By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
If Hollywood were to revisit the Cold War era with a movie about an idealistic rogue inside the KGB, studio execs would probably cast a large, menacing leading man, maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. They would want someone who fits the stereotypical mold of a jackbooted stoic, someone who lives up to the public perception of the former Soviet Union's once fearsome security agency. Emin Gadzhiyev would scarcely fit the bill. A stout, balding man with big, bushy eyebrows, the Cold War veteran is far more John Belushi than Conan the Barbarian.
On a rain-drenched Sunday morning in June, Gadzhiyev slumps in an armchair in his sparsely furnished, cream-color apartment. There are black rings under his eyes, and a paunch is visible beneath his loose-fitting Tshirt. Beside him is a small table upon which lie a laptop, a portable phone, and a thick stapled document. He reaches for the manuscript, weighing it in his hands. In big, bold letters on the cover are the words "Red Mafia: A treatment for an original screenplay based on events in the life of Emin Gadzhiyev, formerly Lt. Colonel, KGB." He smiles. "Very loosely based," he says with a slow chuckle, which erupts into laughter.
Rejected by Hollywood when Cold War tales were going out of vogue, the souped-up movie version of Gadzhiyev's life is "probably 60percent fiction," he says. "We had to make it sellable -- romance, action, you know, more Hollywood," he adds, kicking up his feet in the high-rise Hallandale apartment he shares with his second wife, Irina, and plenty of stuffed animals. Making it sellable, the budding capitalist quickly realized, would require professional help. And so, shortly after moving to South Florida from California eight years ago, Gadzhiyev tracked down a screenwriter to help bring his tale of corruption and organized crime in the crumbling Soviet empire to the multiplex. The 58-page movie treatment that Palm Beach Gardens actor-screenwriter Ken Roberts pieced together after 20 hours of interviews captures the essence of Gadzhiyev's odyssey but only roughly follows the contours of his years with theKGB.
Even the cinematic version of his late-'80s defection is greatly pared down. In the screenwriter's tale, Gadzhiyev's escape is nearly cut short when he is picked up in Belgrade by Yugoslav counterintelligence and threatened with deportation back to Moscow. At the last minute, though, in one of those nifty action-movie twists, the powers that be let him go, and he slips off to Washington, D.C., carrying in his head enough evidence of institutional corruption to shake the Soviet state at its foundation. The reality of that escape was far less tidy and considerably more painful. Gadzhiyev eventually did find his Hollywood ending but only after many months of physical and mental anguish, languishing uncertainly in a Yugoslav jail. And that's where the movie ends and Gadzhiyev's story begins.
"I'm in a patrol car now. I'm a goddamn cop." Gadzhiyev is on the phone with an old friend, sharing the good news. After more than a decade without a gun or a badge, he is back on the job, doing what he loves best. Well, almost. During his eight years with the KGB, the former electromechanical engineer was assigned to the Second Chief Directorate, the massive security agency's domestic counterintelligence arm. Far more detective than secret agent, Gadzhiyev had duties ranging from preventing security leaks and defections to tackling smuggling, fraud, and other forms of organized crime and corruption. Now, however, the 47-year-old is just another rookie cop. At the end of May, having passed through a rather rigorous application process, he received from the Broward Sheriff's Office a gun, a badge, and a uniform and began cruising the streets of southern Broward County as a patrol officer in training. Five days a week, he assists his field training officer in responding to crimes that, in another time and place, would be considerably beneath his station -- mostly burglar alarms, domestic violence, and smalltime pushers and users. But early next month, eight years after the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the most experienced rookie on the force will become the first former KGB officer to become a full-fledged American cop. Although he wishes he could leapfrog straight into the detective squad -- preferably into the organized crime division -- the humbled former lieutenant colonel still beams at the thought of starting his law-enforcement careeranew.
"This is my American dream," he says with adolescent glee, while proudly displaying the revolver he keeps stashed in the kitchen when he's off duty. "Right now I'm a deputy on the road, a patrol officer, so that's the job I need to do." He disappears into the bedroom. "Have you seen the hat?" he asks, flashing a Gomer Pyle grin, his cue ball hidden beneath the BSO's good-ol'-boy, wide-brimmed, green-and-gold hat. "Isn't this hat just gorgeous?"
Employing a man in U.S. law enforcement who was once on the front lines of the Cold War -- on the other side -- has already aroused the suspicions of more than a few conspiracy-theory stalwarts. In 1996, the year Gadzhiyev first became both a U.S. citizen and a guard at the Broward County Jail, his olive-hued face filled the cover of The New American, the glossy magazine of the extreme right-wing John Birch Society. Inspired by Gadzhiyev's early efforts to become an American police officer (his initial 1996 application with the BSO landed him the spot in corrections), the lengthy and extensively researched cover story dissects the former KGB officer's claims that he was once an anti-corruption crusader but uncovers no clear evidence to the contrary.