Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Viva Las Vegas?!

I was back to working in LA clubs which seemed pretty anticlimactic. It was sad to see the empty streets of Los Angeles when one was accustomed to the Euro street life.

I can't say exactly where I was performing at the time, but my guess is most of the clubs were sputtering and my guess is this was about 1982. I know I was fully employed since dancing was my only source of income and I had rent to pay.

Somehow I was asked to audition for a job at the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. This was the old Aladdin Hotel - with a slight nod to the Arabian nights but otherwise just a big ugly box of a hotel/casino at the very end of the Vegas Strip. After auditioning I was contacted that the job was mine. Which brings me to the subject of auditioning (I will digress a bit here). I think the times I auditioned could be counted on one hand. It was something we didn't do in the day - again because we felt if we performed we got paid. Period.

So I was off to Sin City, settling into the Airport Motel which was where a lot of transient entertainers resided during their contracts. Lodging was not provided by the hotels and casinos in those days, which was the same as when I went on the road with Guy Chookoorian. Always searching for the cheapest digs.

This was not the best job by any means, but I worked out a decent week's wages (I remember the other entertainers being annoyed that I was paid more than they were, certainly more than the showgirls or dancers in the big rooms). I was to dance in what I believe was called the "Sinbad Room", a lounge in the middle of the casino where acts rotated 24/7. I had to do 6 shows a night (I think they were only about 10 minutes in length, but still!) 6 nights a week, and I was basically the act taking up time on the stage while the bands behind the curtain changed equipment. I brought a few cassette tapes with me, but way too few. Don't remember what they were but I was so sick of that music by the end of the run that I wanted to jump off a roof.

So here I was again, counting down the days until I could get out of there. Las Vegas at the time was a cowtown - again, deserted streets and a load of beehived country folk pulling the slots, who looked like they'd stepped out of an Elvis era time warp. I'm not a big Vegas fan, but it has
changed a lot for the better.

Because there were so many musicians backstage (mostly country or wannabe Wayne Newton type groups) I had a lot of people to talk to. Mostly we talked about how we could hardly wait to get out of there. There were a lot of ridiculous shenanigans going on - this one dating that one and all the intrigue that went with it. Again I stayed out of the whole thing.

And yet again, no photos of the time. If it would have been this day and age there would have been a million, but I don't think I even took a camera with me. I remember I grabbed a napkin as a souvenir, and even that got lost somewhere.

This was a very transitional time in my career, my life and my dancing itself. I was in love with Egyptian style, and though I had been dancing to Egyptian music in clubs with Egyptian musicians and dancers I still had no formal training in this style. My dancing was a hybrid of faux Egyptian and American Cabaret. I felt like I had two left feet. I was fortunate to take a few workshops from Bobby Ibrahim Farrah but this only shed light on how much I needed to learn. When a dancer works every night it's easy to get lazy about taking classes, and let's face it - not many who knew about Egyptian dance were teaching in those days. In a setting like the Aladdin Hotel, one needed all the bells and whistles of AmCab - veils, zills, swords, etc.

There was a sordid feel to this place. I remember one lone Middle Eastern man who would come to all my shows night after night. He was a high roller who was always bringing gifts, and took groups of us entertainers out to expensive shows. He didn't try hitting on me, more like he wanted to look impressive. As the weeks went on he started looking rundown and nervous. One of the final nights I saw him he offered me his fancy watch, asking me to buy it off him for a discount. I bought it and gave it to my future husband who was coming to visit me there. It was evident he had a gambling addiction and had blown his wad at the casino. I hated gambling, hated the sound of the slot machines and I was again itching to get out. I didn't renew my contract, even though my agent begged me and offered a raise. LA was nothing special at the time, but it still beat Vegas and I was ready to go home.

Next up: Escape from Acapulco, Mexico