For Fans, Iranian Pop Star Revives Memories of Lost
Youth and Lost Country
By TARA BAHRAMPOUR
The New York Times
August 27, 2000
UNIONDALE, N.Y., Aug. 26 -- In prerevolutionary Tehran, when the pop
singer Googoosh got a new haircut, her fans rushed out to get one, too.
When she wore a particular style of dress, they'd adopt it as well. And
this weekend, as she stood before many of those fans for the first time
in two decades and broke down in tears, thousands of ecstatic Iranian émigrés
If Googoosh, 50, ever worried that she had been forgotten since 1979,
when Islamic clerics silenced her career, her fears must now be allayed.
About 10,000 fans, some old enough to remember her days as a child star,
others too young even to remember Iran, converged at the Nassau Coliseum
to pay homage to an icon whose life story represents the hopes and disappointments
of so many.
"I was waiting for her for 20 years," said Aldo Zadeh, 40,
as he stood in the balcony. "When I was a kid, her poster was in my
room, on my ceiling, on my walls."
As Googoosh performed, spotlights illuminated a sea of raised arms,
swaying and clapping. They were drawn from the estimated 500,000 to one
million Iranians in the United States, including about 45,000 in the New
York region, many of whom fled their country after the shah of Iran was
deposed in 1979.
"I love you, Googoosh," a voice cried out in English. The
star paused, overwhelmed.
"You're teasing me," she accused the crowd in Farsi. Laughing
wryly at herself, she wiped away tears with one hand, clearly taken aback
by her own emotions.
Googoosh, whose given name is Faegheh Atashnin, rose to superstar status
in the 1970's. Her charisma, beauty, and independence appealed to westernized
middle- and upper-middle-class Iranians. As Americans did with Elvis and
Madonna, they watched her personal life, including several marriages, as
closely as they watched her film and stage career.
When the new regime banned pop music and female vocal performances,
many singers fled to Los Angeles, where a mini-industry of Iranian exiles
sprang up. But Googoosh retired into private life.
For a new generation of fans, her music became a symbol of resistance
to stringent social codes as well as a touchstone for their parents' prerevolutionary
For Parisa Samii, 26, raised in the United States, the Iran she knew
from television had been one of dour clerics and of women wearing tent-like
chadors covering their entire bodies -- until this performance.
"I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of what the Iran my parents
tried to describe to me was like," she said. "The society was
so much more open. I've never seen it that way."
Her mother, Yeganeh Samii, had attended concerts in Iran and collected
all of Googoosh's albums.
"It's very difficult to explain," Mrs. Samii said. "I
feel I'm in shock, I feel very emotional. She shows her emotions, too,
and that connects us together."
Audience members ranged from toddlers to old women with canes. A few
women wore head scarves, testimony to Googoosh's appeal even among less
Her appearance on Long Island was the fourth stop on a North American
tour that marks the first time Googoosh has performed in public since the
Iranian revolution. And the tour sparked speculation amongthe Iranians
about whether she would return to Iran.
Masoud Jamali, Googoosh's promoter at Caspian Entertainment Group, Los
Angeles, said: "We don't know yet if she's going to go back or stay
here. She has more concerts planned for the United States, Europe, Australia
and some Arab countries and plans to keep touring at least until summer
Some among the Iranians here wonder if the fact that Googoosh was allowed
to leave Iran and perform abroad is a sign that the hard-line clerics who
control the government are softening. Maboud Ansari, a sociologist at William
Patterson University in Wayne, N.J., said, "There is a perception
among Iranians that this is another sign of change."
At the concert's end, the audience got another reminder of prerevolutionary
Iran when they spotted Farahnaz Pahlavi, 37-year-old daughter of the deposed
shah. People quickly swarmed Ms. Pahlavi, seeking her autograph, or perhaps
just to touch her.
Asked if the evening held a special meaning for her, Ms. Pahlavi shook
her head. "For all of us it means the same," she said. "It
brings back our home to us."