Sophia Loren always caused a sensation when arriving in Rome
and received premier attention from crew and staff.
In 1950, Gina Lollabrigida and her husband, Milko Skofich,
are greeted by Jean Govoni Salvadore.
Ingrid Bergman arrives in Rome.
Elizabeth Taylor departing for Madrid on the TWA Constellation, September 1953.
In 1962 Richard Burton took a day's leave from shooting "Cleopatra"
to travel to Paris for a cameo in "The Longest Day."
When 17-year-old Jean Salvadore (ne Giovanna Govoni) welcomed the Allied troops into Rome on June 5, 1944, never did she imagine on this day, she was opening a door that was to become an illustrious adventure. But such was her luck that she happened to be overheard while speaking to her mother in perfect English while in the crowd on via Flamina by Stan the Donut Man, a member of the American Red Cross.
As Salvadore writes in her book My Dolce Vita: A Memoir (Glitterati Incorporated), “Mother’s hair was blond and my hair was a fiery red. We didn’t look Italian. Without wasting any time, he came right to the point: ‘I overheard you speaking in English, and I need your help. I am requisitioning the building behind me and I would like your daughter to get behind the counter and hand out coffee and doughnuts to the troops as they march on to Florence.”
At that moment, Giovanna was rechristened as Jean, and her life as she knew it would never be the same. From her position at the Red Cross, Salvadore went on to join TWA, which had just opened an office next door to where she had been working. Little did she know that when she put in her job application, she would be launching what was to become an incredible career as the first female public relations executive in Italy for TWA and consequently for its owner, Howard Hughes.
As Salvadore writes, “I have to confess, once and for all, that I never actually met Howard Hughes. I like to refer to him as my boss—which is the truth because he owned TWA and I reported directly to him via his office. I received requested to handle all the film stars and Hollywood gossip columnists traveling to Rome via TWA. And I had been instructed never to use his name and to ignore the usual name-droppers. One thing was made crystal clear to me when I worked for him: Howard Hughes didn’t want to be mentioned in the papers, and I was told that ‘nothing would please him more than never to see his name in print.’”
Salvadore was appointed as the full-time public relations rep for TWA in 1948 when she was just 22 years old. She witnessed the rise of the celebrity-driven media industry first hand. As she recounts. “I believe the birth of the paparazzi took place on March 20, 1949, when the one and only Ingrid Bergman stepped off a TWA plane in Rome and was immediately surrounded by dozens of photographers who went absolutely crazy as they chanted, ‘Ingrid, Ingrid!’ I tried to shield her from the assault, but she towered over me and I was afraid that she would e trampled to death.
“It was pitch dark because the flight had been delayed several times, and instead of arriving in the early afternoon it landed in the middle of the night. Fortunately the policemen were able to rescue Ingrid and escort her to a car, where Roberto Rossellini waited inside for her. From the nightmare of Ingrid Bergman’s arrival was over and I could go home and sleep.”
As Rome grew in popularity during the post-war years, it became a sought-after destination for filmmakers, particularly as Hughes owned RKO Cinema in Hollywood and was “directing traffic” to and from Rome on TWA. As Salvatore notes, “Rome was the city where celebrities lived La Dolce Vita. Via Veneto was an ideal meeting place, with its deluxe hotels and open-air cafes where you could sit all day sipping a cappuccino and watch the world go by.
“Once it became clear to the world at large that there was a new Rome public relations office that would service the world press on the comings and goings of celebrities, it didn’t take long for the cream of Manhattan columnists to follow suit by travelling to Rome. In those days, PR was much more of a collaborative effort with columnists than it is today. We all worked together to place the stories that kept the public entertained, rather than working at odds with the columnists ferreting out gossip and the PR folks trying to keep certain facts under wraps.
“I particularly remember Leonard Lyons, who wrote the column ‘The Lyons Den’ for the New York Post. He often went out of his way to help me. He took me with him on his rounds to all the hot nightspots such as El Morocco and the Stork Club and introduced me to all the celebrities. He was known as the greatest table-hopper of all time.
“One time I arrived in New York (it was probably in 1968), and when I talked to the Lyonses, I was invited to attend a Sunday brunch, ‘just the family’ as his wife Sylvia put it. Come Sunday I got into my little black dress; I wore pearls and my black mink coat. This ensemble was a typical Italian ‘uniform’ according to Bill Blass, the American couturier.
“I showed up at the Lyons’ apartment, and guess who opened the door? Mary Hemingway, the writer’s fourth wife, who welcomed me by saying, ‘You must be Jean Salvatore. You’re dressed like an Italian. She ushered me in and I was introduced to no less than Marc Chagall himself. The party was fairly small, and as I looked around the room I spotted David Douglas Duncan, Picasso’s favorite photographer, and New York Senator Jacob Javits. What a day—I will never forget it!”
My Dolce Vita is filled with such gems, stories of wonder and delight. Salvadore shares incredible accounts of the people and personalities who came in and out of her life over the years, noting, “During my twenty years at TWA, I was wonderfully educated in the world of literature. This was the result of the visits of important journalists like Walter Lippmann, Art Buchwald, Herb Caen, Stan Delaplane, and Walter Cronkite, and authors such as Vladimir Nabokov, Robert Ruark, Joseph Alsop, Joseph Heller, Irwin Shaw, John le Carre, and Bob Considine.
“When any of these writers was going to visit and needed to be met, escorted, or accompanied to social events, I would read about them and read their books and columns, in an effort to carry on an intelligent conversation when in their company. To me, that was what public relations was all about. It is also how I made friendships that lasted a lifetime. I have always looked forward to meeting members of the press, especially writers. It is probably because I wanted to become one myself.”
In 1966, Salvadore’s husband announced the family would be moving to Milan. As Salvatore remembers, “I was speechless. Apart from the fact that I would have to quit my job with TWA because Luca’s new boss, Angelo Rizzoli, the newspaper and book publishing magnate,, did not want the wives of his editors to work; he worried that friends would think he wasn’t offering his associates adequate salaries if they had working wives.
“Of course, being a dutiful Italian wife, I started packing and didn’t give my son and daughter a chance to protest. I did once tell my Luca that, had I been an American, he would not have dared make such an important decision without my approval.
“In Milan, my life as a housewife restarted, but it lasted only a few months, until I received a call from the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este. The word was out that I had made a lot of important contacts, so the hotel had offered me a PR consulting job, thank to Jimmy Morton, a TWA passenger and Villa d’Este guest. I was to being Villa d’Este the kind of glamour and panache that had come to TWA during my tenure there. As far as what Angelo Rizzoli thought about this, he did not protest too much—especially when his wife came to the hotel as a guest and I took the best possible care of her!”
The Villa d’Este originally Villa del Garovo, is a Renaissance patrician residence in Cernobbio on the shores of Lake Como. Both the villa and the 25-acre park which surrounds it have undergone significant changes since their sixteenth-century origins as a summer residence for the Carinal of Como. Since 1873 the Villa d’Este has been a luxury hotel for the nobility and the high bourgeoisie, and has become world renowned as one of the best hotels in the world.
Visiting the garden in 1903 for Century Magazine, Edith Wharton found this to be the, “the only old garden on Como which keeps more than a fragment of its original.” Wharton continued, “In the gardens of the Villa d’Este there is much of the Roman spirit—the breadth of design, the unforced inclusion of natural features, and that sensitiveness to the quality of the surrounding landscape which characterizes the great gardens of Campagna.”
As Salvadore recalls in My Dolce Vita, “ Once I settled into my new job at Villa d’Este, my first promotion as PR consultant consisted of sending out a letter to about five hundred contacts I made during my TWA days. My Luca always said to me, ‘Everybody loves you because they need you, but the day you leave TWA, your so-called friends will remove your name from their list.’ Fearing he might be correct, I sent out a letter saying, ‘You have probably crossed me off your life of useful contacts, but may I suggest that if you come to Italy you must visit the Grand Hotel Villa d’Este on Lake Como, because I will be there to welcome you and show you around one of the most beautiful spots in the world.’
“It worked. I don’t know whether it was my letter or other factors, but in the years since then Villa d’Este has grown to international acclaim because of the respite it offers from whatever the world of that day might be.”
Salvadore began at the Villa d’Este in October 1967 and remained as the head of public relations until her death in 2012. My Dolce Vita was her fourth book, the only memoir of her years on the other side of the velvet ropes. Like her career, My Dolce Vita Is a deeply personal and intimate look at life by a woman who had an intuitive understanding of the intricacy of social graces.
As Glitterati Incorporated publisher Marta Hallett observes, “There were so many things that made Jean Salvadore remarkable, but I think the most important one is that she created a job (as PR Director as a woman) before anyone else had it and made a ‘name’ for herself as an international figure in the 1950s and 1960s, when most women, especially Italian women, were at home wrangling a gaggle of children.
“Jean was chic in every way in that she always looked chic (fashion), knew her foods and wine inside out and backward, and had traveled with ‘foodies’ her entire career, and had an essential social style that made her comfortable in every environment, no matter what it was, and at the same time made anyone in her purview feel elegant themselves and welcomed.”
Audrey Hepburn and husband Mel Ferrer traveled without entourage or fanfare
to Paris after Hepburn finished filming "Roman Holiday" in 1955.
The famed floating pool on Lake Como is as beautiful from above as it is at eye-level
and remains the only floating pool on the lake to this day.
A old postcard image of the mosaic built in 1568, on of the most photographed monuments in Italy.