ROME – Premier Silvio Berlusconi doesn't seem to be letting his legal woes get him down, joking Friday to two young blondes that he'd like to invite them to his famed "bunga bunga" parties.
Berlusconi went on trial this week on charges he paid for sex with a 17-year-old girl at some of the parties then tried to use his influence to cover it up. He and the girl both deny that they had sex.
The 74-year-old premier was handing out prizes to a dozen promising young college graduates in the courtyard of his Rome offices Friday when he congratulated two young women for their accomplishments.
"Congratulations, you are so great. I'm thinking of inviting you to 'bunga bunga,'" Berlusconi quipped, as his seemingly exasperated youth minister Georgia Meloni looked away.
Berlusconi didn't stop, telling a third recipient — a male — that he was cute enough to come along as well.
The billionaire media mogul-turned politician is an unapologetic jokester who frequently explains away off-color gaffes as harmless jokes.
Participants at his dinner parties have said "bunga bunga" was an inside joke; prosecutors have said it referred to erotic dancing and stripteases that followed dinner.
Berlusconi was in a particularly ebullient mood on Friday, telling another two prize recipients with bald spots that he'd pass along the number of the doctor who performed a hair transplant on him.
To another, Berlusconi pointed out that the bottom of his tie was poking out from his suit, and to yet another he suggested getting rid of his beard. All told, he told the crowd, he had some 2,000 jokes at his disposal for just about any occasion.
Berlusconi has a history of legal woes stemming from his business dealings though he has never been convicted. The trial on underage prostitution and abuse of office charges is the first to delve into his private life.
The premier has denounced magistrates for pursuing what he considers a politically-motivated witch hunt designed to drive him from office.