Six years ago, a newly relocated newlywed in a new country, my husband made great strides to introduce me to any part of his culture he felt might appeal to me to help me assimilate to my new life as a Turk. He tried everything from signing me up for the Yabanci Esi Klub, (The Foreign Spouse Club) to enrolling me in Turkish classes so I could actually communicate with my in-laws. He schooled me in how to order my Turk kahvesi and lovingly explained that while everywhere else it is a gyro, in Turkey it is döner. Though all of the Turk’s efforts were appreciated, I wasn’t feeling the connection. I was an overeducated, career minded, sassy broad in a world full of domestic divas. My shoes were too sensible, my make-up too muted and my cooking skills not even close to par. About 6 months into our stay, he finally had the good sense to introduce me to The Eurovision Song Contest – a television extravaganza watched by millions, filled with copious jazz hands, wind-blown hair extensions, and sparkly ragwear that would make Stevie Nicks turn green with envy. Disco meets Eurotrash. My heart was won. These were my people.
|Believe it or not, this is Ireland|
Since my virgin voyage on the Eurovision trainwreck, I have become one of its biggest fans. I was so hooked that upon returning to the US, I suggested we schedule our yearly visit to his family to coincide with the contest and when that didn’t work, I bought the Turk a subscription to DigiTurk (Turkish cable TV) for his May birthday so that I would be able to catch the late May Eurovision contest live without having to wait until the performances posted on YouTube. This year as I geared up to watch the semi-finals, I realized that it was time. Europe, there are things you need to share with your redneck cousins over here in the States. Secrets have their place - like German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sexual preference or Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi's love for teen pole dancers – but this spectacle that is Eurovision is too fab to keep under wraps any longer. America – I introduce you to Eurovision!
|Czechoslovakia. Not surprising.|
For you newbies, here’s a rundown. Eurovision is a song competition which has been happening in late May since 1956. (I know, something this wonderfuly over-the-top trashy has been happening for this long and no one told us? I used to think we invented trashy, you know with the advent of Walmart and all, but clearly I was mistaken.) The rules are simple – every country in Europe -and now most of the former Yugoslavia as well as the former USSR and a whole ton of other countries you have to search out on a map using a magnifying glass and are in no way close to Europe- get to send one representative to the competition which best represents their countries current musical trend. They may sing in English or in their native tongue, they only have 3 minutes and in addition to the artist, there may be no more than 5 additional performers on stage.
|Standard Turkey-hot chicks with midriff|
The Turks, generally send one singer with 5 scantily belly dancers while the Norwegians opt for a trio of musicians with a few back-up girls in flowing polyester gowns. Accurate representation indeed. There are semi-finals and finals and the winners are all determined by a complex and confusing phone-in voting system (I’m never quite sure how the points are awarded but in my defense, I’ve never caught the show in English.) – countries cannot vote for themselves but the voting usually goes along political lines –ie – Turks never vote for Greeks and Armenia never votes for Turkey.
The best way to explain Eurovision it to note that in 1974, the big winner was ABBA and that is where they got their start. It’s also important to note that in the 38 years since, no Eurovision winner has ever hit that big again. While according to my sister-in-law, Girl Turk, it was once something that everyone awaited. The Eurovision Song Contest literally glued entire countries to the television. In recent years it seems to have become more of a cult thing. It remains big with people like me who dig the spectacle and novelty of it all. It is huge with people like Girl Turk who grew up with it, and it’s a massive hit with the European gay population. The lesbians signed on as big fans after the 2007 win by a Serbian lesbian sporting a Kate Plus 8 hairdo, backed up by 5 hot babes singing a Serbian love song.
|Ukraine in drag - FABULOUS!|
The winning country hosts the contest the next year. For my inaugural run from the comfort of our Archie and Edith armchairs in my in-law’s apartment, we traveled to Finland. With the eyes of a toddler, I watched for the first time as Finland’s Ryan Seacrest and his ample bosomed counterpart guided us through quality performances by a Ukrainian drag queen, a Danish transsexual, a sexually ambiguous Greek, Frenchmen in fuchsia satin and angel wings and so much more. An audience of thousands waving flags of all nations cheered and jeered as our smooth-toned spokesman offered countering commentary in Turkish. As sequins, shimmies and environmentally unconscious amounts of smoke filled the screen, I watched with my mouth agape. Why did the Greek song sound just like Turkey's? Who knew Ukraine had their own megastar bred from the genes of Elton John and Lady Gaga? Couldn't the Frenchmen have been a bit less stereo-typical?
|Belarus's 2008 Hoff|
Beyond the tack and pageantry, there are several other moments of awesomeness that make Eurovision so grand. The ridiculously thick accents that fill every song sang in English by artist who have no idea what they are saying. The moments of political activism –like the ska song preformed by team Israel about the threat of nuclear annihilation. The cross-dressing – and who doesn’t love cross-dressing? The fact that every year Belarus manages to send a different David Hasselhoff look-a-like. (Who knew Belarus learned how to clone the Hoff?) The fact that every year one or two countries attempt to gain the folksy vote by updating a traditional folksong- this year Russia sent 5 grannies in babushkas and morphed their folk song into a catchy dance tune by the end. And the fact that reguardless of how horrible one believes their country’s choice of participant may be, by contest time we are all piling on the bandwagon and cheering our entrant on to the highest degree.
So lovers of all things tacky, fans of drag, admirers of glitz and glamour – I compel you – run, don’t walk – to Eurovision.tv and bone up on this hidden jem, for next year we are heading to Sweden and those Swedes are always good for a freak show.
|Greece - no comment.|