My name is Roxxanne Shelaby and I am making a documentary about the Fez, the first Arabic Restaurant and Nightclub on the West Coast.
The Fez however was not just any nightclub. It was the place that became the hub of the Arab community in southern California and helped bring the Arabic culture to mainstream American society. Its legacy is that of a place that cultivated a generation of Belly Dancers and musicians that went on to shape the art form in the US as well as teaching and inspiring generations of artists all over the world.
The Fez was a magical place that provided a place for artists to hone their craft. This environment was provided by its owner and creator Lou Shelaby, a Lebanese-American who settled in Los Angeles after leaving Boston in 1949. He arrived in Los Angeles inspired to live up to the city’s liberal and innovative nature.
Ten years later he opened the Fez with his brother Fred and mother Mantura. They had a dream of sharing their culture, music, food and hospitality with all those who were interested. They created a place that was as authentic as they come, with the highest standards in food, service, and entertainment, which not only attracted the locals, and expatriates but Hollywood celebrities as well! Marlon Brando, and Jane Mansfield to name a few and both Richard Thomas (John Boy) and Danny Thomas were regulars!
This documentary intends to explore what made the Fez such a magical place that even today, almost 55 years later, when the Fez is mentioned, people get this far-off, distant look and they are transported back in time. Why did this place produce incredible dancers such as Aisha Ali, Marta Shill Kouzouyan, Zanouba, Maya Medwar, Antoinette Awayshak Koury Smit, and Feiruz Aram! Why did it bring to the forefront musicians that shaped the Arab landscape of California such as Saadoun Al-Bayati, Najeeb Khoury and Souheil Caspar.
This documentary will bring you the story of the Fez, the family behind it, and the amazing performers that shone in its spotlight. The Fez Documentary will help to preserve this rich Arab-American and artistic history that is also so much a part of our own history.