12 June 2020

Edda “Edy” Campagnoli - model, TV star and businesswoman

Glamorous blonde who married top footballer


Edy Campagnoli, pictured with her husband, footballer Lorenzo Buffon
Edy Campagnoli, pictured with her
husband, footballer Lorenzo Buffon
The model, television star and later businesswoman Edda “Edy” Campagnoli was born on this day in 1934 in Milan.

Campagnoli was a famous face in Italy in the 1950s. She became a celebrity as the glamorous assistant of popular presenter Mike Bongiorno on a prime time quiz show, and then married the AC Milan and Italy goalkeeper Lorenzo Buffon.

For a while, she and Buffon - a cousin of the grandfather of another famous Italian goalkeeper, World Cup-winner Gianluigi Buffon - were one of Italy’s most high-profile couples.

Campagnoli, blonde with blue eyes and a curvaceous figure, first attracted attention as a catwalk model in the city of her birth and it would be her looks that provided a passport to stardom. In 1954, the director Luchino Visconti decided she would be the perfect Venus in his interpretation of Gaspare Spontini’s opera La Vestale, giving her the rare distinction of appearing on stage at Milan's great opera house, Teatro alla Scala, alongside the superstar soprano Maria Callas. She was not required to sing.

A year later, she made her television debut in an afternoon show on the fledgling Rai network, where she was quickly spotted by the producers of Lascia o raddoppia?, a new quiz show based on the American hit The $64,000 Question.

Campagnoli, with host Mike Bongiorno (left) and  guest - the comedian Totò - in Lascia o radoppio?
Campagnoli, with host Mike Bongiorno (left) and
guest - the comedian Totò - in Lascia o radoppio?
Lascia o raddoppia? (English translation: Double or Quits?) was the vehicle that propelled Bongiorno to fame, effectively launching a career that would see his face become as recognisable to Italians as the Pope.

Campagnoli’s role was to lead the quiz show’s contestants on to the stage and introduce them to the host before standing to one side. Her presence was essentially decorative, as she was told bluntly by Bongiorno on the first night of transmission, when nervously she asked to run through what she would be doing and was told to “just be a beautiful girl”. The press dubbed her la valletta muta - the mute valet.

Her relationship with Bongiorno was often difficult. He was not a tall man and in high heels she towered above him. In an interview many years after she left the show, Campagnoli said that he ordered her to wear flat shoes and would refuse to be photographed with her if she was in heels.

Nonetheless, the huge success of the show turned Campagnoli into a celebrity, her appearances alongside Bongiorno in publicity events drawing massive crowds.  It also made her wealthy. Although the 25,000-lire fee she was paid for each edition was a fraction of the amount Bongiorno received, it still made her the highest-paid woman in Italian television.

Edy Campagnoli left television to open a boutique in Milan's famous fashion quarter
Edy Campagnoli left television to open a
boutique in Milan's famous fashion quarter
Her fame also opened the door to a number of movie parts and frequent lucrative appearances in the popular fotoromanza magazines, which featured fictional romance stories in photo strip format. The press called her “the most famous woman in Italy”.

Her real-life romance with Buffon, who made around 300 appearances for an AC Milan side that dominated Italian football in the ‘50s, was a sensation, lapped up by the popular press, not least because she had previously been involved with Giorgio Ghezzi, the goalkeeper at AC Milan’s city rivals, Inter.

They married in 1958, the wedding eagerly covered by Italy’s popular gossip magazines and which drew a crowd of 2,000 people, waiting for a glimpse of her wedding dress despite pouring rain.  For a while, they were the most photographed couple in Italy and could not venture out without being mobbed. They had a daughter, Patricia, but were divorced after 10 years, even though they remained friends.

When Lascia o raddoppia? reached the end of its run in 1959, Campagnoli appeared in a number of other TV shows but quit showbusiness in the mid-1960s to return to the world of clothes, opening a boutique in Via della Spiga, a short distance from Via Monte Napoleone in the heart of Milan’s celebrated fashion quarter.

She was reunited with Bongiorno briefly in 1971, making a guest appearance in another of his hit shows, but for the most part devoted herself to building a successful business. Designs bearing her name sold all over the world and fashion remained her focus until the early 1990s, when her health began to decline.

Campagnoli died at her home in Corso Venezia in January 1995 at the age of 60, having suffered a stroke. Her funeral took place at the church of San Babila.

Via Monte Napoleone is the most famous street in Milan's Quadrilatero della Moda
Via Monte Napoleone is the most famous street in
Milan's Quadrilatero della Moda
Travel tip:

Milan’s fashion district is known as the Quadrilatero della Moda, sometimes the Quad d’Oro. It can be found a 10-minute walk away from the Duomo in the centre of the city. The area centres on Via Monte Napoleone, a long street is lined with designer fashion boutiques, antiques shops and neoclassical mansions. Most of the major fashion houses - such as Armani, Gucci, Hermès, La Perla, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ralph Lauren and Versace - Nearby, the Palazzo Morando museum displays period costumes.

Corso Venezia, with the Art Nouveau palace Palazzo  Castiglioni in the centre, third building from the right
Corso Venezia, with the Art Nouveau palace Palazzo
Castiglioni in the centre, third building from the right
Travel tip:

Corso Venezia is one of the Milan’s most exclusive and elegant avenues, itself forming part of the Quadrilatero della moda shopping district, stretching from the church of San Babila to Porta Venezia, one of the city’s historical gates. It is lined with Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo and Neoclassical palaces, parks and gardens, including the Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli, which contains both the Neoclassical Villa Reale and the city’s Natural History Museum.

Also on this day:

1675: The death of Charles Emmanuel II, Duke of Savoy

1885: The birth of mafioso Nick Gentile

1922: The birth of astrophysicist and TV personality Margherita Hack


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