Magic. That's what she wanted.
It was the first week of 2010, and Anna and Bill were living it up in a bountiful suite at the Venetian in Las Vegas. In the morning they'd wake up in a king-size bed and sip mimosas. During the day they'd take a gondola ride through the casino's indoor canals or lie side by side in the spa for a couples massage. There were showers together, and facials, and succulent evening repasts at Valentino and the Prime Steakhouse. Impulsively they bought a pair of Italian masquerade-ball masks—Eyes Wide Shut-style—one male, one female. Anna liked being pampered. She had a thing for glamour. When Bill asked if there was a show that she was dying to see, she told him, "I want to go see magic."
David Copperfield had a regular gig at the MGM Grand, but it was sold out. So Bill, the nearly 40-year-old CEO of a real-estate website called PropertyShark and a fit, punctual, mission-focused product of the U.S. Marine Corps, went into hustle mode. He made a few calls, ponied up some extra cash. Two tickets materialized. Bill would always remember that evening—how they were running late for the Copperfield show, and how Anna was tottering through the bejeweled glare of the Las Vegas Strip in a party dress and high heels. Finally she kicked off her shoes and ran barefoot down the sidewalk.
That was in January. It is now a hot, damp, thunderstorm-threatened Monday night in July, and Bill Staniford has spent a portion of the afternoon in a blank, windowless interrogation room in downtown Manhattan, speaking with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Feds don't want to hear about facials and David Copperfield. They want to know what secrets Anna might have wormed out of him. They want to know whether Staniford—in a moment of weakness—might have spilled any proverbial beans. And all this is happening because just days before, Anna Chapman, a.k.a. Anya Kushchenko, a.k.a. the young redhead who posed for what has to be the foxiest mug shot in the history of the U.S. Marshals, was arrested with nine others as part of an alleged Russian spy ring.
The Seductress: The inventive, energetic Anna Chapman posted this photo on Facebook.
It's safe to say that the news failed to spark a great deal of geopolitical outrage—the Cold War's been over for a while now, and our fears of the Enemy have migrated elsewhere. Seemingly clueless and harmless, the summer 2010 "spy ring" called to mind a Hot Tub Time Machine remix of Octopussy. The alleged spies were simply sent home, horse-traded for some other alleged spies, and the whole curious scrap of dog-days trivia wound up leaving millions of Americans mildly amused—and kind of turned on. Such was the lighthearted reaction that even Joe Biden joked about Chapman's bodaciousness on The Tonight Show. "Let me make it clear," the vice president winkingly told Jay Leno, "it wasn't my idea to send her back." In the end, it was hard to imagine that anyone felt betrayed—unless, perhaps, you got to thinking about the young male strivers who'd been drawn into Chapman's flirtatious tractor beam.
And there may have been a lot of them. Espionage, of course, can take many forms. Maybe Mother Russia engineered Anna Chapman to be an irresistible minx, or maybe that's just her nature, but either way there are suggestions that her leggy methods of information gathering may have been, well, widespread. Soon after her arrest, a group of men who'd known her gathered at a bar in Manhattan to marvel, trade stories, and commiserate. One guy couldn't resist. "Okay," he asked after everyone had loosened up. "Who fucked her?" Several hands shot up.
The men who moved within Chapman's orbit will tell you: She intoxicated them. She knew how to dress up—she entered a room like a classic movie star descending a grand staircase. Ostensibly the CEO of an online real-estate company, she made little effort to quash the persistent speculation that she was worth a mint, and she enlisted a fashion photographer to provide her with a professional arsenal of sexy portraits. Those in the know said she had a courtesan's expertise in bed—that she was as inventive as she was energetic. After her Facebook headshots had circled the globe, her ex-husband, Alex Chapman, spoke to a British tabloid about her anything-goes fondness for purring sex toys, nipple clamps, and whips.