Matthew Licht

jh ghost 3

A Big Star, Part 5

The Girl Talk’s not a gay bar. It’s a near-nudie dive, Mexican ladies the house specialty.

On the way to Redondo, I stopped at an office supply shop for a plastic Hi My Name Is identification tag. The sales clerk lent me his blue marker, smirked when I wrote John Holmes on the cardboard label provided and pinned the tag to my jacket.

“It’s on for tonight, sport. See you there.”

His face went blank.

The name tag was so jacky-boy would recognize me. Also so there’d be a better chance that someone in the Girl Talk crowd would remember they’d seen me there.

The Girl Talk’s a whorehouse front. The dancing señoritas hustle drinks and trips upstairs after they do their mat-work onstage.

The only skinny stripper sat on the next stool. When I offered her a drink, she asked the burly bartender for a Negra Modelo instead of ginger ale champagne. With pockmarked cheeks and ribs that poked out under her crocheted bikini top, her hustle wasn’t exactly bustling. When she suggested we go upstairs, I asked what that meant.

She nearly took off.

I said relax, in Spanish. Her eyes bulged. “Migra?” I shook my head, handed her a twenty. She folded the bill, snapped a bra-cup over it. “Es suficiente. Vámonos.”

I gave her another twenty, tapped the conventioneer ID badge, asked what John Holmes meant to her.

She said some of the men who went upstairs also used that name.

“Big guys?”

She snorted beer through her nose.

“I mean big like, jugadores de fútbol americano.”

She nodded. “Grandes, y malos.”

Holmes fans came to the Girl Talk to re-live their star’s screen exploits and play rough with illegal alien bar girls. I asked if the rooms upstairs had mirrors. She nodded. Did I want to look at them?

I gave her another twenty. The red neon-rimmed clock behind the bar said it was nearly six o’clock. Sunsets were invisible from inside the Girl Talk, but there was half an hour to wait. We went upstairs to see what reflected.

The love booths were in a row. The mirrors screwed to the plywood back walls were the two-way kind.

It’d look suspicious if the customer didn’t perform. Someone was watching. They’d seen the scrawny Mexican lady rake in sixty bucks in no time.

“Here’s what you say, sweetheart: ‘O meester ‘Olmes, even beeg-er than my last donkey show.’ Got that?”

We rehearsed the line twice.

Late for a sunset rendezvous.

At a corner table, squeezed into an XXXL gray chalk-stripe suit, was the broadest expanse of back in Southern California. The big man was bald on top, with a wiry gray fringe. His neck bulged out of a white collar. The backs of his ears were livid. Everything about him looked angry.

He looked up at an angled mirror and saw a guy try to discreetly unpin a John Holmes nametag. He swiveled his chair. His face wasn’t a fat man’s. Sunken cheeks, a sharp nose and a strong chin, deep-set enraged eyes under beetling salt-and-pepper brows. He’d eclipsed the other men in the booth.

His voice boomed. “Well hey. John Holmes, as I live and breathe. You’re late, but c’mon and take a seat.”

He grabbed my wrist. One of his friends slid over. “Welcome to the Girl Talk bar. Nice place, huh. Have you toured the facilities?” His little dark eyes beamed malice and X-ray vision.

Without moving his head, he said, “Larry, our friend John Holmes is packing a snub-nose revolver. Mr Holmes, kindly hand it over under the table.”

Larry poked a barrel in my ribs, hard. He had no qualms about plugging someone in public.

“Now tell me,” the fat man with the thin man’s face said, “how you got my number.”

“You were on a list of crank calls.”

“Aha. Gentlemen, let’s take this outside.”

Behind the Girl Talk was a poorly lit alley with no cars parked. Larry pulled a Luger and one of his colleagues went through my pockets. Mr Big lit a cigar. The match nearly burned his fingers.

“He’s just a shmo, Deek,” one of the guys who wasn’t Larry said. “New York driver’s license and a few twenny-dollah bills is alls he got.”

The big man winced when the frisky guy said his name. He looked at my driver’s license. “You said you were from San Diego. You are exposed as a liar. What’re you doing so far from home? And why do you carry a gun?”

He stuffed the license back in my pocket, but not the dough. The glowing tip of his stogie drew in close.

“Second Amendment rights,” I said. “And those New York winters got me down.”

“I can’t figure out what you’re up to, but I got a feeling you haven’t figured it out, either. Get lost. And don’t come back, unless you’re dumb as you look.”

Deek pulled what looked like a butt-plug welded to a flashlight from his back pocket. He flicked the switch. Blue sparks spread and danced. “We’ll give you a wrong-way taste of 10,000 volts. Might be fatal, who knows? Minks and foxes sure don’t enjoy it.”

I pulled my arms free. “Sheesh. I thought this was a respectable joint.”

“One more thing: you said, ‘It’s tonight.’”

“Well, it is tonight.”

“You said you had car trouble and needed a ride. Where to?”

“What? I took a bus all the way from Beverly Hills, spent sixty bucks on a girl with no tits, and now I don’t even get a complimentary limo back to the hotel? Some dive you run here, Deek.”

“Good night, sucker.”

They went back into the bar bordello. The goon who wasn’t Larry flipped a bird and closed the door behind him.

***

A Big Star, Part 1
A Big Star, Part 2
A Big Star, Part 3
A Big Star, Part 4

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