Femmes Fatales Apr 7 2014
MCCALLA OF THE WILD
Keep staring, buster, and I’ll show you how we deal with problems in my neck of the woods.

Irish McCalla was an American actress who gained fame playing the character Sheena in television’s Sheena: Queen of the Jungle from 1955 to 1956. The legend goes that an executive from the as-yet-uncast series was on a California beach when he saw McCalla throwing a bamboo spear. What are the odds of that, right? In any case, Nassour Studios signed her up and the rest is history. The above shot, which nicely captures McCalla’s allure and physicality—i.e., she looks quite sexy but also seems ready to flip instantly into beatdown mode—is from 1955.

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Hollywoodland Jan 15 2014
POLAR VORTEX
There’s no business like snow business.

Today in 1932 Los Angeles suffered what was called the first real snowstorm in its history when two inches of accumulation settled downtown and the Hollywood Hills became a winter wonderland. It had snowed at least once before in 1882, but the 1932 storm remains even today the heaviest snow ever recorded in Southern California. Did scientists suggest the polar vortex had something to do with it? Possibly, since they had known about it for decades, but in the absence of politics you can bet the general public didn’t care at all. The above member of the general public is named Judith Wood, an actress who appeared in The Vice Squad, Road to Reno and other films. She regards the scene with amusement and/or amazement from her hilltop home. 

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Hollywoodland Dec 18 2013
FONTAINE OF YOUTH

When Joan Fontaine decided to try her luck in Hollywood her mother reportedly refused to let her use the family’s name—de Havilland, which was being used by her actress sister Olivia—so she chose Fontaine as her last name. After a slow start earning good roles she scored the coveted part of Mrs. De Winter in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 Daphne du Maurier adaptation Rebecca and was nominated for an Academy Award. She didn’t win that one, but the next year took home the statuette for her role in Suspicion, becoming the only performer to win an Oscar for acting in a Hitchcock film. From there her career took off, and she worked steadily through the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Ironically, when her mother—a former actress—decided to rekindle her own career she did so under the stage name Lillian Fontaine. Of her famous sister, Joan Fontaine once said, “I married first, won the Oscar before Olivia did, and if I die first, she’ll undoubtedly be livid because I beat her to it.” The third part of that quip came true when Fontaine—née Joan de Beauvoir de Havilland—died of natural causes Sunday in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

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Mondo Bizarro Dec 6 2013
OUTSIDE THE BOX
Hah hah, very funny—but seriously, this thing is stable, right?

Above are two shots of the famed three-wheeled automobile manufactured by the Davis Motorcar Company of Van Nuys, California. Davis produced three models along the same lines, and not only did their triangular designs make them sure to tip over when minimal sideways torque was applied, but they also featured four-across seating guaranteed to increase the fatality rate of the inevitable rollovers. On the plus side, by the end of any ride you’d know a lot more about your fellow passengers’ physiques than when you started. Sadly, Davis cars lasted only two years—1947 and 1948—and fewer than twenty were made. See a few more photos here.

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Femmes Fatales Oct 24 2013
KOMANT PERFORMANCE
The chef is always right.

The above shot shows American actress Carolyn Komant doing her part for either world hunger or cultural food awareness (the smile and chef's hat make us suspect the latter) for the United Nations in 1961. A former beauty pageant winner, Komant was familiar with public appearance work and was also Queen of the 34th annual Newball Saugus Rodeo, and Miss Safety Check for Burbank, California in 1961. She parlayed her recognition into regular television roles between 1959 and 1961, and one film role, a bit part in 1962’s House of Women, before marrying and giving up show business. 

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The Naked City Aug 12 2013
SPRECKELS OF SUGAR
If you think you can drive better than me after eight Jäger shots you're welcome to try.

When do you smile your way through a drunk driving arrest? When you’re too rich to care. Mary Spreckels was a former dancer who had married John D. Spreckels III, a scion of the Spreckels Sugar empire. By August 1952, when the above photo was taken, she had divorced her husband but had gotten a tidy settlement, and like all self-respecting rich women still went by his last name lest she be mistaken for a mere commoner. The photo below shows Spreckels in court two months after her arrest. We figure there are only two possible reasons she’s being administered a field sobriety test in court—one, she showed up reeking of mimosas, or two, she’s contesting the drunk driving charge by demonstrating that she can’t walk a straight line even when sober. The images come from the University of Southern California’s digital archive of Los Angeles photos. Oh, and did we forget to mention why Mary Spreckels sued her husband for divorce? Because he was an alcoholic.

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Hollywoodland Jun 19 2013
CIRO HOUR
Everybody who was anybody was there.

This photo made today in 1954 shows American singer/actress Abbe Lane posing outside Ciro’s nightclub in West Hollywood, California. Lane had begun in show business as a child actress, but became world famous after she married bandleader Xavier Cugat and began fronting his group as a singer. Although this is a famous photo, one you can find elsewhere on the internet, we thought it was worth posting anyway, not just because of Lane, but because supper clubs like Ciro’s really don’t exist anymore. Ciro’s, which by the way was unrelated to the many famous Ciro’s that existed in Europe during the Jazz Age, from its opening in 1940 to its closing in 1957 was a favorite spot of screen personalities, singers, producers, and writers, a place where the night’s meet-ups and trysts were reported in the next day’s gossip columns. Below you see Lane and Cugat, Charlie Chaplin with Paulette Goddard, Lane onstage fronting Cugat’s rumba band, Cary Grant with Betsy Drake, Lucille Ball with Desi Arnaz, Jr., and others. 

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Femmes Fatales Jun 15 2013
RED (HOT) BARONESS
But we are also down for the Countess.

Generally, when you see a mention of Betsy von Furstenberg on the internet it refers to her as a countess. Other sources, with a more authoritative tone, call her a baroness. But inherited status is pure silliness anyway, so we’ll just call her what she is—a German actress who appeared in movies and on Broadway. Here you see her in Santa Monica, California, in two summery photos by Joseph Jasgur in the year 1950.

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Vintage Pulp May 30 2013
SLUMBER PARTY OF FIVE
So, let me show you what I meant when I said I wanted us all to come early tonight.

Above is a cover for 1963’s Pajama Party, a book written by Peggy Swenson, who was in reality Richard E. Geis. Interesting fellow, Geis—he specialized in beatnik and counterculture sleaze, churning out lightweight novels like Bongo Bum, Beat Nymph, and Like Crazy, Man, and was indicted for obscenity over a novel called Three-Way Apartment. This was in 1964. Geis went to trial twice, first in California, then in federal court in Iowa. He was convicted but the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the panel overturned the verdict, thus making Geis’s Three-Way Apartment one of those forgotten but important books that helped free publishing from the grip of reactionary prudes. After Geis’s close call with the feds he must have felt artistically liberated, because his writing promptly went to the far ends, so to speak, of taste. Some titles: Anal Husbands and Deviant Wives, The Endless Orgy, Women and Bestiality, and, our two favorites—Orality ’69 and its sequel Orality ’70. Pajama Party was not so notable a book as those—five co-eds have a sleepover that involves a pillow fight, skinny-dipping, a striptease contest and a game of dares, before finally getting down to a little Sapphic lust—but we really like the Paul Rader cover, so there you go.

On a different subject, we got a couple of reader pulp submissions with no art, which tells us our little uploader (located in the righthand sidebar, for those who don't know) is probably malfunctioning. This may have had something to do with the several hours of down time we had a couple of weeks ago that cost us several posts (since restored). But don't worry. The Black Bomber will have it working properly again in a jiff, because that's what he does, at which point we'll let you know and hopefully get resubmissions of those reader offerings. Thanks as always for your patience.

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Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique Mar 22 2013
REAGAN OVER THE COALS
Ronald Reagan gets the maximum Confidential treatment.

The old tabloids really savaged politicians. Liberals and conservatives alike got their turn and in this issue of Confidential from March 1967, Ronald Reagan gets roasted. The story by Roger Baldwin brands Reagan an “ex-pinko,” whispers about his “hushed-up divorce,” notes that a portion of his following is a “nut fringe,” and mentions “race-hate rumors” that surround him. There’s a line in all caps: Ronald Reagan Elected President. It’s a neat little trick, because he’d just been sworn in as Governor of California two months earlier, but the writer is actually referencing Reagan’s 1946 election to the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild, and using that event to hint at his 1968 White House ambitions (which, by the way, are derided as “a passion for power”). We won’t comment on the veracity of Baldwin’s claims, but his portrayal of Reagan does make us think of something that isn’t mentioned about Hollywood actors very often, if ever. Consider—none of them would make even a fraction of the money they do without their strong trade union, which means they owe what they have to the liberal ideal of worker solidarity. And yet many actors (and for that matter many athletes, also made fantastically rich largely thanks to unionization) are conservatives. It’s a bit of a paradox, don’t you think? In any case, Reagan survived Confidential’s scathing attack and made that all-caps line—Ronald Reagan Elected President—come true, not in 1968, but twelve years later.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 18
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
April 17
1961—Bay of Pigs Invasion Is Launched
A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro. However, the invasion fails badly and the result is embarrassment for U.S. president John F. Kennedy and a major boost in popularity for Fidel Castro, and also has the effect of pushing him toward the Soviet Union for protection.
April 16
1943—First LSD Trip Takes Place
Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann, while working at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, accidentally absorbs lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD, and thus discovers its psychedelic properties. He had first synthesized the substance five years earlier but hadn't been aware of its effects. He goes on to write scores of articles and books about his creation.

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