Segarini: Happy Halloween Again and an Unfinished Murder
This was originally published in 2012. It has been updated with additions and is presented here with the full support and co-operation of the “So You Want to Be Diabetic” foundation and proud manufacturer’s of Atomic SugarBall Jumbo Sweet Globes.
Halloween shows up again today. A holiday enjoyed by young and old alike, it is a great excuse to spend time with your kids, indulge your chocolate and sugar jones, or dress up like Dracula, a Trump (many to choose from), or Keith Richards, depending on just how scary you want to be. Here then, are some Halloween diversions, costume tips, and things to do leading up to tonight’s celebration of witches, goblins, diabetes, and the undead.
No Porch Light, Ate All the Candy, Halloween Movies….
Some of these movies will be playing on television tonight, and the others are easily found at places like the Internet or Netflix. Still others can be found at upscale, hip, mom and pop video stores like Queen Video in Toronto. You can also easily find the ‘torture’ movies so popular these days like the Saw and Hostel series’, but gore for the sake of gore doesn’t really fit my criteria. Strange, when you consider I am drawn to any movie that has risen-from-the-dead cheerleaders or brain slugs in it. All these movies are old school. The rash of possessed little kids and jump scare CGI stuffed popcorn formula stuff is out there too if you’re so inclined. These tried and true nail-biters will have to do until November 8th, when the really scary shit takes place.
The Haunting of Hill House: Not the horrible remake, but the 1963 original starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom. Although you don’t see much of anything scary in this film (just one heavy breathing door), it is one of the scariest flicks I have ever sat through. Lights off, bowl of popcorn, a decent chardonnay or a bottle of good Merlot. Watch with someone you can enjoy cuddling with. You will cuddle.
Phantasm II: This low budget entry in the ’80s cheeseball Phantasm series has everything you need for a good scary romp; an iconic bad guy (The Tall Man), a couple of kids caught up in the craziness, and these delightful little metal balls that kill in a most disturbing way. Nachos, cold beer, and some pepperoni sticks. Watch with your wittiest friends, this thing was made for Mystery Science Theatre 3000. The link above will take you to some cool clips from this film. There’s a brand new addition to the franchise, but you’ll have to see it in a theatre…which means leaving the house, which means…uhh…no.
Ghost Story: First, you get author Peter Straub (Dark Matters, The Talisman, co-written with Stephen King) to write a great book, then you hire Melvyn Douglas, John Houseman, Fred Astaire and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to star in a movie based on the book. This is a wonderful, old school creep fest of the first water, and no scenery is left un-chewed. This is a personal favourite. A good single malt scotch, cognac, or port, a wheel of brie and some Carr’s crackers, and a couple of Monte Cristo cigars. Watch with your Frat brothers or a couple of old folks with skeletons in their closets.
Return of the Living Dead: Of course we have to have a zombie movie, and of course it has to be this one. Dan O’ Bannon’s homage to George Romero’s undead films, this baby is scary and funny as hell. You will be walking around for weeks saying “Brains” every time a waitress tries to take your order in a restaurant. You will also shuffle everywhere. Watching obnoxious teens get their just desserts has never been more fun. Keep an eye out for the ‘half-dog’ early in the movie. Beer, and do a shot of tequila every time someone says “Brains!” Watch with an easily scared person of the opposite sex with loose morals and large breasts…unless ‘opposite sex’ means a guy, in which case you can forget the large breasts thingy.
Event Horizon: Sam Neil, Lawrence Fishbourne (God, he has a huge head) and a possessed spaceship. What more can you ask for? Panned relentlessly when it came out, this is a damn good scary movie regardless. Apparently, no one can hear you say “mother fucker” in space either. Smoke some decent pot, tortilla chips (please, NOT Doritos), medium hot salsa, and a jug of orange or grape Kool-Aid. Watch with your dog, or a friend from work.
Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn: As funny and scary as Return of the Living Dead is, this fright-fest is the funniest and scariest of all. Ash (played by horror icon Bruce Campbell) not only chews all the available scenery, he swallows it whole. The kills are hilarious and disturbing, and between the disembodied hand, flying eyeball and headless ballerina, you will find yourself conflicted as to whether you should laugh or scream. There are a raft of sight gags (my favourite being the subtle placement of a paperback book on an overturned bucket) and some of the most imaginative cinematography ever, proving once again, that small budgets make you creative as hell. Pulled pork sandwiches or barbecued ribs, cold beer or frozen vodka shots. Let your 11 year old daughter show this at a sleepover and see how many parents swoop down on your house to pick up their kids early.
Psycho: This masterpiece (made on a bet and against the wishes of the Paramount studio he owed a film to, and for very little money) scared the popcorn right out of me over 50 years ago when I was 13 years old and it still fucks my shit up all these years later. Is it the crazy black and white tilt-o-whirl cinematography, the incredibly lit and harrowing images, the death scenes and mother in the fruit cellar reveal, or was it just Bernard Herrman’s insidiously frightening score? Everything about this movie gives me the creeps, and I can’t think of another film that even comes close to being this flat-out frightening. I still lock the door when I take a shower. Good bourbon, (and by good I mean Eagle Rare or Woodford Reserve in Canada, or Fighting Cock or Old Weller if you’re lucky enough to be anywhere near Kentucky), some salty snacks and some good dark chocolate and maybe some Hostess crème filled cupcakes or a box of Yo-Hos. Watch with whomever you’d like, but do NOT watch alone. Seriously.
And of course, there’s always this.
Kids: If your little boy or girl want to dress up like Lady Ga Ga, tell them they have to wait until they can afford to buy their own meat dress.
Take your kids to the nearest WalMart, Costco, or Party store. Let them choose their own costumes from the wall of Halloween outfits. Do not argue with them, just buy what they want and get out of there before they change their minds. Otherwise, you will be there for hours and your kids will be confused as hell and probably cranky. If you insist on making their costume make sure you do a good enough job so their peers don’t ridicule them. There is nothing worse than a kid crying into their treat bag.
Mom: Save the slutty nurse/hooker/naughty librarian outfit for your husband’s birthday or a costume party. Wear something warm. You and dad should wait on the sidewalk and let the kids go to the door on their own. Buy the little ones those pint size flashlights they have at convenience stores. Flashlights are very soothing in the hands of a kid out in the dark surrounded by zombies, ghouls, and ghosts, even if they are the same size.
Dad: Spend the rest of the week sleeping in the clothes you’re wearing right now. Don’t shave. Go out as a writer or a musician.
I always go out as a Homeless Guy…don’t even have to change my clothes.
Some Scary Pictures….
Is Elvis really dead? There are a lot of people that believe he is still alive. Yeah, I know…sounds stupid to me too, but there are some arguments I’ve read that almost sound reasonable. One of the creepiest things I have ever seen was a picture of Elvis sitting in a chair in the pool house at Graceland. Not disturbing in and of itself, until you find out the picture was taken in January of 1978, 4 months after Presley died. Whoa…just got a chill.
The Amityville House Ghost. I remember the first time I stumbled across this picture on the internet. Popped up full screen and I must have jumped a foot out of my chair. It’s weird enough that this picture exists, but what is weirder still is just how otherworldly the boy in the picture looks. Considering there were no children in the house at the time the picture was taken, it becomes a shiver inducing photo that the woman who shot it swears was just off the upstairs landing, with no one in the picture when she snapped it. Great…now I’ve given myself the creeps again. I’ve got to start writing these columns during the day instead of in the middle of the night.
The Iceman Radio Programme Halloween Spooktacular
This was originally recorded in 2007 when I was at SIRIUS Satellite Radio’s Iceberg 95 channel, and all-Canadian music station that played a lot of what are currently the biggest acts from Canada. At the time we were playing them, hardly anyone had heard of them. Iceberg no longer exists thanks to the XM/SIRIUS, but through the miracle of the Digital Age, the Spooktacular LIVES!
The Canadian content has been replaced with some of my favourite Halloween records and we usually play it around here while we’re handing out candy. If you’d like to hear it, just click on the The Iceman Radio Programme Halloween Spooktacular link below.
I started writing a novel several years ago, but never got around to completing it because life happens and the one publisher I took these three chapters to shrugged and said, “Why would I want to read any more of this?”, to which I replied, “Oh. Okay. Thanks for your time.”, but was thinking, Wow…this guy doesn’t recognize one fucking real person’s name, historical dates, or anything else he read, has no imagination, and is probably wealthy because he knows what the public wants. Guess I have a lot to learn. No…wait…that’s a fucking lie. What I was really thinking was, Dickhead Turd Bucket.
…but I DO have a lot to learn.
I may never finish it, but that’s okay…I had fun writing what I wrote.
I suggest you read the first 2 chapters (if you haven’t already) before you tackle this installment. The link is directly below….
You can find chapters 1 and 2 here.
Chapter Three: The Glory of Love
The first thing Earl did after he found Donald Seaver’s body was poke him with a stick. Not a stick exactly, but the plunger he found on the other side of the toilet. He poked Donald gingerly once, twice, and then poked him a third time really hard in the stomach.
Seaver made a noise like a fart and slumped over further. Earl jumped back, hitting his head against the closed stall door. Pee ran down his leg.
I was on my way to the bar to buy a couple of lines and another mickey of rye when I spotted Earl waving frantically at me from behind the half open bathroom door. I waved back and his wave changed to an upthrust middle finger and he frantically motioned me over to where he stood.
“Fuck Earl, what’s your problem”, I said, a little pissed off that the lineup at the bar would be longer by the time I got over there.
“Donald Seaver’s dead.” he choked. “He’s in the last stall and he’s dead, man!” Earl was the color of an expensive hotel sheet, which, considering his usual coffee and cream complexion, was fairly disturbing. His eyes were bugging out of his head like a fish.
“How fucking high are you, man?” He and Sally had been the recipients of a lot of lines from admiring players, and rumour had it that Clark Petty had scored some decent acid after their gig.
“I’m not fucking high. Seaver’s dead, in a stall, and we need to do something.”
Like what? Call the cops?”
“Fuck no! Who runs this joint? Go find somebody. I’ll tell anyone who tries to get in here to use the women’s bathroom. I’ll tell ‘em there’s a busted pipe or something.” Earl was starting to sweat. He didn’t look so good.
The Four Brothers was actually owned and operated by two cousins from Detroit. The Deacon and Poppa Charles. Deacon usually just sat and drank with the customers and told stories, flashing his big gold tooth and bumming smokes from the musicians who liked to hear his stories about his days as a player in Philadelphia and Detroit. His cousin, Poppa Charles did most of the work, standing behind the low bar selling smokes by the pack or one at a time, or blow, which he’d cut into two lines on your cigarette pack and hand you his fancy silver coke straw to do it at the bar, or he’d sell you a mickey of rye, gin, or vodka. Mix and cups were extra. If you wanted a gram or more of coke, you had to wait to see which dealer had the floor that night. When the club first opened there were a lot of fights over who got to sell in there. One night, one of the dealers got stabbed pretty bad, so Poppa Charles told the dealers to pick one man to do grams and 8 balls and take turns working the room. You could get two lines for five bucks each at the bar, but Poppa Charles wouldn’t sell quantity himself. “Don’t need the bullshit and the grief”, He’d say, “Let the pros deal with it.”
Deacon was telling the story about how he almost fucked Diana Ross one time, and shushed me when I tried to talk to him, so I pushed my way through the line to the bar and got Poppa Charles’ attention.
“Poppa, you need to come to the men’s bathroom right now”, I told him.
“I do?” he said with a big ass grin, “Does I have to go number one or number two?”
The guys in line all laughed. I leaned over the bar and whispered in his ear, “There’s a problem. A BIG problem. Come with me, man, just come with me.”
“Alright, Bobby, alright, but dere better not be no drunk stripper in there suckin’ dick for dope, man. Last time I had to 86 one ‘a dem bitches, I got my ass scratched up pretty bad.”
“Nobody’s gonna scratch you this time, Poppa. You got something else to worry about entirely.”
Poppa Charles frowned and came around from behind the bar.
“Deacon!” he shouted. “Get your sorry, lyin’ ass behind the bar till I get back, and don’t be takin’ no cigarettes from back there.”
Deacon rolled his eyes and slowly slid out of the booth he was sitting in. His little audience watched him stand up and walk toward the bar. The “I Almost Fucked Diana Ross” story would have to wait.
Poppa Charles and I started the long walk down the short hall to the men’s room. Sally shouted to me when we walked by the table Earl, Sal, Carl Petty and I had been sitting at.
“Where’s Earl, Bobby?”
“In the bathroom.” I shouted back, Babysitting a dead body, I thought, but didn’t say.
Earl Ennis had been born and raised in Philadelphia. His mother was white and his father was black, and his daddy had been the piano player for Clydie Beumont and the Bel Aires, a ‘one hit wonder’ back in the mid 50’s. The Bel Aires had toured all over the States on their one hit single, “Daddy’s Girl”, and were a top group around Philly and Cherry Hill long after the record had run its course.
Before the Bel Aires, Lester Ennis had been a session player for Philadelphia Sound Recorders, a small studio off of South Street in an alley that had been one of the first successful studios in Philly in the ‘40’s, but by 1950 was a second rate room that most of the big local recording acts ignored. PSR made most of their money in the ‘50’s and 60’s from rich white people who thought their little Jimmy or Suzie might be the next Elvis, or Dion, or Chubby, Laverne, Etta, or Shelly.
Fat fucking chance.
It was mostly the parents that dreamed of stardom for the kids, and most of the kids looked great but sounded like shit. Lester would always run these sessions from behind the big Steinway, reassuring the kids and telling the parents that their little boy or girl would be a star. Lester had talent, to be sure, but his biggest asset was the fact that he was a good man. A nice person you could trust. He might tell a little white lie to save someone’s feelings or encourage a young singer to keep trying, practice, get better, but Lester was not the kind of person to blindside you or take advantage.
Lester was always called in to play those sessions because he was a first rate player, and the white folks regarded him as a local celebrity because he’d played on so many local hits in the ‘40’s, and became well known playing all the local bars. They wanted him on their kid’s records. It was like they thought he was good luck.
Anyone who had worked with Lester spoke highly of him, and the parents and kids he worked with spread the word too. Lester was the man.
At night, Lester would play the clubs. He was equally at home with the blues and jazz, and would jam more than once with other Philly musicians like Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, and Jimmy Smith. John Coltrane, who had moved to Philly from the Carolinas during the war, used to call Lester up and they’d hit the after hours jams together, but as Coltrane started to get more and more ‘out there’, Lester didn’t know what the fuck he was on about and stopped playing with him. Possibly a big mistake on Lester’s part, but he was more comfortable playing blues and melodic jazz, finding the right notes and chords as he went, but found improvisation and melodic deconstruction an insult to the song he was playing.
One early morning after a late night session in a basement bar called Le-Roi’s, Lester was standing in line for a steak sandwich at Pat’s over on the corner of 9th, Wharton, and Passyunk Avenues, when the guy behind him tapped him on the shoulder. Lester turned around to face a short Italian man in a fine silk suit.
“You Lester Ennis?” said the man, exhaling a cloud of smoke from the unfiltered cigarette between his lips.
“I am” said Lester.
“Seen you play down at Le-Roi’s last night. You got some talent, young man.”
“Thank you Mr…” Lester began, holding out his hand.
“Biagi…John Biagi.” The man took Lester’s hand and shook it firmly. “Did you also work with a boy named Danny Fetucci? His father said you did and that you done real good by him and his boy.”
“I’ve worked with a lot of young people Mr. Biagi, but yeah, I remember Danny. Yessir, that was me. That boy has a good voice, but he needs some seasoning. He needs to get hisself a band and sing some dates. Do some jobs. You can’t get the experience singing one song into a microphone. It don’t work like that.”
“His daddy told me that you said that. Honesty. I like that in a man.” Biagi paused to take a drag off his Lucky Strike and continued, “I’ve got a daughter, Maria. She sings all the time. Can’t shut her up. She likes your Ella Fitzgerald and that Lena Horne. I told her she should learn some Judy Garland and Andrew Sisters, but she doesn’t listen to me. Kids.” He dropped what was left of the Lucky Strike and ground it out against the sidewalk under his right shoe until it was a brown smudge on the pavement. “I’d like you to take her into the recording studio. See what she’s got. If you say she’s got some talent, I’ll pay you to work with her, get her some of that ‘seasoning’ these young squirts need. Whadaya say?”
“You gonna order?”
Lester turned around. They were at the front of the line.
“Uhh, yeah. Give me a steak sandwich wit’ and an orange soda.”
“What’s ‘wit’?” said Biagi behind him.
“With onions” Lester replied.
“Make it two.” Biagi said over Lester’s shoulder. “And it’s on me Mr. Ennis.”
Lester thought for a moment. “Bring your daughter around to PSR tomorrow at 7:00 pm. I’ll have a listen and we’ll go from there. You know where PSR is?”
“Sure do. Have my suits made right around the corner. Bertucci’s Fine Fashions for Men. It’s two doors down from the alley” Biagi said.
They got their order and sat down at a table covered with the previous diner’s detritus and dove into the sizzling steak sandwiches.
It was a warm summer night in 1951. Three weeks from that moment 35 year old Lester Ennis and 18 year old Maria Biagi would be hopelessly, passionately, in love.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Poppa Charles was holding his head with both hands and staring down at Donald Seaver’s crumpled body on the floor next to the toilet.
Someone started to open the bathroom door. Earl shoved it closed with his foot and he and Poppa Charles both yelled “Use the women’s!” at the same time in voices an octave higher than usual.
Poppa Charles looked at me with panic in his eyes. “Bobby! Go get the ‘Out of Order’ sign from behind the bar and hang it on the door. Then tell Deacon to close up. Tell the folks we got a gas leak, or a raid comin’ or some shit…anything. Just tell him to get everybody the fuck out. Then you and your friends help him get the bottles and shit off the tables, clean up some, and look around for roaches and bindles. Don’t want no drug shit layin’ around after I call the cops.”
I turned and hurried out the door, leaving Earl and Poppa Charles behind.
Poppa Charles reached for the plunger lying next to Seaver’s body. Earl stopped him. “Don’t bother. I already poked him a few times. He’s dead alright.” Poppa Charles pulled his hand back and leaned over Donald’s body to get a closer look.
I made my way to the bar and delivered Poppa Charles’s message to Deacon, who rolled his eyes again and started yelling to everyone to clear out as he was handing the ‘Out of Order’ sign to me. I ran back down the short hallway and hung it on the nail sticking out of the bathroom door. Then I went back to the table where Sally and Carl sat waiting. Sal was just doing a line off her Rothman’s pack. People started to move towards the door to the stairs, hoping to get out before the sun came up, which was about 15 minutes from now. Deacon was shouting now, saying the ‘Po-leese” were on their way.
Drug dealers, musicians, strippers and bartenders can move pretty fast if properly motivated.
Lester had fallen in love with Maria Biagi while they were sitting next to each other on the Steinway’s bench at PSR. From the moment her father had introduced them, Lester was taken by her round, soft figure, her big brown eyes, and her long, beautiful black hair.
As they worked together over the next few weeks he learned how intelligent she was, how caring. During the second week of their collaboration, she had brought him a plate of Lasagna and a cannoli she had made herself. They were delicious, and Lester marveled at her skill in the kitchen as well as her soft, pure voice, a breathy edge making it at once innocent and worldy, timeless and soulful.
He had heard a new song down at the Pharaoh Record Shop on Market Street, and decided they would record it with one of Lester’s original’s, “Knocked Out by Love” as the flip side. PSR’s owners were so impressed, they decided to release the single themselves on their own modest label, Philly Sound Records.
It was while David Posie, the PSR engineer, was cutting an acetate of the record that Lester found out that Maria felt the same way about him as he felt about her. She kissed him on the couch while Posie worked the lathe. Not the peck on the cheek she had finished each rehearsal and session they had done with, but a deep kiss that made Lester’s eyes roll back in his head, making him as dizzy as a flask full of whiskey.
The record would be released in August of 1951, and although the Five Keys would have a national hit with “The Glory of Love”, Maria’s cover would be the hit in most of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a regional smash, in fact. By the end of September, Maria and Lester were playing around Philly with a band Lester had cobbled together with some of his friends, and offers were coming in from Cherry Hill and other towns around the Jersey/Pennsylvania border. When the record hit the top ten on WFIL, Lester thought that was the greatest thing that had ever happened to him until Maria gave him even better news.
She was pregnant.
It took Deacon, Carl, Sal, and I about 30 minutes to tidy up The Four Brothers. When we were done, I took one last inspection tour and reported back to Deacon. “We’re good”, I said.
Deacon said, “Dat’s good. Go get my cousin and tell him to call the Po-Leese.” Deacon cadged a pack of Players from under the bar and started to remove the cellophane.
Another trip down the hall.
“Poppa Charles!”, I called, opening up the bathroom door. “Time to call the cops. Place is as clean as it’s gonna get.”
Poppa Charles was sitting on the floor next to the stall. He looked up at me with a frown on his face and desperation in his eyes. “Ain’t gonna be callin’ no cops, Bobby. Not now.” Earl had the same scared puppy-dog look on his face.
“Why not? You can’t just leave him in there!” I said, pointing to the stall.
“I know that, you jackass, but right now I gots to figure out just what I am gonna do.” Poppa Charles wrung his hands together, making him look like a mosquito.
“C’mon, man. You gotta call them! Donald probably O.D’d or had a heart attack or something.” I just wanted to get out of there and go home. Sally and Carl were standing in the doorway.
“Donald Seaver’s dead? Holy fuck!” Carl exclaimed and disappeared from the doorway. Sally watched him run to the door, then we could hear him running down the stairs.
I looked down at Poppa Charles. “Call the fucking cops!” I shouted once last time.
“I can’t Bobby. He ain’t just dead…he’s murdered dead. Somebody killed the motherfucker in my God damn club!”
Earl spoke up. “It’s worse than that, man. He was strangled…”
I walked past them and opened the stall door and bent down to look for myself.
There was a guitar string wrapped tightly around Donald’s neck.
Chapter Four: Why Do Fools Fall in Love
Thank God them kids is gone, Poppa Charles thought. Maybe now I can figure out what to do with this damn body. Bobby, Sal, and Earl had left the Four Brothers after Poppa said he’d take it from here, and told them that they wouldn’t have to pay for anything at the Four Brothers from now on if they kept their mouths shut. Poppa also told them to track down Carl Petty, who had run out earlier, and make the same offer to the boy. Poppa Charles looked down one more time at Donald Seaver’s body, then walked out of the bathroom and back into the club.
Deacon was sitting in his favourite booth, taking a swig out of a pint of Ten High followed by a drag off one of the Players cigarettes he copped from behind the bar.
“Door locked?”, Poppa Charles asked him as he sat down.
“Yessir, Chief”, Deacon nodded, taking another haul from his cigarette.
“Downstairs door too?” Poppa continued.
“Aye aye, Cap’n, I’s on it.” Deacon slowly got up and shuffled off towards the stairs. “Don’t be touchin’ my Ten High…get’cher own if you wanna drink.” Deacon called over his shoulder. “You could put out a rail or two while you’re sittin’ there too, Charles, I ain’t had but one all night.” Deacon started down the stairs.
Why the fuck do I put up with his lazy ass, Poppa thought to himself, and then he remembered why…
You can read all you want about how cold it gets in Chicago during the winter, but until you experience it, you will never know just how bone chilling it can be.
Poppa Charles stood at the window overlooking Monroe Street from the living room of the seventh floor suite he and Deacon were sharing at the way-too-expensive Palmer House in Chicago.
What the fuck are we doin’, staying in a joint like this? Poppa wondered. Makes me uncomfortable, every time another coloured man open up a door for me or that sweet little maid, what was her name, Lolly? Holly?…come in here and make the beds and shit. Lookin’ at me and Deacon like we some kind of cheaters, some kind of Uncle Tom boot lickers. It ‘jes ain’t right.
They had been in Chicago since Christmas, and now, almost two months later, Poppa was ready to move on, but Deacon had found more work and was making a killing every night throwing dice and playing cards in the basement of the club he was working at, the Club DeLisa down on State and Garfield.
Throws dice and bullshit better’n anybody I ever met, Poppa thought to himself.
I guess I shouldn’t be bitchin’ about all this, Poppa watched the wind knock a woman on her ass trying to cross Monroe Street, all I have to do is keep his guitar in good shape, change the strings, shine ‘er up, and hand it to him when he walks out on the stage. Ain’t my proudest moment, but shit, at least I ain’t sittin’ back in Lexington bustin’ my back doin’ hard labour at Jefferson’s or Connor’s Mill, or home in Harlem runnin’ numbers and dealin’ on the street.
Deacon and Poppa were from Lexington North Carolina. You either worked building furniture or in one of the textile mills, or sold drugs. They had done all three.
Deacon had one other skill he had a gift for along with gambling and bullshit…he could play the guitar. He had inherited his beautiful 1948 Gibson ES-175 from his daddy after Walter died of alcohol poisoning back in 1950 and Deacon moved in with Poppa and his momma, Deacon’s aunt, Lavinia.
At first all they did was fight, being roughly the same age (Deacon was a year older than Poppa) and having to share one bedroom when Deacon moved in, but they soon bonded because of Deacon’s gift of the gab. Poppa was a lot smaller than Deacon and had been the target of neighborhood bullies ever since elementary school, and even at 22, he still got blindsided every now and again walking home from work. He had given up more than one pay packet to toughs like the LaPage brothers and Toby Branigan (a smarmy Mick who used to beat up kids half his age after getting drunk on beer he stole from his father) until Deacon started working alongside Poppa at Connor’s textile mill.
The first Friday they both picked up their pay packets at Connor’s, Deacon and Poppa were walking home through Bittles Alley when Toby Branigan stepped out of the shadows and, swigging from a stolen bottle of Lucky Lager, told them if they didn’t hand over their pay, he’d kill both of them. Poppa froze and stood silent. Deacon rose up to his full height of 6’ 2” and took a step toward Toby. Branigan backed up.
“What’chu gotta act like that for? Don’chu know no better? Is you so fucked up you cain’t get a job and make your own goddam money? You gotta steal from hard workin’ people like us, tryin’ to put food on the table and keep our momma from losin’ her house? Did yo’ daddy tell you you wasn’t worth shit? Did he put a hex on you, boy? Hell, you almost as big as me. You could get a fine job down at Connor’s…prob’ly make mo’ money than me and him combined on account’a you bein’ white an’ all”, Deacon said, pointing at Poppa.
Toby was looking up at Deacon through a beer induced haze. It slowly began to occur to him that Preach was 4 inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than he was. He looked over at Poppa, who now had a look of defiance on his face.
“You get yo’ ass to Connor’s on Monday mornin’. They’re hirin’ right now and if I can get a job there, so can you.” Deacon continued. “Now get the fuck outta the way so me and my cousin can get home and has some dinner.”
Toby moved out of the way.
Poppa let a big grin take over his face. They started to walk past Branigan when Deacon turned and punched him in the stomach as hard as he could. Toby doubled over like a two dollar lawn chair and dropped to his knees.
“That’s for bein’ a asshole.” Deacon said. “I don’ see you at Connor’s Monday mornin’ you gonna get another one ever’ time I see you from then on.”
Poppa’s grin got wider as they continued down the alley.
Once we left the stairwell to Four Brothers and hit Spadina Avenue, Earl kind of lost it and let out a loud “Fuck!” as we walked up to College Street.
“Shut up, Earl”, Sally said, trying to light a cigarette. Her hands were shaking.
“Everybody take a deep breath”, I offered, trying to make sense out of what had just happened. We stopped on the corner, waiting for the light to change.
“First thing we do is find a payphone and call Carl”, I continued. “Sal, you have his number?”
“I know it”, said Earl. “There’s a phone out front of The Silver Dollar. Who’s got a dime?” Earl was fishing around in his jeans.
I pulled a handful of change out of my front pocket and retrieved a dime. “Here” I said, handing the coin to Earl, “Just tell him to keep quiet until we can get together and figure out what we’re going to do.” I turned to Sal. “What time does your gig start tonight?” I asked her.
“Same as always.” She took a drag off the Rothman, her hands still shaking badly. “Three sets starting at 9:00.”
Earl was already headed down the street to the phone booth. “Tell Carl to meet us at Fran’s at 6:00 o’clock” I shouted after him. Earl threw his right arm up in acknowledgment and kept walking toward the phone booth in front of The Silver Dollar. I turned back to Sally. “You okay?” I asked.
“No”, she managed, her voice no longer having the sultry, rich tone it had carried on stage the night before, “Somebody fucking killed Donald Seaver and we just became accomplices in covering it up!” She looked at me with a mix of hurt and anger in her eyes. “I don’t need this shit, Billy…” “Bobby”, I corrected her, “…B-o-b-b-y.” Sally started up again. “I don’t need this shit, Bobby. I don’t want any trouble. I don’t want any drama. I came to Toronto to play music and maybe make a career for myself, not get mixed up in some bullshit because I went to a boozecan where somebody killed somebody I’ve only known for a couple of months.” She tossed the Rothman, dug around in her thin Levi jacket and produced an almost empty pack of cigarettes and started looking for her lighter to light up another smoke. She looked up at me. “You want one?” she asked, holding out the pack.
Why the fuck not, I thought, and pulled one out. What was left of a gram of coke fell out onto the sidewalk at my feet. Sal leaned over and scooped it up. “Poppa Charles did say we’d never have to pay for anything again at the Four Brothers if we kept quiet” I said as she stood back up. Sal stared at me with a blank look on her face. Her hands had stopped shaking.
Poppa turned away from the window when he heard the front door of the suite open and saw Deacon tossing his hat on the couch and loosening his tie.
“Hey Cousin! Whadaya say to a big ass steak over at Gene and Georgetti’s up in River North?”
“I say it’s 8 am in the fucking morning and you as drunk as a cop on St. Patrick’s day.” Poppa could smell the rye on Deacon from across the room. The rye and cheap perfume from a State Street whore.
“Now, now, little cousin. I know it’s 8 in the rimmin’. I was suggestin’ dinner before I start playin’ at Club DeLisa, say about 6 o’clock. Shit, band don’ start playin’ till 9, so we can have a real fine sit-down dinner.” Deacon kicked off his shoes and sat down on the couch, pulling a flask from his suit jacket and taking a long slow pull from the little silver container. “Don’t even got to spend no money on dinner, Poppa, won a meal for two and all the rimming’s from G&G’s head waiter. All he had left to bet.
Poppa regarded Deacon with both disdain and admiration. “Get some sleep. I’ll get you up around 4 this afternoon.” Poppa turned back to the window. “And take yo’ damn shoes with you…”
They were a long way from Lexington here in Chicago, both geographically and financially.
After Lavinia had been killed by a hit and run driver in Lexington, Poppa and Deacon sold the little house they had lived in with her and moved to Harlem where Deacon had auditioned for and landed a house gig playing with the second stage band at The Savoy Ballroom on Lenox Avenue between 140th and 141st Street.
When Frankie Lymon (also a native of Lexington North Carolina) and The Teenagers played the Savoy one night as a special guest, Lymon learned that Deacon was from the same town where he had been born, and asked Deacon to join the Teenager’s back up band at a considerable pay increase. Poppa stayed in Harlem, a short order cook at Della’s Diner on 137th , while Deacon hit the road, coming back to Harlem occasionally and rejoining the band at the Savoy when Frankie was off the road.
Deacon knew that Lymon wasn’t going to last much longer after he danced with a white girl on Alan Freed’s television show and as a result, was banned from many Southern cities and had caused the cancellation of Freed’s dance program.
When Lymon did his last 2 week stand at the DeLisa in Chicago, he took Deacon with him to lead the house band. When Frankie left, Deacon stayed on, having impressed the DeLisa Brothers and house band leader Red Saunders with his playing, and his story telling. He also had a thing for the band’s girl singer, Lavern Baker.
Unfortunately, that was about to end.
It was February, 1958.
If you are enjoying Murder in E Minor, please let me know. I would love to finish it, but the amount of time (and research) that goes into something like this is a lot more than I ever imagined it would be.
I’ll make you a deal. After I finish The Portable Bob….I will consider tackling the rest of Murder in E minor.
If 1000 of you either email me or comment here or on Facebook, I promise you I will roll up my sleeves, put on the coffee, and finish this mother 12 months from the day I go back to work on it. Either that, or if an investor (or group of investors) come up with enough seed money for me to pay my rent and bills for six months, I’ll get it done in half that time. I look forward to your response, and any suggestions you would like to proffer.
…and Happy Halloween.
Segarini’s regular columns appear here whenever someone actually eats a bag of Kale Chips
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.