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Gina, Claudia & Sophia 

In this fantasy, I'd offer myself up to Olivia as her boy toy and we'd travel the world together.

Olivia Acquafredda. Such was the striking name of the woman I was summoned to fetch at the Courtyard Marriott and transport to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. She's got to be Italian, I thought, steering toward the hotel. I have a thing for all things Italian — the food, the art, the films, the people.

No one emerged from the hotel as I turned into the entranceway, so I parked and went inside. I stated my business to the front desk person, who pointed out a tall, elegant woman sitting in the lobby with two pieces of luggage. As I approached her, Olivia stood up, smiling, and offered her hand. All I could think was statuesque. With her classically tailored dress and coat, and sweeping blond mane, I felt as if I should kiss her hand and address her as "Contessa."

"I'm so glad to see you," she offered as we walked out to my taxi. "The first cab they sent stunk from cigarette smoke. I made him bring me back after a few blocks. The second cab was so very filthy, I refused to even get in."

"My goodness," I said, loading the bags into the trunk and running around to hold open the rear door. (I didn't even consider offering the shotgun seat; frankly, I wasn't worthy.) "I certainly hope three's the charm and you find my taxi to your liking."

"Grazie," she said. "I can see your car is just fine."

"First time to the Trapp Family Lodge?" I asked as we drove down bumpy Cherry Street. I suppose they'll finally repave it when the new bus terminal is completed.

"No, many times I've come. Growing up in Milan, my family loved the original, black-and-white German movie about the von Trapps. So my parents would take us to vacation in Austria, visiting the country settings of the movie."

It occurred to me to pull out my Great Italian Story. Why wait?

"You know what? One time, in the late '90s, I drove the screenwriter who helped write Fellini's masterpiece La Dolce Vita."

Bam! I thought. How impressive is that?

"That's nice," she replied, seriously underwhelmed. "I knew Fellini. I met him when I was 24."

"Federico Fellini? You knew him? Were you active in the film industry?"

"I was, yes, in many aspects. I've produced, acted, and also done some writing and directing. I was friends with Fellini's casting director, and she called me in to speak with him about being an assistant director on a movie he was trying to make.

"I took the train down to Rome, quite excited, as you could imagine," my passenger went on. "I walked into his office, and Fellini tells me, 'You can't be first assistant director, because I always work with this one guy. And you can't be second assistant director, because my first has his own guy he likes to work with. But I don't have any money to make this movie, so if you give me money, you can be third assistant director.'"

At this point, I was struggling to concentrate on the road, because I was loving this story. Watching her eyes in the rearview mirror, I could tell Olivia knew she had me in the palm of her hand. The woman was a compelling combination of regal and mischievous. I could swear she winked at me before continuing the tale.

"So, my friend is looking at me, rolling her eyes and shaking her head apologetically. She later told me he was being a complete shit. Anyway, I didn't hesitate. I pulled out my wallet and emptied about 3,000 lira onto the table — about two dollars American. 'How's that?' I asked the great director.

"Later, I found out he hired a girl from a very wealthy family who financed the entire movie. It turned out to be a terrible movie, so I think I was lucky."

"Did your family support your artistic life?" I asked.

"No, quite the opposite. I come from an aristocratic family, very conservative. My brother, you see, hadn't gone to college, and my father didn't want me to succeed more than him. I had to leave home at 18 to forge a life in the arts. It was the best decision I ever made. A few years later, I married an Italian artist, renowned in pop art, which in Italy was called the 'Rome School.' Through him, I met many, many famous artists and actors."

"What a life you've lived," I said, genuinely dazzled. "Tell me some of the notable actors you've rubbed shoulders with."

"So many. I was friends with Gina, Claudia Cardinale. Sophia, too."

"Gina? Do you mean Lollobrigida?" I felt like I was having an Italian wet dream.

"Oh, yes. One time she was at our villa, and she told me she doesn't like Claudia because she doesn't properly discipline her children. 'My mother used to hit me with broom,' she said. 'And look how I turned out!'"

The entire ride up to Stowe was filled with similarly juicy Italian celebrity gossip, circa the late 20th century. Cutting through the town of Moscow, I asked Olivia if she was still creatively active.

"Always," she replied. "I've just finished a book, and I'm shopping around the movie rights. It's about a chimney sweep. When he cleans out a chimney, he also captures the souls of the people who live in the house. What do you think of that?"

"I love it, Olivia! I would pay to see that movie."

We took the final turn onto the sprawling Trapp property. I almost felt like I should apologize for the preternaturally warm weather. "I hope you've not come to ski," I said.

"No, not at all," she replied. "This weather is fine with me. I'm here for the gorgeous alpine fields and the mountains. And also for the Wiener schnitzel. They make it the correct way — with veal!"

All I could think was, I wish I could shave 30 years off my age. In this fantasy, I'd offer myself up to Olivia as her boy toy and we'd travel the world together. If she actually introduced me to Sophia Loren, though, I don't think my heart could take it.

All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.

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About The Author

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac is a Burlington cab driver whose biweekly "Hackie" column has been appearing in Seven Days since 2000. He has published two book-length collections, Hackie: Cab Driving and Life, and Hackie 2: Perfect Autumn.


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