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  From the
  Nana Mouskouri's more than pure spectacles
Greek singer has a black hat to match - and a new album
  Sharon Dunn,
National Post

Nana Mouskouri is 68 years old.

When I heard that Nana Mouskouri's publicist had called the Post looking for me, I was intrigued. The editor was less so, pointing out that Mouskouri, the beautiful Greek singer of a generation ago, is now better remembered for her glasses than her songs.

All the same, I was interested, if for no other reason than because her publicist asked for me by name (we must reward those who like us). So, even though I had my own doubts, I set up an interview.

"Why don't you follow Nana around for the day?" her PR guy suggested, "and do a story on how hectic a media day is for her."

"You must be kidding," I replied indignantly. "I'm not spending my whole day following Nana Mouskouri around. I wouldn't do that for the Rolling Stones." (Well, maybe for the Rolling Stones.)

But when I arrive at the King Eddie, I'm surprised to find the media is here in force -- television, radio, print, the works. I ask the publicist how come.

"Oh, she's such an icon. If I had a nickel for everyone who has said, 'Oh, you're working with Nana Mouskouri, she's my mother's favourite artist.' "

Not my mother. She talks of Perry Como and Engelbert Humperdinck.

"She's fresh and lovely and holding up well," I hear the publicist tell someone on the phone. "She's already conducted 15 interviews."

Suddenly, I see those famous black-rimmed rectangular glasses coming toward me.

I start off by asking her if people recognize her if she takes them off."I always wanted to be myself," Mouskouri responds. "If people accept you for what you are, you have to accept yourself as well."

This is not a good opener, so I decide I should be tough. "Some people think you're old news," I say, feeling mean even as I say it.

"They say that, but this is life," she says, sighing. "Now you have to be 18 years old, no less than that," she says, meaning no more than that. "Yes, I do get that," the 68-year-old singer continues, "but I have recorded over 2,000 songs over the past 45 years, and I've sold close to 300 million records."

But what have you done lately, I venture.

"What I've done lately," she says, "is that I've recorded an album of some of my greatest hits."

Old songs? She nods. I rest my case. Trying to find common ground, I ask her opinion of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

"Everyone asks me that," says Mouskouri, "but I haven't seen it." She does, however, have much to say about the effect of the movie in her homeland. "It's very important what's happening in Greece since that movie. It's affecting our country. Greeks enjoy it, that's what I've heard."

When I suggest perhaps she should go see it, she shrugs and explains she is a traditional Greek. "When I'm home, I'm cooking, and washing and ironing the clothes." Mouskouri says the old-fashioned virtues she embraces are not shared by some of her contemporaries.

"Friends of mine have done surgery and it's ruined their lives, ruined their eyes, nose, lips -- yes, especially, lips. I have seen so many people take injections to stay young in Greece. The old Greek ladies, they love to do that."

Mouskouri, whose skin is smooth and unlined, says the only thing she does is colour her hair.

"Sometimes I feel I'm the wrong person for this kind of life," she observes. "I was lucky I made it. I would never make it today because you have to be out there."

But though she isn't like that, she insists she "likes wild people. My favourite young artist is Alanis Morrisette."

Knowing that she is performing with Harry Belafonte at the end of May at Massey Hall, and that she's been featured with him on the concert circuit for years, I ask the obvious question: Has she been having an affair with him all these years?

She is aghast, and I ask her if this is the first time anyone has raised this with her.

"Of course not," she sputters.

As she's leaving (which is soon after that last question) she dons a hat, an attractive black broad-brimmed topper.

"Oh, a cowboy hat!" I say.

She is once again aghast. "This is not a cowboy hat!"

"Do you want to come in the car with us to CFRB and watch her radio interview?" the intrepid PR man asks.

I decline, figuring the only thing I'm going to remember about her anyway are her glasses.

  Last update: May 6, 2009
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