Hollywoodland Oct 20 2014
IN LIKE FLYNN
In Lincoln Heights Jail, that is.


If you suspect the jailhouse photo above is associated with a good story you’re correct. Hollywood party animal Errol Flynn, pictured here in L.A.’s Lincoln Heights Jail, was arrested for public intoxication along with 21-year-old Irish aspiring actress Maura Fitzgibbons. It was an unexpected end to what was supposed to have been a celebratory night. A couple of hours earlier Flynn and Fitzgibbons had been at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades where the Publicists’ Association was staging an annual costume party called The Ballyhoo Ball. When Flynn and Fitzgibbons made their entrance a man approached for an autograph. Flynn explained, politely according to witnesses, that he would comply but never socialized or signed autographs until he had a drink in his hand. But the man insisted on an immediate autograph—he said the hatcheck girl was his wife and a big Flynn fan.

Flynn reluctantly let himself be led by this insistent man to the hatcheck stand, whereupon he saw that the man’s wife, who appears in the photo at right, was attractive. Since Flynn was a consummate horndog, he suddenly became eager to comply and not only signed an autograph, but even managed to steal a kiss on the cheek. Making polite chit-chat afterward, Flynn asked the man what he did for a living and learned that he was a cop. Or at least said he was. But since the man was in civilian clothes, Flynn said, “If you’re a cop where’s your badge?” Or something to that effect. When the man produced a badge Flynn grabbed it and tossed it to his date Fitzgibbons. This was a costume party, remember, so it’s quite possible Flynn never believed him. And it’s virtually certain the cop never considered that the situation might make any claim to be a cop appear to be a prank. In any case he got upset and arrested Flynn and Fitzgibbons.

Once at the Lincoln Heights Jail the police either decided the arresting officer—whose story was markedly different from Flynn’s, Fitzgibbons’ and several other witnesses—had been overzealous. Or perhaps they simply decided to show a little preferential treatment to a movie star. In any case, they offered to let Flynn go with a warning. But the actor was indignant: “I want to be arrested. I want the whole world to know of the injustice of this deed.” So the cops tossed Flynn in a cell with a group of Mexican drunk and disorderlies who were still singing tequila-fueled ranchero songs. Even as late as 1957 Flynn was one of the most recognizable men in the world, so when the realization struck the detainees that the newly arrived drunk and disorderly was Errol Flynn everyone stared in stunned amazement. Then they began shouting, “Viva El Capitán Blood! Viva El Capitán Blood!” They started up the ranchero songs with renewed vigor, and Flynn sang along in the choruses. As for Fitzgibbons, below, she never earned a single credited role in Hollywood, which makes her Ballyhoo Ball arrest the height of her fame. That all happened in the wee hours today in 1957.


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The Naked City Sep 21 2014
AMERICAN MURDER STORY
Wait a sec, I have the right to remain silent? Really? Oh. Um, I take back everything I said.

Blood splattered Henry Whitfield appears in the above photo after his arrest for homicide by Los Angeles police. Following an argument about a woman and money, Whitfield shot Robert Hayes, seen dead in the background, then called police and waited calmly for them to appear. After they arrived, Whitfield told them; “I killed him, and I’m glad. He was no good. I should have killed him a long time ago.”

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The Naked City Sep 16 2014
ACCIDENTAL HISTORY
Danger lurks on every street.

Have you ever marveled that you don’t crash every time you climb into your car? There you are, hurtling along in your metal box, surrounded by other drivers texting, phoning, GPSing, groping on the floor for iPod chargers. Or maybe you’re the one doing those things. But even without modern distractions driving isn’t easy, and today we present ample evidence of that truth, with a collection of calamitous photos from a simpler automotive age. These are all from Los Angeles and environs 1945 through 1955. Ready? Fasten your seat belt.

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Hollywoodland Sep 4 2014
WILDE AT HEART
Some said it was a hasty decision but few could fault the results.

This photo shows American actress Jean Wallace and Hungarian actor Cornel Wilde, née Kornél Lajos Weisz, emerging from Los Angeles Superior Court after their marriage ceremony, which took place five days after Wilde was granted a divorce from his first wife Patricia Knight. Press stories described the wedding as quick because Wallace and Wilde had dated for perhaps five months. One newspaper told readers Wallace “married actor Cornel Wilde in a hasty ceremony… kissed the flustered Mr. Wilde hastily [and] hastily brushed aside the honeymoon…” Hasty or not, the marriage lasted three decades—a success by many measures, especially in Hollywood. The photo is from today in 1951. Side note: Wilde was famous for his haircut, which was unusual at the time and provided ample sport for gossip columnists, but his shaggy 'do influenced a generation of young men. 

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Hollywoodland Aug 31 2014
EVERYTHING MUST GO
How Venice evolved into Not-Venice

The shot at top of Windward Avenue in Venice, California was made around 1905. Owned by the Venice Historical Society, the image caught our eye because we were just there in July (actually, we used to live in Venice). The second shot was made from basically the same angle in 1939. Note how most of the original Venetian gothic windows have disappeared, and the gothic cornices have likewise vanished. In addition to the buildings, Venice had sixteen miles of canals, but by the time of the 1939 photo all but 1.5 miles of those had been filled in. During the 1950s financial neglect began to turn Venice into a slum, and in the following years not only did the remaining gothic elements go, but also most of the structures. Today the famed colonnade of Windward Avenue fronts only five buildings. 

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The Naked City Jun 29 2014
ALL TIRED OUT
When the wheels come off.

The above photo shows twenty-two-year-old Eddie M. Gonzalez, who was discovered dead behind a service station located at 3822 E. Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. In the background is police detective A.W. Frank. Police decided the cause of death was an accidental overdose, a deduction made thanks to fifty capsules of an unnamed drug found on the deceased’s person. To us the whole scene looks strange—a well-dressed, well-groomed person in shiny shoes who can afford fifty capsules of drugs doesn’t seem like the type who would need to ingest them behind a gas station and end up tangled in a pile of tires. And if suicide was his aim, why fifty leftover capsules? But maybe we’re just conspiracy minded. The photo is part of the University of Southern California’s digital archive and was taken today in 1952. 

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The Naked City Jun 16 2014
L.A. LEAP
Bridge to nowhere.

Above, another photo from the coffee table book so morbid it will put you off your coffee—Scene of the Crime: Photographs from the LAPD Archive. This image shows the aftermath of a suicide leap from L.A.’s 7th Street Bridge, today 1959.

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The Naked City May 30 2014
BACKSTREET BOYS
United they stand, divided they fall.

This photo shows the sheet covered body of Fernando Reyes, aged 17, who was killed after a brawl escalated into gunplay on Lamar St., in the hinterlands east of the Los Angeles River. The onlookers include two plainclothes detectives, the deceased’s brother, a friend, and several bystanders. It happened today in 1952.

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The Naked City May 21 2014
FLIGHT FROM FLORENCE
To every action there is always an equal reaction.

The top photo shows an LAPD policewoman named Florence Coberly, who in a dangerous undercover operation, was asked to lure a serial rapist named Joe Parra. This would require placing herself in harm’s way so police could catch him just before the act. Supported by more than thirty cops hidden in unmarked cars and stationed around the neighborhood, Coberly did exactly that, drawing the suspect, which in turn drew her backup. Parra tried to run, and photo two shows him after he was gunned down. Strangely, Coberly was later arrested for shoplifting and drummed off the police force. But that would be several years later. These shots are from 1952, a year at the end of which she would win the LAPD’s Policewoman of the Year award. These images come from the USC digital archive of mid-century Los Angeles Examiner photos. 

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Hollywoodland Apr 30 2014
THE GOOSE AND THE GANDERERS
A unusual Page from Hollywood history


Who is this, you wonder? Her name is Joan Page and she’s posing at Hollywood Park, a thoroughbred race track located in the Inglewood section of Los Angeles. The photo, which was made today in 1954, was intended to publicize the circuit’s new aluminum rails, which had replaced the old wooden rails during the off-season. The photo also announced Page’s candidacy for the title of Goose Girl, the winner of the track’s yearly beauty contest. Why was she called a Goose Girl, rather than a Horse Girl or a Pretty Filly, you’re probably thinking? Because Hollywood Park, which was known as the Track of Lakes and Flowers, enclosed several small lakes populated by geese. In addition to posing for photos and making publicity appearances in a ridiculous outfit, the Goose Girl was required to drift around in a small boat called Miz Clementine, tossing food to the birds as the racegoing crowd cheered. Hollywood Park operated on the theory that race days were events, and successfully staged such spectacles for decades, beginning with its opening in 1938.

But times change. Hollywood Park had long been a playground for celebrities and political figures, but as the decades passed such clientele began to seek thrills elsewhere. During the 1980s some of thepark’s lakes were filled in to build concession stands, and the popular Goose Girl was eliminated, brought back in the 1990s, then eliminated again. Profits sagged, and real estate values went through the roof—always a deadly combination. Hollywood Park’s land became too valuable for racing, and the site’s closure was announced in May 2013. The current plan is to transform the former Track of Lakes and Flowers into luxury housing, which seems to always be the plan, everywhere. And what happened to Joan Page? Hard to say. There are several Joan Pages who appeared in films during the 1940s or 1950s, but we have no way of knowing which—if any—posed on Hollywood Park’s aluminum rail in 1954, or for that matter whether she ever won the title of Goose Girl.


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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 25
1938—Archbishop Denounces Dance Music
The Archbishop of Dubuque, Francis J. L. Beckman, makes headlines in the U.S. when he attacks swing music as a degenerated musical system destined to gnaw away at the moral fiber of young people. His denouncement follows on the heels of the music being banned in Germany due to its African and Jewish origins.
1993—Vincent Price Dies
American actor Vincent Price, who had achieved the height of his fame acting in low budget horror movies, and became famous again as the macabre voice in Michael Jackson's song "Thriller," dies at age 82 of complications from emphysema and Pariknson's disease.
October 24
1929—Stock Market Crashes
Black Thursday, a catastrophic crash on the New York Stock Exchange, occurs when the value of stocks suddenly declines and continues to decline for a month. The event leads to a subsequent crash in world stock prices and precipitates the Great Depression. This after famous economist Irving Fisher had declared that stock prices had reached a permanently high plateau.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.

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