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Orangey Skies for Natalya Medvedeva

It’s an orangey sky
Always it’s some other guy
It’s just a broken lullaby
Bye bye love

Substitution mass confusion
Clouds inside my head
We’re fogging all my energies
Until you visited
Eyes of porcelain and blue
Could shock me into sense
You think you’re so illustrious
You call yourself intense

Ric Ocasek, clever poet or just a man possessed with a loquacious love of gibberish? Considering that I’ve never been able to shake loose these lyrics, I’m going to go with (a), final answer.

Natalya Medvedeva

The Cars 1978 eponymous debut remains one of my early favorites. There on the cover, the grinning girl illuminated by the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. Will her airbagless 50s-era hot rod survive the crash? Will it be Bye Bye Love indeed?

That’s my twisted interpretation, at least.

So who is this woman, the cheerful model with the iconic smile? Did she enjoy a glorious career thanks to that vinyl calling card? Or did she vanish into obscurity?

I can’t feel this way much longer
expecting to survive
with all these hidden innuendoes
just waiting to arrive
it’s such a wavy midnight
and you slip into insane
electric angel rock and roller
I hear what you’re playin’

After a little digging, I uncover a story much richer than expected. The woman is Natalya Medvedeva, a young Russian model from St. Petersburg. Newly married, she moves to the USA and, thanks to her beauty, finds work immediately. Playboy adds her to the bunny roster and soon thereafter, the teenager lands the album cover. But she doesn’t follow the path of a typical fame-hungry, vapid model. In fact, Medvedeva becomes so thoroughly disgusted by it all that she writes a scathing critique of Hollywood titled Hotel California. The book is out-of-print. It’s also in Russian.

In the 80s, she becomes entangled with a dissident Soviet writer and moves to Paris. She plies away as a writer herself and publishes several books. She also begins singing. But after the Cold War ends, she is once again divorced and living in Russia. Medvedeva earns notoriety as a punk singer during these later years. There are a few videos of her on YouTube. You see a much older woman, lanky with dark-haired playing the role of edgy chanteuse, knee-deep in a world of performance art and cheesy Russian metal. Here’s a fine example of this:

But then she dies in 2003. She has a heart attack while sleeping–at age 44. No other information is known. It all smacks of mystery.

There really isn’t much more information available on Medvedeva. I suspect that a greater amount exists among Russian sources. I wonder if Ocasek stayed in touch with this anti-cover girl. I certainly doubt it. Yet part of me hopes he did. He would be far more interesting for it.

Medvedeva, looking cool as ever, in an undated photograph.

Natalya Medvedeva
Natalya Medvedeva

14 thoughts on “Orangey Skies for Natalya Medvedeva

  1. Very nice article !! Thanks for the additional information re. this model whose iconic smile and look I will never forget.

  2. Hello, I enjoyed your article too much and decided to send you another good article I’ve found about Natalya. It is in Russian:
    If you don’t know Russian here’s my translation:

    The Great Bear (Big Dipper) [surname Medvedeva origins from “Bear”]
    Natalia Medvedeva was out of favour with anyone

    She really was out of favour with all: show biz, underground, radio, Limonov [her last husband], literature, life…

    “We grieve for so early gone Natalya Medvedeva, our remarkable poet, friend and like-minded person. Natasha was a wonderful woman. Really brilliant Natalia stood upon her rights for her own opinion and her own voice whenever and wherever. She left for USA when she was just 17, Limonov took her from US to Paris when she was 23. Paris became the second motherland for Natasha. Here she formed into an artist; here she sang, loved, was friends and wrote. Here her debut book of poems “The Last 16th December 1989″ was issued. Natasha loved Paris and visited it at any opportunity. It was March 1999 the last time when she’s been here. It was a grand occasion for us – we always missed her. Her talent, energy and love of life served as a spring of inspiration and belief for us. Now her soul is free. We only have to cry and pray for her.” (Obituary written by her Paris friends: French and Russian immigrant artists and musicians)

    The obituary never have been published in Moscow. “This is pops!” – they said in a newspaper which used to publish cultural obituaries. Yellow papers lied about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. TV recalled as Limonov’s wife, Pugacheva’s protege, a troublemaker and a “woman with beard”.

    Natalia herself promoted such image – she liked glamour, liked to present in public, in gossips, on TV screen. “Swear, please,” – young journalists would ask her, and she sweared. Beyond a delicate person was concealed, an original writer and brilliant singer whose songs never had airplay and bohemian underground rejected her live performances. Natalia was out of favour with all. “Leave your demo to my girls”, – Kostya Ernst [an influencial Russian producer] would smile dissapearing in a party crowd. “Rock’n’Roll is played another way,” – a DJ Kozyrev would teach her, – “then you’ll reach our radio!” “I wanted to help her but scared,” – producer Troytsky regret now.

    To help her, whose portrait was put on the Cars debut album cover? To help her, who was dying every night together with Alyosha Dimitrievich in a luxurious Paris cabaret Chez Raspoutine to the applause of Serge Gainsbourg? To help her, who was playing rock’n’roll for 8 years with Tribunal and NATO bands?

    It is dull without Medvedeva. It’s boring without her deep voice in the handset, without her booming laughter and discussing of the whole lot – from literature to providing hot water into her workshop. During her 44 years Natalya lived four lives – St.Petersburg’s, American, Paris’s and Moscovitan one. She described them all in her novels as well as became a character of somebody else’s books. Limonov had formed her personality but further she wanted “to live her own legend”. Not only Natalya used to sing, to drink or to write – she’d managed to reconcile Maximov and Sinyavsky, the leaders of two implacable Russian immigrant parties who finally published together a protest letter against shooting down of Russian Government House in 1993. She found her fame in Russia, she also found her love here – a musician Sergey Vysokosov, but Russia ruined her at last. “Sometimes I feel a stranger here,” – Natalya used to say. “As if I were a detached onlooker. I fall beyond neither literary nor musical space, nor the very space.”

    We weren’t close friends – such persons usually have a few friends. Her company left in Paris together with her youth and easiness of life. “That Medvedeva was an unbearable bitch was well-known fact. Addicted to drinking bouts and fits of hysteria and so on. She was awkward and didn’t know how to fit to the society. She was ready madly love or hate at the drop of a hat. She was sure an exhibitionist. She was a good singer, a lonely woman, a true artist, a pretty girl and despite of her revelries she was a faithful in her own way woman,” – her close friend French writer Thierry Marignac writes. “Natasha wanted us to disperse her ashes over Moscow, Los Angeles, Paris and St.Petersburg,” – a literary critic Emma Dubinskaya recalls. ” But we found out it’s prohibited to transport human ashes on board. It’s also prohibited to bring ashes into the church so we’ve hidden it under the table as soon as we entered the church on Rue Daru. Moreover, it’s prohibited to disperse human ashes in what place soever. So we gathered by Seine where Cite and Henry IV of France monument are situated, the very heart of Paris and we dispersed her ashes near Pont des Arts. Then we came to a luxurious mansion which owner, an architect arranged a funeral banquet. There were a few people but all of them talked good of her, listened to her music and decided to make a book tribute to such Natasha Medvedeva whom nobody knew in Russia.”

    It’s not easy to remind Natalya – The Great Bear shines too brightly – Mark Luchek, an owner of legendary cabaret Balalayka called her so.

  3. Regarding Ocasek, I’m not sure the guys in the band even knew her. They never met. Ocasek was asked in 1988, “who was the girl on the debut album cover?”, and his response was, “I’m not sure who that girl is really.”

    Then on 1999 Cars Documentary, Elliot and David both expressed their distaste and “misleading representation” from that album cover. Elliot made fun of her lips and smile, even said he colored in her teeth. Ric said he liked it, especially the “sperm colored” steering wheel.

    Now, we need to find out who posed for their 1981 Shake It Up album cover, and see what kind of interesting life she’s lead.


    1. Interesting fact though, I watched a documentary on Natalya over youtube, it was all in Russian so I didn’t understand what they were saying about her.

      There was a part where they showed her recording a track in the studio, and she had the Cars’ 1978 record hanging on the wall.

      Dig, dig, dig, let’s see who Shake It Up model is. lol. I’ve always thought it was Bebe Buell, but I’m sure if it was her it would’ve been mentioned somewhere.

  4. Natalya tried to make a name for herself in Russia as a singer after breaking up with Limonov, who, by the way, was anything BUT a “dissident” writer. She was at some point supported by the old elephant of Russian pop song Pougatcheva, who then feared co;petition or something. Natalya was afflicted with a bad illness of some sort, this dessicated thinness was not natural on her. In earlier days in Paris, she could be occasionally plump when indulging a little too much on the bottle, and always sensually voluptuous, though tall for a woman that generation, a shade under six feet.
    Natalya was really hurt that her career as a singer never really got off the ground in her motherland.

  5. From what I understand, Natalia was a very interesting personality. I guess that she though was not understood by the majority and therefore labeled a scandalist. I watched all the interviews with her, and did not notice Natalia behaving like a scandalist. She liked to provoke a little bit, but I can not say she ever was rude. She was very straight-forward and unusual, and she liked to break cliches…
    She was very very bright…. and stood out.

  6. What a great article and comments. Thank you.
    As humans, it is our innate curiosity that drives us to research the obscure. Natalia was a very misunderstood woman. Unless you were close to her, only then did you really know her. Unfortunately the truth was distorted by these so called friends, or lovers. So sad.
    Natalia tripped the light fantastic, to the beat of her own drum..
    RIP N.M.

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