Chapter Creeps (A Stand-Up Guy)
I didn’t believe for a moment that my Hoover problems had been sucked into the hopper and pitched in the trash, but knew that any benefit he hoped to realize on his investment in Art would only offer diminishing returns over the long haul. I simply wasn’t worth the trouble. He had bigger fish to fry, bigger problems to dodge. Bureau and Agency assets in the primary media markets could be counted on to keep my work out of the limelight, my big mouth silent. The invisible is necessarily difficult to appreciate where the ostentatious thrives.
I’d kept my room in Hollywood figuring that if the Bureau couldn’t track me there when they were induced to, they’d likely not be any better at it poorly motivated. Arthur Marteau walked right past them, with their blessings as they slaughtered Abraham Mer. The key for me was to be thoroughly uninteresting to any form of law enforcement, no one they had any desire to harass.
A person of disinterest.
A challenge to be sure. COINTELPRO had gone after Jean Seberg during the seven and a half months I was offshored – Hoover sent down memos instructing his wretched facilitators to destroy her. So they did. They tapped her phones, followed her relentlessly, harassed her associates and tainted her name among her peers, ruining her in Hollywood. But the assault upon this sweet, harmless woman that pleased Hoover and his boys the greatest was claiming in the press – The L.A. Times, no less – that she was pregnant by a Black Panther. The whore. This innuendo caused her so much stress and dismay that within days of the article, she miscarried the baby. She held an open casket funeral for her white baby, Romain by her side. But she never recovered and it effectively ended her Hollywood career and her marriage to Romain.
On September 19, I got the horrible news: Jimi Hendrix was dead. My heart sank. The details were sketchy: he’d overdosed, heroin was mentioned, it appeared self-inflicted. Another poor fool who couldn’t control his demons, he became reviled as further proof of the dangers of drugs and benighted as the too soon fallen King Guitar. The press focused on the overdose, driving home the tragic necessity of the upcoming War on Drugs, while glossing over the particulars. Curiously, those particulars suggested something other than the focus of the media.
Right out of the gate were the drugs. Even where the press didn’t directly attribute his death to heroin, his heroin bust in Canadia was prominently mentioned to drive home the evils of substance abuse. But he didn’t die from heroin. In fact there was some dispute as to his cause of death, though most people wouldn’t know that were you to ask them. While the medical examiner cited alcohol and barbiturates as the cause of his death, he ruled an open verdict, as he found the circumstances questionable. With good reason.
Jimi had made a life changing decision the evening before he died – he had fired Mike Jeffery. Mike Jeffery the liar, Mike Jeffery the thief, Mike Jeffery the mobster. He called and left a message with Trixie in Jeffery’s office; he was through, Mike was out. Less than 24 hours later, Jimi was dead.
They found his body lying on the bed in the London flat of his “girlfriend” Monika Danneman; choked dead on the vomit of 9 Vesperax pills, provided by Monika to help him sleep. She was wildly successful and Jimi sleeps to this day, never again to wake. After several hours, she became concerned about Jimi’s lack of life and finally called an ambulance at about 11 a.m., claiming he was having trouble breathing – understandable being dead and all. Well, after she’d called Eric Burden at around 6:00 a.m. and at least 2 of her other friends. She didn’t exhibit much urgency in regard to his health and certainly no personal responsibility. She said she loved Jimi.
When the ambulance arrived at Monika’s flat at the Samarkand about 11:20 a.m., they found the front door wide open, the fire burning and Jimi well dead, sprawled on the bed, with no sign of Monika, who appeared to have fled. She later claimed she rode in the ambulance, though, as no one else saw her, apparently only in spirit. The time of Jimi’s death was around 4:00 a.m. She gave him the pills from her prescription, waited as he died, called her friends and then after over 6 hours of sitting with his vomit choked corpse, she finally called for medical assistance. Her recounting of the events surrounding his death remained consistent – nothing matched, each other or the facts. She provided him the drugs, watched him die, sat for hours with his corpse, then lied about the circumstances – consistently. Yet no charges were brought, no inquest was pursued, no justice was in evidence. She took his guitar and walked away.
Jimi dead, a God damned tragedy. They told us he killed himself. They tell us lots of things.
I tried to track down Frank Zappa but had unsurprisingly lost the number he gave me that December night so long ago. I couldn’t remember the name of his company; my focus had been on other more directly pressing concerns. Almost a year had passed; would he still remember me, was he still even playing impresario? Were his labels even still viable? I thought of him when I heard about Jimi – Jimi was my link to Frank. My link was broken.
No way in.
That’s what it seemed to me, I had no way in. Whatever course I would take would be blocked; if I got too insistent, I would be stopped. I faced a certain level of despair, the malaise of potential unrealized, the realization that regardless of virtue, quality or hard work well applied, I could not succeed, that I would not. That through little more than the caprice of being in the wrong place at the wrong time (repeatedly) my work in this life would amount to nothing.
I was a failure and I hadn’t even made it to 30. Most people don’t attain that status until their lives are completed. Once again, I was an over-achiever.
“A bit of a downer, wouldn’t you say?” Trinity looked at me from the bed. She lay there enticingly bare, smart and fit, sexy as could be. She even rubbed her excited crotch as her amazing eyes seared into my consciousness. Who cared if she was commenting on the book? She was right. I was wallowing, lamenting my misfortune while my remarkably good fortune lay masturbating before me. I was still alive; I could still fuck and play and get wasted away; I still had my mind and its will, a taste for a thrill…I wasn’t done by a long shot. Fuck those bastards.
“I just realized something…” Trinity looked at me. What was I up to now? “Instead of inhibiting me, they have instead freed me.” She sat reading on the bed, Suture Flock by Alvin Chimpmuk. “I’m not really sure how them cutting you out of every potential market for your work in perpetuity is liberating, beyond freeing you of income and all that stuff that comes with it.” Man, brains and beauty – can I write ‘em or what? “I can do anything I want.”
She looked at me slightly predatory, setting the book aside; was I going to fuck her or what? “Of course you can.” She laid back with her amazing legs spread widely. I looked at her, shaking my head while dropping my pants, “No, I mean with my work. It doesn’t have to suit their tastes; it only has to suit mine.” She grabbed my head and pulled my ecstatic face into her firm, muscular loins. “I trust you find this suitable.” From below I responded, slightly muffled, “Exceptional.”
In the immediate I needed income. While my delightful blackmailing scheme proved effective at keeping people from wanting to kill me, or at least acting to kill me, it didn’t really generate any money, while costing pretty much the rest of my Agency stipend. Once again, I was flat broke. Trinity had been staying with me since her USO gig came to a screeching halt owing to my inability to say no to things I delight in. Jill was an amazing woman, her credit rating justifiably through the roof, but I wasn’t ultimately her type and could see early on that she was drawn, as are so many women, to rich and successful men.
Trinity was a cypher: breath-taking good looks, astounding physique and remarkable talent, why she was hanging with me was a mystery. “Probably the rebel thing.” I looked at her, was she reading my thoughts? Or just over my shoulder? I called her on it, “Excuse me?” She looked up from her book, Bresilda’s Thrang by Normal Maler. “Did you say something?” I fixed her with a puzzled gaze, “I thought you said something.” She set the book down and stared deep into my eyes (62 feet). “I asked if you said something.” Her hands moved toward her crotch. “No, I meant before that.” She reached toward my crotch. “Hard to say. Can I help you with that?” She stroked my inner thigh as I responded, “Why do you always do that?”
She sat back and considered me. “Do what?” I was hard as a rock and now moved toward her, “Get all horny when I talk about that.” She pulled her knees together and wrapped her arms around them. “Talk about what?” I sat here and watched me cockblock myself – was I mad?
I scooted across the bed toward her, the space between us like a dry barren plain, windswept and insuperable. I reached out to her, but caught a tumbleweed on my outstretched arm, the wind really picking up. “This, when we talk about this.”
She looked up from her book, Focus on the Story, Stupid by Shuman N Shyster. “Did you say something?” I turned to her from the window. “I think we should do an act.” She looked at me puzzled, “An act?” I stepped toward the bed, enthusiastic, “Sure, a duo. A couple thing. Like that awful Sonny and Cher. But good.” She set the book down and looked at me, interested but guarded, “I thought the media was dead to you. I mean two pages ago you couldn’t do anything but get arrested in this town,” then as an afterthought, “maybe shot.” I didn’t care, I wasn’t going to allow my guaranteed failure interfere with my art, I would make it its defining ethos.
“Listen, the only guarantee life offers is that if you don’t do anything, you won’t get anything done. I create art because I love it. Just as I don’t have to be married to love sex, I don’t have to be successful to love art. We’ll go out and say stuff, not just repeat the endless nothing of popular culture. You are an amazing talent, I’m a decent writer/composer, let’s stir things up.” She looked at me, a devilish gleam in her eyes, “Like I said, it’s that rebel thing.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, The Whiskey is proud to present the SoCal debut of an act that’s been generating rave reviews on the independent circuit – let’s give a warm Whiskey A-GoGo welcome to Arius & Trinity.” On the blackened stage, a single spotlight reveals Trinity in black leather boots with 6 inch heels, a black leather mini-skirt, and a tight black halter-top, her long black hair cascading down her shoulders, looking down. Then the piano comes up soft and melodic, and soon she begins to dance as the music builds, the piano more driving, insistent. The music becomes frenetic and she has trouble keeping up with it, as the spotlight has trouble keeping up with her. Annoyed, she stops dancing, folds her arms and taps her foot, shaking her head – the spotlight finally catches up with her.
Finally the piano player Ari (me) realizes that he has lost his dancer and reins in his mad accompaniment, reducing it to a vamp with a familiar beat, eliciting a look of displeasure from the apparently long suffering Trinity who looks at him, shaking her head, “No!” But he smiles and plays more insistently and she speaks, “Ari. We said we weren’t going to do this.” But he smiles and smiles and the vamp becomes the theme of a popular commercial product and she gives up and joins him singing:*
*Armor Hot Dog theme.
What’s in hot dogs
God knows we hope
That it’s not dogs
Who knows, maybe eyes
God nose we love a surprise
In hot dogs
In all our hot dogs
So how’s your appetite?”
We approached the front of the stage, the audience not sure about what they just witnessed: some laughter, some groans, even some applause. We had them right where we wanted them, in their seats at the foot of the stage. “Thank you” in unison then “This is the lovely Trinity.” I waved my arm and bowed to her; she nodded and smiled while the audience moaned at her presence; she owned the stage, while I had merely leased the steps and some of the curtains. She smiled and introduced me, “And this is Ari an amazingly versatile pianist.” Her pronunciation of the last word was deliberately cocky. This got more laughter, some of it nervous.
“To hell with free love. Love should be expensive, like it is for married people.” Trinity shook her head at me, as groans rose from the audience. “You want me to start charging, hon?” That pulled some laughs and set the tone, me the joke, Trinity the jokestress. She had them eating out of her hand, until the guy from the board of health shut that down, which we both agreed reduced our tip potential markedly. “Many guys feel that talking about it is qualification enough for oral sex.” More laughs, bigger laughs but I could sense our material might have been too sexually progressive for the venue, especially as we were opening for Sonny and Cher. Trinity in a mini-skirt saying “oral sex” on stage was more than a little shocking to many of the conservative Sonny and Cher core audience.
But then I offered, “In relationships, rimming could be seen as an ass et,” and found us promptly escorted from the stage. In my Ari persona my hair and facial growth under my dark glasses covered my appearance strikingly, yet strangely I was recognized immediately by a member of the audience. As we were being dragged from the stage (only me, Trinity walked at her own rate, $600 per hour) I noticed the alluring flirtatious gaze of Natalie Wood near the stage. She blew me a kiss and motioned with her eyes, “Back stage”. I was overwhelmed, I hadn’t seen Natalie since page 41 and she looked glorious. The prospect of a three-way with Trinity and Natalie was the stuff of porn dreams, I trembled with anticipation. Natalie touched my shoulder and said,
“Art. You think you could give Trinity and me a little space? You’re a love.” With that, a little peck on the cheek, I found myself in the alley behind the Whiskey, a couple of traumatized Sonny and Cher fans scowling at me near the garbage cans. “Real funny stuff, you pervert!” “You’re not fit to perform in ass-rape prison, ya piece-a shit!” The last one hurt deeply as it came from Mary Tyler Moore who was holding Joan Rivers’ hair as she hurked in a garbage can, though as a response to the show or green room cuisine, I cannot say. I shook my head and croaked at Joan, “Can we hock?”
The singing couple weren’t happy there, Sonny into money, Cher into her hair, with only their vast riches to stave their despair. To the Bono Cher said, “Oh no” so she was soon known as a no show. With an act hard to follow, I crawled into the wallow, my work as a twosome proving too hard to swallow. Just me, not my cover blown, so I went out on my own.
I had a brief stint (17 years) in stand-up comedy, working under the name George Carlin. That is until the real George Carlin caught up with me and made me share my bookings. He was actually quite surprised at some of the venues I had set up and as we haggled over them, he kept insisting on all the really good ones. “Uh, I appreciate that you booked all dese places, some of dem are real nice ones. But you gotta admit dere was a little false pretense going on, using my name and all. Pass me some-a dat.” And another rail of Peru’s finest blasted into comic genius.
I had to admit he was correct. “I get your point, George, but you know I wouldn’t a got half a them if I used my own name.”* He looked at me quizzically; we were both just this side of toast and the little bell was at least a minute away from doing its ding. He knew I was right and that somehow mediated the fact that it was only about being wrong. The bartender eyed us both suspiciously, then moved down the bar to service another customer, shaking his head.
George puffed thoughtfully on the joint I handed him, then looked at me sternly. “All right. You can have the Aladdin, but I’m doing the Tonight Show.” He looked at me fiddling with the lines I was chopping on the bar top. “What, are you doin’ surgery dere or--” He snagged the straw out of my greyhound, blew it out with a farty blat, then stuffed it in his nose and leaned in. “Lemme help you wid dat.” And wid dat, it was gone.
Interestingly George almost missed that first west coast Tonight Show owing to a scheduling conflict. I had played the Aladdin for two weeks to good reviews – Carlin demanded that I stop using his name so I went back to Tony Bennett – but the Vegas crowds were too pudgy for my target groupie demographic and Hollywood held appeal because they actually paid performers sometimes. Tired of being comped at the buffet – I’m looking at you Hiram! – I wanted a shot at the big table with double entrees and drinks on the house and dessert for me and a guest. It was pretty obvious Vegas wasn’t paying those kind of wagers.
*At the time I was performing as Steven Edie.
Which led to the scheduling conflict. I had been pestering George to let me have some of the good bookings, which in retrospect was kind of obnoxious as I was actually making more money off his name than he was. He held firm; he saw the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as his big break, while I was kind of seeing it as mine. Which in one way I suppose you could say it was, because during our scuffle outside the NBC studios there on Olive in Burbank, George broke my nose. It started stupid enough, as we both tried to get onto the stage with the same name.
The guard at the door was actually leaning toward me when George attacked me with a sandwich board standee, which instructed the audience where to queue, pummeling me to the sidewalk, then kicking me into the gutter, laughing manically.
The people in line applauded politely.
“Dere’s only room in this act for one George Carlin and by virtue of a fair beating, I declare myself dat guy!” And with that, he walked in the door and into comedic infamy, leaving me bleeding in the gutter, chastened. A darling little girl from the line, about five I’d guess, all dressed up for the show and clutching a little hanky, approached me, sobbing there like a little bitch. I looked up at her through my tears and saw that she viewed me not with sympathy or even pity, but contempt. She hocked a loogie in my face and shrieked, “You sicken me.” She turned and scurried back to her parents, so impressed with her performance. The line applauded again, one fellow offering the little wastrel a lollipop. I had finally made it to Hollywood.
It felt good.
I didn’t see it at the time but upon reflection I realize that while I got paid for my Carlin bookings, he got the tax bill. Which worked out for me. But I understand he was forced to sell his jet owing to back taxes and I admit I feel less regret about the whole Tonight Show fiasco.
Over time George came to accept that it did me no good for him battle with me over his bookings, on top of that a big waste of his time, so after much wailing and other sounds named after animals we came to an agreement: I would open for him. But of course I couldn’t use his name because he was using it, beyond the fact that George Carlin opening for George Carlin was just stupid. I needed a new, new name. I ran with Ceorge Garlin and Sarge Garland for a while and even Freddy Prince for that ill-fated night in Chicago at the Tin Ear on Lexington.
“Hello, good evening, good to see you. Always a pleasure being back here for the first time. We’re all here to see the amazing George Carlin. I’m here to see him, because after he’s done he said he’d take me back to my little pup tent on skid-row, curbside view lot, where I can drink myself stupid in preparation for tomorrow’s show. So I’d like to thank him for that…”
From offstage, George’s voice, “Yer welcome.”
I proceeded, “See ya after…I’m told we won’t see George for another fifteen minutes, so I guess we should have a little talk. Now, we of course questioned the wisdom of having a comic open for a comic, as it seems a little redundant, but the zoning here at the Tin Ear doesn’t allow for music, live or dead and we sure as fuck weren’t letting no magicians in here, so it looks like a double dose of domedy which is like comedy, only dommer. Much dommer. Comics Stacked. I attempted to get Raquel Welch to join me in a twosome so we could be Stacked Comics, but she refused on moral grounds. Which I believe diminishes the show for all of us.
Especially me. Moral grounds. An interesting notion. Would that be church real estate? It’s sure not the confessional. Seems like the floors in there would be sticky like the floor of a porno theater. Decidedly not moral ground. Or perhaps coffee plucked by virgins and brewed by nuns, served at the church social. Would you like some moral grounds? No, it’ll keep me up all night.
That term has always kinda bugged me anyway. Moral. Moral behavior, what’s the moral of the story. Morals come from religion and I’ve seen the stories in religion and the people who proffered us all those grand morals were anything but, if you’ll forgive me for pointing out the obvious. Murderers, rapists, thieves, serial liars, these are who we get our morals from. Explains a lot about us, huh? Actually, considering, it’s amazing we aren’t worse than we are.
I think it falls to initiative. It’s not that we disapprove of war, mass murder, genocide, rape, it’s just that it’s so much damned work. You ever tried to throw a war? My God, the logistics are ridiculous; gotta rent the battlefield, send out invitations, it’s just spend, spend, spend from day one. And don’t even get me started on the clean-up.
Biblical moralists didn’t have all the mod cons we enjoy so they were already pissed off – why should God’s Chosen sleep on floor-mats when the pagans were sleeping in luxury and splendor with wine enemas and full naked body rubs and hot and cold running blowjobs? It certainly seemed like God was giving them the shaft, and not in a good way. 400 years of slavery while the pagans rule the world – I mean , what was God thinking? So they tended to rampage a lot, work out that pent up aggression. Seems they would have been happier with the hot and cold running blowjobs, but who am I to question God’s plan?
And now for somebody definitely not part of God’s plan, Mr. George Carlin!”