SECTION ONE

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COLUMN 113, JANUARY 1, 2005
(Copyright 2005 The Blacklisted Journalist) 

A SHEEP IS A GIFT

[Born in England, Max Blagg has lived in NYC since 1971. He has published four books of poetry, most recently Pink Instrument (Lumen Editions/Boston) and the forthcoming What Love sees in the Distance. He has performed widely in and out of NYC, at the Kitchen, Guggenheim Museum, Jackie 60, St Marks Church, Bowery Poetry Club etc. Blagg has collaborated on artist books with Donald Sultan, James Brown, and Jack Pierson, among others. He is the co-editor of the art/lit magazine Bald Ego, and co-host of the show Bald Ego Online on WPS1.org Art Radio.  The following is from Blagg's 1001 Nights, A book of stories.]

Introduction: Meet Arturo and Alex. They share a loft downtown. It's before John Belushi died.

One's a painter. One aspires to be a writer. They make a tenuous living by bartending and construction, or rather demolition, in the loft buildings that are being restored in their neighborhood. They drink a lot, have sex with multiple female partners and take any drugs that are available.

Arturo the Spanish painter, was on a mission to prove that all women were whores at heart, based on some unfinished business with his own mother, about which he released sporadic details, usually when drunk---she had once fondled or fucked him or refused to fuck him. Or she fucked his father. She wasn't his real mother, his real mom was a prostitute.

Some of his stories were so classically Freudian---or fraudulent---that one suspected he had made them up or read them on the wall of a toilet. To confirm his theory of the holy whore, opening her legs for anyone even when she was already spoken for, he preferred women who were already attached to a man. He put more effort into these seductions than into his art, though he was very good at both.

And Alex, he wanted to be a writer but he spent most of his time in bars, drinking and making drinks. Safely ensconced behind three yards of booze-soaked mahogany, strutting and preening on his little stage, playing many parts: good cop, bad cop, confidant and father confessor, bullshit artist par excellence. He was known for the potency of his Monkeystunners and Yellow Dragons. His regulars loved to watch him building a chilled martini, expertly spicing a Bloody Mary, whitening a Russian. He was Lord of the Cups, the Master Decanter, orchestrator of inebriation, foreman in charge of the general derangement of the senses.

Ladies drank free all night wherever he worked. He put up with all manner of aggravation and abuse, 12 hours a night, four nights a week. He detested the people he worked for and despised most of the clientele, these surly inhabitants of a mean dystopia who so eagerly swilled down his beakers of liquid lightning. But the money was good, all cash all the time. He lived by the motto of Jackie Gleason:

"I had it I spent it, it went "

* * *

First Nocturne

Christmas was coming. The rent was due. A pile of chocolate colored powder lay on the table by the back window of the loft that Alex shared with Arturo. The loft was an old machine shop with solid concrete floors and ceiling, soundproof, bullet proof. A life-size mannequin with brightly painted lips and nails hung from a chain in the center of the space. Photographs, newspaper clippings, magazine and manuscript pages were randomly pinned and taped to the walls. A Selectric typewriter stood on a table fashioned from the graffitoed marble wall of a toilet stall, lying flat on an iron frame. There was a crude bathroom in one corner and a dirty white stove that looked incapable of boiling a kettle. Arturo's easel and painting materials stood next to a huge rectangular canvas tent suspended by ropes from the ceiling.

Beside the easel was a large cage containing an Amazon parrot named Veronica, even though it was thought to be a male. Veronica had a limited vocabulary consisting mainly of Spanish swearwords--- "cabrone, chinga tu madre, pendejo?---which it repeated loudly and harshly until a silk cloth was laid over the cage and the bird became instantly silent.

The powder on the table looked and tasted like chocolate, or cocoa. It was mescaline, allegedly, but nobody ever checked the provenance of these substances. The occupants of the loft simply ingested them and hoped for the best. Alex was doubtful this stuff would get him high but in the absence of cocaine he sniffed a couple of lines anyway.

Arturo decided to pass on the chocolate. He would wait until they met Maya at the bar. She always had something. They walked out into the December evening. By the time they had reached Chambers Street, Alex looked at Arturo and realized that this chocolate wasn't Cadbury's. A vein was throbbing in Arturo's forehead like a snake under parchment. He looked as beautiful as a Caravaggio, still halfway innocent somewhere deep down in a storm cellar under this tornado of drugs and booze that continued to engulf them both on a daily basis, this constant self-administered medication for the sickness in their hearts.

A silvery glow like Saint Elmo's fire was running along the edges of the buildings that arched way up into a blue velvet sky, soft and luscious, a massive breathing canopy above their heads.

They reached Canal Street and stood there for some time as the traffic roared by. Alex studied the signs imprinted in the tarmac that changed their shape with each passing truck, trying to decode their hidden meanings. The stoplight glowed red. Each time they were about to step out into the street a fresh wave of traffic came surging up, highbeams crisscrossing like searchlights at a border

Then Alex saw the dog. Not the little black shadow dog that followed him around when he was depressed, but a fair-sized cream colored mutt, probably a lab mix, he thought as he observed its muzzle through the magnifying lens of mescaline. Words fizzled and sparked in his head.

Was  Labrador part of the dominion of Canada?

Dominion was a nice word.

Were labs bred in laboratories?

Alex looked over at Arturo who was waiting with Aztec patience to cross the street. He didn't have the answer. The dog skittered through the traffic and by some miracle gained the north side of Canal.

Just as suddenly it swiveled around on big puppy paws and lurched back into the roadway. There was a screech of brakes and a bang. A panel truck had caught the dog square in the head and killed it instantly.

'they killed my dog!"Alex thought as his stomach bounced into his throat, then he remembered he didn't have a dog.

The driver got out and dragged the dog unceremoniously to the side of the road. They took advantage of this brief delay to cross the street, studying the animal in the gutter as they passed


A long sensual streak of a go-go dancer, Maya had Jersey stamped all over her


Unmoved by this small tragedy, The two of them then walked on, around the corner to La Cornue, the little bar on Grand Street where Arturo had arranged to meet Maya, his current girlfriend.

Maya was a long sensual streak of go-go dancer, Jersey stamped all over her, beautiful cornflower blue eyes already going blank from endlessly exposing her meat joy beauty to the salacious gaze of the neckless geeks who ogled her from the sidelines of the luck-free bars she worked in.

She didn't like what her beauty had brought her and had begun to acquire scars, tattoos, any kind of imperfection to spoil and conceal whatever it was that made men stare and click their teeth and call out to her in the street.

The bar was packed. Alex looked around. Animal planet. Badgers and pigs and geese crowded the tables. Two hippotami were squeezed into a booth. Low mooing and the whinnying of horses occasionally penetrated the wall of music and noise.  Maya was already there, serene among the animals. Two minutes after they had sat down a man in a business suit approached their table. He had a donkeyish look about him.

"Why the long face?? Alex said, but the man ignored him and began jabbering to Maya. It was obvious they had some kind of history---he was probably one of her lovesick johns. His bland, expensive suit marked him as a toiler in the pits of Wall Street. He was one of the capitalist pigs they loved to hate, ordinary men who made vast amounts of money by some mysterious sleight of hand, by standing around the stock exchange and shouting at each other all day.

The man briefly turned his attention to Arturo.

"Oh, you're an artist," Alex heard him say, "well you must be starving, let me buy you a drink."

Arturo's lack of fluency in English frequently enraged him, and Alex shared his frustration as the condescending donkeyman monopolized Maya with his tales of high finance. This arrogant interloper needed to be straightened out, and a good punch in the face seemed too obvious. Alex, mellow yet judgmental, suddenly remembered the dog. He saw a balance, with the dog in one scale and the donkey in the other, cancelling each other out. Justice would be served. Just desserts.

'the desserts in here are not very good," he said to the donkey,  "but I've got something for you, something special. Don't go anywhere."

The ass was so entranced with Maya he didn't even hear.

Alex left the bar and retraced his steps to Canal Street. There was the dog, still lying in the gutter. It was smiling, as if he'd come to rescue it from this undignified place. It was a medium size lab, maybe part Alsatian, obviously not fully grown---its paws were huge. Alex grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and walked back toward the bar. A question flitted through his head. Why did it not seem unusual to be carrying a dead dog along West Broadway?

"Ah, don't worry about it? the drug answered as he reached the bar and pushed his way back inside, the dog swinging slightly as it hung from his fist. There was a scream from one table, a glass smashed on the floor. The stirrings of pandemonium. The bartender shouted, "You can't bring a dead dog in here, "

That seemed to make sense, but was it really dead, or only sleeping? Why take a dead dog into a bar? He couldn't think of the answer to that question either, it was obscure as a zen koan, or the first line of a joke.

Ah grasshopper,  you take the dead dog into the bar?now he remembered, he was giving it to the insolent donkey talking to Maya.

He approached the table and gently laid the dog across the broker's feet. The man looked human again, and stunned. Maya was smiling. She loved trouble. A trickle of blood from the dog's head leaked onto the man's shoes. The bartender, who knew Alex, had come out from behind the bar.

"Alex, what the fuck are you doing? Why did you bring that fucking dog in here??

"I don't know," Alex replied, and he truly didn't.

It had seemed the perfect response when he was listening to the man braying away, but now it seemed not necessarily wrong but somehow out of synch. Endorphins were scattering like roaches in his brain. Right, wrong, right, wrong, each time he tried to decide, the focus shifted. He hadn't meant to interfere with anyone's night out, he was just pissed at this donkey.

The bartender began to pick the dog up and bloody drool spilled from its mouth. He dropped it and gagged, then ran into the bathroom to puke. Obviously he had never spent time in an abbattoir.

The broker seemed too astonished to move, even though the dog had dropped back onto his feet. 

"It's okay Tom," Alex yelled at the bartender through the toilet door, "I'll take the dog out." PAUSE. "Where's his leash??

Then he excused himself  to the broker and hefted the dog again, feeling almost cheerful. He had something to do. For a moment he wished he were somewhere else and the dog was still alive, but that was the past, this was now, it was better and it was worse.

The crowd, already jittery, parted like the Red Sea as he walked back outside with the bleeding corpse. Further down Grand Street a dumpster was stationed outside a building under renovation. Alex swung the dog back and forth to gain momentum and then tossed it underhand into the dumpster. Blood sprayed around as it flew through the air and fell out of sight with a dull thud. That last demo job had certainly built up his triceps.

But he couldn't shake a nagging sense of unease, the idea that something foolish had transpired without his knowledge. It caused little bursts of heated embarrassment that were quickly dispersed by the soothing action of the mescaline.

A small cluster of people had followed at a distance and were looking at him.  Each one had a little purple colored halo above their heads. What the hell were they staring at? They stood there quietly. Was he acting drunk? He didn't feel drunk. What the fuck were they looking at? Arturo suddenly appeared at his side.

"What happened?" He seemed incredulous too.

"Where's Maya?"

"Oh she 's inside. She's talking to the guy, he's really upset.."

'she's inside? She's staying?? Alex said, astonished that she wasn't with them, outraged at her infidelity to the cause---whatever their cause was---after such a grand gesture on her behalf.

"Yeah, come on, we should get out of  here before Rachid shows up. I heard the waitress on the phone to him."

Rachid, the owner of La Cornue, was a notoriously moody Arab of Berber origin.

In his current state of cultural schizophrenia Alex felt no sense of urgency or danger. They walked up the street a few blocks to another bar where they knew the night manager. Jimmy Furlong, known as 8 to the Mile, who looked like Art Garfunkel might have if he had taken a lot of acid. Jimmy greeted them effusively and seemed unfazed by the fact that Alex's hands were covered in blood.

"What's this, the Scottish play?? Jimmy asked, deadpan, and Alex laughed. Everything seemed alright again.  Again. An echo. Again.

"You better clean up,? said Jimmy and directed him downstairs to the prep kitchen, out of sight of the customers ruminating at the tables.

Alex washed the dog's blood off his hands and walked back up the stairs. Maybe this wasn't a good thing after all.

"What color am I now, Alex?? Jimmy said, his massive afro throwing off sparks, as he handed them each a shot of Jack Daniels. "Do you want something to eat??

They both shook their heads no. The burgers here were notorious.

To alleviate the endless boredom of his job seating people and obsequiously serving them meat and beer, always struggling to maintain a veneer of respect and civility,  Furlong spent long hours


'That's the guy
 who killed
the dog!"


in his tiny music studio, making tapes that juxtaposed wildly disparate musical styles, tapes which often drove people screaming from the bar. The sound track now segu'd from Dear Prudence to a kind of militant Arab music, interspersed with what might have been the sound of camels mating. For Alex it had a terrible poignancy. Several diners raised their heads in alarm, trying to pinpoint the source of this cacophony.

Alex suddenly got up from his barstool.

"I gotta go home."

He pushed the unfinished drink over to Arturo, who poured it into his own glass.

"Yeah, you should go home. I'm going to wait here for Maya."

Jimmy and Arturo watched through the plate glass window as Alex walked out, looked around and then began walking south on West Broadway. The deserted street stretched away for miles, a long tunnel framed by empty loft buildings. He walked down the tubular, submarine alley until  he noticed a crowd of people milling around the corner of Grand Street. As he approached somebody turned around and yelled:

'that's him, that's the guy who killed the dog!"

Another voice took up the cry, then somebody screamed up the street:

"Rachid, he's here!"

The crowd opened up to reveal the owner of La Cornue, Rachid, a tiny ball of malevolence in an oversize leather jacket, rapidly approaching, brandishing a chef's knife as long as his arm. He looked deranged, as if something really terrible had happened.

Alex felt oddly relaxed, like this was happening somewhere else, or that he was somewhere else, not on this street corner with violence about to ventilate the tranquil fabric of the night.

The crowd clustered around them, hoping for bloodshed.

"Yeah he killed a dog."

"He killed his girlfriend's dog."

'took it in the bar."

'threw a dead dog on the bar."

"Hit some guy with a dead dog."

Alex ignored these random samplings of information. They belonged in another movie. He focussed his wavering attention on Rachid.

"Rachid, you appear like a mirage out of the desert. That jacket looks good on you."

"You! It was YOU who bring the dog? What the fuck wrong with you, bring a fucking dead dog in my restaurant? You were my friend, my customer!"

Oh, not the fucking dog again. Why was it hounding him. The stupidity of his pun sent him into convulsions of laughter that abated as quickly as they had begun. He tried to change the subject.

"Hey, Rachid, do you have a license for that jacket?

"Why the fuck you bring that dog in my bar. A dog is bad luck." 

"Why is a dog bad luck??

"IT is fucking bad luck, listen to me. A sheep is a gift. A dog is bad luck."

"A sheep? Well, there weren't any sheep around, it was late. . .PAUSE. . .it was that fucking donkey, he killed my dog, one thing led to another."

"What donkey? That was your dog? How did that guy kill it? He's my good customer! You fucking liar! What the dog name??

What was the name of the dog? Alex had no idea.

"I don't remember, but it had a mother and father."

'they killed my puppy!"Alex suddenly said, and burst into real tears, which lasted for seconds, followed by a gale of laughter.

The streetlights were pulsing in time with his breathing, ready to guffaw, the buildings were tittering, or sobbing, he couldn't tell, there was such a fine line between happiness and grief.

Rachid stepped forward.

Alex wondered idly if he would be used for bayonet practice, but he didn't really care, the chocolate had so euthanized his feelings. He was trying to clear the cluttered deck of his medulla and launch a coherent sentence.

"It? was?nothing. . .personal?it was NOTHING!"

"You bring Bad luck with you fucking dog! Stay the fuck out of my restaurant, next time I kill you."

"Oh okay, but". . .PAUSE. . .'the dog is the real victim here??

Rachid, enraged by these non sequiturs, stepped forward as if to stab Alex. He feinted but didn't strike. But his swordplay deluded Alex  into thinking he had been stabbed. He felt the blade pierce his thigh and his balls seemed to seek refuge inside his body, a strangely sexual feeling.

The shock of having his testicles go into hibernation almost sobered him up, and then the mescaline came coursing back in, lifting him up into the blue air of the evening. Ying yang, his string sang. He looked down at his leg far below.  There wasn't a mark on it.

"You nearly cut the mustard ! The samurai from Marrakech! You fucking loony!?

"What is loony? Next time I cut you good motherfucker!"

Alex was suddenly furious that he had been tricked, not cut. It was just as bad somehow. He considered decking this pint size kamikaze, but Rachid had too many assistants, all more than ready to stomp him into the sidewalk.

He really wanted to explain, except now  he had forgotten why he had taken the dog in the bar, if indeed he had.

Everyone stood there for a couple of minutes, the night humming like a giant machine all around them, then Rachid turned and began to walk away, the backup team following him. A collective sigh of disappointment issued from the crowd. The show was over and there was no blood on the blade.

Alex was relieved to see him go, because he might well flip out, like the natives occasionally did in Tangier, running amok in the souk and killing all the tourists. Maybe Rachid remembered that Alex had inadvertently saved his life a couple of weeks earlier, when he had intervened in a confrontation between the Berber and his bartender late one night outside La Cornue. That time Rachid was wielding two butcher knives, facing off against a coldblooded psychopath named Willy Gilman.  Willy, a popular but temperamental bartender, had apparently and not too discreetly pissed in the ice instead of using the bathroom during the late rush. Willy would have broken Rachid's neck and then claimed to have been hugging him, or stabbed him and said he was trying to give him back his knife.  Even with two knives, Rachid was liable to get badly hurt. Alex, feeling the brotherly love generated by a combination of bourbon and quaaludes, had foolishly stepped in and tried to talk the two men out of a knife fight. Willy, after politely asking Alex to get out of the way, suddenly picked him up like a toy and hurled him about ten feet into the stacked bags of garbage that the busboy had just put out on the sidewalk.

This sudden flight of Alex through the night air was so astonishingly comical to the crowd of onlookers that it also precipitated a storm of laughter in both participants, and suddenly the duel seemed preposterous. Just like that, everyone was friends again. The crowd went back inside, where Willy served the free drinks that Rachid provided for what was left of the night. Rachid also insisted on buying the leather jacket Alex was wearing, even though it was far too large for the tiny Berber.

Alex, who'd just shoplifted the jacket at canal jean, happily accepted the 200 dollars Rachid offered, and later walked home drunk and freezing in his shirtsleeves.

Now, two blocks and two weeks from where that friendly sale had taken place, Rachid stopped, removed the jacket and began to hack at it with the butcher knife, stabbing it repeatedly. After he had murdered the coat he threw it at Alex and stomped off with his little band of Thuggees in the direction of his bar. The crowd melted away.

"My tailor can fix that," Alex yelled after the retreating figures and burst into manic laughter once again, alone on the sidewalk, safe in the gelatinous clutches of mother night.  ##


FOR AS LONG AS PEOPLE KEEP LISTENING TO BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES, PEOPLE WILL WANT THIS BOOK

"A masterpiece!" --- SALLY GROSSMAN, widow of Bob Dylan's brilliant original manager, Albert Grossman.

"This book is a must-read for all rock 'n roll aficionados!"---EAR CANDY

"An essential reference for demystifying what the author refers to as: 'one of the most self-destructive binges of creativity in cultural history.'"---HAMMOND GUTHRIE, COUNTERPUNCH MAGAZINE

"Required Reading for anyone and everyone who considers themselves fans, followers, students, or those just plain curious of the Golden Age of Popular Music"---GARY PIG GOLD, FUFKIN.COM.

"I love the book. I love the way you can open it to any page and start reading and it keeps you reading. The book is just fun to read." --LEVON HELM, Drummer of THE BAND from Big Pink.

"Ellis Paul and I love your book."---RALPH JACCODINE, Ralph Jaccodine Management.

". . .perfect for our times."---WOODSTOCK TIMES

"Adam Duritz (he's the lead singer and writer for the famed Counting Crows). . .was at my studio and couldn't put the book down."---STEWART LERMAN, RIGHTEOUS SOUND INC.

". . .a must read for anyone who loves, music, loves life, loves rock and roll."---TSAURAH LITZKY, author of The Motion of the Ocean, Baby on the Water, and  Goodbye Beautiful Mother.  

"I recommend it."---DOUGLAS HOLDER, IBBETSON STREET PRESS.  

".  . .It is a fascinating, insightful read. You are such a wonderful writer."---STEPHANIE LEDGIN, Music Journalist.

"I could not put this book of yours down for a minute."---ED GALING, POET LAUREATE OF HATBORO, PA.

"Quite simply, Al Aronowitz is a living legend"---JOHN FORTUNATO, THE AQUARIAN.

"Every student and fan of The Beat Generation, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones will want to read this book"---RON WHITEHEAD, POET

"Volume One Of The Blacklisted Journalist is the kinda tome what a fella can dip into at any given point and find oneself hooked within a couple paragraphs"---DUKE DE MONDO, BLOGCRITICS.ORG.


BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES, VOLUME ONE OF THE BEST OF THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST

The sometimes scattered chronicles of the rock journalist's friendship with a few of the most recognizable music icons in rock and pop history.

It certainly takes a bit of hubris to say that "the '60s wouldn't have been the same without me." But coming from Al Aronowitz, the former music columnist for the New York Post who was often called "the godfather of rock journalism," such sentiment is perhaps justified.  Here, in a compilation of many of his unpublished manuscripts, Aronowitz describes in candid yet affectionate detail his friendships with Bob Dylan and the Beatles.  As a music writer and fan who recognized the musicians' limitless potential early in their careers, Aronowitz decided to bring them together for the first time, in a New York City hotel in 1964, a meeting that also involved the Beatles' introduction to marijuana. His prescience was soon bolstered by the 1965 releases of Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited and the Beatles' Rubber Soul, both seminal albums that altered the landscape of pop music.  This landmark moment is just one of Aronowitz's colorful memories and musings of being a hanger-on with these legends and their associates, including The Band, Beatles manager Brian Epstein, poet Allen Ginsberg, deejay Murray the K and others.  Specifically provocative are the accounts of Dylan's erratic behavior and short temper, which often led to fitful confrontations and even the ending of friendships, including that between Dylan and the author.  It's also evident that Aronowitz was particularly fond of George Harrison, and the two remained friends until Harrison's death in 2001.  Most remarkable is the close proximity he maintained to these gods, whether he was at their homes, hoteI rooms, recording studios, or concerts.  Though his personal life certainly had its share of woes (particularly bankruptcy and his wife's death), Aronowitz exhibits a marked sense of pride---and rightly so---for playing a key role in music history,

An enticing backstage pass to the meeting of arguably the two most influential acts in rock history.


"BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES: Volume One Of The Best Of The Blacklisted Journalist is a golden stash box of Al's You-Are-There history of two thirds of rock's Holy Troika"---MICHAEL SIMMONS, LA WEEKLY.

". . .Amazing stories in this book" ---JAY LUSTIG, NEWARK STAR LEDGER

". . .Aronowitz has a place in the annals of history that nothing can erase"---DAVID DANKWA, GAZETTE LEADER

". . .Aronowitz has a simple, straightforward writing style that makes the reading go fast. . ."---JEFFERY LINDHOLM, DIRTY LINEN

"Aronowitz. . .witnessed things that most rock fanswould give an arm and a leg to see"---REGIS BEHE, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE REVIEW

"The best of Aronowitz's writing. . . offer riotous and rambling time capsules comprising detailed vignettes and told in a voice that's direct, disarming and self-deprecating"---MIKE MILIARD, BOSTON PHOENIX

IN THIS 615-PAGE PAPERBACK, AL ARONOWITZ, ACCLAIMED AS THE "GODFATHER OF ROCK JOURNALISM," TELLS YOU MORE ABOUT BOB DYLAN AND THE BEATLES THAN ANY OTHER WRITER CAN TELL YOU BECAUSE NO OTHER WRITER WAS THERE AT THE TIME. AS THE MAN WHO INTRODUCED ALLEN GINSBERG TO BOB DYLAN, BOB DYLAN TO THE BEATLES AND THE BEATLES TO MARIJUANA, ARONOWITZ BOASTS, "THE '60S WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN THE SAME WITHOUT ME."

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AND HERE'S ANOTHER BOOK BY AL ARONOWITZ!

THE MOVIE WAS FICTION. THE TRUE STORY IS STRANGER THAN FICTION: FOR MOST OF HIS SHORT BUT SPECTACULAR LIFE, BOBBY DARIN UNKNOWINGLY LIVED A LIE

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THE BLACKLISTED JOURNALIST IS A SERVICE MARK OF AL ARONOWITZ