.::GIUGNO 2005::.


by LindAnn Lo Schiavo

In June 1991, Tea Leoni was still known publicly by her birth name, Elizabeth Tea Pantaleoni, when The New York Times announced her wedding to TV producer Neil Joseph Tardio, Jr. in Hope , New Jersey
Since then, this Italian American actress has trimmed her name and lengthened her professional resume.  Reborn as Tea Leoni, she became best known as photojournalist Nora Wilde in a sit-com "The Naked Truth" [broadcast on ABC in 1995, on NBC 1996-98]; as the wife of actor David ("The X Files") Duchovny, whom she married in 1997; and as a versatile performer who has co-starred in favorites such as "Flirting with Disaster" (1996), "Deep Impact" (1998), "The Family Man" with Nicholas Cage (2000), "Jurassic Park III" (2001), Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending" (2002), "Spanglish" (2004), among others.  Upcoming, Tea Leoni will be seen in the film "People I Know," starring with Al Pacino and Kim Basinger, as well as a remake of the 1977 classic "Fun with Dick and Jane," starring with Jim Carrey.

L' IDEA caught up with the leggy 39-year-old blonde on a sunny Sunday afternoon amid a limousine log-jam at the Regency Hotel on
Park Avenue . That evening, Tea Leoni would attend the Manhattan premiere of David Duchovny's directorial debut "House of D," in which she plays Mrs. Warshaw, the widowed mother of 13-year-old Tommy Warshaw [actor Anton Yelchin].  Before Tea glammed up for the red carpet, we discussed a topic that's been behind the scenes: her European ancestry.  

Since the Pantaleoni family tree is distinguished, here's a question.  Has it occurred to the media that Tea's surname is Italian?  Perhaps NOT.  For example, when William Booth profiled the actress for The Washington Post [
Thursday December 16, 2004 ], he sidestepped all those Vesuvian vowels to position her as a white Anglo-Saxon.  Booth wrote: "To the world, Leoni is a sexy, blond, blue-eyed uber-WASP, with mile-long legs, an actress known sometimes as much for her beauty as her work."  Or maybe Booth confused Leoni with "Portia de Rossi," the stage name of Australian actress Amanda Lee Rogers.

Time to unveil some of those vowel-bearing relatives whose reputations deserve a look. 

Guido Pantaleoni [great grandfather of Tea Leoni]

Guido Pantaleoni [born 1859], the great grandfather of Tea Leoni, was born in northern
Italy in 1859.  During the 19th century, when George Westinghouse was busy developing a new concept - - alternating-current - - he traveled around the boot seeking brilliant scientific minds.  In 1882 Westinghouse had formed a close friendship with Doctor Diomede Pantaleoni [1810-1885], an eminent Italian physician and political figure who was born in Macerata.  Diomede's son Guido Pantaleoni had just graduated from the University of Turin .  Through this acquaintance, Westinghouse became aware of a process, invented by an Italian, for making artificial marble from gypsum, and he arranged with Guido Pantaleoni and Albert Schmid, a young Swiss engineer, to come to America for the purpose of manufacturing this product.   Although the process was never of commercial utility, Westinghouse placed Pantaleoni in charge of certain activities of the Union Switch & Signal Company. 
In May 1885, Guido Pantaleoni was called back to
Italy by the death of his father.  During this time of mourning, he visited his old professor Galileo Ferraris at Turin , which led to his meeting Lucian Gaulard, who had installed between Lanzo and Circe an alternating-current system of distribution, patented by himself and John Dixon Gibbs.  This meeting had great consequences. 
A year earlier, in 1884, Gaulard and Gibbs (his financial backer) had installed an electrical plant at
Tivoli to send lighting current to Rome .  For this installation, the Italian Government had given Gaulard and Gibbs a gold medal and a prize of L400. 
Pantaleoni was so impressed by what he witnessed at
Turin that he cabled an account to George Westinghouse, who promptly requested Pantaleoni to secure an option on the American rights of Gaulard and Gibbs.   Pantaleoni did secure an option from Gibbs, and hand delivered it when he returned to the States later in 1885.  Westinghouse accepted the option.  As soon as the Gaulard and Gibbs apparatus arrived at Pittsburgh , Westinghouse began studying it. The essential conceptions were formed and pretty well developed within three weeks: from December 1 - 20, 1885 .
March 8, 1886 , a corporation known as the Westinghouse Electric Company had been chartered and organized by its four founding fathers.  George Westinghouse was made President, H. H. Westinghouse, Vice President, A. T. Rowan, Secretary, and Guido Pantaleoni became General Manager. 
By 1920, Guido Pantaleoni, age 61, was living in Saint Louis, Missouri with his American wife Ellen Colladay, age 46, their two teenagers Guido, Jr., 19, and Raoul, 16, and two servants.  Both of his sons were educated at Harvard and
Harvard Law School.

Maffeo Pantaleoni [younger brother of Guido]
Guido Pantaleoni had a younger brother, Senator Maffeo Pantaleoni [1857-1924], an economist, who was born in Frascati, 20km from
Rome .  He was finance minister in Gabriele D'Annunzio's government at Fiume (1919), one of the first senators named by Benito Mussolini, and a delegate (1923) to the League of Nations .  In Pure Economics (1889, tr. 1898, repr. 1957), Pantaleoni made a distinguished contribution to the theory of marginal utility.  He also did notable work in statistics and finance. 

Guido Pantaleoni, Jr. [grandfather of Tea Leoni]
Guido Pantaleoni, Jr., the grandfather of Tea Leoni, graduated from Harvard in 1921, joined a
New York law firm, married Lucy Hewitt on June 17, 1923 , and moved to an elegant row house on Gramercy Park .  Well-educated Guido knew how to select a bride.  Blue-blooded Lucy was descended from two New York Mayors and also claimed kinship with Peter Cooper, philanthropist and founder of Cooper Union, and other notables.  Guido and Lucy had three children: Guido, Nina, and Hewitt. Sadly, his wife suffered from aplastic anemia and died at the age of 36 in August 1934. 
October 26, 1935 , Guido married his second wife Helenka Adamowska, age 34.  The Polish beauty, a niece of the famous musician Ignace Jan Paderewski, had been an actress of stage and film before she devoted herself to charitable causes and fundraising on behalf of children's theatre groups.  In addition to raising her three step-children, Helenka gave birth to two sons: Michael and Anthony [Tea's father].  Soon they moved into a 20-room apartment on East 72nd Street facing the East River .
The war redecorated this charmed life, adding darker tones.  Lt. Colonel Guido Pantaleoni, who had been sent to
Italy by the Army, was reported missing on December 21, 1943 .  By August 1945, he was declared dead.  Later that year, in November, it was revealed that Lt. Colonel Guido Pantaleoni had been killed in action in Sicily while on duty with the Army, attached to the Office of Strategic Services. 

A tireless do-gooder, Mrs. Guido Pantaleoni channeled her grief into good works on behalf of children.  She founded the US Fund for UNICEF in 1947.  Mrs. Guido Pantaleoni never remarried.  She divided her energy between the demands of UNICEF and her other organizations as well as supervising the Ivy League education of her brood.  Nina graduated from
Barnard College and Guido, Hewitt, Michael, and Anthony graduated from Harvard.
Tea had always been very close to her grandmother and life stood still when she died in 1987 at age 86.  "I idolized her," she admits, adding that it was a profound level of grief and mourning for her.  This experience prepared her for the role of Mrs. Warshaw, the widowed single mother in "House of D." 

Interviewers have often remarked on Tea's strong sassy language and liberal usage of 4-letter words, perhaps her way of downplaying her patrician background.  But during our interview, the actress turned misty and nostalgic instead as she fondly explained how much admiration she's had for her very accomplished Italian relatives, her Polish grandmother, and her Ivy League educated husband.  Working with David was exciting and nerve-wracking, she confides.  "What if the critics would say, 'He hired his wife -- then she screwed up his movie'!"


© Copyright 2007 l'IDEA MAGAZINE - All Rights Reserved.