When I first watched this video from opening night of Lindsay Lohan's new Lohan Nightclub in Athens in mid-October, my mind began to wander. As she stood in the palatial, chandeliered entrance way, amongst the ruins of the Keramikos district answering questions about the space before a crowd of reporters and onlookers, I began to fantasize that I was eating patatokeftedes and drinking a Greek lager with my baba in our family's apartment in a suburb of Athens, where I go every summer. The windows were open and a delightful breeze cooled us, but when my father opened his mouth to speak, it was not his voice but Lohan's. This pleasant fantasy quickly devolved into a pseudo-oedipal nightmare.
I still hear that voice—it is bouncing around in my skull. For a Long Islander in Greece, Lindsay Lohan sounds exactly like my father, a Greek living on Long Island. They both speak with a well-formed English accent and a certain Mediterranean flair—Spanish meets Italian meets the Queen's English. My father learned English in Greece in the 1970s from British-English speakers, and despite living in the United States for 30 years, he still calls trash "rubbish." Lohan, on the other hand, has attributed her new trans-european accent to the impressive catalogue of languages she either knows or is trying to learn, namely, English, French, Arabic, Italian, Russian, and Turkish.
Lohan's strange emphasis on certain words ("We can fo-cus on the good things" as she says in the video) is a common inflection amongst Greeks, who sometimes struggle with how the English language lacks accent marks to indicate stress. Her exaggerated hand motions and odd sentence structures—"Maybe there is something for me to do more here"—are also reminiscent of someone who is translating a sentence from another language they don't quite have a firm grip on.
But the most perplexing part of the video is not Lohan's new accent, but what she says about her new nightclub. It's a club and concert venue with a "baroque industrial" vibe that can fit about 1500 people. Admission ranges from 20 to 80€, and according to reports the club boasts not only a VIP section, but a VVIP section. Explaining why she'd decided to build a club in the Greek capital, Lohan compares her friendships with Denis Papageorgiou—the Greek restaurateur and billionaire she opened the club with—and his family to the connections she made with refugees when she visited a Turkish hospital in September earlier this year. "When I went through hardships with my ex," she says, "I found really good family in these people from Greece, just like I did in Turkey in a different way with refugees." She continues: "So where people are scared of refugees and everything in the world, there is a [...] line of where we can make happiness."
Here, you may be wondering how Club Lohan can it bring "happiness" to the tens of thousands of refugees from Syria and other countries who are currently living in Athens. "I've been subjected to clubs," she says darkly, referring to the Hollywood hotspots she frequented during her partygirl days in the mid-2000s. But her new club, she insists, will be "a celebration of everyone coming together." She concludes the interview by asserting, "We have to help other people, and if we can do it with a nightclub, or with a spa, or refugee camps in containers... we can make everything have a difference." Then she brightly adds: "Maybe one of the refugees will open something with us." I wonder if she saw the Greek Army clearing refugee settlements before the summer tourist season starts so that they don't clog the streets, or perhaps she is offering to set up a camp in Lohan Club? Her lack of awareness for the realities for life for refugees and the pain of being isolated from your community and culture is clear
It would be unfair to crucify Lohan for trying to help refugees. The German energy drink Mintanine, which Lohan is a brand ambassador for, is served at her new club and donates 10€ to refugee charities for every box of 72 cans sold, according to their website. Despite her good intentions and charitable efforts, Lohan's tone deaf approach to assistance is obvious. I don't want to minimize the truly revolutionary potential of people coming together and having a shared experience. People come together and find solidarity through music and shared experience. It seems as is if Lohan believes she can perform some sort of hedonistic calculus through the club that raises the "overall happiness" of refugees. The enormous privatization programs, the destruction of social social safety nets, and the lack of material support for the refugees create material issues that cannot be fixed through a rather utopian vision of a club as a tool for raising the overall "level of happiness" in society. One might even argue that more useful steps towards addressing the refugee crisis are currently being taken by the likes of anarchists in Exarchia, who are creating community centers like the Khora Center for Syrian refugees, where they can be fed, taught Greek, and find solidarity.
I have no doubt that Lohan truly wants her club to bring happiness to everyone who steps foot into it. The catch is that the experience of the club has to be shared with everyone, not just those who can afford it. I have difficulty imagining a Syrian family going to Lohan's club, let alone even being allowed in there. Where is the happiness in that?