If You Really Knew Me...

“I may get around. I may laugh a lot. Now you’d think that I’d be happy with the life I got. Nobody knows. Nobody sees. And nobody really knows the inner side of me.”~Billy Squire

Let me tell you a little about myself. I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in a conservative, close-knit, Catholic family. When I was 9 months old, I went into anaphylaxis shock and almost died from tasting a small bit of peanut butter from my mom’s finger. In the back of her mind, she thought somehow this reaction had to do with the DPT immunization that I got that day. I became a very sensitive and sickly child. I remember being at the doctor’s office once a week for something. By 5th grade, I had had so many penicillin shots, that my body became allergic to antibiotics. I remember thinking at 10 years old, no matter what was wrong with me, the doctor prescribed antibiotics. I could be a doctor. I also thought, I needed to find another way or healer to help me. One that doesn’t prescribe antibiotics for every problem. This started my first quest into holistic alternative healing. I even did a research paper, in 1981, on SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and how the DPT Immunizations could be one of the causes of that.
I went to a Catholic elementary school, middle school, and college growing up. We went to church every Sunday. I didn’t gel with the religious teachings or beliefs, but I went through the motions like any good Catholic daughter would do. I begged my parents into letting me attend the Youth Performing Arts School, because I wanted to major in dance, not religion. They finally gave in for my sophomore year. I had already been dancing with the Louisville Ballet Company since I was kid. Altogether, I danced in the corp de ballet for about 13 years. I ate, drank, and slept, ballet. In college, I majored in nursing while still dancing with the ballet company. I sound so prim and proper, ballet, church, nursing school, blah, blah, blah. Don’t get the wrong impression. I have a whole other side to me. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. I won’t get into great detail. I’ll try to keep it as clean as possible, but, I do have lots of crazy stories I will tell….one day.
I started dating a guitar player. I could completely relate to him, because in a strange way, he was just like me. My family had other ideas on who I should be dating, and it wasn’t a musician. They judged him solely on his looks. It was the 1980’s, and big hair, flashy gender bending clothes, and guy liner was in style. I was in love. In love with the era, the music, the style and him. So when he was offered a record deal and the opportunity to move to Hollywood, we packed up our bags and moved to Los Angeles together, without me finishing college. My parents weren’t happy.

The Sunset strip was the place to be if you were into the music scene at that time. We moved into a one bedroom “band house” on Laurel Canyon with ALL the band members and roadies. I was the only girl living under one roof with 7-9 guys at a time. The singer took the only bedroom, leaving everyone else fighting for floor space in the family room. What a Prima donna! My boyfriend started working for Body Language and began driving strippers to bachelor parties to make money while they were working on their album. I ended up working at the only kind of jobs I knew how to do best, dance.

I worked as a backup dancer for a Russian band on Sunset Blvd a few nights a week. Then I graduated to mud and oil wrestling at the Tropicana. You have heard of the Tropicana? You know the song, “Girls, Girls, Girls,” by Motley Crue. “The Tropicana is where I lost my heart” (those are the words). The singer wrote that line, because he ended up falling in love and marrying Sharise from the club. I started working, the day of their wedding. The Tropicana, is where I lost my soul.

You are probably wondering how mud and oil wrestling is dancing, and how I ended up there. Well, when I saw the sign in the window that read, “Dancers wanted, auditions Thursday.” I went there with my ballet shoes, leotard and tights. I walked into the bathroom to change with all the other girls auditioning and realized then, that dancing in LA was different than dancing in Kentucky. The girls were wearing 6 inch stilettos, with g-strings, and assorted bras. I thought to myself, “Wow, I’m out of style coming from Kentucky.“  One of the girls looked at me and said, “What are you wearing?” Thinking quickly, I didn’t want to look like I was a newbie. I said, “I forgot my stuff at home.” Thank goodness she let me borrow her extra high heals and an outfit. Dear God, what was I in for?

I walked into the audition, the manager turned on heavy metal music and said, DANCE! There was about 10 girls there. They all started gyrating their hips, humping the floor, spinning and bending over, crawling and flipping their hair around. I had never seen anything like it before. It was everything you don’t learn in ballet class. I stood there in shock and wondered why we didn’t learn this in my high school jazz class before. I tried to pick up some of the moves and dance like them. I was unsuccessful, and ending up doing a dance move I can only describe as “panic tap.” I walked back into the bathroom humiliated, with my head down and asking myself, what the heck was that? I can’t wait to get out of here.

The manger brought each girl back to his office, one by one to tell them that they didn’t have big enough boobs to work there. I was the last one to go in and knew the drill and as a ballet dancer, I had no boobs. I walked into his office and said, “I know. My boobs aren’t big enough,” and I started to walk away. He said, “No, you are the only one that made it.” I turned around and said, “What?” He proceeded to tell me, that they were all strippers and they don’t hire strippers. That I should go downstairs, watch the show and I could start tomorrow night.

I had a friend who I danced with in high school, drive me to the audition. She was waiting outside for me, so we watched the show together.  As we sat there and watched for about 30 seconds, I turned to her and said, “I can’t do this.” She said, “Maria, do it for a week. Pay your bills and quit.” So that’s what I did, but I didn’t quit. I paid my bills, got a nice apartment, I bought a bed (finally) and furniture, started to eat better and did drugs. This is the part where I lose my soul.

It was a very fun and exciting time in my life, but it also was a very difficult time too. I went from sleeping in a sleeping bag for about a year, to being able to buy a brand new mattress and live in a nice apartment on Hollywood Blvd. For me to work at the Tropicana, I had to drink and do drugs. My relationship with my boyfriend, whom I loved so deeply, started to disintegrate and we ended up breaking up. My health started to go downhill from all the drinking and drugs I was doing. My soul became empty. Everything about me, was dying. Something had to change.

This was one of the many pivotal times of my life, which makes me who I am now. I decided to quit the Tropicana, stop drinking and doing drugs and get my act together. I got into researching alternative ways of eating, living, and being. The first book I read was called, “Back to Eden,” by Jethro Kloss. I did the cancer diet from the book. I followed it to the tee. The other book I incorporated in my life was, “The Golden Seven Plus One,” by C Samuel West. I dry skin brushed daily and jump on a mini trampoline for 30 minutes a day. I started going to AA meetings daily and reading self help books by Louise Hay. Within a few weeks, my symptoms of what I thought was Lymphoma, disappeared. The results that I got, astonished me. So much, that it led me to a lifetime of health and healing.

I’ve done a lot in my life. I feel like I’ve lived many lifetimes in this life. I will try to sum it all up as briefly as possible. After my “Aha moment,” as Oprah would say. I started working at The Rainbow Bar & Grill and the China Club. On the weekends, I would drive to Las Vegas and work at the Olympic Gardens. All of the places were rock n’ roll hangouts with lots of drugs and alcohol. They were all super popular hot spots, and if you lived back in the day, you had heard of them all. I stayed sober.

Around this time, I was seeing another musician, when I unexpectedly got pregnant. I knew, without a doubt, this baby was meant to be, and was here to change my life. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to get married, and have a baby. In that order. (Sometimes things don’t work out like you expected them too.)

So I found myself, alone, pregnant, without health insurance, and eventually without any income. All my jobs, at that time, were at venues where you could smoke inside the place. Being pregnant, I couldn’t handle it. The smell, just made me ill. I ended up quitting, and thinking I could find something else. What a mistake.

I ended up on welfare, medicaid, and WIC (Women, Infants & Children) and I even lived in the Section 8, HUD housing at one time of my life. I know the systems first hand. A girls got to do, what a girls gotta do to survive. My dad tells people, he never had to worry about me because I am savvy. I’ve always thought of it as, desperate.  Anyways, I survived one of the hardest times of my life, being alone, unemployed, hungry and pregnant. I went to many of the birthing classes by myself. Even through these toughest times, I knew in my heart and soul, I would somehow be okay. I didn’t know how it was going to work out. I sometimes didn’t know how I was going to get my next meal. I had to give it up to God and surrender.

A day after my 29th birthday, I had my daughter Christina. Happy Birthday to me! I always wanted a baby girl. When I was little, I use to put money under a rock, for God to send me a baby. I would open the front door in the morning and wonder why there wasn’t a baby in a basket for me. Apparently, we didn’t have great sex education classes in Catholic school. Ha!
I decided to moved back to Kentucky with my family, so I could breast feed Christina for a year. I thought it was one of the most important thing I could do for her health. I didn’t want her to end up as sick as I was as a child. Instinctually, I also wanted her to know I was always there for her and she was safe.

After she was done breast feeding, I decided to try to get off welfare, which is a difficult task, especially as a single mom only getting $58.00 a month in child support. I ended moving to Las Vegas because it’s inexpensive to live. I wanted a job where I could be with Christina all day and work when she went to bed at 7:30pm. So I started working at the Olympic Gardens again. I worked there for about a year. I got off welfare, and had saved up enough money to buy a colon hydrotherapy business in Flagstaff, Arizona. Yes, you heard me right. A colon hydrotherapy business. I watched people go to the bathroom all day. I now know all the bathroom humor jokes.

I learned a lot living and working in Flagstaff. I took all kinds alternative health and spiritual classes that I could find. My neighbor was a Nutritionist and grew wheat grass for the local health food stores. I learn all kinds of recipes, healing modalities, cleanses from her. We loved to exchange information. I think I did every kind of cleanse I could find when I lived in Flag. When people saw me out and eating a chip, they were shocked. I had a great healthy support system there. Then, I got the call….My dad had cancer.

I started flying back and forth from Flagstaff to Kentucky. It started to become very difficult. My dad was so sick, that when I got to Kentucky I would work on him. At that point, I was practicing Reiki, healing touch, crystal and sound healings. I had all kinds of classes I could pull from. I spent hours massaging my dad’s feet, doing energy work and whatever else he wanted. By the time I got back to Flagstaff, I had nothing left to give anyone else. I needed to replenish myself. That’s when I decided I should move back to Kentucky and spend the last couple of years with my dad.

I was instantly offered a job through Dr. James O’Dell as a colon hydrotherapist at a clinic in Crestwood, Kentucky called Foxhollow Wellness Clinic. It was an awesome place. Foxhollow was modeled after the Paracelsus Clinic in Switzerland and the medical director was Dr. Thomas Rau. It was considered a European Biological Medical Clinic. They held there International Medical conferences at our clinic. I met all kinds of Alternative doctors, biological dentists, and healers. I was in heaven. I learned so much. Everything that I had been looking for since I was a kid, was at my finger tips.

My dad was sick for about two years before he passed away. It was difficult watching him deteriorate. My dad was the foundation of our family. The strong one. He was the backbone of the radio station he ran also. He held on, until his mom and dad (Nanny & Papaw as I called them) got down to the hospital. They went in one by one to say good-bye. It was actually a beautiful and spiritual thing to witness this huge event in my life. I’ll never forget it.

My dad’s death had a huge impact on me emotionally, spiritually, and financially. I went from living at poverty level, sometimes wondering if we had enough money to eat, to inheriting money and a bunch of properties he had owned with my mom. I remember thinking I could buy any car I wanted. I could finally buy clothes for my daughter instead of getting my sister’s kid’s hand-me-downs. I could decorate my house how I wanted, but I did nothing for about a year. I kept driving my “clown car” as my sister called it. It didn’t have an air conditioner, radio, automatic windows, alarms or any frills. I didn’t buy anything for my home since I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in Louisville.

The Clinic I worked for hired a new medical director. He took each employee into his office to interview them. He asked if I wanted to stay at the clinic and work with him. I told him I didn’t know. I had moved to Louisville for my dad and now my dad was gone. He asked me for my birthdate and did my astrology chart to see if he could tell what I needed to do. A few days later he came back and said, “You’re suppose to go to California. So that’s what I did. I moved back to California, bought a house, and decorated it like I’ve always wanted too. It was spectacular. Even to this day, it’s me and Christina’s favorite place we had ever lived.

After I was living there for about a year, my mom finds out she has a rare fast growing ovarian cancer. I wasn’t even close to being okay about my father’s death when I got this news. It was devastating. My daughter and I flew back to Louisville to help take care of her. I packed for a month but stayed the entire summer and flew to Switzerland to the Paracelus Clinic where Dr Thomas Rau was. I didn’t pack warm clothes, but when you are in dire situations, nothing really matters. You see the important things in life. You actually look at life differently.

My mom and I were in Switzerland for three weeks. I knew some of the doctors there since I worked at Foxhollow. I’d always wanted to go to Paracelus since I met Dr Rau. He would always encourage us to come out, so we could learn. The clinic was amazing. The doctors, dentists, nurses, technicians, and everyone there were top notch. I can’t say enough about how efficiently they ran the clinic. Everyone was friendly and informative. The atmosphere was peaceful , loving, and healing. I was in heaven again. My mom picked the prefect person to help her on this journey.

She had appointments at the clinic 5 days a week and about 8 hours a day when we were there. It was an intensive program. I would go with her to everything. I wanted to learn and be her healthy cheerleader. She needed encouragement and someone else to be strong and help motivate her along. When she was in a therapy, I would write a mass e-mail to her friends and family. I wrote everyday. Everyone at home was so curious about what was going on with her. It became a class about European Biological medicine. Maybe I will post them one day. They are very educational.

My mom did great in Switzerland but she went against the suggestion of her doctor about staying longer, and we flew back to the States. Her theory was…if I’m going to die, I would rather be at home with friends and family than in another country. I can understand that, but there was more going on than I am telling you. It was a sticky mess. That’s a whole other story in itself. I wrote it out in a screenplay. It would be a great movie.

To make a long story short. We flew home, she got sicker, which the doctors told her she would, and she died in her home, with the family around her bedside. We played Andrea Bocelli & Sara Brightman’s, “Time to Say Good-Bye” and sprinkled rose petals around her chest. It was beautiful.

My grandparents had also died within those four years. It was an intense time for me. I started to question my life. I asked myself, “What if I knew I was going to die in one year? What would I regret not doing?” Being a showgirl in Las Vegas!

I started taking ballet and Pilates 5 times a week. I changed my diet and about after a year, I was ready to go to Las Vegas to audition for some shows. I was 38 years old, but my body looked like I was in my 20’s. I ended up working at the Rio Casino as a Bevertainer. It was a new concept at the time. We were the first bunch of people hired. All of the Bevertainer’s, were either singers or dancers. The job was to serve drinks to people gambling, and then once an hour we were to get up on the stage to dance or sing, At first, no one wanted to serve drinks. Then after we saw how much money there was serving drinks, no one wanted to get up once an hour to perform. I worked there till I got injured. My shoulder was killing me and most of us, started having feet issues because they made us wear the wrong kind of shoes. I would count the step to the next person and almost cry I was in so much pain.

I didn’t sign up for the next contracted period. I needed to heal. I worked with so many performers, networking was easy. I got offered another job pretty quickly. I started working with Nathan Burton. He is a comedy magician. I helped him with whatever he needed. The turning point and closing chapter of my Vegas adventure was a stunt Nathan did. It was called Ultimate Vegas Showgirl Challenge: 7 Days, 7 Girls, 1 Box. It was exactly that. Nathan was going to live in a box with 7 girls, for 7 days. We did 4 hour shifts for the 130 Showgirls, but Nathan never left the box. If a showgirl didn’t show up, I was to go up in the box to fill in. The box was hung in the Dessert Passage Mall in Aladdin Hotel and casino on the Las Vegas strip.

Do you know how many girls didn’t show up in the 7 days? Enough to put me over the edge. I had a lot of time to reflect and talk when I was locked in a box for a 4 hours. I started listening to the babble of the other girls and started feeling my age. No one knew I was 40. I started thinking to myself…What am I doing? I’m 40 years old. I’m striving to be fit and look good to fit into a g-string. I could really feel my age by listening to all the 20 year olds conversations. Then something clicked in the box. I was done. I fulfilled my desire to be a showgirl.

On to the next adventure in my journey that we call life. I went home after those 7 days and asked my daughter what she wanted to do. “I want to be an actress,” she said. So we packed up and moved to Los Angeles. She was 12 years old. I gave up everything to support my daughter’s dream. I felt like my parents never really supported my dreams of being a dancer. I didn’t want to be that kind of parent. I drove her to school and picked her up. I took her to acting classes and waited around for hours. I drove her to her auditions, coaching. I spent hours in the car daily. Sometimes up to 10 hours a day. LA Traffic. Ugh!

Soon after we moved to LA, I was set up on a date with Chris Roy. Chris was a bass player and was in a rock n’ roll Hollywood band called Taz, back in the 80’s. He use to tease about, if we ever thought we had ever hooked up and just don’t remember. Maybe? We knew all the same people. I had been to his shows. I even had a copy of a Rock City News magazine with their picture on the front cover in my storage space. What a small world. I use to hang out with Darcy, who was the girlfriend of the singer, KK. In fact, she is the one who fixed us up. After all these years, they are still together. It’s impressive.

Chris and I, (and of course Christina) ended up living together for about 5 years. He was a freelance bass player and played with numerous artists. He also played every Monday night at the Bake Potato for the jazz fusion jam. Shortly after I moved into his place, I started becoming ill. I had gained 15 pounds, I was always tired, and I was loosing my memory. But what brought me to the doctors was I started peeing blood every other month. It was scary. I thought about how young my parents were when they died. You don’t just get cancer. It develops for awhile before it’s detected. I felt like I was on my way to somewhere dark.

I ended picking a doctor I met at a medical convention with Dr James O’ Dell. We had breakfast with him and his assistant one morning at a Thermography workshop. I remember James telling me that Dr Soram Singh Khalsa MD was highly respected, intelligent and an amazing doctor. I wanted to go to the best. He treated me for about 6 months. He integrates alternative treatments as well as traditional ones too. But the only way he knew how to treat my bladder and kidney issue was with antibiotics. He tried some strains that I might not be allergic to, but I was.

I had to find a doctor or healer that used something besides antibiotics. I had enough experience to know there are people out there. So I called a European Biological Medicine homeopathic remedy company. That’s a mouthful. I asked them for a list of doctors or healers that order their products in my area. I went down the list, one by one and called each office. The first one, the number was disconnected. The next, I left a message and so on, until I got a hold of Linda & David Freud. David answered the phone and talked with me for at least 30 minutes. What he was saying about health and wellness is what I believed. It was similar to what I learned at Foxhollow, so I made an appointment. I asked what kind of doctor she was. He said, “Well, she’s not a doctor.” I said, “An acupuncturist?” He explained that she was a medical intuitive. I had never been to someone like that before, but I was willing to give her a month so I made the appointment.

When I went to see her, I thought I had a lot of knowledge in alternative medicine but she was on another level. She told me things that were over my head. It was fantastic. I love to learn. I went home and did some research. After 2 weeks I was back to my normal weight, 15 pounds lighter and I felt fantastic. I was hooked and a believer. My memory took awhile longer but it did come back. I followed her protocol for 4 years to the tee. It wasn’t an easy task. I had to change my diet, lifestyle, and everything. I was super duper strict. She told me the 80/20 rule about food, but I did 100 percent because I wanted great results. They have a book out called, “The Healing Gift.” My story is on page 97 and 98. Thanks Chris for your understanding and support. I couldn’t have done it without you.

After Chris and I broke up, Christina and I moved to Hollywood. We had been living in the valley, in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood. People wouldn’t talk to me. They wouldn’t even stay on the same sidewalk as me. If I was walking my dogs and they saw me coming, they would cross the street. I felt like I had a scarlet letter on me. It was uncomfortable and my life became stagnate. I told Christina that my soul was dying. She thought I was being dramatic, but after we moved and my whole life opened up and she noticed I was right.

When we moved to Hollywood I started going to different yoga and Pilates studios to find the places I liked the most. Believe it or not I found my spiritual teacher and community from a Groupon. I had always heard about Golden Bridge and wanted to take classes there. So one day, I ventured into some random exercise yoga classes. I had heard about the 9am Kundalini Yoga class. I had never taken Kundalini and I decided to check it out. I walked in and there were about 100 people in this fairly large room. I thought to myself, “Wow, there is a lot of people here. I guess it because it’s Hollywood.” I plopped myself down and started to stretch. This guy saw me and realized I was new. He introduced himself and said, “I can tell you are a dancer. This class is different. Throw out all your technique, close your eyes and just let go.” “Interesting,” I thought to myself.

The teacher walked in late. Tej Kaur Khalsa was her name. She was dressed in all white and had a turban on. I recognized that she was a Sikh because Dr Soram Singh Khalsa was a Sikh, my old neighbors were Sikhs. I instantly felt comfortable. She talked for about 20 minutes. I wondered if that was normal. I felt like she was giving a spiritual lecture before the exercise began. Once she started we did all these weird exercises, except I didn’t feel like it was very exercisey. By the end of the class, we were on our backs in savasana and I was in tears. I had no idea why. I couldn’t stop crying. I thought myself, “Get it together. I don’t know anyone here. I’m not a crier. What is happening?” I sucked it up and got it together. We sat up in easy pose for the end of the class. She said, “I have something I want to read.” She pulled out a piece of paper. It was a story about a dog. “No! Not a story about a dog.” That was it. I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing again. Then she played the closing song, while the class sang it loudly. I didn’t know the words so I listened to try to pick it up. It was painfully moving. I left that class wondering what happened to me. That was not a normal yoga class.

I went back the next day because I was so curious. I had been working for a doctor in Malibu and driving hours in car and had a hip issue with my driving leg. I actually wanted to find a chiropractor or acupuncturist because it was an ongoing issue ever time I drive. When Tej came in, she said, “Someone here has a hip issue and we are going to do 20 minutes of hip openers before we start the class.” I thought, “What? Is she talking to me? I don’t know anyone, how would she know?” After that class my hip was fine. So I went back the next day. Everyday something magical would happen. I became addicted to it. I was going at least 4 days a week.

I craved to learn more. I took Teacher Training 1 and 2. I started doing my own meditations daily. It changed the way I looked at situations and life. I was happier and content. Through class, I met some of my core friends who I adore. Tej broke off on her own and we all followed. She started Nine Treasures Yoga and built a community and what a community she built. It’s amazing. See Christina, my soul was lost in that Jewish neighborhood. wink wink

Speaking of Christina, she has worked very hard to get to where she is now. It’s been a long, hard road and has almost given up a few times. By the age of 16 years old, she had enough money to buy her own car and pay for her insurance. It’s impressive. The life of an actress or actor I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, unless that really want it. It’s tough. Her big break came 10 years into it. She landed the role of Becky in the movie, “The Intern,” starring Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway. What a proud day that was. I remember I was sitting in a Kundalini Teacher training level 2 class with all my friends around me. Christina texted me. I looked at it and could barely contain myself. All my friends had been rooting her on. Even Tej prayed for her in every yoga class. The support was huge. I have a beautiful community in Los Angeles.

Life is good.

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