Golden California -- from a Persian perspective


(A while back, I sent papers a story on the new
“Shahs of Sunset” series and its most interesting person, Asa Soltan Rahmati. Since then, one person has said his name should not be in the story; he is not married to Rahmati, he said, and he's not involved with her.

(The original confusion may have started with a Los Angeles Times article I mentioned in the story. Let's err on the side of making sure everything is accurate; here's the story, now with that that paragraph omitted.)

By MIKE HUGHES

Tucked into Los Angeles' sprawl are
endless sub-cultures.

Some – black, Chicano, Asian –
have had TV time. Now the Persians get their turn.

These are people with roots in Iran. In
Bravo's new “Shahs of Sunset,” you'll hear young adults rave
about the Persian culture; you'll also hear Asa Soltan Rahmati say
she has mixed feelings.

What's good about the culture? What's
bad? “I probably have the same answer to both,” Rahmati said by
phone. “It's passion.”

The passionate life can glow. “We're
old-school,” she said. “There's the love of friends and family.”
And it can reach excess. “We can be obsessive about some things,”
she said.

Viewers got an example in Sunday's
opener, which reruns every day this week: A trendy-dressed beauty
says Rahmati (who has a self-described “modern Persian gypsy
Bohemian” life and look) is “ghetto”; then they scream a lot.

We expect that, because this is a
reality show. It's produced by Ryan Seacrest (the “American Idol”
host), who wrote that the six main people are compelling: “They are
confident, combative and outrageous. But they are also colorful,
caring and funny.”

And they are attractive, diverse (one
is gay, one is Jewish, Rahmati is rebellious) and wealthy. Their
families left Iran after the 1979 revolution, but most had sent money
ahead.

Rahmati said her family had a bumpier
ride. “My father was a very high officer in the Navy. We had a lot
of respect and wealth.”

He stayed in Iran after the revolution;
that changed about five years later. “We escaped as political
refugees,” Rahmati said. “We left with one suitcase each.”

She was 8 then, adjusting to Hamburg,
Germany. Later, the family moved to the U.S., finding an apartment
that could get the kids into Beverly Hills High School.

“It was an incredible culture shock,”
Rahmati said, but not necessarily a bad one. She was 15 and already
had an arty image; that gave her an identity on “90210” turf.

In some ways, Rahmati has become a
classic Californian. “I was always a cultural observer … Living
here, with the palm trees and the ocean is definitely a good thing.”

There, Rahmati can follow her ideas.
“I'm multi-media, all over the place,” she said.

She writes and records music, designs
art, even poses on a bicycle in a bikini, holding a machine gun.

The bikini, of course, is gold. “I
love gold,” Rahmati said. Sometimes, obsession looks good on
people.

– “Shahs of Sunrise,” 10 p.m.
Sundays, Bravo.

– The opener debuted March 11 and
reruns daily.