John Mavromatis, ?, Marina, Pete Parandas, Aziza! (of course) in front
Zorba's in Walnut Creek
by Aziza!

In 1969 I decided that I would try working in a Greek club again.  I heard that Zorba's (later the Parthenon), a restaurant in Walnut Creek,  was looking for a dancer, so I went to try out. 

There was another girl who wanted the job, too, but not only was I a better dancer than she was, the skirt of my street clothes was so short (mini skirts were definitely in!) that I couldn't raise my arms when I did the folk dances (which she didn't know - another black mark), and I could tell that the Greeks wanted to see more of that, so the job was in the bag!

  Being young and attractive, with good legs that one was not afraid to show, was (and still is) a plus when looking for a dancing job.   Zorba's belonged to John Mavromatis, and the entertainment included three musicians and a singer besides the dancer (me).  We worked six nights a week.  It was a pleasant place to work, and I soon adapted to the zippy Greek music.  Pete Parandas played the bouzouki, Mimis played guitar and sang in the wailing, minor-keyed village style that I love, and other musicians came and went.  The singer was a young Greek woman named Marina, and she could really get the audience jumping when she got going!  The plates started flying through the air and breaking all over the floor!  There was one woman who came in regularly, leaned against one of the pillars near the stage, and stared at me the whole time I danced.  I didn't know who she was then, but I


learned later that she was Sula, the owner of a dance shop in the area and the founder of the Belly Dancer of the Year Pageant.  On weekends, a novelty act joined the show - two young men, brothers, billing themselves as Ulysses and Useless.  They did Greek dancing, but there was more than that - they picked up tables or chairs and danced about with the furniture held in their teeth! 

Ulysses picked up full-size tables and chairs, while Useless picked up child-sized ones, to the great hilarity of the audience. 

There is now, in the Sacramento area, a duo that performs the same kind of act.  They call themselves the Sons of Ulysses; unfortunately, their father died recently.  I don't know about Useless - I haven't heard of anyone's calling himself the Son of Useless!

One of the things I greatly enjoyed about working in Greek clubs was the chance to do folkdancing between shows.   I learned most of the common dances and I joined in with joy.  I

Aziza! and Pete Parandas

also loved to see those Greek guys dance by themselves!  Oooh - one would get out there for a zeibekiko (or even two of them doing the hassapiko) and just dance, withdrawn and introspective, oblivious to the audience (ostensibly, of course), their sleeves rolled up and fingers snapping,  a cigarette between their lips or between their fingers when they needed the lips to pick up a shot glass of ouzo from the floor and empty it while it was still clamped firmly between their teeth..My, it does warm one' memory!  I haven't seen any dancing like that for years - I think it is partly the lack of the Greek places with their live music and partly the lack of Greek sailors, hungry for home, dancing to remember.  Or maybe I just don't go to the right places any more.

After I had been working at Zorba's for a while, disaster struck!  The man I had been dating (and I was crazy about him) broke up with me.  I went to work to dance off some of my sorrow, and arrived to find the restaurant in a smoking ruin!  No one had bothered to call me or Marina, so we both stood there in shock.  Though parts of the building, including the dressing room, still stood, the heat had been so extreme that most of her costumes and mine had either been singed or had melted!  I was so happy that I made a practice of taking home my bras and girdles every night!  My one silk veil survived with just black streaks, but my fancy skirts and other veils, largely polyester or such, had just melted into rags.  The feathers and decorations on her dresses were blackened and twisted into strange shapes.  When we talked to the owner about compensation from the insurance company, he said that, although he had reported the loss of the musicians' instruments, he just hadn't thought about our stuff.  Of course not!  We were only women!  There was a lot of talk about the fire's being arson - it even made the newspapers - but nothing was ever proved.   So there I was - I lost my man, my costumes and my job in the space of two days! 

The restaurant was eventually rebuilt, and we all went back to work.  They didn't quite finish the dressing room, however - the window, for instance, was just sitting on the ledge, and sort of leaned up against its frame.  This arrangement didn't do much to keep out the cold air and damp of winter, which it was, but on the other hand, only Marina and I got dressed in there, so oh, well.  One night, however, they found that they had to replace it, as the whole window fell into the dressing room and broke on my head, showering me with bits of glass!  It was most scary and unpleasant!  Eventually the restaurant changed hands and became the Parthenon, and I moved on.

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