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:: Saturday, 26 July 2003 ::

Francesco Paolo "Gino" Santomaggio

He loved art and artists, poets, painters, singers, performers, anyone with an outgoing personality and an artistic way of looking at the world. He didn't like the human handbrakes. Not at all.

He loved opera, Verdi in particular, but Puccini, Rossini, Leoncavallo, Mascagni, Donizetti, Bellini, even crusty old Mercadante. Even Schubert and Chopin and Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. But not Wagner. Never Wagner. Too long, too tedious. Just all a bit too German.

He loved fine food, and lots of it, and for years he smoked half corona cigars and his favorite drink was liquer muscat, of all things.

Rigatoni was his favorite pasta. How many of us can actually declare an allegiance, eh?

He just adored fine cars but his favorite was his own Alfa Romeo 1972 GTV 2000 Bertone number plate SS880, mustard coloured with a black leather interior, wooden wheel, unbelievably temperamental synchro, propensity to overheat in traffic, and super special wheels.

And he loved thoroughbred horses and horse racing - sport of kings. Specially the crumbed sausages at Flemington, and the winners circle when Moussorgski was in it, fabulous big grey 1500 metre specialist.

He taught me to play chess.

And he made me wake up in the wee small hours after the restaurant closed, when I was very young, to watch Guiglielmo Olden in "Stalag 17", and Ricardo Vidmarco in "Pick up on South Street", and Marlone Brandone in "On the Waterfront" and Gregorio Pecco in "Moby Dick". He told me everyone in Hollywood was Italian, and they just had to change their names for their careers, and I believed him. Cos when he said those names, it just sounded right. Still does. Burte Lancasta in "The Rainmaker".

I saw all three Godfather pics with Gino at the drive-in, cinema and cinema. He made me watch "Shane" and "The Tree of Wooden Clogs" and "Il Malato Imaginario" and so many films. And when I cried and cried he told me, "Sette Belezze, it's just a moofie. You have to imagine the camera, and all the people standing around." Good advice for whenever you're feeling a bit distraught about a film.

He was the first person, I think, ever to 'boo' at the Opera in Melbourne. Mortifying when it happened. I was there. But I am very proud of him for that now. Because, as he explained then about the lousy performers "How will they ever get better if they don't even know that they are lousy?"

Gino liked Henry Bucks menswear for his sartorial splendour, as he put it, and he liked Bally shoes, and Farrah jeans. He had fancy cufflinks, and him and Ma, when they were not yet parted, liked buying antique furniture at auction. Weirdo English oak antiques, as a preference.

He had the first FIAT tractor in Oz, bright orange, and I learned to drive on it. And the first and maybe only Enciclopedia Italiana in Oz too.

He was a philandering Casanova of the old Italian school and I don't think he regretted it for one second. Swine.

He is my father. And I don't have him to talk to on the phone any more. Or to clink a glass of wine with him any more. Cos I lost him last week. And it's just awful.

But he had so many buddies, so many. So I have them to reminisce with. And I have so many good memories too. And I have the mirror.

He was named after Francesco Paolo Tosti, great Italian songwriter, and he loved Gabriele D'Annunzio, great Italian poet, and philanderer as it happens, both gentlemen from Abruzzo, where Gino was from.

And to quote from Consolazione, a song cycle by Tosti, words by D'Annunzio:
Bisogna che tu sia forte; bisogna
che tu non pensi a le cattive cose...
Se noi andiamo verso quelle rose,
io parlo piano, l'anima tua sogna.
Sogna, sogna, mia cara anima! Tutto,
tutto sarà come al tempo lontano.
Io metter? ne la tua pura mano
tutto il mio cuore. Nulla è ancor distrutto.
...Sogna, ché il tempo di sognare è giunto.

Now is the time to dream. To be strong and not to think of bad times, but let Gino speak softly in spirit and keep us all feeling good.

Well, maybe not softly.

It wasn't his style at all.

:: WB 4:05 am [link+] ::

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