Egyptian Chick Magazine April 2017

Egyptian Chick Cover april 2017 Jan.jpg

“SINGERAMA” ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO SINGING

Letter from the Editor:

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When I first conceived this magazine and named it, I remember thinking that I wanted it to be for the woman who is very eclectic in taste, very intellectual, and very interested in the vast mysteries of our universe. The kind of lady that shows her interest in the world through her own personal style with clothing and jewelry perhaps, and is the kind of person that travels or would if she could, to exotic ports of call. She’s also the kind of woman that gets excited when they say they have found a new tomb in Egypt or is outraged and disappointed to hear that pollution is destroying the “Parthenon.” She loves a good “ancient mystery” too.

Having said that, I can think of no better person to profile this month than the late Jan Gallione, “belly dance enthusiast,” searcher of “Eastern Philosophies,” preserver of “Indian Burial Mounds,” and acclaimed artist in her own right. I hope everyone enjoys my memories of Jan. What readers may also be struck by was the “love story” between she and her husband the British Artist Adrian Frost and the tenderness between them on the journey of their “self expression.” April is “National Poetry Month” and that is also apropos as Jan and Adrian were always “poets” as well as “artists.”

Also, please enjoy my poem, “If Only” and a piece of art from my youth.

I’m also happy to share a few smiles from “Team Egyptian Chick Magazine” at the 8th Annual Bowl-A-Thon for the New Hope Animal Rescue Chapter in WV. Included is a link so concerned individuals can donate ” even now.

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

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“The Body Electric” – Remembering the Artist and Friend Jan Gallione

By Aziza Al-Tawil (Article was amended on April 8th by this Author. I had another wonderful memory to share!)

I will never forget that day on 57th Street in Manhattan when my belly dance pupil and friend Jan Gallione came up out of the subway there by the Coliseum Bookstore and rushed toward me with concern. I believe I was wearing vintage clothing that day. I had loved MGM musicals and had spent the last couple of years as a member of the Carnegie Hall Cinema and had let this carry over into my private life-taken to wearing bobby socks and saddle shoes, cute retro dresses and a sailor hat-not a soft folder upper type sailor hat but one made of straw that stayed in one shape.

This sweet young woman, about 9 years my senior, placed fifty dollars in my soon to be 14 year old hands and hugged me. She had responded when I told her that my mother and I were leaving New York City in a hurry as my mother’s battle with a recent bout of “Narcolepsy” sleeping sickness had abated and her bid to “Home School” me was now a lost cause as far as her bitter foe the “New York City School System” was concerned. My grandmother had sent us six hundred or so dollars for train tickets and to ship the contents of our small studio apartment to Charleston, WV. We were broke. Jan’s fifty was much needed. That smile of hers was welcome as well! 

Looking back, I realize that Jan and I were standing in the “heart” of NYC, the neighborhood that I grew up in and held dear. Right there we stood at the corner of Broadway and 57th St. and not too far away was Mariella’s Pizza Place, The Carnegie Hall Cinema, the Museum of Modern Art, The Bombay Cinema, The Donnell Library-so many places that I used to hang out. It was just unfathomable to me that in just a few short days-or perhaps hours, I would be leaving my birthplace and home for good and leaving behind my good friend Jan.

Jan and I went into the Coliseum Bookstore to look around a little. She went to one section and I to another. In my sadness I picked out one souvenir of New York, something so I would never forget where I came from: The softcover edition of “The Films of John Garfield.” Then we met outside where we waved to each other goodbye as Jan descended into the NYC subway clad in a jacket over an “India” blouse and blue jeans which was about her signature look during the time I knew her. I turned and hurried back home-“West” on Fifty Seventh Street to our apartment building, “The Henry Hudson Hotel.” I would see the last of my sunsets over New Jersey.

When my mother and her husband arrived to live in NYC permanently in 1955, just ahead of them, having made the move a year or two before, was their fellow dancer friend from Charleston, WV Doris Rose. Doris had been in the Helen Cox Schrader dance troupe with Bill and Johanna and had been a part of an adagio team herself. A former strong man bodybuilder who was not too much of a dancer was her partner, hoisting her high in the air. Doris was a beautiful girl of French and Indian extraction who was from up the “Coal River” in WV. One time the entire Schrader troupe had performed a piece called “Jungle Drums” and everyone had worn leopard print outfits. They dubbed Doris “The Wild Woman of Coal River” with her dark snappy eyes and dark hair. Doris was a wonderful dancer but unfortunately had an early start to a problem with her hearing that grew gradually worse over the years.

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My mother Johanna and her Friend Doris Rose-“Jungle Drums” number, late 1940’s Charleston, WV

By the time Bill and Johanna arrived to NYC, Doris was pursuing a modeling career and was dating an Englishman named Michael. They all had a joyous re-union and then oft were off to see “the sights” together like Broadway, museums and “The Cloisters.” Unfortunately, Doris, despite her great beauty and figure, was a trifle short for “high fashion” modeling which even then was a bit reserved for fairly tall women and Doris was more “medium” height. She did model on some “Detective” magazines as the glamorous woman in peril screaming at an unseen “assailant” (Doris herself was “assailed” one time when a strange man ran up behind her coming up out of the subway but managed to get away-like many women of West Virginia, she was not only beautiful but strong).

Not too long after Bill and Johanna moved to NYC as their permanent residence, Doris met lawyer John Gallione and married him. She still had creative pursuits and interests but was now mostly “settled down” and together they had three daughters: Gail, Jan, and Joy. Gail had an interest in the “performing arts” and Jan had an interest in the “visual arts” primarily.

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Doris posed for her daughter Jan Gallione for this colorful painting.

I remember getting to know my mother’s old dance friend Doris during my childhood. She was still married to John and still living in the East Village. Doris was a very spiritual person at that time having gotten heavily into “yoga” and going to “Ashram Retreats” in the mountains. In fact it was Dori Gallione that had introduced us to a new sensation called frozen yogurt (at least it was new to us!). We used to meet for lunch all over town, have a cottage cheese and fruit plate at one of the department store cafes like “Bergdorf Goodman” or “Gimbels,” and of course there were trips to “The Village” to a “Vegetarian Fast Food” joint. Dori in fact would have been a vegetarian like the “Yogis” recommended if it weren’t for her hubby I recall her telling us. All the yoga and her past dance experience gave Dori her slim and strong physique which was often in a jumpsuit with a drape over top like something out of “Halston’s” latest collection. She was always stunning and tan and healthy looking for her age.

Jan had just finished “The High School of Art and Design” and had a few years under her belt at “Fashion Institute of Technology” when she decided to take belly dance classes from my mother Johanna and I when we were living at “The Henry Hudson Hotel.” This was a truly fun time because we had been holding classes on the 24th floor roof when the weather permitted-and sometimes when not! I can remember my “earth mother” Johanna getting excited by impending storms and continuing to dance on the roof terrace even as the skies darkened, the wind whipped, and the rain came tumbling down. Then, with great exuberance she would finally return inside the hotel hallway laughing for joy.

Jan was a true delight from the minute she showed up at our studio apartment there at the “Henry Hudson.” As I said, Jan liked “India print” cottons, and also wore sandals a lot. This was a divine period in NYC history when you could buy neat things from street vendors like colorful “wrap skirts” from India and “Mary Janes” and “Annie Hall” shoes from China. The city had a special vibe at this time, even though in reality, the city was just not the same glorious city that old friends Doris, Johanna, and Bill had moved to in the 1950’s. Back then, New York was overall very safe, and very classy. Jan and I were growing up in an era that was to be known as very “dicey.”

I was mature for my age at about twelve so Jan almost felt like a “peer” and treated me more like one. When she wasn’t at our apartment or on the roof taking lessons, she and I would sometimes meet up and go to cultural events when my mother was too busy with her other work to go. I remember one time Jan and I went to support the new “Alpar Center” in Manhattan opened by Farhat and Alexandria Alpar and Ozel Turkbas. It was a special show of Northern Indian dances by Najma Ayashah. Najma was a striking and beautiful performer, filled with incredible grace. One of her dances represented the Northern Indian “Gypsy” and she used a tambourine. Her outfit, if I recall correctly had white, hot pink, and green throughout. She wore a head veil.

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Najmah Ayashah, Indian Dancer

I have a funny memory of running into Jan at the “Carnegie Hall Cinema” where I was a member. She was on a date with someone and we cried out to each other  before the lights went down and the movie “Arthur” with Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli began. I remember that the movie was turned up too loud and that, coupled with his accent, I could not understand hardly one word Dudley Moore uttered as the drunken millionaire!

Another time I remember Jan’s excitement at the impending “Simon and Garfunkel Reunion Concert” which she and her friends were going to attend in Central Park and that I was disappointed when I could not really “invite” myself to this historic event. (My mother and I had attended many free performances of the Metropolitan Opera in “The Sheep Meadow” and I wondered why this would be any different.) This was the one time that our age difference seemed to matter. While I was good friends with Jan, and my mother and I were both mentoring her belly dance journey, I was still too young to run around at night with Jan and her friends from the Fashion Institute of Technology). I would not see the famous concert until PBS aired it about 20 years later!

Belly dancing was getting to be a sparse affair at that time in New York since “Greektown” on 8th Avenue had shut down completely leaving only a couple of places in a few spots around the city’s boroughs to perform. Jan had gotten me a modeling gig for her and fellow “Art Students League Students.” I posed in my red bugle beaded costume and some of the artists had showings in SoHo that included the painting of me. It was interesting to see how different artists perceived me.

Jan and her graduating class also held a Middle Eastern Fashion Show and Performance with my mother Johanna and I at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Jan took some striking black and white photos of me in costume.

After months on and off of private tutoring Jan in the art of belly dance it would come to pass that I would never see her again. The sad day she brought me money and went down into the subway was the last time we would ever see each other.

Actually, Jan’s generosity, and her mother’s as well, was nothing new. West Virginia folk are used to sharing “hand me downs” as they know kids grow “like weeds” and it’s hard to keep up with the demand. When Jan brought me clothes from she and her two sisters one time I was so excited I could barely contain myself. They were beautiful! One dress I dubbed my “Leslie Caron Dress.” I loved old movies and had loved the dancer Leslie Caron’s films including my favorite “Daddy Long Legs” with Fred Astaire. The dress Jan gave me was white with a halter neck and had a matching bolero jacket. All over the dress were little pastel embroidered flowers. The skirt was full and straight out of the 1950’s. I wore it with one of my hats and a pair of vintage glove when I used to go to Fifth Avenue to “window shop” and pretend to be a “grand lady” of yesterday.

After moving to West Virginia to be near my grandmother, I wrote a letter to Jan. Several months later I received a reply in the form of a postcard from where she was staying in England to further her studies. She mentioned how glad she was we had gotten to dance together.

Jan's Postcard from England 1

My mother attempted to reach out to Doris a few times years later and was not sure why she did not get a response except that Doris was extremely hard of hearing.

The real reason my mother could not reach Doris would not be explained for many, many years.

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In the era of “Facebook” it’s sometimes hard to remember that there was a time when people lost touch-perhaps because of moving around the U.S.A. or perhaps even further afield. Trying to find people if their phone was “unlisted” was nearly impossible, or if you didn’t know what city they were in, etc. Between my mother and I being in show business and taking off for new cities within just a few years of being in Charleston and Jan being an artist-the inevitable happened. I did think of Jan on and off through the years and wondered if our paths would ever cross again.

After the “age of the internet” I found out firsthand the “miraculous” re-unions that could occur thanks to this technology. I found a “half-sister” through my father that I did not even know existed. Sadly, she had been put up for adoption by a grief stricken woman with a “shamed” family who insisted she give her child away and years later, initially had her files opened for “medical reasons.” Since my sister Renee’ was also fascinated with knowing her real identity she had pursued more info through the years culminating in a post on a mutual friend’s “guest book” (a musician who knew my father) and I saw her post there while looking for something else entirely. Since she said who her father was I contacted her immediately. After e:mails and calling each other for a year, we finally met.

We had three joyous “in-person” meetings until one week I noticed she did not answer my e:mails as quickly as she usually did. Then, about a week later, her fiance’ Terry called me and said that they had been in a car wreck and that he had survived but Renee’ had been killed. He told me she was the “love” of his “life” and that he figured he “get over it one day” but didn’t know “when.” He said that the accident occurred because she had wanted more tropical fish for her aquarium and that he had tried to tell her they should stay home, but she insisted, and that on the way back they had hit “black ice.” He told me, “I thought you should know.”

I contacted her adopted family and they were understandably upset. The fact that Terry and my sister had engaged now and then in some serious arguments fueled their suspicion of him and his role in her death. While I was not there I honestly believed it was an “accident”-he had seemed to love her very much when they had visited, so I prayed for everyone concerned and my mother and I started on a very dark period of grief over the loss of this half sister of mine who was in my life for just a short time (2006-2008) but was indeed a “gift.”

As for Jan Gallione, I looked for even a trace of her on the internet now that it was taking off as a “people finder.” Strangely enough, I was not finding anything and perhaps was not savvy enough as a “researcher” to think of “googling” names of her known relatives.

After starting this magazine in April of 2016 I became interested once more in finding the truth about Jan’s whereabouts because I was featuring an “Artist of the Month” now and then and was hoping to feature her as “thanks” for the past kindness she had shown myself and my late mother who passed away in 2012. One initial clue disturbed me: I found the “New York Times” obituary of her father John Gallione in 2000, but when it listed his family “survivors” she was not among them. She was referred to as “the late Jan Gallione.” I was completely floored- knowing she was not that old-wondered if it had been that horrendous taker of female lives “Breast Cancer”-not a clue-and could find no mention of what was responsible for her death.

Heartbroken, I set about finding out what happened to my friend. By now there were some more clues available. One notice posted with a couple of her paintings stated that she had been “A wonderful artist who was winning awards, showing in very prominent galleries, and invited to important artist residencies. She had an exciting and promising future as an artist which unfortunately did not get to play out with her untimely death at age 34.”

It also mentioned that her work had been shown at the Fendrick Gallery in NYC (records at the Smithsonian Museum of Art) and that she had residencies at Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, The Millay Colony for the Arts Awards, National Academy of Design Annual Exhibition (1985), and that she was the winner of the “Julius Hallgarten Prize for a painting done in the United States by an American Artist under 35 years of age.”

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Invitation to Jan Gallione’s Graduation Piece from UC Davis 1989

Digging deeper, I found a list of her fellow graduates at “UC Davis” where she had received her “Master of Fine Arts” in 1989, several years after I last laid eyes on her. In fact, I still did not know, when and how she passed. I made a few connections with some of her former classmates. Shelby Harris, still an artist today, said he remembered Jan as “A lively girl!” and that she had married a visiting professor named Adrian Frost (This info fit in with why I saw a mention of both Jan and Frost listed together on works that are archived by “The Smithsonian Institution.”) Shelby Harris told me she died in a car accident but did not know exactly where. Another classmate, artist April Funcke, encouraged me to continue my search and her note also explained to me that Jan and her husband, the artist Adrian Frost, had been in a car accident together and that Jan had perished while her husband survived. She told me to be sure that when I found him, to “Tell Adrian that April said hello.”

This stunning bit of information hit me like a bolt. It resonated completely with me because of what happened to my sister and Terry. I immediately felt a kinship with Adrian Frost. I felt I had an understanding of what it had been like for him to have been “the one who survived.”

I familiarized myself now with Mr. Frost and his work, watching a 2012 performance of his “Memphis Blues” presentation that is on “YouTube.” I also found a wonderful clip called “More Memphis Blues” that featured a wonderful modern dancer Tamara Jonason interpreting “physically” Frost’s art and poetry. I also saw a clip of Adrian interacting with the art loving public at a Eureka Springs Art colony in another YouTube clip. “The Memphis Blues” series is one of Frost’s odes to the “Heartland” of America-a journey I would eventually find out that had once included my lost friend Jan. Quotes from “Old Man River” intersperse with song and his own original poetry. Adrian Frost is actually a “performance artist”-a phenomena that often includes music, spoken word, dance, and visual art.

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Artist Adrian Frost, 2017

Struck immediately by the handsomeness of Mr. Frost, an Englishman for sure, yet with a touch perhaps of the “English Gypsy,” the type of Englishman that have the heavy, “Tyrone Poweresque” eyebrows that smack of the “Black Irish”-the eyebrows Liz Taylor got from her father-they hint at romances of “ladies” with “traveling” men or perhaps even those Spaniard invaders of the 1600’s. No matter, I could understand my Jan’s fascination with this unique and talented person.

Knowing what happened to Adrian and Jan though, I found myself holding back from contacting him. I was overwhelmed with the similarity to what had happened to my sister. I was waiting for a “right time” when I felt I could say something to him that would not hurt him somehow. I had a bit of fear of hurting this man-thinking I was ripping off the band aid or scab that had formed to get him through the rest of his life. I truly had to think it through. Then one day, after a few months, I decided to make the connection.

Mr. Frost turned out to be a delight. He was actually thrilled to hear from me and the apprehension that had vexed me was for naught. Through subsequent e-mails from him I was able to fill in some blanks about Jan’s life after our parting on 57th Street. Jan had followed up on her interest in belly dancing with actually going to live with “Bedouins” in the desert. In other words, she had traveled the world. Jan had met and married Adrian while at “UC Davis” and they had embarked on an interesting but sometimes hardship filled life together as they were not oft in one spot too long either due to the nature of Frost’s residencies at various schools around the country.

Jan with a Snake

Photograph of Jan Beaver Gallione with a snake. The photograph here is part of a collage tribute by Adrian Frost to his late wife.

I was also thrilled to find out that my “Cherokee Sister” Jan had actually gone back to her roots and involved herself in the preservation of Indian Burial Mounds ( The Ho-Chunk Nation and their famous “Effigy Mounds” in Wisconsin) and had been on “Vision Quests.” I had remembered that her mother “Dori” was Cherokee like my own mother and it seemed apropos that she would become taken with “Native American” concerns long after leaving the “Big Apple” behind. Ironically, my mother and I were on a spiritual trip to the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina along about the time Jan was in nearby Asheville according to resumes and “itinery” Frost sent me and we didn’t know it.

I was a late comer to the film “Fame” which was a sensation around the time I was around Jan the most. I only just saw it for the first time in the last few years. The song “The Body Electric” from that film brought tears to my eyes and even though Jan had graduated from the “High School of Art and Design” and not the “High School of the Performing Arts” (I believe her sister Gail did though) the movie and the song took me back to what it was like to be in New York City when art could still thrive and the city was still mostly an affordable place to live. I felt that Jan’s had indeed been “The Body Electric”-that woman that Walt Whitman sang the praises of in “Leaves of Grass.” “The Body Electric “as a term has also been borrowed by author Ray Bradbury.

Jan Gallione had initially been a part of the “European School of Art” when I knew her. Adrian Frost, the son of Sir Terry Frost, literally hailed from a family of artists, his brother Anthony also following in their famous father’s footsteps. Sir Terry Frost was a famed “Abstract Expressionist” from England. Adrian’s style is more of a “Post Dada” modern art with strong usage of “collage themes” and written and spoken word. Jan’s graduation piece from “UC Davis,” called “The Labors of Clementine” with a thread of that famous song running throughout, literally “brought the house down” when she performed it. She was embracing a type of art that was very American at this point-in other words-she had “evolved.”

In 1994, Jan Gallione was the same age as my sister at the time of her death and their birthdays were just a few days apart. Both strong willed Aries women they usually did what they wanted to-admirable in many cases and sometimes dangerous in others-they forged their own paths and destinies.

To Adrian, Jan was like a Cherokee Princess, something to adore as if a childhood dream came true. Therefore, when moving to Arizona, and she, “with child,” at the time, asked to turn around and return to Wisconsin and her unfinished projects with the burial mounds, Adrian accepted her request after trying to reason with her about the bad weather failed.

I finally knew the truth about what happened to Jan Gallione. Like my sister, her life ended on a stretch of highway, Jan’s in a snowstorm near Council Bluff’s, Iowa and my Renee’s in Southern Indiana on post “Valentine Day” black ice.

As a child, I would cry uncontrollably when hearing the song “My Darling Clementine.” My mother would say, “But it’s a funny song! It’s not meant to be sad. It’s not real.” Even though my mother tried to point out to me that it was “satire” I would cry out “No it isn’t. Clementine is real! She’s dead Mommy!”

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Portion of a poem Adrian Frost wrote for his late wife Jan Gallione.

The search for Jan held many spiritual and psychic qualities for me. Even my friend Liza DeCamp, proprietress of “Magnet Queen” in Tennessee, got caught up in the excitement. She did not know Jan but graduated the High School of Art and Design” a few years after Jan did and was able to find her yearbook photos and info for us.

Currently, Adrian Frost is working on an art film series in collaboration with Ada Athorp called “Furies” (a modern day take on ancient Greek heroines). He is proof that the “artist” must continue to seek inspiration and passion on the journey of life.

In fact, as long as there are artists like Adrian, Jan, and of course myself, seeking new inspiration in every day, I know in my heart that the “Body Electric” will never really “die”-but the “soul,” the real “spark,” will live on.

Jan Feet 2

Greek Belly Dance Music

Greek Belly Dance Music from Old Records

“If Only” – A poem by Aziza Al-Tawil

I wish someone could welcome the morning with me

open my eyes to the sunrise

and help me to “see.”

I’m so afraid of the day without the touch of “love”

The light for me only

and others who are lonely with no other things to speak of.

If only you were here to fill my heart

to lift up my head

from this silent bed

and make this “new day” a “new start.”

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In honor of Adrian and Jan:

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Sir Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in “Wuthering Heights” 1939 Charcoal Pencil Sketch by Aziza Al-Tawil.

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New Hope Animal Rescue “8th Annual Bowl-A-Thon” Nitro, WV April 2, 2017

By Aziza Al-Tawil

Sunday, April 2nd, was indeed a joyous day for the staff of “Egyptian Chick Magazine.” Thanks to “Town N Country Lanes” in Nitro, WV and  Karen Maes for organizing the event. Thanks to Lee and Jerry for playing with us. Billy Jack Watkins, our research assistant, had not been bowling in 30 years but still did us proud! I had not been bowling in about ten years and this was only about my fourth time total doing it! I was also not so bad “considering!” Met a darling “Black and Tan Coon Hound Mix” named “Pugsley.” He was a real sweetheart and I hope he finds a home. Check out the photos from our fun day and if you would like to donate to them please go to this link New Hope Animal Rescue West Virginia Chapter Donation Page

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Connie Robertson is enjoying a cuddle with “Pugsley.”

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The crowd was getting geared up to help animals at “Town N Country Lanes” Nitro, WV.

 

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Billy Jack Watkins feeling satisfied with his game.

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Your Editor, Aziza Al-Tawil, having a blast with the new purple tee shirt.

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The pretty gift baskets in the “Raffle.”

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Your editor, Aziza Al-Tawil, enjoying the heck out of “Pugsley.”

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The crowd at “Town N Country Lanes” in Nitro, WV are showing their best for the “New Hope Animal Rescue 8th Annual Bowl-a-Thon.”

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Thanks to the following donors:

D.J. Adams, Marion Cerrato, Kathy Claypool, Ron Kerr, “London Church of God,” June Staats, Kathy at Luna, and several anonymous donors.

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Your editor, Aziza Al-Tawil, satisfied and happy at the “New Hope Animal Rescue Bowl-a-Thon” at “Town N Country Lanes,” Nitro, WV

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IT’S ONLY A FEW MINUTES LONG BUT IT MAY SAVE YOUR LIFE

Turkish Cat Scene

Turkish Cat Scene courtesy of Adrian Frost

Egyptian Chick Magazine June 2016 Issue

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Letter from the Editor :

Egyptian Theme Theatre Program

Since we saw you last, our staff rested up from joining and covering the Bernie Sanders campaign in West Virginia, springtime pollen and the rainy season has dissipated, and we are on to new subjects to intrigue you for this June’s issue. (Don’t be surprised if by August there will be more about Mr. Sanders and what went down in July with his heroic struggle against the establishment to be the nominee). The 17 year cicadas are out in the region marking some new beginnings, there has been no news of Nefertiti’s chamber exploration yet, but we have heard that a dagger belonging to “King Tut” is made of iron from a “meteorite.” (Remember when there were rumors that the Ancient Egyptians were really from “outer space!”).

Sadly, after informing the public on the latest “Female Genital Mutilation” statistics in our April issue, the death of a girl in Egypt from that banned procedure done in a hospital has made worldwide news and shows us we need to keep vigilant in this subject.

This month’s highlight on art is an up close look at 19th century French “Orientalist” vases by Peccatte. There are also some shopping links and vintage dance images to inspire you. I’m the cover model for this month.

  Thank you for reading, Aziza Al-Tawil “Editor in Chief”

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Nymph Stage” : Memories of the Cicadas of 1982

By Aziza Al-Tawil

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The empty “shell” left clinging to a tree after a 17 year Cicada has emerged, Charleston, WV June 1, 2016.

I will never forget that Spring in 1982, when my grandmother was still living, and my mother and I moved to Charleston, WV to be near her. I was a young woman going through “puberty” who was leaving the life of a child performer in NYC to try and make a transition to regular kid for a while.  The NYC school board had hounded us mercilessly over “home schooling” in a time that going to school was becoming more and more dangerous in the “Big Apple,” then my mother got sick with “Narcolepsy” from all the pressure, and finally we saw the proverbial “Handwriting on the wall.” We arrived on the “Amtrak” and my life would never be the same.

My dreams of Broadway stardom were dashed at this time but having the spirit of one who never says “die” I entered school and  “The National Forensics and Drama League” at “Stonewall Jackson High School” with every intent of blossoming as an actress and a human being.

Grudgingly, I was going through several life passages and upheavals at once.  I also wanted to once and for all kiss a boy the way they did in the “old movies.” I wanted our lips to engage tenderly, softly, moistly, for hours on end until, drunk on each other’s “nectar,” we lay collapsed in each other’s arms in the dark. (Alas, this fantasy would not come to be until I was sixteen!)

All of my longings were still churning within me and at this point had reached fever pitch. Therefore, it was interesting at this time for the whole world to become cacophonous with the sounds of a bug. A bug once told in a Greek folk tale to hop on the neck of a “Cithara” and take the place of a broken string thereby helping “Eunomos” (Mr. Goodtune) the player of the instrument to win a competition. 

Socrates believed these bugs to actually have once been men. Men who were so mesmerized by the “Muses” and their “Music” they forgot to eat or drink and then withered away only to return free from the earth in a “resurrection” 17 years later. The Greeks also tended to think that the moist looking creature that first emerges and basically lives on the “dew” or “sap” represented man becoming free through an ability to “love.” The tearing up of our eyes when we see the object of our affection, our other juices flowing when feeling this kind of passion when we behold our beloved. Through this kind of physical experience we gain immortality.

The Ancient Chinese also had a fascination with cicadas – to them they represented such broad themes as “resurrection,” “fertility,” “longevity and eternal youth,” and they used the bugs in Chinese medicine formulas. The bugs were also popular and prominent in jewelry including renderings in jade, not as much as the “Scarab” in Ancient Egypt but quite a bit “widespread” nonetheless. Carved cicadas have been used as part of clothing “toggle closures” in Chinese clothing.

Hunnic Cicada Brooch Christies Website

“Hunnic” Cicada Brooch first half of the 5th Century A.D.  Courtesy of “Christies.”

HUnnic Brooch back first half fifth Century AD

“Hunnic” Cicada Brooch Rear View, first half of the Fifth Century A.D.

There are 2500 or so species of Cicadas (“Homoptera”). It is interesting to note that many times these bugs are confused with “locusts”- the difference being that locusts are “Grasshoppers” and “Cicadas” are more like a type of “fly.”  Ironically, that February of 1982, what would become a bit of a “cult classic” horror film was released and “The Beast Within” was indeed a “17 year Cicada.” Why exactly a virtually harmless creature like a “cicada” was chosen to be “The Bad Guy” is somewhat puzzling. It calls to mind the confusion once more between “Cicada” and the more ravenous, potentially destructive “Locust.” The movie has a host of fine actors like Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, and Don Gordon. It is rumored that some of the plot points were lost to the “cutting room floor.” Perhaps, therein, lies an explanation of the “Cicada” metamorphosis of the teenage boy-if not there than in the book which it is based on which I have not read.

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Movie poster for the 1982 horror film “The Beast Within.”

Roman Cicada Fibula or Fly 3rd century ad

Roman Cicada or Fly “Fibula” Third Century A.D.

In 1999, I was not near an “emergence” of the cicadas. So now that I am back in Charleston, WV for a while I find myself wanting to take note of this event and reminisce about 1982. This week, right before the magazine “went to press,” I went out to take a few pictures of our strange visitors.

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Another view of the empty shell

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Two Cicadas mating on a rock.

As for me, if I have the good fortune to be alive in another 17 years, who knows where my “Gypsy” (not “Gypsy Moth!”) self will be. So for now, I will treat this year as something special which may not come again. In fact, living each day to the fullest is not a bad idea during any time or season of life.

Orientalist Art by V. Peccatte

by Aziza Al-Tawil

Two stunning vases by 19th Century French artist Peccatte. About 15 years ago, two larger vases with similar artwork of the the two women were auctioned off for sixty thousand dollars at “Christie’s.”

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Peccatte Vases with Middle Eastern Ladies, France, 19th Century

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Peccatte vases, Middle Eastern Ladies, “rear view,” France, 19th Century

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Pecatte vases, Middle Eastern Ladies, “top view,” France, 19th Century

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Peccatte vases, Middle Eastern Ladies, “Bottom View” France, 19th Century

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Pecatte vase, “Signature View,” France, 19th Century

 

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Peccatte vase, “Signature View,” France, 19th Century

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Another front view of Middle Eastern Lady Vases by Peccatte, France, 19th Century

 

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Aristotle Onassis – an untold story.

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“Tayoun’s Mahrajan” – Photo Essay and Memories of 1966.

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Egyptian Chick Magazine May 2016 Issue

Egyptian Chick Cover May 2016 Josephine Homonai Cover Girl.jpg

Letter from the Editor:

 

Aziza in Rose Frame

Just when you think the latest dirty word might be “Millennials” – you know –  the name for the generation after “X” – the ones so wrapped up in their cell phones you’re not sure they know you’re alive sometimes – something actually happens to bring out and indeed “underscore” their humanity.

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As a member of the so-called “Generation X” that came after the “baby boomers” and has pre-dated the “Millennials” (Think Molly Ringwald, Winona Ryder, Leonardo Di Caprio etc.) I relished a chance to witness a major “demonstration” of “Millennials” in action. The Bernie Sanders rally in Huntington, WV in April was indeed that “chance.”

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Faces in the crowd at the Bernie Sanders rally.

It was indeed an experience to watch a college generation and younger group shed “apathy” and rise up with “idealism” and “hope” once more. Bernie Sanders campaign is straight out of the 1960’s-the era that gives him his greatness. For if anyone lacks an apathetic bone in their body it is indeed Bernie Sanders. After years of rising tuition costs and student loan debt that could even cripple “Atlas,” the “Millennials” have been “re-charged” by Bernie, a man who speaks to their needs and indeed to the needs of all generations right now. This month’s issue will take you on the life changing journey I took replete with photos that will move you. This goes to press the night before the Indiana primary. “Egyptian Chick Magazine” plans to follow many of the upcoming results closely and is planning a fundraiser to go to the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia in July. (You can support the magazine by shopping our affiliate links at the end of our issue or make a direct PayPal donation to the following address: freeazizanow@aol.com).

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Passionate young people

In another article we will meet a 14 year old artist, wise beyond her years, whose depth and talent will move you and show you yet another “Millennial” in action. People like Josephine Homonai also give us hope for the arts since we’ve become a society that gives less and less support to those with these sorts of talents.

Josie Christmas (2)

Besides some other changes that are afoot, perhaps people like Josephine can bring attention back to nurturing art and music in our schools once more. Read on! Thanks.

                            Aziza Al-Tawil, Editor in Chief

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Budding Young Artist About to Bloom: The Enchanting World of Josephine Homonai

If you think it’s inspiring to come from an artistic background, or it might even end up in your “DNA,”  you might be right. Especially, in the case of the young lady you are about to meet.

Josie at Work

This young and talented Egyptian American woman is another in a long line of a very branched out tree that includes a grandfather, Samir Al-Tawil who wrote an international hit song called “Linda Linda,” a mother , Mary, who is a “hip hop” dancer and poet, a grandmother, Rawiya who was a famous Egyptian belly dancer, an Aunt, Azza Sherif who was also a famous Egyptian belly dancer and movie star, an Aunt, Aziza Al-Tawil who is a famous American belly dancer, singer, actress and artist, and yet another aunt, Vergine Al-Tawil who is a visual artist. And her uncle Garo sings!

Josie Tree in Eyeball

 

In addition to Egyptian and Armenian heritage, 14 year old artist Josie Homonai has a touch of the “Magyar” in her, through Dad Scott who is no less than proud of his little girl’s accomplishments at a young age.

Josaephine Autumn Leaves

As a child, Josie was aware of art, and developed a love for it, but never dreamed she would be creating the way she does now. At one point, besides the “Abstract Expressionism and French Impressionism” of her Aunt Vergine Al-Tawil’s work, Josie found inspiration in Van Gogh. She discovered him on her own as she was not taught about him in school.

Tree lovers

 

After doing some modeling and acting, about a year ago Josie Homonai “took the plunge” and decided to be an artist herself. Her friends were amazed at how quickly she could render a portrait of a friend and how well it turned out. With their encouragement she decided to continue down this path and now some of her work takes anywhere from fifty minutes to a couple of weeks to complete. She is also a regular fixture, along with Jeff Nicholas “The Amazing Jeffrey the Cartoonist,” on the “Wadsworth Channel” in suburban Cleveland (Josie was born in Las Vegas but moved to Ohio at age five). For Josie, art is a more “spiritual” venture though that literally takes her to “another world.”

Child's Face by Josie

 

While Josie enjoys showing her completed works on TV and dreams of having “a name” in the business, her goals and intentions are much loftier. She wants people to feel that through art there is “hope.” She has tutored other kids in literature and art in after school programs and also taught first and second graders art through a Salvation Army program. Josie says she knows how cruel the world can be at times, but despite a few instances of “bullying” towards her she has mostly managed to keep going. Her loving and supportive family have seen to it. 

Josephine Masquerade Lady

 

Josie was shown a little bit of belly dancing by her mother, and Josie says she might like to learn more one day. Being an artist is something she definitely plans to continue through college along with becoming a nurse. In fact, Josie has already started bringing her own brand of cheer to a local nursing home. Some of her works now grace the walls of various homes and she has started a Facebook page to sell her art. She is also writing a book called “Still Here.” Josie also  loves animals.

Kitty Cat By Josie

 

I’m sure this is not the last we will hear about this fascinating young lady. For more information on her art and/or how to purchase pieces go to her art page on Facebook: Josephine_HomonaiArt

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 “Woman of Tears” by Josephine Homonai

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“Volunteers of America”: Bernie Sanders Calls to Mind “Jefferson Airplane” in West Virginia

By Aziza Al-Tawil

 SAMSUNG

After taking a wrong turn on the way to our insurance man’s office one day, I circled the block and saw it on the corner: The headquarters for the Bernie Sanders campaign. After becoming a devotee’ of his message months and months before this – now was the time to actually do something about it. So Billy Jack Watkins and I went in and joined in the “Grand Opening” of the Charleston, WV office. Whitney Roberts, a Catawba Indian American from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina greeted people with gleaming eyes and a lipstick red dress. The other office manager, Connor Ruby, was from Stowe, MA making the team an interesting cross-section of America. After breaking bread with these folks (or I should say pizza!) we officially became “Volunteers.”

By that weekend the news hit. Bernie Sanders was actually coming to West Virginia and would be in Huntington on Tuesday. I was already planning to write an article for the magazine, but this exceeded anything I could have dreamed of under such short notice. I told everyone it just seemed like some sort of “Providence.”

When I was a young girl, too young to vote but old enough to have strong feelings about the world, I attended the rally in Charleston, WV for Jimmy Carter’s former Vice President Walter Mondale, who was now running for President himself. The year was 1984 and my mother, a single parent, had been struggling for several years.

Not too long before this, some cockamamie “Reaganomics” law had given kickbacks to companies that “over hired” for jobs that didn’t exist. You could be hired and then have hours cut a few weeks later. The unemployment rate would look better for a while but  you would be tortured into quitting so you couldn’t file for unemployment. This horrendous torture was inflicted on my mother and one story is a testament to her strength. Her hours kept getting cut like the others they were trying to get rid of before the next “hiring round” would start up again. They cut her hours. My mother showed up. They cut her hours again. She showed up. They cut her hours again. She showed up for work again. Finally, they cut her down to one single, solitary hour. My mother rode a bus to work to get in that one hour. The management was floored. They asked why she even showed up. She said, “I have a daughter.” They said something to the effect of, “OK. We can’t break you. We’re laying you off.”

“You can’t break me” is a phrase that has almost run through my psyche like an anthem. Besides a courageous mother, having a progressive, and tough Cherokee grandmother did not hurt me either. She wanted Jesse Jackson to be president and was a firm believer in “The Rainbow Coalition” until her death from a brain tumor.

That miserable rainy day, in 1984, three generations of strong women watched hopes for a Democratic presidency go down the drain, literally, for when we stepped out of the indoor rally into the street I spotted one of Mondale’s posters riding the waves of water down the gutter and into a sewer opening. I felt desolate. It was prophetic indeed. Within a couple of years I joined the musicians union and left town for Boston. There I played guitar, wrote songs, belly danced, and ran around in the Winter bundled up in a big coat with the theme of “Dr. Zhivago” running through my head. I joined the peace movement through a local synagogue. Ate Indian “take-out” with a young lover. I also entered the labor force in Boston as I was now old enough. Without getting too far off topic here let me just say that Bernie Sanders is the living embodiment of the term “You Can’t Break Me.” In other words if your Mama never had to ride the bus for one hour of work or be damned you may never fully understand what a guy like Bernie Sanders is about.

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Two American Beauties About to Go in to See Bernie.

When our carpool arrived in Huntington we were dispatched to do our jobs. Along with our carpool hostess Malyka Knapp-Smith, we helped the Secret Service and “Big Sandy Superstore Arena” security with crowd control. The crowd was much larger than anticipated and room was made by opening up extra seating sections. (Bernie had already drawn crowds in the upwards of forty thousand. Why they did not expect to fill over 5,000 seats here is beyond me). The final estimate was 6,500 people.

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The “Button Man.”

 

Peter Marshall, the host of “Hollywood Squares” and a native of Huntington, WV once said “Stand on any street corner in West Virginia and the most beautiful women will walk by.”

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“The Blonde”

What he said years ago has certainly not changed for the minute I got out there with my camera I saw “stars.”

One young woman I will call “The Blonde,” was as mesmerizing as Charlize Theron or any other Hollywood bombshell. She had the “Marilyn” factor “in spades!” A series of shots of her culminating in one from indoors when she was watching Bernie Sanders speak – it just spoke volumes of the love people have for this man. She is probably no more than about 20 years old but  was looking at him with the adoration that a man of any age dreams of.  Be reminded that while television pundits dismiss his charm as being like “Grandpa,” in reality and in person this is a man who should not be stripped of his youthful virility. In other words, Bernie may be an elderly man but he is not “frail.”

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“Neo Hippies” with personality charmed people outside. I cried out “You remind me of Woodstock!” whereupon this amiable young lady posed and flashed me the peace sign.

After everyone from the outside was seated inside, a lady in charge of the event screamed at us “VIP SECTION NOW!” (Malyka was pivotal in keeping our group together during the chaos and demanding that Bill and I not get lost in the shuffle. She saw to it that we made it to the VIP section with her as members of the press, etc.) In “VIP” we were joined by representatives of the dynamic and burgeoning “Progressive” wing of West Virginia’s Democratic Party including 19 year veteran of the West Virginia Senate and candidate for governor Jeff Kessler, and first term House of Delegates Michael Pushkin.

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“Americans with Disabilities Act” spectators getting ready for the “man of the hour.”

Kessler, an affable and likeable gentleman, is concerned about a litany of issues including drug addiction treatment for youth after the experience of going through it with his own son and he has also been brave enough to let the coal industry know that West Virginia has to branch out into some other areas, that coal is not “King” any more.

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Unidentified lady on left, Senator Jeff Kessler, and Malyka Knapp Smith share a happy moment before Bernie arrives.

 

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One of the families in the “Americans with Disabilities Act” Section

As for Pushkin, the charismatic President of Local 136 of the American Federation of Musicians, a descendent of Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe, and first term House of Delegates member, he is already shaping up to be a politician with a future. Also, a taxi driver by night, his campaigns feature intriguing signs with the unmistakable yellow and black checkerboard design.

Another passionate defender of people’s rights and “the little guy,” Michael Pushkin goes up against distasteful bills with the passion of David against Goliath. His recent speech on the West Virginia House floor about a religious freedom bill that was merely a thinly disguised attempt to legalize discrimination – case in point: a baker having to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding reception. Pushkin described how we already have laws that defend all our rights in our federal and state constitution.  As for “HB 4012” he pointed out that many things in life that conflict with religion are mere “inconveniences” not necessarily “persecution.” At the end of his speech he said it all: “Baking a cake is not ‘persecution.’ Getting baked in an oven – is ‘persecuted!’.”

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The rains were “on and off” that day.

So there we were, the Democratic Party Delegation from Charleston, awaiting the speech of one of the most sensational politicians that have ever drawn a breath. What did it feel like? Take a guess, folks.

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Marshall Grad and West Virginia “Progressive” Robin Tucker giving a thumbs up to the proceedings. The other lady is un- identified at this time.

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Sizing up the “Button Man’s” wares.

 

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A somber moment behind the scenes prepping the “Big Sandy Superstore Arena” for the Bernie Sanders rally

We were all breathless when we saw them let in a crew of photographers to take positions near his podium. We knew he would make his entrance soon.

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A serious and somewhat weary looking photographer comes out with some other members of the press to take positions near the stage.

 Then the magic happened. Bernie had entered the room.

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The last time I saw “The Blonde.” The way her face filled with adoration for Bernie should go down in history like famous moments from “Life” and “National Geographic.”

 

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Malyka Knapp-Smith – during what will be considered a shining moment in her life.

Bernie Sanders delivered a speech to West Virginia that resonated. He touched on all the issues that concern. At one point he brought tears to my eyes. It’s one thing  to see something on “TV” and yet another to experience something “live.”

Amazingly, even though this was indeed a diverse crowd, the most thunderous response came to Bernie’s mention of seeking “racial equality.”  While I don’t know the exact ratio of “White to Black” in the audience- it seemed like there were more “whites.” That’s why the almost “apocalyptic” sounding noise of approval from the audience really warmed your heart. It was touching to know that how we treat our fellow man as “equals” was an issue given more importance than our own personal economic woes – the love of our neighbor being worth more than gold. I was proud to be home in my mother’s home state of West Virginia and be experiencing this kind of spiritual journey.

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As Bernie was leaving the stage the “Secret Service” accompanied him around the perimeter of the barriers so he could greet the public. When Bernie got to me he saw the big camera in my hands. I reached out and patted him on the side and said, “I’m from New York too. I just love you…” He smiled warmly and his bright blue eyes gleamed. He made his way past and smiled back at me once before continuing.

 

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Mike Pushkin tried to give Bernie some “Matzo Ball Soup” from a lady he knew who made it but the “Secret Service” did not seem too thrilled. His intentions were good though.

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The happy crowd leaves the arena after the rally.

Bernie Sanders deserves to be our most high “public servant.” He will return us to the “New Deal” of FDR’s presidency. For those with short memories or no knowledge, we did not become “Communists” under FDR, we were actually “saved” from “becoming” Communists. Our country as a “Democracy” was allowed to continue and endure.

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My happy “crew” – Malyka Knapp-Smith and Billy  Jack Watkins celebrating with me afterwards at “Applebees.”.

 

 

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Me looking “three sheets to the wind” – and my cocktail had not even arrived yet!

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Egyptian Chick Magazine April 2016 Issue

Egyptian Chick Magazine Cover April 2016

Astrological “Stars” of Stars of Belly Dance and Belly Dance Music

by Hattie Jones

Nagwa Fouad – Capricorn (Jan 1st).

Nagwa Fouad Dance

 

Soad Hosny – Aquarius (Jan 26th)

Soad Hosny

 

Nejla Ates – Pisces (March 7)

nejla-ates

 

Mohamed Abdel Wahab – Pisces (March 13th)

Mohamed Abdel Wahab

 

Taheya Carioca – Pisces (February 22nd)

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Dina – Aries (March 27th)

Dina

 

Esin Engin – Taurus (May 17th)

esin-engin

 

Fifi Abdo – Taurus (April 26th)

Fifi in Performance

 

Samia Gamal – Gemini (May 27th)

Samia Turqoise Earrings Red Gold hat

 

Abdel Halim Hafez – Cancer (June 21st)

Abdel Halim Hafez

 

Sibel Can – Leo (August 1st)

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Ozel Turkbas – Virgo (September 1st)

OZel

Omar Korshid – Libra (October 9th)

omar-khorshid

 

Naima Akef – Libra (October 7th)

Naima Akef

 

Hind Rostum – Scorpio (Nov 12)

HInd Rostum Poster

 

Hossam Ramzy – Sagittarius (December 15th)

Hossam Ramzy

Johanna – Sagittarius (December 16th)

Johanna Backbend

“Egyptian Chick Magazine” is proud to announce it’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders for President of the United States as he is the candidate to deliver a true “difference” in America and indeed it’s dealings with the entire world. Our magazine promotes the concept of peace and of feeling free to speak your mind against the “status quo.” Bernie Sanders embodies all the qualities needed in a true leader.

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“Female Genital Mutilation” – End the Torture Now!

By Hattie Jones

Father and Daughter

From her report of February 23, 2016,  CNN’s Nima Elbagir reveals that despite the ban in Kenya and Great Britain, “FGM” has been moved to “secret rooms.” The sickening practice is even forced on young women who might be natives of Great Britain who are just visiting Kenya and for all intents and purposes are “kidnapped” and tied down for this ancient and barbaric practice.

I remember being shocked that in American popular culture of the 1970s, there was a reference to “FGM” – a young woman was going to experience sexual joy with Richard Roundtree’s iconic character before returning to the “Motherland” and the impending destruction of her “pleasure centers” and marriage. “Shaft in Africa’s” blasé treatment of this female character’s fate was troubling to say the least.

Today, the general public is more aware of “FGM” and the facts are nothing to scoff at. While preserving history and customs is sometimes a noble undertaking, nothing barbaric and cruel against man or animal should ever survive “antiquity.” Humanity is meant to advance, not remain in the dark ages.

“Egyptian Chick Magazine” is firmly against the practice of “Female Genital Mutilation” and encourages it’s readers to sign any petitions urging it’s legal eradication.

For more information on the latest laws and statistics please go to the “World Health Organization’s” page here:  “World Health Organization FGM Facts”.

 

The “Salad Days” of Susanne and Lou Forestieri: Two Artists Triumph – An Intimate Portrait by An Old Friend.

By Aziza Al-Tawil

 

Susan Orange and Browns

Something I designed for Susanne using one of her early publicity shots.

In the 2014 short documentary film “For the Love of Art,”  Susanne Forestieri, standing before a canvas, said “It’s always good to step back – which is a good lesson in life-if you get too close to things…you don’t really see them.”

With a touch of wistfulness, the artist remembers  winning the “National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Painting” in 1996 for portraits of her daughter Gina and friends playing “dress-up” – the photos of their escapades years previous being saved in a shoebox.  For Susanne, they represented “childhood,” “the loss of childhood,” and even just the very passage of time and the eventual loss of our fruitful childhood “fantasy lives.”

It is with my own touch of “wistfulness” in the year 2016, that I “step back” from Susanne Forestieri and see the woman as she really is – and as she “was” when I was just one of the little children in her sphere – indeed acting out those “fantasy lives” she so touchingly recalls.

To fully understand just what Susanne Forestieri’s impact on my life has been you have to go back in time – to the late 1960’s to be exact – when my mother found herself pregnant by a “bigamist” musician she thought she was legally married to. When he “split” as it were, my mother was at a complete loss of what to do. One of her former dance protégés Francine had a brilliant idea – years ahead of it’s time – when she told my mother Johanna “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine. The same thing is happening to her.”

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My mother Johanna, me, Doris Sherman, Peter, and his mother Susanne Forestieri – My First Birthday Party, “The Beirut Restaurant, ” NYC.

So, my mother Johanna met Susanne and her mother Doris through Francine. Susanne had just been left “with child” by a Greek musician she worked worked with and both Susanne and Johanna needed to stick together to get through this tough time – tough because soon to be forty year old Johanna’s flame Samir had stolen all her money and Susanne, quite a few years her junior at twenty three years of age, was a budding artist with no benefactors yet except her mother Doris.

Johanna had been bouncing around a few friends places-one arrangement was just not working out-she was sharing an apartment with Susanne’s male friend, a “shell shocked” Armenian man in Brooklyn Heights. His “phobia?” He was freaked out to see any doors closed or locked. He also had strange fits where he would slap my mother. At one point my mother was in the Ansonia hotel after one of these horrific encounters with Arthur in Brooklyn and became so ill she was throwing up constantly. Susanne and Arthur came and got her and took her back to his large “Pre-War” but after many apologies his bizarre behavior and fits of violence continued.

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Susanne Forestieri and her son, my childhood “best friend,” Peter.

This is when Susanne’s mother Doris really “stepped up to the plate.” Susanne and Johanna moved into an apartment together to await the birth of their children, all expenses paid by Doris. Susanne’s father had unfortunately been very ill and had to live in a hospital. Susanne and Johanna made an easy friendship as both were from “multi-cultural” backgrounds. While Susanne’s father was Jewish, Doris was mostly of English and Native American stock. Ironically, now, after all these years I can see  Susanne and Johanna’s resemblance to each other through their Native American connection mostly. (At some point, I can’t remember when exactly, Mr. Sherman passed away).

Susanne’s son Peter was born around November and I was born the following March. Like a true “unwed mothers co-op” Johanna and Susanne took turns babysitting Peter and I as each woman returned to her respective careers as belly dancers in New York City’s famed “Greek Town” District of Eighth Avenue and 29th St.

Aiyupa Sword Veil

Francine Goldberg, the lovely “Aiyupa,” first dancer to dance with a sword in a nightclub on the East Coast to the Midwest. She saved her mentor Johanna’s life by getting her together with Susanne Sherman and her mother Doris.

 

As everyone has probably heard, “Wednesday’s Child is full of Woe” so I went through quite a while of being quite a “crier.” Peter on the other hand was a happy baby-all he needed to soothe him was a musical mobile that hung over his crib. The same mobile bought for me proved fruitless-it started going around and I took that as my “cue” to “start” crying not “stop.” (Peter did cry “with” me a few years later in Central Park one time when fireworks overhead seemed more like “battlefield” explosions).

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Me and Peter: “The Early Days”

Peter was a sharp and observant little fellow. He was fascinated with me and relished doing things to “grab” my attention-like pulling the head off a favorite doll. As for me, I was alternately repelled and fascinated by Peter who oft, during Archie Bunker impersonations, would call me “Dingbat Dodo Bird.” I was also forced to endure “Star Track!” (“Star Trek”) theme play time, but I was a “sport.” I would tell you he was like “family” – but he really wasn’t. We were small children but it was more of a boyfriend/girlfriend dynamic. I can honestly say as the years went on Peter would never seem like a “brother.”

In the year of “Watergate” my mother was requested to return to her hometown of Charleston, WV to teach belly dancing at the YWCA-so she packed up and sported me off at age 5 to see my grandmother and, at least for a while, a new life. During that year I helped my mother teach what would end up being around five hundred students who filed into the gym and the other rehearsal rooms to learn what was the hottest sensation in the world at the time. Belly dancing was unleashing a wave of feminine expression as it exploded from a art form seen performed in cabarets in the 1950’s and 1960’s to a true housewives hobby. Well, not just “housewives,” but truly women from every walk of life.

Aziza Teaching Charleston

Me, by now age 6 and teaching. Student named Libby in the background.

By the following year my mother realized that she really wanted to return to NYC  as I was six years old and would be starting school. She wanted me to have the best education in the arts, so packing up again, we headed for NYC, the only place I’ve ever really thought of as “home.”

As soon as we hit town, my Mom checked us into the “Henry Hudson Hotel” and by the next night, no later, she looked up Susan-maybe called Doris first and got her new number. By a strange coincidence, Susan was living just down the street from the Henry Hudson Hotel in  number “309” on 57th St. and the exact same building my mother had once lived with her first husband and dance partner, Bill. By now Susan was engaged to a piano player name Lou Forestieri and he was living with she and Peter in an apartment there.

Johanna hung up the phone excitedly and we raced down to their “pad” to see them. As I entered the apartment with my mother I was thrilled to hear Peter’s voice call out to me from the “loft.” There was a ladder and he cried out for me “Zizi” to come up there with him. As far as I remember, he had to come “down” as I was not particularly “athletic.” I belly danced but I did not climb ladders or trees!

Susanne’s Lou was a struggling musician, but who was in the middle of an exciting run as one of the piano players that came up out of the stage floor to play Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” during the “spectacular” that accompanied the screening of  “The Sting” at Radio City Music Hall. “The Sting,” about “depression era” con men starred Robert Redford and Paul Newman and was the box office smash of 1973-74. It would go on to win seven academy awards.

Susanne, was still dreaming of and trying to pursue a career as an artist – something she truly had talent at but was in gestation at the time. My mother and I returned to what was left of the belly dance scene although it would not be long until it would dry up and wither away. My dream was to be an actress.

My mother enrolled me in school for what she hoped would be a fulfilling experience. However, it would not be long before it turned into a “hornet’s nest” as NYC was on the verge of one of the most devastating periods in history: It’s “bankruptcy” both “financially” and “morally.” The school I started to attend had become terribly tough for an elementary school. Little children were getting in with knives while the “establishment” was ill equipped to deal with it. During school months, the physical abuse that was to become just about the norm had begun, and some of the most trying years of my life were about to begin.

But my personal life was still rich in content. The friendship of Susanne, Peter, Doris, and now Lou, was a loving and supportive environment to foster all my dreams. My mother Johanna was a rather sophisticated woman and Susanne’s wacky personal style tickled her a bit. I will never forget the day Susanne came up out of a subway staircase  on our block, Peter in tow, wearing a toboggan, a long black fur coat, and sneakers. Johanna had never seen quite an “ensemble” like it before and was amused.

Eccentric as artists should be, our friends were beautiful in spirit-the kind of New York people who touch each other’s souls – in the coffee shops, the “Cinema Revival” houses, the parks and museums. I eventually came to believe Woody Allen wrote “us” – he knew our kind so well – but really the City itself was the “writer” that marked us with it’s magic.

Pretty soon Susanne found herself with Lou’s child and they moved to 110th St. to a fabulous “Pre-War” apartment. Play dates often included another little boy named Ian who was about 2 years younger than Peter and I. Peter and I went to Central Park, spent the night in Astoria at Ian’s place and I spent a lot of time up on 110th St. I remember so well going to the Columbia University campus at night. It was terribly romantic, I thought, to see all the young lovers out walking. The new baby, Gina,  joined the Forestieri clan, and Lou and Susanne married. The new baby was a beautiful Italian looking baby, and looked so much like her father.

At around eight or nine years old I took a few oil painting lessons with Susanne in exchange for posing for her in a frilly Victorian looking girl’s outfit. I demurely held a large sun hat in front of me as I sat for her – learning the smell of the turpentine and how patient an artist’s model must be. As for my art, Susanne was taken with me, calling me “the little colorist.”

Aziza's First Oil Painting

The painting I created at around age 8 or nine while taking private lessons from Susanne.

In the late 70’s, Lou was doing some arranging for   musical acts for clients like Eileen Fulton who played “Lisa” on “As the World Turns” and the very lovable Ted Ross who won a Tony as the “Cowardly Lion” in the “The Wiz.” (Ted would go on to reprise his “Wiz” role in the movie version which co-starred Nipsey Russell, my then neighbor at the “Henry Hudson Hotel” and make a memorable mark as the chauffeur “Bitterman” in the hit movie “Arthur” ). Eileen Fulton, whose autograph I scored at the time, also commissioned Susanne to paint her portrait. It remains one of Susanne’s loveliest works and certainly hints at her burgeoning greatness at the time.

Idyllic Summers were spent at Jones Beach on Long Island, the Astoria Pool, and even the “Dee Lee’s Bungalow Colony” near Tamarack Lodge in the Catskills – Ellenville, NY. Peter’s cousin Denise who was a few years our senior joined us in upstate NYC. My Mom was so busy working by now – trying to raise me without child support that she was unable to come on the trip and instead put me on a bus with Lou to go up and join them. That Summer we swam, ate Italian ices from Mr. Dee Lee’s vending cart, explored abandoned houses, played with toads and frogs and even discovered a “nudist colony” beyond some bushes.

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“Dee Lee’s Bungalow Colony” was still there when a friend and I made a pilgrimage to my old “stomping grounds.” “Dee Lee’s” was now owned by Orthodox Jews.

I remember Susanne trying to keep up with all the grubby little kids baths and sometimes telling us to wipe off our dirty feet before crawling into bed. There was the time us kids dared bring a “tree frog” into the bungalow, and how scared we were when it “escaped” it’s enclosure. We looked every where and could not find it. That night, we wondered just whose bed it might crawl into and tried to act “nonchalant.”

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A bungalow at “Dee Lee’s” in 2007, very much like the one we stayed in back in 1978. The Orthodox Jewish women allowed me to take pictures but, due to religious constraints, they themselves were “camera shy.”

The song that played every night at the Disco at Tamarack was “Last Dance.” “Last Dance” may have been the “Anthem” for the older more decadent crowd at “Studio 54” but for me it was the “anthem” for the soon to be ending of a nearly decade long or more friendship with the Forestieris and my dear Peter.

The Rec Room

The candy store/pool hall where Peter’s cousin Denise and I played pool and drank a sugary softy drink called “Cherokee Red.”As it looked in 2007, down the road from “Tamarack.” I got there just in time. The long defunct “Tamarack Lodge” burnt down just a few years later.

It seemed like terrible, dumb things just started happening, and they seemed to just grab weight and start “snowballing.” While in the Catskills I had accidentally opened a door when a bunch of us kids were screaming and playing, and even though someone tried to warn me, I couldn’t stop my hand that was already in motion. On the other side was the toddler Gina and the door hit her lip. I felt so terrible as Lou cradled his crying baby. I said I was sorry but I knew what I had done was terrible and I felt awful.

Another mistake was a classic “faux pas” of saying the “wrong thing.” My mother had said to me that when Susanne had first started belly dancing in Greek Town she was nervous and had bit her lip on stage that night. It was just something she blurted out to me one day and like an idiot, at an inexplicable time, I repeated it to Susanne as if to say “My mother said you weren’t a good dancer one time.” I guess I meant to say “She said you were like a lot of people, nervous when they first start out.” The words became twisted and tangled coming out of my mouth and later I felt I had hurt Susanne’s feelings. But even more “Cats Ass Trophies” were soon to follow. Ian’s mother Linda had recommended a dentist to my Mom that turned out to be a sadistic crackpot who broke some of her healthy teeth while in the chair for another. My mom was horrified and angry at this dentist and angry at Ian’s mother Linda for sending her there. Their relationship soured overnight.

Azizas Eggplant and Copper

Pastel I did as a teen, still influenced by Susanne, I found I loved this medium because you could smudge it with your fingers.

 

Peter and I were close , but we never went to school or church together as I still lived down at Hell’s Kitchen and he lived on the Upper West Side. I remembered supporting him by attending his concerts when he was in the choir at “Saint John the Divine” cathedral but I never saw the inside of the private school he attended. Spending nights on 110th St. was still wonderful to me, the building had touches of marble, and the rooms were large and white and perfect. The night sky and the stars looked pretty from his room. “Goodnight Moon” first published a generation before us, was still the children’s book of the day. The first hint we would be incompatible as adults was that I was the “Gypsy” that was used to staying up late and Peter seemed to be more interested in the morning and “Military” time. Yet even as he shushed me one night as I chattered away in the dark – “Go to sleep Zizi” – I still felt love in my heart for my friend.

As for me, since returning to NYC at age 6 my mother had seen nothing but major disappointment where my schooling was concerned. I was a small child and had my school supplies stolen and was constantly picked on by bullies. Coming home covered in bruises, my mother took me out of public school but the abuse continued in private school. At one point, I was even sent to a public school across town to the “East Side” and really, it was no better.

After “Flower Power,” the new method for dealing with bullies  in schools was essentially very “Kumbaya.” Embarrassment over some bad “reform schools” had brought about a change in how dangerous kids were dealt with.  A teacher told me we were going to rehabilitate the kids that were stealing the school supplies from my desk. We acted out a scenario where I was to catch them in the act (The teacher played the role of the “bad guy” and when I implored her not to steal my pencils she acted out putting them back and saying “I’m sorry”). I tried this out during the “real thing” and the only thing that happened was they added a “black eye” to the pencil stealing!

Not too long after the trip to the Catskills I entered the private school “Lincoln Square Academy” in the Fall. There, in our class, was a young man a few years older than we were, and much bigger, who had been held back a few grades. This big boy began molesting the younger girls and practically tried to rape me. My mother had enough. She took me out of school and exercised her right to a private tutor for me. My mother acted just  in time, not long afterwards we learned the boy had broken the teacher’s arm! (The only great thing about this school was seeing Jimmy Osmond in the lunchroom. He was a few years my senior and his family sent him there for a time).

When I was nine years old I had been tested by NYU psychologists who had deemed me a “creative genius.” My gift from two of the lesbian professors in the research study had been a huge ninth birthday party and tickets to see Baryshnikov dance at City Center. “Hunter College” had a “prep Grade school” that was booked to capacity with students for seven years or that would have been the school I was attending.

So, here was Johanna, still trying to do the best for me when another bombshell in our relationships was dropped. Susanne’s step father Morty worked for the school board. He had opined that perhaps I had made up some of the stories about school. Susanne passed this “tidbit” on to Johanna and she was livid. By now, my mother was terribly world weary. She could not take the slightest amount of aggravation. She said to Susanne on the phone, “You take care of your house – and I’ll take care of mine.”

 

As the phone hung up, a new chapter in our lives would begin, one without the Forestieris. Not long before this incident, my mother had a conversation with Lou about his grief for his sibling that was dying of cancer. It was a breakthrough for them. My mother said she never thought Lou really liked her too much, maybe just thought of women as being rivals to each other in some form, but he was “mistaken” Johanna would say. She said she never pitted herself against Susanne in any realm and I knew that to be the case. So Johanna was touched that after several years they finally had a conversation that smacked of human connection.

After beginning advanced lessons with a private tutor which lasted about a year, the School Board and Social Services came down hard on my mother, this time it warranted swift action on her part. My mother packed my things and sent me to Charleston, WV to stay with her mother and start Junior High School there which I did. I made some friendships there that have lasted.

Meanwhile, my mother learned that Susanne and Lou’s marriage was headed for “the rocks” and so was Ian’s mother Linda’s relationship with her man. More lessons in “Nothing lasts forever” I thought when she told me.

I returned to my mother and New York City the next Spring. As we plotted our next move I became an artist’s model for some of the members of the Art Students League. Our belly dance student Jan was a member there and asked  me to pose for her group. My love of the Art Students League came from Susanne who had taken me into their supply shop on many occasions including one trip for charcoal pencils and erasers. Susanne showed me how wonderful it was to smudge charcoal pencil work with your fingers.

Art Students League

Sadly, the city’s decline in the 1980s, the beginning of the “Reagan Era,” and “trickle down” precipitated more hardships for Johanna. Working three jobs to support us and my still being too young to really go to work to help her, my mother fell ill with “narcolepsy.” She went to bed and could barely get out, just enough to go to the bathroom, and then, straight back to bed. I tried to take care of her but was at a loss of what to do. After not speaking to the Forestieris for almost two years or so at this point I did not confide our troubles with them and they may have already split up and left town by then, not sure.

Anyway, I dealt with this situation mostly on my own, then after talks with a social worker and doctor’s visit got Johanna together enough to see some improvement. But, by now, my mother just gave up on the city she had loved since moving there in the 1950s. The authorities were hounding her again and I could not argue with her that we had no support for anything lasting, there just wasn’t time, I was in the awkward age, and would just have to “come of age” and thrive somewhere else. We packed our things and headed for Charleston, WV.

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Me, High School – Special program at Benjamin Franklin Vocational School, Charleston, WV- “Commercial Art Class,” photo by Charles Parks.

After attending school a couple of years in Charleston, and experiencing the death of my grandmother who by now was living in a “Senior Citizens” apartment complex, the “Gypsy Spirit” returned to me and my mother. By the mid 80’s we headed to Boston and a belly dance gig. The scene was not what it used to be but it was great to return to the stage.

As for visual art, I had taken the influence of New York City and it’s museums I used to hang out in, and the impact of studying with and just having Susanne Forestieri in my life, and had continued to create pieces in different mediums all through High School. I continued in Boston and also pursued writing.

Hijab Woman

“Hijab Woman” – a mosaic/collage I created in High School Art Class.

When the internet exploded as a means to really look up people and see what they’ve been up to, one of the first people I wanted to know about was Susanne and of course, I wanted to know how my childhood friends Peter and Gina were. I still felt guilty about opening the door on Gina when she was little and about the dumb remark I made to Susan stemming from the “biting her lip” anecdote, that I was, even after all these years, “beside myself.” In my heart I had already forgiven any trespass or “misunderstanding” from their side. Now, it was just me and my own guilt which I carried “like a cross.”

Through my initial digging I learned that Susanne had given up on New York not long after we did to seek other “Vistas” in Las Vegas, NV. I thought I remembered her  sister Tina having connections to Las Vegas. I was also happy to see that Vegas had been a good move for her. She had thrived as an artist in her new atmosphere, been commissioned by casinos to paint murals, and won the “National Endowment for the Arts” prize in painting. Even though, yes, she and Lou had divorced, they both had thrived as artists. As for Lou, he had chosen Los Angeles for his new life and had gone on to work on “The Fabulous Baker Boys” film and then the musical scoring of  TV shows and movies like “Diagnosis Murder” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” and even appeared onscreen in Bette Midler’s “For the Boys” and “My Blue Heaven” to name a few. I was also floored to find out more about Lou’s background in jazz – being trained by Bobby Hackett, working with Errol Garner, Count Basie, Lena Horne. He had even accomplished this before I knew him and I had just never realized!

As for their daughter Gina – I braced myself – and saw that this adorable child had seemingly grown up without permanent damage from the stupid thing I did when we were kids! She has become a successful hairdresser and a “reality star” to boot on a show about her trade “Split Ends.”

As for Peter, it was not evident to me what had happened to him just yet as he did not really have any internet presence to speak of. I hoped he was in the “land of the living” and was alright.

Shortly, after finding out what had happened to the Forestieri clan I told my mother. Not too long after she fell ill suddenly. During her severe illness, at one point she said to me, “Have you heard from Susanne or any of them?” I said, “No, I haven’t contacted them yet.” Then a short few weeks later my mother Johanna was dead.

There is a part of me that regrets taking so long to say something to the Forestieris. How do you thank people that gave you “the world?” That’s the question. In truth, there are no “words.” The truth is, these artists helped raise me in my formative years. Their impact on me could never be negated. There is another simpler truth that needs stating once more: Susanne’s mother Doris Sherman literally saved my mother’s life. My mother was always grateful to her and in awe of the kind of woman she was. As I write this I hope and pray that Doris is still living and feeling well so she can read this.

Finally, after years, Peter finally got a Facebook page. I see him and his wife and great kids doing all kinds of “outdoorsy” stuff in photos of them out in the desert, etc. I was touched and happy to see he had a normal and fun life. I still can’t ride a bike and have no desire to. I am glad he found someone to share his interests!

Susanne and Lou were amazing talents. Please check out their websites and see all they have accomplished in their great lives.

And one more thing. Don’t wait too long to tell people how much you love them.

Their Links:

Susanne Forestieri’s Art Website…

Lou Forestieri’s Music Career Site…

Susanne’s YouTube Video “For the Love of Art”

Susanne in Short Art Film “Warm Bodies.”

Susanne in the Zap Project-Painting Utility Boxes in Las Vegas

Gina Forestieri in “Split Ends” Clip from Season 3…

Susan Aqua Mauve Butterfly

Something I made for Susanne using one of her early publicity pictures.

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Acknowledgments coming soon for the “Belly Dance Photo Restoration Project in cluding Shots from the Famous Tayoun’s Mahrajan”- the fundraiser is still ongoing.

 

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Converted Color slide, “Un-Re-Stored,” Johanna and Aiyupa and friends, Tayoun’s Mahrajan, July 1966.

 

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In Memory of my mother Johanna who gave me a lifetime of dance to have with me always….

Johanna Leopard Lean Back