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Deja Vu

November 7, 2012

Don’t Cry for Me

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2012: The party of Silvio Berlusconi—the disgraced Italian politician whose time in power was plagued by reports of shady financial dealings and “bunga bunga” parties, at which the Prime Minister was reported to cavort with actresses and reality television starlets—has nominated an Argentine showgirl to run for Italian Parliament. Iliana Calabro, who has appeared in the television programs Sex Stories of Ordinary People and Dancing for a Dream, asserted her kinship with the Italian community of South America and her support for the policies of Berlusconi’s party:

I take part in all their parties, events, occasions. I attend all their evenings where I dance and sing,” Calabro said in a telephone interview with Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.

She described Mr. Berlusconi as a “great politician and an excellent businessman” and compared herself to Beppe Grillo, the comic turned rebel politician whose Five Star movement has swept Italy and which dominated regional elections in Sicily last week.

“You know why people have faith in artists like us? We are involved in politics, with no personal interests. Politics is not just about books, but feelings. Why can't you have another showgirl like Marta Carfagna, who even became a minister?”

1951: Eva “Evita” Perón, wife of controversial three-time Argentinian president Juan Perón, began her career as an actress and dancer but quickly turned to politics after her marriage. In 1951, she found herself nominated for her biggest role—Vice President of Argentina. The Chicago Tribune was one of countless American newspapers eagerly following the story:

Once an unknown showgirl clad in tights, Eva Perón is now the uncrowned queen of Argentina. In 1941, as a black-haired dancer, she toured the provinces with a vaudeville troupe. Now she is a peroxide blonde, but has never been accepted by Argentine society.

Peron tried to demur, but the stage was set, the scenery was in place, and she was giving the greatest performance of her life as an actress.

“If at the end I bow to the will of the people—” The 300,000 shouting Peronistas wouldn’t let her finish.

“All right”, she said. “I bow to the will of the people.”

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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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