Friday, April 27, 2007

Turand'OH SHIT

Russia — “Zaire with permafrost?” No, as far as I know, Zaire doesn’t have anything like Turandot.

In an article I’ve lined my bed with and sleep on every night, element’s Franich St. Franich writes, “Alternatively celebrated and scorned when it opened in late December [of 2005], Turandot already carries a mixed reputation as Moscow cuisine’s newest retort to global derision, as well as its latest affront to decency. As always, perhaps most startling are the economics; namely, the $50 million invested in a restaurant, i.e., that particular commercial enterprise in which failure to recoup is virtually guaranteed. This is vanity you can touch.”

Restaurateur Andrei Dellos (Cafe Pushkin, Shinok), called a “neo-classical Walt Disney” by The New York Times, put forth this study in maximalism a year and a half ago. The chinoiserie is supposedly the first of three palatial restaurants of escalating extravagance, with an Italian to come in 2007 and, finally, a Russian-themed one, just before the Apocalypse. It always scares me when they say, “Just wait.” Because Turandot is enough. Too much. Olly, olly oxen-free!

Six years in the making, $50 million invested, 65,000 square feet — these aren’t dim sums. The food is not worth the 18th century replica china its served on, Asian fusion that invokes the restaurant’s namesake, loony Chinese princess Turandot, who is the subject of a Puccini opera. But, whatever — there’s a McDonald’s across the bulvar. Turandot for lookie, not eatie.

element continues, “The restaurant’s interior brilliantly recalls the Orientalist obsessions of Russia’s aristocracy, and if you are warmed by glitter and gold and loathe the disease of tired minimalism, you will be home at last…Ethereal lighting makes you feel like you are richer and perhaps better than God…Attendants wear powdered white wigs, and after some time you too wish you could wear a wig, if only society would understand.”

Marble courtyard. Gilded monkeys. Catherine the Great’s peacock clock on a rotating stage. Porcelain ghzel toliets that no ass should ever touch. Zhenya, get me off this crazy thing!

Turandot, 26/5 Tverskoi Bulvar, Metro: Tverskaya, Tel 739-0011


The World is Mine

Most people think that Krysha Mira is a myth, one of Moscow nightlife's urban legends. But it's real. I've been there.

"Krysha" means "ceiling" or "roof" in Russian. It also refers to the protection under which any well-connected Muscovite operates, protection that can come in the form of financial underwriting or a pair of neckless thugs. Either way, a krysha means power and money and elevation from the average Ivan. Krysha Mira ("Top of the World") ritualistically celebrates the social stratification of Moscow. Every step of getting to the top of damn Krysha Mira mirrors the Everyman's struggle to self-actualize within the context of extreme capitalism. If you do "make it," Krisha Mira is your nightlife protection from all the wretched little people and all the jealous haterz. Every weekend night, a code word is disseminated among people you are unlikely to know. But if you are somehow able to glean it, know that along the Taras Shevchenko Naberezhnaya there's an inconspicuous rock wall behind what appears to be a man waiting for a taxi. Whisper the code to this man and he'll step aside, revealing a small staircase into the darkness. This is the first rite of passage, a holy testament to the power of networking. The staircase leads to an unlit path that winds and circles unnecessarily. In the dark and cold it can feel like you've been blindfolded and put in the trunk of a car to keep the location secret. You really have to want to make it up there. Continue along the path, and you'll arrive at what appears to be a bomb shelter, but is in fact the first entrance to the club. You've just experienced the second rite: blind determination in the face of the cold hopelessness. Receiving the blessed sacrament of second-order face control, you proceed to the ground floor of Krysha Mira. So you've made it this far. Exhausted, you could settle into a dark corner of the dance floor and self-congratulate but on the other side there's a glowing staircase that leads to the actual krysha of the Krysha. You've heard the whole of Moscow can be yours if you just make it past the third round of face control. Watch as the more aesthetically worthy try and fail. Why should you be allowed access when that D&G model was just turned away? Because you want it more. You want more than everyone else and, for that, you are entitled it to it. Walk up toward the light. While the lower level club is your typical candlelit dungeon, the top level is brightly illuminated not only by the city lights of Moscow, but by the unreal faces of the chosen ones of the top level of Krysha Mira. Do not look directly at these people. One return glance can turn you to stone. Buy a $40 vodka-apple juice to drink, bathed in the light of success Moscow-style. And it is good.

These are the only photos I could find of Krysha Mira. And for all I know they could have been taken at someone's parent's dacha.

Krysha Mira, Taras Shevchenko Naberezhnaya in the Badayevsky factory,
entrance next to Hotel Ukraine, Tel. 203-6008, 203-6556


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Glug, Glug, Glug

*Hic* Shaddup, you don't know me.

Alcopop sampler platter, available at your nearest kiosk.

How to Run a Moscow Nightclub

Divine providence led me to this excellent “biznes plan,” which suddenly reveals the point of this website and of creepily investing so much time and energy on the Moscow club scene: Club Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears. Do it once, and do it right! Revenue accrued from MDBIT t-shirt sales to Respublica isn’t going to cut it, so I kneel before thee, cap in hand. is now equipped for PayPal donations. (It also accepts Agent Provocateur e-vouchers. Charter an epic night on the town with me and Katie, hitting such at Moscow hotspots as Booze Bub, Krizis Zhanra and Propaganda, for only 300 lingerie bucks. Just drop the money it into the "" account — we'll divy up the underwear between ourselves later. A spot on Katie's fold-out couch afterwards may be had for 3 (three) Long Island Iced Teas. More info on all this to come.)

1. Initial Considerations
The annual turnover of the capital’s club industry is millions of dollars. Of the hundreds of clubs that are opened each year, approximately one-fifth survive. Those that make it can look forward to 20%-50% return on an average $500,000 investment. However, profitability is not directly linked to the amount of start-up capital. In other words, a club that costs $1 million to set-up can bomb just as easily as a $50,000 club.

"Let them Eat Cake." A return to pre-Revolutionary excess at Rai.

2. Location, Location, Location!
Put your club within the Koltso, because no one likes to travel. Especially if it’s targeted to the youth, it must be within easy access of the Metro. Cross any residential buildings off your list, because all it takes is one angry babushka calling the police to ruin the fun. Uninhabited buildings are the best option. (Mega-clubs Dyagilev and Rai, both housed in decrepit factories, studied this guide well.) Five years ago, you could rent space like this for $200 per square meter; now it’s more expensive and harder to come by. The upside is that you don’t have to do much with the premises except move out the cotton-webbed spinning jennies and set up a coat check station, bar and audio-visual equipment. Our biznes plan cannot stress this enough: it doesn’t matter how much you spend on the interior. “Institutions sell first of all their atmosphere,” so proceed to Step 3.

3. Strength of Personality
Take the money you would have spent on fancy design and find a good promoter, because 80% of a club’s success depends on him. According to Andrei Fomin, founder of the Night Life Awards, the promoter controls from everything to the music selection to the specific organization of the party. It’s his responsibility to throw a megaparty every night. This is different from the Western club model, in which the club is merely a container for parties, which are thrown by a rotating set of promoters. The promoter, who is also the manager and art director, plays the biggest role in shaping the club’s identity.

4. What Kind of Club are You?
There are three categories of Moscow clubs: elitny (elite), “democratic youth" and specialized (jazz, gay, etc.). The first option is the most difficult to get right, but offers the biggest potential pay-off. Our biznes plan refers to the case study of one of the first elitny clubs — Jazz Cafe, opened in 1998 by Yugoslav promoter Sinisha Lazarevich. He scrimped on the interior, directing funds instead at creating an atmosphere of “mysteriousness, bogemnosti, izbrannosti and elitarnosti.” How this is exactly accomplished can’t be explained on paper, though Garry Chaglasyan (XIII) develops the basic concept: “Customers are looking for comfort, luxury, decadence, novelty and a dynamic atmosphere, where no evening is the same as the next.” One way to foster exclusivity is to set prices high: $10 for a cup of coffee, $50 for a cocktail. And charging $200 for a $40 bottle of tequila turns a nice profit. The average customer spends $100 to $200 a night, meaning that the club can bring in $10,000 to $20,000 total per night.

Phoenix First.

Because elite Moscow’s is always searching for something hotter and fresher, this type of club has a short lifespan (under two years). Two ways of extending its life include shutting down and opening under the same name somewhere else, or shutting down for “repairs” for a period of time, then reopening to fanfare. (Last year, First combined both of these tactics: shutting down its popular Sofiiskaya Naberezhnaya venue, opening sucky First Stars by Fruzenskaya that made everyone reminisce about the good old days of First, then returning to its old home with a better sound system.) The plan warns that despite these heroic methods of resuscitation, it’ll never be as good as the first time.

The primary difficulty of an elitny club is you are catering to very small subset of the population, at most 5,000 people, which is hard to corner. While you can’t charge college kids as much for drinks, there are more of them (100,000 club-going 15-25 year olds in Moscow). Actually, the plan advises not trying to make money on alcohol at all in “democratic youth clubs” — the kids will be drunk when they get there (“the basic dose of alcohol enters the organism of clients even before the doors of club.”) Charge 150 rubles entry for a DJ on the weekend, and know that no one is going to pay anything on a weekday. Again, you don’t have to invest a lot of money in the interior, just a decent sound/light system.

Alternative livin' at FAQ Cafe.

There’s also money to be made on “non-traditional love.” According to our biznes plan’s stats, 7% of Moscow’s population is gay and 20% bisexual, and nightclubs are the places most people pick up. Plus, these people often travel with heterosexual friend support. You can make your club “gay” for a night by charging girls twice as much for entry. (Lesbians are not target clients.) Expenditures you might not think about are transvestite go-go dancers (hard to come by!) and the installation of a “dark room” where clients can be alone together.

4. Equipment
My eyes glazed over at this section. These are the fundamental prices you’re looking at: “central” lighting with special effects attached to the ceiling ($1,500-$2,000); scanners ($500-$1,500); spotlights (from $700); stroboscopes ($70-$250); UV lamp ($20); “dymmashina” (lights visible in manufactured smoke, from $80); disco ball ($40-$100); lasers (from $2,000); and bubble or artificial snow generators ($500-$1,000). Installation is generally 10% to 15% of the cost of the equipment.

5. Sneaky Barmen
These people can sabotage a bar’s profitability by skimming drinks. Install a camera to watch after them, and effect the “merciless release of all unconscientious colleagues.”

6. Get Known
It can take one to seven months for a club to be “discovered.” If you are targeting the shifty youth, flier the perekhods (underground passageways) where kids congregate and drink beer. Put special coupons in the fliers. The strategy is the exact opposite if its an elitny club, because you are trying to keep the undesirables out. In that case, follow the Gazgolder model: keep your club under wraps as long as possible.

Gazgolder: Yet to succumb to proletariat drift because no one knows where it is.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bald Like Me

Look out onto a Moscow club floor, and you'll see a sea of shaven heads. Not just thinning hair, but antiseptically Bic'ed to the scalp. It's the fashionable antidote to a pathogenic lifestyle, as well as premature baldness.

Izmaet Tseboyev, Editor in Chief of "svetskaya zhizn" (dolce vita) mag Menu, the journalistic arm of the Novikovan empire.

Club promoters Sinisha Lazarevich and Mikhail Kozlov of Shamabala-Cabaret-Zima-Osyen-Leto fame.

Designer Andrei Sharov.

Performance artist Andrei Bartenev (in a hat, so his head doesn' t get cold).

Producer Iosef Pirozhin.

Hannah Katz, The eXile's club reviewer. (What a bull dyke.)

Not convinced? Well, I'll turn out MDBIT's Best of Baldie archives, starting with some hot B-on-B action.

There's a common thread with these guys, I just can't seem to put my finger on it.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Fight For Your Right to Party

The Kremlin not caring much for England's cup of tea these days, the Russian Economic Forum in London (aka Putin's Forsaken Forum) was the victim of substantial last minute pullout by Russian businesspeople on a stern suggestion from above. Not everyone fears the dread hand of the Kremlin, though, especially when it interferes with good partying. The capital's most dedicated revelers jumped the puddle for the annual "Moscow Motion" party on April 21, the culmination of the Global Luxury Forum, before the start of the REF.

Some of the brave faces in the mix included Echo Moskvy Editor-in-Chief Alexey Venediktov; LunCh owner Oleg Lobanov; Russian Standard bank-vodka magnate Roustam Tariko with MDM Bank Vice President Mikhail Dvorkovich; RosBusinessConsulting general director Yury Rovensky, Perno Rikar Russia marketing director Vadim Grigoryan and Norilsk Nickel vice president Vladimir Engelsberg; soccer player Alexei Smertin with Tinkoff beer chairman Oleg Tinkov and Russian Vogue Editor-in-Chief Alena Doletskaya in a Girls Gone Wild hug with World Class Fitness Club President Olga Slutskaya and SAV entertainment General Director Nadezhda Solovieva. Colllllllege! Oh man, Dad is going to be soooo mad when he sees this.