Egyptian Chick Magazine September 2019

Egyptian Chick Magazine September 2019

Letter from the Editor:

Greetings everyone! I’m excited to bring back “Egyptian Chick Magazine” after a long hiatus and bring you some fresh and inspiring content. Our guest dancer who we profile along with her mother “Samira” and her daughter dancer “Elayssa.” In fact, the “mother daughter” dynamic is also at play here in a remembrance of my own dancer mother Johanna and a favorite hat of hers.

On another topic there is an article I actually wrote about a year ago about the legalization of hemp and it’s uses in “Ancient Egypt,” etc. Think of this article as “better late than never.” Also, we remember actress “style icon” Valerie Harper who passed away at age 80 last week.

There are a few shopping ideas at the end of the issue- some for lovers of “Turkish” coffee.

Hope everyone enjoys the end of Summer and is prepping for a beautiful Autumn season.

(Donations for the publication can be made at my “Artistic Fund” at this link: https://social.fund/pkbvqt/ )

Thank you, Aziza

My Mother and Her Spanish Hat

by Aziza Al-Tawil

The Iconic Ali McGraw in a Spanish style hat.

One of the many memories of my mother I was left with since her death was the way she loved her “Spanish Hat.” My mother Johanna, before belly dance, had given her all not just to ballet but the study and professional performance of “Flamenco.” (I would learn later that our Roma Gypsy ancestor had a similar fetish for a similar hat, only with the ball fringe around it-perhaps proving just how much we inherit some “feelings” from our forebears, the memory they say “DNA” carries). Johanna’s Spanish hat was a favorite of hers that she wore quite often when I was growing up in NYC. By then it had been with her since probably at least the early to mid 1960’s when hats were still “de rigueur” – in fact the decline of hat wearing amongst men was blamed on John F. Kennedy around the time Johanna probably purchased her big, dramatic “Spanish” chapeaaux.

A young Diana Rigg in one of these “Spanish Hats.” My mother’s had the taller “crown” like this one.

Despite JFK’s effect on the Men’s millinery industry, women’s hats and gloves to a certain extent continued in popularity into the early 1970’s with glove wearing fading first – hats seeming to have a little more “life” left in them being available rather “scattershot” even through the 1980’s. I’ll never forget though how, by the time I was a teen and we had left NYC for Charleston, WV., that hat of hers freaked me out. I was at an age where everything embarrasses you, you are worried about what everyone in school will think and that if you’re too different you will be the “butt” of jokes.

The Ever cool madonna looking quite the “Gaucho” in this one.

I will say that Charleston, WV always had a reputation for finely dressed citizens and some very “swank” department stores like “Stone and Thomas” and “The Diamond.” However, nothing prevented or balmed the horror I felt every time she put that hat on to go somewhere with me in public. (I already had classmates teasing me for wearing dresses, being a “Gypsy,” and it was not uncommon for some lusty, awkward boys to paw at my clothes in the hallway breathlessly saying “Sexy” or “Silkyor “is that color wine?”

My Mother how I love to remember her: In a Paisley “Mini Dress” – here trying on hats at a K-Mart in Charleston, WV. This spanish looking hat is green Felt. Her black Spanish hat I was used to seeing her in was black and woven straw for summer.

Looking back, I think my mother and I should have been “Californians” if not “New Yorkers.” From people I’ve been in contact with from there it seems like it might have been a more “eclectic vibe” than the one in Charleston, WV at the time. After I got out of school we headed for Boston and I started belly dancing again. My mother was still wearing hats when she felt like it from Boston, to Orlando next, then to North Carolina where she passed away in 2012. A couple of years ago, I returned to Charleston, WV where I’ve run into a few school friends. Two things have happened to me since I was a teen. Number one, I’ve forgiven the awkward boys that called me “Gypsy”- I want their hands to touch me again – the light flicker of a finger on my skirt – the burning of my blush as I turned away – I want us all to be young again – only not afraid. After all, I thought a “Pac Man” arcade across from the school was some kind of “den of iniquity” – me who grew up in nightclubs gyrating in bugle beads to the sounds of “Opa!” and “plate breaking.” Just what did I think would happen in a room full of “joysticks?” One of the boys that used to chase me in the halls and try to kiss me died recently leaving a widow and little kids. Yes! I want us young again! Damn it! Tears now…(Oh, Chris, why did you have to die? Love you my friend….)

Then there is my mother. So many mothers leave us and when they do there is nothing to prepare us for this. Just nothing! When they are vibrant, creative, larger than life types it amazes us more. We thought they were “immortal” didn’t we? The second thing to happen to me is that I would give anything on earth to see my mother in that damn “Spanish Hat” again – putting the final touches on herself before we headed out the door. I cry for one more time – one more chance even to be embarrassed by her. In fact, I guess I outright beg God to see her in the Spanish hat again and hear her say to me the running joke: “Ole Sabicas!” As I write this though – I feel the gentle touch of something else. Her spirit beside me – telling me that everything is alright. On the other side our spirits retain all that we loved and we never fear what others will say. Yes, the tears that started are starting to dry. She is right after all. As she always said, “Mother’s are always right.”

“Of Lace and Dreams”: A California Dance Dynasty Keeps Traditions Alive

By Aziza Al-Tawil

Samira and her line of “Lion in the Sun” Persian Lace

I recently had the joy of interviewing Jenza, a wonderful dancer from California with some wonderful memories to share about the world of dance she knew and how her mother was a catalyst for the journey.

Aziza: “I know your mother was in the belly dance scene and like many “mother/daughter” scenarios it was something great you shared together. Tell us what got your mother interested in the art form and how did she get started?”

Jenza: “My mother was looking for something to do, so a close friend urged her to go take belly dance with her……belly dance classes presented by the City of San Dimas in 1975.  The instructor was very overweight, but moved like a gazelle – light as a feather.  I think her name was Elaine, but I am not sure.  She was impressed with the instructor, and immediately was hooked.  She got me to join her in the winter session in late 1975. By then, she began making costumes.  By the end of 1976 my mother had a troupe (of which I was a member), made the costumes, and we were involved in performing at the 1976 Centennial celebrations for the City of San Dimas.  She did not become a professional dancer, but instead continued to dance with her troupe in local showcases, and became the best costume designer in the area.  She went into business as Samira-Costume Maker.  She designed Persian Lace costumes, highly embellished Afghani style dresses, and even beaded bra/belt sets.  (she hated beading, but she was commissioned to do these and she did not want to refuse).  Within another year my Mother was the national representative in the field for Lion in the Sun Persian Lace fabric, designed costumes for them, and traveled the USA to festivals and workshops to sell the fabric and her costumes.  She was a mover and a shaker in the belly dance scene, becoming the first Vice President of the Middle Eastern Cabaret Dancer’s Association in 1978.

Jenza and her lovely mother Samira, 1970’s California.

Aziza: “Tell us what intrigued you the most about belly dancing and any memorable events or shows with your mother?”


Jenza: “Belly Dancing intrigued me because it felt “exotic” and “freeing” for me because I was painfully shy.  I was performing after a year in my mother’s troupe.  My first solo performance, however, changed my direction and changed my life.  It was in the Centennial Celebration put on by the City of San Dimas.  I performed to “Inta Omri,” though I wanted “Zaina” as first choice.   The music was prerecorded by a friend from a record.  I stepped out onto the stage shaking, terrified.  Something changed, I found I craved the attention of the audience.  It became exhilarating.” 

“Jenza” Circa 1978 Unknown Photographer


Aziza: “Tell me a little about your journey as a soloist, being in nightclubs. What were favorite clubs or music/musicians to work with? What was your favorite song to dance to?”

Jenza:  “On October 3, 1977 I auditioned for a job at the Cascades in Anaheim, CA owned by Lou Shelby (who owned the Fez prior to this)  I was paid for my audition and was hired for 3 nights a week.  This was my first gig and lasted about 8 months.  I was in heaven, the music was heaven, and Lou Shelby the best boss ever.  He always sat down with me every so often to check in and make sure I was enjoying the job and to get to know me.  He did this with every dancer.  There was no one else like him.  I can’t remember all the musicians that were there, but I do remember dancing to John Bilezikjian for the first time at this club.  And, the up and coming Aziz Khadra who often appeared with John, and made a few record albums of his own.” 

 
Mr. Lou Shelby decided to put together an ensemble show with some of the girls.  I was only interested in solo work, so instead of just letting me go, he called up Van, (can’t remember his last name) the owner of the 7th Veil and got me hired for a new gig.  I began 3 nights at the 7th Veil in Hollywood, CA. in the summer of 1978 and my career exploded after that.  The music there was fantastic but the most memorable thing I remembered was either in 1978 or 1979 the Middle Eastern music students from UCLA would come in to “jam” on Saturday nights for a month of so.  IT WAS SO FANTASTIC…. Extra musicians/students with extraordinary talent joined the house musicians…..it was heaven on earth.  I have never danced to such joyous music.”


“One of the biggest influences I remember was Suhail Kaspar, a drummer who worked everywhere it seemed.  I got to know his style so well and eventually could anticipate every thing he could throw at me.  He had a reputation for quite a big ego and this was true.  I got a taste of that ego one night as I came in to “Haji Babas” where we were working together.  I walked past him and did not say hello.  Later, during my show, he and the other musician’s changed the pace and music to get back at me.  He played something totally unknown with sudden changes in rhythm.   I realized what they were doing and started laughing during the show…as I could not help it.  I could keep up with everything and I surprised the hell out of him.  He had respect for me ever after and I loved that.”

Aziza: “As you went along in your dance life, looking back, who would you say were your biggest inspirations/influences in belly dance?

Jenza: “I saw Bert Balladine and Tonya Chianis in performance when I was a student dancer.  Later I attended workshops by each of them.  Bert taught me how posture, gesture and the breath can bring power to a performance…adding drama to my own style.  I loved Tonya’s exuberant Turkish styling…lively and fun.  I literally took years and years of classes from her.  As for Delilah (of Seattle), she took my breath away.  I saw her after I had been dancing for a couple of years.  Her style was quintessential cabaret….with a heavy influence of Turkish.  To me, she was a goddess.  I wanted to dance like her so much.  I learned floor work from her workshops.  She was my top influence in my early professional yearsand I don’t want to forget, Marina of “The Itinerant Dancer.”  She taught folkloric styles to dancers from all over southern California.  We all were influenced by her and her classes made us all better dancers.

Aziza: “In your area of the country did you notice the “dying out” of the club scene and if so how did it effect you?”

Jenza: “Yes, I did notice and was disturbed by the passing of an era.  I danced professionally from 10-3-77 to 10/1994.  The clubs began disappearing one by one until there were only a few left.  I had to drive to another county to work by the 1990’s (Orange county) and there was a larger population of Persians and Lebanese in Orange county it seemed.”

Aziza: “And your daughter is carrying on the “tradition” I hear?

Jenza:My daughter began dancing at the age of 16.  Her dance name was originally “Sa-Elayssa” which meant “with all her heart” in Romanesh according to her father ( a full blood Romani whose family came from Serbia and Russia).  She later changed to name to just “Elayssa” both professionally  and personally.


She was already very good by then, but came into her own in her 20’s.  She worked as a belly dancer and as a “go go dancer” in Hollywood, CA and as a belly dancer in San Francisco..  She reached a high level within the community.  You can see her in many IAMED video’s from the 90’s and beyond.  She danced with the famous troupe Yalail (Janaeni and Ansuya Rathor) for a time, went to India with them.  She was the creative director for the troupe Desert Sin, a troupe that performed Fusion pieces.  She topped off her career with her own troupe called Elysium Dance Theater of which she danced traditional, Persian folk dance, and Fusion.  

I believe I already talked about my mother.  She continued to make costumes even after the store “Lion in The Sun” closed down in the early 80’s.  During the 90’s and the 2000’s the gypsy skirt was popular.  I saw a gorgeous full multilevel gypsy skirt at “Rakkasah” during that time period.  My Mother was with me and said I know how to make that, lets make some.  We made and sold many of those 12 yard monster skirts together.for about 10 years.   I am retired now (though you never know, I might get into it again just for fun).  My Mother is retired and 83 years old this year.  My daughter retired from the dance to be a Mother and I am a proud grandmother of a beautiful 3 year old boy, Lucas. ” 

Hopefully for all of us, “”Jenza” and Family will continue to delight audiences for years to comeAziza

Hemp Legal In U.S.: It’s Uses in Ancient Egypt

By Aziza Al-Tawil

Seshet from Luxor

There has been a lot of talk about the recent legalization of “hemp” and “marijuana” and the products derived from them. There has been a long history of hemp and cannabis in the Middle East. In fact, “Qanbes” the Hebrew word for “Cannabis” is mentioned as the word for “Hemp” in relation to clothing that was made from the fiber.

Cannabis pollen was found on the mummy of Rameses the II and all other Royal mummies.

Cannabis on “Papyrus.

The Goddess Seshat’s symbol from ancient Egypt is a contextualized seven-leafed plant (she is a scribe, which means she is a magician).

The first ritual acts of temple building were accomplished by the pharaoh, who played the role of the creator deities. He was aided in this and related tasks by Seshat, goddess of measure, who helped him stretch the cord used to survey and orient the plot. Pyramid texts identify the plant used to make cord and rope as “smsm,” the Egyptian word for hemp.

There are types of Cannabis that come in 5, 7, and 9 leaf varieties

It is known that cannabis was used recreationally during Nile-flood celebrations in the 12th Century, and that it was present in Egypt thousands of years before that found on the mummy of Rameses II (1275-1229 BC), and in the tomb of Akhenaten (1352-1336 BC).

Modern research shows that Egyptians used cannabis, and knew about its aphrodisiac properties. For example, experts at L’Oreal perfumes recently teamed up with the Centre for Research and Restoration of French Museums, and reconstructed “Kyphi” perfume, an aromatic mixture used by pharaohs to prolong their lives and enhance their sex drives. These perfume experts and Egyptian scholars told the media that one of the key ingredients of the Kyphi perfume was cannabis!

Dabke Dance-Learn Easy: https://egyptianchick.com/how-to-dance-dabke-with-samir-hasan-2/

Remembering “Rhoda”: A Style Icon from the 1970s Has Left US

By Aziza Al-Tawil

Charming Childhood” – Young dancer Valerie harper in Cape with finger cymbals.
RHODA,” Valerie Harper, with that famous scarf, circa Season 1, 1974-1975.

Was terribly saddened to hear of the passing of Valerie Harper, the star of the quintessential 1970’s New York sitcom “Rhoda.” My mother Johanna met Valerie briefly when they marched together in the “women in communications” group in a street demonstration against the prevalence of “smut and crime” that proliferated in Mid-Town Manhattan at the time.

Valerie as “Rhoda” really rocking a peasant blouse look

For me, “Rhoda” represented the kind of woman I yearned to grow up to be. One bold enough to say what was on her mind yet feminine and still retaining a touch of vulnerability.

Valerie harper as Rhoda wearing a really cute 1970’s style sweater with purples, Gold, and Black.

Rhoda’s creativity in work as a “window dresser” and in her own personal style was also encouraging to those of us girls who embraced our “free spirit.”

“Rhoda” with coin Necklace on a hilarious episode of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” wherein she talks mary into going to a meeting of the “The Divorced People’s Club” even though neither had ever been married.

God bless Valerie! She outlived the diagnosis given her a few years ago through will power and sheer “joie de vive.” Any girl should be glad to have such role models.

With a somewhat “Rhoda” vibe, the author Aziza with a fancy “headwrap” before a “Kwaanza” drumming show a few years ago.

Some Exotic Gifts for Everyone

Whether you like belly dancing, or Turkish coffee even, you’re bound to find something in Aziza’s shop on “Red Bubble.” The items featured below just “scratch the surface” – the same designs are available on up to 60 or so different products. Visit http://trashpunk.redbubble.com for more great ideas.

Lightweight sweatshirt- Men’s and Women’s “Turkish Coffee Lovers Gift” Idea!
Vintage Belly Dancer Johanna on Colorful Coasters

Egyptian Goodies at Amazon: https://egyptianchick.com/egyptian-goodies-at-amazon/

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

Woman of Tears

 “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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