May 1985. Hell’s Kitchen, New York.
As I left for a gig last night, beautiful Migdalia, our local Puerto Rican hooker, was plying her wares out on my stoop. This morning I see beard stubble coming up from under her makeup as she pisses – upright, in the tiny entryway of my Hell’s Kitchen apartment. “Baby,” I say, “can’t you do that somewhere else?” I climb the stairs and unlock the deadbolts to my place. There is sunlight glinting off what appear to be diamonds on the floor, hundreds of them. I soon realize they’re just bits of glass. Some asshole shot out my window again last night.
After some tea and an English muffin, a car honks out in the street and I head downstairs. It’s a gold stretch, just like they told me it’d be. My friend Wess is sitting in back in torn Levis, his pasty knees poking through the holes. Today we’re going to the Caesars Atlantic City to meet with Jimmy Valenti. His nephew Vincent, a friend of mine who DJs at a club in Northern Jersey gave him my new record and he wants to help. They say he’s got connections. The limo driver turns around and says,
“You guys need anyting jus’ ask. We got shrimp cocktails and plenty a booze in the fridge.”
“We’re good back here, but thanks anyway,” I say.
“Jimmy’s crazy excited to see the bot a yooz,” the driver says. “He wants ya to know you’ll be flyin’ back in his private chopper.”
We arrive at the Caesars and two bellmen with little white towels draped over their forearms greet us at the door. Each towel is embroidered with my initials –P.M.H.- in gold. Wess and I trade looks as we ride the elevator to the penthouse.
“Enjoy your stay,” a third bellmen says as he leads us into a room large enough for a soccer game. In the center of the penthouse is a kidney-shaped swimming pool from which you can look out at the Atlantic Ocean. Draped over a lounge chair are a swimsuit and two enormous towels, both embroidered with my last name – spelled incorrectly.
Soon the ornate double doors swing open and Jimmy Valenti enters.
“Sit down, boys” he says. “I’ll have Scotty send up lunch. Do you like chops?”
He leads us to the chairs near the pool.
“Peter, ya know the difference between a Stallion and a Gelding? A Gelding is a horse with its fucking balls cut off.” he says before either of us can answer. Jimmy lets the thought hang in the air.
“Without capital, that’s exactly what you are, ball-less. I’m here to give you some. What do you need? 500k? A million?”
“Actually,” I say, “I hadn’t really thought about it.”
The doors open again and two long tables are wheeled in. There’s a platter on the first with a dozen lobster tails on ice alongside a trough of French fried onion rings. On the other table is a crystal bowl of jumbo prawns, three massive Caesar salads, and a tray with enough Porterhouse steaks to feed a dozen men. Jimmy spears a slab of meat with the tip of his steak knife and waves it in my face.
“Eat,” he says.
“Jimmy,” I struggle to say through bites of steak, “I’ve already got a guy who’s helpin’ us out. He’s kind of our manager.”
“Oh yeah? What the fuck’s he puttin’ in – cash wise?”
“Well, considering his time and everything, probably around $2500.” I say.
With a mouth full of meat, Jimmy laughs. In fact, he laughs so hard and for so long, I honestly think he’s going to choke to death but he catches his breath and says,
“I see you in a rock video for that song of yours, Only You Can Walk Away, with some big-titted broad walkin’ hand in hand near this giant globe they got down at Epcot Center. You ever been there? Epcot center? We shoot the thing for around a hundred, hundred fifty grand and then we pull some strings and get MTV to start playing the shit out of it. Whaddya say? Are you a Stallion or a fucking Gelding?”
Before I can answer Jimmy pulls out three cigars.
“Cubans” he says, and from under the table he removes a bucket of matchbooks. Each of the matchbooks has my name on them, embossed in gold. Each spelled wrong, like the towels. He cuts off the tip of the cigar with the steak knife and asks,
“Peter, I gotta know, are you a horse with balls or no balls?”
As the questions lingers, I can see myself being forced at gun point to appear at Jimmy’s cousin Antonia’s wedding, his uncle Niccolo’s birthday, his nephew Rinaldo’s Christening – his great aunt Lucrezia’s wake. Clearly, I’m a gelding.
“Jimmy,” I say, “It sounds amazing, I’ll just need a day or two to think it over.”
“Well, don’ take too long ya hear?” he says as he reaches for the phone.
“Scotty, can we fly these boys back to the city in the bird or is the weather too rough?”
A week later, back in Hell’s Kitchen, I compose this completely untruthful letter, a letter about which, I regret my gelding-ness even to this day:
Dear Mr.Valenti, thank you for your graciousness and your generosity. Earlier this week I was offered a job as a Junior Broker with Merrill Lynch and today, regrettably, I’ve made the decision to join the firm. Should I ever decide to pursue a career in music again, please know you’ll be the first person I call.
Listen to: Only You Can Walk Away