- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Party on, Duma.
Russians may be annoyed by our missile defense policy. But break out the star-spangled telecasters, bowling shoes, multiplex theaters and Confederate flags, however, and its a different story. Rockin Russia has embraced all-American pop culture with great gusto, not to mention a little creative interpretation.
Theres the Jimi Hendrix Blues Club where house bands wail, "Are You Experienced?" and videos celebrate the classic rock of Eric Clapton and Blue Cheer.
Should the lure of Southern-fried anything become great, theres always Money Honey, where the bands this weekend include Chesterfield, the Rock n Roll Queens and Jack Daniels — all jamming below a prominently displayed Confederate flag plus various and sundry Elvis paraphernalia.
No, this is not Dale City.
This is St. Petersburg, Russia — also home to Blues Billiard, where owner Alexander Lyapin occasionally plays the guitar with his teeth amid the pool tables and blue jeans, sometimes until 7 the next morning.
Things are even more kickin down in Moscow.
Around 100 rubles gains admittance to Club B.B. King, set right there on good old Sadovaya-Samotyochnaya Ulitsa, where the specialty of the house is alligator meat "to get you in that Southern blues mood."
For sheer variety, theres always Woodstock, the Rhythm and Blues Cafe, Uncle Sams, Jack Rabbit Slims, Sport Bar, Sportland, Miami Bowling and Disco Bowling, notable for "American Night" on Mondays, when Yankees of every persuasion can get in free of charge.
Moscow, in fact, now has more than 30 bowling alleys, many of which require reservations. The city got its first multiplex last year, which proved "an instant success," according to the Moscow Times.
"American culture was forbidden for years," observed one former resident, now living in Washington. "You repress things like music and dancing, and a huge, artificial appetite develops. Its like a bulge in the culture. These people are not in the mood for any socialist gibberish, theyre in the mood for enterprise and fun."
Things can get inventive.
A little farther afield, the Strike Bowling Club in Kiev recently featured American-style bowling, along with "guys on stilts, Gypsy music and skits, and a clown show featuring Father Frost and his sidekick the Snow Princess," according to one review.
The Al Capone Club, meanwhile, showcased "The World of Mafia," which included the music of Night Groove and Cowboy, some strippers, a few clowns and a Swedish buffet.
But the citizens do love variety.
"Even your favorite music can be tiresome if its overplayed," noted Alex Dixieland, the 18-year-old chanteuse of the jazz band of the same name. They are regulars at Kievs Cowboy Cafe and favor the work of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, among others.
"Thats why we play everything from Elvis to Bob Dylan," she told a local newspaper, adding that she got her start singing with a communist-era youth group.
"I started off, like many other, singing at Pioneer events," she said.
There is irony in all of this for those who ponder the flourishing of rock n roll in Russia. At least a dozen books have covered the subject in all its permutations, including Canadian sociologist Yury Pelyoshonoks take on the Beatles influence in the Soviet Union.
Russian officials considered the Beatles to be a Cold War-era secret weapon. "The kids lost their interest in all Soviet unshakable dogmas and ideals and stopped thinking of English-speaking persons as the enemy," he wrote.
Film director Milos Forman agreed. "Im convinced the Beatles are partly responsible for the fall of communism," he noted in a TV documentary last year. Writer Salman Rushdie, actor Eric Idle and Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones have made similar comments.
Ironically, John Lennon was investigated during his lifetime by the British government after he contributed to the Trotskyist Workers Revolutionary Party.
And while things will no doubt continue to groove at the Hollywood Nites in St. Petersburg or the Airplane Bowling karaoke and pool palace in Moscow, the ultimate culture exchange is now complete with the arrival of Russias "Red Elvises" in America.
Now based in California, the rock trio features screaming guitars and an electric balalaika onstage, complete with complex choreography. Their work, according to one reviewer, "captures the isolation of the rugged individualist that America has been known for throughout the world."

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