Soviet Circus saxophonist Vladimir Ivanoff (Robin Williams) tours in the United States and suddenly defects from his musical troupe while visiting the temple of "Western decadence" known as Bloomingdale's. Fleeing from the K.G.B., Vladimir is granted asylum by the U.S. government and moves into the crowded Harlem apartment of black security guard Lionel Witherspoon (Cleavant Derricks). Soon Ivanoff finds himself a voluptuous Italian lover, Lucia Lombardo (Maria Conchita Alonso), and a shrewd Cuban lawyer, Orlando Ramirez (Alejandro Rey). He thought his troubles were over when he defected, now he's living in New York City and his life is more difficult than he ever imagined. Though Vladimir learns that life in America can be cold and even painful, he grows to love this strange and wondrous new land.