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Adventures in Writing, Reading & Book Culture

Meeting “The Czech Frank Sinatra”

karel gottKarel Gott is an old crooner who cut his teeth singing to women in factories during commie years, then really made it big after the VR in ’89. He’s got a good voice, is wildly popular (at 70+), and is quite the humanitarian as well.

My student, Professor Kriz, knows Gott personally, and once before showed some of the singer’s artwork, a passion of his for some 20 years or so. The paintings are derivative and reminiscent of many famous 20th C painters (Latrec and Kalo come to mind), but they show spirit and attention to craft. Gott is really a Czech idol, and it showed tonight with all the fans and well-wishers who came to Kriz’s law offices for the exhibition. While Gott didn’t sing, he did stay around and spoke to all who came to him (I paid him bon mots, too) and signed lots of autographs.

So Prof. Kriz knows how to put on a shin-dig, that’s for sure: Bohemien sekt (champagne), top-tier wines, good beer (brewed since 1638) a traditional Czech buffet (legs of ham, gulash, salmon tartar, smoked bacon [otherwise known as heart-attack snacks], and hot peppers), and cigarette girls. Yes, this last is quite the sight. I haven’t seen cigarette girls (like, really, live girls holding trays of cigarettes protruding from their packages, she (dressed mildly as an angel, with lots of cleavage) ready with a fashionable butane lighter) since the Playboy ski club back in ’71. Frikkin mind blowing.

arnost lustigThe treat for the night, however, was recognizing Arnost Lustig in the crowd. I attended a class taught by Arnost back in ’94 here in Prague, and here he was, sitting with a young thing (he couldn’t keep his hands off her, as a matter of fact), surrounded by birthday gifts. I had Prof Kriz introduce me because they are close friends, and I reminded Lustig of our meeting 15 years ago. He didn’t remember, of course. Back then he was 72 yrs old, and since has taught hundreds of knucklheads like myself.

It was a good evening, and I met a few of CR’s power brokers. The Professor introduces me as “my English teacher; the best I’ve ever had” … which is a nice sentiment.

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