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What economic crisis? Greece focuses on porn movie by pop star Julia Alexandratou.
ATHENS, Greece — A peroxided blonde mounted on high heels stalks into an uptown bar in northern Athens, turning every customer's head.
Swathed in a leopard-print fur, she is instantly recognizable as Greece's scandalous new "it girl."
Julia Alexandratou, a 23-year-old minor Greek-British celebrity, attained Paris Hilton-esque infamy overnight when a controversial porn film starring her went on sale across Greece this month.
In the bar, she sat down with me. Beside her was her ever-present, chain-smoking metrosexual manager, Menior Fourthiotis. Alexandratou had agreed to give her first interview since triggering a nationwide sensation with her porn performance. All eyes in the bar were on our table.
"It's a big scandal in Greece, it's the first time that a Greek celebrity did something like this and it got out," said Alexandratou. She claimed not to know that the video was going to be released commercially.
"It was 5 a.m. the day I was told the video was on sale. I ran out to the kiosks and realized it was true," she said. "But I have never watched it. I can't bring myself to look at it."
Alexandratou's x-rated DVD has reportedly sold 240,000 copies since its March 3 release, grossing some 5 million euros before. It prompted the Greek government to investigate her tax claims and the DVD was removed from stores.
Rather than focusing on Greece's unprecedented economic crisis and the harsh new measures aimed at reducing the state deficit, many Greeks have been transfixed by Alexandratou's porn video. And as sex aids and Easter candles fashioned in Alexandratou's curvaceous likeness have appeared on the market shelves of this conservative Orthodox Christian nation, the sensation has sparked a bout of soul-searching over the nation's morals.
The controversy even reached the hallowed debating chamber of the Greek Parliament when far-right wing politician George Karatzaferis pointed out that "3,500 people came out to protest the harsh and cruel measures of the prime minister while 150,000 sped to buy the DVD of Julia Alexandratou."
The publicity-hungry starlet has titillated the nation's males for years with provocative appearances in fashionable nightspots and naked photo shoots for Greek magazines.
Her anthemic 2007 single, "The Target is Cash," defined gold-digging during the freespending, credit-fuelled first decade of the 21st century. It features her writhing over an overweight, cigar-puffing man against a succession of exotic backdrops.
Sitting with Alexandratou is an unsettling experience. Her seemingly airbrushed face is sprinkled with glitter, frizzled blonde hair hangs over high cheekbones, framing vacant green eyes and supersized lips. Her leopard-print coat does little to hide her curves.
When I photograph her, she picks up a chess piece from the table, turns it over in her hands then nuzzles it against her lips. All the while she eyes the lens with the hollow seductiveness of a professional poser. I resist the temptation to suggest a game of chess.
Alexandratou’s video was released around the same time that Prime Minister George Papandreou announced harsh new measures aimed at cutting back on state expenditures. Some Greeks are divining a conspiracy aimed at distracting the people from the country's financial woes.
"Can it be a coincidence that this film was released on the same day as the most important policy speech of our financial holocaust so far?" asked Savvas Karavidas, an unemployed engineer who started driving a taxi a month ago to make ends meet.
At times Alexandratou plays up her notoriety. "It wasn't just the bedroom, it was the bathroom, the living room, the floor," she was reported telling the Greek media about the locations of her acting debut.
But then a penitent Alexandratou issued a statement requesting that the Greek media "desist from reproducing science fiction scenarios around my stolen private moments that were partly shot with my knowledge but circulated without it."
Plagued by allegations of substance abuse and extensive plastic surgery, Alexandratou seems more tragic personae than diva. Her naked shenanigans captured the national imagination by breaking a long-standing taboo in which mainstream celebrities would balk at performing in anything spicier than a Penthouse centerfold. In a belt-tightening era for Greeks, Alexandratou single-handedly created a mini consumer boom as stocks of her porn flick sold out.
"Despite her youth, Miss Alexandratou plays an entire society on her dextrous fingers," noted the venerable To Vima newspaper, in a reference to the star's sexual manipulation of a champagne bottle, one of the video's most notable moments.
Suddenly our interview is interrupted as television lights flood the scene. A camera crew from Star TV, a Greek celebrity channel, has been tipped off by Alexandratou's manager that "foreign journalists" have traveled to Greece to do a cover story about her. When they discover I am Greek and am not planning a cover story, they are livid with Fourthiotis, describing him as a "nothing."
Alexandratou is still being watched by the entire room, but she appears to inhabit another sphere. Glued to her mobile phone, she ignores everyone, even me when I ask her questions. Her answers are slow in coming but, when they do, they seem guileless.
In the 30-minute video, Alexandratou pairs up with an anonymous priapic male torso, variously said to belong to a French boyfriend or a Paris-based porn star.
“I met a French guy without knowing who he really is and we met at a club and went out to eat a few times,” said Alexandratou. “We had a nice time together and of course we ended up in a hotel,” she added laughing, then said coyly, “I can’t say anything else, you understand, aside from that we decided to video it.”
“You’re saying too much,” interjected manager Fourthiotis, removing the microphone and taking over. “My lawyer is the largest and best in Greece and knows very well the moves needed to be taken to recover the injury done to my reputation,” he continued, cutting off Alexandratou. “The people are supporting me, they love me, and they are always next to me.”
Later Alexandratou said, "I never thought that this guy would put out all his personal things to earn money. He took advantage of the situation. I tried to find him but failed."
Alexandratou has continued exhibiting her talent for self-promotion. Just as her story was disappearing from the front pages, her manager announced that she will be wedding a mystery businessman who "loves, respects and has supported her." The groom's identity? It won't be revealed until the carefully selected guests are standing inside the church on the day of the wedding.
As our interview comes to an end, Alexandratou lifts her head from the screen of her phone to deny the rumor that there is a sequel in the works.
“I've learned my lesson and won't do it again,” she said, and let out a short toneless chuckle.