Jewish Journal


July 12, 2007

Hooker to the stars is a saucy satirist


Iris Bahr, a.k.a. Svetlana Maksimovsrskay. Photo by Marc Goldstein

Iris Bahr, a.k.a. Svetlana Maksimovsrskay. Photo by Marc Goldstein

Svetlana Maksimovsrskaya is a Russian prostitute whose high-profile clients include George Clooney, Rick Santorum and Al Gore. Featured on KCRW-FM 89.9 every Monday at 4:44 p.m., she comments on whatever comes to mind -- movies, politics, popular culture, her clients. During the first segment, on June 18, she said, "Paper is killing tree, plastic does not decompose, using a Mexican boy is exploiting labor, I give up, hand me my produce and my Milano cookies and I will carry everything to my car in installments; I will make 14 trips back and forth, just so I don't feel guilty. It's Al's fault for all this nonsense. I told him, Gorki -- he likes it when I call him Gorki -- what you lack in charisma you are making up with your slide shows and guilt trips."

She recently recapped her emergency visit to the West Bank, where Mahmoud Abbas apparently needed a little TLC. Svetlana offered her "services," as well as advice:

"I told Abu Mazen, 'Think positive. What were you going to do with Gaza anyway? I mean honestly, how could you have one Palestinian state in two different places? What were you going to do, build a monorail between the two? Palestinian Express? With purple vinyl seats and happy music.'"
The tart-tongued, name-dropping working girl is not only insightful and intelligent, she's also funny and fictional.

American Israeli writer-actress Iris Bahr says she is fascinated with Russian culture and created Maksimovsrskaya (whose name grows weekly as an inside joke) over the years on stage, on screen and on air. At the invitation of KCRW general manager Ruth Seymour, Bahr has developed her into a regular radio character for "Social Studies," a four-minute rapid-fire satire segment that runs locally on KCRW during NPR's "All Things Considered."

Bahr feels that she adds a satiric commentary to the station's programming -- an in-your-face, outspoken humor that is irreverent and refreshing. Radio has many advantages, Bahr says.

"It's liberating! Being heard and not seen allows me to really morph into the character and let the listeners use their imagination. It also lets me work in sweatpants!"

Born in the Bronx and raised in Tel Aviv, Bahr has made a career of social commentary. Her first one-woman show, "Planet America," earned her kudos from LA Weekly and is being developed into a feature film. She toured her short film, "The Unchosen Ones," to various festivals, and she's had small roles in "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (she played an Orthodox Jewish character), "King of Queens," "Friends" and other popular shows.

Bahr will be in Scotland at the Edinburgh Festival all of August performing her second solo show, "Dai." She hopes to bring that show, which is about Israeli culture, to Los Angeles and says she plans to some day write a book that "humanizes Israelis," because she believes the society is greatly misunderstood.

As for Svetlana's commentary -- anything goes. In the three segments that have aired so far, the heavy-accented hooker has touched upon "Ocean's 13," Darfur, "The Secret," Mitt Romney, "Grey's Anatomy" and, of course, Paris Hilton.

"Social Studies" is also available online as a live stream, a podcast and a transcript.

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