Egyptian Chick Magazine May 2018

The Magazine for women who love “the exotic” in life…

  Egyptian Chick Magazine May 2018

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Letter from the Editor:

Well, hair coloring has come a long way since the ancient Egyptians used “lead” to darken their hair, and some others, like the Romans, used everything from earthworms, pickled leeches, and pigeon excrement as hair dyes. You are probably thinking “Thank God!” and you would be right. Although there are vastly different methods employed now there is one thing going on that has had several “revivals” throughout history: “Fantasy Hair Colors.” The ancient Egyptians favored “blue” for wigs, as recently as the 1930’s and 1960’s there have been spurts of popularity. (All ages of women indulge in this at different times but I admit one of my favorite people to wear funky hair colors was “Mrs. Slocombe” on the British comedy “Are You Being Served”).

Mollie Sugden as Mrs. Slocombe with Green Hair on Are You Being Served.

The wonderful Mollie Sugden as “Mrs. Slocombe” on the classic British Comedy Show “Are You Being Served.”

In this issue we’re going to meet the latest stylist to take the coloring world by storm, Gina Forestieri. Gina is a fave in the “O.C.” and Los Angeles area for her absolutely stunning hair coloring talents that can literally mimic the colors of gemstones to a “tee.” Really, her work is no less than remarkable and that is why she is our “Artist of the Month” – because – after all – isn’t hair styling an “Art?” Gina was featured on “The Style Network’s” series “Split Ends” (“Gina Forestieri and Alexander Hernandez,” Season 3).

Gina is our cover girl and we were fortunate to have her lovely mother belly dancer/artist Susanne Forestieri as our cover girl in April of 2016. 

Pastel Hair Dyes in the 1930's

Sample ad photos for “Luminex” pastel hair dyes by “Rincage” in the 1930s.

Not living near Los Angeles, I was not able to get a “fantasy hair color” make-over from Gina so I took the plunge my self. I had tried out pink lipstick and an aquamarine eye shadow stick last summer – just to put a couple of streaks at the top of my then “platinum” hair. I thought it looked cool so I decided to go full throttle a few weeks back when I had a new costume ready. The results were interesting and very theatrical but not quite what I expected so I let the sort of “sea foam” green wash out.

Sea Foam Green Hair Color

Me, Aziza Al-Tawil, trying sort of a bright “Sea Foam” Green looking hair color. I think I would have liked Pink better.

Vintage Haircolor: Instant Bright Hair Colors 1960s by Napro

Some temporary instant hair color in an aerosol can from “Napro” 1960’s

My latest hair color? Not pastel at all just plain old Joan Jett “Black” – that shade of black that’s really shiny and true – “blue black” with no warmth. Thinking of Joan Jett here! And, of course, Cher and Linda Rondstat too. (But what’s to stop me from putting a pink streak in, of course?”)

Joan Jett in Fuschia Top

Joan Jett in a Fuschia top in the 1980’s.

Also in this month’s issue I explore the history of the image of the “Blackamoor” in pottery and jewelry. “Mystery Belly Dancer” is back too. Hope everyone had a great “Mother’s Day” and you enjoy the issue.

Artist of the Month: L.A.’s Hair Stylist Extraordinaire Gina Forestieri Shows Her “True Colors”

By Aziza Al-Tawil

“So don’t be afraid to let them show…your “True Colors”…your “True Colors”…are beautiful…like a rainbow.” –  Cyndi Lauper

Gina Forestieri Relaxing at Home

A beautiful pixie, Gina Forestieri brings magic to all her clients.

Our spotlight “Artist of the Month” is actually a lady who works in the medium of hair styling, which could definitely be described as a type of art, and if it wasn’t she would certainly bring it validation as such through the sheer creativity she brings to her clients. Gina Forestieri was in no short supply as child growing up, with parents like visual artist painter Susanne Forestieri and musician Lou Forestieri. Her mother encouraged Gina to enjoy countless hours of creative expression through things like “dress up” time and in fact it was this subject matter-little girls playing dress-up-that led to Susanne’s own recognition with a National Endowment for the Arts Prize in painting in 1992. Lou’s piano and clients for his talents at composing and arranging no less left an impression as well. Besides hair styling and coloring, Gina, a fan of the mystical beauty of “elven forests” and the “paranormal” has also found a niche in creating whimsical miniatures. I was so lucky to catch with this fascinating and charming lady and ask her a few questions for our readers. 

Gina Forestieri and Hand Painted Hair Extensions

Gina and Handpainted Hair Extensions

Aziza: Gina, we grew up in New York together and it’s great to see the creative baby I knew has grown into a creative woman as well. You decided to be a hair stylist – what led you to that path and tell us a little bit how you became one of the personalities on the reality show “Split Ends?”

Gina: Me and my old boss and a few of my co workers decided to try out for the show. We actually tried one year and didn’t make it on and went back for season 3 and they picked us. The show was about swapping hairstylists in different salons so I was picked to swap and of course drama ensued.

Aziza: You are known as a “magical” expert “colorist”-down to being able to copy the look of various gemstones, etc and have done well during the “Fantasy Hair Color” craze. When we were kids, Tish and Snooky of “Manic Panic” seemed to lead the parade during the “Punk Era” in Manhattan. Do you think this last craze for unique hair colors came from the live action film they made based on the 1980’s cartoon “Jem and the Holograms?” Or a renewed interest in “Unicorns” or “mermaids?” What is your take on what started the craze this time around?

Gina: I think everything comes back around at some point and with social media at our fingertips, people’s creativity is endless. I think looking at pics of other people and there work inspires and drives stylists to do more and more. Also with everything that’s been going on here and around the world I think people are just like “Fuck it! I want to be me and I don’t care what others think!” Hair color technology has also grown so much, things are possible now that were not possible even 10 years ago.

Aziza: You are a native New Yorker and live on the West Coast now. Both of your parents were artists, a talented pianist for a father and a dancer and painter for a mother. Before deciding to be a hair stylist did you ever foray into their artistic mediums?

Gina: Seeing my parents struggle in the arts kind of made me want to go another route but undeniably it’s in my DNA. I unfortunately didn’t get any of my dad’s musical talent other than just a love of music but I do like to sculpt and I am working getting some items up for sale on Etsy.

Miniature Gnome House by Gina Forestieri

Gnome House Miniature by Gina

Aziza: You are a designer not just of hair but of crafts like charming miniatures and have a love of mystical things like Harry Potter. Let our readers know where they can view and purchase your wares.

Gina: As of now, I can do custom orders and have pictures of my art on Instagram @wintermagick.

Gina's Miniature Soup and Bowls

Miniature egg drop soup and bowls by Gina Forestieri

Aziza:You love nature and take wonderful photos of the outdoors. You seem to be content. Are there any other dreams though you’d like to tackle and experience that you’ve not gotten to yet? 

Gina: I am a happy person because I am selfish and always do what I love no matter what. You never know what the future holds but I want to buy a house, that is probably my biggest dream. SoCal is so expensive and it is nearly impossible around here! I also would love to move to the pacific north west because I loath hot weather but I couldn’t fathom leaving all my wonderful clients I have here in the OC and LA and I do get people visiting me from all over. I am so lucky to have those people who support me!!  

Miniature Fountain Spewing Fantasy Water by Gina Forestieri

Miniature Fountain by Gina

!960's Belly Dance Club Men's Short Sleeve T-Shirt
!960’s Belly Dance Club Men’s Short Sleeve T-Shirt by nostalgiaamericana

Lost Racehorse of Pompeii

By Aziza Al-Tawil

Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 Ad. In May of 2018, researchers have excavated and found an ancient stable.  There is preserved the last day in the life of a racehorse.

Pompeii Race Horse Found

Remains of a thoroughbred racehorse found in May of 2018 at an excavation site in North Pompeii.

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Mystery Belly Dancer From “Warrior Queen”

by Aziza Al-Tawil

The Actress Sybil Danning made a career out of “exploitation” films, some of her most notable being during another round of popularity of “Sword and Sandal” flicks (also known as “Peplum” films because of that feature on the skirts of some of historic male characters, etc.) “Warrior Queen” has quite a bit of “sexploitation” (As did some of the “New Wave” post apocalyptic flicks of the 1980’s) but is by no means “hardcore” porno. In fact, the violence that does occur in this film occasionally is not quite as gratuitous as in many films now.

While some of the film is offensive it really has a pretty good story and the acting, including the great Donald Pleasance in later years, is really quite good for this genre. It concerns the lives of various inhabitants of Pompeii right before Mount Vesuvius blows her proverbial “top.” Somewhere in the action is a topless belly dancer with finger cymbals on. Don’t know who she is or really if she is a real belly dancer but I offer up her image here as “Mystery Belly Dancer” of the month. (Hint: She could be Italian. It was filmed in Rome and environs).

Topless Belly Dancer from Warrior Queen

Mystery Belly Dancer with Zil from “Warrior Queen” (1988)

Learn Dabke Line Dance with Samir Hassan

The Grave Caller Aziza PostcardEdit 3

Aziza Al-Tawil is “The Psychic” in the upcoming film “The Grave Caller.” To order an autographed 5X7 promo card shown above please have “PayPal” account and inquire at azizaaltawil@gmail.com. The price is $20 including shipping. Monies from the promo card sales will fund Aziza’s future creative endeavors including a film in pre-production about a missing woman in Lebanon’s Civil War.

“The Grave Caller” 2018 Official Trailer from Midnight Releasing

The Fetishization of the Moors and It’s Sicilian Origin

By Aziza Al-Tawil 

Blackamoor Brooch Attilio Codognato

“Blackamoor” Brooch by Attilio Codognato studded with yellow and brown diamonds and rubies. Codagnato Jewelers have been an institution in Venice for over a century.

 
There was a bit of a row on December 17th, 2017 when Princess Michael of Kent showed up for a lunch meeting with Prince Harry’s multi racial fiance’ Meghan Markle. The controversy was caused by a turban wearing “Blackamoor” brooch. At issue was whether or not anything derogatory was meant by her wearing of the brooch on her coat or if it was just an antique “fashion statement,” a vintage glamour piece to be admired. Princess Michael, the Queen’s cousin, claims she’s had the pin for years and wears it oft, and it had no relation to the “multi-racial” background of Harry’s lady. So what is the story behind this kind of jewelry and what is the story behind the “Moorish” head vases I’ve seen also? Well, the stories are quite fanciful and not exactly what I expected.

Moor Head Planter

A lovely version of a Moor head planter with Sub-Saharan African features accented with a stunning blue.

The Moors invaded Sicily in the 11th century and brought with them their culture from North Africa which included the art of “Majolica” and they quickly set about to teaching the locals the art of this pottery. The “Moorish Head” planter pot was soon seen atop gateposts and represented the fact that the “Moors” were “in charge” of everything on Sicily. Caltagirone, near Catania,  is the city most famous for making these heads and “Al Halisa,” now called “La Kalsa,” is the district in Palermo where the fanciful story of their origin arose: A young lady was tending the flowers on her balcony when a handsome Moor stops below. A flirtation ensues that only ends a while later when the lady learns the Moor is married with children back in “the old country” and in retaliation she cuts off the head of the Saracen upon his next visit. Thinking his head should not go to waste she decides to use it as a “planter.” A batch of Basil flourishes there and in turn inspires others to try the head vases for similar results.

Italian Head Vases

Sicilian Head Vases that include a white and black version of a “Moor” and “The Lady.”

Upon further research though, it’s discovered that there are more than one version of the story that inspired people to seek fertility for their plants with these talisman vases. 

Messina holds a celebration every year in Mid August celebrating the town’s patron saint the “Virgin Mary.”  They also honor the original Pagan founders of the city and parade them in “Papier Mache’ effigy. The original story goes that a very tall Moor named Hassan Ibn Hammar showed up in the region and with the help of fifty pirates plundered the area during the period where the area was resisting the Saracen invasions of 964 – 970 AC. During a raid he spotted a lovely girl named Marta (“Mata”) the daughter of King Cossimo of Castellucio whom he fell in love with and wanted to marry. She wanted nothing of him, but through a turn of events during gambling, he won the right to marry her. She still took no interest in him romantically until he agreed to “follow Christ.” After he made the transformation she proceeded to fall in love with him as he “beat his swords into plowshares” and became a farmer (Herein lies more connection with planting and fertility). Most residents have thought of “Mata” as the local version of the Greek heroine “Persephone” who was kidnapped by “Hades” the “King of the Underworld.” Mata finally agreed to marry Hassan (his new Christian name “Grifone” means “big”) and they became the first rulers of Messina. (It should be noted that when the Muslims ruled Sicily most of the inhabitants were Greek Byzantine Christians-therefore not surprising the Greek touches that survive like the use of “Medusa” on the Sicilian flag although some Greeks have attributed her origin to Berbers in North Africa).

A third tale tells of a noble family of Messina with a beautiful girl and three protective brothers. Written about by Boccaccio in his “Decameron” the story has the girl known as “Isabella” fall for a boy named Lorenzo. Her three brothers kill Lorenzo and bury his body in a secret place. Lorenzo comes to Isabella in a dream and divulges he was murdered and the location of his remains. In horror, Isabella goes to the site and after finding the body in a fit of grief cuts off Lorenzo’s head. Back at her home she plants basil in it to disguise it and waters it with her tears.

The interesting thing to note about “Blackamoor” tchotchkes is that many depict them in the sense of a “ruler” or “nobleman” in turban and regal dress and do not always show them as “subservient.” “Blackamoor” figures have also been depicted as dancers. As far as  collector’s of antiques and curiosities, these items will probably still hold some appeal to those interested in the “folklore” origins of these unique designs even as time goes on.

B;ackamoor Harem Dancer Couple Figurines

“Blackamoor” Belly Danci ng Couple Figurines

Congratulations to the lovely Couple of the British Crown! Long live Prince Harry and HRH Meghan Markle!

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Engagement Photo by

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle official “Engagement” photo by Alexei Lubomirski.

Egyptian Chick Magazine is published by:

Aziza Al-Tawil “Editor in Chief”

Billy Jack Watkins, “Research Assistant to the Editor”

Josephine Homonai, “Fashion Consultant and Model”

Contact: azizaaltawil@gmail.com

Coastal Scents Custom Eyeshadows. Shop Now!

Cruelty free make-up from “Coastal Scents” Click the eyeshadow pallette above for their site.

 

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Egyptian Chick Mag-Vintage Belly Dance Photos On EBay, January Break

Johanna Leanback by Martha Swope 2.JPG

Johanna by Martha Swope Early 1960’s

Hi friends! The weather is lousy and after the frenzy of the “Holidays” it’s time to take a break from our regular issue. That will resume in February with some articles worth waiting for. Right now, the only way I can think of to beat the “Winter Blues” is to stay inside with a robe on and look at “EBay” and work on my costumes for Spring performances. With that in mind please check out the sale of Johanna and her “Oasis Ballet” company original publicity photos-all that’s left from the original printings in the 1960’s. These were when they developed negatives in a darkroom and of course these have a beautiful glossiness to them you don’t see much of any more. The above shot was Maria Stevens favorite photo of Johanna. She left the photo of Johanna (taken by theatre photography legend Martha Swope) up in her NYC club “The Arabian Nights” until it shuttered it’s doors.

I’m only selling photos that I’m able to keep a few of as souvenirs. These photos were kept in a safe place and are in wonderful condition with no signs of wear. They are not from an agent’s file, etc., therefore they were not rifled through over the years. (Some of the other photogs represented in this collection are Kriegsmann, Jack Mitchell (“Dance Magazine”), and Diaz, NYC. There are also some Flamenco and Adagio photos going up soon). The link to the sale is below and will help this magazine expand and continue and possibly help fund some other creative projects. If you like the magazine so far, please consider buying one of these great shots. I have over 20 listings. Here is the link : Vintage Belly Dancer Johanna Original Photos on Ebay.

 

Egyptian Chick Magazine October 2016

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Letter From the Editor

Was terribly disappointed to hear that politicians in Egypt are trying to keep their clock set back to “the Dark Ages” by pushing this whole “Virginity” test of women thing. Amazing that the humiliation and torture of women still seems to be the main agenda in so many countries in the Middle East. Apparently, no one cares about rape, or other issues that actually matter. We must uplift our sisters who are continually beat down by these societies and stand vigilant for their fair treatment. “Egyptian Chick Magazine” only promotes and condones the humane treatment of our fellow men, women, children, and animals. We are “Progressive” not “Regressive.”

In the Mid-Atlantic of the United States we are entering into the “Fall” season and the changing of the leaves will be the “big show” here soon. For those who enjoy the “Halloween” holiday and it’s “dress-up” and “fantasy aspects,” they will shortly be able to express themselves in full measure. 

All of the ladies featured in our magazine this month are very creative indeed and also enjoy the fun at “Halloween.” They made interesting subjects indeed for the October issue. Just wish all women could have the kind of freedom we have.

Right now, “Egyptian Chick Magazine” is taking donations so we can upgrade the site to be more “monetized” and have higher quality visuals and editing tools. Expansion and a broader budget (we have virtually no budget now) will allow us more freedom in planning fashion shoots, location shoots and interviews, and give us more SEO planning tools. If you have enjoyed the magazine and you would like to help, the link is here:

Support the continuation & expansion of “Egyptian Chick Magazine” Donate Today

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“Girl of a Thousand Faces”

by Aziza Al-Tawil

elizabeth-tweel-make-up-artist

15 Year old Elizabeth Tweel always knew she loved art, but then she saw a face painter during “Career Day” in the 5th Grade and she was hooked on “Stage and Special Effects” make-up. The Charleston, WV area teenager performs with her school’s theatre class and show choir and plans to go to an arts oriented college afterwards so she can one day turn her talent and hobby for make-up into something for the professional stage and screen.

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Elizabeth and her brother David at the “Mothman Festival”

Her father Brian shares her love of the “macabre” and often joins in the fun during seasons like “Halloween.” In fact, West Virginia has been known to be somewhat of a hub of paranormal activity. One event the Tweels enjoy is the “Mothman Festival” in Point Pleasant where visitors can join a host of informative activities relating to the famous “Mothman Prophecies” incident that foretold of the “Silver Bridge Collapse” in 1967. Other famous monsters in WV include the “Flatwoods Monster,” the “Grafton Monster,” “Bat Boy,” and good old “Sasquatch.” West Virginia is also no stranger to ghost tales and UFO sightings.

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Elizabeth Tweel and one of her creations

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Elizabeth Tweel with some visual trickery make-up

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Elizabeth Tweel revealing the surprise

 Elizabeth in natural make-up. This young lady is going places!

elizabeth-tweel-natural-make-up

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The Tawil and Tweel families honor the memory of their late cousin Danny Thomas, comedian, actor, humanitarian and founder of “Saint Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital” in Memphis. Please donate today.

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Desideria Masheed in Green with Sword

“A Dancer’s Passions”: Desideria Masheed

by Aziza Al-Tawil

Desideria Masheed is known as “The Jessica Rabbit of Belly Dance,” but who really is this red headed, passionate, and talented lady? No less than a very highly trained dancer well versed in the technique of ballet, Flamenco, Latin, and of course Belly Dancing. Growing up in a show business family in NYC seemed to literally set the stage for her childhood entry into the world of dance. Her father was a famous magician and her mother was a dancer.

desideria-performing

Desideria in Nightclub

By her teens, Desideria was a performing artist herself, working as a dancer, percussionist, snake charmer, “Pin-Up Model” and costume designer. Her beauty, versatility, and fire got her work with many top bands from “Latin” to “Rock” including Carmen Carrasco, Raquel Lima, “The Afro Andes,” “Jon Astor Band,” and even punk legend “Joey Ramone and Cheetah Chrome.” These were exciting times that found her hanging out with the likes of Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, and La India and performing for celebrities like Bruce Willis and Demi Moore and Al B. Sure around the New York and New Jersey area.

Desideria has been a “diligent” dancer trained in ballet since age 3,and in Jazz, Afro Cuban, Samba, Flamenco, and then Arabic/ Oriental and Indian dance starting in the 90’s. Her first Middle Eastern Dance instructor was legendary Serena. 

She says, “I am very into the cultural-but a rocker at heart. I also sing since my teens with bands. I am a second soprano singer and have sung all forms of jazz , blues and rock have been working on songs for my next music project.” She can also balance just about anything on her head.

desideria-mike-chaiken-1

Desideria by Mike Chaiken Photography

To those that know her Desideria is also known for her tender heart. Living in Jersey City on “9/11” she volunteered for five days and rode one of the boats across the water to help other workers. In fact, she almost lost her brother-in-law in the incident but he escaped from the second building. Desideria wanted to help all she could but remembers “It was horrific.” She said “it was a very bad time for people volunteering” because they were so “distraught” and in “shock.” So much so, most coming back from the city were “unable to eat.” Desideria and other people from her building in Jersey City lost “co-workers, associates, and friends.” Desideria is haunted by the painful memories of that day but those who her know  also know what a “resilient” lady she is.

An interest in ethnic culture is evident in Desideria-she speaks four languages, and is a European, Middle Eastern, and Indian gourmet cook having studied culinary arts for years. She is the first person to tell you that learning new things is one of the greatest things someone can do because it feeds the soul. In her career she has been fortunate to be able to perform in foreign countries including Morocco, Venezuela, and Copenhagen, Denmark with their answer to “David Bowie,” Ras Bolding. Her own ethnic background is very multi-cultural including, Italian, Russian, Gypsy, Spanish with a sprinkling of Kashmiri.

Desideria with Damien Kitty.jpg

Desideria and her late kitty “Damien” whom she still grieves

During this “Halloween” season I asked Desideria to reminisce about any black cats that have “tip toed” into her life over the years. She told me that she even had a family of five black cats in Connecticut for 8 years. After moving to Puerto Rico she worked for local rescue organization “Save a Gato” beginning in 2013. She says “All cats are joyful, loving, smart, and loyal creatures. Black cats are special indeed. Like mini panthers-so playfully observant and smart.”

 

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Desideria’s Black Kitty “Isolde”

 

She loves the beauty of Puerto Rico but Desideria is planning to return to the United States because the economy of the island took quite a hit when rumors of the “Zika Virus” began to deter some of the usual tourist trade.

desideria-snakeskin-pin-up

Desideria performs traditional “Egyptian/Moroccan Belly Dance” as well as “Dark Theatrical Cabaret” where she performs her own creation “Raks Shocki” to “Goth” and “Metal” music. She has performed for weddings, festivals, fundraisers, and even hosted her own monthly belly dance show at Mehanata’s Bulgarian restaurant in NYC. She was also featured on the South American TV Show “Blanco TV.”

Desideria is also someone who knows the importance of “spirituality” for personal progress as well as healing. She is a natural health consultant, herbalist, and “Reiki” practitioner 1, 2 & 3 and as of 2010 she has been certified in the “Dolphina Method of Goddess Workout.”  On Facebook she runs a boutique gift shop called “Dark Decadence Emporium.” Her first book of poetry was released in 2007. All the years I’ve known her she has been drawn to the “Magical” and “Mystical” of our universe, and with “All Hallows Eve” approaching I can think of no better cover girl for the October edition of our magazine.

 

desideria-mike-chaiken

Desideria by Mike Chaiken

 

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Dark Beauty: How About some Basic Black for Fall?

By Aziza Al-Tawil

Egyptian Armenian Hungarian American model Josie Homonai wears the smoky eyes and pale frosted peachy lip look here with a black sweater and scarves.

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Model Josie Homonai-Black sweater and scarves, Smoky Make-Up and Pale Frosted Lips

African Black Soap:

Coastalscents

Vintage Masquerade

by Aziza Al-Tawil

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Vintage Casino de Paris Ad

 

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Vintage Halloween Costumes

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Vintage Harlequin Child

Vintage Postcards

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Adelaide and Hughes “The Cat”

Egyptian Chick Magazine September 2016 Issue

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 “Sexy, Chunky Jewelry”

“African Black Soap”

 

Letter from the Editor:

Well, here we are, in the last “throes” of Summer and there is so much to “say,” “do,” and “announce” that it’s hard to keep it all straight.

Let me start out by saying that I have even more exciting news about the legacy of my mother’s dear friend, the late Serena Wilson. After I mentioned in last month’s issue that her longtime West Side studio was closing on the West Side and starting a new “lease on life” at “Belly Dance America,” I was excited to learn that a new “Serena Belly Dance Museum” has opened in Chelsea at “Showplace Design Center,” 40 West 25th Street, Gallery 110, New York City, NY. The exhibit, which opened August 21st, will run until December 30, 2016.  Serena’s son Scott Wilson and his wife Leni will be there Sundays 12-4:00 p.m. or by appt. For appointment contact mellow111@aol.com. This native “New Yorker” knows that what could be a better time to be in New York seeing the sights than the lovely Fall and Christmas season?

The exhibit also brings back some attention to the fact that so many in the “biz of belly dance” have had secret yearnings for a “Museum of Belly Dance” where “collections” could be housed “permanently.” America, once a real “potboiler” of activity in the art of “dance” in general has seen a decline. In a society that ditched music in the schools for more of a bent towards “science and technology” we’ve turned into somewhat of a “Protestant Work Ethic” culture wherein a giant finger wags over us as if to say, “Now, now! Get a REAL job and pay for your own useless hobbies!”

Following along this general theme this month’s issue will include an interesting story about legendary dancer La Meri ( Our “Cover Girl” this month) and a shawl she once owned.

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Ad for the Serena Exhibition

La Meri’s Shawl

by Aziza Al-Tawil

Johanna La Meri Shawl Smaller (2)

Johanna in the beloved shawl she purchased from “La Meri.”

In the 1950’s my mother and her husband and dance partner Bill decided to study Flamenco with the famous Juan Martinez and Antonita. Maestro Martinez was very beloved by his students. In the class with Johanna and Bill was La Meri’s sister Lillian Hughes Newcomer. La Meri was the Louisville, KY born “ethnic dance” pioneer who co-founded the “School of Natya” in NYC with the equally intriguing maverick Ruth St. Denis. By the late 1940’s La Meri’s book on the art of “Spanish Dancing” was in the personal library of Johanna and Bill. (One of their first Flamenco teachers was film legend Rita Hayworth’s uncle Paco Cansino). Lillian liked Johanna so when her sister La Meri had a sale of personal items, she arranged for Johanna to get a “special price” on the shawl.

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La Meri’s Shawl recently-still lovely.

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Close up of La Meri’s shawl recently.

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Miss Lillian from her sister’s 1948 book “Spanish Dancing.”

For years, not much was spoken of about Juan Martinez and Antonita. He was born in 1896 and passed away in 1961. His personal papers (1932-1962), which are mostly in Spanish, were only donated to the “Jerome Robbins Dance Division” of the “Lincoln Center Branch” of the “New York Public Library” in the year 2005. Cataloging and compiling of them was not completed until the year 2014. According to these papers, Juan Martinez was born in Burgos, Spain and began performing and touring with his family as a child. He married Antonia Fernandez whom he formed an artistic partnership in 1938. Johanna seemed to remember that he had a first wife and dance partner who passed away from altitude sickness when they were in Mexico City to perform.

Juan Martinez and Antonita Smaller (2)

Juan Martinez and Antonita. Spanish dance instructors of Johanna and Miss Lillian.

In a book called “El Maestro Juan Martinez Que Estaba Alli,” the author Manuel Chaves Nogales recounts meeting Martinez in Paris and hearing the hair raising experiences he and his first wife Sole encountered when they became trapped in the “Bolshevik” revolution while performing in Russia in 1917. “After a successful tour of the Central European cabarets, flamenco dancer Juan Martinez and his partner Sole were caught by surprise in Russia by the revolutionary events of February of 1917. Unable to leave the country, in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and Kiev they suffered the fall-out of the October Revolution and the bloody civil war that followed. The great Spanish journalist Manuel Chaves Nogales met Martinez in Paris and, shocked by the stories he shared, decided to compile them. The result is this book which narrates the changes the protagonists were faced with and how they figured out a way to survive. Its pages include traveling artists, prodigal Russian dukes, German spies, Chekist assassins, and speculators of a different ilk.”

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I viewed an interesting “Press Release” online which came from The Museum of Modern Art dated May of 1941. It declared that for the third in it’s “Coffee Concerts” series it was to “present an entire Spanish Program Wednesday May 14th at 9:00 p.m.” The show was to consist of Spanish folk songs sung by Sophia Novoa and her only accompaniment was to be “tambourine and castanets.” It also mentioned that “Martinez and Antonita” were to be featured. It continued: “The Gaiteros, a group of Spanish peasant musicians, will be headed by a bagpiper, Jose Belion—the only known Gaitero in Now York. The Spanish bagpipe is of Celtic origin but has a smaller bag and only one horn instead of three.”

It continues:  “The accompaniment is made up of a bass drum (bombo), a trap drum (tambourine) and two dancers. Also appearing on the program is Jeronimo Villarino, the only known flamenco singer-guitarist in the United States. Oriental in character and suggesting Moorish influence, flamenco folk music is sung and played on the guitar mainly in the south of Spain.” 

The concert program was as follows:

“1. Anda Jaleo, Jaleo (Andalucía); Si Quieres Que Te Quiera (Asturias) Jota (Navarra) Sofia Novoa and Jeronimo Villarino
2. Las Majas (Andalucía) Juan Martinez and Antonita
S. Medias Granadinas, Guitar Solo (Andalucía); Caranelos—Street Crier’s Song (Andalucía) Jeronimo Villarino
4. Malaguenas. … Juan Martinez and Antonita
5. Muinera (North Spain); Uyu, Yu, Yu—Swinging Song (Andalucía); Sal A Bailar (North Spain) Sofia Novoa with Tambourine
6. Zambra, Guitar Sole (Andalucía); Los Minerofi Del Fondon—Miner’s Song (North Spain) Jeronimo Villarino
7. Jota Aragonesa. Juan Martinez and Antonita
8. Group of Songs and dances from North of Spain, accompanied by Gaiteros (Bagpipes), Drum Tambourine, and Conchas de Santiago (Cockleshells) Gaiteros and Muinera Dance 9. Vivan Los Aires Morenos (Extramadura); Gamine Don Sancho—Old Ballad (North Spain)j Carretero es mi Amante (Castile); A La Valerosa (Castile); Fado (Portugal) Sofia Novoa
10. Holy Week in Seville 1. Saetas. . .Jeronimo Villarino accompanied by trumpets and drums. Cuadro Flamencos. . . Juan Martinez und Antonita and Anna Maria.”

It also said: “Tickets for single concerts are $1.50.”

Juan Martinez and Antonita were known as wonderful people and wonderful artists. Hopefully, in future, more documents will turn up to shed light on the careers of those in the arts so places like the “Jerome Robbins Division” can preserve the information for posterity.

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Remembering Rameses: The Exhibit that Took America by Storm

by Aziza Al-Tawil

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In the Spring of 1988 I was dating a neighbor of mine in Boston, MA. He was tall with medium brown hair and very pale blue eyes, and he worked in the banking industry. Originally from Texas, he claimed to be a cousin of our then President of the United States George H.W. Bush. There I was, in the middle of the “hippie folk revival” in Boston, buying protest buttons at “George’s Folly” in Allston, MA and there he was this “conservative” young man a few years my senior. The “whoosh” of my “India” skirts on the stairs must have intrigued him (or maybe it was the days I was wearing “leggings” like all the other 80’s chicks)  because after doing laundry together a few times we started “seeing” each other socially. We went for pizza at “Bertuccis,” saw a couple of concerts, went to a Boston Red Sox game in the rain and got glared at by one of his jealous female co-workers. We were attracted to each other but there wasn’t too much of an “emotional connection” so really this was no great romance. Cordial goodbyes were made though when he transferred with the bank to another town a couple of months after we started going out. Though this was but a brief interlude in my romantic life, one thing we did together stands the test of time.

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After “King Tut and his Treasures made a splash in this country in the late 1970’s, the “Egyptian Museum in Cairo” decided to go one better and bring a tour even more sensational to America about a decade later, making sure to go to a different set of cities than “Tut.” This Fall marks the 30th Anniversary of the “Ramesses the Great Tour” arrival in the United States. After it’s run in Denver, the exhibit made it’s way to the Boston Museum of Science. It was this showing in the Spring of 1988 that my “banker boyfriend” took me to (Well, at the time he was just a “teller!” He may be a “Bank President” by now!).

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Just a few months ago I was in an antique store in Charleston, WV when I saw it. An official “souvenir” set of color slides from the showing at the Mint Museum in Charlotte. I had saved two brochures from the show in Boston but it was really cool to find the color slides. The images are quite stunning and brought back some interesting memories from a time when I was young and marveling at a world which was quite old.

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Ruth St. Denis by Nickolas Muray

Ruth St. Denis Photo by Nickolas Muray

 

 Ruth St. Denis in Algouari Dance Drama, Photo trio by Nickolas Muray

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Coming soon: “Belly Dancing with Aziza Al-Tawil Cifte Telli and Maksoum”