After a Proud Moment, Sophia Loren Flies Off to a Harsh Homecoming
Sophia Loren knew what lay ahead—30 days in the slammer to pay her longstanding debt (for tax evasion) to Italian society. All that had been delicately negotiated by lawyers. But the 47-year-old actress had delayed for one final weekend with her sons: Carlo Ponti Jr., 13, and Edoardo, 9, were making their First Communion at a Jesuit school in Geneva.
The Swiss morning was warm as Loren and husband Carlo, 68, entered the chapel. When their boys in white tunics passed in the ranks of their classmates, the actress appeared moved. She reached out and patted Edoardo's head.
After the ceremony the Pontis ate brioches and sipped hot chocolate with other parents and took photos in the courtyard. At 11:30 Carlo left in a taxi. Then Sophia gathered up her boys and drove downtown to the family apartment.
Three days later, dressed in the same olive-and-beige outfit, Loren took Alitalia Flight 411 to Rome and walked into the arms of the police. Her trouble, she explained to the press massed at the airport, stemmed from a "disagreeable error" back in 1964. That year she failed to file an income tax return in Italy. A tax accountant had told her it was unnecessary since she had become a legal resident of Switzerland. But that argument didn't cut it with the Italian Supreme Court. Although she later paid back taxes and penalties totaling some $200,000, in 1980 her conviction was upheld, leaving her liable to arrest should she set spiked heel on the boot of Europe.
Loren was driven to the women's prison at Caserta, 19 miles northeast of Naples, where her stay shouldn't prove too harsh. Her "cell" is a 13-foot-square room with private bath (and color TV) on the second floor of a converted convent. Nuns and civilian staffers look after the inmates—there are only a dozen or so, doing time for minor crimes. Inevitably, there was grumbling among Italians that Loren was enjoying "a vacation at our expense"—she was seen listening to music on a Sony Walkman and reading her telegrams. But prison director Liliana de Cristofero, 28, insisted the film star would be "treated like other prisoners." By week's end Loren was entertaining some of them with cookies in her cell.
Why did she pick this time for a stretch in the pokey? Sophia is due to start filming a Lina Wertmuller production in late June, a portion of which must be shot in Italy. She had hoped for a full pardon from Italian President Sandro Pertini, but the Oscar-winning actress, called La Simpatica by her countrymen, was getting precious little sympathy. In a land where tax dodging once was nearly a national sport, tax probity is now the more fashionable stance, and there was no public hue and cry to let Sophia go.
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