Saturday, July 9, 2011

P. I. Tchaikovsky: First On-line Dating Scam Victim

The Horrors of On-Line Dating

A longtime journalist friend of mine just went thru a scathing divorce and then got scammed by an on-line dating confidence trickster.

Talk about having a bad year.

First the divorce. My friend (let's disguise his name by calling him Jeeve) lost his shirt in a nasty divorce. Jeeve's wife of more than a decade decided she wanted to "find herself." To her that meant leaving Jeeve and taking all his worldly goods.

She retained the legal services of the East Coast equivalent of Gloria Allred and drew the East Coast equivalent of Nurse Ratsched as the presiding judge.

Jeeve, of course, was left with little more than the pants he was wearing and the tattered shreds of his manhood.

Alone now, but ever the optimist, Jeeve jumped right back out there. He signed up with an on-line dating service (bad idea) which specialized in hooking you up with Asian and Russian women (very bad idea.)

In no time at all, Jeeve found, what he thought was the girl of his dreams.

She was a Chinese girl (who wrote English astoundingly well), young, pretty as a lotus blossom and dedicated to the arts of pleasing a man.

Just what the doctor ordered, thought Jeeve, but then the requests for cash started coming. Idiot that he was, he acceded a bit at first but when the $7k tab for airfare (to visit him) arrived, he began to do a little checking.

He discovered that his little lotus blossom was pulling off the same scam with at least four other saps from throughout North America and the Pacific Rim.

Sadder but wiser, Jeeve logged out of this predicament, but not before he vented his spleen on romancescam.com, a site devoted to outing internet con artists.

The site is replete with hundred of such tawdry tales.

Which brings me to the story of how the great composer, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the first recorded victim of an on-line dating scam.

Well it wasn't exactly on-line, since it would be 110 more years before Al Gore would get around to inventing "the internets", but if there were a line in 1877, Tchaikovsky's romantic correspondence would have been on it.
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Peter Ilyich was 37 years old and already quite successful back then. He already had composed his first three symphonies, his famous 1st piano concerto and his famous tone poem,The Tempest.

As such he was besieged by letters from hundreds of women entranced by his music and interested in snagging an eligible man-about-town.

What these symphonic groupies sadly didn't know was that Peter Ilyich was only interested in men about town.

Tchaikovsky (R) as Man About Town

But to assuage his elderly father who had been nagging him to settle down with a girl and to stop Victorian-era tongues from wagging, Tchaikovsky decided that he'd better get married.

He decided to delve into his voluminous fan mail and was quite taken with the amourous entreaties of one Antonina Miliukoff.

Ten years his junior, she had been educated at a minor Moscow Womens' Institute. There they apparently taught the girls little more than how to needlepoint likenesses of the Czar and how to write really great love letters.

Antonina really knew how to lay it on thick:

"Wherever I go, I shan't be able to forget you or stop loving you. What I like in you I shall not find in anyone else -- in short, I don't want to look at any man but you."

and

"God knows, perhaps you think me a fickle, infatuated girl and because of that don't trust my letters?...Surely in such matters one cannot lie. After your last letter, I loved you twice as much and your faults mean absolutely nothing to me."

So Tchaikovsky, who was a bit unhinged to begin with, figured, "What the hell?" and asked Antonina to marry him.
Mr. and Mrs. P.I. Tchaikovsky

He made it clear to her that he couldn't reciprocate with the ardor she expressed, but figured he would have a doting fan around who would cook and pick up after him.

It turned out, in rather short order, that the ardent Ms. Miliukoff, was, herself, madder than a hatter and dumb as dirt to boot.

In the approximately 2 weeks that he could stand to live with her he discovered that she knew absolutely nothing about his music or any music, for that matter. She asked him if any of his tunes were available on sheet music, which would have been like asking Bruce Springsteen in 1986 if he had ever cut any records.

Tchaikovsky only tried to commit suicide once during his 2 week live-in with the crazed Antonina, but he suffered for years from an exacerbation of his depressive tendencies by virtue of the liaison.

She actually stalked him for a while and he continually paid her off to leave town.

They never actually got a divorce (she wouldn't allow it) but after having several children by another man, Ms. Miliukoff ended her life in a looney bin.

Peter Ilyich went on to produce some of the greatest music of the Western tradition and died at age 53 -- some say of cholera, one Russian scholar argues he snuffed it.

At any rate the Tchaikovsky-Miliukoff affair has to qualify as the proto-type of the fraudulent on-line dating hook-up.

Peter Ilyich reputedly never again delved into his mail bag in search of another romantic connection, but my friend, Jeeve has.

Altho he promises me that he is much smarter about it this time. He has sworn off Chinese lotus blossoms for good.

Instead, he tells me, he is now carrying on a torrid on-line affair with a breathtaking Azerbaijani.



(The historical source material for this article was the published correspondence of Tchaikovsky and his patroness, Nahedja von Meck -- published as "Beloved Friend," by Random House 1937. It was transformed into an excellent 1971 Ken Russell Film, "Music Lovers")