Somewhere in history this has happened. If we think hard enough we'll come up with an example of somebody just like Mikhail Gorbachev. Somebody who was a huge hit at home for a short while, a star of the brightest luster, who now finds his reputation under attack and has to look to foreign soil for the kind of approval and acclaim that once gushed by his door. Hmmmm.
We're in France.
He's Jerry Lewis.
(Coming soon to a theater near you: "That Nutty Ukrainian Professor" starring Mikhail Gorbachev. "Pure comique genius, deux thumbs up" -- Siskel & Ebe'rt.)
Pardon me for being confused, but I thought the people in the Soviet Union liked Gorbachev. I thought he was fresh air. I thought they voted him Bloc-head of the year in 1989.
Now, everything you read says he's in deep trouble at home. The Baltics are in chaos. There are ethnic riots and killings. Food was already scarce, soon it will be unaffordable too. On July 1, you'll be able to trade two van Goghs and a Lada Turbo-YG for a herring on a slice of black bread. "The guy has no chance of being elected dog catcher anywhere in the Soviet Union," says Frank J. Gaffney Jr., director of the conservative Center for Security Policy. "He's entirely out of kilter with what's on the ground there."
No wonder he came here. We still love him.
He's at 73 percent in the polls. Almost as high as Bush. (And The Gorb speaks in full sentences.) One midnight stroll through Georgetown and he could probably get elected mayor here; he's already ahead of Sharon Pratt Dixon and Dave Clarke.
We await him with open arms. Waiting for The Gorb.
Estragon: Is he coming?
Vladimir: I love Raisa. She shops at Bloomies.
Estragon: When will he be here?
Vladimir: Since he took down the radar our TV reception is much better.
Estragon: Are you sure he's coming?
Vladimir: He has westernized the country. Our collective farmers all drive Chevy Blazers. I myself go to Jiffy Lube and collect Marriott points.
Estragon: I don't want to miss him. What does he look like?
Vladimir: Homer Simpson.
The problem is that all this negative publicity about Gorbachev's standing in the Soviet Union has taken some of the steam out of the summit. Nobody wants to get too attached to a loser. What if The Gorb's had his 15 minutes and it's see ya later, babe, write when you get work? Coming here at a time like this is risky. We all know what happens to politicians who go to the Super Bowl when it's snowing outside: They either come back fast or they pay for it later. What if there's no Soviet Union for The Gorb to go back to? He's got to have something to sell to the folks back home. He needs a big hit.
This same thing happened to Al Pacino. He started off on fire. "Serpico," "Dog Day Afternoon," "The Godfather." Then he went straight into the dumper. Did you see "And Justice for All..." and "Revolution"? Dogs. They should have served Pacino his meals in a dish on the floor. But he came back with "Sea of Love," and now he's hot again. Gorbachev needs a comeback vehicle.
Black Sea of Love.
Crimean Sea of Love.
Caspian Sea of Love.
How long would it take Ellen Barkin to learn Russian?
How could it be that The Gorb could lose his popularity so quickly at home? What, did he get a bad time slot? Is he after "McGyver"? Did Boris Yeltsin eat him for lunch, or what?
Maybe we're seeing the good Gorbachev, Mick the Quick, but Soviet TV is getting his evil twin, Mike the Spike. Hey, it worked on "Dynasty" with Krystle for a full season.
Gorbachev is great on the road, swept through the tough Western Conference. But he has no home court advantage.
Brent: You really play remarkably well on the road, Mick. But I'll bet you can't wait to get back to the U.S.S.R. and a little home cooking, huh?
Gorbachev: Very little.
Brent: Come on, Mick, the packed stadiums, the big cheers. Gor-by! Gor-by! The home court advantage, Mick. What about the home court advantage?
Gorbachev: It's gone. So are all the concessions. In Lenin Stadium, if you order a hot dog, you'd better be serious.
"The bad news for Gorbachev is that the thing's falling apart beneath him," says Gaffney, who, like many conservatives, tends to see Gorbachev as Khrushchev in a Botany suit. (If nothing else, it's got to grate on the conservatives that so many of us are Gorbaphoric, and that the most tangible legacy of the Reagan Revolution so far is Apple IIs in Vladivostok.) "I'm afraid the American people have swallowed hook, line and sinker the myth that the intentions of the Soviet Union are no longer what they used to be," Gaffney says. "In the next six months Gorbachev will revert to form. You'll see food riots, strikes, you'll see a guy cracking down, and then you'll see him being reviled in this country too."
Will this happen?
Is this curtains for The Gorb?
(As long as we're doing soap opera: Who killed Laura Palmer? And how come Washington has so many Domino's Pizza franchises and not a single One-Eyed Jacks?)
Speaking selfishly, Gorbachev has been good for this city. Two summits in the U.S., and both in Washington. A new Soviet leader might move the summit to Minneapolis or Arlington, Tex. (home of our former baseball team, now owned by Bush's son George). It's been done.
We have a stake in this guy.
We ought to keep him.
He may have no country to go home to anyway. Talk about SRO at the gulag. He can stay here on permanent book tour. He can consult at the Pentagon. He can sell Stoli. He can co-host the "Today" show. Tell me a little pancake on that birthmark, and he wouldn't look just like Joe Garagiola.