They weren't what I'd feared. For one thing, they weren't beautiful. Certainly not by the very high standard Moscow sets. The men were lumpy, middle-aged, tired-looking. And if their clothes were expensive, it didn't show: dark sportcoats, suits, brown sweaters. They must've been rich, because they didn't have any other apparent distinction. And the women -- I was expecting women like the ones in Salnikov's columns, bisexual models seven feet tall and exuding disdain. These women were older, more mortal, like their husbands. Some were wearing fancy clothes that must've cost money, but it didn't show. I guess it's hard to look rich, when anybody can buy a counterfeit of whatever it is rich people wear.
They lined up at the bar, looked at but didn't touch the food, and sat together, looking bored. It wasn't the stylized, self-aggrandizing boredom cool people affect. It seemed to be more like the real thing. At the table next to me sat a family: adolescent daughter and son and their dad. They sat there for ten minutes without speaking, looking at the crowd. It was like they were on a stakeout.
Then came my nemesis, the falcon-like woman in the black dress. One minute all was peace, and then a voice in my ear, asking something in Russian. Thanks to hysterical deafness, I had to guess what she'd asked. Probably asking if I wanted a drink; so I said, "White wine, please." She got this look I'll never forget on her face, composed of confusion, outrage, and then uncertainty. She backed away from the table, giving me time to process her question. She'd said, "May I see your pass?" And I'd ordered her to bring me wine.
Well, maybe it'd work -- after all, arrogance works nine times out of ten. And this seemed to be one of those times. She left me alone. I'd acted like I was somebody--unintentionally, but as Mickey Rourke said, "Hey, that counts too!"
Then came a voice announcing the car-unveiling, and the crowd moved over to watch. There were a couple of bad speeches by men in suits, and then a woman in a purple dress started trying to mate with it: dancing around it, flashing her legs at it, nuzzling it, and finally slipping inside it. This, I gathered, was part of the unveiling display. But it did tend to divert my attention from the car. Only after the dancer had vanished into the car did I notice the car itself.
Here's where I might have to let automotive-minded readers down, because I noticed only two things about the car: it was a convertible, and it looked expensive. If you want more, read a car magazine. My only review would be that anybody who buys a car in Moscow is crazy, and anybody who buys a convertible is way past crazy and well into cretin status.
By glancing at the brochure they gave me, I can tell you that the car is a Z4 -- they're all the way to the end of the alphabet already. It's also, apparently, "a one-of-a-kind car for extraordinary people." And you could buy a mid-sized Siberian city, including the inhabitants, for about what it costs. Other than that...like I said, it's a car.
There seemed to be a lot of cretins in the room, because the crowd gave the car a lot of eager glances. For me, coming from Berkeley, it was the softcore dancer who was worth watching; but for a Moscow crowd...well, semi-naked bodies are cheap in Moscow. For these people, the car was worth a lot more than the dancer. For me...well, I still expect the denim-and-suede police to storm in every time a girl takes her clothes off. Every one of these incidental cheesecake incidents is a welcome shock to me.
More money was coming, in the form of a fashion show that started swirling around the car. One by one, "model-level babes" in black dresses came down the stairs, strutted through the crowd and made a circuit or two of the car. Apparently they were modeling jewelry rather than clothes, which is why they all had black dresses on. But jewelry makes even less sense to me than convertibles. People talk about diamonds "sparkling." Have you ever seen a diamond actually sparkle? I mean, any more than any transparent object sparkles? Diamonds, glass, plastic -- any clear surface struck by light will sparkle. It's stupid.