Gift-Wrapping Not Included
Searching for a last-minute Christmas present? How about a long-range, diesel-powered, 300-foot-long Russian submarine? This genuine Cold War vessel--built by the Soviet Defense Ministry in 1964, decommissioned by post-Communist Russia in 1994 and now docked at Bayboro Harbor near St. Petersburg, Fla.--is being auctioned on the Internet by a company called SubExpo (www.subexpo.com).
"It's not hot," said SubExpo President Alexander Sheftman, meaning it's neither stolen nor capable of launching nukes--though it does still have its engines. "We'd like $1 million, but we'll settle for less," added the 39-year-old Russian emigre, who apparently is still mastering the basics of capitalism. Indeed, he had a million-dollar bidder at press time yesterday. The Juliett-class sub, the world's largest non-nuclear-powered variety, was originally equipped with four nuclear cruise missiles and 10 torpedo tubes. It also featured a "stealth rubber skin" and silver zinc batteries that allowed for submerged travel at a maximum speed of 17.5 knots and an underwater range of 810 miles.
SubExpo of Finland bought it from the Russians and hauled it to Helsinki, where it was used as a museum and restaurant. In 1997, it was leased to a Canadian tourism company, which tried to tow it to the St. Petersburg city pier. But a sandbar intervened, and the sub ended up in the harbor. Florida officials have been demanding its removal--hence the auction. When we phoned the Russian Embassy yesterday, press counselor Mikhail Shurgalin told us: "I understand the U.S. Army sells a lot of uniforms all over the city. I believe this piece of scrap metal, which they're calling a 'submarine,' is the same kind of thing. This is also indicative that we are no longer in a Cold War. It's better, let's say, that the overall amount of arms and armaments is diminishing instead of increasing." Sheftman, meanwhile, said the sub would "absolutely" make a fab gift for that special someone. "And it's Y2K-ready."
Terry Bradshaw: Incoming!
* When it comes to entertaining U.S. troops in the Balkans, Terry Bradshaw boasts a simple talent. "I don't sing particularly well. My talent is that I'm just a jock," the Fox TV football commentator and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback told us yesterday, calling from Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen's militarized 747 as it flew home after a week-long holiday tour of Italy, Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo.
"I try to be funny and make them feel good about themselves. So I'm introduced as a veteran of four Super Bowls, and I go up there and say, 'Here I am!' I just stand there--and the place goes wild."
Nice work if you can get it. But the 51-year-old Bradshaw, who wasn't inducted in the Vietnam-era draft, believes that "there's a fascination with athletes for the people in our military. The military is strategically very much in line with football, I think. The young people I spoke to identify with that. They understand that it's a hitting sport, it's offense, it's defense, it's long bombs, it's collision, it's infantry, it's war on the ground and in the air. And you have to have the generals--the Pattons." Just like Bradshaw, natch.
Meanwhile, he gave us a very rosy scenario for Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. "The Washington Redskins should win this one. Norv Turner needs to win this one. And I expect them to win this one."
THIS JUST IN . . .
* We hear that Time magazine's Person of the Century, to be announced Sunday, will be Albert Einstein. "You're free to speculate. I'm not going to play that game," said Managing Editor Walter Isaacson, acknowledging that the humanitarian physicist is a possibility, along with passive resister Mohandas Gandhi and wheelchair-bound President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
* Conservative activist Richard Viguerie, who two decades ago invented the use of scary direct mail to fill the coffers of the New Right, has resigned from the top job of his advertising company to start a political Internet site. A onetime admirer of Newt Gingrich, the 66-year-old Viguerie told us yesterday: "Of course, what's happened with Newt is very sad. He has thrown away any chance to lead any conservative revolution in the future."
* It seems Britney Spears, who has been corresponding with Britain's Prince William, has been invited on a date with the 18-year-old heir to the throne. According to newspaper reports, her schedule doesn't permit her to accept William's invitation to an Eton millennium party, but everything looks good for next Valentine's Day.
CAPTION: Einstein, the century's standout?
CAPTION: Spears, courting royalty.
CAPTION: Terry Bradshaw, right, receives a souvenir T-shirt from Daniel C. Stonebraker of the USS Bataan.