Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is conducting a media blitz. He is appearing on several TV shows every day (mainly on TV channels he owns), and on radio programs. It is an incessant bombardment of the Italian public as he tries to round-up support for February’s national elections. Last night he appeared on a TV show with one of Italy’s toughest journalists, Lilli Gruber. She hammered him on a wide variety of topics, among them his recent divorce settlement. Berlusconi revealed to her that he is not paying his wife 100,000 euros a day as has been widely reported, but 200,000 euros a day. He blamed this on the three women judges who he said were “feminist and communist.” As I have written in earlier posts, this man is a Jack-in-the-Box who keeps popping up in Italian politics and continues to have a fair amount of influence. See blog post Silvio Berlusconi: Italy’s Jack-in-the-Box. Berlusconi left in disgrace in November 2011 and the serious and capable Mario Monti was chosen to lead a technical government. Now, Berlusconi is back and using everything at his disposal, from his deep pockets to his media empire, to promote his latest political campaign.
His attitudes towards women have always left me perplexed, from his promotion of show-girls in politics to his Bunga Bunga parties. See Blog Posts Berlusconi’s Babes and Walk on Cadavers and Sell Your Mother
In fact, next Monday, January 14th, the infamous Karima el-Mahroug, known as Ruby Rubacuori, or Ruby Heart-Stealer, is supposed to take the stand in Berlusconi’s on-going prostitution trial in Milan.
Prosecutors allege Ruby was a minor when she was paid to attend one of Berlusconi’s bunga bunga parties and have sex with him.
First I didn’t understand how women in Italy could vote for a man who made, Mara Carfagna, a former showgirl of topless calendar fame his Minister of Equal Opportunity.
Then I wondered how women in Italy could vote for a man who filled his party-lists with vapid young women, and finally I have thought that no woman in Italy would vote for a man who allegedly paid young women to participate in bunga-bunga parties at his villa while he was Prime Minister. Yet I am wrong. Today polls done for Italy’s SKY TG24 show Berlusconi’s party at 24.6-percent of the vote, well ahead of the center with Mario Monti at 15.1-percent, and the Democratic Party, lead by Pierluigi Bersani, holding a strong lead at 39.6-percent. So why would women be supporting Berlusconi? I guess because in most democracies voters choose the candidate who they think will help them the most economically. Italians voters have been feeling the pinch of Prime Minister Mario Monti’s austerity measures and Berlusconi’s promises sound pretty good.
Meanwhile, to make himself appear more stable to the Italian public, Berlusconi has announced he has a new girlfriend, 27-year-old Francesca Pascale, a mere 49 years his junior. During the holiday the official Christmas photos of Pascale at Berlusconi’s Villa were released.
Francesca Pascale also began her career as a show-girl dancing in a bikini on a sleazy TV show called Telecafonale. She ended up entering politics as a Naples Provincial Councilor, and started a women’s group for Berlusconi called “Silvio, We Miss You.”
In all this, perhaps Berlusconi’s second ex-wife, Veronica Lario, is getting the best deal. Italy’s mainstream daily Corriere Della Sera reported that on Christmas Day, the papers for Silvio Berlusconi’s and Veronica Lario, were filed. The settlement gave the ex Mrs Berlusconi the tidy sum of 100,000 euros (138,828 dollars) a day. That comes to 3 million euro (4 million dollars) per month, and 36 million euro ( 47,101,993 million dollars) per year.
When the two met in 1990, Veronica Lario was a small-time actress, Silvio, smitten while watching her on stage, showed up in her dressing room to court her. They married and had three children together and now have numerous grandchildren.
There is no doubt Veronica Lario deserves the generous sum. When her husband began serving as Italy’s Prime Minister she remained with her children at the Villa Macherio, their home in northern Italy, instead of moving with him to Rome. She stayed out of the public eye. I remember one rare occasion she appeared before photographers at the Villa Madama in Rome when President George W. Bush and his wife Laura were visiting. I watched her carefully as the two couples posed for the press. She was dressed elegantly with what looked like an extremely valuable necklace with large blue sapphires setting off her big blue eyes. In sharp contrast to her smiling, joking husband, she seemed stiff and uncomfortable.
Although she kept her distance from the public eye, she was apparently keeping an eye on her husband as he flirted and philandered letting himself be photographed with starlets and showgirls. Finally in 2007 she wrote a later to the mainstream daily “La Repubblica” saying that Berlusconi had wounded her “dignity as a woman.” A few years later in 2009 Lario would turn to the press once again to air her complaints. This time in a letter to the Italian news agency ANSA, she criticized her husband for attending the birthday party of an 18-year-old girl in Naples, and for proposing a list of candidates for the European Parliamentary elections that was filled with starlets she defined as “indecent trash.”
Not long after her second media appearance, she filed for a divorce. In Italy one can divorce only three years after a court has declared an official separation.
So, Veronica has gotten a good deal. Will the rest of Italy?
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.