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Nejla Ates: the Exquisite Turkish Delight

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, April 27, 2017 08:48pm | Post a Comment

Nejla Ates

By Kai Wada Roath
Ambassador of Confusion Hill and host of the Super Shangri-La Show


Nejla Ates"She had a ruby on her tummy and a diamond big as Texas on her toe
She let her hair down and she did the hoochie-coochie real slow
When she did her special number on the zebra skin
I thought she'd stop the show…"
~ "Little Egypt" by The Coasters

If you have flipped through Middle East or Belly Dancing records, you most likely have seen her…for she is hard to miss. As Sandra Warner was the enchantress for Martin Denny’s album covers, Nejla Ates, “the Turkish Delight,” was the “Honk-honk, hubba-hubba, Ee chee wa waa!” album cover model of Middle Eastern records in the 1950s.

A fellow Pisces, born March 7, 1932, Nejla lived a life of wild seduction, exotic belly dancing, and love drama. (If you are a Pisces too, join the Bay Area Pisces Power group on Facebook!) Dancing at night clubs around the world in the 1950s, Nejla was said to have "left a trail of broken hearts from Istanbul to the Bronx, with stops in Paris, Miami, and Las Vegas.”

Princes, oil tycoons, famous singers, and actors would fall madly in love with her, knowing full well that her side-hobby was stealing taken men, even from Zsa Zsa Gabor.

In 1954, a nudie-booty statue of her was placed in the Poet’s Corner of Central Park as a publicity stunt. The following year she would dance in the fantasy film Son of Sinbad. Here is Vincent Price as Omar Khayyam, slurping on a golden pear while mesmerized by Nejla’s gyrating and the unleashing of her many veils.



Nejla AtesThe movie also stars burlesque queen Lili St. Cyr (wait, let me Lennybite my palm for a moment like Lenny “Lone Wolf” Kosnowski). 

Later in Nejla's life, she would move to Istanbul, Turkey, only returning to American in 1974 at the invitation of one Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger. One must ponder if he fulfilled a teenage fantasy by finally meeting this 4'11 dynamo. By this point, she was retired (and weighed roughly 200 pounds).

I humbly encourage you to explore the Easy Listening/Middle East/Belly Dance LPs at Amoeba Music to find a cover with Nejla on it, for every record collection needs one to make it complete.

And when you get home, you may place your needle on this record and imagine a beautiful, scantily-clad dancer twirling and unraveling in ecstasy while you hold your glass of pomegranate wine with fingers sticky from eating Kaymakli Kayisi Tatlisi. Or perhaps you are sipping Kentucky Mellow Corn whiskey on the rocks and scarfing down the dry chicken wings from Shanghai House on Balboa street like me.

Dreamy salaams.

Nejla Ates, Near East, Ali Beirut's Orientales

Nejla Ates, Port Said, Mohammed El-Bakkar and his Oriental Ensemble

Nejla Ates, Oriental Fantasy, Gianni Monese and his Orchestra

Nejla Ates statue

Relevant Tags

Kai Wada Roath (38), World Music (146), Belly Dance (2), The Coasters (1), Martin Denny (6), Sandra Warner (1), Vinyl (200), Sinbad (1), Vincent Price (5), Lili St. Cyr (1), Burlesque (6), Easy Listening (6), Lounge (12), Nejla Ates (1), Middle Eastern Music (2), Cabaret (2), Near East (1)