7 August 2017

Gerry Scotti - television show host

One-time politician who presented Chi vuol essere milionario?

Gerry Scotti
Gerry Scotti
Gerry Scotti, the host of Italy’s equivalent of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and one of the most familiar faces on Italian television, was born on this day in 1956 in Camporinaldo, an agricultural village in Lombardy.

The presenter, whose career in television began in the 1980s, was also a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies between 1987 and 1992, having won the Lombardy 1 district in the Milan college for Bettino Craxi’s Italian Socialist Party.

But he is best known as the face of Chi vuol essere milionario?, which he fronted when it launched in Italy in 2000 and continued in the role after Italy’s entry into the single currency in 2002 required the show to make a subtle change of name.

Originally Chi vuol essere miliardario – billionaire – the title was changed to milionario – millionaire – with a new top prize of 1,000,000 euro replacing the 1,000,000,000 lire of the original.

Scotti continued to host the show until it aired for the last time in Italy in 2011, at which time he held a Guinness World Record for the number of editions presented of the show, which was created for the British network ITV in 1998 and was subsequently exported to 160 countries worldwide.

The son of a printworker at Corriere della Sera in Milan, Scotti – whose real first name is Virginio - studied law at university but dropped out to pursue a career as a radio DJ, working for a number of stations in Milan before being hired as a launch presenter for Radio Deejay, a national network based in Milan.

Scotti is nicknamed Uncle Gerry by his fans
Scotti is nicknamed Uncle Gerry by his fans
He fronted Deejay Television, the first music video programme on Italian television, before moving into full-time TV work with the commercial Mediaset networks, working mainly for Canale 5.

Apart from Millionaire, Scotti has been the host of a number of other popular quiz shows, notably the word game Passaparola. He also fronted The Money Drop and Avanti un altro.

In the entertainment category, his credits include La sai l'ultima?, La Corrida, Paperissima and Buona Domenica. 

He also co-hosted the satirical current affairs programme, Striscia la Notizia, and has been on the judging panels of the talent shows Italia’s Got Talent and Tú sí que vales.

The winner of 10 Telegatto awards – the prize sponsored by the Italian TV listings magazine TV Sorrisi e Canzoni – and a Telegatto Platinum prize for career achievement, Scotti has presented almost 100 different TV shows, appearing in almost 600 prime time editions and more than 6,000 daytime slots.

Known as Uncle Gerry by his fans, he has also acted in around a dozen films, mainly for television, and two sitcoms. He has made commercials on behalf of around a dozen companies.

He was married for 18 years to Patrizia Grosso, with whom he has a son, 25-year-old Eduardo, and has for several years been the companion of Gabriella Perino, a divorcee who is the mother of one of Eduardo’s former schoolfriends.

In 2009, Scotti wrote a letter published in Corriere della Sera supporting a proposal that the Catholic Church soften its position towards divorce, which traditionally it does not recognise.

The Palazzo Pubblico in Piacenza dominates the  central Piazza dei Cavalli
The Palazzo Pubblico in Piacenza dominates the
central Piazza dei Cavalli
Travel tip:

Camporinaldo is an agricultural hamlet, part of the municipality of Miradolo Terme, a small town of 3,500 people about 25km (16 miles) east of Pavia and 55km (34 miles) south-east of Milan, on the way to Piacenza, which was given its name – meaning ‘pleasant place’ – by the Romans.  Piacenza’s industrial suburbs may bely that description but its well-preserved historical centre includes an imposing Gothic town hall – the Palazzo Pubblico, which dominates the central Piazza dei Cavalli, also notable for its equestrian statues.

The elaborately carved tomb of St Augustine in the Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro in Pavia
The elaborately carved tomb of St Augustine in the
Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro in Pavia
Travel tip:

The city of Pavia once rivalled Milan as the regional capital and was the seat of the Kings of Lombardy for more than 200 years from 572 to 774.  It was once also known as the ‘city of 100 towers’ although only a few remain.  Among the attractions of this historic university city is the Romanesque basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, which contains an elaborately carved ark housing the remains of St Augustine, a convert to Christianity who became one of the religion’s most influential theologians.

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