The Medvedeva woman was impossible as everybody knows. She was prone to bouts of drunkedness, fits of hysteria, you name it. She was awkward, did not know how to fit into society, she was ready to love or hate passionately at the drop of a hat; she was, as it is well documented, an exhibitionist. She was also a good singer, a lonely girl, a dedicated artist, a beautiful babe, and, binges notwithstanding, a faithful woman in her own weird way. I got married to her in 1985 so she could stay in Paris and live with whoever she wanted, and although I did not put one shred of faith in this “wedding” apart from the bond of friendship (we never slept together), she did, as it turned out.
I found out about her death while on an extended stay in New York.
As one famous French writer once said: it is not the first time I spill ink on the grave of a friend. But this time it feels especially painful. And I never thought it would because the last time I saw her in old M she was so competitive and infatuated with her own so-called “superstardom” I decided not to call her again. And I didn’t.
In those days I had not yet learned to appreciate the beauty and the sheer energy of a Russian slut. The Medvedeva woman was all that and also the sad and sexy girl without a father you can meet at every street corner in old Russia, when they haven’t been all bent out shape yet. Several men have been wooed and bewitched by this unlikely blend in her, and understandably so. I was not one of them, she was more like a particularly unnerving ballbreaking sister to me. So I’ll tell a few stories about her, because I feel the need, and in hell, she’ll thank me for that, she just loved publicity.
She had to get married to get the residency in “Old Europe” (term coined by D Rumsfeld). My Russian girlfriend at the time said I was crazy not to ask her for a little money. Talk about feminine solidarity. I just answered I was doing it as a favor to a friend, Edward Limonov, her lover. So we went to the “prefecture” dressed to the nines, on a cold winter morning to make arrangements for the wedding. Which means, basically, visiting a bunch of cops. The Medvedeva woman showed up in her long grey riding coat, she was wearing a shapka, and she was utterly made up. She had the right kind of dress not too short, not too long, and the right kind of smile teasing just enough. She was stunning. So anyway while all around they were treating Africans and the female janitors who came in for the same purpose like dirt, that old cop was like a grand-father to us, wooing and cooing, “Please let me hear her speaking French…” You have to understand this was in the early 1980s, in the days of USSR, when they saw a Russian beauty once in a blue moon.
Right up until the wedding she kept the serious mood. The maire of the ninth arrondissement issued a stern warning to us that “marriage was a serious thing.” I suppose he was suspicious. At the party thrown afterwards Limonov and my girlfriend threw a fit cause The Medvedeva woman had put on tight hot pants and gotten so drunk she sat on my lap, at some point. Well I fled.
Well after that, she reminded me that we were tied up somehow. She called one morning, crying. At that time she was living by herself in a studio off la Rue St-Denis in the red light district. She had come home really drunk late the night before, dropped a damn lead heater (they don’t make em no more) weighing about a ton and half on her damn foot. She was so shit-faced she had fallen asleep. And then woken up the next day with a pain that was ridiculous. I went there, and as soon as I came in she started screaming.
Then I had to call a cab and go down the stairs with her yelling at each step. Then the nurses at the hospital started to hate her right away because she was screaming bloody murder as soon as she saw their white starched uniforms. I called Limonov so he ‘d take charge. Shit, at that point, I needed a drink.
However, there was another side to that woman, that’s often overlooked because of the stunts. Later that year, she went back to live with her man – and he really was her man – lost weight, rehearsed with a band, stopped drinking, and wrote a couple of books in a row, not to mention poems and songs. Thin, and lithe, and milder, she was an incredibly graceful woman.
That marriage was hovering over us though, no matter how hard I denied any truth to it. Then comes my favorite story about The Medvedeva woman. Several times in a row, when I was visiting them, she stared at me like she’d seen a ghost. And indeed she had seen one. In those days, she used to say I bore an unbelievable resemblance to her brother. It made sense because, we shared the cheekbones, the light eyes, and the fat lips. In those days she ‘d tell that same story all the time. How, during her childhood, she and her mother visited that damn brother who served in the Red Army, with a basket full of sausage and guess what, vodka.
They would take the train to the middle of nowhere around Leningrad, stop at a deserted station, and walk in the snow. They’d always stopped under the same tree and wait for him to come down the hill, a dark figure aginst the white fields. He would lift the little devotchka, and she was proud of being the sister of this strong soldier. Then he’d eat the sausage and drink the booze, before turning back to walk up the hill and disappear. They would always wait until he was out of sight. And then walk back to the lonely station.
Years later, when I saw The Medvedeva woman again in Moscow I reminded her this whole romance about her brother. She dismissed it with a disgusted wave of the hand.
“He’s a hopeless drunk now,” she said.
And I liked that unlikely blend in her : the lost soul and the disabused bitch. Made for a hell of a woman.
Natalia Medvedova, singer, author and former wife of Edward Limonov, died on February 4th of heart failure at the age of 44.
This article was originally published in The eXile on February 20, 2003.
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