Guys, I just saw some incredibly rare— Oh. I was going to say clownfish, but you two have those beat.
A shell collecting vacationer in Florida comes across a damsel in distress during a late night beach walk and she of course draws him into intrigue way over his head. Before he knows it he's stumbled across a corpse and gotten involved in a murder investigation, as the damsel seems less and less like she's in distress as opposed to causing it for others. Author Richard Powell was known for the wit he mixed into his mysteries, and Shell Game is heavy on the repartee—if light on actual mystery. This Dell edition appeared in 1951 and the fun cover art is by Robert Stanley.
Eight... nine... aaaand... ten! You know, my arms have really gained definition since I started weight training with you.
The noble white men vs. savage primitives narrative around the colonization of the New World gets so ingrained in Americans by the time they're adults that for many it can be a shock or even feel like an attack to learn that the colonists killed millions of Native Americans via the most dishonorable and underhanded means. Literature often tries to explore nuances in this scenario, and Frank G. Slaughter's Fort Everglades has the typical set—i.e., it’s acknowledged that the white men constantly break treaties and kill without provocation, thus Seminole leader Chittamicco has understandable grievances, but his response (killing them) is intolerable and for the good of all there’s only one solution (killing him). It always seems to come down to that, but for those willing to accept the obvious historical and moral whitewashing, there are thrills to be found in these books. The hero here is a doctor whose blonde love is kidnapped by Chittamicco, and the cover depicts the moment he hurls the poor girl into gator infested waters. Artist James Meese deserves extra credit for this one. He really captures a dramatic and action packed moment.
Excuse me—there’s a guy in my soup.
Sticking with the recent tabloid theme, above is a National Informer Weekly Reader that hit newsstands today in 1974. Inside is a rather funny story about a Honolulu restaurant called Dunes, which was allegedly staffed by nude waiters. Do we buy this tale? We didn’t at first, but we checked online and sure enough—there was such a place and owner Jack Cione did indeed feature nude waiters during lunch service. We’re for nudity of any sort, male included, but we don’t want any stray dick tips in our shrimp salad, so maybe we’d pass on the actual lunch aspect.
Also in the issue editors ask, “What Ever Happened To June?” That would be British pin-up June Wilkinson, who not been seen on the showbiz circuit since starring with her husband—NFL star Dan Pastorini—in the film Weed: The Florida Connection. After Weed Wilkinson didn’t appear onscreen for eleven years. Occasionally, that’s a sign you’ve made a disastrous movie, and Weed is indeed terrifically bad. We’ll talk about it a bit later. We have eleven more scans from National Informer Weekly Reader below, including a nice shot of Italian sex symbol Nadia Cassini.
What happens in the sticks stays in the sticks.
More hicksploitation from Hallam Whitney, aka Harry Whittington—Backwoods Shack, for Carnival Books, digest format with great cover art by Rudy Nappi. A love triangle in the Florida outback is centered on hot-to-trot “backwoods trash” Lora and her two suitors, uptight Roger and proudly countrified Cliff. 1954 copyright.
I can hear you back there, Randy Joe. If you’s pluckin’ your twanger again I’m gonna tell pa.
One of the early cover collections we put together dealt with the theme of women interrupted while skinny-dipping—i.e. swimming naked, for our non-U.S. readers. Above is a fun addition to that group—Hillbilly Nympho, written by Bob Tralins, for Rendezvous Reader books, published 1961. This was also put out the same year by Tuxedo Books as Naked Hills. Tralins, a few of you may remember, was the man who ghost-wrote Pleasure Was My Business, the infamous tell-all about the South Florida prostitution trade by flesh peddler Madame Sherry, aka Ruth Barnes. The book was banned in Florida and prompted a massive lawsuit from the former king of Egypt, Farouk I, who Madame Sherry had named as one of her best customers. We talked about that way back. See here.
Sorry to barge in. Remember you said your life was total shit and couldn’t possibly get worse? The sheriff is here with a county crew—he says he has to bulldoze your shack.
We’ve already shared Robert McGinnis covers twice this month, but since it’s in the charter of pretty much every pulp website to feature him constantly, here’s another contribution—Deadly Welcome, written by John D. MacDonald, 1959, for Dell Publishing. Probably a substantial proportion of you have read this, but if not, it deals with a government employee sent by the Defense Department back to his home town, the fictional Ramona Beach, Florida, to locate a missing government scientist. Top marks.
Two’s company, and three’s most definitely a crowd.
As we’ve stated several times before, we’re always willing to do our small part to help out desperate publicity hounds, so above you see a photo of Jasmine Tridevil, a 21-year-old woman from Florida who claimed recently to have had a third breast implanted in the middle of her chest to bolster her efforts to become a reality star. Of course, this is a total Photoshop job. We don’t have to tell you that, right? Having worked at the international capital of bad breast implants—the august smut mill known as Playboy—we can tell you that an implanted breast could never look like this udderly ridiculous blob hanging from Tridevil’s torso. The tautness created by adding mass under existing skin means an artificial breast would come out looking something like half a grapefruit glued to the chest.
For a good example of a real result, check out Brian Zembic, just right, who had breasts implanted several years ago for reasons we can’t remember right now. We know it hurts the eyes, but that’s what boobs built from scratch look like. We have to say this, though—obvious hoax notwithstanding, Tridevil has already achieved most of her goal. Consider—four days ago nobody had ever heard of her, and now she’s trending all over social media. American television being the morass it is, you can be sure networks the breadth of the cable dial are scrambling to get her into their studios for a tête-à-tête.
Generating that level of interest while demonstrating zero talent is—paradoxically—kind of a talent. We know. We know. It sounds like we've given up hoping actual ability means anything anymore, but you have to admit it—would anyone have paid Tridevil attention if she knew how to play Chopin? That's a highly doubtful proposition. So here’s to her oh-so-fleeting fifteen minutes—to be followed, of course, by the unfurling of her entire life, its cruel dissection by the media, and her inevitable, teary-eyed flameout.
Confidential goes full throttle on the high seas.
On this Confidential from February 1965 the publishers give their cut-and-paste artists a month off and grace the cover with a simple portrait of Brigitte Bardot and her famed pout. Inside the editors air out her love life in a way that today would be called slut shaming—pretty much stock-in-trade for Confidential. The suggestion is she won’t come to the U.S. to act because she’s busy Morockin’ around the clock with Moroccan-born producer Bob Zaguri. Elsewhere in the issue you get Romy Schneider, Jean Harlow, Alain Delon, Peter O’Toole, love behind the Iron Curtain, and an outraged report on pharmaceutical companies marking up medicines 200%, 500%, even 7,000%. Yes, medicines cost too much in the U.S. even back then. But don’t take our word for it. Take Confidential’s—their story ends by declaring that drug companies have Americans by the balls and the only way to avoid the drug price racket is to not get sick.
But moving on, as we mentioned last week, we wanted to look at tabloid attitudes toward gay culture, and this issue has two articles along those lines. The first involves gay cruises off the Florida coast, an activity Confidential informs readers was devised as a way to avoid Dade County vice cops. Once the boats were in international waters therewas no law, local or federal, which could be applied against shipboard activities. We’ll come back to that in a sec. The other story involves what Confidential describes as the middlesex—i.e. people who lack strong masculine or feminine characteristics. The story is concerned with this only as a social issue and makes no mention of physically intersex persons who genetically are neither male nor female.
For Confidential the issue is simple—men are no longer macho enough and women are no longer (submissively) alluring enough. Of course, gay men are the ultimate villains here, and to make the topic emotional for readers Confidential paints a picture of an America devoid of Jayne Mansfields and Lana Turners. The article’s author Harold Cimoli sums it up this way: “As female busts and hips grow ever narrower even Playboy may have trouble keeping its broad-watchers supplied with bosomy playmates.” And there’s also this tidbit: “Designers of both types of clothing are poaching unforgivably on the styles of each other. The main hope must be the evolution of an entirely new style of ensemble for these new phenomena and a new branch of the industry to supply it.” Were they really this comically worried about visual identification issues? Of course they were—what could be more disturbing to guardians of a prevailing social structure than people managing to wriggle out of their pre-assigned boxes?
The story on gay cruises is a bit more typical of mid-century tabloids—it’s just a takedown piece. Gay men are blithely described as “lavender lads,” “minces,” and other words we wouldn’t dare dirty our website with. The effusiveness of the magazine’s hateful and sneerful terminology suggestsjust how certain Confidential editors were that homosexuality was completely beyond the pale. And yet, nearly every issue harped on the subject, either directly or indirectly. For instance, here we get full reportage on a maritime cabaret show featuring drag queens, followed by detailed descriptions of music, dancing, and gambling. You’d almost think the writer Gaye Bird—nice, right?—was actually there.
The cruise is eventually reported to the boat rental agency in Miami, whose owner vows that he will never again allow his vessels to be used for such debauchery. The response from the organizer of the cruises was this: “There are approximately one-hundred thousand boats or ships of some sort or another. I think we’ll be able to find some way to balance supply and demand.” Ouch—zinged right in the Econ 101s. Doubtless Confidential expected the congressional switchboard to light up over this outrageous appropriation of boats meant for exclusively heterosexual usage, but whether it happened we can’t say—the story ends there. And Confidential readers were left to endure thirty days of disquiet until the next gay bashing issue came out. We won't wait quite that long—we'll explore this subject in another tabloid soon. More scans below.
A very bad end to a very bad night.
The above mugshot shows burlesque queen Bettie Page after being arrested in Hialeah, Florida. In response to an emergency call, police arrived at a local residence to find Page in the front yard battering her former husband Harry Lear. We can’t help but note that if Florida’s Stand Your Ground law had been on the books back then, Lear could have simply shot Page dead, no muss, no fuss. But Florida had a semi-sane legal code at the time, so when the police arrived they hauled her off to the precinct. That was in the wee hours today in 1972.
Thirty-eight years later the FBI still can’t get him Hoffa their list of troublesome unsolved cases.
One of the most famous missing persons in American history is back in the news. The FBI is searching a field in suburban Detroit where they've been informed long missing and presumably murdered Teamsters labor union president Jimmy Hoffa was buried. Hoffa disappeared in July 1975 from the parking lot of a Detroit restaurant and was never seen again.
The new search is occurring because an ex-Mafia underboss named Tony Zerilli told the Detroit TV station WDIV in February that he knew where Hoffa was buried. Zerilli says Hoffa was bound, gagged, smacked on the head with a shovel and buried alive. Why did he come forward now? You guessed it—he’s promoting a book. Did he actually see Hoffa get the brutal treatment he descibes? No, he was told about it—if he’d been there personally that would constitute a crime, right?
Will Hoffa actually turn up? Hard to say. The FBI is making noises that Zerilli is a credible source, but we think two other factors are just as important in triggering this search—Hoffa’s place in American cold case lore is a longtime thorn in the FBI’s side, and, probably of more importance, the Hoffa family remains prominent even today, with one of his sons serving as the current Teamsters president and one of his daughters a former circuit judge. Zerilli says he was told Hoffa was buried beneath a concrete slab inside a barn. The barn has since been razed but the FBI are bringing in heavy equipment to dig up the area. Zerilli’s report is believable in at least one sense—Hoffa has been reported to be buried everywhere from the Florida Everglades to the New Jersey Meadowlands, but the field where the FBI is searching is just a short distance from where he was last seen alive.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1986—Jimmy Cagney Dies
American movie actor James Francis Cagney, Jr., who played a variety of roles in everything from romances to musicals but was best known as a quintessential tough guy, dies of a heart attack at his farm in Stanfordville, New York at the age of eighty-six.
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.
1910—First Seaplane Takes Flight
Frenchman Henri Fabre, who had studied airplane and propeller designs and had also patented a system of flotation devices, accomplishes the first take-off from water at Martinque, France, in a plane he called Le Canard, or "the duck."
1953—Jim Thorpe Dies
American athlete Jim Thorpe, who was one of the most prolific sportsmen ever and won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football at the collegiate and professional levels, and also played professional baseball and basketball, dies of a heart attack.
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