Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Queen/Shabanu Soraya, Tehran 1953

Image via Wikipedia

In truth, I’m somewhat of the antithesis of a celebrity buff, but as a writer – my professional excuse - now and then find myself both fascinated and intrigued by certain people; and as a man, as is the way of things, more often than not, I find the person in question is a woman.

Let me stress, I’m not primarily talking about sexuality here – though that is certainly a factor when a woman is involved. Instead, I’m talking a quality that has a very particular appeal, and which has an unusually powerful emotional impact. I’m not sure it has a name. 

Such people, where I am concerned, tend to have an enigmatic aspect, and, I suspect, it is that very elusiveness which is part of their attraction. Yet even if the encounter is only at a distance, and perhaps only for seconds, they have made a difference – for the better - in your life. You are intrigued, captivated, uplifted and, perhaps, for a second or two, in love; or, at least, infatuated. And you are left with a sense of beauty and feelings of loss – a bitter-sweet feeling that can linger for years. Unrequited passion does have its uses. Or perhaps, you are just lost in admiration. Either way, your life has been enriched.

My very first encounter of that nature was when I met Princess Soraya at Le Beach (a private beach club) in Monte Carlo while carrying out my very first journalism assignment. At the time she had just been divorced by the Shah (the emperor of Iran in those days) and was somewhat older, and even more attractive than the above picture suggests. She had grown into a mature woman. What is more, she was wearing a one piece black bathing suit, and had a tanned, svelte figure that more than did it justice. To say she was stunning does not get close. I was still in my teens. and impressionable. Frankly, when it comes to someone like Soraya, I’m fairly sure I’m still impressionable.

Our encounter was brief, but I was left awestruck. It was summer and – as normal - Le Beach in Monte Carlo was full of truly gorgeous women, many sunbathing topless around the pool; but Soraya was exceptional. Many decades later, the feeling still lingers. 

The shah (see below) divorced her because she couldn’t bear him a son. I debated his judgment then, and  have had no occasion to change my mind.  Her re-married, lost his throne and died. Little did we know how events would unfold. Little do we know now as Iran progresses to become a nuclear power.  


I spent quite a few summers in Monte Carlo when I was growing up. Soraya set the bar high when it came to beautiful women. That said, beauty is a subtle thing, and is far from just being physical.




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