Sometimes American and Western Europe celebrities had a chance to visit USSR and even the Iron Curtain wasn’t a problem. The most usual way to get into the Soviet Country was to go on tour. To get inside with a musical program you had to pass a sort of exam first – your musical creations would be thoroughly examined by a council of a few Soviet top officials and then they will decide if your creative side is a danger for the Soviet spirit or not. If they find it acceptable you can be admitted inside. And here are the stories of some of the celebrities who were lucky enough to get in.
We will start with David Bowie. “Moscow people are cold, but Siberians are friendly” was his quote after visiting USSR.
He traveled all across the USSR on the train, the Trans Siberian railroad, together with his band members. He arrived from Japan to the Russian Far East and planned to go thru the whole country, then reach Moscow and start his European tour from Moscow.
They very quickly became friends with the rail road attendant girls who were working in their railroad car and spent a lot of time with them. One of the Bowie’s band member was sure the girls were KGB agents under cover though.
This was in the year 1973. Bowie said he liked Siberia more than European Russia. “Siberians are very friendly and Siberia itself is so huge. But the closer you come to Moscow the smarter the people and same time the more arrogant they become”.
In Sverdlovsk city they almost got arrested because took a photo of Russian Militsia (police).
When he arrived to Moscow he stayed in an Intourist hotel right on the Red Square.
He saw the May Day parade in Moscow.
He said he was impressed a lot by all this. Then three days later they left Moscow and went on their European tour.
However three years later they returned to Moscow, now with another Western celebrity. Iggy Pop was accompanying David Bowie on his trip to Moscow this time.
They took photos and stayed some time.
And then he went to Moscow for the third time, now in the year 1996. He was giving a concert but the local event management was very bad and he was disappointed and some say he swore not to come back to Moscow again. And never did probably.
The next start we want to mention is Elton John. He came to USSR in May 1979 with his tour. Interestingly enough he came to USSR with his mom (in the pic above).
“What? You don’t have an air conditioning in your hotel?” was the first reaction of Elton when he arrived to one of the best Moscow hotels for foreigners.
He gave four concerts in Moscow and Leningrad. Stayed one week in USSR, visited the Red Square, Hermitage museum and even a Soviet football game.
Before leaving USSR Elton John was remembered being very surprised that people can’t buy his records in the country – they simply didn’t sell them in stores.
And now Mohammed Ali. “I thought Russians were a threat to Americans but this is not so”.
In 1978 two years before Moscow Olympics the American boxer came to Moscow. It was a sort of an effort between American and Russian governments to strengthen the positive relationship before the Olympics especially in sports. So Mohammed got his invitation to visit Moscow and he couldn’t refuse that.
After landing in Moscow he was very surprised not to meet a single fan wanting to talk to him or get his autograph. Usually in the rest of the world the athlete was attacked by crowds of the fans but not in Moscow. Just his interpreter and couple of KGB agents.
On his first morning in Moscow he put on his shorts and t-shirt and went running on the Red Square which was quite a surprise for his surrounding KGB people. It was sort of a shock to see an African American big athlete in just his briefs running around the Moscow.
Next day he spent meeting Soviet sportsman, journalists etc.
Even had some boxing with kids.
And then on the next day he flew to Uzbekistan (part of USSR at that time). Here you can see Ali dressed up in their national costume. He was offered so much food there that he remembers he gained four kilos of weight just in the couple of days staying there.
No matter that he gained extra weight he agreed to go to the arena and fight top Soviet boxers the next day.
And his last adventure was meeting a Soviet leader – Leonid Brezhnev.
He was sort of impressed “Me, simple American boxer was admitted to meet Mr. Brezhnev”.
Brezhnev gave him his book. Ali said he would ask someone to translate it to him.
“I was a little bit nervous when landed in USSR. I thought I would see a depressive country with crowds of dark and dull people, all thinking like robots and special service agents everywhere spying on me. But what I saw was a country of a hundred different nationalities living in peace together. Hard to believe this peaceful country wants a war” – was a famous Ali quote on getting back from USSR.
And here is Arnie. “I saw unimaginable things there – break dance and heavy metal”.
In one of his interviews Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted he arrived covertly in the USSR in the 1970s as a simple tourist and nobody even recognized him.
Then in the 1980s he came to USSR again and now everyone was aware who he was. They were filming Russian scenes of the “Red Heat” movie there.
The actor said that on his second visit he liked it more – the service became better, nice food appeared, and even first private restaurants were opened”. This were first years of Perestroika and return to capitalism. “People became acting more freely, looked happier, I saw unimaginable before things – break dance and heavy metal”.
On first day in Moscow Arnie wanted to buy a ermine fur coat per his wife’s request. It was a hard task and he even had to ask Soviet movie industry people to help him with this. Finally they had to go to the top party official who had access to the Soviet supply system and through him Arnie got his furcoat one day later.
This is the famous Beriozka store that was selling foreign goods so rare in USSR but only for foreign currency.
During his visit to Moscow Arnold wanted to see his idol – Soviet weightlifter Yuri Vlasov. He asked multiple times to find the man but nobody could. However Arnie was insistant and finally they brought the athlete to Moscow to meet Arnie.
It turned out that young Arnold met Soviet athlete when he was a kid at a Vienna weightlifting championship. They shook hands at time, and Arnie was just a small boy without his famous muscles. But he was so impressed by Yuri that he decided to work out. So Yuri was a life changer of sorts for him and that’s why Arnold was so insisting on meeting him again, now him being a celebrity and Yuri just a regular Soviet man and they shook their hands again.
When leaving the Moscow Arnie said he couldn’t believe that now people living behind the Iron Curtain could watch his films. “At the doorsteps of my hotel fans were crowding. They followed me on the Red Square, taking pictures, shooting videos of me.”
However they say there was a small car accident whith Arnold when he was in Moscow. His car hit a huge pothole and he painfully hit his forehead. “I will never return to this city again!” , remember him saying that. But a few years later he came back. According to that photo again with him meeting Dmitri Medvedev. But this would be a whole different story.