Thursday, January 24, 2013


The New Year should be greeted with thoughts of hope and joyful expectations for the year to come.

But 2013 has met us -- I and my colleagues in New York's World Dance & Music community -- with the sudden tragic loss of one of our most enduring, beloved members.

On Sunday, January 13, Dino Bakakos, owner of the legendary Lafayette Grill & Bar which sadly had closed its doors just the year before, fell to a brain aneurysm.

For nearly three decades, Dino and his surviving brother Billy created nothing short of a Mecca for the most vibrant and talented musicians and dancers in the city. From their Tango nights to Friday night bellydance to ubiquitous Greek music to countless haflas and showcases, my mind is a torrent of raucous memories, infused with delightful raki or ouzo, which Dino would generously pour for me once I'd changed out of my costume.

"Yeah -- it's Dino -- like the dinosaur!" With this broad-smiled greeting he shook my hand and asked if I'd be dancing that evening in Ranya's Performance Prep Showcase. That was my "official" introduction to Dino in late 2006, but in fact I had met and spoken to him many, many times for over a year without knowing his name or that he was the owner of the venue that was quickly becoming my home in dance.

His rambunctious swagger had told me he was a manager or someone in charge; plus he treated me so warmly, as though he knew me, so I was embarrassed to admit I did not know his name ... until Ranya's hafla.

Making reservations for my family, I gave him my name and he said, "Yeah .. yeah, I know you! ... You know who I am, right?" And I fessed up. "I--  I'm sorry, I don't know your name..." He laughed broadly and told me .... and then offered me a glass of ouzo.

Over the years, he watched me develop as a dancer. In early 2008, after I had danced and emceed a showcase, he said, "Yeah.. you know, I think you're gonna be ready for Friday night pretty soon!" He turned to Magdalena, the dancer/photographer who booked the Grill's professional dance spot on Friday nights, "What do you think?" She agreed, and gave me an encouraging smile.

This was a minor miracle to me. I had started bellydancing to heal from surgery and three herniated discs. I was not young and for two years did not even believe it was possible for me to dance professionally. Who would hire me, after all??

Well, that night I learned: Dino would. And this was a guy who knew bellydance.

I redoubled my efforts, practiced technique, choreographies, learned different styles, props, went mad with my finger cymbals.

And several months later it happened: My first professional gig as a bellydancer at Lafayette Grill!

The room was packed and the band was fabulous as ever (though the speakers were cranked too high for my finger cymbals to be heard -- lesson learned: Get bigger zills!!). And when I was done, Dino congratulated me with a glass of raki and hug. "You were really good!" he beamed, "Beautiful dancer!"

And for the next four years I found myself on that stage frequently, either dancing professionally or as part of a showcase, benefit, or hafla, sometimes emceeing, and sometimes just cutting loose with everyone else on the dance floor into the wee hours of the morning.

Then in early 2012 the bad news came:

The Grill's landlord wanted to sell the building, so he raised the rent astronomically, forcing Dino to close up shop. He and his brother went back to their native Greece shortly afterwards where they rested and recuperated on their father's property.

In late 2012, I sent him a note saying how much we missed him and the Grill and wishing him well. He wrote back:
Carol, hi! It has been some time since we lost our lease. We will always remember vividly the great shows and one-of-a-kind atmosphere of Lafayette Grill. I'm in Sparta Greece taking care my father's land. The internet here has a lot of problems, I'm surrounded by olive trees. I will be back soon, how can I forget you? You have been a great performer with a genius personality. Billy also sends you his greetings.
Kind, thoughtful, and flattering to the last...

Shortly afterwards, he and Billy returned to New York and began scouting new venues to re-open the Grill.

A few weeks ago, a friend ran into him near Union Square, near the site of the most hopeful prospect. He was stressed, but coming back to his old self and looking forward to many more nights of dance and music.

That dream can still happen, I believe.

Even at his wake, several dancers and musicians began to discuss throwing a party or benefit in his honor. Maybe we can make it an annual celebration? Perhaps we can join forces with Billy and put together a fund or tribute in his name to support the music and dance that was so dear to Dino's heart...

The possibilities are as endless as the love and generosity he inspired.

When we lose a loved one it is common to think about endings and new beginnings, to stay hopeful in the face of pain. And I believe in that.

Each of us has our own journey which will begin and end in its own time and in its own way.

We have each other for so little time in this life, connections come and go whether by death, distance, or disagreements.

What more can we ask of ourselves and each other than to treasure the connection when it comes (even the painful ones may best be regarded as "learning experiences" ), and mourn its loss when it goes?

And when it goes... to let it go, and treasure, maintain, and honor what was best in it, and to continue to live, to share, and of course, to love.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tandava's Guide to the Zone--2012-13 Version--Part III: New Year's Day 7pm Through 5am

And now for the third and final installment of Twilight Zone episodes to be aired on to be aired on SyFy from 7pm New Year's Day through 5:00am January 2nd.

This list continues from Part I (New Year's Eve, 9:30 AM through midnight) and Part II (midnight New Year's Day through 7pm).

First is the short list including the ever-changing Time Top 10, my personal favorites, and other noteworthy episodes. (By the way, you can go to Time's list and vote for your own!)

So, the categories are:

(1) Episodes on the Time Top 10 List – These are the acknowledged classics – in red.

(2) My Personal Favorite Episodes – These are underrated gems with strong scripts and beautiful performances – in green.

(3) Episodes Worth Watching – These have flawed scripts or execution, but often have strong performances and/or ideas – in blue.

Unfortunately, some of my favorites which were in last year's marathon are missing from this one, such as "A Quality of Mercy," "Mirror Image," "The Changing of the Guard" and "Nothing in the Dark." These were replaced with less-stellar offerings such as "The Jeopardy Room, "Caesar and Me", "Uncle Simon" (ugh!) and "The Brain Center at Whipple's."

And, like last year, SyFy included faves like "The Silence" and "The Sixteen-millimeter Shrine" which were not in the 2010-11 marathon, and added two good episodes at the very end of the run which have not been seen in quite a few years: "The Purple Testament" (featuring Dick York) and the especially excellent "The Last Flight".

And, as with last year, Part III still has many gems worth setting time aside for.

Enjoy – and happy 2013!!

My Favorites  Short List
(Click the time to jump to the episode description.)

7:30 PM – The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street
8:30 PM – Time Enough At Last
9:30 PM  Kick The Can
10:00 PM – The Obsolete Man
10:30 PM  The Dummy
11:30 PM  A Game Of Pool
1:00 AM – Walking Distance
2:00 AM  Mr. Dingle, The Strong
2:30 AM  The Lonely
3:00 AM  Two
4:00 AM – The Last Flight

Full List  With Descriptions

7:00 PM – A Stop At Willoughby – Beleagured exec finds himself in his childhood hometown. Similar to "Walking Distance" but trades insight for sentiment. Some people really like this one; I can do without it.

7:30 PM – The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street – #4 on the Time list. The text of one is included in grade-school anthologies. Beautifully written masterpiece about fearing thy neighbor. The brilliant Claude Akins is considered the lead, though it is a true ensemble piece. Don’t miss it.

8:00 PM – The Howling Man –  A visitor to a monastery is disturbed to find the monks have a screaming guy locked up. Well, they must have a good reason… A lot of people like this one. I think it’s pretty meh. Features John Carradine as a monk.

8:30 PM – Time Enough At LastBurgess Meredith at his lovable best as a devoted bookworm constantly thwarted by his boss, wife, and everyone else – until a touch of armageddon gives him new lease on life. #10 on the Time list.

9:00 PM  The Bewitchin' Pool – Worst. Episode. Ever. Even To Kill a Mockingbird's Oscar-nominated Mary Badham couldn't save this dismal excuse for a story. Spoiled brats escape manipulative divorcing parents by finding their way to SuperGrandma via an enchanted pool. Now, if Grandma dumped the tots in an oven, then we might have a story....

9:30 PM  Kick The Can – Timeless story about rest home residents learning that you are indeed as young as you feel. "Look! Think! Feel! Doesn't that wake some sleeping part of you?!"

10:00 PM – The Obsolete Man – The superb Burgess Meredith is back to his book-loving ways, this time as a librarian in a dystopic totalitarian future, where both he and his books are declared obsolete.

10:30 PM  The Dummy – Cliff Robertson as a troubled ventriloquist whose creepy dummy will simply not stay in the box.

11:30 PM  Dead Man's Shoes – Bum dons dead gangster's wing-tips and finds himself stepping into the thug's revenge-thirsty ex-life. You might feel bad for the bum if you find yourself caring about anything in this one.

11:30 PM  A Game Of Pool – Taut two-person drama about winning and losing, and what's really important in the game of life. Fine performances by Jack Klugman (we'll miss you, Jack!!) and Jonathan Winters. Not crazy about the ending; the real (and better) ending was done in the 80s TZ version.

12:00 AM  The Rip Van Winkle Caper – It's Treasure of the Sierra Madre with suspended animation and blah writing. Good performances and a fun twist at the end make it sort of worth watching.

12:30 AM – I Am the Night–Color Me Black  Murderous bigotry, hatred and fear are bad things. OK. We get it.

1:00 AM –  Walking Distance – I LOVE this episode, a classic (#2 on the Time list) about a frustrated exec who, longing for his boyhood days, visits his hometown – only to find himself a grown-up amidst his own childhood. Insightful lesson about valuing the present and not romanticizing the past.

1:30 AM – Ring-a-Ding Girl – Medium episode about movie star returning to her home town and throwing a “celebrate me” party. Or is she? Even though it’s not great, I always find myself watching this one all the way through.

2:00 AM  Mr. Dingle, The Strong – Loud-mouthed salesman pisses away alien gifts on trivial feats. Worth watching for an adorable Burgess Meredith and amusing (and very young) Don Rickles.

2:30 AM  The Lonely – Convict Jack Warden spends lonely days on an asteroid until his supply ship pal brings him a realistic robot – in the ethereally beautiful form of a young Jean Marsh (best known as Rose from Upstairs, Downstairs). A touching, romantic story. Features Ted Knight as an obnoxious crew member.

3:00 AM  Two –  Apocalypse survivors Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery approach each other warily in this sparsely written, beautifully acted episode.

3:30 AM – The Brain Center At Whipple's – CEO Whipple automates manufacturing with low-maintenance machines. Does he understand "the value of a man"? Go tell it to Skynet. Features the third of three cameos of Forbidden Planet's Robby the Robot in the TZ; others include "Uncle Simon" (7:30 AM 1/1) and "One for the Angels" (9:00 AM 12/31).

4:00 AM – The Last Flight – During a hopless dogfight, a World War I pilot abandons his best friend by flying into a cloud–and 42 years into the future, landing at a modern airfield. A touching, beautifully acted tale of cowardice, duty, and heroism at the last minute. A rarely-aired gem. And check out the vintage 1918 biplane!

4:30 AM – The Purple Testament –  Mediocre tale of a WWII soldier who sees a portentous "light" on his comrades' faces. Basically an anti-war story which offers only the resigned observation that in war, people die and you can't save them (or yourself); title is from Richard III: "He has come to open the purple testament of bleeding war."