Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gianni Versace Remembered

It's hard to believe it's the tenth anniversary of designer Gianni Versace's death, but last night he was remembered at Milan's La Scala Opera House orchestrated by Belgian choreographer, Maurice Bejart, who was a close friend of Versace's.

Italian designer is not forgotten

Lisa Orkin Emmanuel | The Associated Press
July 16, 2007

MIAMI BEACH - The gates of Casa Casuarina are closed. There are no flowers, candles or memorials to commemorate the day Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace was gunned down here 10 years ago.

Many tourists who stopped to take photographs at the home Sunday said they did so because it once belonged to Versace -- not because of the anniversary.

"Alive or dead, he's a big name," said Lisa Clendenning, a tourist from Melbourne who stopped to take photos of the house after advice from her neighbor. "For somebody like me, who is not into fashion . . . he's a big name."

Versace, 50, was shot twice in the head by Andrew Cunanan on July 15, 1997, as he walked up the steps of his home. Cunanan, who also was wanted for four other murders, killed himself nine days later.

Atlanta resident Jamie Stephens, 27, who walked by the mansion Sunday, said she was in South Beach the day Versace was killed.

"Everybody was crying. People were on their knees," she said. "There were tons of candles and flowers outside the steps. . . . You could tell the vibe was very down."

Audrey Campau, 36, of Bay City, Mich., who took a photo on the steps of the house, said it was a privilege to see the mansion.

"It's hard to believe that someone was just shot on their own steps," she said.

Fernando Ruiz, 39, of Mexico said Versace's legacy is evident because his brand continues to sell.

"The empire is still growing," Ruiz said. "Everybody who likes fashion probably heard of Versace and heard the story."

Until his death, Versace's sexy and daring style had made him a favorite of rock singers, Hollywood stars and other celebrities.

Upon Versace's death, his sister, Donatella, took over design. Their brother Santo runs the business.

The city of Milan, Italy, will commemorate Versace's death in a series of events.

Meanwhile, the 20,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style palazzo where Versace died has been turned into a private club. Peter Loftin, a telecommunications magnate from Raleigh, N.C., purchased the 12-bedroom, 13-bath home for $19 million in 2000.

At the nearby News Cafe restaurant, where Versace visited the day he died, bar manager Al Serrano remembers him as a nice man who would come to buy cappuccinos and international magazines.

"He was very much a part of the neighborhood. He'd always come here," Serrano said.

But after Versace's death, the area changed, he said. "South Beach is not the same after that. It's a loss of innocence."

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