Low life

Why did a Ukrainian oligarch invite me to his party in Paris, and pay for me to get there?

9 June 2018

9:00 AM

9 June 2018

9:00 AM

On Monday night I went to a party at the Crazy Horse nightclub in Paris thrown by the oligarch Vitaly Malkin. He’s written a 500-page philosophy book called Dangerous Illusions and threw the party to celebrate it’s simultaneous publication in five European countries. Essentially the book is a polemic against religion. Enjoy life while you can is the message: there ain’t no after-life. Why a Ukrainian billionaire should go to the trouble of writing and publishing atheist polemic then invite me to the launch party, and pay for my travelling expenses and a hotel room, was mystifying, so I googled him. According to his Wikipedia profile, Vitaly Malkin is a living saint with a profound interest in female genital mutilation. In spite of this he has been unfortunately maligned over the years. None of the accusations have been proven in a court of law, however. A fair bit of his Wikipedia profile is taken up with blow-by-blow accounts of trials and legal wrangles. In spite of his clean record, Canada, the country he most wants to live in, has refused him a passport. It all seems terribly unfair.

The Crazy Horse is an old-fashioned burlesque club in the seedy Pigalle district of Paris — all carpets and mirrors and swirling coloured lights. Normally it costs €200 to get in and a bottle of champagne costs an arm and a leg. On Monday night Vitaly Malkin proved to me, at any rate, what a kind and uncomplicated man he must be by providing me and 300 of his friends a night of free champagne and strippers. The champagne was Perrier Jouet; the strippers were top drawer.

There were six of them. When they danced in a line on the stage they were an arresting sight, not least because they were identical in height and build and their breasts were all exactly the same size and shape. Although they did some good old-fashioned stripping, they mostly danced naked or semi-naked and they sang as they danced or writhed like injured snakes or jerked spastically as if electrocuted or swung around on silver poles. With six naked ladies to look at, in a line, on a stage, one cannot help choosing between them and my favourite was the second from the right as you looked at them. The Frenchman watching impassively next to me agreed afterwards that she was his favourite too. She was more flexible than the others, he thought.

During the interval I was invited into a small lounge along with some French journalists and intellectuals to meet the philosopher. He was wearing a white shirt with hand-painted blue rococo swirls, cream linen chinos with a woven leather belt and loafers without socks. He was a shortish, vigorous man with a broken nose and a cheerful disposition. An intense male French journalist with a perm called him the heir or reincarnation of Nietzsche. Another applauded his courageously throwing a party in Paris to launch a book so damning of Islam. Few, since the Charlie Hebdo killings, would risk such a thing, he said. Vitaly Malkin laughed and said that the thought hadn’t even occurred to him. The plush little interview lounge was stocked with bottles of champagne and vodka on ice. At this point I moved on to champagne and vodka mixed half and half.

His personal assistant confidentially asked me whether I would like to ask Mr Malkin a question. I said that I did. I badly wanted to ask him if he or any of his friends had any coke they could sell me. It was the only thing missing. I’d even lingered in the gents in the hope of encountering it. One of the cubicles was marked For British Only. And in the hand wash area was a framed contemporary US newspaper account of Custer’s Last Stand, with a list of the dead, which I’d meticulously read while lingering. But the French journalists in the interview lounge, impassioned by the subject of metaphysics, and pissed, were hogging him, and then we heard that the strippers were back on, and everyone rushed for the door, and the opportunity to ask him if he had any gear passed. During the second half of the strippers I was abused for twice accidentally putting my head in the beam of coloured light from the projector that was playing to wonderful effect over the onstage nudity.

Vitaly Malkin’s book launch was the perfect start to a night out in Paris. I ended up at a place called Lulu White Drinking Club, which I heartily recommend to anyone visiting the Pigalle district of Paris. Even though my hotel, I realised afterwards, was on the other side of the street, and exactly opposite, it took me about 20 minutes and about a half mile walk before I found it.

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