Discover more from Crazy Ass Moments in Italian Politics
VIP: Very Improbable Politicians - part 1
Actors, singers and porn stars who have attempted a political career in Italy
VIPs. Often beloved showbiz personalities, sometimes people who end up in the newspapers and no one knows why, occasionally they re-emerge from the past and people ask "are they still here?".
But one thing is certain: when they decide to throw themselves into politics, things often end up between bad and grotesque. A sign that probably they should just stick to their job.
In the Italian context, the idea of feeding VIPs to the voters started in the 1980s, mainly in the ranks of Bettino Craxi's Italian Socialist Party, which for this drew the very famous criticism of his former Finance Minister Rino Formica: that of having turned his party 'into a court of dwarfs and ballerinas', an expression that later became proverbial.
Whether they ran for office because they believed in it, to draw attention to a party they liked, or because they were cordially forced to by the famous politician of the day, let us begin our carousel of famous people who at some point in their careers have lent themselves to politics. With mixed (and not always brilliant) results.
(b. 1927 - Actress - not elected)
The famous Hollywood actress has attempted a political career twice in her life, without success.
In 1999, she ran as a candidate with Romano Prodi's Democrats list for the European elections, and although she won as many as 10,000 preferences, she was not elected.
She tried again in 2022, at the venerable age of 95, for the far-left coalition Sovereign and Popular Italy, whose leader, Antonio Ingroia, is also her lawyer.
She was, in all likelihood, the oldest candidate in Italian history - to put things in perspective, she was born in July 1927, three months before the release of "The Jazz Singer", the first sound picture in history.
Once again, the actress was not elected, since the coalition failed to pass the electoral threshold. Better luck in the 2027 elections, maybe? Mhh.
However, Gina Lollobrigida can console herself with the fact that there are two of her relatives in the current Italian government: Francesco Lollobrigida, minister of agriculture and her great-grandson - a descendant of one of her brothers - and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who is herself related to Francesco Lollobrigida, since he is the husband of her sister Arianna.
(b. 1951 - Porn actress - elected)
And still on the subject of actresses, how about a pornographic actress?
Porn star Ilona Staller, AKA “Cicciolina”, joined the Radical Party in 1985, and was officially a candidate in the elections two years later. Her electoral campaign - peppered with insults from her detractors, bare breasts, and tirades from feminists who accused her of using her body to advance her career - focused on promoting sex education in schools and information campaigns on the dangers of AIDS.
In this period film, the leader of the Radical Party, Marco Pannella, can be seen presenting his hot and rather discussed candidate.
However things turned out, Cicciolina took an impressive 20,000 preferences, largely determined by the protest vote, and was officially elected.
She remained a Member of Parliament from 1987 to 1992, and among her bills are those on the right to sex for detainees, the establishment of 'love parks' (public car parks where couples could go to have sex in cars), teaching sex in schools, ecological taxes on cars, and banning fur coats.
She reminds: “I worked hard, mine was not a ‘bunga bunga’ of a day, but a reasoned and intelligent campaign. And exhausting too. We went in every square, me, Moana and Ramba, I lost many kilos from fatigue”.
And regarding the accusations of being an absentee, she said: “I used to leave every morning in my Peugeot 205, I didn't have a driver, I passed an hour and a half stuck in traffic, often returning at midnight”.
Afterwards, Cicciolina tried other political adventures, including the creation of a party with her colleague Moana Pozzi, which we will discuss later. Other than that, she ran for the Hungarian parliament, as mayor of Monza and as city councillor in Rome - but all without success.
(b. 1932, d. 2017 - Actor - not elected)
(oh boy, I can’t wait to get roasted for inserting Paolo Villaggio in this list)
If it were a film, it could be called 'Fantozzi goes into politics', yet the actor Paolo Villaggio, in his life off the set, was a serious person of undoubted intelligence. In 1987, he decided to run for the small far-left party Proletarian Democracy.
His goal was not to get elected, but to use his fame to bring votes to a party he had taken in sympathy. Here you can view his television monologue in which he explains the reasons for his candidacy.
How did it end? In a rather 'Fantozzi-style' way: he lost the election by only five votes to the most voted candidate. After this experience he never ran again. Pity, he could have been a good politician.
Many years later, Villaggio would recount: “I ran to do a favour for a friend of mine, lawyer Francesco Tibì, who later committed suicide because of a love affair gone wrong. I campaigned, naturally at my own expense, even in constituencies where I was not a candidate: they sent me everywhere. In Lazio I won by a wide margin, I was the most voted. But then, instead of favouring Loredana De Petris, to whom I had informally promised my seat, Franco Russo was elected. When Tibì heard how things had gone he was very pissed off.”
(b. 1929, d. 2016 - Actor - not elected)
"I have done everything in life except being a jockey, a classical dancer and a politician. For obvious reasons I had to exclude the first two things."
There is not a person in Italy who has not seen a film by the duo Bud Spencer and Terence Hill - and those who say otherwise are lying.
Very few, however, remember that the “good giant” Bud Spencer, born Carlo Pedersoli, among the many things he did, tried his hand at politics. Something he would certainly have done better to avoid.
Long story short, in 2005 Bud Spencer ran as a regional councillor for Forza Italia to support the election of Francesco Storace as president of the Lazio region. He took over 4000 preferences, but was not elected. End of his political career - his daughter then tried, but it went badly for her too.
Regarding Silvio Berlusconi, Bud Spencer said: “I agree with everything Berlusconi has done, I have known him for a long time, I have esteemed him since before he was in politics. And when you esteem the man before, and then you see him in politics, you accept and love him”.
When he died in 2016, his candidacy with Forza Italia and his right-wing sympathies prompted several
people assholes to insult him on social media.
Yes, I said assholes. Not gonna apologize. Sue me, I don't care.
(b. 1945 - Actor - not elected)
Massimo “Little Onion” Boldi is definitely not the first person you can associate with politics - he’s probably best known for acting performances like this one, this one, and this one - yet he had a very brief political experience in the Italian Socialist Party, of which no trace remains.
Once again, long story short: he ran and did not win.
As he recounts: "I ran as a candidate in the Italian Socialist Party in 1992. How did it go? Very badly. Bettino Craxi called me, we were friends as I am still friends with his sons Stefania and Bobo. I thought it was a joke, but how can you say no? I told him I was not capable, but he said 'don't worry, do you think that the others are capable?'. I was the first of the unelected in the Varese-Como-Sondrio constituency."
(b. 1956 - TV presenter - elected)
Famous Italian TV host Gerry Scotti is remembered for many things - his likability, the thousands of programs he hosted, his disastrous fall during the program Striscia La Notizia - but certainly not for his parliamentary career.
A career that, it should be emphasized, he himself wanted to make people forget at all costs.
We are still in the 1980s, still in the ranks of the then hegemonic Italian Socialist Party. Scotti, who was already famous as a radio and TV presenter at the time, was candidated: “Bobo Craxi [Bettino Craxi's son] had asked me to take care of youth issues”. He received 9286 preferences. First of the unelected by number of votes, he was elected anyway, apparently to replace someone Craxi did not like.
He remained a Member of Parliament from 1987 to 1992, and he has an extremely negative memory of his experience. As he recalls:
“It was a country adrift and there was so much impunity. Many, in certain circles, thought they were above the law. I as an outsider was immediately sidelined. When I passed they would turn around and laugh at me, they would stop talking. I thought I could do something good, debate, arrange. I wanted the chairmanship of the Juvenile Affairs Commission, they had promised it to me. I never got it. They wouldn't let me do anything, and when I tried to resign they wouldn't accept it”.
Scotti was mainly noted for his absences (at 7 p.m., every day, he directed a programme on Canale 5), but despite everything he presented 33 bills, one of which was to eliminate plastic wrappings from food and newspapers.
At the end of this experience Scotti, after reaching the age of 65, started to receive a life annuity of €1400. In 2014, he asked then PM Matteo Renzi if he could renounce it, but as it was not provided for by law, he could not, so he announced that he would donate it to charity.
(b. 1951 - Radio presenter - not elected)
In recent years, radio presenter Red Ronnie has become a virtuosist of conspiracy theories.
Vaccines causing autism? Check.
Aliens watching the conflict between Russia and Ukraine? Check.
Gas station attendants who want to steal his personal data? Yep, as if anyone gives a shit.
Beyond this, he ran in 1992 as an independent for the Italian Socialist Party (of course!), still led by Bettino Craxi and about to be swept up in the Tangentopoli scandal.
He collected 2,600 preferences but, apparently, all votes marked 'Red Ronnie' were invalidated, and only those bearing his real name, Gabriele Ansaloni, were considered to be valid. He was advised to appeal to the court, but he didn’t. Well, too bad. Or maybe not.