What are we going to do without Silvio Berlusconi? asked Massimo Gramellini. I have spent my entire career as a journalist covering the mogul turned prime minister, who dominated Italian politics for 17 years. In the 1980s, when he was the owner of the soccer team AC Milan, he seemed “the classic Milanese figure we call a cumenda, a brash and successful man surrounded by servile aides.” He used to whip off his expensive coat and toss it behind him, sure that “there was always someone ready to catch it.”
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Later we learned that there were two Berlusconis: the laughing, joking one, and the shadowy figure who somehow finagled multimillion-dollar loans while still in his 20s. We laughed when he insisted on a soft-focus lens to hide his wrinkles on camera, but even as we were appalled by him, many of us secretly wanted to be him.
Berlusconi mesmerized us. “Think about how many times, my fellow Italians, you have thought about him in the last few years. Surely more than you have thought about your mother-in-law.” Arguing about him was the national sport: “No one else has divided Italy and Italians the way he has.” Politics will be deadly dull without him.
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