Week 3 : Text : The Los Angeles Examiner, 29/7/1921, p.28.

By Virgil Jackson

Terrible things are happening in Hollywood and no other paper has the courage to report them. The motion picture industry is Satan’s stronghold. Each night Virgil Jackson walks the streets of HELLywood in search of its lost souls, its darkest sins, bearing with him the light of journalistic objectivity. Each morning he returns with tales from the shadowland beyond the silver screen.

July 29, 1921.
Last night was hot and wet. The rain steamed off the cracked concrete and tar. You remember. You watched the gas curls writhe outside your window. You camped out with your family by the ice box and kept cool. But I had a tip off. A handbill forced under my door. No larger than a playing card and as laden with vice. A naked lady floated on it, bearing an opium pipe and a book. “Palace of the Tenth Muse” the flyer read in brazen type. On the reverse someone had scrawled an address in the Hollywood hills and one word underlined in desperation: HELP. The night threatened blackly but I had to know. I had to see. And now I have to tell you.

Coming down over the opposite side of the hill the cab snaked sinister, down and to the left. The valley opened up like a black sea before us. Constellations of house lights glimmered below. What bright hells orbited those stars, I wondered. What dungeons lay within? Was it the siren of the tarot who cried HELP from those depths, her image fixed on paper, or worse still, on nitrate film? Who was she? One of the mulititude of innocents drawn to this neverland in search of celebrity? Caught between the stars and oblivion they clutch at what fame they can find, reduced to objects of desire for the amusement of degenerates and the profit of studio pimps. In whose employ do these sirens of the rocks summon men to their destruction? What choice do they have? I was on my way to answer these questions, and if I could, give that choice back to my summoner.

But I arrived too late. The show had already begun.

The grounds were stately. The automobiles that lined the long drive bespoke prestige bought at the highest premium. A cunning mask behind which the Devil pokes his tongue out at America. An Oriental butler received me at the door. He but glanced at my invitation and admitted me within.
The house was silent. My footsteps echoed coldly off the mirrored walls of the long corridor the mute sentinel pointed me down. The end of the corridor was gaudily fashioned after a temple of Greek Antiquity. New money for old religion. A shrine to Dionysus, outlaw deity of drunken ecstasy. I listened at the door and heard eerie music played on exotic instruments, strange melodies blown through twisted pipes by demented minds. What gang of demons waited within? And I, a man alone. Should I step like Daniel into the lions’ den and risk being devoured? What then would become of the young girl who had trusted me to save her?

A revolver clicked to deadly readiness at my ear. “Hold it right there, Mister.” I turned slowly from the laughing plaster satyr on the door to face a square jawed sergeant at arms. I showed the officer my press credentials. “Looks like you’ve got the scoop, Virgil,” he said and pushed me behind the phalanx of his five deputies. So guarded, I entered the dark inner sanctum.

At first I could make out no individuals. The floor writhed like it was covered with snakes, shapeless forms, or one great undulating beast whose incomprehensible contours were illuminated by a spectral glow emanating from the rear-most wall of the grotto. Its many mouths moaned and giggled in the darkness. And there on the screen above them, the would-be starlet lay stripped bare, her virgin flesh defiled by all those faceless eyes.

Here was no muse I know of. No epic poetry did she tell. No wonders of astronomy did she reveal. No. The tenth muse, as the prurient producers of this trash contend, is sex. In a series of vignettes, each more tawdry than the last, the ingenue was posited in various historical scenes, leading back into the distant past. She remained naked throughout. The trick of devolution in time was achieved by altering the dress of her male consort. In the final frame she is displayed naked in a cave, and her companion is not even human. It is a monkey that jabbers mutely at the camera and picks listlessly at its groin. Evolution: the Devil’s own argument! The final shot is terrifying. A slow zoom in on the drooling monkey’s eyes. In them the poor girl lies reflected, a hostage trapped forever in the ape’s barbaric fancy.

Not until this moment did I realise that I and my police escort had been struck dumb and immobile by the dreadful vision unfolding before us. I cried out, “Eve, cover your shame!” The police turned on their flashlights and caught the beast in a hundred different frozen tableaux of debauchery. But it was the hooch the cops had come for. They moved about the room extricating limbs from bottles, paying no heed to the sin burning brightly overhead. Alone I mounted the gilt staircase to the projection booth. Alone I burst in the door to the infernal engine room. And by my own hand did I put out the light that held that sweet girl prisoner.

Outside The Noble Experiment was conducted with due diligence. The bottles, adding up to twenty crates of illegal liquor, were piled into a police van for safe disposal later on at district command. Amongst the guests assembled on the lawn, lined up to receive their citations under the National Prohibition Act, I could not find the young actress who had called to me for help. But I held a piece of her under my arm, locked safe in its round canister. There and then I swore to track down every part of her soul the magic lantern has stolen and restore it to her. Wherever the Palace of the Tenth Muse erects itself I shall find it out and tear it down, reel by reel, until I find her.

Next week: Virgil Jackson exposes the Communist fifth columnists infiltrating the major motion picture studios.

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