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All Things Thriller

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

The Showgirl, The Capo and The Comic Part IV

THIS IS A STORY BASED ON THE TRUTH. THE NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS, THE LOCALE AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE HISTORICAL AND FACTUAL. I HAVE TAKEN LIBERTY WITH SOME INCIDENTALS AND THE DIALOGUE, BASING THEM ON THE ERA, THE SITUATION AND THE CHARACTERS INVOLVED.

Part IV

Drake recognized him from the jump. All arms and legs with a joker’s smile, he was hard to miss and harder to forget.

He opened the door but didn’t get in. “How ya’ doin’ kid? Long time no see,” he said.

“Doin’ great, Jackie. Thanks for asking. Hop in.”

But Jackie Miles stayed put. Despite the ocean breeze and a short sleeved shirt, beads of sweat ran down his cheek. “No. I flagged you down for a friend.”

His eyes locked with Drake’s for a second and then darted away. “Hang on a minute. I’ll get him.”

Drake watched him disappear behind the door of The Paddock as his wheels began to turn. Unlike other night clubs on the strip, The Paddock put up no pretense. It was mob, all mob and nothing but the mob.

The door swung open. An older man, petite except for his belly, dressed in a silk Cubano and cuffed trousers walked out. His two toned oxford’s gleamed as he got into the cab. Drake recognized him too.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Carfano. Where are you headed?”

“Take me into the city, Allan,” said Little Augie. “And call me Gus.”

It wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. In fact, it wasn’t bad at all.

Yeah, he carried a gun, but just for protection. “You’ll never use it, kid,” Little Augie said.

He carried envelopes and packages too, delivering them, usually, no further than across the room, from one table to another, though sometimes it was across town and, rarely, across state lines. Drake never inquired, never hinted.

He did not want to know.

His duds got fancier. He acquired a tailor. Little Augie gave him a pair of solid gold cuff links and a Longines Gent’s. 

At a table for one he ate Italian dishes, like corn over quail with prosciutto gravy and duck ragu. He sipped Brunello wine and Cuban coffee while he waited for Little Augie to finish talking business with “friends”.

Sometimes, while alone in his suite, Rollo the bellman would bring him a pot of Maxwell House with milk and a bowl of white beans cooked in brown sugar and catsup. That’s when Drake would miss his apartment; yes, even his dad…

But that hardly ever happened because he was always with some stripper from The Paddock.

Little Augie felt the rumblings more than he heard them, and that spooked him a bit since, as capo, his ear was turned to the street more than Costello’s. He even made a trip to New York and had a sit down about it.

But Frank assured him that everything was copasetic. And Little Augie believed him–for the most part. 

He believed him because he wanted to believe him; because if he didn’t, he would have had to turn on him. And Little Augie didn’t want to do that.

Sure, Frank was Little Augie’s best friend, but it wasn’t that; Little Augie had turned on friends before. As the saying goes, “it’s just business, nothing personal.” The problem was, when it came to Vito Genovese, it was personal.

Vito made Little Augie’s skin crawl.

You see, Vito was a hard ass for the sake of being a hard ass. For him, wet work wasn’t a just a byproduct of business, it was Lucanica–and worse than that (because, let’s face it, Little Augie was tight with Albert “The Mad Hatter” Anastasia ) Vito had no pretense of sensibility–not even humor–about it.

That’s why Luciano tapped him as underboss after he crossed Masseria and then double crossed Maranzano; Luciano wanted an enforcer in the number two position as a deterrent. In actuality, the real number two was his consigliere, Frank Costello.

Some of the old school mafioso didn’t trust Costello because he had married a Jew and was “too flashy”. They favored the more “working class” Genovese instead.

But Lucky Luciano trusted him. And that’s what counted. He went back further with Frank than anybody, except for Myer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel, who in the strictest sense of Cosa Nostra hierarchy, didn’t even rate as soldiers because they, too, were Jewish.

Despite the friction, the flux, the constant churning, Lucky was the one guy who could bring everyone together and keep the money train chugging down the track. And boy, oh boy, did it chug! The guy was a criminal genius.

But even geniuses make mistakes. Lucky’s big mistake was with the ladies of the evening.

He underestimated them.

The woman he underestimated the most, though, wasn’t a prostitute; she was an assistant D.A. to Thomas E. Dewy. And she was black. Her name was Eunice Carter.

Now don’t forget, this was way back in the 30s so it was a big damn deal. To get where she was, at the time that she did it, she had to be big time smart–a lot smarter than Luciano.

And she was. She graduated cum Lade from Smith and earned her law degree from Fordham–both hoity toity schools.

Despite her upper class upbringing, her many college degrees and high society lifestyle, Carter empathized with the plight of the prostitutes–many of them women of color–that she was charged with prosecuting. Through her meticulous diligence and her rapport with women that knew more than they should have, because the men who ran their lives thought so little of them that they divulged secretes they otherwise wouldn’t have, Carter pieced together a complicated racketeering case that led to the door of, arguably, the most powerful mobster the world has ever known.

Of course Thomas Dewy got all the credit…but the bottom line was, Lucky Luciano got busted. Big time. He did eleven years and then got deported to Italy in a deal he made with the government in which he provided intelligence on Nazi infiltration of the waterfront.

Even so, Luciano was still the boss when it came to making the ultimate decisions. As such, he didn’t want Vito Genovese running the ground game.

All the worry was for naught, however, because Vito screwed up and had to flee the country for Italy before Luciano had a chance to act. And that’s when Frank Costello stepped in.

And that’s when things went from good to great for Little Augie. Costello sent him to Florida to run the gambling rackets in Miami. Little Augie got fat–and very rich. They all forgot about Vito for awhile.

As it turned out, they underestimated him too.

Vito managed to finagle himself out of multiple murder indictments by committing multiple murders. Go figure.

Not only that, as a double agent of sorts, first working as a hit man for Benito Mussolini and then, during the allied invasion, switching sides and leading a highly profitable black market smuggling ring that ensnared many high level officials, he managed to blackmail and threaten his way back into the states, all the while avoiding prosecution.

Now Vito wanted his old job back.

But Frank said no. More importantly, Lucky Luciano said no.

So, Vito slinked back to his position as capo of the powerful Greenwich Village crew in Manhattan; a very lucrative position, no doubt, that most gangsters would kill for.

To be cont’d…

The Showgirl, The Capo and The Comic Part III

THIS IS A STORY BASED ON THE TRUTH. THE NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS, THE LOCALE AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE HISTORICAL AND FACTUAL. I HAVE TAKEN LIBERTY WITH SOME INCIDENTALS AND THE DIALOGUE, BASING THEM ON THE ERA, THE SITUATION AND THE CHARACTERS INVOLVED

Part III

It doesn’t take long to get accustomed to a little more butter on your toast, a little more cream in your coffee. Allan Drake was no different in this regard.

He had just settled into his new digs–and by his standards they were nice: a kitchenette, a firm settee, a soft mattress–when he ran into a bit of a snag. He couldn’t pay his rent.

At first he was perplexed by trickling cab fares, though the old-timers had warned him. He was young, mesmerized by the sun–and two-piece swimsuits, especially.

To him, winter in Miami was summer in Miami.

His landlord gave him a week to get right, otherwise he’d be out on his ass. His things, on the other hand, they could–would–stay.

That’s why he got back into the ring. But it wasn’t the fear of being out on the street that drove him there. It was the fear of ending up back in Boston.

He promised himself it was just for a season, that he would squirrel away more tips, that he wouldn’t buy as many clothes.

“You can’t drive my cabs looking like a palooka,” his boss told him when he showed up with a swollen face.

He promised himself he had learned his lesson as he shifted from practitioner to mauler, intent on beating his opponent first to the punch and then to a pulp. For the most part, he succeeded.

“You’re getting noticed, kid,” his decrepit manger said one day after a sparring session with Lighting Leroy Jones. The rummy nodded toward a little old man with a shallow face and lantern jaw.

“That’s Little Augie.”

And that’s when Drake first felt it, before he even recognized the name, an uppercut of revulsion that bled into fear, that bled into dread as cold and dull as an end-swell.

“I don’t want that kind of attention,” he said.

The rummy chuckled. “Sure, kid. Whatever you say.”

The winter faded fast and so did his fear. The comics and the showgirls climbed back into his cab. He tripled his fares.

He cleaned out his locker and paid off his manager.

“You like being a hacky, huh kid.”

“No. I like being a hackey in Miami,” Drake said. He waited for the man to laugh.

“See you around,” the rummy said.

True to his word, he put ten percent of his tips in a stew pot under the sink of his kitchenette.

True, Little Augie didn’t trust Sally Giadinello. Then again, Little Augie didn’t trust anyone.

So, yeah, there was that. But it was more than that. It was his hair–thick and wavy, strawberry blonde, the girls said–that really set Little Augie’s teeth on edge.

That and his coal black eyes…and his faint Palermitano dialect…and his smarts. More than anything, it was Sally G’s smarts. And his ambition, though he hid it well.

Ordinarily, when Little Augie had those feelings about someone, that someone wasn’t long above ground. But Sally had a golden ticket–he was married to Lucky Luciano’s favorite niece. That’s why he was Little Augie’s driver in the first place.

So there was that.

Fortunately, Frank Costello understood. Little Augie and Frank were best friends. And since Lucky had been deported, Frank was the de facto boss. Sally G was transferred back to Brooklyn.

That was that.

But that left Little Augie without a permanent driver.

Of course he could have filled that spot with a snap of his fingers, but he had something very specific, if not a little unorthodox, in mind. He wanted someone supremely loyal to him and him only, someone smart enough, but not too smart.

He wanted a soft touch who was a bruiser, with no connections to “the life”.

To be cont’d…

The Showgirl, The Capo and The Comic, Continued

THIS IS A STORY BASED ON THE TRUTH. THE NAMES OF THE CHARACTERS, THE LOCALE AND THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE HISTORICAL AND FACTUAL. I HAVE TAKEN LIBERTY WITH SOME INCIDENTALS AND THE DIALOGUE, BASING THEM ON THE ERA, THE SITUATION AND THE CHARACTERS INVOLVED.

Part II

Nerts

It’s not like Little Augie had it easy growing up either. In fact, he had it worse. He was one of ten kids; they didn’t have enough to eat, owned little more than the clothes on their backs and were cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

That’s just the way it was in Brooklyn in those days, for the kids of immigrant parents. Wop kids. Jew kids. Mick kids.

Most of them, anyway.

Little Augie couldn’t do a thing about the cards he was dealt, but he wasn’t about to cry over spilt milk he didn’t have in the first place. So he learned the street rackets in urchin gangs–how to make a zip gun, how to stick someone without killing them and how to palm from the merchants wagons.

He learned the hard stuff too, like how to cut somebody’s throat without getting sprayed with a guizer of blood.

But most of all he learned the art of the steal–running dice games and card games–that was his specialty, even more than running hooch and broads. When somebody called his bluff, he flipped the table and robbed the game.

You know what they say–the house always wins one way or another.

Little Augie believed in himself, period. But he was as practical as he was ambitious. A quick and dependable study, he graduated from street gangs to working for the black hand extortion gangs.

Even so he was no Bruno; he was too small and too smart to be muscle. He worked with and for his street pals who grew up to be the bee’s knees of the syndicate, guys with the same streak of viciousness, calculation and restraint: Lucky Luciano, Myer Lansky, Frankie Yale, Al Capone, Joe Adonis and, especially, Frank Costello.

This was before everybody got divided up, when Luciano was in the process of taking things over, thereby relaxing the black hand’s grip on the rackets and putting the kibosh on their bunk about not working with anyone who wasn’t Sicilian.

It was about this time that Al Capone got wind Frankie Yale was stealing hooch from his trucks–trucks he was supposed to be protecting. Big Al was pretty peeved about that. By then Little Augie was bouncing back and forth between Brooklyn and Chicago, acting as eyes and ears for Yale, who wanted to take over the Chicago mob.

One night when Frankie was holding court at his social club, the telephone rang. Joey Peraino was behind the bar and took the call. “It’s for you boss,” he called out.

When Frankie got off the phone he looked a little green around the gills. “Everything okay, boss?” Joey asked.

“It’s Lucy. She’s at the hospital,” Frankie said. Lucy was his new trophy wife.

“Nerts!” said Joey. “I’ll drive you over.”

But Frankie said no. When the chips were down, he trusted no one but himself. He rushed out of the club and roared off in his brand new bullet proof Lincoln.

A few blocks and a couple of twists and turns down the road, a married couple relaxed in the front room of their swanky brownstone. All of the sudden they heard the roar of engines, the screeching of brakes and tires and incredibly–terrifyingly–the rata-tat-tat of a machine gun! Right outside their door!

Now most people would have hit the floor. Not these two. They ran to the window just in time to see two men, little more than shadows with machine guns, dive into the back seat of a black Buick before it raced off, black on black into the night.

Not only that, an enormous car had run up onto the corner of their stoop, making a mess of the steps and their fancy brick planter. A heavy-set man in a nice suit was slumped over the steering wheel, obviously dead. His head was blown apart.

When the cops got there the couple found out it was Frankie Yale.

“Nerts!” they said.

And that’s what Frankie’s pals said too, when they found out that the dealership that bulletproofed the Lincoln had forgotten to put in bulletproof glass.

The syndicate gave Frankie the biggest funeral Brooklyn had ever seen. And what a spectacle it was! His solid silver casket rested on a bed of overflowing flowers atop a convertible hearse. Cars filled with family, wreaths and dignitaries followed for miles and miles. People lined the streets to watch.

Then his pals carved up Frankie’s rackets and his assets. A big chunk went to Joey Peraino, but he didn’t get the lion’s share. That went to Little Augie.

Frankie’s wife, his ex-wife and his three daughters got what was left–about three thousand dollars.

To be cont’d…

The Showgirl, The Capo and The Comic

This is a story based on the truth. The names of the characters, the locale and the circumstances are historical and factual. I have taken liberty with some incidentals and the dialogue, basing them on the era, the situation and the characters involved.

Part One

It all started with what believers call the sweet science. He learned it to defend himself; it was tough being a Jewish kid in an Irish neighborhood. He stuck with it to cope.

The regimen. The discipline. The comradery. That, he liked.

Breaking some poor slob’s nose? Not so much. He’d rather disarm the guy with a joke, but he wasn’t that funny. So he learned to box. And he was pretty good at it, not great but good enough to go pro and to earn a few bucks on the undercards of better fighters who didn’t stand a chance of coming anywhere near the big time.

That’s the way it was with Allan Drake. Always on the fringe.

Boston didn’t suit him. It was cold and depressing; he didn’t want to earn his living with his fists.

“I need a fresh start, Dad. I wanna go some place clean and friendly.”

“You gotta do what you gotta do,” his dad said.

So that’s what he did.

He got a job driving a cab when he got there.

˜

As it turned out, Drake actually liked his job. Sure, at first it was just a way to make ends meet until he landed something better. Then he found out there was decent money in being a hacky in Miami, especially on the beach front where the mob bankrolled long stretches of luxury hotels and night clubs.

He didn’t mind hauling them around town either–the boys, that is. He kept his eyes on the road and didn’t speak unless he was spoken to. Some were friendly, some weren’t. All of them were big tippers. It was a prerequisite.

The entertainers that worked the clubs, now they were a different story. He loved driving them. The showgirls, especially. Then the comics.

The showgirls–va va voom, legs to the moon--were usually nice enough. And he wasn’t shy about looking them in the eye. He had his rap down pat–maybe a little too pat–but he knew the score. Girls who looked like that and dressed like that, didn’t fool around with guys who looked like him… guys who drove a cab for a living...but, girls who looked like that did fool around with comics.

And comics–at least the one’s that played swanky night clubs–made good money…no, they made better than that. They made nice money.

Besides, some of the comics he drove made him look like Clark Gable. Plus he genuinely enjoyed their company.

Who doesn’t like a good laugh?

One night Drake picked up two drunks from the Grand Hotel. He gave them the once over as they spilled into his cab. One was a little black-haired Jew with deep acne scars along the cheekbones of his shriveled face. The poor guy looked like he hadn’t had a decent meal in two weeks. The other guy was younger and healthier and a lot better looking. Maybe a Jew. Maybe a wop. Both were dressed to the nines.

“What’s buzzin’ cousins?”

“Just clocked out,” said the shriveled up guy.

“You two work at The Grand?”

“For the time being,” said the handsome one. He handed Drake three dollar bills. “We’re looking for some company.”

“Sure thing. What do you have in mind?”

“Slacky and happy,” the shriveled up one said. He pulled out a flask from his suite coat, unscrewed the lid took a big swig. Then he handed it to the handsome one.

“Yeah, take us slummin’. No grannies,” the handsome one ordered. He guzzled from the flask.

“No problem, fellas.” Drake pulled away from the curb.

The handsome one leaned over the front seat. “Here ya’ go kid.” He handed Drake the flask.

Drake sipped from it. He could feel the guy’s breath on his neck. And, boy, could he smell it.

“What’s your name kid?” the shriveled up one asked.

“Allan.”

Drake handed the flask back over his shoulder.

“Where you from?”

“Boston. West End.”

“Beacon Hill?”

“Boylston.”

The shriveled up guy went bug-eyed. It didn’t take much.

“Well, hoi polloi,” he said. “How’d that happen?”

The handsome one whistled.

Drake laughed. “Boylston Street’s changed a lot.”

“Since when?” the handsome one asked.

“Since about eight months ago,” Drake said.

They laughed.

“You’re funny kid,” said the shriveled up one. “I’m Jackie. That’s Lenny. Where you really from?”

“Beacon Hill.”

They laughed some more.

And that’s how he met comedians Jackie Miles and Lenny Kent. They were the one’s that put the bug in his ear…well, the bug was already there. They just scratched it.

And scratched it…

“Not bad kid. Really. The timing’s a little off…and that’s the most important thing. Timing…but you can learn it.”

“You can get better at it,” Kent corrected.

“You can learn it…You did.”

Drake handed the index card back over the seat.

Miles waved him off. “Just a few one liners. I’ve got a million of ’em. You keep it.”

“Thanks.”

“Sure kid.”

Before they got out Drake asked about the slumming. He just had to know.

Kent was incredulous. “You can’t mess with the girls at The Grand. Little Augie runs that place. He’ll break your legs.”

“He’s right. Those girls are private property,” Miles said. “You got to be on a first name basis. That’s not us…Besides this is about as close to home cookin’ as Lenny’s gonna get.”

Everybody laughed.

Then they got out the same way they got in. They stumbled.

Drake watched them disappear behind the doors of the Hi-Ho Club. Then he drove back toward the lights.


To be cont’d…

A Grain of Truth: a Dive into Conspiracy Theories

I am of the opinion that there is a grain of truth in many a conspiracy theory and considerably more than that in “the word on the street.” This is probably due to me overhearing my mom’s shop talk when I was a kid (she was a hair stylist) and seeing her sources confirmed, or at least seriously considered, during my copious consumption of investigative journalism and, admittedly, it’s black sheep cousin/sister…ahem…yellow journalism.

Case in point: my mother always said she believed that Texas millionaire, racketeer and church elder Billy Sol Estes and his business associate, former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, were in involved in the JFK assassination.

You see, my mom had the skinny on Sol Estes because during his hey day–the early 60s–she lived and plied her trade in his stomping grounds–Pecos, Texas (pop. 10,000). There, “Billy Sol” was a tractor sized wheel who threw lavish parties for Texas Democrats at his 26,000 acre ranch on Saturdays and preached sermons on the evil of dancing as a lay minister of the Church of Christ on Sundays.

Later, after he served two stints in prison, much was written about his agricultural schemes, the suspicious deaths of seven men tied to those schemes, his embezzlement of funds from the coffers of the Christian schools he oversaw, his connections to LBJ and his knowledge of the assassination conspiracy. In 1984 he testified before a grand jury promising to spill his guts about the whole sordid mess if he was granted immunity.

He wasn’t, so he didn’t; not then, anyway. He did spill them in a book about it thirty years later though, claiming LBJ aid Mac Wallace was one of the shooters, acting on Johnson’s behest. But that was years after I first heard my mother espouse similar theories based, primarily, on beauty shop gossip.

Now I’m not saying I believe my mom’s theory (long time Donald J. Trump friend and Republican dirty trickster, Roger Stone believes it; he also wrote a book about it) but I’m not saying I don’t believe it either. There’s no definitive proof.

There is, however, compelling circumstantial…I wouldn’t say evidence...indicators…pointing to plausibility. Then again…

Roger Stone

And now that I’ve brought up Roger Stone, it’s a good time to segue into the Q-anon conspiracy theory…the one about the cabal of Satanic Democrat pedophiles who drink the blood of infants and with the assistance of “Hollywood” (and I’m presuming Broadway and the recording industry as well, with the exception of traditional Country artists circa 1989) would have taken over the world, if not for former President Trump.

Yeah, that Q-anon conspiracy.

Okay, let’s dig in.

So, you recognize these two, right?

Jeffrey Epstein, the deceased multi-millionaire money manager to the richest of the rich (he hanged himself in jail) and his British socialite girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell, who currently resides in the Metropolitan Detention Center, of Brooklyn, New York, awaiting trial for trafficking underaged girls to Epstein and several of his high profile clients.

Of course you do.

And you’ve probably seen these:

Of course you have.

But, what about these?

Hmm…

I suspect it depends on what news you watch and read as to which pictures you’ve seen. I’ve seen the Trump photos but just one of Clinton’s prior to this post. Frankly, that’s a problem. I shouldn’t have to watch Fox News to get facts about Clinton’s involvement with a convicted sex pervert.

To be fair, all these photographs were taken before Jeffery Epstein was arrested and convicted of procuring a child for prostitution in 2008. In 2019 after Epstein was busted for sex trafficking, Donald Trump played down their former relationship saying, “I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. Not a big fan.”

But Trump and Epstein were notorious party pals in the late 90s through the early 2000s, seen in each others company many times in Manhattan and Palm Beach. “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it – Jeffrey enjoys his social life,” he told New York magazine in 2002.

Predictably the two had a falling out over a property deal in 2004 and haven’t socialized since. In 2007 Trump kicked Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago for being inappropriate with a guest’s daughter.

All right then, what about Bill Clinton?

Clinton insists he’s never been at Epstein private Caribbean island, Little Saint James, where underaged girls reportedly engaged in orgies with some of Epstein’s friends, associates and benefactors. But chief Epstein accuser and sexual trafficking survivor Virginia Roberts Giuffre says otherwise. In 2020, unsealed court documents revealed Giuffre’s testimony that she saw Bill Clinton on Little Saint James island with two teenage girls from New York. Giuffre said she could not recall the their names. She does not claim to have witnessed Clinton engaging in inappropriate conduct with them, nor does she claim that he abused her.

Additionally, the young woman photographed massaging Clinton’s neck,  Chauntae Davies, who claims Epstein sexually assaulted and trafficked her, has testified that although Ghislaine Maxwell instructed her to give the massage, “President Clinton was a perfect gentleman during the trip and I saw absolutely no foul play involving him.” The incident happened in 2002 while Epstein’s private jet dubbed the “Lolita Express” was refueling.

Clinton was traveling with Epstein, Maxwell, Chris Tucker and Kevin Spacey to Africa on a humanitarian trip associated with his charity. (The picture of Clinton seated, smoking a cigar was taken on Epstein’s plane.) Flight logs confirm that Clinton flew 26 times aboard the “Lolita Express.” Clinton says it was four times.

Then there are the other politicians, one’s that, unlike Trump and Clinton, Giuffre has accused of abusing her while she was trafficked by Epstein and Maxwell. Let’s see…there’s Prince Andrew, (everybody’s seen that picture and, yeah, I know he’s not really a politician) Ex-New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of Energy under the Clinton administration (he and Bubba are buds) and former Democratic Senator and Senate Majority Leader from Maine George J. Mitchell.

Last and possibly least (I think he’s particularly gross, but that’s just me) there’s Alan Dershowitz, the famous lawyer of O.J. Simpson and Harvey Weinstein and member of Trump’s defense team during his first impeachment trail. Giuffre has accused him, too, of sexual abusing her.

It was Dershowitz who got Epstein the sweetheart deal for his 2008 conviction in which he and four named co-conspirators (along with any unnamed potential co-conspirators) were granted immunity from all federal criminal charges. Epstein served 18 months in conditions that were comparable to Pablo Escobar’s pampered existence at La Catedral prison in Columbia.

In 1997, Dershowitz wrote in an op-ed, “there must be criminal sanctions against sex with very young children, but it is doubtful whether such sanctions should apply to teenagers above the age of puberty, since voluntary sex is so common in their age group.” He went on to opine that “15 was a reasonable age of consent, no matter how old the partner.”

It is these views of Mr. Dershowitz, on age of consent, that spur me to contrarily–but necessarily–play devil’s advocate. The word pedophile is bandied about in the media, describing–in this case–Epstein’s domicile of Little St. James as “pedophile island.” But what is the real definition of a pedophile?

A pedophile is a person who is sexually attracted to prepubescent children, whereas a hebephile is sexually attracted to early adolescent teenagers–ages 11 thru 14–and a ephebophile has a sexual attraction to older teenagers falling below the age of consent. Within these paraphilias there are overlaps and the attraction ranges from preferential to exclusive. While Jeffery Epstein was, no doubt, a contemptuous sexual predator with over lapping paraphilias, he was not–to my knowledge–a pedophile.

The distinction is important because, yes, some abominations are worse than other abominations but, perhaps, even more than that, blurring and exaggerating the lines between deviant, unacceptable and criminal behaviors allows truth to be corrupted with lies. That contamination can lead to outrageous conspiracy theories such as the one about Satanic cabals of Democrats who drink the blood of babies as they seek to take over the world.

And theories like that can lead to riots.

Now, ideally, I should end on that. It’s a good tag line and it sums everything up (plus this getting long and I’m pushing your patience) but I really want to add this anecdote. So here goes…

Years ago, when my husband was still in radio, his boss shared an explosive confidence with him. She swore him to secrecy, just as she had been sworn to secrecy by her best friend, whose son, a member of the Secret Service that guarded the interior of the White House, swore her to secrecy. After all, national security and his job was on the line.

In turn, so explosive was this confidence, my husband (who usually keeps secrets like he keeps watch on our bank account, like a hawk) told me. But before he did, he swore me to secrecy.

That night, hours after everything had calmed down, I suggested that I should pick up some burgers at Steak-n-Shake. He happily agreed. Steak-n-Shake is his favortie.

While I was waiting in the drive thru line, I called my mother. This is pretty much what I said:

“Mom, I’ve got something to tell you. It’s about the president…and it’s bad. It’s all about sex. There’s stuff, I can’t even say…about cigars…and there’s DNA…You’re going to be hearing a lot about it because the whole story is about to break but I wanted to tell you before it does. I think he’s gonna have to resign…”

The Reconciliation of Faith: A Blind Deceiver Sees the Light

Long ago, during the reign of the Caesars, there lived a disgruntled man of privilege, a Jew with Roman citizenship. His name was Saul. He was a Pharisee.

The Pharisees were a sect of scholars immersed–to the nth degree, jot and tittle–in the writings of the Hebrew prophets. They enforced Jewish law amongst the common people who considered them less corrupt than the more liberal, more upper crust Sadducees, though they were not. In fact, they were so devilish that they subverted the very scriptures they purportedly revered, using them to cannibalize the assets of their most vulnerable citizens.

Jesus Christ was their natural enemy. He saw through them and exposed their schemes. He castigated them, calling them white washed tombs full of filth and decay. He shamed them, naming them hypocrites. And he lightened their pocketbooks by driving out the street peddlers, who paid them bribes, from the courtyard of the temple.

Consequently they hated him; so they followed him around, trying to catch him in an indiscretion. And they tested him, famously, when they dragged a terrified woman before him, encircling them both. She had been caught in the bed of a man other than her husband, a crime in those days and according to the law of Moses, punishable by the cruel death of stoning.

“Teacher, what shall we do with this woman?” they asked him.

Jesus knelt and wrote something in the dust of the ground. What it was, we are not told. Then he said, “he who is without sin should throw the first stone.”

This dumfounded the Pharisees. Convicted by their conscience, each one of them from freshman to senior, dropped the stones they held and left her alone with him.

“Daughter, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” he asked.

“No, my Lord. They have gone,” she answered.

“Nor do I condemn you. Go in peace and sin no more,” he said.

The people were enamored with Jesus. They flocked to him and he taught them about God. And because he was merciful and despaired seeing them in pain, he healed the blind and restored the lepers to their health. In return the people tried to force him to be their king, hoping that he would liberate them from Roman rule and return them to the glory days of King David. This so demoralized the Pharisees–they were so envious of him– they conspired to murder him.

But Jesus wasn’t interested in being that kind of a king. He wanted the people to choose him as their spiritual king so that he could liberate them from their sins. When the people realized this, they were grievously disappointed.

Sensing an opening, the Pharisees swooped in and took advantage of the peoples discontent. They distorted the teachings of Jesus, stirring up nationalist resentment against him, instigating a frenzied mob that called for his crucifixion. The Romans feared a Jewish insurrection and though they found him not guilty of any crime, they appeased the mob by executing him.

The Pharisees were gleefully relived. They thought that they were rid of him.

But Jesus’ followers remained. And although they were initially scared off, they regrouped and were emboldened by the Spirit of God. They continued to teach his philosophy of enlightenment through forgiveness and service, calling themselves Christians.

Their numbers grew so expeditiously that the Pharisees, once again, felt their power and influence threatened. So they sent their most zealous enforcer to round up the Christians, with orders to detain them, to torture them and to kill them. This man was Saul.

Now Saul believed himself to be right. He backed up his assurance with scriptures that he twisted in and out of context to fit his will. He was adept at this, for as a student of Rabban Gamaliel, he knew the Jewish law both forward and back.

One day, while Saul was traveling on the road to the city of Damascus, where he was to further his mission of oppression, a brilliant light from the heavens flashed around him, knocking him to the ground. And he heard a voice that said, “Saul, Saul. Why do you persecute me?”

And Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”

Then the Lord said, ” I am Jesus, who you are persecuting. It is useless for you to fight against my will.”

So trembling and afraid, he asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

Jesus told him, “Stand up and go into the city. There you will be told what you must do.”

When Saul stood, he was blind. Those who were with him were also afraid because they too heard a voice, but saw no one.

Tennessee Legislature Sides with Texas in Shameful Lawsuit

The United States is a complicated place. On one hand you have the blessed freedom of opportunity, of religion, of the pursuit of happiness…and on the other hand…well, as Calvin Boardus Jr., aka, Snoop Dogg, so melodiously put it:

It’s like this and like that and like this and uh
It’s like that and like this and like that and uh
It’s like this…

America is a grand experiment of ideals threaded through a constitution both bold and noble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Of course, this declaration has famously bent under the weight of ideas laden with notions of superiority and inferiority, yes, even in inception, and it’s badly misshapen now, but it is not broken–not yet, though if the state of Tennessee has it’s way, it will be.

That’s because the Tennessee legislature, most of it Republican, worships in the cult of Donald Trump. These Republican legislators proved their devotion and fealty to Trump yesterday by glomming onto a ridiculous lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is clamoring for a presidential pardon for impropriety and fraud. The lawsuit once again challenges the validity of Biden’s presidential win via the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania. It is remarkably similar to the lawsuit that the Supreme Court refused to hear brought by Pennsylvania Representative Mike Kelly earlier this week.

And so, to the disgust of most of us who reside in Tennessee’s largest metropolitan areas–the economic engine that powers the state–and to some of us who don’t, the volunteer state again sides with the devil and sixteen other states in infamy, just as it did over one hundred and fifty years ago, when it took up arms with some of the same collaborating states against our countrymen for the sake of slavery.

Embarrassing. Shameful. Cowardly. Grotesque.

When will the Tennessee learn?

Tennessee’s roll of shame:

  • Herbert Slatery (R) – Attorney General
  • Chuck Fleischmann (R) – Representative
  • Mark Green (R) – Representative
  • David Kustoff (R) – Representative
  • John Rose (R) – Representative

Game Night, a film directed by John Francis Daley and Johnathan Goldstein; Action Comedy

Annie (Rachel McAdams) and Max (Jason Bateman) are a cute couple. And, like every cute couple, they have a thing. Competition…that’s pretty much it. They met at trivia night.

Not only are they competitive with one another, (it’s friendly, but fierce) they like to gang up on others. (They’re a good team.)

Ever so often they get together with another cute couple, Kevin and Michelle (their thing is that they have been together, literally, forever, i.e., high school) and Ryan, their physically attractive, goofball buddy, who–to the annoyance of the gang–always brings a long-legged, air-headed date for a night of pool, charades and, or board games.

Game night.

To that mix add Brooks, (Kyle Chandler) Max’s suave and shiesty older brother, and Gary, (Jesse Plemons) the couple’s creepy, next door neighbor who happens to be a cop and a widower. (To be fair, he does have a really cute dog.)

Whereas Gary desperately (and awkwardly) wants to be invited to Max and Annie’s game nights, Brooks is taller, darker and handsomer than Max…and more athletic. So there you have your psychological conflict.

Plus, there’s Max’s sperm problem–he’s not producing enough, or they’re scraggly, or…you get the idea; the cute couple wants to have a cute baby, but they can’t because Max is stressed out about the competition thing with Annie and–mainly–Brooks.

Sibling rivalry.

One game night, Ryan (the goofball buddy) brings an older more accomplished date, Sarah (she’s also Irish) to the soiree at Brook’s house where he has sprung for an elaborate, interactive role playing game in which the winner takes home the car of Max’s teenaged dreams–a classic Corvette Stingray.

A red one.

Max is inspired and pissed at the same time.

When two thugs break in and kidnap Brooks while he’s explaining the rules of the game, everybody is impressed with the excellent acting and physical stunts of the role players (they body slam Brooks into a glass coffee table) and are eager to join in. There’s just one problem: unbeknownst to them, the role players aren’t role players at all. They’re real kidnappers. And Brooks is a real gun smuggler who is reaping what he has sowed.

So that’s pretty much the gist of the movie…they start out believing it’s a game and then in the middle–Max gets shot, Gary’s dog gets saturated in blood and Brooks gets the crap beat out of him–it becomes a lot more real, but no less funny.

Think The Wild Bunch if The Wild Bunch was a comedy and not directed by a misogynistic genius…

In this case we have the directing duo of John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, both of whom fostered their careers primarily in television. Accordingly, Game Night benefits from a crisp script, disciplined pace and a solid supporting cast. But more than anything else, it’s the chemistry between Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams–skilled pros, adept at scoring and setting each other up–that drives the film.

Let’s Move On

Okay. I’m not going to gloat. Gloating’s not a good look.

(Note the rhyme and reason between gloat and bloat; the nuance, if you will. Take note of it, if you can.)

Or don’t.

Either way, I’m moving on.

I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don't think twice, it's all right --Bob Dylan

Of course it’s easy for me to quote Bob Dylan. I haven’t lost anybody to Covid-19.

With the help of the good Lord and the strong business acumen of my husband, we have weathered 2020 pretty well, but that doesn’t mean we won’t reap the whirlwind that is to come. Or that we will reap it, for that matter.

That’s Que Sera, Sera, and it falls within the realm of providence, whether by chance or by God, or some combination of the two…

If I had a chance to counsel President Trump right now, I would tell him he still has a chance to leave with dignity.

I would tell him that he can have his cake, i.e., dignity and–by all means--he can eat it it. Absolutely, he can. And he can have just about any kind of cake he wants…

Except a second term as president cake. He can’t have that.

I would put it to the President like that if I could. And he might listen…I’m sure he likes cake…and I would add this:

You could potentially spark a Second Civil War, Mr. President. You could. Your base loves you that much. They’d do anything you tell them to. They adore you.

But you won’t do that, Mr. President. No. You won’t spark a Second Civil War. Because you love this country too much.

And because you love this country so much, you are going to live to fight another day. You are going to build another massive empire. A broadcasting empire. And that’s where you are going to wage war. For now.

Come 2024, all bets are off...

Now pack your bags and leave like a gentleman. Or don’t.

Either way, you’ll leave.

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