15 January 2012

LIFE: Mother and Daughter Together Again (in jail)

SARONNO, Italy  - While I was doing some research  last week I came across an article on Vanna Marchi, a former local television personality. It seems Vanna is now out of Milan’s San Vittore prison on an early release program and working at a local bar. That’s the same program that Patrizia Gucci turned down as it requires the convicted criminal to have a J.O.B. 
Vanna Marchi
In the early 90’s Vanna Marchi ran a profitable business selling magical cures on her popular late night television program. Viewers would call in and tell her their problems and she would offer them a solution. Some wanted to win the lottery, others wanted to know if their husband or wife was cheating on them or if a loved one was going to recover from a serious disease or operation. Others wanted to lose weight and wanted a little of Vanna’s magic to help them.  

One of her best-selling products was a “skinny belly” cream that she said had miraculous slimming properties. The cost of the offer was 3 jars for $100, which, in the early 90’s was a lot of money. Another slimming product made from micronized dandelion and algae extract, and I don't remember if you were suppose to drink it or rub it on your body.  
Vanni Marchi at Work
Throughout the entire TV transmission Vanna spoke in a very loud and shrill voice that apparently the viewers loved, especially her tag line, “d’accordooooooo?”, which is Italian for OK? She was so popular, the Pomodores, an Italian pop group, recorded a song about her entitled “Want to Marchi,” which was distributed on a single 7 inch 45 RPM vinyl in the late 1980’s.  She was also  on a TV show called Superclassifica, which has gone down in history as the beginning of trash TV in Italy. 

She was such a part of the Italian culture that she was hired to appear in a comedy film about a “snake oil” salesman back in the Middle Ages who claimed to have found a cure for the plague. It seemed la Marchi had made her mark – if you’ll excuse the pun.
Like Mother, Like Daughter
But then in the early 90’s she was arrested, along with her daughter Stefania Nobile, Mario Pacheco Do Nascimento, a self-styled Brazilian magician and Francesco Campana, her former lover and Vanna found herself in the center of a huge legal battle. She was convicted of fraudulent bankruptcy, a very serious charge in Italy, with a secondary charge of fraud and aggravated criminal association to commit fraud through her television program. 

Her initial legal problems centered around the fact that after she had declared bankruptcy and shortly thereafter was back on television as an employee of the Axe Company of Milan. The company owners were listed as Stefania Nobile, Vanna daughter, and the magician Mario Pacheco Do Nascimento. In other words, they were all still in business and the business was far from bankrupt.
Vanna and Mago Pacheco
In late 2001, she was arrested again – this time for fraud. She was charged with selling lucky numbers for the lottery and ritual kits guaranteed to make your every wish come true – even if that wish was to see your ex-husband hanging by his maroni in a public piazza. She also sold talismans and amulets against the 'evil eye,' something all Italian dread. In order to understand if your run of bad luck was just bad luck or the result of someone putting the ‘evil eye’ on you, viewers were instructed to dissolve a 2lb box of salt in a half a liter of water. According to Vanna, if the salt didn’t fully dissolve, that was proof positive that someone had put the ‘evil eye’ on you and it was in your best interest to buy one of her "solutions." What the callers didn't know was that sodium chloride (common salt), as all salts, has a limit of solubility in water. If the amount of salt exceeds a certain concentration, it can’t disolve and sinks to the bottom of the container. 

What I remember best were the people who called in asking for lottery numbers for specific lotteries, say the one in Naples, or the one in Catania. Everyone wanted a little of Vanna’s magic and they were willing to pay substantial amounts for it. Vanna sold that service as an investment. Little did the callers know that the lottery numbers, that were told were “customized” for each client were all the same number.
Vanna During the Trial
Vanna's career ended when daughter Stefania was recorded talking to clients who had called in and did not want to buy any of Vanna’s magical products. Stefania was heard wishing them “all the evil in the world”, and predicting terrible misfortunes in their lives. Well, you know how superstitious the Italians are. (See http://thisitalianlife.blogspot.com/2011/11/auntie-pasta-giving-thanks.html ) so of course many callers changed their minds and bought the useless products.

On April 3, 2006, Vanna Marchi and her daughter were sentenced to serve two years and six months for conspiracy to commit fraud and an additional 10 years for an assortment of other charges, as were Pacheco Do Nascimento and Francesco Campagna. They were also required to return more than 2 million euros ( $2.5 dollars) plus an additional 40 million euros ($50,000) to their victims.  
Is That Humble Pie?
 Poor Vanna Marchi. She’s come a long way from a popular television personality to a minimum wage bar maid in a local Milan bar, but I guess she feels that the embarrassment and humiliation of working for a living are better than sitting in jail. Maybe if she had a pet ferret and a couple of plants to keep her company, like Mrs. Gucci, it would have made a difference, but somehow I don’t think so. Nor do I think we’ve seen the last of Vanna Marchi.

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