Born Carmelina Tonto in 1965, Carmen Di Pietro rose to fame in the mid-Eighties as a sexy Italian movie starlet, working with the likes of Joe D’Amato, Andrea Bianchi and Tinto Brass in a series of softcore dramas and comedies, venturing towards – though not quite into – hardcore in the early 1990s, when Italian exploitation cinema was on its last legs and the erotic romps of the last couple of decades were giving way to XXX movies, and many of her contemporaries were making the move from simulated to real sex. Di Pietro had her sights set on bigger things, and in Italy, a sexy star was not as stigmatised as they are in the UK or US, and so could potentially move into the mainstream – at least after a fashion.
Di Pietro’s sexy films became a bit more respectable – Devil in the Flesh, Lucrezia Borgia – and she started to appear on variety and entertainment TV shows. And like many an Italian sex star before her, she launched a music career. She released a handful of singles, the most successful of which was 1993 single Take Me Away, backed with a cover version of Belouis Some’s Imagination.
Italian sex stars like Cicciolina tended to include their musical performances in their erotic nightclub acts and sexy TV shows, and while Di Pietro had higher aspirations, she certainly wasn’t above using her sexual allure to sell records, as the cover photo and these appearances on an Italian variety show prove.
Di Pietro’s final claims to fame – or possibly infamy – came at the end of the decade, when she claimed that one of her breast implants had exploded during an air flight in 1997, and then a year later married Sandro Paternostro, a veteran Italian news correspondent. And we do mean veteran – he was 77. She was 33. The marriage lasted two years, until Paternostro died. Further raising the eyebrows of those who wondered what had attracted her to the geriatric reporter, she then refused to remarry her more age-appropriate lover because she didn’t want to lose her substantial widow’s pension.
But Di Pietro has not gone quietly into the night. In 2015, she posed for a charity nude calendar; in 2017, she appeared on Italian Celebrity Big Brother. And she remains a popular figure in the Italian media, a controversial and colourful character.