Saturday, 11 April 2009

Gay icon Cher on her Armenian roots

I remember her first (and the only so far) visit to Yerevan in 1993, few years after the devastating earthquake. She was having a meeting with students at the Yerevan State University, and I was there with a close friend of mine, who was a huge fan of Cher (I like her too). She looked stunning, we were very excited to be able to ask questions, and hang out with her for a while. My friend brought with him an article with Cher's picture on it from a local Azg daily, and he got it signed by Cher. He felt very happy...

Below are extracts from a TV interview to be aired this coming week, via the Armenian Reporter, where Cher speaks of her Armenian heritage, recalls her visit to Yerevan, and revealed her fondness for Armenian food. A real treat for Cher fans, especially her Armenian fans. I hope we will see her again in Yerevan, this time not only for a short visit, but for her concert too.
*** *Cher with Lusine Shahbazyan in an exclusive and intimate interview, which will air for the first time this week on US-Armenia TV. Arman

The year was 1993. Cher boarded "one of those big airplanes that has no seating," a DC-8 cargo ship, to Armenia. "It was such a rickety old plane and they had bolted these little seats in the back for us and given us a canister of oxygen." Because of the wartime power shortage, they had to get to Yerevan before dark, "and we hit the runway as the sun went down."

Cher recalls her trip to Armenia and discusses her Armenian heritage with Lusine Shahbazyan in an intimate and exclusive interview that will air for the first time this week on US-Armenia TV. [...]

The modern-day legend remembers entering a random coffee shop in Yerevan. "All the men were in there," she says. "Some of the men were playing chess, but they didn't have any coffee and they didn't have any tea. But they were just in there. They were playing their chess. They were talking. They were all dressed properly, maybe a little bit of tatters, but so dignified. And it was the first time I thought, I'm an Armenian, I'm proud."

Prompted by Lusine, Cher also speaks of her father, Garabed Sarkisian. He was an immigrant whose parents had survived the Armenian Genocide. He was a farmer, sometimes a truck driver, and a man Cher calls "charismatic, a little shady like a bad boy."

"I don't really look like anyone in my family, except my great grandmother and my father," says Cher, whose parents divorced when she was two. She didn't see her father again until she was 11. "When I was young, every once in a while, my mother would look at me with the strangest look on her face; and then when I saw my father, I realized why. Because we made the same faces, and I'd never seen him. And when I saw him, I realized why."

"I liked him a lot," she says, "but he'd been in prison."

Sarma and kufta
After her parent's reunion, the family would often visit her father's relatives in Fresno. "All of my relatives were living there, in Fresno. A huge family, and my great grandmother never learned to speak English. My grandmother spoke English, but she called women ‘he.' She got [English] a little bit, but she didn't get it great. But they were great. They were really happy to see me, and my grandmother taught me how to make sarma, kufta, and all kinds of things. I really enjoy and love the food. Armenian food is brilliant." [...]

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