Little was going well for Marcello Luigi Fiasconaro, the South African who, quite by design, runs for Italy. First, it took him almost two days to jet from Johannesburg to Los Angeles for last Saturday night's Sunkist Invitational Indoor Track Meet. Arriving at midnight Thursday, he stumbled sleepily from the plane and said that he was glad he only had to run a 440. "A what!" said Al Franken, the meet promoter, who had been at the airport since early afternoon. "We've got you running in an 880." After that, things worsened.
The next morning, following an uneventful seven-mile run with Fanie Van Zijl, the South African miler, and Coach Stewart Banner, Fiasconaro set off for a doctor's appointment in Burbank. "It's a 10-minute trip," said Franken, assigning his son Donald to drive Fiasconaro and Banner. An hour and a half later Donald, hopelessly lost in the maze of freeways, ran out of gas. Laughing, Fiasconaro dived from the car and pushed it to an exit ramp that, happily, was downhill and near a gas station.
"I thought he might get upset," said Donald. "But he just kept the radio on and sang all the way. Except when the girl pulled up alongside us at a traffic light and asked how to get to Westwood."
"Fantastic," said Fiasconaro, rolling down his window. "I didn't hear you. Where do you want to go?"
"To Westwood," said the girl, a beauty. "Do you know where it is?"
"Certainly," said the good-looking 25-year-old bachelor. "You just go up to the corner...no, you turn around and...well, I don't know. I'm from South Africa. Why don't you see if it isn't in Room 804 of the Sheraton-West Hotel."
"Goodby," said the girl.
"Hurry up, Donald," said Fiasconaro. "I've got to get back and call my girl in Charlotte, New York City. And there is a great movie on TV. Fantastic. First class. Super."
At the hotel he dived from the car. Fiasconaro rarely steps from a car. He dives head first, rolls over and then leaps to his feet. He's 6'3" and weighs 175 pounds, and with his long, slightly wild hair his automobile exits can be startling. Now erect, he headed for his room, the TV set and the telephone. He never turns a TV set off, day or night. "I don't want to wait for it to warm up," he explains. "A good movie might be on." He is a movie freak, preferring Westerns, but he will take what he can get. He ranks Clint Eastwood just a tad ahead of John Wayne and Steve McQueen.
In Room 804, Fiasconaro switched the dial on his warm TV set until he found a Jean Harlow movie. "I've seen it before. It's a bloody awful murder mystery," he said gaily. Then he picked up the phone, got information in New York City and asked for Charlotte.