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Renée & Renato

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Vocal duo Renée & Renato remain best remembered for the kitsch classic "Save Your Love," a much-parodied duet that nevertheless topped the British pop charts during the 1982 Christmas season. Roman-born Renato Pagliari began his career as a professional waiter, working in a series of five-star restaurants across the globe -- he often performed Neapolitan songs and operatic arias for appreciative patrons, much to the delight of his employers, and upon settling in Birmingham, England, in 1975 he appeared on the television amateur showcase New Faces. Pagliari's soaring tenor so impressed songwriter Johnny Edward that he immediately offered the aspiring singer the chance to record "Save Your Love" -- a series of business and legal complications delayed the proposed studio session for seven years, however, by which time Edward also discovered singer and actress Hilary Lester, a London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art graduate whose previous claim to fame was her work as an extra in the film adaptation of the Pink Floyd concept album The Wall. Renaming Lester "Renée," Edward finally negotiated the release of "Save Your Love" in the fall of 1982. At first, the single (a treacly ballad with absurdly mushy lyrics) entered the U.K. pop charts at number 54, but it quickly picked up momentum, spending the final weeks of the year at number one. The song's similarly over the top video did not even feature Lester, however -- by the time "Save Your Love" hit retail, she was singing in another band, and stand-in Val Penny lip-synced her vocals in the promo clip. Lester returned to the fold for Renée & Renato's 1983 follow-up, "Just One More Kiss," which stalled at number 48. When a third single, "Jesus Loves Us All," failed even to chart, Edward pulled the plug and Pagliari and Lester went their separate ways. Lester went on to contribute backing vocals to soundtracks for films including Evita and The Land Before Time -- she also performed as a solo act as well as collaborating with pop singer Don Fardon (of "Delta Queen" fame) and swing revivalist Mick the Knife, and in 2007 co-starred in the stage production Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mum. Pagliari, meanwhile, remade the Neapolitan song "O Sole Mio" as "Just One Cornetto" for a popular Wall's ice cream commercial, recorded six solo albums, and toured as a cruise-ship entertainer for Royal Caribbean International, Cunard, and Costa Cruise Lines. In the final years of his life, Pagliari regularly performed at his son Remo's Staffordshire restaurant, dubbed Renato's. He died on July 29, 2009, following surgery to remove a brain tumor. ~ Jason Ankeny