A few months ago we weighed in on British comedian and actor Russell Brand, a self-identified “big fan of Castro and Che Guevara” who produced a book described by one critic as “a meandering and pretentious mélange of student politics, junk history, and goofy mysticism.”
A while back, with immense fanfare, Brand married American pop star Katy Perry. They both did the talk-show circuit and prattled endlessly about how deeply in love they were. Then they promptly divorced. Not knowing much about Katy Perry, we thought that perhaps Brand’s foolish, ill-informed politics – and all-around narcissism and puerility – did the marriage in. Last month, however, Katy did something that caused us to push that theory onto the back burner: in a move that must have made her ex green with envy, she hung out at a Havana bar with Mariela Castro, the daughter of Raul Castro. The supposed topic of discussion was their supposed shared interest in LGBT rights – this in a country where nobody has any rights.
To be fair to Katy, she’s only one of the latest of many American celebrities to make the now apparently obligatory trip to the island prison.
Septuagenarian British rocker Mick Jagger was also there in October, reportedly scouting locations for a Rolling Stone concert. While he was there, he also visited several nightclubs in Old Havana; the Daily Mail ran a picture of him tripping the light fantastic, apparently with some young locals of the female persuasion, on the dance floor of a place called the Shangri La Club.
Meanwhile celebrity photographer Annie Liebovitz was in town, too, snapping ultra-chic pics of globally adored Barbadian songstress Rihanna at a multitude of glamorously shabby Havana locations for this month’s issue of Vanity Fair.
But let’s flash back to last February, when the slummer du jour was Celebrity Without Portfolio Paris Hilton, who flew down to Havana and did the one thing she apparently has a talent for: she partied.
It was a busy sojourn for the aging yet enduringly ditzy heiress/celebutante. She dropped in at the 25-story, 500-room Habana Hilton, once the biggest hotel in all of Latin America. In an unfortunate case of less than impeccable timing, Paris’s great-grandfather, Conrad Hilton, built this pile just a year before Fidel, Che, and company drove Fulgencio Batista out of town; needless to say, they nationalized the thing pronto (“nationalize,” of course, being the Communist euphemism of choice for “steal”). Judging by the pictures Paris posed for outside the hotel, looking all saucy and sprightly, she would appear to have forgiven the Commies for relieving her family of its property all those years ago.
Paris also took part in Cuba’s 17th annual Cigar Festival, where – as if to confirm that there’s no hard feelings – she chummed around with Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart, the son of the man who stole her great-granddaddy’s hostelry. The pictures – including selfies taken by Paris herself – would seem to testify that they both had a jolly time together. Also involved in these cheery totalitarian festivities was Naomi Campbell, a British woman who was famous for being a fashion model in the previous century.
Capitol Hill Cubans, a website devoted to “the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Cuba,” wasn’t impressed by these high-profile folks’ visits to the home of rum, cigars, and oppression:
Under the guise of “supporting the Cuban people” – and completely aloof to the island’s brutal realities– these celebrities are enjoying the hospitality of the Castro dictatorship and supporting its repressive apparatus.
Meanwhile, innocent Cuban men, women and children are being beaten on the streets for their peaceful democracy activism, and artists imprisoned for their attempts at critical expression.
In closing, we’ll just take off our hats to Cuban-American singer Gloria Estefan, who, when asked in late October when she plans to visit Fidel’s Caribbean penal colony, supplied an unequivocal, and excellent, answer: “I’ll go to Cuba when it’s truly free, and not just open to foreigners, to celebrate with the Cuban people a new beginning.”