THE realms of politics and entertainment are colliding. In the UK, Alan Sugar has traded his camped-up TV persona into a role as a bona fide government adviser. In France, the first lady is a singer/songwriter and model. In Italy ... well, in Italy the whole government seems to be a circus of intrigue, farce and sex, ring-mastered by a leader who would be as plausible as a pantomime villain as he would be as a head of state.
All of this means, of course, that this year's G8 summit, hosted by Berlusconi in L'Aquila, Italy, is turning out to be a rather better than average show. For one thing, it features a cast of characters who would give the Coen brothers a run for their money. If politics had Oscars, surely the judges would be torn between giving the best statesman gong to leading man Obama, for his impeccable poise, or to Berlusconi, for his utterly compelling rendering of an eccentric character.
As usual, however, the most compelling drama is played out among the female characters. Divorce proceedings having been initiated by the Italian premier's missus, this year the role of playing host to the first lady goes to the controversial Mara Carfagna -- Italy's equality minister and, naturally enough, a former topless model.
You would think that this would be the sort of career iconoclasm that would appeal to Carla Bruni, who herself is an unapologetic chameleon and no stranger to undressing in front of the lens. But apparently not. Rumour has it she feels Miss Carfagna's presence as hostess is "inappropriate". So much so that, in a dramatic twist, she's voted with her feet and was conspicuously absent among official "first lady activities" in Rome. Perhaps she is not the sort to warm to ensemble pieces, and would rather stay in the wings if she can't be star of the show?