Friday, October 22, 2010


PAPA DUKE painted this portrait of Russia's Mad Monk for Bedlam's Wall of Lunacy.

Oil-on-board, 12 x 8


One century ago, a Russian peasant named Grigori Rasputin grew his hair long, never washed himself, and claimed to have special powers.

Rasputin belonged to a religious cult called the Khlysty Priesthood. This was where he picked up his special powers, including how to heal people who were unwell, and how to control people's minds.

Rasputin got to be especially good at controlling the minds of women. This special power was reinforced by his rod, which was said to measure thirteen inches.

Alexandra, the wife of Czar Nicholas II, who ruled Russia, heard of Rasputin's special powers. Alexandra's son, Alexei, had a health problem called hemophilia.

Hemophilia is a condition that causes people to bleed for a long time if they are cut or bruised. Rasputin was introduced to Alexandra, and he seemed to have a helpful effect on little Alexei.

Alexandra listened to Rasputin's predictions for the future, and she tried to get her husband, the Czar, to listen, too.

Some of the aristocrats in the Czar's royal court were unhappy about Rasputin's clout with the Czarina. They especially did not like that a dirty peasant with mad eyes and a thirteen-inch rod could use their court to control the minds of women, and sleep with them. They nicknamed Rasputin “Mad Monk”--and they conspired to kill him.

The leader of this conspiracy was Feliks Yusupov, a young do-nothing prince who could not seduce women (aside from his wife) and did not have a thirteen-inch rod.

Prince Feliks invited Rasputin to midnight tea at his home in St. Petersburg. Despite his blue blood, Prince Feliks was not a gracious host. He poisoned the Mad Monk's tea and cakes.

Rasputin ate and drank enough poisonous potassium cyanide to kill many men. But instead of falling over dead, he asked for more.

Prince Feliks was so alarmed by this result, he pulled a pistol from his pocket and shot several bullets into the Mad Monk.

But the bullets did not kill Rasputin.

Enraged by his host's poor manners, the Mad Monk chased Prince Feliks. Prince Feliks's friends--the other conspirators--followed them into the courtyard outside, and beat Rasputin with iron chains. When he fell to the ground, they stabbed him with knives.

Still, Rasputin would not die.

So they dragged the Mad Monk to the Neva River, which was frozen. The conspirators cut a large hole in the ice. As they prepared to dump Rasputin into the water, Prince Feliks used his knife to cut off the Mad Monk's merrymaker. Maybe Feliks wanted a souvenir of the occasion. Or maybe he wanted a thirteen-inch rod.

Rasputin was still alive when they lowered him, castrated, tied in chains, into the river. Legend says that Rasputin managed to untie the chains, and that he remained alive for six hours submerged in freezing cold water.

Rasputin finally died from drowning.

After his death, Rasputin's predictions began to come true: The peasants of Russia revolted and imposed communism, a daffy social and political system that never worked. And the Royal Family was overthrown and murdered, including little Alexei, who bled to death.

As for Prince Feliks, he finally seduced a woman. Having been promised a thirteen inch rod, this prostitute relieved Feliks of his Rasputin memento--which he carried everywhere--while he was sleeping.

In the 1920s, after the Russian Revolution, Rasputin's rod popped up in Paris, where the prostitute had settled. She created a cult, made up of other Russian prostitutes in Paris, and they worshipped Rasputin's rod.

When Rasputin's daughter, Marie, heard about the existence of her father's rod in the hands of a cult of prostitutes, she demanded that it be returned to her.

A rod, in a black velvet pouch, was presented to Marie.

Marie became an animal trainer and joined a circus in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Later, Marie moved to California and co-wrote a book called
My Father Rasputin with a writer. When Marie died in 1977, she willed the writer her various Rasputin mementos.

The writer died a few years after Marie. Her Rasputin mementos were sold as a storage lot at an auction in California. The man who purchased this lot sent the Rasputin mementos to Bonham's, an auction house in London, England. He believed that he had discovered Rasputin's rod and he wanted to make lots of money selling the rod.

However, a lab test showed that the item believed to be Rasputin's rod was really a dehydrated sea cucumber.

So what happened?

The cult of Russian prostitutes in Paris had pulled the old switcheroo, that's what. When Rasputin's daughter Marie demanded the return of her papa’s petrified pecker, the cult fabricated one from a sea cucumber, and Marie was rused.

The cult of prostitutes continued to worship Rasputin's rod. As they grew older, the Russian women moved one-by-one to the French Riviera. The last cultist in Paris, Irina Pekovich, gave Rasputin's rod to her poodle, Pussy, when the cupboard was bare.

Pussy promptly buried the "bone," as dogs will.

Irina drove herself crazy looking for the rod. She ended up as a patient inside the Bicestre insane asylum outside Paris. She told everyone who would listen that she was Rasputin's mistress. Irina was known to wander the corridors late at night mumbling, "Pussy took the rod, Pussy took the rod."

Irina had a room mate named Michelle at the asylum.

After Michelle was released from the asylum, she searched for Rasputin's rod in the neighborhood where Irina once lived. Using a map made from Irina's wild ramblings, Michelle spent four days and three nights digging up a park square where Pussy the poodle once peed. She finally found the rod, buried beneath a rubber tree.

Michelle traveled with Rasputin's rod to Monaco, a wealthy principality on the French Riviera. She hoped to sell the rod to Russian billionaires who lived there.

But no one believed Michelle's story, including Wurz, the world's most exclusive pawn shop, next to Monte Carlo's grand casino. This was because Michelle was a former mental patient. Her tale about Pussy taking the rod sounded nuts, not to mention obscene.

Tired and hungry, Michelle left Wurz and walked twenty yards to Cafe de Paris. She ordered foie gras, escargots, sauteed gonads, and a nice Bordeaux. But Michelle could not pay the tab when it arrived after her creme brulee and espresso. She had no money. All she had was Rasputin's rod. The waiter was not amused. He called the manager, who was even less amused, especially when Michelle offered a dried dick for her meal.

This commotion occured at a table next to where I was sitting with friends. I offered to settle Irina's bill in exchange for the Mad Monk's master of ceremonies.

And that is how Rasputin's rod came to rest alongside Vincent van Gogh's ear at the Bedlam Bar in London.