We have all seen it or done it ourselves. Someone is dancing zeibekiko and money suddenly comes fluttering in the air! Tips or, as the Greek musicians call it, hartoura, is a staple at parties where there is Greek dancing, but especially the bouzoukia, or nightclubs.
How did the tradition start? Back in the old country, the bands at weddings were not paid. They arrived, opened a suitcase, and started playing. Customarily, the person leading the line would throw money into the suitcase as he danced by and that’s how the band was paid. Depending on the quality of music, or the number of drinks the guests had, is how much the band made.
At the bouzoukia, it was the breaking of plates, that customers would purchase. There are many theories why Greeks smashed plates, but too numerous to discuss here, and from plates it went to throwing carnations on the singer. Some would buy bottles of champagne and have them pour it in a glass, the singer would take a sip, then the bottle was taken away. The plates, carnations, and champagne were all a way for the owners of the nightclub to control the hartoura and get a cut of the money. I guess they didn’t trust the musicians – can you believe that?
It the States, the tradition of throwing money continued. Sometime the money is thrown on the bride and groom at weddings (for good luck), or on the bouzouki or clarinet player (for a good song). Over the years, I have watched many people throw money and have realized it is truly an art form. There are many different “styles,” to relinquishing your money at a Greek affair.
There is the “Straight Throw” or sometimes referred to as the “In and Out”. This is the most simplest of forms and usually is done by a novice to the art of throwing or someone a little embarrassed. They simple walk up, just throw the money in the air, and walk away – in and out. The “Water Fountain” is interesting. Here, the person raises his hands high and releases the money slowly so it “rains” down. There is “The Peel”. The Peel is usually performed by a more experienced thrower. They will take out a wad of money and proceed to “peel” off one bill at a time, very slowly. Usually, the “Peeler” does this in front of the band.
A variation of “The Peel” is the “Walking Dead” technique. This occurs much later in the evening after the guests have imbibed (that’s another word for drinking!) a little too much. The person stumbles over, takes a wad of money out and then starts peeling off bills, one at a time and really slow, and throwing them on anyone who is near him and just stares like a zombie. The difference between the “Walking Dead” and “The Peel” is that the Walking Dead uses only $1.00 bills and the Peeler uses larger bills. There is also the “Shuffle”. The thrower takes out some ones and holding them flat on the palm of his hand, using the other hand, slides them off one at a time, but fast.
Of course, there is the “Fireworks” throw. Here, the thrower has a bundle of money and throws it in the air like an exploding 4th of July firework!
For the more experienced, and older generation, there is the “Lick and Stick”. The thrower takes out a bill, usually a $20 or more, licks it and sticks it on the forehead of the bouzouki or clarinet player. It is not good etiquette for the musician to try and blow off the bill – in other words, you let it stay there until it falls off naturally. Although the tip is much appreciated, the method is not! We also have the “Stuffer”. The Stuffer will take a bill, again, usually a $20, and stuff it anywhere in the musician or singer – breast pocket, top of the bouzouki, the bell of the clarinet, or down the shirt.
Finally, there are also “Exhibitionists” and “Introverts”. The Exhibitionist throws the hatoura so everyone can see it – usually $1.00 bills – it makes for a grander throw. The Introvert is the complete opposite – doesn’t want to draw attention. He tips the band without anyone seeing and is out of there!
By the end of the night, people have run out of $1.00 bills and just come up to the band, drop a $20 or more, and grab a hand-full of $1.00s and tosses them – these are simply called drunks. But we love drunks.
I’m sure there are many more “styles” out there. Let’s hear about a few that you have seen and next time you’re about to throw that hatoura, think about it. Are you “In and out,” the “Peeler,” or “Lick and Stick?” Have fun!
This article is sponsored by Atlantis of Philadelphia. From contemporary to classic, their talents have captivated generations of Greek music lovers. Whether it's a wedding, dance or festival, your special affair deserve the best, Atlantis of Philadelphia. For more info please visit atlantisofpa.com or call 856-418-0404.