The lonely empress

I will do an Internet search for the lady after this, but an acquaintance’s offhand remark has made me think of her. The woman said, “He keeps saying he’s Persian but doesn’t he know they’re called Iranians now?” No, I wanted to say, but let it go, that it seemed to me the man was repudiating Iranians and identified with the old order of Persia.

I was in Rome, a raw exile from Shanghai, owner of one pair of shoes, when I was invited to a party by a film producer staying at the Excelsior Hotel. The entourage seated in the lobby as I passed flanked a sad-eyed brunette who did not speak to her attendants, merely sitting in silence while the others chatted, albeit quietly.

I realized she was Empress Soraya of Persia, who was recently written up in the Rome Daily American as being on the cusp of divorce by the Shah. The story said she was deep in his affections but her inability to produce an heir was endangering his reign and his council was pressing him to discard her. I remembered that she was partly German. Years later I read that she had moved to Germany. That scene has stayed with me. So much has changed in that ancient Persia, a nation of Aryans, not Arab as many think, its storied past obliterated, that I sympathized entirely with the man who refused to say he was from Iran.

My interview with the film producer? I had met him through my Italian boyfriend whose sister was an actress, and he had expressed interest in me, which, it turned out, was strictly in me, myself, and not anything to do with being in films. Exactly like a lame scene in the movies, there was no party. I left five minutes after entering his hotel suite; at least he gave me money for a taxi home.

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