Moscow, Jan. 19: In a bizarre inversion of the rags-to-riches theme that has driven a decade of Russian capitalism, modern tycoons are begging on the streets of Moscow to get their kicks.
They gather outside a Moscow railway station, smelling of rotten vegetables, their clothes torn and ragged, to all appearances just another band of down-and-outs.
In fact, each of the men pays £3,300 to be a beggar for the day. Their clothes are artificially stained with radish juice to give them a foul odour and facial deformities are crafted by a leading Moscow make-up artist. The policemen who patrol the station and other local tramps are paid to ignore them. After an hour or two of role-playing, the men wash, change and retire to an expensive restaurant to celebrate their exploits.
Under the rules of the competition, each hands over the “token” sum of £320 to the tycoon who begged the most money.
The “experience” is one of several being offered by Sergei Knyazev, a former Moscow psychology professor, who runs a business entertaining the bored super-rich. “I usually cater to the very rich,” he said. “They work in their offices all month and then they want a blow-out. The conventional entertainment industry offers them nothing.”
Knyazev’s most successful “game” was when he sent husbands and wives off to the red light district. The couples worked as pairs — the husband posing as the pimp and the wife as one of his “girls”. The contest was to see which couple could lure the most kerb-crawlers.