From The Shed, Horrabridge
On comedy and musical mysteries in Killshot
On the subject of musical references in Elmore Leonard, which is where The Shed has been lately, there is an intriguing one in Killshot, which was published in 1989, Elmore Leonard’s 60th year.
It is one of the nicest of his books even though there are killshots, meaning one-hit murders, all through it.
It is rare in the Elmore archives in starring a married couple, who get along quite well. And it is packed with the comedy Elmore was learning to write all through the 1970s and 1980s.
Two punk robbers hole up with Donna Mulry, who used to work as a cook in prisons but kept sleeping with the convicts.
Donna is a comic grotesque, who keeps herself just about desirable to men who are not too fussy so she has somebody to yatter to about Elvis.
Here she is telling a man called Armand, played by Mickey Rourke in the film of the book, about the amazing coincidences that link her to Elvis …
“I’ll tell you something else,” Donna said. “My life number is eight.”
“What’s that mean, your life number?”
“You add up your date of birth, like February is the second month, that’s two. I was born on the first, two and one is three, then nineteen, one and nine is ten, so that’s like one. You add that to the three you got from February first, then add up the next numbers – I’m not gonna tell you the year – and it comes to eight.”
“Is that right?”
“Okay, now add up 3797 Elvis Presley Boulevard. P.O. Box 16508, Memphis, Tennessee, 38186, and you know what it comes to?”
“Eight,” Armand said.
Great comedy and we can only hope the film used it.
Anyway, Donna knows Elvis did not die when the world was told he did, because she heard a record he made afterwards – a duet with a girl singer. Heard it on Kelly & Company. That is a real Detroit tv show, started in 1987, and Elmore clearly had something specific in mind. But what was it?
There are of course duets with Elvis made in a lab somewhere but they came later. The death, if you believe the papers, was in August 1987, so the show Donna heard must have been 87-89.
Best we can do – around that time, remember, a club singer called Jimmy Ellis, using the stage name Orion, was making a living as a remarkable Elvis soundalike, wearing a mask and promoted with strong hints that he might be yer man reincarnated or never dead. He is an interesting and tragic figure, subject of a fairly recent documentary called The Man Who Would Be King. He duetted with a lot of big names, including Dionne Warwick and Reba McEntire, but we can’t yet pin down the one Elmore is referring to, though Reba sounds promising.
Meanwhile, here is the recording that launched Orion’s career – a duet between Jerry Lee Lewis and an uncredited “friend” which Sun Records put out just after the funeral, hoping people would believe they had archive Elvis material which had not previously been released. Google Orion Jerry Dance to get this …