Izmir, Turkey, May 2001.

Izmir, Turkey, May 2001.

For various reasons my story about Mahir 'I Kiss You' Cagri in today's NYT has been a long time coming. It's based on an interview I did with him during a trip to Turkey more than a year ago and follow-up e-mail correspondence in recent months.

The interview was one of the more bizarre episodes in my journalistic career. We agreed to meet at a cafe on the promenade along the harbor, which had an odd purple tinge and a dizzying odor. Mahir came with two friends. One of them translated (see photo above). The other was a travel agent who would later try to push some of his services on me.

When I got to the cafe, Mahir announced that he had invited a cameraman from a Turkish news agency to document his high-level summit with an important foreign correspondent (me). The camera had a very bright light on top, and people started coming by to see what all the fuss was about. Then a newspaper vendor popped into camera range. ("Can you read the Turkish, sir? What's your country? Arizona?") I noted that I was having severe media overload.

Eventually the cameraman left, but not before I got some minor revenge by taking his picture. I wonder what happened to that videotape.

Some links and odds and ends:

-- Early on I thought this story was going to be a big think piece about online fame, so I solicited comments on the topic. There were some thoughtful responses. I still hope to write that story someday.

-- More photos from Izmir are here and here.

-- Some anonymous individual made $1,400 off of their Mahir-inspired tunes at MP3.com. (This one is classic.) Mahir wasn't happy about this.

-- He also wasn't happy when I told him about the Lee Jeans campaign he inspired. And he complained to Adidas about their "I Kiss Football" ads, which ran all over Europe last summer.

-- The Mahir Eurodisco video seemed quite revolutionary at the time, but it now looks awfully primitive.

-- Mahir's latest site is IKissYou.org. How do you say "banner overload" in Turkish?