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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Diary of a Tsar-in-Waiting
By Michael Romanov

Campaigning now for the 2012 Russian elections, I have been astonished by the number of times I have been asked about my attitude to the reintroduction of serfdom.

It is a tricky subject. One has ideas and thoughts this way and that. To begin with I deflected inquiries by making jokes about the Beach Boys, and humming tunes like Serf Safari, Serf’s Up and Serfer Girl. To no effect. Many people really think life would be better under a system which guaranteed national stability, especially if those people are part of the government. Nothing threatens administrative fun so much as elections. They carry with them, by their very nature, the risk of change.

Artwork by Julia Nozdracheva

Could this be a devious tactic aimed to prevent my election as Tsar? Are some people so filled with malice that they are prepared to enslave 140 million people just to prevent one man fulfilling his dream? Or are they subtly suggesting that once I have been enthroned by popular mandate, elections for the post should be discontinued? There is both recent and historic precedent for that.

I put these questions to my old mucker and political consultant, Barack O’Bama, as he and I settled down to suck a few cans of Guinness in my study on the second evening of his recent “reset” visit to Moscow. He was exhausted after spending the whole day schlepping round the city pretending to be interested in the political sights.

One of them was at least remarkable, he said. This was the statue in memory of President Putin which has been erected on the breakfast terrace outside the government dacha at Novo-Ogarevo. Though the limbs and lips move from time to time, the eyes stay ominously still. Echoes of strange, unearthly laughter emanate from somewhere deep inside the structure, interspersed with gusts of dried fish.

The place itself was weird, Barack said as he heaved his tired legs up onto my coffee table. If there had been a ferris wheel in the grounds and a ginger-bread house, he really would have thought he was in Neverland. Certainly the walls were as high.

Funny you should mention Neverland, I said when I left for LA for King Michael’s Memorial Service, or spiritual “reset”, at the Staples Center. Barack knows that I was one of Michael’s closest collaborators in the distant days when he was turning his back on his gritty Chicago roots and re-inventing himself as a stick-limbed, rotating hat-stand.

I was the choreographer who came up with the idea that Michael should turn his back, not just on his roots, but on the audience at his concerts. My feeling was that he looked better from that angle – at least less frightening.

Aware of my role in Wacko Jacko’s success, the family asked me to dash over to LA and use my influence in persuading Elizabeth Taylor to attend the Final Day, as they called it. They wanted a music-industry extravaganza to rival this year’s fivehour Wimbledon final. It was their man, after all, who had given the word “Thriller” its modern meaning.

At the time my invite came through, they only had Mariah Carey and Jennifer Hudson confirmed for the woman’s event. Ominously, Madonna had scratched. By contrast, Smokey and Stevie had been secured for the men’s draw (Robinson and Wonder), along with Lionel Ritchie, Arthur Ashe, Shaft, Al Jolson, Paul Robeson and somebody who says his name is Kobe Bryant.

Why was the ladies’ entry so thin? It needed fleshing out. Where was Dame Elizabeth? Or Queen Elizabeth for that matter? After all, the King of Pop always wanted a knighthood. Perhaps, I said in an e-mail to the promoter’s accountant’s public relations lawyer, the truth is that Michael was always more attractive to men than to women, especially when seen from behind.

Their problem is that Ms Taylor had made the womanly announcement on her Twitter page that she did not believe “Michael would want me to share my grief with millions of others.” I could believe that. There are heaving bosoms and heaving bosoms. And wet eyelashes seem somehow wetter than simply wet when four inches long, painted with creosote and studded with tiny industrial diamonds.

Nonetheless, out of compassion for a grieving family, I said I would ride out to the rescue. As soon as I cleared customs at LAX, I would slap on the old yarmulka, hop round to Bel Air and do my best. My pitch would be that if there was anyone who could flesh out a thin line-up it would be you, Liz!

I had just got that far in my story when I noticed that Barack was asleep, his beer can resting precariously on the edge of his chair. He was snoring very lightly, rather as zebras do after mating. The King of the World was clearly bored with the King of Pop. I carefully lifted the can from his hand and phoned for an armoured taxi.

I’ll have to postpone my questioning about the wisdom of campaigning for the throne of Russia on the basis of a promise to reintroduce serfdom. But it is a matter which will not go away. I will give it some thought while in LA watching Paris, Prince Michael and Blanket in the Junior Singles.

Next month: What happens when Michael returns from LA to find Moscow in turmoil as trouble breaks out in the Caucasus.

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