In No Hurry
When Anthony Shadid was born in Oklahoma in 1968, the only Lebanese personality most Americans knew was not Lebanese at all. Hans Conried was a comic actor of Austrian Jewish origin, who portrayed the gauche Uncle Tannous (a diminutive of Antonius/Anthony) on a weekly sitcom called The Danny Thomas Show. Danny Thomas was the son of Maronite Christian immigrants from Kahlil Gibran’s village, Becharre, in north Lebanon. His assimilation was so thorough that he took the Al Jolson role of cantor’s son in a 1952 remake of The Jazz Singer. On the show, it fell to Uncle Tannous to expose the Lebanese heart beating within the American persona of Thomas’s character. With his Ottoman moustache, three-piece suit and bundles of goat’s cheese and stuffed vine leaves, Uncle Tannous incarnated all that the Americanising immigrants were desperate to escape, but couldn’t, quite.