Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Blonde Like Me

I went to the Soviet Union in 1990. It was still the Soviet Union, just barely. I had been advised to bring plenty of items that were scarce in the Soviet Union (which was really just about everything), to give out as gifts, tips, bribes. Especially important were packs of Marlboros. There was a serious shortage of cabs in Moscow and Leningrad (it was still Leningrad), and many people moonlighted as gypsy cab drivers. Flashing a pack of Marlboros was the best way to hail a cab. I also brought coffee, cassette tapes (for some music industry people I had introductions to), and hair dye.

The hair dye was courtesy of a friend who was working as a product manager for Clairol at the time. He had come up in the world, having recently left Ty-D-Bol and Cincinnati. "The women will love you," he said.

Back then the hotels had floor attendants, women who were stationed on every floor of every tourist hotel. Obviously they were there to keep tabs on the guests, to make sure Soviet citizens didn't come up to the rooms, and perhaps to make sure that only approved prostitutes gained entry. My floor attendant in Moscow was a chubby woman of indeterminate age with thinning, dreadfully bleached blonde hair. The first night in the hotel I unpacked my bags and brought a package of Clairol hair color to the lady at her station.

"A gift," I said. "For you."

She looked at the box. "Blonde!" she exclaimed gleefully. "Like me!"


Post a Comment

<< Home