Grandmother's Secrets : The Ancient Rituals and Healing Power of Belly Dancing by Rosina-Fawzia B. Al-Rawi, Monique Arav (Translator)
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The Gilded Serpent presents...

by Bert Balladine

In the early 60's I arrived in San Francisco from the Far and Middle East, where I had been touring as an acrobatic dance team (also known in the trade as an "adagio team"). We did anything from jazz to Spanish to fantasy. We even had a pseudo-Arabic fantasy number which played well in Middle Eastern countries but was much too vaudeville for American audiences. Here we only performed it in a month-long theatrical production in Denver.

I wanted to stay in San Francisco, because it was my American home; however, jobs for dance teams were very scarce and that was our sole source of income. So, my partner, Carol, became Princess Samia and danced at Gigi's
and I became the house choreographer at the Moulin Rouge. As I was an all-around dancer, I was able to work in many styles and clubs. This was when Broadway was in its heyday. As my cousin has told me, for many years earlier all show business enterprises were in the "International Settlement", which was a couple of blocks long on a street just below Broadway, probably Pacific Avenue. With the passage of time, the area had gotten quite seedy and even promoted the reputation of being "naughty", so the city fathers decided to "clean it up", which eventually had the effect of killing it. As a result, some businesses, like Bea and Ray Goman's Gay 90s, (the Goman's son, incidentally, Ray, Jr., became a TV personality) moved to Broadway and originally the area started out pretty classy. One of the old standbys, the Bocce Ball, even offered operatic entertainment. Ann's 440 featured a variety program and a young singer who started out there eventually became very famous - Johnny Mathis. The topless craze moved in later.

The Middle Eastern clubs (Gigi's, 12 Adler, Bagdad and later the Casbah) were not the only ones who had belly dancers. I have personally worked at the Spaghetti Factory, the Casa Madrid, the Sinaloa, Bimbo's, the Red Balloon, Miss Keiko's Chi Chi Club and the Garden of Eden . . . and others I can't recall. Princess Samia left for Europe and my first partner in the Middle Eastern genre was the late Sabah (Jamie Miller). I also had a troupe of four dancers (the first interracial group, I might add) that appeared on club dates all over the Bay Area in a Spanish-Moroccan show with the late Cruz Luna, who was an international Flamenco star and a dear friend of mine. We had to call it Spanish-Moroccan in order to mix the two dance disciplines, a very successful combination. Finger cymbals and castanets sound good together. I ate fire and Sharlyn, then a budding star, danced with a snake. I still treasure a poster where we "Los Belly Dancers con Culebras Vivas"

This is the first installment of what I hope will be many funny and interesting anecdotes about the old days on Broadway and North Beach. Things might not necessarily appear in correct chronological order, but, as time moves on, memories fade and/or change.


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Dancer, Teacher, & Writer


Amina Goodyear
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Sabah /
Jamie Miller
Dancer & Teacher


Fadil Shahin
Musician & Club Owner


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