Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Zein on the cover of Arabesque Magazine, early 1990's

In 1999, during the days leading up to The New Millennium, like many people, I began reflecting on life: historical events I had witnessed, personal goals that I had achieved, the things I still wanted to accomplish and all the people in my life, living and dead.

But what seemed to really dominate my thoughts were the many significant relationships I had with family and friends. I was blessed with so much love, nurture and support. I thought of the many special people who were there for me not matter what… friends and relatives who shared their lives with me, gave me affection, support and influenced my creative and artistic endeavors.

One of these special individuals was my friend and belly dance mentor, the late Zein Abdul Al Malik.

Zein was a dancer of prodigious talent. Well over six feet tall and lanky, he had piercing green eyes and performed draped in billowing genie pants and luxurious folkloric garb, wrapped in antique Egyptian Assuit, a traditional mesh fabric that has small strips of silver hammered into it to form designs.  Zein looked imposing and exotic when he danced balancing a huge brass tray with a full tea set and candles upon his regal head.

Zein began his career in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid Seventies, dancing with one of the mothers of contemporary belly dance, Jamilla Salimpour. He went on to live in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, where he resided in one of the royal palaces, thanks to his Saudi prince lover.  Zein lived and breathed Oriental Dance, performing, teaching and doing research.

After we met in 1990, he took me under his wing- me, a beginning baby belly dancer with barely any skills- but somehow he saw my potential and nurtured me. Zein would have me over to his apartment- a wonderful, mysterious enclave of inlaid North African furniture, luxurious plants and relics from the Middle East.

He’d make me fresh mint tea in a silver Moroccan teapot and we’d spend hours together while he showed me steps and technique, discussed belly dance traditions, and watched vintage clips that he’d taped from the television in Saudi Arabia, featuring 1940’s and ‘50’s “Golden Age” Egyptian movies which starred famous dancers like Naima Akef, Samia Gamal, and Tahiya Carioca.

 Zein also helped me select costumes, heartily encouraged my dancing, and got me my very first dance job at Hollywood’s Moun Of Tunis Restaurant, where he worked.  More than two decades later, whenever I am in Los Angeles, I still perform there.

Appropriate music for Middle Eastern dance was hard to find in America back in those days, and Zein made me many Arabic mix tapes- remember, there were no CD’s back then- with the cassettes featuring everything from classic live Om Kalthoum performances to the latest in Egyptian pop and Algerian Rai music.

 Every cassette Zein made me also had a special cover that he thoughtfully put together by hand. Some featured Middle Eastern clip art others photocopy of vintage Turkish cigarette boxes and pictures of famous belly dancers like Nagwa Fouad and Soheir Zaki.

Tragically, Zein died about five years after I met him. By that time, we were close friends and because of his encouragement, we were also gigging together regularly. I was absolutely devastated. I remember speaking-or rather blubbering through a speech- at his memorial, my face wet with flowing tears, but I don’t remember a thing I said.

I thought of him often, so many things reminded me of him. At gigs when I felt pre-show jitters, I would think of the way he used to calm my nerves through his twisted humor right before we both went on. Wrapped in a turban and wearing a brocade galibiya, shimmying to warm up, with an ever-present Marlboro in his mouth, Zein would sense my anxiety, catch my eye, make an exaggerated coquettish gesture then and whisper in a feminine falsetto,

How’s my hair?”

Somehow, our private joke never got old, and always made me laugh. Whenever he did that, I had a great show, entering the stage with a huge grin on my face. Even though Zein has been departed for years, I always think of him just before I go on.

So…fast forward to New Year’s Eve 1999, at five minutes of midnight. Of course I was at a belly dance gig, in a dressing room, wearing a brand new costume- my first costume for the New Millennium.

The dancer I was working with that evening asked what music I was planning to perform to for my first dance set of the century.

“I don’t know, “ I said, pawing through my CD binder, “I’m so sick of all my music!”

My gig bag was full of the usual belly dance accouterments: stray finger cymbals, perfume, hair accessories, mis-matched sequin armbands, loose aspirin tablets, safety pins.

Suddenly, something fell into my hands, a small plastic case. Though my suitcase was always chaotic, there was a method to my madness, and it was always re-packed before every show. The little plastic box was decidedly an unfamiliar object that I didn’t remember packing. Recognizing what it was in the dim dressing room lighting by the feel of it alone, I wondered how it got there.

“Hey, no way, there’s a cassette in my dance bag!” I cried, kind of amazed.

You still use cassettes?” the other dancer asked incredulously.

“Well, no, not for years”, I answered, dumbfounded, “I have no idea what it’s doing in here!”

“Well, maybe we can dance to it,” she said, “What is it?”

I glanced at the clock- it was now one minute before midnight.

Thinking we’d better figure our music out, I turned the mystery cassette case over in my hands. The cover featured a black and white drawing of a 1920’s flapper lounging in a champagne glass.

In hand-lettered Art Deco font, it read:


As the clock struck midnight and the new century began, I got chills.


The story you’ve just read is from my  memoir Showgirl Confidential; My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road  published by Punk Hostage Press.

 Get a signed copy of the book here: www.princessfarhana.com/shop.htm

My forthcoming  memoir,   Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere will be published by Punk Hostage in 2015
Photos by Dusti Cunningham & Maharet Hughes

 Find me on online:

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Christmas at Disgraceland: L to R: Limey dave of Tupelo Chainsex, Iris Berry, Booby "From Memphis" McClellan  photo courtesy of Iris Berry

Some of my favorite Christmas memories aren’t traditional… by any stretch of the imagination. 

 From the 1978 to 1988, I lived at Disgraceland, my  punk rock crash pad located just behind Frederick’s Of Hollywood. Disgraceland was one quarter of a 1920's era stucco four-plex at 1553 Cassil Place, a quiet side street which, until we moved in, was occupied mostly by large  multi- generational Mexican families and the senior citizens who lived in nearby studio apartments ever since not making it as film stars during the last days of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Disgraceland was home to an ever-revolving cast of room mates including The Go-Go’s Belinda Carlisle, Kid Congo of the Gun Club and The Cramps, Tex And The Horseheads’ guitarist Mike Martt, writer and Lame Flame Iris Berry and her underground artist boyfriend  “Mad” Marc Rude, Ward Dotson of The Gun Club, my Screaming Sirens band-mate Laura Bennett, my husband Levi, of Levi And The Rockats, and Joey Altruda and Limey Dave from the band Tupelo Chainsex.

 The list of Disgraceland “regulars”- people who crashed there constantly and often stayed for days or weeks at a time included   rock ‘n’roll legend Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Angelo and Norwood of Fishbone, Duff McKagan of Guns ‘N’Roses,  Charlie  Sexton, Texacala Jones, members of Poison 13, The Hickoids, The Hangmen, Junkyard, DRI, The Joneses, TSOL and many more. Disgraceland was also a pit stop for the skateboarding elite, entertaining and often housing champs Tony Alva, Steve Olson,  “Alabamy” Jay, an under-age Christian Hosoi and his father Ivan, Chuck Treece, Thrasher editor MoFo and Skatemaster Tate.

 Because of the nightly-and always uproariously loud –parties plus  the subsequent debauchery that routinely spilled into the yard and onto the sidewalk, Disgraceland had a very well deserved bad reputation with our neighbors, and even within the Hollywood rock scene.  For every stranded, drunken musician that stumbled onto our porch in the middle of the night looking for a party, there were at least three scenesters who avoided the place entirely, mainly cause they were scared of us!

Nevertheless, we Disgracelanders still had  the Christmas spirit…it’s just that we couldn’t really afford any holiday gifts or decorations, because any cash we had was going straight to bottles of Jack Daniels, packs of cigarettes and cases of beer.  We remedied the Christmas decoration thing easily; during the Holiday Season, Iris and I would have burley guys hoist us up on their shoulders so we could rip the tinsel and decorations off the ceiling of the bars and nightclubs we were visiting. On one of the many times I got 86’d from Raji’s, the infamous punk club I booked, manager Dobbs threw me out because I’d torn down all the tinsel from the showroom’s ceiling.

 In an unforeseen change of events, two days later, Dobbs called me into the office to thank me, explaining that the Fire Marshall had just visited Raji’s, and because there was no Mylar garland on the ceiling, he’d dodged a $500.00 fire violation!  Because of my drunken, sparkly Holiday vandalism, I enjoyed free drinks well into the New Year.

 One year, we decorated by salvaging a massive, discarded Christmas tree from the alley behind Club Lingerie  in the wee hours of Christmas Eve. It took three of us, grunting and pulling and dragging the tree on foot around the corner to Disgraceland, but by golly, we got it up and proudly stood it in a corner of our living room, between two Marshall amps. Unfortunately, the entire  stolen  cache  of Christmas garland   was  already in use ( most of it hung from the pull-tabs on my cowboy boots)  and we had nothing to trim the tree with. 

 Suddenly, inspiration struck, and we decided on a traditional red and white theme…piling on everything we had in those colors. Our tree was hung with red patent leather  1950's spike heeled pumps, Marlboro flip-top boxes, Budweiser cartons, red and white brassieres, panties and fishnets, and Elementary School style paper snowflakes we cut from band flyers and attached with guitar strings. We topped the tree with a Santa Hat someone had found on Sunset Boulevard during The Hollywood Christmas Parade. That tree looked so good, we left it up until the next April!

On another fabled Christmas Eve, there were about thirty people at Disgraceland celebrating by taking the magic mushrooms that The Hickoids’ guitarist Juke Box had so thoughtfully provided; everyone in the house was tripping their brains out.  Our latest obsession was the underground psychedelic sensation  The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, an “outsider” artist who routinely ranked  extremely high up on “ The Worst Records Ever  Recorded” lists, who’d once appeared on Rowan And Martin’s Laugh-In as a novelty act.

Members of the seminal Psychobilly group The Meteors had turned Levi onto The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, whose name, it was rumored, stood for LSD: Legendary Star Dust…get it? We had his 1969 cult hit “Paralyzed” on the record player set with the arm across, so it would play over and over.  The screaming, ranting, unintelligible vocals, pounding drums, hellish feedback and random bugle calls of “Paralyzed” served as   the perfect backdrop for the chaos that ensued.

Someone had brought over a package of those kid’s coloring books, the kind where the pictures turned colors when they were painted with water. As soon as the drugs took hold, Iris and I decided that it would be a fun idea   to see if liquids other than water worked on the coloring books as well, so at our decree, everyone   started finger painting painting the pages with beer and vodka.  Naturally, it piqued our curiosity to see what other substances would do- so Iris and I sent some of the boys off to the bedrooms and  bathroom with the coloring books, plus  issues of Playboy and Hustler to inspire their "creative out-put". The masterpieces they created privately bore an uncanny resemblance to Jackson Pollack’s greatest work!

  I was in the hallway standing outside the bathroom, coaching a guest along in his  auto erotic “artistic endeavor” by talking dirty through the door, when Jukebox came up to me with a dazed look on his face, telling me that The Legendary Stardust Cowboy was at the door.  At first, I didn’t believe him- what the hell would this aging, beyond-the-fringe ten gallon hat wearing lunatic from Lubbock, Texas be doing at my house on Christmas Eve...especially while his 45 had been  playing continuously for over two hours? It was simply too ridiculous to believe, but Jukebox was so earnest that finally, I took him seriously.

 I walked into the living room, and  sure enough, there was  The Cowboy standing at the threshold to our front door, ten-gallon hat in hand.  He addressed me by name, politely asking if he could come in, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his record was blasting on my battered $99.00 Sears Roebuck stereo.  

 He looked like he really could be The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, but even though I could barely construct a simple sentence, I grilled him nonetheless… I didn’t want some random crazy old man ruining our mushroom-fueled painting party!  It turned out that he’d read about Disgraceland in a rock’n’roll magazine, and finding himself alone  in Hollywood on a quiet Christmas Eve, he’d made it his business to find our house, figuring we’d be, as he termed it, “rockin’ all night”. Apparently, he was staying at a motel, and had walked all the way to Hollywood in search of us.  He gave us all promotional post cards, and seemed very excited that we knew who he was.  Soon, Jukebox had a couple of guitars plugged in and was jamming along with The Cowboy and everyone else, screaming out “Paralyzed”, The Seed’s “Pushing Too Hard” and various Christmas carols. This went on for quite a long time, until it started getting light outside.

 Sadly, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy never made us a painting that evening, but he did autograph my copy of  “Paralyzed”.

Totally naughty! Me in the 1980's with a smoking Christmas elf  photo: Joey Altruda


 The story you've just read is an excerpt from my  forthcoming book "Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere" out in 2015 on Punk Hostage Press

 Listen to “Paralyzed” by The Legendary Stardust Cowboy here:

  Purchase a signed copy of my  memoir  “Showgirl Confidential: My Life Onstage, Backstage And On The Road” here:


 Find me on online: