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Book VI

Our Lady Of The Blues

A Novel

The Shadow Knows

by

R.E. Prindle

 

Fighting his own battles far from San Diego another threat to Dewey’s wellbeing was going forward in the mind of Yehouda Yisraeli, Our Lady Of The Blues.

Many things had happened for Yisraeli in the five months the Teufelsdreck was overseas. When the ship left he had his porn business and the Faux Playboy Club. When it returned he had added two more sleazy bars- the Diamond Horseshoe and the Tropical Vista- as well as having laid the groundwork for his own record label- Michael Records.

Yehouda had no ear for popular music but his sidekick, Showbaby Zion did. Showbaby, who was another Jewish ‘expatriate’ from reality, had come west from Baltimore. On the way he dropped the name Irving Cohen in favor of Hoveve Zion. Hoveve was an alternate spelling of Choveve and from that his moniker was corrupted to Showbaby.

He was a follower, quite content to play Robin to Yisraeli’s Batman. Even though he was twice as intelligent as Yehouda and had all the ideas he couldn’t function without a leader.

It was he who suggested Yisraeli pick up the Diamond Horseshoe as a lead in to the record business. The Horseshoe was northwest of Escondido in an unincorporated area. It was one of those nondescript bars offering exotic dancers backed by a hot piano player. In those far off days before Playboy, Hustler, the Sexual Revolution and the abolition of censorship had freed the base desires of man from all restrictions of expression the Horseshoe was a barely licit business catering to only the crudest elements of society.

The girls were not allowed to dance nude or to engage in the grossest ‘dance’ steps. They had to wear bottoms if only a G-string and pasties over their nipples. Most preferred long tassels dangling from the pasties.

These slightly less than topless bars were the successors of burlesque. By 1958 the longstanding traditions of burlesque had been banished from society. If the last burlesque house had not yet been closed its demise was only a few months away. American had convinced itself that vice could be abolished by an act of will. All the Red Light districts in the country had been abolished at the turn of the decade. California’s most famous, the Barbary Coast of San Francisco, had been closed at that time. The well meaning but not very bright moralists who demanded the closure of these districts had no idea that they were merely transforming American society into a pit of immorality by dispersing these illicit areas throughout the population.

In San Francisco the resident of the Barbary Coast merely moved a few blocks west up to lower Broadway and recreated the center of Sin City in that area. Subsequently the whole of San Francisco has been corrupted.

Hank Williams commemorated the change in his song about how the displaced whores who still remained whores destroyed the decent girls when they brought their illicit mores to decent neighborhoods when they were expelled from the Red Light districts.

Thus we allow well meaning but stupid reformers to corrupt our lives in the name of decency. The Horseshoe was one of many clubs that opened in formerly clean areas. Men like Yisraeli who bore a grudge against society were thus given means to undermine the society they hated.

For Showbaby the main attraction of the Horseshoe was a Black pianist and singer name William Morris. Zion had great hopes for the pianist but they were not to be realized as the player had been shorn of all will and hope. Young, too, only twenty-eight.

Forced to turn elsewhere for talent for their fledgling label Showbaby was open minded enough to see the potential of the developing Surf Music groups. At the time Surfboarding was brand new in California. The excitement of the pastime gripped the imaginations of White youth. Surfers were a wild party loving group. They wanted something new and different in music. Thus arose the style known as Surf Guitar. Dick Dale and the Deltones would emerge as the premier Surf group. Confined mainly to the Southland they were not especially well known outside Surf circles.

Showbaby latched onto a group known as Con Crete and the Rebars. They were never to become that famous but they had a following and sold enough records in the Southland to form the basis of Yisraeli’s small but lucrative label.

For Yisraeli the label was merely another means to undermine society. A man of some intellectual reach he realized the limitations of male porn to corrupt general morality. The clubs were effective solvents also but their appeal was limited to an audience that was in search of such entertainment hence already corrupt.

Yehouda wanted something that would invade the entire space of his victims. Their homes, their cars, their minds, the very air they breathed. Records such as the salacious ‘Baby, Let Me Bang Your Box and Hank Ballard’s ‘Work With Me Annie’ and its sequel ‘Annie Had A Baby’ showed him the way to corrupt the very mind of the world. The airwaves could used in a corrosive way.

‘Baby, Let Me Bang Your Box’ with its very suggestive title devolved into a clever denouement in which ‘Box’ was not the woman’s pudenda but her piano stayed within permissible lines but still got the corrosive point in. The singer had essentially said over the radio ‘Baby, I want to fuck you’ which everyone got but still stayed within barely acceptable limits. The same was true of ‘Work With Me Annie’ which described the sexual act also in ambiguous terms.

But the piece de resistance for Yisraeli would be the tune ‘My Boy Lollipop.’ Yehouda had an oral fixation. ‘My Boy Lollipop’ for all of us not too dumb to see through its obvious meaning was a story of fellatio. Even the chorus of ‘lol, lol, lollipop, lol, lol was the very simulation of the tongue movements of the act. And the Girl Group got away with singing it to prepubescent girls over the radio. Of course, the girls were Black to further camouflage objections.

At the same time there was a great horror of oral sex which inexplicably dissolved to become the accepted norm in a very few short years. Perhaps Lenny Bruce helped. ‘My Boy Lolllipop’ probably had its share in dissolving the horror. The horror was so great at the time that the most celebrated criminal case of the era involved Caryl Chessman who had been given the death sentence for forcing women to suck him off while on dates. At the time murderers were walking after serving a mere two or three years so the severity of Chessman’s death sentence demonstrates the detestation in which oral sex was held.

Yisraeli along with Lenny Bruce and other malcontents thus wanted to convert the US into a nation of cocksuckers. Suffice it to say, they succeeded. Thus, while his sidekick, Zion, was trying to produce successful records Yisraeli would seek out the most subversive lyrics.

In the name of social justice he would also seek to promote Black acts. While appearing benevolent he was really trying to stick it to the goyim by making them do what they didn’t want to do. Besides in racist America Blacks were indulged by letting them get away with indecencies that Whites weren’t. No White artist could possibly have gotten away with a recording called ‘Baby, Let Me Bang Your Box’ but nobody was going to call a Black on it. Thus, while appearing to be the progressive agent of change Yisraeli indulged his most criminal proclivities. The role of the Negro in the record business was very much that of the hope of White entrepreneurs to leap frog over the backs of Blacks to fortune.

There was a certain type of beaten down White man whose only hope was to exploit someone more beaten down than he. Thus, his natural prey was the Negro. White women loved to sleep with Negroes because it was the ultimate in sinning. It transgressed the ultimate taboo.

White people thought Blacks were mysterious, inexplicable, living in a mysterious uninhibited primitive consciousness that was the ultimate in freedom. The White entrepreneurs who were as denied and repressed as the Blacks they exploited found excitement in robbing these people who while taboo like themselves were yet so free to express themselves.

Yisraeli was of this White school. He both hated and loved the Black man but mostly he despised him. In his own way William Morris exemplified the Black man to Yisraeli. He was immensely talented yet so weak that he drowned himself in liquor. He thus made himself despicable to Yisraeli’s immense satisfaction. Yehouda was both disappointed and pleased that Morris failed him.

Then too, the record industry was inherently dishonest. The record labels cheated the artists, stole from songwriters and generally refused to disburse any money they didn’t have to. Blacks thought they were singled out but this was not true; the labels cheated everyone. They viewed the artist as a resource for exploitation, something like a gold mine, to get the maximum return. You didn’t share the revenues with the gold mine hence the artists were treated like dirt.

The labels believed that they did all the work from production to distribution to promotion. The artist provided nothing but the inspiration which had cost him nothing. They could see no reason why he should be paid. If he wanted to make money then as they had made him famous for nothing he could cash in on his celebrity by getting up on the stage and shaking it around. They really wanted a cut of the artists performance money too but they couldn’t figure out how to get it. Oh well, the performances were free publicity for their records.

This aspect of being able to cheat and steal was very appealing to Yisraeli’s damaged psyche. No artist was ever to get a dime in royalties out of Our Lady Of The Blues.

On this particular night Yehouda and Showbaby were sitting around the Horseshoe sipping their ginger ales, yes, ginger ales, both men were too astute to become drunks, talking over prospects when it occurred to Yisraeli that Trueman should be coming back soon. This was in late February 1958 just before the payroll bomb burst on the Teufelsdreck.

‘He’ll be back soon.’ Yisraeli said moodily out of the blue.

‘Who?’ Zion said reflectively tossing peanuts in his mouth.

‘Who else? Dewey Trueman.’ Was Yisraeli’s moody reply.

‘Oh, yeah. Him.’ Zion said with just a hint of disgust.

‘I don’t know why you let that guy bother you so much. Try to think about business.’

‘He killed my son.’

‘Umm. I forgot.’ Zion said who, as many times as he had asked, could never get a satisfactory answer as to how Trueman had killed Michael.

‘Well, I haven’t. That sort of thing has got to be punished.’ Yisraeli growled as he got up to make a toilet run.

‘The past is the past.’ Zion thought to himself as Yehouda walked away. The he raised his eyes as the door opened and a man pushed through. A big fellow. Six-four with the girth of a two hundred eighty pounder. Taking a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness of the sleazy bar the man saw William Morris at the piano, a slatternly white woman doing some ‘sensuous’ gyrations on the stage above the bartender and Zion sitting on a stool at the round of the bar.

‘Busy tonight.’ He jeered to himself.

Bert Torbric was a meeter and greeter. He operated on the principle that the more people you knew the better the chances of latching onto something good. He had had one such success several years previously, as he told it, when he had been at a session with a couple composers. On that evening they had come up with ‘Melancholy Baby.’ Torbric had made a couple unwanted but accepted phrasing suggestions for which he demanded and received one third credit, although unacknowledged on the records, hence, even though his name didn’t appear, he considered himself a composer.

That was the extent of Torbric’s talent, however, never forgetting that success he was always on the alert for an opportunity in the music biz.

As his eyes focused he recognized Showbaby Zion sitting alone on his stool. Sitting down beside him he joked: Showbaby! Out slumming?

Showbaby laughed good naturedly. All the bar habitues humored each other.

‘This place is too good for slumming, I can show you places Bert. What’s a high society type like you doing down here?’

‘Oh, you know. I was in the neighborhood.’

Bert ordered a double Jack Daniels on the rocks and was swapping comments on the crusty old bird swinging her tassels in figure eights when a figure with the faint odor of the toilet swooped up ghostlike and silently slid onto the stool beside Torbric.

‘Mr. Show.’ He said around Torbric.

‘Hello, Yehouda.’ Showbaby said, getting the drift. ‘By the way, this is a guy I know- Bert Torbric.’ His introduction and tone indicated Bert wasn’t to be taken seriously.

But, Yehouda Yisraeli was a crafty guy who always had his eyes out for the main chance. As he put it: ‘You never know when a guy might turn up useful.’ Still, he noted Showbaby’s opinion.

He gave Bert a warmer hello then the introduction warranted. As it was, both Showbaby and Yehouda were right but for different reasons. Yehouda, who always ferreted out as much information about an acquaintance as he could threw out a polite: ‘How’s the wife and kids?’

Jackpot!

Bet didn’t wear the ring but he answered: ‘Great. Just great. You know, my oldest son just got out of boot camp. I’m pretty darn proud of him. That kid’s going to have a great career in the Navy.

‘Just out of boot camp? You don’t say.’

‘Yeh. We aren’t losing him though; his ship is based down in San Diego so he’ll be home at least on most weekends.’

‘What did he get, one of those big carriers?’ Asked Yehouda who knew more about the ships of the fleet than the Secretary of the Navy.

No, he got one of the smaller ones, which is OK, they’re easier on a kid than the big ones, a Destroyer Escort, DE 666, the USS Teufelsdreck. Strange name.’

Yehouda’s lip froze to his glass, his color rose, his temples throbbed as he recognized opportunity. ‘Did you say the USS Teufelsdreck?’

‘Yeh, yeh. My boy’ll be home for weekends.’

‘Well then, so will mine.’ Yehouda said to himself in a sarcastic undertone. ‘The lord has delivered my enemy unto me and I will smite him hip and thigh.’

‘You didn’t ask me about my son.’ He interrupted Bert who was launching into his ‘Melancholy Baby’ story.

‘…had a hand…you have a son? How is he?’

‘He’s dead.’ Yisraeli blurted out for dramatic effect but came across as a macabre comic. ‘I had a son, past tense, I no longer do. He was murdered by a pervert.’

‘You don’t say. Sliced him up; shot him?’

‘No, worse than that. He was forced off the road at high speed. It was horrible. His head was buried up the shoulders in the mud of the ditch.;

‘Oh, horrible.’

‘Yes. He was the only son I had.’

‘Well, his killer is probably rotting in jail now.’

‘No. It was a deserted road and the lousy cops said there wasn’t enough evidence to bring the son-of-a-bitch to justice but I know.

‘You know what?’

‘You mean who. It was this dirty little pervert by the name of Dewey Trueman.’

‘You mean he was a pervert because he ran your son off the road?’

‘Oh, no, no. No! This guy is bad seed all the way. Insanity has been in his family for generations. I’m sure. His old man is rotting in the Michigan hospital for the criminally insane at this very moment. I helped put him there. Everybody knew Trueman was going to do something we just didn’t know what or when. Kids from broken homes are all like that anyway. They’re just bombs ticking away. You will hardly believe how depraved he is. He was caught in the act of giving a row of guys blow jobs outside a roller skating rink.’

Bert Torbric was horrified as he well should have been.

‘Umm, a monster and a pervert at the same time. He should be put away, in an insane asylum, like his father. I agree with you that stuff is hereditary.’

‘Yes. He should be put away.’ Yisraeli said seizing on the idea. Knowing his own mental anguish it would, the thought, be a great balm to his emotions if he could know that Trueman was serving his time as a surrogate.

‘You won’t believe this Bert.’ Yisraeli said in his most heartfelt tone. ‘But, he’s not only in San Diego but your son will be contaminated by serving on the same ship he’s on.’

‘You can’t…the Teufelsdreck?…mean that!’

‘I can and I do. There must be some way you could help me punish him and save your son from contamination at the same time, isn’t there?’

‘Gee, I don’t know what I could do…wait a minute…maybe there is something.’

‘What?’ Yisraeli’s eyes glistened with hope.

‘Well, a fellow I went to school with, Gerry Godwin, got a Ph.D in psychiatry. He’s got the right job. Asylum for the criminally insane at Atascadero…’

‘Oh, yes.’ The idea took Yisraeli’s breath away. It would be better than killing Trueman. He knew his own mental turmoil, felt his anguish every minute of every day, there might be considerable balm if he could put Dewey away in an insane asylum. Just as Yisraeli was trapped in his own blighted mind and couldn’t get out, Trueman would be trapped in an insane asylum with dangerous maniacs unable to get out. It would be a living hell…and…Yisraeli would know exactly where Trueman was every minute of every day and be able to dwell on it. It was too perfect.

‘…but, even if you got him in, he would be AWOL and the Navy would just come and get him out.’

‘That’s not necessarily so. Nobody need know where he is except for us. He gets put in under a different name, maybe if he did come visit my family…’ Bert said, projecting a scenario, ‘but, he left, say on Saturday, never returned and we haven’t seen him since. He’s just AWOL. Who could ever find him? They wouldn’t know where to look.’

‘Ohhh, yeah. Yes. That would be a perfect crime.’

‘Crime? I thought you said he deserved it.’

‘That’s what I meant, the punishment would perfectly fit his crime. Can I count on you to do that?’ Yisraeli asked eagerly.

Up to this point Bert Torbric had just been talking. He now realized how serious Yisraeli was. If there is money in it he thought, I’ve got a windfall worth more than ‘Melancholy Baby, ever was.

‘Sure. It could be done, but there’s expenses involved, you know. I can’t spend my own money for your benefit.

‘It would be for your son’s benefit too. Well, listen.’ Yisraeli said trying to first get something for nothing. ‘I’m starting a record company. Showbaby will be with me and I could use a guy knowledgeable in music like you. There might be a good paying job in it for a guy like you.’

‘Might be a job, but the expenses are certain, Yehuda. I might be interested in helping you direct this record company that you might start but I would have to cover my expenses.’

‘How much do you think your expenses would be?’

‘Oh, I don’t know.’ Torbric said studying Yisraeli’s potential. ‘I would think two thousand dollars.’

‘Two thousand dollars? What would you have to do other than drive up to Atascadero and back?’

‘Say! Listen, Yehouda, I got the contact, I got to ask for a big favor, maybe it’s a big favor, I don’t know. Besides it takes planning for Chrissakes. I can’t just collar this bozo, throw him in a car and take him up there. That’s kidnapping. He’s gotta volunteer. I gotta involve my son. Rome ain’t built in a day.’

‘Uh, huh, well, you know, I’m starting this record company on a shoestring. How about a thousand?’

‘No. I’ll need a thousand for me and five hundred for my boy.’

‘Oh geez.’ Yisraeli said, rocking back and forth on his stool in agony. ‘You’ve got a point. I don’t say you don’t have a point. But gosh, how about twelve-fifty. I don’t know how I can come up with more than that. I don’t even know how I can come up with that much.’

Tory Torbric wasn’t going to get anything anyway so Bert assented. Twelve hundred fifty dollars to put a man in an asylum for the criminally insane for life. What a bargain.

The men shook hands as Bert studied Yisraeli in an effort to determine if he was for real. Ascertaining that he was he sat back deciding to await the issue.

Yisraeli shortly after excused himself to drive home in an exaltation of pleasure to work out the details for Trueman’s incarceration.   He would be there on the pier when the Teufelsdreck was welcomed back to the States by the dependents.

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