Seated like a queen in her designer leopard skin wheelchair, and making like a statue as a hairdresser goes to work on her famous mane of hair and a makeup artist applies industrial strength red lipstick, it’s hard to tell if Maria Venuti really is back.
The twinkle comes first. Then a twitch that is almost a smile. Then a big fat smile. But it’s once those beautiful brown eyes roll in classic Venuti-style that you know the woman who close friends call “Mama” is well and truly still with us.
Heartbreakingly, it’s when the word Mama comes out of those ruby red lips that you also start to realise that the massive, almost fatal stroke that struck Maria, 78, down in November 2016, also robbed her of her famous voice.
“Mama is her default setting now when she can’t get the words out,” smiles daughter Bianca, gently touching her mum’s cheek. And she’s right, because with that one word you can see what Maria really wants to do is shriek “Darling!” and throw her arms around you.
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September 16, 2019