Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp Oct 30 2014
SECRET AGENDA
The mission statement was simple—take cheap shots at every star in the firmament.


Top Secret is in fine form in this issue from October 1962 as it goes after all the biggest celebrities in Hollywood and Europe. Treading the line between journalism and slander is no easy feat, but take notice—Top Secret’s editors and hacks manage to pull off a high wire act. And of course this was key to the tabloids' modus operandi—they had to present information in a seemingly fearless or even iconoclastic way, yet never actually cross the line that would land them in court.

For example, there’s this dig at Frank Sinatra: “Mr. Snarl, Mr. Nasty, Mr. Do-You-Want-A-Belt-In-The-Mouth was as gentle as a lamb. Gone was the usual sneer, the wise-guy leer. Was this the same surly singer whose idea of a good morning’s exercise had been to watch his bodyguards work over a photographer?
 
Grace Kelly takes a few arrows: “It’s a pretty good bet that the immediate bust-up of the marriage won’t come in the next few months, but it sure as shooting looks like her six-year reign as the glamorous princess of that silly little kingdom on the Mediterranean is going to blow up in her prim face.”
 
Christina Paolozzi gets roughed up thusly: “If anything, Christina in the buff is proof that clothes are an underdeveloped girl’s best friends. Therethe Countess stands with a pleased expression that seems to say, ‘Aren’t I something, Mister?’ But all it takes is one quick look to see that there isn’t really anything to get excited about—unless [you love] barbecued spareribs.”
 
Anita Ekberg receives this treatment: “[La Dolce Vita] was something like a peek into the boudoir antics of its star—the gal with the fantastic superstructure that looks like nothing less than two tugboats pulling a luxury liner into port.”
 
And what tabloid would be complete without Marilyn Monroe? Top Secret says she’s dating writer José Bolaños (who the magazine calls a Mexican jumping bean). Editors opt to unveil the news this way: “It seems that this bold bundle of blonde has suddenly gone on a strange Mexican hayride!!! Si, amigo, MEXICAN!”
 
And then there’s cover star Elizabeth Taylor: “And she acted wilder than ever, satisfying all her most urgent urges for Dickie in the most wide open ways. [She] had jumped from tragedy right into disgrace by having a wild fling with Eddie Fisher a mere six months after hubby Mike Todd had been planted six feet under. ‘Mike is dead, and I’m alive,’ she said cynically after running off for a riotous romp in the fall of 1958 with the guy who just then happened to be married to Debbie Reynolds. 'I’m not taking anything away from Debbie, because she never really had it,' luscious Liz sneered."

This issue of Top Secret is, succinctly put, a clinic in mid-century tabloid writing—alliterative and spicy, insinuative and sleazy, but never quite legally actionable. How could Ekberg argue that the tugboat similie wasn’t interpretable as a compliment? Could Christina Paolozzi deny that her ribs show? Could Sinatra claim that his bodyguards neverslugged a photographer? The magazine skirts the edge a bit with Taylor—did you catch how the editors paired “urges for Dick(ie)” with “wide open ways”?—but was she misquoted or truly slandered? Highly doubtful. Top Secret is pure, trashy genius. Magazines don’t have such writing anymore, and that’s probably a good thing—but it sure is fun to look back at how things were. More scans below.


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Vintage Pulp Oct 29 2014
LA VIA BENVENUTI
Giovanni Benvenuti shows the way.

We thought we’d revisit the awesome work of Italian illustrator Giovanni Benvenuti. We shared a set last month, but just had to do another. These are once again part of the La Chouette collection published by the French imprint Ditis during the 1950s and 1960s.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 29 2014
WIDE-EYED SURPRISE
When the photographer called her a living doll she didn’t suspect he’d turn her into one.

This is a really striking Technicolor lithograph. Produced by Corp. A. Fox (or Fox A. Corp, or Copr. Fox A.) in 1955, it could be mistaken at first glance for a painting, but it’s actually a retouched photo—the details in the towel give it away. Even though the image is arresting, we don’t think the photographer/artist quite got the look he/she was seeking. To us, there’s an unpleasant and sinister edge to the scene, mainly due to the model’s expression shading more into horror than mere surprise. Don’t think so? Take a closer look below. Now imagine that face when you turn out the lights to go to sleep tonight. But if you think she looks horrified now, just try to imagine her expression when she saw the final result and realized she’d been turned into a lifeless porcelain figurine. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 29 2014
WRY SMILES
Probably the women smiled a bit less than the men.

The five covers below all feature the work of American cartoonist and painter Bill Wenzel, who worked for many men’s and humor magazines during a long career. These are all from around sixty-five years ago, and as such register as somewhat sexist to our sensibilities, but hey—it was the ’50s. The art is undeniably great.


 
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Vintage Pulp Oct 28 2014
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
La Vie Parisenne offers readers an enticing mix of cinema, illustration and photography.


Above, La Vie Parisienne #202 of October 1967—more than one hundred years into its existence by this point—with an uncredited cover star, and interior photos of Gina Lollobrigida, Dany Carrel, Terry Martine, Jane Fonda, Slovenian actress Sceila Rozin, aka Spela Rozin, and other celebs. There’s also a shot of Talitha Pol from Barbarella, and some of you may remember she married the fast living John Paul Getty, Jr. (he of the kidnapped son, though not Pol’s) and later died of a heroin overdose. You also get some truly excellent ink illustrations by the diverse James Hodges, not to be mistaken for contemporary artist Jim Hodges. James Hodges was a French pin-up artist of the 1960s who also became a magician and illustrated magic books, painted playing cards, and designed stage sets. See more from La Vie Parisienne here.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 26 2014
A LESSON IN MANNERS
Keeping his eyes on the objective.

We love this cover. It looks very much to us like the man who’s being choked was staring at a woman’s breasts and can’t take his eyes off them—even while being choked. That’s dedication. Y’en a marre… p’tite tête, by the way, means something like “fed up… little head.” Presumably that’s another of those French terms you have to be French to really understand. We'll await illumination via e-mail.

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Intl. Notebook Oct 26 2014
DESERT DE BACA
Sounds a lot like debacle to us.

The De Baca nuclear test was part of Operation Hardtack II, a series of thirty-seven Nevada Test Ground blasts squeezed into seven weeks in order to beat a looming deadline—the beginning of a U.S./U.S.S.R. nuclear moratorium. The test ban failed when the Soviets began testing again three years later, a political crisis precipitating that failure, specifically a showdown concerning the status of East Berlin. The test ban would have failed anyway, though, as all test bans have failed, and all future test bans will fail, because nuclear weapons are seen by weak nations as the ultimate defense against invasion by stronger nations. And of course, they’re right. Since only the year 2000, nuclear-armed nations have invaded non-nuclear nations nine times. Conversely, since the dawn of the nuclear era in 1945, a period comprising nearly seventy military encroachments, no nuclear nation has had its mainland invaded. The De Baca test occurred today in 1958.

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Sex Files Oct 25 2014
THE REICH APPROACH
Goliath Books exposes Third Reich porn to the light of day.


Of all the books Berlin-based publishing company Goliath has produced, perhaps none is more essentially pulp in nature than Private Pornography in the Third Reich. 1950s and 1960s men’s adventure magazines were obsessed with Nazis, and Third Reich spies littered post-war pulp fiction. The stories and art were often sexual in nature, such as here and here, sometimes hinting at or portraying depravity behind closed doors. With Private Pornography in the Third Reich the doors are closed no more. Stepping into forbidden salons, we’re presented not only with challenging images, but the social questions pornography raises, plus the specter of Third Reich authoritarianism and eventual war.

According to Hitler’s formulation, the perfect Aryan female was a mother. His Nazi state gave medals to women who had eight children or more, as long as mother, father and offspring were of perfect Aryan stock. It bears mentioning at this point that increasing numbers of modern day scientists have done away with race because it seems less and less to exist biologically. It is, evidence suggests more each day, an entirely social construct into which humans willingly and unwillingly self-organize. Hence there was never a master race. The theory makes as much sense scientifically as the theory of a master wizard.
 
But racial purity was Hitler’s obsession, and to force procreative sex on a country he felt needed to replace millions of military age men killed in the Great War his regime repressed the idea of recreational sex, driving sexual freedom and sexual expression underground. Prostitution was banned,sending an estimated 100,000 women and 35,000 men into the shadows. But as always, the rich, powerful, and connected could obtain whatever they wished. Secret dens of sexual performance and prostitution sprang up, and a black market in pornography blossomed, gaining momentum once it became clear that selling it outside Germany was an efficient means of accessing foreign currency.
 
Private Pornography in the Third Reich is sliced into ten sections: postcards/portraits, nudism, petting, oral sex, heterosexual intercourse, lesbian couples, lesbianism with toys, sado-masochism, and threesomes. If that sounds like a lot of photos, it is—200 images in digest size from a collection originally put together by Hans von Bockhain. The book contains only a brief introduction then presents its photos without captions or explanations. But none are needed—if pornography is the sexual id of a society then what we see is a pornographic subculture in a bread-and-circuses moment, indulging in wild diversions as the grip of an authoritarian state tightens.

In another few years the Reich would have near total control of life in Germany, and operate a chain of concentration camps in which those deemed sexual deviants could be imprisoned. As a historical document of the sex industry during the anti-lust years leading up to that period, PrivatePornography in the Third Reich is fascinating. The subject is taboo, the photos perhaps more so. They range from artful salon compositions to raunchy reverse cowgirl penetration shots, which means it may not be coffee table material for everyone, but for the adventurous it’s certain to live up to aesthetic expectations, and provoke vigorous debates as well. Read more at Goliath Books.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 24 2014
DON'T FORGET TO ZIGZAG
Come here, baby. You sprint out there and draw his fire while I cover you from back here.

We love Vega Books. Nearly everything they released was patently terrible, but the cover art was sometimes quite funny. You can thank Bill Edwards for that. 1961 on this. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 24 2014
MANINA AT SEVENTEEN
A young Bardot perfects her precocious style in Manina, la fille san voiles.

Brigitte Bardot took a while, like Marilyn Monroe, to morph into a bleached blonde, internationally famous sex symbol. The Girl in the Bikini, aka Manina, la fille sans voiles, presents a chance to see her just as she had begun to embark on that road. It was her second film and it opened when she was eighteen, but was shot while she was seventeen. The U.S. poster above doesn’t offer much in the way of style, but the film is another matter entirely.

Bardot plays a lighthouse keeper’s daughter who meets two men determined to find a treasure myth says was lost at sea after the Peloponnesian War. She appears about halfway through the film, sun spangled and filled with energy, frolicking on a rocky shore while almost—but never quite—losing her bikini. One of the treasure huntersmakes time for romance, while the other schemes to steal the loot. Bardot seems oblivious to the effect she has on men, and this innocent sexiness would be a style she’d hone to razor sharpness in later movies. It’s high on style and light on substance (and acting ability), ultimately quite watchable (and in true egalitarian French fashion, the guys also spend much of the movie barely clothed).
 
Just above you see two production stills, one of which was the basis for the American poster, followed by a very famous promo photo from the film showing a nude Bardot at the seaside. And below we have a few more posters—first, the original French promo by Guy Ferard Noël, followed by an alternate version by Clément Hurel. Below those are two more, including a French-language Belgian poster. Manina, la fille sans voiles premiered in France in December 1952, and in the U.S. today in 1958.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 31
1984—Indira Gandhi Assassinated
In India, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two of her own Sikh security guards in the garden of the Prime Minister's Residence at No. 1, Safdarjung Road in New Delhi. Gandhi had been walking to meet British actor Peter Ustinov for an interview. Riots soon break out in New Delhi and nearly 2,000 Sikhs are killed.
October 30
1945—Robinson Signs with Dodgers
Jackie Robinson, who had been playing with the Negro League team the Kansas City Monarchs, signs a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers to become the first African-American major leaguer of the modern baseball era.
1961—Soviets Detonate Super Nuke
The Soviet Union detonates an experimental nuclear weapon called Tsar Bomba over the Arctic Circle, which, with a yield of 100 megatons of TNT, was then and remains today the most powerful weapon ever used by humanity.
October 29
1901—William McKinley's Assassin Executed
Leon Czolgosz, the assassin of U.S. President William McKinley, is executed at Auburn State Prison in Auburn, New York by means of the electric chair. Czolgosz had shot McKinley twice with a cheap revolver and the President had lingered for several days before dying. After Czolgosz is executed, he is buried on prison grounds and sulfuric acid is thrown into his coffin to disfigure his body and result in its quick decomposition.
1982—Lindy Chamberlain Convicted of Murder
In Australia, Lindy Chamberlain is found guilty of the murder of her nine-week-old daughter. The baby was killed during a camping trip in the Australian interior. Chamberlain claimed a dingo had taken the baby, but a jury decided Chamberlain cut the infant's throat and buried her. The body was never found, but forensic experts played a large role in the conviction. Four years after the trial the baby's jacket is found inside a dingo lair, backing up Chamberlain's claim, and she is released from prison.

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