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Kaethe Kliot models her elegant retro coat and gown for Bert Balladine
Gilded Serpent presents…
The Magnificent Fundraiser
Part Two- Police Barriers Surround Event
by Najia Marlyz

Part 1 here

"Magnificent?"  Well, our fundraiser seemed magnificent to Bert Balladine and me back in 1975!  It made sense to us:  We needed money for our dance studio’s advertising fund, and $2000 was an incredible amount of money in that time!  It appeared quite sensible (and a grand idea) that Bert and I should stage a fundraiser for our recently opened dance studio.  We did not even consider organizing a car wash or a bake sale, since we were part of a community that was actively involved in the entertainment field.

Over coffee, we decided that our fundraiser would have to be an extraordinary dance show rather than “just another student night” or worse yet, a studio recital.

Bert remembered the many cabaret and dinner shows in Europe in which he had danced and what memorable occasions they had been.  Eager to have similar experiences, I volunteered to find a venue that was both affordable and large enough -- with a stage and a kitchen so that we could organize our own dinner show in Berkeley. 

In 1975, I had been working at O Aitos Greek Taverna only two years, but when I told Owner Ted Sofios about our idea for a fundraiser to sponsor our Yellow Pages ad for the Solano Avenue dance studio that I had opened in Albany, he was not only supportive: he was enthusiastic!  He volunteered to dance and volunteered his entire troupe.  Additionally, he suggested that he might also persuade the Greek band he featured in his taverna, The Meraklithes (led by John Rekus) to join our party—and they did.

The Meraklithes Greek Band from O Aitos Taverna

I think Bert and I may have been somewhat delusional and somewhat heady with enthusiasm, but our spirits soared and our hopes flew wild as people volunteered to help.  Bert said, "I think we can do much more than a little student show; let's ask some experienced dancers if they'd like to donate a dance to our cause – if they're not interested, they can always say no.

It appeared that we had tapped into a bonanza of talent!  It seemed that many dancers were hungry for places to perform before large audiences, and word got around town, down the Peninsula, (and eventually, even further) that we were organizing a dinner show as a fundraiser and were looking for volunteer dancers. 

None of the dancers who volunteered appeared to care for what, precisely, we were raising funds.  So many volunteers quickly surfaced that I had to search for a much larger venue than I had originally envisioned.

Ike Rekus' enthusiastic kitchen crew
John, from the Meraklithes Band, said that his brother, Ike Rekus, was organizing a Greek club in a large building (probably a former school) down on the waterfront of Berkeley, and it would be ready soon.  He suggested that Ike might like to use our dinner show function as a kickoff for his new endeavor.  We asked Ike, who was a cook, and he liked our idea.  Ike gathered his kitchen workers (pictured here in their unhappy mode) to cook and serve a dinner for our event.  We produced a simple menu to keep the price reasonable, and Ike took care of everything else.

Gene Rosa works on lighting backstage

We set the price for the tickets, printed them up ourselves, and in no time at all, nearly 400 tickets had been sold. 

Imagine!  We had not even arranged our show, or even engaged our complete talent lineup and our event became a sellout!

Bert had been part of many shows previously, and so had I, but neither of us had much experience in actually producing one.  I guess it was inevitable that our inexperience would put the cart before the horse (but our so-called "horse" was more like an over laden donkey—top-heavy with volunteer dancers, great hopes, and imagination!)  Unexpectedly, our friends and students began to step forward offering their expertise to help us produce our show.  We already had a lighting expert, a professional photographer, a mistress of ceremonies, and our chef.

Natica Angilly and her assistant

Local dance vendors recognized our event as an opportunity to sell their wares, and so we made vendor spaces available in the hallways of the facility, which by the way, Ike had named The Helmet Club.  (I believe the name referred to the classical Greek helmet.).

A Classical Greek helmet

Someone suggested that we should hold a raffle during the intermission.  Perhaps the large raffle cage that we saw backstage when we were looking at the facility for the first time placed the idea into our minds.  At any rate, we asked a few business owners on Solano if they would like to contribute to our fundraiser, and surprisingly, most of them contributed valuable gift items for our raffle in exchange for a credit in our printed program. 

Perrin Kliot picks winners as
Natica watches Najia awards raffle prize
One of our dancers, and a vendor, Natica Angilly, also helped to emcee our show and help us conduct the raffle.  Our young friend, Perrin Kliot, turned the wheel and chose the winning tickets.  I handed out the gifts to all the lucky winners.
Among the first dancers to volunteer were Kathryn Rabanne, Khadija, a dancer with tattoos (highly unusual in that era), and my friend Rhea, who now lives in Greece.

 Khadija Rabanne
displays her first tatoos

At that time we had all become pals, and Rhea put me up to many antics involving Bellydance, including traipsing along the sidewalks of downtown Oakland, California, in full dance regalia, to the Oakland Tribune building, where Tribune photographers snapped our pictures and free publicity soon appeared in the newspaper.  How embarrassing!  Still, I would have to admit that it paid off eventually.

Rhea volunteered to dance with her troupe, and they performed a sword routine as well as a drum rhythm number.

As I mentioned to you in part one of this article, Ike was forced to close the Helmet Club after our show, because two things went wrong, involving our event.  The first thing that happened was that all the tickets were gone before the event began by at least a week or more; yet, when the grand day arrived, easily double the number of people who held tickets for the event appeared at our door, ready to enjoy the evening and dressed for the event!  We had to turn them away, and this created great deal of anger, because they had planned to meet friends there, bring their dates, and have dinner.

Considering that our show was in Berkeley, most of the guests and those who had hoped to attend the show without having bought tickets in advance had made efforts to dress quite elaborately. 

Rhea and her troupe drumming
Unfortunately, the ticket-less people were truly "all dressed up, with no place to go."  They began to fight among themselves, and with our staff in the lobby, and our lobby staff became alarmed -- and they called the police.  The Berkeley police had dealt with a great number of civil disturbances near the University in the ‘60s and their usual tactic was to set up police barriers first.  So, up went the police barriers around our event!

Excitement and tension filled the air as our show began, but the coup de grace that finished off our venue was delivered later… and I'll tell you what misfortune happened in part three as I show you pictures of our performers and celebrities!

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