John Guare in his play SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION contended that everyone in the world was connected to everyone in the world by six people.
Sometimes even less.
My sister-in-law had worked at the CIA for George Bush, whose father met Hitler, so I'm connected to Der Fuhrer by four degrees of separation.
The distance to Osama Bin Laden is even less, since in 1983 I met from a beautiful girl in London, who married OBL's brother.
From me to Carrie Carey to Ahmed Bin Laden to Osama Bin Laden, which means seven degrees of separation from OBL to GW Bush.
Somehow I think that span might be closer than Americans would like to know, but in some cases more than six degrees of separation are desirable, especially if at the end of the line is a sadistic blonde pimp named SS Tommy.
In 1982 I was working at a nightclub in Hamburg. The delightful harbor city of summer was transformed to a dark dangerous industrial wasteland by the cold wet winter. BSIR’s was fronted by Jurgen, a playboy. The actual owner was the black German/American leader of the GMbH, a ruthless gang of pimps.
Nigger Cali’s right-hand claw was SS Tommy and this zuhalter resembled a pit bull on steroids. This enforcer was rumored to have buried several men alive for non-payment of debts. A bitter rival was bathed in acid. SS Tommy had his own table in BSIRs. I smiled every night, as he ordered bottles of sekt. He never paid the bill.
"We'll get the money one way or another." Jurgen was a native to Hamburg. He knew how things were done.
"As you like." My percentage of the profits was 5%. SS Tommy's rechtung was over 20,000 DMs. I figured that he owed me 1000 DMs and joked about it with the girl I took home twice a week. Astrid was a beautiful lingerie model. She laughed at the idea of SS Tommy in my debt.
"But never say this to him." Her body was paradise. She did everything.
"Never." I knew my place in the feeding chain and managed to keep my distance from the monster. It seemed the best thing to do.
A week before Christmas SS Tommy slapped a bill on the bar.
"What's this?" It was written in German.
“For what?” That sum was about $13,000, which was $11,000 more than was in my bank account.
“For having sex with Astrid.” Tommy smiled, as if he had told the punchline of a long joke.
“Astrid?” The ephemerally stunning blonde was supposedly studying German literature at university while not posing her divinely sculpted body for catalogue photographers. “She works for you?”
“This is Hamburg. Everyone works for someone.” SS Tommy had over two hundred girls on his string.
"She never said anything about paying." Astrid had been coming over my Mittelweg apartment for over four months. I thought that she liked me.
"I guess she needs a little extra money for Christmas gifts." SS Tommy smiled at his sense of humor.
“20,000 isn't so little.” The list was itemized by sex act. "I didn't know 69 cost 200 DMs."
“And that is cheap.” SS Tommy pointed out several more costly sexual feats. "I deducted 20% since you work for Nigger Cali.
"Thanks." 20% extra was a bargain, if you had the money for the full amount.
“And the bill is not negotiable.” SS Tommy stood closer. The heat off his body exuded a sheen of violence. He was a bad man.
“Sure, I can understand that.” I had 1000 DMs in my pocket and the keys to my orange VW Beetle. It wasn’t worth much after a late-night collision with a tree on Eppendorfer Weg. I handed the keys. It would buy me time.
"You will get me the rest tomorrow."
"Of course." Trains left the Hauptbahnhof for Paris throughout the night. I planned on being on one.
"Or else." He didn't have to spell out the 'else' of that threat.
"Naturlich." I shut the club early that evening and took a taxi to my apartment. I told the driver to wait. I packed my things in less than five minutes. One bag wasn't much to show for six months, but tonight was a night for traveling light. I caught the 3:15 to Paris and ran to the train like I was on the run from the Gestapo.
I sat breathless in my compartment and wiped the sweat from my face, as the train pulled from the station. By afternoon I was in a hotel in the Marais. No one German came to the Jewish quartier. They were not welcome there. I started working at the Bains-Douches. The security were ex-Marines and I hired a big black teenager for back-up. I needed it on several occasion.
I had almost forgotten about Hamburg, then one evening in April Cali showed up at the door.
"Don't worry, this has nothing to do with SS Tommy." Cali lowered his signature aviator sunglasses off his nose. "He wasn't very happy with your car. I don’t think he will buy a used car again, but you should have spoken with me. SS Tommy was angry your joking about his owing you money."
"So, it was a joke?"
"No, you owing SS Tommy wasn't a joke, at least not to him. If I had know about your affair with Astrid, I would have warned you that she worked for SS Tommy, but he never leaves Germany, so his problem is not mine."
"But you're his boss?" Cali got a taste of all business from street whores working the Fischmarkt to prostitutes in the Eros Center.
"Yes, and he paid me my share of that 20,000. He wasn't happy about that, but I thought it was funny. Let's have some champagne." Cali led me inside Les Bains. The bouncers looked for my okay.
"You'll have to pay for it."
"Of course, this is Paris. We pay for everything here."
We had a good night and the next evening he brought Astrid.
"My gift to you."
"I can afford her."
"This is Paris. Not Hamburg." He lifted a finger to his lips. "I will say nothing."
Astrid and I continued on our relationship through the 80s in Paris, New York and London. SS Tommy’s bill never entered into our conversations and I refrained from mentioning my debt to the English barrister who later became her husband. I haven’t seen her in years.
To be safe I googled SS Tommy’s name every couple of months.
The search comes up blank.
I figured that he was either KIA or MIA.
I was completely wrong as usual.
Back in 2001 I had an affair with a Thai hooker. That kind of relationship was hard to avoid in Pattaya. Tut was a short vixen into ja-bah or mad medicine. The rumor on the street that she had worked as a prostitute in a German brothel. I was no saint and didn’t ask questions, especially since I was paying for her company.
Once she heard me speak German and asked, “Where you learn German?”
“I had a boyfriend in Hamburg."
Boyfriends who let their girlfriends work in a whorehouse are called Zuhalterei in Germany.
“What was his name?”
A chill slithered down my spine like a snake let out of a freezer.
“Was he a body builder with blonde hair?” I should have said ‘pimp’, although the word in Thai is mangdah.
“Did he have any black friends?”
“One called Kelley or Charlie.”
Nigger Cali was one of kind. “Did any of his friends call him SS?”
“Ja. What’s it mean?"
“Schiesse.” Like ILSA SHE-WOLF OF THE SS.
“You know him.” Tut seemed as scared as me.
“I did but don’t anymore.”
Tut ran out that night to meet a boyfriend in Phuket.
A week later she called for airfare back.
I said that I’d send it ASAP and blocked her number from my cellphone.
SS Tommy disappeared from my life once more and I hope he stays twenty separations away instead of one, because even though he must be 60. Someone like SS Tommy never forgets his debtors, for pitbulls on steroids have a long memory and the world is too small a place for a life as long as mine.