Recounts, Part II
Of Belly Dancers, Bullets & The Men in Blue, or A Change of Scene:
Rhea moves to Greece
by Rhea of Athens
Years went by and
I eventually went on to dance all over the Bay Area in all the "important"
clubs and earned a name for myself. I only left and went to Greece to
live and work because life and times had changed, and so had I. I was,
alas, no longer a hippie, but a confirmed belly dancer, and wanted to
have a "career." In those days, a dancer of 40 was considered
too old to dance anymore, and I was 35. Dum da dumm dum! More and more
people had television and now video. San Francisco and many large cities
became too dangerous to go out for a date at night. People didn't go out
every night as they had once done (by this I don't mean literally every
night. I mean that, although Friday and Saturday and to some extent Sunday
were always the most popular nights to go out, many people thought nothing
of going out on any given night and just getting less sleep. Those were
the "go-go sixties" and no one wanted to miss out on anything.
People still hadn't cottoned on to the idea that they were supposed to
become millionaires and retire young).
So this brings us
to the end of my stay in America and some of my last days while still
dancing at the Casbah.
On this particular night, I had brought Marliza
Pons from Las Vegas with me to see me and hang out with Fadil
Shahin, a friend of hers and the owner of the Casbah. I had met Marliza
when we both were judges at Sula's Belly Dancer of the Year competition,
now hosted by Leea Aziz after the untimely death of Sula. We had
stayed late, and Fadil had locked the doors and ordered a pizza while
he and Marliza hashed over old times and we plotted to do a workshop and
show in Las Vegas where Marliza would bring us; me to teach, and he to
play for a star studded show including members of my troupe. Finally,
at about 3 o'clock, we left to go to my car which was parked in the closest
parking lot, because it had become too dangerous to park on the street
as we had been able to do in the earlier days.
That day I had noticed
that my horn honked automatically when I turned left or right, so I had
taken it to a garage only to be told that there wasn't time to fix it
properly. I would have to bring it back on Monday. In the meantime however,
the mechanic did me a favor and unhooked the wire to the horn. Now it
no longer honked at all, but at least it wasn't honking every time I turned.
Thus it was with some surprise that I heard a horn honking continuously
- a horn that sounded exactly like mine. I turned to Marliza and said:
"that's funny. If I hadn't disconnected my horn, I would swear that
that is it." As we turned into the parking lot we saw my car, the
only one still there, being attended to by two men, who had the hood up
and were searching around inside.
I shouted at them, "That's my car. Get away from it." Whereupon,
they whirled towards us like in a gangster movie, brandished a gun,
and shot at us. Where the bullet went, or how close it came to hitting
us, I'll never know.
Ignoring it's probable
trajectory, I turned and ran, dragging the fazed and startled Marliza
with me, and you never saw two ladies dressed fit to kill with evening
gowns and high heels running so fast up the street as we did. When we
came to the door of the Casbah, we saw a police car parked just outside
the club, but no policemen inside it, so we pounded at the locked door,
yelling and screaming with all our might. A bemused Fadil opened the door
with a questioning look, and we burst into the room, pushing him aside
in our haste, while gibbering and sobbing. Once having been apprised of
the devastating circumstances that had just taken place, he reacted immediately.
Without a further word, he reached behind the bar, grabbed a pistol which
he kept there and raced in the direction of the parking lot.
Marliza and I looked
at each other in horror. Fadil, the crazy Palestinian, was about to risk
his life for my stupid car. Remembering the police car that was outside,
and being more worried about Fadil than about ourselves at this point,
we ran to see if we could locate the missing policemen. They were nowhere
to be seen, but we observed that the doors to the cruiser were not locked
and the windows were open. We then proceeded to lean on the horn continuously,
hoping that the police would recognize the sound of their own horn, and
come from wherever they were to check out what was happening. After all,
they couldn't be too far away, we reasoned. Their doors and windows were
unlocked. Maybe they were somewhere nearby. After about two or three minutes
of continuous honking, the policemen did, indeed, appear.
Above the Casbah
was rumored to be a house of ill repute. The police had evidently
gone to check it out, and, in the line of duty no doubt, had decided
to attempt a "sting" operation. In any case, they came running
down the stairs partially clothed, buttoning their jackets, stuffing
their feet in their shoes, socks hanging out of their pockets, their
hats awry, trying to find their holsters to unholster their guns,
while yelling "who's honking our horn?" Imagine the dedication
of San Francisco's finest.
They could hardly
have been able to miss the preceding gunshots, yet so immersed (as it
were) in the carrying out of their duty were they that they valiantly
soldiered on with their egregious task in a noble attempt to rid San Francisco
of these nefarious nubiles of the night, thus making the streets safe
once again for the likes of the ordinary citizen. After trying to arrest
us and truss us up for honking their horn, we managed to get them to listen
to our story. Naturally, it wasn't as important as ridding the city of
sin, but they dragged themselves to the parking lot to find Fadil still
there with his gun and a car with it's hood open honking continuously.
We all decided that the best thing to do was to disengage my horn again,
so that we could all leave. After bidding Fadil a good night, we drove
off into the city towards our various destinations, leaving the police
to carry on with their unpleasant duty in the house of ill repute.
By this time crime
was rampant in San Francisco and Oakland and we hardy belly dancers congratulated
ourselves for our heroic efforts to stay on the job. I was soon to leave
to check out the Middle East and Greece and investigate the dance scene
there. One of the things that attracted me to Athens was that it was a
very safe city. Men followed you, to be sure, but were merely talkative
and harmless. So it was with regret that I left this lovely playground
where I had danced from 1969 to 1977. But, with topless entertainment
taking over North Beach and the disappearance of all the classy clubs
like Finnochio's, The Committee, The Bocce Ball,
The Olde Spaghetti Factory, The Mabuhay Gardens, the jazz
club where Mose Allison and Theolonius Monk used to gig,
and no customers to speak of most nights, I saw no other choice.
I resettled in Athens,
Greece, to pioneer being a belly dance attraction in the various Athens
by Nightclubs around the Acropolis. Did I miss America? Of course. But
the excitement of dancing in clubs that looked like they came straight
out of the scenery for the movies "Zorba the Greek" and
"Never on Sunday" made up for it. I applied myself to
learning Greek and returning to America to do the various seminars that
presented themselves and in many ways I thank God and my lucky stars that
tragedy turned out, for me, to be opportunity. See you in Greece!
More of Rhea's adventures!
We weren't the Beat Generation,
we were the Belly Generation
Rhea's Adventures -continues "Egyptian Dance Festival--Intrigue & Chaos" Part 2
"Strike!" I cried, and
we all stood up and marched to the bus!
in Cairo (Part 2) by Fred
da'a on your koshary like a real Egyptian. Perhaps you've
even learned how to pronounce da'a. You've had fuul for
breakfast and laughed in the face of many an expensive buffet. But all
the feelings of superiority aside, you're beginning to feel the need for
something, well, different.
Interview with MARLIZA PONS, by Robyn
In a tiny bikini, I'd dive into a lighted pool outside the restaurant,
and come up with a pearl in my mouth!
with Salah Takesh by Janine
Book review of Dina's second costuming book,"Easy Costume for Bellydancers".
Tahya's "Recreating Ritual"