Help! I’ve Fallen in the Closet & I Can’t Get Up!

I should probably just leave Tiziano Ferro alone. He’s not hurting anyone, and he’s really a very talented singer and songwriter in a country with a long and fine tradition of singer/songwriters.

0 TThe problem is, I just can’t. He’s everywhere I turn, and he’s sort of become that sore tooth you worry obsessively with your tongue, or that hangnail you won’t stop picking at until you’ve made it bleed.

Plus, I’m convinced that his latest album contains a coming-out announcement that almost everyone is ignoring. It’s a cry for help, a fervent plea to his public to let him out of the closet. It’s a coded message whose code a year-old spider monkey could break. I mean, come on people. What does the poor bastard have to do?

I’m talking about “E Raffaella È Mia” (And Raffaella is Mine), a hit single from his latest studio album, Nessuno è Solo. Nessuno è solo. No one is alone. As in the big hit from Into the Woods? As in Sondheim? “Can we talk?” as Joan Rivers famously asked.

[Okay, the title officially comes from a song on the album, “Già Ti Guarda Alice,” which Ferro says he wrote about his niece, but the sentiment isn’t exactly light years from what Cinderella, the Baker, Little Red Riding Hood, and Jack (of beanstalk fame) were singing about in 1987.]

I know, it’s all just one, big semiotic minestrone—but that’s post-modern queerness for you (and it’s another reason why, at the end of the first decade of the third millennium AD, it is, paradoxically, easier to disguise being gay than it has ever been before).

It’ll take me a minute to explain who Raffaella Carrà is—or, better, why writing a song in which you sing about how Raffaella is “all mine” is just a little … queer. First, you can get a taste of “La Raffaella” here, on Wiki. On the other hand, if you watch her “Fiesta” video,

you can see her in action: radiation-blonde, drag-queen hair (I have it on good authority that it’s NOT a wig); sequins for days; faux flamenco; and everybody’s partying down (¡Què fantastica fantastica esta fiesta!). She’s singing in Spanish by the way, which may be momentarily confusing; she’s Italian, and was already a major star in this country by the 1980s, but a significant slice of her success in recent decades has been in Spain and Latin America.

The point is, she’s 64 freakin’ years old, and young guys who are obsessed with her are Just Not Straight. When I was still living in San Francisco, for example, I had an Italian friend (stra-frocio) who paid big bucks to have satellite TV installed just so he could watch Carrà’s Sogni (Dreams), a melodramatic and tear-drenched game show along the lines of Queen for a Day, all the way from Italy.

If you want an analogous figure for the pre-Stonewall generation, just imagine Judy. (I don’t need to tell you Judy’s last name, do I? Similarly, in Italy, it’s just “Raffaella”; her surname is superfluous.) Later, for my generation, it was Barbra (and more than one youngster, M included, has scoffed at my Barbra collection–and hell, yes, I brought it to Italy.) After that, perhaps, Madonna or Cher (both of whom came conveniently wrapped for icon status by having only one name to begin with). Yeah, Cher gets you pretty close. Plus she’s only three years younger than Raffaella.

Anyway, they’re divas, and they’re queer bait. There’s no use getting mad at me about it; I don’t invent these rules.

Moving right along: the real “tell” of “E Raffaella È Mia” isn’t the song or the lyrics per se; it’s the video. The “plot” is that there’s this game show, The Magical World of Raffaella, in which a contestant has the chance to win Carrà for an entire day. Ferro plays the host, himself (as a musical guest on the show), and the nerdy [gay] boy in the hectic eyeglasses and emo sweater whose apartment is decorated with Raffaella posters and who “wins” a day in which Carrà is “all his.”

Look, just watch it.

Okay. Now do you see what I mean?

The catchy refrain goes:

And Raffaella sings at my house
And Raffaella dances at my house
And I really don’t care
That no one else can get in.

And Raffaella sings at my house
And Raffaella is mine, mine, all mine
And the whole neighborhood
has to listen while she sings
Just for me.…

If you ask me, this isn’t the first time Ferro has dropped a handful (a handful? a truckload!) of bobby pins in one of his songs. His “Baciano le Donne,” for example—which, unlike “Raffaella,” falls into Ferro’s more traditional “nobody suffers as pretty as me” mode—is fairly clearly a song about a gay/bi boy who keeps falling for straight guys:

You know, when you fall in love, there’s never a good excuse
When you fall in love, you can’t help the way you look at …

When you fall in love, in the end everything else is …
On certain evenings, you forget certain women or …
But the music, tonight the music makes you feel fine
And you’re far from home and the one you want isn’t looking at you and so …
….
When love drinks deep
All the rest doesn’t doesn’t have much weight
All the rest disappears
All the rest is just background
But if all those years ago Jesus didn’t judge
Why do you want to judge me now?

shhhOn the other side of the ellipses lies a story written in silence and spaces for those who know how to read such things.

Ferro, who is only 27, was born and raised in Latina, a community south of Rome known then (and now) as a bastion of neo-fascists and hard-asses. (Think Medford, Oregon, or Tyler, Texas). Though Ferro has lived in London for the last couple of years, I can’t help but think that the scars of Latina are still on him. Later this month, he kicks off the second half of his “Nessuno è Solo” Tour with a megaconcert in his home town.

There are all kinds of things Ferro could do from the stage in Latina, but I’m betting he won’t do the one thing that would not only change his life but come as a much-needed boost in this Pope-addled country. No one is alone, not even Tiziano Ferro, but that’s the kind of thing you might forget, growing up among the scary wolves and mean giants of a place like Latina.

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Posted on 4 July 2007, in Italy, Italian, Italians (in that order), Queer ... Plus All Those Acronyms, You Can Always Count on a Little Homophobia and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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