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Our Man in Rome Shows a Flair for the Right Words

June 30, 1989|ANN CONNORS

The new U.S. ambassador to Italy, a man whose word choices have not always been the most choice, had the lingo down, however, when, with a preemptive gesture, he introduced his wife, two sons and a daughter as la famiglia to the Italian press on his arrival in Rome. Peter Secchia, dubbed the "ambassador of dirty words" by Italian journalists, had his nomination held up for a month in the Senate in a dispute over his qualifications, including concern about his tendency to make vulgar remarks. Among the widely reported incidents was one in which Secchia reportedly called a female delegate to the 1988 Republican National Convention a "bitch" in front of other party members. He has repeatedly said he was misquoted. The millionaire Michigan businessman, the grandson of an Italian businessman, did show a flair for the diplomatic when he pronounced at the airport reception: "If my grandfather were still alive, he would remind me that to visit Italy is a privilege and to work with Italians is an honor."

--Speaking of choice words, Millie the maligned springer spaniel had the last one in the latest round in an ongoing flap over her looks. Barbara Bush, reacting to the "ugliest dog" label given her pet by Washingtonian magazine, told reporters at a White House ceremony that it was Millie's turn to rebut, pushing a microphone in front of her pet's snout. Millie responded with a sniff. "You'll notice she's turning her back on the question," said the First Lady at the first dog's silence.

--In the long run, it probably wasn't the smartest move when a gang of purse snatchers decided to make off with the handbag of Grete Waitz, nine-time winner of the New York City Marathon, while she and her husband were in Manhattan on business. Waitz's husband, Jack Waitz, initially took up pursuit, and police soon joined in, collaring the suspect and the handbag. "Her husband ran after him, but I think he (the thief) would have been in big trouble if she had been the one running," said Police Sgt. Victor Pucci. Pucci said Waitz was a victim of "the ketchup con game," a scam to distract the victim into putting her property down. After one man squirted hand cream on Waitz's back, Waitz put her purse down to wipe off the cream, and another man grabbed her purse and ran off.

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