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This is the amazing, but true story of Lori Cartagena, a glamorous Australian dancer who was performing on stage before thousands of American soldiers in the Vietnam War in the late 1960s when she was still in her teens. At age 20 she found herself in Florida, pregnant and almost penniless, and had to make the agonizing decision to give up her baby for adoption at birth. It was a decision Lori immediately regretted and she spent the next 34 years trying to find the son she had given away. It is also the story of Stephen Doniger, a handsome and successful Californian lawyer, and his years of searching all over Canada and the United States for his biological mother. It took him 10 years and thousands of dollars in private eye fees, but in May 2005, the dramatic mother and son reunion finally took place at Sydney Airport. Lori, now a beauty consultant in her mid 50s, rushed to her long lost son when he emerged from the customs area, threw her arms around him and, in her own words: “I showered his face with a thousand kisses!” Lori was born in Brisbane, Australia, and from her early childhood days was a gifted and versatile dancer, trained in ballet, jazz and ballroom dancing. But she rebelled against her strict parental upbringing and ran away to the much bigger city of Sydney where thousands of young American soldiers were taking Rest & Recreation leave ( R & R) from the Vietnam War. The only dancing work she could get when she first arrived in Sydney as a naïve 17-year-old was as a Go Go dancer in the notorious Whisky Au Go Go nightclub and in a skimpy costume she had to jive away in a cage suspended 50 feet above the heads of the drooling soldiers. To escape from Go Go dancing she joined up with a troupe of Australian entertainers heading for Vietnam where she was to perform for the next 12 months often under extremely dangerous conditions close to the front line. On several occasions the army bases where her troupe performed came under mortar attack and her troupe’s van was often shot at by machine gun fire. Several of her show business colleagues were killed or wounded in Vietnam and eventually she decided it was all getting far too dangerous so she moved to America. Lori didn’t know it but her troubles were only just beginning.
Born and educated in Brisbane, Australia, Lori showed a love of entertainment from a very early age. At just 17 years, she ventured to Sydney where R&R was in full swing in 1967, to pursue her passion. It wasn't long before an American Entrepreneur recruited Lori a show already touring War torn Vietnam in South East Asia. For over a year she entertained American and Australian troops before returning to Australia briefly. A six-month romance with an American soldier in Vietnam was the original reason Lori journeyed to the USA, but she eventually landed in Canada. For several months Lori taught ballroom dancing in Toronto before leaving the freezing Canadian winter and headed south to sunny Florida .This would ultimately change her life forever. For over 13 years, Lori spent her life in both Canada and the U.S. living in Toronto, Montreal, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale, constantly experiencing many new adventures and career changes. She also travelled extensively throughout other parts of America as well visiting surrounding Islands in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It wasn't until the 1980's that Lori, her new husband, Greg and six-month-old infant son, Chris, left the United States to reside in Australia. In 1989, after making several trips back and forth to America they eventually settled in Australia permanently. However, in 2005, another life changing event took place. This was the catalyst that finally gave the author the inspiration to complete this story. She had made attempts to put her version on pen and paper for years, but there was something missing, and she just couldn't work up the courage to divulge so much of her past life. In May 2005, Lori's secret son who she gave away for adoption in Miami, Florida in 1970 suddenly reappeared in her life. She had just about given up hope of ever finding him, but after a ten-year search, he found her in Australia. The wonderful story of this heart wrenching reunion was published in a two-page story in the June 26, 2006 issue in the Australian Woman's Day. Along with the encouragement of award winning author and journalist Alan Veitch, the project began and three years later the manuscript was completed. Lori wants this story to be an inspiration for everyone out their searching for their own missing links and encourage them not to give up hope.