Vintage Pulp Jun 8 2014
TAKE YOUR PIC
All celebrities great and small.


We’ve featured Pic magazine only once before, but not because it was an unimportant publication. Quite the opposite—we’ve seen issues as early as 1936 and as late as 1958, making it both a Depression and World War II survivor, presumably no easy feat and certainly a run indicative of sustained popularity. Early issues seemed focused on sports, but it soon broadened to include celebrities. It was launched by Wagner Publications of New York City, and this issue appeared in June 1952 with a cover featuring actress Suzan Ball placing a crown on the head of Akton Miller, a man Pic had chosen as its Hot Rod King. Inside you get a raft of Hollywood stars, including photos of Yvonne De Carlo in Uruguay, Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh, and Joan Vohs, shots of New York Giants manager Leo Durocher and his beautiful actress wife Laraine Day, and some nice boxing pictures. There’s also an interesting feature on the day’s top vocalists (with African-Americans notably excluded), and a profile of crooner Tony Bennett. 

But it’s Suzan Ball’s story we’re interested in today. Her path to show business was so typical of the period as to be almost banal—she was spotted in a Santa Maria, California newspaper after winning a cake baking contest. Universal-International scouts thought she looked a bit like Jane Russell, so they swept her up, shuttled her down Highway 101, signed her to a contract and began selling her as a hot new Tinseltown commodity, proclaiming her the New Cinderella Girl of ’52. Soon the influential columnist Hedda Hopper took up the refrain, naming her one of the most important new stars of 1953, thus ensuring that year would belong to Ball.

It was then that her train to stardom jumped the tracks. She injured her leg performing a dance number in East of Sumatra, and later in the year had a car accident and hurt the leg again. Treatment for those two injuries led to the discovery of a cancerous tumor. Soon afterward she fell and broke the limb, and when doctors decided they couldn’t remove the tumor they instead took the entire the leg. That was in January 1954. Ball soldiered on in her show business career with an artificial leg, starring in Chief Crazy Horse, though she lost fifteen pounds during the production, and later playing nightclub dates and appearing on television shows. In July 1955 she collapsed while rehearsing for the show Climax, whereupon doctors discovered the cancer had metastasized and spread to her lungs. A month later she died at age twenty-one. We have about fifty scans below.

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Hollywoodland Nov 8 2012
FULL COURT SUPPRESSED
Suppressed was in rare form in November 1955.


Above is the cover of the NYC based tabloid Suppressed from this month in 1955. This issue shows Suppressed in full bloom—bold, brash, fearless. Within the next two years a series of Hollywood lawsuits against scandal magazines would begin to make editors wary of being dragged into court for committing libel and slander, but 1955 was still the heyday for celeb bashing, and Supressed engaged in what might be best described as open warfare against film stars. Here’s a small sampling of some of the gut punches in this magazine:

Marlon Brando: silly.
 
Anita Ekberg: egocentric, a martyr.
 
Rita Gam: the all-time fizzle of 1955, a bad actress, with a figure that leaves something to be desired.
 
Judy Holliday: pudgy.
 
Marilyn Monroe: childishly immature, with an inferiority complex.
 
Debbie Reynolds: inane.
 
Gloria Vanderbilt: unable to think of anyone besides herself; has more neuroses than acting talents.
 
Robert Wagner: pompous, unintelligent.
 
We could go on, but you get the point. We’ve written many times on this website that nothing in media is truly new, and this is yet another example. Click over to any muckraking celebrity blog right now and you’d think journalism, as well as simple grammar, went down the toilet around the year 2000. But no, they were always in the toilet. Remember, Suppressed and its brethren Confidential, Whisper, On the QT, Hush-Hush, et.al., were not fringe. By itself Confidential was thebiggest newsstand seller in the U.S. These publications were powerful. Like modern American cable news, they assumed leading roles in making the public swallow false political memes—a commie under every bed, a black man in every bed, and the loose women who made it all possible.
 
But unlike today’s fawning cable news, Suppressed was generally scornful toward the rich. For instance, this issue discusses millionaires’ secret playgrounds while parking quotation marks around words like “classy,” and “the right people.” The actual playgrounds are described as “last stand” resorts, where the rich can feel safe from the rabble of middle class America. A few pages later the editors decry nepotism in Hollywood, naming a dozen famous actors and actresses who allegedly got their start because of mommy and daddy’s money. All in all, Suppressed is a head spinning mixture, and at the end of each issue a typical reader was probably convinced of one thing—the only good people in the world were those who were exactly like him.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 7 2012
HARD 8
And the winner for Best Actress in a movie she absolutely hated—Elizabeth Taylor!

The 1960 melodrama BUtterfield 8—the capital BU being a phone exchange in New York City—was probably one of the most contentious productions in which Elizabeth Taylor was ever involved. Because she had just gotten her name splashed all over every tabloid on the planet for stealing the husband of America’s sweetheart Debbie Reynolds, and because her contract with MGM was ending and she wasn’t coming back to the studio, the suits decided to capitalize on her freshly ruined reputation by casting her as the promiscuous Gloria Wandrous. If the last name feels like a mash-up of “wondrous” and “wandering,” that’s an apt description for the character, who’s a home-wrecking maneater. But the studio suits weren’t done. Just to make sure the scandal rags were all over the story, they cast the man Taylor had stolen in real life—Eddie Fisher—in the film as well. Their goal seemed to be to generate attention and they succeeded. BUtterfield 8 was a success and Taylor snagged an Academy Award for her efforts, but she hated the film. The story goes that she threw her shoes at the screen the first time she saw it. The Japanese posters you see above are exceedingly rare. The first has never appeared online before, we're pretty sure; the second version, in pink with the unusual capital BU in the title, we found at an auction site. We can’t help but think even Elizabeth Taylor would have liked them. 

Update: Oops, we forgot we had a third vesion of the poster. An unusual all black edition. We've uploaded it below, butter late than never. Heh. Um...

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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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Vintage Pulp May 23 2011
LADY LUCK
Two for the money.

Here’s a curious item we ran across at our favorite vintage memorabilia shop. It’s a Japanese promo poster for Viva Las Vegas, which… hey, wait a sec. Where’s Elvis? Where’s Ann-Margret? And who are these imposters? Well, turns out Elvis’s immortal Viva Las Vegas was not the first. The first film of that title starred Cyd Charisse, Dan Dailey and Agnes Moorehead, and was released in 1956. During its U.S. run it was known as Meet Me in Las Vegas, but for its international release the title was changed. Plotwise, you’ve got a flick here with a central gimmick that’s just begging to be recycled in a modern romcom. Get this—Dailey discovers that whenever he’s at the gambling tables he cannot lose as long as he’s holding hands with Charisse. If it sounds intolerably cute, well, what do you expect? It’s a mid-century musical. Actually though, the movie isn’t top notch, due mainly to some less-than-stellar acting in parts, but you do get to see Las Vegas as it was before it became the consumerist dystopia it is today, and you get cameos from Vic Damone, Sammy Davis, Jr., Debbie Reynolds, Frankie Laine, Lena Horne and others. Well worth a look. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 20 2011
APRIL SHOWERS
They’re only happy when it rains.

Is it pulp? Maybe not, but we reserve the right to step outside the parameters of our own website on those occasions we see something that warrants it. This poster for Singin’ in the Rain, with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, was produced for the film’s U.S. premiere. The movie was not particularly popular when released, but today it’s considered one of the best musicals ever made. It hit screens for the first time this month in 1952. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 28 2011
OVERDRESSED AND UNDERAPPRECIATED
1970s-era Police Gazette was pretty, colorful and well-designed—but nobody wanted to buy it.

Above are the cover and seven interior pages from a National Police Gazette published in March 1974, two years before the century-old magazine folded. In retrospect it’s easy to see one of the problems the Gazette was having: while the graphics, printing, photo quality and paper stock had all improved over the years, the magazine had lost its visual impact. At the time, editors must have thought they had made the magazine more attractive, but can the above cover really compare to this one, or this one, or this one? Successful competitors like National Enquirer featured little or no color, but the immediacy of their covers was hard to resist.

Part of the rationale behind the Gazette’s change may have had to do with its decades-long circulation decline, prompting them to do away with photo-illustrated covers in favor of cheaper promo shots. Or perhaps their longtime cover artisans simply aged and retired, taking their singular talents with them. Or perhaps new editors came aboard and decided to modernize—the default move of managers who have no aesthetic clue. Who knows? We just know that the results speak for themselves. But we’ll keep collecting even these late-period Gazettes because they’re useful in presenting a complete record of the publication. We’re going to go out a limb and say that we now have the largest compendium of Gazette pages on the internet. See them by clicking keywords “Police Gazette” below. 

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Vintage Pulp Feb 25 2011
THE SECRET OF THEIR SUCCESS
Top Secret says scandals are good for stars’ bank accounts, but what else would a scandal rag claim?

Here’s a fascinating February 1960 issue of the mid-century tabloid Top Secret with a selection of dish on the celebs of the day. Of particular note is the item on Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor. Top Secret claims scandals made them the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. What were the scandals? Well, in 1958 Lana Turner’s teenaged daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed mob enforcer Johnny Stompanato to death. The sensational murder trial that followed ended in Crane’s acquittal on the grounds of justifiable homicide, i.e., Stompanato had been beating Turner and Crane put a stop to it. As for Taylor, her scandal involved taking Eddie Fisher away from his wife, the incredibly popular and beloved singer/actress Debbie Reynolds. Later the same year Taylor agreed to star in Cleopatra for a million dollars—an astonishing sum at the time. But while Top Secret draws a direct line between this kind of pay and a messy personal life, there’s another possible consideration. In light of Lana Turner’s 1958 Academy Award nomination, and Elizabeth Taylor’s eventual five nominations and two wins, maybe the two were highly paid because of their talent. It’s just crazy enough to be true. 

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Intl. Notebook Sep 1 2010
YOU DON'T KNOW JACK
Fifty years ago one big question about Kennedy was whether he was the puppet of a foreign religion. Sound familiar?

The National Police Gazette hits all bases in this vibrant September 1959 issue, telling us about Billie Holiday’s heroin woes, Carmen Basilio’s feud with Sugar Ray Robinson, Mickey Mantle’s lack of respect from his employers, and Debbie Reynolds' divorce. But we’re focused on the John F. Kennedy article. Just fifty years ago Americans were suspicious enough of Catholics that Kennedy’s opponents were able to exploit his religion during his campaign for president. The far right Aryan Knights are quoted from a press release: The Romanist church organization insolently pretends to temporal authority over various governments and people of the world, including our own United States. The League goes on to claim that Rome wants Catholicism established as America’s state religion, and that those who refuse to conform will be prosecuted or destroyed.

Hmm... The leaders of an overseas religion want to take over America using the President as a Trojan Horse? Why does that ring a bell? Merrill J. Fox, head of the Federal Party, said: “Kennedy is bound to carry his religion over into politics. He does it now, subconsciously. Kennedy wouldn’t be good for our country because he isn’t his own boss.” Interesting, no? These fearmongers are basically forgotten today, consigned to that copious dustbin of history which is home to some of the most odious loudmouths who ever emerged from the woodwork. But at the time these guys made a fine living. And when you revisit some of their laughable assertions, it becomes clear that green—not red, white and blue—was their focus. Put another way, you'll never go broke telling people what to be afraid of. With regard to our current era, there’s an old saying that applies: The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Because people have incredibly short political memories, it seems like a good time to update this piece and be a little less coy about our insinuations. We're writing now in 2018. At the time we wrote the original post there had been three years of suggestions that Barack Obama had a secret muslim agenda directed from somewhere or other in the Middle East, or possibly Africa. These days, now that Obama's stint in the White House has come and gone with no forced conversion in America to sharia law, people will try to pretend the fear campaign never happened, partly because they now know it's embarrassingly stupid to have believed it. But tens of millions of conservative voters did believe it, thanks to a drumbeat heard mainly on far right radio from 2007, through the presidential campaigns, and into the first couple of years of Obama's presidency. As we said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 14
1911—Team Reaches South Pole
Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, along with his team Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel, and Oscar Wisting, becomes the first person to reach the South Pole. After a celebrated career, Amundsen eventually disappears in 1928 while returning from a search and rescue flight at the North Pole. His body is never found.
December 13
1944—Velez Commits Suicide
Mexican actress Lupe Velez, who was considered one of the great beauties of her day, commits suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. In her note, Velez says she did it to avoid bringing shame on her unborn child by giving birth to him out of wedlock, but many Hollywood historians believe bipolar disorder was the actual cause. The event inspired a 1965 Andy Warhol film entitled Lupe.
1958—Gordo the Monkey Lost After Space Flight
After a fifteen minute flight into space on a Jupiter AM-13 rocket, a monkey named Gordo splashes down in the South Pacific but is lost after his capsule sinks. The incident sparks angry protests from the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but NASA says animals are needed for such tests.
December 12
1968—Tallulah Bankhead Dies
American actress, talk show host, and party girl Tallulah Bankhead, who was fond of turning cartwheels in a dress without underwear and once made an entrance to a party without a stitch of clothing on, dies in St. Luke's Hospital in New York City of double pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
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