I hadn’t heard of Van until a year and a half ago, when the area suffered severe damage, injuries and deaths from a major earthquake. It’s a city near the eastern border of Turkey, about an hour and a half from Iran. When I accepted a gig there, my friend said, Van? That’s the city Turkey forgot about. Why are you going there?
Well, there are plenty of people who haven’t forgotten about Van, namely those who live there, and the those who live for Van-made herbed cheese. The show was a kadınlar matinesi. The closest translation I can come up with is a “ladies’ luncheon”, which took place in a hotel ballroom.
I loooooved the hotel, a five-star ordeal called Rescate, facing the impressively huge Van Lake and breathtakingly beautiful, snow-covered mountains,
and employing the Best Staff Ever. We (the event organizers, one of the other performers, and I) arrived a day early, so I got a chance to enjoy the Friday night entertainment: live music in the top floor bar. The other entertainer who arrived with us to perform at the matinee was VJ Bülent, the first VJ on Turkish television, and also the first openly gay man on TV in this still rather homophobic country.
I popped out of the hotel early-ish on Saturday morning to visit an esthetician. There was a salon in the hotel, of course, but it wasn’t full service. I made fast friends with the girls in the local Van salon. One of them took me for a quick stroll around Van’s main drag (okay, we went to the bazaar and I bought a colander) and then, of course, we had a photo shoot.
While I waited backstage, in walked the event organizer, Tayfun, with a man dressed in a black on black suit and with a dimple in his chin. Tayfun introduced me to the man as though I was already supposed to know who he was. As it turns out, it was Atilla Taş, a well-known and well-loved Turkish pop singer.
The show went off without a hitch. It was a packed ballroom of well-dressed ladies on their feet dancing, singing and applauding for four hours. My portion of the show was a 25 minute performance. I listened to Atilla from back stage. One of his songs was an amusing Turkish rendition of Gagnam Style. Not sure if he performed the accompanying dance as well.
That night, our flight was grounded due to cloudy weather. No biggie. One more sleep in a lovely hotel, and one more shower in a bathroom twice as big as my kitchen.