THE LAST PLAYBOY
Born Giuseppe Piroddi in Genoa, the port in Italy, he was always known as ‘Beppe’. His father, Renzo, was a doctor who was credited for creating the ‘Mediterranean Diet’.
Although his upbringing was not wealthy, they were comfortably middle-class.
Beppe was expected to go to university but refused to do so. Instead he bought a Citroen DS he nicknamed ‘Lo Squalo’ (the Shark) and went off to the Italian Riviera with a friend from Genoa, Gigi Rizzi.
There the two young men linked up with two others, Franco Rapetti (known as ‘Il Principle’) and Rodolfo Parisi, an aristocrat from Rome who always drove a Rolls Royce.
The four of them decided to dedicate themselves to a hedonistic lifestyle, drinking, gambling, going to nightclubs, seducing women and becoming very wealthy – they became playboys.
They called themselves the ‘Four Musketeers’, although the French press were soon to name them ‘Les Italiens’.
In 1963, when he was just 23, Beppe seduced 26-year old actress Odile Rodin in ‘Il Chatham’, a Turin nightclub, whilst her husband Porfirio Rubirosa was present.
Porfirio (known as ‘Ruby’) was a famous racing driver and polo player but was extremely drunk that night. He was not known for his fidelity, having had affairs with Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, Ava Gardener, Eva Peron and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Odile and Beppe danced ‘The Twist’ and she then asked him to fly with her to New York, to help her get away from her husband, which he did.
His ‘fling’ with Odile only lasted three days and then she returned to her husband.
Meanwhile, his friend Gigi Rizzi, had seduced actress and model Brigitte Bardot, to the great glee of the Italian press. They felt France had ‘put one over’ the French. “Rizzi has planted the Italian flag on the most delicate and sensitive part of French pride”.
Rizzi went on to be one of Newsweek’s ‘People of the Year 1968’, alongside Dr Christiaan Barnard and Che Guevara.
Then Porfirio Rubirosa was killed, driving his Ferrari into a chesnut tree in the Bois de Boulogne after an all-night party at Jimmy’s Night Club in Paris. Beppe took up with his widow Odile again and they became a couple.
Beppe moved into Odile’s newly inherited chateau at Marnesla-Coquette near Paris. There, they invited Greek shipping magnate, Aristotle Onassis, and his wife Jackie (former First Lady of the USA), to dinner. Beppe was impressed by Jackie’s cold silence. She didn’t say a word all evening until she was asked what she thought about the cheese. “Marvellous”, was the one-word response.
Beppe bought a speedboat from Susanna Agnelli of the FIAT family and introduced Princess Caroline of Monaco to her future husband, Stefano Casiraghi.
He also toured California in a camper van with Vittorio Emanuele, the only son of Umberto the Second, the last king of Italy.
Beppe always drove a left-hand drive Bentley, refusing any other type of vehicle. He claimed it suited his image.
In 1967, Beppe opened the ‘Number One’ Club in Milan, in partnership with Rizzi. It was billed as Italy’s first discotheque. It was also claimed to be the home of Italian hedonism. Another club was opened in Rome shortly afterwards and later on further clubs were opened in New York and Los Angeles.
Odile and Beppe were the talk of all the gossip columns. They summered in St Tropez and he and Rizzi were photographed barefoot, with shirts open to the waist, dripping with jewellery and with their girlfriends draped over their arm.
Odile and Beppe appeared at Rothschild’s Fancy Dress Ball in 1969, dressed as Anthony and Cleopatra. It was their last public appearance. They split up shortly afterwards due to Beppe having an affair with actress Jacqueline Bisset. She left him for Warren Beatty.
Beppe hated the term ‘playboy’, saying it undermined the seriousness of what he did. He called himself ‘L’Amateur’ – “because an amateur always acts out of love – I am not a playboy because I act out of love”.
Gunter Sachs, the former husband of Brigitte Bardot, once said to Beppe, “You – Why are you so successful with women?”
Beppe replied, “Because I treat them well”.
Gunter said, “But you never get your wallet out”.
Beppe was romantically linked with Jane Fonda, Maria Schneider, Eva Corrigan and Claudia Schiffer (and was friendly with Marlon Brando, Roman Polanski, Andy Warhol and George Harrison). He was also trained in how to use a gun by actor Alain Delon and the two of them went hunting together.
But it didn’t end well for the other Musketeers.
Rodolfo Parisi stepped out in front of a London bus and was decapitated at the age of 36.
Franco Rapetti became a high-stakes poker player. He fell from a high window of a New York apartment in mysterious circumstances. He was just 39 at his death.
Rizzi split from Brigitte Bardot in the 1970s and became a cocaine addict. He eventually emigrated to Argentina where he became a cattle rancher. He married and had children but died in 2013 aged 69.
Meanwhile, Beppe withdrew from the limelight. He lived with model Kirsten Gille, an ambassador’s daughter. It was a very tempestuous relationship but it lasted over 30 years until Beppe’s death. They had one son, Roberto.
He joined a Milan brokerage firm who were later exposed for corruption and bribery and were investigated by the Italian police. It was rumoured (never proven) that Beppe had Mafia connections and ‘confidants’ within the police force who turned a blind eye to any criminal activity.
But he died in obscurity – there is not even a Wikipedia page about him, although Gigi Moncaluo did write a biography of him, entitled ‘L’Amateur’. In that book, Beppe was labelled ‘The Last Playboy’.
RIP – Rogue & Italian Playboy