My friend Touss
We created our own planet peopled by our own cast of characters
January 20, 2003
My friend Touss had a nickname for everyone he liked as well as one for
those he didn't. It was mostly for endearment. Sometimes the nicknames were less
than flattering but in good fun, for the most part. It usually had to do with someone's
habits, appearance or an expression they used.
It all started when we were in boarding school together in Rome. Later we formed
a student club called U.L.F. which was our Swedish friend's first name. We said it
stood for United League of Free Thinkers.
Touss nicknamed himself "Der Fuehrer" and
I was the "Red Baron" which was shortened to "Baron" and sometimes
Touss just called me "Chander" as in Alexander The Great because that devil
burned down Persepolis in all its glory and grandeur. His brother Kavous was Lord
Halifax because he was so mannered and meticulous in his dress especially shirts
and ties, his tobacco, his cologne, his shoes, one would have thought he was the
Prince of Whales himself.
We had a friend purported to be very well endowed, i.e. well hung and his name was
Iraj, so his nickname became Eeejpistol or Eejquipment. Then there was Touss's cousin:
"Hot Lips", and there was his cousin Dadush which was already a nickname
from his real name Mohammad, whom we nicknamed: "Slow" as in slow motion.
In Rome we had a school friend named Ronny who couldn't pronounce roots with his
cockney accent he would say "Voots" so his nickname became "Voots".
We had another friend nicknamed "Bozee" which I never understood except
that we were all jealous of his Lancia Beta Zagato. Funny, I never knew his real
name until about 25 years later when I happened upon him quite by chance in the streets
of New York City and he handed me his card: "William Preston", it read.
I never would have guessed in a million years.
School days were chock full of nicknames. There was "Boozone", whose real
name was Fourio Valbonese. He prided himself as being a real ladies man so we nicknamed
him Boozone which is Italian slang for a gay blade to whittle him down to size.
Poor man, whenever he was with us and was to be introduced to someone
new he would rush through his name as fast as he could to beat us from introducing
him as "Boozone" but the faster he spit out his real name the less comprehensible
it became and so we would still succeed in introducing him as "Boozone".
He developed a complex. We then shortened "Boozone" to "Biuze"
which became: "On account of the buse!"
There was "J.C." because he always said: "Jesus Christ" with
a Brooklyn accent. I think his real name was Richard Young. Kyra was nicknamed: "Smilie".
There was "Bwoston" nicknamed after her Bostonian accent. Jean Rossi was
"Poor" and he used to always talk about "Le 'D.S.' du mon pere...
", his dad's car, which we thought was funny because it sounded like "Deesse"
or his dad's Goddess.
There was the nuclear physicist named Bahram whom we nicknamed "Eeeereeesle",
because he was very obsequious and when he squinted he looked rather like a weasel.
We loved him though. He had a thick German accent when speaking English because he
had studied in Germany, like Henry Kissinger.
He used to say: "Shhhpeeed Shtimolates!" Sometimes we called him: "Jack
Sharkey" because of his overbite. The man was brilliant and drove the biggest
BMW they make and his wife was bright and beautiful and yet with our sobriquets we
cut him -- and everyone else -- down to size. I'm not sure who the hell we thought
we were exactly but: "Aaah, the arrogance of youth." We created our own
planet peopled by our own cast of characters and it made life more interesting, more
personal and more intimate.
There was Houshang whom we nicknamed "Phenomen" as in phenomena because
he was so clever in business and popular with beautiful women. There was Farokh "Sayed
Mobarak" -- his solicitousness and fondling over friendship, he could never
do enough for you.
There was Roya, the maid whom we nicknamed: "Unicorn" or "Cornonaaz"
because of her well defined nose. Her toddler son we nicknamed: "Bache Guatre"
because he had goiters til we got them fixed. There was Amu Ansary whom we nicknamed
"Amu I am so sorry, I am so sorry" and there was Khosrow "The Finance
Minister", there was Amu Sepabad who we nicknamed "Ghoooch", the Ram,
due to his philandering,
The old waiter at the French Club in Tehran we nicknamed: "Lopti" as in
Le petit, because his French was atrocious but he was very, very simpatico and really
tried extraordinarily hard to please the guests.
There was "Lee Marvin Gay", there was "The Pike", "Mr. Bishop",
"Dutch", "Tector" and "Lyle" and "Angel"
and "Mapache". And the entire cast of Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch
whose names we assigned to each other and our friends.
Long before Rocky Horror
Picture Show we started a fan club for The Wild Bunch! Dozens of school boys
who had never seen the movie knew all the lines by heart thanks to us. Lines like
"Get those horses up!"
"How does it feel Mr. Harringan, to do your share of the killing, with the laws
arms around you?", "Good!"
"You dirty son of a bitch!"
"If you two boys don't like equal shares then why in the hell don't you just
take all of it?"
"Silver rings your butt, them's washers!"
"We'll join 'em!"
"The Temperance Union?"
"Kiss my sister's black cat's ass!"
"Hell, I should have been running whores instead of stealing army horses!"
"While Angel dreams of love, Mapache eats the mango!"
"Hell will be waiting for us!"
"I wouldn't have it any other way!"
"Me neither Pike"
"Hell, they wouldn't look in their own back yard!"
"What makes you so sure?"
"Being sure is my business!"
"We've got to start looking beyond our guns... those days are closing fast!"
"Maybe a payroll, maybe a bank... "
"Boys, I want you to meet my fiance!"
"Your Excellency, with your permission, I need a bath!"
"With my permission you all need a bath!"
"It won't be like it used to be... but it will do!"
"When you side with a man, you stick to him... otherwise you are like some kind
of an animal... you're finished, we're finished... all of us!"
"But he gave his word!"
"Well, it was his word!"
"It's who you give it to!"
"Mr. Thornton, Mr. Thornton, you rode with the Pike, what kind of a man are
we up against?"
"The Best! He never got caught!"
"Finish it Mr. Bishop!"
"And I suppose we should give him a proper burial complete with a choir and
a church supper!?!!"
"What's in Agua Verde?"
"Mexicans, what else!"
"I happen to know that equipment is issued only to U.S. Army personnel?!"
"Believe me, we share no sentiment with our government!"
"How can you stand it so hot?!!!"
I will never forget these lines, nor will the rest of the fan club, after 37 years.
You can imagine how hilarious it was to hear and see two young Persian brothers and
me reciting and acting out all these cowboy movie lines.
Sometimes when The Wild Bunch came to town at revival theatres in Paris, especially
if it was the directors special uncut version, we would rent out the entire theatre
for our crowd and kids who were seeing the film for the first time from our group
would be shouting out the lines right before they were spoken in the movie. It was
awesome. Yes, it was childish, but it was our childhood after all and it made our
ordinary lives more interesting and for that I will always thank my good friend Touss.
was such a film aficionado that he knew the names of every character no matter how
minor in Hollywood films from the 30's and 40's and 50's. It was truly amazing. Characters
who otherwise might have gone unnamed in my consciousness into eternity, he immortalized
for me. Actors like Gabby Hayes, actors whose nameless faces you instantly recognize
from a hundred stand ins for decades, extras in cowboy movies like "Slim Pickins"
or perennial G.I.'s in war films, he knew all their names. He also knew, by the way,
the names of every U.S. Congressmen and Senator, which put me to shame.
He knew more about the workings of the U.S. Government than I did or ever will...
He also loved the rock stars like Barry White and Sir Elton John... Touss loved the
English language... I helped him learn it in sixth grade in 1962 when he arrived
from Persia speaking not a word... he came to spout many Shakespeare quotes and biblical
quotes like: "The Phillistines are ubiquitous!" He loved Edgar Allen Poe
and could recite by heart: "Helen, thy beauty art to me, like those Nicene barks
of yore, that o'r the perfumed sea, the weary way worn warrior bore to his native
shore... Helen thy beauty art to me like the glory that was Greece and the grandeur
that was Rome... "
The women loved Touss and Kavous too, they were lined up to see them. I was always
like the acidulated intellectual eunuch, the U.N. observer as it were, the critic,
bearing witness to it all like a court historian, a chronicler but always on the
side lines or in the dug out waiting it out. I mean the girls liked me well enough
but I was much more of a monogamist than a polygamist, usually dating only one at
a time. I didn't have the charisma, the animal magnetism, the charm, the looks, the
panache, the style, the aura of wealth and power of these two earnest young men.
I was always at Touss's side, his aide de camp as it
were, and I came to be known by some as his Malijak. We would take vacations together
to Samos, Greece on summer breaks from college. When we parted at holidays' end,
I would often for days afterwards, see an illusion of him talking to me in my own
reflection in the windows of trains or airplanes in the darkness of night. It was
That is all over, long over... 22 years ago now; it died with the revolution, just
one more casualty on the Diaspora's long list. Somehow, somewhere our childhood like
in Peter Pan vanished, our friendship died, fell through a crack in the universe,
a black hole, a twilight zone, a hole in my karma and lives only in my recollections...
I never imagined that could ever happen at the time... I'm not sure how or why such
things happen but as Hafez wrote: "The world is like a whore, it can love you
and give you many gifts and you can love it back, but it will never be true to you
in the end... "
Does this article have spelling or other mistakes? Tell
me to fix it.