Of course, I could have just shown up in sneakers and ensured instant rejection. But that would be taking the easy way out, my ego could have rationalized that one away... so I actually donned some designer threads that night. Not that I expected it to help.
My evening began with a few beers at Pyramid, fortifying myself for what promised to be an ego-bruising night. With me was a friend and our mammoth intern Dan, a guy who's just about massive enough to work the door at a Moscow club.
Dan, with the fresh eyes of a newcomer, noticed the entrance at Pyramid is marked in bold letters with the words: FACE CONTROL. I guess I'm too jaded to even notice things like that. But what could face control mean in a restaurant? For godsake, come on! What are they gonna say, "You're not good enough to eat our faux-fusion cuisine"? "We're not going to serve you rubbery sushi"? I wonder how getting rejected from a restaurant would play out--would the two guards really block your entrance at a sign from the maitre d', maybe snatch the menu from your hands?
Pyramid was pretty full, but from my vantage point I didn't see them refusing entrance to potential customers. Mostly the security occupied themselves with chasing away bomzhi when they tried to sit on a ledge in front of the restaurant. But the fact remains that someone thought it would be good for Pyramid's image to announce to the world that this is the type of place that values face control.
Probably the most offensive thing about the institution is exactly that: Russians actually value it. Even the Russians who get shat on because of it. In fact, especially the ones who get shat on. It's the same reason you.ll hear some taxi driver with a 15-year-old Zhiguli boasting that there are more Mercs in Russia than in Germany. What good does it do him? So more assholes can cut him off in traffic, knowing that even if they do get in an accident, they can just bribe the GAI into blaming the guy with the domestic car? It's because the Russians, beaten down and stripped of anything to actually be proud of, decided that if they don't have access to something, it must be worthwhile. Just as, because they can't get a Shengin visa, they decide that "life is better in Europe." Somehow, it gives them a sense of pride, knowing that while their life is shit, at least some Russian, somewhere, has access to the good life.
Now, admittedly, there are some benefits to face control. Take New York, for example. They might make you wait outside for a while, but as long as you're willing to pay the twenty bucks and aren't obviously bleeding, you'll get in. And therefore you'll find plenty of ugly girls, even in New York's nicest clubs. In Moscow, if you get past the velvet rope and the 6'4" bouncers, sweet Jesus! The girls are unbelievable. At least when the system is functioning the way it should. But the days when it functioned properly are long since over.
As we were heading to Cabaret, expecting our first rejection, we bumped into a few friends heading the same way. One of them told me how they'd just been feised at News Pub. Feised at a pub! A pub! For the record, these aren't unbathed guys who just stepped off the train from Petushki, but successful and relatively sober ex-pats, the very demographic that makes News Pub a magnet for aging secretaries lookin' for some foreign lovin'. Who the hell decided not to let them in? It was news to William, who's been managing the place. He told me yesterday that, "If they were sober, I can't imagine who didn't let them in."
What's happening is the natives are getting restless. Whereas maybe a few of the most exclusive clubs in town should have the right to make everyone else feel like apes--at least when the people inside really are that much richer and/or better looking than the rest of us -- it doesn't work like that at a freakin' pub. While researching this story, I've even heard about people getting feised at OGI! The feis-kontrol mentality in Moscow these days is to shit on anyone below you, whether it's in your best interest or not. So you'll have some maverick manager at News Pub, still licking her wounds from being denied entrance to Tseppelin last week, exercising what little power she has on some unsuspecting ex-pat victims.