Cicciolina: The Porn Star in Parliament

Ilona Staller, better-known under her stage name Cicciolina, is surely the most colorful political figure from any country. An actress who found her fame in porn films, she was elected to the Italian Parliament for a four-year term, delivered her campaign speeches topless, and after taking office she continued to make hardcore films while serving as an MP.

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Italian Parliament Building.                                    Photo from Wiki Commons

Anna Ilona Staller was born in Hungary in 1951. Her mother was a midwife nurse, and her stepfather was a minor official in the Hungarian Ministry of the Interior.  She began modeling in 1964, doing her first nude shoot at age 13. After turning 18, she found a job as a barmaid at a hotel in Budapest that catered to Western diplomats, where, she later claimed, she spied on them for the Hungarian intelligence service, seducing them in their hotel room and secretly photographing the contents of their briefcases. She also got some bit parts as an actress.

In 1972 Staller married an Italian travel agent, went with him to Italy on a tourist visa to work on a film, then broke it off with him a short time later, stayed in Rome, and became a naturalized Italian citizen. Shortly afterwards, she began a relationship with Italian porn producer Ricardo Schicchi, who became her manager.Together they scandalized the heavily catholic and prudish Italian society. In addition to nude photo shoots, Staller and Schicchi started a late-night sex talk show called “Voulez-Vous Coucher Avec Moi?” (“Do You Want to Sleep With Me?”) For the show, Staller adopted the stage name Cicciolina (“the cuddly one”). In 1976, when the Italian government removed its strict regulations on TV content, Cicciolina appeared on the show C’era due Volte (“There Were Two Times”) and became the first woman to bare her breasts on Italian TV.

In 1983, Cicciolina did her first hardcore porn film, serving as the producer for Schicchi’s production company. She would eventually do thirty-eight porn films and formed her own production company. In 1986 she did a film with American porn actor John Holmes. Holmes had already tested positive for HIV, but had hidden that fact and, unknown to his fellow performers, continued to do films to support his cocaine habit.

During this time Cicciolina also became involved with the Italian nuclear-disarmament and animal-rights movements, which led to an interest on politics (and a vegan lifestyle). At first she joined the Italian Green Party and ran for office in 1979, but in 1987, when the Radical Party, a minor party with a platform focused mostly on issues of abortion, divorce, and disarmament, was looking for a candidate to run for Parliament in the Lazio District (parts of Rome), Cicciolina eagerly accepted. Her campaign was a media circus, fueled by her habit of baring one or both breasts during her campaign speeches, and sometimes doing a full striptease. But her speeches touched on serious issue as well, advocating for divorce and abortion rights, sex education in schools, and opposing nuclear energy and NATO membership. She won with about 20,000 votes. The Italian press referred to it as a case of “electoral voyeurism”.

Her most notable act as a Member of Parliament came during the run-up to the First Gulf War in 1990, after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and Italy debated over joining the coalition of forces to expel the Iraqis. Cicciolina offered to have sex with Saddam if it would help bring peace to the region. She repeated her offer in 2002 as the Second Gulf War was beginning, and later extended it to include sex with Osama Bin Laden as well.

In 1991, Cicciolina lost re-election. Shortly later, she joined with fellow Italian porn actress Moana Pozzi to form the Party of Love, a political party with a platform advocating legalized prostitution, sex education, conjugal visits for prisoners, and “love parks”. Over the next few years, she ran for local offices in Italy and in her native Hungary, but was never elected. By 1996 she was working on a TV soap opera in Brazil, had small parts in several theatrical movies, and had taken up a singing career; her most successful song release was about “il cazzo” (“the dick”). It was banned in Italy but became a hit in the rest of Europe.

Cicciolina was married for a time to American artist Jeff Koons, and lost custody of their son at the divorce, when an Italian judge ruled that she was “too liberal” to give the boy a “proper moral upbringing”.

In 2011, Cicciolina found herself the center of media outrage again, when upon reaching age 60 she began collecting the $50,000 a year pension she had qualified for as a Member of Parliament. And in 2012 she entered the political arena again, co-founding the Democracy, Nature and Love Party, and unsuccessfully running for Rome’s City Council. The party advocated legalization of same-sex marriages, decriminalization of drugs, and a guaranteed minimum income.

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