#2: Ex-pat Eurovision parties
When you’ve lived away from home long enough, you gradually garner a group of ex-pat friends. Last year the Eurovision passed me by without blimping onto my radar, but this year, I had a party to go to. When I arrived at the 8th floor Mid-town flat at 3pm, my host, V., urgently handed me a tiny pink drink (it was given to everyone who crossed the threshold). He gave me a perfectly shaped rectangle of paper listing “my country” (Germany) and outlined an elaborate set of rules, which he had been working on for several days, gesticulating at a page of instructions taped to the wall, covered in scrawls and lines. If your country’s performance involved unnecessary accessories you had to drink; if the singers seemed to have had gender transformations or plastic surgery you took a drink; if your country’s song was quite good, you had a drink.
For those unfamiliar with this intracontinental revel, the Eurovision Song Contest is, self-described: “a modern classic, strongly embedded into Europe’s collective mind.” It’s an annual musical competition that has launched the careers of such stars as Johnny Logan (remember him?), Cliff Richard, and Abba. In short, the Eurovision is a singular moment when elegance and sophistication are thrown to the winds, and sparkly stuff, ballads, and winning grins hold momentary sway over our collective aesthetic consciousness.
This year’s victors, based on a popular phone-in vote, were a rather frightful Azerbaijani duo, casting out of the picture not only my/Germany’s reasonably decent Lena, but also Ireland’s Jedward (weird twins) along with the UK’s Blue (a tightly-trousered quartet whose inspiring ditty had the simple title, “I can“). Afterwards, therefore, we took comfort in triumphs of the past, unearthing performances on Youtube from Abba and the brilliant non-entry by Fr. Ted, My Lovely Horse.
Does the Eurovision know that it’s a caricature? The glam, the camp, the flat-out cheese factor seems to shoot up up every year. The contest has been around since 1956, but somewhere along the way it got stuck in the seventies and eighties — thus, perfectly, giving the continent a chance temporarily to escape the present and wistfully to revisit the past.
In fact, the Eurovision creates one of the most serious and functional opportunities for cooperation and collaboration that I’ve recently seen. As the EU battles a mind-blowing mix of sex scandals plus financial cataclysm, this truth remains: the Eurovision is one of the most fun and most glittery things that Europe has bestowed upon us. Vive L’Eurovision!
[This is part of my two-week daily series in which I write about things that are great about New York -- and try to figure out if I should stay here or leave]