ROME (AP) — The Italian rock band that won the Eurovision Song Contest returned home Sunday to the adulation of fans and so much speculation that the lead singer had snorted cocaine during the show that he offered to take a drug test.
Maneskin lead singer Damiano David strongly denied he had taken drugs during Saturday’s live television broadcast. But he offered to take a drug test upon his return to Rome to put the matter to rest and refute social media speculation fueled by footage of him bending over a table during the competition.
Asked at a post-victory news conference whether he’d snorted cocaine, David replied that he doesn’t use drugs and indicated that he’d bent over because another band member had broken a glass at their feet. Eurovision confirmed that broken glass was found under the table in question.
In Italy, the drug claim didn’t mar the praise that poured in Sunday from the Italian establishment for the victory of the rather anti-establishment group Maneskin, a glam rock band that got its start busking on Rome’s main shopping drag.
Their win gave Italy a sorely needed boost after a dreadful year as one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus.
The band was the bookmakers’ favorite going into the Eurovision finale and sealed the win early Sunday with the highest popular vote in the enormously entertaining, and incredibly kitsch, annual song festival.
“We are out of our minds!” Florence’s Uffizi Galleries tweeted, echoing Maneskin’s winning song lyrics, along with an image of a Caravaggio Medusa and the hashtag #Uffizirock.
Maneskin, Danish for “moonlight” and a tribute to bass player Victoria De Angelis’ Danish ancestry, won with a total of 529 points. France was second while Switzerland, which led after national juries had voted, finished third.
“Rock’n’roll never dies, tonight we made history. We love u,” the band tweeted before heading back home from Rotterdam, Netherlands, where this year’s contest was held.
The band got its start performing on Via del Corso, the main commercial thoroughfare in downtown Rome. Their scrappy performances in front of a Geox store were a far cry from the over-the-top, flame-throwing extravaganza Saturday night that literally split lead singer David’s pants.
David told a news conference this week that starting out on the street was embarrassing, since the group had to contend with other musicians vying for the same prized piece of sidewalk while neighbors complained about the noise.
“They were always calling the police,” De Angelis said, laughing.
Maneskin’s win was only Italy’s third victory in the contest and the first since Toto Cutugno took the honor in 1990. The victory means Italy will host next year’s competition, with cities bidding for the honor.
Launched in 1956 to foster unity after World War II, Eurovision evolved over the years from a bland ballad-fest to a campy, feel-good extravaganza. It has grown from seven countries to include more than 40, including non-European nations such as Israel and far-away Australia.
Legend has it that Eurovision got its inspiration from Italy’s Sanremo Music Festival, which began in 1951 as a post-war effort to boost Italian culture and the economy of the Ligurian coastal city that has housed it ever since.
Perhaps best known for having launched the likes of Andrea Boccelli and one of Italy’s most famous songs “Nel blu, dipinto di blu” — popularly known as “Volare” — the Sanremo festival usually picks Italy’s official selection for the Eurovision contest.
Maneskin won Sanremo this year with the same song, “Zitti e Buoni” (“Quiet and good”) that it performed Saturday night in Rotterdam.(backslash)
AP reporter John Leicester contributed from Paris.