From the book
My love affair with Los Angeles began to wane twenty-three years ago, the morning a cleaning crew found Tiffany Arden's body in a dumpster behind Chez Anisette, a very popular restaurant of the day. Her head had been pulverized. If you're ghoulish enough to want a more detailed description than that, then go ahead and Google the media coverage of the murder.
There was a lot of it.
Much of it was accurate. Some was not. For example, it was widely reported that her murderer was unknown. Not true. I was pretty sure I knew who he was. And I knew that he was still at large, enjoying a rich, full life in the City of Angels.
"Just listen ta this, Billy." The gruff but lilting voice of Irish pop singer-guitarist Jimmy Fitzpatrick interrupted my morose thoughts with a statistic almost as disturbing. "There are two thousand, nine hundred an' forty-three things that can cock-up the average airplane, any one of 'em capable of plummetin' us to earth an' certain death. Would ya believe it?"
Fitz, my seatmate aboard American Airlines flight 349 to Los Angeles, was reading a cheery little nonbook he'd picked up at JFK, What Could Go Wrong?
"Thanks for sharing," I said, and picked up my airport purchase, a Walter Mosley paperback, from my lap, where I'd rested it while musing about poor Tiffany.
"O' course, this is not the average airplane, since we're travelin' in the comp'ny of the future king o' late-night tele," Fitz added, making sure he was heard by the king, who was sitting across the aisle.
Off camera and semi-relaxed, the comedian Desmond O'Day was a wiry bantamweight in his forties with a V-shaped face and short, neatly coifed hair so blond it was almost silver. He had a penchant for tight, black apparel, which presently included linen trousers and a T-shirt designed to display his workout arm muscles and mini-six-pack. He paused in his perusal of a script to glare over his rimless half-glasses at his shaggy-haired, bearded music director.
"Stop botherin' Billy, ya sod," he said. "The man's doin' us a big favor, travelin' all across the country to help us kick off the show."
Fitz, wincing from having incurred the displeasure of his old pal and new boss, said, "Sorry, Billy."
He gave me an apologetic smile and leaned back in his seat, silent as the late King Tut.
"A little conversation would be fine, Fitz," I said, "as long as it's about something other than us plummeting to the ground in a screaming death plunge, then being vaporized in a fireball of death."
He kept his lips zipped, evidently convinced that a command from Des O'Day was not to be taken lightly. He was a better judge of that than I. He'd known Des since they were boys together on the Emerald Isle, while I'd just met the man.
Oh, I'm Billy Blessing, by the way. Chef Billy Blessing, to be formal about it.
For a decade and a half, I served in other chefs' kitchens before opening my own place, Blessing's Bistro, in Manhattan. It's famous for its steaks and chops, and the food we prepare and serve has earned a top rating in Gault Milleau, of which I am quite proud.
My fame, such as it is, comes only indirectly from my culinary skills. I'm a cohost on the Worldwide Broadcasting Company's morning news and entertainment show Wake Up, America! weekdays seven to nine a.m. If you're one of the show's four million viewers, you've probably seen me, the guy who, I've been told, looks a little like a slightly stockier, clean-shaven (head as well as face) version of Eddie Murphy.
I provide a daily WUA! segment on food preparation, but I have other chores, too. I do remotes, interview visitors to NYC...