Gilded Serpent presents...

Memorial to John Compton

Photos from the Community, GS Archives, and Your Comments

February 29, 1948 – October 14, 2012

posted October 15, 2012

Sent this morning to GS from Rebaba: I have some very sad news to share with you and your readers…John Compton passed away last night after a long and painful struggle with a multitude of AIDS related infections.  While typing this it still seems surreal that I will no longer here his voice and see his shining face and beautiful smile.  But, I take solace in the fact that he’s peaceful and free of his ravaged and weakened body that was no longer cooperating with his will…I miss him more than words can say and I know this will also be a tremendous loss to the BD community as well.  He’s survived by his sister and two brothers and their families.  Both his sister Liz and longtime friend, real estate partner and caregiver Margo were at his bedside when he passed at about 10:00 p.m. last night.

John Compton on Broadway

Readers, please send your photos for posting here to, with "John" in the subject line. Thank you!

John Compton

Video Clip of John interviewed for Hoochy Mammas

Rashid and John in 88

Shelley's photo

I am very sad with this news, john was infected after those people who rest their joy, incredibly talented and most beautiful of his talent was as enjoyed the dancing and the energy delivered to the public, always remember. -Paula

Zarifah with John

I have the treasured memory of studying with John Compton in Spring of 2009 = drove 3 hours one-way 2 states away to get the chance to bask in his "John-ness" LOL:) & I AM SO GLAD I DID!!! …Even just to speak with him (He’s such a CHARACTER–had me in stitches!:)) was a wonderful experience! …I drank in all his stories of Hahbi’Ru & Jamila Salimpour, delighting in surprisedly seeing his costume displayed on the wall of a bar in SanFrancisco, etc…


Hugs-&-Shimmies, Zafirah (Lesly Tejero-Baker)

I have a few photos from a weekend workshop I took with John Compton in Syracuse, NY in April 2006.

Raymond Van Tassel
Paula, ?, John

Hahbi'Ru PR photo

?, Rebaba, Sage, Paula and John

John and Cathryn
John and Farideh

Photo by Sid
From Sid:
I’m Sid Jones, and Oud player who played for John during the time he was expanding his activity from Santa Cruz into the San Jose area.  We performed at a place in Sunnyvale called Alladin’s Pizza Parlor.  In John’s own words:

"In the late 1970s I was dancing in Sunnyvale, California, at Aladdin’s Pizza Parlor.  I gained notoriety at the Friday lunch shows which would get booked three or four months in advance. I did some Saturday night shows there also and it was almost like the Chippendales shows. There would be about three hundred frenzied women and maybe fifty men. The main part was the tipping." . . . "I also worked in many places around San Jose, California. I worked at the Balkan Village in Los Altos. The San Jose places paid better."


I was employed in Sunnyvale as an Engineer.  I escaped for a couple of hours each Friday to do the noon "John Show".  Also playing with me were Dave Adams (also an Oud player) on Guitar, and Tom Malley on Dumbek and Def.  I’m sorry to say that I have no photos from those gigs, even though thousands were taken by all those over-excited women, but I can submit a previously unpublished shot which I captured at a Renn Fair about twelve years ago.

Sent in by Rebaba
Photo sent in by Rebaba:
"I got permission from Rosemary to publish this on GS.  Taken in Vacaville in the early 2000s when we first introduced all of our students into the company. "

Souzana and John
Attached is a picture that was taken with John Compton after attending his workshop at 2010 LVBDI.  I am so saddened by the news of his passing but feel so fortunate to have had the chance to meet and to learn from him. Best, Souzana

Photo by Dano

Attached is one of my photos from Las Vegas BellyDance Intensive and Festival (2010). -Dano Blanchard


10-15-12 , Rebaba: "The first one I’ll re-scan and send separately as you can see the scanner cut it off for some unknown reason.  The first six (counting the cover shot I will send in the next email) are panels from a promo kit created by a Hollywood agent who was determined to make John a STAR (except according to John he just wanted to dance and didn’t care about the modeling or acting at that time [early 80s]).  The most famous picture with the tray on his head is with the beautiful dancer/choreographer Sharlyn.  The last two photos with me were taken in 2000, one is from Rakkasah and the other is us goofing around after a photo shot.  I love this picture as it shows his real constantly playful nature! Love, Rita"

year 2000

"In a word, John had Charisma.  His quick wit and  sense of humor made him popular; his kindness made him loved.  Above all, he had courage.  We have lost a wonderfully unique individual…and there will never  be another like him." Anne Shears, St. Louis, Missouri

Rita and John on the beach, 1 month before his death
Here is the last "best day" photo we took of each other at Pacific Beach in San Diego on September 14, 2012.  The following day he collapsed on me and we went to emergency and it was sort downhill from then on until he passed exactly one month later (ooooh, I just realized that he passed exactly 30 days from this when this photo was taken, October 14th was his last earthly day!!)

John and Colorado Troupe Sahirrnee, on the Arabian Nights at Sea Cruise, 2006

Holly and John

Shelly's photo

The older woman with the white hair is Anna.  She came to every dance show in Vancouver B.C. and had been in a concentration camp in WWII.  She could party.  She was such a fixture and a great audience and she loved John.  She would get up and dance after she had a few and she was just such a happy spirit.  She came down for this show with Rahma Haddad and Selma Ferchichi and this guy, who knew John but I don’t remember his name. -Shelley

John and Anna

John lighting his tray candles

Marisa and John

This is a photo of John and me taken a few years ago at a workshop in Salina, Kansas. 

My mother, Shadia Dahlal, made fun of how starstruck I was the first time I met John. I remember her telling him about it, and he just laughed. Some of my best memories are of sitting with my mother and John listening to them exchanging dance stories from the old days. From the first time I met John, he was a friend. He shared jokes and funny stories with me like we had known one another for years. As a dancer, he inspired me like few other dancers have, and as a teacher, his patience and fun attitude made me feel like I could accomplish anything. Occasionally, he would surprise me with a message letting me know he was sitting in an airport and just thought of me, or when I got married and moved to Colorado, "Waaahhh! You left me for someone else!" 🙂 It meant everything in the world to know that someone I looked up to so much was thinking of me. I will miss him very much. – Marisa Elena Dahlal


Hahbi Ru

Hahbi Ru

John does Snake Arms

crossed fingers!


It is sad…. And more and more are following him to the clouds…..He will keep us the good places warm for our joy of the art of dance. Attached some photos from Rakkassah 1996 ….. J. with 1001 Oriental Greetings
André Elbing


Asia and John dance together in Hollywood in 1984
John & Asia in Hollywood, 1984

Dancing together at Rakkasah
Dancing together at Rakkasah

I am sending along these pictures, John and I were partners for ten years.
We danced and taught all over California, Portland and Seattle. He was so much fun to work with.
He was an inspiration to all. Personally, he is the person who convinced me to move to SF and throw my hat in the ring as a professional belly dancer.
John was one of a kind and will  be sadly missed.-

Silly John

John Compton was  a close friend and and such an influence on me, I’d known him since I was a baby dancer. His  talent, his stage presence, and generosity made him a huge figure in our community, and I felt blessed  to know him.   Off-stage, we got a long like gangbusters- anyone that was around him for a while knew that he was totally  fun, spontaneous  and crazy…in a GREAT way.  After my career took off, we wound up working together (and often rooming together) at many festivals.  We  always seemed to meet up at airports in far-flung cities, on our way to dance events…so we’d have a cocktail together while waiting for our plane, it kind of became a "tradition".    I’m not sure what airport  this  picture was taken at, and I’m thinking he probably  just had a random  stranger snap it,  a few weeks before we were scheduled to work together in 2009…but this wound up being his Facebook profile picture for a while. I thought it was cute at the time  and it still is, but now it’s also indicative of what a warm and funny person  he was. –Princess Farhana

John with Somra El Nubia and Sakinah Ali


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  1. Shelley Muzzy (Yasmela)

    Oct 15, 2012 - 10:10:19

    Sad news.  Our community has lost a bright star, a gifted artist.  Somehow, knowing John’s wicked sense of humor, I think he would rather be here dancing, despite how much it cost him in the last few years.  I wish he was here dancing too, but I know that wherever he is, that is exactly what he is doing and doing it with panache, style and humor, to the very best of his enormous ability.  He is delighting the angels.  I will miss you, sweet friend.

  2. admin

    Oct 15, 2012 - 01:10:35

    Admin posting for Zorba–

    This is very sad – he was one of the pioneers not just as a “male” Belly Dancer, but as a Belly Dancer in general. I *LOVED* his sense of humor, and the way he would always order EVERY dessert on the menu on the ANAS cruise – then try to give them away, including the god-awful diet orange cake! It was hysterical!

    He will be missed – Athena’s blessings for him…

    “The Veiled Male” 

  3. Barbara Grant

    Oct 15, 2012 - 01:10:07

    Many years ago, I attended a party where John performed, balancing his tray. We were all awed! It wasn’t just his technical command of the dance that impressed me, but also his beautiful smile. He had the gift (because it is surely a gift) of communicating joy to others. Sadly, all of us are without that now. God bless you, John!

  4. Veda Sereem

    Oct 18, 2012 - 06:10:38

    Oh, such terrible news. I talked to John many times on the phone. A sweet and wonderful man. He was truly an exceptional dancer and a magnificent individual. There is no one out there now that can replace him. I know he is dancing in heaven and we will see him again. My love to you John!

  5. Kathryn King aka kamna

    Oct 18, 2012 - 08:10:19

    The world has less beauty in it with the passing of such a wonderful man. John will be thought of often and missed forever. I will see him dancing in galaxy with the stars now. I am grateful to be graced by his life force and those engaging baby blues!

  6. Morocco

    Oct 19, 2012 - 06:10:27

    I am devastated to read that John Compton is no longer with us. I met him in the early mid ’70s, in San Francisco & was immediately & totally won over by his skill, charm & charisma. Ever since then, I cared about him and his dancing very much.

    I’m sorry I don’t have any new photos to add to the ones above & I will truly miss his talent, energy, sweetness.

    That he managed to persevere for SO long, despite the terrible sword of his illness, is a real tribute to his inner strength & will to LIVE Life to the fullest.

    We will all miss him.

    Sadly, but with much love,

  7. sabrina dance

    Oct 19, 2012 - 09:10:07

    I just found out about our ONE and ONLY “Blue Eyes” that had grace Cairo Carnival Flyers and advertisement of Mecda and I’m deeply sadden to hear JOHN is not with us..but all of his Memories will ever be with me as I have known him since late 70’s and of all the Magnificent Performances… Our Belly Dance World will never forget you, JOHN COMPTON… I will Miss you…warm Huzs…Sabrina of Orange County..

  8. Baraka Yazmeen

    Oct 20, 2012 - 08:10:10

    What a sad loss. I have not danced in many years, but stay somewhat connected to the BD community through other members of my retired troupe. I remember John from the 1980’s! He was wonderful then, so I can imagine what an absolute talent he became. He was much loved for so many reasons. I know he is now dancing without pain and with wild abandon somewhere that you and I cannot see from this life. He will live on in this life in the hearts and memories of many, many people.

  9. Diddy

    Oct 21, 2012 - 03:10:34

    The guy on the left in the photo of Rahma and Anna in Vancouver is Alec (Alex?) Didovic, a dancer from back in the day.

  10. Amanda

    Oct 21, 2012 - 08:10:01

    John was my teacher, director, and friend for over a decade. I learned so much from him — not just from his dancing, but also from his vitality, his excellence, his joy, and his goofiness. He was unique, larger-than-life, and as good as they come, both in talent and in spirit. The outpouring of love for him here and on social media is a testament to the scores of people whose lives he touched. He will be keenly missed, but never forgotten. Blessings ever, Papa Ru!

  11. Dallas Martin

    Oct 22, 2012 - 01:10:04

    am sad to read this. I hope him and Rashid are still dancing up there in the spirit world. He will be missed and remembered as the man the did!!!

  12. Said el Amir

    Oct 23, 2012 - 12:10:13

    Rest in Peace, John Compton!
    I just saw him maybe twice at Rakassah West. So I wouldn’t allow to say I was a friend.
    The more I really appreciate the fact, that this page was created to honor him and to let his spirit live on. There are already too many dancers which passed away of whom you do not find any information, stories, pictures anywhere anymore… too sad!
    Thank you for giving us this oportunity to still get inspired by John Compton.
    Said el Amir

  13. Naj of

    Nov 4, 2012 - 10:11:48

    John was so much a favorite of mine.  Sparkling expressive blue eyes, a happy personality and the best actor as well as a dancer. It was his joyous personality as well as his commanding presence and dance that made us all LOVE him.

  14. Lindsay Lee

    Nov 28, 2012 - 11:11:57

      This is terrible. He was one of the remaining great male belly dancers of my time. He used to get the women swooning when he danced. He had a tribal thing nailed. It’ll be a long time before another one of him comes this way.

  15. Warren Luck

    Nov 29, 2012 - 03:11:47

    Did not meet John through dancing, but as Margo’s friend. Helped him work on the house in SF.
    See you on the “Other Side” John.


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  17. Dorothy Vyenielo

    Sep 25, 2013 - 05:09:14

    Dear Margo –
    Just realized John had died a year ago. I’m so sorry. He was such a love.
    Dorothy Vyenielo, Mom
    (also Terry’s friend-Mom)

  18. Dorothy Vyenielo

    Sep 25, 2013 - 05:09:36

    This is an addition to my message above – you can only contact me through my sister’s e-mail.
    Remembering all the wonderful memories at the cabin in Cazadero with both Terry and John. I feel a lot of sadness about his passing, but I know he is at peace. 
    love, Dorothy

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