Not to be outdone when it comes to relevance and quality, Italian state television has its own version of Celebrity Come Dancing. It’s called Ballando con le Stelle (Dancing with the Stars) and it has the same cavalier approach to stardom as CCD does to celebrity. Presumably on the principle that no one with a real reputation to lose would appear on the show (pace John Sergeant), it’s redefined the word star to cover ‘ex-spouse of star’, ‘glamour model’, and so on. This year, though, it’s gone one better (in barrel-scraping terms). It’s invited Emanuele Filiberto Savoia to shake a leg on prime-time telly.
EFS, for those of you who don’t know, is the grandson of the last king of Italy, forced to skedaddle after palling up to Mussolini. His father, Vittorio Emanuele, a slack-faced halfwit with the brains and moral equipment of an amoeba, managed to use his ‘business’ contacts under the last Berlusconi government to have the whole gang re-admitted to the country after decades of gilded exile in Geneva, Paris, Sardinia (yes, Sardinia is in Italy, but money makes borders permeable).
Since their return, Daddy Savoia has been in trouble with the law for various ‘business’ dealings involving gambling, sex slavery and prostitution, and, along with his son and wife, a botoxed biscuit heiress who makes Ivana Trump look classy, has sued the Italian government for moral damages. (More about this here.) EF’s first bid for stardom (in the televisual sense) came when he endorsed a pickle manufacturer. Along with many others, I wrote to the company to suggest that this wasn’t a wise choice and received, within seconds, a long, carefully-worded email in which the pickle makers hedged their bets, defended their decision, apologised, etc. Two days later, the ad disappeared from Italian TV screens and EF’s contract was rescinded.
Since then he’s entered politics, running for a party whose name I forget and registering the polling equivalent of nul points. His political sympathies remain on the market, for anyone who might regard them as a worthwhile investment. He was last in the news just over a year ago when he refused to pay a speeding fine. He refused to pay for two reasons. The first was that he wasn’t driving the car at the time. The second was that the road signs weren’t very clear. This is known in legal circles as the Billy Bunter defence. (As in: I never ate the cake. And, anyway, it was horrible.)
Ballando con le Stelle starts on Saturday. Waltz on, Pickles.