Mahir, we love you

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From: Carey Lening (
Date: Mon Jan 03 2000 - 18:35:23 PST

I saw this today in the La Times. This article took a full page in the
paper and really did shock me. Not so much that I'm a big Mahir fan or
anything like that, but more that people will flock to meet a man whose fame
was brought on by rumors and a shitty website.

I think what's truly pathetic about this is that the writer was more snubbed
that this guy didnt' remember who she was. IF this is how you become
famous, I'm scared for the next century. It does bring out the social
scientist in me though, and almost compells me to make a website on this
calibre, and see if I can replicate the 'Mahir Effect'. Any takers?


> By. Janelle Brown (

>On Wednesday night, Mahir came to San Francisco. I think it's fair to say
that his appearance caused more of a minor sensation than Santa himself
might have, had he materialized in the sky behind eight flying reindeer.
Fame is truly an odd beast.

In case you haven't heard of Mahir, here's the story: This Turkish accordion
player became a phenomenon in November when his Web site -- complete with
skimpy bathing suit shots and misspelled exclamations that he liked sex and
wanted to photograph nude models -- became suddenly popular. Millions
thronged to his Web page, started fan clubs and sent him love letters. We
later discovered that the humorous text on his page was the result of an
anonymous hacker, but Mahir Cagri was already famous, featured in the pages
of People, Time and USA Today.

The Net industry being what it currently is, it didn't take long for an
enterprising start-up to invite Mahir on a promotional tour of the United
States. This is the first stop and San Francisco has come out to celebrate.
Mahir Cagri will be presented the cyberkey to San Francisco (whatever that
may be) and will, I'm promised, play the accordion. The Net industry's best
and brightest will be in attendance -- some to see the man in the flesh,
others to leach off a bit of Mahir's odd notoriety. No marketing budget has
been as effective as Mahir's amateur Web page.

Considering that Mahir is a Turkish nobody who didn't do much of anything to
deserve his fame, it's slightly astonishing to realize that nearly 2,000
people have RSVP'd to this sudden Net sensation coming-out party. When I
arrive on the scene -- following the searchlights across the city -- there
are already a few hundred fans already in place, anxiously awaiting the
appearance of the Turkish stud himself. Our host, eTour, has provided
meatballs and brie and Thai chicken on skewers, plus all the free cocktails
you can drink.

A few heavily made-up belly dancers roam the floor, and party goers pounce
on the ping-pong table in the corner; a bad DJ plays Third Eye Blind tunes
while a handful of happily drunk dot-commers dance. ETour has plastered the
walls with its logos and Mahir posters; I even score a Mahir World Tour
T-shirt. I can only wonder what it costs to wine and dine this crowd of
strangers -- none of whom, incidentally, have been able to tell me what
exactly eTour does.

I saunter over to a crowd of saucy young sexpots, each wearing a tight T-shirt; it turns out that they are all nude models who regularly
pose in the buff for the men's portal "We want Mahir -- we're
going to give him soooo many kisses until you can't even see his face!"
burbles Babsi, one curly haired model.

"He wants to shoot nude models and here we are," chimes in Tatiana, a tiny
baby-faced girl, still wearing braces, who looks no older than 15. She
giggles and adds, "As long as they're tasteful ..."

I head over to another group of leather-clad hipsters, and ask why they've
showed up. "I'm here for the free food and booze," says Steve Rodriguez, a
local musician who was invited by a friend at He pauses and
elaborates: "It's like a 'Saturday Night Live' skit got big, and we showed
up to hang around."

The natives are getting increasingly tipsy and restless, but Mahir's
limousine finally pulls up at 8:30. As the theme from "Rocky" blasts over
the sound system, Mahir appears in the doorway, surrounded by TV cameras and
flashing lights and flanked by eTour P.R. people. The crowd goes nuts,
screaming and pushing forward and acting like a bunch of teenage girls at a
Backstreet Boys concert. Clad in a turquoise eTour polo shirt and stylish
wrap-around glasses, Mahir grins abashedly at the throngs below. He is
clearly having the time of his life.

The models appear in the middle of the crowd, hoisting enormous
signs that read "We kiss you, Mahir!" and "We love sex!" They push in around
Mahir, giving him hugs and kisses and then smiling big for the cameras that
pull in around them to capture the moment. (The logos are
prominently displayed for the television crew.)

"We're taking him back to let him rest and have a drink, and then we
'invitate' you to come watch him speak," announces an eTour spokesperson
over the PA, but it's too late: The room is in total pandemonium, and Mahir
can't make it across the room as his fans crowd around him. One man waves a
print-out of Mahir's Web page and begs for an autograph; others just crowd
in for kisses. Mahir doesn't seem to have much to say, but jovially smiles
and greets everyone who comes this way.

"It's the weirdest thing in the world to see hundreds of people go ape shit
over a guy who built a really bad Web page," comments bystander Chris
Groves. "He didn't even build it himself."

Finally, I make my way up to Mahir himself, pompously thinking that he might
remember me as the first journalist to write a story about him. We had
spoken on the phone a month earlier, when he was still in Izmir and not
quite the phenomenon he is today. We had connected! I thought. It's a
squeeze, but suddenly I'm face to face with the man himself and he looks ...
well ... normal. No shiny suits, the mustache has been trimmed -- if it
weren't for the TV lights and the wrap-around sunglasses he'd look like just
about any other average Joe. He doesn't speak much English. He looks a bit
stressed. But here, he's a rock star.

"Remember me? Janelle Brown, from" I yell in Mahir's ear, as the
crowd closes in around me. Mahir looks at me blankly, so I point to my name
tag. " I wrote about you?" He smiles, perhaps in recognition or
perhaps because he's just being nice. I impulsively kiss him on both cheeks.
He blurts back, "I talk you later," and disappears into the throng to greet
his fans.

Ah, the callousness of celebrity.

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