Magazine Sep/Oct 2011 An International Legend

01 September 2011, 17:00
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An International Legend

“I have the guts to do anything,” Charles Aznavour once said during one of our interviews. “I have always had the hunger of succeeding, of achieving something...and in that way, I’m a monster.” And that has been the motto of his extraordinary and successful life and career. He has sold over 100 million albums, composed close to a thousand songs, and appeared in 60 films. In 1998, Aznavour was named “Entertainer of the Century” by CNN. And now at the age of 87, he’s still wowing the world with his talent and charisma.

Thank you for honoring me, and thank you for our country. It is moving to be honored by your own community,” stated Charles Aznavour, simply but poignantly, at the gala tribute accorded him by more than 600 attendees at New York’s elegant Wall Street Cipriani on Friday evening, May 20, 2011. The legendary singer-songwriter, humanitarian and diplomat (Armenia’s Ambassador to Switzerland, and Armenia’s permanent delegate to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland), nattily dressed in a dark suit and silk scarf, remarked after the event that it was the best tribute ever conferred upon him.

Organized by the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), the lavish banquet was also in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Armenian Republic’s independence. Proceeds from the evening were marked for the Vanadzor Old Age Home, created by Aznavour and his long-time manager Levon Sayan, Aznavour Pour L'Arménie, right after the disastrous 1988 earthquake. For the past decade, the Home’s operations have been shepherded by FAR, with generous contributions by the Kevork and Sirvart Karamanuk Foundation. Attending the evening’s festivities were a host of well known names, including singer Liza Minnelli who introduced him, actor Eric Bogosian, who was Master of Ceremonies, Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, who was the keynote speaker, and Primate of the Eastern Diocese Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, who presented him with a crystal plaque. Highlights of the evening included a film showing heartwarming episodes of his life, and performances of several of his world famous songs, including the international favorite, “Pour Toi, L’Armenie,” recorded after the Armenian earthquake with dozens of his well known artist friends. Also paying homage to her father was singer Seda Aznavour who performed a heartfelt rendition of “Voch Mi Dzaghig” (Not One Flower), dedicated to the Aznavour family’s love for Armenian culture.

During Aznavour’s three-day stay in New York, I had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview lasting more than an hour with the 87 year-old legend. It was the sixth lengthy interview that I have had with him over the past several years. He has always answered wisely, wittily, and above all honestly, holding nothing back. As I entered his New York hotel suite, he and his manager of 45 years, Levon Sayan, warmly greeted me. “Eench bes es,” (How are you?), Aznavour asked with a charming smile. “Indz hishoom ek?” (Do you remember me?), I asked. “Anshoosht” (Of course), he answered, ushering me to a seat with a jaunty step. He was relaxed and smartly dressed in a striped open shirt, black trousers, and colorful suspenders which he pointed out with a wink. His most outstanding feature is his deep, penetrating, expressive eyes. “You are looking wonderful as always,” I said, to which he answered, “I’m trying.”

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