Il Mio Drake
Dalle Confidenze Del Barbiere Personale Di Enzo Ferrari, Massimo D’Elia
by Lycia Mezzacappa
(Italian) Who said that writing reviews was easy? Sure, some books are so good—or bad—that the review almost writes itself. But, much as I’d like to write an insightful review of this book, I am at a disadvantage. I don’t speak Italian—my vocabulary extends little further than knowing what a cappuccino is and why pasta cooked al dente is a good thing. I will admit that when I wanted to sound important in my old day job as a lawyer, I’d throw in some Latin, a res ipsa loquitur here and a mutatis mutandis there, but that isn’t going to extract me from the hole I have just dug myself.
But hold on, I do have skin in this game. Didn’t I fall helplessly in love with Ferrari a micro-second after having seen and heard Clay Regazzoni’s screaming 312B at Silverstone in 1971? I’ve been to Maranello—twice!—and I even have my own carefully curated collection of Ferraris. There’s a 250GTO, an F40 and a 250 Testa Rossa, all in rosso corsa, and does it matter they are all Tipo Burago, and thus are one eighteenth the size of the real thing?
Massimo D’Elia might “only” have been Il Commendatore’s barber but he and his father Antonio merited several mentions in Luca Dal Monte’s exhaustive biography on Enzo Ferrari (reviewed here in 2018). Ferrari was a man of habit and this short, 110-page book describes the barber’s relationship with his most famous customer. Forgive me for quoting from Dal Monte’s book, rather than the subject of the review, but it does have the advantage of being in English: “[after café au lait and reading the daily papers] . . . then [Enzo] went to the barbershop, where he always sat in the same red-leather chair—the first as you entered, next to the window—where Massimo shaved him, as his uncle Antonio had shaved him. It was his morning ritual for the past forty years, every day of the week except Sunday.” And then he would make his daily visit to the nearby cemetery to visit his son Dino’s tomb.
An Italian-speaker will glean far more from the book than I can, but the fact that it was written at all is significant. The morning routine strikes me as almost an echo of Mass, a secular parallel with a daily exchange of confessions and intimacies. Ferrari’s reign was long and unparalleled in its majesty and mystique—I cannot imagine the memoirs of whoever cuts Christian Horner or Toto Wolff’s hair piquing very much interest. There was undoubtedly a deep bond between barber and customer, and it spanned decades.
There’s a pleasing symmetry in one anecdote recounted by Dal Monte: in 1930 Enzo first gave what was to become his traditional end of season gift to those with whom he had worked. In 1930 the gift was a pair of cufflinks decorated with the Alfa Romeo logo (the Cavallino Rampante came later) presented in a dark blue box engraved with the words Soc.An. Scuderia Ferrari Modena. Enzo Ferrari gave one of the boxes to his doctor, Alvaro Magnoni, and the doctor later bequeathed it to the barber he shared with Ferrari, Antonio D’Elia . . .
The book is illustrated with small black and white photographs, some of Ferrari in the company of drivers ranging from Ascari to Villeneuve (whose forename, intriguingly, is spelled “Jilles”) and others of him at events such as press conferences and formal dinners. But the pictures which beguile are the informal shots of Ferrari having his trademark white hair lovingly curated by his friend Massimo. It wasn’t an equal relationship (did the Old Man ever even have an equal?) as the book’s title, Il Mio Drake, attests. If you fall down the Google rabbit hole, as I did, you will find plenty of debate in the Ferrari community on the precise meaning of Drake. I will settle for alpha male, gaffer, or simply the boss.
There is a Preface by one-time team manager and confidant Franco Gozzi and the book’s last page is a line drawing of his most famous customer by the author. If nothing else, it is proof that Massimo D’Elia was handier with razor and scissors than with pen and paper (right). But that isn’t important. This is a short, cheaply printed book I can’t understand more than a few words of. Its cover price was 15,000 lire (pre-Euro of course) and at the time of this writing a mere €10 will get you one, from the original publisher no less. But if you are a paid-up member of the tifosi, or if you’re lucky enough to have a Dino 246 or an F40 in your driveway you really owe it to yourself to track down a copy. All you need to do then is to befriend an Italian-speaker to translate it. Feel free to submit a review after you’ve read the translation.
Copyright John Aston, 2023 (speedreaders.info)