Thursday, January 6, 2011

Anita’s Most Glorious Moscow Adventure

First glimpse of Russia.
by Anita Sarko

CAVIAR LOUNGE, entertainment-booking agents in Moscow, emailed me. They asked me if I was interested in deejaying the seasonal party for Moscow’s ART-ACADEMY. I was stoked because all of my ancestors are from there (I was named for my grandmother, Anya Zarko) and no one has ever gone back to the Motherland for nearly a century.

After months of intense negotiations, aided aptly by my brilliant friend and attorney, Jay Quatrini, I agreed to DJ and lecture a music business master class. They were amazed that I had always acted as my own manager, agent, PR and, because I’ve had a year of law school, did my own rudimentary legal work. However, I’m keenly aware when I need REAL legal advice, so I contacted Jay. Jay, an international music attorney with a post-doctorate in law, has done a LOT of business with Russia and is married to a stunning Moscow native, Marina. So, Marina translated, Jay bitched and I dickered. Alas, the deal was done.
The Delta Business Class Cabin Gods: Jason Marley, Vadim Shurslep, and Ruslan Gumenyuk.
NOTE: The Russian Consulate is unto itself. They let you in when they feel like it. Visas are considered during certain hours (posted on a note on their front gate) and the form on their website is obsolete. They keep your passport during the time it takes to attach the visa (days/weeks) and you must be invited in…like vampires.

Happily I insisted on Business Class. This meant that I was allowed 3 free 70 lb. bags and I had a pass to Delta’s First Class lounge at Kennedy. I was also thrilled that there was neither enhanced x-ray screening nor pat down.

I snuggled into my giant lounge/seat/bed, was coddled by the giant luscious gentle and laid back cabin gods and downed two glasses of lovely champagne even before we left the ground. The food was excellent, the pillow and quilt were cozy, I caught up on some shows, rested and. 9 ½ hours later, the clouds parted to reveal a very snowy terrain.
My most honorable and treasured driver, Kirill Suponev.
Caretaker/Student Lexy Gold. Ira Shcherbakova (She and her husband Stas Timofeev helm Caviar Lounge, who brought me to Moscow. Stas discovered me somehow). Also in the picture is Mike Yurkov, Caviar Lounge financial director.
The first hitch was, upon departing, though I was first at the passport clearance, I had to go to the back of the room to a rickety table to fill out duplicate forms that we had never been told about. Naturally, there was no pen. By the time I finished, I was last in line.

I was met by a gorgeous young blonde, Lexy Gold. Lexy was one of the Art-Academy students. She spoke perfect English, then handed me over to the equally gorgeous Kirill Suponev. He’s a university graduate in journalism, but REALLY a musician and video editor. He also spoke perfect English. By the time we reached the hotel (Moscow is in a permanent state of traffic jam), we had laughed non-stop as I taught him such useful phrases and words as “wuss,” “alpha dog/male,” “ass-dialing,” “hoo-ha,” and “booty call.” We became fast friends.
Golden Apple Hotel lobby.
My room at the Golden Apple Hotel.
The Breakfast Room.
The 5 star GOLDEN APPLE BOUTIQUE HOTEL was super. It’s very modern with free Wi-Fi in the lobby, great service, spotless, and the food is superb.

NOTE: Moscow is currently the most expensive city in the world!

That night, Caviar Lounge’s stunning Serafima Smirnova (with Kirill driving) took me to Red Square, into the subway (imagine Grand Central Station as an art gallery) and through GUM Mall (imagine the best of Madison and 5th Ave. under one roof). The weather was treacherous, but it was a blast.
My wonderful new friends who helped me get this gig together. Serafima Smirnova is the goddess who took care of me most of the time. She is as beautiful inside as outside. Roman Unguryanu is a big pink magic PR genius bunny.
Serafima and Lenin. The sculpture at Ploshad' Revolucii metro station. AKA "the lucky dog." If you touch the dog's nose you will have good luck that day. Reason why the brass is totally worn off!
Just one of the brass sculptured adorned arches in the subway station.
We ended up at DUMA for a late dinner, where I met some artist friends of hers. This was in is a section of Moscow called The Island, where old factories are being converted into trendy clubs and restaurants ... much like the beginnings of Soho.

NOTE: It is really hard to find Russian food at cool places. The hipsters LOVE Japanese and Italian.
Russian Orthodox church at entrance to Red Square. GUM Mall on right.
GUM Mall at Red Square. Imagine if Macy's was 4 times its size. The shops are all the most upscale imaginable. Inside are innumerable arches lined with fairy lights. Above the arches are narrow bridges lined with fancy wrought iron railings that connect one side to the other. Beyond gorgeous.
The Kremlin/Red Square.
The historical museum at Red Square.
Lenin's Tomb in Red Square.
St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square, built for Ivan the Terrible. Ivan had the two people who designed and built the church blinded so that they could never build/design anything else. Wonder how he got his nickname.
18th Century Russian Orthodox church. Monument to Peter the Great at Moskva River. Looks like something out of Terry Gilliam's fevered imagination.
A snowy night on a Moscow Street. Russian Orthodox church at the Red Square.
On a snowy night with one of the Marx Brothers ... KARL.
I slept 13 hours that night. I awoke to be taken to the Art-Academy building, which was a 1000 person bar/restaurant sort of place with mood lighting and amazing art. I did numerous interviews for both print and radio. The last one was for a tall pale young man with a huge scarf around his neck. The entire interview was about death. It both delighted and disturbed me.

NOTE: Before I left for Moscow, I was interviewed by a website. The second from last question was about the music I played for Andy Warhol’s funeral. The last question asked me what I would program for a general funeral. “Funny you should ask.” I replied. (Cue the violins) “Last year, at this time, I was on my alleged death bed. So, here’s the music I planned for my own funeral.” (Dry your eyes. I survived ... obviously). I later discovered that this disclosure really touched the Russians. I had many bring this up because of themselves or loved ones.
The Art Academy: Where I DJed and gave my lecture. Beautiful! At the Art Academy with the Christmas Tree. I think I'm fuzzy from all the vodka (or because my camera was a bit wonky).
My DJ setup at the art academy.
I then gave my lecture. Thankfully, everything I said had to be translated, so it was half 90 minutes I was slated to do. I got a standing ovation. I was touched. I also got to meet the wonderful Ira Shcherbakova who, with her husband Stas Timofeev, controls Caviar Lounge. It was Stas who had insisted on bringing me to Moscow, but he speaks little English, so I couldn’t thank him or communicate. Ira, however, was so warm and fun. I returned to my hotel because I had to get up early the next morning for a radio show appearance.

Kirill and Lexy took me to the station and they were all great to me. We returned to the Art-Academy for my soundcheck. Ira fed me and invited me to a private show by the infamous Pete Doherty that night before I played. Caviar Lounge has brought him over both with his band Babyshambles and as a solo act. He’s not allowed in the USA because of his well-documented legal problems with drugs. Most of us know him from his well-publicized relationship with Kate Moss. I jumped!
Giving Music Business Lecture to Master Class.
Master Class feigning interest in my lecture.
Lecture tools: Notes, glasses, still bottled Spring Water, Coca Cola, dim lights and a candle.
A group shot with some of the Master Class (what cuties!).
We lounged in the VIP room before Doherty’s concert at TOMMY D., a stunning tiny club. I was fed again. The guacamole was extraordinary! Doherty arrived just before he hit the stage. He was very tall and very much a gentleman.

After a bit, I left for my gig. Stas was deejaying when I arrived and I loved his set. I then deejayed from 1AM-3AM. It went without a hitch and I got all the kids jumping and screaming and forming a conga line. I retired to sit with Ira and an artist friend of hers and we drank more shots of vodka than I will admit to.
Pete Doherty performing solo unplugged private "superparty" at TOMMY D, in a space the size of a living room. He's much taller and far cuter than you think. And was very gracious. He's the guy in the hat to the right of the girl with the ponytail.
Me deejaying.
My promo pic.
Within hours of my departure, I returned to my hotel to sleep for a bit. I was already packed. A ruff-looking Kirill came to fetch me and we headed to the airport. It was so sad.

Due to the time difference, I ended up back in NYC the same time I left Moscow. I still can’t believe I was there. It was so fast. It was so damned MAGICAL.

Last year at this time, I was dying. When I returned from a New Year’s Eve party I willed myself to, I collapsed in my front entrance and wished I was dead. That was January 1, 2010. By Feb. 2, I was operated on for both ovarian and uterine cancers. I beat them both, requiring neither chemo nor radiation. I was damned lucky. And I am so thankful to be able to close out 2010 not only feeling better than I have in YEARS, but on such a high from this wonderful experience. May you all have a healthy and wondrous new year.

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