Ivan and Ivana Chekov-Jones saunter into downtown’s Boston Pizza without creating any stir, which says more about the seen-it-all urban area than the outrageously dressed couple. Think ’80s-era Euro-Trash with a splash of Borat. The hirsute Ivan sports a polyester workout suit and his blond, bedazzled wife looks like a corrupted figure skater.
In you’ve seen the Strip sensation Absinthe, you’ll recognize the couple for their problem-plagued act, aptly called “Cesarean Silks.” (Aerial silks involve performers manipulating fabric suspended from the ceiling to perform elegant feats of acrobatics, often to sweeping New Age soundtracks.) But as graceful as they might try to be, the bumbling duo suffers hilarious mishaps such as getting entangled in their fabrics. Therein lies the charm. To take aerial silks, one of the most overly serious acts on the Strip, and push the melodrama until it bursts into a comedic catharsis is ingenious, even if not purposefully so.
Ivan and Ivana added an act to their repertoire when Absinthe returned with a new tent in late October. In this one, the silks are ditched in favor of a lyrical “acro-ballet” duet that most resembles the climatic dance from Dirty Dancing as reinterpreted through the eyes of a perverted and uncoordinated Richard Simmons. During their Nov. 2 performance, Ivana’s foot got stuck in Ivan’s Speedo-esque costume, accidentally unwrapping his package. Perhaps in an effort to prevent the recurrence of full-frontal nudity, they are preparing to debut a Western routine in which Ivan plays a cowboy and whips the cigarette out of Ivana’s mouth. (“I can’t sleep on my back now because he keeps missing with the whip,” she says of practice sessions that haven’t gone so well).
While the accident-prone acrobats may not get recognized in Boston Pizza just yet, they are poised to steal their share of the spotlight. And in honor of the feat, the (allegedly) Russian-born Chekov-Joneses broke breadsticks with Vegas Seven for their first exclusive interview.
Thanks for doing the interview.
Ivana: Yes, it’s about time. Everybody else gets in the paper, but we are the stars. [Ivan’s cell phone rings, and he answers.]
How did you use your time off?
Ivana: How do you say … smoke? I do nails and drink.
Do you like to drink?
Ivana: I like to drink the vodka.
Ivan: [hangs up]. A producer, sorry.
Ivana: You are always talking in ear! Talk, talk, talk!
Are you guys really a couple?
Ivana: Ever since I was 14, we have been married.
Ivan: I am older than her. I am now 41. You can print that. For a man, it is OK to be mature.
Ivana: Older men, they have more money—everything is better.
How did you guys meet?
Ivan: We met through her parents.
Ivana: Parents say, “This girl is virgin.”
Ivan: She is from an old circus family. Back then, I was doing a solo act with little ropes and straps, and they say, “Good act.” Her family worked with small dogs.
Ivana: Small dogs, they shit everywhere. You have to walk in it. It is shit!
Is it easier with just you two?
Ivana: Yes, but we want to have a baby. But the time is … how do you say?
Ivan: Not good. The time is not good. Your stomach gets fat.
Ivana: Yes, no babies, not now.
Circus life is not for a child then?
Ivan: But when you get older, you need somebody to help. We’ll see. We’ll wait a little longer.
Ivana: Lots of kids in the Ukraine, just running around, you know? Maybe we will take one.
Ivan: Yes, go there and it is easy.
Ivana: They are like little goats.
Ivan: Get one at 13 years old and they are can work right away.
How do you like Absinthe’s cast?
Ivana: I don’t like.
Ivan: The humor is stupid. The Gazillionaire, saying “fuck this” and “fuck that.” And the girl…
Ivana: I find the one girl annoying. She talk, talk and talk.
Do you mean Penny Pibbets, the girl with the sexual sock puppets?
Ivana: Yes, Penny.
Ivan: Ivana almost stabbed Penny with a knife. But I stopped her.
Why did she try to stab Penny?
Ivana: She was getting in my materials, you know, my glitter. And I told her, “These are my materials.”
Were you afraid?
Ivana: I am not afraid of anyone. But I’m glad I didn’t stab Penny. She is just little girl. Crying all the time.
Who’s to blame if something goes wrong with the act?
Ivana: It is my fault. It is always the women’s fault.
Ivan: That is another old Russian saying. But she tries, so I cannot be upset. I keep throwing her in the air. It is like the old Russian saying, “The bird must fly. You keep throwing the bird in the air, and it must fly …”
Ivan: Or it dies inside for not flying. … Boston Pizza looks like a place you would take someone to break up with them.
It’s why I got a booth in the back.
Ivana: No matter how much we hate each other, we will never break up.
Ivan: The act is more important, and we have same visa.
Do you ever get jealous?
Ivana: You do, a little. Of the Gazillionaire. He likes to take me out. He has money. He likes to touch breasts.
Ivan: I stay at home. I have an Xbox.
Ivana: I always must disagree. Shake my head, no.
Is that a Russian thing?
Ivan: No, it is her. Ivana is kind of a bitch. But it is OK.
[On closer inspection, Ivan and Ivana bear an uncanny resemblance to The Gazillionaire and Penny, who in “real life” are portrayed by clown Voki Kalfayan and Fish Circus accordion player Anais Thomassian.]