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Monday, April 1, 2002

Shiny Stuff and What Matters

Hi, Friends:

Looking through my "Laughter Journal" this week, I found myself grinning at my first experience with "Mardi Gras" in New Orleans.

Friends of ours who use to live in New Orleans told us about Mardi Gras in their neighborhood and the mother said it was "like a Branson attraction in a family suburban area." My vision of Mardi Gras has always been that it was a giant madhouse filled with carousing people. Not really an appropriate family atmosphere. So, I decided to find out for myself. I got a videotape of the event, and once I saw it, decided it was an appropriate event for my children.

I agreed, about a year ago, to be a celebrity riding on a float during the Mardi Gras. My kids, Natasha and Alexander, wanted to ride on the float too. We flew out of St. Louis on Super Bowl weekend and ended up on a plane filled with Rams fans. I've never been much of a football fan, it just seems odd to me for grown men to bend over and touch each other. But I knew enough to know that the testosterone level was rising higher than the altitude when it was discovered that there were a couple of Patriots fans on the plane.

As the Patriots fans loosened up with some refreshments, they got on the PA system and announced that the Rams football team had left New Orleans, and that some of the Girl Scouts from St. Louis would be playing instead of the Rams. I was happy that they took away all the sharp objects when we boarded the plane. One guy got up to head for the back of the plane and they asked him if he was going to the Super Bowl, and he said, "No, I'm just going to the bathroom." I was overcome with the Super Bowl fever and actually told those brave Patriots there was absolutely no way their team could win. Guess I won't be replacing Dennis Miller this season on Monday Night Football.

We finally landed safely, and as we got off the plane, people were giving us beads. This is nice, sort of like landing in Hawaii and getting a lei but not really knowing what to do with it. We got to the parade in a big limo with a police escort; there were sirens and even a photo opportunity with me in handcuffs. Apparently, this was funny to everyone, but it just made me feel like I was back in Russia. They gave me a BIG key, and it didn't fit the handcuffs. They said it was the key to the city, and I wondered if they were locking us in or out.

We are on the float now and it went well. Everyone is having fun and we are throwing beads, and cups, and stuff, and people are grabbing for everything. In Russia, we would all have been arrested for littering.

In the evening, Natasha, Alexander, and I are on the receiving end; now we're in the crowd, and people were throwing stuff to us. We're all trying to get as much of these beads and things as we can. Afterwards, I asked Natasha what her favorite part was and she said, "I loved catching things Dad, the only problem is, there are too many adults, and they take up too much space!"

I thought that's a lot like life. We get so excited and love shiny objects. Sometimes we'll do anything to get them, but after a while, you start to wonder, "What am I going to do with all of this stuff?" And sometimes the people you love are pushed aside to make room for all the space we take up trying to acquire things that we really don't need. On the other hand, the multi-colored beads and the BIG key might look good hanging off the HUGE statue of me at my theater in Branson.

Love and laughter,
Yakov Smirnoff


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