Please let me go! I’m not even in this book!
Originally published in 1933, with this Century Publications paperback appearing in 1946, Van Wyck Mason’s The Shanghai Bund Murders was seventh in a series of twenty-six mostly similarly titled thrillers such as The Hongkong Airbase Murders, The Sulu Sea Murders, and—no one-trick-pony Mr. Mason—The Budapest Parade Murders, because murder happens even outside Asia. All of these starred his spy creation Hugh North, and here Hugh finds a coin—previously carried by an agent who suffered an early demise—that is engraved with a coded message about Chinese military secrets. You get pro forma anti-commie stuff, but the real villains here are western gunrunners. The excellent cover art, which is not related to the text, is by Malcolm Smith.
Ménard was a star but Baker was a groundbreaker.
Since we recently featured Josephine Baker's Folies Bergères successor Yvonne Ménard it seemed only fair to feature la grande Baker herself. Here she is backstage at the Folies in February 1930. She had been in Paris since 1925 and was by this time twenty-eight years old and one of the most famous performers in France, if not all of Europe.
Who were the people behind this magazine? They don't offer many clues.
Top Secret fashioned itself a top tier tabloid, but one thing we’ve never liked about it is an inferior printing process that makes its interior images look like cheap dot matrix. We can’t tell you who to blame for that, though, because Top Secret was so secret it didn’t bother with masthead credits. At least not in the issues we’ve bought. Writers get by-lines, but editors and publishers do not so much as give a hint of their identities. Hell, our issues don’t even have publication dates, but we've discerned this one is from November 1964. Well, the backers might have been incognito but the methods were nothing unusual. One writer digs up dirt on Xavier Cugat and Abbe Lane, another tells the story of mass killer Jose Rosario Ramirez Camacho, another contributor delves into Tuesday Weld’s personal life, and a U.S. “heroin epidemic” is pinned on Chinese plotting to undermine democracy.
Of special note, there’s a photo of Pamela Green (panel 18), whose weird transformation into Princess Sonmar-Harriks we shared a while back. Also, the photo of French actress Astrid Caron (in the bikini) looks familiar. That’s because we saw it in a different tabloid—this issue of Inside Story—unattributed and used for a piece about suntan lotions. It shows how these magazines used handout photos for whatever purposes they saw fit. Also, Top Secret publishes an open letter to America entitled A Homosexual Pleads—Why Don’t You Leave Us Alone! You’d be forgiven for expecting something ridiculous from a mid-century tabloid, but this piece credited to an anonymous writer is smart and serious. It enumerates the injustices gay men face, from housing discrimination to military disenfranchisement, and feels like it could have been written yesterday. Scans below.
, Top Secret
, Tuesday Weld
, Astrid Caron
, Pamela Green
, Xavier Cugat
, Abbe Lane
, Jose Rosario Ramirez Camacho
, Salvdor Dalí
The meek shall inherit starvation wages.
Originally published in 1949 as Spit and the Stars, which is a title we really like, Tough Kid from Brooklyn is the story of a Jewish youth who seeks love and gets involved in union organizing only to see owners strike back violently via the usual methods. The book is a reminder of two important facts—organizing or striking for better pay is often illegal, and that puts cops on the wrong side of justice, as well as literary protagonists. This was Mende’s only novel, though he apparently had thirteen others tucked away in a trunk. The first abridged edition from Avon appeared in 1951. The one you see here is from 1955, with a slightly different logo treatment than the 1951 paperback, but with the same uncredited cover art.
You’re nobody ’til somebody arrests you.
Some items fall into the our-website-is-not-complete-without-them category, so here are Frank Sinatra’s mugshots after being arrested in Bergen County, New Jersey today in 1938 and charged with seduction, which involved having sexual intercourse with a “single female of good repute.” He was locally famous at this point—he had performed with a group called The Hoboken Four, and had sung live on Dance Parade, a show broadcast on New York City’s WNEW radio station. The woman in question was Antoinette Della Penta Francke, better known as Toni Francke. Sinatra had trysted with Francke at least twice, then stopped calling her after his mother Dolly decided she was “cheap trash.” Spurned, Francke went to the police, claimed she had been tricked into intercourse, and was pregnant as a result. But when the authorities later determined that Francke was married they dismissed the charge, since seduction involved staining the reputations of single women.
Francke was persistent, however, and filed a new complaint, this time for adultery, which was basically the same as seduction, but with even more serious implications because it made the cuckolded husband a complainant. Sinatra’s response: “She’s got some nerve, that one. She was the one committing adultery. I didn’t even know she was married.” The Hudson Dispatch reported the second arrest under the headline: Songbird Held on Morals Charge. According to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, Sinatra called the newspaper in a rage. “I’m comin’ down there and I’m gonna beat your brains out, you hear me? I’m gonna kill you and anyone else who had anything to do with that article. And by the way, I ain’t no songbird, you idiot. A dame—that’s a songbird.” The adultery charge was also dropped, under circumstances that remain hazy, but we suspect it had to do with elements of falsehood in Francke’s account of what happened. When all was finally said and done Sinatra was free as a… um… bird, but the great shots above survive.
Sometimes having noisy neighbors is good thing.
Above is a rare Japanese poster for the French film Luxure, which was known in the U.S. as Sweet Taste of Honey and in Britain by the curious title Everybodys, with no apostrophe. Basically, director Max Pécas tells the story of a jilted woman—played by Karine Gambier—who checks into a luxury hotel possibly planning to commit suicide, but whose desire to live is rekindled due to hearing the honeymooning couple in the next room constantly humping. From that basic premise Pecas manages to get Gambier into all sorts of situations, including the obligatory orgy, but done with style of course, because the French take their erotica very seriously. Luxure had its Japanese premiere—in edited form—today in 1976.
Nobody knows the way, but everyone knows they’re right.
Last time we posted an Adam we miscounted and said it was our fortieth issue shared. Well, this is our
fortieth (impossible to even know at this point—41st—issue shared, we can't count). It’s an earlier one, from this month in 1955. That means it’s more text heavy, giving us plenty to read, which is nice for us, but leaving us fewer pages of visual interest to scan, not so nice for the website. So today you get thirteen images where normally we post about thirty. We could have scanned several more but getting to the pages in the center of the issue was a challenge—just removing it from its sleeve resulted in losing part of the cover. Alas.
Inside the issue you get fiction and fact, including Dick Halvorsen’s harrowing story of being shot down near Benghazi during World War II and having to trek for days through the Libyan desert to reach civilization. A few years ago 95% of Americans wouldn’t have been able to pronounce Benghazi, but now it’s a cultural buzzword—meaning to some people “cover-up” or “incompetence” and to others “witch-hunt” or “wingnut.” What a world we live in. Halvorsen’s tale, referencing a time when the Allies were informally partnered with Bedouins in the area, provides interesting historical color.
In other news we have twenty-six more issues of Adam to share. Yes, we’ve been busy beavers. Since today’s issue is already fragile as pie crust perhaps somewhere down the line we’ll just pull it completely apart in order to obtain more and better scans. We’ve sacrificed physical issues of magazines before to give them digital permanency, but not of our beloved Adam. In any case, check back for another posting of our favorite men’s magazine in a week or so. And for a quick look at some of those other thirty-nine issues, maybe start here, here, or here.
Sergio Martino’s look at the U.S. provides plenty of shock and aww.
Above, a Japanese poster for America Our Home, a movie that was made in Italy and originally called America così nuda così violenta, or "America so naked so violent." Hmm… how to describe this one. It’s a shockumentary about the U.S. by Sergio Martino of Scorpion’s Tail fame, some of which is spot-on, and very sad, and some of which is way wide of the mark, and very weird. It premiered in Italy in mid-1970 and reached Japan today the same year. Proceed with caution.
Vintage model MacGyvers herself a swimsuit.
A wise old relative once explained that one of the many habits the new generation had rejected—to its detriment—was the practice of carrying a handkerchief. He told us we should carry one because aside from nasal hygiene (actually, he used his for touch-ups only after blowing his nose directly on the ground, but never mind) it had countless other uses. We were thinking he meant maybe using it as a bandana or wrapping sundries in it and tying it to a stick Huck Finn style, but this Technicolor lithograph of a model in an improvised bikini shows us just how limited our thinking was. Circa 1955 on this print.
Mid-century paperback art and the race to judgment.
Science has given humanity a lot over the centuries. What will turn out to be one of its most important gifts is its conclusion, widely disseminated beginning in 1950 but by today firmly proven thanks to DNA sequencing, that race doesn’t exist in any scientific way. Of course, many don’t consider that fact a gift—but many people also had serious problems with the revelation that the Earth wasn’t flat. The concept of anti-black racism came entirely from the human imagination within about the last five-hundred years, principally as a means to justify the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Seen in that light, scientific proof that race doesn’t exist represents not new knowledge, but a return to knowledge that was the norm before the drive for riches caused men to deliberately warp human thought as a means to cover for mass cruelty.
As an imaginary construct, however, race is persistently powerful, which the collection of paperback fronts above and below strongly illustrate. We weren’t around when any of these were written, but their existence reveals a surprisingly (to us) lively market in such material. Were all the books you see here of great worth? Certainly not. But even with their flaws—particularly woman-blaming for rape—these books are artifacts of a fascinating racial dialogue that we suspect, on balance, was beneficial. We have forty-nine examples and there are at least a couple dozen more we didn’t include (Black Dicks for Marcie was just a bit too out there). Some of those pieces will pop up later in a slightly different themed collection. In addition to what you see here, we also put together a related group last year featuring an Asian theme and you can see that here.
, Victor H. Johnson
, Hodding Carter
, Gilmore Millen
, David Westheimer
, James Williams
, Walter B. Lowery
, Carl Offord
, Maxwell Bodenheim
, Sam Merwin Jr.
, Blair Fuller
, Don Elliot
, Lou Delarue
, Jay Thomas Caldwell
, Curtis Lucas
, Adam Rebel
, Carolina Lee
, Wenzell Brown
, John A. Williams
, Walton Fairbank
, Chester Himes
, John Taylor
, Jesse Lee Carter
, Curtis Lucas
, Ric Arana
, Worth Tuttle Hedden
, Tony Calvano
, Cid Ricketts Sumner
, Hans Habe
, Ernest L. Matthews
, Louis-Charles Royer
, Eugene Brown
, Vin Packer
, Alan Marshall
, Joe L. Hensley
, Franklin Coen
, Doris Lessing
, Kyle Onstott
, Noel Clad
, Angeline Taylor
, J. Saunders Redding
, Lionel White
, cover art
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions
about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire
in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
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