updated 03/15/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 03/15/1993 AT 01:00 AM EST
While hundreds of thousands of spectators along the parade route applauded and laughed—the parade traditionally pokes fun at Italian politicians and showbiz types—some were not amused, such as a handful of members of Italy's 1,500-strong Michael Jackson fan club. As "You Are Beautiful" swept by, the Jackson faithful whistled, hooted and even wept. "It looks awful," said a distraught Lidia Luongo, 18. "I apologize for my countrymen. I hope Michael doesn't cancel his next Italian tour."
Francesconi shares that hope. His dissing, he insists, is basically affectionate. "I think Michael Jackson is great, fantastic, a real animal of the stage," he says. In fact, Francesconi is even willing to make a peace offering of sorts. "If Michael wants the head for his next video," he offers, "I'll give it to him for free."