On September 21, it will be released on Netflix Wanna, a docu-series in four episodes that will tell the story of Wanna Marchi, a very famous and controversial Italian television personality in the Eighties and Nineties: one of the first Italian private TV salespeople. Wanna Marchi, who turns 80 on 2 September, had an exuberant style: certain phrases and idioms about him became the subject of parodies and turned into what are commonly called “catchphrases”.
For her, the newspapers invented the term “tele-barker”. She sold what she called slimming products but also, later on, esoteric products, lucky numbers to play the lottery, magical rites to ward off the evil eye. She ended up with her daughter Stefania Nobili in serious legal trouble and then in prison. She said, in an interview with Press: “We never said we were innocent. We had stolen the apple but we were also tried for killing the farmer. According to my assessment, we risked two years of imprisonment ». And then: “The prison has taught us so much, we would do it all again for better or for worse.”
Wanna Marchi, who at the registry office is called Vanna, is from Castelguelfo di Bologna. He began, in the late 1950s, to work as a beautician. He married in 1960 with Raimondo Nobile, wealthy and older than her, with whom he had two children, Maurizio and Stefania. With the financial help of her husband, she opened a beauty center in Bologna which was quite successful throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1978 Marchi, who in the meantime had separated from her husband, began to market a series of aesthetic products that she had personally created by advertising them on private TVs in Emilia Romagna. She then agreed with Alcide Golinelli, creator of the transmission Grand Bazaar which was the first in Italy entirely dedicated to teleshopping. Golinelli said that the idea was given to him by a comedian and TV presenter, Raffaele Pisu: “He told me that he had just returned from America, where he had seen a teleshopping and had ordered a tie, delivered within an hour, in a big city. It was 1974, I was fascinated by that story and some time later I started teleshopping with him ».
Grand Bazaar it was broadcast on Telecentro, a private Bolognese TV, and on other Emilia Romagna broadcasters. Initially, it was mainly mattresses that were sold, then the promotion of other products also began. The teleshopping formula expanded so much that the lower Modena area was called in the early 1980s, telesales valley, with many companies in which hundreds of people worked. Golinelli boasted of having sold 4 million vibrating massagers.
Inside Grand Bazaar, and then of other broadcasts, Wanna Marchi had a resounding success: he screamed, fidgeted, declared “war on lard” and said “fat ladies, I have nothing against you, I don’t want you badly, I want to wake you up”. Naturally he proposed as a solution his products for weight loss that he called “miraculous”. His “Scioglipancia” was offered at 100 thousand lire for three packs. At that time, Wanna Marchi was selling 300 million lire of products a day. They were essentially products based on dandelions and algae. Always in the interview with Press Wanna Marchi and her daughter Stefania Nobile say that they really believed in those products: “Of course we believed it. Products for 300 million lire a day are not sold if they are not of quality ».
She became so famous that she was offered a show of her own, the Wanna Brands show, broadcast on ReteA. He ended his sentences, agitated and shouted, with the question “okay?” He also recorded a record, entitled Agree, along with a group called The Pommodores. She was so famous that she was called in 1990 by the trio Marchesini Lopez Solenghi in the parody of Betrothed which aired during Sunday Inon Rai 1. In the parody Marchi sold a remedy against the plague.
In 1990 she was accused of fraudulent bankruptcy for the bankruptcy of her company, Wanna Marchi: she was sentenced to one year and one month in prison. But she didn’t stay still for long. In the eighties you had met a person, Attilio Capra De Carré, a very rich man with a lot of knowledge, enrolled among other things in the secret lodge P2. It was he who reintroduced Wanna Marchi on some local televisions where she, this time accompanied by her daughter, she successfully began to sell her products.
The idea of combining products to lose weight with those to ward off the evil eye and attract luck came when at De Carré’s home in Milan, Marchi and his daughter met Mario Pacheco do Nascimento, a Brazilian, who was a cook in that house. They presented him on television as the “Master of life” of Nascimento, describing him as a holy man, an expert in magical arts. They said that Stefania Nobile had met him, during a trip to Brazil: after a dinner, the “Master of life” would have slipped a letter under her door in which she had described what would happen to her in the following two years. Of course do Nascimiento had guessed everything.
The idea was very successful, a new company was created, the Asciè, the broadcasts were transformed: from simple telesales to real shows. The staged scheme was always the same. The transmission began with Wanna Marchi and her daughter who told the misadventures of some acquaintance, relative, protagonist of news stories, stumbled upon something unpleasant. And therefore, in the language of Marchi, “unlucky” people but also “inept”, “stupid”, “inexperienced”. At that point do Nascimento entered the scene, providing personalized lucky numbers to play the lotto, magic formulas to attract luck, but also talismans to keep under the pillow, bags containing mysterious products to always have with you.
All this while enthusiastic “testimonials” telephoned in the broadcast who said they had won, thanks to the magician, a lot of money in the lottery, that they had met the love of life, that they were finally happy.
Another gag was also staged during the broadcast, with do Nascimento saying that he absolutely did not want to be paid because he only wanted to do good to people and the two women who pretended to be scandalized by claiming instead that his art had to be rewarded. To receive the lucky numbers of the “Master of life” it was still necessary to send at least 100 thousand lire for postage. Meanwhile, at the same time, sales of slimming products also continued.
Economic success was also consistent. Luck products sold better than slimming ones.
It all went on until 2001 when a woman, Fosca Marcon, was contacted by Asciè. Years earlier she had bought weight loss products from Wanna Brands and for this the company had her phone number. She was contacted by an individual who told her that the master do Nascimiento had dreamed, just for her, of lucky numbers to play the lottery. To get them, Fosca Marcon would have had to pay 300 thousand lire.
The woman refused the offer but contacted the television program immediately Strip the News. The Canale 5 program therefore decided to organize a sort of trap: Mrs. Marcon contacted Asciè again saying she had changed her mind and bought the lucky numbers for 300 thousand lire. Along with the numbers came a bag of salt which according to the instructions had to be placed in a glass of water and placed in a dark place. The woman then played the numbers a certain number of times without winning anything. She then she called the Asciè, this time taken by the cameras of Strip the News.
The person on the phone told her to go check the glass of water and see if the salt had dissolved. The salt was not completely dissolved because the water in a glass can only dissolve a limited amount before becoming saturated. However, this was proof, according to the Asciè employee, that the lady had been struck by the evil eye. Fosca Marcon was therefore, according to what the employee said, in grave danger but with 4 million lire she could have obtained the magic ritual of the master do Nascimiento to save herself. The woman once again pretended to accept the offer but when she arrived the package with the magic ritual she refused it and she phoned the Asciè saying she had second thoughts.
The employee at that point handed the phone to Stefania Nobile who threatened the woman by telling her that she would never sleep again in her life.
The service of Strip the News went on the air, and for many weeks the broadcast insisted on the story which was also interested in other programs and newspapers. The Guardia di Finanza began to investigate, the Milan prosecutor’s office discovered that the twigs of magic grass sent to people “affected by the evil eye” were actually ivy branches taken from a plant that was in the courtyard where the Asciè headquarters was .
Wanna Marchi, his daughter Stefania Nobile and five other people linked to the company were arrested on January 24, 2002 (relations with Capra De Carrè had been interrupted for some time). The operation of the Guardia di Finanza was codenamed “Salty Tapir”: a reference to the golden tapir that is ironically given as a prize by Strip the News. Do Nascimento fled to Brazil, the Guardia di Finanza intercepted and confiscated a container with his furniture and personal effects on departure at the port of Genoa: there were also 200 kilos of toilet paper.
Marchi and Nobile refused the plea agreement and the shortened trial, and asked that the trial be carried out in front of the cameras. Strip the News he followed him and aired extensive reports with excellent ratings. 132 people filed a complaint against Marchi, her daughter and other people involved in the company. According to the Guardia di Finanza, the scams had earned over 60 billion lire over the years.
The two were sentenced to ten years in prison for criminal association aimed at aggravated fraud. They had to compensate about sixty people who presented themselves as civil parties, that is, injured persons who sought compensation. After the conviction and pending the appeal process, Wanna Marchi opened a beauty center in Carpi, in the province of Modena. In March 2008, the appeal process reduced the sentence to nine years and six months for Wanna Marchi and nine years and four months for Stefania Nobile. Do Nascimento was sentenced in 2003 to four years with an abbreviated rite.
The Supreme Court confirmed the sentences in 2009. Today Wanna Marchi says: “By hitting Wanna Marchi, which was making billions of billions, they created a domino effect and destroyed a sales methodology“. And Nobile adds: “The rest of the television system has taken over the small stations that made their living from teleshopping. On November 21st 2001 there was the first service of Stripon January 24, 2002, they arrested us, and the fact that she had moved Strip the News it is not accidental ». And anyway, according to Stefania Nobile, «Sgarbi told the greatest truth, that in Italy an ignorant must pay. But you are stupid to believe that salt takes away the evil eye ».
Since 2015, having returned to freedom, Wanna Marchi and her daughter have often appeared on television, especially as guests of various programs. In 2017 their participation in theIsland of the famous, program of the Mediaset networks. There was a lot of controversy and the two were ruled out before the broadcast began. Wanna Marchi then said: “They paid us to stay at home.” In the same year they had been contacted by an institute in Bari where it was supposed to hold a training course for aspiring sellers but also the school, after the controversy, decided to cancel the agreement.
In 2006 Mario Pacheco do Nascimento was found in Brazil, in Salvador de Bahia, by the transmission Strip the news. He said he was sorry and assured him that he would return to Italy to serve his sentence. In 2006, thanks to the pardon, the sentence was reduced to one year. He has never returned to Italy.