Obituary: Espartaco Santoni

ESPARTACO SANTONI enjoyed two cinematic triumphs, one at the beginning and one at the end of his career, but he was chiefly famed for his jet- set lifestyle on the Spanish Costa del Sol - which included numerous marriages, at least one of them bigamous.

His early triumph was as co- producer with Orson Welles of the film Falstaff, which took the Cannes festival by storm in 1965. His last was acting in the role of a Mafia don in a film by the idiosyncratic Spanish director Santiago Segura, Torrente, el brazo tonto de la ley ("Torrente, the stupid arm of the law"). Shot last year, the film is still playing to enthusiastic houses throughout Spain.

But Santoni was chiefly renowned as a Don Juan who featured regularly in Spain's colourful gossip magazines. He had the tanned features of a bon viveur, and was often photographed with a pirate's bandana tied round his head, sporting a succession of lovelies on his arm. He spent his later years in Marbella, fitting perfectly into the glamorous Eurotrash world of Arab tycoons, film starlets, models and minor aristocrats.

A spectacular public Santoni moment occurred in 1975 when he married Carmen "Tita" Cervera, a former Miss Spain. Within a year he was jailed in Madrid for fraud, humiliating his nicely brought-up, convent- educated wife, who visited him in prison, and coughed up pounds 5,000 bail.

Last year, "Tita" - who married Baron Heinrich von Thyssen in 1985 and is now one of the richest and most powerful art patrons in the world - described the Santoni episode as the worst moment of her life. She added: "It turned out he was already married to someone else, so I was never really his wife at all, thank God."

Santoni's father, who was from Naples, divorced his son's Venezuelan mother when he was 65, and went on to remarry in his eighties. Espartaco Santoni was born in Venezuela in 1937 (or 1932, according to some sources) and his first marriage took place when he was aged just 17, to a Catalan, Mara de los Angeles Seijo, in 1954. Three years later, in Caracas, he met the Andalusian singer Marujita Daz, whom he accompanied to Spain and married. His new wife introduced him to the world of cinema, where he produced a number of films and met his third wife, the Mexican actress Tere Velzquez. But the marriage foundered upon his serial infidelities.

In 1978 he returned to Caracas - despite orders to report to Madrid's Carabanchel prison twice a month - where after a succession of failed business ventures he married a petroleum heiress, Natividad de las Casas. In 1990 he published his memoirs, No niego nada ("I Deny Nothing") which detailed dozens of amorous adventures, naming all the names, to the fury of the women involved. That year he moved to Marbella where, with the patronage of the town's eccentric right-wing mayor, Jess Gil, he ran a number of bars, restaurants and property developments around the luxury yacht haven of Puerto Bans.

After his death, his daughter urged people to remember him with joy not tears, and promised to organise a Mexican fiesta in his honour, complete with mariachi band. He leaves a 27-year-old widow, Eva Medina.

Espartaco Santoni, actor and film producer: born Carupano, Vene-zuela 14 June 1937; married 1954 Mara de los Angeles Seijo (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved) 1958 Marujita Daz (marriage dissolved), 1963 Tere Velzquez (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved), 1975 Carmen Cervera (marriage dissolved), 1980 Natividad de las Casas (marriage dissolved), 1991 Carolina Zapata (marriage dissolved), 1995 Eva Medina; died Benalmadena, Spain 3 September 1998.

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