- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 15, 2005

ROME — Italy’s aristocracy mourned the death last week of Dado Ruspoli, the playboy prince and wayward Renaissance man of its postwar era of “La Dolce Vita” (“the sweet life”).

And yet, in a grand gesture that the late prince himself would have appreciated, his family went ahead with plans to throw a huge party for 600 persons in his honor at his palace in Rome Thursday, only hours after his funeral service.

The evening, which Prince Ruspoli and his wife, Patricia, had intended to host together, featured a ballet troupe performing to music by Bach and Vivaldi.

Virtually the whole of the capital’s high society, plus a sprinkling of foreign royals and nobles, turned out for the occasion, held opposite the venue for his funeral at noon Thursday, the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.

The prince would have relished the juxtaposition of his funeral and the social event.

“Dado,” baptized Alessandro 80 years ago, charmed and delighted, but also shocked, Italy’s smart society. A poet, painter, photographer and traveler, he also became a sometime film actor and, among his roles, had a small part in “The Godfather, Part III.”

He was an expert on yoga and an authority on other aspects of the Orient, including Transcendentalism and opium and other drugs. He sported three Eastern tattoos on his arms, a souvenir of Laos.

Once remembered by his friend Taki, the diary columnist, as the “best looking man of his time” and for being “hooked on opium,” Dado was notorious both for his wayward lifestyle and as a womanizer, but neither label did him justice.

His easygoing hedonism, especially when indulged on the island of Capri, inspired one film and probably helped set the scene for another — Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” about the sweet life.

A favorite of the gossip columns, he also won fame by being photographed strolling around Capri barefoot with a “parrot” on his shoulder — in reality an injured raven he had rescued.

He knew Picasso, Brigitte Bardot, the Rolling Stones, Orson Welles and Roman Polanski. Jean Cocteau, a good friend, is said to have helped him get off cocaine, and he shared a house in the south of France with Jane Fonda and Roger Vadim.

The darker side of his character, however, included his arrest in 1953 with five pounds of opium hidden beneath the seat of his car. In 1962, his first wife took her life, and his second marriage ended in betrayal on both sides.

Before his marriage in 1995 to his third wife and now his widow, Patricia Genest, a former French model 40 years his junior, he was linked to Bella Freud, the British fashion designer.

She remained a close friend of the new couple and was a frequent visitor to their imposing castle in Vignanello.

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