Hollywoodland Sep 8 2018
SCOOBEE DOOBEE DOO
The Lowdown has the scoop on a fantastic plastic.


Today we're back to tabloids with an issue of The Lowdown published this month in 1962. The cover features Bob Hope goofing around, Elizabeth Taylor looking serious, Kim Novak nuzzling, and a random naked party girl randomly partying naked. Inside the issue are stories on Hope getting the hots for trans star Coccinelle in a French nightclub, Novak raking a series of suitors over the coals, and baseball players succumbing to greed. So much material in these tabloids, and so little time to highlight a story or two. But forced to make a choice, we're opting to discuss a piece on something called Scoobeedoo. How can we not? We all remember the cartoon, and now this story seemed guaranteed to tell us where the name of the legendary dog came from. We never knew we wanted to know that. But when we saw the word Scoobeedoo we realized, yes, we want to know.

Lowdown describes Scoobeedoo as a craze and a do-it-yourself gimmick. Apparently, it was popularized when French singer Sacha Distel wrote a 1958 song of the same name. But he didn't invent it—he just sang about it. The actual thing was invented by a French plastics company and called Scoubidou. It was basically a spool of brightly colored plastic cord that could be woven or tied to make—well, whatever you wanted. Youcould make lampshades, baskets, placemats, keychains. A California man famously used it to make bikinis. We imagine it would work for household repairs, light sexual bondage, whatever you needed it for. The stuff was as popular as the hula hoop for a while. Apparently figures in the electrical industry even complained that a shortage of wiring insulation was due to Scoubidou because it used the same type of plastic.

Readers above a certain age will already know about all this, of course, but we had no idea. We weren't around back then. And that, succinctly, is why we maintain this website—because we learn about a past we never experienced. But surprisingly Scoubidou isn't just the past. It apparently still exists. It even has a Wikipedia entry with examples of the many things you can make (but no bikinis). So this was a very informative issue of The Lowdown, all things considered. The only thing we're bummed about is that our Scoubidou research provided no actual confirmation that the cartoon dog Scooby-Doo got his name from the toy. But he had to, right? Maybe a reader has the answer to that. In the meantime we have more than twenty scans below for your enjoyment and other issues of The Lowdown you c
an access by clicking the magazine's keywords at bottom. 
 
Update: a reader does have the answer. One of you always does. J. Talley wrote this:
 
The series was originally rejected by CBS executives, who thought the presentation artwork was too frightening for children and that the show must be the same. CBS Executive Fred Silverman was listening to Frank Sinatra's “Strangers In The Night” (with the scatted lyric “dooby-dooby-doo”) on the flight to that ill-fated meeting. After the show was rejected, a number of changes were made: the Hanna-Barbera staff decided that the dog should be the star of the series instead of the four kids, and renamed him Scooby-Doo after that Sinatra lyric. The spooky aspects of the show were toned down slightly, and the comedy aspects tuned up. The show was re-presented, accepted, and premiered as the centerpiece for CBS's 1969-1970 Saturday Morning season.
 
Thanks, J. That's another hole in our historical knowledge successfully filled in. Is it any surprise Sinatra was involved somehow? That guy really got around.

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Hollywoodland Apr 27 2016
NOVAK ON HER BACK
Tabloid obsesses over Kim Novak on her psychiatrist’s couch.


In a story entitled “What Kim Novak Won’t Tell Her Psychiatrist,” this issue of Uncensored from April 1962 promises “the most intimate, revealing self-portrait of a guilt-tormented soul that you have ever read.” What does the magazine reveal? Apparently Novak’s father was disappointed to have had a daughter instead of a son. Novak’s father is portrayed as domineering and distant, and this relationship is cited as the cause of all her “neuroses,” from her preference for slacks and shirts over dresses and skirts, to her supposed shame over sex. Even her short hair is blamed on her father—she allegedly cut it off as an expression of self-loathing. But here’s the bit we love: “He is a father who raised no objection when nightclub entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. showed up at Kim’s home in Chicago with a engagement ring one Christmas.” Yes, this father of hers was truly the lowest of the low.

The story goes on to describe all the various hells Novak put her employers and paramours through, reveals a lifetime of analysis beginning in childhood, and outs her for an alleged late 1950s stint in a psychiatric facility, where she received “mechanical tests”—i.e. an EEG. It finally ends on a melodramatic note: “Kim fled the hospital, fled the analyst, fled the dark memories. She went back to making movies, to throwing temper tantrums. And, on occasion, to more solid things. She went back to the loneliness she dreads. To the big house that is haunted by shapes, people, memories she dare not dredge up and face lest the strain be too much, added to other strains.” You’d almost think journalist Marian Simms was writing a Harlequin novel—a bad one.

Uncensored offers readers much more than Kim Novak. Journo Ken Travis takes down King Edward VIII and his wife Wallis Simpson in a story rather amusingly titled “Those Royal Money Grubbing Windsors,” raking them over the coals for being filthy rich but too stingy to even pick up a dinner check. Elsewhere in the issue Hitler’s Heirs author Paul Meskil offers a story claiming with 100% certainty that Nazi criminal Martin Bormann was hiding in Argentina. But embarrassingly, Bormann was nowhere near South America—he died in Berlin at the end of World War II, but his body wasn’t found and identified until 1972. You also get letters from readers, photos of Vikki Dougan doing the twist, trans pioneer Coccinelle showing off her cleavage, a really cool 8mm movie advert that bizarrely misidentifies a California blonde type as Romanian-Tatar dancer Nejla Ates, and more.


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Vintage Pulp Jan 21 2014
THE REAL ROXANNE
We hear a lot today about the mainstreaming of LGBT culture, but for the tabloids it was always a popular subject.

This January 1967 Confidential offers up cover star Roxanne Lorraine Alegria, a famed transvestite-later-transgendered cabaret performer who was billed as “The First Topless Sex Change Dancer.” You may remember that we’ve already featured one Confidential and one Whisper containing mention of the transsexual dancer Coccinelle, another Whisper concerned with Christine Jorgensen, and a National Insider featuring Abby Sinclair. Other tabloids we’ve posted contain similar stories, but we’ve ignored them in favor of other content. The point we’re making is that the frequency with which the old tabloids focused on transsexuals is really striking. You’ll also note in the banner at the top of the above cover that Confidential offers a story about a gay convention in San Francisco. This was a subject the old tabloids flogged even more relentlessly—often with the added twist of the alleged gay cabal, usually poised at the threshold to the corridors of power and influence. The language in such articles is shocking by any standard, with the undercurrent of fear that such pieces tend to contain. With so much global attention being devoted of late to LGBT issues we think it’s a good time to go back and look at some of those old articles. We’ll get to that just a little bit later.

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Hollywoodland Jan 2 2012
PORTRAIT OF ELIZABETH
Whisper shows it’s still happy to wallow in the muck.

Hy Steirman’s Whisper magazine is generally considered to be less racy than when it was owned by Robert Harrison, but this issue from January 1959 shows a little of the old spark. It slams Elizabeth Taylor for stealing Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds, with staff scribe Orson C. Green spewing forth this venom: But then Liz made clear to the whole world that beneath that lovely exterior there beats a heart of purest gall. She repaid the infinite kindness of her two friends by breaking up their marriage. Green goes on to describe Taylor trying to soak down New York’s PlazaHotel for two weeks of room charges, and then, when asked to pay, phoning up Montgomery Clift and getting him to help her trash the room. The article concludes: In short, Miss Taylor and friend Clift repaid [the Plaza] for its hospitality by deliberately making a mess for some forlorn chambermaid to clean up. Ingrate!

Whisper also takes on ex-King Farouk I of Egypt—who was a favorite tabloid target of the time—describing him as “Fatso Farouk”, “the roly-poly playboy of the Nile”, “the balding balloon boy” and worse. Readers are told that he was at Maxim’s in Paris one night and saw Coccinelle do a song accompanied by a striptease that left her in only a beaded g-string. Farouk, who was famously amorous, was so smitten that he sent his card and a bouquet of flowers backstage. Coccinelle came to say thanks, and when asked by Farouk agreed to go to dinner. Moments after she left thetable one of the ex-king’s aide’s hastily scurried over and explained that Coccinelle had once been a man. Allegedly, Farouk flipped. Whisper describes overturned tables, broken bottles, the works. Readers are told: The whole Riviera rocked with laughter. The bulging butt of the joke fled to Rome.

Whisper goes on to discuss sperm banks, state prisons, Vladimir Lenin, Josip Tito, and “white” slavery, but probably our favorite story is the one headlined: Do Ex-Prostitutes Make the Best Wives? A pertinent question. And whom did they get to write the answer? The byline says: by an Ex-Prostitute. We just love that. As far as whether Whisper gets any of its facts straight, we can’t really offer a guess, but this issue proves that even ten months after the sale from Harrison to Steirman, it hadn’t quite lost its spark. Things apparently went downhill pretty fast in the next few years, but we’ll judge that for ourselves as we examine more issues. Visit our entire Whisper collection by clicking its keyword at bottom. 

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Sex Files Oct 18 2011
DEAR ABBY
A change is gonna come.

The mid-century tabloid obsession with transsexuals and gender reassignment continues with this issue of The National Insider published today, 1964. This time the subject is Abby Sinclair, who started life as Alvin Sinclair, but changed her sex and—like Coccinelle and Christine Jorgenson before her—became famous on the exotic dance circuit. Somehow Insider got exclusive rights to Sinclair’s story, and ran it as a serial entitled “I Was Male.” The series was later published as a book.

Sinclair, who sources agree had beautiful results with her reassignment, went on to a dual career as a stripper under the management of famed NYC promoter Bobby Colt, and as a manicurist named Alice at the Stage Barbershop in Manhattan. We found this out from a copy of (don’t laugh) The Beaver County Times from June 1965. Our guess is that the manicurist job was an excuse to get close to New York celebs, since her workplace was the preferred haircut stop for the likes of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Tom Poston.

The Times shares an anecdote about a famous columnist who saw Sinclair at Lou Black's Bellydance Emporium one night and recognized her from the barbershop. He sent a note to her only to be informed by Bobby Colt: "That's not Alice, and it's not a girl. That's a guy named Alvin Sinclair from Brooklyn who had one of those operations." Though it sounds as if Colt was turning his own client into a punchline, he really wasn't—the sex change was Sinclair's calling card, and all of her regulars knew she had been a man. For Colt, the more people who knew the story the better. We found nothing more on Abby Sinclair—her moment in history passed quickly. But life goes on, and wherever she went we suspect hers was always eventful. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 6 2011
CHANGING TIMES
Curious George goes to the hospital.

This January 1954 issue of Whisper tells readers about a stripper named Lola Dewitt Stewart who bit a cop, covers a gala Harlem dance, and exposes the voodoo rites of Haitian virgin priestesses. The issue also contains a profile of Christine Jorgensen, the most famous transsexual of her day. Jorgensen—whose name is misspelled "Jorgenson" by Whisper editors—had been born George Jorgensen and had lived unhappily as a male for twenty-five years. After a stint in the Army, he learned about the possibility of becoming more feminine and started by taking hormones, and later travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark to have his male sex organs removed. At the time, Denmark used castration on sexual criminals, which is why the procedure was legal there. Jorgensen, now female in appearance, returned to the U.S. and New York’s Daily News broke her story with one of the most famous headlines in publishing history: Ex-G.I. Becomes Blonde Beauty. Jorgensen parlayed the recognition into a show business career, establishing a blueprint for later transgenders like Coccinelle. Jorgensen finished the last of her reassignment surgeries in the mid-1950s and, now sexually female, continued in show business for many years. She danced in Las Vegas, appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, was voted “Miss Neutral Zone” by American soldiers serving in Korea, and had high-profile romances. Later in her life she reflected that she was proud to have been part of the sexual revolution. “We may not have started it,” she said of herself and other transgenders, “but we gave it a good swift kick in the pants.” 

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Sex Files Aug 2 2010
COCCINELLE FESTIVAL
I know why the caged Ladybug sings.

This golden issue of Confidential from August 1961 contains an article about the one and only Coccinelle, who was a French transsexual performer, almost forgotten outside her home country, but who set the world on fire fifty years ago. Born as Jacques Charles Dufresnoy, he adopted the stage name Coccinelle—Ladybug—in 1953 when he debuted at the nightclub Chez Madame Arthur. At the outset of his career, Coccinelle was a male cross-dresser, but in 1958 he underwent sex change surgery in Morocco with spectacular results, and her re-emergence onto the stage as a woman made her world famous. Adopting the persona of blonde bombshells like Mansfield and Monroe, she was able to parlay her status into film roles, and was also featured in a few shockumentaries, but it was on the stage that she shone, performing at some of France’s most exclusive clubs, including Le Carrousel and Paris Olympia.

Her fame was a controversial subject of course, if not a public obsession, and her marriages caused epic scandals, but also prompted the French government to legalize unions between transgendered participants. By 1989 Coccinelle had moved to Marseilles, where she headlined at the Cabaret Spitz. She was still performing there in April 2006 when she had a stroke. She died after three months of hospitalization, but over forty years she had carved out a successful career, made a difference politically and, at the forefront of her own small sexual revolution, helped scores of people in her exact circumstances. We’ll look for more information on the fascinating Coccinelle at our usual French sources and perhaps report back on her later. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 19
1934—Arrest Made in Lindbergh Baby Case
Bruno Hauptmann is arrested for the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous American aviator. The infant child had been abducted from the Lindbergh home in March 1932, and found decomposed two months later in the woods nearby. He had suffered a fatal skull fracture. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and finally executed by electric chair in April 1936. He proclaimed his innocence to the end
September 18
1919—Pollard Breaks the Color Barrier
Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Pros. Though Pollard is forgotten today, famed sportswriter Walter Camp ranked him as "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen." In another barrier-breaking historical achievement, Pollard later became the co-head coach of the Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back.
1932—Entwistle Leaps from Hollywood Sign
Actress Peg Entwistle commits suicide by jumping from the letter "H" in the Hollywood sign. Her body lay in the ravine below for two days, until it was found by a detective and two radio car officers. She remained unidentified until her uncle connected the description and the initials "P.E." on the suicide note in the newspapers with his niece's two-day absence.
September 17
1908—First Airplane Fatality Occurs
The plane built by Wilbur and Orville Wright, The Wright Flyer, crashes with Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge aboard as a passenger. The accident kills Selfridge, and he becomes the first airplane fatality in history.
1983—First Black Miss America Crowned
Vanessa Williams becomes the first African American Miss America. She later loses her crown when lesbian-themed nude photographs of her are published by Penthouse magazine.
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