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15 Minutes

April 9, 2007 |  8:53 pm

April 9, 1957
Los Angeles

By Larry Harnisch

e was 4. His mother dressed him in a coat and tie, and took him to the airport. Out to the airplane. There were lots of people there. Men with cameras. A lady with black hair, all dressed up, came down the steps from the plane. They took her picture. She went back up and did it again. They took more pictures.

Someone handed him flowers and told him to give them to the lady with black hair.

He went up to her and gave her the flowers. She smiled and messed his hair. She rubbed his cheek and touched him under the chin.

Now what? Someone signaled to him to kiss the lady. So he did. The photographers took his picture. Then the young man wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as he walked back to his mother. He didn't see it, and he certainly didn't understand it, but the lady gave him a "wait till he grows up look," The Times said. Then she began talking to reporters in less than perfect English.

nd so  went the encounter between  4-year-old John Minervini, on behalf of the  Italian Women's Club, and 22-year-old Sophia Loren, who had come to Hollywood to film "Desire Under the Elms." (Her first American movie, "Pride and the Passion," had been shot in Spain, and the next, "Boy on a Dolphin," was filmed in Greece.)

She was happy to slink and pose for photographers, and engage reporters in a fractured conversation. In the Viking Room of SAS, Loren "held court in a deep chair that pivots. She crossed her legs and  pivoted  languorously," The Times said.

She dispelled many of the statements in her official biography.

"No, she does not eat spaghetti every day. No, she does not owe her voluptuous figure to the chocolate bars GIs gave her when she was a skinny kid of 8."

What did she plan to do when she wasn't working?

"When do I not work?" she asked.

One of the reporters asked if she had read "Desire Under the Elms,"  Eugene O'Neill's play, adapted for the film by Irwin Shaw.

"She said yes," The Times reported.

A year later Loren told writer Joe Hyams (who noted her measurements as 37 1/2-22-36) that she wished she could "get rid" of her body. "It is a distraction to photographers," she said. "I would like all pictures taken of me in the future to be of my head only."

And what of John Minervini? Let's see if I can find him. Stay tuned.

Update: John Minervini e-mails he remembers meeting Loren (not bad for the age of 4) and adds that they also made Life magazine. Thanks, John!

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