"Connie Franks to open at the Cave Lounge Friday evening" read the headline on the promo article in the Bridgeport Times. Connie was pleased that her manager had found enough time to at least get the promo piece in the paper. Connie hated playing these little towns, and especially hated playing motel lounge sets.
"Why do you book me in these holes?" she screamed at her agent when he called her that morning? "You know that I hate them. The rooms are always dumpy and the lounge holds maybe forty people. Big deal!" Connie Franks loved to complain, especially if she thought that she was not being pampered enough. Her agent wisely said nothing in response.
At 25, she had been a recording star for nearly ten years, having achieved gold record stardom at sixteen with her second release, the result being a whirlwind tour with hundreds of performances in the next several years. But unlike most young stars, Connie's personal life was under the strict control of her parents. Her Italian born father escorted her to and from each performance, along with an armed body guard. He had made her promise that she would be a virgin on her wedding day, and he fully intended to make sure that she kept that promise.
It was that same protection and exclusion from the pop star dating scene, her absence from any of the Hollywood Starlet magazines that thrived on the social adventures and misadventures of the most popular stars, and the occasional snippet about her overprotective father that brought down her popularity among the record buying public. As her popularity declined, her overall "bitchiness" increased. When she snapped sarcasm at a late night talk show host, her chances of further guest appearances plummeted to zero. Her sold out concerts were reduced to weekend gigs at motel lounges and the smaller venues in Indian casinos.
The Cave Lounge was name of the entertainment facility at the Starlight Motel, the room aptly named for the Cave of the Twin Bears, located about two miles outside of the town in the West Mountains. The room itself was larger than most lounges found in similar motels because it was the only late night lounge for twenty miles in either direction. Even the ski lodge at the top of the mountain did not have a facility for late night entertainment. As an entertainment venue, the room was more than adequate. The raised stage was well lit, the sound system new, modern and fully functional, and the backstage dressing room was neat, clean and well appointed.
Connie had agreed to do two shows each night on Friday and Saturday, and then a single, slightly longer dinner show on Sunday. The early show would begin at eight and be over by nine thirty. The late show began at eleven and, Connie hoped, including encores, would be over before one. Connie arrived at the Starlight about three in the afternoon, checked in to the motel under the assumed name that her manager had used to book her room and then asked to speak with the manager where she introduced herself and asked for a tour of the lounge and stage areas.
Even before Connie became famous, she was considered a very, very pretty girl. By the time she entered high school, most all of the students agreed that she was the prettiest girl in the school. As happens with many very pretty girls, all of those compliments went straight to her head, expanding her ego until she was absolutely certain that she was the princess or the queen or whatever of everything. Stardom made the problem worse. Her classmates would try to talk to her, but she was a "star" and they were merely students, much below her status. She finished her high school classes basically ignoring every other person in the school. When her classmates asked her to sing a few songs at her prom, she refused unless they agreed to pay her the going rate.
Once out of school and on the road, she treated everyone around her as if they were placed on the earth just to serve her. It never seemed to bother her that her manager constantly had to hire new staff because she treated them so badly that they all quit as soon as they could. Her three piece back up musicians changed so often that she quit bothering to learn their names. The management and staff of the various venues at which she appeared were also the recipients of her acerbic comments.
As she was being shown the dressing room backstage at the motel by the manager she once again managed to destroy any hopes for a good working relationship. "Mr. Cochrane, you are aware, are you not, that my contract required three dozen long stemmed red roses to be placed in my dressing room at least one hour before my first show?"
"Look at the carpet in this place. It is filthy. What happened to the new carpet that was to be installed? That's in my contract as well."
"Well, we were going to do that, but we couldn't find anyone to install it on such short notice."
"See, that's why I hate these small town places. They are always such dumps, run by incompetent people who only know how to make excuses. Look here, Mr. Cochrane. If you want me to sing tonight, I suggest that you get someone in here to at least shampoo this carpet, clean this room from top to bottom, and find the roses, my wine and all the other things that are supposed to be in here right now. You got that? What a dump!"
Dave Cochrane just stood quietly. He was accustomed to the egotistical attitudes of performers. It was nothing new to him, and he would do his best, but he also knew that this one was not getting new carpet that was for sure. As she walked away in a huff, he got out his portable radio and called the chief custodian to tell him of the star's demands. As he walked back to his office, he thought to himself, "What a washed up bitch! Thinks she's the Queen of Sheba or something. She's not bad looking, but what a bitch. Somebody needs to..." He allowed that thought to go on uncompleted.
The custodial crew did their best to make the dressing room more acceptable, and Dave Cochrane just had a feeling that he was in for two days and two nights of pure hell. He would, as he had several times in the past, hold his breath during the performances and count his blessings when they came off without difficulties. But a gnawing feeling in his gut told him that this time would be different.
The first show went well that night. The range of ages of the patrons was broad enough to allow most everyone there to appreciate her music. Of course, it helped immensely that her band actually knew the music, and Connie took two encores before heading off to her dressing room. As she relaxed, she decided to order her dinner for after the second show. She instructed the kitchen staff to have it delivered to her room at precisely one a.m. She made a quick trip up to her room, using the back stairs and service entrances to avoid being seen by patrons of either show. As she exited the stairwell doorway, she noticed a man standing near the elevator, but thought nothing of it. She tried not to make eye contact with the man, and neither spoke to the other. She passed him without delay, walked quickly to her room and, as she entered the room, noticed the man looking down the hallway to see where she had gone.
By the beginning of her second show of the evening, Connie had managed to work herself up into a really bad mood. There was no real basis for it; it was just a condition that she allowed herself to experience from time to time. Like many other things in life, her bad mood could become very bad, quickly, if she encountered a difficulty, or a problem, or even something as small as a person frowning at her. When that happened, she became a real "bitch".
Sometimes during her performances, someone in the audience would innocently make enough noise for her to hear. Occasionally, someone near the stage would stand up and leave the room, for any number of valid reasons. If that happened when Connie was in "one of her moods, she would verbally assault the customer in very harsh and sometimes demeaning language.
On this particular evening, one man sitting in a group of men at a table very near the stage began to cough, quietly at first, and then more violently. When the cough continued, he stood up and began to walk out of the area so as to not disturb the other patrons. Suddenly, Connie stopped her performance and the stage went silent.
"What? You couldn't wait until the end of my show to leave? You have to stand up right here, in the middle of a song, and then begin to cough and hack until nobody can hear the words. You probably smoke two packs a day and wonder why you have spells like this. Maybe if you lost weight, you'd feel better," she yelled at him.
"What's your problem, lady? Who told you that you could sing? I hope you didn't quit your day job..."
"How dare you talk to me that way. You should be honored to have been fortunate enough to even see one of my performances, let alone sit right up front." Making reference to his race, and her lifelong bigotry, she added, "It used to be that you and your kind would not have been allowed in this club. So now, you have to create a big disturbance, just so you can go out and smoke some more."
Others in the audience were clearly surprised. A low murmur among them began to get louder as she continued to lambast the unfortunate patron. This continued for almost five minutes at which time, Connie finally stopped her verbal attack, stood quietly on the stage for a minute, and then looked sternly at her audience, "Alright, that's enough for tonight. I'm not going to take this kind of behavior from a criminal and a bunch of hillbillies. I am a star, I am a professional, and I deserve to be treated as such." With that, she turned and walked off the stage.
It's doubtful that she even heard the chorus of "boos" and catcalls that were voiced at her, but they were plentiful. If she had been paying attention to anything but her own self, she might have realized that one of the other man sitting at that table was the same man that she had seen in the hallway near her room.
When she walked off the stage, Connie went directly to her dressing room, grabbed a glass and some ice from a tray and poured herself a very stiff drink. When she had finished that drink, she poured herself a second, and then, finally a third, something that she had never done in her life. Eventually she made the trek to her room, which was more than a bit challenging, simply because Connie was definitely under the influence. When the elevator stopped on her floor, that simple motion, or lack thereof, made Connie so woozy that she found it necessary to hold onto the hallway wall as she slowly moved to her room. She fumbled with her card key, trying without much success to open the door to her room. Just as she managed to "get" the right combination, she felt the warmth of someone's breath on her neck The little light on the door latch showed green, and she pushed the handle down. Suddenly the door was flung open, so violently that she nearly fell forward. Just as quickly, she was pushed into the room, the door slammed shut and locked before she had recovered her balance.
A large hand reached around her from behind, covered her mouth roughly, and lifted her to her feet, all in one motion. "Don't even think about screaming. We've heard enough from you tonight. The only sound I want to hear from you is moaning!"
Connie had no idea who was behind her or where he had come from. She was afraid, to be sure, and instinctively tried to twist her way out of his grasp. As he felt her head shaking, he tightened his grip on her face, then spun her around and slapped her cheek with such force that she felt and heard a ringing in her ears.
"Don't be stupid, bitch. You're not getting away, and I'm not leaving until I am all done with you. If you try it again, I will close my fist and break your jaw, and you will never sing again. Got that?"
Connie nodded that she understood. "What do you want? I have no money here. They pay my manager directly."
"I don't want your money. I want your ass, and I'm gonna take it too. Now, I'm gonna let you go. If you want to save that outfit, just stand still and take it off. If you try to get away, I'll be forced to tear it off and then it will be ruined.
Suddenly Connie realized that she was in real trouble. This man was not here to rob her as she thought. He was going to attack her. "Oh, please. Don't do this. Please, I'm begging you. I promised my parents that I would stay pure until I was married. Please don't do this."
"Take your clothes off, lady, or I will tear them off, and I probably won't be too gentle about it either."