Summary: This happened in 1978, but I thought you might like to hear about it!
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Throughout my turbulent past life, I sought comfort in religion. For my own peace of mind, I needed a distinct concept to have total faith in and which made sense to me. It also comforted me during the frequent times I found myself alone in times of trouble. There was a need to feel important and that at least one person or 'something' cared. I was a seeker searching for the impossible.
The year was 1978, one of the four years I worked as a resident dancer at a large popular nightclub. The work excited me as I loved to dance and did so professionally for 7 years. However, at closing time when the lights came on and the crowds were gone, I saw only the shabbiness and filth left behind. The dirty, stained carpets, cigarette butts everywhere; the extreme isolation of the place hit me like a blow to the solar plexus. I never quite got used to that.
This loneliness weighed heavily upon me. I had a boyfriend, but it was an on and off again thing, due to the time spent on my profession also with the extensive travel. Everyone, as far as I could tell, went home with someone. Everyone, except me as I was not able to make friends with the other dancers who were on drugs or drank far too much. I did neither. I was a star attraction, a position I held for four years in that particular club, although I freelanced where I gave one-off performances. I was invited to perform at Royal Masonic Meetings as the 'interlude,' as well as on television, along with some adverts. I also performed at Air Force bases, both British and American.
Incidentally, at this time I discovered 'Americans' were the best crowd to entertain. They let themselves go totally, and I loved the way they could 'openly' show their enjoyment, whooping it up! Unlike the British who were much quieter and reserved. British audiences usually came up to me afterwards and said how much they enjoyed my performances. I wish they could have shown it during my performances. (Since 1975, I wanted to come to the USA, but the thought of travelling in a plane terrified me.)
Most of the staff and management in the nightclub went home to the welcome arms of partners and families. I envied them and knew my profession was an empty one. Following a performance and after the fantastic appreciation given me, I suddenly found myself in an empty unfamiliar looking club. The excitement and talking were gone. All that remained were empty chairs and tables cluttered with discarded glasses. The carpets were littered and in many places were wet, where drinks had been spilled.
Earlier, when all the pretty lights had been on and enjoying the terrific reception I was accustomed to, it was easy to feel euphoric. However, the reality of the situation hit me very hard indeed, after-hours. The terrible let-downs made me feel like sobbing my heart out on several occasions. I returned to my empty flat and washed out my dancing costumes. If I could not sleep I sewed tassels and sequins onto my new outfits. Apart from shopping, eating in restaurants or visiting my parents, I rarely went anywhere else. Even with my little spare time, I only had Sunday nights off, I felt so alone. I worked most lunchtimes and evenings. On occasions I would watch my part-time boyfriend Tony Parke, playing trick shots on the Pool Table, in whatever pub he was a contestant with his team.
It made me envious to see everyone with their real families while I still tried to cope with the loss of my two daughters. It was difficult to fight depression, which lifted only when I performed. Dancing took me into another world. However, eventually I needed to return to the real one, which was slowly killing me.
Living in this 'real' world was unbearable. There needed to be something more tangible. I did not date (or cheat), as my policy was never to go out with anyone who watched me dance. There was no room in my life for a man who got his kicks that way. I wanted a decent, respectable man who did not need that kind of 'nonsense.' One who spent his time preparing for his future and security. The lovely man, Tony, I had fallen for, was in no position to settle down, so he became an on/off type relationship, but we were very close friends and understood each other. I went through common law relationships several times with him, but as he gambled, I could not trust marrying him. (Going into the future here, when Tony stopped gambling at age 33, and we were to marry, he was involved in an argument, over me, and was murdered with a knife in his heart.)
Back to the not-so glamorous club work. There were some lovely people to meet all the same. During the interludes, I only spoke to a few. I had a personal bodyguard who always kept me out of trouble. Many times I stayed in my dressing room until my performances were announced. My unofficial stage name became the 'Hot Iceberg,' due to my being 'hot' on stage and 'cold' when I finished my performances. I preferred not to be too sociable as it got me involved with people making it difficult for me to get away from them. I was quite a contradiction really. But, one thing was sure. I only really felt 'alive' during my dancing performances. The music carried me to a place where there was no pain. To leave the emotional pain behind of losing my two daughters, and not to feel the physical pain of my terrible stomach pains which I had suffered for two years. (This year, in Nov '78 to have an emergency hysterectomy at age 28, whilst playing a bit part of an episode of a television series called; Murder at the Wedding)
I never accepted invitations to parties unless I performed at them. Luckily, I was in great demand and called a 'speciality' cabaret act. Primarily, because I could 'vibrate' my body and often went into the 'crab' whilst doing gymnastic or, floor dancing to certain songs like 2001 Sprach Zarasuthra, the long record version. This music made famous by the Olympic Games. And another favourite: Sing Sing Sing, Buddy Rich. I used to be incredibly fit in those days.
During my dancing career, I began to investigate many religions. My mother was Catholic, brought up with a nanny and taught by Irish Nuns in a convent, while my father was raised Church of England, brought up by Jesuit Priests. Both of my parents had plenty of religion pushed down their throats from childhood, with 'church' twice or three times daily! When we discussed religion they could not understand my questions, not even priests could answer them. If something did not make sense to me, I could not accept it as the truth, only a possibility. The retort was usually; "You have to have faith." I would say, "Surely that is what a con-man would say?" As in 'Honest Joe' who sold used cars.
However, I did not understand how two people, especially, my father, more so than mother, who should have set such a good example, treated me so badly and with such unkindness. I have since totally understood what they were undergoing at that time. I spent most of my childhood crying, unable to understand why they gave me no encouragement in anything I did. Though talented creatively, at home I was constantly put down and made to feel worthless and my main work was in caring for my five siblings, (until I had run away from home) also being of use wherever possible. I did homework, but there was no time for the 'luxury' of much reading. Mother taught me to read and write at the age of four, and it was something I really enjoyed.
As a child, up to the age of eight, my Granny talked to me about Jesus, as did my older friend, Father Jarrott, from the church next door to my school and our family friend, Reverend Davey. They explained that no matter what I did, through repentance, God forgave me. I thought this was not quite right, as it gave leeway to others to keep sinning. They further said, 'His' eyes were always on me, and 'He' could see and hear thoughts that were good or bad. That felt a bit creepy, but it did not give me a conscience, I already had a good one, as I never did anything deceitful or wrong deliberately, even if left entirely alone anywhere. It can be said that I have always been trustworthy. Very forgetful now it is true, but I always have gone to great lengths to keep my word.
I always knew that a good spirit existed inside me. But, now I felt the need to live up to 'IT' and never let IT or myself down. Whenever I became upset or angry, I knew 'IT' felt the hurt. The 'IT' I believe, has lived many times before, and I have a responsibility to 'IT.' We all have in our own ways. To me, the spirit, the ' I ' represented the part of 'God' within every living thing. This is the reason I am sometimes thought of as being un-diplomatic. If I am asked a question, I need to say what I really think, or it will hurt my spirit. Although if I knew my words would cause hurt, I make great efforts to change the subject.
Throughout my turbulent life, I wondered why I kept making so many mistakes and wrong decisions. Of course now thinking back, those choices were probably the best ones available. After all, our lives are what we make of them and when in a mess, we sometimes make a bigger mess trying to escape. To an adventurous person like me, there existed a need to do exciting things. Unfortunately, some trouble always seemed to get mixed up in it. Every time to a certain extent a problem appeared for me to sort out and most seemed impossible at the time. I had to 'think' and 'scheme' a great deal until I found the way out. I believed there was always a way out, even if I could not easily see it.
Now back to my examination of these different religions. I very much liked the Buddhist way best out of all the religions. It is so full of love for all, and so against killing anything. To the Buddhist, everything, no matter how small and insignificant, possesses a spirit if it has life! I try to believe that mosquitoes do not have spirits, as I have to kill them because they bite me so badly! I did not need to agree with Buddhist ways to know taking life was the worst thing possible, to snuff out that 'spark' which is called 'life.' I feel the same regarding animals and sea mammals for sure. Sometimes insects too.
During the time I performed as the resident dancer at the local nightclub, I visited my doctor who continued to treat me for depression and pain in my abdomen. Unknown to him, a sterilisation operation I had two years earlier had begun to cause medical problems within my womb. (Two years later I was admitted to hospital for an emergency hysterectomy, at such a young age!) This physical pain added to my grief at losing my daughters. In an effort to ease my depression, the doctor made an unusual suggestion. Probably as he had the knowledge of a horrific 'evil entity' vision which I had experienced a few years earlier, (a goat coming through the carpet, no, I was not drinking or on drugs) and he felt I needed help. He told me to go to a large hall (the Tabernacle) where a man named Sam Salter was giving a talk on Jesus. Before Sam became an evangelist preacher, he played trombone with Tony Bennett's orchestra. I wanted to learn the reason he turned to religion, so I went to see him.
At the hall, I became extremely embarrassed at being a stranger to this, but somehow the exuberance of Sam Salter's followers relaxed me. There were gospel singers with the most beautiful voices, and all showed their love for Jesus. There were many 'Hallelujahs' which rang out all over the place. After a while this no longer sounded strange to me. I became so caught up in their smiles and joy as they were so full of love. When Sam invited anyone who wanted to be saved by Jesus, to come up on stage, I just went! Just like that! Only me!
Everyone started to shout their love for me and cried out how much Jesus loved me. Most of them, both men and women, openly wept. I burst into tears as well and could do nothing to stop it. The emotion in that place overwhelmed me, as did their love for each other, even for strangers!
Sam, his family and all the gospel singers hugged me, and when I returned into the crowd, they all hugged me too! I have never felt so much love from unknown people and I felt love for them all in return. The crowd consisted of all races, and I could sense that they were not just 'fanatics.' They had found something wonderful. Not just their love for Jesus, but also their love for other people, with no inhibitions whatsoever.
When I eventually arrived home to my lonely flat, I could not get the experience out of my head or stop smiling. Tears still streamed down my face. I could not understand how those people could show me such love, a stranger, when even my own parents came nowhere close! They were never physically expressive like that, although my father was quick enough to show his anger or displeasure by beating me when my mother was at work, as a nurse.
Something special really happened that strange and emotional evening. It touched and perhaps reawakened my soul. Certainly, I never felt quite so alone after this wonderful episode. A short while afterwards, my G.P., a born again Christian, along with his wife and Sam Salter, organised for me to have the full 'Born Again' experience, when I was ceremoniously dunked under water completely, whilst they spoke in tongues. I was later given instruction on how to live my life, and that was to me a bit at odds. I was not to watch any television, read any newspaper, mix with any non-believers, or even to continue with my career as a professional dancer, (and I was not even a stripper, but a REAL rhythm dancer.) You get the picture. I was not enamoured with being a 'Born Again Christian' with these strange rules, nor did I feel good about having to witness to others, especially the non-believers, who were simply not interested. I became fed up with them calling me delusional and a believer in fairy tales. So I continued with my life, only I still had the warmth of the vivid memory of the incredible magic, I felt and was shown in that church experience.
Then, a few years later an amazing visitation occurred, (a divine one) which was also witnessed by a musician friend. He had been an dis-believer in anything supernatural. His shocked reactions and witnessing helped me to accept the reality of the incredible incident. It did not change my life, (unless I have that to thank for my not looking anywhere near my age) but it confirmed all the feelings I experienced at the Sam Salter meeting. The full story is in my autobiography..............
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Copyright © 2005 Donni-Jay De-VilleAll rights reserved and may not be reproduced in any way without permission from the author