ROME – The Italian glam rock group that won the Eurovision Song Contest returned home on Sunday to fan adulation, government kudos and so much speculation that the lead singer sniffed cocaine on the show that he swore to take a drug test.
“We want to put an end to the rumors,” Maneskin frontman Damiano David told reporters at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport as the group returned home after their victory in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Rumors spread on social media after David was seen hunched over a table on Saturday night’s live TV show. When asked at a post-victory press conference if he snorted cocaine, David said he did not use drugs and had bent over because another member of the group had broken a glass at their feet.
Eurovision has confirmed that broken glass was found under the table in question, but reported that David had offered to take the test, which is scheduled for Monday.
Their victory gave Italy a badly needed boost after a terrible year as one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus and will bring next year’s competition back to where song contests Europeans have started.
The group were bookmakers’ favorites in the Eurovision Song Contest and sealed victory early Sunday with the highest popular vote in the hugely entertaining and incredibly kitsch annual song festival.
“We have lost our heads!” The Uffizi Galleries in Florence tweeted, echoing lyrics to Maneskin’s winning songs, as well as a picture of a Caravaggio jellyfish and the hashtag #Uffizirock.
“It’s amazing. It’s amazing,” said the group members as they got off the plane and met by a group of reporters outside the baggage claim area.
De Angelis said the group was shocked by the drug use allegations, which resonated particularly loudly in France, where mainstream media widely reported the suspicions and the country’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said even been asked about them on a Sunday news show.
Le Drian remained clear on the controversy, saying, “If there is a need for testing, they will do testing.”
De Angelis said the group wanted to put the controversy behind them because drug use goes against their philosophy and message.
“We’re totally against cocaine and drug use and we never would of course, so we’re shocked that a lot of people believe that,” she said.
The group made its debut on Via del Corso, the main commercial artery of downtown Rome. Their rambling performances outside a Geox shoe store were a far cry from the extravagant, flamethrower show on Saturday night that literally slit David’s pants.
David said at a press conference this week that starting on the streets was embarrassing, as the group faced other musicians vying for the same precious piece of pavement while neighbors complained about the noise.
“They were always calling the police,” De Angelis said with a laugh.
Maneskin’s victory was only Italy’s third victory in the competition and the first since Toto Cutugno took the honor in 1990. The victory means Italy will host next year’s competition, with cities nominated for the honor.
Launched in 1956 to foster unity after World War II, Eurovision has evolved over the years from a bland ballad-fest to a campy and well-being extravaganza. It has grown from seven countries to over 40, including non-European countries such as Israel and distant Australia.
Legend has it that Eurovision was inspired by the Italian music festival of Sanremo, which began in 1951 as part of a post-war effort to boost Italian culture and the economy of the coastal city of Liguria which sheltered it since.
Perhaps best known for pitching songs like Andrea Boccelli and one of Italy’s most famous songs “Nel blu, dipinto di blu” – popularly known as “Volare” – the Sanremo festival usually chooses the official Italian selection for the Eurovision Song Contest.
Maneskin won Sanremo this year with the same song, “Zitti e Buoni” (“Quiet and good”) which she performed on Saturday night in Rotterdam.
De Angelis said she hopes their victory will send a message to future Italian contestants that ballads aren’t the only genre that can win contests.
“We think that from now on maybe more bands will have the chance to play what they want and not be influenced by the radios or the main genre in Italy,” she said. “They can feel and play rock music too.”
AP reporter John Leicester contributed to this report from Le Pecq, France.