Sad news, the mighty Boris Yeltsin has passed away and has moved on to take his seat in the great Politburo in the sky. I had the privilege of meeting Yeltsin in Moscow in 1996. I was on a recce to see the Moscow State Circus before it visited London in the summer of 1987. I had the pleasure of hyping their season in Battersea Park – now that is another story.
One evening on the trip I found myself with various circus grandees at the lavish flat owned by Valentin Gneushev, a prominent Russian circus choreographer, in the heart of Moscow. It was an informal do, lots of vodka but very little food, and then the huge frame of the then minor party official filled the room. Yeltsin was a virtual unknown, but through an interpreter, we told one another bawdy jokes. I discovered that he shared my love of circus and told me about an exciting non-PC act that involved Brown Bears ice-skating. I have to confess I saw the act on another trip to Russia a few years later.
I learnt that Boris was fond of gymnastics and boxing. He made an odd comment about Olga Korbut which I didn’t understand, but he and his interpreter laughed like drains. His real badge of honour was that he had lost two fingers when he and some friends sneaked into a Red Army supply depot, stole several grenades, and tried to dissect them. Rest in Peace party animal and circus fan.