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#41 | June 18 - July 1, 1998  smlogo.gif

Moscow Babylon

In This Issue
Feature Story
Limonov
Press Review
Death Porn
Kino Korner
Moscow Babylon
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by Mark Ames

Shitting Pumpkins

If you want proof that neither the Devil nor God run this planet, then view tapes of the Smashing Pumpkins press conference, and you'll see what I mean. I had no idea what I was getting into when I showed up to the Territoriya press conference last Thursday. I never paid much attention to the Smashing Pumpkins. I'd never even listened to an album of theirs until I stole one from my friend Vlad's alterno-kiosk off the Arbat. I listened to it once and then tossed it away, thinking they were some MTV mall-rat answer to Sonic Youth, the 1990s answer to The Fixx. That was four summers ago. A lot has changed since then: both Vlad and I work in journalism now. No more afternoons in the little punk furnace, pounding warm beer and abusing customers and dreaming of nocturnal Moscow decadence.

I went to the Smashing Pumpkins press conference with one goal: to score free tickets, which I'd promised to a pair of alterno-dyevs, the Sisters Krylova. I'd have done anything for them. You don't meet too many porcelain-pale, heroin-thin Russian vixens whose favorite movie is Spinal Tap. That did it for me. I was in love, love like it was never known, unrequited Gabriel Garcia Marquez Love in the Time of Cholera love. And when you're in love, you start doing really ridiculous things. Like working up a sweat just to get a girl to giggle, standing on your hind legs barking like an idiot, juggling burning swords while hula-hooping, anything to get her to crack a smile... you even go so far as to promise her that you can score free Smashing Pumpkins tickets, because, as you brag-by-way-of-pretending-not-to-brag, your newspaper is a Big Deal in this town. And the Pumpkins: hell, they're your favorite band!

The problem was that earlier, I'd already got into a wounded-ego duel with the rock promoters from Fee-Lee. They tried to tell me that people who read our newspaper are not the same people who would go see the Smashing Pumpkins, and therefore they didn't need our help in promoting the show. I knew that that was crazy: most young Russians don't care for alternative guitar music, preferring instead Eurotrash techno. In fact, practically the only core audience the Pumpkins could rely on would be alterno-starved foreigners and Westernized young Russians, the very people who read the eXile. But this put me in an unenviable position. I suddenly heard myself ARGUING into the phone that our newspaper mattered, by way of jumping aboard the Smashing Pumpkins bandwagon. That's not a moment I want to remember.

Our phone conversation ended abruptly. I left a wake of bad feeling behind me. Then the Krylova sisters told me that their one wish in life was that they could afford to see the Smashing Pumpkins concert.

"Hey, no problem! I know people..." I said.

So I was back on the horn, begging for tickets from the same people who'd dissed me, getting bounced from one person to the next. Finally, the Fee-Lee people told me that I'd have to come to the Pumpkins' press conference at Territoriya to get my tickets.

When I arrived, some jelly-breasted EMI rep almost wouldn't let me in. I had to fight my way past her. Muzak biz people are the worst: they all look like recovering coke fiends, and they're always either at your feet or at your throat, as the Poles say about the Germans. Once inside the press conference, I realized that the Fee-Lee people didn't leave me any tickets. I was fucked. Then two of the Pumpkins arrived, the bald guy and the pouty winkie, surrounded by a troupe of large, armed bodyguards and an entourage of loud, cockney-voiced muzak bizzers.

It must have been 35 degrees out that day, and yet the Pumpkins decked out in black like they'd just come from a shopping spree at the Limited. The singer even painted his fingernails black. The sidekick Asian guitarist quietly played with his carefully-coiffed Keith Partridge hair, while the rock journalists dutifully paid tribute by offering easy to swallow question..

I only half-paid attention, because I had only one thing on my mind: the tickets... To borrow from Tony Montana, "First djou get da tickets, den djou get da power, and den djou get da Krylova girls, mang."

During the press conference, someone asked them if they came to Russia to make money. "If we were only in it for the money, we'd stay in America, because we're the biggest band in America today," was Mister Clean's reply. I waited to see if he'd crack an ironic smile, but he didn't. Bald, pretentious art fags aren't known for their humor. The press conference only degenerated from there. The singer kept selling us this painfully banal association between aliens and himself, a shtick so over-worn in rock and roll that he may as well have stuck a stick of salami down his pants and talked about his large cock.

Right then it began to hit me, especially the stories Kino Kevin had of the Pumpkins: the worst being the one about how they booted their talented drummer for being a junkie, even though you just know that the selfish singer would never deny himself the right to float a low hum over his hotel bed...

The press conference ended, and I still didn't have any tickets. I was thinking of asking the singer for free tickets, but instead, I tried to get him to wear the eXile propeller cap and pose for a photo. "No way, I don't do that," he said. How about the Nip, I asked. "No, he won't do it either," the singer snapped, not even letting his quiet, brow-beaten guitar player to speak for himself.

We left the conference, Kevin and I, humiliated and ticketless. I made some frantic phone calls, and finally, was promised tickets, at office no. 2 in DK Gorbunova. We met the Krylova sisters at the Bagrityonovsky metro station, and promised them that tickets were "on the way."

As it turns out, Fee-Lee jewed me down from four to two tickets. That meant... One for one Krylova sister, and one for the other. Leaving us further humiliated, standing in line, and dropping 30 bucks apiece for just about the last rock concert on earth I'd ever want to see. I'd rather go to Ser-Ga or Soso Pavliashvili; I'd rather sit through 6 straight hours of Serge and Journey Band then see a set of Smashing Pumpkins. But, I had to remind myself, there was the issue of love...

Love died that night, somewhere in the corridors, by the third or fourth song. I couldn't take watching them or hearing them, sweating, while thousands of adoring fans screamed, and the Krylova girls were god knows where. When the concert began, they grabbed each others hands and, giggling, ran off. I sat next to the beer concession almost the entire concert, while the bald asshole sang "And he loves her/ and she loves him"... I say to Marquez, if you really want to write a magical epic about unrequited love, try writing Love in the Time of a Smashing Pumpkins Concert. There's no way your characters would stick it out either. I feel pretty damn proud that I lasted as long as I did: makes me a real heart-on-my-sleeve romantic, if you ask me.

I left the show with one of the Krylova sisters, but we lost each other somehow later that evening.

I still speak to the Krylova sisters. I've met with them again since, once or twice, but as they say, the feelin's gone. And it's all the Pumpkins fault. I hope Billy Corrigan gets cancer of the head. I hope the entire band does, and that on their way back from some experimental cancer treatment in Bethesda, their private jet pops a fuel tank at 39,000 feet, and that they're fully conscious the entire five minute drop down—a jet that they had just switched to because the cow bass player didn't like the window curtains on the first one. That would make me feel better. In the meantime, I'm going to avoid smart women with good taste in films, and return to chasing sluts, as Dr. Limonov advised. "Find young girl, getting her drunk, listening to her stupid music, and fucking her." Yeah, that doesn't sound so bad. Everything else is just trouble.

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