## Sunday, May 29, 2005

### Is the Piano Man Czech?

This looks like a pretty interesting and bizarre story. A few weeks ago, a mysterious man in a soaking wet suit was found in Britain. He does not communicate with anyone and is extremely shy. After several attempts to initiate an interaction, he drew a nice picture of a piano, and once they allowed him to play, he was playing classical pieces for 4 hours from memory. An accomplished amateur, they say.

The British could not find out who he was. The best hint they received was a statement of a Polish mime who illegally works in the streets of Rome. This Pole claimed that the Piano Man was his former colleague from Nice - the French musician allegedly called Steven Villa Masson. A week ago, this source and his piece of information apparently turned out to be good enough for CNN and the theory has been announced by CNN as well as tens of other sources as the final answer to the mystery.

Well, one may feel a bit unsatisfied with this kind of an answer. Don't get me wrong - I have absolutely nothing against the Polish street mimes currently working in Italy. :-) But still, the name "Steven Villa Masson" does not seem to be terribly official as far as I can say. Moreover, Masson has been tracked down in Nice. Today, The Independent offered something better.

They were contacted by Mr. Klaudius Kryšpín [Clow-dee-oos Krish-peen], the drummer from the most famous Czech hard rock band of the 1980s and 1990s, namely Pražský výběr (Prague Selection, [Prash-skee Vee-b'er]). Kryšpín emigrated to Australia in 1988 and returned to Prague after the Communism collapsed. If you want to hear how Pražský výběr sounds, you should be satisfied with this very low quality file - my version of "Pražákům těm je tu hej" (The natives are doing fine, they can't get lost here in Prague).

What did Kryšpín say? He claims that the Piano Man is Mr. Tomáš Strnad [Taw-mash Stir-nut], his colleague from Ropotamo, an anti-communist teenager band from the 1980s that was immitating (equally anti-Communist) Pražský výběr. Strnad was able to play the piano for hours from memory and attempted to become a classical piano player after 1989 which did not work out. Kryšpín, on the other hand, joined the "real" Pražský výběr itself. The Independent argues that a picture of Strnad from 1983, as shown them by Kryšpín, has a striking resemblance to the Piano Man. If this is true, the man on the picture on the CNN page above must be nearly 40 unless some extraordinary redshift or time dilation changes the proper time! Kryšpín also argues that he knows a birthmark that could identify the Piano Man as Tomáš Strnad.

Kryšpín has not seen Strnad for 9 years. He knows that Strnad did not really get along with his family and 3 years ago he was begging. Kryšpín's brother Richard - the guitarist of their band - now works in Columbus, Ohio as a computer analyst. He also confirms that the Piano Man looks like Strnad, and mentions that Strnad used to have mental problems.

Michael Kocab - the well-known singer of Pražský výběr who also became a politician for a couple of years following the 1989 Velvet Revolution - also said that Strnad may be the Piano Man. Kocab also claims that he met Strnad roughly 2 months ago at a gas station at the outskirts or Prague. Strnad seemed very confused and he mentioned that he would go abroad, most likely to the U.S., to build his career. There is a subtlety however: Kocab argues that this moment when he met Strnad was on April 10th - 3 days after Strnad was officially hospitalized in England.