People often ask me: "Nana, what part of Greece are you from?" And I say: "Well, the greasy part, of course".
(Ceri Dupree, drag act extraordinaire, doing Nana Mouskouri better than the Greek one)
Nana Mouskouri is coming to New Zealand for a series of gigs but that local gay watchdog isn't impressed with her voting record on gay issues in the European Parliament when she was an MEP in the 1990s.
UPDATE: reader Ellie sent me the following:
NANA MOUSKOURI - RUNNING SCARED AND LOSING HER MARBLES?
Just days before her concert-tour of New Zealand and Australia, Greek singer Nana Mouskouri has suddenly slapped a $30 fee on anyone who wants to chat with her after her New Zealand shows. It looks like the gay icon has got wind of anger in the gay community over her behaviour in the European Parliament where as an MEP she repeatedly voted against pro-LGBT legislation.
This is not the first time that Mouskouri has felt the pain of Antipodean disapproval. In 1974 monies from her Auckland Mercury Theatre shows were withheld in protest at Mouskouri having performed for a white-only audience in South Africa - at a time when the international anti-apartheid movement was in full swing. Seeming to defend her anti-gay voting record, Mouskouri told the Sydney Star Observer in a pre-tour interview by phone from St. Tropez, that she just “wanted to be loyal to everybody”. (Between 1994 and 1999 Mouskouri represented Greece’s right-wing “Neo Democratia” party.) On June 30 this year she lashed out at Bob Geldof’s highly successful Live8 concert campaign, telling the Sydney Morning Herald, "I don't believe in this way of doing things. I don't like those political big movements." It seems Mouskouri is becoming aware of New Zealand’s political progressiveness the hard way. NZ was the first country on earth to give women the vote (1893); NZ’s Relationships Act (May 2005) gave gay partnerships the same rights as heterosexual couples: and the country’s current parliament boasts the world’s first transexual MP - Georgina Beyer (incidentally, a one-time Mouskouri lookalike!).
Anger over Mouskouri’s anti-gay voting record first erupted at the time of the Athens Olympics. She told the Sydney Star Observer that she had asked the Olympic Committee if she could sing the Olympic Anthem in Athens. (2004 was her 70th year and Mouskouri wanted to make her farewell performance at the Olympic ceremony.) However the proposition was refused, she said. Nevertheless the French magazine “Têtu” still interviewed her for its Olympic edition and in response to a question regarding gay-marriage, Mouskouri stated that as an MEP she had always insisted that everyone, including gays and lesbians, should be allowed legal recognition for their love. Those aware of her anti-gay votes in the European Parliament were surprised. During her five years as a politician in the EP, Mouskouri voted “No!” to five important pieces of legislation seeking to lift LGBT discrimination in Europe.
But the lady of the sentimental song, the easily-copied glasses and the long dyed-black hair is clearly aware of her iconic gay status. She told the Sydney Star Observer, “I’m the most imitated artist in gay clubs in the world. I have been in many places that I am imitated, and very well imitated. There is in Belgium, there is in Holland, there is in France. I have even seen that in China.” But whether her gay fans will now wish to shell out $30 to chat with her after the New Zealand shows, having already forked out $80-$90 for the show, remains to be seen.
Thoughout a career spanning 40 years, Mouskouri has been renowned for spending up to several hours signing autographs and chatting with fans at stage doors - often to the consternation of theatre staff who want to get home. The forthcoming NZ concerts mark the first time the singer
will meet and greet fans for an additional fee. Recording many of her songs in different languages, Mouskouri is thought to have become one of the world’s wealthiest self-made women.
On average she performs for two and a half hours per concert with no supporting act. In Sydney and Melbourne, she will sing both a full matinee and a full evening performance in the same day. The Farewell World Tour began in Scandinavia in early 2005 and will end in Athens in 2007. Details of her final tour of the UK where she has attempted to attach herself to the campaign begun by Merlina Mercouri for the Elgin Marbles have not been announced. Proceeds from the after-show gatherings in New Zealand are to be donated to UNICEF.
In an interview which Nana Mouskouri gave to the French gay and lesbian magazine "Têtu" (Issue No. 91, August 2004; page 36, last paragraph), she responded to a question regarding gay marriage with the following words: "Ce n'est nullement la honte pour une société de permettre à ses citoyens d'obtenir une reconnaissance légale de leur amour. Lorsque j'étais au Parlement européen, je martelais toujours la même idée: la liberté ne doit subir aucune contrainte législative dès lors que le respect est là." English Translation: "There is no shame for society at all to allow its citizens to obtain legal recognition for their love. When I was in the European Parliament (EP), I always pursued [insisted on] the same idea: liberty must not be subject to any legal constraint as long as respect is there."
However, the facts of Nana Mouskouri’s actual behaviour during her EP term could not be further from these words and beliefs which she professed when questioned by "Têtu" last year. Her behaviour was the complete reverse. Nana Mouskouri chose to vote against Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) rights or pro-LGBT wordings in motions and resolutions, on each of all of the following FIVE important parliamentary occasions spread over her five years as a Member of the European Parliament, 1994 - 1999. Thus, her actual behaviour as set down in the records of the EP proves her to have acted consistently against gay rights over a lengthy period of time.
This is what is to be found amongst the records of the European Parliament:
1. The annual report on respect for human rights in the European Union for 1995 (Document A4-0112/97), drafted by German Green MEP Claudia Roth, was put to a vote on 8 April 1997. Mouskouri not only voted AGAINST Amendment 15 to the draft resolution, welcoming the fact that Sweden and Denmark provided for the legal recognition of homosexual couples and urging all other member states to follow that example, but she also voted AGAINST the full resolution that contained pro-LGBT wording in items 121, 135, 136 and 137. (Although non-binding, these annual reports and resolutions on human rights in the EU have been very important as texts adopted by the European Parliament since they also address respect for the human rights of LGBT people.)
2. On 15 July 1998 Mouskouri voted AGAINST putting on the agenda of the European Parliament an emergency resolution condemning the violation of the human rights of homosexuals in Romania. The motion was defeated.
3. On 16 September 1998, Mouskouri again voted AGAINST putting on the agenda of the European Parliament a resolution in favour of the human rights of homosexuals. However, this time, the motion was passed and the resolution was put to a vote the next day, 17 September. Mouskouri missed that vote on the resolution. Her name does not appear on the roll-call record. (Thus, when this resolution finally made it onto the EP agenda, Mouskouri had not voted against it, although neither had she attended and voted for its inclusion.) This resolution (Document #B4-0824 and 0852) was one of the most important pro-LGBT resolutions ever passed in the European Parliament. It urged, among other things, that Austria repeal its discriminatory age of consent legislation, and it stated the EP’s committment not to "give its consent to the accession of any country that, through its legislation or policies, violates the human rights of lesbians and gay men". This was a historic statement and led to the repeal by 2002 of anti-gay criminal code provisions in five EU accession countries.
4. On 10 February 1999, the EP voted on the "second report on the proposal for a Council Act establishing the Convention on rules for the admission of third-country nationals to the Member States" (Lehne report, Document #A4-0045/99). An amendment (#44) tabled for the report sought to include in this proposal non-married partners regardless of sex for the purpose of family reunion. Nana Mouskouri voted AGAINST this amendment.
5. On the same day, the European Parliament voted on the Lindeperg report (Document #A4-0450/98) "on the harmonisation of forms of protection complementing refugee status in the European Union".
Amendment 1 sought to add to the "Considerations" of the draft report that several member states already granted refugee status to people persecuted on the grounds of their sexual orientation, while Amendment 2 sought to ensure that countries with a total ban on homosexuality should not be considered as safe countries of origin or transit for gays and lesbians, and to urge member states not already doing so to grant asylum to persons persecuted on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Mouskouri voted not only AGAINST both amendments but also AGAINST the full report and resolution.
All of the documents cited above are on view at the European Parliament, as are the records of how members chose to vote on each occasion.
Mouskouri’s behaviour was first brought to light in Europe by a member of ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) who liaised with the European Parliament throughout the period of Mouskouri’s career as a politician. The above listed records were revealed for the first time in late 2004 in an article posted on the French Nana Mouskouri website. The article immediately caused consternation amongst those Mouskouri fans who saw it and within days it was quickly deleted by the webmaster who is, needless to say, an ardent Mouskouri fan - but, fortunately, not before several readers had made copies.
Mouskouri has become something akin to cult figure amongst her fans who mostly refuse to acknowledge the truth of the above records. Some excuse her, claiming she has a “democratic” right to say and do whatever she wishes. Others believe the above evidence of repeated anti-gay action is denied simply by pointing to her friendships with gay male comic Thierry Le Luron, gay male actor Jean-Claude Brialy, and lesbian Line Renaud. There is no evidence, however, that these French celebrities are even aware of or concerned by Mouskouri’s anti-gay behaviour in the European Parliament. Some protest that Mouskouri’s homophobia is disproved by her participation in action against AIDS - although to be seen singing to raise funds against a frightful disease is no demanding task, especially when it chiefly affects the children and heterosexual men and women of underdeveloped countries throughout Africa and the Far East. It is, however, a much more difficult and courageous thing to stand up and be counted as believing that homosexual men and women deserve respect and rights equal to those accorded people who are heterosexual.
Other fans defend Mouskouri by claiming she only agreed to become a Member of the European Parliament because she wanted to promote the land of her birth. She chose, however, only to promote her country in the safest and simplest ways. She could have done a great deal to assist the suffering of the Greek gay community who continue to endure very little freedom. She chose not to. In recent years the police have harassed gay men and women in Athens and other Greek cities, raiding bars and clubs, and sometimes closing them down. (During the 2004 Olympic Games, the Greek government took steps to make Greek gay presence in Athens almost invisible!) Other fans defend Mouskouri by claiming she entered the European Parliament only to increase the rights of Greek women and to popularise the country’s culture internationally. But this suggests extraordinary naïveté. No politician in Greece, France, the UK, USA, Australia, NZ, or in any other country on earth enters parliament believing they will only exercise power in one or two specific areas. Anyone who enters politics knows full well that time and again they will be called upon to vote upon every issue put before parliament, and that to become a politician is to undertake enormous responsibility.
Still others claim Mouskouri served a term as president of the first Greek lesbian association and that this proves her innocence - when such membership would surely serve only to highlight a most extraordinary split between professed belief and actual behaviour. However, the claim that Mouskouri has been affiliated to a Greek lesbian association only serves to illustrate the extent to which some of her fans will invent history to exonerate Mouskouri of her behaviour in the European Parliament. Spokespersons for several of the major LGBT groups of Greece have confirmed that Mouskouri has never been known for having been involved in any Greek LGBT association, nor, they say, is she known for having done anything in support of LGBT human rights within Greece or elsewhere.
Some claim Mouskouri repeatedly voted against LGBT rights in the EP only because of duress, that her party, Neo Democratia, ordered her to do so. The possibilities offered by conscience and integrity are conveniently forgotten. The honourable resignation is not considered, neither is the option of refusing to toe the party line. Honourable politicians protest and resign when pressured to do that in which they do not believe. Faced repeatedly with human rights issues, Mouskouri chose loyalty to party over loyalty to principle. The defence, "I wanted to be loyal to everybody" (Sydney Star Observer, Issue 778) does not wash.
For others Mouskouri’s role as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF proves automatically that she has done, and can do, no wrong. They see the photocall publicity-shots of her holding babies in African villages and forget that the organization she is meant to represent has a charter (The United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights) that insists on dignity towards all human beings, not only those so instinctually appealing as the innocent little child.
Finally, there are the fans who clutch at rank and point upwards to Mouskouri’s friendship with President Jacques Chirac and to her private audience with Pope John Paul II as if both were evidence of unerring goodness. They forget Chirac’s conservatism and they forget John Paul’s Vatican legislation against the “evil” of homosexuality. And they forget John Paul’s refusal to approve condom use so that AIDS has gone on to claim still more millions of innocent people’s lives all over the globe.
The patter with which Mouskouri introduces her songs frequently emphasises the need for love, respect, honesty, and sincerity but one is left with the feeling that this woman seems to embody an extraordinary contradiction, incongruence, and a very peculiar manifestation of integrity.