When Pavarotti Decided to Get into Pictures, Tout Hollywood Came Out to Say 'i Love Luciano'

updated 06/23/1980 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/23/1980 01:00AM

In a town where opera means soaps, the evening at Chasen's had a decidedly different tenor. Tout Hollywood—including even some notorious stay-at-homes like Cary Grant—came out to toast the announced movie debut of Luciano Pavarotti. The world's most popular and ebullient classical singer will star next year in an MGM romantic comedy titled Yes, Giorgio.

Only a few days before, it might have been No, No, Luciano. Pavarotti, 44, had nonplussed Johnny Carson and gotten himself bleeped on the Tonight Show. At the party the irrepressible Italian showed little remorse. "I am now told that you do not say 'tits' on the air in America," he observed. "In Italy we have a beautiful word for them."

In any case, Pavarotti arrived wearing a button declaring BE OF GOOD COURAGE. He kissed every woman within reach and then pursued another lust, gorging on cracked crab, lobster, shrimp, caviar and the famed house chili. "I have to keep my strength up," he said, apparently forgetting for a night the privation of cutting his weight from 310 to 250 in the past year. The guests positively fawned over him. Carol Burnett cracked that she would not be his co-star "because there's enough violence in movies." (Luciano's manager is plumping for Sally Field.) Kirk Douglas proffered some advice about staying yourself in Hollywood: "When I first came here, they kept filling my cleft with putty," he told Pavarotti. "I finally said, 'Take me the way I am,' and now the cleft is my trademark."

The hero of the hour responded with tales of his own early ambitions. "I saw all of the Mario Lanza movies," recalled Luciano, "and when I went home in front of the mirror I almost exploded like a chee-ken trying to imitate him with high notes. Yes, I think I always wanted to be a star." Ah, but will the baker's son find Hollywood worth it all? "After I be here awhile," he reflected, watching Carroll O'Connor and Sally Struthers crooning Cole Porter, "I might become crazy."

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