Rumors of her demise were greatly exaggerated.
We've featured the Canadian tabloid Midnight numerous times. This one appeared on newsstands today in 1968. On the cover readers get a headline referring to Robert F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated the previous month. His name is accompanied by a prediction that his killer, Jordanian nationalist Sirhan Sirhan, would in turn be assassinated. It wasn't an outrageous prediction—during the late 1960s newsworthy figures were being dropped like three foot putts. Sirhan was never murdered, though, and he's still around today, languishing at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County, California.
Sirhan is an interesting character, but it's the story on Susan Denberg we're interested in today. Denberg, née Dietlinde Zechner, is a German born beauty who became a Playboy Playmate of the Year and screen actress, was a desired Hollywood party girl who had relationships with Hugh Hefner and Jim Brown, and was generally regarded as one of the major sex symbols of her time. But she also became a drug addict. After making the 1968 film Frankenstein Created Woman Denberg returned to Europe and shunned the movie business. In fact, she kept such a low profile that for years sources incorrectly reported that she had died.
Midnight journo John Wilson claims to have visited Denberg in a Vienna mental hospital near the beginning of her self-imposed exile, and his article is basically a recounting of his chat with her. He describes her depressing surroundings and portrays her as a sort of broken bird, quoting her as saying, “I was a real party girl, going out every night, dating one man after another, running around doing wild things like getting drunk and dancing nude at parties. And then someone got me started on LSD and it made everything seem so clear. It was wonderful. Only I couldn't keep away from it, and after a while that was all I was doing, staying in my room and dropping LSD.”
In 1971 Denberg had a child, and by 1972 was making her living on the nudie bar circuit, working as a topless server at the adult cinema Rondell in Vienna, and later dancing fully nude at another Vienna nightspot called Renz. She also worked elsewhere in Europe, including Geneva, where in 1974 she tried to commit suicide by swallowing a reported 200 sleeping pills, an amount that surely would have been fatal had she not been quickly found and sped to a hospital. In 1976 she became a mother again and retired from nude dancing. Today she lives quietly in Vienna.
Denberg's story is filled with twists and turns, and yet it isn't unique in a place like Hollywood. As she makes clear, once enough power brokers, modeling agents, and studio types tell a woman she's special she's probably going to believe them, but once she believes them it's hard for her to keep her head on straight. She sums up her journey to Midnight, “They told me I was beautiful enough to go all the way to the top. They told me about all the fun up there, the kicks. They never told me about the booze and the drugs, the long slide down.”
Just don't get on her bad side. She can be a real monster.
Yesterday we talked about the cute werewolves in The Howling, and today, speaking of monsters, we have a 1985 photo of Italian model and actress Dalila Di Lazzaro. What's monstrous about her? She appeared in Mario Mancini's 1972 horror film Frankenstein ’80 and 1973's Andy Warhol's Frankenstein, and in the latter she was the female monster. That's called casting against type.
If she ever gets her hands on the agent who talked her into that Frankenstein movie there’ll be hell to pay.
Above, French actress Yvonne Furneaux, née Elisabeth Yvonne Scarcherd, seen here in a set photo made when she was filming 1960's La dolce vita. After appearing in more than thirty films between 1952 and 1972, she made only one more movie—1984’s disastrously bad Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie—and has been retired ever since.
From Guanajay to Hollywood in a single bound.
Estelita Rodriguez was born in Guanajay, Cuba in 1928, signed with MGM at the tender age of fourteen, signed with Republic at seventeen, and appeared in such films as Tropical Heat Wave, Rio Bravo, and the unforgettable Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. This promo shot dates from 1945 and was made when she was playing the character of Lupita in the musical Mexicana with Tito Guízar and Constance Moore.
Ever get the feeling you're being watched?
Above are three dust jackets for the classics of macabre literature Frankenstein, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, and Dracula, by Shelley, Poe, and Stoker respectively. These books are photoplay editions, i.e. novelizations of silent film source material. The editions usually had a handful of production photos inside, as well as film production credits. Basically, these were seen as forms of advertisement for the movies, and back then it was the books people were interested in, not the dust jackets. As a result, the jackets were not well treated by owners, and often were thrown away. That may seem strange, looking at the art above, but it’s true. Picture an old movie. Any old movie. And now imagine a scene set in a study or den. See all those books on the walls? No dust jackets. Back then books were thought of as classiest and most impressive sans jackets. That’s why the items above are extraordinarily rare, and are each worth a fortune today. The first two were painted by Nathan Machtey, and the third is signed G.B., who is a painter unknown to us so far. But all three look rather the same, don't they, with a looming, monstrous shape menacing an insensate woman? They are pure brilliance. We’ve seen some of these at auction for $5,000, and we hear they can go for much more. Much, much more. Of course, the most expensive ones are first editions, with book and dust jacket paired and in good condition, but if the book and jacket are separated, the jackets still go for mucho dinero. We’ll keep an eye out for more Machtey work, and try to identify that second artist. We'll also look for more photoplay editions, and share whatever we uncover.
Those were the beast years of our lives.
Assorted Mexican lobby cards featuring famous and not-so-famous monsters. These films were released in English as Dracula’s Lake, Hideous Sun Demon, Orlak the Hell of Frankenstein, The Green Hell, The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, Lycanthropus, Neutron Versus the Karate Assassins, Cat People, Attack of the Giant Leeches, The Monster Walks, Zombie Lake, The She-Wolf, and Valley of the Zombies.
Mad scientist cops a cheap fille.
In Frankenstein’s Daughter Victor Frankenstein’s grandson Oliver lives in Los Angeles, but the perfect Southern California weather has done nothing to cure his gloomy familial obsession with creating life from dead body parts. The poor monster he constructs has both male and female chunks, most notably the head of Playboy model Sally Todd. Sally doesn’t look as hot here as she did in her nudie layouts, but that’s because those magazine photos are mostly make-up, lighting and airbrushing—oh, and she got fatally run over by a car, which is why her head is available in the first place. Anyway, Oliver’s creation mainly shuffles confused and inarticulate through a film that is itself confused and inarticulate, and which many claim is the worst Frankenstein flick ever made. We don’t think so and we can tell you why with one word—Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster. Okay, five words. The point is, Frankenstein’s Daughter, filled with rich, creamy badness though it may be, is merely a worthy runner-up. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. It premiered in France and Belgium as La fille de Frankenstein today in 1962.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—Capone Sentenced to Prison
Chicago organized crime boss Al Capone is convicted of income tax evasion after all other attempts to tie him to an assortment of crimes, from the mass murder of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to widespread violations of the Volstead Act, fail. He is sentenced to eleven years in federal prison and, cut off from the outside world while on Alcatraz Island, his power is finally broken.
1964—China Detonates Nuke
At the Lop Nur test site located between the Taklamakan and Kuruktag deserts, the People's Republic of China detonates its first nuclear weapon, codenamed 596 after the month of June 1959, which is when the program was initiated.
1996—Handgun Ban in the UK
In response to a mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland that kills 16 children, the British Conservative government announces a law to ban all handguns, with the exception .22 caliber target pistols. When Labor takes power several months later, they extend the ban to all handguns.
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
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