Behind This Darkness, Nothing (Part 1): Out & In with Roberto Bolle

A few days ago, writer Matteo B. Bianchi posted the piece below on his “Matteo B Blog,” and I couldn’t resist translating it.

In Part 2 of “Behind This Darkness, Nothing” I’ll have more to say about the oh-so-’70s tenor of gay life in Italy, but in his commentary on ballet dancer Roberto Bolle and the pop-singer, Povia, Matteo hits the big themes.

The clever title of Matteo’s original post, by the way, was “Bolle di Sapone“—“Soap Bubbles.” It’s a play on Bolle’s surname that also suggests, as the Italian expression would have it, “lots of air, not much substance.”


Wan Lake
by Matteo B. Bianchi
English translation by ProvenWrite

Last week, the La Scala ballet’s principal dancer, Roberto Bolle, came out in the French magazine, Numéro Homme, only to issue a retraction the following day in the Italian newspapers. The whole affair has been widely reported in the press, on the internet, and by all the usual suspects.

My view is that the real news here is the retraction. I mean, I can hardly believe anyone was amazed by the confession; rather, what comes as a surprise is knowing that Bolle felt the need to deny it. Moreover (just to be completely accurate), Bolle didn’t deny the content of the confession. Rather, he clarified that he didn’t intend to speak in public about his private and romantic life (which strikes me as an implicit admission by someone who doesn’t have the courage to make an explicit one).

The real question I find myself asking is this: Why, in 2009, is a world-renowned star still afraid that acknowledging his homosexuality will, in some way or other, hurt his image? How can it possibly damage his career? Go find the most staid and prudish person you know and tell him that La Scala’s lead danseur is gay. The resulting shock wouldn’t produce enough energy to lift a single eyebrow.

In other words, how is it possible in this country that even someone who has reached stratospheric levels of fame and recognition, all of which would guarantee him every possible form of personal protection, lacks the courage to take a stand? What lies behind this absence of any sense of civic responsibility toward the gay community?

And while we’re on the subject, there’s the matter of the singer, Povia, and the revisionist song he plans to bring to this year’s Sanremo Music Festival, “Luca Era Gay” (Luca Used To Be Gay).

When I first heard what Povia was planning to sing about, I shrugged my shoulders. “Who gives a crap?” I said. Objectively speaking, Povia is an authentic loser, whose non-influence on Italian music seems obvious. Raise your hand if you remember even the title of his song about the pigeons. Exactly. Nobody. And yet it won him first place at the Festival in 2006.

My feeling is that the announcement of Povia’s intention to participate in this year’s Sanremo with an anti-gay song deserved to be ignored. The week afterward, the public would have immediately forgotten about him and his song, which is what always happens.

But gay movement activists felt something needed to be said, and rightly so, and they decided to protest the content of Povia’s song, uncivil and deviant as it is. All right then. Since the blister has, so to speak, already burst, what I’d like to say is this: If Povia used to be gay and then gave it up, that’s nothing but good news for the gay community—a community made up of people who’ve chosen to live their dreams, their emotions, and their desires (joyously, proudly, and completely) and who are prepared to fight for the right to do so.

The fact that Povia won’t be at my side in that struggle gives me nothing but pleasure. I deserve better traveling companions—at least that damn much.


Posted on 4 February 2009, in Italy, Italian, Italians (in that order), You Can Always Count on a Little Homophobia and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. >I endorse everything Matteo says about Povia, though it might be interesting to know exactly who his political bakers are in this case – not that it’s hard to guess, but still… And I’m looking forward to the second part of this. The oddest thing about Italy is that everyone (I use the term advisedly, but you know what I mean) knew that Spadolini was gay and hand-picked his bodyguards, and didn’t do his political career one jot of harm. The same is still true (or the first part is) for Marco Pannella, who may be a bit of a laughing stock now, but has contributed an enormous amount to whatever civil society Italy can be said to possess. (He’s also ‘nurtured’ Rutelli and that grubby little turncoat Capezzone, but you can’t have everything.) The list of popular entertainers who are ‘known’ to be gay – and I could happily provide you with it – is endless. The only area where people seem to be able to come out with relative impunity is television, though at what cost to their careers isn’t clear.Hah! My verification word is pratica! I love it when they actually mean something…

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