The Gilded Serpent presents...
"I'd Rather Stay Home
with my Kids"

Chapter 2
by Amina

Chapter 1 here- One Ad Changed My Life

.......Well, I decided to be brave and I put my leotard and a veil in my purse and went to the Bagdad (the only club in town) to ask for an audition. Just like in the movies!

My husband dropped me off at the Bagdad on Broadway (San Francisco) and I was greeted by a very large door person. She must have weighed more than 300 lbs. and was over 6' tall. It was very intimidating. We passed through striped metallic curtains, through beaded curtains and into another land of incense, cigarette smoke, candles and red lights. She told me there was a "two drink minimum". ("Two drink minimum"? I didn't even drink alcohol!) I told her I didn't want a drink; I only wanted to speak to the owner about a job. She then seated me in a corner near the stage. What seemed like hours later, a short, foreign-looking man wearing a red fez came over and asked if I had a costume.

I told him I only wanted to audition and I showed him my leotard and hip veil. He looked like he was going to laugh at me, but then he invited me to stay to see the show.

He said that if I could come up with a costume like what I saw on stage that I could come back the next night and audition. When I watched the show I started to realize that I was not at all prepared to perform. These women were good! They were glamorous and exotic looking. Their bodies were very curvy. Their costumes were incredibly beautiful and encrusted with jewels. I was scared. I was only a housewife and a mother, but I needed a job, so I was determined to get a costume together and get that job.

The next morning I scoured the house for costume possibilities. I wished I could buy some fancy material, but I couldn't afford it. Then I remembered a Sonja Henie (an ice skating star who was in movies of the 30's and 40's) movie I had seen and thought, if she could do it, so could I. I then proceeded to turn my bedroom curtains into a belly dance costume. I stitched the curtain fabric onto a pair of underpants. (I did not know that the skirts were separate from the belts and were not even attached to the underwear.) I had studied East Indian dance and had some Indian ankle bells, which I attached to the top of my undies. I covered a bra with with some shiny fabric and safety-pinned some costume jewelry to it. I also had a spare piece of curtain to wrap around my hips like Bettina showed us. I was set. I was more than ready to go back and get that job. But I was afraid.

After much begging, I bribed a friend (another housewife/mother) to accompany me and off we went to the Bagdad - the answer to my financial problems. With my friend's encouragement we arrived there and I was ready to blow them away with my dancing. After all, I had been the main dance entertainment at all my school shows and rallies. Well, the owner (Yousef Kouyoumjian) didn't remember me. And it was only the night before that he said I could audition! But I needed a job, so I begged to audition and reminded him that he promised I could if I came back with a costume. So, finally, he gave in and told me to go upstairs to the dressing room to change. He told me to come down when they announced the "guest" dancer.

The dressing room was very long and narrow and very much what I imagined a dressing room should look like. The wall on the right had a little built-in upholstered bench, about five feet long, and the rest of the wall was filled with costumes, costumes and more costumes hanging on hangers. In front of the costumes were four chairs and a long black formica-topped counter with drawers (one for each chair or dancer). Above the counter was a long mirror spanning the entire counter area and lots of little light bulbs. There was also a floor to ceiling mirror by the door leading down to the stage (for last minute checking and primping).

Here I was, ready for the big time! But I was so scared I was shaking! I remember there was a dancer on stage and there were a couple of dancers in the dressing room. How was I to change without privacy?

I made myself small and tried to hide in a corner and change and one of the dancers (Aziza!) came over to me and told me that if I wanted to work there that I had to be able to bare it all as there wouldn't be enough time to hide and change in corners.

At first she scared me, but then she told me she was new too. (She had started to work just six months earlier.) So I got into my little costume made of pink and purple bedroom curtains. (I remember putting on three pairs on underpants so I wouldn't be exposed.) When my costume was on, I tied my scarf around my hips and I was ready to be the "guest" dancer. Aziza! looked at me and asked why I had my veil tied around my hips. "Why not?" I replied. She said, "Oh no, you wrap it like this and like this and take it off during the slow part." She then redressed me and I looked like I was ready for a toga party. I asked her how to take it off, and she told me to figure it out when I was on stage. And then I heard - "Our "guest" dancer, Amina, all the way from upstairs!" Huh? Amina? Who was that? Aziza! said that was me and pushed me out the door and down the stairs. Yikes. What was I to do?

I went to the stage and for the first time I noticed there were musicians. I tried not to looked frightened and started to step hip my way around the stage. It was a small, elevated stage and there was absolutely no place to hide, so I just step hipped around wishing I had learned to dance rather than just learned dance steps for exercise. Then they played slow music, the lights went out and I was dancing in the dark (black light) with a disco ball strobe light. But I remembered! It was time to take off the veil. I immediately removed it, hid behind it, waved it around some and then dropped it. When the lights came up again, the music got peppier; I step hipped to the front of the stage and started to roll my belly. I remember looking down to see if it really was rolling. Then I thought, "How do I get back to the musicians so I could do it again". Easy - turn my back to the audience, step hip back to the musicians, turn around and step hip back to the front, roll my belly again, look down and check to make sure it's really rolling and then repeat the process. I think I threw in a few figure 8's to be fancy. And it was over. The musicians were thanking me and I left the stage.

I got changed and went back to sit with my friend who told me I was wonderful. The owner, Yousef, told me I should wait until the club closed so he could talk business with me. My friend left and I waited by myself. Finally the show was over and everyone left - audience, musicians, dancers, waitresses, bartender, and Jolie, the door person. Just Yousef and me - and I was becoming more insecure and unsure by the minute. But it was OK. He said we needed to discuss business and we would go down the street to a cafe. (Sounded hopeful.) We went to a little cafe called The Black Sea and he bought me some coffee. It was in a tiny, tiny little cup and it was very strong and very sweet. I took one sip and noticed it was also very thick and muddy. (This was my introduction to Turkish coffee.) I didn't want to be impolite so I drank/ate the whole thing (yuck) and said it was very good. I told Yousef that I had just bought a house and needed to get a job.

But, just my luck - the cafe was closing. Yousef said we could continue discussing the job situation at his house, and that I shouldn't worry, as his mother lived there and would be waiting up for him.

I followed him to his house and it was dark. I remember thinking that it was OK. His mother was there. We went in, but there was no mother. He told me that she must have gone to bed early. He invited me to sit in the living room. The lights were barely on. Just a very dimly lit brass lamp. I sat on a day bed in the living room which overlooked a wonderful view of the city lights. The day bed was very comfortable, with lots and lots of pillows. It faced a unique fireplace. There were no logs or fire in the fireplace, but it was filled with sand and a little brass exotic-looking biblical city with teeny twinkling lights. He lit incense, left the room, and came back with a perfumed oil which he used to massage on my arms and neck. (Great! What have I gotten myself into?)

I was acting a little antsy, so he suggested I follow him into the other room to see his aquarium. (Yes! Anything to get out of this weird situation.)

Well, the other room was his bedroom. (Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?!) I ran out, grabbed my purse and yelled behind me that I'd rather stay home with my kids and baby bottles than have his job. He followed me out the door yelling for me to come back to the Bagdad the next night. He never mixed business with pleasure!

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Ready for more?
more from Amina-

1-25-04 One Ad Changed My Life by Amina Goodyear (Chapter 1)
I was very desperate and determined to get back to my old self.

8-12-00 Dancing on the Edge by Amina
I learned from the first evening chasing Fatma around the stage that in order to have a serious dance company in the Egyptian style, I had to seriously play with the appearance of disorder.

3-18-04 Najia's List of Recommended CDs, 2004 update
Print and compare this list to your present collection or take it to the next festival to help you find these treasures!

3-11-04 Aida Nour & Magdy El-Leisy in Dallas, Texas, January 9-11, 2004, sponsored by Little Egypt




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