I met Radicchio R. Peggio, Sr. about 15 years ago when I was raising money for the International Game Fish Association. He was just another ridiculously wealthy recreational angler who fished all over the world: IGFA had lots of them on the books. Ethnic Italian but a British citizen, Rad had been a flyer in the RAF, then a commercial pilot for 15 years. He started his own 1-plane commuter airline – Air Hellair — serving smaller airports throughout the British Isles, then expanded both his inventory of aircraft and routes to include Scandinavian and Baltic destinations. When he sold the business to a major carrier and retired, he was a wealthy man with time on his hands. He passed away a couple years ago.
He was also a philanderer of epic proportions, right up to the end. He had a woman in every airport, sometimes on the airplanes as well. He once speculated that he had offspring all through the British Isles and from Helsinki to Reykjavik. But he owned up to only his legitimate son, Raddy, whom I met as a teenager, and with whom I caught up this weekend.
Raddy inherited a fortune when his mother died. (Romaine had left Rad Sr. years before, famously confronting him at a formal charity event he had foolishly attended with one of his mistresses, shrieking and hurling plates and glassware, calling him a lying, cheating, dickless bastard (in Italian). It made the European papers. Rad was very proud.)
Now in his 30s, Raddy is a man of great charm and humor, with all sorts of ambitions and grand plans. To date he’s launched but one: maintaining a 12-month suntan. (Even with a tiny fraction of his funding, I can relate.) Towards that end, he rent an exclusive condo with a pool and private deck at Bingo Arms in Wilton Manors, where I catch up with him.
Thanks. I’ve been off all summer. I get 3 – 5 hours every day unless it rains.
“I’ll get there,” he grins. “Now that all the paperwork is done with. Speaking of, did I tell you what I found when I went through some of Dad’s files?”
Love letters? Photos? A signed confession?
Raddy laughs. “Not his style. No, this is just funny. I found a trunk with stuff from his father — my grandfather, who I never met. He emigrated to England from Italy in the ‘20s, but he went back in the War, worked as an interpreter. Dad had some of his army records and souvenirs, including this receipt I found which turned out be from a shoe repair shop in Rome.”
Think it’s still there? That would be about 70 years ago.
“You’re getting ahead of me. I had a trip to Rome planned already, so just for laughs, I take the receipt with me. On Monday morning, I find the street, which is all re-done, but between two of the new buildings I see this old shop with a faded hand-painted sign: Il calzolaio. Shoe repair!”
“I can’t believe it. I go in and it’s a time capsule. Dark, dusty, floor’s all bent up, all this outdated machinery. But it still smelled like leather. Anyway, I ring the bell on the desk and after a while this fossil of a geezer shuffles out – had to be 99 years old. I tell him good morning and hand him the receipt. He takes it and looks at it for what had to be 2 whole minutes, then fishes this pair of reading glasses out of his apron and just stares some more. Then he looks at me. Doesn’t say a word, he just holds up his hand, and shuffles around the back with the receipt.”
Tell me he booked. You never saw him again.
“No! But he’s gone long enough to make a new pair of shoes from scratch. Then he comes back out, hands me the receipt back and says, ‘I’ll have ‘em for you Thursday’.”
Get outta here, Rad. This is a bad joke.
Raddy laughs. “Well, we’ll find out. Because I had to leave Wednesday, so I never went back. But I’m going over for Christmas, so I’ll look him up again.”
I make a note to ask him when he gets back. In fact, that’s what this post is.