Hollywoodland Feb 1 2015
SMART GUY
Some decisions don’t need explaining.


Top Secret packs several top celebs onto the cover of this issue published today in 1958, but gives center position to the relatively unknown Elsa Sorensen, the 1955 Miss Denmark referred to here as “that nude model.” Sorensen was indeed a nude model—she was a 1956 Playboy centerfold under her own name, and afterward continued to model nude as Dane Arden. Top Secret editors claim to know why multi-million-selling pop singer Guy Mitchell married her, but we don’t need their help to figure that out. See below:

 
The magazine also spins the tale of how the calypso/caribbean themed NYC club the African Room sued Eartha Kitt for more than $200,000. Allegedly, one night while Kitt and some friends were in attendance to see house act Johnny Barracuda, aka the King of Calypso, she flew into a rage, poured Champagne on patrons, shattered glassware, and kneed one of the owners—an ex-homicide dick named Harold Kanter—in the gonads. The lawsuit claimed Kitt shouted, “This is nothing but a clip joint! You are nothing but thieves!” Supposedly, this was all over a $137.00 bar bill. In case you’re wondering, that’s about $1,100 in today’s money.
 
Kitt’s side of the story was simply that her group ordered three or four splits (mini-bottles) of champagne—though none for her, as she never drank alcohol—and when presented with an exorbitant tab asked for an itemized bill, only to be met with major static. We’re siding with Kitt on this one, since Kanter, who somehow had enough money to leave the police force and buy a share of the African Room three years earlier at age twenty-five, had already been busted for watering down his liquor, then trying to bribe his way out of trouble. Kitt said succinctly of the episode, “To me a $137 bill was preposterous. I asked for the bill so I could have it sent to my office. They would not give it to me. That’s all there is to the whole story.”

And that’s all there is from Top Secret today, except to say that for us the most interesting part of the Kitt saga—aside from the tantalizing allegation by Kanter that she “disported herself onstage in a lewd and suggestive manner”—is the fact that she’s pasted-up on the mag’s cover with Sidney Poitier, when in fact her date at the African Room that night was Canadian actor John Ireland. Poitier was nowhere in sight. We'd love to know why Top Secret tried to drag him in, however obliquely, but we're not counting on ever getting the answer. When you dig through the past, unanswered questions are not the exception, but rather the rule.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 31 2015
UNEASY STREET
Take a walk on the wild side.

Above are three cover treatments for Sugar-Puss on Dorchester Street, written by Al Palmer, and first published in 1949 (many sources say 1950, but Palmer’s current day publisher Véhicule Press says 1949). Sugar-Puss was set in Montreal in the debauched red light district centered around Dorchester Street (now René Lévesque Boulevard), and spiced with firsthand observations from Palmer, who was a night-crawling columnist for the Montreal Herald and later the Montreal Gazette. His main character, Gisele Lepine, leaves her small farming town, is swept up in bright lights and big city, and pulled into various dramas involving a newspaper man, a cabaret owner, drug-dealers, and chorus girls. Gisele’s situation soon devolves, bringing her up-close and personal with organized crime, murder, and white slavery (always, in mid-century novels, taken to be somehow worse than mere slavery). The novel was Palmer’s only one, but it has managed to endure among collectors, maybe because it has possibly the best title ever. He also wrote a city expose entitled Montreal Confidential. We like all three of these covers, but even if the first two seem of higher quality, with their splashes of purple and yellow, we think version three manages to capture a feeling of loneliness and alienation. The top piece is by Syd Dyke, the middle one by D. Rickard, and the last is by unknown. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 31 2015
QUICK FIX
It doesn’t look like much now, but slap on some paint, scatter some knick-knacks around, and we can open a bed & breakfast and make a fortune.

Initially published in 1953 as House of Lost Women, Frank Haskell’s Boarding House acquired its new title in 1954 when re-published by Cameo Books, and retained the new name on the above 1969 edition from Macfadden-Bartell. Frank Haskell was a pseudonym for author Haskell Frankel, whose real name strikes us as a bit more literary sounding than his moniker, whereas the pen name sounds like it belongs to maybe a high school football coach or a union president. No artist info on this, but it’s unusual and we like it.

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Femmes Fatales Jan 30 2015
BIRELL ELEGANCE
A theory of light and shade.

This beautiful promo photo of Romanian actress Tala Birell strikes a film noir note, but because her career flourished before the advent of the genre she never made a movie that can be fully classified as noir, though 1937’s She’s Dangerous comes close. Birell appeared in about forty films, first in Europe, then the U.S., and eventually moved back to Europe where she worked for the U.S. Government organizing theatrical productions in Germany, France, and Austria. You’re thinking what we’re thinking, right? She was totally a spy. Well, perhaps not, but she sure looks like one above. The shot was made for Columbia Pictures after she was signed as a contact player there in 1933.  

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Vintage Pulp Jan 30 2015
A PERFECT CAPER
Caper presents its genteel vision of American eroticism.


Caper is an American nudie mag that was launched in 1956 by Humor Magazines, Inc., of Derby, Connecticut, and ran until 1980. This issue published in January 1960 features cover model Judy LaPree, and interior models Beth Marlboro (in the centerfold), Jamie O’Neil, and the ubiquitous June Wilkinson. Some of the photography is by Ron Vogel, who we last saw contributing images to the Goodtime Weekly Calendar of 1963, and you also get some pretty nice art, numerous cartoons, and a bit of fiction. As always when we look at one of these magazines, we can't help but note the modern day shift away from gentleness in erotic imagery. It’s still out there, of course. There are hundreds of blogs alone, many run by women and focused on female desire, that remain faithful to ideas of imagination, mystery, and mutual pleasure. But those are simply trampled by the many gigantic outlets that feature near-violent insertions of every known object and organ into every known orifice and crevice.

To be clear, we aren’t knocking explicitness. Explicitness has a place, and in any case it was there long ago—modern porn has only just caught up to the 1930s Tijuana bibles we share here on occasion. No, when we say erotic material has shifted away from gentleness, we’re thinking of the actual, physical aggression of modern mainstream porn. It’s pervasive, and while a curious phenomenon in itself, when lumped with all modern media, we see that heightened aggression is a standard feature of today's America—from argumentative cable news to transgressive horror and procedural novels to the mega-slaughter of modern action movies. We could even go so far as to add non-media aspects of society to the equation. Seen from the wider perspective, nobody could reasonably expect porn to be an exception to the current wave of violent expression, though it would be nice if it were. This early Caper is an interesting—and welcome—reminder just how genteel erotic material used to be.  

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Vintage Pulp Jan 29 2015
HOLLYWOOD SWINGING
Everybody who was anybody got inside.

Above and below, scans from the French show-biz and showgirl magazine Paris-Hollywood, issue 26, from 1948. The front cover features Marguerite Chapman, the rear Arlene Dahl, and in between you get Cyd Charisse, Patricia Roc, Martha Vickers, Alexis Smith, Anne Jeffreys, Luce Feyrer, Edwige Feuillère, Marlene Dietrich, and other luminaries. That's quite a collection of celebs. In upcoming years the magazine would spend more time on cabaret dancers, but its early issues were all about international stars. We picked up a few of these in Paris a while back and we’ll get to some detailed scans of those soon. In the meantime, you can see more from Paris-Hollywood here, here, and here.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 29 2015
UNCONVENTIONAL BEAUTY
So, you know how people sometimes say I'm a handsome woman? Before we get started I should tell you something.

You can always count on Saber Books for pieces of unsuccessful cover art, and here we have another example—Hard Way Back, from 1963. We don’t know who painted the cover, but we do know the femme fatale is supposed to be a real looker. Mission unaccomplished. Author Jack Woodford, who was actually Josiah Pitts Woolfolk, and wrote under such hilarious pseudonyms as Sappo Henderson Britt, was quite a prolific scribe—some of his output includes Unwilling Sinner, Three Gorgeous Hussies, and the terrifyingly titled Hoof Hearted. He also wrote how-to writing books, which may seem strange, but in literature lack of quality has rarely been a barrier to publication, and no one knew more about success in defiance of talent than Woodford. He’s credited as having described one of his books as, “Boy meets girl; girl gets boy into pickle; boy gets pickle into girl.” So there you go, aspiring novelists. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2015
WORLD WAR WELLS
Argentine edition of classic takes art in different direction.

This 1938 printing of H.G. Wells’ 1898 masterpiece La guerra de los mundos, aka The War of the Worlds, leaps right to the top rank of covers we’ve seen. It was published by Buenos Aires based Editorial Tor, a company founded in 1916 by Juan Carlos Torrendell. Despite the demented Mickey Mouse aspect of the fanged alien, and the fact that it’s a completely different vision from any other cover treatment we’ve seen for the book, we think the overall feel of the piece is very much on target. Unfortunately we have no artist info.

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Femmes Fatales Jan 28 2015
GOLDEN GRAHAME
It was a wonderful Life.

An ethereal Gloria Grahame poses for a promo photo during a session that would produce a famous cover for Life. Grahame was a true great of acting who starred in the classics It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bad and the Beautiful, Human Bondage, and Oklahoma!, but who we prefer to remember for her film noir roles—among them: In a Lonely Place, The Big Heat, Crossfire, Sudden Fear, and Naked Alibi. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she took the town by storm and made an indelible mark in film. The above photo and cover below are from 1946.
 

 
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Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2015
DR. SINISTER
A prescription for murder.

As long as we’re doing Spanish language pulp today, we might as well share this cover for El siniestro Doctor Crippen, or The Sinister Doctor Crippen, written by Enrique Cuenca for Barcelona based Ediciones G.P., and published in 1960 as part of its low cost Enciclopedia Pulga collection. Eventually, about five-hundred books appeared as part of the collection, including translations of Jules Verne, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and other classic authors. This particular novel is of course based on the strange story of Hawley Harvey Crippen, aka H.H. Crippen, the American physician and fugitive who murdered his wife Cora in 1910 and was eventually hanged in London’s HM Pentonville Prison. Many of the covers we’ve seen from Enciclopedia Pulga are nice, so we’ll try to revisit the collection a little bit later.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
February 01
1920—Royal Canadian Mounted Police Forms
In Canada, The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, aka Gendarmerie royale du Canada, begins operations when the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, founded 1873, and the Dominion Police, founded 1868, merge. The force, colloquially known as Mounties, is one of the most recognized law enforcement groups of its kind in the world.
1968—Image of Vietnam Execution Shown in U.S.
The execution of Viet Cong officer Nguyen Van Lem by South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan is videotaped and photographed by Eddie Adams. This image showed Van Lem being shot in the head, and helped build American public opposition to the Vietnam War.
January 31
1928—Soviets Exile Leon Trotsky
Leon Trotsky, a Bolshevik revolutionary, Marxist theorist, and co-leader of the Russian October Revolution, is exiled to Alma Ata, at the time part of the Soviet Union but now located in Kazakhstan. He is later expelled entirely from the Soviet Union to Turkey, accompanied by his wife Natalia Sedova and his son Lev Sedov.
January 30
1933—Hitler Becomes Chancellor
Adolf Hitler is sworn in as Chancellor of Germany in President Paul Von Hindenburg's office, in what observers describe as a brief and simple ceremony. Hitler's first speech as Chancellor takes place on 10 February. The Nazis' seizure of power subsequently becomes known as the Machtergreifung.

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