THE SUMMER OF ’68: Gigi Rizzi

Originally published in Issue 51 of The Rake, Stuart Husband writes that Gigi Rizzi was the leader of a group of Italian gigolos who lived out a kind of Fellini fantasia on the Cote d’Azur in the late sixties. ‘It was ’68,’ he once wrote, ‘and I was dancing barefoot on tables, always out to win, never worrying about tomorrow.’ His charms were not lost on Brigitte Bardot…
A louche-looking Gigi Rizzi with Brigitte Bardot, circa 1968.

In its valedictory round-up of 1968’s most notable people, the magazine Newsweek singled out the year’s headliners: Che Guevara, Christiaan Barnard, and Gigi Rizzi. Gigi who? It was a name to conjure with — indeed, it sounded like an unbeatable submission in the porn-star name game — but Rizzi had done something more momentous and epoch-making than, say, foment Marxist revolution across Latin America or perform the first human-to-human heart transplant. That summer, he had become the most envied man on the planet as the playboy consort of the ultimate French bombshell, Brigitte Bardot.

Photos of the time show Bardot and Rizzi cutting a swathe through various palm-fringed rivieras — Saint-Tropez, of course, where Bardot held court in her villa, La Madrague, but also Capri, where she had shot Contempt with Jean-Luc Godard. She tends to be wearing floppy sun hats and cotton vests or micro-dresses; he’s in shirts that are slashed to the navel and low-slung cords or velvet trousers, accessorised with the crispiest of tans, a cat-who-got-the-cream grin, and a kind of lithe-if-not-exotic athleticism — Alain Delon with floppier hair, or Johan Cruyff with a more saturnine edge. Occasionally they sport matching piratical bandanas. “This was a crazy moment,” said the designer Valentino, who bought the Villa Cercola, one of Capri’s oldest villas, just as the island’s reputation for libertinism became turbo-charged. “All the fashion people, all the models, all the movie stars, it was a sort of dolce vita.”


    Stuart Husband


    March 2021


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