Bongiorno in 1981
Michael Nicholas Salvatore Bongiorno|
26 May 1924
New York City, USA
8 September 2009 (aged 85)|
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Michael Nicholas Salvatore Bongiorno (Italian pronunciation: ['maik ?b?n'd?orno; bon-]; May 26, 1924 - September 8, 2009) was an Italian-American television host. After a few experiences in the US, he started working on Italian TV in the 1950s and was considered to be the most popular host in Italy. He was also known by the nickname il Re del Quiz (The Quiz King), and the peculiarity of starting all his shows with his trademark greeting: Allegria! ("Cheers!", "Joy!").
Bongiorno was born in New York City, but moved to Turin (his mother's native city), when he was young. His father was a Sicilian-American lawyer. During World War II Mike abandoned his studies and joined a group of Italian partisans. He was captured and spent seven months in the San Vittore prison in Milan and was then deported to a German concentration camp. He was liberated before the end of the war due to an exchange of war prisoners between the United States and Germany. He returned to New York and in 1946 started work at the radio headquarters of Il Progresso Italo-Americano (The Italian-American Progress) newspaper.
Bongiorno returned to Italy in 1953. He appeared on the first day of official public TV transmissions in Italy with Arrivi e partenze (Arrivals and Departures) on the TV channel RAI . From 1955 to 1959 he hosted the quiz show Lascia o raddoppia?, the Italian version of USA's The $64,000 Question.
Another program was Campanile Sera (Bell Tower Evening, 1959-1962), in which southern and northern Italian towns challenged each other with questions, and practical games played by citizens in the same towns.
In 1963 Umberto Eco wrote an essay entitled Phenomenology of Mike Bongiorno, a bestseller in which he used advanced academic theories to shed light on Mike Bongiorno and his way of communicating. Eco held that Mike Bongiorno was so good at portraying himself as no better than average in every respect, that 100% of his audience could feel good about themselves.
Beginning in 1963, he hosted the first of eleven editions of the Sanremo Festival. Then he hosted the quiz programs Caccia al numero (Number Hunting, 1962), La Fiera dei Sogni (Dream Fair, 1962-1965) and Giochi in Famiglia (Games in Family, 1966-1969). But the greatest success came with the quiz program Rischiatutto (1970-1974), an adapted Italian version of Jeopardy!, with 20 to 30 million watchers every Thursday night, the highest audience in the history of Italian TV. Other programs hosted by Bongiorno were the news talk show Ieri e Oggi (Yesterday and Today, 1976) and the quiz programs Scommettiamo? (Wanna Bet?, 1976-1978), inspired by horse-racing, and a remake of Lascia o raddoppia? in 1979.
He moved to Tele Milano (now Canale 5), one of the first Italian commercial TV channels owned by Mediaset, the media company founded by Silvio Berlusconi, to host I sogni nel cassetto (The dreams, literally "The dreams in the drawer", 1979-1980). After a brief return to RAI with the news-game Flash (1980-1982), he continued working for Mediaset quiz programmes Bis (1981-1990), Superflash (1982-1985), Pentathlon (1985-1987), Telemike (1987-1992), Tris (1990-1991), the math game Tutti per uno (All for one, 1992) and from 1989 to 2003 La ruota della fortuna (Wheel of Fortune).
From 1991 to 2001 he hosted Bravo, Bravissimo, a festival featuring preteen musicians, dancers and singers from all over the world. He won 24 Telegatto, the Italian TV prize.
Until 2005 he hosted Genius on Rete 4, an afternoon quiz show aimed at 12- to 14-year-olds. In 2006 and 2007 he hosted his last quiz show Il Migliore (The Best) on Rete 4. More recently, he was also a guest on the second episode of the Gianfranco Funari's show Apocalypse Show on Rai 1. On December 13, 2007, Mike Bongiorno was awarded an honorary degree Honoris Causa by IULM University of Milan. On 26 March 2009 Bongiorno signed for SKY Italia after Mediaset decided not to renew his contract, where he planned to host a new game show on SKY Uno called RiSKYtutto (a modern edition of his popular show Rischiatutto), which had been scheduled to air in the autumn of 2009.
His body lay in repose for a few days at the Triennale in Milan before a state funeral was held in the Milan Cathedral on September 12, 2009. Many Italian TV stars such as Rosario Fiorello, Pippo Baudo, Fabio Fazio, Sandra Mondaini, Alba Parietti, Paola Barale, Carlo Conti, Gerry Scotti, Marco Columbro and several other entertainers attended the service which was held by bishop Erminio De Scalzi.
Bongiorno was buried in the family tomb, at Dagnente Cemetery, near Arona. On January 25, 2011, the tomb was ransacked and his body, along with the coffin, was stolen. On Thursday, December 8, 2011, Mike Bongiorno's body was recovered from a field near Milan.
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.