Monday, September 14, 2009
THE LEGEND OF SHEBBA THE BELLY DANCER
This post on my blog has been over a year in the making. I had to go look through some of the old News Leaders and Daily News on microfilm at the Springfield Library Center to find the information I was looking for. It was in regards to a person known to many as "Shebba the Belly Dancer." When I was small, I remember that stories on the KY 3 6 o'clock news about "Shebba" sparked chuckles from my parents, but I also remember that the laughter stopped when "Shebba" took her own life. That name was stuck in the back of my brain for years, but I didn't know what it was that "Shebba" did.
Some of the info came from the memories of some veteran news people here in town, but most of it came from newspaper articles. I will not give her real name out of respect for any living family members. Also the photo above is not "Shebba" but a generic belly dancer.
"Shebba the Belly Dancer" first came to the attention of Ozarkers in 1977, when she asked to refuse her a place to display information of the benefits of belly dancing and how to get involved in belly dancing classes. City fathers thought she was going to be belly dancing in the courthouse. This spawned several visits to Springfield city council meetings where Shebba railed against the city council members for not listening to her when she tried to tell them what she wanted to do (They did allow her to set up a display with brochures in the courthouse rotunda).
The next time folks heard of her was when she showed up a city council meeting where a group called Springfield Council Against Pornography was pushing a tough anti-porn ordinance. Shebba told everyone that she recognized the preacher heading the anti-porn group as a man, who had tried to hire her and her dance troupe to perform a "nude fire dance" for a party with some of his male friends and possibly make some "films." The preacher resigned his position as head of the group. He didn't admit to Shebba's charges, but said the accusation drew too much attention to him (Some locals say that Shebba's accusations held water - one long- time Springfieldian referred to this as a "Baptist Boogie Nights").
The next month, Shebba had a scuffle at her home with Springfield PD when they came with a search warrant. It was believed that Shebba and her husband had reported a burglary and vandalizing of the home earlier. The police came to search for evidence that she had damaged the home herself as part of an insurance fraud scheme. This began a succession of assault charges, court appearances, police visits and fights with neighbors. One neighbor claimed that she tried to shoot him. She was charged with firing a gun into a building (she died before this went to trial).
In the middle of all of this, she would frequently call members of the media to tell them about the benefits of belly dancing and the "evils" of the Springfield city council and police department. One Springfieldian remembers that she once performed a sabre dance on the porch of the police department, facing Chestnut Expressway, and knocked the P & O off of the side of the building with her sabre, so it read "SPRINGFIELD LICE HEADQUARTERS."
Shebba's neighbors asked Mayor Paul Redfern to have her locked up. In August of 1978, she went to jail before being sent to Park Central Hospital for psychiatric evaluation. While on a weekend furlough from the hospital, she went back to her old neighborhood and walked around shouting "SHEBBA IS BACK!"
One of the neighbors snitched to the Assistant Greene County Prosecutor, who revoked her furloughs. A judge, shortly thereafter, ordered Shebba to be transferred to the State Mental Hospital in Fulton. While waiting for her transfer, she hung herself in a closet with a bed sheet.
The News Leader tried to interview neighbors, but many would not speak to the reporter. One neighbor, who said she never had problems with Shebba, blamed the other neighbors and the assistant prosecutor. Shebba's psychiatrist said he thought the prosecutor's office was over zealous, while the prosecutor's office said they believed that she was "a threat to the community."
A neighbor was quoted in the News Leader as saying "We didn't want her to die." It was a sad ending to a story that started with the same recurring theme that all problems start with - the Ozarker's repressed sexuality and there need to find "an enemy." Was Shebba "a threat to the community" or just to her nosy neighbors? Only God knows that.
The community has a problem with thinking that someone is "the enemy" or "a threat" to "the good life we have in the Ozarks." If Shebba was such "a threat" how come only those who dealt with her in someway remember the details and some of those feel she got raw treatment. Most current Springfieldian's have never heard of her and even some old timers memories of her are vague as to what she did.
I'm sure some people will be upset by this post. They will go into the entomology of some of the words I used in this piece or find a neighbor who "still has nightmares about Shebba" or call me "an unpleasant coward" because I "call people names" (That is like the pot calling the kettle black).
You might say Shebba the Belly Dancer was the original SUPER-VILLAIN OF THE OZARKS!!! Mwu-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!