Sportswire Dec 29 2016
SAY IT AIN'T SO JOE
A legendary boxer faces the winter of his discontent.

The National Police Gazette asks on a cover from this month in 1950 “What Will Happen to Joe Louis?” It's a poignant question. Louis had earned more than $4 million during his boxing career (about $40 million in 2016 money), but thanks to predatory managers and slimy handlers had received only about $800,000 of it. However, his gross earnings left him with a huge tax bill, forcing him to fight past his prime in an attempt to pay off the debt. In September 1950 he met Ezzard Charles and was thrashed. For his pain he earned just over $100,000—not nearly enough to pay off the government. Left with no choice, he decided to shoot for another big payday. First he notched several wins again club level fighters, then booked a bout against another top boxer. That boxer was twenty-seven year old Rocky Marciano, and the meeting ended with Louis being knocked clean out of the ring. So, getting back to the Gazette's question: "What will happen to Joe Louis?" What happened is he retired and became an exhibition fighter, still carrying that heavy debt, and he never paid it off.

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Sportswire Oct 10 2016
HOLY WARRIOR
My father is tougher than your father.

This bit of World War II propaganda, which was created by the Graphics Division of the U.S. government's Office of Facts and Figures in 1942, caught our eye for a couple of reasons. It features champion boxer Joe Louis, which is interesting enough, but it also features a quote he had uttered while taking part in a military charity event: “We’re going to do our part… and we’ll win because we’re on God’s side.”

This is an interesting turn of phrase because of the inversion of “our” and “God.” The way Louis formulates the idea suggests God desired the war and the U.S. was just helping out. Usually you hear the sentiment expressed as, “God is on our side,” but Louis's quote has more power loaded into it than the standard iteration. It casts Japan as not just battling an enemy nation, but battling the natural order of the cosmos.

Of course, the Japanese also thought they were divinely guided, and over in Europe where Germany was fighting several countries at once, the opportunistic Adolf Hitler, though a skeptic in private, declared himself a Christian in public and busily used religious sentiment in his devoutly Catholic nation to whip up support for his rule. We have a sizable collection of World War II propaganda inside Pulp Intl., originating from many countries, which we think is worth a look. You can see some of it here, here, here, herehere, and here.

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Sportswire May 11 2016
BLEEDING FOR THE CAUSE
He gave every last drop of his blood—to the IRS.


This National Police Gazette cover from this month in 1951 shows a bloodied Joe Louis in the midst of a title bout loss to Ezzard Charles in September 1950. Louis had retired, but when the U.S. government's Internal Revenue Service came after him for $500,000 in back taxes, he fought again—at age thirty-six—with the agreement that the proceeds would clear his debt. Thus Gazette's sub-head: “Why Joe Louis Can't Quit.” He'd hoped to pay off the entire bill with one fight, but the crowd was small and the purse far less than expected. With debt still outstanding, he did the only thing he could—take more fights.
 
And in the center of the magazine Gazette offers up Hazel Nilsen as its Date of the Month. Gazette featured established personalities on its calendar pages only occasionally, which means the magazine's promo shots today serve as an encyclopedia of aspiring starlets who almost—but never quite—made it. Nilsen was aiming for Broadway because of the excitement of acting before a live audience, but never appeared in a play. Instead she scored small roles in three Hollywood westerns between 1949 and 1952, including as an Indian maiden named White Fawn in Apache Chief, before fading from the scene. Showbiz is a cruel mistress.

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Sportswire Nov 4 2014
BOXER'S DOZEN
Twelve leading causes of headaches and bodily pain.

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. 

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Vintage Pulp Jun 8 2014
TAKE YOUR PIC
All celebrities great and small.


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. 

But it’s Suzan Ball’s story we’re interested in today. Her path to show business was so typical of the period as to be almost banal—she was spotted in a Santa Maria, California newspaper after winning a cake baking contest. Universal-International scouts thought she looked a bit like Jane Russell, so they swept her up, shuttled her down Highway 101, signed her to a contract and began selling her as a hot new Tinseltown commodity, proclaiming her the New Cinderella Girl of ’52. Soon the influential columnist Hedda Hopper took up the refrain, naming her one of the most important new stars of 1953, thus ensuring that year would belong to Ball.

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.

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Vintage Pulp | Sportswire Nov 16 2013
STAMP DISPENSER
How to break a head of the competition.


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.

The above National Police Gazette cover from this month in 1960 shows action between Frankie Jarvis and Gino Garibaldi, with Louis seeming almost zen about it, as if offering a gentle reminder that neck stamping is bad for the karma. Hard to tell who’s the stamper and who’s the stampee, but if we had to guess we’d say Jarvis is on top and Garibaldi is the one being taught the tensile limits of his own spine. We checked both those guys out and while Jarvis produced no hits on the web, turns out Garibaldi was a major wrestling figure who fought more than 1,300 bouts over his career (doubtless some Pulp Intl. readers already knew that, but go easy on us—it was well before our time).
 
Louis worked as a ref until 1972, and though we don’t know if he was considered proficient or deficient in the profession, he did remain a prominent celebrity through those years, appearing at promotional events and competing on television quiz shows. As a side note, we should mention that his celebrity was even powerful enough for him to break the Professional Golf Association’s color line back in 1952, so the high profile he maintained throughout his retirement was simply the continuation of an established trend. We have several entries on Joe Louis on the website. If you want to see those, just click his keywords below.

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Sportswire Oct 26 2013
JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO
Joe Louis fights beyond his prime with predictable results.


It’s been awhile since we shared one of The National Police Gazette’s famed boxing covers, so today we have a smudged and smeared but still compelling one featuring Joe Louis after being knocked down by Rocky Marciano. Louis had taken the fight strictly for the money, which he needed to deal with tax problems. Pretty much everyone (except those sneaky oddsmakers) knew Louis would lose to Marciano, who was a decade younger and the reigning heavyweight champ, and indeed Louis was knocked out in the eighth round. That was today in 1951. We also found the original photo the Gazette used for its cover, which hit newsstands in October 1952. Unfortunately we had to go to a white supremacist website to get it. We’re going to take a long shower, and we’ll continue with our regularly scheduled pulp once we feel clean again. In the meantime, to see more fascinating Gazette boxing covers start here and here, and follow the links in those posts.
 
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Vintage Pulp Jan 27 2012
ABOUT FACE
How it feels depends on whether you win or lose.

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. 

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Vintage Pulp Aug 24 2011
ALL THE RAVE
Skating on thin ice.

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.

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Vintage Pulp Jun 23 2011
BORN TO FIGHT
Just a couple of (not so) regular Joes.

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. 

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 30
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.
March 29
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.
March 28
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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