MOSES’ BEST FRIEND by Peter Nolan Smith

New York City showed its teeth the winter of 1980. The police were racketeering our after-hours nightclub. One of the Continental’s backers was a gangster from Odessa, Russia. Vadim was going out with my old girlfriend from Buffalo. The tough zek smuggled stolen icons and passed bad paper. Lisa looked good in his furs.

Only problem was that our newest investor in illegal enterprise looked like the FBI mostly since they were the FBI investigating the dirty cops.

Arthur had hired me to work the door, however his partner, a poster boy/model for herpes, didn’t like my attitude and Paul Garcia wasn’t alone. Arthur apologized, “I got to let you go.”

“No worries.”

The microphone wire on Arthur’s chest was never a good sign and I accepted the offer from a Paris nightclub to work the door as a physionomiste i.e. doorman. Jacques and Fabrice paid my plane ticket to France. I got to choose a DJ. Vladmar was my choice. He arrived one day after me. The dance crowd loved his spinning of cold wave hits. I was another story.

“I don’t know how to speak French.” Two years of grammar school French from a nun with a lisp had taught me how to ask, “Ou est le Bibliotechque?” I explained to the owner.

“Pas de problem.” Jacques shrugged with ease.

The previous door person had been Farida, an Algerian Amazon. She was leaving her post to pursue a modeling career. She was that beautiful.

“I want someone not French. You only have to say two words. ‘Ouais’ or ‘non.”

“Okay.” I had learned that trick at CBGBs, Hurrah, and Studio 54. “But I don’t know anyone in Paris. Not the famous people. Not the people who go to nightclubs.”

“Bien.” His partner was tired of everyone getting in for free. “Make them pay. I don’t care if it’s Brigitte Bardot.”

“But how shall I treat them?”

“Like shit.”

“Like shit?”

“Comme le merde.”

I followed those orders to the tee, except I treated my favorites with glory and I built a new clientele for the old bathhouse off the Avenue Sebastopol; rockers, punks, models, gangsters, pop stars, and just normal people too.

For the most part the owners liked the mix.

It was edgy.

One night a decrepit clouchard approached the entrance to Les Bains. The bouncers moved to prevent the derelict’s climbing the stairs. They were off-duty Legionnaires. I ordered them to stop and asked the grizzled drunk in Boston-accented French,”Why are you here?”

“Because I’m a good friend of Moses.”

“A personal friend?”

“From birth. He told me to meet him here.”

“Come on in.”

“Are you serious?”

“Mais ouais.” I had heard plenty of excuses from people seeking to enter the Bains-Douches. None of them were as good as that offered by this ‘friend of Moses’.

“I have no money.” The clouchard patted his pockets.

“A friend of Moses doesn’t need money. Here are two drink tickets. Have a good time.”

His raison d’etre granted him entry to the elite boite de nuit and I went inside from time to time to make sure that he was having a good time. The clientele of the Bains-Douches opened their hearts to the Friend of Moses. He wasn’t one of them. They liked different. I considered him harmless, until my boss stormed up to the front door.

“What’s wrong?” I didn’t have an idea what, but I was sure about the ‘who’.

“Your friend drank a bottle of wine from Thierry Mugler’s table.” My boss had a sweet spot for the fashion czars of Paris.

“Really?” I regarded the designers as a little full of themselves and laughed at the situation.

“You think it’s funny.”

“Just a little. I’ll show him out.”

“Why did you let him in?”

“Because he’s a friend of Moses.” The excuse wasn’t so funny to the patron, but he had never seen Charlton Heston part the Red Sea in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.

I know it was special effects, but the real thing must have been very impressive.

I had the bouncers or ‘videurs’ escort the clouchard from the dining area and he cried out, “You can’t treat the friend of Moses like this.”

“Sorry, I’m just doing my job.”

“Pas de problem.” Then he cried out, “Just wait till I talk to him. He has more plagues up his sleeves than I have fleas.”

Nothing as bad as the killing of the first born visited the Bains-Douches and several nights later I spotted the friend of Moses in Les Halles hectoring passers-by about the 27 Commandments. I wish that I could remember his ‘thou shalt nots’, except I’m lucky if I can repeat Moses’ 10.

One afternoon he cursed everyone with damnation at the very popular Cafe Pere Tranquille.

The junkies and drunks laughed at his predictions of doom.

I looked to the sky.

The madman pointed a finger at me. “That Amerlot loves God.”

And I wish it were true, but I had been a non-believer since 1962 and I gave him 20 francs, for it wasn’t such a bad idea to have the friend of Moses saying good to the Grand Seigneur, even if the drunk is completely mad, for while their Lord moves in strange ways, so do the mad.

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