Gilded Serpent presents...
of Town in
As it happened,
the first two times I went to dance out of town were both in Oregon.
The first was a one-night show at the University of Oregon., in
November of 1966. I flew up with Yousef,
owner of the Bagdad, "George
Elias the Jerk", Gilli-Gilli and Fatma Akef,
so we had a violin, an oud, a drum and two dancers. We were put
up in the dorms and did a big, well-publicized show. George was
very frightened and sort of sick in the plane on the way up (and
back), and that really tickled Fatma's funny bone. Since then,
every time I have seen her, she talks about how scared he was and
laughs a lot. That was the first time I had been interviewed by
a paper about my dancing, and it is when I learned how careful
one has to be about one says, as things can be mangled even in
The second trip
to Oregon came about because Jamila told me that I had to
stop hanging around the Bay Area, just dancing and going to antique
shops and so on, and start making some trips elsewhere, to get
some more experience. So for the first and last time (except for
some club dates), I used an agent to get a job. After that time,
club and restaurant owners would approach me with job offers, or
I would be referred by another dancer. Anyway, I was hired by the Athens
West restaurant in Portland, Oregon, owned by a Greek, George
Voreas, for a two-week gig.
I flew up to
Portland - only the second time in a plane for me, and the first
by myself. I was feeling a little uncomfortable because, although
mini skirts were in, pantyhose hadn't yet become available, so
I was having to use a lot of energy trying to keep hidden my stocking
tops and garters under the skirt of my hot fuchsia suit. Oooh.
It had been suggested that I stay at the Hoyt Hotel, a littlie
way down the street from the restaurant. I took a room, got ready,
and went to work.
The other girl
who was dancing at the Athens West was a short, cute, half-Greek
girl named Zainah. From the very first she was nothing but
sweet to me, which was and is not always the case in an established
dancer's treatment of a newer one. She immediately had me change
my room to one on the top floor of the hotel, which was much cheaper,
as it was smaller and had a shared bath. On that top floor also
lived the singers and dancers who were appearing in the stage show
at the theater attached to the hotel.
was a wild thing - she would wear shorts and a little midriff
top and do handstands and other acrobatics in the lobby of
the hotel, cheered on by a bunch of caged mynah birds there.
She flirted a lot with the owner of the hotel, which got
her a reduced rent. She tried to explain it to me so that
I could get mine reduced, too, but I have somehow never been
able to achieve that kind of thing.
We dressed in
the basement of the restaurant, crossed one end of the kitchen,
and climbed the stairs to the restaurant proper, where there was
a small raised stage for the musicians and us. Over to one side
of the room was a long bar, and behind it was a regular, largish
fishbowl - and in that fishbowl was a very small, topless girl,
swimming and flirting! I was amazed, but I later found out that
there was a little platform up close to the ceiling in another
part of the basement, where the real girl would lie and pretend
to swim, and have her image transported by an ingenious arrangement
of mirrors into the fishbowl! The owner wanted me to do it, but
I wasn't interested.
the things that the owner insisted on was fancy hair - he
considered straight, hanging hair to be "hippie hair".
Zainah wore three hairpieces every night. When I wrote to
Jamila about this, she wrote back, advising me that it wasn't
surprising, as "Greeks like their women to look like
Yes. We had
some trouble after I had been there a few days because my costumes
got dirty (well, I had a pink crepe skirt that got black on the
front). I had had my costumes cleaned before I left, so I told
George that they had gotten dirty from his stage - guys would get
up in their street shoes and dance, and the dirty floor was never
cleaned - just waxed over. He said that Zainah's costumes never
got dirty, but she said that of course they did, but they were
chiffon, so you couldn't see it! Anyway, I had a skirt cleaned
for the first and last time by a hotel cleaner. They shrank it
in spots and made it longer in spots - it was a disaster, and was
ruined. We also had to be sure to wear slippers to cross the floor
of the kitchen, as it was so greasy and dirty that our feet would
look terrible on stage if we didn't! To add to all this cleanliness
(hah!), in that dressing room was the first time I ever saw a cockroach!
It was on the wall behind my head, and made Zainah shriek, but
I found it interesting. Another first for me at the Athens West
was lobster - when the cook learned I hadn't ever tasted it, he
made me one, and when he saw how much I loved it, he made me several
more over my time there.
At that time
I had only a few costumes. I had a black crepe skirt with trim,
a blue chiffon Turkish run-through, the pink skirt that was ruined
(and it fluoresced!), and a pair of pantaloons made of some loose
gold mesh that kept catching my toes, with a heavy gold jersey
veil. I had my original silver coin bra and belt, and a set made
with gold coins and red jewels that I had bought from Najma
Saline. She was much smaller than I was, and I had enlarged
the belt with the cuffs that came with it, but I lengthened the
bra straps with chain, which worked fine.
fine, that is, until the night I bowed to the band at the
end of my dance and the chain parted and the bra fell right
off onto the stage! Ooooh! I was pretty embarrassed, but
it was also pretty funny, as I picked up my (luckily) heavy
veil to bring myself a little modesty, I was laughing, the
band was laughing, and such of the customers as had seen
what happened were laughing. The owner, however, thought
that I had done it on purpose, and he was not laughing! In
fact, he didn't speak to me for a week!
He got over
it, however, and, when the two weeks of my contract were up, he
said he wanted to keep me for two more weeks, but at a lower salary.
I told him I would like to stay, but I wasn't too sure about a
salary cut. I immediately wrote to the agent to ask her what I
should do. It took several days to get a letter back from her,
and she said that I should accept the pay cut, but in the meantime
I had decided that I wanted to keep getting the same amount of
money, told the owner, and been accepted. So much for the agent's
were all Greek, and included Elias Fotosides, Mimis Daskalos and Lolos,
who was a real showman and played the Farfisa electric keyboard.
I worked with Lolos later, at other clubs, too. Elias used to call
me the Sergeant, for my broad shoulders and straight posture.
a port city, hosted a lot of sailors of all nations, and we got
a lot of the Greeks in the Athens West, of course. They were great
tippers - a $20 bill was nothing to them, so we all did well. One
night a convention of florists came in. They brought a lot of bouquets
to put on the tables and a lot of loose flowers for the entertainers.
Pretty soon the musicians were all decorated with anthuriums and
carnations, and we dancers had flowers stuck in our costumes and
scattered over us on the stage as we did floor work. One bromeliad
that came my way had a $100 bill wrapped around the stem. It was
In those more
innocent and safer days, Zainah liked to cruise the docks, looking
for Greek sailors to pick up for conversation and flirtation. Several
times I went with her in Lolos' convertible, and we were often
joined by one of the gay dancers from the hotel's stage show.
drive along with Zainah calling out in Greek slang to any
Greek we happened to see, and soon the car was loaded with
guys looking for fun and a break from the ship. Far
too often, after I had gone to bed at night, Zainah would
come knocking at my door to wake me up, with a couple or
more guys in tow, saying to come on down to the coffee shop
for a while.
I finally started
sleeping in my makeup so that I was ready for these wee-hour excursions,
and I have had my makeup on 24 hours a day ever since. I'm just
talking eyes and cheeks here. Even when I went to Alaska to stay
with my brother there, helped him build his cabin and clean a moose
he had shot, I had on my lashes, eyeliner, shadow and blush. Jamila
loved this story and told it to all her classes. Of course, at
that time, in the late '60s and early '70s, the doe-eyed look was
in and women wore a lot of makeup, so it didn't really look out
of place - just exotic. Well, maybe out in the wilds of Alaska...
Just as I was
leaving, a dancer named Zenouba arrived to take my place.
She told me that I should go to work in Fresno, at the Arabian
Nights restaurant, and, if I remember correctly, she called
the owner about me. Zenouba was an older woman from Egypt. More
of her later.
came down to San Francisco to work at the Bagdad. She did her acrobatic
stuff there and captivated George Elias the Nice. They were married
for a while.
My first out-of-town
job was enjoyable and a little scary, and I was ready for my next
of Town in Fresno
You can't wear that vest on stage - we're not running a Sunday school here!
of the Spirit by Sierra Suraci
what are you contributing - either to their dilution as a people
or the strengthening of their true image.
IAMED Fifth Annual Awards of Belly Dance!
from the awards ceremony performances and list of winners.