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All Things Thriller

A Celebration of Thrillers, Noire and Black Comedy by Pamela Lowe Saldana

The Double Dutch Bust: A One Hit Wonder, a ton of Coke and a Dentist’s Dirty Laundry, Part I

 

Frankie Smith was worried about his mom. Her health was going down and he didn’t know how long she was going to be able to hold up to the shift work at the commissary of the Philadelphia Naval Hospital where she had worked for years. Of all the times for me to be out of a job, it had to be now, he thought.

Only a few months before things had been going so good. He had earned an office and a placard with his name and his title: Songwriter and Producer, Philadelphia International Records. He was collaborating with Archie Bell and the Drells, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes and their sexy, enigmatic singer, Teddy Pendergrass. What’s more, he had the ear and the respect of Kenny Gamble of Gamble and Huff, the songwriting and production team that had founded the label that represented top shelf talent like The O’jays, The Three Degrees, MFSB, Billy Paul and Lou Rawls. Gamble and Huff and their juggernaut record label were the architects of the lush, yet, funky style know as The Philadelphia Sound.

But Gamble and his partner Leon Huff, along with Clive Davis of CBS Records and Davis’ assistant David Wynshaw, among others, were ensnared in a federal payola investigation and Philadelphia International Records was temporarily, as it turned out, forced to shutter it’s doors. Frankie Smith was out on his ear. And the bills were piling up.

Things had gotten so bad that he applied to The Philadelphia Transportation Company as a bus driver, but they hadn’t responded. As he sat in the living room of the tiny house that he had always shared with his mother (except for the few years he had spent at Tennessee State University, trying to earn a bachelors degree in elementary education) he began to circle security guard jobs in the help wanted section of the paper. Through an open window he heard a group of neighborhood girls chanting as they jumped rope in an intricate, athletically rhythmic style. Double dutch, they called it.

The chanting was momentarily interrupted by some guys who we’re trying to clear the street so they could play basketball. The girls weren’t having it.

In Smith’s songwriter’s mind the bickering, the sing-song chanting, the clapping, and syncopated slap of rope against pavement merged with his pending bus driver application and a funked up version of the Pig Latin he mastered as a child. In a moment of serendipity he wrote the lyrics on the back of an over due gas bill.

There’s a double dutch bus coming down the street
Moving pretty fast
So kinda shuffle your feet
Get on the bus and pay your fare
And tell the driver that you’re
Going to a Double Dutch Affair

Hilzi, gilzirls! Yilzall hilzave t’ milzove ilzout the wilzay silzo the gilzuys can plilzay bilzasket-bilzall

(Translation: Hi girls, you have to move out the way so the guys can play basketball.)

Say wizzat? Nizzo-izzo wizzay

(Translation: Say what? No way!)

Yizzall bizzetter mizzove
(You all better move.)

Say wizzat? Willzy illzain’t millzovin’
(Say what? We ain’t moving.)

Willze illzare plizzayin’ dizzouble dizzutch! dizzouble dizzutch! dizzouble dizzutch!
(While we’re playin the double dutch! The double dutch! The double dutch!)

Millze cillzan sillzome plilzay dilzzouble dilzutch!
I see somebody’s playin the double dutch!

Suddenly the weight of the world was lifted off Frankie Smith’s shoulders. He had just written a hit! A big glorious hit! And he knew it. This little song–no not his best song, a novelty song, yes, a kid’s song–was the answer to his prayers. If only he could pitch it to Kenny Gamble, but of course he couldn’t and he couldn’t afford to sit on it either.

His best option at that particular moment was WMOT Records. Smith was aware of the labels shady reputation but he had a relationship with a couple of producers who had once offered him a song writing gig there. He was desperate, but he wouldn’t let them know that. The song was solid. It should sell itself.

Dr. Larry Lavin was worried about his cash. He had too much of it. One of the couriers he paid to make runs to various banks, exchanging stacks of it into more manageable hundred dollar bills, had been robbed of a hundred grand. Even though it had happened right outside the student dental clinic where there were lots of witnesses and despite the courier having a nasty gash on her head, his partners were saying that she had set the whole thing up.

It was starting to get to him a bit. Too much drama.

Yes, he was making more money than he ever thought possible. And, yes, he was about to finish up his voluntary year’s residence. Soon he would be able to set up his own dental practice–the perfect front for his real business–but his fiance was getting more and more paranoid. She was starting to see armed robbers in her chicken soup.

A lawyer he knew gave him a piece of paper with a guy’s name and a number on it. A financial adviser/investor. Now that guy sat across from him at his kitchen table. He wore an expensive tailored suit and a tasteful gold necklace. Several chunky gold rings adorned his fingers; his hair was precisely cut, his beard neatly trimmed.

Lavin liked what he saw. The guy’s name was Mark Stewart. He spoke expertly about tax shelters, about converting Lavin’s cash into mortgages and certificates of deposit. He wanted to sell him interest in his properties and businesses and start paying him a salary from a parent company, all tricks of the money laundering trade. One of the companies Stewart had shares in was WMOT Records.

The engineers snickered and rolled their eyes. The song was bad enough, some dance number about jumping on a bus and jumping rope, but that nonsensical gibberish had to go. Sophomoric. Kids stuff.

Frankie Smith wasn’t surprised as he watched their obvious mockery through the recording room window. Go ahead and have your fun, he thought. The hook screamed H.I.T. record. He would have the last laugh–all the way to the bank.

Double Dutch Bus dropped in the fall of 1981. Everyday, for the first few weeks after the release, Smith and his producer, Gene Leone, anxiously went up and down the radio dial listening for the song…Crickets. 

While the lack of respect and enthusiasm from the recording crew didn’t surprise Smith, WMOT’s ambivalence toward his project did. The label didn’t lift a finger to promote Double Dutch Bus. What’s more, the whole vibe at the company was haphazard and lackadaisical; it ran nothing like the well oiled hit producing machine that he was accustomed to at Philadelphia International.

Undaunted, Smith took matters into his own hands. He loaded up the trunk of his rickety old Thunderbird with hundreds of copies of Double Dutch Bus and embarked on an East Coast odyssey, from one city to the next, dropping off his song at college radio stations, dance clubs, getting it into the hands of mobile DJ’s, and hitting every commercial radio station that would let him through the door.

Months later when he walked up the steps to his front door–he was then, as he is now, an unassuming, small man with rounded shoulders and a permanent limp–he was tired and a bit weary. His mother met him at the door with a wide beautiful smile. “They’re playing it baby,” she said. “They’re playing your song.”

To be continued…

 

 

 

The Rise of a Narcissistic Populist Despot: A Face in the Crowd, a movie directed by Elia Kazan, 1957; Political Drama

 

Larry Rhodes (Andy Griffith) is a shiftless drifter. A lay-about. A no-account. He is also one heck of a performer. Man alive can he strum that guitar! He can belt out the Country Blues with conviction too, but it’s the way he spins a story out of thin air, keeping folks hanging on his every word, that’s special.

But Larry drinks–a lot. Plus he’s a hot head, a letch, impulsive and–Damn!–he’s got a big mouth. It’s no wonder that when he’s discovered by an ambitious radio programmer he’s in jail.

Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) roams the backwoods and small town streets of rural Arkansas looking for talent for her radio program “A Face in the Crowd”. Smart, industrious and eager to prove herself as something more than just the boss’ niece (her uncle owns the small town radio station where she works) Marcia talks a local yokel sheriff into letting her record some of the prisoners in the drunk tank. She’s got her eye out for the next Will Rodgers or Lead Belly.

Initially, Rhodes–nursing a hangover–is cantankerous and uncooperative, but he eventually warms to the opportunity to show off. What’s more, this is his big chance to embarrass the sheriff in front of the pretty lady and that’s just what he does. He makes up a bawdy little number on the fly with witty lyrics that rubs the sheriff’s nose in his lack of sophistication. He works the room–stalks it, is a more apt description–with a beguiling confidence.

The gall of the man to strut like a king when he’s in vagrant’s clothes. So arrogant and yet so accessible, he wins over the occupants of the drunk tank and Marcia Jeffries too. She knows the it factor when she see’s it and Rhodes has got it. But he also has penchant for cruelty, which she quickly recognizes, though his gargantuan charm bats down the red flags–at first.

Ms. Jeffries uses her own considerable attributes, convincing the sheriff who is sweet on her, to let Rhodes out early and–yes, you guessed it–they embark in a business relationship that, initially, takes them to nearby Memphis and then all the way to the big time of national television vis-a-vis New York City, and in an ill advised affair that very nearly destroys them both.

Director Elia Kazan’s naturalistic signatures, e.g., sweat streaked shirts, unshaven faces, the curve of a woman’s breast straining against flimsy fabric, torn wall paper and grimy fixtures pulse like a carnival midway in A Face in the Crowd. So much so that during the arc of the film when opulence bests squalor it’s obvious that Kazan preferred the gritter canvas where his visual artistry gleamed.

Even so, visual artistry is/was not the essence of Kazan’s genius. Instead his brilliance was in his ability to bare and dissect the human condition in order to persuade the audience–with compassion and dignity for the subjects–to think.

And the instrument of this persuasion? The actors from whom he was able to coax magnificent performances.

As Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes, Andy Griffith is no exception to this most prominent feature of Kazan’s methodology, though at first glance it is easy to dismiss his performance as a gluttonous case of scenery chewing. But to do so would be to ignore the most obvious trait of the portrait. Lonesome Rhodes is a grotesque and Griffith conveys this essential quality with unabashed brio.

Rhodes is obnoxious in every sense of the word. He’s a big guy, so he makes himself even larger by taking up as much space as he possibly can. He sprawls, rather than sits. He towers rather than stands.

Then there’s his laugh. It too is big.

No, I take that back. It’s enormous. When he laughs his face distorts into a cavernous mouth with wild, leering eyes.

Even so, Lonesome Rhodes is funny. He really is. And his wit is as sharp as a scalpel; his talent and charisma are undeniable. Possessing both eloquence and folksy charm, he sets his ire on the rich and powerful, which ingratiates him to everyone else.

As his influence grows so does his bank account, his malignant ego, his cruelty and dishonesty. And, most ominously, his misanthropic disdain intensifies for the very people who have lifted him to his throne, those that he has supposedly championed–“the common man.”

Patricia Neal, always wonderfully reliable, does not stray from her usual earthy, practical elegance. As Marcia Jeffries, there is no snobbery in her educated, cultured Southern draw. Hardly a pushover, she is initially mesmerized by Rhodes’ sheer force of personality even as she is a little leery of his sincerity, or lack thereof.

So when Lonesome Rhodes plunges into a decent of decadence and self delusion, threatening to take down much of the country that is under his sway, Marcia has long abandoned any romantic notions of the man. She stays on, firstly, because she feels responsible for unleashing this monster on an adoring and completely buffaloed populace. Secondly, because he has offered to buy her out at a paltry ten percent and she wants and deserves an equal partnership and lastly, because, in spite of his tyrannical abuse, she pities Rhodes, the lonely, hateful pariah, who loathes everyone, but not as much as he loathes himself.

A Face in the Crowd launched the career of then fledgling comedian/ musician Andy Griffith, introducing him to his most diverse and largest audience yet. But the film tanked at the box office and received lack luster reviews.

Modern audiences, however, especially cinephiles, have been captivated by this very timely film that, with the explosion of social media, has become even more relevant today than when it was released some sixty years ago. In 2008 it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

In his 1986 Guide for the Film Fanatic author Danny Peary prophetically wrote,

“Lonesome Rhodes is guilty of taking advantage of the medium – through which you can fool all the people all of the time – but (screenwriter) Budd Schulberg is attacking us, the ignorant public who sits like sheep and believes whatever it sees on the tube. The scary thing is that if today Rhodes were caught expressing his real thoughts while thinking the mike was off, his popularity would probably go up.”

 

 

 

Great Cinematic and Literary Characters Series: WALL-E

Where does beauty come from? Is it a mere roll of the dice, a collaborative collision of nuclei, cells, chromosomes and genes? So completely accidental. So arbitrarily random. Is it purely chance, like discovering a vein of gold in a rock slide?

Is that why we value it so much? Because it’s so rare?

Wall-e, the little trash compactor robot, wasn’t made with beauty in mind. He was designed to perform a task– a dirty task at that. Accordingly he is boxy, durable and economical. Hardly sexy.

Moreover he is behind the times, obsolete and rusty. And scarred.

But Wall-e is a poet. No he doesn’t speak it–he barely speaks at all–he whirs, and beeps…And sighs. He doesn’t write it either.

Poetry in motion? No. He is slow and clunky, patched together with spare parts that are always breaking down.

Wall-e is a poet at heart. His scroll and quill are the deeds inspired by his own gentle soul.

Take his relationship with Hal, only Wall-e could find the beauty in a cockroach. When we turn on the light and a cockroach scurries across the floor we are horrified. (Okay. Not all of us. Most of us. Bear with me here.)

We do at least one of these things:

  1. Scream.
  2. Step on it.
  3. Spray it with bug spray.
  4. Call our significant other to step on it.
  5. All of the above.

Not Wall-e. He nurtures Hal. He’s happy to see Hal of the mornings and, of course, Hal is happy to see Wall-e. When he accidentally rolls over Hal, he is mortified and heartbroken. Thank goodness Hal is virtually indestructible. He shakes it off, just a little worse for the wear and tear.

(Sigh…Cockroaches and Keith Richards.)

But while Hal is utterly content with his garbage filled world and endless supply of Twinkies, Wall-e is not. He longs for a specific kind of companionship that Hal cannot afford.

Enter Eve, a state-of-the-art, voluptuous robotic probe. She is sent to earth to scan for organic signs of life.

(No. Hal doesn’t count.)

Efficient, disciplined and mission orientated she is disinterested in, and annoyed by, Wall-e. If she had a nose it would be turned skyward.

Wall-e thinks Eve utterly beautiful and himself outclassed, but he is so smitten that he cant help from perusing her–deferentially, tenderly. And to his dismay, clumsily.

Gradually, Eve’s reserve and superiority complex starts to thaw. She begins to understand what we already know…She really is out of Wall-e’s league.

 

 

A Happy Halloween Song, a Children’s Poem

 

Goblins, witches,

Frankenstein monsters

Sing a happy

Halloween song

 

Little children

Up and down the street

Ring the doorbell

Saying trick or treat

 

Leaves are blowing

Soon it’s snowing

Turkey, stuffing

Pumpkin pie

 

Lights a twinkling

Hallowed evening

Starry skies

Sleigh bell rides

 

Tis the season

Of believing

Counting moments

Hopeful eyes

 

First come costumes

Trick or treating

Crisp October

Night of fright

 

–Pamela Lowe Saldana

for Blaine and Zoe

The Mars Room, a novel by Rachel Kushner, Scribner; Women’s Fiction/Political Fiction/Crime Fiction

 

It’s easy to make assumptions about people. That’s because life has conditioned us for it. It’s reflexive, like muscle memory; like taking that little 15 foot jump shot from the key with barely a hand in your face. Purely routine. (Or, at least, it was before arthritis hijacked my kneecap. No more high impact sports.)

Take the cashier at the Daily’s convenience store, the one that barely acknowledges you even though you are consistently polite. She’s just acting like that because she’s resentful that she’s in a dead end job and you’re not. And the road maintenance guy that’s directing traffic, most likely he never got beyond fundamental math.  That’s why he’s out there baking in the sun, waving that orange flag around. Truth be told, he probably doesn’t even have a high school diploma.

See what I mean? It’s a sucky, hard-hearted thing to judge people, but most of us do it. Good grief, we have to in order to survive in this world. Otherwise we would be like an abandoned fawn with out its spots.

And here’s the thing, we’re probably right more often than we’re wrong. It’s not rocket science. Hardly. It’s common sense; a combination of instinct and experience. Where things get sideways–where wise becomes shitty–is when we judge without the influence of nuance.

That’s what the guards do at the prison where protagonist Romy Hall resides in the novel The Mars Room. They presume instead of assume–and they think that makes them experts on character.

The rap sheet on Romy Hall goes something like this: She’s a little ahead of the curve for her demographic (bad neighborhood, child of a single mother) since she did, at least, graduate from high school. But then she got pregnant–out of wedlock, of course– became a stripper in one of the seediest strip clubs imaginable and bashed a customer’s head in with a tire iron. She claimed self defense but her victim was disabled and could barely walk.

So when Romy’s mother dies and her little boy disappears into the system, because there’s no one else to care for him, there is no pity for the pretty young woman with the two consecutive life sentences. None. Na da. Zero.

Not when she collapses on the floor and dissolves into hysterical dry heaves and the abyss of despair. Nope.

Not when she begs for information–any tidbit of information–about her son’s condition (he’s in the hospital, this she knows) even though she’s not the begging kind. Uh uh. It ain’t happenin’. All she gets is this sage pronouncement from her counselor who dangles the information about her son so tantalizingly close: You should have thought about your kid before you bashed that poor guys head in. 

The rap sheet doesn’t lie. And convicts and strippers do. Habitually. We all know that…Or do we? And is it really that simple?

Kurt Kennedy is the guy who gets his brains beat out by Romy. He is disabled, can barely walk, yes, but not because of a combat injury. No. Though that’s what he tells the strippers at The Mars Room, the the strip joint where he meets Romy. The truth is he blew out his knee in a motorcycle accident while he was serving court summons. That was his job. He stalked people. Professionally.

It’s a seamless transition for Kennedy, from professional stalker to creepy stalker. So seamless that Romy doesn’t even notice, at first. But he just can’t resist showing up at the ratty little market where she shops, or parking in front of her apartment building for hours upon hours at a time, or calling her thirty times in a row and then hanging up when she answers.

Of course we understand perfectly why Romy is terrified even as Kennedy is mystified as to why she abruptly refuses to give him lap dances anymore, or why she goes to such exotic lengths to avoid talking to him. You see when it comes to social graces and social cues, Kurt Kennedy just doesn’t get it.

It’s not that he’s violent. He’s not. He’s not even extraordinarily pervey. He’s a guy. He has his needs. But Romy does more than soothe his sexual jitters. She makes him feel good. She gives his life meaning. That’s a new thing to him. And now that he has a purpose, he wants despertly to keep it.

Rachel Kushner packs a lot of nuance, and pathos too, into The Mars Room and yet it is an economical 330 page read. While Romy Hall is the main character, the book is not just about her tragic circumstances. It’s about the unrelenting breadth of the justice system and those among us who are plowed under by its wrath and swath.

Make no mistake, The Mars Room doesn’t come off as a sappy left wing lament. True, Romy Hall does not belong in prison but she is not innocent. Author Rachel Kushner makes that abundantly clear. She sympathizes with her protagonist, but she’s not fooled by her. Romy has played fast and loose with “the rules” all of her life and she’s done so by her own volition. What’s more, she’s smart–above average smart. Her life has been hard, but not as hard as most of her friends. She knows better.

For example, Kushner vividly conveys her protagonist’s apathy, yes, even her romanticism with anarchy when another stripper admonishes her about the way she conducts a lap dance. She is coming dangerously close to full blown sex and the other girl lets her hear about it. Romy tells her to get lost–to mind her own business. This is the way she gets deep into men’s pockets. It is also happens to be the very thing that attracts her stalker, Kurt Kennedy.

In fact, unlike Romy, most of the characters in The Mars Room belong right where they are, and that’s Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility of California. Most of them, but not all.

There’s Laura Lipp–a mentally ill religious fanatic who killed her own children. There’s Conan, a trans-gendered convict who spent a couple of months in the men’s prison before the guards found out he was anatomically female. Then there’s Sammy Fernandez, all gangsta and habitual offender who’s not so bad once you get to know her.

To that mix add Betty LaFrance, a narcissistic psychopath and, Doc, a hit man cop rotting away in ad seg at the men’s prison who knows all too well and, yet, somehow, not well enough, how long and seductive Betty’s reach really is.

Rachel Kushner’s The Mars Room is a cautionary tale for those of us–the privileged few, certainly–who live in this grand land of opportunity. Yes opportunity brushes against all of us here–even the poor and disadvantaged. But the poor and disadvantaged cannot afford to overlook it or take it for granted for even a minute. For them there is no time and no patience for anything less than unrelenting hard work and diligence–let alone youthful indiscretion. The sooner they learn that, the less likely they’ll end up in The Mars Room. Or prison.

 

 

 

Calculating the Odds of Winning the Lottery and Encountering a Weirdo…

So I’ve been taking a break…Working in the office, doing some home improvement stuff…I’ve also been reading. One of the books I’ve been reading is The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner. I plan to post about it when I get back to blogging–Lord willing. It’s really good. It’s about a young woman–a stripper, actually– who encounters a stalker.

Now this is going to sound very dramatic, especially in light of The Mars Room and a previous post I wrote about strippers, I realize that. Nonetheless I’m going to give you the rundown because it’s creepy and…well, just in case…

Yesterday, I went to the greenway to walk. I’m cautious, especially when I go by myself. No big deal. I’m cognizant of my surroundings–that kind of stuff.

So, I pull into a parking space and I notice that there’s a car that is backed into the parking spot, not unusual, per say, but it was the only car parked like that–a black 4-door BMW–and there’s a guy sitting in it. I get out of my vehicle and walk to the trashcan to throw away a coke can and the guy gets out of the BMW and heads for the greenway. He walks right by me and the way he’s dressed, cargo pants and casual shirt, is not typical greenway attire. I’m just sayin’. But he is wearing running shoes.

I stop there at the trashcan and watch him as he walks down the greenway. I make no bones about it. I’m watching him—and right before he disappears from my view, he looks over his shoulder at me. He’s an ordinary looking guy–about 6 ft. tall, dark hair that’s graying, normal weight, probably late thirties, early forties. He’s talking on his cell phone.

I decide not to walk on the greenway. I go someplace else to exercise. And that’s that.

Okay…So later, after I go back home, do a bunch of bookwork, make lunch, do some reading (yes, The Mars Room) I remember that my husband asked me to pick up some lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing. (Yeah, we’re playing Mega Millions with Megaplier. It’s up to about 2 billion dollars now so we just had to get in on it.) I needed to pick up some dog food so I decide to purchase the lottery tickets at the grocery store.

Anyway, I go to the store and get the dog food and some other stuff but you can’t purchase the lottery tickets from the check out line, you have to go to the manager’s desk, so that’s what I do. There’s nobody there.

“I’ll be right with you ma’am,” the manager calls to me. He’s sacking groceries for a cashier.

“No problem,” I say, “I’m not in any hurry.”

So I lean against the desk and I’m just thinking…about stuff I’ve got to do…about that mountain of bookwork…about how there’s no chance in hell that we’re going to win 2 billion dollars in Mega Million with Megaplier…and I turn around to see if the manager’s still sacking groceries…and that guy, the one at the greenway with the cargo pants, is standing right behind me. I’m not kidding. He’s just standing there, with this blank look on his face.

Well, of course, it startles me, but I play it off. I just shake my head and chuckle–and that’s an authentic reaction. I mean, who would think it…And if this guy is a weirdo…well, what he doesn’t know could hurt him…

And I want him to know that.

 

Great Cinematic and Literary Characters Series: Roy Batty (portrayed by Rutger Hauer), Blade Runner

Ahhh, yes…Roy Batty. He is noble. Brave. A proud antagonist but not a villain. A warrior.

So strangely beautiful. That wonderful hair–peroxide blonde. And spiked. Those fine, yet distinctive, angular features. Those steel blue eyes. Sculpted, muscled thighs. The broad chest of a sprinter. If not for his slightly crooked teeth, he’d be very nearly perfect.

As a biorobotic android “combat model” with super human strength and genius level IQ he is literally a killing machine. His theater of operations is “off world”; he guards and preserves intergalactic colonies.

But Roy has the audacity to want and that is a tricky thing in this dystopian, Blade Runner world of 2019. It is okay to want those basic things that he is programmed for, but to want more is subversive. To feel is anathema.

And he does feel. He experiences. Loyalty. Longing. Love. He knows what beauty is and perceives these, the most profoundly dangerous things of all: He feels empathy and he has hope, though his lifespan is programmed at a mere four years.

Roy fosters these emotions in other biorobtoic androids–“skin jobs” is the derogatory term some humans refer to them as–and they rebel violently, ruthlessly. Murderously. Roy is the leader because although the others have superhuman strength, they are not as beautiful or as beautifully smart.

Four of them–they are also called replicants–escape to planet earth on a desperate quest for more time, tracking down those who are complicit in their design. They interrogate; they punish. And they do what they were made to do. They kill.

But, just as they are hunters, they are hunted too. Death hangs over them and onto them, picking them off one by one, till only Roy is left. Roy knows that he has eluded and outsmarted it, even as he also knows, he can not outlast it. His last act is terrifying–he literally howls like a wolf because he is alone with no comfort as he confronts his demise with dignity and pathos. And, more than that, with empathy. Like the warrior he is. Like a real man.

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe…Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion…I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate…All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…Time to die.”

NashVegas 80s; Strip Club, M.D. (Conclusion)

Recap of Part I: After working a series of odd jobs, ranging from construction to waiting tables, as newcomers to Nashville in the mid 80s, my husband takes a job as strip club DJ, despite my insistence that he not. In order to keep the peace in our relationship, he takes me to the club with him where I observe the goings-on from the DJ booth. One of the frequent customers is a notorious physician accused in local newspapers of sexual abuse and writing prescriptions in exchange for sex.

There’s something sad and seedy about a nightclub that’s open for business in the daytime. It’s even sadder and seedier when it’s a strip club that’s open then.

Dark, temperate and unaired, the atmosphere messes with your circadian rhythm. The only way you can tell that it’s daylight outside–aside from your own watch, there are no clocks in strip clubs– is by the customers inside. The nooners. That’s what we called them even though the club didn’t open up till 4 p.m.

I can still remember some…The slick in a business suit, some state representative that popped in from the capital just about everyday…The EMT who worked nights and spent his days buying lap dances…There was Beebo (I have no idea why they called him that) the limo driver who worked the same hours as the EMT. They sat at the bar together when they weren’t doing the lap dance thing…Then there was the clammy guy with greasy hair who the girls said smelled like he lived in his car. He was tolerated even though he habitually violated the club’s dress code. He bought sit outs and private dances.

They were the hardcore, the backbone of the strip club business that the girls counted on for loans and rides from time to time. They weren’t loud and they didn’t cause trouble. If there was trouble, it happened later, during the second shift. The last thing these guys wanted was to get kicked out.

My husband DJ’d the 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift. At least he did at first. The doctor usually came in during this time block, but not always; he didn’t qualify as a nooner. For the most part he didn’t really have a pattern except that he came in the the side door with Rodger. Rodger was the club owner’s right hand man.

And you never knew when Rodger was going to show up.

None of the girls used their real names. They all had stage names. For some reason I remember the name Ashley being popular. That always struck me as strange. I never thought “Ashley” was stripperish. There were a couple of Mercedes, an okay name, but it sounds more like a stage name than Ashley–to me anyway.

Then there was a Ginger. Star. Desiree. Gypsy…To name a few.

My husband got along with all of them. They told him what to play. They all had their special songs. Some were into Metal. Some liked R&B. A few of the girls got into Hank Jr. and Eddie Raven but Nancy only allowed about three Country songs an hour.

That was fine by us.

My husband was kind of like Nancy’s Sargent. She used him to keep the girls in line. It was his responsibility to make sure that they were ready to come on stage when it was their turn–when their song was played.

He also had to scan the club and make sure no shenanigans were going on. If there were shenanigans, my husband called in the bouncers to take care of it. (I saw a lot of stuff, but I kept my mouth shut. Not my job.)

Nancy handled the bar, the money and watched the bouncers. The bouncers watched the customers.

The customers followed the cardinal rule: No touching the girls. The guys were absolutely prohibited from it, not even when they put money into the G-strings. No flesh on flesh touching.

It was different for the girls. They could touch the guys, e.g., hold their hands, touch their shoulders, kiss them on the cheek, but that was all.

Nancy was very strict about touching. It was important to her that the club was “clean”. Rodger wasn’t as strict.

The doctor could touch.

Sometimes I sat at the end of the bar by the DJ booth. That’s where the girls sat when they weren’t working. I got to know some of them. Some I liked. Most I didn’t.

One was particularly strange. She was very quiet. Older. I would say mid to late thirties. Not pretty, but not bad looking either. When she talked, she spoke intelligently with no trace of accent. And when she did her “floor show” (that’s when they danced on the stage) she always touched her nose, closing off one of her nostrils. We all knew what that meant. Cocaine. The club was flooded with it.

One day she and I talked. She told me that she was just about to finish up nursing school. “That’s great,” I said. ” Then you can stop working here.” She looked at me like I had just said that I hated puppies. “Why would I do that?” she asked incredulously. “I love it here. It’s my hobby.”

When she got out of school she went to work for the doctor. But she still worked the club. Part time.

Have you ever seen those guys that are always in a perpetual sweat? Like Richard Nixon?

Nixon had that thin layer of sweat between his nostrils and his upper lip. People said that’s why he lost the debate to Kennedy. Too sweaty.

The doctor was like that, but he had a mustache. A thick black one. His hair was black too. Shoe polish black, an obvious dye job.

He wore pleated slacks, calf skin loafers and light weight zip up jackets– Members Only–over golf shirts. The girls said he carried a gun in an ankle holster. He was smarmy looking, though he thought himself very handsome. The girls flocked around him when he made his grand entrance with Rodger, but they laughed and made faces behind his back.

Rodger didn’t even like him, but he kept him around. I’m sure that had something to do with the prescription bottle Rodger kept in his pocket. Rodger was obese. He said the doctor was helping him loose weight.

One night while I was setting at the bar, the doctor approached me. I had never talked to him before. Didn’t want to. He said something obscene to me–having to do with his medical practice. My husband saw the exchange. He jumped down from the DJ booth. “What’d he say to you?” he yelled.

I told him.

My husband shoved the doctor against the bar and then pressed against his chest, bending his back awkwardly down. The doctor tried to push him off, but my husband is unusually, deceptively strong. Rodger hollered for my husband to stop. My husband wouldn’t. Rodger called for the bouncers. They wrestled him away from the doctor.

I was relieved–and happy. I just knew my husband was going to get fired.

He didn’t.

“You better not ever talk to her again,” my husband screamed at the doctor. I’ve never seen his face so red, his eyes so wicked.

He didn’t.

Rick was the second shift DJ. He worked 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. His fiance was Princess, one of the dancers. Rick was all right. He could work the light board like Jimi Hendrix could play the guitar. I’m not kidding. The guy was an artist.

Rick had a very wealthy father who had recently passed away. What his father did, I don’t know. All I know is Rick had a lot of money coming to him once the estate was settled. Three million dollars. When the money kicked in, he and Princess were out of there. They had plans to move to Montana.

Well, the money did kick in–sooner rather than later. Rick and Princess didn’t give the club any notice. I didn’t blame them. Nancy told my husband he’d have to work double shifts until she found another DJ. We were both pissed. Especially me. That meant my husband had to work eleven hour shifts Monday thru Saturday. The club closed Sundays.

My husband wore cowboy boots to the club. I never liked them but that’s what he wanted to wear. We’re from Texas, that’s not unusual there.

He stood on his feet most of the time in the DJ booth and would often complain that his feet hurt, especially his big toe–which big toe, I can’t remember. I told him to ditch the boots. He wouldn’t.

One morning when he pulled off his boots after work, his big toe was black. The next day he called Nancy and told her he needed to take a couple of days off. She said no.

Now my husband is probably the best employee Nancy ever had. He was always on time, didn’t put the make on the girls–consequently they liked him–never drank on the job, kept his wits about him and had/has a really good announcer’s voice. He went to college for it, after all.

He told her he was taking off a couple of days. And he did. When he went back to work two days later, she fired him. He was glad. We took off a month before we both got new jobs. I remember we slept for about a week straight.

Weight loss doctor chases, shoots at theft suspects

Published 9:40 P.M. CT Sept. 21, 2016

A man ran after two men he said stole his wallet, firing his gun at them multiple times just outside Green Hills mall Monday night in a Macy’s shopping trip gone bad.

____________age 68, said he was in the process of buying his girlfriend a swimsuit at a register in Macy’s when two men ran by him, grabbing his wallet off the sales counter as they passed.

__________ran after the two individuals, who he said got into a white SUV or minivan-type vehicle.

“That’s when I started shooting – when he opened the door,”________ said. “I was in fear for my life.”

He admitted to firing several shots with the Smith & Wesson revolver he was carrying in his pants pocket. Police confirmed_________ had a valid handgun carry permit.

________said he is a weight loss doctor based in Nashville, but a Tennessee Department of Health license search revealed that _________ license is currently revoked. His history as a medical professional is marred by disciplinary actions, hefty fines and court hearings from 1997 to 2011, according to the health department.

His license was revoked in 2008, and he was assessed $41,000 in civil penalties on several charges including unprofessional, dishonorable or unethical conduct, fraud or deceit and false advertising.

Aaron said the actions of the suspects and_______ remain under police investigation.

 

 

 

NashVegas 80s; Strip Club, MD (Part I)

 

My husband and I worked a series of odd jobs when we first moved to Nashville. That’s what you do when you move to a new city without job prospects and you don’t know anybody; when you’ve interrupted your education to get married–and to party.

Let’s see…I waited tables. I answered phones. I worked an assembly line hanging coiled wire and got one of my front teeth knocked out. I cashiered. And I worked construction with my husband.

The construction gig wasn’t half bad. We were roofers. Purely shingles. No tar. Just the two of us working for a shady contractor who built golf course maintenance houses.

We got on the job site early when the skies were streaked with color. We had our morning coffee and breakfast biscuit on the roof. It was pretty. Golf courses generally are.

This was back in the mid 80s when you could still make decent money working construction. But the gig didn’t last as long it was supposed to. The contractor had to leave town fast before a few of his jobs were completed. My husband got wind that he was skipping and…well, we got paid. Cash.

We lived downtown then, during the first Nashville renaissance. The Ryman Auditorium, the original Grand Ole Opry was boarded up, abandoned at that time. Lower Broad was still full of pawn and porn shops, but upper Broad and 2nd Avenue were rocking.

There was excitement in the air. And we were part of it.

The Market Street Apartments are on 2nd Avenue South. That’s where we lived, in expensive digs that cater to what we called yuppies back then. We were friends with some of them. Others looked down on us. It was hard for us to come up with the rent, but we managed. Our realtor/landlord loved us. He said he wished he had a building full of people like us. People that paid their rent on time. That made us feel good.

Anyway, there we were in between jobs with the rent due soon. I hoped we would work some of the construction contacts we’d made and get something similar to the golf course gigs, something where we could work together. My husband said that was unlikely. Cushy gigs like that are few and far between in construction.

Besides, it was getting cold. My husband hates the cold. He wanted to work inside. He wanted to DJ. That’s why we came to Nashville. So he could work in radio. And that’s how we met, in college radio.

But you don’t just walk into a mid-major radio market from a small radio market and go to work. It doesn’t work that way, no matter how good you are, especially back then when radio was a big thing and every job in the top 50 market was highly coveted. You had to pay your dues.

As the old story goes, we knew a guy, who knew a guy, who knew a lady that managed a strip club. The strip club needed a DJ.

I could name names in this post and from a journalistic perspective I should, but I’m not a journalist, so I’m not going to. If that puts you off, I understand. This is my hobby. I don’t get paid for it. I’m not going to risk getting sued over blogging. And this physician sues people. He also pulls guns on people.

That said, he’s been the subject of many write ups in The Nashville Tennessean and The Nashville Scene since I’ve lived here and upon researching him, I found articles concerning his weight loss and family medicine practice dating back to 1979.

Here’s a run down of some of the antics that he has been “disciplined” by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners for:

  • Molestation of patients
  • Sex with a minor
  • Abusing and insulting patients and employees
  • Frequenting a brothel
  • Unethical Billing Practices
  • Brandishing a handgun in the physicians cafeteria of a Nashville hospital

His discipline consisted of being required to see a psychiatrist, attend Sex Addicts Anonymous, be interned in a treatment facility, have a physician sponsor and pay various fines.

Several years ago my husband and I were watching the local news and a story came on about him. He was being accused of exchanging opioids for sex with prostitutes. One of the ladies had gone to the police with allegations that he abused her. His lawyer was excoriating the woman on the news. My husband and I looked at each other. It was the first time we’d heard about him in years.

I hated my husband working at the strip club. Duh. I threw few fits over it–to no avail.

“It’s good money,” he insisted. “I make more in tips in a couple of days than I can make all week working construction.”

I wasn’t appeased.

“I’m not working there for that,” he assured.

“Yeah. Right.”

“Then quit your job and go to work with me if it’d make you feel better. You can sit in the DJ booth. Nancy won’t care.” Nancy was the manager of the joint.

I was waiting tables again at a hotel coffee shop. The tips sucked and the manager was making passes at me. So I turned in my notice and went to work with my husband at the strip club.

It seemed like the logical thing to do. Of course I was twenty-two at the time.

 

 

Mandy, a Film directed by Panos Cosmatos, 2018; Horror/Fantasy

 

If you are a fanboy or fangirl who likes to drop acid, read Heavy Metal magazine and jam out to–oh, let’s say– Dio in a black light basement, then Panos Cosmatos’ Horror/Fantasy Mandy is for you. If you don’t engage or dabble in any of the above, then I would suggest you stay away–like I wish I had.

The plot? Pure revenge yarn. I’ll get down to it.

Red (Nicolas Cage) is a lumberjack in the mountains of…Oregon?… Yeah, I’m going with Oregon, who lives an idyllic life with his wifey–yeah, you guessed it–Mandy (Andrea Risebrough). Mandy is very lithe and fairy-like in a Gothic Horror kind of way. She wears Motely Crue and Black Sabbath concert t-shirts. And she has really big expressive eyes. Weird eyes, actually.

Red and Mandy are deeply in love and, on this, I’m not being tongue in cheek. Their romance is touching. They’re simpatico.

Mandy had a horrible childhood. Her father is a demon. I’m not kidding. He is a real demon–quite possibly the demon. But she escaped him.

Then one day she’s walking down the idyllic road (well, it’s scenic but there are these weird howling sounds at night) where she is spied by demonic cult leader, Jeremiah, (Linus Roache) and his slovenly followers who are out cruising in their conversion van. Oh yeah, I forgot…it’s 1983–Soooo yes, there are mullets…And aviator glasses.

So Jeremiah summons his denizens from hell (yes, he has that power) and they are scary, (think Pinhead, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers if they were really oily and rode motorcycles) to kidnap Mandy. They do, but not before they ransack the couples tender lair and torture Red, leaving him tied up in barbwire and almost dead.

At the cult’s labyrinth lair, things don’t go well for Mandy when she encounters Jeremiah; he thinks he’s the son of Satan and she knows full well he is not. She is not impressed when he plays her his record and it has flute in it–and we’re not talking Jethro Tull. She laughs at him. (Yeah, I know. But she can’t help it. She knows demonic rock and this isn’t it.) This makes Jeremiah furious so he sets her on fire, though he does it with a wistful look in his eyes.

Meanwhile Red is tied up in barbwire with a very serious vendetta jones. He escapes the barbwire and forges a Medieval looking battle axe and goes to war with the denizens of hell.

And its bloody. Really bloody.

I didn’t like this movie. But that’s just me. From the dispassionate position of objectivity, Mandy meets, even exceeds its bold, grandiose and highly stylized ambitions. That said, Cosmatos could pick up the tempo a bit.

Visually, it is stunning. Cosmatos’ color palate is as vibrant and lush as it is dark and gritty. There were times I felt as though I was free falling into an abyss of shades of red.

The soundtrack by Icelandic composer, Johann Johannson is superb. I knew it was going to be special when, during the opening sequence, Red surveys his opulent forested surroundings as the gorgeous, haunting overture of King Crimson’s Starless plays. Best part of the whole movie, I thought.

Cage is good, particularly in the first half as he conveys his relationship with Mandy. It is a gentle, natural, seamless performance; one for which he will receive a lot of attention, perhaps even career saving attention. I hope so. I have an affection for him.

In the second half he goes predictably bonkers, albeit with a wink and a nod…And a leer. It’s effective, if you like that kind of thing.

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