Piazza del Popolo seemed a bit lonely that night. The sun was just beginning to dim its amber rays. There were tourists sprinkled around the piazza but the bulk was congregated in front of Canova, as usual, waiting for a taxi to take them back to their hotels. I glanced at the address again and continued to cross the piazza. There was nothing to indicate that the Prime Minister of Italy would be visiting that location that very night. .There was no security screening, not even someone to ensure that I was who I claimed to be. I found the entrance and was greeted by candles and rose petals leading up the stairs to the main entrance of the apartment, which overlooked the famous piazza.
The apartment was bustling with decorators, caterers, technicians, sound engineers, musicians and other random people who were all trying to get everything ready for the birthday party. The theme for the event was Tango and although my band would play Jazz, we had added some songs to fit the theme.
“Excuse me, where is the ladies room?”, I asked the tall handsome guy who seemed to be in charge.
“It’s being decorated at the moment, so you can use this one here.”, he said, leading me to the private bathroom in the master suite.
There were clothes on the bed and the closet doors were open, revealing an array of dresses and men’s suits. “Armani Code!”, I thought to myself as I noticed the sleek dark bottle in the bathroom. “I love that scent.”, I felt as I remembered its perfume on my boyfriend’s neck. I noticed there were no women’s toiletries, which made me wonder if the rumor was true. No one was permitted to say whose apartment it was, but we all had our suspicions. The only thing I could confirm was that a woman probably did not live there, but was perhaps staying over.
I had arrived dressed very casually, with no makeup and my hair completely flat. I exited that bathroom with long black lashes, ruby-glossed lips, blond bedroom hair, an elegant black dress and the highest heels anyone could ever walk in. I glided through the hallway, feeling like Moses, watching the waiters part as if they were the Red Sea.
Like magic, everyone took their places. There were a pair of models at the entrance, prepared to pin or tie a red rose on the guests. We began to play as the door revealed the first trickle of people. Each guest entered, received a rose on their wrist or lapel, then proceeded to the terrace. We had barely been noticed. We wondered if at any moment he would walk in. Everyone was curious to see the most controversial prime minister Italy has ever had. We knew he would be flying in from Naples, where he had magically made the garbage disappear. The event had only just begun when he walked in.
“Hi, I am your colleague.”, he said, extending his hand as he shook everyone’s hand in my band. He had not even noticed the models who awaited with a rose. Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s Prime Minister, had called himself our colleague. Apparently, his first job had been as a singer on a cruise ship. Some Italians think that he should have stayed there.
I watched as he danced with Darina Pavlova, the birthday girl, who was a beautiful Bulgarian woman and a multi-millionairess. I wondered what he found most attractive, her dazzling smile, her perfect curves or her money. Regardless, they were lovely to watch. It was sweet how they gazed into each other’s eyes as they danced to my bolero.
When dinner had ended, Berlusconi’s piano bar duo – who seem to follow him everywhere, sometimes even on his government plane – began to play some Italian classics from the 70s and 80s. It was enthralling to see a head-of-state belt it out. “Not bad at all.”, I thought.
My musicians and I decided to take a break outside. I was surprised at the lack of security. There were a couple of thug-like bodyguards, but nothing more. We returned to see the performance of Tango dancers, then I sang Besame Mucho and Cheek to Cheek, which most of the guests sang along to. It is wonderful to play a mostly American crowd, since they understand what I sing about. Darina had her permanent residence in the States, so her guests were mostly American. The evening was almost over when Berlusconi took his leave. He was walking out with his lady when he suddenly paused and gave me a thumbs up. “Sei molto brava.”, he whispered.
Charming is the perfect adjective for Silvio Berlusconi. It is the first thing I noticed about him when I saw him on television upon arriving in Rome. It is exactly what he exuded from every pore from the start of the evening till the end. I think it is his saving grace and the reason he is voted for. He is a perfect specimen to watch. I find it interesting to learn from those who succeed, in order to learn what to do, and what not to do.
His charm may sometimes border on smarmy and perhaps other times it crosses over into dangerous territory. I do not understand Italian politics nor do I really wish to. What I do think I understand is that people are similar no matter where they are from. Few people are ever truly informed. Some people think they are. The rest are sheep and just vote for the prettiest face or the most attractive personality; Berlusconi and Bush are the results.
That night, I felt his charm like the toothache I get from eating stracciatella ice-cream. His salesman grin; his smiling eyes – yes, the kind that Tyra Banks calls a smize; his perfect hair plugs and dyed black hair are all combined with his expert social skills and make you want to be his friend. Well, I did not fall for it, but I admire his ability. I thought he was in love with the glamorous lady. They made such a darling couple, but only a few months later he was knee deep in a sex scandal. I suppose they must be attracted to his charm.