excerpted from DAMN THE CARNATIONS: FULL SPEED AHEAD
Typical slow Mardi Gras day at Bravo’s and with the regulars and all police attending the Pass Christian Parade-–and no vehicles in the parking lot-–it was elements made for the perfect biker storm–-when into my bar Peg Leg limped. His greasiness, gimp leg, built-up boot to his knee and rebelliousness attitude was a dead giveaway that I was being paid a visit by the infamous leader of the Outlaws.
A few weeks prior, the TV news reported a rogue biker gang had torched a juke joint elsewhere in the community and a few weeks before that they rolled up an elderly couple in a carpet and beat them nearly to death for their social security check money. The townsfolk were living in fear and it seemed nothing was being done. Everyone felt they had to protect their own as no arrests had been made.
The joint was wide open for table pickings. He stood in the doorway for a minute casing the place before settling on a table where he could stare through burglar bars out the window to mind his old lady in the parking lot. I gathered the steel bars resonated some familiar feel. From across the barroom floor he shouted at me, “Hurry up and bring me a Budweiser!”
With the most piss-poor attitude I’ve encountered in a time as far back as I can remember–and not that the information would be pertinent or matter much to the gang leader–it may have behooved him to do a little homework prior to choosing a target. Growing up the overlooked and underestimated middle daughter of “Ms. Audrey” (see Moonshine and Murder: A Southern Bedtime Story) –-known from New Orleans to Mobile as the only woman ever to stop a barroom brawl single-handedly-–my four siblings and I were taught that if we planned to survive the harsh scrutiny of the public we needed to develop thick skins and wear our poker faces and clean underwear in the event of an accident. You might say I was born in a bar: grew up doing my homework in one and learned many lessons in human psychology there.
With an opportunity to practice the most basic lesson learned, I put on the poker face and treaded heavily over to Peg Leg’s table-–sending him a nonverbal message that I didn’t much like him-–with a can of beer just barely cool–-no bottle for this little bastard to later use on me as a weapon. And that’s when he warned me of his boys being in-route, that I would serve them and they would fuck up the bar, but I was not to call the cops, “‘cause we’ll be back tomorrow to pay for the damages.”
Reading between the lines I deciphered Peg Leg’s statement to mean that if I didn’t roll with the punches and take the lashing and called the cops, I would again pay for it tomorrow.
Huh! Can you imagine all these threats without even having been kissed? I should have knocked him in the head but instead I acted disinterested and slipped away into the stockroom where I placed a quiet 911 to report the imminent nasty weather. A second S.O.S. went out to my tough-as-a-lighter-stump brother-in-law, Wendy–-a personal hero of mine who’d do most anything I’d ask him to. When I caught up to Wendy he was oyster shuckin’ and jivin’ with a small posse of good ole boys out in the shed sippin’ on some of that Al Capone’ favorite Kiln Kryptonite.
Having grown up with a girl’s name (of which I can relate, having grown up with a boy’s name) made for one bad-ass from Pistache–-with something to prove. Just a real good ole boy who enjoys the simple life: cookin’, huntin’ and fishin’ and teaching an asshole a new lesson. Duck Dynasty has nothin’ on this family, Breaux–’cept a shit pot full of money.
Ready to throw down, Wendy and the boys arrived minutes before the bikers roared up on the scene. I ushered the peeps inside and hastily locked the door. As we worked on our game plan, free shots of whisky were poured for all, but not Peg Leg.
We armed ourselves with pool sticks, pool balls, and opened and unopened longneck beer bottles. Like fish that school to make themselves larger and more menacing to prey, they crowded on their bikes at the bottom of the front porch steps, revving up their engines–-each time louder and louder-–psychologically scaring the living shit out of us, taunting us with roars of death and destruction. For the time being, while waiting on police to arrive, it seemed we’d be safe, and then we heard them shouting over their own noise whether or not to set fire to the bar and burn us out. I wasn’t completely convinced they’d do something so extreme, especially since we held their leader hostage.
Wendy’s moonshine-mind snapped and in all the craziness he unlocks the door, runs and swan dives off the porch onto the top of the bikers–something I had not prepared for but now we must fight-–the bikers have the brother-in-law! Or was it the other way around? It was difficult to take in all that was happening. The scene moved rapidly, so much drama and so much fantastic imagery.
To passers-by it had to have looked like Hollywood was in town filming a movie. Scanning the bloody battlefield and overturned Harleys, I paused for a moment in disbelief, marveling at Wendy’s superhuman strength. Like Mohammed Ali, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, the brother-in-law moved untouched through the chaos. If any of the downed ones dare to even twitch, I’d whip their kidneys with the fat end of a broken pool stick. The mentality was kill or be killed. Wendy knocked ‘em down, I made sure they stayed down and the eight month pregnant sister pilfered the wallets of the KO’s-–yelling over the melee, “They’re going to pay for causing all this trouble!” The poor sons-of-bitches didn’t have a dollar between them to buy straws to eat their lunch. With no apologies for being bad company, it was beddy-bye time for the bikers and a real poor day of judgment.
The police never did show up. They claimed to have gone to another bar with the same name in a different town but, funny, there was no other bar with the same name-–this bar was my grandfather’s namesake bar. So for our trouble we each selected a biker, one close to our own size, and stripped him of his prized leather jacket. And while the fracas flushed the bad boys from the community, the biker brawl put me out of business. Although the battle was won, ultimately I lost Bravo’s Bar. Forced into closure by the owner of the property who feared biker reprisal.
I remember very crisply my introduction to the cult of Hunter S. Thompson. Having already broasted the front side of my body under a thin ozone layer one warm August afternoon in Santa Barbara, I traded my beach chair for a friend’s towel so I could lie on my stomach and read from an orange and blue paperback, which had him laughing so hard he could barely hit off the joint we were trying to finish before the locals came begging around. Ralph Steadman’s insane sketching on the cover of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas had sucked me right into the rented fire-apple convertible, and into the giddy vortex where Dr. Thompson lives.
Later that afternoon, like any obsessive-compulsive personality, I drove to Earthling Bookshop and cleaned out their supply of Thompson works and began reading to the extent that I neglected basic human contact for as many weeks as it took to exhaust the six pieces of stone-madness. I became a True Believer, an historian, a collector — most likely a huge bore — emerging from literary hibernation and bringing Dr. Thompson with me to work, to parties . . . home to the folks for Thanksgiving. Dad was a bit miffed. He suffered through the introduction to The Great Shark Hunt, shaking his head spasmodically, and handed the book back to me, muttering, “Well, it isn’t James Michener.”
No. It is not. Hunter S. Thompson is a special breed, a variety of which will not likely be replicated in the near future.
And so, when Herr Doktor’s agent informed me of an impending “nightclub act” at The Strand in Redondo Beach, I was genetically enthusiastic. I was also a bit apprehensive: the scattered reports emanating from similar gigs, from people I trusted, were not real . . . positive. The first ugly feedback came from a girlfriend of mine, who had gone to see the Doc do his “Gonzo thing” at UC Santa Barbara. The outlaw journalist, she said, staggered onto the stage and proceeded to suckle from a bottomless flagon of Wild Turkey, alternately raving and mumbling in a uniquely demented fashion until he was booed off the stage by a band of angry preps feeling cheated out of their twenty-dollar cash drain. The other, less reliable, report came from a tainted source and had something to do with Dr. Thompson, G. Gordon Liddy, a mound of white powder and a blow-up doll — but the story was too disturbing to want to verify, and so I’ll have to take my gentleman source at his word. Continue reading
art by Unitas Quick
Read from Chapter One
“Superman don’t need no seat belt.” – Muhammad Ali
As Richard made his way back to his offices at Snow Hill, right next door to the Serious Fraud Office, he smiled to himself thinking of all those number drones at their desks. What would they think if they knew lawyers like him were right on their doorstep? It was that “wasp” mentality (white Anglo-Saxon pricks), that saved him from detection. They always picked on immigrants and people with foreign-sounding names much more than their own kind. His mobile phone kept bleeping. He had already missed twenty-seven calls. Could it be work related? The number looked familiar.
He checked his messages. Some of them were from his uncle Marvin who owned a gold shop in Hatton Garden not far from where he worked. He dialled the number wearily. (He would respond to the other messages afterwards; they were all from the same demanding wealthy client Seymour of Deer Hurst).
“Hi, Uncle Marvin. It’s me, Richie,” but it was his aunt who answered the phone.
“Oh Ritchie Bubblie, come over come over now, we’ve been robbed!”
“Don’t worry I’ll be round straight away.”
The thief had escaped with some of his personal items, including a gold Rolex watch and an envelope with his name on it. Richard’s heart missed one two three beats. Fuck the gold Rolli. That isn’t fucking important, he thought. He immediately called Eva at the office and told her he would be back late. Then he called his uncle again and told him not to report the theft to the “old bill,” at least not the loss of his items anyway.
Marvin was sceptical the insurance wouldn’t cough up the money to replace the stock if the theft wasn’t reported and he couldn’t afford to lose such a huge amount of money. Anyway, he had already reported most of the items to the police, but not Richard’s. They were kept separately in a smaller safe deposit box. Richard sighed; at least the “the old bill” had no idea of what was missing. He had to make some urgent calls and find Poncho Khan’s missing key and paper note with the encrypted figures or else they were all for the chop. Continue reading
Jonathan Shaw cover portrait by Joey Feldman
photos and additional art courtesy Jonathan Shaw
Saira Viola: What was it like growing up with a famous Hollywood screen actress as a mother? (For those unaware your mother was Hollywood femme fatale Doris Dowling – best known for her roles in Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend and the neo-realist Italian classic Bitter Rice — and your father, jazz legend Artie Shaw.) How would you describe growing up in old school Hollywood with such famous parents?
Jonathan Shaw: Well, I’ve covered a lot of that ground in my memoir books (SCAB VENDOR: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist, to be released by Turner Publishing in early 2017) so there’s not much I can add to a story that’s taken me almost 20 years to write. But for simplicity’s sake, I can tell you that, sadly, it was a childhood not unlike that of too many children growing up in America. A very unhappy one.
art by Jonathan Shaw
My parents were both complicated people, geniuses really, but they had a lot of, um, how can I put it, deep existential personality disorders, problems stemming from their own miserable childhoods. And that made them pretty unqualified to be successful parents, God rest their souls. My mother was a hopeless alcoholic, a raging, violent mess in a dress. Despite being a beautiful, talented, intelligent woman, she was pretty much insane during my formative years and beyond, mostly due to her alcoholism. She loved me and she meant well, she really did, but she just didn’t have the emotional tools to do very well as a mother, poor thing. And my father, Artie, well, even though he didn’t drink, he was every bit as nuts as my mother was, with his own weird pathology. I mean it’s the good old law of attraction. Like attracts like, right? He was basically what could be described as a narcissistic sociopathic personality, traits that were pretty much exacerbated by the extreme level of fame and success he attained in his music career. I mean the guy was basically like Elvis or Mick Jagger in his day. It was that kinda deal. That and his undeniable genius, not just as a musician, but as an intellectual, a writer, a philosopher, a curious mind. All those factors contributed to making him a very difficult, conflicted, unhappy man, personality-wise. He was also what’s known today as a sex and love addict, a textbook co-alcoholic, who kept getting tangled up with, um, problematic women. It’s a classic pattern for people like that, repeating the same dysfunctional behaviours, always expecting different results, Einstein’s classic definition of insanity. I think my mother was like Wife Number 7 by the time they hooked up. It was all love and kisses at first, but predictably, the relationship degenerated into a battle of raging artistic egos. And that’s what I was born into. A fucking battlefield. Continue reading
“[Sammie Mays is] an exceptional writer and natural born actor who can snap onto any scenario.” –Philip Burton, Shakespeare Scholar, Writer, Director, Professor
Little Urn on the Prairie
I am a firm believer that in this life we eventually get everything that’s coming to us – good and bad. It was after breaking into (I use that term loosely) Marion Super Max Penitentiary – scoring Sports Illustrated Best of Year Photo of Pete Rose in the pokey – that I became a made member of the elite group of Foreign Legion of Journalists and given ‘the Gonz’ as some covert identifier. Most of us don’t know what a Gonz is or what it even means. For years I didn’t. Didn’t care. I just passed it off as some silly British something or another. I never once gave it a second thought as it had no effect on how I feel about myself or how I react in situations. However, and more importantly, along with the name calling, I was given a full-time paying gig on the celebrity desk of the most notorious newspaper on the planet, the National Enquirer. I say show me the money and call me what you like.
During my Hollywood years the tabloid claimed to have sold more papers per week than any other publication in the world sold in a month’s time. But never in the tabloid’s history had an issue sailed off the stands more quickly than the issue with Elvis In The Coffin on the cover. So when Michael Landon, star of television series Little House on the Prairie, died, to duplicate or possibly surpass their Elvis In the Coffin numbers, the National Enquirer decided to run a photo on the cover of the deceased beloved father-figure. Dead. The unflinching plan was to accompany the morbid image with a bold headline reading: Landon On The Slab! Nothing was more exciting at 8730 Sunset Boulevard than beating the opposition in uncovering the grisliness of a good celebrity death. Continue reading