Jimmy Vargas, Croonoir, launches ‘Striptease in Noir’

Striptease In Noir - Jimmy Vargas

Jimmy Vargas, a writer, musician and leader of a combo called the Black Dahlias, is doing keenly interesting work in noir music videos, recordings, and live performances. We were particularly struck by the way he layers classic film noir elements with elements of horror and Jack Kerouac-style lyrics. He also runs a blog dedicated to the 1940s Siren or Femme Fatal.

A recording artist with with Dionysus records in Los Angeles, he took time away from his busy performing and writing schedule to talk with Noir Nation editor, Eddie Vega, about his music and filmography and his new book, Striptease in Noir.

NOIR NATION: What inspired you to write these books?

1. JIMMY VARGAS and BLACK DAHLIAS Black WidowJIMMY VARGAS: The book series My Shadow Bride is an melancholic salute to my racketeering past life of the 40’s Los Angeles. It isn’t a purge, nor a tabloid confession, but more an epitaph, trying to lay the ghost of who I am to rest. The books too function as black hymns to the two women who defined Los Angeles noir, to me. One Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, and her avatar, an exotic dancer / sorceress Liliana Scarlatta who I met in the Broadway Dancehall in San Francisco in 1992. So these novels work on many levels. Both as benediction, acts of contrition, funereal rite, and resurrection.

NOIR NATION: In addition to being a novelist, you are also a singer and filmmaker. Which do you enjoy most?

JIMMY VARGAS: I love celluloid. I don’t have blood. My veins hemorrhage film.
I also compose my own soundtracks (seven albums with my combo the Black Dahlias, issued so far), and live performance to me is a psychic jazz release. All of these above inform, and give legitimacy to the written word in my novels. In fact I perform spoken word interludes drawn from the Shadow Bride series, as part of Black Dahlia live performances. It’s all interweaved.

NOIR NATION: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

JIMMY VARGAS: I research / Exorcise. As a black priest of sorts. I travel to unusual locations, where the phantoms of the past are still caught in some suicidal vortex. Old theatres, brothels are a minefield of black energies that inform all my creative work. And of course cinema. I’m a fanaticist of the golden age of Hollywood. From the silents to the early 60s, as well as European arthouse. I have been called upon in the not so recent past to lecture at Cinematheque on burlesque and noir

NOIR NATION: What is noir to you?

6. JIMMY VARGAS and BLACK DAHLIAS LUST ANGJIMMY VARGAS: Noir is a woman, with Black stocking seams that are the fuse wick to man’s incendiary damnation. Noir is suicide. It is an actual metaphysical state.

NOIR NATION: Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

JIMMY VARGAS: As one gets more experienced, one develops a broader spectrum of creativity. As stated previously I compose songs, perform live, and that allows my writing to breathe, to exercise itself… It keeps me informed. Sometimes you got to let the work incubate by itself however. Let it birth itself. Other times you’ve got to be worthy of it. We really are doctors, our pens as forceps. We don’t necessarily ‘write’ books, nor any creative medium, the characters, or in my case my dead muses allow me to voice their mysteries.

NOIR NATION: What inspired you to write in the crime noir genre?

JIMMY VARGAS: Death and darkness, have defined me from a very early age. Brought up in pre-Vatican II Catholicism, with its mystical primalities, created a metaphysical cradle, which is the bedrock in all my work. My writing is a zippo flame, to make sense of the existentialism that is noir. The books are diabolical prayers to ward against my next impending death, and to give myself a metaphysical headstone to a past life of Los Angeles, Fifth and Main, that I never had.

NOIR NATION: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

JIMMY VARGAS: My website is : www.jimmyvargas.com. My books are available via DARK MOON PRESS, My Shadow Bride, Temple of Lily, and here is a video trailer of Black Dahlia:

Black Dahlia (Seance) (8mm) from Elizabeth Short on Vimeo.

NOIR NATION: You begin your new SIN series with an epigraph from The Epic of Gilgamesh. Why?

IMG_7680 (3)JIMMY VARGAS: My writing has always used a mystical or Gnostic bed-rock as its seed, my latest tome S.I.N. continues in that vein. Recapping lightly the back plot to the greater story of Gilgamesh, it features as its core character Enkidu, the wandering spirit of man, who is beseeched by a seductress temple dancer to abandon his mystical search, and pursue the easy life of riches and indulgence. The tale of ‘Gilgamesh’, possesses the early roots of noir.

In my book S.I.N., I extend the noir paradigm beyond the usual pulp cliché, and reassert its’ hermetic roots of Tragedy / Goddess worship found in the Abyssinian myths, updating and recoutouring it to the seamy neighborhood of Los Angeles Burleycue 1947. The woman protagonist Maya, is also an exotic dancer who represents psyche, and her striptease, is an act of Gnosticism, where she rips through her ammorata’s consciousness, daring him to follow her.

NOIR NATION: What is your book about?

JIMMY VARGAS: Striptease in Noir is a “Faction Book” based on real historical characters in Los Angeles of the 1940’s in the burlesque business, and the criminal and occult underside that divined it. The plot features JAY, a gimcrack crooner who doubles as an is an M.C.’s at a Burlesque House in downtown Los Angeles called the MAYAN, who is hooked under the veil of headlining stripteuse Maya Lilitha. She is the main constellation around which both Jay, an Armenian Prophet / Healer called Avak Argopian, and racketeer Benjamin “Bugsy” Seigel, are drawn and demonised. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 and the illegal obtaining of them by Turkish racketeers, is the sub-axis on which murder, crucifixion and damnation spin.

NOIR NATION: Your writing is very dark. Have you ever gotten any reader complaints?

IMG_7729 (4)JIMMY VARGAS: Yes, many times, because of my writing’s perverse ferocity. The Vintage market particularly, who believe that they have a proprietal jurisdiction over anything that is written about the 1940s, and want it pentecostically correct. To me, Noir is not merely a tale of urban malaise with a hacksaw dick solving a couple of murders, and a femme fatale thrown in to provide an obligatory leg show, who finds her comeuppance in the PG-13 square up reel.

Mine traverses the cliché. I see Noir essentially as a diabolical treatise. In fact I see the whole universe as corrupted. Western capitalism is a fraud. And people are compromised, on both a sexual and spiritual level. I write about that. There is this greater belief that I’m a nihilist. I’m a noirist. Not a satanist. Mind you Anton Lavey would most probably have approved of this work.

NOIR NATION: “What is the hardest thing about writing this new book?”

JIMMY VARGAS: Going back to 1947. Holing up in my old pad, Room 504, the Hotel Rosslyn, seancing with my astral self, and writing for weeks on end. Then when I had completed the ritual and got the story, there was the rather problematic issue of exorcising the devils who came forth hidden in its verbs.

NOIR NATION: Should crime noir have a moral point?

JIMMY VARGAS: Yes. I could never write from an existential perspective like a Camus and his novel L’etranger where the protagonist kills for indifference or whim, I dig the irony of noir as in books like Nightmare Alley or Angel Heart. That there is a spiritual degradation, and there is no redemption. That is the moral point. You can’t grovel in the vice-spots of Fifth and Main, then seek band-aid redemption at the 6 am mass at St. Vibiana’s. Evil has a memory. Evil holds your debt.

NOIR NATION: What drew you to crime noir?

JIMMY VARGAS: Well there is that sordid past life of mine in post war California that flickered through into my cradle consciousness. I have always had that connection to the nineteen forties. A “colorful childhood” to say the least. In 35 mille Psycho vistavisions.
Los Angeles. 1940’s. Black Masses. Rituals. Black Dahlia. Jack Dragna. Vice. Fifth and Main. Burleycue. Heroin. There was an Exorcism at seven that didn’t take. The tickle of Lucifer’s wings still occasionally flap at my back. I’m drawn to seedy places. That’s where I feel most at home. In those joints, the dead, the defiled talk to me. They lease me their tunes.”

NOIR NATION: What do you have planned for your next writing project?

Jimmy Vargas and muse Mia Mortal... Live Pix by Mike ChryslerJIMMY VARGAS: I’m at present completing the sequel to Sin, called Stripteasia Blues. Its’ subject matter traverses Nazism, the U.S. military’s occult plan behind the atomic and hydrogen bomb projects, and the new pentecostalism that gripped post war Los Angeles, as well as the expected bent scenarios of more naughty burleycue. It’s surreal, and it’s ten stations past redemption. I’m returning noir to its original diabolical cradle.

NOIR NATION: Can you make a living from Noir?

JIMMY VARGAS: You’re talking to a dead man, Eddie. Let’s just leave this dialogue with one irrefutable fact: Noir continues to make a great living out of me.

Noir Crooner Jimmy Vargas: Seeking redemption in the Black Dahlia’s smiling pool of blood

Interview with Croonoir Jimmy Vargas

Image of Jimmy Vargas, Noir CroonerJimmy Vargas, a writer, musician and leader of a combo called the Black Dahlias, is doing keenly interesting work in noir music videos, recordings, and live performances. We were particularly struck by the way he layers classic film noir elements with elements of horror and Jack Kerouac-style lyrics. He also runs a blog dedicated to the 1940s Siren or Femme Fatal.

A recording artist with with Dionysus records in Los Angeles, he took time away from his busy performing and writing schedule to talk with Noir Nation editor, Eddie Vega, about his music and filmography.


Noir Nation: Is Jimmy Vargas your real name?

Vargas: Jimmy Vargas is the name I was born with in Chicago 1919, before my death in Los Angeles 1947. I have returned, earned and re-inherited the name after my rebirth in London 1958. It’s been quite a treacherous and tumultuous trip reclaiming my name, story and unfinished life back. Thirty years of living on and off in doss houses on Main, scouring bombed out burlesque houses, and skideroo bars, for a whisper of my racketeer pimp past. My complete story is told in the Requiem for My Shadow Bride DVD Installation / Book series.

Noir Nation: How did you come to create your Jimmy Vargas persona, the seedy crooner who hints of horrific murders to come?

Vargas: I am not a persona… I’m a natural born huckster looking for coins of grace, and rations of redemption from a dissolute and diabolical past that is soldered into my “Silver Cord.”

Hucksterism is my natural DNA.

I earn’t it.

I didn’t invent this.

Mine is not a bourgeois literary fun fair ride.

JimmyVargas1-1024x950I’ve lived a life turning coin in the exotic industry performing and promoting striptease and erotic dancers before it became another hip feminist pursuit. I even headed up my own entertainment agency of vintage acts, rockabilly and swing combos, fan dancers and carnival freaks from the mid- eighties over three continents called Teasa-Varga.

I’m merely retracing the exact same life as I had in the nineteen forties.

And that includes the subject of murder.

But this time I’m paying for it.

As for the horrific murders to come?

Well I gotta do the death tango with my past firstly.

My quest now is to get through this incarnation without having her blood on my face, her image scorched in my eyes that I can never un-see, and not having to plug my ears to stop the cursing of her siren voice.

The est of noir is that “Every man walks in the shadow of some other silent grief, a violation and a damnation they had incurred on others or that had been plastered on them.”  I’m squaring up on the outstanding ‘vig’ on mine. (Black Halo Prologue)

I’m paying for it by installations of penance in Music, literature and film.


Elizabeth Short, The Black Dahlia


Noir Nation: Tell us about the Black Dahlia. Who was she? And how did she come to influence your work?

Vargas: Elizabeth in her incarnate life was a huckster, though not a trained actress, she beheld an exotic theatrical spirit, that she pitched as trinkets for drinks, dinners, overnight havens and cash “loans.” She beheld a luminous dark glow that beguiled and torched both men and women alike. Her name was given to her by a tarot reader in Los Angeles, a trick sobriquet, both a word play on a movie at the time Blue Dahlia (1946) and a nod to her all gothique black wardrobe of gown, lingerie hosiery and hair, a ‘gimmick’ in which she was seen traipsing and mooching around the Hollywood studios and bars.

Her death was a Mayan voodoo rite.

I’ve been attesting to this fact for decades.

Steve Hodel’s Black Dahlia Avenger, a recommended read alludes to his father as her killer, who lived in the Frank Lloyd Wright Mayan House at the time. His known associates were part of the Hollywood voodoo milieu, Man Ray, Ben Hecht, Jack Parsons.

As for now Elizabeth Short the Black Dahlia remains entrapped in the aether of the Hollywood that spurned her, and her vibration still hums over Los Angeles downtown. Elizabeth Short is the Madonna of every starlet / soubrette / huckster who comes to Hollywood.

Elizabeth wanted fame, she now has it on eternal lease, in the cradle of mortis.

We had a connection in 1946. Stag movies.Jimmy Vargas LUST ANGELES ...Pix (c) Rangott-Vargas

Elizabeth Short is the Satanic Martyr Saint to my work

Noir Nation: Clearly, film noir has a strong influence both on your music and the look of your music videos. What specific movies influenced your work?

Vargas: Silent movies such as The Stranger on the Third Floor Left, Seven Footprints to Satan, Madam Satan. The German expressionists who took their Gotterdammerung vernacular and en-bedded into films of American urban nightmares. Noir prophets like Murnau (Nosferatu, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), Fritz  Lang (the whole canon), Billy Wilder (the whole canon from Double Indemnity to Lost Weekend to Sunset Boulevard) Ulmer (Detour). The European surrealists such as Bunuel and Man Ray. Post War Italian neo-realism. Poverty Row noir productions of Monogram and Eagle Lion Pictures. Exploitation peep show burlesque loops and 1940’s Roman Catholic Education Bio-Pics of the Saints. It all feeds my visual output.

Noir Nation: We noticed literary echoes of Jack Kerouac in the lyrics of your songs. Did he influence your work?

Vargas: I dig Kerouac’s jazz breath rhythm but Ginsberg is more my kick because of his street candor, melancholy, and anguished defiance. I’ve also love the rat tat tat tabloid writing of Ben Hecht, Mark Hellinger, Quentin Reynolds Walter Winchell and Mortimer and Lait of the “U.S.A. Confidential series”. Mix that in with six years of reading and studying Latin, and it makes for an interesting bouillabaisse.

Noir Nation: In addition to film noir, we noticed a look in some of your music video scenes that are reminiscent of the work of Quentin Tarantino, especially his From Dawn to Dusk, directed by Robert Rodriguez. We are thinking specifically of that fabulous scene with Salma Hayek… Was it intentional or mere coincidence?

4101719_300Vargas: Dusk till Dawn has not influenced me.

Nor Tarantino for that matter.

I’ve been living in my own hadeian burlesque universe since the seventies, and produced shows and filmed videos of that aesthetic before Dusk till Dawn came out.

Tarantino and myself may well be feeding from the same pulp cesspool of libidinity, lust and death.

A greater influence over my work is David Lynch.

He shoots heroin on film.

Lynch is the master.

As for the Salma Hayek connection?

Well my muse Liliana Scarlatta is of Latina origin, as is Selma.

There’s a serpentine grace to Latin women when they dance.

That’s probably what your keen eye is suspecting.

DSC_0374 EL MADONNA DVDNoir Nation: You are creating in many formats, music, film, and fiction. Which gives you the greatest pleasure?

Vargas: Mine is a trinity of Music film and fiction which work off each other. They are not separate art-forms. They cross breed from the same poppa. When I’m writing, a camera sits on my desk alongside my Epiphone guitar. Each influences the other, so there’s a consistent visual, literary and audio stream.

Noir Nation: Tell us about your collaboration with Liliana Scarlatta and Mia Mortal. Both play 1940s femme fatales in your videos, but they could be femme fatales in any age. How were their characters created?

Vargas: My Muses come complete as mistresses of their own universe. They allow me in. It is they and they alone who divine my work, for my work is inherently female.

They are not characters.

Mia and Liliana are two female exotic sirens who tug and pull at my creative horns. They amaze, torture, honor, sensualize, demonize and exalt me. The whole Vargas canon celebrates the exotic divinity of their female spirit.

They are the Black Goddess and the White Goddess.

Liliana, the Shadow Bride is a feisty raven haired Argentinian. She is an exotic dancer and sorceress who possesses the nitrate glamour of Hollywood film stars of the thirties, forties and fifties. My Shadow Bride series is about her as such a subject, spanning over a fifty year period.

Jimmy Vargas & Mia mortal S.I.N...Pix (c) Taylor - VargasMia Mortal, Madame Sin / Maitressa Maia is a chilled Scandinavian Platinum Blonde.

She is a consummate Burlesque Diva and Exotic Showgirl.

Her talents also span Performance Art, Aerial, Trapeze, Art and fashion modeling.

Miss Mortal has earned her Lilith fan feathers with distinction, working in venues all over the world like the Tivoli (Amsterdam) Moulin Rouge (Paris) Raymond’s Revue Bar (London) Nagashaki Music Hall (Tokyo).

Mia has performed with me since 1999. She appears in the Striptease in Noir Series, as well as our forthcoming Black Halo music / video installations

Mia too in her spare time tangos with the tarots, when same fingers aren’t unzipping her elegant Dior Gown or bewitching with a capricious cancan.

I am blessed by her collaboration.

Noir Nation: Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Vargas: Dead.

Next incarnation.

I’ll have said what I want to say.

I’d have paid for the murders and the pimping by song, word and image. These are hermetical works of penance and absolution.


A video interview with Jimmy Vargas can be seen here.