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The barber of Mussolini

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Totò in a frame of the movie “Fermo con le mani!” (1937)

For Benito Mussolini, a trivial task like getting a shave was a risk not to be underestimated. Allowing a man to get dangerously close to his carotid artery with a razor represented one of his most vulnerable moments. A simple gesture would have been enough to end his life. Despite his popularity at the time, many would have liked to see him dead, for apparent reasons.
However, the Duce did not like to shave his beard and head alone. Until 1939, he opted for a random selection of his aesthetic assistants, changing them from time to time and without notice, to avoid dangerous routines that could have facilitated his enemies.

Mussolini decided to interrupt this constant strenuous research when he finally found a talented and very young barber called Luigi Galbani. The boy, only 21 years old at the time, was a member of the Galbani family, leaders in the dairy industry in Italy.
The first shaving service Galbani had to give to the Italian leader was somewhat traumatic. As soon as he approached Mussolini’s throat, he felt the barrel of a gun leaning firmly against his back.
“I can’t work in these conditions! You will have to find a barber who can stand the stress of having a revolver pointed at him while doing his job!” he blurted out as soon as he realized the situation.
The Duce nodded to his guard, who walked away and let the young man work in peace. At the end of shaving, when Galbani took the towel off Mussolini’s bust, he realized he had another gun pointed at him the whole time, right in the hands of his particular client.
The young man earned his trust and became the Duce’s personal barber. On several occasions, Mussolini also commissioned him to shave the delicate legs of his concubine of the time, Clara Petacci.

The repeated visits to Palazzo Venezia allowed Galbani to learn many secrets related to Mussolini, but he did not feel free to reveal them until the mid-1960s to avoid unpleasant consequences. The hottest was a phone call in which the Duce ordered the murder of his ex-wife Ida Dalser and his son Benito Albino, previously interned in the provincial asylum in Milan, by lethal injection.

Inspired by the book Mussolini’s Barber by Graeme Donald

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