What a trip
We talked, we laughed and there was no mention of Pacino
By Peyvand Khorsandi
April 4, 2002
Jahanshah Javid has not seen Scarface. There was me thinking he would
have it on video. It's Saturday March 16 and I've just had a brainwave for tonight's
Iranian.com fundraiser in Berkeley. I need to see Tony Montana. I want to hear his
faux-Spanish accent. But the show's promoter and editor of Iranian.com has no idea
why I might want to impersonate Big Al on stage.
Perhaps, I muse, Pacino's character in that film does not play so important a part
in the Middle-Eastern male psyche after all. Just as well: Montana wanted to sleep
with his sister and killed his best friend for doing so. When he shoots Manolo, boys
are shocked but, somewhere deep in our mindset, we understand it.
I don't venture to ask whether Javid has seen Gheysar, Kimiai's Behrouz Vossoughi
vehicle. It would upset me too much if he hasn't. Gheysar, it is worth noting,
also had a sister thing: he wanted to avenge the rape of his own. Masculinity is
a weird thing.
Two minutes in Javid's car, the make of which is hidden by dust, I'm having an identity
crisis. It's 10:30 in the morning and we're off to a local Farsi radio station to
plug tonight's event. There is a fizzy, denim-clad woman in the back. My friend
Zaid is sitting next to her. It turns out she is an Iranain.com contributor who goes
by the name of Niki Tehranchi.
We are an unlikely bunch, but everyone gets along and San Francisco rolls by until
we reach the university, from where a weekly two-hour radio programme is broadcast.
Tehranchi won't participate in the interview. A 25-year-old attorney from Orange
County who drives to and from LA every day, she is here, like me, to meet Javid and
witness Iranian.com in the flesh.
As I struggle with rusty Farsi, a listener phones in to complain about my pronunciation
of the word "Iranian". She sounds like an older woman and insists it's
"Iraaanian", not "Iraynian". The tune to "I say tomayto,
you say tomaaato" enters my head. We agree to disagree. Seven days later I realise
what I should have said to her: You don't get Americans asking Iranians to say America
instead of "Umrika".
What a [expletive], I tell Javid when we are off air. "That was my aunt,"
he says. But I don't feel embarrassed. There's no need to. That's the thing with
Javid. He understands.
The radio presenters appear to be wrapping up and I notice they haven't announced
the reservations number for the venue. Javid searches his pockets hurriedly. He doesn't
have it. I don't believe it. We have come to publicise the show and he hasn't brought
the number. I like this guy.
We drive to Berkeley for lunch. I apologise to him for having offered someone two
free tickets. "Don't worry, it'll help fill the place up," he says. "How
many bookings have you had?" I ask. "Actually, I haven't phoned the theatre
yet." Great, I think. He is afraid no one will turn up. At least Tehranchi will
be there; she hasn't seen my act. So will Javid himself and perhaps his aunt. My
trip will not have been in vain.
We eat some falafels, humus and stuff for lunch. Javid pays. By this stage we are
both getting edgy. Zaid is helping with outbursts of humour and Tehranchi looks like
a rational human being -- a soothing sight.
Back at base, in Javid's apartment, I get a chance to lie down and go through my
set -- in the very room Iranian.com is produced. I need to snatch something from
the net. "Er, the printer's not working," says Javid. I grab the yellow
duck I've brought him from London and lie down. Through the ceiling-to-floor pane
I see Berkeley upside down. Zaid, who works in marketing, decides to devise a strategy
for Iranian.com and is quizzing Javid about the site. I ask them to be quiet.
Before we leave for the theatre Zaid and I find a ladder which takes us to the top
of Javid's apartment block. There is a magnificent view of the Bay Area and in the
distance, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge. Wow. "Hey guys, where are you?"
shouts Javid from downstairs. He is unaware of the two pot-heads on his roof.
We are backstage at the Julia Morgan Center and it is almost full. Javid and I are
discussing how late we should start - five, ten, fifteen minutes? We settle on ten.
Audience murmur rises. Javid looks petrified. Thanks
to Zaid and Johnny Walker I am reasonably calm. But going on first, I feel people
need a warm-up. "Get everyone to clap," I suggest -- a classic warm-up
device. "When they do," I add, "say 'I didn't hear that!' and ask
them to clap and cheer louder and louder until they're ready to go. Then give me
my cue." Javid stares at me. I might as well have asked him to climb Mount Kilimanjaro,
plant a flag at its summit and sing "I am what I am."
The show rocks. The audience loves Saman and his highly entertaining cartoons and
Elham Jazab has them in stitches with her inventive gags.
Nine days later I am back in a Berkeley restaurant with Jazab, Javid and my last
cheeseburger in the States. I demolish it. Elham, who later takes me to the airport,
has a Caesar salad. I can't remember what Jahanshah ordered. We talked, we laughed
and there was no mention of Pacino.