AICHE Nana, who died last Wednesday aged 73, was a Lebanese actress made infamous for a nocturnal striptease in a star-packed trattoria in Fifties' Rome. Her scandalous dance to the beat of a drum, egged on by cocktail-guzzling aristocrats, got her splashed across the following day's paper and invited the ire of the Roman Catholic authorities before being immortalised in Federico Fellini's cinematic paean to the high life, La Dolce Vita.
On that November night in 1958, Peter Howard Vanderbilt threw a birthday party for Olghina di Robilant, a 24-year-old Venetian countess, in the crowded Trastavere nightclub Rugantino. This was the "bunga-bunga" bash of the day – or a "torrid cha-cha party", as one scandal sheet described it.
Drinks and music flowed freely. The Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, later the pillow-lipped star of La Dolce Vita, began dancing barefoot (a scene she later re-created for Fellini). Before long Aiche Nana had replaced her on the dance floor and stripped to the beat of a tom-tom. She ended up writhing on the floor in her black knickers. 'La Turca Desnuda' cried the headline in L'Espresso, mistaking her nationality.
In fact, she was born Kiash Nanah in Beirut in 1940, and by the time she achieved her brief notoriety in the Roman trattoria she was an 18-year-old aspiring actress with a couple of saucy parts to her name: she had already played a teenage belly dancer alongside Omar Sharif in The Lebanese Mission, an act she replicated for the Frankie Howerd vehicle A Touch of the Sun (both 1956).
She had gatecrashed her way into the Rugantino. "I don't remember inviting you," observed Olghina as Aiche ran to the dance floor and "started dancing by herself, a thing nobody did". As her dance progressed, the camera bulbs started popping. Police later asked the photographers to hand over their film, but one of them – Tazio Secchiaroli – hung on to his pictures, and was later fictionalised by Fellini as Paparazzo, giving a name to the snappers who pursue celebrities.
The next morning Victor Ciuffa, the gossip columnist for Corriere d'Informazione, took delivery of the photos. He rang the police. "Nothing happened," they told him. "If you journalists don't talk about this, nothing happened." It helped that one of the party's guests was in charge of the local police station. However, Ciuffa wrote "a long story and by lunchtime, news vendors in Milan were yelling 'scandal'".
Fellini – in a concession to the Italian censors – slightly tempered Nana's topless number, although it was still a salacious scene by the film standards of the Fifties. In it, the Romanian actress Nadia Gray seductively disrobes in a carefully choreographed mink-coat striptease, the camera retreating at the pivotal moment.
Aiche Nana's post-scandal career provided far fewer column inches. She went on to play bit parts in several films by Italian directors, the most notable being a role in Marco Ferreri's Story of Piera (1983).
In 2010 she tried to sue the Italian broadcaster Rti for ruining her image in a film about the notorious events of 1958. Some citizens of Rome felt similarly aggrieved towards Fellini, accusing him of blackening the city's name. "We were furious with him," recalled Olghina di Robilant, "because it wasn't a decadent city. Fellini, who comes from Rimini, based the film on gossip... he was like a maid looking through the keyhole."