NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 1 - Winter 2018 - Page 10

“The Black Dahlia?” “Yeah, her. A lowlife white girl gets offed, and the paper runs a Black Dahlia story every day. They never printed nothing ‘bout Lunceford. It’s like that shit didn’t happen.” “Why she gotta be the BLACK Dahlia anyway, huh?” Drummer Man asked. “Why everything bad gotta be black.” “Police been busting our ass since that shit happened,” Piano Man said. “Errbody know hacking a bitch in half is some crazy white boy shit.” Comfort sucked the last of the reefer until it was gone. “Maybe. Lots of things can make a man crazy. All I know is some fool got Lunceford, and he had more soul than anyone I know. He controlled his own money and worked on another level. He did radio and toured all over Europe.” “Sounds like you, nigga,” Drummer Man smiled at Joe. “Naw, man. I’m tryin’ to tell you, Lunceford was huge! Had his own private doctor. Flew his own Cessna to all his shows. Now you tell me what Negro does that shit, man?” Staring at Drummer Man, Joe sadly turned toward the moon. “But his last gig was The Bungalow, in Seaside, Oregon,” “Damn right!” Drummer Man said, giving Slim five. “Lunceford played all over, even did a stint for the Queen. So he gets in the owner’s face and demands to be fed, and after a shouting match, the owner finally gives in and serves them all Chili Con Carne.” Drummer Man, bit his sandwich and said, “See! We have to demand our rights, man!” “Few hours later, while in a music store signing records, Lunceford seizes up, starts foaming at the mouth and falls.” Joe lights a cigarette and flings the match toward the street. “They rushed him to the hospital, but it was too late. Jimmie’s laying there doa.” “Shit!” Drummer Man said. “Damn,” Piano Player added. “See, that cracker put something inside Jimmie’s food. They knew he was poisoned ‘cause all the other dudes got sick too but Jimmie. You know how big he was; brother man ate two portions of that shit.” “But the cold part about it was, Jimmie had the band’s pay in his pocket. Them peckerwoods took that money while Jimmie was on the gurney. So his band had to keep slaving at that funky café just to hustle enough scratch to make it back home.” Joe took his glass and smashed it on the ground. “Naw nigga, no? You didn’t fuck-up the best gig in town!” The other musicians stared down at the broken bits. “Why’d his bitch have to be so damn fine?” Joe admitted. “Maybe Satchmo had it right,” Joe went on. “You lying! Sinatra’s crazy ‘bout Ava!” “Satchmo’s an Uncle Tom!” Drummer Man said. “I don’t know,” Piano Player said. “Armstrong never had no problems. He works every night. He don’t owe nothing to the mob. Satch always said to get a white boy to vouch for yo ass. He told me to get a cracker who can put his arm around you and say, ‘that’s my nigga,’ someone to protect yo ass from this bullshit.” “Listen,” Joe said, lighting a smoke and holding it in. “If a white boy wants yo ass, he’s gonna get it.” “I don’t know,” Drummer Man said drumming his sticks on a crate. “If you ask me, Lunceford was already doa. Dexter Gordon is all folks talk about now. “Bebop killed Lunceford a long time ago.” The musicians didn’t say anything for a beat. “Well, at least you got Sinatra,” the piano player told Joe. Joe looked inside his empty glass and smiled. Joe extended his glass and Drummer Man poured some gin. “I know. I fucked up. Sinatra kicked me off the tour.” “Kicked you off! You’re lucky the hood didn’t cut yo throat! Maybe we’re looking at this fool’s last gig,” Drummer Man nudged Piano Player’s rib. “One monkey don’t stop no show,” Piano Player said, taking a swig. “I have to admit,” Joe licked his finger. “Ava was great in the sack, oh my goodness! You know she’s black.” “Ava Gardner’s not colored!” Making the Sign of The Cross, Joe said, “Swear on my Daddy’s grave. She told me she’s Melungeon, man.” “Me-long-what?” “Melungeons. A mixture of free niggas, whites and Indians. They lived together in the Appalachian mountains.” “So what happened with Ava, man?” Piano Player wanted to know. “We got busted inside the studio. Ava fixing up her hair. He didn’t see us, but man, I could tell from his glare. ‘I could shoot you,” Sinatra told me, ‘but I like you, okay, but you’ll never work for me again.’” “Shit, man, when you ever gonna learn?” “I know,” Joe said wiping a lock of hair from his head. “But the shit keeps coming my way.” Everyone stopped talking when a gleaming limousine pulled up in the alley. The club opened and the sound of laughter filled the dark alley. Mattie wearing a dazzling evening gown exited the club’s back door. Her dress, the color of snow, set off her tan skin. All the musicians turned their heads her way. A famous director was clutching her arm. “Joe,” she mouthed to herself, as Otto and she drove away. A cop walked out of the club too. He eyed the musicians with unhidden disgust. “Break it up, Sambos. Hurry up, go home!” Carrying his bass fiddle close to his chest, Joe walked to his car. Flicking his cigarette in the direction of Otto’s departed car, Joe got inside his own car and slammed the door. “One monkey don’t stop no show,” Joe said. n “The Last Gig,” is excerpted from Pam Ward’s 4th novel, “I’ll Get You My Pretty,” the true 1947 story of Mattie, married to Nat King Cole’s bassist and also dating a notorious doctor, a prime suspect in the Black Dahlia murder, the “Is that Otto Preminger with yo chick?” Drummer Man asked. most vicious unsolved crime in Los Angeles history. Guiding Mattie down the steps, Preminger headed toward the long black car. “Mattie,” Joe said, holding his hat in his hand. Mattie stopped but Preminger mildly tugged her arm. “Come along, darlink,” Preminger said, escorting her in the ca