Accused former spy turned Moscow It Girl Anna Chapman had a busy holiday season, launching a full-bore publicity assault showing off both her titian allure and a diversified portfolio of talents. She joined the leadership of pro-Kremlin Molodaya Gvardia youth movement, became the celebrity face of a Moscow bank, and finally broke months of silence when she engaged in her first public interview on the Russian television talk show "Let Them Speak."
During the interview she professed her appreciation for guns, received a pickled herring and beet salad from her grandmother, and -- in what surely must have been an unscripted moment of spontaneous television magic -- became mother to a baby lion moments after confessing she had always wanted a cub as a pet. Nude photos of the 28-year-old alleged spy also appear this month in the January issue of U.S. "Playboy," courtesy of a former boyfriend.
But perhaps the ultimate distinction came on New Year's Eve, when Chapman appeared in a televised parody of the legendary Soviet spy miniseries, "Seventeen Moments of Spring," as part of Channel One's holiday gala. The parody faithfully imitates one of the most hallowed moments in the 1973 black-and-white series, when the show's hero, the indomitable Soviet spy Maksim Isayev -- better known as Stirlitz -- shares a wordless but tender meeting with his wife, set to the achingly plaintive score by Mikael Tariverdiev.
In the remake, a bumbling and unnerved Stirlitz exchanges meaningful glances with Chapman as she sits across the room, wistfully drinking tea. "Anna Chapman and Maksim Isayev hadn't seen each other for many years," the narrator gravely intones, "because in America they never show 'Seventeen Moments of Spring.'" But as in the original, the two never speak. Eventually, the scene shifts to color and Chapman raises a glass of champagne, wishing viewers a happy new year and urging fans never to conceal a secret love.
A starring role in a Stirlitz parody on New Year's Eve is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on Russia's young and promising. Chapman, who claims to be pursuing an acting career, comports herself relatively well, fluttering her eyelashes and fumbling pensively with a cigarette. One imagines the lack of dialogue was an asset. Don't quit your day job, Anna!... whatever that may be.
-- Daisy Sindelar