The Czech Embassy's disco "Peace Out Party" Oct. 31 rocked out and closed out its fascinating two-month "Mutual Inspirations" festival honoring Vaclav Havel, the human rights activist, writer, and first President of the Czech Republic.
The far out party also paid tribute to Havel's friend and (indirect) inspiration, Velvet Underground songwriter, singer, guitarist Lou Reed, who died Oct. 27. The Velvet Underground helped lead eventually to Havel's Velvet Revolution, as well as revolutionizing rock music.
More later about that intriguing connection and the festival, whose dozens of films, concerts, lectures, and exhibitions attracted 3,000 participants, the Embassy noted.
Now, back to the 1970s party, where imaginatively costumed people of all ages danced to songs like "I Will Survive" and "Stayin' Alive", symbolic of the heroic Czech struggle against Communist rule.
Guests were dancing, jiving, having the time of their lives. Bell bottoms, peace signs, tie-dies, micro-minis, fright wigs, Village People, and feverish white polyester-suited John Travolta wanna-be's abounded. Mamma Mia! and Happy Halloween:
- A tall, slender woman won best costume for her slinky spandex disco garb that sparkled under the flashing, swirling psychedelic lights.
- Second prize went to a Lou Reed-esque guy who, by day, works in Congress.
- My vote would've gone to a man wearing diapers and a compass shirt pointing to northwest, as in Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's baby, North West.
- Or maybe to a faux VP Joe Biden, wearing a sign "BFD" ("Big F'n Deal" -- no, not a comment about news moments earlier that the Obama re-election team had considered dropping Biden in favor of Hillary Clinton).
- A Donald Duck stressed that he was neither "Disco Duck" nor Daffy.
- An ABBA singer wore white vinyl boots and long blonde wig. No, not Nancy Sinatra and "These Boots Were Made for Walking" (1966), but ABBA's Agnetha Faltskog, insisted the international banker by day.
Ambassador Gandalovic told the crowd, "Tonight we're honoring Vaclav Havel, who started democratization in Czechoslovakia. We're also honoring Lou Reed, who's now in musicians' heaven. He was a best friend of Vaclav Havel, and when (Havel) came to the Clinton White House (1998), Havel insisted that Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground play there. President Clinton fulfilled Havel's wish. That was the last time Lou Reed played at the White House."
The Czech Ambassador told me more about the Reed-Havel, Velvet Underground-Velvet Revolution connection.
Reed's band (originally managed by Andy Warhol), inspired a Czech band "Plastic People of the Universe", banned immediately by the Communist rulers.
"When Vaclav Havel learned they had been jailed, along with other intelligentsia, that sparked his Charter 77...the 1977 document that became a memorandum of the Freedom Fighters," Ambassador Gandalovic explained.
That historic human rights manifesto led eventually to the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Havel, who had led negotiations with the Communist government, became the first President of the newly created democratic Czech Republic.
"Lou Reed came many times to the Czech Republic, and always met with Havel, even after his presidency," the Ambassador added.
Reed, in a 2005 public conversation with Havel in Prague, termed him "a hero of mine before I ever met him. I admire him as a writer, but also as a real-life hero in a world that needs as many as possible."
For more info: Embassy of the Czech Republic, www.mzv.cz/washington, 3900 Spring of Freedom Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-274-9100. Czech Christmas Market Nov. 8-9. Czech writer Ivan Klima discusses his memoir "My Crazy Century" Nov. 13 at 7 P.M. at Politics & Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. Klima is described by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (born in Czechoslovakia) as "a writer who, deprived of freedom for much of his life, never ceased to be free in his imagination, creativity, and art. Neither Nazi nor Communist rulers could rob Ivan Klima of his amazing ability—a fierce determination—to distill drops of truth from the sea of experience." That also describes Vaclav Havel.