If New York society is more than a bit like a high-school cafeteria, it turns out that lately the jocks and valedictorians have been somewhat surreally lorded over by the Wacky Foreign Exchange Kids. It's among the strangest lessons of Isaiah Wilner's exposé in this week's New York, unmasking the writers and proprietors of the socialite-skewering Website Socialite Rank as the mysterious Russian-émigré duo Olga and Valentine Rei. The pair of step-siblings carved out an impressive New York niche, but it's their almost Zelig-like Moscow background that makes them most fascinating. Thing is, we at Daily Intel are starting to wonder if their version of life in Moscow is entirely true.
Olga and Valentine put out the line that both were child stars in Mother Russia. Valentine served as a pint-size MC for a beauty pageant at age 7, he told Wilner, and he claims he was a full-blown TV icon by 11. Olga reports she was a V.J. Intrigued, we promptly hit the Web in search of adorable (or, okay, embarrassing) early pics of the Slavic Macaulay Culkin and Anna Paquin. But a strange thing happened: The more we looked, the less we knew about the flaxen-haired pair. Not YouTube nor Google nor any other Web searches turned up evidence of these seemingly quite public childhoods. So we checked with the society editor at the Russian Vogue, Nelly Konstantinova, and the culture editor at Russian GQ, Sergei Polotovsky; neither had heard of either of the Reis (or of the Uhovskis, a name Valentine sometimes uses in print). And there's nothing on the Websites of either Russian MTV or its homegrown competitor, MuzTV, that suggests Olga was ever a V.J. there.
So we called Valentine himself for clarification. He volunteered that he and Olga were briefly presenters at "a sister station for MTV Europe, syndicated in Sweden and Germany," he said. "I'm not sure if it ever ran in Germany. But definitely Sweden." As for the Miss Moscow contest that supposedly launched his fame, Valentine admitted that he doesn't remember much from it except that it took place at MGU, the Moscow State University, and that he wasn't so much the host as a glorified extra. After name-dropping a couple more showbizzy internships, all later and all Stateside (Miramax, Entertainment Tonight), Valentine finally stopped himself. "I don't want to keep doing this," he said. "And I don't have to."
Fair enough. But let's recap. The "Russian child stars," by their latest accounting, apparently had Russian "stardom" that consisted of a childhood appearance in a late-Soviet talent show and a teenage stint on Swedish music television. Indeed, to the prying eyes of Google and the like, their public lives seem to abruptly begin in New York in the mid-nineties, with Valentine attending LaGuardia High and already grooming himself for the jet-set scene. (He was playing and writing about tennis, for example.) What does it all mean? Who knows. But as they'd say in Moscow: Interesno. Ochen' interesno.
The Number-One Girl [NYM]