Author: Kevin R. Doyle
Publisher: Vagabondage Press
"One Helluva Gig" chronicles several years of the life of newspaper reporter Frank Peters who comes to prominence through a series of associations with the major recording star, Rob Jeffers, who Peters first interviewed when Jeffers was still paying the college circuit.
When Jeffers dies midway through his stratospheric career, Peters own career takes a downward spiral that ends with him working for a tabloid newspaper chasing years of supposed sightings of Jeffers, still alive. As Peters is sent once more to the middle of nowhere to investigate a Jeffers sighting, he discovers something unexpected - not only about the dead singer, but also about himself.
For me, that part’s a little fuzzy. I vaguely recall that my personal paean to Jeffers had something to do with Margaritas, a hot tub, and, I think, two or three of my closest female friends. I also remember that the night was clear, and one could see what seemed like a million stars winking in and out, no doubt a celestial tribute to Jeffers.
I do clearly remember waking up about two days later, skin grungy, hair itchy, and mouth tasting like an old jock strap. After I managed to get myself awake and together, I sat down on my couch and thought about what it meant that Rob Jeffers had passed on.
At some point in the day, I glanced at my answering machine and saw that I had something like twenty messages flashing at me.
I thought about answering them but assumed, rightly as it turned out, that most of them would be from friends who wanted to commiserate about the events of the last few days. Quite possibly, one of those little flashes indicated a query from my editor as to where the hell I’d been the last forty-eight hours, but what the hell? Not really wanting to talk to anyone, I wandered into my spare room, sat down on the carpet, and stared at the music I’d collected over the years.
I had albums, tapes, and CDs from all the greats, near-greats and never-heard-ofs: The Beatles, Frampton, Led Zeppelin, and Boston. On and on, the parade marched across the shelves, racks, and cubbyholes of the room.
Finally, in one corner sat the collected works of Rob Jeffers, set off from the others in a special hand-made case. From his very first album, Me All by Myself, which produced a grand total of one single Top 40 hit, to a recent three-disc release of all his number ones, I had nearly everything that the man had ever produced.
Reaching over, I pulled an old vinyl album out from one side of the rack and a CD from the other: Jeffers’s first and last productions. I placed the two albums on the floor and stared down at the covers.
Through the course of his career, the man had shared one noted quality with the King himself. Like Elvis, Jeffers was known and identified by the stages of his appearance. However, where Presley had two stages—young Elvis and fat Elvis—Jeffers had three: young Rob, middle Rob, and bald, fat Rob.
At least Elvis, despite his struggles with his waistline, had kept most of his hair. Jeffers, by the time he hit his forties, had lost all but a few straggling locks. He’d compensated by growing a truly remarkably ugly beard.
Also like Elvis, a small collection of “Rob Jeffers lookalikes” had recently begun to emerge, eeking out marginal livings appearing on local cable shows, opening up supermarkets and car dealerships, and performing at low-end weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. And I could only imagine that most of those lowlifes would now, with the man’s passing, begin raking in more than they could have ever imagined.
My phone rang again. This time, guessing who it must be, I struggled to my feet and went into the other room to answer.
“Yeah?” I said, speaking for the first time since my excursion in the hot tub. The croak in my voice amazed even me.
“Peters? Where the hell have you been?”
The man himself. City editor Harlan P. Jurgan. I thought about answering him, but knew from experience that I wouldn’t get a word in. Sure enough, barely taking a breath, the man kept on ranting.
“We just had one of the biggest deaths in the world, and the person naturally expected to cover it—that would be you, Peters— is freakin’ AWOL. What do you mean dropping the ball at a time like this?”
“Hey, Harlan,” I managed to interject. “Calm down, guy. You found my pre-done obit didn’t you?”
“Hell, yes. After about half an hour of digging through that shithole filing system you have. But that’s not the same as having you, the original guy, writing up some fresh human interest crap. This was Rob Jeffers, you know.”
I sighed, a plethora of possible excuses zipping through my head. None of them sounded original, authentic, or satisfactory enough to satisfy old Harlan P. So, in the extremity of the situation, I did what any good reporter learns early on is the most efficient manner, at least in the short term, of dealing with his city editor.
I hung up.