Pop goes the world. There’s nothing more hurtful. How can you say I’m not worldly? I believed in Bob Hope and Ellis Island, but not a lost dream, a mythical quest. Who’s Johnny? Who’s Mario Juan Valez?
Johnny Egnatius went by Johnny Electric on the internet: a con artist and rich. A tall, ripped Black man. Normally his perfectly shaved bald head glistened. Johnny Electric was the dazzling CEO of Lionheart, a serious pro gambler with vices, one of Lionheart’s founding fathers. Vivian Ecstasy was one of Johnny’s sexy, dirty and hot-as-hell secretaries, and the acting vice president. Johnny owned a limousine business as a hobby. A black stretch limo was how he rolled into The Rude Native.
He had on black suede pants, a crazy afro wig over his bald head, a trimmed mustache, a Hawaiian T-shirt. Ordinarily dressed to kill, but he just got back from the Caribbean. There was a big button on his colorful collared T-shirt. He got up from a lonely booth in the restaurant known as The Rude Native, sauntered over to Ottis O’Toole from his corner table across the room, but was pointing forcibly at Ottis with his bulging brown eyes. “Amigo….” he hollered, “Put down the Samsung, we need you. I can tell you all about it. Let me tell you, man. You have the voice of La Nueva.” Johnny jacked up on something and he wanted to talk. Ottis gazed around, almost as if he thought Johnny was playing a bad Michael Jackson joke. He was just sitting there and waiting, biding his time before giving him the chance of a lifetime. He wanted to give Ottis a shot. This could be the opportunity Cricket had been talking about all along. His turn. His shot. A dream come true.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Ottis said, a little uncertain.
“I can give you a hot new radio show,” Johnny said.
“Are you serious?”
“I’m Johnny Electric… and you are The Mario Juan Valez Show.” He grinned widely and stared at him.
“Nice to meet you,” he said. “I’m Ottis O’Toole, but my fake driver’s license says I’m Alex Zappotta. It’s a long story.” After Ottis told the boss-man his name, he was grinning wider, but his name could’ve been the worst emoji of a sad face with a cigarette. Johnny made the trip to The Rude Native to check out Ottis, and he liked what he saw. Johnny dressed for the bar atmosphere, unprofessional, decked in a cheap Hawaiian outfit, but CEOs get to do whatever the fuck they want to do. He was wearing a big button on his shirt and it read boldly: All Proceeds Go To Helping The People Of Puerto Rico.
“Not a problem,” said Johnny.
“I can make you Mario Juan Valez,” Johnny said excitedly.
“Seriously? You really like my Karaoke? You’re gonna hire me and give me the goods?”
“Yes. And I’ll change your name. You’ll be made in Puerto Rico.” Johnny winked.
“Tell me more.” Ottis thought it sounded like the opportunity he was looking for.
Johnny told him about a radio empire called Lionheart. He told him about an idea he had for a show. “It’s a super show with a cool retro beat and it’ll air on WRICH 109.9,” he said, “I want you to think ‘vacation of your dreams.’ I can make your dreams come true and give you the time of your life working from the comfort of your own home…. Remote.” Johnny explained to him he’d just got back from Puerto Rico and that he was helping the world. He would save lives by giving them the king of Lionheart Entertainment, where the pay was good. “I know producers,” he said, talking fast like he had just snorted a line. “I know producers, the best of the best, I swear, it’s all good. And I know graphic artists, the best, working on the coat of arms, a new logo. The acting up-and-coming president-king works out of my garage, but we’re just getting started,” he boasted.
“Wait,” Ottis said. “Slow down. What president-king? Who’s the Richie on the up?”
“The new president’s name is Richard Weber. He’s a hard worker. He doesn’t sleep much, but when he does, he sleeps with teddy bears, his wife or the vice president. King Pencil Dick does these really cool impersonations.”
“Sorry, did I miss a royal wedding?” Ottis asked.
“No,” he said. “Maybe the coronation, but not a problem.”
Johnny Electric was talking super-fast and saying that he was serious and that he already signed a license with Sirius Satellite Radio. It would all happen in less than two months. “Are you in?” His eyes looked intense, desperate and his upper lip was damp. “We’re a new company. We want to give a middle finger to mainstream media. Fuck Disney, we can do this. We’re opening doors, cultural diversity. We believe you will be the next true el jefe: a role model for every Latino everywhere. We need to start somewhere… and we want to start with you. You can be Super Mario.” Johnny stared at him, and then asked again, “Are you in?” His eyes filled with watery intensity.
Ottis started stammering, “I’m interested, but I don’t know any Spanish.”
Johnny’s show idea sounded Puerto Rican or Mexican, a game-stopper and crazy-fun… something Ottis could do for kicks and big bucks. And Ottis actually knew a little Spanish from his uncle, but he didn’t want to sound like a dumb-ass. Of course, he was interested in making easy money. He’d wanted a free ride his whole life. Johnny was staring him right in the face.
“It’s all good. Listen,” Johnny said seriously, “I need somebody like you.”
“I’m not sure,” he said. Johnny seemed desperate-crazy, and he wasn’t sure if everything he was saying was legit, but maybe it was pure dumb luck and he just wanted to help Ottis. The name of Johnny Electric was up in bright lights at almost every beer joint. Lionheart was hiring.
He put his arm around him and he handed him a beige folder with papers that resembled a real standard contract agreement. “Sign this.” Ottis took the documents and read over them quickly.
“I don’t know. You want me to sign this?”
“It doesn’t have to be now,” he said, “but I think you should look over it all.”
“How much will I make doing the show?” he asked.
“Not much,” Johnny said, “but give it time. Give it time.” He almost smirked.
“I don’t know,” he stuttered. “I’m not sure.” He didn’t know what to believe.
“I promise you women and money if you give it time,” Johnny said. “El tiempo.”
“I’ll have to think about it.” He didn’t convince Ottis everything he said was the truth.
“Honestly, it’s going to be big, and I’m social-networking with my Russian pals to make it bigger. I’m giving you the God’s honest truth.” Johnny nodded agreeably. “I’m going to give you the address to my basement garage. It’s a temporary place for business. Johnny gave him a high-quality business card. “I can make you the big chivato, the el jefe,” he said, “and we’re hiring Tuesday Alvarez, a real-deal Aztec Indian, to help you with the shows. I’ll be giving Mike Rogers a ding in a couple of days, and my brother will do The Buck Rogers Show. Travis will be the notorious Wyatt on traffic. Tony, a weather duke, way off, but bruh gets his casino app. I can see it now. Richard stumbled onto historical truth and wants to re-enact history. But the king is taking up sides with the Indians. Everybody knows how the Pilgrims came over here and brought devastation, disease, and cowboys for the Indians. It’s our chance to get back… get back what is ours. The Pilgrims ruined the Indian culture, but Lionheart wants to bring back native awareness, and give it a place on satellite radio. We’re going to replay history. Give people the truth. Pay attention to media’s Technossance. Be part of the solution,” he reasoned. There was anger in his voice and an edge to it. Ottis hesitated but wanted to sign the contract.
“No one’s ever been screwed more than the Indians,” he said feverishly.
“That’s right,” Johnny said. “Do you want to be part of relevant radio?”
“I guess. It sounds pretty cool.” He was trying to play it cool. He had nothing else going for him and the idea of new radio was making him maniacally excited.
“Is there anything else, Ottis?”
“I want Petra to play Pocahontas.”
“We’ll see what we can do, amigo.”
“I’ll send you a friend request on Facebook soon. In the meantime, I’ll need your friends’ phone numbers?” He smiled a creepy smile. Ottis only had Petra’s number.
Ottis paused. “Si señor, I’ll let her in on it,” he said and winked.
“Friends help friends, and I want to be your friend.” Johnny didn’t really know much about friendship but Ottis imagined he wanted to help him and tap into his fan base. Ottis didn’t care about the friendship part, but he was talking really serious bombastic shit: good ideas, media, women, and money. It was all happening. Ottis was part of it.
“Alright,” He scratched his head, but then thought about easy money.
“You have a marvelous radio voice, both distinct and clear,” Johnny said.
“Thanks, Johnny,” Ottis said as Johnny reached out to shake his hand to finish the deal, then Johnny magically disappeared.
Spinning records as a disc jockey sounded totally slay. The Karaoke gig wasn’t giving him enough exposure, and he wanted the O’Toole name up in bright lights. He could get what he wanted with Lionheart. Ottis was the King of Karaoke, but bud only wanted it to be a side-hustle. The Rude Native’s Karaoke was only a temporary business.
Ottis paid the receipt for dinner and drinks. He ended up rushing out of the funky-cool, high-priced bistro, getting into his car, racing out of the parking lot. Driving home in a rusty, over-hyped 2004 Pontiac Grand Am wearing a big smile, he couldn’t believe it. He figured he’d stumbled on good luck, and it almost made him hysterical. Ottis really practiced talking to himself in the rear-view mirror using a fake Mexican accent. He tried too hard, but it was alright.
He stopped at the Burger King on the way home and went around the drive-through then ordered at the window: a nice, big, juicy, flame-broiled Whopper. He used his smooth new voice to place the order. The drive-through airhead attendant handed him two Whoppers with a smile. If she wasn’t ugly… he thought about it, but he could tell by her voice she was wretched-gross, he would have taken down her number. But he realized he could pull off his own deep, sexy fresh voice. He understood his talents, and knew the hardest part was using them for profit. It had to be perfect.
Once he got back to his coffin apartment, he sat down on a shit-brown couch and wolfed down the burgers. Ottis leaned back, turned on Netflix, and watched Coming To America with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. About halfway through the movie, he opened his laptop and his wild, crazy, amateur eyes wandered watching good Latino sex on Pornhub. Soon it was pants down, full-on masturbation, skimming through the cum-stained contract again, before grabbing a pen and signing the papers. Ottis had done his time on the Karaoke scene, took his chances and a job in satellite radio would be the next big career move. He was excited. The night turning wildly late. It was about three o’clock in the morning. But really, he was more tired from jerking off than performing Karaoke at The Rude Native and he was skippy-cool. He went to the refrigerator, but he was out of Brewington Beer. There was an empty can on the kitchen counter. It was one of eleven that he finished since getting home. He crushed the empty beer can in his hand and tossed the junk art into recycling. There was no one-hit-wonder to sing to the art, but he was dying to hear his voice echo in the empty fridge. He slammed the fridge door closed, damn tired and not in the mood to Google songs about cheap beer. There just wasn’t enough retro country music in the world.
He took a catnap, looked over the contract again, then fell asleep and woke up the next morning hungover, but ready to finish the deal. He drove out to Johnny’s basement garage that morning and returned the documents. It wasn’t hard to find his place in the community. He was expecting Johnny to answer the door naked or something, but no one was there. The neighborhood seemed deserted. He dropped off the gooey documents in his mailbox and texted Johnny with Petra’s number because it was the only other stipulation, or so he thought.
But all he thought about while driving home fast and furious was Girls, Girls, Girls, digging the sounds and all the ways to make easy money. Ottis was actually singing along to the Mötley Crüe song, blasting on his car stereo bluetoothed on a device fastened to the Samsung. He wanted to be part of something bombdigity. He could dig it all spinning around like nuts and bolts in his head. He wanted to work for Lionheart, be a knight in shining armor, a warrior minority superhero. Ottis smiled, even though he hadn’t brushed his teeth in weeks.
Who wouldn’t want to get paid spinning records and working for radio?
I turn up the radio in socially awkward situations.
There’s a lot of pressure to blow up party balloons.
Pop! A balloon exploded, but do you think this is satellite radio and I’m ferrying illegals from Puerto Rico? Do you really think I give a rat’s ass who hears Mario Juan Valez and Señor Quintante working part-time as the alien hosts of Entertainment Tonight? Prioritize human rights. Stop asking stupid questions. Crickets and Cricket won’t help you, but WRICH radio offers a solution. Private enterprises want to change. The Aztec nation is Buena. No more cocktails. I closed Margaritaville.