More Mahir mania

The Net's favorite Turkish accordion player says he just wants peace -- but parodies of his "I Kiss You!!!!" site persist.

Published November 8, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Last week, I wrote a little article mulling over the sudden popularity of a mysterious Turkish accordion player named Mahir, whose Web site was being distributed far and wide. That story inspired hundreds of e-mails, forwarded correspondences with the Turk himself (most enthusiastically signed "Kissessssssssss and Hugsssssssssss"), inspirational URLs and musings about just why Mahir was so giggle-worthy. I even talked with the man himself.

Here's what I learned:

Mahir is actually Mahir Cagri, a resident of Izmir (just as his Web site says). His famous Web page, according to a Turkish newspaper (where, incidentally, Mahir's picture was plastered on the front page), was actually designed as a joke by an anonymous friend. No one seems to know who began forwarding the URL around the Web, but a surprised Mahir was suddenly flooded with e-mails and phone calls about two weeks ago. The newspaper reports say that Mahir has been feeling overwhelmed with the calls, and is a bit embarrassed that everyone thinks he is obsessed with sex -- at least, according to those Turkish readers who kindly translated for me.

I called Mahir at his home on Friday night, and spoke with him and his friend -- a rather difficult conversation, as they didn't speak much English, and I didn't speak any Turkish. But Mahir did explain that he has received "many many telephone, many many e-mail. I lost count." He said that he is hoping to come to America next month, adding that CNN and several other TV shows have invited him to visit. And he has "invitated" even more new friends to stop by his place in Turkey -- although he didn't explain how he'll be able to fit them all.

As Mahir's (nameless) friend, who grabbed the phone to talk to me, enthusiastically explained, "We made this page for fun to people to make love, and secondly we wanted all the people must be happy, live in peace. Our real target is that!" The Web site, this friend says, will also be redesigned in a few days. (Apparently, there are two Mahir sites -- one, the original, has his phone numbers and e-mail; the other, a mirror, made off with lots of Mahir traffic before being taken down. Total page views for the two pages? Well into the millions.)

Meanwhile, the homages to Mahir keep appearing. Besides the Turkish Stud animation, there are the girls who love Mahir, and the Mahir Fan Club on Yahoo (44 members and counting!). And, not surprisingly, there are the parody pages: The "I Kiss You!!!!" Clinton page, with the American president ("My profession presdint, I sexolgy doctora") in the role of Mahir; as well as personal pages mimicking Mahir's style. And, to top it all off, there's a spoof "exposing" Mahir as an international drug trafficker.

But perhaps the most fitting homage of them all is one that combines the two most bizarre Web crazes of the last year (Mahir and the Hampster Dance) into one perfect HTML package: The MahirDance. It was bound to happen.

By Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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Middle East