We employed the best artisans
and have spent thousands correcting minor defects
and flaws and creating the finest bronze casting possible. This artistic
captures the magic and energy of the Great Lanza.
It truly presents an eerie presence when you gaze upon it.
These photos, as good as they are, don't come close to duplicating the
of this work of art when seen in person.
- The Mario Lanza Bust Sculpted by Rosa
von Villam in Budapest, Hungary, 1964
- The original article was written by Mildred Fisher,
President of the
- Mario Lanza Memorial Club, and published in her
October, 1964 Club Bulletin.
- Edited by Maynard F. Bertolet, January 21, 1995.
- During the height of the Cold War in the nineteen-sixties,
Communist countries had little contact with the free world. Even so, the
voice of Mario Lanza had penetrated deep behind the Iron Curtain to such
an extent that Budapest, Hungary had a thriving Mario Lanza Fan Club. One
of its members was the famed Hungarian sculptress, Rosa von Villam.
- The year was 1964 and Miss von Villam was urged
by all members in general, and Agnes Eckhardt in particular, to sculpt
the likeness of their singing idol, Mario Lanza. Rosa used her almost nonexistent
spare time and secretly sculpted the bust in terra cotta. Her inspiration
came from pictures taken of Mario from the film, The Great Caruso. All
members of the club went through periods of extreme personal deprivation
to gather the materials, most of which were extremely scarce in Hungary.
- When the sculpture was finished, the Budapest
Mario Lanza Fan Club members sought a way to smuggle the statue beyond
the Iron Curtain and present it to the mother of Mario Lanza, Maria Lanza
Cocozza. After a long and determined effort, Agnes Eckhardt coerced immigration
officials into allowing her to visit relatives in West Germany. The details
that made it possible for her to secretly smuggle the statue from Hungary
to West Germany remain unknown to this day.
- Once in West Germany, she began the tedious and
seemingly impossible task of attempting to get the bust to America. She
had come to the West with almost no money and had not the means to accomplish
her goal. She appealed to different organizations and individuals for help.
First, she went to the U.S. Air Force, of which Lanza had been a member.
They were sympathetic but could not offer any assistance. She then turned
to several European correspondents of American magazines and newspapers,
also without success.
- In the summer of 1964, two letters left Europe,
one from Rome and the other from Munich. Each was addressed to a different
RCA Victor official in New York. Each made the same appeal, that the recording
company which had issued all the Lanza recordings would assist in transporting
the bust to the United States. Each contained a photograph of the bust,
revealing its remarkable likeness to the late, great tenor.
- Neither of the two RCA Victor recipients knew
about the other, but both were interested. It was learned that many Mario
Lanza fan clubs in the United States were planning memorial celebrations
on October 7, the anniversary of the singer's death. RCA was determined
to make the presentation at one of these events. But time was short and
October had already arrived.
- RCA Victor International began making frantic
international telephone calls, first to Rome from where the first letter
had been mailed, and then to Munich, where the second letter had been written.
But Agnes Eckhardt had seemingly disappeared, and the bust along with her.
Next, RCA Victor telephoned the German licensee, Teldec, in Hamburg, who
initiated an intensive search for the sculpture in Germany.
- On Saturday, October 3, 1964, the bust was finally
located in Augsburg, Germany. Miss Eckhardt had been traced from one German
city to another. It was her habit to travel around West Germany displaying
the bust before members of the numerous West German fan clubs. Teldec immediately
sent a representative to arrange for shipment to the United States. Unfortunately,
time had run out. Sea freight, the usual method of shipping such heavy
objects, was out of the question. It was then hurriedly, but successfully,
sent to the United States by air. RCA Victor and its shipping agents worked
all day Monday, October 5, expediting the statue through customs so that
it could be presented in Philadelphia at the Sons of Italy Ball and Beauty
Contest on Wednesday.
- Cleared through customs, the statue was taken
to RCA Victor studios where it was hastily photographed for future Mario
Lanza record album covers. A group of RCA Victor officials continued Tuesday
and Wednesday morning working out the details for the presentation in Philadelphia.
- On Wednesday night, October 7, 1964, in the South
Philadelphia Sons of Italy hall, the hands-across-the-ocean affair was
climaxed when Maria Lanza Cocozza accepted the bust of her beloved son,
Mario, in the name of The Mario Lanza Institute.
- And somewhere in Communist Budapest, a group
of Mario Lanza fans was happy, their mission had been accomplished.
- - Thanks to the Lanza Legend for this historic