Valeriya, Lenin, Merlini, housework
My live TV show, beaming out of Moscow across ten time zones in Russia, got off too a spectacular start even before the first episode. The state broadcaster, RTR, urged me to make a series of commercials to psych up audiences for the Beijing Olympics.
“Bring Lenin to life,” he urges me. “Resurrect him. I don’t care how you do it, I don’t want to know. Just mystify us. Raise Lenin from the dead and I guarantee you 100 per cent ratings. Worldwide!”
And I think I just might know how to do it…
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the architect of the communist Soviet Union, lies embalmed at the Mausoleum in Red Square. His mummified corpse is an icon and the man himself is revered as a saint, even in a country which has supposedly thrown off the communist yoke and embraced capitalism.
Many Muscovites see their hardline prime minister and former president, Vladimir Putin, as Lenin’s spiritual successor. Raising him from the dead on a TV show would be tantamount to blasphemy. And yes, as the boss says, it would be very good for the ratings.
Most bizarre of all, Lenin almost died at our TV studios. Before television was even invented, in 1918, he was shot twice by a Jewish woman, Fanya Kaplan, as he stood on the running board of his limousine after making a speech. One bullet lodged in his arm, the other smashed into the base of his jaw, filling his lungs with blood.
Lenin survived, but his health never recovered and most historians believe his wounds contributed to the succession of strokes which killed him four years later, aged 53. Conspiracy theorists claim Kaplan, a member of the Soviet Revolutionary Party, had poisoned the bullets.
A statue of Lenin stands on the spot where he was gunned down. Many believe Kaplan launched the personality cult which has given Lenin his immortality. No assassin, no Mauseleum…
As I posed for photographers at a publicity shoot in German TV station Pro-Sieben this week, with the tennis veteran Boris Becker and the Hungarian escapologist David Merlini this week, I was struck by Merlini’s uncanny resemblence to Lenin. He might share a birthday with his own hero, Harry Houdini, but his facial features are those of a different kind of showman.
Stick a goatee and moustache on David and he could be the reincarnation of the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. And if there’s one man in the world who could lie in a mausoleum for a week without twitching a muscle, it’s Merlini. The man is superhuman.
My show, Phenomenon, is all about mystification and marvels. I don’t want to know how my contestants achieve their results. And even if Merlini wanted to impersonate Lenin, I have no idea how he could smuggle himself into the Mauseleum.
It would make good TV though.
What I do know is that Merlini will be launched as an international star with an event in Cannes on 14 October. I don’t want to reveal exactly what this spectacular will involve, but I can reveal he was inspired to make the attempt after reading my novel, Ella.
I am confident he can do it: since I discovered him in Budapest this year, I have been constantly amazed by his feats of endurance. If anyone can turn fiction into reality, it’s Merlini.
We were joined on our second show by Russia’s version of Madonna, the incredible Valeriya, who has sold over 100m records worldwide in her 20 year career. You might have seen her interviewed recently on the Lorraine Kelly show — I first encountered her in the mid-Nineties, when I starred in a pop video with her.
She’s a genuinely nice woman, who has not been changed by her riches and her fame. Her husband, Joseph Prigozhin, runs Nox Music and wants to collaborate with me on commercials and perhaps a pop single.
Valeriya, whose real name is Alla Yuryevna Perfilova, told me she has designed a line of jewellery, called “De Leri”, for Smolensk Diamonds. I’d love to see her creations sold alongside mine in the gem galleries of Bond Street.
My favourite artwork at the moment is a blue ceramic fish, which sits beside my laptop. It is a gift from Sava, the young son of my interpreter — he painted and signed it himself.
My art collection includes sculptures by Dali and paintings by some of the greatest names of modern art, but the creations of children, given from the heart, are more baluable than any of these.
If you want to get fit, here’s Uri’s tip: pick up your duster. Psychologists from Harvard have proved that housework is fantastic exercise — if you believe it’s doing your body good. Alia Crum and Ellen Langer interviewed 86 hotel maids, all of them overweight, who were cleaning an average of 15 rooms a day. They gave half the women a scientific slideshow, explaining what a great workout they were getting when they changed the bedding and vacuumed the floors.
The other women were left to get on with it, and a month later they were no fitter than before. But the lucky ones, who knew how healthy their work could be, shed pounds of fat, especially from their hips, and saw their blood pressure fall.
Like I always say… you’ll see it when you believe it!
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