Cher the Armenian - Armenian Reporter

Cher the Armenian - Armenian Reporter

Shushan Avagyan is a doctoral studentin English and comparative literature atIllinois State University. She has translateda volume of poetry by ShushanikKurghinian and a book on plot by ViktorShklovsky.Micheline AharonianMarcom. Draining theSea. Riverhead Books,March 2008. 339 pp.Post, and won Columbia University’sAnahid Literary Award. Hersecond novel, The DaydreamingBoy, won a 2005 PEN USA LiteraryAward for fiction and got Marcomthe prestigious Lannan LiteraryFellowship in 2004 and the WhitingWriters’ Award in 2006. NowMarcom concludes her remarkabletriptych with her most brilliant,complex, and daring work yet.In Draining the Sea, Marcomconstructs a bizarre relationshipbetween an American man, theprogeny of Genocide survivors,and Marta, a young Guatemalanwoman whose terrible fateis somehow connected to thenarrator’s nightmarish existence.Racked by memories and visionsof the Guatemalan civil war, theviolent death of Mayan people,and in particular of Marta, theunnamed man spends his nightsdriving the streets of Los Angelesand “essays himself from ether.”The narrator, who seems to be involvedin her treacherous death, isat the same time claiming to beher faithful lover. In an unconsciousattempt to redeem himself,he methodically collects animalcarcasses from the roadside andburies them in his garden.With Draining the Sea, Marcomcontinues her quest to trace theeffects of genocide over the courseof three generations and nearly acentury, but unlike her previoustwo novels, this book is set inthe Americas and follows one ofthe darkest episodes of modernhistory. In her distinctive voicethat brilliantly represents thebleak and hallucinatory world ofher characters, the story unfoldsthrough the “unhistories” of humanity,reaching us as thoughfrom an underworld of torture.The memories that are slowly deterioratingthe narrator’s sanity anddriving him to madness includeuninvited images of lynchings ofIxil peasants, rape camps in GuatemalaCity, and a “bone-boy”–thebone collector in Der Zor.Marcom’s language stylisticallyreenacts trauma through nonlinearity,disassociation, compulsiverepetition, and negation:“This is an essay against Progress(it is not a progressive story),this essay does not do it, but likethe maze of days of thoughts ofmemories and notmemories, likethe phrases which tumbled willynillyfrom a mother’s mouth, oran invocation, a song; – repeatthemselves endlessly, withoutform or with it?” The narrator’slanguage is deliberately brokendown, it often doesn’t make anysense. Words that become inadequateare reformulated in newforms to express the inexpressible:“We say (he must have donesomething to deserve his fate): it’ssordid to name such things, dirtyand indecorous: don’t put thesesentences on the page: the deaddo not approve of such things;the dead hurtle in, gather round,. . . and essay him back into theman he might have been.”To answer an old question posedby Hovig Tchalian in his analysisof Marcom’s fiction: “Why? Whywrite a novel that reads like thediary of a madman?” and in responseto Ara Oshagan’s quasidefensiveremark that “for somebooks, the writing is done for thewriting, not for the reading,” I willsimply quote another poignantline from Draining the Sea:“This unreadable and unreadbook (will you read it, Reader?Do you?)”It is easy to dismiss a book forits difficulty, but Marcom’s workis too astute and too important– both artistically and historically– to be so easily written off. Drainingthe Sea, with its unflinchinggaze into the infinitely deep andcontradictory realities of humanexperience, is a masterpiece thatputs Micheline Aharonian Marcomnext to such great Americannovelists as William Faulkner andToni Morrison.fTour Cities and Dates forDRAINING THE SEAbyMICHELINE MARCOMCover of MichelineMarcom’s Drainingthe Sea.Seattle Friday, March 14 Elliott Bay Bookstore 7:30 P.M.Los Angeles Tuesday, March 18 Dutton’s/Brentwood 7:00 P.M.San Diego Wednesday, March 19 Warwick’s 7:30 P.M.San Francisco Monday, March 24 Cody’s 7:00 P.M.Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C3

Cher the ArmenianPaul Chaderjian.Frank dialogue withone of the brighteststars in entertainmentThe secrets of hersuccess, her visitto Armenia, herchildhood, and hernew gigby Paul ChaderjianlegendBEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Sevennights before the giant presses inGardena, California, or Westwood,New Jersey, printed these blackletters on the paper that is in yourhands now, the writer of this articlehad writer’s block.After all, how does one come upwith the perfect opening sentenceof an Armenian Reporter coverstory about Cher, a modern-daylegend?She’s a superstar with more thanfour decades of staying power. Shehas sold more than 100 millionalbums and is an Oscar, Emmy,Grammy, and Golden Globe–winningperformer. She has starredin movies and on television andhas directed; she has been knownfor her tastes in fashion and men.Her life and her loves have beenchronicled by media around theworld. And now, entering hersixth decade of life, she is makinga comeback with a 60-million-dollarpaycheck.Cher. One name. One word.Thousands of looks. Scantily-clad,Bob Mackie-wearing sex symbolwith billions of fans. Cher. One ofa handful of one-name stars thatThe ever-changing stylish look that has launched posters, television shows, 100 millionalbums and concerts around the world. Cher told the Reporter she still has her originalArmenian black hair under the various wigs she wears.Photo: Michael Lavine.C4 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008

ple I’ve ever met,” wrote Rick, alsothe day after our interviews withCher. He was in L.A. from Torontoto cover the Grammy Awards onSunday, February 10. “She’s hadsuccess in this industry for overfour decades and continues toshine brighter with each passingday.”Rick’s appointment was at 6:00P.M., but he wasn’t invited into thePresidential Suite until 8:45 P.M.During the two-and-a-half-hourwait for our turn, our camera operatorshad taken a few minutesto go outside and smoke a cigaretteand had run into Cher. Justwhen we all thought they weren’tgoing to see the superstar, Cherhad taken a break and come out ofthe Presidential Suite at the samemoment as our camera folks, andthey had seen her after all.Sometimes things just work outthat way.Upon their return to the holdingroom, they recounted the story ofrunning into Cher and her largerthan-lifeand very intimidatingbodyguard. The rumor amongthose waiting for interviews wasthat Cher was going down to herown room one floor below andchanging her outfit every fifteenminutes.The InterviewWith much kindness throughoutthe night, Cher’s manager Lindsay,her publicist Angela, her Colosseumshow producer, AEG’s publicityrepresentatives, and evenmembers of Cher’s television productioncrew would come to theholding room and apologize forthe delays, something which wasnot even necessary or warranted.Most of us would have waited allday to get our interview. After all,thousands had waited in line fora chance to buy tickets for Cher’sFarewell Tour just a few years ago.Of course we would wait to talkto Cher; and when it was time, wewere ready.After all the introductions,handshakes, and greetings, whilewe were getting ready for theinterview, I asked Cher if it wastrue that she had gone to my almamater, Fresno High School. “No,”she said, “I only went to grammarschool in Fresno.” That dialoguewould be the start of our 15-minuteinterview, which ended up beinga 45-minute dialogue.What was running through mymind is how often I am surprisedby how different stars look in person.Most don’t have the presenceor charisma you’d expect them tohave; others don’t even look likethe people we watch on the bigscreens at the movies or on thesmall screens of television.Madonna is said to be tinierthat you would expect. When Imet Barbra Streisand in 1984, Iwas surprised by how fragile andwaifish she looked. Incidentally,only Cher and Streisand have hadnumber-one music hits and wonan Oscar.While Streisand looked fragile,weak, and less than charismatic inreal life, not Cher. Here was thiswoman, who commanded not justthe biggest concert venues in theworld, but this very room.Cher looked just like one wouldexpect her to look. She lookednot just good, but great. She wasbeaming with an aura that madeyou feel at home. She was kind,courteous, and so unbelievablypersonable.I had seen her on concert in Fresno’sSelland Arena in 2003 on herFarewell Tour; but up close, shelooked just as you would expecther to look. Cameras and lightingweren’t what made her endearing,charismatic, attractive, sexy, interesting,and bigger than life; shesimply was all that in real life.Garabed SarkisianCher’s father Garabed Sarkisianwas an immigrant whoseparents had survived the Genocide.He was a farmer, sometimesa truck driver, and a man Chercalls “charismatic, a little shadylike a bad boy.”“I liked him a lot,” she says, “buthe’d been in prison.” Cher, whoseparents divorced when she wastwo, says she didn’t know her fatheruntil she was 11. She says shelooks just like her father.“When I was really little, I hadthis crush on an actor named VictorMature,” says Cher. “I was reallylittle, and he was really old.When I was a teenager, I watchedhim on the first TV set that wehad. And my mom used to lookat me, and I used to think, ‘Oh,he’s so handsome.’ Then I met myfather and he looked exactly likeVictor Mature; and I realized thatwas the draw. “Cher remembers meeting herfather for the first time at age 11.Her mother, Jackie Jean Crouch,was an aspiring actress and modelfrom Arkansas. She was partCherokee Indian, part English,German, and Irish. Jackie reunitedwith Garabed when Cher was 11and then they divorced again.“I don’t really look like anyone inmy family, except my great grandmotherand my father,” says Cher.“When I was young, every once ina while, my mother would look atme with the strangest look on herface; and then when I saw my father,I realized why. Because wemade the same faces, and I’d neverseen him. And when I saw him, Irealized why.”“Believe” releasedand recordedin 1998, peakedat number onein 23 countriesworldwide. Onthe week endingMarch 13, 1999,it reachednumber one inthe Billboard Hot100, making Cherthe oldest femaleartist (at the ageof 52) to performthis feat. It alsowas ranked asthe number-onesong of 1999 byBillboard, andbecame thebiggest single inher entire career.Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C7

“My grandmother taughtme how to make sarma,kufta, and all kinds ofthings.”Cher visitingan Armenianhome to see howcitizens werecoping during therepublic’s infancy.Photo: UAF.After her parent’s reunion, thefamily would often visit her father’srelatives in Fresno. “All ofmy relatives were living there, inFresno. A huge family, and mygreat grandmother never learnedto speak English. My grandmotherspoke English, but she calledwomen ‘He.’ She got [English]a little bit, but she didn’t get itgreat. But they were great. Theywere really happy to see me, andmy grandmother taught me howto make sarma, kufta, and allkinds of things. I really enjoy andlove the food. Armenian food isbrilliant.”After her parents’ second breakup,Cher would see her father onlyoccasionally until she left schoolCher’s beauty secretCher credits her good looks to the genes sheinherited from her father and mother. “On theArmenian side of my family, my great grandmotherlived over a hundred. On my Americanside, we’re celebrating my grandmother’s 95birthday. And up until about seven years ago, mygrandmother went to the gym three days a week.My mother is 80, and she looks 50. So, I thinkfrom both side of my family, I’ve got great genes.The Armenians in my family are beautiful on myfather’s side, and my mother’s side, the womenare very beautiful, strong and tough.”to pursue acting in Hollywood atage 16. Dyslexia had always been achallenge to overcome, so the starstruckteenager enrolled in actingclasses. At 17 she would meetSonny Bono, who would foreverchange her life.“Then my father came out onthe road,” Cher continues. “WhenSonny and I became famous, myfather came out on the road withus. And then we kind of becameestranged. And then he went upnorth of Santa Barbara and waswith this lady named Lee Romney;and till he died, they bredfine Arabian horses.”After an on-again and off-againrelationship with her father, Cherwould finally reconcile with GarabedSarkisian on his death bedat Fresno Community Hospital in1985, when he died from cancer.Blockbuster careerSince there already are thousandsof articles about Cher throughsearch engines, Lexus-Nexus, andat your local library, I’ll spare youthe details of a brilliant career thatArmenian Reporter readers have alreadybeen an audience to. Therewere nine copies of Cher’s autobiographyand a bunch of other biographiesstill in stock on Amazonwhen I was writing this sentence,but I’ll give you the minute-longCliffsNotes.Take a deep breath....Starstruck teenager meets28-year-old Sonny in 1963, getsthrown out of her Hollywoodapartment, moves in with Sonny,and shares his twin bed. MotherJackie threatens to have Sonnyjailed, Cher returns home, Sonnyasks her to sing background vocalsfor Phil Spector, but she isafraid to sing solos. Sonny andCher record duets and call themselvesCaesar and Cleo, get married,and record “I Got You Babe”in 1965. Record is an instant hitin the United Kingdom, knockingthe Beatles off the top of thecharts. Song hits number one inthe United States. More songs,more hits. The couple makes twodisastrous films, daughter Chastityis born in 1969, and the IRScomes after them for a quartermilliondollars in taxes. Stardombegins to fade, the couple singin small lounges to keep Chastityfed, Cher talks back at hecklers,the back-and-forth shtick translatesinto a hit TV show in 1971,and more hits top the charts, including“Half Breed” and “Gypsies,Tramps, and Thieves.” Sonnycheats, Cher files for divorce,the couple’s TV show comes toa crashing end. Cher tries a soloTV show, marries Greg Allman,her show is axed, as is Sonny’ssolo TV show. Cher gives birthto her son Elijah Blue in 1976and divorces Allman in 1977. Shegoes to New York to study actingand the Strasberg Method, landsa role in Robert Altman’s ComeBack to the Five and Dime, JimmyDean, Jimmy Dean, wins GoldenGlobe and is nominated forC8 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008

an Oscar for her role as MerylStreep’s roommate in Silkwood.[Insert rumor here about Chernot liking her nose on the bigscreen and starting her numerousrumored visits to cosmeticsurgeons.]Taking a second breath, andwe continue with part two of ourCher’s life in two grafs....Stars in Mask and wins moreawards, releases self-titled albumin 1986, and hits the top-tenIn her own words:Cher’s fearsMusic and art reflect thepeople of the time. Let’s takemy mother’s generation duringWorld War II. It was hard,and people were called uponto sacrifice their lives, sacrificetheir homes. There weregreat sacrifices made, becausewe were in the war, and everybodysacrificed. Peoplehad more ethics. People weremore caring. People didn’tknow about their next iPhoneor iPod or Xbox. Today, we’recreating a very weak bunch ofkids. And I don’t think it’s goingto serve us well, becausethey don’t have the character.Because character is usuallymade by hard work orsacrifice or all the things youneed to build character. Soat the same time that we’vegot all these kids playing withXboxes, we’ve got our soldiersoverseas having to face thingsthat are horrible that we don’teven think about. We can’teven imagine the pain thatthey’re seeing. So it’s a verysegmented relationship that’sgoing on in this country. It’svery hard to figure out whichway this country is going to go- if we’re going to get back anyof our standards or if we’regoing to go off and melt intooblivion.charts with “I Found Someone”and “We All Sleep Alone.” Startsdating 22-year-old Rob Camillettiat age 40, stars in Witchesof Eastwick and Suspect, and winsBest Actress Oscar for Moonstruck.Surprises the industry with tophits in 1988, selling millions ofalbums featuring the songs “If ICould Turn Back Time” and “JustLike Jesse James.” Sonny joins herfor a rare David Letterman Showperformance of “I Got You Babe,”she stars in Mermaids, and makescameos in Altman’s The Player in1992 and Ready to Wear in 1994.Makes a trip to Armenia with internationalmedia in tow, takingher boyfriend Rob with her. Shedirects the daring If These WallsCould Talk for HBO in 1996 anddelivers Sonny Bono’s eulogy in1998. Releases her biggest hit todate, “Believe,” and hits numberone again, performs at the SuperBowl, wins the honor of being themost successful single by a femaleperformer to date, stars in FrancoZeffirelli’s Tea With Mussolini in1999, releases another top-10 hitalbum, Living Proof, in 2002, andgoes on her Farewell Tour from2002 to 2005, grossing an unprecedented$200 million.Exhale.Fourteen hours before our interviewwith Cher, she tells ABC’sCynthia McFadden on GoodMorning America that one of thereasons she wants to work againis because it helps her battle depression.“Work helps me a lot,” Cher tellsABC News. “I enjoy the work, butthe work keeps you moving as well.It just keeps you moving. It keepsyou around people. You don’t geta chance to go, ‘Oh, what’s lifeabout? You’re just doing something.You’re being productive.”Armenia, Being ArmenianIt’s past nine on a Thursday night,and our interview will be last oneof the day for Cher. Her productionteam and publicists are tired,Cher’s been talking all day, butperhaps the toughest questionsof the day about identity, her Armenianexperience, and her relationshipwith her father are stillahead.“Growing up, everyone in myfamily was light, blond, green eyes,except me,” she said. “So when Iwent to Armenia, and I turnedaround and thought everybodylooks like me here.”The 1993 journey to the newlyindependent republic was partcharity and part public relations.Armenia was landlocked, theKarabakh Liberation War was underway,and Armenia couldn’t get12 seconds on the evening news.“Cher called Kirk Kerkoian outof the blue and said she wanted togo to Armenia,” says Harut Sassounian,vice chair of Kerkorian’sLincy Foundation, president ofthe United Armenia Fund, andpublisher of the California Courier.“Kirk referred her call to me, and Imade all the arrangements for hertrip and her schedule in Armenia.”Cher lightinga candle atEtchmiadzin.Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C9

Cher outside theHotel Armenia(now ArmeniaMarriott Hotel).Cher reports thatcandles were soscarce then thatthe floor ladieswould not giveher more thantwo candles a day,which she used toput on her makeup.The guestswere only allowedone blanket each,and Cher saysshe was forcedto huddle withher bodyguardturned-boyfriendRob Camillettiand best friendPaulette Bettsto keep warmat nights at theHotel. Photos:Photolure.Mr. Sassounian quickly arrangedto take Cher and a groupof journalists from internationalmedia organizations. He says hismission was “to maximize forArmenia the benefit of her trip.”Mr. Sassounian traveled to Armeniawith Cher and was her guideand media liaison for journalists,including a reporter from thepopular People magazine, whichpublished an eight-page spread onCher’s trip.“When we went there, it was reallypoor,” Cher remembers. “Peoplewere having a really hard time.And what we found that peoplewere so generous. They would taketheir month’s rations and make uspies or a cake and tea.”The superstar, who had and hasall the luxuries and comforts theworld can provide, found herselfon a DC-8 cargo ship, trying toland in a city that was trying tosurvive with only a few hours ofelectricity per day.“We had to bring our own food,”she says. “We came in one of thosebig airplanes that has no seating,and we were bringing emergencymedical supplies. We were bringingbaby food. We were bringingall kinds of things in this hugetransport, and I was positivewe were going to die, because itwas such a rickety old plane; andthey’d bolted these little seats inthe back for us and given us a canisterof oxygen. We had press withus as well, and we had to get intoYerevan before the lights went out.Because there were no lights onthe runway, and we landed rightwhen the sun went down and thelights went out.”What Cher saw in her ancestralhomeland was nothing less thanshocking. She says Yerevan wasbarren, trees had been cut down,roads were impassible, and roadcrews were working without theIn her own words: American soldiersI’ve visited the soldiers serving inthis war many, many times. I’vegone to Walter Reed. I’ve gone toBethesda several times. I went toGermany to be with the men andthe women who were injured. Ialso spent a lot of time with thedoctors. USO asked me if I wouldask time with the doctors and thenurses, especially. So, these menand women, the boys and theyoung women, I just saw unbelievableconviction and unbelievabledepth and unbelievable suffering– more suffering that I can evenproper equipment. Men would tryto fix equipment and machineswithout the proper tools or parts,and women would try to roastfood on drums and barrels turnedinto makeshift barbeque pits.“Everywhere I went, I saw poorpeople with great dignity,” saysCher. “I’ve never seen that in mylife. I’ve never seen people dealingwith such poverty, but still lookinggreat.”Cher remembers entering arandom coffee shop, where theshopkeepers had neither coffee toserve nor tea they could offer.remember from Vietnam. I alsosaw unbelievable suffering fromthe doctors and the nurses. Andwe’re having such a hard time, andthat’s why they asked me to spendmy extra days with the doctorsand the nurses, because they neversee anybody get well. They getthese broken guys, and they getthem well enough to travel, andthe soldiers go on to other hospitals,but the doctors never see thesoldiers get well. They just seemthem broken, and they send themon, so they get very depressed.C10 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008

Whether herhair is blue,black, blond, orplatinum, herpenetration andsoulful Armenianeyes were what sether apart as anindividual whilegrowing up. Whileorganizing hertrip to Armenia,Cher demandedthat she be flownto Ankara, so thatshe would demandthat the blockadebe lifted.“All the men were in there,” shesays. “Some of the men were playingchess, but they didn’t have anycoffee and they didn’t have anytea. But they were just in there.They were playing their chess.They were talking. They were alldressed properly, maybe a little bitof tatters but so dignified. And itwas the first time I thought, I’man Armenian, I’m proud.”Refugees from AzerbaijanCher recalls visiting a large room,where masses of Armenian refugeesfrom Azerbaijan were huddledtogether.“It was like a big dormitory, a bigbuilding,” she says, “but they werepartitioning themselves withblankets, and that’s what they had.They kept saying, ‘Please go backto America and tell them what’shappening.’ And I kept thinking,‘Oh my God. If I went to America,nobody would care.’ And that wasa hard thing.”In America, after Cher’s trip, themedia did care – if only for onenews cycle. ABC’s 20/20 broadcasta report about Cher’s visit and theplight of her people. Newspapersand news services chronicled herjourney and shed light on thestruggles of the landlocked republicwith economic and energyblockades and unrest on its borderwith Azerbaijan.“Her trip was reported in hundredsof newspapers and magazinesaround the world,” says Mr.Sassounian. “I wanted to publicizeworldwide Armenia’s plight backthen through the media and gaininternational exposure and sympathyto Armenia’s many, manyneeds, both economic and political.I wanted to show Cher thehardships that the Armenian peoplewere living under.”One of the stops Cher madein Armenia was at an orphanage,where she handed out Barbie dollsand recalled the six months shehad been placed in an orphanageby her mother when she was two.People magazine reported that Cherhugged each of the kids and saidwhen she was growing up she hatedBarbie and considered the dolla blond bimbo, but realized at theorphanage that the doll was useful,because it brought smiles to kidswho had never had a new toy.“The kids were so adorable,”says Cher, sitting on the 16thfloor of the Four Seasons Hotelin Beverly Hills. “They’d beenthrough so much. But they werelike any other children. I knowthat there was a lot of emotionaldistress, and they’d beenthrough a lot; but we were there.We were just playing, havingcake and whatever they liked. Itwas a big party, and they had agood time.”Among Cher’s stops on whatPeople magazine called “an emotionallycharged” trip was a stopat Yerevan State University,where she told the students shedidn’t know why she had cometo Armenia. People magazinereporter Susan Cheever wrotethat in front of the crowd, Chergrasped her mission and was asparkle of hope for the studentsand the nation.“Most Americans have no ideayou are here,” Cheever reports Chertelling the university students.“The most important thing I can doArmenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C11

Cher gave eachorphan a hugand a Barbie doll,saying that shehated the blonddoll when shewas a youngster.Photo: UnitedArmenia take a picture back to America sothey can see what it’s like.”The letter from YerevanThe May 17, 1993, article in Peoplemagazine – which has featuredCher on its cover more than adozen times over the past four decades– also reported how Cher’strip to Armenia had come about.Cheever wrote that the familyof a partially paralyzed three-yearoldwrote the superstar askingfor her help. People reported Chersaid it was a miracle that the letterhad reached her, so she made arrangementsto visit the family andfigure out how to get the threeyear-oldto the United States forproper treatment.“She was deeply touched by thetrip,” says Mr. Sassounian. “Itbrought her closer to her Armenianheritage and roots. She hada lot of personal stories about hertrip to Armenia. When she wroteher autobiography, she included awhole chapter in the book abouther visit to Armenia.”Cher finishes up her stories ofArmenia during our interviewby summarizing what she tookaway from the trip. She makes herpoint by remembering a couple ofmathematicians and road crewsshe talked with in Yerevan.“The mathematicians were livingin this horrible kind of placethat looked like a prison, but itwas an apartment building,” sheremembers. “They were just sosweet, and they took all of theirmoney and made us this fabulousmeal. When we were there, we’dsee people with no equipment tryingto fix the roads, people withnothing trying to fix everything,trying to do what they could. Butthey had a great spirit. That’s whatI took away from it. That’s what Itake away from Armenia.”We ask her if she has everthought about returning to Yerevan,and she lights up and askswhether there are safe airlinersthat fly to Armenia. She thenchanges from the interviewee tothe interviewer and asks whetherYerevan has changed from whatshe saw. Lusine invites her to Yerevanand promises to be her hostif Cher decides to come.“I would love to see it,” she says,“because I saw people without anythingstill being great. Withoutany luxuries, without even the basicnecessities, they still had thisstrength and charm. Very cosmopolitan.French. With nothing, butstill great. Ladies with handbagswalking down the street. So yeah,I would really like to see what hashappened to it. Because when Isaw it, it was in deep distress. Itwas in deep distress.”The other reportersBack when we were waiting, ArmeniaTV’s Lusine Shahbazyanlooked out west toward the oceanand at the nighttime lights of BeverlyHills, the high-rises of CenturyCity and beyond. PhotographerArman took pictures from holdingroom balcony. The CNN producerput her shoes back on when it washer turn, and Angela brought in atray with ice water and tall, clearcups.Angela’s from New York, Rickis from Toronto, Lusine is fromYerevan, and Nyree is from Pasadena.But all had at least one thingin common – their desire to interviewCher.“It struck me as I was walkingdown the hall of the plush FourSeasons towards the hotel suitewhere I was to meet Cher, that shewas soon going to be the biggeststar – to this date and arguablyfor the rest of my career – that Iwould ever have the opportunityto interview,” said broadcast journalistMichelle Emard, who was atthe hotel representing Reuters.“I reminisced about watchingThe Sonny and Cher Show with myparents when I was very young,”writes Michelle in response to myinquiry. “Her ascorbic wit mademe laugh, and I admired her exoticlook and unique style. I loved Cherin Moonstruck (she is a phenomenalactress) and Mermaids. Nobodyelse could have played thoseparts to such perfection.”Michelle, a seasoned journalistwho has traveled to more thantwo dozen countries, says shecried when she saw Cher reunitewith Sonny on the David Lettermanshow to sing “I Got You Babe.”She says Cher’s eulogy for Sonny adecade later also made her cry.Most celebrities seem to havemore ego than talent and behaveaccordingly, says Michelle. “Again,Cher distinguishes herself in thisC12 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008

egard. She is straightforward, yetunassuming. And, underneath it all,she is the same little girl who wastoo shy to dial the ‘operator’ to get atelephone number for her mother.”Perseverance and starpowerCher’s incredible and unique voiceis at the core of her success. Herability to belt out songs withstrength and drama, and her keensense of what to sing and whenhave been the ingredients to herformula of success; but what advicedoes she have for others?“You pick a direction and nevergive up,” says Cher. “Any directionthat you pick, anywhere you go,there are certain difficulties. Thedirection that I chose has a certainamount of difficulties too. You justface different problems, and youkeep going. I think it’s the samewith anything – just never give up.”And she never has.During the years when she wasa single mother, barely getting by;during the years she and Sonnyowed the IRS; when she workedas a lounge singer and was beingheckled; and when she hosted infomercialsto make a living, Chernever gave up.“When you’re doing well, everythingseems easy, and this is fabulous,”she says. “Then around thecorner, there’s something that canbe really challenging. That’s thedifference between people who attaintheir goals and people whodon’t. No matter what happens,you just don’t give up on what youwant. I don’t mean that in a materialor any thing, I mean it more ina substantive sense that you don’tgive up your dreams at any cost.You just go for it.”You can enjoy Cher againStarting May 6, Cher will shineonce again at Caesars Palace for90-minute concerts, four times aweek. Tickets are on sale throughTicketmaster and sell from $90,$140, $175, and $250. The performanceson Tuesdays, Wednesdays,Saturdays, and Sundays will runthrough August 31.“The Colosseum is a beautifulconcert hall, where Celine Dionhas been playing,” says Cher towardthe end of our interview. “I’mgoing to open there and play theretwice a year, in the spring and thefall. That’s my new project.”The 4,300-seat Colosseum isbeing fitted with state-of-the-artlighting, and show producerspromise an impressive spectacle.Bob Mackie is creating the costumesand state-of-the-art lightingand special effects will complementCher’s chart-topping hits.“I started in Vegas at Caesars,”says Cher, “so I’ve come full circle.I’m back and I plan to give my fansthe best experience yet. I think everybodyknows I only do things ina big way.”We certainly do.fconnect:cher.aeglive.comcher.com866-510-CHERCher is part diva,part gay icon, partsuperstar, partrebel, and theonly star that haschanged her looksas frequentlyas the Reporterchanges Arts andCulture covers.Photo: MichaelLavine.Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C13

“The Great Uppression” ofthe ’30sAram KouyoumdjianSecond in a MonthlySeriesby Aram KouyoumdjiansaroyanLast month, when I began thisyear-long series of articles on WilliamSaroyan’s theatrical legacy tomark the centennial of his birthday,I opted for one of his laterplays, Armenians, as my startingpoint. My choice was a symbolicone, given that Armenians is alittle known piece with virtuallyno production history. It is notamong the body of work that establishedSaroyan’s reputation asa playwright in the late 1930s andearly 1940s.The prolific Saroyan is believedto have written over 200 plays inhis lifetime, although many ofthem remain unpublished. Still,he attained his earliest successnot for his plays, but for his shortstories – especially, “The DaringYoung Man on the Flying Trapeze,”which appeared in 1934 and madeSaroyan an immediate sensation.As Saroyan has told it, “the firstwork for the theatre” that he wrote“after becoming a published writer”was Subway Circus. In a prefaceto that work, Saroyan amusinglyrecalls the circumstances in whichSubway Circus was written:I was in New York in May,1935. One day The New YorkTimes said I had written aplay or was going to writeone. I had bought a ticketfor Europe. The boat wasAram Kouyoumdjian is the winner of EllyAwards for both playwriting (The Farewells)and directing (Three Hotels). Hislatest work is Velvet Revolution.Maryanne Mayberry and Jeff Perry in Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s stunningrevival of “The Time of Your Life,” which played in Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco(pictured).sailing in five days. I hadnot written a play. But itseemed to me that therewas enough time beforethe sailing of the boat towrite one. Nobody wantsto make a liar of The NewYork Times. Before the boatsailed, Subway Circus waswritten. Once again TheNew York Times had printednews fit to print. I calledSubway Circus a play. It isprobably no such thing. Itis very likely a theatrical entertainmentof some sort.Theatrical success for Saroyancame in 1939, when two of his bestknown plays, The Time of Your Lifeand My Heart’s in the Highlands,played on Broadway. The Timeof Your Life, which featured GeneKelly and Celeste Holm in its originalcast, played 185 performancesand went on to win the PulitzerPrize (which Saroyan declined)and the New York Drama CriticsCircle Award – the first play tobe so doubly honored (the TonyAwards being several years awayfrom their debut).The Time of Your Life is set inNick’s Saloon and unfolds over thecourse of a single day. The looselyplottedplay follows the eccentricdenizens of the bar, chief amongthem the mysteriously wealthyJoe, whose sole occupation seemsto be sipping champagne througha bottomless glass. Whimsicalcharacters like a pinball addict, aphilosophizing immigrant, andhistorical legend Kit Carson enliventhe honky-tonk, which ismostly frequented by sailors,longshoremen, and prostituteseking out a living.The struggles of a povertystrickenfamily are traced in MyHeart’s in the Highlands. This familyof Armenian ancestry consistsof a poet, his young son, and hiselderly mother living in Fresno ata time when “[t]here are no jobs”and “[t]he people have no money.”But while there may not always beC14 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008

Barroomphilosopher Joe(Jeff Perry, seated)affectionatelytouches bartenderNick (YasenPeyankov) in “TheTime of Your Life.”Chronicle Photo:Brant to eat, the family often findssolace in poetry and music.The money woes that plague thecharacters in Saroyan’s plays areinformed by the Great Depressionthat had been devastating livesfor a decade by the time The Timeof Your Life and My Heart’s in theHighlands reached the stage. Severalplaywrights – most famously,Clifford Odets – had already takenup the cause of the working classas part of a proletarian movementin literature. While Saroyan is notusually classified among these proletarianwriters, many of whomwere sympathetic to Communism,his writing indubitably exploresthe elements of proletarian drama,as it features working class charactersand themes. Nevertheless,his plays remain tinged with innocenceand optimism, which serveas two manifestations of a writingstyle described as Saroyanesque.“This mystical variety of optimismreflected Saroyan’s own feelingsabout the depression,” Mark Fearnowhas written in The AmericanStage and the Great Depression. “Heliked to call this period the ‘GreatUppression’ because he felt it was atime when things kept getting betterand better … This attitude towardthe history of the period – reflectiveof an irritating and characteristicsolipsism on Saroyan’s part… was based on his feelings abouthis own career, which flourishedduring the thirties.”Writers and critics in the firsthalf of the 20th century were splitabout Saroyan’s talents, and severalfaulted the lack of disciplineand focus in his work. Few wereas bilious as James Thurber, whoshunned the “sloppiness of proletarianwriting” generally and wasspecifically “appalled” by Saroyan’swork, wondering if “writing thatdeals with poor people out of work… is now bound to sell, no matterhow bad it is.” Within the proletarianmovement itself, critic PhilipRahv dismissed Saroyan’s “formulaof innocence” as “the formula of‘Ah, the wonder, the beauty of it all!’made famous in Saroyan’s plays”and ascribed the plays’ popularityto their “fairy-tale aspect.” Conversely,Mary McCarthy declaredthat “Saroyan is genuine … If youcompare him with his contemporaries,Odets and [John] Steinbeck,the purity of his work is blinding.”Edmond Gagey asserted that hisplays “show more originality thanthose of [Eugene] O’Neill, [Paul]Green, and [Maxwell] Andersonput together.”While critics like Fearnow maytake exception to what they describeas “fatuous sentimentality”in Saroyan’s plays, other learnedcommentators appreciate the undertonesto such sentimentality.Jordan Miller and Winifred Frazernote, for example, that “beneaththe surface” of Saroyan’s writing“lie the joys and sorrows of thereal world.” And even when theplaywright’s characters tend “towardthe simplistic and the sentimental,”James H. Justus opines,“his picture of the world they mustlive in is complex, involving theforces which at once assault themmaliciously and test them providentially.”That is perhaps why Justus canclaim that “Saroyan had a distinctivevoice which spoke of and forthe ’30s.”fArmenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C15

Garboosh’s works on permanent displayat Glendale’s Armenian Catholic ChurchNaris Naris KhalatiansculptorWhen Gaspar “Garboosh” Gharibiancarved his wooden Pietà in 1971in Soviet Armenia, for his graduateexhibit, little did he know thathis later artistic life in Americawould be defined by religious art.Gharibian was born in Nakhichevan,a region in historic Armenia,near the border of Iran, knownfor its ancient khachkars (crossstones). His grandfather was apottery craftsman. When he wasonly four years old, Gaspar wouldtake his grandfather’s leftover clayand mold it into miniature headsand bodies. In 1958, when he wasonly eight, his family moved toYerevan, Armenia, where he beganto nurture his talent for drawingand sculpting. At the age of14, he was accepted to the Schoolof Fine Arts. From 1971 through1977, he attended the prestigiousInstitute of Fine and PerformingArts, in Yerevan, with an emphasison sculpture. After graduating,he joined the institute’s facultyand began teaching sculpture andcomposition, while creating hisown secular and religious worksof art in his studio. In 1996, hewon a US immigration lottery andreluctantly left Armenia with hiswife and children to join his wife’sfamily in America.Naris Khalatian holds an undergraduatedegree in French language and literaturefrom Occidental College and a law degreefrom Southwestern University School ofLaw. An attorney, she serves as chairpersonof the Parish Council of Saint Gregorythe Illuminator Armenian Catholic Parishin Glendale, California.Unassuming and gracious,Gharibian is a man of few words.He is tall and slender, with piercingblack eyes. His hands andfingers are chiseled, and the graysettled in his hair is not from thedust of his carved stones. I methim at Saint Gregory the IlluminatorArmenian Catholic Church,on Mountain Street in Glendale,California, where he was puttingthe last-minute touches on hisfinest creations of religious artadorning this church. While sittingon a plastic crate box, witha chisel and hammer in hand, hehad crouched over his work andwas meticulously engraving thestone inscriptions.In 2000, the parish commissionedGharibian to carve a seriesof stone panels. The churcharchitect, Aram Alajajian, hadenvisioned a church not with oilor color paintings but primarilySculptor GasparGharibianinscribing panelof Saint NersesShnorhali, Photo:Naris of art in stone. So beganthe seven-year journey of drafting,drawing, redrawing, perfecting,and ultimately producing timelessworks of art.That journey culminated in aspecial ceremony on December16, 2007, when Bishop ManuelBatakian, Eparch of ArmenianCatholics in the United States andCanada, along with Bishop GeraldWilkerson of the Los AngelesArchdiocese, blessed the panelswith the Holy Meron (chrism), inthe presence of a large congregation,gathered to celebrate the25th anniversary of the ArmenianCatholic Eparchy.An exuberant styleGharibian’s 14 bas-relief panelsare made of stones imported fromSyria and display the 14 Stationsof the Cross – scenes depictingChrist’s tortuous road to the cross,C16 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008

Exterior ofSaint Gregorythe IlluminatorArmenian CatholicParish. Photo:Naris Khalatian.from being condemned to deathto being laid in the tomb. Underneaththese Stations are 12 largeand two smaller bas-relief stonepanels, representing Armeniansaints (including recently beatifiedArchbishop Ignatius Maloyan),martyrs, and four Evangelists.Combined with the inscriptionstone, each panel combinationstands at an imposing height ofnine feet. The panels are encasedin metal frames and permanentlyaffixed to the church walls.Saint Gregory the IlluminatorArmenian Catholic Church is believedto be the only Armenianchurch that displays the Stationsof the Cross, a Roman Catholictradition dating back to the 5thcentury, alongside Armeniansaints and martyrs, as an artisticexpression of one aspect of its ArmenianCatholic identity.The panels are placed in a chronologicaland meaningful order,with Saint Gregory being prominentlyplaced below the main altar,beneath the first Station of theCross. Chronological order was respectedas long as it correspondedto the architectural plan. In theSaints’ Galleries, three dates weregiven special importance: 301, 451,and 1915, which reflect significantmoments in Armenia’s historyand Christian identity. The year301 represents Armenia’s adoptionof Christianity as its national andstate religion. The year 451 marksthe time when Armenians foughtagainst the Persian forces to pre-Saint Nerses ofLampron, Photo:Fr. AntoineSaroyanArmenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C17

PanelCombination:Station of theCross No. ISaint Gregorythe IlluminatorInscription Stone.Photo: Fr. AntoineSaroyan.serve their Christian faith and Armenianidentity. The year 1915 isassociated with the first genocideof the 20th century, perpetratedby the Turkish Ottoman Empire.One of the victims of the carnagewas Archbishop Maloyan, whosemartyrdom was publicly recognizedworldwide and proclaimedby Pope John Paul II in 2001.Gharibian’s saints are not replicasof other drawings. They are newcreations, reflecting each saint’sreligious and historical identityin a contemporary, modern, andunique setting. Christian and Armeniansymbols, intricately carvedthroughout the panels, further addto the richness of the artwork.“As in poetry and literature,Sculptor Gaspar Gharibian.sculpting has its own language,”Gharibian says. “As an Armeniansculptor, I wanted my art to ‘speak’my language, and to convey whatis so near and dear to my heart.”Inspired by the miniature paintingsof illuminated manuscripts,he portrayed his saints and angelsin the Armenian style. Their dramaticgaze, facial features, poses,and posture all project a qualitywhich is unmistakably Armenian.What makes Gharibian’s work somodern is his unconventional approachto representing the conventional.His crosses are not alwaysperpendicular to the plane,at times appearing diagonally,and at times emerging and breakingout of the inner frame, defyingthe confines of its panel, symbolizingthe dynamic nature of thecross over the centuries.As for which of the panels werethe hardest to carve, Gharibiansmiles and says, “All of them.” In hissaints, he wants the public to seecontemporaries, the faces of ordinarypeople living in the 21st century.To complete the beauty of thesepanels, ceiling lights were mountedto illuminate and give them specialwarmth and enlightenment.When asked whether he wantedhis own children to follow his artisticfootsteps, Gharibian smilesagain and says, “No.” His daughteris already a chiropractor, and hisson is working on his doctorate innuclear chemistry. “An artist’s lifeis difficult, both financially andemotionally,” he adds. As an artist,he suffered and struggled toreach that elusive sense of perfection.He has boxes and boxes ofhis drawings and re-drawings ofthe panels, nearly 500 sketches,showing the conceptual transformations.Turning a figment of hisimagination into a living fragmentof stone was an arduous process,befitting of the serious topic of hisStations. With the completion ofeach panel came a moment of catharsis.In his next project, Gharibianwill carve a new khachkar for anotherchurch. Indeed, this son ofNakhichevan has been busy carvingkhachkars for a number ofArmenian churches and parishesin America, all while Azeris weredestroying Armenian khachkars inhis birthplace.With carvings on the exteriorwalls of the church, Saint Gregorythe Illuminator ArmenianCatholic Church now houses thelargest number of Gharibian’screations. His artwork will bepreserved in the most unique ofall “galleries,” in churches. There,art will not only be viewed butvenerated for centuries to come,beckoning the faithful to meditateand ultimately transcendthe physical sculpture and enterinto a relationship of prayer andadoration with the One who isthe Creator of the same physicalreality.fThe church is located at 1510 E. MountainStreet, Glendale, California, 91207.Visiting Hours:Monday through Saturday:8 A.M. to 6 p.M.Sunday: 8 A.M. to 6 P.M.(818) 243-8400C18 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008

The stars were out for the ArmenianNational Music Awardsmusicby Betty Panossian-TerSarkissianYEREVAN -- The best of Armenia’smusic industry were honored atthe 5th Armenian National MusicAwards which took place on February10 at the Alexander SpendiaryanNational Academic Theaterof Opera and Ballet in Yerevan.The four-hour-long event wassimilar to all cultural celebrationsorganized in Yerevan, which heavilyrely on performances by popstars. The ceremony was hosted bya cluster of stars, also featuringstar-couples of the Armenian popmusic industry. Often they tookadvantage of the opportunity toshow off their humor and a goodportion of tolerance toward eachother’s jokes.The awards ceremony was hardlyfull of any surprises. Arame wasdeclared the best male singer of2007 and Sirusho, the best femalesinger. Sofi Mkheyan, who in thepast year reshaped herself asa new dynamic voice of Armenianpop, accepted anaward for “Best Hit of theYear” for her song, TheDay and the Present.The ethnopopDJArame, best male singer Armenoid received theaward for “Best Pop Band.”On a much brighter side, Armenianauthentic folk and classicalmusic were awarded an honorableplace in this year’s awardsceremony. The Jury, comprisedof sevengroups (musicians,cultural figures, representativesof various Armeniantelevision and radiocompanies, representativesof print media, prominentfigures of the Armenian popindustry, and representativesof various professions) did attachmajor importance to thefolk musicians. Thus, the award forbest male folk singer was handedto Arsen Grigorian, and the bestfemale folk singer to Anna Mayilyanwhose album. Ethnovocalwas honored as the best folkalbum of the year.Vardan Badalyan, one ofthe new entrants in Armenianpop music tookhome the awardfor the “Discoveryof the Year.”National YouthOrchestra ofArmenia wasalso honoredwith the awardof “Discoveryof the Year”for classical music.Hayko, considered to be oneof the most successfully establishednames of Armenianpop music wasalso honored. He receivedtwo awards,one for the “BestAlbum of theYear” for hisThere are no Wordsand another, the“Tigran NaghdalyanAward” forhis soundtrack ofthe film Don’t beAfraid.Sirusho was awarded the best female singer.State funded projects and initiativeswere also honored withspecial awards, including the onegiven to Sharm Holding, a mediacompany, for several music projectsand video clips praising theNational Army of Armenia.Director Hrach Keshishyanreceived the award for the videoclip of If You Go by Emmy andSuper Sako; Akunk FolkEnsemble for the“Best Folk Ensemble;”Shant TelevisionChannel forthe best televisionprogram Folk Singer; the concertdedicated to the 10th anniversaryof Armenia’s national Jazzband as the “Best Jazz Initiative”of the year, and for the NationalChamber Orchestra of Armeniafor its concert in Karabakh forthe best initiative in classicalmusic.fArmenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C19

18 February 19 February 20 FebruaryMonday Tuesday WednesdayEST PST4:30 7:30 Super Duet -Concert6:00 9:00 News in Armenian6:20 9:20 Italian Serial7:10 10:10 The Making of a Film7:40 10:40 The Armenian Film9:00 12:00 News in Armenian9:20 12:20 Cool program9:35 12:35 Furor10:05 13:05 Exclusive10:20 13:20 Yo-Yo10:45 13:45 The Century11:10 14:10 Cartoon12:00 15:00 News in Armenian12:20 15:20 Cool Sketches13:05 16:05 Beauty is not enough-Serial13:50 16:50 Hit Music14:10 17:10 Blitz14:30 17:30 In Reality15:00 18:00 News in Armenian15:20 18:20 Cobras and Lizard-Serial16:05 19:05 Amazonia- Serial16:50 19:50 Super Duet17:15 20:15 Soul Mate - Serial18:00 21:00 News in Armenian18:20 21:20 Unhappy Happiness - Serial19:00 22:00 The Making of a Film19:30 22:30 The Armenian Film21:00 0:00 News in Armenian21:10 0:10 Hit Music21:35 0:35 Deal or no deal22:30 1:30 Box23:10 2:10 PS Club23:50 2:50 Exclusive0:10 3:10 Cartoon0:50 3:50 Yo-Yo1:15 4:15 The Century1:40 4:40 Blitz2:00 5:00 Super Duet -Concert4:00 7:00 In RealityEST PST4:30 7:30 The Armenian Film6:00 9:00 News in Armenian6:20 9:20 Beauty is not enough-Serial7:05 10:05 Cobras and Lizard-Serial8:00 11:00 Unhappy Happiness - Serial8:40 11:40 Super Duet9:00 12:00 News in Armenian9:20 12:20 Amazonia- Serial10:05 13:05 Exclusive10:25 13:25 Soul Mate - Serial11:10 14:10 Cartoon12:00 15:00 News in Armenian12:20 15:20 Armenian Diaspora12:45 15:45 Armenia TV Film13:05 16:05 Beauty is not enough-Serial13:50 16:50 Hit Music14:10 17:10 Blitz14:30 17:30 In Reality15:00 18:00 News in Armenian15:20 18:20 Cobras and Lizard-Serial16:05 19:05 Amazonia- Serial16:50 19:50 Super Duet17:15 20:15 Soul Mate - Serial18:00 21:00 News in Armenian18:20 21:20 Unhappy Happiness - Serial19:00 22:00 Mosfilm20:35 23:35 Cool Sketches21:00 0:00 News in Armenian21:10 0:10 Hit Music21:35 0:35 Health Program22:00 1:00 Fathers and Sons23:00 2:00 Discovery23:25 2:25 A Drop of Honey23:50 2:50 Exclusive0:10 3:10 Cartoon0:50 3:50 Armenian Diaspora1:15 4:15 Blef1:40 4:40 Blitz2:00 5:00 Armenia TV Film2:20 5:20 Cool Sketches3:00 6:00 Furor3:30 6:30 Music Videos4:00 7:00 In RealityEST PST4:30 7:30 Mosfilm6:00 9:00 News in Armenian6:20 9:20 Beauty is not enough-Serial7:05 10:05 Cobras and Lizard-Serial8:00 11:00 Unhappy Happiness - Serial8:40 11:40 Super Duet9:00 12:00 News in Armenian9:20 12:20 Amazonia- Serial10:05 13:05 Exclusive10:25 13:25 Soul Mate - Serial11:10 14:10 Cartoon12:00 15:00 News in Armenian12:20 15:20 Our Language,Our Speech12:45 15:45 Armenia TV Film13:05 16:05 Beauty is not enough-Serial13:50 16:50 Hit Music14:10 17:10 Blitz14:30 17:30 In Reality15:00 18:00 News in Armenian15:20 18:20 Cobras and Lizard-Serial16:05 19:05 Amazonia- Serial16:50 19:50 Super Duet17:15 20:15 Soul Mate - Serial18:00 21:00 News in Armenian18:20 21:20 Unhappy Happiness - Serial19:00 22:00 Super Duet -Concert21:00 0:00 News in Armenian21:10 0:10 Hit Music21:35 0:35 Cool Sketches22:15 1:15 A Drop of Honey22:50 1:50 Fathers and Sons23:50 2:50 Exclusive0:10 3:10 Cartoon0:50 3:50 Our Language,Our Speech13:15 16:15 Armenia TV Film1:15 4:15 Blitz2:00 5:00 Discovery2:30 5:30 Cool Sketches3:00 6:00 Furor3:30 6:30 Teleduel4:00 7:00 In RealityC20 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008

Satellite Broadcast Program Grid18 – 24 FebruaryWatch Armenia TV onDish Network. To get adish and subscribe,call 1-888-284-7116 tollfree.21 February 22 February 23 February 24 FebruaryThursday Friday Saturday SundayEST PST4:30 7:30 The Armenian Film6:00 9:00 News in Armenian6:20 9:20 Beauty is not enough-Serial7:05 10:05 Cobras and Lizard-Serial8:00 11:00 Unhappy Happiness - Serial8:40 11:40 Super Duet9:00 12:00 News in Armenian9:20 12:20 Amazonia- Serial10:05 13:05 Exclusive10:25 13:25 Soul Mate - Serial11:10 14:10 Cartoon12:00 15:00 News in Armenian12:20 15:20 Health Program12:45 15:45 Armenia TV Film13:05 16:05 Beauty is not enough-Serial13:50 16:50 Hit Music14:10 17:10 Blitz14:30 17:30 In Reality15:00 18:00 News in Armenian15:20 18:20 Cobras and Lizard-Serial16:05 19:05 Amazonia- Serial16:50 19:50 Super Duet17:15 20:15 Soul Mate - Serial18:00 21:00 News in Armenian18:20 21:20 Neighbours- Serial19:05 22:05 Cool Program19:10 22:10 Deal or no deal20:00 23:00 Box20:35 23:35 Cool Sketches21:00 0:00 News in Armenian21:10 0:10 Hit Music21:35 0:35 Discovery22:00 1:00 In the World of Books22:20 1:20 Blef22:45 1:45 The Century23:05 2:05 Cool program23:25 2:25 Yo-Yo23:50 2:50 Exclusive0:10 3:10 Cartoon0:50 3:50 Health Program1:20 4:20 Music Videos1:40 4:40 Blitz2:00 5:00 Armenia TV Film2:20 5:20 Cool Sketches3:00 6:00 Box3:35 6:35 Furor4:00 7:00 In RealityEST PST4:30 7:30 Armenia Diaspora5:00 8:00 The Armenian Film6:00 9:00 News in Armenian6:20 9:20 Beauty is not enough-Serial7:05 10:05 Cobras and Lizard-Serial8:00 11:00 Neighbours- Serial8:40 11:40 Super Duet9:00 12:00 News in Armenian9:20 12:20 Amazonia- Serial10:05 13:05 Exclusive10:25 13:25 Soul Mate - Serial11:10 14:10 Cartoon12:00 15:00 News in Armenian12:20 15:20 The Century12:45 15:45 Armenia TV film13:05 16:05 Beauty is not enough-Serial13:50 16:50 Hit Music14:10 17:10 Blitz14:30 17:30 In Reality15:00 18:00 News in Armenian15:20 18:20 Cobras and Lizard-Serial16:05 19:05 Amazonia- Serial16:50 19:50 Super Duet17:15 20:15 Soul Mate - Serial18:00 21:00 News in Armenian18:20 21:20 Neighbours- Serial19:05 22:05 A Drop of Honey19:30 22:30 Mosfilm21:00 0:00 News in Armenian21:10 0:10 Hit Music21:35 0:35 Box22:35 1:35 Armenian Diaspora23:00 2:00 Cool Sketches23:30 2:30 Armenia TV film23:50 2:50 Exclusive0:10 3:10 Cartoon0:55 3:55 Our Language,Our Speech1:15 4:15 A Drop of Honey1:40 4:40 Blitz2:00 5:00 Discovery2:30 5:30 Cool Sketches3:00 6:00 Blef3:30 6:30 Box4:00 7:00 In RealityEST PST4:30 7:30 Mosfilm6:00 9:00 News in Armenian6:20 9:20 Beauty is not enough-Serial7:05 10:05 Cobras and Lizard-Serial8:00 11:00 Neighbours- Serial8:40 11:40 Super Duet9:00 12:00 News in Armenian9:20 12:20 Amazonia- Serial10:05 13:05 Exclusive10:25 13:25 Soul Mate - Serial11:10 14:10 Cartoon12:00 15:00 VOA(The Voice of America)12:20 15:20 A Drop of Honey12:30 15:30 Cool Sketches13:05 16:05 Italian Serial13:30 16:30 Music Videos14:10 17:10 Blitz14:30 17:30 In Reality15:00 18:00 VOA(The Voice of America)15:20 18:20 Hit Music15:50 18:50 Pan-Armenian Star - Concert17:20 20:20 Armenia TV Film17:40 20:40 Cool Program18:00 21:00 VOA(The Voice of America)18:20 21:20 Neighbours- Serial19:05 22:05 Teleduel19:45 22:45 The Armenian Film21:00 0:00 News in Armenian21:20 0:20 Box21:50 0:50 Deal or no deal22:40 1:40 Hit Music11:05 14:05 A Drop of Honey23:30 2:30 Cool Sketches23:50 2:50 Exclusive0:10 3:10 Cartoon0:55 3:55 Cool Program1:10 4:10 In the World of Books1:40 4:40 Blitz2:00 5:00 Discovery2:20 5:20 Furor3:00 6:00 Teleduel3:40 6:40 Box16:05 19:05 In RealityEST PST4:30 7:30 The Armenian Film6:00 9:00 News in Armenian6:20 9:20 Italian Serial19:10 22:10 PS Club19:35 22:35 Discovery8:00 11:00 Neighbours- Serial8:45 11:45 Cool Program9:00 12:00 Fathers and sons10:00 13:00 Exclusive10:20 13:20 Health Program10:45 13:45 Furor11:05 14:05 Cartoon11:50 14:50 Music Videos12:00 15:00 VOA(The Voice of America)12:20 15:20 Armenia-Diaspora12:45 15:45 Cool sketches13:05 16:05 Italian Serial13:50 16:50 Teleduel14:30 17:30 Yo-Yo14:55 17:55 Unhappy Happiness - Serial16:55 19:55 Hit Music17:20 20:20 Armenia TV Film17:40 20:40 Cool Program18:00 21:00 VOA(The Voice of America)18:20 21:20 A Drop of Honey19:00 22:00 Neighbours- Serial21:00 0:00 News in Armenian21:30 0:30 Hit Music21:55 0:55 Cool sketches22:20 1:20 Furor22:50 1:50 Music Videos23:10 2:10 Discovery23:50 2:50 Exclusive0:10 3:10 Cartoon0:55 3:55 Yo-Yo1:20 4:20 Cool Program1:30 4:30 Blitz14:00 17:00 Health Program2:30 5:30 Teleduel3:10 6:10 Blef3:35 6:35 Deal or no dealArmenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C21

Live theater gets turned upsidedown in South Beachby Sean Krikorianoh my...MIAMI BEACH – In an increasinglytame society concerned with givingoffense, a group of performers andentertainers have come together toturn the world on its head. Theirshows, Absinthe and Gazillionaire’sLate Night Lounge, at the renownedSpiegelworld Tent in Miami Beach,shock and entertain audiences withhigh-flying trapeze artists, contortionists,awkward stripteases, andbeautiful displays of strength, art,and humor.At the heart of all this madnessare two delightfully offensivecharacters called The Gazillionaireand Penny, played by Voki Kalfayanand Anais Thomassian, respectively.The performers co-host Absintheand play in Gazillionaire’sLate Night Lounge, along with theband Fish Circus, in a highly improvisedshow. “I want to see whatit’s like to start something andjust keep pushing it to the maximumpotential,” Kalfayan says, referringto his improvisations.The performersKalfayan is a New York nativewho grew up in Stanfordville, inthe “middle of the woods,” wherehis imagination could run wild. “Iwas a loner and lived a lot in myimagination,” he recalls. However,he did have opportunities to showhis creative side at a young age. “Iwent to Camp Nubar in New Yorkfrom age 7 to 13,” he says. “Weperformed sketches and did skitsaround campfires. At 9 I was writingsurrealist comedies with bizarreendings and lip-syncing toPink Floyd – an event that almostgot me kicked out of camp. I didn’tAbove left: VokiKalfayan, TheGazillionaire.Above right: AnaisThomassian asPenny. Left: Theband, Fish Circus.rediscover performing till late inhigh school, when I auditionedfor a play. I got heavily into actingand the theater, but it wasn’t till Ibecame a clown that I connectedwith my bizarre past as a creativecamp kid. I brought that sense ofhumor to my performance andtill today I rely heavily on that offbeatsense of humor.” Kalfayan’sGazillionaire is unapologetic, aggressive,and never misses a beatwhen audience members hecklehim. Whenever challenged, herises to the occasion and usuallyleaves audience members questioningtheir own thoughts.Kalfayan has been a clown forthe past 13 years and an actor forthe past 17, with a resume thatincludes appearances with a numberof prestigious companies. “Iperformed in the Ringling BrothersCircus in 1996,” he says. “Thatwas my first performing contract.I dropped out of a very nice collegeto do that. It was the best decisionI have ever made. I performedwith John Malkovich’s SteppenwolfTheatre Company in Chicago.I performed in Japan with theWallenda Family Circus, where Ilearned to walk high wire. I touredthe US with the Cheval Theatre, anall-horse circus created by one ofCirque du Soleil’s lead artistic creators.Then I went on to work onthree different Cirque du Soleilshows. Nothing compares to creatingthe characters for Gazillionaire,creating our own show and seeingthat turn into something else.”C22 Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008

Born in Tehran, Thomassianmoved to Los Angeles with herfamily when she was 3. “I lovedmusical theater just as muchas I loved cartoons,” she recalls.Thomassian has been performingsince the age of 5. She receivedher formal education at theSouthern California Conservatoryof Music and the PacoimaPerforming Arts Magnet School.She also attended Glendale CommunityCollege, where she appearedin a slew of plays, such asWest Side Story and Rhinoceros.“I did a number of plays at localtheaters, including Peter Pan,Scapin, and Let the Rocks Speak,which was written by my mother,Lilly Thomassian,” she says. “Idid a lot of writing in between:lots of poems and monologuesand self-discovery.”Thomassian’s meeting with ShahenHagobian was a turning point.Together they started the band FishCircus. “A whole new world openedup,” she says. “We had performances[at events and venues] ranging fromelementary school pancake breakfaststo the El Rey Theatre in LosAngeles. After that I met Voki andan equally strange world opened up:the world of the Gazillionaire.”Like the proverbial yin and theyang, Kalfayan and Thomassianbounce off one another with extraordinarytiming and wit. “Fromthe moment I met Voki, I knew wewould do something awesome together,”Thomassian says. “He hadthe Gazillionaire [character] alreadyand he helped me find my Pennycharacter with just three ten-minuterehearsals. But we needed somemusic and I knew Shahen would bedown to try something new.”The big showThe Gazillionaire is quite a sightfor anyone who hasn’t had an upcloseencounter with the character.“The Gazillionaire is an evolutionof all the different styles oftheater and performance that Ihave studied and performed overthe years,” Kalfayan explains. “Itreally combines clown, bouffon(a very dark and aggressive clownstyle), commedia dell’arte, mime,and a slew of other styles. Thecharacter is constantly changingand growing and learning frompeople I work with.”Commenting on audience response,Kalfayan says, “Audiencesalways have drastically differentreactions: from leaving during theshow to coming to see it over andover, to being indifferent, to beingoffended, to being offendedand loving to be offended. I thinkthat good theater should do that.If everyone loves it, you are Disney;if everyone hates it, you’relike Larry the cable guy... I like tomake the audience feel something,shake it a little bit.”The Gazillionaire show relies agreat deal on the band and musicthat back up the show. The band isalready playing when the audienceenters the venue. It seamlessly transitionsinto the show and continuesto provide music for both plannedmaterial and spontaneous momentswith the audience. “The originalGazillionaire Band was Mher Ajamian[formerly of Tallulah SoundExperiment], Shahen Hagobian,and Anais. It was a tiny ragtag bandthat pulled the whole show together,and the best part of it all was thatI had a band. That had been a reallyimportant part of creating theshow and I wasn’t sure it was goingto happen - but I am so proud ofwhat those guys did. After that, therest of Fish Circus saw the show andwanted to be part of it. The GazillionaireBand has ranged from threeto seven members and it has alwaysbeen a huge part of the show.”What’s in store for thefuture?“It seems like people take to theGazillionaire and the show,” Kalfayansays. “Right now, it lookslike we will be doing the show for awhile. Working at the Spiegeltentand with the producers there hasopened up a new world… to beable to do the show in differentcities and in different capacitiesand to find new audiences.” andGazillionaire’sLate Night Lounge,at the renownedSpiegelworldTent in MiamiBeach, shockand entertainaudiences withhigh-flyingtrapeze artists,contortionists,awkwardstripteases, andbeautiful displaysof strength, art,and humor.Armenian Reporter Arts & Culture 2/16/2008C23

“…a mix of Jimmy Eat World,3 Doors Down & Matchbox 20...will be highly welcome onyour stereo...”—Kudos MagazineFI R E AWAY

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