|The Naked City||Nov 25 2014|
Front Page Detective shows on this November 1971 cover how to attract eyeballs with lurid art and titillating text. Eisenhower’s social secretary murdered? That sounds intriguingly political, but it turns out Eisenhower’s only connection is that his White House had more than a decade earlier employed the murder victim in a secretarial position. Though no political angle exists, the crime itself is still very interesting. Laura Carpi, scion of a prominent Philadelphia family, disappeared in February 1971. In June the decomposed body of a woman was found in New York City’s East River, labeled an accidental drowning victim, and twenty days later interred on Hart Island as a Jane Doe in the potter’s field there. After the body was identified as Carpi’s, the New York Times published a sensational story claiming that her head had been removed before burial for study by junior pathologists, or, according to some sources in the pathologist’s office, simply to be used as a desk ornament. The Times claimed that a technician had been cleaning out whatever grisly remnants of flesh were still attached to the skull and happened to find a bullet lodged in its neck tissue. Dealing now with a suspected homicide, police focused on missing persons, and eventually summoned Carpi’s dentist. Recognizing his own work, he made the positive identification.
The ME’s office became the center of a storm, with Chief Medical Examiner Milton Helpern blasting the Times story for insinuating that “the doctors in this office are cutting off people’s heads to make ashtrays.” He pronounced the entire article “grossly distorted.” Perhaps it was, but uncovering a murder by chance never looks good, and he didn’t help his cause when he responded to a question about why his staff had failed to discover the bullet by saying that he ran a mortuary, not a graveyard, and was extremely busy. Though his answer was callous, it was also correct. His office had a contant flow of bodies coming through—that year more than 1,800 alone that had been victims of murder—and his staff was overworked. Add to this the facts that Laura Carpi had thick hair that concealed the small caliber entry wound at the base of her skull, the slug had left no exit wound, and the head had been four months in the water, and it’s possible to see how mistakes could be made. As to why the head was kept, the unconvincing official reason was that it was because the dentalwork would allow for possible future identification—which only made sense if all the Jane and John Does on Hart Island were also headless.
In any case, the finger of suspicion for the murder immediately pointed toward Carpi’s estranged husband Colin, at right, who was battling for custody of their four children. Not only would the loss of this battle and subsequent divorce settlement wipe him out financially, but he was also well aware that his wife had been seeing another man. For various reasons—jurisdictional issues and general reluctance to pursue the crime—Colin Carpi didn’t go to trial for two more years. A mountain of circumstantial evidence pointed at him, but his acquittal was deemed by most legal experts to be the right decision. The prosecution simply bungled its presentation to the jury, and even if the courtroom aspect had been perfect, much of Colin Carpi’s suspicious behavior could be chalked up to the circumstances around the custody battle and his wife’s affair. Perhaps a not-guilty verdict was an anti-climax after the high drama associated with the identification of Laura Carpi’s body, but not finding the perp is the way it often goes in true crime, and real life.
|The Naked City||Sep 1 2014|
This cover of Front Page Detective from today in 1968 features suspected murderer Alice Crimmins, and it caught our eye not only because of its bold graphic style, but because it’s a prime example of what is today called “slut-shaming.” It’s a term we don’t like, but we didn’t make it up. Basically, it’s the process of assassinating the character of women who dare to have multiple sexual partners, or perhaps who have few partners, or even one, but seem to enjoy sex a little too much. Generally it doesn’t matter if she’s married or single—it’s a special trap designed just for women.
In the end Crimmins was convicted of manslaughter, the verdict was overturned, and she was tried again. The second trial took place in 1971 and featured less overt slut-shaming than the first, but Crimmins was notorious by that point and her reputation once again may have contributed to her conviction, this time for both manslaughter and murder. These verdicts were struck down in 1973, the manslaughter conviction was quickly re-instated, and Crimmins served another four years before being paroled in 1977, after which she went on to live in quiet obscurity. See more of Front Page Detective’s lurid cover style here.
|The Naked City||Feb 10 2014|
Below, eight covers of Front Page Detective depicting imminent bodily harm. Front Page Detective went through several cover styles, from pulp magazine-style paintings to close-up photos of distressed faces. These are from the early and mid-1970s.
|Vintage Pulp||Mar 21 2012|
Above, Front Page Detective with two great cover models that reappear in panel nine below, posing for Stanley Harrison’s exposé “The Story Behind the Texas Girl Racket,” which, as you might guess, has to do with prostitution (specifically, in and around the Fort Worth and Trinity River area). Inside the magazine you find more models posing for more crime stories, a few actual perp shots, and a couple of nice illustrations. All below, March 1955.
|The Naked City||Dec 17 2011|
December 1949’s Front Page Detective offers up numerous tales of vice and murder. Each story begins with an art spread, some photographic and some hand drawn. We thought they were nice, so we posted several below. The playgirl referred to on the cover is Eddis Mae Reed, a Long Beach 40-year-old who was murdered in a shack on Seaside Avenue. The cover model, with her cigarette holder and fur wrap, is nothing like the Eddis Mae Reed described in the story. That Eddis Mae was a working class woman who liked the rough hewn men that populated Long Beach, back then a seemingly endless landscape of oil derricks.
After she was found strangled, beaten, and with a bra stuffed down her throat, detectives questioned oilworkers, longshoremen, and dockworkers, as well as the bartenders and cooks in the waterfront saloons she frequented, before finally focusing their attention on a sailor named William Dryman. When police picked him up he confessed right away to killing Reed. His motive? Jealousy.
Even though he was at sea for months at a time, and he knew Reed was not a one-man woman, he became obsessed with her. When he visited her shack unannounced one night he heard her entertaining another man and became furious. He didn’t confront her then, though. He came back the next day, when she was alone and unprotected. He told police: “I told her what I’d do if I caught her cheating. I’d do it all over again.” Front Page Detective attributes Reed’s death to “too many men.” Well, that’s one way to look at it. The judge, on the other hand, blamed the killer, not the victim, and sent William Dryman down for five-to-life.
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 10 2011|
Above, a Front Page Detective from April 1971 with the type of woman-in-trouble cover that became the magazine’s trademark. See more here.
|Vintage Pulp||Sep 17 2010|
|Vintage Pulp||Oct 29 2009|
Three Front Page Detective covers from October 1967, 1968, and 1969.
|Vintage Pulp||Sep 9 2009|
Simmons was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death based upon the prosecutor’s dubious hearsay, but the U.S. Government wasn’t too thrilled about Mexicans executing Americans and got involved in the case. The appeals and maneuvering went on for years. In the interim Simmons tried to escape twice, was shot during the second attempt, but unbelievably, tried a third time and got away dressed as a woman. He made it across the Mexico-U.S. border, and began a long battle against extradition. The story ends there, with him fighting to stay in the States, and magazines like Front Page Detective taking up his cause. We found no info on him after 1960, and so Dykes Simmons, Jr. passes into historical purgatory. But whatever happened to him, he imparts this crucial lesson to the rest of us: when the police say you’re free to go, you hit the exit door like a halfback hitting the hole and never stop running.
|Modern Pulp||Jul 7 2009|
A scant minute ago she was still telling herself these low rent modeling gigs are just to pay the bills until she gets her big break, but this photo captures the moment a new awareness begins to dawn: these sleazy jobs are her break. Posing for Front Page Detective is probably the zenith of her career. She’s tied up, wearing a halter, the photographer keeps calling her “honeypot,” and she suddenly knows, sure as the sun sets in the west, two years from now she’ll be spit out the bottom of the porn industry.