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Here we are
"Googoosh concert" in Las Vegas

December 30, 2004

I took a trip to Las Vegas during the Christmas weekend. I had bought a couple of tickets on-line for the Googoosh concert. The website of the University of Las Vegas clearly advertised "Googoosh along with Mehrdad" and had pictures of both.

On Saturday my Chinese friend and I got there at 7:15 with the anticipation of the concert to start at 8:00. In the waiting area they announced that Googoosh would sign autographs and people started to queue up. Perhaps 150 people stayed in line patiently and politely hoping to get an autographed picture of Googoosh. But that was just a wishful thinking. People -- mostly women with the latest fashion and make up -- started to make the front of the line bulge like a sperm on an overdose of Viagra, for lack of better words!

Gradually one line became something like six lines. Many were getting signatures and pictures and hugs and kisses and the damn line did not move. Some people yelled at those who were trying to break into the line, but every single one of the violators defended themselves that they were already there and continued signaling their friends with winks and codes to join them at the front of the line.

This reminded me that no matter how much some of us do plastic surgery on our noses and spend hard earned money on liposuction, we are still the same people who rejected a moderately evolving dictatorship and instead accepted the regressive Islamic Republic which took our women under the cover of darkness. Now after more than two decades we are proud that "women in Iran go out in public with revealing hejabs and are not afraid of anything." Well, congratulations on a gradual recovery from regression since 1979. I think we just left the Zand Dynasty -- give or take a few years -- and are entering the Qajar era for a second time. A small step for Iranian women, a huge leap for mankind.

On a recent trip to a Persian music store in Westwood, Los Angeles, I asked the clerk if they had a Persian music CD that would have no vocals and no tonbak, just a solo tar or seh-tar. The store owner was wondering why. My excuse was that I just want to listen to tar and not to be constantly disturbed by the damn noise of the tonbak.

"Sir, you should listen to some of the new music from Iran. It will change your mind. Do you believe I have CDs here from Iran with voices of women?"

Listening to that statement I realized I was beating the wrong drum. I excused myself and instead of getting a CD I went to a bookstore and got a book on Iranian plant names by V. Mozaffarian -- a far better purchase than investing in a CD just because a female singer recorded it in Iran! Unbelievable progress.

Back in Las Vegas, Googoosh was advised to stop signing autographs after 45 minutes and the long line disintegrated. I can suggest to the organizers of these concerts to do what shop owners did during the dark days of the so-called Revolution in Tehran. Those days if you wanted to buy kerosene you would take your empty container to the shop and pass a rope through the handle. Sometimes the line of empty containers connected by the rope would extend hundreds of yards. Sometimes it would take 10 to 12 hours for the kerosene tanker to arrive at the store but this system kept the cheaters (99% of the population) in check. You could go and do other chores, get a kidney implant, fill a tooth cavity or get a divorce and then come back and your container was still in the queue smiling at you. Perhaps they should implement this umbilical chord system for concert goers too.

I was still very optimistic that it would be a great concert since after all it was Googoosh. It was no less than 9:15 when people started whistling, yelling and tapping their feet like Cherokee Indians demanding for the music to start. At around 9:30 a group of dancers performed a very disorganized routine with third-rate Kurdish music blasting from the stereo system. It was torture anyway you put it.

I thought the dancers would soon give up but that was another wishful thinking. They kept coming back with awkward rhythms that were neither Persian nor Turkish. It was as if a group of Mojahedin fighters had come up with the dance theme during their exile in Iraq. Hands were thrown in the air haphazardly and legs were raised with no places to go. It certainly appeared that there was something very wrong going on.

Finally the guest singer Mehrdad came on stage and broke the bad news that Googoosh will not sing! "Damn!" I said in Chinese to my friend who does not speak any Persian. She was just having a good time being confused about the whole thing. I asked a man in front of us what's going on. He said, "Don't you watch Persian TV stations?" Googoosh, he explained, has been served with a court order not to sing on stage because her former promoter has accused her of breaching their contract.

I then realized how ignorant and lost I was. Instead of watching CNN and local channels, or going to websites that sold these tickets, I should have sought the truth only on Iranian TV stations. I should have bought that satellite TV dish. But my logic was: why pay for depression when you can get it for free from the mainstream media?

Meanwhile Mehrdad gave us the good news that at least Googoosh would come to the concert hall. And indeed she did, with her entourage, and sat in the front row. They showed glimpses of her on the two large screens on each side of the stage.

So you think this was the end of our torture? No way. All of a sudden everybody who had a $35 ticket decided to go to the $150 area and fill out the empty seats. They started a stampede reminiscent of days when mobs attacked houses in north Tehran for a better life under the Islamic Republic. When the expensive seats were all occupied, you wouldn't dare get up and go to the restroom, or else you would come back and an ugly fat lady had taken your seat and acted as if she was born there. So, we decided to control homicidal urges caused by noise pollution, bladder pain, disappointment that Googoosh was not going to sing, Bush's re-election and ...

Mehrdad, trying to mend the feeling of disappointment by the public, started waving his hands and deliver slogans: "They didn't let her sing THERE and they are not letting her sing HERE either," he said. "But you are the true heroes, I love you! You are the ones who stood up!" Upon hearing those words I started to get worried and wondering if this was a concert or the Mojahedin Khalgh convention? Mehrdad gave us miserable losers the feeling of being heroes of lost Arian tribes in the West buying tickets to support no-show artists.

I was going to say: "Hey man this is Christmas, we are just here to listen to some songs and go back to our hotel, what's with the slogans?" But that would have threatened our unity and made me an outcast among women who mostly done plastic surgery on their former fat noses! If you are contemplating plastic surgery just go to an Iranian concert and you see it all from head to toe.

Another issue that makes you wonder is why can't we say "I love you" in Persian and we always say it in English? Mehrdad kept switching from Persian to English, only to say "I love you". I suppose if you say it in Persian they might think you are a homosexual.

So Mehrdad kept singing these songs that mostly sounded the same and were somewhat anti-Islamic regime tone. And despite the clapping and attempts to make it a happy occasion it was quite a somber and subdued atmosphere.

Persian unity is fine, but damn it don't ask me for unity when I am there just to listen to a few songs and watch a concert. We need to stop bullshitting each other as a group and cease pretending. Close to 30 years has passed since the fall of the last regime and we are still shedding crocodile tears for days gone by. Do we have to turn every gathering into a scene of Persian Unity against the Islamic Regime? No, we don't have to.

And where were the organizers of the concert to try to kiss the audience's ass to justify the fact that they f...ed-up and illegally sold tickets while aware that Googoosh would not be able to sing. They should have offered a refund and not let that poor women go through another embarrassment. But then again we were the heroes! We were there to say no matter what shit you feed us we will put up with it because we love Googoosh. Just like we told the British to do whatever they want to our nation and heritage as long as you give us an Islamic Regime! And here we are.

After Mehrdad decided to take a break, the dreaded dancers came back with legs being thrown in the air in all the wrong directions. Finally a young Armenian singer came and sang a couple of songs. He had a good operatic voice but he was dressed as if he just closed his shop at Jiffy Lube and rushed to do a performance. It was at the arrival of this novice singer that Googoosh excused herself and went behind the stage. I figured if Googoosh can't stand him neither should we. When we got up and left, my date asked me what had happened and I didn't know how to explain. I just told her the most common phrase in Chinese that let's you get by in tight situations: Kumpa Chicken! I think she realized there was something severely wrong. And then we laughed and our taxi drove away.

Despite all the negative experience with the organization of the concert, my sentiment is this. Each of us could be guilty of cheating and trying to take advantage of opportunities. We destroy our artists and poets, writers and all of those who need to be protected by their earned copyrights. Googoosh for all practical reasons should be a multimillionaire by now, but we all know that she is not, and that is sad.

That tells us, how on one hand we cry loud "Googoosh we love you" but on the other we cheat in a simple waiting line for autographs. We lie through our teeth and buy illegal videos and CDs because we need to have every pleasure at the expense of artists like Googoosh. Given the opportunity, many other organizers are willing to take advantage of a good-hearted woman like Googoosh who has been in the art scene for more than 50 years. She has well-earned the title, Iranian Diva. We owe her a lot more than we think.

If there was one thing that made part of my evening so bright and so rewarding was to be able to take a few glances at her beautiful face. And no doubt many of you share the same feeling towards her. But it's so regretful that as a nation and a culture in exile we are not taking care of our artists like her.

Salute to Googoosh and also thanks to Mehrdad for trying to make up for the organizers' shortcomings.

Farrokh A. Ashtiani is the founder of

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