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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Guide to the Stars




Where there are no fish, even a crayfish is a fish, goes the Russian proverb. This saying perfectly fits singer Vladimir Lyovkin, who would hardly be known to anyone if he hadn't been part of Na-Na, Russia's quintessential boy band and an icon for aging teens. Lyovkin, a seemingly ageless ginger-haired boy with the plastic appearance of an East German soccer star, hosted a party this week in a Moscow billiards hall to announce his first solo tour, which was to start in Krasnoyarsk on Thursday.


"I have my own hot line now, so you can always know where I am going," Lyovkin said proudly, as he announced the number, which I didn't bother to write down. As he spoke, he tried to hit the billiard ball to show how cool he is. He missed.


Despite his plans to set off on his own, Lyovkin no doubt felt safe as he made his announcement. Behind his back was the man who made him, Bari Alibasov, the powerful promoter of Na-Na.


"I feel satisfied when artists start their own lives and walk with their heads held high," said Alibasov, 51, who with his enigmatic smile and bright-colored clothes resembles a sly Turkish trader on the streets of Istanbul.


Born near the city of Semipalatinsk, once a center of nuclear testing in Kazakhstan, Alibasov, a sharp-tongued man, became Russia's best-known music producer as the father of Na-Na. Since Na-Na's founding in 1989, the group has gone through a series of virtually identical boys to meet the standards of the Russian "New Kids on the Block." The group toured all around the country and even abroad, and the boys enjoyed huge popularity as a team.


But being part of a well-known brand is a lot easier than achieving success alone. Looking at Lyovkin's smiling face, I recalled meeting another ex-Na-Na member, Valery Yurin, a few years ago. Yurin was also full of courage and plans to start his own career, but his plans ended in failure, and I haven't heard from him since. When I told Lyovkin about it, he said with a smile, "Don't expect the same from me!" Sadly, I do.