Monday, May 09, 2005

William C. Bullit

"Party Animals" Of The Two Kinds

Yuri Lyubimov's "Master and Margarita" at the Taganka Theater, Moscow - Satan's Ball

More quick-brained readers – or, should I say, yet uncorrupted by Alzheimer humiliating side effects - might remember I once referred to the gentleman offering his name to this blog-text. The first US Ambassador to Soviet Russia, mentioned a propos George Kennan’s recent death, was, it seems, a sort of a “Party Animal” (besides beeing a writer and a friend of Freud. "So close to greatness" is the significant title of a recent biography). He loved parties, and during his tenure in Moscow, Spaso House was the stage for many memorable parties. “ Attended not only by high-ranking Soviets and foreigners, but also by animals from the Durova Animal Theatre, which performed in both expected and unexpected ways” (Rebecca Matlock in “Spaso House – A short Story. Residence of the Ambassador of the United States of America”). As a matter of history, in April 1935, Ambassador Bullit threw a “Spring Festival” party that stunned all those who attended. “Countless animals and hundreds of songbirds were on loan from the Moscow Zoo for the evening; the halls were smothered in roses and tulips; there was food in abundance, rivers of cascading champagne, unexpected lighting, dancing from the Caucasus…” . Mikhail Bulgakov was among the admiring guests and as soon as “The Master and Margarita” was published there were claims that the famous satanic ball scene ,“Spring Ball of the Full Moon”, where Margarita was the naked hostess for that night, had been inspired by that memorable party. (Many decades later the current inhabitants of Spaso House, the Vershbows, did organize a commemorative re-make of that “Spring Festival”.)

Why am I telling you all this? Well, a couple of days ago, I went to a party at the snobbiest club in town, its attendance being akin to having arrived to Heaven, both literally (the last floor in the culmination of successive ladders) and socially, and therefore aptly named “El Cielo”. One of the hosts of the so-christened “Jungle King” party contributed to the general merriment by sending from his family finca a number of carefully chosen guests of the Animal Kingdom.

When arriving at that dark clubbing space, with stroboscopic lights flashing and R&B funky-syncopated high decibels, one could see a majestic tiger, on leash with his own PT; a small boa circling the neck of a philosophical zoo guard; and several rapine birds perched on special gauntlets. An enormous cool-looking owl obviously enjoying herself, attesting that Biology made her more used than her friends to nocturnal activities; a regal royal eagle who caused a considerable mayhem each time she decided to deploy her imposing wings; and a nerd-looking falcon who seemed lost for "words". One could also stare at a she-monkey, grimacing in a slightly menacing way to every newcomer and at a green-blue parrot exchanging confidences with a green-blue dressed young lady. There were some farm animals too. A very young, puffy baby-faced smiling girl was carrying a tender-looking goat in her arms. I asked her if the goat had a name. “Yes, of course. She’s Pepa”.

So, glass in hand and all our muscles flexed we engaged ourselves in some serious partying. I patted the tiger on his head; it strangely felt more like touching a dusty bashkir rug than a mammal fur. I smiled back at the ironical monkey. I caressed the snake’s skin in the right way, smooth as a synthetic high-fashion fabric. The rude owl turned her back 180º on me. And, as I was leaving the party, I said nigh night to Pepa.

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