Maurizio "Zanza" Zanfanti is invariably described as legendary, a lothario, the “last Latin lover” and a playboy – as if these were accolades.
Known to his countrymen as the “rei de vitelloni romagnolli” – king of the bullocks of Romagna – Zanfanti fancied himself as something of a tourist attraction in his hometown of Rimini, on Italy’s Adriatic Coast. During the package holiday boom of the 70s and 80s, women “lined up” to be seduced by him, according to one broadsheet’s report. Zanfanti’s adventures earned him the nickname “Zanza”, an abbreviation of zanzara, Italian for mosquito, that other famous holiday pest.
“It was all promotion for the Riviera,” Zanfanti once said. “I’ve done more for the promotion of tourism in Rimini than 100 travel agencies.”
Rimini’s other famous son, Federico Fellini, despaired of the place.
However, unlike middle-class Fellini, Zanfanti was born into a poor peasant family. Blessed with neither a family fortune nor traditional good looks, he embraced Rimini’s transformation and echoed it with his own. Aged 17, Zanfanti headed for the bright lights and got a job as a buttandetro, a shoo-in tout, ushering tourists from Germany and Scandinavian countries into a nightclub called Blow Up. He was a natural at the job and quickly rose to be the club’s artistic director.
Blow Up was the scene of many of Zanfanti’s conquests. “Sometimes it takes no more than a look and within five minutes we are making love,” he claimed. “Once I had built up a reputation, I didn’t even need to try. The women would come to me.”
Zanfanti declared that, during a typical holiday season, he could seduce up to four girls a day, though he once lamented, “1988 was a lean summer, only 120 women.”
He survived the HIV panic of that time, proudly pointing to a certificate he kept in his wallet, signed by his doctor testifying to his status. That and a chest full of gold chains kept the Zanza in business well into the 90s.
In 1995, aged just 39, he announced his retirement. “Up to now my life has been one of continuous enjoyment,” he told The Independent (while gesticulating towards the area below his belt). “It’s just that I find it tiring to go to bed with two or three girls a day like I used to.”
In an era when political correctness had yet to reach even liberal newspapers, The Independent noted: “His catalogue of conquests is a veritable united nations, including Swedes, Brazilians, Japanese, even Eskimos – the whole caboodle, he says, except Mongolians and Albanians.”
But retirement for this “less craggy version of Rod Stewart, with blow-dried blonde hair and a perfectly groomed carpet chest and stomach hair” did not last long. He put in almost two more decades at the coal face before, in 2014, he retired again, telling Germany’s Bild newspaper: “At 59, I’m getting too old for it.”
Zanfanti never fell in love, he said, because his work was to be a lover. “Work comes first.” If anyone got attached to him, he let them down gently. “Sometimes they cry, but no more than that because I treat them nicely.”
Indeed, it seems he was so charming that a number of the tourists he slept with went back to see him as friends and formed a Zanza conquest club of sorts. It’s hard to imagine that any woman with so insatiable an appetite for lovers would have been held in such high regard.
Last week Zanfanti died, aged 63, while having sex with a woman 40 years his junior in the back of a car. This, presumably, is how he would have wanted to go.
Pucci Capelli, Zanfanti’s supposed rival for women’s affections, attended his funeral – which the local parish church politely refused to host citing fear of a media scrum.
Capelli told the Leggo newspaper: “We were the best-known playboys on the Riviera. There were others, but we were famous. Now I feel lonely.” Somewhat like the last white rhino.
Zanfanti is survived by his 80-year-old mother, Teresa, his brother Loris and sister Mara. An online petition to name a street in Rimini after him has garnered 1,500 signatures, which is possibly fewer than he might have expected.
Maurizio Zanfanti, nightclub promoter, born 20 October 1955, died September 26 2018
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