At PBS's party, the last of Summer TV Press Tour 2006, critics sat happily in the back of the ballroom, munching on tomato-and-mozzarella salads while watching the upper crust of PBS and party-presenting WNET/New York hobnobbing at the Big People's Table.
PBS always has a stage show at its party; Donny Osmond and Natalie Cole have performed in the past, among other luminaries. This time the floor show was the spectacularly easy on the eyes 28-year-old tenor Vittorio Grigolo who, PBS told critics, actually declined the opportunity to be a member of Simon Cowell's group Il Divo in order to pursue a solo career -- so he's some kind of hot stuff.
He will star in PBS's "Great Performances" broadcast "Vittorio: Dreams of Rome" in August and, in one of those incredible coincidences which makes covering the television industry so spiritually uplifting, his self-titled debut CD will come out the very next month.
Vittorio -- he aspires to be one of those celebrities whose first name alone is enough, like Cher -- started out studying and performing opera; PBS says he was nicknamed Il Pavarottino, "Little Pavarotti," by The Man himself. At some point, however Vittorio decided to chase the money and now goes in for popera. These days, he's modeling himself not so much after Pavarotti as Andrea Bocelli, only younger and he can see.
Vittorio makes great eye contact with female critics, wives of male critics, and female PBS publicists.
Vittorio, slender, enormous dark brown eyes, tousled dark brown hair, Helena Bonham Carter-ish broad face and square jaw, showed up -- no doubt with the best intentions -- dressed in a tight black shirt, snug black pants, and form fitting black jacket. This outfit made him very hot during his performance, so he asked, in charming, halting English "May I have a towel please?" Towel is immediately produced, with which he mopped the sweat from his brow while making love to the female critics, female PBS publicists and spouses of male critics with his eyes. It appears that in addition to Pavarotti and Bocelli, Vittorio has also studied under Tom Jones.
Half way through his performance, Vittorio takes off the form fitting black jacket; howls of pleasure from the audience. Vittorio tells the audience in his charming, halting English, "how pleased I am to be in America - land where hopes and dreams can be realized."
For his first encore he sings "very beautiful song, written by Stevie Wonder" which, he says, was written -- or something -- on his birthday.
It's "All in Love is Fair." "You betcha!" female critics, female publicists, and spouses of male critics scream with their eyes.
After his performance, he and handful of critics, spouses and publicists gather around a piano which, for reasons never explained, has been left out in the hallway of the Ritz Carlton Huntington hotel. Vittorio pounds out new-age-ish muzak which, he tells the gathering, is a musical he's writing about a young couple in love.
The women in the group make eyes at him; some touch him, and occasionally sit on his lap as he tells the story of the star-crossed lovers while pounding away at the piano keys. At one point he slaps one of the women in the stomach good naturedly. When another woman takes her eyes off him to lean over and whisper to a male in the little group, Vittorio becomes upset, stops playing and stands up to leave. The others tell her to knock it off; she stops talking, apologizes and sits in his lap. That calms him down and he once again takes up his story of the lovers who, at this point are on a motorcycle going up a hill, or maybe it was a boat leaving the dock -- so hard to remember.
Finally, his musical love story wrapped in happily-ever-after fashion, the ivories pounded to a hash; they all leave the piano and head out toward the pool. Here, I regret to say, my journalist instincts failed me and I headed to the bar with two critics for late-night tea. While we were sipping tea, we learned the next morning from critics and a PBS exec, it seems Vittorio was busy throwing women into the hotel swimming pool, having relieved himself of his tight, strategically unbuttoned black shirt and his snug black pants, and -- according to Susan Young of the Oakland Tribune -- shouting "I'm Italian!"
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