Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mama Mia !.. trouble in the land of Berlusconia

Australia's Italian community-estimated at one million strong is up in arms over an article in the Australian Financial Review about Italians and their relationship with Silvio Berlusconi, who started life as a cruise ship crooner, amassed a media fortune and wound up as Prime Minister.

Ruler of Berlusconia
While the wacky Italian PM appears to have as many detractors as fans in his homeland and is the countries longest serving PM in a country where politics are usually quite fiery and governments come and go with amusing regularity, a visiting journalist found a different scenario when she visited to do a piece for the Fin Review.

The article that went largely unnoticed in the Australian Financial Review last November has gone ballistic with local Italians with the diplomatic community being drawn into the fight. 
 Italian born freelancer Silvia Greco visited Italy late last year and produced an article titled ''Via Dolorosa, Italia'' and found only apathy and docility about Berlusconis's affairs with prostitutes. his patronage towards females who come under his wandering eye and his disdain for the judiciary who recently re-buffed him in his efforts to place himself beyond prosecution for corruption.

Silvio wrote "''Undoubtedly Berlusconi used his television channels to bewilder the country, crushing opposing voices and creating a grotesquely vulgar society full of naked girls and arrogant politicians.''. With the article was an illustration of a map of Italy re-named Berlusconia with towns named 'Ponzi' and Necappi''

The Melbourne based La Fiammi, the largest outlet for local Italians has jumped into the fray and declared the article an insult to all Italians and is calling upon the Fin Review to issue an apology.

Locally born Italian politicians like Transport Minister Anthony Albanese are staying mum on this one but former politician and Australian ambassador in Rome Amanda Vanstone has been called into the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She has spoken of the excellent state of bilateral relations, expressed 'regret" for the article, and emphasised that the contents of the article in no way reflects the sentiments of the Australian government and people.
That hasn't cooled the passions of La Fiamma and it's sister paper Il Globo who have on-line petitions in English and Italian calling upon the Fin Review to run monthly articles extolling the virtues of Italy and for the newspaper to pay compensation.
Al-friend of the Griffith mafia

Perhaps the Fin Review should take it seriously. Looking back at noted Australian/Italians reveals people not to be messed with including one of the hero's of the failed 1864 Eureka Stockade attempted coup in Victoria Raffaello Carboni, to the town of Griffith where the Sicilian Mafia still seem to have a firm foothold despite the demise of the drug baron Robert Trimbole whilst on the run in Ireland and who was aided by the late colourful  Minister for Immigration Al Grassby.

Maria Venuti shows her secret weapons

Indeed the Melbourne gangland wars of the 1990's where around 30 mobsters were rubbed out-by each other- finds they were of 90% Italian background including the larger than life Mick Gatto who was found 'not guilty' of murder when he claimed self defence after shooting dead Andrew 'Benji' Venamin in 2004. At Mondays' 60th birthday party for British boxer Joe Bugner, Gatto said he was was a regular reader of the Fin Review but he hadn't seen that particular article.

tSS put a call through to a La Fiamma representative who says thousand upon thousands have signed the on-line petitions and says they will not rest until the Fairfax newspaper apologises.

 There is much muttering amongst the clinking of frappacino cups of Melbourne's little Lygon Street and the cafe strip of Kings Cross's Victoria Street where petitions are circulating and being signed at a great rate and where tSS was first alerted to the offending article.
Word is, if all else fails, a secret weapon will be unleashed upon the Fin's office-a visit from buxom singer Maria Venuti.

Read it here first !

As every newspaper goes into overdrive preparing their expected features on the jailed drug pusher Richard Buttrose, the Social Shuttle has been contacted by 2 crime writers to check on our tale that Buttrose's favourite haunt was also a regular drinking spot for some British royals.

Buttrose was sentenced to 12 years today with a maximum of 16. He would have got life if he hadn't been assisting police with enquiries including deciphering his little black book of society customers who queued up for their cocaine supplies. Buttrose would arrange to meet customers at the Lord Dudley pub in Woollahra and then do the deal across the road in the car park of the Paddington bowling club where cops set up a sting in late 2009.

The Lord Dudley was indeed the favourite drinking bar for Prince Harry when he spent a few weeks in town and also Zara and Peter Phillips. They all stay with sports promotor James Erskine, a long time friend of Princess Margaret. Not one publication-apart from tSS has ever twigged to the fact. The Lord Dudley is also the favourite gathering spot of the more sensible paparazzi when not on the chase and where everything is "off the record" so to speak. One legendary night several, including tSS joined Harry in a lengthy drinking session. Next month also sees the second anniversary get-together there to remember the much liked Welsh born snapper Dave Morgan who died in his sleep 2 years ago.