Two Russian comedians have revealed that they made a prank call to the famed musician, during which they posed as president Putin ringing to discuss gay rights and to agree to a meeting with the musician.
The pair aired a recording of their conversation with Sir Elton on the Russian equivalent of the Tonight Show on state TV here, before publishing it on YouTube.
Sir Elton had said on Tuesday that he’d received a surprise call from president Putin, shortly after he had expressed a desire to meet with him during a BBC interview earlier in the week. The star thanked Putin on his Instagram account and said he looked forward to meeting him “face-to-face in Russia”.
But a few hours later, Putin’s press secretary denied that any conversation had taken place, leaving John and the Russian strongman leader in a peculiar “he said, he said” stand-off as the veteran musician’s team continued to insist Putin had called.
But this unusual dispute has been cleared up now that the two comedians, Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov, known by their show-names “Vovan and Lexus”, have published their tape.
In it, a clearly delighted, and perhaps slightly star-struck, John says how thrilled he is Putin has called and quickly starts trying persuade him to meet in person.
“That’s incredible! I am a musician and a philanthropic person and a humanitarian,” Sir Elton says. “I am not a politician and I would love to sit down with the president and discuss things face to face because I think we can solve many issues together.”
Elton John is an active campaigner for LGBT rights and has previously criticized Putin for comments he has made seeming to compare homosexuals to pedophiles. In the recording, the false Putin-- who is speaking Russian, translated by his pretend press secretary-- asks Elton John what problems he thinks gay people have in Russia and what can be done to change it. Sir Elton says he would prefer to discuss it face to face.
“I don’t really want to talk about it over the phone to be honest with you,” Sir Elton says. “If both our offices can find a convenient date where we can have a really wonderful discussion, that would be a miracle. It would be a dream come true,” he says.
The two provisionally agree to meet in mid-November. ‘Putin’ then suggests that perhaps a gay pride parade should be arranged to coincide with Elton John’s visit. After a momentary hesitation, Sir Elton agrees:
“Tell him, if he wants me to come to gay pride in Moscow, then yes I will go to gay pride in Moscow.”
Elton John and his team have yet to comment on the release of the tape.
The two pranksters, who specialize in hoaxing celebrities and officials, told ABC they decided to call after seeing the interview where Elton John said he wanted to discuss LGBT rights with Putin, who has been presiding over what critics have a called a homophobic legislative campaign in Russia.
“We just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to see what Elton John would say if he thought he was really speaking to Putin,” Krasnov, who played Putin, said in a telephone interview.
The voice of Putin in recording does not much resemble the real Putin; Krasnov said he had not tried to imitate Putin much because he knew Elton John would probably not be able to tell the difference since he was speaking Russian.
“I don’t have much experience in this, so I wasn’t able to joke with my position,” Krasnov said.
The pranksters said the best thing to come out of the call was that it appeared a real meeting may now actually happen between Putin and Elton John; Putin’s real press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, on Monday announced that though no call had taken place, Putin was in principle very open to seeing the musician.