|Sportswire||Nov 4 2014|
The National Police Gazette devoted much of its space to boxing. Above you see twelve pages, some originals and some reprints, from its monthly feature the Gallery of Champions. Of course, Jimmy Carter, at top, later went on to become president of the United States. Really a remarkable story.
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 8 2014|
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.
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.
|Vintage Pulp | Sportswire||Nov 16 2013|
Last we saw Joe Louis he had been propelled by a Rocky Marciano punch out of the boxing ring (literally) and into an overdue retirement. But old boxers don’t usually fade away—they more often switch careers (e.g. Tyson/acting). Louis switched to wrestling in 1956, but after being diagnosed with a heart ailment, became a wrestling referee. It wasn’t such a surprising transition, as he had first refereed wrestling way back in 1944 when, during a 30-day furlough from military service, he officiated a match between Ernie Dusek and George Becker.
|Sportswire||Oct 26 2013|
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 27 2012|
Maybe he doesn’t look so impressive getting his face flattened by Joe Louis on this National Police Gazette cover form this month in 1950, but Billy Conn is actually one of boxing’s legendary figures. His final record of 64-12-1 was quite good, but it was his two losses to Louis that were enshrined in boxing lore. The first time they fought, in 1941, Conn stepped up in class from light-heavy to heavy without actually putting on any extra weight. It was an unheard of move, but it paid off. During the fight, his superior mobility helped him get ahead on points, and he sustained the lead the entire bout. But when he got greedy in round thirteen and tried to knock Louis out, a few counterpunches from the Brown Bomber put Conn on the canvas. Following the fight he quipped, “I lost my head and a million bucks.” After both men served a stint in the army during World War II, they met again in 1946. Conn was still the more agile of the two, and before the fight a reporter suggested to Joe Louis that Conn might stay out of reach and try for a victory on points. Louis responded with a line that people repeat to this day, but most likely with no idea where it came from: “He can run, but he can’t hide.” Louis won that bout too. The Gazette cover is from their first battle. We’ve posted the original photo they used just below, along with others.
|Vintage Pulp||Aug 24 2011|
Rave, for which you see a cover above, was a low budget U.S.-based magazine that launched in 1953 as a celeb publication, quickly moved into scandal and gossip, but didn’t survive beyond 1956, as far as we can tell. The graphic design was revamped twice, and so we suspect it just never found its niche in a crowded tabloid market. But it wasn’t for lack of providing celebrity rumormongers what they craved. This August 1955 issue discusses Serge Rubinstein’s murder, Anita Ekberg’s bombshell status, Jackie Gleason and more, but of special note are two stories: one about Sonja Henie, and another about Sheree North.
Sheree North, not well known today, was a dancer-turned-actress who in the mid-1950s was groomed (like so many other women) as the next Marilyn Monroe. She even made the cover of Life with the caption: “Sheree North Takes Over from Marilyn Monroe.” But it didn’t happen. Though North had a couple of hit films, her on-deck status was quickly usurped by another bottled blonde named Jayne Mansfield. North had done some burlesque early in her career, and Rave claims she had a few stag reels floating around. We don’t know about that, but there was a 1951 clip called the “Tiger Dance” that certainly pushed the bounds of contemporary sexiness. We found an upload of it, and you can see it here.
The story on Sonja Henie is a bit more interesting. A Norwegian-born world and Olympic champion figure skater, Henie shot to international fame at age fourteen and turned that recognition into a Hollywood career. She became extremely popular as a screen star, and the same drive that sparked that success fueled her personal life. She married three times and had numerous affairs, including with Tyrone Power and allegedlywith champion boxer Joe Louis. But the mystery man Rave hints at on its cover is none other than piano player Liberace, just above. If you know anything about Liberace then you know his dates with Henie were just for show. But as a gay or bi celebrity—and both were designations he denied until his dying day—dating women would have been a completely understandable strategy to avoid being outed by the time's vicious tabloids and losing his musical career.
Henie, on the other hand, rarely let controversy get in the way of her decisions if she thought the result would ultimately be a net gain. This is possibly why she publicly greeted Adolf Hitler with a Nazi salute at a Berlin exposition in 1936, and why she sought Joseph Goebbels’ help in distributing one of her films in Germany. Yet you have to assume that anyone who would hang out with and possibly sleep with Joe Louis didn’t have rock solid racist views. But as millions died, her behavior can only be seen as shameful. However she returned to Norway with Holiday on Ice in 1953 and again the year Rave published the above cover and was warmly greeted, if not quite totally forgiven. Henie died of cancer in 1969, but as another fascinating product of a complex time, we suspect her name will come up on this website again.
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 23 2011|
This poster from an issue of The National Police Gazette tells the tale of the tape between the immortal Joe Louis and Jersey Joe Walcott. This would be Louis and Walcott’s second bout, Louis having won a controversial decision the previous year. Walcott at thirty-four was the oldest man to ever fight for the heavyweight title, and he was smaller and less powerful than Louis, though he was a very crafty fighter. He lasted ten tough rounds, but Louis finally floored him for the count in the eleventh. That was today, 1948.
|Sportswire||Feb 4 2011|
As long as we’re on the subject of promo materials (see next post), here’s another rare find. It’s a publicity still of German boxer Max Schmeling from late 1929, a time when he was being touted as a contender for the world heavyweight boxing title. The photo was shot in New York City, and was used as a press handout for newspapers and magazines writing features on the fast-rising fighter. Schmeling soon won the heavyweight belt, albeit in controversial fashion, and held it until 1932, when he lost to Jack Sharkey, also controversially. Actually, controversy followed Schmeling his entire career, peaking around the time of his second bout against Joe Louis, in 1938 at Yankee Stadium. The bout was billed “The Fight of the Century” because by then Schmeling had been anointed a hero of the Nazi Party (though reluctantly, biographers tend to agree), which made his first round destruction by Louis a cause for celebration (though it should be pointed out that many Americans, particularly some wealthy and prominent ones, were openly pro-Hitler). In 1939 the winds of war began to sweep across the world, and Schmeling fought for the German army in Crete. After the war he became an exec at Coca Cola in Germany, and amassed considerable wealth. Time passed, and he and Joe Louis became friends. When Louis died impoverished in 1981 Schmeling paid for a funeral with full military honors. Max Schmeling lived fourteen more years, finally dying this week in 2005 at the age of ninety-nine. He is yet another of those complex characters from history, which means we may revisit his story sometime down the road. In the meantime, if you’re inclined, you can read a bit more about the great Joe Louis here.
|Vintage Pulp | Sportswire||Mar 6 2010|
Above we have a National Police Gazette with a boxing cover, from sixty years ago this month, with the editors’ warning to the retired Joe Louis to stay out of the ring. But what the Gazette didn’t know was that the 36 year-old Louis was under investigation by the IRS, and he suspected the outcome wouldn’t be good. In May 1950 Louis was jolted when the authorities declared that he owed half a million dollars in back taxes. With only one way to earn the cash, he cut a deal to box for prize money to put toward his debt. He fought and lost to Ezzard Charles in September, and the next year was knocked clean out of the ring by Rocky Marciano. But for all his efforts he was still in debt. The purses had been low because no one wanted to pay to see Louis—who was the first African-American considered a national hero by both blacks and whites—beaten to a pulp. After the Marciano debacle, the fight offers dried up. Louis retired again, and this one stuck. We’re going to get back to Joe Louis at a later date, because his is one of the more interesting and inspiring stories you’ll run across. His financial troubles were not so much a failure of character as a failure to comprehend the corrupting force of money, and the need to hire not just a lawyer, a manager, and an accountant, but a lawyer to watch your lawyer, a manager to watch your manager, and especially an accountant to watch your accountant. We have some Gazette interior pages below, and you can see the other Gazette boxing covers here and here.