Egyptian Chick Magazine September 2017

Egyptian Chick Magazine Cover for Sept 1017

Letter from the Editor:

I recently did a short video show again for people from Kuwait. I had the pleasure of wearing a new creation of mine and it included a “Cape Veil” made out of some material I had in my collection for 20 years. I was very pleased with the results. The “Cape Veil” probably came into prominence around the 1980’s. I personally never had one, I continued to use regular veils with the costumes my mother and I made. So I admit it was quite fun to finally have one of these. The fabric may or may not be “Persian Lace” but is a lovely pattern.

Thinking of Houston as I made my debut there when I was one year old. Been a “pro” ever since. Hopefully, people will take seriously the issue of “climate change” and stop shoving it “under the carpet.” God bless everyone that was effected by “Hurricane Harvey.”

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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

Egyptian Black Seed Oil and it’s Miracle Curative Properties

by Aziza Al-Tawil

As a young girl in NYC, I remember how much I relished with excitement our trips to Brooklyn’s “Atlantic Ave.” If we weren’t performing somewhere at night there were trips during the day the most exciting aspect of which was the smell of the spices in the big barrels outside the shops. The most delightful was the smell of cumin and “Falafel” was such a favorite because of that spice’s domination thereof. In a way it was no surprise to learn as I grew older that these same wonderful spices had health properties as well.

I’ve always been interested in “Natural Health” because I was brought up that way with a mother that knew something about the Appalachians and herbal traditions. She descended from “First People’s Indigenous” American tribes and was also interested in anything they used. Her own experience as a belly dancer who was around Greeks a lot  led her to the main herbal treatment that really helped me when I had “hyperthyroid” disease and that was “Hymetis”-also known as “Sage” which I drank as a tea.

As far as “Black Seed” (“Nigella Sativa”) – AKA “Black Cumin Seed” – it’s a remarkable herb with amazing curative properties. Found in “Tutankhamen’s Tomb,” centuries later the prophet Mohammed said that it was “a remedy for all diseases except death.” Christian and Islamic traditions consider it a “blessed oil” – in Arabic “Habbatul barakah, literally the “seed of blessing.” 

  • Analgesic (Pain-Killing)

  • Anti-Bacterial

  • Anti-Inflammatory

  • Anti-Ulcer

  • Anti-Cholinergic

  • Anti-Fungal

  • Ant-Hypertensive

  • Antioxidant

  • Antispasmodic

  • Antiviral

  • Bronchodilator

  • Gluconeogenesis Inhibitor (Anti-Diabetic)

  • Hepatoprotective (Liver Protecting)

  • Hypotensive

  • Insulin Sensitizing

  • Interferon Inducer

  • Leukotriene Antagonist

  • Renoprotective (Kidney Protecting)

  • Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha Inhibitor

In the modern time there have been many studies of the pharmacological properties of the “Black Seed.” Many of the illnesses they say it cures or treats include the following: Type 2 Diabetes, Helicobacter Pylori Infection, Epilepsy, High Blood Pressure, Asthma, Acute Tonsillopharyngitis, Chemical Weapons Injury, Colon Cancer, MRSA, and Opiate Addiction.

“Vitalute” Organic Cold Pressed “Black Seed Oil.”

Anyway, I’ve loved regular cumin for a long time in Middle Eastern cooking. It might be time to give this variety a try.

Kabbalah Manifestation Secrets

“Lady Popular”: a Fun Game from Bulgaria

By Aziza Al-Tawil

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Two characters from Lady Popular in front of a recent Egyptian Backdrop.

If you enjoyed paper dolls as a child then you would probably really dig “Lady Popular,” an online dress-up game invented in Bulgaria several years ago. It was so “popular” they came up with an “International Edition.” There are many “special events” within the game that enable players to get their hands on unique dress, backdrops for their characters, and even furniture for a multi-level apartment.You can even have cars and pets. So far there have been many chances to have components for dressing your doll in a belly dance costume including Carrie Fisher’s sensational outfit from “Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi” (1983). I’ve had some nice experiences since I was asked by a lovely Bulgarian lady to join her club in “LP.” I’ve met and chatted with a lot of cool ladies from around the world and we even mourned together when one of our ladies passed away at the young age of fifty three. We dressed all our ladies in black and then we all voted for our deceased friend to go to one of the podiums. The dear lady made it to the “top” posthumously and perhaps unlike some other things in the world proved that women really can have close, sisterly connections and not just “competitive” ones.

Learn to Dance any Dabke Style

Gifts from Cathy

by Aziza Al-Tawil

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Was pleasantly surprised when my neighbor gifted me with 2 interesting books about Egypt the other day. One was a “Scholastic” book  about the country and the other was the autobiography of Jehan Sadat, a brave woman like Jackie Kennedy in that she saw her beloved husband Anwar Sadat assassinated in October of 1981.

The book reveals that Jehan had an English mother and an Egyptian father and was raised in Egypt. I remember so well the turbulent incident of her husband’s death and all that it meant in the world to different people with different opinions on what the correct course should have been in the political realm over there. 

Anyway, I look forward to reading the books!

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Rhythms for Belly Dance in the Golden Age of the Greek Taverna:  A Simple Primer

by Aziza Al-Tawil

Recent discussions with friends have given me pause to write an article about what the most popular rhythms were for belly dance in the “heyday” and how to understand how that influenced a person’s “Act” or “Set.” In the “Heyday” of the 1950’s and 1960’s in some cities the Greek Taverna dominated the “scene” as Greeks tended to have a very good knack for entertaining “The World”-not just themselves. Despite a lot of “bad blood” between so many people in the Near and Middle East the Greeks had a way of harnessing what made the people “alike” not different. Examples of this, for instance, was that the first song played by the band to kick off the evening was always a “Paso Doble.” Some forms of “rhumba” were played to add a touch more “Latin” to the proceedings also, but the main fare of the evening highlighted the shared culture of Greeks, Turks, Armenians, Arabs, Jews, and various other ethnic groups like Albanians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and just about any others you could think of who once called parts of “Asia Minor” their home.

New Yorks City’s “8th Avenue and 29th Street” scene boasted  an impressive array of nightclubs within just a small area. Nicknamed “Bouzoukee Blvd” – it exploded in popularity right after Melina Mercouri made her big splash in “Never on a Sunday.” The song and the film were a worldwide hit and so the search for all things “Greek” was on. 

The foreign stars from Athens, Istanbul, Cairo, and other famous hubs of belly dance culture flocked to NYC, Chicago, Boston, and other Metro areas. Besides a culture that had a wealth of “line dances” there was also a tradition of “belly dance” in several countries. If you were a belly dancer in Greektown you were trained in all the rhythms to play on Darbucky because you were expected the night you worked not just to dance once or twice but to sit on the bandstand all night and play percussion for the other dancers. In other words, on percussion, dancers were considered musicians also.

The main rhythms that were acknowledged as true “belly dance” rhythms-where you can really show your “stuff”- was “Tsifte Telli” (Turkish/Arabic Spelling “Cifte Telli”) and “Arapiko” (Greek/Turkish for the rhythm known in Arabic as “Maksoum”). Now, you might ask, “What is the difference and why is one credited to an “ethnicity” namely the “Arab” and the other not?” Well, for one, it’s the actual rhythm that tells the tale.

One group of people with a thought or two on Middle Eastern music from a “musician’s standpoint” are, believe it or not, the “American Jazz Musician.” Jazz musicians, with a heritage of their own coming out of a part of Africa, of course mixed with some other musical styles like American Indian, European, and even Gypsy, found themselves easily drawn to the mesmerizing rhythms of the world of belly dance. (Yes, in it’s “heyday,” many musicians like Dizzy Gillespie (“A Night in Tunisia”) flocked to 8th Ave. and 29th St. to get some inspiration from the the great music going on there.

I remember when I was working with some Jazz musicians we had a conversation. They observed that a lot of Arabic music has rhythms where the accent is on the “Back Beat” and that Gypsy music as well as Turkish music tend to have more rhythms that accent the “Downbeat.” In fact in Turkish some that come to mind right off are “Cifte Telli,” “Karsilama,” and “Laz” (“Laziko” in Greek)-no doubt if I really stop think of a lot more of their line dances, I would probably find more of that example. The “downbeat” on a traditional drum is the “Doum”- or center of the drum. 

By contrast, many Arabic rhythms have the “accent” on the “Back Beat,” (or the “Tek” which is the outer rim of the drum) one strong example is the “Maksoum,” which we stated in previous sentences here was considered such an “Arabian Style” that in Greek/Turkish was called “Arapiko” – which in essence “dance of arabs,” the same way “Hassapiko” is “The Butcher’s Dance” in Greek, “Laziko” is “Dance of the Laz” people of the “Black Sea,” In fact the dance of “Hassapiko Serviko” is the name of a “Hassapiko” with Serbian Balkan influences. (Speaking again of the “back beat” in Arabian music don’t forget an old saying that Arabic belly dancers tended to dance “behind the beat”).

The portion of these words that are “siko” or “iko” seem to be a “call to action”- as it means to “stand up” or “get up.” For instance “chorepsi” or “horepsi” is the actual word for dance. But when “iko” or “siko” is present it’s like saying “Get up and dance the butcher’s dance with me” (“Hassapiko”) or “Come on get up and let’s dance like the Arabs (“Arapiko”). 

Also, I was interested to find out that a recent development has the Turkish word for Arab, namely “Arap,” has been used by some younger Greeks as an “ethnic slur.” Apparently, this has been the case since the war over “Cyprus” occurred with Turkey in the Summer of 1974, and by the 90’s Greeks in large numbers were turning their backs on shared roots with Turks and Arabs-some Arabs being “Christian” does not seem to matter-it’s as if they were lumped together with those dastardly “Ottomans.” Not to mention that certain cultures started “de-romanticizing” the “Roma”-“the “Gypsies”- to the point that they just didn’t want them to be themselves anymore. Turkey itself tore down their district “Sulekule” – itself the inspiration for many a Turkish song. Sadly, without “romance” our spirit dies and we’re just another group of people that get turned on when the world gets too crowded.

So, keeping that in mind, there is some talk of not wanting to call the rhythm “Arapiko” that name anymore. My only problem with that personally is that it’s basically saying “Arab” is a dirty word if it’s spelled in the “Turkish Fashion”  with a “P.” As an artist who hates to stir the “cauldron” of hate over all this is a bad idea. I wouldn’t let a handful of people dictate the change in meaning whether it’s over “Cyprus” or “9/11.” (Also intriguing are a small handful of other dances in different regions in  Greece called an “Arapiko” which are not only not done to “Maksoum” they don’t resemble each other at all-yet the question is: “Are they not related then to an Arab influence? If not, why then are they called “Arapikos” as well?” This provides food for thought. Two of the three dances in question feature just two men- one is a sword dance, the other a rather free form type dance, and the third almost a “mime piece” like something from ancient theatre.

Some interesting commentary on this latest development can be found on Shira’s Website – notice some footnotes under the info about Stelios Kazantzidis and his song “Ehis Kormi Arapiko” visit the page on her site here Arapiko Footnotes on Shira’s Site(Shira is now assisted in Greek translations and Greek folklore by dancer Panayiota Bakis Mohieddin, the director of the “Arab Hellenic Folklore Institute” located in the Boston area. Another page with some Greek words translated are here Words for Dancers to Know in Greek.

As for the rhythms that were “not popular” in the hey day for belly dancing I can mention two “right off the bat” that were not. Along about the late 1970’s to the late 1980’s there seems to be a craze to “belly dance” to the fast “Hassapiko” or “Kasop” rhythm as an “opener” or “entrance” piece. Some cases of this seem to be “on purpose” and in some other instances it seems to be a drummer veering off from the “Malfouf” rhythms, a popular fast rhythm amongst the aforementioned belly dance rhythms. It definitely suits just certain portions of a show though. The fast “Hassapiko”/”Kasop” can certainly be done for a brief time in an act with the hopping steps but you sure as heck don’t try to “belly dance” to it you would break a leg! Yet, I’ve seen video of some poor dancers trying to dance around to it as if they are about to have a heart attack. In the classic age, right before this you made fast entrances to fast “Cifte Telli” or “Fast Arapiko” (or you could enter “slow” for drama in your act-I always opened with “Miserlou” and entered with “mystery.”) The craze for a “break neck” speed opening in a very “frantic” un-danceable fashion seems to lie with the “Modern Egyptian” craze.

One type of dance that fits pretty nicely into a belly dance act is a “Saidi” cane dance. It was not that popular in America until the 1980’s I’d say but is not a bad choice as far as a rhythm goes. It is the second rhythm I can think of that was not that popular in the “heyday.” 

While “YouTube” is a wonderful source to watch many different dance styles from different eras the sad news is there is very little to show of the “Nightclub” or “Cabaret” show “set-up.” A lot of old “Egyptian Films” are a joy to watch but they have a “tableau” that fits in with their “story line” and sometimes the male love interest is singing to the woman, or vice-versa, etc so you’re not really seeing a five to seven part tempo change act.

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Wonderful album by Nina Record Co. with a lovely painting of Greektown NYC dancer “Lucy” by Val Arms and K. Prentoulis. Lucy was of Cuban descent. This record has a great rendition of “Apose Pou Eho Kefia” which is an example of the “Maksoum” rhythm being called an “Arapiko” by Greeks.

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Interesting back cover article of “Bring on the Bouzoukee”- not a “corny” description of the “Bouzoukee Scene,” but a rather “apt” one being that it is approved by Val Arms of the Greek newspaper “The Atlantis” and the Greek “Nina” records head honcho George Valavanis. This was the second “Long Play” album by “Nina” the first being “Festival in Greece” – a huge hit – featuring the “Continental Tenor voice” of Nicos Tseperis.

The more you explore old records and read info about rhythms the more “savvy” you will get when listening to them yourselves. Even though many old records are labeled correctly once in a while you will find a mistake. One Greek record I have has labeled something more like a “rhumba” an “Arapiko.” (Incidentally, The song “Miserlou” can be played to a rhumba rhythm quite nicely-it just sounds a bit different from the “Maksoum”/”Arapiko” because the “accents” are different. However, it does fit nicely).

If a belly dance was played to a particularly more Latin or French sounding rhythm it was said to be done in a more “Continental” style. A “Continental” style of playing was sometimes known quite well by the foreign musicians because, as stated before, they were well versed in “International” music and trends. One instrument that gave quite a bit of “Continental Flair” to Middle Eastern and Greek music was the accordion. (Interestingly enough, the people of India became fascinated with a similar instrument, the pump organ and it was adapted into a “portable” instrument called now the “Harmonium” because there was no use of tables at the time in Indian culture. This was around the 1860’s, but many years later there was a bit of a backlash against the harmonium as not being “Indian” enough in origin for use in “folk music.”)

I remember being amazed one time to see what had been I believe a very pricy “when new” keyboard by “Yamaha” that had the “Arapiko” beat on it’s selection of “programmable” beats. (Talk about “International!”

As with any of my articles, take as “food for thought”- further research can be done. I’m sharing what I know from experience with music as a dancer and as a musician as well.

 

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Mystery Belly Dancer for September 2017

By Aziza Al-Tawil 

Mystery Belly Dancer Screen Shot Honeymoon of Horror
Graceful and lovely, it is hard to tell who this dancer was in “Honeymoon of Horror” (1964).

Well, despite the fact that belly dancers were really quite graceful demure beings compared to some other “exotic” acts of the era, they did hold enough “sensuality” to make their way into cinema fare known today as “sexploitation.” As a “genre” it has intrigued people because who wouldn’t want to “strip” a few layers away from a much more “prim” generation and see what they were really capable of. One such film, “Honeymoon of Horror” (1964) AKA “Orgy of the Golden Nudes,”  has a mystery belly dancer that is quite lovely in a party scene that boasts more outrageous fare (namely the “Golden Nude”- a human female version of the “Oscar” award statue). 

Honeymoon of Horror Mystery Belly Dancer

Charming belly dancer from the “sexploitation” horror film “Honeymoon of Horror” (1964) 

Orgy of the Golden Nudes Newspaper Clipping

“Orgy of the Golden Nudes” playing in Pasadena at the same time as the mainstream film “Topkapi” which featured Melina Mercouri and another belly dancer, this time, in Turkey.

Our little belly dancer has beautiful graceful hands and appears to have her “zil” on the correct hands. Would love to know who she is. The writer of this flick is Alexander Panas. I’ll say that’s Greek and perhaps a reason to see a belly dancer in his script. I do know one thing. It’s probably easier to decipher through IMDB the identity of the gal painted gold than it is to find out who our belly dancer is.

Orgy of the Golden Nudes

Alternate Title for “Honeymoon of Horror” (1964) was “Orgy of the Golden Nudes.”

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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)

comme tu veux 52 karioka

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)

Sibel-Can-444x1024

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.”

Zizis First Birthday

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

“Better Late Than Never”

Susan Miller is about the premier astrologer in the world these days now that Jean Dixon and Sidney Omarr are no longer with us.

Susan is wonderful at what she does but she is often late with her forecasts by a day or two. Well – not always! She’s a real trouper having been through a terrible spate of health woes and the death of her mother in the last few years. I truly admire the fact that she has managed to “hang in there” and continue her life with “the stars.”

Some things are worth waiting a few extra hours for. So, with that in mind – bear with me as I get the April 1st Issue of “Egyptian Chick Magazine” ready for tomorrow. You won’t be disappointed as we will be featuring birthdays and astro profiles of some of the biggest stars of belly dance and music. In addition, a loving tribute to a belly dancer who had another special talent that won her one of America’s top prizes from the United States Government. Hear an intimate account of this fascinating and accomplished woman from someone who knew her well. Highlighting “human rights,” we will  get the latest statistics on an issue that haunts the Middle East and Africa and how we can stand vigilant against it.

So, having said that, I look forward to getting April’s Issue to you sometime tomorrow or tomorrow night! Thank You, Aziza Al-Tawil, Editor in Chief

 

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