Benitto Mussolini was hanged in Piazzale Loreto after he was executed. The location was incorrect in a Style story yesterday. (Published 4/30/92)
ROME -- Mobile phone in one hand, a bouquet of flowers in the other, newly elected Italian parliament member Alessandra Mussolini made her way across the packed floor of the elegantly somber Italian Chamber of Deputies last week dressed in a salmon silk blouse, pale beige jacket and miniskirt.
After raising a fuss with a fellow member who was sitting in a chair she felt was rightly hers -- the one her grandfather, Benito Mussolini, occupied for a year before he was elected dictator of fascist Italy -- Mussolini resigned herself to a back bench and promptly called her mother on her phone.
So began the first day of the political career of the Honorable Deputy of the Chamber Alessandra Mussolini, just a few days shy of the 47th anniversary of the death of her grandfather, who was shot by Italian partisans and strung up by his toes in Milan's Piazza del Duomo on April 28, 1945.
Mussolini, a 29-year-old ex-starlet, represents the Italian Socialist Movement (MSI) party, which contains the remnants of the fascist legacy begun by "Il Duce" five decades ago.
She doesn't like to talk about her grandfather, but she's faithful to his memory. Upon winning the election on April 6, Mussolini told reporters the first thing she was going to do was to place flowers on his grave "and say a prayer for him, thank him and ask him to protect me."
Within just a few months, Mussolini has become the star she has sought to be for years. A movie career of mostly B-rated films never carried her to the big time, even with the help of her aunt, actress Sophia Loren, and the notoriety of her name. Today, however, everyone in Italy is talking about her. Photos of her raising her arm in the fascist salute are replacing the cheesecake of the past.
Because of her new-found fame and busy schedule, actually getting her to sit down for more than a five-minute sound bite takes stamina, smooth talking and, as always in Italy, patience. Just before the questions were to begin during an interview a few days ago, the shrill ring of the mobile phone in her oversized leather briefcase interrupted. "I've got to change this number," she moaned.
She's small with gloriously green eyes and pouting lips with slightly protruding teeth, very similar to her aunt. She's dressed in a gray pin-striped suit with a very short skirt. A golden chain with pearl baubles hangs around her neck.
Hanging up the phone, she says, "I have very little time." It seems that she'll be driving down to Naples in 20 minutes for business and then departing for northern Italy with her family to attend a church service in memory of her grandfather.
Finally settling down in a chair in a parliament conference room and resting her hands in her lap, the tone of her voice becomes clear and confident. She deflects questions about her personal life, but becomes animated when she talks about politics. She sounds committed, but she doesn't yet have concrete solutions for the country's ills.
"The biggest problems in Italy today," she begins, "are drugs and the problems faced by youth. These are the issues I'm most concerned about. We need to work together to keep drugs out of Italy, and we won't be able to do it alone."
Her supporters, she says, are the young, who believe that she can serve them as their mouthpiece. "Women," she adds, "especially like me." Die-hard fascists also strongly back her. Her campaign speeches were largely attended by elderly men, some of whom, caught up in the emotion of the moment, shed tears and gave the fascist salute.
"I am a Mussolini and I feel the importance of the name today, more than ever," she says, pointing out that she uses her maiden name although she is married. "But I believe in democracy. In fact, I hate the word 'fascist,' " she says, turning to the members of her entourage as if the idea just came to her. "I really do. I am not a fascist and my party is not really fascist. All we want is change in Italy. I want to be the voice of joy and anger of the common people."
Born in Rome to Benito Mussolini's third son, jazz pianist Romano, and wife Maria Scicolone (Sophia Loren's sister), Alessandra Mussolini made her film debut with her aunt at the age of 9. Rumors have floated around for years that she and Loren don't get along and in the past Mussolini has accused her aunt of sabotaging her film career.
Word was that her family was not the least bit thrilled that one of its members was returning to politics, but Mussolini says solemnly, "My parents are very proud of me." And she insists that any problems between her and her aunt are past, adding that Loren called her from Geneva to congratulate her the day she took her seat in the 630-member parliament.
Upon leaving high school, Mussolini spent six months in 1985 studying acting at Lee Strasberg's Los Angeles studio. After returning to Italy, she studied medicine while keeping up with acting. But, she says, she had political aspirations early on.
"It was the obvious road to take," she says. "My family has been involved in politics since before my grandfather's time. The MSI was the obvious choice because it is in my blood. In fact, I first thought of running when I was 24, but I was too young."
So is Alessandra Mussolini just another bizarre apparition in Italian politics, which in the past has featured the election of a porn star and which had 27 different political parties on the last election ballot including the "Party of Love"?
Observers of Italian politics generally agree that a vote for Mussolini, similar to the votes won by other far right and far left candidates, was cast in frustration against the centrist parties that have controlled the government since the end of World War II. The MSI comprises an anemic 5 percent of the parliament.
Regardless of the limited popularity of her party, Mussolini plans on staying in politics. Does she have aspirations to follow in her grandfather's footsteps and lead her country as prime minister? "Who's to say where my political career will take me?" she says