One man's trek through Hollywood in the aftermath of the holocaust, the Communist hearings held by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s.
Hollywood 1956. SAMUEL WALLS, ex-fighter and one time middleweight contender for the championship of the world, wouldn’t know a Communist from a carbuncle, but he knows a dead man when he sees one, and this one is stiffer than Rock Hudson at the YMCA on free towel night. What in hell happened? Only an hour ago, Sam’s biggest concern was who Rock was slapping Oscar Mayers with: keeping Hudson in the closet and his mug off the cover of Confidential with the caption “Hollywood’s Lace Panties Boy”.
JEAN HOWARD is beautiful, smart, and a woman of means with a fashionable home in Beverly Hills. She has everything worldly one could want, but she craves a little adventure in her life. She finds it in Sam Walls, when together they open a dead man’s beat-up old satchel and pull out an ancient affidavit and a key, a key that just might put them in body bags at the morgue on North Mission Road. Pandora’s Box is open, and it’s not an invitation for sex.
The big sprawling angel with arms agape,
Beckoning the siren’s lure,
Come hither, come hither, I’m yours, she says,
I’ll make you a star, that’s sure,
But alas, she’s got no class,
She’s nothing but a lying whoore.
Hollywood, what’s not to love. But for the price of a ticket and a winter Mackinaw, I’d lam the hell out of this wicked bitch on the first Super Chief east.
(Sam Walls, private investigator, January 1956.)”
Yeah, I wrote that… on the outhouse wall of the Union Terminal out on Alameda. I was hacked-off when I came up short on the fare, and I meant what I said at the time—and yeah, I can read too. I was busted, flat broke, working out of the backroom of Howie Steindler’s Main Street Gym, gratis, his pleasure. Howie owed me, or at least he saw it that way. It’s like the song by one of the money-monkeys who staked a piece of my action, Frankie boy, Sinatra’s hit song, “That's Life”.
My fight record was twenty-two wins and one loss, good enough for a middleweight title shot with Sugar Ray, but I couldn’t get a moneyed fight if I walked the “nickel”, Fifth Street, with the schmack-heads crapping heroin Popsicles. When you’re suspected of throwing a fight, and the big “secret” is yodeled up the canyon by Sinatra Box Inc., you’re dead meat, dried, drizzled and ready for the mayo. I was persona non grata on both coasts and with all the palookas in between.
I couldn’t figure it. Take Lamotta’s fight in ’47 with Billy Fox, the limey from England. Everybody in the game knew Lamotta intentionally drooled canvas, but nobody was in there saying so, and he skated, and got a later shot at the Sugarman, too— which Lamotta won. He had to do it to get his shot. Who could’ve figured I’d be any different?
I not only lost the fight game, but also any retirement perk down the pike, like Dempsey’s Bar and Grill in New York City or Sugar Ray’s Harlem Nightclub, lifetime annuities, both. I guess I could have done that, too, won the belt and taken my spot on easy street if not for Sinatra’s connection, Giancana—but that’s a hard biscuit for another porridge.
This morning had me jogging down Main Street to the gym. The battery in my old Chevy had cranked its last amp the night before, and I’d left the car where it sat. Howie said he’d have a new battery put in, and not to worry about the money, he had some work for me. I figured the jog would get me warmed up since that “work” was probably a fight.