A Memorable Moment and Kiss with Luciano Pavarotti

You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss – or is it?

In the movie classic, Casablanca, love-struck Humphrey Bogart begs his piano player to, “Play it Again Sam.”  The lyrics to As Time Goes By come to mind as I reminisce about Luciano kissing me.  It was not just a kiss, but a moment of sheer bliss!

Way back in 1994 I picked up USA Today at an airport and the headline, “Get Lucky with Luciano”, caught my eye.  London Records released a new Pavarotti CD series, “Opera is for Everyone”, and invited readers to enter a contest by writing an essay on why opera is for everyone in order to win a lunch with Luciano in New York City.

Since I am an opera fan, as soon as I returned home I grabbed pen and paper and began to enthusiastically scribble my thoughts on paper.  Memories flooded my mind, particularly one way back in 1979 in Milan, Italy.  I had the good fortune to be in a fabulous box seat at La Scala to see Luciano sing the title role of the peasant, Nemorino, one of his favorites, in L’Elisir D’Amore.  I was hypnotized by his beautiful, soaring tenor voice, his playful manner and his simpatico smile.  He captured the hearts of the entire audience who, after the final curtain, gave him a standing ovation shouting “Bravo!”  It was a once in a lifetime experience that I still cherish.  In the contest essay I wrote about that enchanted evening and my love for listening to Luciano sing everything from Una Furtiva Lagrima to ‘O Sole Mio.

Lo and behold, a week later I received a call from London Records inviting me, as the winner, to have lunch with Luciano and two other contestants. Lucky for me I was the only female winner. I put on a sexy blue dress, high heels and pearls and headed for the big event in Manhattan.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was hoping for a beautiful experience!

The Italian soccer team had just won the World Cup that year, and, as a special present for Luciano, I purchased a bottle of the official World Cup Wine and decorated it with tiny American and Italian flags.

When I arrived at the elegant San Domenico restaurant facing Central Park, it was crowded with newspaper and television reporters anxious to interview the contest winners and, of course, Luciano.  I was interviewed by several reporters, including NBC Television.  My family and friends were excited and proud to see me later that day on the evening news!

Luciano made a grand entrance through the big revolving doors and stopped for a moment to scan the room.  I was in the far corner, and he caught my eye and smiled. I, both surprised and excited about it, gave him a flirtatious smile back. By the way, he still had the twinkling eyes and the simpatico smile but the latter had now become quite sexy.  Or was it my imagination?

The winners were individually called up to meet him and receive their gift package of his new CDs. The two male winners went first and shook his hand. I was hoping to give him the typical Italian double-cheek kiss and had a plan.  I handed him my gift and, in Italian, softly whispered “E un piacere.”  “It’s a pleasure.” He whispered back “Il piacere e mio.  Tu sei una bella bionda.” “The pleasure is mine.  You’re a beautiful blonde.” With that, we locked eyes and smiles and slowly leaned forward towards each other.  The Cinderella moment arrived!  He placed his right arm around my lower back and pulled me toward him.  We shared a sweet, lingering soft kiss on the lips which I sensed that he enjoyed as much as I did. Time stood still.

Suddenly flashbulbs started to pop all around us.  Again, lucky for me, an eager paparazzo captured our kiss on film.  Our photo was published the next day in New York Newsday for all to see.

Sadly, one of the greatest operatic tenors of all time has left us.  Luciano is gone, but the memory of our fairytale kiss lingers on.

Did you know the history of the kiss dates back to Punjab, India? During his conquests there Alexander the Great observed this unusual custom and introduced it to the Greeks upon his triumphant return.  We should all be grateful to Alexander!  Read more about this in the chapter “G and Kissing: The First Step.”

Luciano’s Kiss

San Domenico Restaurant, August 1994

 Courtesy of New York Newsday

Lucky Luciano

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