Greek nightclubs were popping up all over the country and experienced dancers were in demand. John Angelou told me they needed a dancer in Cleveland and they were paying $40 dollars a night. A lot of dancers from the Ave. started coming back and forth from other cities and I thought I’d give it a shot.
“The Forty Thieves” was the first club I worked. Funny, I was in Cleveland but the club was on Detroit Ave. Karma? Fate? Who was the star there? OZEL TURKBAS! The very first dancer I had ever seen and she was so nice and pleasant to work with and a true pro. They did not have a drummer and she loved solo’s so thanks to Sabah and my experience’s in New York I was able to play for her show and give her a half ass ed solo. I then moved to the “Grecian Gardens” where I found out that I had to be a member of AGVA, American Guild of Variety Artists or, I could not work there, I joined. From there I went to “The Athenian”. When that job finished I got another offer to work another supper club called “Mr. Grapevines” but they were not AGVA. I needed the work, AGVA came in and told me I would be black balled if I took one step on the stage, I was black balled. After that I worked a number of American clubs, “The Red Carpet Inn” “The Thunderbird Lounge” and a few other places. Ever hear the expression “Break A Leg?” That comes from AGVA, because it was the only thing they paid for. They still exist!
One morning I got a call from Eddy Kochak. He wanted to know if I was available to work in Puerto Rico, the pay was $50 a night, free room in the hotel and half off anything I ate or drank. I was packed and on the next plane. A year in Cleveland
was enough. In this article they spelled Ozel and Zeyna wrong but hey, it was the
first time I was “in the news”
Bottom left, another top Bouzouki player John Angelou, singer
I don’t remember but middle is famous Turkish dancer Princess Nyeela,
Far right famous clarinet Costas Stavastakis. I can’t swear to the correct spelling.( We SAT!)
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1964 New York City Supper Club
Ozel Turkbas was the first Belly Dancer I ever saw and she blew me away. She was beautiful, feminine, her nails were manicured and polished, and she was a Belly Dancer from Turkey! WOW! Her costumes were dazzling and absolutely gorgeous. I had never seen this before, but she took men on the stage and taught them to shake a little and the crowd went hysterical with laughter.
Hell, I was from Minnesota, what did I know? My start: I had been a customer at the Istanbul in New York on 8th Ave., getting up learning the Greek dances when the singer approached me and said that I should try and belly dance and she would make me a costume.
So now, back to 8th Ave. Greek Town U.S.A. The Istanbul Club: Dancing about two months, thinking I was hot shit. I wanted costumes like Ozel Turkbas, but I was clueless and none of the belly dancers brought men up on the stage. I would not have dared anyway. I thought to myself, it is time to check out all these other clubs and see what the other belly dancers were doing. After checking out all the other clubs and other belly dancers, I realized when the light bulb flashed that I knew crap about the art.
In the 60’s, there was not anything such as a belly dance school, so every night I had off, I lived in the other clubs, studying the moves of the other belly dancers and listening, really listening to the music and how and what they did and where. The more I learned the more I knew I didn’t know. However, thank God I had a natural ear and love for music. I understood the beats of music and I could hear and feel it. Big Thing for my start in the Belly Dancing World!
Love You, I will tell you more in my next BLOG. Zeyna!!