LOS ANGELES -- Mikhail Gorbachev should feel distinctly unflattered.
"I cannot even imagine it," said Masha Kalinina, 19, as she waited backstage before an appearance yesterday on the Los Angeles television show "AM LA." "He is as old as my father. It is not ## possible."
Kalinina, a tall, dark-eyed young woman who became the first Soviet beauty queen in 1988, has been accused in a Soviet tabloid of an ongoing affair with the 60-year-old Soviet president. The "Mish-Mash Affair," it was called after Gorby's nickname, Misha. After the allegations were picked up recently by German and American tabloids, Kalinina decided to go public with her denials.
Kalinina arrived in America seven months ago to start her acting career after a series of international modeling appearances and an Italian movie ("Occhio Alla Perestroika"). She achieved celebrity in 1988 after she defeated more than 2,000 contenders to win the first beauty crown ever given in the Soviet Union, landing a German modeling contract and a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.
lTC She denies ever meeting Gorby. "Never, ever," she said, shaking her short dark hair. But she was privileged, she said, to have seen him once across a hall when attending a Van Cliburn concert with her parents in Moscow last year. He was with his wife, Raisa, whom Kalinina described as the "ideal Russian wife." Nor was it true, she said, that her father, a doctor, attends Gorbachev.