William Hammett, Independent Ghostwriter

Writing Sample ~ Nonfiction ~ Memoir 3


Note: The following excerpt has been used with the permission of a former client and/or the publisher. Please note that I can adjust my prose style for a particular genre, and the following is not intended to represent my full range of styles or the number of genres I consider. For nonfiction, the level of complexity can be adjusted depending on client preference. .


From One Hell of a Ride
by Lou Federico
©2006, Lou Federico

It was July, hotter than hell, and quite humid. I was sitting at the bar with my wife Lana. The hotel was empty since we generally closed after the Fourth and reopened on the first of October. I was gazing outside absentmindedly when something caught my eye.

"There are two people heading this way," I told Lana. "I wonder where they came from."

We knew that no plane had landed on our strip because we would have heard the hum of the motor. As the people approached, I recognized Angel, the Mexican boy who used to work for me. He was walking next to a gringo that made Angel look like a midget by comparison. The gringo kind of walked like John Wayne, with that slow side-to-side gait.

And, by God, it was John Wayne!

"Your place is sure a welcome sight after motoring in from the tip of Baja," Wayne said with a sigh of relief. "Angel talked me into coming here to see you. He said the fishing is great. We trolled from the stern of the Wild Goose all the way to your hotel but didnít get a strike. What in the hell am I doing wrong?"

He asked Lana and me if we'd be his guests on his boat, the Wild Goose, and show him what to do.

Well, we certainly weren't going to turn away John Wayne, even though we were technically closed, so I told him to anchor his boat, which was a converted World War II mine sweeper, in Conception Bay in a cove called Santos Poc, which was fifteen miles from our hotel. (A mine sweeper was pretty appropriate for a man who'd been in so many war movies.) We were to meet him at 5 p.m. to be his guests and to fish.

Conception Bay is one of the most outstanding bays in the world. When we arrived, we boarded his small Boston Whaler, loaded it with my kind of lures, and headed to a small island just off his anchorage. The island was no bigger than a football field. The timing couldn't have been better since schools of cabrilla were breaking the surface, feeding on minnows they were chasing to the shoreline.

"Perfect!" I screamed to Wayne. "Just cast your lures into the feeding school and reel in as fast as you can."

Every rod was bent. We caught so many cabrilla that there was hardly any room to stand on the whaler. The fish weighed from five to twelve pounds each (and personally, this is my favorite eating fish in the world).

I immediately became Mr. Wayne's friend.

"My friends call me Duke," he said pleasantly, "so drop the Mister."

As we sat in his lounge, I noticed that the Duke was drinking a great deal of water from a vodka bottle.

"Lou and Lana, have a drink with me," he said while his captain barbecued steaks for us. He apologized for having only vodka and quinine water.

"That's fine," I said. "No problem."

He poured our drinks from the bottle I thought had contained only water, but it was straight vodka. Believe me when I say this guy could drink, and maybe he had several reasons. For one, he had just found out he had lung cancer. Secondly, he had just lost three of his crew when this same small whaler had capsized while returning to the Wild Goose in a terrible storm one night. He had flown to La Paz for their funeral but was too depressed to return to the Hollywood scene. This was why Angel had said "Duke, I know a place you'd like."

He liked it all right – liked it so much, in fact, that he asked if I was taking on partners. He was selling his holdings in Acapulco.

The beach at Santos Poc had so many butter clams that you could fill a bucket in a matter of minutes. When I saw Duke a day later, he told me "I ate so many clams that I'm shitting like a wild goose."

"Don't feel bad," I replied. "I spent half the night puking out your porthole while Lana held my legs. It's hard to taste vodka, and you may have done a job on me when I wasn't looking."

I saw a lot of the Duke in the few years he had remaining since he returned to the resort frequently. And I couldn't wait to tell Dick Stockton that John Wayne was interested in buying our hotel. (Dick's reply was "What do we need him for?")

That was typical Dick.

I received an intriguing telegram from Dick, which said the following: "I'll be flying in this coming Saturday with Pepe Snyder (our attorney), Jayne Mansfield, and Matt Cimber (her husband-to-be). Line up the mayor to make it official. You and Lana will be witnesses. Wear a suit and keep this hush-hush. Absolutely no cameras!"

Saturday came, and I could hear Dick's twin Beech Barron a mile away. I jumped into the station wagon and headed for the airstrip. I could hardly wait to see the legendary Jayne Mansfield.

She stepped from the aircraft, her gay hairdresser walking behind her. I'm not sure what the fella was doing there because her hair looked as if it had had a serious altercation with one of the Barron's propellers.

Pepe explained the game plan, which was to unfold like this: Ms. Mansfield needed to obtain a divorce from her first husband, Mickey Hargity; then she would enter into connubial bliss with Matt Cimber.

"Is this legal?" I asked, thinking that the second marriage was following a little too closely on the heels of the divorce from Hargity, even by Hollywood standards.

"This is Mexico," replied Pepe. "Everything's legal."

He had a point. That night, Lana and I dressed as if we were about to step into the Hollywood Biltmore. Mayor Bonifacia was there, though I don't think he'd ever seen a neon sign let alone a film star. The setting was beautiful as we stood with Jayne Mansfield in the garden overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Lana was on one side of her and I on the other. Facing us was the mayor, wearing soiled shirt and trousers. I'm not sure who actually tied the knot, but I'm pretty sure it was Pepe. Mayor Bonifacia had no idea what to say. He just repeated everything Pepe told him to. One thing I do know for sure is that neither the bride nor the groom had a clue as to what was being said (nor did anyone else). Bonifacia didn't understand one word of English (and for that matter, didn't know too many in Spanish either), but what the hell – he had papers to prove that he was mayor. Like Pepe had said, this was Mexico. Everything was legal.

We gave the happy couple the honeymoon suite facing the Sea of Cortez and the Mulege River.

Jayne asked me the next day why no one had taken any pictures. It was a natural question for a newlywed, especially one who was a celebrity.

Pepe told me there were to be no cameras," I replied. "He was pretty specific about that."

"Well, Lou," she said, "that was before the ceremony. Do you have a camera?"

"Sure."

"Then go get it!"

I rushed inside to get the camera, but Lana saw me and immediately asked the obvious question: "Where are you going with that camera in such a hurry?"

"Um, well, the boats just came in with a great catch." I didn't want to waste any time explaining. Knowing Lana, she wouldn't have bought it.

When I arrived with the camera, Jayne was sitting by the pool, her legs dangling in the water. I thought she wanted some kind of wedding shot, but that didn't seem to be on her agenda.

"I'll pose for you," she said, gently pulling her dress well above her panties.

At which point, all I could silently mutter was, "Oh mama!"

"I noticed you have some beautiful bougainvilleas in back of the hotel," she said. "Let's take some shots back there."

So we went out back and I shot the entire roll. She never once asked me to take a picture of her and Matt.

The very next day, Jayne and Matt weren't talking, and it was obvious that they were having some kind of spat. I asked the hairdresser if he knew what was up, and he told me that Matt had gotten wind that his wife had posed for some pictures without him. "He's a very jealous man," the hairdresser said. "With someone like Jayne, Matt should get out of the kitchen if he can't stand the heat."

Things didn't get any better. Mansfield finally told Cimber to head on back without her. "This place is a breath of fresh air compared to Hollywood," she said. "I'm staying."

That was pretty bitter medicine for a newlywed, so Matt caved in and everything was lovely again, hug hug, kiss kiss.

They were pretty smashed when they boarded the plane to fly back to Los Angeles. Dick informed me later that the Beech Barron was shaking a little during the trip. When he glanced back, he said all he could see was bare tits and ass. Matt and Jayne, he said, were going at it hot and heavy. Pepe confirmed this sighting of flesh, claiming that he chain-smoked a pack of cigarettes by the time they landed. Dick even took the plane to its maximum altitude, but he said it didn't slow down his passengers one bit. They even broke the armrest between the seats. He subsequently sent her manager a bill for the damage.

All in all, I felt sorry for Jayne Mansfield. Hollywood had done a number on her, and it was pretty easy to see how unhappy she really was.

The Mayor of Los Angeles, Sam Yorty, was a personal friend of Dick, and Yorty and his wife flew down to Mulege together on many occasions. Sam loved to fish and party. His wife was full of pranks, especially when he was with Yuri, Dick's Japanese mistress.

Working with me at the hotel was Spike, my longtime bachelor buddy. Spike was the serious type, and Yuri knew this. Yuri told me to watch Spike's face one day when he sat down with us for lunch. Something was up, and Yorty's wife was in on it.

Yuri proceeded to take off her shoe, put her bare foot on Spike's crotch, and work him over under the table with her toes. I assure you that the expression on Spike's face was something to see. He didn't know whether to shit or go blind. He just froze, too embarrassed to move.

It was a real honor to meet all of these celebrities, or most of them. A few could be quite aggravating, like Shaky Johnson. The real star, I'm proud to say, was always the resort itself. Its beauty transcended that of any celebrity. The land and the hotel were an unbeatable combination that far outshone even the greatest Hollywood luminary.


 William Hammett



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