The Dame, The Two Gentlemen & A CatFriday, July 07, 2006
In September 1990 when Hungarian-born Illona Staller came to Vancouver to strip at the Marble Arch, I knew I had to take her photograph. She was better known as Cicciolina (cuddly in Italian and at 5 foot 7 inches she was). She had risen in Italian politics from pornodiva, to pornocandidata to pornodeputata. I went to Charles Campbell, editor of the Georgia Straight, and pitched the story. Amazingly he was interested. There was more humour in our publications in those years. Or at least, Charles didn't take his job as seriously as editors do now. I asked Tony Ricci, the owner of the Arch, if he could arrange for an interview. I remember exactly what he told me, "For you, Alex, anything. You will interview her first and I will make the Province and the Vancouver Sun reporters and photographers wait for you to finish. You willinterview her in our best room, the one that has the butterfly bed cover." And so it was. The day of the interview I was shown into room 315 while the Sun and Province writers and photographers waited outside. My piece ran with this picture.
What I remember fondly is our intimate dinner at Umberto's. Cicciolina invited me. The folks at Umberto's refused to accept her money. Everybody stared at us. Cicciolina was dressed like Queen Guinevere. Our waiter may have suspected that while Cicciolina was an expert at baring her breasts in public, she was no wine expert. So when he poured the wine and Cicciolina immediately said, "Ordinario," he returned with the good stuff. I had pasta and Cicciolina ordered the rabbit. Umberto came to us and asked us if we had liked our meal. We looked at each other and came up with the same idea. We put our hands by our ears, with the index fingers up, and we meowed in unison.