There are three great walls in concentric rings going around the mountain, built originally as defenders of Nancy’s most precious pearl. As I pulled up to the gate at the foot of the mountain, two security guards appeared from the plastic bushes and bade me stop.
They both wore reflective specs, sailor pants and shirts so small they could have been henchmen in 60s Batman. ‘Good evening, gentlemen,’ I said pleasantly. But they were not having a particularly good evening.
Henchman # 1 (let us call him Steve) leaned over the door and breathed sourly into my face, while Henchman # 2 (let us call him Ernest) went round behind me and said, ‘Yep,’ while sneaking peeks of his bulby forearms in the shining hubcaps of my pappy’s sugar-sweet pink Cadillac.
When he had temporarily done with using his mouth for breathing, Steve said, ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I’ve come to see Nancy Sinatra.’
‘She expecting you?’
‘No. I just thought I’d pop over.’
‘Yep,’ said Ernest earnestly, and spat gum onto the gravel.
‘This your car?’ said Steve, leaning against the bonnet.
‘Sure…’ said I.
‘It’s just that we got very particular instructions not to let a pink Cadillac pass,’ said Steve.
‘Oh, really,’ said I.
‘Yep,’ said Ernest.
‘Well,’ said I. ‘Is it the make or the colour you object to more?’
That got him. ‘Don’t really know,’ said Steve. ‘Hang on a minute there.’
So Steve gestured to Ernie and Ernie came round to the front of the car and then he phoned up to the house. Now both men were leaning on the hood like a couple of hep cats. There was a crackle on the phone. Ernie said, ‘Yep, yep.’ Then the henchmen conferred saying rhubarbrhubarbrhubarb. Then Steve turned back to me and said, ‘Both. No pink. No Cadillacs. No pink Cadillacs. The order was to shoot on sight.’
As a matter of fact I could imagine Nancy coming home after she broke up with Archie, saying, ‘If you see a pink Cadillac coming up the drive, shoot to kill,’ over her thin shoulder, with a Menthol stuck to her bottom lip. I don’t suppose she meant it really, but then again she was quite upset, and my father certianly has a knack for provoking people to murder.
More to the point, the things that Sinatras say have a way of happening. In his Mafia days Frank Snr set up a very intricate protection racket around his daughter, comprised of many cells which went on dividing and adapting like the most protean virus. He has been dead for fifteen years but there’s no doubt that the number of defenders of Nancy’s elderly virtue still go on multiplying like the worms and bacteria eating out his ol’ blue eyes.
Now as the great gate rose before me, I saw it as Archie must have seen it all those years ago when he first starting paying court to Nancy. There were spotlights roaming over the wall, and illuminating clumps of sagebrush on the hill, which left a residual glitter on the back of your eyes when the spots moved on; a shadowy shape hanging in the darkness below flashed a strange green light in from the sea. Then a volley of shots sounded from one of the security towers, and all of the birds rose up, screeching.
Fuck me. Archie was always going on about attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, and c-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate… So this was it: the Tannhäuser Gate, first defence of Casa Sinatra.
It is always a little unsettling to discover that people you believe to be mad aren’t quite as mad as you thought they were.
Continued next post: The road to Casa Sinatra