King of the Orbit

Anita Marto

Danny Daniels reclines back on his throne, a dilapidated, sparkly, turquoise beauty shop chair and exclaims, “Civil rights did more to hurt people than to help ’em.” He’s a tall, lanky 57-year-old man in a loose T-shirt and jeans with three-day-old stubble and a lilting, lazy, whiny voice.

Daniels has a lot of “interesting” political views. He’s king of the Orbit, a desert antique shop and yard where you can find everything from deer antlers and goat skulls to vintage hub caps and a dust encrusted antique waffle iron. But I’m not on a junk treasure hunt today. I’m here to talk to Daniels.

I first became aware of his quirky view of reality on another trip out here when I saw some bumper stickers behind the beauty shop chair on the window. One encourages us to “Neuter Clinton, Vote Conservative.”

Another, from the John Birch Society, an organization farther to the right than the Republican Party, demands “Get Us Out;” not out of Iraq, but of the United Nations. I was amused, in a disturbing way, and wanted to know more. His viewpoint is 180 degrees from my own leftist leanings.

The self-proclaimed “King of the Orbit” grew up in Littlerock, California, a ramshackle hamlet in the Mojave Desert several miles east of the Palmdale/Lancaster area and a couple of hours north of Los Angeles. At one time the Ku Klux Klan thrived out there. One of Daniels’ best friends had been an elderly black man who saved the life of the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan when he was a little kid.

Daniels explains, “Him and his little brother were walking down the road; the road went right through the farm of the grand poobah, or whatever they call that, and he had stabbed himself in the leg and he was gonna bleed to death and there ain’t nobody around, but he ran into Louis and his brother and they put a tourniquet ’round him and threw him on the bed of his truck and Louis was a little kid who never drove and he drove all the way into town.”

When someone asked Louis to move the truck he said, “I don’t know how, sir. But under pressure,” continued the owner of the Orbit, “he knew how. After that the Klan didn’t mess with Louis or his family ever again.” Daniels claims the races got along famously then; that is until the Watts riots of 1965 when, “they instigated every bit of trouble they could from down in the city, in the newspapers and on T.V.” and race relations went downhill after that.

Daniel Daniels, who was from a family of two brothers and three sisters and son of a tool and die maker at NASA, was “King of the Maypole” in kindergarten but soon things went downhill. He’s quite proud of having harassed a teacher into quitting in grade school and got kicked out of high school.

He was heavily influenced by what he calls “the yellow menace; the commie conspiracy that came in the 1960s in America. The hippy era.” At that time he bought the liberal views of the flower children hook, line and sinker. But since then he’s gone back to the right and proclaims, “Now I wish I’d gone to ‘Nam and killed a bunch of gooks.”

The one thing he did take from the 1960s was the drug culture, which made him a “dope fiend for a long, long time.” About 20 years later he realized, “If I want a future I’ve gotta quit this shit,” and “By the grace of God I got away from it.” He kicked the hard stuff (speed) and now only smokes the occasional joint.

“The only thing wrong with pot is they make it illegal, so you end up around everything else when you’re lookin’ for pot when you’re young.” Now he “hardly ever thinks bad thoughts anymore for too often or for a very long time.”

While talking, out intellectual discourse is abruptly broken by the sound of a customer coming through the front door. The friendly fat man in a straw hat and Hawaiian shirt asks, “How’s it goin’? Thought I’d stop by and see if you were interested in any of these original fruit labels, things of that nature.” Danny goes out to the man’s truck and brings back and purchases a box of perfectly mounted antique fruit labels.

The plump man also inquires if there are any items related to Hawaii on the premises. He tells us a story, “I found a place in Hawaii way back in the boondocks. There was an old, tiny temple that was abandoned next to a little hill. I went out there and dug it up and found about 150 opium bottles.” Fascinating.

The visitor exits and I’m ready to ask Daniels some more serious questions. I ask him how he feels about terrorists. He isn’t shy about this issue and tells me a bit of dubious history.

“General Jack Black Pershing right around 1900 caught forty Muslim terrorists. He lined thirty-nine of ’em up. He had ’em dig a trench and slaughter every damn pig they could [pigs are considered filthy and unholy in the Islamic faith]. They threw ’em all in; the blood, the entrails, the guts, everything in there and soaked the bullets in blood. They fire squaded ’em, threw ’em all in the trench and buried ’em. The one survivor, they told him to go home and let your buddies know what they’re in for. And for a long, long, long time there wasn’t no more terror. And that’s my philosophy.”

When asked about a Supreme Being, Daniels explains, “There’s evil. I believe on the side of good. I wanna go out there and be on the good side.” I’m sure they’re saving a place for him in heaven.