In return the sugar daddy gets her supple and tanned body any time he wants, day or night, always rainbow happy, always ready to perform.“You should see the eyes of the girls back home. “‘Oh, so your accent’s changed, you speak like a Muscovite now,’ they say. Gone back to mummy.”But her sugar daddy promised her a new car three months ago, and he still hasn’t delivered; she’s worried he’s going off her.“Everything you see in this flat is his; I don’t own anything,” says Oliona, peering at her own apartment as if it’s just a stage set, as if it’s someone else who lives there. The guys and girls look at themselves and think: “Did that really happen to me? With all the Maybachs and rapes and gangsters and mass graves and penthouses and sparkly dresses?
Thus the Gold Digger Academy, a sort of adult education.“But how can you meet with others guys? But he does it in a nice way; the bodyguard turns up with shopping. It’s a buyer’s market: there are dozens, no, hundreds, of “cattle” for every “Forbes.”We start the evening at Galeria. But I know he’s checking there’ve been no guys here. Opposite is a red-brick monastery leaning like an ocean liner in the snow. Petersburg, with names such as “Geisha School” or “How to Be a Real Woman.”“Go to an expensive area of town,” continues the instructress. A wealthy man might approach to help.”“I want a man who can stand strong on [his] own two feet.Who will make me feel as safe as behind a wall of stone,” says Oliona, a recent graduate, employing the parallel language of the gold digger (what she means is she wants a man with money).She danced well, which is how she met her sugar daddy. And their sweet, simple glances seem to say how amusing this whole masquerade is, that yesterday we were all living in communal flats and singing Soviet anthems and thinking Levis and powdered milk were the height of luxury, and now we’re surrounded by luxury cars and jets and sticky Prosecco.
Now she earns the basic Moscow mistress rate: the apartment, ,000 a month, a car, and a weeklong holi- day in Turkey or Egypt twice a year. And though many westerners tell me they think Russians are obsessed with money, I think they’re wrong: the cash has come so fast, like glitter shaken in a snow globe, that it feels totally unreal, not something to hoard and save but to twirl and dance in like feathers in a pillow fight and cut like papier-mâché into different, quickly changing masks. the music goes faster and faster, and in the throbbing, snowing night the cattle become Forbeses and the Forbeses cattle, moving so fast now they can see the traces of themselves caught in the strobe across the dance floor.Outside the restaurant black cars are quadruple parked up the narrow pavement and onto the boulevard; scowling, smoking bodyguards wait for their masters, who sit inside. Galeria was created by Arkady Novikov: his restaurants are the place to go in Moscow (he also does the Kremlin’s catering). When the other went for more vodka he let me go.”“And your authority? Back on the street with her nervous little dog and a dozen sequined dresses. Private eyes.”Oliona’s playing fields are a constellation of clubs and restaurants designed almost exclusively for the purpose of sponsors looking for girls and girls looking for sponsors. So Oliona’s looking for a new sugar daddy (they’re not called “sugar daddies” here but “sponsors”). ”“Oh yeah, I have to be careful; he has one of his bodyguards check up on me. The guys are known as “Forbeses” (as in Forbes rich list); the girls as “tiolki,” cattle. I left town.”As we pack up Oliona is as thoughtful as I’ve ever seen her: “Actually could you avoid what happened in that room in your program? A roly-poly pimp, Peter Listerman, is a TV celebrity.