You expect this guy in Giorgio Armani clothes, a gold watch about as thick as Saran Wrap, $100 sunglasses tinted some kind of rose they only tint them on the Via Veneto or wherever it is that Italian La Dolce Vita types pull their Lamborghinis up to buy their sunglasses . . .
Except that Signor Lamborghini -- the guy who makes the $150,000 sports car they drive to the sunglasses store, who makes the tractors and the wine he was touting in Washington yesterday -- driving a Peugeot diesel. And he's wearing a glen plaid sport coat with a Lions Club pin, and blue pants with a hole somebody mended. He's got his hair slicked back, he's this chunky old guy who doesn't speak English . . . he looks like if you put a stingy-brim hat on him he could be playing canasta in a clubhouse in Elizabeh, N.J.
The guy is sitting in a Washington hotel lobby and he looks so Italian, he looks Chinese, that wild paisano slant to his eyes. Not some kind of bony, dastic aristocratic type who comes out of his palazzo to dabble in sports cars and wine. Ferruccio Lamborghini has worked his whole life, since he was born a farmer's son in Ferrara. He's made millions, he can talk about his amici like Frank Sinatra and Henry Ford, Princess Grace and the late Shah. The glitterati.
But now he's back on the farm.
"He say," says his interpreter, "he say when a man gets old, when a man finish his time in his job, only two things to do: Sell ice cream or go to the farm."
Lamborghini shakes two fists at the floor, one in front of the other, and what he's saying, the interpreter says, is: "When I was young I worked the land with a hoe. Everything is born in the land. Except now they don't work work it with the hoes, they have the tractors."
He leans over and touches his listener's knee and looks at him, nodding with a look that says if two men want to talk and they're simpatico , the hell with interpreters, we can talk about the real stuff with without them, "la terra, la vita. . . intelligenza . . .
"I am 64 years old. I don't want to stay in industry. I go into the farm because is not heavy like industry. I make a little wine, piccolo , not a lot, only 400,000 bottles a year. I am retired, un pensionato , but I want to do something."
He can almost make you think he's like Marlon Brando at the end of "The Godfather," goofing around with the grandchildren out in the tomato patch. Then you see a photograph of the stainless steel vats at the vineyard where he has the automatic bottling equipment. And he's flying from city to city in America, promoting white, red and rose wines.
Some pensionato .
And maybe he drives the Peugeot diesel, maybe he even says it's because the petrol costs so much, but it's mostly because he's afraid the Red Brigade terrorists will recognize him in a Lamborghini and blow his knee-caps off.
"Ahh, communista," he says. "Burros. I am not burro, I could never be communist. You have to be poor to afford to be communist. There is story, true story about Berlinguer, you know who I mean, the capo dei communisti ? He stops for a hitchhiker in Napoli.He says, 'You got a job? How many hours you work? The hitchhiker says, yes, he works 10 hours a day. Berlinguer says, 'How many hours you think you work every day for Communists?' The boy says, 'I work 22 hours a day for Communists.' Berlinguer says, 'Why?' The boy says, 'I am gravedigger.' True story."
Ferruccio Lamborghini is the kind of success story that is the mythology of capitalism. His family sent him to Bologna to study industrial technology. He worked on airplanes during World War II before being taken prisoner by the British on Rhodes. In 1946, he went home and started turning war suplus vehicles into farm machines called "cariocas," which led to tractors, which led to cars, the incredible Lamborghinis he's sold to very big money all over the world, all his friends, 800 cars a year, at $150,000 apiece, "without the tax," he adds.
An American has bought the car business form him, now, and his son runs the oil burner, solar panel and hydraulics companies.
He's just a farmer, he says, a contadi-no , he says, a proprietario terriero .
He isn't even president of the Lions Club of Bologna anymore. He touches the pin in his lapel, and says his only two English words of the conversation: "Past president."
He goes to bed at 9 every night, always, sempre . When he was young there was la doice vita , But now, he says: "I am poor, because I am old. Three things in life never enough: money, experience and health. But now I have money and experience. At 64, I just want health. So I go to farm."
Just in case he needs to get away, though, or in case he gets tired of the Peugeot diesel, he keeps three Lamborghinis ready to roll at the farm.
He is asked if, in fact, he's got his health, his salute .
"Sta bene?" the enterpreter says to him.
"Sto bene," he says.
Then he wanders off into a crowd of wine importers, wholesalers, retailers, tasters, great palates and big wallets. He's just another old farmer making a little wine to pass the time.