By Dick Oakes
Four people got together one day toward the end of 1964. They were Louise (Anderson) Bilman, Rudy Dannes, Chalo Holguin, and Marilyn Sage (who later married Chalo). They met at the apartment building of Louise and her daughter, "Kit," and sat by the swimming pool to discuss a folk dance situation: They wanted a place to have more hours of dancing after the regular folk dance groups quit for the night at 10:30 p.m. (the groups stopped at that time because the janitors needed to come in to clean the meeting spaces!).
They put down $3,000.00 to secure a business building at 630 N. Alvarado Street in Los Angeles, California. That was the start of "The Intersection." Although the coffeehouse opened its doors in March, 1964, its official opening was late August.
Rudy did all the artwork. Rudy's mother, Lily, who was very active in the startup of the business, suggested that the front of the building needed curtains and volunteered to make them. Athan Karras, Rudy Dannes, Demo Dafnos, and George Nichols cut the "windows" (Demo used to dance the zeimbekiko with a cigarette in his nose and was a colorful personality like his mentor, Mike Tzavaras). George recalls, "[They] had just leased the building the previous day. I remember seeing all these shelves all over. Athan, Rudy, Demo, and I started pulling them down. Sort of a Three Stooges and one extra kind of an affair -- one of us hollering "timber" so that anyone behind the wall of shelves could hear us as we pushed it over. Do you remember the "hole" in the wall where the exposed brick behind the plaster shows through? Well, that was my idea. In taking down the wall of shelves against the North wall, a part of the plaster had ripped off the wall exposing the brick. I told Rudy, 'You know, that looks pretty good, why don't we do some more holes like that?' I widened the first one, and started on the second; that took almost one whole day to create those two holes. I told Athan and Rudy that they could do the rest if they wanted to, but that was enough for me." George did much of the painting. Louise brought in a set of silverware and an old refrigerater. The group acquired a piano and there was a feta can with a hole in the top on the piano for donations. They then all pooled their recordings to play for music."
Louise and others would go down to the Long Beach harbor, recruit sailors from Greek ships, and bring them up to The Intersection to dance. They also brought in girls from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) to dance with them.
Athan Karras had had a role as a Hungarian barber in a movie for which he was paid (his only income at the time), and he stayed with the movie project until it was finished. Athan later joined George as a painter.
As "The I" got going, classes were formed until an entire week's agenda was available. On Saturday mornings, Josephine Civello had a children's folk dance class for those dancers between the ages of 6 and 12 beginning at 10:00 a.m. In the afternoon on Saturday, classes were formed by Athan for a Studio Session in acting ("with or without experience") at 3:00 p.m. in which actors could learn to develop skills and apply them in scenes and projects of full-length plays. On Saturday evenings, Athan and others taught Greek dances, accompanied by shish-ke-bab, baklava, Greek honey cake, and Athan's famous rice pudding, with the first class at 7:00 p.m. and the second class at 8:00. Sunday evenings, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., were reserved for "The Intersection Dancers," an exhibition group under the direction of Athan, followed by a Family Night and Special Events beginning at 9:00 p.m. hosted by Rudy. Rudy offered a class in beginning dances on Monday evenings beginning at 7:30 p.m. Shlomo Bachar had classes in Israeli dance on Tuesday evenings, with intermediate teaching at 7:30 p.m., beginning at 8:15 p.m., and advanced at 9:00 p.m. On Wednesday evenings, Rubi Vučeta, having given up her class at the Hollywood Playground, hosted her Balkan night with a beginning class starting at 7:30 p.m. and an intermediate class at 8:30. Thursday was Greek night, with Athan's intermediate classes starting at 7:30 p.m. followed by an advanced class at 8:30. And Friday was International evening, again with Rudy teaching an international class at 7:00 p.m. followed by a beginning class at 8:00.
Of course, there was lemon-lime or Coke to wash down the shish-ke-bab. Everyone was asked to take dishes and silverware back to the kitchen, where they could be washed for someone else's use. Dance music was available at "The I" for purchase.
As time went by, Dick Oakes began teaching an advanced couple dance class for advanced Balkan dancers on Monday evenings.
Later on, Chalo and Marilyn opened The Red Mill House, a folk dance coffee house based on The Intersection, at 3602 Eagle Rock Blvd. in Los Angeles. Artwork was handled by Rudy Dannes. Rudy also did the artwork for another Intersection folk dance coffeehouse spinoff, The Source, located at 18457 Amistad St. in Fountain Valley.
At the 2010 Intersection Reunion, which saw more than 300 participants, Louise related, "I remember how dynamic it was from the very beginning and how well people related to each other. People looked at each other as friends; we were making connections and that is so important. These connections are the foundations of what brings all this group together; we have connections in love, and I would like to emphasize that."
This is the advanced couple dance class (for advanced Balkan dancers) roster for Dick Oakes' class at the "new" Intersection Coffeehouse on Alvarado Street.
Copyright © 2011 by Dick Oakes