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My friend Touss

We created our own planet peopled by our own cast of characters

January 20, 2003
The Iranian

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 these:

"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.

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 eerie.

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... "

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By Brian Appleton






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