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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

A Review of

Belly Laughs

by Rod Long

 

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Summary

This is quite possibly the worst book with some kind of tie-in to belly dancing that I've ever read. It's either this or Dancer of Gor by John Norman.

This dismal book contains a collection of anecdotes about belly dancers' experiences in doing gigs. It was compiled by soliciting on the Internet for contributors, then loosely woven together by the spectacularly miserable writing style of a comedian, Rod Long.

Cover

 

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Fact Sheet

Title

Belly Laughs: Adventures With Celebrities & Other Unusual Characters

Author

Rod Long

ISBN

1-890916-50-1

Publisher

Talion Publishing

Category

Humor
Non-Fiction: Biography

Rating

Star

Number of Pages

215

Published In

1999

 

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Description

This book contains a series of short anecdotes about belly dancers who have either performed for famous people or had something funny happen during their shows. The stories are about true experiences, but told in the voice of the writer who created a common thread of narrative to pull them together.

The book is intended primarily for "the general public", rather than being intended for those of us who dance ourselves.

When the publisher first started soliciting for contributors to the book, the following text was part of the e-mail message she sent out: "IMPORTANT: It is much easier to promote book authors who can drop names of royalty and celebrities. A PREREQUISITE FOR THIS BOOK will be that each contributing author have at least one story about rubbing elbows with a rock star, movie star, royal family member, or politician."

This "casting call" for anecdotes led to contributions by 32 different dancers. Of these, 26 are based in the U.S., and the remaining 6 in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Australia, Brazil, and Mexico.

The dancers featured in these stories include some widely recognized names such as Amaya, Fahtiem, Mesmera, Tamalyn Dallal, and Amar Gamal. The rest tend to be locally known in their own communities.

In alphabetical order, the dancers featured include:

  • Alexandria Parafina. San Francisco, California.
  • Aliza. Orlando, Florida.
  • Almaazah. Austin, Texas.
  • Amar Gamal. New York City, New York.
  • Amaya. Albuquerque, New Mexico.
  • Anita. Kansas.
  • Aziza Nawal. Atlanta, Georgia.
  • Aziza Said. Southern California.
  • Britt. Scandinavia.
  • Daleela Morad. Sacramento, California.
  • Delilah. Seattle, Washington.
  • Dianna. New Mexico.
  • Dondi. San Diego, California.
  • Fahtiem. Los Angeles, California.
  • Farasha. New Jersey.
  • Feiruz. Los Angeles, California.
  • Jasmine. Perth, Australia.
  • Jawahare. San Francisco, California.
  • Jodette. Sacramento, California.
  • Masha.
  • Mesmera. Los Angeles, California.
  • Mirra. Brazil.
  • Muraya. Mexico City, Mexico. (As told by her daughter Nicole now in Kansas.)
  • Nadira. Perth, Australia.
  • Najwa al Qamar. Detroit, Michigan.
  • Noora. New York City, New York.
  • Paola. The Netherlands.
  • Phara. Austin, Texas.
  • Ranajma Dameshe. New York City, New York.
  • Romnea. Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Stefania. San Francisco, California.
  • Tamalyn Dallal. Miami, Florida and Seattle, Washington.

The stories told by these dancers fall into two categories:

  1. Supposed-to-be-funny anecdotes about bloopers or odd audience behavior during gigs
  2. Encounters with celebrities which are generally not very funny

To give the book some continuity of writing style, the publisher recruited a comedian named Rod Long to retell the dancers' stories in his own words. He weaves the stories together as if telling them in a stand-up comedy routine. Throughout the book, he makes up his own words, defines them, and then keeps re-using them throughout the rest of the book. For example, at the very beginning he introduces the word "buckwheat", which he defines as meaning, "to show obvious surprise in your eyes and facial expression", and then in many of the stories that follow uses this word to describe audience responses to the bloopers.

 

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Is It Right for You?

 

You Will Probably Enjoy This Book If...

  • You know one or more of the dancers featured in it.
  • You enjoy reading magazines that focus on mundane events in celebrities' lives.
  • You are determined to collect every book you can find related to belly dancing no matter how bad.
  • You're already a fan of Rod Long's comedy work.

 

This Book Probably Isn't Right for You If...

  • You want to read a well-written book.
  • You want something humorous to read. (Tip: read Snake Hips by Anne Soffee instead.)
  • You are offended by colossally bad story telling skills of a comedian who isn't nearly as funny as he thinks he is.
  • You're not interested in reading a series of stories about performers dancing for bored celebrities who ignore them.
  • You think celebrity name-dropping is annoying.
  • You like reading information about celebrities that's actually interesting. (Tip: read Have Belly Will Travel by Tanya Lemani instead.)

 

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What I Liked, What I Didn't

 

What I Liked:

  • Some (but not all) of the anecdotes about dancers' performances could have been funny if not told in the writing style of Rod Long.

 

What I Didn't Like:

  • This book exhibits the poorest writing skill I have ever had the misfortune to read in a book released by a commercial publisher.
  • The stories that actually might have been funny if told by a skilled writer are ruined by the way in which they were presented in this book.
  • Long comes across as a Dave Barry wannabe, but without Barry's skill. Many times, while reading the book, I had to go back and re-read a section because I wasn't sure just what had happened. Long often omitts things that would have been important to understanding the story being told.
  • The celebrity encounters described in this book are generally about as interesting as watching paint dry.
  • Nine pages of perfectly good paper and ink are wasted telling about a fan trying to get close to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. No, there is no dancing whatsoever involved. Yawn. It so happens that Prince's wife is a talented dance artist, and the fan who contributed the story happens to be a dancer. That's the weak tie-in to belly dancing that apparently justified including it.
  • I'm skeptical about how much truth there is in Jodette's stories. They sound exaggerated to me.
  • Most of the stories in this book are mostly "So what?" in nature. Very few are truly funny or interesting.
  • Long comes across as a self-indulgent child trying to be the center of attention. His focus is not on sharing other people's funny stories — it is on calling attention to himself with intrusive attempts at his own jokes, disrupting the narratives.

 

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Conclusion

This book is spectacularly bad. The writing style of the guy who retells the dancers' anecdotes is dismally poor. It's horrid. It's excremental. It's execrable. The publisher's decision to emphasize celebrity encounters as a criterion for a dancer being included in this book has led to a book full of stories that go something like this: "I was hired to dance at a party at which a celebrity was present. I did it. The celebrity was a good sport but didn't actually say or do anything interesting."

This focus by the publisher on recruiting tales about brushes with celebrities rather than on highly entertaining stories about people's dance experiences deterred many dancers from submitting stories about their own hilarious gig adventures. As a result, the book is heavy on celebrity name-dropping, but seriously lacking in laughs.

Some of the dancers' stories represented in the book might have been worth reading if they hadn't been mutilated by Rod Long's writing style. The dancers don't deserve to have their reputations tarnished by being associated with this piece of rubbish.

 

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Disclosures

I have never had any contact with either Rod Long or the publisher. I have enjoyed meeting, corresponding with, or watching dance a number of the dancers featured in this book, although we didn't discuss this book in particular in our conversations.

Lest you wonder, no, my negative comments are not sour grapes. I did not submit any stories to this book, and I don't know of anyone who did other than the people who did get included. So I don't know of anyone whose story was rejected.

 

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