Why Must We Tarnish the Glittering Legacy of Italo Disco with Petty Squabbles

Den Harrow, either during a performance or just after escaping from a pack of wild boars.

Italo Disco was the disco that no one really needed: “English-language vocals, whose repetitive lyrics, often accented and malaprop-laden, were set to catchy melodies filigreed with synthesizers.” One of its biggest stars was Den Harrow, an invented performer cobbled together out of Tom Hooker (the singer) Stefano Zandri (the on-stage lip syncer). At GQ, Alice Gregory tells the story of Den’s sharp rise, unsurprising decline, and the fallout from two blowhard, sort-of partners who really, really don’t like one another.

Tawny and taut, with twinkly eyes and TV teeth, Tom looks even more like Rob Lowe than Rob Lowe looks like himself. He has the appearance (faultless) and bearing (dauntless) of a very lucky person, which he is, and which he is usually capable of remembering. Tom has a loving family, a beautiful home, a creative career, and lots of money. He also has a mortal enemy. When Tom talks about Stefano Zandri—or, as he calls him, “Stefano or Den or Whatever”—the grace with which his life has been blessed disappears, instantly it seems, from the foreground of his mind. He begins to swear and to brag; he becomes bothered by minor three-decade-old slights. Tom mocks Stefano for not speaking English, for “not having a pot to piss in.” He calls him “obnoxious,” a “chronic liar,” “a horndog with low standards and no selection process.” To observe this transformation, from blessed family man to apoplexy incarnate, is to bear witness to something almost mythic. Like if Achilles’ problem wasn’t his heel but his toe, which he stubbed, repeatedly, over the years and which every time he did sent him into a temporary infantile rage.

To be fair, Stefano himself isn’t above Tom-directed barbs, which he spouts in Facebook posts, Instagram comments, and national radio interviews, and which he tends to express with an impressive, almost poetic specificity. “Needle dick” is one of his preferred insults. For years he’s been preoccupied with the notion that Tom bought the exact same Porsche as he did in 1989. On Facebook, he’s called Tom “envious and troubled,” a “clown,” a “brown-noser with no personality,” a “small penis man,” a “Coward!” “You should be ashamed that you sold your voice,” he’s written. “You are clumsy and you have a bad energy as you are a bad person.” A few weeks after writing “I would put your head in your butt for real,” Stefano threatened Tom, saying, “I know where you live. I will come to Vegas and kick your flaccid ass.” Tom’s two daughters were 5 and 6 at the time, and the threat to his family infuriated him. Tom insisted to me that he wasn’t actually scared but then added, “I don’t know—maybe he has some guys around!”

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