Life Imitates Art, or
JR Has a Soulmate, His Own Cindy Caswell, and He Wants to Keep Her

By John Ross

Copyright 2007 by John Ross. Electronic reproduction of this article freely permitted provided it is reproduced in its entirety with attribution given.

I wrote Unintended Consequences over ten years ago. For those of you who haven’t read this book, it’s an adventure/thriller whose only significant female character is Cindy Caswell, a young woman who finally escapes the clutches of the Mafia in Las Vegas and eventually meets and becomes friends with Henry Bowman, the story’s protagonist.

Because of her unpleasant sexual history with abusive men in the Mafia, Cindy prefers intimate contact with women, but this preference does not prevent her from becoming Henry’s closest friend and confidante. Cindy’s horrific past has not broken her spirit or her optimism, and she recognizes good men when she sees them, despite a total lack of desire for their physical intimacy. Her Las Vegas past has made her a good actress, though, and when Cindy’s employer closes the business, she considers becoming the paid mistress of a local businessman whose wife has lost physical interest in him. She asks Henry for advice, and Henry suggests that working at a local strip club might offer more autonomy, more income, more friends, and less sacrifice than being sexually ‘on call’ for a married man. Cindy ends up making six figures a year stripping. She is smart, funny, brave, and loyal. Logic and reason drive her actions, not emotion. Her talents and abilities figure heavily into the intrigue that soon fills Henry’s life.

Cindy Caswell was wholly a product of my imagination. Some of my detractors have accused me of creating a completely unrealistic female character that is nothing more than pure male fantasy, and an adolescent male fantasy at that.

Well.

Three years ago I went to listen to a local band I like that I’d heard was playing at a club owned by a friend of mine, Ann Wright. When I got there, the door was locked but Annie saw me, unlocked the bolt, and welcomed me in. The band was in full swing; Ann had hired them to play for a private party that night at her place for the St. Louis Blues professional hockey team. I don’t know if it was for the whole team or only some of the players and their friends; I don’t follow spectator sports and couldn’t identify a single current hockey player if you put a gun to my head. There were definitely a lot of muscular, athletic-looking guys there, some with a tooth missing.

A couple of strippers were dancing on the bar, grinding against each other and enjoying the enthusiastic response of the guys on the stools below them. The girls were very appealing, as cheerful, slender, naked 20-year-old girls are bound to be, but my eyes were on the bartender, who was enjoying the girls’ performance at least as much as the men were.

This woman was a decade older than the dancers, and reminded me of actress Carey Lowell, who played the hottest Bond girl ever (and also Law & Order’s Jamie Ross). There was sheer delight in her blue eyes as she teased the dancers, and when she turned her attention to me to ask my name and what I’d like to drink, it was as if I was suddenly the most important person in the room. Only one other woman has ever given me that feeling with a single look: The late Princess Grace of Monaco in 1979 at a reception after our Glee Club concert there.

I couldn’t keep my eyes off this woman, who told me her name was Tammy and that she’d just started working for my friend Ann. I could claim that the naked girls were annoyed that I was ignoring them, but I doubt they even noticed, as the hockey players were keeping them busy with plenty of attention. In any event, Tammy and I chatted for a while as I let myself bask in her intoxicating presence. Eventually her boss walked over.

“Annie, why am I the only guy in this room paying any attention to Tammy here?” I asked. Tammy and Ann exchanged a look and Tammy’s grin widened.

“I’m a lesbian.”

It was my turn to smile. “Are you a Gold Star lesbian?” I asked. (A Gold Star lesbian is a lesbian who has never had a male lover.)

“No. In fact, I’ve been married. More than once.”

“And they were abusive, or at least the last one was, and it soured you on sex with men, and women are safer, so you go around telling everyone you’re a lesbian, but in reality you’re far too fascinated with people in general to write off half the population entirely, and so you radiate this white-hot appeal to everyone around you. Some day your girlfriend is going to annoy you one time too many and you’ll decide to go slumming, and I hope I’m in the room when that happens.”

“JR’s pretty observant,” Ann commented as Tammy’s mouth hung open. “And he’s got a really hot girlfriend, so he’s not giving you some line of bullshit to try to convert you.”

“My girlfriend was Gold Star until she was 25, when she decided to try a middle-aged New York businessman friend of hers, and discovered she liked men even better than women,” I explained.

“That’s called a ‘hasbian,’” Tammy said, clearly back on her game after the brief stumble. “Did you ever thank that man?”

“I want to, but she won’t give me his last name or telephone number.” I told her.

“Probably doesn’t want the two of you comparing notes. Will the girls get mad if I dance on the bar?” she asked Ann.

“What does it matter? They’re making plenty of money,” I said before Annie could answer.

“Yeah, go for it,” Annie agreed. Tammy hopped up on the bar like a cheetah and began to dance. A few of the hockey players glanced her way when her clothes started to come off, but they’d all gotten the word that she was not into men, so their attentions stayed with the other girls. Idiots, I thought to myself. Part of me wondered if the dance was for me, then I realized it didn’t matter.

There is the oft-quoted cliché that “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” My own seldom-mentioned corollary is that if you’re a woman and the first impression you make on me has the electricity of a thunderbolt, you’ll probably have to become a terrorist before my opinion of you worsens. Maybe not even then…

Since that night, Tammy Chapman and I have spent a lot of time together over the last three years. One of my early observations about her was that she has a near-perfect memory for the names of every person she meets. She is always introducing me to other people she thinks I might be interested in knowing. Tammy is one of those people who has more friends than you or I have people we can name, friend or not. When I am around her, the air I’m breathing turns to pure oxygen.

Tammy worked as a stripper in the ‘80s, and was in sixteen Penthouse pictorials starting in 1991. (She stuck her tongue out at me when I said “That must include foreign editions.”) When she showed me her portfolio, I recognized the issue where she’d been Pet of the Month, August 1992, as it had Jean-Claude Van Damme on the cover, and I remembered the article about him. I believe Tammy’s pictorials covered more paper than any other Penthouse model before or since. Her longest ran seventeen pages.

Most of her photos had been shot when she was nineteen or so, and soon thereafter she was diagnosed with breast cancer, an illness that runs in her family. Tammy beat the cancer and worked for Penthouse for a couple of years after her first pictorials ran, doing promotions for the magazine overseas. All of the money she earned over the years went to pay family members’ cancer bills.

Then her own cancer came back in 2000. After further treatment, a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgery worthy of a Nobel Prize, and massive personal effort, Tammy looks better now than she did when she was first in the magazine in 1991.

I won’t prattle on like a kid in Junior High about how I feel about this woman who has become my best friend, but I’ll say this: About twenty years ago, a female acquaintance asked me to name the one non-physical and non-sexual attribute I would most want in a woman.

I thought about this question for a long time.

“Competence combined with an absolute unwillingness to give up,” I finally answered. “I want a woman that if I ever got thrown in a Third World prison, she would get me out.” Then I laughed. “I doubt a woman like that exists, and if she does, she probably wouldn’t want to get me out, even though she could. And she probably looks like Bella Abzug.”

I was wrong when I said those words 20 years ago. That woman does exist, and I have found her. If I got thrown in a foreign prison, Tammy Chapman would get me out. She wouldn’t do it herself, like in an Angelina Jolie action movie. She would network her way to the right people in Washington to get it done.

And if Washington proved worthless (possible), she’d drag Fred Reed’s tequila-soaked ass out of Mexico and remind my old friends Bob Brown* and Lee Jurras that they weren’t dead yet and that they had one good mission left in them, and let’s get with the program and to hell with the Neutrality Act. And if it came to it, she’d come across for whomever she had to, but no nookie until I had my feet on American soil, and when I was safe, she’d make good on her word and give them something they’d never forget.

I know these things just as surely as I know that I can hit a dinner plate at three feet with the first shot out of my .500 Smith & Wesson. Tammy Chapman is that woman. Like my fictional Cindy Caswell, she is smart, funny, brave, and loyal. Logic and reason drive Tammy’s actions, not emotion.

And now the breast cancer is back for a third go at her.

How bad it is, we don’t yet know. There are more tests to run and other medical issues I don’t fully understand yet, but it’s not good. She doesn’t have insurance, and getting Social Security disability, which is a strong possibility for a woman who needs a second double mastectomy, will still take months for approval. A few days ago she was approved for funding from a breast cancer organization, which is very good.

I had suggested a fundraiser at the Penthouse strip club across the river, which Tammy thought was a great idea, but it hasn’t happened yet, although I know there are more than a few guys around here (besides me) that would donate a thousand dollars for a couple of lap dances from her.

When Tammy went with me to the NRA show here back in April, she wore high heels, a short skirt, and a tight T-shirt that said across her chest “Like Big Guns? Ask me about the new John Ross/Performance Center 5” .500 Magnum.” After 5 minutes of having her picture taken with all the grinning S&W reps, someone from the home office pointed out that S&W was now publicly owned and this hadn’t been approved by the board. We were asked to leave, so we went down to the Hornady booth (Hornady is making the special ammo for this gun) and I told my friend Steve Hornady what had happened. He laughed and told us we were welcome to stay all weekend at his booth. He owns the company and calls all the shots, which is why it only took a one-minute conversation to get his company to agree to load .500 Magnum ammo to my specs.

Anyway, it was my plan to use the profits from my special run of 5” .500 Magnum guns to pay off the remaining divorce debt I incurred 6½ years ago when my wife cashed out, but now that doesn’t seem nearly as important to me as it did a week ago. I think I’ll continue to pay the interest on the money I had to borrow for the divorce, and use the .500 profits to help pay for Tammy’s treatments and reconstruction, if it comes to that.

Neither Tammy nor I like to ask for charity; we much prefer people get something tangible for their money. If you would like to help her, but buying a .500 is not for you, for a $50 contribution she’ll send you five 8x10 photos of herself, both from the early1990s and today. Please specify if you don’t want nudes, and she’ll dig up some bikini, lingerie, or evening gown shots. Make checks payable to Tammy Chapman, and send them care of me at the address for .500 orders, 7912 Bonhomme, Suite 375, St. Louis, MO 63105. Going through me avoids stalkers, which are an unfortunate reality in the lives of former centerfolds.

If Tammy dies anytime soon, part of me is going to die with her.

John Ross 9/28/2007


*Colonel Brown is the founder and publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine. In the 1980s, Danny Ortega’s oppressive Communist regime in Nicaragua received a fleet of Russian Hind helicopters, complete with Cuban pilots, to put down the Contras. When the Contras started to take heavy losses from these gunships, Bob Brown singlehandedly grounded the entire fleet in less than 72 hours. How? By printing a full-page ad in his own magazine offering a million dollar reward to anyone who would bring us one of these choppers. The Russians knew damn well that every Cuban pilot would jump at the chance to fly into nearby El Salvador and get a million bucks and a Miami liquor license for his efforts. Bob’s actions helped cause Ortega’s fall, and stopped the spread of Communism in Central America dead in its tracks.

Click

Today is Tammy’s birthday. Here’s a picture I took of her last week.

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