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Gaga Over Googoosh in Iran

August 1, 2000

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ In a street behind Tehran’s busy Imam Khomeini Square, where Qader Fathi makes a living selling bootleg music cassettes, every shopper asks for a single tape: Googoosh in Canada.

``Since Saturday, more than a hundred customers have demanded tapes of Googoosh’s latest concert,″ Fathi said Tuesday as he took advance orders for bootleg tapes of the performance by the undisputed queen of Iranian pop.

Googoosh’s Saturday concert at Toronto’s Air Canada Center was her first public appearance since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution banned women from singing or dancing before audiences that included men.

``I hope to satisfy my customers by the middle of next week, when I expect the Googoosh tapes and CDs to arrive in Iran _ of course illegally,″ said Fathi, who risks arrest for peddling tapes of old songs by Googoosh and other pre-revolutionary singers whose music remains banned by the Islamic government.

Iran’s social laws have been easing since the 1997 election of a moderate president, Mohammad Khatami. Googoosh, 50, was allowed to leave Iran to perform for the first time since the revolution but it is not clear whether she will be allowed to return home. If she does, she is certain to face the wrath of Islamic hard-liners who strongly oppose Khatami’s social and political reforms.

Many who are gaga over Googoosh are too young to remember the singer known for her stunning looks, flashy Western outfits and entertaining stage performances that were often copied but never rivaled. Googoosh also acted in several films.

Even though she was out of sight for more than two decades, her music still sells more than that of any other Iranian artist.

In Tehran’s Vali Asr avenue, another hangout for bootleggers, a teen-age couple sang a Googoosh song Tuesday while walking hand-in-hand.

``We love Googoosh, and have all of her songs,″ said Mohammad Fouladi. ``We are anxiously waiting for her new tapes to see what she sounds like now.″

Roya Ghanbari, 27, another fan in search of the elusive Googoosh tape, said she wished she could have gone to Canada for the concert, where a cheering, weeping crowd of thousands leapt up to clap and sing along with Googoosh.

Fans old enough to remember Googoosh often like her songs because they evoke memories of old times.

``Whenever I feel alone, I listen to Googoosh’s tapes.″ said Shirin Khatmi, a 39-year-old homemaker. ``The greatest gift for me would be her latest tape.″

The diva’s detractors are a small minority, but they do exist.

``I thought she had repented. Now that she has started singing against Islamic principles, she is as corrupt as she was before,″ said Mohammad-Reza Samiei, 29.

Concerts are also scheduled in the United States and Europe.

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