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Feature Story September 25, 2007
 
Hell On Wheels: 24 Hours Without Legs In Moscow
How do the disabled live? By Yasha Levine Browse author Email
 
Page 4 of 6 21 more photos
 

NIGHTCLUBBING

This was going to be the final and most brutal test of them all. How would Moscow’s clubs score in the disabled-sensitivity scale? I’ve never seen anyone with a disability—even so much as a stutter—hanging out in a Moscow club. (Although Ames claims that he and Krazy Kevin once took home a couple of deaf girls from Papa John’s in the post-crisis era.) I was betting on getting faced every single time.

It was a good thing I didn’t actually put money down on that.

Here was the rough plan: I figured it would be better to make a real effort to get into the club and experience it inside as well as out. The eXile shareholders agreed to spring for a brand new, sleek Mercedes minivan for the night. I prettied up my Cancer Boy look by wearing the two most expensive items in my closet: a Calvin-Klein sweater and sports coat, both of which stopped being fashionable about four years ago. And I rounded it out by hooking up with two non-wheelchair-bound, well-groomed clubbing partners, a finance guy named James and former eXile editor Jake Rudnitsky.

To press some advantage with the face control, we’d have the Merc driver pull up right in front of the face control line. Then, in full view of the bouncers and crowd waiting outside, James would lift me out of the van, throw me over his shoulder with my legs dangling, and then gently place me into the Nadezhda wheelchair. We wanted to make the cool "leggist" crowd feel uncomfortable, and figured the more spectacle they’re forced to watch, the better for us.

The first place we visited was the Denis Semachyov Bar, the hip new elitny bar on the boutique-packed Stoleshnikov pedestrian street. I didn’t expect to be let in to this fashion-world tusovka. The bar is no bigger than my living room; there is barely any room to stand, let alone wheel around in a tank like the Nadezhda.

I couldn’t roll the wheelchair on Stolechnikov's retro cobblestone streets, so James pushed me up to the entrance. There was no line at the door, but the bouncer politely told us that we couldn’t get in as there was a private party going on, the nice way of telling you DENIED. We could get in only if we were on the list.

Funny thing is, I was on the list, since somehow my cellphone got on their PR list, and I receive almost daily SMS invitations to the bar. But on that day, for some reason (one that probably had nothing to do with me being in a wheelchiar), my name had disappeared. After a bit of wrangling, I produced the SMS that proved my membership, and that was enough to grant us entrance. The two guards even scrambled to help James haul me up the two gigantic steps.

Inside, the Semachyov bar was pretty beat. Nothing much was going on, and I was being ignored rather than laughed at or whispered about. I worked one cocktail, rolled around the entire length the bar, lanced a few patrons’ ankles, and then we split.

Our next stop was Zona, a crap multi-floor dance club considered elitny by the podmoskovie bydlo crowd who made it their own Dyagelev. It was Zona’s mockery of invalids that first made think of taking the Nadezhda out clubbing in the first place. When Zona rebranded itself as a high class club, it posted proudly on its website that it had a "no invalids" face control policy. They’ve since taken that rule off the website, but in practice, it remained it full force.

Our Merc rolled up right to the VIP ticket booth. But after getting placed into my chair, I couldn’t even get off the road and onto the sidewalk, thanks to metal anti-riot barriers blocking the way.


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Levine
Browse author
Yasha Levine is an editor at The eXile. You can contact him at yasha@exile.ru
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