Gilded Serpent presents...
One Night at the El Morocco in Las Vegas
by Anajim

In my life, I have danced in many interesting places. I have memories upon memories – some are good, some bad, and some downright ugly. I choose to remember the good ones and this is one of the most treasured of those.

I traveled the U.S.A. extensively for about ten or more years with my husband as he pursued his career in golf course building. Along the way, one of the joys I had to look forward to was meeting another group of my bellydance sisters at the next stop which always made my "wife" existence more bearable.

There was always a group, always a venue, always classes everywhere we went. The exception being Las Vegas; I could not connect with any dance sisters there, although I had met some wonderful girls in Reno and in Carson City and had danced there.

Since it was fairly overwhelming in Las Vegas, I settled in to the "wife" role and counted the seconds until we could leave. The only thing to do at night is walk the strip, unless you have money to burn and no self-control (neither of which applied to us). So walk we did for a few hours every night. I had developed a habit of getting "cool souvenirs" for my bellydance friends back home in New England, and had hit every "cool" casino with any name resembling anything to do with belly dance. I had collected matches, swizzle sticks, coasters, an ashtray or three, little things. I really wanted the hologram of Apollo at Caesar's Place, but it would not fit in my bag!

Then there was the one fateful night. On this particular night, we were only about two days away from getting out of Sodom and Gomorrah and I was ecstatic! We were going back to Oregon, a great place for creative alternative dancers like me. So, we were out making our last "rounds" and the last stop was the old El Morocco. It was kind of dark, smelly and old looking, but hey, it WAS the "El Morocco". I absolutely would not leave Vegas without some of THEIR logo matches. We went in through the lobby and stopped at the front desk where I asked for matches.

The front desk clerk, who looked like a refugee from a Beavis & Butthead movie, was non-plussed and gave me a ratty crinkled book with two matches in it without even looking up from the nudie magazine he was peering through.

I said, "Are there more? I will pay for them!" He mumbles God knows what and pointed toward this dark hole leading into what I hoped was the bar, as the only thing I understood was "bartender". I took a chance and entered. Of course, I was accompanied by my giant husband and so I went boldly into this Darkness.

This short "tunnel" opened onto a scene straight out of an early 50’s Frank Sinatra movie. I mean it! There were about ten people in there (3 of them being myself, my husband and the bartender). The others were seated at one table and they looked like they were on a movie-set. There were the really over-bleached Connie Stevens blonde with the tight gown and cigarette holder (no joke), the guy in the pin striped suit and the big fat cigar, the button men (sidekicks) and, what looked like, a band as they were all dressed the same.

I went over to the bar and asked for matches and received three more books, in better condition, and a smile from the bartender. So, to be equally civil, we ordered a coke and a Budweiser. As we were finishing and about to leave, we heard a voice saying "Hey, don't leave, we will play anything you want".

Oh God, now we have to stay or be rude. I had a brainstorm, and retorted, "Well, I only like Armenian music. If you can play any of that, we will stay".

Now I am, oh so smugly, thinking: "Hah! That gets us out of here." (And it usually does.)

To my utter dismay, I heard "How about "Miserlou"? Huh? So, okay, the guy is a Dick Dale fan, no need to panic just yet. But THEN he said "We'll play it if you will dance", and launches into one of the sweetest renditions of "Miserlou" I ever heard.

Now the gangsters are motioning me, as was the blonde (who it turned out was the singer), to dance. She had broken her hip skiing Tahoe and could not perform, hence the empty room. Next, they turned the spotlight on me and now there was no escape possible. I had no costume, no veil, no zills, and no make-up other than regular evening make-up and clothing. But, you know Vegas "rules", I had played bluff poker and lost… big-time.

So I went for it! I danced all over the room, across the stage and all around. When I finished I got a standing ovation from the entire room, all nine of them.

Afterwards, we sat with these wonderful people and had some more drinks and some food, sang a few of Frank's tunes (Oh yeah) and made a lasting memory. Even now with the El Morocco dust under something new, I remember that night – it's smells, sounds, feelings, and sights will remain with me even as I become a very old woman.

As it turned out, the man who said "How about "Miserlou"?" was an Armenian musician who played with a famous band long ago. He did not give me his name, nor did I ask, I did not give him mine either. None of us gave names, instead we relished the moment of connection and serendipity and then, "The Moving Finger Having Writ, Moved On". I hope you enjoyed this little tale and it tells you: " always walk through the door"!

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