FIERCE WINDS AND MERCILESS rains poured down from the lightning-filled sky, furiously pelting the windscreen of the Bell-429 helicopter, rocking the private chopper violently in the turbulent night.
The anxious pilot, struggling to stay in control of the craft was about to call May-Day when fortunately, swooping down lower over Los Angeles airspace, the ferociousness of the storm subsided, opening the way to clear skies in the pitch-black night. The pilot took a deep breath of relief, wiping the sweat from his worried brow, cruising comfortably on an even descent towards the vast, vibrant twinkling lights of the city below, finely illuminated by a sprawling network of crisscrossed highways and over-lapping interstate freeways, stretching out as far as the eye could see.
Casually glancing out the side window, he noticed below several bright searchlights streaking up to the heavens, rotating in a beacon over Hollywood, the ignominious town of broken dreams, the heady, glamorous, insidious habitat where many poor souls found themselves gone astray, swallowed up in a world of hedonism, vice, and debauchery.
All the while in the back cabin of the state-of-art sleek black helicopter, a near-silent tranquil hiss filled the rarefied atmosphere of the pristine, all-white passenger cabin. On board was one lone passenger; a young hip-looking twenty-five year old man, casually dressed in a brown leather flight-jacket, with longish flowing brown hair, wearing gold wire-rim eye-glasses. Obviously shaken by the turbulence, he was rubbing his hands together nervously, seated in darkness, staring blankly out the window, deep in thought.
An attractive, cordial stewardess in grey flannel uniform came to his side, flicked on his overhead light and began serving him a hot cup of coffee from a service tray.
"We'll be landing soon. Will there be anything else, Mr. Barker?"
"No, that's fine, thank you." He looked away from her and turned his gaze to a book on his lap titled, The Nephilim: Fall of the Damned.
After landing at the restricted heliport area at LAX and clearing his baggage, Robin walked the short distance to a waiting limousine outside the terminal.
The shadowy emotionless driver, in black chauffeur's uniform, opened the door as Robin slipped wearily into the cushy leather comfort of the back seat, placing his carry-on bag on the floor next to him. Robin leaned back unwinding from the dreadful flight finally at ease, closing his weary eye.
It was nearly one thirty five in the morning when the limo pulled away and exited the bustle of LAX, moving easily and unimpeded into the sparse midnight traffic. Twenty minutes later, the limo took an off-ramp that lead down toward Sunset Boulevard.
Robin glanced in the rear view mirror, catching the eye of the inquisitive driver, who was staring back at him. There was something uncomfortable and particularly peculiar about him, something quite unnatural from the look of his cat-like, greenish brown eyes. Ill at ease, Robin pushed a button and rolled up the glass window partition separating them. There would be no chit-chat with this weirdo, and besides, he had work to do.
Taking out his small Sony cassette recorder, he began speaking quietly into it, while cruising up the nearly deserted Strip during the wee hours. It was the only time to be driving in Los Angels as far as he was concerned.
The streets were still wet and slick from the storm, but the denizens of the night, as in all great cities, were teeming with life. Hookers and pimps were out on their corners taunting one another over turf, while multicoloured neon lights flashed vibrantly over the bars and clubs. On one corner an old man in a kiosk was busy selling early morning newspaper editions and glossy porno magazines to the few customers that were interested.
It was the same depraved, heartless Hollywood of yesteryear alright, known for its elegant stars with an ever widening hub of celebrity, debauchery and decadence that began way back in the Roaring Twenties, when it was a smaller town of affluence; a seedy haunt where brothels posed as fake acting schools that sucked in the corn-fed beauties from small nowhere towns of middle America. By the thousands they descended on California with fantasies of stardom and fame. Unfortunately. in the end very few actors or actresses ever made it onto the silver-screen, others were relegated to nine to five jobs, some becoming prostitutes, others living their pitiful lives waiting for extras calls from Central Casting.
Continuing down Sunset, Robin briefly glanced up at the big old "Hollywood" sign lit up on the hillside then cruised past Sid Grauman's famous Chinese Theatre. Grauman's Theatre was an elegant facade which concealed the seedy underbelly of a town that chewed people up and spit them out. All was not wonderful in Southern California, but people liked to pretend it was, and it was hard for Robin to remember that this was the very town that produced the likes of Jack Warner, Mayer Lansky, and Bugsy Siegel, who with gangster money, invested in films as well as in a little known town called, Las Vegas.
Los Angeles: The City of Angels, a misnomer? Well some would say so... and others, well, I guess that depended on what position you held in the hierarchy of this so-called Angelic kingdom. In the 1930s it was considered the style capital of the world, and from Sunset to Hollywood Boulevard a flock of ultra-rich had taken over the town, where back in the 1920s, it was run by farmers and real estate developers who for the most part despised the new movie people moving in bringing their despoiled East Coast ways and shameful vices with them. It was basically a sleepy little nothing town until the likes of Cecille B. Demille and Jesse Laskey arrived on the scene and started leasing up portions of farmer's orchards where they ran their movie companies, and as the movie business grew, more and more poor souls poured in from the East with dreams of fame and fortune.
When the good times finally dwindled away during the crash of 1929, many film investors lost their shirts, which coincided with the end of the "Silent Era", serving a death-blow to many actors who couldn't make the transition to the "talkies", opening whole new era to Hollywood.
* * * * *
ROBIN CAME OUT OF his brief reverie and leaned back, speaking softly into his recorder: 'June 13th... I've finally worked my way into the inner sanctum of the great Darcy Manning to write some new original song material for his new CD release-- no mean feat.
What could one say about Darcy Manning? There had been so much written and whispered about the man over the decades, and who can separate fact from fiction, the truth from media hype?
The usual tired stories about drugs and wild orgies, his dabbling in the Black Arts, and the alleged resultant curse. And finally, the mysterious death of some hapless woman acting agent that ultimately led to a brief trial where he was acquitted, then vanished from the music scene for a decade, only to appear again, bigger and better.
"The greatest rock star and rock band of all time," is what they said.
About the only thing everyone seemed to agree on was his other-worldly charm and charisma. Well, I am about to find out for myself soon enough... And only time will tell if I'm up to performing the task I have set for myself.