DANCING IN THE '70's
The Cowboy Bar in Montana
In August of
1971, Bert Balladine called
me to ask if I could fly to Great Falls, Montana for a month
When?" I asked.
know any details, only that it paid well. He gave me the phone
number of the club owner so that I could call him. Being inexperienced,
I didn't ask for any information when I called except to confirm
that the job was to last for a month.
I packed a
few warm-weather clothes and several costumes. I left Berkeley,
California the next morning. When I arrived at the airport in
Montana the club owner (I'll call him Chet since I don't remember
his name) met me and took me to the apartment in which I would
stay. On the way to the apartment he explained that he had another
act working at his club, a country singer by the name of Stephanie.
We would share the apartment. I was overjoyed that I didn't have
to rent a room somewhere.
I got along right away. She was from the Bay Area too. Chet left
with the understanding that I'd walk across the street to the
club later that day to see the layout. I would be dancing for
the first time that evening. Stephanie would do the opening act
and then I'd do a nine o'clock show.
shock was when I saw the name of the club, The Great Mountain
Saloon. I didn't realize that I'd be dancing in a saloon!
was when I saw the sawdust on the floor. I knew it would be very
difficult to dance either barefoot or with heels on sawdust.
I asked Chet if he could sweep it up around the dance floor where
I would be performing. He agreed that after Stephanie did her
set he'd have his son come out and sweep up the floor. He also
told me Great Falls had never had a belly dancer come to town.
Terrific! I could probably make a million mistakes and no one
as I prepared to do my first show, I peeked through the door
from the back. It looked like party-night at the OK Corral. Table
after bar stool was filled with cowboys of every type, shape
and height complete with cowboy boots. Some even had guns on
their hips. Most still wore their Stetsons. I was a tiny bit
nervous that they didn't have to check their guns. I knew that
this would be an interesting night.
As soon as
I glided out on the floor and started spinning to my taped music
the club quieted down. When the bouzouki began playing the audience
started to clap and stomp. The cowboys thought it was an invitation
to dance! Before I knew it there were three of them dancing around
me. No one from the bar or the club came to help. I was alarmed,
having never experienced this before. I didn't have the foggiest
idea how to incorporate them into my dance so I knew I had to
get them seated. Gradually, I coaxed them to sit back down so
that I could continue.
end of my first set fifty cowboy hats sailed through the
air landing all around my feet and bouncing off of my arms.
I made a quick exit through the door to the dressing room
that Stephanie and I shared.
Out of breath,
I asked her, "Why didn't you warn me?"
She laughed. "They
weren't quite as excited when I was out there."
My four weeks
went by very quickly and I made many friends. The cowboys of
Northern Montana turned out to be a great bunch of guys. A group
of them took Stephanie and me to the county fair to see Sonny
and Cher perform.
The last week
I was there a freak blizzard hit Great Falls. I had to buy a
winter coat and warm clothing. The temperature plummeted from
80 degrees to 10 below zero overnight. I caught a terrible cold
and bronchitis with a temperature of 101, probably from dancing
barefoot on the cold floor. Chet took me to his doctor. When
I insisted that the show must go on the doctor promptly prescribed
some fabulous painkillers. The medicine helped me float across
the dance floor the last week of my gig.
I never again
danced in a saloon but it was an experience that I wouldn't trade
Have a comment? Send
us a letter!
at Zorba's in the '70's by Kalifa
By show time
it was a full house!
Travels after 9/11 by
I feel safer there on the streets than any place in the U.S.
BOOTH PICS at RAKKASAH
FESTIVAL WEST 2002 photo
prep and layout by Munira
had much fun mingling with the reptiles