Belly Laughs: Adventures with Celebrities and Other Unusual
by Tamalyn Dallal, Rod Long, Bev Harris
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Belly Laughs Gives Reviewer
Terrific Case of Reader’s Indigestion
Belly Laughs: Adventures with Celebrities &
Other Unusual Characters”
by Rod Long.

Reviewed by Sadira

“Belly Laughs” is certainly an interesting concept for a humor book with a flair for drama and stories laced with eccentricity that revolve around well-known (and not so well-known) dancers. Rod Long, is the author.  His biography reports that he is a well-known stand up comedian from Seattle, with a long list of credits in Los Angeles and Seattle. 

Perhaps stand up comedy may be his forte, but writing an interesting book is not.

I was hoping to be chuckling to myself at least part of the time while reading his book and expected to be roaring with laughter at the amusing antics of many dancers’ life experiences that can only be categorized as pure "outrageousness".

Though the main contributors in stories were centered around Tamalyn Dalal, Jodette, Amaya, and Mezmera as examples of famous dancers, there were a few contributions of other artists that somehow got their "fascinating stories" to Rod Long for this ho-hum book. 

At times, as I was reading the litany of strange, bizarre, and/or self –aggrandizing stories that filled the pages, I wondered if perhaps Rod Long simply had sent a questionnaire to every dancer for whom he had an address, to relate their most bizarre or wacky experience.  Some were interesting, others rather disjointed and not quite believable.

The first story, "Paolo and the Priest", was actually quite funny.  Of course, that could be because it involved old world Italians and priests, with whom I have a particular symbiotic relationship.  So, for me, that one story was the highlight of the whole book (the very first story). Tragically, it was downhill from there

Obviously, Rod Long, trying to perhaps enliven a story told by a dancer, embellished many a tale with typical stand-up comic patter that was as out of place in the story as canned laughter in a comedy club routine.

During our careers, all of us dancers have encountered a fantastical, crazy, bizarre story or two that we could share.  I was hoping to see some of the more hilarious variety appear in this book.  Instead, what was presented were disjointed short essays on the tradition of Belly dance involving the name dropping of famous people, and sandwiched in between them was a story of dancing for a celebrity opening for the singer, Madonna.

Now that I think about it, if you are an Enquirer or Star fan, you really may enjoy this book, as it has the elements of reality that those particular tabloids carry; a tinge of truth, but a twilight-zone effect emerges!

Over 80% of the stories in “Belly Laughs” relate in some way to a dancer's encounter with a celebrity or well known Saudi Prince. After about four vignettes, it began to blur into stories that seemed to compete for the highest number of celebrity encounters, featuring Jodette's rather dubious Hollywood style B-movie story lines that always seemed to find her crying and stamping her feet in a tantrum or being seduced by some wealthy Middle Eastern minor prince and stolen away to be dazzled and draped with jewels.

Speaking of jewels, there is one story in the book that was so incredible I must admit I can't believe the event took place... 

A dancer who travels in Bogata, Columbia, receives a dance tip consisting of a precious heart-shaped emerald given to her by an influential and dangerous drug lord. During the course of her adventures and escapes, she tries to pay for gasoline for her car with the heart shaped emerald because she had no cash!  I ask you, … anyone really that desperate or stupid to resort to buying gasoline with a priceless jewel?

There are a lot of stand-up comedic jokes and one-liners thrown into every storyline that have no resemblance to the story being unfolded. 

Take care to note especially the number of jokes regarding natural body functions should you be so foolish as to waste time with this dud.

So, though I admire the many contributing dancers for their dancing abilities, as a competent piece of literature to entertain and make you laugh, or even to chuckle a bit, “Belly Laughs” will simply give you indigestion. 

Certainly, I do not blame the dancers who shared their probably cute stories, but the way each story was finally presented and embroidered by Mr. Long’s heavy writer’s hand transformed each one in ways that leave the reader wishing for a good dose of Pepto Bismal.

If you want to find laughable stories involving dancers’ experiences, I would recommend having a party, or a simple get-together with some of your own favorite dancers and friends and spend a whole afternoon over a cup of tea trading your own true, treasured dance memories.

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