Belgrade Babylon: Pagan Resurrection

DK1We’re in a funeral parlour in Belgrade and it’s July 2005. A bald man with a beard and glasses is signing a false name. He’s stealing a body.

The man is a film director, writer, paramilitary leader, and political figure. He’s a devout Orthodox Christian. The man whose corpse he’s stealing was not.

Dragoš Kalajić was a painter and full-time conspiracy theorist whose journey into Serbian nationalism turned him pagan. He was a familiar face in the media of both Serbia and Italy, a noticeable presence on art gallery walls. Cancer ate up his throat and put him in a pine box at the age of sixty-two.

He might appreciate this bit of grave robbery by a former political disciple. But probably not.

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Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares: Gangster Edition

GR1He’s a foul-mouthed, crevice-faced Scotsman and one of the best chefs in the world. Back in 2004 Gordon Ramsay had three Michelin stars and a fistful of accolades. It was time to move into television.

Ramsay had been on the box a few times before. Two fly-on-the-wall documentaries, a judging role on a show about catering students, and bit of what passed for reality tv at the turn of the century. But it was Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares that made him a celebrity.

It was a simple formula. Ramsay goes to a failing restaurant, looks appalled, swears a lot, and helps the owner get the place back on its feet. There was some good advice and a few decent recipes but producers soon realised viewers mostly liked to watch Ramsay become foul-mouthingly furious at dirty kitchens, uncooked prawns, and chefs too obliviously incompetent to take his advice. A ratings hit.

In 2007 the programme went stateside as Kitchen Nightmares. American producers preferred sentimental stories of family heartbreak over business strategy discussions but the core of the show remained the same. Gordon Ramsay. Food. Swearing.

Turns out restaurant owners in America are a lot more interesting than their British counterparts. At least three had connections to some kind of organised crime.

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