ROME—Riccardo Schicchi, the Italian photographer and erotic filmmaker perhaps best known as the man who discovered and launched the political career of porn actress-turned-Italian parliament member Ilona "Cicciolina" Staller, died Sunday at Fatebenefratelli St. Peter's hospital in Rome after long battling ailments related to diabetes. He was 60.
Some of Schicchi's most famed works include 1979's Cicciolina Amore Mio (Cicciolina My Love), 1985's Telefono Rosso (Red Telephone) and 1987's The Rise of the Roman Empress.
International porn icon Rocco Siffredi told Italy's Repubblica that Schicchi was "a father to me. I owe it all to Richard. For Italian pornography, this is a great loss."
Siffredi was the only male Schicchi signed to his adult talent agency Diva Futura, opened with Staller in 1983. The agency also represented Schicchi's other major discovery, starlet Moana Pozzi, with whom he co-founded Italy's Party of Love in the early 1990s, a political party whose platform included legalizing brothels, improving sexual education and the creation of "love parks."
"There was no one like him, who believed so much in Italian pornography," Siffredi said. "Schicchi has always done this job with passion, thinking about art. Of course, he had a sense of the business, was a genius of Italian porn, but he worked with rapture."
In 2006, Schicchi was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of violating Italian immigration and prostitution laws in his operation of the Diva Futura agency, which the country's ninth Criminal Division declared a front for bringing Hungarian girls into Italy to work as prostitutes.
Schicchi is survived by his separated wife, Eva Henger, yet another of his discoveries whom he married in 1994 and never officially divorced, and their two children, Riccardino, 17, and Mercedes, 21.