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All Things Thriller

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

Tangerine Jam: An Eclectic Ode In Jazz

My husband and I are DJs. Yes, at one time we were on the radio. In fact that’s where we met.

Radio was my husband’s dream and my hobby; that means he was better at it than I was. And for awhile he made our living working his dream. He made it all the way from a tiny Christian radio station in Odessa Texas to the airways of Nashville Tennessee where he worked at just about every radio station in town. All of this in the late 80s thru the mid 90s when radio was a big deal and a highly competitive field.

Country. Rock. Top 40. Adult Contemporary. He did it all. He loved it.

But then I got pregnant with our first child and we needed to make some serious money. So–with the contacts and the skills we accrued in radio–we started our DJ and Karaoke business. It has been good to us and I can honestly, humbly, say we’ve been good to our fledgling industry too.

We’ve trained and employed many DJs. We’ve worked the Bonnaroo music festival, the victory party for Vice President Al Gore, the CMTV Music Awards after parties and Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton’s engagement party to name a few of the high profile gigs.

But mostly we’ve DJ’d weddings. Literally hundreds of weddings.

My husband and I no longer gig. We manage our collective of DJ’s and cater to an increasingly demanding clientele. As such we are music directors, marketing campaigners and event planners.

I rarely miss “being in the field.” I don’t have time to, but occasionally I get nostalgic.

Here’s one of my old Dinner Music/Cocktail music mashups. It’s not stuffy and it’s not boring if you like jazz and dabble in hip hop, that is.

How’d He Get This Way? (A Profile in Narcissism) The Serial: Part II

Some said he ran roughshod over other people’s money. His dad said that. And it was true, to a certain extent. But, of course, he didn’t call it that. He called it being aggressive.

In fact, you could say, that he very carefully cultivated a reputation for “running roughshod.”

“It’s called making money, dad. It’s called making a deal,” he told his father many times when they discussed his philosophy, especially toward the end.

His reputation for making the deal was like chum to sharks…He liked being called a shark but you’d better not call him a whale. That’s what the house calls suckers with money….(Plus he’s a tad bit overweight and very sensitive about it.)

But back to his reputation– it alone earned him at least a billion dollars. That’s because the biggest sharks never lost money on his deals. (Well, almost never.) And that’s because so many smaller sharks were willing to take substantial risks just so they could be in on it. So they could brag about it. So they could feel the rush of the possibility of the deal.

He dangled it, flaunted it–so they could smell the money.

He and his select partners…And they are very exclusive, his partners; only the best…made several billions of dollars off the smaller sharks that way. And he made several millions of dollars for the smaller sharks that way too.

Most of the time everybody walked away richer and happier for it. But sometimes things  didn’t pan out. The big sharks would, now and then, get a case of the jitters–and that scared away the smaller sharks.

Sometimes there was too much red tape, too many laws and regulations…Sometimes it all ganged up on the deal and sucked the precious life out of it.

It happened.

It’s not his fault that some people don’t diversify...You’ve got to have a lot of irons in the fire if you’re going to run with the big boys. Don’t play if you can’t afford to loose, or at least have the sand to declare bankruptcy and move on…(Of course he didn’t tell the smaller sharks that.)

Why should he?

At heart, he was really just a glorified salesman. And he was okay with that…Salesmen are very entrepreneurial. A salesman’s desk is his brick and mortar on somebody else’s dime. But you better have balls. Confidence. The sky’s the limit as long as you’ve got your pitch down so that you can bend and shape it to fit the mark in front of you…He respected a good salesman. A good saleswoman too, though they were few and far between.

That said, his grandmother was a good saleswoman. A business woman. Her husband died in the flu pandemic at the end of WWI when she was a very young woman, much younger than her late husband. She could have predictably sat on the small fortune he left her. Instead she used it as collateral.

Likewise, she could have sold the land she inherited. But she didn’t. She built houses and apartment buildings on the sites, effectively starting the family real estate empire.

Even so, women like his grandmother were few and far between. At least that was his take on it. Women liked to play things close to the vest. They were too conservative, content to be merely rich instead of really rich.

Even his grandmother was like that…

And then there were the whores.

There was a time when a man could call it like it is. Whores are the ones that put out. Not like boyfriend/girlfriend put out, but like hook up in the parking lot put out. You can do whatever you want with those girls…(Not that he’s advocating violence.) Any guy that’s into that stuff  needs to be put down…Like a rabid dog needs to be put down.

Sometimes a whore can be really smart, though. They can spin everything around to their advantage. Play all the angles. Women, when they are ruthless, have lots of angles.

They’re curvy.

He loved women when they were like that…He hated women when they were like that.

 

 

Crawl, a Movie directed by Alexandre Aja, Horror; and an Homage to Junk Food and the Dash Diet

Not that I always do, but know how to eat right. I’ve been interested in nutrition since I was a teenager, but I owe most of my knowledge on this subject to one source. A long time ago I bought this little book at the grocery check out line in Walmart.

Speaking of Walmart… I’ve found that you either love it or hate it. I’m one of those that hate it.

It’s fine if you want to spend an afternoon there, but I don’t. I want to get into the grocery store and get out. It aggravates me to no end that the produce and eggs and bread are on one side of the store but you have to walk across Texas to get to the dog food.

I don’t want to buy electronics at the grocery store. I don’t want to buy clothes there either.

My husband–on the other hand–loves Walmart. He’s mesmerized by a good deal. Consequently, we go there maybe twice a year. He’s the kind of shopper that likes to go down every isle…

Anyway, that’s why I remember buying this little pocket book so vividly. It’s something I really like, from a source that I really hate. The book is called The First Food Evaluator and it’s written by Peter H. Dukan M.D. He’s French.

Well, The First Food Evaluator is in demand. But try buying one. You can’t. There’s one copy available on Amazon and you can have it for  a 150.00. Seriously. What happened to the other copies?

I don’t know. But one of them belongs to me.

So what’s the big deal?

The First Food Evaluator evaluates food healthy or unhealthy–on a spectrum from medicinal to poison– by how it heals, neutralizes or aides and abets disease. It’s fascinating. And when I’m using it, along with other healthy eating mainstays like the Dash Diet, I feel so much better. I really do.

The problem is…I get bored. Or I get bummed. Or I get in a celebratory mood and a salmon pinwheel with southwest corn relish just doesn’t get it. Sometimes I want to eat junk food.

Same thing with movies. Most of the time I’m a very irritating movie snob immersed in Truffant, Godard and Felleni but sometimes I have to break free and indulge in something that teeters on the edge of camp and bad. It’s an itch that feels so good when I scratch it.

Hence the movie Crawl.

Crawl is an old fashioned creature feature, but make no mistake–it’s a horror film in the same way Jaws is a horror film. People get eaten in Crawl. They get torn apart. It’s graphic. It’s gory.

And like in Jurassic Park there are–I don’t know exactly how many, at least two–multiple monsters. In this case the monsters are giant alligators who are terrorizing an estranged father and daughter in the enormous crawl space of their four bedroom two bath bungalow style home during a category 5 hurricane.

Yeah, the architecture of the bungalow is sketchy, the crawl space is somehow larger than the entire house. There are a lot of these inconsistencies in Crawl, stuff that just doesn’t pass the smell test and if that bothers you don’t go there.

Really. Please don’t go there and ruin it for whoever is sitting on the couch next to you. Remember, you are watching a movie about gigantic, prehistoric-like alligators that are swimming in a goldfish bowl crawlspace because they want to. They can enter and exit the crawlspace anytime they want. So, it’s not supposed to be realistic. Pointing out all the “mistakes” and “disharmony” is besides the point.

Now I know I mentioned Jaws and Jurassic Park, but don’t think I’m equating them with Crawl. I’m not.

Jaws is a classic. It’s nearly a perfect movie, so perfect that there were people who had heart attacks in the theater watching it. Same thing happened with the Exorcist and Psycho.

Trust me, nobody’s going to have a heart attack watching Crawl.

And Jurassic Park was a feat in spectacle. The special effects were mesmerizing.

Crawl is not going to be nominated for best special effects at this year’s Oscars. It’s not happening. But that’s not to say that Crawl’s special effects aren’t good. They’re awesome, considering the 13.5 million dollar budget. That’s where seventy five cents of every dollar goes in this movie–and it shows.

Accordingly, the dialogue sucks. In fact it’s so bad that it almost sinks the whole movie, but the enormous, bone snapping alligators snatch it from the jaws of defeat and then rip it to shreds–in a good way.

That doesn’t happen everyday.

A Good Man Is Hard To Find; A Short Story by Flannery O’Conner, Introduction and Partial Analysis with a Quote from Kris Kristofferson

 

My friend, DW, asked me to write about a Flannery O’Conner short story and I agreed. He made this request some time ago.

Obviously I haven’t forgotten.

Anyway, DW didn’t make stipulations, i.e., he didn’t specify short story, but, since that’s what O’Connor is known for, that’s what I’m writing about.

And since I brought that up, I have a confession to make: I had never read Flannery O’Conner before though I recall seeing her short story, A Good Man is Hard to Find, in one of my Literature books back in the day. We didn’t study it. And it didn’t jump out to me as something that I wanted to delve into independently.

Still, I remembered reading that she was a Catholic writer and that piqued my interest a bit. Intelligentsia rarely admires authors of faith, so she had to be good.

O’Conner is dead, of course. Most of the great ones are.

A Good Man is Hard to Find–featuring a clueless all American family, a circumspect serial killer and his demonic henchmen, with elements of the supernatural and lessons in original sin–is Flannery O’Conner’s best known work.

It is Southern Gothic at its best–scholarly prose with a pulse, written instinctively.

Truman Capote liked it a lot.

Analysis:

One can approach A Good Man is Hard to Find without some knowledge of  the Catholic faith, but I wouldn’t recommend it. In other words you don’t have to be a Catholic to understand it, but some familiarity with the parabolic teachings of Jesus Christ viewed through the lens of Catholicism, will go a long way.

The story, steeped in a mixture of doctrine and civil rights, tells of a smug, entitled, self righteous old biddy who, through the unrelenting imposition of her will, brings about the destruction of her family.  Throughout the story she is referred to simply as the grandmother.

The grandmother lives with her son, Bailey, his wife and their children, John Wesley and June Star. And the baby. The names of the cast of characters–or lack thereof–are symbolic.

Take “Bailey” for instance; a somewhat unusual name, circa 1953, when A Good Man is Hard to Find was published. Bailey is a surname used in place of a given name. Though such names are fashionable today, as they were in antebellum south, the practice was considered too stuffy by 50s Americana standards.

Although his surname signifies entitlement, Bailey is less than enthusiastic about the implications and expectations of his birthright; he accepts them nonetheless. He is WASP. Moreover, he is Old South WASP. It is his blessing and his curse.

The grandmother, on the other hand, indulges in privileges that she has done nothing to earn. She thinks of herself as a beacon and belle of the right, polite, patriarchal society when she is its stubborn residue instead.

The boy, John Weasly, represents the recklessness of the Methodist reformer of the same name who O’Conner views as catalyst of the splintering Protestant movement. The girl, June Star, represents the devolution of the fragmented church into spectacle.

And the mother?

She depicts the lack of distinction or–more precisely–the utter lack of feminine influence on the Old South patriarchal society. Consequently, O’Conner banishes the mother to the purgatory of incubator and robotic caretaker of the baby.

The baby is devoid of all human characteristics exempting the most base. He cries. He consumes. He eliminates.

Flannery O’Conner never had children. Obviously.

I used to think babies were like that.

The unsuspecting family embarks on a weekend getaway, ostensibly from their home in Georgia to sunny Florida, but the grandmother has other plans. Regaling John Weasley and June Star with tall tales of a secret passage in the ancestral mansion of an old boyfriend, the grandmother pressures her son to veer off course via Tennessee.

Bailey doesn’t want to, but he can’t bare his whining children. He steers them into a dark and forbearing forest just to shut them up. The mother barely utters a word.

Along the way they pass a black child standing in abject poverty with no pants. The grandmother is delighted by the child’s cuteness, even as every billboard warns of an escaped serial killer called The Misfit; even as a shady entrepreneur–a bar owner, actually and a Jimmy Swagart like preacher symbolically– warns them about him too.

The grandmother just can’t help talking about The Misfit. She’s terrified of him. He fascinates her too.

Okay…

The Misfit is obviously the Devil a.k.a., Satan. No need to stretch it out and turn it into a big mystery. And the Devil and the grandmother are on a collision course.

Here’s where some first hand experience in religious fundamentalism is preferred but not mandatory.

Analysis cont…

Yet, even with fanfare and warning, the grandmother is distracted by truckloads of pettiness. Nitpicking. Technospeak. Call it what you may. She steers her family into a forest so dense–yes, let’s all say it together–she can’t see it for all the trees. This is the realm of The Misfit.

Moreover, the road that they are navigating is much too narrow for their family sized car. Bailey runs them off into a ditch.

Now the family are at the mercy of the merciless. But he is interesting. The Misfit, that is.

And he’s been watching them. Stalking them, really. The automobile accident is his opportunity to swoop in.

Whereas Bailey had trouble maneuvering his less than agile family automobile, The Misfit knows these roads like the back of his hand. He rolls right up to them in an enormous black hearse with his hillbilly henchmen.

Here’s the thing about The Misfit though–even though he’s despicable, there’s  something about him. He’s mysterious. How did Kris Kristofferson put it?

He’s a walking contradiction

Partly truth and partly fiction

The Misfit is very sensual. He’s a rough around the edges professor with an accent straight out of Appalachia. His hair is startlingly white and on the longish side. He wears suspenders and tight pants with no shirt. He’s not necessarily handsome and he’s not necessarily not handsome.

Trust me, women like that kind of thing.

He carries a sawed off shotgun. The grandmother is mesmerized.

See. Even Flannery O’Conner thinks so. And she’s practically a nun.

One by one, The Misfit instructs his henchmen to lead the grandmother’s family into the woods. Shots ring out. Again. And again…

Yes, even the baby. That’s the whole original sin thing…And  the purgatory thing, too.

Finally it’s just the grandmother and The Misfit.

Now I could go on and dissect the ending….Since this is an analysis, that’s exactly what I should do…But, if I did that, I’d ruin the ending and I suspect there’s a lot of you who–like me–haven’t read Flannery O’Connor before. I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Plus, A Good Man is Hard to Find is sooo symbolic, it would take me forever to explain it.

But, here’s the main thing–I don’t think I have the right to dictate a particular interpretation of her text. I mean who really can know with absolute certainty the meaning of it except for the Lord and Flannery O’Connor?

Right?

So you’re just going to have to read it for yourself.

That’s the Protestant side of A Good Man is Hard to Find. In a nutshell, of course.

 

*The Pilgrim

 

 

The Face of a Stranger

Historians, anthropologists and theologians, whether secular or believer, tell us that the flesh and blood Jesus Christ, looked nothing like the image most of us have of him. Unlike the familiar European depictions, Jesus’ hair was not long (Galilean Jewish men wore short hair; it was mandated) and he was not blonde.

So it is logical to  presume that Jesus was dark skinned and dark eyed if he looked anything liked the men of his culture and time–and, according to the Bible, he did. The Bible tells us that he blended in so much that his betrayer, Judas, had to point him out to the soldiers that came to arrest him because he was with his disciples. In other words he looked like they did.

And who were they? Predominately fishermen and laborers.

Jesus Christ was not handsome. The Bible tells us “…he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Isaiah 53

He was a carpenter and a wanderer. He walked many, many miles in a harsh, barren environment.

Jesus was poor. The Bible tells us that he was often homeless.

He was a rugged man. A strong man. He carried his own cross after being beaten so savagely that the flesh of his back–what was left of it–hung in grotesque, bloody shreds. It was called scourging, and it was so brutal that many people died during it. Jesus carried his cross until he collapsed. Then an African man was forced to carry it the to the top of the hill Golgotha where Jesus was executed.

Jesus said this regarding the stranger, the immigrant, the alien; those who, like he was, are poor and hungry, who are often sick and imprisoned, who are mistreated and discarded; those who, ironically, look like he did:

 

Mirgant.jpg

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to me.” Matthew 25

How’d He Get This way? (A Profile in Narcissism) The Serial

“Don’t get him riled up,” he heard her say.

He wasn’t supposed to hear, but he did. It was one of the things he both did and didn’t like about her. Her voice carried.

“He’s in a foul mood today,” she went on in her whisper voice that wasn’t a whisper at all. And then there were muffled voices…Words he couldn’t understand…Laughter…

Nonsense. He didn’t have time for it.

Easy for them to scoff. Easy for them to ridicule. What did they know about pressure? Every word he uttered was scrutinized. Every gesture, grimace and smile picked apart.

Vultures. 99.9% of them.

They acted like he wanted to feel this way, to act this way. Like he enjoyed it.

The truth was he hated getting bristled. Bristling wasn’t a good look for him. It made his jaw clench and his lips purse. It caused him puff out his chest and for that nasty film of sweat to form where his mustache would be, if he had one.

His dad had a mustache. It was a despicable thing. A food trap. A bacteria trap…

Bristling made him hot.

His mother had incorrectly called it getting your cockles up. “Don’t get your cockles up,” she’d say…And they would laugh.

He got flushed when he bristled. And flushing was especially unbecoming to him. Flushing made his face look more mottled. It didn’t matter that he tanned his skin to the color of a terracotta pot.

He heard her say that too. It pissed him off, but he had to admit it was funny.

So, he let things roll off him when he could.

His butler brought him a diet coke. He watched the man’s movements, slyly, with his excellent peripheral vision.

So precise. So fluid. So careful.

He admired the military crispness of the uniform, the faint clean smell of soap and water on the skin, the jolt of peppermint on the breath. He envied the butler’s grace even as it repelled him.

“Is there anything else…”

He waved the butler off mid sentence. And turned up the television.

The butler bowed, not deeply but noticeably and left the room.

He wasn’t always so short with the man. Sometimes he shared a few words with him. Sometimes he said thank you. Sometimes he even joked around. Today he simply wasn’t in the mood.

To him there was no nobility in servitude, no honor. The thought of it irked him.  Servitude was for the low class.

Waiters. Hairstylists. Nurses. Chauffeurs. Losers…Pilots too. They were just chauffeurs in the sky.

That’s what his dad said about them when his brother said he wanted to be one. His brother–the alcoholic. His brother–the nice guy.

Servitude reminded him of his mother, who’d been a maid, before she hit the lottery and married a rich man. Before she became a snob. If there was anything–anyone–that he couldn’t abide it was an unqualified snob.

The nouveau riche.

Most of them didn’t even know how to properly use a knife and fork…

He could spot them a mile away.

Always too much jewelry.

The thought of his mother made his head hurt. He messaged his temples.

At least she had regal features. Good straight, even features. Unremarkable Scandinavian features.

But her hair. That long winding, sculpted monstrosity piled on her head. The gallons of hairspray. The smell… One time he had tried to touch her hair when he was a child.

She slapped his hand away.

To be continued…

Sunburn, a novel by Laura Lippman, (2018) William Morrow; Noir

I like to read. That rates a zero on the surprise scale, of course. Just about every single person who blogs likes to read. It’s pretty much a requirement.

That said, I’m not a snobby reader. I am finicky though. I only read crime novels.

Consequently I read a lot of thrillers. And less then half of them are any good. I’ve often blamed the genre for that, but that’s not fair. Especially since I follow some excellent book review blogs and like everybody else, I’ve got apps for that.

I could be, should be, knee deep in top of the line thrillers.

The problem is I’m a compulsive person. As such, I routinely get an overwhelming urge to buy a paperback whenever I pass the book rack in Walgreen’s or Publix. (Not to mention my problem passing up sushi and guacamole.)

Now I love Walgreen’s and Publix. I can’t imagine shopping for groceries, greeting cards and hair color anyplace else, but neither mercantile is very good for buying books. Unless you like romance, James Patterson and Stephen King.

And westerns.

In other words the selection sucks. (Come on paperback rack jobbers. You can do better.)

Normally I would have been skeptical as I delved into Sunburn, a 2018 bestseller noir from author Laura Lippman. Number one: I’ve never read a Lippman novel. Number two: I bought it at Publix.

But I remembered reading about Sunburn, that it was supposed to be good. And so I had, if not high hopes, moderately high ones that this book would be among the exceptions.

Plus, Sunburn is not a thriller; it’s a noir. Noirs are generally shorter than thrillers. Therefore if you don’t like the first chapter of a noir, chances are you’re not going to like it period. So there’s not a big investment in time. You can bail out and absolve yourself of disappointment with no more than a shrug.

And that’s a bit sardonic because that’s exactly what Lippman’s lead character Polly Costello does from from the git-go. She walks out on her husband and their three year old daughter while they are vacationing on the Delaware coast.

She’s not impressed with the accommodations–they are blocks away from the beach and the towels are scratchy–and less impressed with her husband’s ambition. He’s content to get by with a middling job and periodic handouts from his mother.

Polly jumps on a bus to put as many miles as possible between her and her obligations only to disembark a mere seventy or so miles down the road. The town is of the one horse variety, the kind you breeze through on the way to the beach without much thought. She walks into the local watering hole, makes small talk with the bartender and walks out with a job as a waitress.

It becomes rapidly obvious that Polly is fleeing more than an unhappy marriage and inconvenient motherhood. That she is, of course, running from her past–and with good reason. Polly is a murderer. She is also, of course, a bonafide femme fatale with all the necessary features, e.g., a good figure, stand offish persona, billowing red hair and the propensity to use sex as a weapon.

Enter Adam. He’s a traveling salesman of some sort with a lot of free time on his hands and a broke down truck.

And he’s handsome. Extremely handsome.

And that amuses me.

While Polly is an attractive protagonist, she is not beautiful. She’s alluring. Sexy in a way that Adam can’t quite put his finger on (aside from her near perfect figure, of course.)

Conversely–and I am not speculating on this--trust me–if Sunburn was written by…oh, I don’t know…Larry Lippman, Polly would have been drop dead gorgeous and Adam would have been a scruffy everyman with a mysterious sex appeal.

It is important that genre literature strokes us. That it soothes us. That it affirms us.

Us. We. Them.

But I digress.

Prospective paramour, Adam, decides to stick around the one horse town and takes a job as cook at the watering hole, where Polly waitresses. Slowly, but surely, he begins a relationship with her, finding out some of her secrets; namely that her murder victim was her first husband with whom she had a disabled child, also abandoned by her.

As their relationship progresses Adam finds out more. He discovers that Polly’s first husband was a sadistically abusive cop, up to his eyeballs in murder, and that some of his unscrupulous cohorts are trying to hunt her down. He discovers the details of her crime, that she ran a butcher’s knife through her husband’s heart as he slept.

Yet, despite his knowledge, Adam is so disabled by Polly’s sensuality that he stays. Even though he doesn’t like one horse towns and has a fashionable apartment in Baltimore– he stays. Even though he has the means to fix his truck and skedaddle–he stays. Even though he is so gorgeous that he could have his pick of equally gorgeous women with considerably less spine crushing baggage–he stays.

Even though he becomes more wary of the woman he shares his bed with and for his own safety. He stays.

Consider their–how shall we say it?–intimacy:

She drifts toward their bedroom, pale and cold as a ghost. Within five minutes, the set clicks off and he is in bed with her. They both play it savage tonight. She pulls his hair, bites him hard.

Really? Yikes…Funny.

And there’s this:

He picks her up and carries her to the bed. She fights him, bites him and scratches. It’s shaming how much he likes this. They haven’t even kissed yet, and she’s drawn blood on him.

Geez? What’s the matter with this guy? A glutton for punishment perhaps?…

Or could it be that he is just a guy (albeit an extremely good looking guy) who seeks absolution from a woman who is qualified to give it to him?

If so, now we’re talking sexy..

Indeed. But what about the children? Her children? She abandoned them.

That’s not sexy…Not sexy at all.

Nope. That’s bad. Really bad. That’s despicable. What kind of a woman does that?…

Exactly. What kind of woman?

Sunburn has been out for over a year now, but it’s just now showing up on the paperback racks at Publix and Walgreen’s.

 

 

 

 

Playing Roulette With the Mob: The Death of a Rock Star and the Case For Murder, Part V

Initially, Loraine Fuller was flooded with relief when she looked out the window of the luxury apartment she shared with her sons. Her car was there. In her parking space.

She had been looking for it for hours.

Well, actually, it wasn’t so much the car, that she was looking for. It was her son, Bobby. He had left, in her car, early that morning, July 18, 1966, around 2:30 a.m.

Of course at twenty-three years old Bobby was a grown man, so there was nothing she could do about him getting up and leaving abruptly at all hours of the night, or morning, as it were. So she did all she could do. She stayed at the apartment by the phone. And she worried.

She had reason to.

Bobby was having problems. He was unhappy. Even though he had a big hit record and was making good money, he wasn’t making the kind of money that he should be making and he knew it. She knew it.

Still, it wasn’t just the money situation that was bothering Bobby. In fact, money wasn’t the main priority with her son. For Bobby, it was all about music. Music was his life. He was gifted, that way. All of her children were. They came by it naturally, she was a very good pianist and her husband was a decent singer and could play the violin.

But Bobby was special. He was a prodigy. He needed a lot of freedom to do what suited him musically. He was a perfectionist. And that put him on a collision course with his record label. Lately he had been butting heads with his producer and his producer’s partner.

As a matter of fact, he had just gotten back from San Francisco. They had some club gigs booked, but when Bobby found out that the record label hadn’t put any money into promoting the gigs, he told the band to pack up their stuff and they came back to Los Angeles.

Lorraine didn’t blame him. But now there were more people upset with Bobby and she knew, better than most–yes, thank God, better than most–that there are some very bad people out there. God help you if you had something they wanted and they didn’t like you…If they were jealous of you…

None of that mattered now. Bobby was back. He was safe and she had been needlessly worried. She was so relieved that right then and there, while in the swell of euphoria, she felt the sting of anger. She was going to let him have it for making her worry…After she hugged him. Yes–thank God!–first she would hug him so hard…To show him she meant business.

She rushed down the steps toward her car.

Rick Stone could have used another thirty minutes of sleep that morning before he was awakened by Mrs. Fuller. She said that she was worried about Bobby, that he had left early and hadn’t come back.

Stone wasn’t the least bit worried, but he got up and looked out the window anyway. Yep. The parking space was empty.

He checked the garage, too, as a show of concern for Mrs. Fuller’s sake.

Nope. No blue Oldsmobile.

He shrugged it off, Bobby was probably sleeping it off somewhere. They had all been partying a lot lately. Stone knew of a meeting at Del-Fi Records, that Bobby was supposed to attend at 9:30 a.m. Bobby had asked him to be there too, so he showered and got ready.

He tried to assure Mrs. Fuller that every thing was fine.

At 9:30 Rick Stone was in the lobby of Del-Fi with Randy Fuller. Bobby never showed. They rescheduled for three o’clock and Stone went off on his own errands. He made note of the situation, but he still wasn’t worried.

That changed when Bobby didn’t show up for the three o’clock appointment. Stone decided to drive over to Bobby’s apartment to see what was up. He turned the corner hoping to see Mrs. Fuller’s car in her parking spot. Instead he had to slam on his breaks. Cop cars were everywhere, blocking the entryway to the complex.

Stone threw his car into park and got out, making a beeline toward the throng of police. Mrs. Fuller’s car was there, in its parking space with lots of police milling around it.

“Where do you think you’re going?” a cop bellowed at him, blocking his way. Stone told him he was a member of the family and the cop let him through.

He approached the car tentatively, bracing himself for what he was about to see.

The driver’s door of the Oldsmobile was open and Bobby was in the front seat slumped over, reeking of gasoline, with chemical burns, scrapes and bruising on his exposed skin. There was blood on his shirt and gas soaked rag in his mouth. A gas can was in the floor board. He was in full rigor mortis.

Rick Stone’s head began to swim. He bent over and began to breath deeply to keep from passing out.

There are a myriad of theories about Bobby Fuller’s death, though most people believe he was murdered. I’m not going into a great deal of detail here, but just to give you an idea, one theory features Frank Sinatra. Another one, Charles Manson.

To be fair, these names weren’t pulled out of thin air. Frank Sinatra’s mob connections are well known. The FBI ran a forty year dossier on him and those connections. Bobby Fuller associated briefly with Sinatra’s daughter Nancy. That’s the extent of the connection.

The Charles Manson connection, excuse me, connections are decidedly creepier. Take, for instance, Jay Sebring. He was the ex-boyfriend and hairstylist of Sharon Tate. Sebring was murdered along with her by some Manson acolytes. Jay Sebring, the hair stylist of the stars, cut and styled Bobby Fuller’s hair.

And speaking of Sharon Tate, she went to high school in El Paso. Bobby Fuller was from El Paso, attending high school there also, though not the same school as Sharon Tate. Not only that, Charles Manson, who knew Bobby from the club PJ’s, asked Bobby to give him guitar lessons. Bobby refused.

See what I mean? Creepy.

But ask any seasoned investigator and he or she will tell you that these odd coincidences come up in any case. They will tell you that you can go down a labyrinth rabbit’s hole with coincidences that morph into conspiracy theories, that you can be overwhelmed by them.

One such theory is particularly cruel. It names Randy Fuller as the killer of his brother.

The motive? Envy.

And to that I say, “So?

About the motive, that is.

Randy Fuller was envious of his brother. And while envy is never good, it’s perfectly understandable within the perimeters of the sibling dynamic. Particularly this sibling dynamic. It’s hard to be in a band with your brother; especially hard if your brother is a musical prodigy.

Then there’s the name thing. Back in El Paso, the band was called The Fanatics, but record label managemendecided on The Bobby Fuller Four instead. Randy, admittedly hated being regulated to the “Four.”

They were a band. And it was his idea to do I Fought the Law

So, yes, fratricide is within the realm of possibility. Stranger things have happened. They do happen. But trust me, there is not one iota of evidence that implicates Randy Fuller in his brother’s death.

Zero. Nada.

That being so, let’s examine the suicide theory.

Though there is some discrepancy, it is generally accepted that Bobby had been irritable and moody over the last few months of his life. What nobody disputes, however, is that Bobby was upset with the direction of his career and on the verge of walking out on his contract.

And then there were the drugs.

Yes, Bobby indulged. Nothing hugely concerning, a little pot and some LSD…Okay. LSD raises eyebrows. No doubt. But you have to remember the era–LSD was actually legal at the time–and the circle in which Bobby ran. He partied. He wasn’t a drug fiend. Good grief, the guy was living with his mother at the time of his death.

Well then, Did Bobby Fuller commit suicide by huffing gasoline?

Extremely unlikely. None of the family believes it. Nobody who was close to Bobby believes it. Apparently the medical examiner was skeptical too, because he checked both the suicide and accidental death box and then put a question mark by each.

And that leads to the next question: If not suicide, was it an accidental death?

Now this is where we get into the weeds. According to the corner’s report, when the medical examiner opened the body, the organs smelled of gasoline. That’s consistent with death by asphyxiation from inhaling gasoline, which is congruent with accidental death.

Paradoxically, though, Randy huffed gas when he was a  teenager and Bobby caught him in the act. “Don’t ever do that again,” he warned his brother. “That stuff’s got lead in it. It’ll kill you.” 

Randy’s indiscretion is consistent with the data regarding the abuse of inhalants. Most people who use inhalants are teenage boys. Adults rarely abuse them, especially adults of means with access to “cleaner” drugs. Bobby was twenty-three at the time of his death. He was about to pay cash for a new Corvette.

However, it is the eye witness accounts of the events on July 18, 1966 that cast the most doubt on the accidental death theory.

Lorraine Fuller had worried about her son since she heard him leave in her car around 2:30 a.m. Roughly, from that time on, she checked the designated parking spot for the car every thirty minutes before it suddenly appeared around 5 p.m.

If that seems excessive, consider what had happened to Lorraine Fuller’s oldest son Jack.

Five years before, Mrs. Fuller sat straight up in her bed crying hysterically. She had awoke from a nightmare in which Jack’s spirit had appeared at the foot of her bed. “Mom, I’ve been hit in the head. It killed me,” Jack’s spirit said.

Mrs. Fuller had spent the previous afternoon and evening frantically worrying about her son. He hadn’t shown up for Sunday dinner and he hadn’t called to explain why. Though Jack had always been a bit wild it wasn’t like him to make his mother worry so.

Even so, Bobby and Randy weren’t worried. “He’s probably just gone over to Juarez and got drunk or something,” was their consensus. But Mr. Fuller was more circumspect. “I’ve had a strange feeling all day that something bad was going to happen,” he confided to his sons.

Days passed with no word from or about Jack. The family contacted the police.

Three weeks later the cops arrested a young man driving Jacks prized ’57 Chevy in Lubbock Texas. He confessed to murdering Jack–shooting him in his head– for the car and a wad of money stuck in the visor that turned out to be play money.

So when Mrs. Fuller said she was worried and that she checked the parking every thirty minutes, I believe she did just that. She earned her paranoia and her credibility at terrible cost.

Therefore, if Mrs. Fuller was telling the truth, it is impossible that Bobby Fuller’s death was an accident. Even in intense tropical heat, it takes at least an hour for rigor mortis to set in. And while it should be noted that Los Angeles was in the midst of a heatwave, Bobby’s body was in an advanced stage of rigor when he was found. For the death to be an accident, the car, with Bobby’s body in it, would have had to have been in the parking space longer than an hour.

Although Rick Stone, Mrs. Fuller and two other witnesses, friends from El Paso, all insisted that Bobby had been beaten, that there was scrapes and bruising on his skin and blood on his lip, his shirt and the front seat of the car, the medical examiner disputed that, claiming the bruises and scrapes where really chaffing and maceration from exposure to gasoline and heat.

But perhaps most ominous clue to what really happened to Bobby was the condition of the house shoes he was wearing. According to Stone they were dirty and scuffed as if Bobby had been dragged. This also suggest that Bobby left the apartment in a hurry.

The house shoes he wore were his mother’s.

To be continued…

 

 

 

 

 

A Shoutout To Some of My Favorite Bloggers Vol. 2

Those in the know tell us that memories usually begin about age three. Most of us don’t remember anything before that. It’s called infantile amnesia.

Sounds reasonable, as it seems consistent with my own memory.

For instance, I remember this vividly: Riding in my mother’s car–the song 1,2,3 Red Light playing on the radio as I sat on the console behind the gear shift, pretending to drive, mesmerized by her hand shifting gears…

“Don’t touch that,” my mother warned about the gear shift. “If you do we might wreck and you’ll have to visit the doctor.”

That was that. And from then on, that’s where I would perch when my mother and I would run errands in her little red car. That would have been about 1968, I guess.

Then later, this was probably ’70, ’71’, I remember sharing a room with my brother–he was one. He had what they thought was colic, but I think it was a deep inner ear infection undetected by the pediatrician. He’s practically deaf now .

I digress…My brother had to sleep with the radio on to soothe him and that terrible song, D.O.A, would play twice every hour. Terrifying. I would scoot under the covers and plug my ears with my fingers.

So what does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Fair question.

I’m establishing a thread. I’m trying to convey that music is an important component in the memory process and a tie than binds the human experience. That thread extends to, and thru, this post. (Yeah, I know, thematically I’m stretching the boundaries. It’s what I do best.)

And speaking of that, this is the second post in a series. So if you don’t see your name mentioned here…And should you have the inclination to feel a little offended (not that any of you would)…The list is in no particular order…And, finally…I can’t use up all my material. Then it wouldn’t be a series.

Just sayin. Ahem…

Power Pop – Max likes a lot of music, but mainly rock. And just what does that mean in today’s finely splintered music terminology? It means everything from The Clash to The Allman Brothers, to The Kinks to David Bowie. And he really likes Badfinger. Max is like what AOR rock radio used to be the 80s. Diverse. (True, I’ve never read anything on his site about hip hop and I don’t think he likes hair metal…But that’s okay. Everybody’s got their faults.) Max is from Nashville. He’s not big into southern rock.

On Power Pop you can debate with him on stuff like: Who’s the best guitarist ever? Best drummer? Most talented Beatle? Are The Allman Brothers really southern rock? Informational and statistical nuggets that a lot of us who can’t spell theorem hypothesize like they are, nonetheless.

MelissaMcLaughlin- Truthful Grace – Melissa is an accomplished, published author of inspirational, Christian literature from the feminine perspective. She’s uplifting. She’s principled. She has been gifted by God with the ability to tread lightly on the rhythm of words. If that sounds like dancing, it’s because it is.

The Immortal Jukebox – My gosh, can this man can write! He is scary good. Here’s what he does…

Thom takes a theme or a concept and then he weaves music into it. Only, you don’t hear the music, but you feel it–through his words. So powerful is his ability to write that even if you were deaf, you’d be able to perceive the notations he describes.

His blog is a tapestry of music history. Of theory. Of wit and cultural milestones. Of songs in the style of Americana, rock and alternative. Of jazz. This is a literary blog. It is an entertaining blog. Most of all, it is a musical blog.

The Brokedown Pamphlet –  Mark gets three short paragraphs because that’s the way I perceive his style. He is concise. I envy that.

With Mark less is more. Congruently, he invokes the power of a word lovingly chosen. A brilliant writer of existentialism select.

His wife and blogging partner, Christine, is equal in talent. Her photographs capture the beautifully remote.

Last, but not least, is Wolfmans Cult Film Club . I love this site. It’s as wonderfully idiosyncratic as is its author, Mikey Wolf. (Now, could it be that Mikey’s last name is really Wolf? Or Wolfe? If so, very cool…)

Regardless, Mikey’s branding is all wolf. Werewolf. In other words, his site’s mascot is: 

Mikey dressed as a werewolf!

Ha! I love that! It’s funny. It’s Irreverent. It’s bold. It’s very Creature From the Black Lagoon. And speaking of the aforementioned film…it’s exactly the kind of film Mikey reveres. Glorious B movies of substance and verve. He turned me on to Jack Sholder’s brilliant The Hidden for which I’m forever grateful.

You know what else? All of those superlatives I threw out there like irreverent, bold and funny? They also describe Mikey’s writing style. Bravissimo! Mikey!

So there they are, in all their eclectic glory.

Indulge as you see fit.

And here’s a link to 1,2,3 Red Light by 1910 Fruitgum Company

And to D.O.A by Bloodrock. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WQptxygSM8

Oh…And one more thing… (I swear.)…You can never get enough Billie Holiday.

Just sayin.

 

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