From the new and modern freeway, Fresno,
A dusty farm-town stop on the way to somewhere else.
You name it: Yosemite, Bakersfield or Las Vegas,
San Francisco or Los Angeles on US Highway 99.
Or east on Belmont Avenue, round the traffic-circle
And under the Belmont Subway, on the left,
a tiny cabaret and motel next door.
Vic Damone’s Club was without windows,
Only a door. The air began to cool after sundown,
Daylight subsided heavily into darkness
The color of the headwaiter’s blue-serge jacket,
Seating couples in booths far from drinkers at the bar
Where fights regularly break out.
In the dark, the tables were lit
With a flickering candles. Near the bandstand,
Vic Damone himself would ascend, take the stage,
Stepping out from the burgundy curtains
In front of a five-piece combo
He had driven up from Hollywood.
He brought a woman in a red dress
With him, in his new Coupe de Ville.
He checked the books in the backroom,
Paid the musicians by check.
Mindful of tax evasion, and gambling debts.
Vic squinted into the spotlight,
Waved to new friends he had just met,
Smiled widely to all the women in his audience,
Blew kisses, then sang his songs.
There was a downbeat on the snare-drum,
Then a cymbal splash, the spotlight:
On the Street Where You Live,
Then An Affair to Remember, and
I Have But One Heart Left.
He laughed during the most touching moments
Of emotion, repeatedly spilling his drink.
Arguments and a fight erupted in the bar,
A brawl spilled out the padded door.
The guy Sinatra called
The best pipes in the business,
Once paid a Vegas showgirl to run naked
Through the men’s steam-room at the Desert Inn.
Dean Martin simply nodded favorably, saying, “Lovely
… lovely.”” Sinatra was less impressed.
At the Hacienda Resort that night, the same
In town on his way to Frisco,
Trying out his new nightclub act in the Las Vegas Room.
He’s drinking at the bar in the Mermaid Room,
With the pool window for watching fish-women gyrate.
Vic Damone didn’t know that the singer he’d imitated
All these years–note for stolen note—
Would be sleeping it off tonight
In a motel room just up the highway.