Amina's North Beach Memories, Chapter
Yousef – Black Lights and Veils
by Amina Goodyear
Chapters 1-6 linked from Amina's page linked above
I was working 6 to 7 nights a weeks, 3 shows a night for
several months, I was still quite excited about working as
a dancer in a nightclub.
must admit that my days with my 3 kids were spent daydreaming
about the nights. The stage, the music, the lights, the anticipation
of dressing up and being glamorous – that was all I thought
of. During the day I was “Suzie Homemaker” complete with
apron, but each night I became “Amina the Beautiful Dancer
all the way from Upstairs”. The newness was not wearing
off because every night brought a new experience. Each dance
was special and to me it didn’t even matter if there was
an audience. Since I was the new dancer and I actually liked
dancing first in order to change personalities from “mom”
to Amina, I got to dance first very often to a house waiting
for its first customer. But it didn’t matter to me, because
for me it wasn’t about the customers; it was about the “high”
I got when the music and I meshed.
But Yousef didn’t
see it that way. He just wanted a show. He wanted acts. He
wanted variety. So, what Yousef wanted, Yousef got. We used
to hate him because he was always making us work on a specialty
act. We always had to come up with a new gimmick to compete
with the clubs next door. To remind you, this was the 1960’s
and it was the era of Topless/Bottomless/Strip Tease acts
was kind of hard to compete with this kind of action when
we kept our clothes on.
told me that I had to do a “Sultan Act”. I had seen Aisha
Ghul the Turkish dancer’s “Sultan Act”, but she
talked and told bawdy jokes. This was not for me. I was too
shy to talk. So I made a huge brocaded fancy pillow, covered
a hat to look like a bejeweled turban and had some glittery
material handy to use as a cape. All these I stashed at the
side of the stage and at the end of my dance I would leave
the stage with my veil and tie it around a poor unsuspecting
man’s neck and drag him up onto the stage where my props
were handily placed in the middle of the stage. When the
“sultan” was un-noosed, seated on the pillow, draped with
the fabric with the turban on his head, I would start my
“act”. This was just me slithering around on the floor like
a snake around the man with Yousef playing the violin singing
a mawal to him (voice improvisation) “ya ragul ya
agouz agouz ya nose, ya nose” (oh old man, oh old old oh
nose oh nose). At some point I would tent my veil completely
over the “sultan” and myself and feed him a piece of Turkish
delight and leave the audience to their imagination.
of a dumb act, but it was what Yousef liked.
thought it was too much to have 3 dancers doing 3 shows each
without giving the audience a break, so sometimes he would
hire other types of acts. One of his favorites was a magic
act. I got to help the magician who also doubled as our doorman.
He, too, had a kind of corny act. It was with magic rings,
fire and other bought tricks. But sometimes it was pretty
exciting when he would buy a new trick and want to try it
out. One was a trick box. I got to sit on the stage and he
would put the box on my head, or, rather, my head would get
inserted in a box. Soon he would be thrusting swords through
the box with the hilts in one end and the blades coming out
of the other end as though the head was multiply pierced. It
was especially exciting for me since it was my head in the
swords didn’t always do their trick and I would often get
variety act that Yousef hired was a snake dancer. She was
a very nice pretty young dancer who was only experienced
in dancing in strip clubs. Yousef thought her snake dance
would help us compete with the other clubs on the street.
Her first dance with her snake, a beautiful sleek shiny black
snake, was very interesting, but her dance was a fake Middle
Eastern dance. Yousef didn’t like it because while she was
dancing with her snake she was slowly stripping her costume
off and soon she was down to pasties and a g-string. When
she was finished, Yousef came upstairs to the dressing room
and started yelling that the g-string act had to go. She
got a little upset, but then asked me to go to the all-night
grocery across the street to buy some band-aids which I did.
she did her next show, she did the same exact fake belly
dance with snake and the same exact strip dance, but this
time the g-string went too and when she was down to the
band-aid, there was pandemonium on the stage as Yousef
had turned off all the lights in the club and was scrambling
for veils to cover the miscommunication. Poor dancer wanted
the job, but she never got to come back to clarify the
dancer that Yousef hired was a dark and handsome male dancer.
He was going to do a Middle Eastern fantasy interpretive
dance and promised to give our club a little class. I remember
being upstairs in the dressing room changing when this man
dressed in white just like an Aladdin fairy tale went on
stage. Shortly after he started he dance, I heard Yousef
yelling, “Veils, veils, hurry, bring me veils!” We rushed
downstairs thinking the dancer needed veils for his act and
discovered that the man had disrobed and was prancing around
on stage wearing only a “diaper” and was threatening to remove
it. With the only lights on stage being the black light it
was all the more noticeable. We gave Yousef the veils and
he scrambled up on stage and was desperately covering the
man and dragging him off stage. After that night we never
saw him again and I wondered if he had come from across the
street. Across the street in those days was waaaaaaay far
away from my world.
the street from the Bagdad was a club called Chi
Chi’s. It wasn’t a topless/bottomless club.
It was a real honest to goodness burlesque house. Even in
the ‘60’s it was considered a little odd and out of date
nestled between the topless/bottomless clubs on the street.
It was owned by a little woman named Miss Keiko.
She would open the show as a nude woman doing a silhouetted
toe dance behind an opaque screen. When she came to take
a bow we found that she was actually fully clothed in a black
cat leotard costume. One standard act was the classic “lady-like”
strip tease complete with feathers, fans, g-strings and pasties,
big 50’s style bouffant hair-dos and eyelashes and very very
high heels. Often the dancer would expertly manipulate the
feathers and fans in an attempt to hide the stretch marks
on her stomach rather than hide the other more forbidden
parts of her anatomy. There would also be a “French maid”
or “Nurse” burlesque comedy act, which would be so hilarious
that, the audience would be crying from stomach-ache-type
laughing. Chi Chi’s also would include some sort of straight
act such as a flamenco dancer, a regular singer crooning
50’s lounge songs and sometimes a vaudevillian type comedian
who would make little dachshund type dogs out of balloons
and give them to the audience. Sometimes the strippers would
make their way across the street to the Bagdad and
work as cocktail waitresses.
of these cocktail waitresses was a very pretty, tiny woman
named Marie. She had tried to work at Chi
Chi’s as a stripper, but it didn’t quite work out for her,
so she found a job waiting tables at the Bagdad instead.
She would watch us dancing and in time auditioned for as
a belly dancer; but it didn’t quite work out for her at the
Bagdad either. She eventually left and was able to find work
dancing at Miss Keiko’s other strip club in the Tenderloin.
was able to dance there as a belly dancing stripper. She
just wanted a job to be able to support herself and her
children. She was my friend and a nice person who just
needed to pay her bills.
the girls from across the street, we had many other beautiful
cocktail waitresses. They wore two types of uniforms depending
on Yousef’s moods. Sometimes they were harem type outfits
when he wanted the club to be foreign and exotic but then
when he decided he wanted to compete with “the street”, he
would make them wear very brief short hot pants and little
tops. Arousiac, Yousef’s sister was the
first to wear the hot pants outfits. Other waitresses at
that time were Nitsa, the very beautiful,
black haired, black eyed Greek with a temper, Liz,
our Greek bass guitar player’s (Manny Petro)
girlfriend, who was a commuting Las Vegas showgirl, and Carol.
Carol was beautiful but different from the others. She was
a single mother of, I believe 2 or 3 children and was struggling
to support herself and them by waitressing. She was very
good natured and quiet. After getting to know her, we found
that she lived in a tent on Mount Tamalpais across the Golden
wanted his Bagdad club to be a family club, have lots of
variety and be a good show. He didn’t just demand this of
his employees; he also demanded it of himself. And he, himself
was quite a showman. Besides being the owner of the Bagdad,
he was also a musician. He played the violin and his violin
was special. It was painted white and decorated with sparkling
ruby, emerald and diamond jewels. He wore a tarboosh and
sported a goatee and wore the little black elevator-type
boots that were popular at the time. And when he played,
he danced. He didn’t just move around and sway. He was Arabic.
He was Turkish. And he was Armenian. He debke’d and he whirled
and because he was Armenian, he also danced and squatted,
jumped, and squatted and kicked his legs out as all good
Russian/Armenian dancers seem to be capable of doing – all
this while simultaneously singing and furiously playing the
was exciting to be part of this wonderful, cornball show
business world and I wanted to please him and create something
special for his show. Since I had recently learned how to
spin in place (3-4 turns in place meant spinning to me),
I was confident that I could do a very special dance using
my new trick of spinning. I was going to become a whirling
dervish! I was going to become the act
on the street (that’s what we called Broadway) that
everyone would clamor to see... Amina, The Whirling Dervish!!!
did my homework. The dervish dancers were spiritual. I
was spiritual when I communicated with the music and the
musicians. The dervish dancers held one hand down to
the earth and one stretched out to the heavens. I could
do that! The dervish dancers wore white with cone shaped
hats. I made myself a beautiful pure white costume. It
included a white circular skirt and a white top. It looked
like a one-piece flared dervish-type caftan. But my top was
a rip-away top, and my skirt could open at the sides to show
my legs up to the hips so that after I finished my spiritual dance
I could get back to business and be a belly dancer.
costume was completed with my blue metallic cone shaped
hat. I looked like a wizard. I felt the power. I
was going to enter the stage spinning to the left, arms
in appropriate reverential position, slowly slowly whirling
and revolving in a clockwise path. Everything was going
to be perfect.
musicians were cued and the black light was on for - Amina,
The Whirling Dervish! Well, all was as planned and perfect.
I entered whirling, spinning, revolving, creating spherical
and concentric patterns on the stage and the musicians --
following my direction as I turned and whirled and turned
some more for what seemed like forever -- stopped on cue.
And then I stopped on their cue. But the room didn’t. It
was still spinning and whirling as my bottom hit the floor.
I had desperately tried to keep my balance and I couldn’t.
No, I wouldn’t let anyone know I had fallen down.
was just a perfect time to start my floor dance. And
I really liked floor dancing better. After
all, one can’t fall if one is already on the floor.
a comment? Send us a
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for
other possible viewpoints!
North Beach Memories Chapter 6: Bert, by
On my first
Monday at the Casa Madrid, Bert came to support the place and
me. Well, what he saw was equivalent to a San Francisco earthquake.
7-1-00 Jamila and Yousef #3 by
Even though we
were recognizably taught by Jamila, we were not the cookie-cutter
girls she turned out later.
Part 1 A Brand New Idea for Belly Dance: The
Festival Idea in its Formative Years by Amina
speaking of a festival and its promoters that promised more than
they were able to deliver.
Egyptian Dance - Has it crossed the line? by Amina
festivals, held in Giza were isolated and insulated from the people
and the Cairo
that I know and love.
Secret of Saiidi Song and Dance-Straight from the Horse’s
Mouth by Keti Sharif
Say this word anywhere in Egypt (including El Saiid) and colloquially
it implies someone who is funny, backward - a loveable, gullible
character with salt-of-the-earth village simplicity. To call someone “Saiidi”is
a local term or endearment for a likeable buffoon!
First Mid East Gig by Yasmina Ramzy
we landed in Amman, we were greeted on the tarmac by solid lines
of soldiers on both sides leading to the doorway of the airport,
machine guns pointed towards the passengers. I don't recall ever
seeing even one Canadian soldier in the flesh and blood, let
alone a gun, let alone so many big guns and pointed at me. I
don't think I blinked during that endless walk. We were clearly
not in Hawaii.
Breaks Its Silence by Rachel Lazarus Soto
agreed that this was a good idea, and Schill volunteered to do
the paperwork, presumably on the behalf of MECDA.
Vendor's View by Artemis
need to respect their vendors, not just for fees that they have
given them, but because without the vendors lining the room,
where is the color (other than on the stage), and where is the “bazaar”atmosphere
of the event?
Adventure Begins! by Asmahan - More North Beach Memories
last, another North Beach Memory! "I was creating my life
as an adventure, I was making my own destiny; this was Kismet!"
Zaharr's Memoir, Part
11- The Minerva
do Greeks know about Belly Dancing anyway?”He just grabbed
my hand and we headed toward the door. Grumbling, I followed him
inside and I was startled to see a big stage with a large wooden
dance floor right in front of it.