Bad Press Pop king Filipp Kirkorov rubs the media the wrong way

The Moscow Times
Arts & Ideas
July 2 – 8, 2004

Bad Press
Pop king Filipp Kirkorov rubs the media the wrong way.

By Anna Malpas

He might have ranked only 17th in the 1995 Eurovision contest, but
Filipp Kirkorov has never failed to win over Russian gossip
columns. Sporting luxuriant Cruella De Vil locks, the pop singer is
also something of a sex symbol, despite being married to 55-year-old
diva Alla Pugachova.

But the 37-year-old balladeer, who quotes British lounge singer
Engelbert Humperdinck as one of his seminal influences, risked his
housewives’-choice status with a few unchecked remarks at a recent
news conference in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don.

In footage now widely available on the Internet, Kirkorov attacked a
female journalist who had asked him why his repertoire included so
many cover-versions of other people’s songs. “I don’t want you to
photograph me, I’m sick of you, I’m irritated by your pink top, your
tits and your microphone,” he said, according to a transcript of the
May 20 news conference published on his web site,

After the reporter, Irina Aroyan of the newspaper Gazeta Dona, asked
whether he would mind if she wrote his statements down, the singer
retorted: “I don’t give a fuck what you write.” He then told Aroyan to
get out, adding, “You need to come prepared to press conferences with
stars, and not like you — yesterday walking the streets, and today,
here in the second row.”

When the journalist said goodbye, the Bulgarian-born Kirkorov imitated
her southern accent. “Learn to speak Russian first,” he said. Then
Aroyan retorted “Learn to behave, star,” to which Kirkorov added a
rhyme: “Da … Pizda” (Yes … Cunt).

After Aroyan left the room, Kirkorov’s bodyguards approached her,
removed the memory card from her camera and damaged her dictaphone,
but video footage shot at the scene swiftly went on the Internet, and
Aroyan decided to take the singer to court for personally insulting
her in the public sphere. The case is due to open in Rostov on Monday.


Determined to take the pop star down a notch, Irina Aroyan is suing
him for moral damages.

As the public’s interest in the scandal grew, journalists launched a
campaign to collect 1 million votes of protest against Kirkorov, with
the aim of depriving him of the status of Honored Artist of Russia and
introducing a commercial boycott against him. In the two weeks since
the petition began, the campaign’s site, , has
gathered 155,000 signatures, although some, such as those of Vladimir
Putin and Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev, seem somewhat suspect.

Kirkorov faced up to Aroyan last Friday on a talk show on Channel One
called “Basic Instinct” (Osnovnoi Instinkt), saying that he would
rather “lick up courtyards” than apologize to Aroyan, referring to one
of the possible community service sentences that he could receive.

Speaking from Bulgaria via video-link, and flanked by top Moscow
lawyer Yevgeny Danilov, Kirkorov said that his outburst was not

“At the age of 37, I could have learned to keep myself in check, and I
did keep myself in check for 10 years,” Kirkorov commented when asked
what he had learned from the situation.

Danilov accused Aroyan of allowing her cause to be funded by the
pro-Putin youth organization Moving Together, which, in 2002, set fire
to the works of novelist Vladimir Sorokin to protest their allegedly
pornographic content. Also speaking out in Kirkorov’s defense were
two top stars of the senior pop scene, crooner and State Duma Deputy
Iosif Kobzon and chanson singer Alexander Rozenbaum, who suggested
that the younger singer’s outburst was a long-overdue response to
years of muckraking journalism.

“You can’t justify a man who tells a woman to go to hell,” Rozenbaum
said, but criticized journalists for concentrating on the negative
scoop, rather than writing about “good doctors who do beautiful
operations.” Meanwhile, Kobzon chided Kirkorov for “giving journalists
a reason to rejoice.” When Aroyan burst into tears later on, however,
he offered apologies for the unyielding star.

“Filipp has always had to deal with people popping into his life and
trying to build their own popularity on his name,” said the singer’s
PR manager, Nikolai Stepanov, in an interview Monday.

Stepanov agreed in principle with Rozenbaum and Kobzon, putting the
blame for the scandal on the ensuing media blitz. “Filipp has already
said that he doesn’t feel guilty about what he said to this
journalist. Yes, he could apologize to parents whose children were the
unwilling witnesses thanks to the mass media’s efforts,” he said. The
remarks in question were “addressed not for public airing but to a
concrete person.”

“It wasn’t a question he was answering, but the follow-up [to the
question],” Stepanov said. “When Irina asked ‘Do you mind if I write
that my top makes you mad’ and he said, ‘It’s basically all the same
to me what you write,’ that wasn’t addressed to the camera, do you

Speaking from her newspaper office in Rostov on Monday, Aroyan said,
“It’s hard to imagine what’s happening here at the newspaper, what’s
happening in the city … Everyone is sending letters. It’s not just
Rostov — Chelyabinsk, Krasnodar, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaluga are

Aroyan was born in Rostov, studied English at the local university,
and only recently started working at Gazeta Dona. Despite Kirkorov’s
criticism of her accent, Aroyan’s father is of Russian descent (she
uses her mother’s surname), and her Armenian relatives settled in
Rostov in the 19th century.

“It’s very unpleasant for me to hear myself being criticized in this
situation, to have people tell me I’m doing it for PR. Why do I give
interviews? Why do I speak? Because I was insulted in public, and,
what’s more, I’m a journalist,” Aroyan said.

Aroyan was eager to de-emphasize Moving Together’s involvement even as
the youth group was planning a rally in her defense that went ahead in
Rostov last Thursday. “Fighting against bad language is part of their
program,” she said. “In accordance with that, they’re supporting me.”

“At the moment, they are supporting me financially only in as much as
they’re providing me with bodyguards,” she said. “There’s no other
financial support. The rest of my financial support comes from my
holding.” (Aroyan’s newspaper, Gazeta Dona, is owned by the
Moscow-based Provintsia publishing house, along with more than 30
other regional newspapers.)

Initially, Aroyan was supported by Rostov lawyer Valery Ratychev, but
last week she switched to another lawyer, Vladimir Livshits, on the
request of Moscow lawyers Eduard Margulyan and Andrei Rakhmilovich,
who plan to launch a civil case in the capital against Kirkorov for
moral damages.

Irina Usikova, press spokesperson for the Rostov branch of Moving
Together, said Monday that “the new lawyers Irina has employed say
that it’s undesirable for her to take part in our demonstration. I
find it a bit difficult to understand why, because, on the contrary,
there is a public response, and we have 1,500 people ready to go out
to support her.”

Usikova described Aroyan’s dismissed advocate Valery Ratychev as “our
lawyer, who works on a pro bono basis.” The bodyguards are also
working for free, she added.

Music journalist Maxim Kononenko, who has written on the case for the
newspaper Gazeta and helped create the Million Against Kirkorov web
site, points to the outcry as proof that the public has simply tired
of the singer.

“He’s not current for Russian show business, but, nevertheless, he’s
much more of a presence on television than any other artist,” the
journalist said Monday. “Now, having organized this project, we are
amazed to see that Kirkorov is not, in fact, a superstar. No one likes

The press service for STS television channel, which airs “Morning With
Kirkorov,” a regular musical show, declined to comment on the scandal.
However, a spokeswoman confirmed that the pre-recorded show will
continue to be aired until at least September.

The singer’s videos regularly rotate on Russian MTV, where they
receive “good ratings,” confirmed MTV press officer Vladimir Smirnov
on Tuesday. The video for “And You Will Say,” a duet by Kirkorov and
Anastasia Stotskaya, was among last week’s 30 most-played clips,
coasting along at 18th place in the channel’s top 20, and at 9th place
among the top 10 Russian songs.

“He is holding on,” Smirnov said. “He simply has very high-quality
musical material.”