I’ve worked as the “house dancer” at Moun Of Tunis Restaurant in Hollywood for well over twenty years. In fact, it was my very first professional belly dance job. “Moun”, as the staff and patrons affectionately refer to it, is a family place. Customers with children are welcomed and doted on in a way they wouldn’t ordinarily be in another establishment- kids are encouraged to have the run of the place while their parents dine. The owner keeps crayons and toys on hand to entertain the youngsters. Frequently, patrons that I performed for when they were toddlers celebrate milestones like graduations or marriages at the restaurant, and any of them bring their own young children to dine and see me dance.
In keeping with the family feeling, the entire staff has been there for years, and in some cases, like my own, for a couple of decades. This is an anomaly in the restaurant business, where servers and cooks come and go, but even more irregular in terms of dance jobs.
Like me, most of the regular belly dancers have also been there for an awfully long time. Because of this, the staff itself functions as an extended family, and we are often more relaxed and informal with each other than would normally be expected in a similar situation. Everyone who works there stops by on their nights off, we all know each other’s business, and the use of nicknames, in-jokes and even pranks abound. Hence, my communications with the dancers I schedule for work are often pretty casual, if not downright personal.
A few years back when I’d gotten got a new cell phone, it really drove home to me just how offhanded and loose my communications with the other dancers had become.
Because of a glitch in the transference of my old phone’s address book, not all of the numbers came through in the memory. I was about to send a text message to one of my regular dancers, but her number wasn’t listed in my phone’s address book.
Instead of looking her number up in the restaurant’s files, I figured I knew her number by heart, so I typed the digits in manually, and sent the following message:
How the hell are ya?
Miss U!! Been waaay too long since I’ve seen U.
I really REALLY need U 2 dance for me tomorrow nite- can U do it? PRETTY PLEASE?
Also have TONS of dates for you next month if U R down with it.
Let me know ASAP!
WHO THE HELL IS THIS? I AM TURNING THIS NUMBER IN TO THE POLICE!
Mystified by this response, upon checking, I realized that the number I thought belonged to one of my dancers was one digit off- a wrong number. Oopsie!
Re-reading my message, which had seemed utterly innocent in terms of asking a dancer to sub a shift, I immediately realized how it could be completely misconstrued by a total stranger.
Context, as they say, is everything…
Get an autographed copy of my new book “Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road” here:
I will be reading from “Showgirl Confidential” on Sunday, June 29 at the Punk Hostage Press Barbeque Anniversary Party!
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291