Back in 2010 I posted the video for the Best Party's campaign song here on Beware of the Blog. The Party—which was started as a satire of regular Icelandic politics—actually won a majority in their local election, and their founder and chairman, Jon Gnarr, became mayor of Reykjavik. Now, through the magic of Benjamin Walker, and due to some mistake that no one can explain, I am to meet His Honorableness, Mayor Gnarr, and his chief strategist and campaign manager, Heida K. Helgadottir, when I introduce their keynote address on Saturday at the WFMU Radiovision Festival.
I became an Icelandophile when I worked at the dog magazine, whose offices were two blocks from Scandinavia House. I often went there for lunch at the AQ Café, and would check out their art exhibits and excellent film series. It was at Scandinavia House a few years ago that I saw the documentary Kurekar Nordursins, and became a huge fan of the great Icelandic radio DJ, the Cowboy of the North, Hallbjorn Hjartarson. The film records (in what feels like real time) the 1984 Icelandic Cowboy Festival, which took place in a tiny northern fishing village and seemed to consist of a lot of drinking, some music, and occasional attempts to ride shaggy little Icelandic ponies while drinking or singing, but mostly drinking. I was so inspired by it that I tracked down Cowboy DJ Hallbjorn and wrote to him, hoping I could get him as a guest on WFMU. I imagined gathering up donations of moldy country vinyl at the Record Fair and shipping it off to Skagastrond, Iceland, and becoming radio friends with this international superstar.
But then months passed, and I had given up before I finally got a reply. DJ Hallbjorn had to go to a great deal of trouble to find someone who could translate my email into Icelandic and then translate his reply into English to send to me. Of course, I had no idea he didn’t speak English. He plays all these American country-western songs on his radio station, so I just assumed … Plus, I’m American, which is also why I just assumed… Anyway, I felt bad for putting him to so much trouble, so I didn’t write again. But now, every year when the Record Fair comes around, I think of Hallbjorn Hjartarson and wish I could send him some Little Jimmy Dickens records.
And this year, tomorrow, I will get to meet real Icelandic People and ask them if they know Cowboy DJ Hallbjorn—it’s a very small country, plus he is extremely famous, so they might! I just hope Jon Gnarr and Heida K. Helgadottir speak English.