As a kid, a quarter of a century ago, Robert Pesut and his father set out to buy new shoes a family holiday in socialist Yugoslavia and his father bought him a guitar instead. At that moment, Roberto became Magnifico, the Divine. In the course of his ensuing career, Magnifico has transformed from one outrageous image to the next so often that he’s been dubbed the “Slovenian Madonna”. Every video a new image, on every new album a new provocation. A singing, guitar-slinging Balkan Borat, Magnifico sends up stereotypes and prejudices with gleeful, melodious irony.
In the nineties, he pulled the seventies out of the mothballs, together with pink shirts and bell-bottoms. He began his solo career with the adaptation of 24.000 bacci, served up with macho irony in the chorus “Magnifico has balls, Magnifico gets us horny”. On the cover of his first solo album, From Heart to Heart, he appeared as Zeleni Jure, a Slavic god of fertility and spring, a mythological figure in a kitschy outfit, with grapes behind his belt. The album stormed the charts, followed by another taboo-breaking invasion an album entitled Who is a Cefur?(cefur a typical Slovenian insult for southerners), which grew into a massive movement against hatred and chauvinism. He went a step further on the cover of his next album, appearing half-naked in leopard shorts as the new Sexy Boy; this time, his chorus “Magnifico is a Faggot” broke another taboo homophobia among Slovenians. Once an insult, faggot became the new mantra of audiences of all ages, sexes and sexual preferences. And pretty much everything sold under the Magnifico trademark is connected with sex – “I have no idea why. My mother has always been loving to me, I swear”, he says tongue firmly placed in cheek – “Sex really seems strong stuff to me. I am addicted to orgasms.” His impressive collection of porn movies is apparently kept as a kind of nostalgia that he feels for the times when he was obsessed with the porn divas Emmanuelle and Cicciolina as a kid. If you ask him why, he grins: “Can you imagine that you have the infamy of being the greatest whore in the world and can carry it with dignity?” However, his muse was to become the porn diva Sylvia Kristel, whom he dedicated a massive Slovenian hit Sylvia, with which he presented himself at a Slovenian Eurovision contest.
The next year, he caused a stir in the Slovenian public with a new project a transvestite trio dubbed “Sisters”. From the mouths of three gays uniformed flight attendants the chorus “I can only give you love” naturally came across as another top class provocation. The victory at the Slovenian Eurosong contest resulted in a political and media quake Slovenia was represented by gay people at the Eurovision contest. A massive media coup and a victory against hatred and homophobia. A showman in all fields, Magnifico acted in three Slovenian full-length films; the lead role in Stereotype as a far-out painter, in Porno Film as a Serbian mafia boss who looks after his harem of Ukrainian prostitutes, and in Poker as an angry poker player. His life in general seems like a film; adored at his concerts by audiences ranging from teenage girls to grey-haired men, he’s a gay icon and an intellectual’s delight. At the same time, he’s a down-to-earth family man, “an exemplary father and a lover of his wife,” he says. He fell in love with her when he danced in a folklore group – because he found her similar to the fair-haired actress from the Scandinavian youth series The White Stone. He was seventeen, she was eighteen, and they celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary last year. It is therefore not surprising that he says: “I wish to remain normal as I wish anything. I wouldn’t like to go nuts, neither from fame nor music.”
The key to the Magnifico phenomenon probably also lies in the fact that he is accepted by both the critics and the nameless multitude of hairdressers, workers, farmers and secretaries; his concerts are accompanied by the screams of teenage girls, the nodding of machos and the murmuring of intellectuals, who discuss him in phenomenological writings: “Everything he does, he turns into circus, kitsch with a reason or sensibility recycled to unconsciousness.” Which is actually already a bit boring, he says. Thus his latest songs are a wildly spiced, well-mixed cocktail of various musical styles, ranging from funk, techno, twist, R&B, Latino to the open flirtation with turbofolk and Balkan rhythms. Magnifico in the world of chaos. Hir aj kam, hir aj go !