The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s 1965 musical, could be restaged under the title The Roar of the Glitter – The Smell of the Douze Points and feature a fairly impressive cast of multiple Eurovision entrants. Indeed, there are a number of singers and musicians who have bravely (or shamelessly?) placed themselves before hundreds of millions of television viewers more than once in the hopes of being crowned winner of the world’s biggest popular song contest.
Why on Earth would you do it? What is it about this cheese-filled, televisual glamfest that has reasonably sane people coming back for a second, sometimes third and even fourth go, in the case of San Marino’s Valentina Monetta?
This attention-seeking has a long history - as long as the contest itself. Back in 1956, charming Swiss singer Lys Assia won with a lilting love song in French, “Refrain”. She was doing double duty that night, however. In the first ESC at Lugano, singers were able to warble two songs. After all, it was a song contest, not the melodious equivalent of the World Cup it’s become.
Assia, being one of those marvellously multilingual Swiss, had commenced proceedings in her first language (German) with a very olde worlde ditty, “Das alte Karusell” (The Old Carousel). She flicked the switch to French seven songs later for the winning “Refrain”.
She went on to represent La Suisse twice more in the following years. Assia wasn’t finished with the contest, though – in 2012 and 2013 she entered the Swiss national selection contests, the latter time with the song "All In Your Head" featuring hip-hop band New Jack. She was a mere 88 years old at the time.
Backing up at Eurovision after winning is not something many artists have attempted. In fact, only one other performer has done it. In 2010, a young lady with some curious pronunciations that made her sound like she'd popped out of a Chips Rafferty outback film won for Germany with “Satellite”. Lena was then offered up to defend the title in Düsseldorf the following year. Her sultry, hipswaying song, “Taken By A Stranger”, was seemingly about a stalker and came complete with backup dancers dressed head to toe in silver bodysuits that made them look like Cathy Freeman’s doubles. Like Lys Assia, Lena didn’t win a second time, but came a respectable 10th.
One person has managed to pull off the feat of winning twice – the Frankston-born, Irish-raised Johnny Logan, who spans the pre-21st century Eurovision like the Colossus of Rhodes. Actually, he’s managed to win Eurovision three times: as a performer in 1980 (with "What's Another Year?") and 1987 (with "Hold Me Now", which he also wrote), and as the songwriter of 1992's winning song, "Why Me?" by Linda Martin. That last win launched Ireland’s incredible run in the 1990s, when the nation collected four wins from five contests between 1992 and 1996.
Which brings us to this year - and that returning contestant from San Marino. Tucked up in the north-eastern part of Italy, San Marino isn’t a big country - 61 square kilometres in all. First appearing in the competition in 2008, it’s only in the current decade that they’ve unearthed a goddess of Eurovision: Valentina Monetta.
Unlike other entrants for the little republic, she’s a dyed in the wool local, born there in 1975. Her first tilt at ESC glory was in 2012 with the hastily retitled “The Social Network Song” (“Facebook Uh Oh Oh” didn’t cut it with the ESC rules against commercial promotion). A better entry, "Crisalide (Vola)", followed the next year, but still no joy. In 2014, it was third time lucky with the prophetic “Maybe”, which saw her gain enough points for San Marino to compete in the grand final for the first time.
Now, she’s back, with American singer/actor Jimmie Wilson (who once played Barack Obama in a German musical about the US president) singing “Spirit of the Night”. It should be mentioned that this tune (like all of Valentina’s entries and another 24 others across the history of the ESC finals) was written by German powerhouse composer Ralph Siegel, who has managed one win with 1982's “Ein bißchen Frieden” by Nicole.
Seriously, you’d have to be slightly touched in the head (as my grandma would say) to keep putting yourself through this nerve-wracking ordeal just for three minutes onstage and in the living rooms of millions of television viewers. Like Eddie the Eagle or Eric the Eel, you know some of them are cracked, but you can’t help loving them for having a go. And isn’t that an Aussie commandment? “Avago!”
The Eurovision Song Contest will be broadcast over SBS’s Eurovision weekend - Friday 12 May, Saturday 13 May, and Grand Final Sunday 14 May at 7.30pm on SBS with LIVE early morning broadcasts begin Wednesday 10 May at 5am on SBS.