THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room": Chapter One (a work in progress)

This San Francisco Chronicle cartoon of the corner of Broadway and Columbus,
where the Hotel Europa was located, with my own embellishments,
sent to my friend Greg Vargas back in 1985.
The Hotel Europa was right above this famous strip club in San Francisco
The French Hotel, Berkeley CA
My new pulp fiction project is a completely original work inspired by some of my experiences working as a desk clerk at the Hotel Europa in the North Beach section of San Francisco in the mid-1980s (where I was also a resident, living right above The Condor strip club, where Carol Doda performed), and then The French Hotel in Berkeley in the early 1990s.  Of course, all of the experiences and people depicted in this book will be highly fictionalized, told in a series of separate short stories that ultimately intertwine, all set at an imaginary place called L'Hotel du Frisson (which translates as "thrill" in French), located in an undetermined town and time. Several of my established fictional characters from previous novels will make cameos, along with famous personalities. There will be some spooky supernatural elements, some hardboiled noir aspects, hyper-realistic situations, and lots of sex. In the classical tradition of novelists using quotes from celebrated poems for their titles (Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Salinger's paraphrased The Catcher in the Rye, still my favorite book), the name of this episodic novel comes not from a famous poem, but an infamous bootlegged onstage rant by Elvis Presley (see video below), probably drug-fueled, but the same claim has been made about the works of Edgar Allan Poe, William Burroughs and many other esteemed authors. Anyway, I don't have a target publication date, and I'm juggling this fiction enterprise with several freelance projects, so I'm not sure when the entire novel will be finished and published, but I'm just giving you an advance taste to hopefully whet your appetite for the final steamy, sultry, surreal stew. Enjoy.....cheers, Will the Quill

A Novel by Will Viharo

Chapter One

People who checked into L'Hotel du Frisson always checked each other out, too. It was a sexual nexus of neurotic eroticism. The guests were consumed by lust and loneliness, because these intoxicating interludes distracted them, like all of humanity, from their real obsession: a collective fear of death.  Morality was no match for mortality. These primal passions erupted one night when a beautiful, seemingly ageless Latina movie queen named Estrella Margarita Moreno, renowned for her promiscuity on and off screen, decided to take a vacation from her native town of Tlaquepaque, Mexico, a suburb of Guadalajara, traveling across America, where she could literally get lost, maybe even disappear. She settled on L'Hotel du Frisson because it sounded foreign and exotic, even though it was located in a typical American town. She had once lived in Paris, years ago, until a scandal, involving an important politician, drove her out, exiling her from the country of France forever. She never got over it. In fact, she wanted to die. But first, she wanted to fall in love, one last time.

The desk clerk on duty recognized her right away, because her picture was in the magazine he kept under the counter, next to the gun, which he always brought with him for safety, since he worked the night shift, and sometimes shady, dangerous types would lurk in the adjoining Cafe du Frisson. Though they were the least of his worries, especially tonight.

The cafe was somewhat more contemporary in appearance than the three story hotel, since most of the furniture had been replaced in the 1960s, at odds with the 1930s decor of the hotel, which had never been updated. The mid-century modernist style of the cafe, in pastel blues and greens, also both complemented and contrasted with the Art Deco fashion of the building in which it was housed. Together, it was an architectural, aesthetic haven for bygone styles that didn't clash so much as copulate. This unique atmosphere made L'Hotel du Frisson a global destination for world weary travelers. The desk clerk did not share this love for his place of employment. He was only here temporarily, anyway. He'd be moving on once he suspected that the people pursuing him were in uncomfortable proximity. The desk clerk's name was Danny. A regular in the cafe known as "The Mantis Man," from New York City, where he had once worked as a headhunter and hung out in coffee shops with his good friend, the late filmmaker John Cassavetes, had warned Danny that, via the grapevine, his enemies were getting closer, and it may be time for him to leave, very soon, strongly advising him to just walk off the job tonight. But after meeting Estrella Margarita Moreno, the famous Mexican porn star (though her sensuous, surrealistic movies with titles like Iguana Sexo and Mi Gata Quieres Amor were shown in mainstream art houses), he didn't want to abandon his post just yet. She was worth the risk, he figured.

 "They're having a little party for you," The Mantis Man had told Danny earlier that evening, rather sardonically. The Mantis Man was called such because of his thin, insect-like appearance.  "Because you made a mistake. What kind of a mistake? A bad mistake. Now they have to resolve this mistake that you made. You're invited to this little party, Danny. You should RSVP for this party that they're throwing for you. You're the guest of honor." The Mantis Man's beady eyes lit up with an odd sort of enjoyment as he described Danny's plight.

 "I'll just leave town again," Danny said.  

"You can run, but you can't hide," said The Mantis Man. "I should know. I was a headhunter. It was my job to find people."

"Not me," Danny said. 

"I found you, didn't I?" The Mantis Man cackled.

"But you weren't even looking for me," said Danny.

"Well, there you go," said The Mantis Man. "Imagine if I were. That's how easy it is. You should have changed your name."

"I did."

"Well...I guess that wasn't enough. My contacts tell me that your trail has heated up and your friends could be arriving shortly. It will be a very fun party, I'm sure." The Mantis Man lit up a cigarette.

"Please smoke outside," Danny said irritably.

The Mantis Man nodded and walked away.

"I have nothing better to do than die," Danny whispered to himself.

Then Estrella Maria Moreno showed up, and changed everything.

When Danny had first arrived for his shift that evening, the clerk he was replacing, a rotund, clean-cut, red-faced fellow named Franklin DeWitt, was in one of the rooms, masturbating on the bed, then carefully cleaning up after himself. This was his usual routine. Franklin desperately wanted to sleep with L'Hotel du Frisson's owner, a buxom blond nymphomaniac widower named Clara Cleaver, but then so did most of the desk clerks, as well as the guests.  Clara sometimes obliged them, taking the hotel tab out in trade, but she never slept with her employees, as a strict policy. Franklin had to settle for photographs he surreptitiously snapped of Clara taking a shower in that very room, which Franklin had taken through a small, secret hole in the wall, drilled for this perverse, voyeuristic surveillance. Clara was very sexy, an ex-stripper (stage name: Clara Belle due to her enormous, and very real breasts, which men loved to "milk" by ejaculating between them), who had married a wealthy businessman who in turn died of a heart attack on their honeymoon, following a strenuous sexual session. She was never even sure exactly what he did for a living, since he'd just picked her up at the club where she worked and proposed the next morning. He left Clara his entire fortune, which she wisely invested by purchasing this hotel. That was ten years ago. Some say the businessman's spirit haunted this hotel, but then so did many spirits, many in liquid form. The hotel's legendary reputation as a graveyard for ghosts was part of its appeal. Clara always played that up on brochures. It was an effective marketing scheme, whether it was true or not. Clara was as shrewd as she was lewd.

"Now that you've soiled that room, I can't rent it," Danny complained to Franklin, sweating and reeking of his own semen. "It's our only vacancy. The maids are long gone."

"Yes, you can, I always clean up after myself," Franklin said.

"Zip up your god damn pants and dry that spot on your crotch, you fat, filthy bastard," Danny said. Franklin just snorted and laughed.

So when Estrella checked in, Danny had no alternative but to give her Room 001, the closest one to the front desk. It was known as The Purple Room, because it was decorated in purple. All of the rooms had a unique color scheme. A white stain on a plush purple bedspread would definitely stand out. If only Franklin had used The Yellow Room, but that was occupied by a man from out of town, a salesman, who rarely ventured out during his regular visits.

The bellhop on duty, a deformed dwarf from Russia named Boris Yakov, once a successful surgeon,  until he botched an operation due to his incessant trembling, carried Estrella's baggage to her room, even though it was heavier than he was, and the room was nearby. Danny did not let Estrella know that he recognized her, but she could tell that he did. 

"Are you here all night?" she asked him. "In case I need anything?"

"Yes," he said.

It was 3 A.M. and Danny, pretending to read a detective novel, was having trouble staying awake, despite his date with either impending doom or the fuck of his thirty year old life. The sounds of classic jazz emanated from the cafe's sound system, as it did around the clock since, like the hotel, Cafe du Frisson never closed. That's when Danny noticed the two familiar men in the mirror, which reflected the cafe. They were wearing sunglasses in the middle of the night. That's when he knew he had to run. 

"Cover for me," Danny told Boris, who was sound asleep.  Boris had been the one who had drilled the hole in The Purple Room, and told Franklin about it. Danny brought his gun with him.

He knocked on Room 001, and Estrella let him in, closing the door behind them, and locking it.

"I need a place to hide," he said.

"I was going to call you anyway," she said.

"Why?" asked Danny.

"There is a strange stain on my sheets, and my bed smells Also, there is a hole in the wall of the bathroom."

"I'm sorry," Danny said. "Would you like plug your hole?"

She was wearing a silk robe that was untied, revealing her brown breasts with their large nipples, which he recognized from the magazine. She said, "Sssshhhh," then took him into her meaty arms and enveloped him in her warm, soft flesh. He removed his black suit, white shirt, shiny black shoes, and thin black tie. They made violent love for hours. Estrella cried because she had found her final fling. When Danny woke up, the sun was streaming through the blinds, and it burned his skin. He  got up and closed the curtains. Estrella was still on the bed, her eyes wide open, her skin cold to the touch. She was dead. 

Danny went to the bathroom and noticed two puncture wounds on his neck. They hurt when he touched them. There was a knock on the door, then two men suddenly kicked it open, and fired their guns at Danny. But he just stood there and took it. He then walked up to the two men,  ignoring his own gun on the bedside table, and snapped their necks, one in each hand. Then he dropped them on the ground and returned to Estrella's side, and wept. Estrella opened her eyes, and smiled, licking the bloody saliva from her lips. She carefully covered Danny in the blankets, told him to stay put, walked to the window, opened the curtains and blinds, and burst into flames.

Copyright 2011 Will Viharo
All Rights Reserved