To a Russian Poet With Love

Ex-Pats Party for Pushkin

Booth Moore
Los Angeles Times, November 17, 1999

"I wanted to get Kvas -- a naturally fermented drink from Russia, a wonderful drink. But they forgot to include it in the order," said Anne Volokh, turning her cheek to exchange "hello" kisses with Princess Katya Galitzine. (The pre-Romanov Galitzines occupied the top rung of society for many centuries in Russia.) Oh well, vodka and caviar would have to do.

We caught up with the charming Volokh, chief executive of Movieline magazine, the other day as she was working out last-minute details for a 200th birthday party for Russian literary giant Alexander Pushkin -- at a Culver City dance center.

Dripping in foxtails and cream lace, the charismatic hostess had no trouble persuading an eclectic group of Russian ex-pats and others to slip on paper booties over their shoes to protect the studio floor. Among the guests at the Conjunctive Points Dance Center were "Fight Club" director David Fincher and Nikita Mikhalkov, who won a best foreign-language film Oscar for his 1994 movie Burnt by the Sun.

Volokh is an intellectually curious type: She wrote The Art of Russian Cuisine (Macmillan, 1989), is a lover of fashion who collects hats (75 at last count) and is passionate about poetry.

"If I live without poetry for too long, I start feeling a void. I grew up with poetry," she said in rich, rolling accent. What she really wanted to talk about, though, was her son, Alexander Volokh, 26. A Harvard grad student dressed in a pilled wool vest and a comfy tweed jacket, he has inherited his mother's love of great literature.

"I translate Pushkin, but just on the side," said Volokh, who is studying law and economics.

Sunday's program included readings of Pushkin's melancholy poems, including some of the younger Volokh's translations, and arias by soprano Svetlana Nikitenko. Guests mouthed the words in Russian and strained for a better view of Bolshoi-trained dancers.

At intermission, many of the 200 or so guests retired to the desolate street and did something increasingly foreign in these parts: They enjoyed their cigarettes without guilt.

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