Friday, October 16, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 15 - I Luciferi

The longest installment yet. Enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment #15 – I Luciferi

I. A Digression Rising...

Now it's time to take a sideways glance at a wild cluster of subjects interlaced to forge a complete portrait: a sharp slice of the Hallmark “street scene” over 30 years of mutations and permutations, at its very nexus point on Flicker Street itself. This is only one such scene but we explore it here as a respite from the labors of the Aggregate.

Explored within is the history of the infamous Lucifer Club, from 1952-1982. Through the lives of its owners and patrons we can trace the bloody fingerprints left on the world by the wounds and scars of an American city (albeit a unique one).

II. The Lucifer Club

In 1952, the man called Javier, son of Biazel Karollus, was embracing his Exodesian side and was assisting Arch-Priest Urias the Grand Necromancer as Urias made a bid to become one of the birthing SkullCorp's inner circle. Javier envisioned an exclusive club where the more decadent and, shall we say, curious denizens of Flicker Street and beyond could congregate and indulge themselves without a care. Javier did not really discriminate with the “exclusive” tag; he was not against lower classes of folk patronizing the club – as long as they paid. Urias lent Javier some capital, and a handful of Hallmark's finest chipped into invest, all with the caveat that it be repaid in one year, and Javier would become co-owner of the club, with Urias a silent partner, hence the club was yet another source of revenue for SkullCorp. Javier's plan was to eventually buy out Urias – if that was possible.

Javier opened the club on New Years Eve, 1953. From the first night, two groups that would be mainstays and lifeblood of the club congealed. The first group to hold court in the club revolved around Nels Christensen, a cohort of Javier's that worked for the Machine. He was an investor in the club. His brother, Lambert Christensen, would often visit. What Nels did not know was that the Lambert that would drop in on him from time to time was actually Bram Vallard aka the Apparition (and his split personality Royal Hoxworth aka Saturnine). The real Lambert “loaned” his ID to Vallard for long stretches while he tooled around Europe. But the real Lambert died in 1950. Vallard continued the ruse however, keeping Nel's older brother alive. Vallard was such a master of disguise and subterfuge that Nels never discovered the truth.

Nels found a motley group to drink and watch the exotic dancers with. One of his employees, Judd Fullerton, who he condescended to in the workplace, became a treasured drinking buddy, as did Judd's best friend, Henry Colter (b. 1923), who played drums in the closest thing the club had to a house band, the Ulysses Reale 6. Henry was the only white member of the band, so Nels tended not to invite Henry's bandmates over except for an occasional toast. Shiloh Mercer, the soprano sax player, often crashed their gatherings in an extremely inebriated state. Shiloh was another of the African-American branch of the Mercer clan, and was the 6th great-grandson of Ewen Cromwell. The whole group enjoyed Shiloh's company, except Nels and his friend Jonathan, an occasional member of this poor man's Rat Pack. Jonathan Sebastian III was a wealthy German-descended heir who was a major investor in the Lucifer Club. Jonathan was often referred to as the “sixth wheel” by the employees. Javier actually was himself a tight member of Nels' crew, though unlike Nels and sebastian he was fair to everyone.

There was a final key player in the “Christensen Quintet” as they became dubbed due to an off-hand remark by Ulysses Reale's bass player, a real cut-up called Ondine Jackson. Jackson's epithet was hardly appreciated by Nels, but it stuck. Nels had recently invested a great sum of money in film production and distribution, and wanted foreign films as well as cheapo American flicks on his slate. Nels befriended an Italian producer whose young nephew, Luca Stenoretti (b. 1923), was honing his craft as a cinematographer. Nels flew to Italy to see Luca's latest work on a film called The Sirens of Pallas, a period adventure film with mythological elements (this at that time had not yet coalesced into the genre we now know as peplum, or “sword and sandal” flicks). This was the first film Stenoretti directed himself (and shot as well).

Stenoretti wielded a secret which kept Javier installed as as the “fifth banana” in the Christensen Quintet. Luca's mother, Isabella Clerici, was Javier's daughter; hence Biazel's granddaughter. Luca admired his charismatic grandfather and knew he was a practitioner of “black magic” (though Javier always told him it was “grey magick”), and was amazed that Javier looked younger than he himself. Javier agreed that he and his grandson would not go public with their relations. But Luca resolved that his films as a director would always be suffused with horror or the occult, even in his lower key thrillers and westerns. Later, Luca's half-brother Blasco Clerici, would work on Luca's films and also join Biazel's order (which Luca refused to do, as did Javier).

III. “The Others”

The second group of regulars that helped define the club, and caused some controversy in the media, was all African-American and were a tight bunch. Playfully called “The Others” (referring to being seen as on a lower tier as Christensen's cohorts and also distinguishing this group from the Ulysses Reale 6), their main man was definitely Ulysses P. Reale, trumpeter - a proud, strong black man who refused to be cowed into submission by the likes of Christensen or Sebastian. His wife was Emmaretta Swope, who often sang with Reale's group or with a small orchestra. Reale himself did no drugs, though he drank, but some of his pals in and out of his group were users and/ or dealers. His alto sax player, the virtuoso James Colburne, was a heroin addict, as was Ulysses' childhood friend Paul Cutler, a quiet, kind gentleman with a roaring habit who also dealt when he could.

Reale and Cutler were joined by three other perennials: the aforementioned Ondine Jackson; Octavius Flay, a pimp who'd grown up with the rest but refused to drop out of the macking business; and young Junius G. Hand, who was on the waitstaff in the club's kitchen. Sebastian especially hated that such a menial would come and hang out in the club when his shift was over. Shiloh Mercer would gravitate to the “Others”' table regularly, unlike Colburne, who was into his own thing, and that amounted to: his alto and heroin. And he romanced both harder and more often than any woman who came his way, though he did end up getting married in the 1960s.

IV. Erszebet

Junius Hand looked up to Flay's pimping success and loved Ondine's quick wit. He imagined a life dazzling folks with his talents in both areas. He even had a name for a whole new persona to do just that: Black Torpedo Ray, after an aquatic creature he saw in one of his father's books. Junius had a serious, very forbidden crush on the club's main dancer and arguably greatest attraction: Erszebet Singer (born 1930). She was gorgeous and seemingly unattainable. She was quiet, but when she did speak, she lit up with a thick South Carolina accent that made her hard to follow in conversation. She was a burlesque star of some acclaim, and Javier had cultivated her to the delight of the club's investors, who he easily paid off within a year of opening. Then only Urias had any stake in the club besides Javier.

Erszebet was not the only popular dancer that plied her trade there. Felicia McGee, formerly the mystery woman known as Crimson Velvet, made many a guest appearance; her lifestyle, however, was ruining her good looks. Arronaxe LaRue was a popular performer. “Her claim to fame was her frame”, the saying went. She was not lithe and athletic like Erszebet; she had enormous breasts and extremely wide hips, and tantalized the crowd with both. Geneva was also a shapely and popular dancer but she was black and was forbidden from performing regularly. She was also Ulysses' sister and Ondine's wife.

Erszebet was a quarter Jewish and was quite devoted to her Bible readings. She found no shame in her work, however, but her brother, Eli, certainly did. Eli Singer was a bit of a proselytizer, which made him rather unwelcome at a place like the Lucifer Club (though the archways of the club's front door portrays a falling angel bearing the epithet: “All are welcome. Harm none”). Erszebet and Henry Colter were actually related. Henry was a half-uncle to Eli (b. 1929) and Erszebet. Thus Henry's and Erszebet's constant flirtation was somewhat incestuous, and angered Junius. Eli, however, would rather his sister be with their uncle than a black man any day. The roots of Henry's and the Singers' families (as well as those of many other noteworthy denizens of Flicker Street and beyond) lie with the Parminters of Gossingham; their family history will chronicled further along in our narratives.

V. The 1953 Affair

During the Christmas holidays in 1953, Javier held a lavish “Yule Bash”. Colburne's alto solo on “Greensleeves” was a scorching highlight of the Ulysses Reale 6's set. The music was really jumping; the alcohol was plentiful, those that needed a fix got one out back, and the girls were on full display in all their pulchritude. Arronaxe almost stole the evening when she doffed her top, but Erszebet continued to reign supreme, dancing with a Santa hat on – and not much else.

As the evening wound to a spastic close, Erszebet went missing. Eli had come to the club to disrupt her “unholy frolicking”, but she was nowhere to be found. Javier asked Eli to leave and Singer swore he'd destroy the “pagan heathen bastard” Javier before he died. While Javier was avoiding a serious problem, another arose. Nels, Henry, Judd, and Luca were extremely intoxicated and wanted a special table dance from Erszebet. They went looking in Javier's office, and found her making love with young Junius G. Hand! Javier came upon the scene.

Did you know about this?” asked Nels. Javier indicated he did. He plead with the four not to tell anyone for fear that Eli would launch a literal lynch mob against Junius. Then Erszebet confessed she was already pregnant with Junius' child. This wasn't the first time they had carried on. Javier hatched a scheme: if her pregnancy was found out, the Christensen Quintet would claim they had a mad consensual orgy with a willing Miss Singer. Erszebet thanked them, and agreed to go along, but worried it would ruin the men, especially Javier and Nels. Nels was furious, but swore to go along with the pact, even though he really thought Junius should be lynched anyway. Not only was he a Negro, thought Christensen, but he was damned annoying with his constant jokiness.

Everyone went about their business, but in a few weeks Erszebet was starting to show. The rumor mills began grinding as she stopped performing and wouldn't allow herself to be photographed. Javier leaked the story to the media himself, though no one knew this save him. As predicted, all was traced to the Yule Bash. Javier admitted to the media there'd been an orgy. The other men all said, “no comment” (as did Luca in Italy; he was actually quite taken with Miss Singer and wished it had been him).

The scandal almost did in Erszebet. “The Baby with Five Fathers” and “Heir to the Christensen Quintet” were some of the labels attached to the unborn child. The baby's complexion (even given Javier's odd skin tone) would give away that it had a black father. Geneva Reale had agreed to deliver the baby (she had studied nursing before resorting to dancing) in secret, and it would be sold to a black family. Geneva knew a couple: the Jamaican Heracles Torrance and his mixed-race wife Tamara Welsh. They could not have children, and little Dane Hand, as Erszebet called him, became their son, Dane Torrance (who we know as an adult aka The Troubleshooter from recent accounts).

The official story was that the child was stillborn. None of the five men save Javier knew what had become of the child. Part of the pact the five men swore was that they would no longer congregate at the Lucifer Club. They did agree to attend a 15 year reunion there if the club still stood in 1968. Javier soldered on through the scandal and finally bought out Urias in 1960. Junius never did learn the truth about what happened; he assumed his child was in fact stillborn. He did become a pimp, following in Octavius Flay's footsteps. He was ambitious though; now known as Black Torpedo Ray, he hoped one day to own the Lucifer Club himself.

VI. The 1968 Affair

The reunion did indeed come to pass. The Yule Bash of 1968 was something to see at the Lucifer Club, still owned by Javier but managed by Black Torpedo Ray. Times had changed. The drugs were more mind-altering, the music more wild and free, the women baring more than ever before (in other words everything). Flicker Street pulsated with the orgiastic energy that flowed in and out of Javier's “pleasure palace”. The Ulysses Real 6 reunited for an amazing set. Colburne and Mercer were solo artists by this time, and each led their bands to the utmost heights of free jazz. Ulysses was still something of a hard bopper, and some of his newer arrangements, mixing R&B and rock influences with his wife's bewitching voice, blew away the teeming throng at the club. Ondine Jackson was back on bass and cracking wise. His wife Geneva, who danced and sang back up to Emmaretta, had blessed him with a son Ondine Jr. in 1945 andOndine Jr.'s wife, Violetta Amadeus, had given birth to their son Amadeus “Amajack” Jackson mere weeks before the bash.

Henry Colter was more straight ahead bop than funk, but he could still mix it up on the drums a bit. Of his family, his wife, Mary Rudisill (b. 1920; a relative of the Palmers of Hallmark) and two sons (Radley Colter, b. 1940 and Milburne b. 1950) attended the party, though it was a bit much for Mary. Young Milburne had a great time. Of the “Others”, Octavius Flay made the party, flanked by a stable of his finest ladies of the evening. Black Torpedo Ray said, “Damn Flay! I may be a mack daddy, but you still the mackest of the macks!!” Most of Flay's offspring made it to the bash: his sons Cornelius, Moxon, and Jaffa; and his daughter Octavia, who was there with her boyfriend Euphrates Straw of the Aggregate (who was also there to keep an eye on Javier). Octavius' daughter Bethel was a devout Christian and she was in church that night. She would eventually marry her pastor, Judah Greene, and have a lovely daughter Scheherazade. All five children of Octavius were from his marriage to Ulysses' sister Rochelle Reale, making the Flays and Reales cousins.

Ondine and Ulysses have been discussed, but one beloved member of their crew from elder days was missing: Paul Cutler, the quiet, kind addict had finally succumbed, leaving behind three beautiful daughters, all of whom attended the bash: Naomi, who brought her 10 year old son Hobard Torino “Hobie T” Reale, to the party but not her estranged husband Godfrey Reale (Ulysses' son); Zandalee, who was at the time dating Hiawatha Hand but had her eye on his half-brother Black Torpedo Ray; and Pauline Cutler aka Cotton Suede, much discussed in these pages.

Black Torpedo Ray hosted the Lucifer Club Burlesque Film Festival. It began with vintage clips of Erszebet and many of her peers; and continued with three shorts specially made for this festival. These were the work of directors Matthias Creed, Cornelius Flay, and Luca Stenorettli, all honored guests at this Yule Bash. Luca and Henry were not the only members of the infamous Christensen Quintet to adorn the party. Javier was present, naturally, as were Judd and even Nels, who'd been living in Europe ever since the scandal broke.

Ray also hosted another special triple event, this one an unadvertised surprise: performances by the “big three” dancers of the fifties, opening with a still comely Geneva, and continuing with the jaw-droppingly buxom Arronaxe, and, finally, at age 38, still stunning and radiating her signature charisma, Erszebet Singer. The assembled throng was bowled over, and Ulysses and the other musicians played some swanky, evocative stripper-appropriate tuneage. Shiloh Mercer in particular soloed madly with no abandon while Miss Singer shook herself gradually into a frenzy.

Two hours later, the Christensen Quintet were plastered and Erszebet was still sailing on her first trip with LSD, as supplied her by Arronaxe. The six adjourned to Javier's office, where Erszebet immediately grabbed Henry in a passionate kiss. They made out while Javier went to confer with Ray and let him know not to disturb them. When he returned, Judd was crying in the corner, Henry was asleep with his pants off, Erszebet was naked and being fondled by Luca, Nels was cursing in the other corner, and Javier found himself curiously and intensely aroused by the whole thing. “Life imitates art!” he screamed as Luca made love with Erszebet on his fold out couch.

After Luca rolled off Erszebet, she called out to Javier, “I want you! I want you want you want you!” Javier was not the kind of man to indulge in what we now call date rape. He was not the kind of man to make love to a woman with anyone else around either. And he thought it so twisted that the story they concocted 15 years ago to save Ray's life had stirred to life, a gargantuan beast of brobdinagian lust.

So he made love with Erszebet. Afterwards he noticed Henry and Luca had dressed and were just outside the doorway. Nels and Judd were nowhere to be found. Erszebet dressed but was still tripping. Javier called for Ray and asked him to get her home; Javier would lock up and get the others out. Ray went out the back with Erszebet. Javier heard Nels call him, “Let me the hell out of here!” Javier ran downstairs, Henry and Luca behind.

Nels told Javier this was it; he was done with the group, the club, and “that slut”. Henry almost struck Nels for his remark. Judd asked if they could just leave. Javier agreed only if they made a new pact, that no one would speak of what happened. “Of course you idiot”, said Nels. “Now for chrissakes, let us out of this infernal place”. Luca lunged forward to deck Nels, but Judd held him back. Then, when Luca was calmer, Judd said, “Okay. Good night. I'm riding with Nels.” Judd was sobbing.

Nels and Judd took off. Outside, Ulysses' son Diggs Reale was pacing in the alleyway. He had been in and out of the club all night, seething mad. He was also a disciple of Octavius Flay and a rather nasty pimp and procurer in his own right but was jealous of Ray's success. He was waiting, waiting for a chance to plant certain items in Ray's car and to pay off his partner in sabotage – Eli Singer. Singer called the police after the club had closed down at 3 am. Only the Christensen Quintet, Erszebet, and Ray were inside then. By the time Nels and Judd roared away, only three of the 'Quintet' remained and they spoke for a moment about what happened, then resolved to lock up, leave, and never see each other again.

And so they each departed, just as police cars came into view. Ray was in his car out back talking to a sobbing and shaken Erszebet. Diggs had hastily split. But Eli Singer was heading back to the club to confront the Quintet. He found the front door locked and began screaming madly. The police drove up and immediately accosted him; then they spread out and covered the alleys and the back, where they found Ray and Erszebet. The cops confronted Ray and asked to check his car. They found a ton of cocaine and some semi-automatic weapons concealed in the trunk.

The police dragged Singer to the back of the club. They thought he was drunk (he was) and they were going to have some fun and rough him up. When Eli looked up, he saw Erszebet being pulled out of the car and Ray resisting arrest. “That ain't my shit you rat-soup-eatin' motherfuckers!” was one memorable curse Ray hurled at the men in blue. He used kung fu (his own peculiar technique) on the cops but their sheer number hemmed him in. Eli grabbed one of the cop's guns and shot his Erszebet, then shot at the cops. They blasted him away, and he lie cold and dead in the snow as the police pushed Black Torpedo Ray into a car and took Erszebet, shot in the arm, to an ER.

The police report was chilling: a pimp resisting arrest, a hooker shot by a wino who had to be killed in self-defense... everything was distorted, but to the racist, sexist police commissioner it was just another day. The mayor called for the club to be closed. Javier realized he needed to lower his profile or face the wrath of someone like his father or Urias. So the club closed while Black Torpedo Ray languished in prison for nearly five long years.

VII. The Prince of Flicker Street

Erszebet recovered quickly from being shot, and grieved her mad brother. She soon found out that she was pregnant again. She resolved to once again give her child up for adoption. It was a daughter, born in September 1969. She named her Celeste but her new parents changed her name. It would be years before this girl would find out her true parentage. Even Erszebet wasn't sure if it was Henry's, Luca's, or Javier's. She was actually going to tell Ray that their son Dane was alive when the cops came upon them. She swore she'd tell him one day.

Javier sold the club to Diggs Reale but soon divined that Diggs and Eli Singer were responsible for what happened that night right after Javier left. He admonished Diggs not to reopen too soon; the authorities would be all over the club all of the time. Diggs shrugged off Javier's advice and proceeded to reopen, making sure to keep all the right wheels greased, so to speak. Diggs was highly prosperous, keeping the “all are welcome” sign and attitude, though in fact, whites were rarely welcome, unless they were dealers or cops on the take.

In late 1973, Junius Gauge Hand was being offered a deal by his prison warden and the FBI
to get him out of prison to help them take down Diggs. In no time, Black Torpedo Ray was back on Flicker Street. He had scores to settle and was not to be trifled with. The first thing he did was have dinner with his daughter Kicia Blessing (b. 1955). Kicia's mother was the exotic Indian belly dancer Acacia Krishnamurti aka Acacia Blessing, who Ray wed briefly from 1954-1958. Acacia was a discovery of Javier's and was popular at the club. Kicia was hanging out in Flicker Street with the bohemian crowd. Ray was proud of her for not being a whore or a druggie. Ray next went to the Lucifer Club, where he confronted Diggs and warned him to sign the club over to him or die. Diggs laughed and accused Ray of tripping on some manner of drug. Ray beat him senseless and forced Diggs to sign the club over to him.

It had come to Javier's attention that Ray was free from prison. Javier went to Hallmark and sought out Ray, who was staying with Ulysses Reale. Javier was glad to see his friends again and together they mapped out a strategy to get the club back on its feet, so to speak, as Diggs had driven it into the proverbial ground and made of it his own personal pleasure palace of pimping and hard drugs. Their efforts were successful, though it took a few years. Ray integrated the club more, and forced the macks and dealers who hung out there to do their business on the streets, not inside the club.

The disco craze of the  late 70s inevitably hit the Lucifer Club like a tsunami, and with it came a shock wave of cocaine fever. Ray started to burn out as the decade waned, and personal troubles involving his children took a toll, so finally, in 1982, he sold the club and retired early, living like a prince, and treating all of Flicker Street as his kingdom.

VIII. Thaumaturgy Revisited...

The man who purchased The Lucifer Club was known as Prester John Grey, and he was well-known all through Flicker Streeet and the larger Hallmark music scene. Prester John was born Vance Orlison Parminter in 1949 in Exodesia, the offspring of Grey Parminter and Basil Dylan Orlison (son of “Doc Vance” and Eve Dylan, daughter of Dr. Basil Dylan, the first major physician in Hallmark), both born 1920. Basil D. Orlison had a sister, Faustine, b. 1922, an occultist who owned the first occult shoppe in the city, even before Malcolm Bradcroft's shoppe, called simply Faustine's. Faustine married the aspiring bookstore magnate TR Bessemer Jr., an African-American entrepreneur. Their children were Eve Bessemer, b. 1953, and Taurean Bessemer III, born 1955, who as an adult merged his business with the smaller Noel chain, though Bessemer-Noel in its entirety was later sold to OrDeR Enterprises.

Faustine and Malcolm Bradcroft merged their interests into one shoppe, and in tandem, willed it to Cary and Ashton (though Ashton was technically not alive to see it). Faustine passed away in 1955 in childbirth. Hence Bradcroft LTD was born. In the years between Cary taking the shoppe and his affair with Katherine Van Juss (1956-1959), he began to fancy Grey Parminter, a formidable witch, whose lover Basil, was slain by the Exodesians in 1953.

Grey Parminter's story goes something like this: Her grandmother was Exodesian High Priestess Phallasma III, who begat a daughter, Selma Cairne, a powerful witch. Selma and her husband John Petty Parminter, the great-grandson of Exodesian Lodin, wished to spearhead a 1939 expedition into Exodesia – well before the Bradcrofts. But they weren't nearly as mentally or spiritually prepared as the Bradcrofts. Their expedition included: Grey, a teen of immense magickal promise; her lover, Basil; Selma and John Petty Parminter; Selma's sisters Ainwe and Anowre and their husbands, the occult book collectors Rainer and Werner Faust, who were brothers. The party was captured and tortured by the Obscuros. Grey offered her life and that of her lover and son if the others could go. Priest Assias was not thrilled, but he capitulated. Selma blessed her child and departed; she also bonded with her mother Phallasma, who favored her granddaughter Grey.

The small family unit stayed but Basil was put to death for heresy in 1953 for studying the Presence Vaikuntha. Grey was afraid for her young son, and they fled Exodesia. Grey had been converted to Hinduism just before Basil's death. The mother and boy had also been delving into the legend of Vaikuntha, as well as his defeat 1000 years earlier by the original Black Cabal (a group that forged a seemingly indestructible sword and amulet). Grey forsook the Exodesians and sought out Vaikuntha. She invoked his worship to gain revenge, realizing Urias would have her dead. Grey took Vance to Gossingham MA, near Hallmark. Faustine, ill at this time, was divesting her share of the curio shoppe to Cary, as noted previously.

Cary Bradcroft welcomed Grey Parminter Orlison with open arms – very open, as they began an affair. However, they always distrusted each other. Young Vance had never felt anything for the emotionally distant Basil, but was drawn to benevolent Cary Bradcroft. Where they parted company was over the mad god Vaikuntha, which Grey was beginning a coven for – a coven infused with a Hindu/ neo-pagan/ scorched earth vibe. Cary's concern was enormous, especially as she had befriended Katherine Van Juss, sorceress and a lover of Cary's on occasion. Cary's daughter Sarah was Katherine Van Juss'' though she was married to the mage Janos Disraeli, which whom Katherine had a son, Griffin (later known as Rory Sabbath).

Janos confronted Grey over Vaikuntha. They fought; Grey was killed. Janos was afraid his delicate balance of power with the Shadow Baron would be ruined. He made it appear that Biazel had done the deed. The bottom line was that Janos slew Grey, for her evil intentions regarding Vaikuntha's imminent manifestation were bearing deadly fruit. As for Vance Parminter, he always believed his mother was slain by her lover Cary Bradcroft. Grey had convinced her son to become a lifelong acolyte of Vaikuntha. Young Vance Parminter ran away when his mother was killed, and the Bradcrofts were never able to locate him, or so Cary wished everyone to think. So he allowed Vance to became the homeless street urchin who began hanging out in Flicker Street in 1966. Cary kept tabs on Vance until Vance developed a 3rd eye, which grew in 1972 and blocked all psi “transmissions” Cary'd been tapping into astrally via Vance's mind.

IX. The Third Eye... Opened

Vance Parminter first emerged in the Flicker St scene in 1966 at age 17. His 3rd eye hadn't opened yet. In 1968, he met Althea Westin (whom he immediately fell for) and her fiance, Rankin Hogarth, who she was pregnant by. She had the child in 1968 and named him Franklin Westin Hogarth II after Rankin's congressman dad, who attempted to destroy his son and Althea's lives. The couple fought violently over his dad and their son, leading to Rankin fleeing with his son and forming a commune with James Diablos and others in 1969. After the couple's divorce Althea took in the couple's son, whom his dad had renamed Wesley Francis Garth, whose nickname was “Scrapper”. With Vance's role unknown to Rankin, Hogarth was soon reinvented as Desi Decadence, a 'shock rock' superstar. Rankin was pushed to the extreme in a chaotic spell that ruptured his persona. This was Vance's first real working, so perhaps his sloppiness can be forgiven. But he did it for love and, after all, made Rankin a rock star (which Vance differentiated from being a musician).

Rankin/ Desi and Vance lost touch, to Vance's relief. Vance pursued Althea and at last consummated their attraction (Vance was 23, Althea 19). They wed soon after, and had a child, Anjou Faustine Parminter (b. 1972). Vance busked, playing acoustic blues, and wrote and sang poems of a Lovecraftian bent. Althea waited tables and Wes, Anjou, and their parents eked out a meager existence. Musically, Vance was offered to jam in 1969 with Opal Masque, the German progrock band led by Glu Volker and Hercule Fogg. Volker had heard a crude demo recorded a year earlier and dug Vance's concepts. They recorded their premiere album, La-Bas (Down There) in early 1970; Parminter was 21. He then adopted his famous cowl and white mask, covering his 3rd eye, which emerged when he turned 23. Anaximander-Zayan played bass on this first album.

Vance was especially curious about his Exodesian heritage. After an ill-fated pilgrimage to Exodesia and rejection by the Obscuros, he assumed the Parminter forenames, but rejected the family name, becoming “John Grey”. As he studied the occult he added an exalted title in some would say a blasphemous context and became Prester John Grey (Presbyter Johannes being a legendary figure of early Christendom). He draped himself in occult imagery but seemingly venerated the cross and crucifixes. As noted, he was famed for wearing a large black cowl and a chalk white faux porcelain mask evocative of the Phantom of the Opera (concealing his 3rd eye), framed by extremely long dreadlocked hair. He was known for playing the guitar with small daggers and cross-shaped plectrums.

In 1971, Volker, Fogg, and Prester John recorded Weltanschauung and toured tirelessly with a lineup consisting of PJG, Anaximander, Glu, Fogg, and synth/ vox/ sax man Jorg Jungen Reinl. In 1972, they added female vox/ keys with Anke Mueller and switched bass to Brit Hasty Greenhalgh. Also in 1972, Prester John's daughter Anjou Faustine Parminter was born. The constant touring and occult obsessions were rending PJG's marriage. In 1974, Anke died (allegedly an occult sacrifice) and Reinl decamped, leaving 1975's final Opal Masque album, called Torn from Me Mother Whore, for years to feature PJG, Hasty, Glu, and Fogg.

In 1973, PJG and Althea separated, and in 1975, divorced. Grey even wrote the lyrics and music to the chilling lament of their marriage, the title track on Torn from Me Mother Whore. In 1975, PJG finally recorded his scary acoustic album In Nomine Anti-Christ. Althea raised her two children alone back in the Mt. Mosaic area.

From 1976 -1979 PJG was a key member of bassist Grady Voorman's psyche-funk project Cold Meat, also featuring Gilligan Dubecker on drums, Reinl on alto and tenor sax, and Gibson Dubecker on piano and synth. Sadly, Cold Meat coincided with the termination of the marriage between Althea and John. PJG was to spend the next decade plus working alongside Desi Decadence once more.

X. Lucifer Rises Again (1979-1982)

There was an extra-musical, clandestine reason PJG sought out the ex-Rankin Hogarth. Desi was essentially PJG's creation. Part of his persona, from his debut as Prester John Grey onwards, was as a follower of Bradcroftian occultism. He became an authority on the various orders and factions abroad in the world of ritual magick. He realized that the Bradcrofts were against Vaikuntha (who his mother was an adherent to). Grey had sworn a vow to his mother to become a vessel for Vaikuntha, and none would deter him. When Vaikuntha returned to this plane, PJG became a secret worshipper, and actively sought out Vaikuntha's avatars, beginning in 1979.

In 1982, the idea of the Lucifer Club strongly appealed to Prester John Grey, so he re-opened it as a rock club, heavy on the metal, brutal with the punk, all subtlety be damned. He cultivated a strong image in the scene and was revered by clubgoers and record mavens alike for his work with Desi, Cold Meat, Opal Masque, and solo. No one could predict in 1982 that Grey's finest years as a musician – and most devious years as an occultist – were yet to come.

Originally this article was to contain a more comprehensive genealogical look at the Parminter clan of Gossingham, but that fell just beyond the purview of this piece. Look for more info on this remarkable family in future accounts.

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
October 16, 2015

Flicker Street, all characters, images, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

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