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When a racy, beautiful rock mega-star is found floating dead in her Beverly Hills swimming pool, Columbo, America's favorite TV detective launches an investigation that takes him all the way to the coast of Italy, to the birthplace of the mafia. But to solve this case, Columbo must first tackle on of the most publicized and puzzling mysteries to sweep the United States--the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa exactly twenty years ago.
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An exuberant crowd filled the Hollywood Bowl early, a whole hour before the show was scheduled to begin. The promoters had sold every seat. All day the rumor had circulated that someone had counterfeited thousands of tickets and that some holders of genuine tickets would arrive to find their seats taken. The counterfeit tickets didn't appear, but four thousand people showed up without tickets, naïvely supposing they could buy them at the door. They milled around outside, grumbling. Some of them accosted people approaching the gates with tickets in their hands, offering fifty dollars--even a hundred--for a ticket. A few people with tickets called for bids.
A hundred uniformed police officers were on special duty outside and inside. Sergeant Ed Dugan, LAPD, working inside, spotted a fistfight and rushed in to break it up. He separated two young men, one with a bloody nose, and ordered them to sit down and be quiet.
"Hey, Sarge, how come you didn't make a collar there?" an officer asked him.
"Are you kiddin'?" Dugan replied. "If I made a collar, I'd have to take those guys to the station. Hell, man, whatta ya think? I'd miss the concert!"
The officer looked up at the sky. "Well, we got Regina weather," he remarked.
The legend was that rain never fell on a Regina concert. Actually, it had rained on the night of a Miami concert--and the night after, too--compelling the promoters to cancel and refund the ticket money because they had booked their megastar for a performance in London the following night. But rain had never postponed a Regina concert in Los Angeles, and never in New York.
The sun set. The sky darkened. Then suddenly at 7:30 it was alight again with scores of red, white, and blue laser beams crisscrossing above the Bowl. Instantly a crashing sound filled the Bowl: a computer-generated mélange of rhythms and tones such as no musical instruments had ever made.
Six dancers pranced onto the stage: three male, three female, three black, three white, each with a beautiful physique and a handsome face. The white dancers wore sheer black body stockings, the black dancers white ones. Every feature of their bodies was dimly visible in the low stage lighting and distinctly visible when hit by the brilliant flashes of strobe lights. They danced barefoot, an athletic and acrobatic performance.
After two or three minutes the dancers slowed and danced a sinuous and erotic ballet routine. Then the three young women jumped on the men's backs and rode piggyback and giggling as the men trotted offstage.
The crowd stood and roared.
"AND NOW...LADIES...AND...GENTLEMEN! REGINA!"
A thick curtain of smoke rose in front of the stage. A wall of crisscrossed red laser beams formed a backdrop. Strobes flashed on the smoke. The computer-generated cacophony rose to an ear-blasting crescendo, and abruptly the curtain of smoke disappeared, sucked away by powerful fans.
Regina stood in the center of the stage. The audience, on its feet, howled, stamped, screeched, whooped, clapped. She smiled and bowed.
Regina was a young woman in her late twenties, of medium stature, busty, long-legged, and with a bit of a belly that swelled slightly over the waistband of the black bikini panties that were part of her costume. She wore also a strapless bra, a garter belt that supported fishnet stockings, and shoes with stiletto heels. Her shoulder-length hair was straw blond, bleached to the point of brittleness--it was in face a wig. Her thin, plucked eyebrows were dark brown, as were her eyes. She wore an overall makeup that lightened her skin to almost white, but her lipstick was flaming red.
she clutched a wireless microphone in her right hand and belted out her signature opening line:
You wouldn't call your crotch va-jeena.
So don't call me Ra-jeena.
An' we're gonna have a hell of a time!
One hell of a, hell of a time!
The music erupted into a frenzy, and so did she. She strutted around the stage, singing a song about dancing. The lyrics clearly had two meanings--and the second meaning was not dance, but copulation. Her voice was shrill. She threw her head back and forth, and the hair of her wig swung wildly.
The main stage lights dimmed gradually, and more and more Regina was visible only in the sharp bursts of the strobes, which flashed twice a second now. She turned her back, pulled down her bikini panties, and strutted around showing her bare bottom.
Her six dancers came onstage again, now in identical bright red leotards cut high on their hips, and backed up her frenetic dancing and singing with a vigorous routine.
Regina stalked across the stage, all the while clutching the microphone close to her mouth and muttering, murmuring, or shrieking the lyrics that ranged from risqué to crude--but remained carefully on the edge of obscene and never crossed that line.
She tossed the microphone aside and danced. The backup dancers left her alone on the stage. With the main lights out, she danced in the light of one red strobe. The duration of its flashes diminished. Their frequency increased. It gave her performance the character of a flickering silent movie. Then the intensity diminished. Staring at Regina in the quick, short bursts of strobe light, the audience could not tell for sure whether or not she had lowered her bikini panties and was dancing with her crotch exposed. Most chose to believe she was, and they stood and yelled.
They were already happy, and what they had seen was not even half the show. They knew there would be no intermission. A Regina show was nonstop, for two hours and fifteen minutes. Her shows built to a climax, then slacked off a little, then built to another peak. All of them.
Copyright © 1995 by MCA Publishing Rights, a Division of MCA, Inc.
Having solved the murder of JFK (The Grassy Knoll) and the Tate-LaBianca killings (The Helter Skelter Murders), Lt. Columbo now digs into the mysterious disappearance of Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa. As in the previous volumes, it's a present-day crime that sets the rumpled L.A. cop on the chase-here, the murder of Regina, a raunchy, Madonna-like rock star. The killing and the killers are shown, just as in the TV episodes; the intrigue comes from seeing how Columbo will solve the case. What might have been a perfect crime goes astray when Regina is accidentally cut as two members of her entourage, acting on orders from a mysterious superior, force the star to stay in her swimming pool at knifepoint until she becomes exhausted and drowns. What follows involves mob conspiracy and counter-conspiracy-and lots of padding and some ludicrous plot twists, with the Hoffa linkage adding next to nothing to the weak and pointless story. To cap it off, Columbo's tried-and-true TV shtick, from the omnipresent cigar to the old raincoat to the verbal mannerisms, just don't work in print. This is one of those books that's worth reading only if your TV set is on the blink.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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