Hollywoodland Jun 5 2012
MARIE'S MISCHIEF
Bold McDonald spun a yarn.

Today we’re back to the mid-century tabloid Exposed, with a cover from this month 1957 featuring Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine, Yul Brenner, Sid Caesar and Rita Hayworth. In the middle of the cover, you see a shot of a bruised and worried Marie McDonald. The photo was taken just after she was found on January 4 wandering in the desert near Indio, California. The tale soon spread across Hollywood like wildfire—that she had been abducted at gunpoint from her home the night of January 3 by two swarthy men who demanded her rings, her money, and her body. The last demand had a certain resonance. McDonald had gotten famous using the nickname “The Body.” The possibility that two swarthy men—one black and one Mexican—had defiled it was, in 1957, simply incendiary.

McDonald’s story began to fall apart immediately. She claimed rape, but doctors found no evidence. The note left by kidnappers at her house was made up of words clipped from newspapers found in the fireplace. To the cops, it seemed unlikely that kidnappers would, under the circumstances,take the time to make a note from paper and glue. They also learned that McDonald had made three phone calls during the time she was missing—none to police.

But McDonald was in a battered state, with scrapes, bruises, and two broken crowns. And she stuck to her story—nighttime, bedtime, a noise in her yard, a lean out the window, and a man lurking right there with a sawed-off. The noise had been made by a second man to draw her to the window. McDonald said the men took half an hour to make a note and discuss their plans, then bundled her into a car. About the phone calls, she said she barely managed to sneak to the phone and was disoriented and had no idea who to call. When the kidnappers heard the mounting news coverage about the crime, they decided she was “too hot” to keep and dumped her in the desert, sending her tumbling down a 25-foot embankment. And then there was the matter of the unidentified males who had called people close to McDonald with threats.

By January 5, McDonald’s ex-husband Harry Karl was offering up some juicy quotes to the press. Among them: “Marie is a very sick woman. I believe she left of her own accord.” He had received one of the calls from the kidnappers, but wasn’t buying it for a minute. He said, “She has done some very strange things in the past.” Police soon learned that the kidnap tale resembled the plot of Sylvia Tate's comedic novel The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown, which happened to be among the books McDonald had in her home. There was little doubt now in the minds of authorities that the whole situation was an elaborate hoax, but McDonald was a celebrity and so the police dutifully arrested suspects, continued investigating, and by January 17 sent the whole messy affair to a grand jury.

The day McDonald arrived to give her testimony she said, “I’m not looking forward to this. I don’t see how I can convince 19 men if I can’t convince the police.” She was right. The grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence of a crime and the matter was dropped. In retrospect, McDonald was probably lucky not to have been prosecuted herself. Perhaps the fact that she had retained Hollywood super lawyer Jerry Giesler helped her there. In any case, the Marie McDonald kidnapping went into the history books as yet another Hollywood conundrum.

McDonald’s career as a popular performer had been more or less finished for ten years, but she had remained on the fringes of the news thanks to her marriages—seven of them—and her many famous friends.The events of 1957 had put her front and center again, but it was the last time, until she died of an accidental Seconal overdose—or was it suicide?—in 1965. Two months later, her husband Donald F. Taylor, overdosed in the same room, using the same bottle of pills.

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Hollywoodland Dec 29 2011
NERVES OF STEEL
Tinseltown proves fatal to yet another celebrity marriage.

This issue of the tabloid Exposed, with cover stars Anita Ekberg, Tony Steel, Edward G. Robinson, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor, has a rather pleasing color scheme, but the usual rumor-mongering and innuendo inside. The “true story” of Anita Ekberg’s sudden wedding to Tony Steel isn’t really all that scintillating. Steel had met Ekberg when they worked together on the British motion picture Storm Over the Nile, which was filmed in 1955 and released the last week of December. Steel was smitten from the moment he saw Ekberg. In fact, he was so in love with her that he decided to break his contract with the film production company The Rank Organisation and follow her to Hollywood. They married in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, on 22 May, 1956, in a civil ceremony that was open to the public (the couple had asked the city government to bar spectators from the event but the request had been denied).

The press, however were restricted to a roped area just outside, which happened to be near a famous statue of David. According to several of the reporters present, when Ekberg passed by the nude sculpture after the ceremony she glanced up at its endowment and quipped, “My! Almost as big as Frank Sinatra’s.” You just knew Sinatra was involved in this somewhere, right? It’s like there were six or seven of him wandering around during the 1950s, so often does he pop up in other people’s personal business. Anyway, that statue of David—which is a copy of Michelangelo’s original masterpiece that stands in the Galleria dell’Accademiahas an incredibly small penis proportionate to the eighteen-foot-high body. At least, it seems small to us. Ahem. But we can assume Ekberg’s comment meant just the opposite, and concerned the non-proportionate size of the organ—i.e., quite a handful, taken on its own merits.

Now, should a bride really start married life with a public comment about another man’s dick? We think not, but we’re old-fashioned that way. Ekberg and Steel jetted off to Hollywood, where both hoped to expand their film careers. For Ekberg, that’s exactly what happened. But Steel struggled, possibly because of vitriol emanating from The Rank Organisation. He did find some work, but never attained the stature hecraved. In short order, his marriage to Ekberg was in trouble, their domestic woes either exacerbated by or rooted in his career problems. Either that or he never forgave her for that Sinatra comment. We kid, of course. Steel and Ekberg had serious difficulties, but Frankie wasn't one of them. In any case, in 1959 the couple divorced, and Tony Steel was pretty much yesterday’s news. Life goes on, after all, in the tabloids and in the world. 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 6 2011
EURO EXPOSURE
Sabrina slips her top in London and Ava replaces her Spanish bullfighter with an Italian actor.

This issue of Exposed from October 1957 gives top billing to British sex symbol Sabrina, aka Norma Ann Sykes, and tells us she lost her dress in the street and caused a riot. How did it happen? During a public appearance in London someone supposedly stepped on the hem of her dress. The garment came off, the Brits went bonkers over her 41-inch bare bust, and Sabrina was so distressed that she fainted, so we’re told. Is this story true? We tend to think so, because Exposed goes on to ponder whether the whole fiasco was a publicity stunt. Their ruminations lend the tale just the right element of verisimilitude, so we’re going to say yes, it probably happened. Also on the cover of Exposed, like clockwork, appears Ava Gardner. Readers are told she’s doing the dirty with Italian actor Walter Chiari. This would have been after splitting with Frank Sinatra but before the official divorce. But wait—didn’t we just write about her seeing Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín while also still married to Frankie? Come on people—that was so 1956. Sometimes you have to wonder how Gardner had time for all these affairs, but let’s just say that if she liked a man she always found a way to squeeze him in.  

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Vintage Pulp Aug 31 2011
LOSING AVA
The pain in Spain stays mainly in the brain.

The cover of this December 1956 issue of the American tabloid Exposed offers teasers on Kim Novak, Laurence Olivier, and Hollywood bad boy William Holden, but it's Ava Gardner who's front and center as readers learn about her mingling with Spanish bullfighters. Gardner had been introduced to the spectacle of the plaza de toros several years earlier by Ernest Hemingway, and she became a fixture at both the fights and on the Madrid social circuit. Since she was married to Frank Sinatra, this was of great interest to U.S. readers, not to mention Sinatra himself, and all the tabloids were reporting on it. The publicity didn’t help what was already a stormy marriage. Gardner eventually pursued and bedded matador Luis Miguel Dominguín, and not very discreetly. Everyone knew. Sinatra knew, and it tortured him. His buddy Humphrey Bogart rebuked Gardner, telling her, “Half the world’s female population would throw themselves at Frank’s feet and you are flouncing around with guys who wear capes and ballerina slippers.” Sinatra knew he was losing the love of his life, and he wasn't about to let it happen without a fight. He flew to Spain in a desperate bid to win his wife back, but it was no use—seven months after this Exposed hit newsstands, he and Gardner were divorced. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 30 2011
CALENDAR GIRL
Early 1972 triggered a major growth spurt in certain sectors.

We have another old calendar page today (we’ve found these to be a good source of promo imagery). This one, for the first four months of 1972, features everyone’s favorite Swedish sexploitation and pinku actress Christina Lindberg. The calendar promotes her 1971 film Exposed, aka Exponerad, and quite effectively we might add. The flipside appears below.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 15 2011
HURRICANE RITA
Kicking ass and taking names.

Today we have another copy of the tabloid Exposed, this one from March 1957 with a nice shot of actress and dancer Rita Moreno on the cover. The text beneath her claims she battles the cops, and inside she’s referred to as a “cop fighting wildcat.” Why? Because in June 1955 Moreno slapped an LAPD officer three times across the mouth and kicked him because he was arresting her boyfriend George Hormel II for marijuana possession. It’s lucky for Rita the taser hadn’t been invented yet. If it had, we suspect she would have learned the electric boogaloo the hard way. In any case, she got away with it and has gone on to sustain her screen and stage career over five more decades, winning multiple awards and earning a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. 

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Vintage Pulp Mar 3 2011
FULL EXPOSURE
Exposed arrives on the scene late, never quite gets up to speed.

Tabloid month continues with the New York City-based Exposed, one of the middle tier entrants onto the scandal sheet scene. The magazine came on the scene a bit later than the heavyweights, at a time when the tabloid market was already packed with better-produced, better-funded rivals. Little wonder then, that Exposed folded quickly—we’ve seen issues numbering up to 18 but no further. Inside this March 1956 issue, numbered 4, we have the usual victims—Brando, Lili St. Cyr, and Ali Khan. The clever lawyer mentioned here in connection with St. Cyr is Jerry Giesler. You see St. Cyr and Giesler hugging below, just after St. Cyr’s acquittal in Los Angeles from charges of indecent exposure at the nightclub Ciro’s. We talked about the trial a couple of years ago, but since then, the website Paradise Released has posted a more detailed version of that unusual day in court. We recommend giving it a read. And if you just can’t get enough, there’s another recent account at Pincurlmag, here, with some additional details. We’ll have more from Exposed, including some interior pages, a little later. 

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Femmes Fatales Nov 3 2010
ONE MOORE TIME
I’m gonna love you just little, Moore baby.

American actress Cleo Moore, seen here in a Columbia Pictures promo still used for the 1956 drama Over-Exposed, in which she starred with Richard Crenna. Moore was one of half a dozen actresses who found fame during a wave of blonde mania that gripped Hollywood just after Marilyn set the town on fire.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 9 2010
LIVING THE HUSH LIFE
Hush-Hush News publisher Myron Fass was the king of sleaze.

Hush-Hush News is a fresh addition to the Pulp Intl. tabloid collection, and though it’s an obscure imprint, it was owned by Myron Fass, who was one of the kings of American sleaze publishing during the sixties and seventies. He started as a comic book artist in 1946, and worked in that field until the mid 1950s. The satire magazine Lunatickle was his first publishing venture, and he moved into tabloid publishing soon afterward. Fass specialized in one-offs—editions meant to be printed only once. During the height of his empire he published fifty titles a month, covering any subject matter he thought would sell—wrestling, UFOs, punk music, horror movies, conspiracy, psychic phenomena, and so forth. His celebrity mags included Cockeyed, Exposed, The National Mirror, and Pic, all of which we’ll show you later. The above paper hit the streets today in 1971, and it features the usual combination of sexual teasing and race-baiting, but the most interesting thing to us is the shift we see inside from old to new school Hollywood. People like Stacy Keach, Patty Duke, and Steve McQueen are featured, while Hollywood gods like Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant have virtually faded from the scene. But the new school stars perhaps didn’t capture imaginations like the old guard, because in a few more years, a market that had once been glutted with tabloids would feature only a few. We’ll have more issues of Hush-Hush News in the future. 

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Femmes Fatales Aug 20 2009
DOUBLE EXPOSURE
Lindberg is always worth a second look.

Swedish actress Christina Lindberg, who appeared in the pinku classic Sex & Fury, seen here on two promo posters for the sexploitation flick Exponerad, aka Exposed, 1971. These images have never appeared on the internet before.     

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 24
1929—Stock Market Crashes
Black Thursday, a catastrophic crash on the New York Stock Exchange, occurs when the value of stocks suddenly declines and continues to decline for a month. The event leads to a subsequent crash in world stock prices and precipitates the Great Depression. This after famous economist Irving Fisher had declared that stock prices had reached a permanently high plateau.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
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