous schemes in recent years in Italy — including exorbitant fines, photographing clients and towing away cars parked in “suspect” zones. Most have created more brouhaha than change, because they conflict with Italy’s severe privacy law which, for example, doesn’t permit photographing drivers from the front for everyday traffic violations.

Brothels were legal in Italy until 1958 when the Merlin law, named after creator senator Angelina Merlin, abolished them. At the time, these “closed houses” (case chiuse) employed 2,700 women.

Italy’s ”Porno Tax” Protest

Stars of Italy’s flourishing ‘Spaghetti Porn’ industry are ready to protest a new tax on adult materials. Jessica Rizzo, dubbed the woman most loved by Italians, called “unjust” a tax which she predicted could increase prices paid by consumers of videos and magazines by “30-50%.”

"This government promised to simplify and reduce taxes. Instead, it has invented new ones," Rizzo told newspapers, going on to say that she may have to fire some of her 50 employees. She and husband Marco Toto run one of Italy’s most important adult empires which includes films, video distribution, a satellite channel, magazines, erotic chat lines, lingerie, nightclubs and sexy seminars for couples.

Emanuele Falsitta, member of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party who proposed the measure, considers the tax on pornography a way to discourage consumers.

"It’s right to penalize certain activities, like that of the porn industry," said Falsitta. "Rather than take money away from non-profits."

The Italian government will in reality get a piece of the action in a very lucrative industry: 400 "spaghetti-porn" films made yearly, 40 adult production houses, 2,500 sex shops for an estimated yearly turnover of 516 million euro.

Rizzo has threatened to take to the streets with other porn stars, including the world-famous Italian Stallion Rocco Siffredi, who says the government has "picked a fight with sex."?1999-2004

Zoomata is the brainchild of a bilingualjournalist based in Italy who thinks out of the box. This brain is for hire.

From TV Host to Senator for Life?

TV host Mike Bongiorno, in the running to be named senator for life, has truly found America in Italy. Born in New York to Italian parents, Bongiorno, famous for his involuntary language gaffes, holds the Guinness world record for consecutive years of TV hostmanship.

A constant fixture on the Italian small screen since his debut in 1953, Premier and former employer Silvio Berlusconi recently confirmed the candidature of Bongiorno as senator for life.

"He is always extraordinary, a real piece of television history," Berlusconi said in a phone call to a noted talk show last week. "So I think he can aspire to be a senator for life."

If Berlusconi has his say, Bongiorno, 77, would join the ranks of Nobel prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini and Fiat patron Gianni Agnelli. Italians, however, aren’t so sure: in a poll of over 9,000 readers on newspaper La Repubblica’s website, only 6% were in favor honoring the man who has hosted Wheel of Fortune since 1989. Economics may have something to do with it — life senators, either former presidents or illustrious citizens, can receive up to 100,000 euro a year.

In addition to his infectious showmanship — his trademark exclamation is "allegria!" — some see it as an opportunity for Italians to honor a partisan. Bongiorno, who interrupted his studies to join the Italian resistance movement in WWII, was captured by fascists and served a seven-month prison sentence with journalist Indro Montanelli.
Mike’s virtual home…

Earning a Living from Coins in Trevi Fountain

Making a living from change tossed into a fountain is an unusual job — but a perfectly legal way to put bread on the table. Italian courts ruled that Roberto Cercelletta, who has been scooping out coins tossed into Rome’s Trevi fountain for about 20 years, is not stealing public money. Charities who wish to collect the money, however, have announced a public battle against him.

Cercelletta, nicknamed “D’Artagnan” after the famous musketeer, gets his hands into the gelid water’s in one of Rome’s most famous landmarks between 5 and 6 a.m. six days a week.The enterprising citizen and two assistants don florescent vests of the local electrical/water company, though they fool no one. Cercelletta, responsible for breaking the nose of an ‘interfering’ officer, has been fined by police hundreds of times, but has yet to pay any tickets. On Wednesday, he jumped into the fountain and slashed his belly to protest the new measures against him.

Officially unemployed, the daily harvest of cents, yen and euro earns him the salary of a prince: an estimated 180,000 USD a year. Not bad for about 15 minutes of work per day. City officials announced they will start collecting the money — on behalf of charity Caritas — and plan to install a motion detector and alarm in the fountain to discourage treasure hunters.

Tourists from around the world stand with their backs to the 1762 fountain and toss coins over the left shoulder– based on the superstition that if they do they will return to the Eternal City one day. Charity organization Caritas, which retrieves the money on Sundays when Cercelletta takes a day off, tried to get a court order to stop him. The court ruled that the money belonged to no one and Cercelletta plans to continute raking it in — candidating himself for the official job with the city if needs be. The fountain has long been a part of city iconography — thanks in part to films like "Three Coins in a Fountain" and the famous romp by Anita Ekberg in "La Dolce Vita."

Related resources:
La Dolce Vita

The Dubious Crown of Miss Chubby

So much for fat is beautiful: Italy’s recently-elected Miss Chubby, weighing in at 427 lbs, confessed she would like to lose a few pounds.

Thirty-six year old Maria Dore, a housewife whose cites pizza with mushrooms as a favorite food, won the crown of the 14th-annual contest but admitted shortly afterwards that her girth ‘weighs on her.’
Dore beat out 40 bountiful beauties in the Miss Cicciona Contest, all of whom weighed at least 220 pounds. Contest founder Gianfranco Lazzereschi, after many years in the fashion industry, got the idea for a lighthearted contest for ‘people of a certain weight’ and says the biggest obstacle was convincing the public it wasn’t meant to insult the oversized.

Most Italians, however, would rather undergo surgery than be obese – spending some $22 million USD yearly for surgery to shave off extra pounds. At around 15% of men and 21% of women, Italians are half as obese as U.S. residents.

Related resources:
The Mediterranean diet: getting back to healthy roots…

Italy by Numbers: Monumental Mistake

178 circa, combined films Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida
16 bit parts/tv shows Manuela Arcuri
2 Academy Awards, Sophia Loren
0 monuments: Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida
1 monument: Manuela Arcuri

Italians have short memories for native beauties: last week the town of Porto Cesareo (Lecce) erected a statue to curvy starlet of dubious talent Manuela Arcuri. This can’t go down well with the country’s best-known international bombshells, Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida both approaching monumental age (La Lollo turns 75 this week, Loren is 67), without so much as a plaque in their honor.

The town spent 3,000 euro to create a life-size stone statue of Manuela, better known for her nearly-naked calendars than for her acting abilities. Then again, those who commissioned the statues weren’t looking to commemorate her talent.

"It’s just a publicity find," said Umberto del Prete, president of tourist operators in Porto Cesareo who paid for the opera. "It simply attests to her beauty and that’s it."

Loren and La Lollo can console themselves.
Take our word for it — Arcuri is best when she’s standing still in photos…

“Enterprising” Son of Mafia Boss Arrested

Giuseppe Salvatore Riina, an entrepreneur who tried to get a “Mafia-free” certificate, was arrested for getting involved in the real family business.The 25-year-old Riina, son of infamous “boss of bosses” Tot? Riina, received an early morning wakeup call from Palermo police charging him with Mafia association.

Crimes were classics of the Cosa Nostra trade: extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking and rigging public-works contracts. Among the 21 arrested with Riina were several prominent Palermo businessmen.
Giuseppe (also called Salvo) and his sister Maria Concetta made news recently for advertising an agriculture machinery business on the Corleone city web site. Although the site was ordered shut down by court, the banner is still on the city’s home page. Giuseppe also appealed Italian courts for refusing to give him a “Mafia-free” business certificate. Giuseppe wanted certification that the business was clean from Mafia ties to dispel public suspicion. After a two-year investigation, authorities discovered that operations were, in fact, a front for the family enterprises.
Father Salvatore “Totò” Riina is currently trying to appeal multiple life sentences. He’s serving time for organizing the 1993 bombings of the Uffizi, which killed five and injured 29, as well as the car bombings that same year in Milan and Rome. Older brother Giuseppe has been in jail since 1997 and was condemed to life in 2001 for four murders committed in Corleone.

Related Resources:
Midnight in Sicily
An intoxicating blend of Italian art, crime, food, history and travel, “Midnight in Sicily” is a fascinating account of events leading to the trial of Giulio Andreotti, seven times prime minister of Italy, for the killing of a journalist and for his association with the Sicilian Mafia.