I’m not feeling funny lately, so rather than force it I perused the offerings of our team of foreign correspondents. I found an old concert review from Ivan in Bosnia. Ivan gave us permission to publish this years ago, but I’ll withhold his name and his buddy’s organization. A Google search shows that they are still doing humanitarian work in Bosnia and I’d hate to tarnish their reputation. Enjoy.
Bosnia is squishy; often fun; above all, absurd. Below is exhibit “A.”
“Belgrade Supermodels” SITREP—March 8, 1998
1. On Saturday, March 7, 1998, a really bad Serbian disco band named “Belgrade Supermodels” comes to Banja Luka. I’ve only seen them once before, on television, but know that they’re four leggy gyrating sex-kittens, an unapologetically crude Balkan version of the Spice Girls, only without any pretense of innocence - give me money & mafia, baby. It should be a hoot, so why not go?
2. I telephone my friend Nathan to see if he wants to go. Nathan is the beleaguered manager of “ABC Organization,” an impoverished touchy-feely organization based in Banja Luka. Nathan has a fine collection of thrift store polyester garments. “ABC Organization,” or ABC, consists of 5 Americans living barracks-style in the loft of a large house. Perhaps because of this arrangement, Nathan’s wife has been reluctant in recent weeks to “go behind closed doors,” in the words of Charlie Rich. Nathan, in his grouchiness & frustration, readily agrees to go and perhaps vent a bit of his accumulated, ahem, energy.
3. We realize that it is imperative that we purchase cheap white Turkish cotton underpants (men’s), to throw up on the stage with our phone numbers immortalized thereupon. As the hour was late by Balkan shopping standards (7 p.m.), we hasten to the Banja Luka shopping center to purchase said underpants.
4. We peruse the entire shopping center without luck. Lots of cheap stuffed animals and lacy teddies and fake Nike warm-up suits and bootleg cigarettes, but no men’s Turkish white cotton underpants. We find a Chinese pseudo Barbie-doll called “Jessie” - she’s boxed up wearing a frilly wedding dress, next to her handsome new groom. Her head, oddly, is twice as big as his and she bears a creepy resemblance to Jon Benet Ramsey. Even stranger, the pair comes equipped with two children - should she be named “Shotgun Jessie”? The box boasts “fully movable arms & legs!”
5. Finally, we reach the last remaining stall in the shopping center—a lingerie boutique—and ask for men’s underpants. The owner of the boutique pulls out three samples of her wares: some weird waffled German panties (19 deutsche marks, about $11); some plain but sleek tightie-whities (14 DEM); and some fruity flowered briefs (6 DEM). Nathan and I are astounded by the prices cited. I ask the shopkeeper in my thickly-accented Serbian if she has anything from Turkey, or even China, as we’ll only be using these underpants once. She looks at the two of us with genuine fear. We buy no panties, but congratulate ourselves on our perseverance.
6. I go back home to dress for the show. I select a 100% polyester wide-collared shirt with photographic reproductions of exotic game fowl (open to my waist, displaying a luxurious crop of chest-hair) and a heavy faux-gold Caesar’s Palace neck pendant. I don a heavy coat with fake-fur lapels to complete the Mafioso pimp ensemble.
7. We ride to the Banja Luka music hall in a taxi. We are accompanied by Nathan’s wife, Tammie, their perky colleague, Sarah, and a large Russian named Boris. Nathan is unshaven, wearing purple polyester and antique Floyd (Andy Griffith show) barber’s glasses. Nathan has splashed half a bottle of patchouli on himself. The smell is hitherto unknown in Banja Luka.
8. We purchase our tickets and enter the music hall. The ticket takers have been tasked with patting down entrants for weapons, a mission they undertake with visible vigor and relish. When Nathan and I reach them, they look at us funny and wave us through.
9. The music hall is full. We have an hour’s wait until the show begins. We pound NEKTARs (local Banja Luka beer in big-ass 16 oz. bottles) at 5 dinars ($ 0.60) a bottle and check out the crowd. We realize that the majority of attendees is composed of 17-year-olds: the girls are dancing with each other, dolled up in fishnet hose, push-up bras & short black vinyl miniskirts; guys wear imitation leather jackets, gold chains and Ricky-Ricardo-slicked-back-hair. We stick out like sore thumbs. People are shouting: “Hey Amerikan! Hey! O.K.! How yu goingk!”
10. We’re the oldest people in the crowd by a power of 3. I’m dying to throw myself into the middle of the girls’ dance-circle & start dirty-dancing.
11. A weak wisp of fog-machine fog trickles out of a ceiling vent. Spastic lasers sporadically shoot through the haze. The show is about to begin. “Pyrotechnics,” observes Nathan.
12. The “Belgrade Supermodels” take the stage as the crowd roars. Camera crews from local T.V. are filming everything. Their noms-de-supermodel are unknown to me, so the names that follow are my own creation. Fantastic abdominal muscles, to a one. From left to right, they are:
“Claudia-Schiffer-supermodel”: blonde, blonde, blonde, blonde, blonde. Super-duper plump pouty lips (implants) & roly-poly baby-doll eyes. Jennifer Aniston hair-do. Modestly wearing a full-length black lacy top, the only one of the four not baring her midriff - the coquettish naughty-but-nice girl. After the set break, she retakes the stage in a half-length see-through white top with black bra underneath, a la West Hollywood porn-star. Nathan observes that from up close she looks eerily masculine - from this point on, she becomes known as “FREWBUD SUPERMODEL.”
“Trashy supermodel”: the “sassy” supermodel - modeled after “Scary Spice” of the Spice Girls? Ponytail, halter-top and Cleopatra pancake makeup. She gyrates lasciviously throughout and does funny things with her tongue. After the set break, she returns in the tightest gray sweat pants I’ve ever seen a person wear, hiked up about three inches too high - the second she takes the stage, my eyes bug out dangerously and Nathan begins sweating prodigiously. From this point on, she becomes known as “CAMEL-TOE SUPERMODEL.”
“Boob supermodel”: Swedish-girl blonde bangs, blue “Nike” halter top & fake “Nike” tattoos above her cleavage and belly button. The cool disinterested thousand-yard stare of a Scandinavian particle physicist. After a few numbers a hint of black bra strap creeps out from under her halter top - quelle vixen. From the first moment, and for the remainder of the show, she is known simply as “BOOB SUPERMODEL.”
“Next-door supermodel”: Every group of this sort has to have an “approachable” member to give some amount of hope to their legions of fans. Such is the fourth Belgrade Supermodel - a surprisingly normal girl-next-door type (assuming that the girl next door works out 18 hours a day 7 days a week.) Nathan develops an immediate obsession, based on an early and long- suppressed T.V. crush - thanks to this, she becomes known as “KATE JACKSON SUPERMODEL.”
13. The “Belgrade Supermodels” are lip-synching poorly. At one point, when the backing track consists of four women’s voices singing in harmony, I notice that only Boob Supermodel is moving her lips as the other three are busy grinding nastily. The crowd is throbbing with energy.
14. Sarah is eager to know everything the supermodels are saying. “Translate this song! Please?” I translate the song the supermodels are singing at the moment: “Jedan, dva / svako zna / haah haah haah/svako zna/ jedan, dva / svako zna / haah haah haah / svako zna” --- “one, two/everyone knows / haah haah haah / everyone knows / one, two / everyone knows / haah haah haah / everyone knows.” These are the only words in the song.
15. After 30 minutes of non-stop gyration, Nathan and I are transfixed. Our cool-guy posturing melts away in the twisting pelvic onslaught. Zombie like, I turn to Nathan and observe, “Nathan, this is the coolest band I’ve ever seen in my life.” Nathan dabs at the drool on his chin and nods absently.
16. At the set break, we pound several more NEKTARS and decide pragmatically that there’s no sense in standing way in back. Nathan and I mercilessly elbow our way to the stage, leaving wounded teenage girls howling in our wake. A large group of 16-year-old Banja Luka boys is posted up at the stage, but we soon win them over: “Hey amerikan! Hey! O.K! Nu York Yankiz! Axel Roze!” Nathan and I scream “Rock on!” in tandem and buy them a round of beers.
17. The second set begins. We’re falling down, grooving hard, loving life. The supermodels have hit their stride and are getting quite nasty. The whole set becomes one long happy blur when.....
18. Our dainty oblivion is shattered as, suddenly, the music stops. Kate Jackson model is making some announcement...she’s saying something about finding the manliest dancer in the hall...the crowd noticeably perks up...suddenly, she’s pointing at ME saying “YOU - come up on stage - NOW!” I go.
19. Next, she summons Nathan. Nathan is smiling naughtily. We look like total idiots. The crowd is hooting.
20. Two other fellas are chosen and we’re suddenly onstage in front of hundreds. Each supermodel takes one of the neophytes under her wing for this song - tonight my mentor is camel-toe supermodel. Nathan is off to the right with Frewbud supermodel.
21. A throbbing disco beat kicks in and suddenly we’re gyrating with THE Belgrade Supermodels. I can’t dance to begin with, and I’m way past my limit tonight, so I’m GETTING DOWN - doing my best Travolta spins, points and bobs, doing the amoeba dance, doing the sprinkler dance, bumping and grinding with “my lady.” My gold Caesar’s Palace pendant is swaying dangerously. The song is something about “calling on the telephone” so we pick up the dance routine the supermodels are doing - you turn your back to the audience and shake your butt around, then turn with your hand up to your ear as if you’re holding a telephone and mouth the words “hello, hello” to the audience. Just glorious.
22. At the end of the song, cross-eyed & dizzy, we begin shuffling off stage. Kate Jackson supermodel jerks me to the front/center and asks me my name, then proclaims “there is no doubt - Ivan is the finest dancer!” to the crowd. I curtsey.
23. The show is over. Nathan and I realize we have a story to tell when we’re 95 years old, only, as Nathan puts it, “when I’m 95 years old, the story will be that they pulled my pants off on stage and ravaged me by turn.” We rue the fact that we didn’t buy the $11 waffled underpants, but figure there’s always next time.
24. The show, as I said, was filmed by a local T.V. crew. It airs on Banja Luka T.V. tonight. I will get a tape from the station.