Mr. Simon Constable, recently attended the Premio Rodolfo Valentino Italian Excellence Awards, Castellaneta, Italy. He has graciously reported on attending the awards ceremony as well as supply photos of this prestigious event for this blog. I would like to personally thank him on his generosity in sharing his observations for this blogs readers.
The rain that fell on my first full day in Castellaneta was, according to the managers of my accommodation, unusual for the time of year — and I believed them. This was Italy, in early May, what was going on? Why was it so wet? Being British I was, of course, unfazed; besides, it would take more than a gentle pitter-patter to prevent me investigating Rudy’s birthplace. With my main purpose on the 4th – attending the Premio Rudolfo Valentino Italian Excellence Awards – hours away, I aimed (under an umbrella, and with my travel companion) for Valentino’s childhood home. Unsurprisingly, after viewing it from all possible angles, I was overcome with emotion. Here was where the story began. Where he was born, took initial steps, and spent those early formative years. And there was I, was more than a century later, gazing at it, damp but happy. After a walk to the top of Via Roma, snapping and filming as I went; a cappuccino at Bar Valentino; a tasty snack elsewhere; and a wander ‘round the oldest part of town, it was time for the ceremony: at Teatro Valentino, at 7:30 p.m. I was expectant.
By now traffic flow had been restricted with barricades, the local law and medics were in attendance, and a large crowd of spectators had gathered. The air truly buzzed with anticipation. As I understand it, the purpose of the awards is to, in Rudy’s name, recognize and celebrate Italian excellence. Meaning that, annually, the creativity of Valentino’s countrymen will be showcased and rewarded in Castellaneta. I have to say that it is an inspired idea and, obviously, LONG overdue. As we all know, long before The Oscars, Rudolph Valentino was a man who very much felt that achievement in his field should be rewarded. And he was obviously extremely proud of his national heritage and Italian culture in general. A little early (7:15 p.m.), we made our way to the barrier, and I explained that we were on the list, and that our tickets were waiting inside. The theatre that bears his name is a charming one. Like Rudy himself, it isn’t big, but it packs-a-punch. The interior is, like him, elegant. It embodies him somehow — if that’s possible. After collecting our tickets I paused to photograph the charming usherettes, and then we headed up the left-hand stairs to the gallery.
How early we were was apparent once we were upstairs, as there were perhaps only 50 or so people inside, including technicians. Italians being Italian things are more relaxed and leisurely. So, with little else to do, we stood at the gallery rail, chatting (for about an hour) as the venue filled-up. An enjoyable sixty minutes of people watching.
At around 8:30 p.m., an announcement, by its tone, suggested that the start of the proceedings was imminent and so we took our seats. (It was at this late point that Gabriel Garko appeared, something the Ladies present found pleasing.) Sure enough, at about 8:45 p.m. the evening commenced, with a large image of Rudy slowly appearing square by square, on the screen, at the back of the stage, and a voice-over in Italian telling his story. This was then followed by a wonderful dance routine, by an extremely talented troupe, to a song that seemed to be titled: “Oh, Oh, Rudy,” but actually, after an online check, appears to have been “Hello, Rudy” from “Ciao, Rudy” (1966). The presenter, Gabriella Carlucci, then walked on stage to welcome us all properly and to host the evening. (Dressed dramatically in black lace she didn’t drop-the-ball once for the next four hours.) What followed was a series of early awards to excellent Italians punctuated by Jazz music and dancing. First-up was Elisabetta Bedori, a local fashion designer, who received a beautiful Newcomer award and a bouquet. Then, Michele Gaudiomonte, (another designer) joined Gabriella, and he was followed in-turn by Michele Mirabella, famous Actor and Presenter, for the first Rudolph Valentino Award of the night. (He spoke for some time and got many laughs.)
At around this time the Great Grand niece of Rudy joined Gabriella Carlucci, which was a lovely surprise and very appropriate. She said something in Italian and apologized for not being able to speak the language. She then spoke about her Great Uncle and how she felt it was a great thing that the awards were being held in Castellaneta. His legacy, she said, was the realism with which he acted. An award for Beppe Fiorello followed. He sang a little of “Volare” but I never heard him mention Rudy or Rudolph Valentino, strangely; which was a shame. Then we had a rendition / version of “Cabaret,” from the musical, by a singer and live band. On reflection I suppose it was appropriate, as Valentino DID go to Germany at about that time: though Chris. Isherwood was more late Twenties / early Thirties, actually. If my memory serves me correctly we then had a wonderful Tango dance by Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes. And I mean WONDERFUL — especially considering that Montes was clearly pregnant. They strolled-on, and, until they strolled-off again, they were totally transfixing.
The award to Pippo Baudo, the television personality, was of great interest because he talked not just about Valentino, but also of Marcello Mastroianni, and introduced a rare TV clip of his portrayal of Valentino in “Ciao, Rudy.” I have to say, this was one of the highlights of the event for me as I had never seen it, and Mastroianni, dressed and dancing as Julio, was very spectacular and convincing. It was a fantastic and thrilling moment.
MORE awards followed (Maison Gattinoni, Massimo Ghini, Maria Pia Ammirati), there was more Jazz, more talking, then more dancing and yet more awards. Paolo Maria Scalondro spoke. And then it was, finally, at a very late point, time for Gabriel Garko to walk under the lights. Charismatic, tall, handsome – if slightly tired looking – and rather rock-and-roll with his eye make-up, he spoke at length, and sent the females – and some males, too, I’m certain – wild.
And then, so suddenly, it was all over. Having to rush, as I did (due to an early start on Monday), we left after Mr. Garko received HIS statuette; ahead of the crush and into the night air, and to our waiting car. What a day. What an experience. I was privileged indeed to see Rudolph Valentino given the respect he is due and in his hometown of Castellaneta. The tributes had fallen upon him like the many raindrops earlier, they wetted and soaked him, gave him life again and left his image glistening, shining and sparkling. He dries-out now until the next time, when he is showered and praised for his achievements once more. I hope, again, to be there — even if I have to get drenched!
Simon Constable (May, 2014)