Tuesday, December 31, 2013

EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES

Flowers Of The Desert



I was singing “Auld Lang Syne” at the top of my lungs along with the car radio as I sped down the deserted 210 Freeway in the pre-dawn hours, heading towards Pasadena.

A mere couple of hours ago, it had been New Year’s Eve 1996. I had flown in from the East Coast earlier that day, and spent the evening- including the customary midnight count-down complete with a champagne toast- belly dancing my ass off at my regular gig, Moun Of Tunis Restaurant in Hollywood. In the couple of hours it had been 1997, I had just completed a show at a private party in West LA and now I was dead tired but I was excited- I was going to dance in the 108th Tournament Of Roses Parade!

The belly dance troupe I belonged to, Flowers Of The Desert Arabian Dance Company was performing as part of a float whose theme was world peace, ethnic diversity and cultural unity. The float’s sponsors had envisioned kind of a rolling, posey and plant-studded version of Disneyland’s “It’s A Small World”, but instead of the puppets and dolls that many floats feature, the dancers were going to be real people.

The Rose Parade is annually seen on television by more than 32 million viewers world-wide, and though I had always enjoyed laying around with champagne hangover, watching the parade and it’s riot of colorful flowers, baton-twirlers and innovative, clever displays, I had never experienced it live- let alone been a part of it!

Every float in the parade portrays it’s own theme, and they’re custom constructed weeks in advance of the event, parked in huge refrigerated warehouses while hundreds of volunteers painstakingly glue on flower petals, leaves, ferns, seeds and other natural bits of flora. Since I suffer from hay fever, I had taken the precaution of fortifying myself with Benedryl, so I wouldn’t be sneezing and wheezing my way down the long parade route.

I finally arrived in the designated parking area for the parade performers in the pitch black of the wee hours. Of course, in the pandemonium, it took me ages to find a parking space, and even longer for me to find the rest of my dance troupe and the float we were affiliated with.It was utter chaos: in the gathering masses, I pushed past police barricades, entire families who had been camped out on the street for days to get a good spot on the parade route, television cameras and news crews doing pre-event coverage, staggering drunks, fire trucks, ambulances and tourists with huge mobile homes who had come to watch the big game, which kicked off directly following the parade.

The throngs of other parade participants probably numbered in the thousands. There were high school marching bands packed so closely that their tubas and trombones were clanking together; cheerleading squads from across the nation were practicing their moves next to equestrian groups with trick-riders dressed as cowboys and caballeros, and of course, The Budweiser Clydesdales, whose extensive, semi-truck-sized transportation trailers practically formed their own village.The Clydesdales and other horses were all beautiful, and their riders looked festive, but their presence, along with the mounted police also meant that there was a ton of horse shit on the street, so I had to pick my way very carefully in the dark to make sure I wouldn’t get any on my Hermes sandals or the hem of my voluminous skirts.

Trying to locate the other Flowers Of The Desert, I encountered acrobatic troupes, soap opera stars, vintage car clubs with elderly members dressed as 1950’s teenagers, NASA astronauts, military regiments, Ballet Folklorico dancers, Victorian Christmas carolers, and what seemed like zillions of Disney cartoon characters whose plush costumes and over-sized fake heads I used to think of as claustrophobic, but now envied cause I was so damn chilly in my own skimpy belly dance costume. Finally, I found my girls, resplendent in a glittering array of ethnic dance apparel, from Saudi thobes to silk pantaloons and Ghawazee dresses. They were clustered in a tight circle, huddled together for warmth. It was so cold I could see their breath as they greeted me through chattering teeth.

There are strict rules for Rose Parade participants. One of them is that since there is nowhere to change, you must arrive in full costume. No performer is allowed to bring anything with them on a float: no food, water bottles, purses, or even jackets. Hence, the goose bumps on all the participants who were dressed scantily, like the poor majorettes and us belly dancers. My house key and a couple of bucks were concealed in the bra of my costume. But while the other Flowers were clutching their chiffon veils around them in an unsuccessful attempt to retain body heat, I’d had the foresight to wear a raggedy old hoodie sweatshirt for pre-parade protection. I figured I would ditch it at the very last moment before the parade started at 7:00am. Unfortunately, that was still a couple of hours away. Even in my hoodie, it was freezing! Not only that, I was becoming ravenous, and sure I wouldn’t last throughout the long morning without a bite to eat.

Deciding it was time to take action, I asked a friendly- looking parade official if there was anywhere to get warm, and he directed me to a Red Cross station set up specially to serve the parade performers.

“You can’t miss it,” he said, looking me up and down and then snapping a picture of me with a disposable camera,

“It’s right around the corner, a big mobile home- you can get all toasty in there. They have coffee and snacks for everyone in the parade.”

I asked the other gals if they wanted to go with me but they were concerned we’d miss our cue for the parade’s line-up if we left. For me, the bone-chilling dampness and the antihistamines I had taken, combined with my jet-lag, multiple-gig fatigue and growling stomach was taking it’s toll, and I informed them I was going to look for snacks and coffee, and would bring some back. Heading off in the direction the parade official pointed me in I wandered down a residential street as dawn broke, in search of warmth, caffeine and hopefully a sandwich.

I was almost crying with relief as I spotted the large trailer, right where the guy said it would be. I trudged up the rickety, portable aluminum stairs of the mobile home, gathering my sequined skirts so I wouldn’t trip. As I stepped into the cozy trailer, I closed my eyes in contentment as I felt the warmth envelop me. I couldn’t believe that the place wasn’t packed full! Happily, I smelled fresh coffee.

I grabbed an apple off the counter and bit into lustily it before making my skirt-swishing, coin-jingling way to the bathroom to check my make-up in the tiny, fluorescent-lit space. Even though it had been on all night, my lipstick was intact, and my whole face was so bright and glittery that I was satisfied everyone, even in nosebleed seats of the bleacher stands would be able to see how glamorous and exotic I was.

Someone had thoughtfully left some perfume out on the sink counter, so I helped myself to that, too, splashing it on generously. As I stepped out of the tiny powder room, holding my half-eaten apple, the door slammed, almost hitting a gentile-looking older lady in a Christmas sweater.


“Oops! I’m so sorry!” I called out as I plopped down onto a couch, grabbing a donut and making myself at home.

“Do you guys have some coffee for me?”

My request was greeted with silence, but I didn’t care since it was so warm in there and I was busy finishing up my apple and starting in on the donut.

“May I have some coffee, please?” I repeated.

After a long pause, a man’s voice asked solicitously,

“Sure, how do you take it?”

As I looked up to answer him, suddenly things came into focus. Neither the man or the woman in the Christmas sweater were wearing any sort of Red Cross name tag or identification… in fact, there was nothing in the entire trailer at all that was even remotely connected to The American Red Cross: no posters, no literature, no visible signage.

There was a tiny, staticy portable TV showing pre-parade coverage, framed family photos on the walls, and some pillows and a Mexican blanket covering another couch, suggesting it had been very recently used as a bed. A large Golden Retriever with a holiday-themed bandanna around its neck was snoozing on the couch near where I had sat down, and a half-completed knitting project lay on the table.

The man was gray-haired and kindly looking, wearing a football jersey and he had his arm around the lady in the Christmas sweater.

I gulped, realizing that I had stepped into a private motor home!


Then it came to me what I must have looked like: an escapee from a mental hospital! I was a blatant, un-abashed trespasser with a sense of grandiose entitlement, bleary in my Benedryl haze. My face was caked with garish stage make up. I was a lunatic clad in a revealing belly dance costume topped by the kind of a dirty, ripped-up, gray sweatshirt that even a homeless person would be ashamed to wear. Not only that, I was holding the core of the recently devoured stolen apple in my hand and I reeked of the lady’s perfume.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry!” I spluttered, my face turning crimson with embarrassment.

The couple tried to keep straight faces- apparently, they had understood exactly what was going on the moment I crashed into their trailer, and were waiting to see how long it would take me to catch on.


“The Red Cross trailer is next door,” the man said, deadpan,

“But you can still have some coffee…and we promise not to tell anyone what you did if you take a picture with us!”

At that, we all burst into laughter, even though mine was pretty sheepish. Turned out they were formerly from Pasadena, but now lived in Idaho. They were in town for a few days to visit friends, see the game and watch the parade. They said that they’d made the pilgrimage to Pasadena every year for the past decade. Luckily, they were thrilled to see a glamorous- though very disoriented and sleep-deprived parade performer- come crashing into their world. We posed for a few photos, and then amidst more laughter, I left to find my sister dancers, who wondered aloud where I’d been for so long.

“Why didn’t you come to the Red Cross trailer?” they squealed.

 “It was awesome, everyone was so nice!”

I started to tell them, but we got rounded up in the appearance order for the floats along with all the other performers, because the parade was about to begin.

At 7:00am, The Stealth Bomber flew over downtown Pasadena, creating an earth-shaking sonic boom, which kicked off the festivities that year. As the floats revved their motors and the procession started, we rounded the first bend on the route, and there was literally a wall of television cameras.

The sound of the crowds in the stands and on the streets was beyond deafening. The bands were all playing different songs at the same time; spectators were screaming and yelling and there was incessant bleating from those plastic souvenir parade horns that vendors sell to kids on the streets during events such as this.

After about forty minutes, my hip sockets felt like they were ground to dust and my feet began throbbing from the constant dancing. My face hurt from non-stop smiling and both my arms were sore from waving. People cut out of the crowds, zipping from the sidewalk to the floats, offering Dixie cups full of water for the all the performers.
Halfway through the route, parade spectators who were obviously locals held up large, hand-lettered signs with slogans reading:

ONLY 1.5 MILES TO GO!   THE END IS NEAR!
 HANG IN THERE!

By the end of the parade route, I was completely exhausted; spent, utterly finished. I was so tired I didn’t even want to get a VIP close-up look at any of the other floats; I just wanted to get home and go to sleep. But in spite of everything, I was still grinning ear-to-ear and laughing to myself, because I couldn’t possibly think of a better way to ring in the New Year!




  The story you’ve just read is from  my book “Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road”, (Punk Hostage Press)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A HOLIDAY STORY



 
Photo by Don Spiro
 In the mid 1990’s, I was a member of Flowers Of The Desert Arabian Dance Company, a large professional belly dance troupe put together by talented Los Angeles-based choreographer and performer Laura Crawford.  The Flowers worked regularly at Al Andalus, an Egyptian-run club in North Hollywood as well as many other clubs; we did theatrical productions, appeared on Arabic television, and at ridiculously sumptuous private parties held by the many members of the Saudi Royal family.

Our repertoire was extensive, focusing on the dances of The Middle East and North Africa, but we also did Bollywood, Samba, Flamenco and quirky international fusion numbers. Because the company often gigged at multiple locations in the course of an evening, and was composed of dancers who were frequently busy doing their own solo gigs, the group’s line-up would change drastically from gig to gig, often on the same night, with dancers scheduled to drop in and out according to what numbers we were doing or to meet the individual’s needs for the solo projects. Because of this, everyone learned the group choreographies, but there was also a need for solos, duos and specialty acts to fill in the spaces where other company members were absent, or for when they were backstage changing costumes. This took a lot of planning, and at rehearsals when the company’s scheduling was taking place; Laura was always on the look out for new numbers to add spice to our repertoire.

During the late fall of 1996, the troupe had recently added weekend shows at a new Arabic club called Pasha. The club owners wanted a modern floor show as opposed to a more traditional production, and the performance area was small, holding six dancers tops, so this was yet another challenge we faced- creating a full, varied show with a limited amount of performers.

  At a Monday evening post-Thanksgiving rehearsal, calendar in hand, Laura announced,

“ We need a solo for this week at Pasha, and they specifically want something modern…can anyone come up with a new piece?”

 The room was strangely quiet; it was that obvious everyone was wracking their brains, trying to come up with a performance that could be ready by the weekend. Since nobody else was offering a suggestion, I volunteered.

“I could do a number to “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt,” I ventured.

“Is it ready to go?”  Laura asked, “Can we see it?”

 “Well, no…” I admitted. “But it could be ready by this weekend!”

Laura cocked her head a regarded me in a perturbed way. Sometimes she thought my  ideas were a little risqu√©, because many of them  really were kind of outr√©, if not downright scandalous. For example, I’d been nominated as the soloist in a samba number, not because of my fantastic Brazilian dance technique, but because I was the only company member who would wear a thong on stage! Another time, I’d suggested a group number that involved a West Side Story gang-girl rivalry act; with all the dancers appearing onstage clad as  Flower Power1960’s go-go dancers in hot pants, fishnets and boots.  Everyone in the company had their doubts, but the audience gave us a standing ovation and by the next show, everyone in the troupe wanted to get involved.

“How would it go?” Laura asked, “What’s the idea?”

“I’d come onto the stage in a big faux-sable coat, gloves and a Santa hat,” I said, “. And sort of strut around a little, taking off the gloves and coat to reveal a red velvet Christmas outfit .  Then I would just sort of mime the words to the song, and walk around the tables giving everyone some personal attention.”

 A strange expression crossed Laura’s face, and the rest of the company was even more silent than they had been earlier, anxious to see what the verdict would be.

Finally, Laura said she’d think about it.

A few days went by, and apparently nobody else had come up with anything, because I got a call from Laura  the night before our gig, telling me that “Santa Baby” was a go.

“But keep it clean!” she admonished.

 I rehearsed my number into the wee hours and got the costume together, even pinning a huge rhinestone brooch and Mistletoe spray to my Santa hat.  I felt great about my new debut, until I got to Pasha, and had a look at the audience. They seemed to be all multi-generational families dressed to the nines in holiday finery. There were Lebanese, Armenian, Persian and Arabic people there, and I started to get a little nervous. A Bollywood number had just ended- would the crowd get what I was about to do? Would they even know who Eartha Kitt was?

As the opening strains of “Santa Baby” came over the speakers, I flung caution to the wind and sauntered out onto the stage. I removed my fake fur coat, revealing my sparkly, Sexy Elf outfit.  The crowd became still, sitting upright in their seats.  I removed my red satin gloves, walked over to a table, and “polished” an elegant, older gentleman’s bald head with one of the gloves while I sat on his lap.

 Except for Eartha Kitt’s suggestive voice, the silence was deafening…until everyone at the man’s table burst into wild hoots and applause, and the club’s photographer ran up flash bulbs a-popping, to document the moment.  With that, everyone produced their own cameras and started taking pictures, and other tables started waving me over, brandishing wads of cash over the head of the person they wanted to single out.

 I left the stage triumphantly to appreciative applause, until the club’s manager came backstage after the show- something he had never done before.

“I want to talk about  “Santa Baby” song,” he said, with a note of conviction in his voice.

All the Flowers –especially Laura- looked apprehensive, and I was afraid I might have crossed the line...and maybe get fired.

“ You must do this “Santa Baby” every show!” he declared, “Every night you come, you do this!”

 After he left, we all had a giggle, and Laura looked at me in a mixture of pride and disbelief.

“Ok, Plezzy,” she said, “You’re booked!”

I performed “Santa Baby” every Friday and Saturday night of the season,  and it was a winner every time.  On New Year’s Eve, the tips during my number lay so thick on the stage it was as though it had been covered with a snowfall of cash.

 The first weekend of the New Year, we performed an entire set of brand new dances, which we’d been working on feverishly all throughout December.

 That night following our show, the club’s manager once again stormed into our dressing room, only this time he was really angry.  We couldn’t figure out why he’d be mad; we’d done a truly awesome set!

“WHERE  “SANTA BABY”?   he roared,

WHY YOU DON’T DO THIS? I ASK YOU TO DO EVERY TIME!” 

 Taken aback, we tried valiantly to explain to him that it wasn’t Christmas anymore, but he just shook his head in disappointment and left.


#

My book, "Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road" ( Punk Hostage Press)  is available here: http://www.princessfarhana.com/book_showgirl.htm

"The Belly Dance Handbook" will be published in January, 2014

Photo & design by Maharet Christina Hughes

 
Photo by Maharet, graphics by Monir Mahmoud


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A BRIEF AFFAIR




He reminded me of James Dean in “East Of Eden”
or more accurately,  James Dean in “East Of Eden”
… if he’d been dumb, crazy and reckless,and spent half of his life wired
 on cheap Hell’s Angel’s crank and bad wine
working in a booth on the midway of a low-rent traveling carnival

He was sinister and baby-faced, white trash in a black leather jacket
He was from Florida and had eyelashes as long as his criminal record
Dirty blonde hair hanging in his face, he drove a poison green metal flake
’56 Pontiac Fire Chief with a six-pack stashed under the passenger seat

Any sane person would’ve stayed the hell away…but he was the ex of one of my
girlfriends and she was on the East Coast with an ex of mine
So when he burst in on me in the backstage bathroom of the Whisky a-Go-Go
while I applied my lipstick
and told me he’d always though I was cute, I figured everything would be ok

In one swift movement he kicked the door shut and turned off the light
and had me pressed up against the sink
It wasn’t ‘til later that night kissing feverishly in the laundry room at a party in Silverlake
when my current boyfriend (whom I’d accidentally left at the Whisky)
kicked the door down with a cry of triumph, and I realized
 that I might have made a slight judgmental error

The next day I woke up with puffy, tearful eyes
and clothes crusted over with a mixture of Budweiser and ALL Detergent
I didn’t see too much of him after that…or my boyfriend, for that matter

The couple of times I saw my boyfriend he ignored me
The couple of times I saw him he was either brawling or incoherent
Last year, I heard he’d done time for robbing a bank

Oh, well… it was fun while it lasted

# 

This piece  took place in the early 1980’s, and was published in my book
Senorita Sin (1994, Incommunicado Press)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

MONDO CONNIE




Connie, oh, Connie.
Connie was one of those rare girls who made everyone who encountered her feel special, as though they were basking in a unique personal paradise she had created only for them. She was feral sexuality combined with a sunny innocence, sometimes incredibly transparent, other times full of mystery. She was a delightful and confounding bundle of opposites, with charisma to burn. Men and women alike were captivated by her. She would turn her attention to you like a pair of highbeams, and you'd feel like you were the only person she'd ever cared about. This wasn't something she'd practiced and perfected; it was a fact of her existence, just the way she was. She effortlessly turned men into dopes and instead of inspiring jealousy in other females, made heterosexual women dream of Sapphic encounters. My friend Mandy, a lovely petite blonde, straight as they come and with a serious boy friend, met Connie once at a bar and didn't stop asking about her, with a mix of lasciviousness and idolatry, for the better part of a year.

Connie was completely amoral, but in a childlike way. It was as though her sheer physical magnificence and carefree spirit made everything she did alright. She could’ve been a heartless sexual predator, but she wasn't. Somehow, with Connie, there was no such thing as cheating. It was as though she existed to give everyone pleasure and, becoming involved with Connie, you had no choice but to understand this, as well as go along with it. Not that you'd have minded. I certainly didn't. I couldn't. Being with Connie was kind of like dating a movie star - you had to share her with her public. Once in a while, her innate sense of entitlement could be construed as petulance… and granted, she was spoiled. Imagine Brook Shields in Pretty Baby, and you'll get the idea. People gave things- including their souls- to Connie on a regular basis, like making an offering to a deity.

Connie's origins were somewhat muddy, and no doubt she intended them that way. She spoke with a slight southern drawl, as seductive as a breeze on a Ft. Lauderdale beach during Spring Break. Her speech, though a little trashy at times, had none of that Jerry-Springer-guest or Reality Show harshness. Though she seemed to be lacking in formal education, she caught onto things quickly.  Her mispronunciations and liberty with language were charming, reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot.

When Connie spoke, it was breathy and urgent. It promised good times, wild surprises, unsurpassed adventures. Listing to her talk was like having a lover bathe you. Washing you on a twilight veranda in a huge tub of freshly squeezed lemonade spiked with Southern Comfort, sweet and sticky, lit only by twinkling stars and fire flies. Connie was the type of Southern Belle who'd get invited to the Kentucky Derby and look so stunning in gloves and a picture hat that when she inevitably became confused by the racing form, men would rush to help her place her bets probably paying for them. Having received assistance, compliments, marriage propositions, and more than a few mint juleps, she'd sashay to the powder room to freshen up, then wind up giving a blowjob to a groom under the stands just as the winner (whose name and pedigree she didn't know) crossed the finish line. Even if she'd been gone for a couple of hours, she'd never have incurred jealous wrath, only been sorely missed. If Connie had been an adult in the mid-70s, she'd have been the kind of girl men wrote letters about to Penthouse.

That Connie was gorgeous was undeniable to everyone who laid eyes on her. She had a shiny sable mane which fell in thick tangled waves down to the small of her back. Her hair, usually styled in some sloppy casual take on a French Twist and littered with glittering ornaments, was always coming down. It gave the impression that she'd just stepped off a yacht, or come in from a windblown motorcycle ride, or maybe woken up from a prolonged erotic encounter with a rock star, spilled Crystal champagne still damp on the high-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens, the pillows littering the floor smeared with Connie's lipstick.

Her face was amazing, with a well-defined jaw line, the sweeping planes of cheekbones setting off a tiny, perfect nose, smoldering dark eyes, and a large, lush mouth. Her pearly teeth arced in a slight overbite, and the right front tooth had a small chip, which added a charmingly human touch in the midst of her preternatural perfection.

Tall and lithe, she gave the appearance of being a Vegas showgirl turned expensive hooker or maybe a Victoria's Secret lingerie model by way of Tijuana. Her wardrobe leaned heavily towards chandelier-like earrings, oversized designer knock-off tote bags, as well as tawdry, barely there wisps of clothing in a palette that went from Day Glo to sparkles and back again. She loved to show off her ass, which was an artful, impossible architectural wonder on par with the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty, and did so often with Spandex hot pants or thong bikinis. She stood over six feet tall in the platforms she was never without, even poolside or at the beach. Practically the only time she removed her heels was when she put on her roller skates. Pristinely white and covered in snowy glitter with shocking pink pom-poms, the skates made Connie almost 6'4" of heavenly legs, slim hips and cafe-au-lait skin.

Connie, though she seemed ladylike and even fragile at times, sometimes alluded to the face that she'd once been in the roller derby. It seemed more than likely this was fabrication, but she seemed to have run her way through quite a number of glamorous and slightly dangerous jobs before giving them all up to concentrate on her career as professional party girl. Willowy as she was, it wasn't hard to imagine her on a catwalk, though in truth, she never could have really been a model because she was kind of clumsy and ungainly. To imagine her competing in roller derby, a sport that demanded more prowess and coordination than polishing one's nails while sipping a cocktail, would've been unthinkable...although maybe she was telling the truth, and that's how she'd chipped her front tooth.

With Connie, it was hard to tell where fantasy left off and reality began, or vice-versa. Apparently she'd gotten the moniker "Connie Rubbermaid" from some previous acquaintance or lover. Along with the skates, her closet held a wealth of fetish clothing; mermaid costumes, cheerleader uniforms, a couple of satin clown suits. Hidden in the back, she had a huge carton full of skimpy little French Maid outfits, nothing more than lingerie with some microscopic lacy aprons, really. I never asked why she had them or what they were for, I just knew she looked absolutely adorable in them when she wore them, which she frequently did to clean house. Connie, if lazy about other things (like returning phone calls and paying her bills) was fanatically neat. She particularly liked tidying up by skating around her loft, daintily waving a cartoon-like baby blue feather duster over her many kick-knacks and beauty accoutrements. Actually, now that I think about it, I did see her skate a number of times, but usually the only maneuver she could really manage was stopping, and this she generally accomplished by grabbing the nearest innocent bystander, more often than not knocking them over and winding up on top of them.

During our relationship, she gave herself wholly to me but there was an unspoken understanding that even though she was mine, she was kind of in public domain. This never affected my feelings toward her or hers towards me, and she was always very generous with her affection as well as material possessions.  We shared everything: clothes, make-up, our bed, and our bed with others, lovers of both sexes. Making love with her was always wonderful, and it carried over into everyday life, too.

Public displays of affection between us were a common occurrence, and we both took to wearing earth-toned lipstick, so as not to have smeared clown faces after smooching in public. We literally couldn't keep our hands off each other. We had a magical thing going on, and everybody who witnessed it wanted in on it. We'd be out on the town somewhere, I'd get up to go to the bathroom, and when I came back, she'd usually be cuddled up on someone's lap. This didn't phase me; it was standard operating procedure.

 If Connie had been a creature on a wildlife show, that would've been her natural habitat … Somebody's Lap.

The provider of the lap was only too happy to buy both of us drinks, just to be able to bask in Connie's glow.  Whenever we went out, people were constantly asking to take our picture.  More than a few times, people offered to pay to watch us have sex with each other. Always the lady, Connie just laughed.

Connie loved Vegas and we took trips there frequently, causing a huge stir at every casino we went to. Jaded, middle-aged cocktail waitresses would rush up to us, tray in hand, and shyly ask Connie if she was "an entertainer." Players would ask Connie to blow on their dice for good luck (probably secretly wishing she'd "blow" on something else) and high rollers would move aside to make sure she had a good spot at the table. One time, at the Hard Rock, after posing for innumerable photos with delighted tourists, Connie went to a roulette table, put her last few dollars on red ( because it matched her Wet-N-Wild lipstick), won big, and immediately conned a woman into taking us to a shoe store so Connie could buy ridiculously impractical high-heeled Mary Janes with her winning. This same woman later gave Connie many pieces of expensive looking clothing right out of her closet, including a raw silk, hot pink vintage '60s sheath dress trimmed in marabou feathers. Naturally, it fit Connie as though it'd been made for her. Connie, when she actually wore clothes, wore them well.

A few weeks later, just before Halloween we were in San Francisco with our friend Steve Heck, at the Hotel Utah bar celebrating Connie's birthday. Connie looked incredible and edible in the pink sheath, attracting stares from all over the bar. The barback practically dropped a case of beer while watching Connie saunter over to the jukebox. Steve was flirting with her, plying her with Jagermeister shots, while Steve's girlfriend played with Connie's hair and rubbed her shoulders. Steve presented Connie with a birthday gift of a Halloween costume, labeled Adult Gypsy. The woman on the costume's package bore a striking resemblance to Connie, which was why Steve had gotten it. At the stroke of midnight, with a war whoop, Connie did another shot, then stripped off the pink marabou dress and tossed it skyward, where it got stuck on the antler of a stuffed elk mounted near the ceiling. For a few moments, time stopped in the bar as Connie stood there nearly naked except for a pink G-string. She then donned the Adult Gypsy costume and, as everyone in the place screamed encouragement, jumped onto the bar and did a wild mazurka.

"DANCE, GYPSY, DANCE!" yelled two guys who looked like Yuppie stockbrokers, as glasses and bottles, both empty and full, flew in every direction, shattering as they hit the floor.

Instead of 86ing her, the bartender was so instantly infatuated that she rewarded Connie with more shots and told her to watch out for the ceiling fan. That night, Connie left me to go and party with Steve and his girlfriend. She made this spur-of-the-moment decision on the street in front of the Utah, and informed me by jumping into Steve's arms, kicking her heels flirtatiously as he walked away carrying her, hollering over Steve's shoulder in a tipsy falsetto, "I'm going with Steve!"

She drew out his name in italicized letters, as though it was a sinful dessert on a menu at an expensive restaurant. I didn't really mind, I needed my beauty sleep desperately. Connie managed to look gorgeous all the time and keeping up with her was a tough job. Besides, Connie was in good hands. Steve himself was a true gent, and I noticed Steve's girlfriend was dutifully carrying Connie's shoes like a servant, some kind of Bay Area geisha, helping Connie into Steve's battered pick-up truck solicitously, like a doorman at a five star hotel. I went to sleep peacefully that night, knowing Connie's every need and birthday wish - legal and otherwise - would be catered to.

Sometimes when I look back on my relationship with Connie, it seems like a fairytale; it was so good while it lasted. Unlike fairytales, Connie and I didn't live happily ever after.  What happened was a man came between us. Love triangles usually don't work out, you know, and we were both involved with this guy.

His name was Jack; he was a bright, talented, good-looking photographer from the East Cost. Jack decided to pursue his artistic interests and wound up in Hollywood, where we met.We started dating each other, and it quickly turned serious. It's hard to believe, but that point, I wasn't even thinking of Connie. It was a though she didn't exist. One day, after we'd been seeing each other for a while, I looked at Jack, his feline face, long hair, his unintentionally androgynous look and body language, and asked if I could put some make-up on him. He consented amiably. The look on Jack's face as he watched himself in the mirror as I applied lipstick, blush and eye shadow was like seeing someone experiencing a religious rapture...or like watching a junkie's face as the rush hits once the drugs take hold. It was plain to see that this wasn't going to be a one-shot deal.

In that moment, like Venus springing to life fully formed on the half-shell, Connie Rubbermaid was born. To put it simply, the entire time I was seeing Jack, I was seeing Connie, and most of the time I was seeing Jack, he was being Connie.

Even though Jack was a red-blooded, all-American boy, he was definitely a girl when he turned into Connie. Men had no idea that Connie wasn't what she appeared to be and  even hardened bull dykes were fooled. Connie was not a man in drag, she was a totally separate entity with her own distinct personality, voice, taste in music and clothing, even different handwriting. Jack wrote in a scrawl, but Connie's penmanship was fancy and florid, with little flowers dotting the I's like the script of a junior high tramp. Jack drank beer; Connie sipped blended margaritas with maraschino cherries floating on top. While Jack was a laid back behind-the-scenes sort of guy, Connie basked in attention and actively sought it out. Jack was great, in fact, he was wonderful; but Connie was larger than life.

Sooner or later, everything comes to an end, and Jack and I broke up....which meant that like it or not, Connie and I had to break up also. Jack is now married and has children. I'm not sure if Connie is even still around, or if she's laying dormant somewhere, buried behind a tangle of briars a la Sleeping Beauty. Like fairytale princesses - or shall I say, queens – Connie Rubbermaid still lives on, even if it's just in the realm of memory
and in the photographs taken on the many nights Connie was out on the town, her uproarious laughter filling the air, her roller skates knocking over barstools as she climbed into the lap of an unsuspecting and thoroughly enchanted stranger.

Quite some time after I'd broken up with Jack, I went up to San Francisco to visit Steve Heck and he took me the Hotel Utah bar. Immediately, I noticed that Connie's shocking pink sheath dress was untouched. It still hung haphazardly on the elk's antler, exactly where she'd thrown it on her birthday, like Cinderella's glass slipper forgotten on the steps of the castle as shrine the whole staff had left intact like a relic or magic talisman, in hopes that one day, the beautiful and legendary owner of the dress, the only one who could really fit into it, would return to retrieve it.

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The story you’ve just read is from my book Escape From Houdini Mountain, which you can purchase here: http://www.princessfarhana.com/book_houdini.htm

My new book, Showgirl Confidential: My Life Instage, Backstage And On The Road, is available here: http://www.princessfarhana.com/book_showgirl.htm