Monday, January 12, 2015

Who Are Those Guys? - Mike Bongiorno

Michael Nicholas Salvatore Bongiorno was born in New York City, New York on May 26, 1924. His father was a prominent lawyer who also undertook a successful political career coming to become president of the powerful association Sons of Italy in America, an order of the Children of Italy in America, and ran for mayor of New York City against Fiorello La Guardia and Generoso Pope.
When he was still a baby Mickey, as he was called then, returned to Turin, Italy with his mother when his parents separated. They lived in the house of his uncle Giuseppina Carello, his mother's sister, and Nicholas Oneto San Lorenzo. In Turin Michael attended elementary school, grammar school D'Azeglio and became a big fan of Juventus. From a young boy he expressed his outgoing personality and his willingness to become a journalist, and since he was a big sports fan soon began to work for the sports pages of La Stampa as "idler".
During World War II, after the German invasion of Italy, Michael was forced to abandon his studies on 8 October 1943 to take refuge in the Alps. He decided to become a part of the partisan groups and, thanks to his knowledge of English, was employed in an important and dangerous "relay race" in which he had to cross in winter the snow-covered Alpine foothills to bring messages to Switzerland, on behalf of the Resistance, this allowed communications between the Italian partisans and Allies stationed in Switzerland.
During one of these operations, in April 1944, he was discovered in Craveggia and captured by the Gestapo and put on the wall to be shot, but was saved because he was searched and the German agents found American documents. He was then taken to San Vittore in Milan, where he remained for seven months. Later he was deported first to the transit camp of Bolzano and then to the Austrian concentration camp of Mauthausen, where he was held in solitary confinement for two weeks and finally transferred to Reichenau. He was released in February, before the end of the conflict through an exchange of prisoners of war between United States and Germany.
After the war he returned to New York City, where he resumed his studies in journalism, thanks to a document from the State Department that allowed him to work anywhere writing for some magazines. After a long apprenticeship and with a precarious contract, in 1946 Mike worked at the headquarters of the radio newspaper Il Progresso Italo-Americano of Generoso Pope , for which he headed the program Voices and Faces from Italy, and began to host programs from America for radio Italian (l ' EIAR , became RAI since 1944): on Radiocorriere where he was still called Michael Bongiorno. In 1948 he married in New York soprano Rosalia Maresca (marriage was annulled in 1952 ).
Bongiorno returned to Italy in 1952 to make some documentaries with the intent of disclosing facts and events of the reconstruction of the country, and it was soon proposed he collaborate on experimental programs of Italian TV. He took lessons to eliminate his American accent before creating programs and color commentary on sports, especially boxing. Bongiorno was the first journalist in Italy to interview the U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower, then, in 1955/1956, he hosted the radio quiz show ‘Il motivo in maschera’. In the same vein, between 1967 and 1970, Mike Bongiorno lead the early evening radio broadcastFerma la musica!’.
Along with Corrado Mantoni they were the most popular presenters Italy, and both contributed to the birth of Italian television. Mike would go on to host a number of game, music and interview shows.
With his popularity he would appear in eight Italian films among which was as Mike Goodmorning (the English translation of his name) he appeared in “They Call Me Providence” (1972) with Tomas Milian.
In 1996 he was made a Commander of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus by Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples, the last Crown Prince of the former Kingdom of Italy, and Head of the House of Savoy.
On May 26, 2004, in occasion of his 80th birthday, he was appointed as Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by the then Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
In the fall of 2007, Bongiorno received an Honorary degree in Television, Film and Multimedia production from the IULM University of Milan.
On September 8, 2009, at the age of 85, Mike Bongiorno died of a heart attack, while leaving Metropole Hotel in Monte Carlo after a short holiday with his wife Daniela Zuccoli.

BONGIORNO, Mike (Michael Nicholas Salvatore Bongiorno) [5/26/1924, New York City, New York, U.S.A. - 9/8/2009, Monte Carlo, Monaco (heart attack)] - TV actor, married to singer Rosalia Maresca (1948–1952), married to journalist Annarita Torsello (1968–1970), father of  married to Daniela Zuccoli [1950-    ] (1972-2009), father of filmmaker Michele Pietro Filippo Bongiorno [1972-    ], director, screenwriter Nicolò Bongiorno [1976-    ], Leonardo Bongiorno [1990-    ], awarded the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic [2004]
They Call Me Providence - 1972 (Mike Goodmorning)

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