31 Oct 1976 – In His Hometown Rudolph Valentino Still Is A Legend

Rudolph .Valentino dressed as an Argentine Gaucho cuts in on a couple on the danced floor, knocks the man down and sweeps the girl into his arms for a slow tango followed by a kiss. Later, as a sheik he wraps his arms around the woman he enslaved and carries her off to his tent in the desert. Only a few here still recall the scenes, but no matter Valentino was the most famous son of  this town of 16,000 in southern Italy. Recently the locals got together in a movie  theater to mark the anniversary of his death of 31 to see him again in “The Sheik” and “Blood and Sand” and to defend him against suggestions that the great lover was not really a great lover. The mayor, Gabriel Semeraro, announced a program of grants for students who want to help clear up any doubts about Valentino. He made it clear that people in Castellaneta were not too happy with some of the things being said about the local boy who made so good. “Some writers and others, are again casting aspersions and are trying  to denigrate him by questioning his virility” said Michele Gravina, a city official”. “They won’t succeed. If people are still talking about Valentino 50 years after his death there has to be something to the myth”. It is difficult not to talk about Valentino here, even if his name is not a household word among the young. There is a ceramic statue of him, dressed as a sheik, that sits along the promenade; the Valentino Bar; the plaque on the house on Via Roma, where he was born; the Valentino laundry; the Rudy Bar; and the Valentino movie theater now showing an adults-only epic called “The Niece of the Priest”. Moreover, there is the couch in the apartment of Rita Maidarizzi. She is 72 and remembers when young Rudolph Guglielmi as he was known then, used to visit her family in the second floor apartment on Via Ospedale where she still lives. And she remembers a day in 1925, when he returned for a brief visit to sip some coffee, eat some biscuits, and talk about his success in the 12 years since he immigrated. “He used to drink out of these cups”, she said as she poured coffee for visitors. “He used to sleep in that bed over there, because he always had trouble with his father and liked to come over here. And he often sat on that couch. “When he died 50 years ago, women came from all over to sit on that couch and weep. Sometimes they went on like idiots”. Miss Maidarizzi, who keeps a file of newspaper clippings on Valentino said the number of tourists have declined over the years. Few come now and ask permission to go through her house. Mr. and Mrs. Vito Staffieri, who lived in the home in which Valentino was born, also are untroubled by visitors, despite the plaque outside. “We bought the house 15 years ago,” said Staffieri a farm worker. “An American knocked on the door a couple of years ago and asked to see Valentino’s bedroom. We let him in”.

 

 

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