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Travels in Russia

KLM Rocks Across Europe!
Santa Claus in Moscow
Television Is a Time Suck
The Reality of Irrelevance
Salute Mayor Luzhkov
Impeachment Happens
I Am Not The Only One...
I'm Back! Did Ya Miss Me?
Chechnya Burning
Weddings in Winter
The Jews Are Here!
Gailyn Goes to Town
Is There a Central Bank?
Santa Barbara is Real
Nick's Thanksgiving in Russia
Den' Rozhdeniya = Birthdays
Those Crazy Expats
It's Just a Few Drops of Vodka...
Elections Are Always Rigged
The Blind Leading the Blind
Good Russian Grooms
You Say 'Boris Berezovskiy' Fast
Too Cold to Care!
Russian Oil Towns
Sneaky Siberian Tigers
Which Way is St Peterburg?
Where am I again? Oh, yeah...
I Love Me Some Vodka
It's a Gosorg Halloween
Hunger Comes to Us All
Why Don't They Just Learn English?!
Post-Crisis, Life Goes On
Is Yeltsin 'The Man'?
Murmansk - Brrrr!
Taganka Hides Her Secrects
These are Communists
It's a Power Vaccum
The Commies are Back
Propaganda is Good for You
You Better Buy Russian!
Sex Ed Soviet Style
Party over, oops outta time!
Russian Healthcare in Moscow
What Russian Financial Crisis?
YE Prices in Russia
Russian Caviar Mafia
Magical Mushrooms
Shhhh! We're Bear Hunting
Soviet Street Scams
Bez Dollarov
A Koshka Konspiracy
On The Dacha
The Banking Implosion
Surviving Army Life
Shashleek is Steak on Steroids
Dacha Thinking
Beach Weekend
Dos Vedanya
Hello from Vladivostok
Equality Means Only She Works
Jogging is an Extreme Sport
Russians Have Reunions Too
My Folks in Massive Moscow
Better than Fireworks
Miners Are Real Men
The Russian Mafia is the Roof
No One Smiles in the CIS
One Year Anniversary
Russian Brides Rock
Laura is My St Pete Connection
Change is in the Wind
Chuck Norris' Beverly Hills Casino
The Expat Woman's Predicament
Street Food is Yummy!
Spring Flowers Make June Leavers
The Provinces Are Provincial
Ever Take an Elektrichka?
The English Invasion
Nuttin Like New Money
Rules Are Made to Break
All Black is Russian Fashion
Easter Memories = Easter Dinner
Politics, Russian Style
Theresa Tries to Russify
I Go to Gay Clubs Worldwide
I Hide on Women's Day
New & Shiny: Nizhny Novgorod
Psst! Wanna job in Moscow?
Fili Park Has All the Bootlegs
Web Page Reactions
Take a Break at Dom Odaha
Expat Living in Moscow is Swank
Why Are You Remonting?
They Look Like Telephones...
In Need of a Decent Hairstylist
Smashing Bottles in Red Square


Russia, September 20, 1998

The Hungry Duck

The Carnal & Primal Hungry Duck!

News Flash: The Hungry Duck is closed! Click here for the story.

The Duck, err the Hungry Duck, is the most notorious bar in Moscow, so bad it is a tourist attraction in itself. At one point in time it was a wholesome dining experience, but that was before the dev invasion force started dancing on the bar and all the tables. Now it is sloppy, as in quasi-naked inebriated nymphs falling off the bar onto the men ogling them from below, sloppy. I have asked my housemate to give his impression of the Den of Sin, and when your done, check out this link to another Duck-lover.

Check out the eXile review!

The Duck

By Arthur

The Hungry Duck, the infamous Duck, renowned for it's loose and drunken women. Wonder why I went there? (wink)

Tuesdays and Fridays are probably the best, when women drink for free from 7 to 9 pm, and no men are allowed to enter. At 9 pm, only 100 brave men dare to face the 500 drunk and randy women, toughened after two hours of fighting for free drinks. Hair pulling, biting, and all manner of tussles occur, and that is just to get onto the bar for a better view of the fresh meat. Ahhh, I like the competition (or, more precisely, the lack there of).

All those beautiful women, and no men!

I fell in love several times in the first five minutes, but I would rather not get into how the twins woke up in my room the next morning. The sights, the sounds, and the flying fluids, now that is the reason to go! Those drunken nymphs, in extra-mini skirts, grinding on the bar, with long, purposeful exposures of undergarments, neglecting to retain their upper torso apparel, and engaging in lascivious behavior with appreciative male patrons, are why The Duck is famous.

Everyone makes a pilgrimage to The Duck at least once while in Moscow. It is a necessity. Of course, if you live here, The Duck becomes more than just a pilgrimage, it is church, a house of worship, to the beauty and beast that is the New Russia.

The Independent (UK) 20 September 1998

Shrieks as Moscow gets the Full Monty

From Phil Reeves in Moscow

Any visitor to a back street near the Lubyanka, once the KGB citadel of an empire's nosy-parker moral arbiters, could draw only one conclusion on Friday night: amid an economic hurricane, Moscow has finally gone mad.

Rising above the capital's bustle came a chorus of hundreds of gleeful voices, all female. "Sex!", they bellowed, in unison. "Sex!" And then again, louder: "SEX!"

Undeterred by their nation's gloom, or perhaps because of it, some Russians are still having fun. That it should be young women, whose source of entertainment is a troupe of greasy-torsoed male strippers - Russia's answer to "The Full Monty" - is further proof that the gender best suited to survive history's trials is not the hairy eyebrowed variety that usually sits in the Kremlin. She is found ebullient and defiant, in micro-skirt and stilettos, at a night club called The Hungry Duck

A thousand women turned out on Friday night to watch "Dillon's Show", a group of Russian males, who stride about in g-strings on a long bar-top, flexing oiled muscles, tossing mousse-laden locks, and showing off their bottoms.

Queues are customary at Russia's shops and banks, but the line waiting to get in the club - a utilitarian-looking dump once the Soviet Home of Working Artists - was longer than any I have seen in two months. Nor have I seen so many people crammed into one bar. Within the hot gloom and din, there were hundreds and hundreds of girls, bopping on tables, cheering, and knocking back beer in plastic cups as if there was no tomorrow (which, for some here, there isn't).

They paid 10 roubles (30p) to get in. Drinks were free, men were banned until the performance end. But the males were there, swigging beer in feral, prickly-skulled, clumps outside the door. Later, many would clamber through the upstairs windows, to avoid paying their higher (50 rouble) fee. "It's just a good night out," said Olga, an 18-year-old student, before the DJ, a New Yorker, interrupted with another demand that we should shout the word "SEX", louder still.

She started again. "Its just a ... hang on a minute. WHOOPIE! OH YEAH!" A sequin-spangled man in a baseball cap, wearing jeans that looked as if they had mauled by a combine harvester and - inexplicably - leather fingerless driving gloves, had appeared on the bar top. Peeling off his clothes, he was preparing to execute a thigh-chafing twirl around a metal bar. The cheering crowd rushed forward into two roving spotlights, eager to touch. Olga was gone.

I had more success with Vika, a 17-year-old computer science student. No, her parents didn't know she was there. And, yes, she thought it was all great. She found it funny. (Not everyone did; amid the gyrating throng of spectators, some stripped to their bras, several girls were crying.) "People should be allowed to do what they like," she said Including, we agreed, Bill Clinton. Like most Russians, she regarded the public dissection of the American president's private life with incomprehension.

"We are going to talk about sex, sex, SEX!" yelled the DJ, to another gust of cheers and frantic arm waving. Another man arrived, another inverted triangle of bouncing near-naked sinew, who began simulating copulation, close to the beer pumps.

The show is, it must be said, a good deal raunchier than mere stripping off. In fact, Montys do not come much fuller than this. They have been at it, these young men, since January, performing to women in a society where sexual liberation has evolved about as far as the lung fish, and which - for all its reputation for Slavic glumness - knows how to throw a party.

Their leader is a 24-year-old Nigerian law student called Dillon Oloyede, who got involved because he needed money to pay for his lessons. He has since realised there are sizeable sums out there. He is coy about exactly how much he and his nine Russian fellow performers make a night, but agrees it is more than $100 each - the average monthly salary in parts of Russia.

But it is a tough beat, as a long scar on his ribcage testifies. Three months ago, he was stabbed after a show. Although racism runs deep here, he prefers to think his assailant was high on drugs. He has seen "The Full Monty", and approved, although the other two strippers in the dressing room - a male model and a factory worker - have not.

Like the "Monty" stars, they are survivors, people who know how to adapt to an ailing economy, and make money. They are helped by a certain (though not total) lack of prudery in Russia, which recently showed Lolita on state-run TV.

Mr Oloyede is unashamed of his work. "The important thing to remember is that I am an actor," he said, adjusting his silk, sequinned jock strap. " It is not sex, it is a performance. Being an actor, I feel I have to behave as a president, appearing before my people".

The grand finale!

He says this, standing almost naked before me, without the slightest trace of irony.

*** News Flash ***

March 18, 1999

Last night I heard shocking news, that the Moscow institution known as the Hungry Duck closed for good on Monday. I know there will be a collective moan of sorry and a sigh of relief from the Moscow community, but the Duck was a sort of index to Moscow's situation.

I have a few friends who remember back when it first opened and was a respectable place for dinner. They recall actually eating on the bar tops, instead of dancing on them. This was when Russia was first opening up, before the easy IMF money and expat salaries were common. As the money rolled in, the Duck became a mixing zone for the best and worst of the 'new' Russia.

At first, there was still a bit of class, I can remember when a shout would go out when the first person was brave enough to dance on the bar before a bouncer would pull them down. Later, as dancing on the back tables became common, women would dance on the bar without fear. When the Moscow nightlife reached its feverish peak last summer, dancing on the bar was so common that the surface was worn smooth and regulars had their own perches.

Once the ruble crashed, and the expatriates started to be shipped home, the Duck resorted to outright bribery to keep the party going. Three (or was it four?) nights a week, ladies would be treated to free drinks and a male strip-show to entice fat-walleted men to appear and pay for all the fun. The party couldn't last forever though. This morning, when the news of the Duck closing reached me, I wanted to tell all those whom I knew that enjoyed it's unique atmosphere.

Alas, that's when I realized how much this Den of Sin (as we dubbed it) was indicative of Moscow. Everyone I could think of that would miss the Duck is already gone, shipped out to the next promising market, experience, or rehab. Like the man once know as Prince says, 'Party over, oops, outta time'.

The Electronic Telegraph (UK) 20 March 1999

Doors close on Moscow's wildest club

By Marcus Warren in Moscow

ONE of the wonders of the Western world was no more last night after the Hungry Duck, Moscow's wildest bar and home to some of the most uninhibited women on the planet, closed for good. The club was famous for bacchanal excesses and women throwing caution to the wind and all their clothes on to the floor.

Founded in 1995, it was a monument to Yeltsin's Russia. It closes just as that civilisation is collapsing. After decades of sexual repression and po-faced Soviet puritanism, young Russians caught up with their Western counterparts within the club's walls. Then they went one better. For local nationalists, however, the club, which was usually packed with expats as well as Russians, was Babylon, the Tower of Babel, and Sodom and Gomorrah all rolled into one. When a Communist member of the Duma visited the venue on a tour of clubs recently, he was outraged to see "an American negro" stripping to the accompaniment of the Soviet national anthem. A minor political scandal ensued. For the club's Canadian manager, Doug Steele, the row, coming after months of business problems and run-ins with the police, was the last straw.

"The guy's not American and he wasn't stripping," he said yesterday. "I am not disputing that the place was wild but it wasn't dangerous and people were just having a good time. It's not worth banging your head against the wall of your enemies for the rest of your life. I just regret not being able to say goodbye to the 30 members of staff who no longer have a job." Not only the staff, but thousands of patrons were mourning the club's passing yesterday. Certainly, the sight, smell and sound of hundreds of sweaty bodies, some dancing on the oval bar stark naked amid broken glass, spilt beer and stray knickers, once experienced, are never forgotten.

The Moscow Tribune, March 24 1999

Dying Swan Kills the Hungry Duck - The Real Story

By John Helmer

Notoriety and bad publicity were very good for a four-year old Moscow business created by Canadian entrepreneur Doug Steele, until his hungry duck ran into a dying swan. That describes what happened recently when Olga Lepeshinskaya, now 82 years old, one of Russia's most famous ballerinas, decided to close down Steele's Hungry Duck dance-bar in Moscow.

According to Steele's version, his is a tale of sacrificing profitability to a concept which made him a tourist attraction for countless western visitors to Moscow, but offended one Russian too many. The reach of her contacts illustrates one of the rarely discussed pitfalls of doing business in a capital more famous for its criminal excess than for its moral propriety.

Occupying 240 square meters of low-grade space, leased from the Central House of Workers in the Arts (TsDRI), Steele's establishment generated US$2.8 million in gross sales per annum. He says he paid $1 million in rent over three years, plus $120,000 in bribes to former directors of the property owner to keep renewing his lease. Selling mostly imported beer and liquor, Steele says he decided last July to switch to Russian draft beer he bought for the equivalent of 12 cents a glass, and sold to his customers for $6. Even before the switch to the new markup, Steele said his profitability was "a little above average" for the dozens of bars and restaurants which United States and European investors have established in Moscow. "The concept didn't allow us to maximize our potential profit," he acknowledges.

Steele's concept made him so well-known, a Washington newspaper reported The Hungry Duck was the only bar of its kind in the world. Steele's concept was to invite women to drink as much as they wanted for free for two hours, while the doors were closed to male customers. When they were finally allowed in, they were obliged to pay for their drinks, but got to view a bachannalian orgy of drunken women for free. With a stroke of public relations genius, Steele invited journalists from North America's leading media to act as barmen for the Ladies' Nights. As they televised and published the goings-on, the fame of The Hungry Duck far outstripped its revenue per square meter.

According to Moscow police, the lurid atmosphere attracted under-age females, criminally minded males, and drug traders. A Russian parliamentary delegation was shocked one evening to witness, during one females-only session, a black man stripping to the music of the national anthem of the former Soviet Union.

One evening? Every Friday was more like it!

Steele says that police precinct reports, claiming non-existent crimes, were ordered by high-ranked city officials. He claims a city fire marshal told him that his boss had been ordered back to Moscow from vacation, in order to sign a blank order closing down The Duck. "Not four days have gone by in the past year," says Steele, "when there wasn't a major incident -- health inspectors, special police task forces, dog-sniffers and drug raiders." "My friends in the police said, 'Doug, you have big enemies.'"

Steele said he believes it was prima donna Lepeshinskaya who, on taking charge of the board of TsDRI, was his biggest and most effective enemy. She told Steele that when his current lease expired at the end of March, it would not be renewed. According to Steele, Lepeshinskaya also managed to persuade the city government to annul the sale of the property, which had been transacted before her takeover at TsDRI. The dancer of "The Dying Swan" and other celebrated pieces for the stage apparently realized The Hungry Duck had served its purpose. The leasehold could be renegotiated for a higher price, but only if the nightly orgies stopped.

A veteran of Moscow's retail sector and expert on the hidden costs of staying in business, Steele claims his troubles are not part of an extortion of larger and larger bribes to keep his lease. After meeting Lepeshinskaya and hearing her views, he describes her motives as impeccable.

Blaming the collapse of Russia's liberal reform policies in last year's financial troubles, Steele acknowledged: "Half the country is starving. Seeing (The Hungry Duck) going on offends people. It's time to do a re-think."

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