An Interview with Brian Appleton, Author Persian Heritage,
June 20, 2012 by contributor
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Tokyo, Japan 1950 Yoyogi Heights. My formative years were spent in Greece (3 years) and Italy (13 years).
What about your parents? My father, Richard B. Appleton (deceased) was Assistant General Counsel US Army Corps of Engineers. He attained the rank of Major in the US Army while in active service in WWII and his JD from Columbia Law School. He graduated Summa Cum Lauda with BA from Harvard University in the class of 1936. My mother is Lily Beth Hanson Appleton (living). She was a career elementary school teacher, with a BA in Elementary Education from Minot Teachers College, N.D. and was a Sergeant in the WACS during WWII.
That is impressive and now where were you educated?
I went to Kindergarten at Anglo American School of Athens, Greece, 1-5 grades in Camp Darby Elementary School, Livorno, Italy, 6th grade Parioli International Day School, Rome, Italy, ۷-۱۰ grades at Notre Dame International School, Rome, Italy, 11-12 grades at Wakefield High School, Arlington, Va., undergraduate at George Washington University, Washington, DC and graduated Phi Beta Kappa 1972 with a BA in Anthropology, then went to the International University of Fundamental Studies-Oxford Educational Network, MA in Ancient History 2008, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation. I love education!
Are you married?
Yes to Laura Scott Clow, a former publicist for the International Linen Promotion Commission of NYC. She now has her own business with several employees doing Medical Transcription. We have two sons Luke and Alex. Luke is studying Microbiology at San Jose State University and Alex is studying in a post Senior program for children with special needs at Yerba Buena High School, Eastside Union High School District of San Jose.
So besides being educated what have you done with your life?
I have been a lighting designer and manufacturers’ representative for the past 30 years, initially in Manhattan and then in San Jose, Ca. Prior to that I was a full partner in a start up import export company in Manhattan and mostly imported marble and granite and exported lumber. Before that I worked for AT&T as a network manager in San Francisco, Xerox Corporation in San Francisco and Oakland in 1979.
Before that I worked in employee relations for Bell Helicopter, a Textron Company in Iran as well as Assistant Manager of a ship building company called IMICO (Iran Marine Industries Company) head quartered in Tehran, with a ship yard in Bushehr. Prior to that I taught English and worked in the testing department for the Imperial Iranian Air Force language school which was affiliated with the Presidio of Monterey and Lackland AFB school of language in Texas.
What sparked your interest in Iran?
When I was 11 years old I left home to go to a boarding school in Rome. It was actually a day school but they accommodated 6 boarders, one of whom was a Persian boy, one year older than me, who spoke no English. His name is Touss Sepehr and he is still my best friend. When I was 16, I spent a summer with his family in Tehran and we also spent a few weeks in Anzali up on the Caspian Sea. That was when I first fell in love with Iran.
Where has this interest taken you?
I returned to Iran in 1974 and worked there for five years. Touss’s aunt is a movie director living in Rome and I acted in several of her films in Iran including one with Shohreh Aghdashlou and one with the late Gholam Hossein Nakhshineh who went on to play Uncle Napoleon in the popular 1970’s TV series by that name based on Iradj Pezeshkzad’s novel.
I witnessed the revolution of 1979 from start to finish and stayed on 5 months after it was over. Touss’s family tried to arrange a marriage for me to their cousin. She belonged to one of the most famous families in Iran. My betrothed’s grandfather was Mirza Hassan Ashtiani Mostowfi al Mamalek of Vanak, who was prime minister 11 times under both the Qajars and the Pahlavis. He and his family are so well loved in Iran that not one of them suffered any loss of property or life during the revolution.
As much as I had become assimilated into Iranian culture and society and was even given a Persian name by Touss’s father, which was Rasool Aryadust and even converted to Islam, I did not feel comfortable with arranged marriage so it didn’t happen.
Outside of your employment what have been your accomplishments?
I really had no desire to leave Iran and would have gladly stayed had Khomeini’s regime not eventually asked all the remaining foreigners to leave. There were only about 500 of us left at that time. I was also briefly taken hostage during the revolution and then rescued by a close friend Pouran, who hired two gunmen of her own and liberated me from my captors. I lost touch with her after the revolution and then found out that she had passed away seven years ago. As a result of my writing one of my readers contacted me and without going into detail here, I was able to reunite Pouran’s two surviving half sibling daughters who live in Tehran with their half brother who lives in Seattle all from different marriages who were separated by divorces. The half sisters had only heard about their half brother’s rumored existence and visa versa but they did not know how to get in contact with each other. I tried to get one of the US talk shows to sponsor their reunion on TV here but couldn’t get it to happen. Not enough “Parti Bazi…”
I was very taken by the Persian culture and as such after I had to leave, I felt a very real sense of wanting to give back to Iran for everything it had given me. I want to wage peace because of the incessant media campaign in the USA to demonize Iran. So, I began to write.
In 2008 I got my first book published about my experiences in Iran called “Tales From The Zirzameen” which is available in independent bookstores and on Amazon, Google and Barnes and Noble websites as well as my own website at www.zirzameen.com.
One of the joys of writing this book was the opportunity it gave me to meet some really great journalists, authors, independent film makers and entertainers: people like Roger Cohen, Stephen Kinzer, Reese Erlich, Iraj Pezeshkzad, Terrence Ward, John Limbert, Aryana Farshad, Michelle Nickelson, Jonathon Roth, Mohsen Namjoo, Shahrnush Parsipur, Firoozeh Dumas, Meghan Sayres and even the late Persian horse breeder Louise Firooz.
I have written for many Iranian Diaspora magazines including Persian Heritage Magazine, Iranian Times, Payvand News, Payam Javan, Pezhvak of Persia, Persianesque Magazine, The Persian Mirror, Irandokht and the newly launched Zan Magazine. I am also a columnist for CASMII (Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Invasion of Iran). I have also done interviews live in Farsi with Rang a Rang TV, Apadana TV and Markazi TV.
In 2008 I was nominated into the Sovereign Orthodox Order of the Knights of St. John Hospitaler of Jerusalem, which is a continuous over 1000 year old order of knights under the protection of the Romanoff dynasty and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in recognition of my peace efforts towards Iran.
For Persian Heritage Magazine I have mostly made it my mission to interview various Iranian American achievers such as philanthropists and film makers who deserve recognition.
Another of my accomplishments includes writing poetry one of which won a prize in UK and was published in an Anthology called Borders there in 2006.
Have you ever returned to Iran?
Yes, in 2008, for the first time in 30 years and managed to visit the grave of the great modern poetess Forough Farokhzad at Zahir ol Dowleh cemetery. Also buried there are the poets Rahi Moa’eri who is Touss’s cousin as is Sohrab Sepehri. Touss comes from a long line of literary relatives. My poem “Make Me Persian” was in the premier addition of Zan Magazine and additional poems appear in their next two issues. They have named me a permanent contributing writer in their masthead.
I have also helped to promote several independent Persian American film makers as well as a young American Persophile who made a film in Iran called: “Iran, Hot Tea, Cool Conversations. I spent two years helping Jahangir Golestan Parast promote his award winning film “Bam 6.6” and visited UCI, UCLA, UC Berkeley, Harvard and MIT and US Naval Academy in Annapolis as well as The World Affairs Council of San Francisco, serving as one of his panelists. His goal with that film is also peace and a presentation of the Iranian people in a positive light and actually a celebration of all our common humanity regardless of nationality.
What are your current activities?
I have finally found a publisher for my second book which goes into production in May of this year called: “Shamshone, Sun of Assyria” and is another non fiction biography about ۵ generations of a modern day Assyrian Iranian family starting around WWI to the present and following the path of their emigration from Azerbaijan to Chicago back to Azerbaijan to Tehran to London to California to London and Texas. The early chapters focus on how the villagers made an agrarian livelihood including wine making, which Assyrians have been doing for 8000 years. I feel that not enough is known about the modern Assyrians whom after all are the founders of Western Civilization and also made vast contributions to the Persian Achaemenian Empire, which assimilated the Assyrian Empire without bloodshed. I do not profess to be an academic authority on Iran but rather I try to write in a style, which is readable and informative for the general public.
It has been our pleasure to interview you and we thank you for your many contributions to Persian Heritage magazine and hope that you continue to support the wonderful Persian culture.
I want to thank you for allowing me to be interviewed and the opportunity to get my work out into the public through your wonderful publication. It is so important especially at these times to make sure we all work hard in keeping the Persian culture and the Iranian people in our hearts.
Additionally vehicles like this magazine and others are the way to get the message out to non-Persians who are unaware of the brilliance of the Persian Empire and the purity of Iranian citizens. I hope that in the very near future Iran will open up again as a tourist destination. The world should all be able to experience its architecture, artwork, history, culture, extreme hospitality and FOOD. I personally consider Iran the greatest tourist destination on earth and Tehran as the most beautiful city in the world. Thank you again.