From Bar Harbor, Maine, to H Street to Houston, Stolichnaya vodka is flowing--into the streets.
Across the country, merchants and barkeepers, video game players and travelers are levying their own sanctions against the Soviets for the downing of the Korean Air Lines jet last week carrying 269 people.
Nine states--Alabama, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia--have agreed to ban or voluntarily boycott Russian vodka. But the degrees and types of the other, more ad hoc, actions seem to increase by the hour.
In Austin, Tex., video game players now have several ways to get back at the Soviets--if only on an electronic playground. They can zap Soviet warships and save the human race from that "Communist mutant from outer space, Andropov." The programmer of the games, Thomas Teeter, who works at University Arcade in Austin, programmed one game to give the following message: "Russia: We want answers and an apology."
From a Salt Lake City radio station, the message came out stronger and more musically: "The Russians are liars and they know we are right," goes the chorus of a song written by disc jockey Kip Kraddick of radio station KLRZ. The song, recorded by Kraddick and KLRZ news director Steve Craig, is called "The Russians Are Liars" and is accompanied by music from "Eye of the Tiger," the theme song for the movie "Rocky III." The station played the song for the first time Tuesday and the switchboard went bonkers. About 600 phone calls were logged praising the song and asking Kraddick to play it again, he says.
A Vietnam veteran who tends bar at Rumors stopped traffic on H Street NW Tuesday when, with the management's blessing, he dumped eight bottles of Stolichnaya into the street. "We collected it from both locations," said Gail Fast, manager of the H Street Rumors, "and, since our location is closer to the White House, we poured it out here."
At The Sign of the Whale, on M Street NW, owner Tom Goss emptied six bottles and about $400 worth of profits into his bar sink before on-looking patrons and a local television crew. "We were going to dump it in front of the Russian Embassy," he says, "but upon advice of counsel I decided against it."
They took it off the bar at Morton's and at J. Paul's in Georgetown. In fact, there's nothing even remotely Slavic being served at J. Paul's. "We never had Russian dressing," manager Barry Silverman said yesterday.
"Afghanistan was political, El Salvador was political," said Paul Cohn, a co-owner of J. Paul's. "But this was a slam against humanity. And I'm not really a right-wing guy, but this upset me." About the removal of Russian vodka from his bar, he said, "I've had not one complaint."
It was a spontaneous rising up of the spirit--American or transplanted. Mstislav Rostropovich, Russian emigre' and conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, didn't have to give up his Stolichnaya. He'd already switched to another brand. "He stopped drinking Stolichnaya when the Russians invaded Afghanistan," said an NSO spokesman.
For some, it was a showing of anger and muscle: "We're viewed as a bunch of wimps by the Russians," says Goss, "but people here read, they know what's going on, and they're upset."
For some, it was principle, as a Bar Harbor, Maine, barkeeper contended yesterday. "It's blood money when you profit from the miseries of a horrible execution," said Gerald Mitchell, owner of Geddy's Pub. "Blood money, that's exactly what it is."
Travelers reacted in their own way, too. From 10 to 15 percent of Americans who had planned trips to the Soviet Union have canceled their flights since the airplane was downed, according to an Associated Press New York report.
U.S. publishers announced a boycott of the Moscow Book Fair. And longshoremen refused to unload Soviet vodka and lumber from a Soviet vessel, a Los Angeles port official said Wednesday. And in one of the more direct protests, protesters stormed a police barricade near the Soviet mission to the United Nations in New York Wednesday chanting, "We want to kill them."
In New Mexico, the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory said that all official travel to the Soviet Union by the lab's scientists would be prohibited for safety and political reasons.
The Moscow Circus also announced it was canceling its Canadian tour after officials in five Canadian cities called off performances. And the Atlanta Ballet canceled its October tour of Moscow and Leningrad.
But not everyone is reacting so virulently. The Russian Tea Room in New York City will not change its menu though the management is as aghast as anyone else at recent events. For one thing, the Russian Tea Room is old, pre-Revolution Russian, not the Russia of today.
"It was started by White Russians," said the Tea Room's vice president, Gregory Camillucci, "from the Bolshoi Ballet, who would be as outraged as people here are now. They fled the Czarist overthrow."
And the U.S. Tennis Association will not cancel Stolichnaya as a sponsor of 1983 U.S. Open Tennis Championships, now in progress.
"The U.S. Tennis Association has discussed the issue with the sponsor and has made a decision not to remove the sponsors' signs which are displayed at the event and it has the responsibility to adhere to a signed contract," said Mike Burns, director of marketing and tournament manager, reading from a statement.