She's here to drain the swamp and it's a promise she'll actually keep.
U.S. actress Jan Mackenzie outdoes our usual gun toting femmes fatales by being lethally armed with a gun and a snake. Bet you didn't even notice the snake, what with her outfit and incredible nimbus of sun limned hair, but it's there in her left hand. Mackenzie is famous mainly for starring in a historically terrible sexploitation sequel called Gatorbait II: Cajun Justice, about a woman pushed to murder by a bunch of Louisiana swamp lowlifes. From her point of view only two good things came out of that movie: she acted with her future husband Ben Sebastian; and she took his last name, thus distancing herself from a career damaging disaster. But from our point of view any movie that produced the above photo can't be all bad. It's from 1988.
Tough time on the front, and unwelcome back at home.
You'd never guess from the art, but The Big Kiss-Off deals with an Air Force pilot named Cade Cain who, after twelve years in Korea, returns to a life of boating around the Louisiana bayou and comes across the bodies of six Chinese men on an isolated mud flat. And on his first day back, too, which is pretty bad luck, even for a guy who got shot down and spent two years in a prison camp. He wants nothing to do with the bodies or whoever was responsible for putting them there, but somehow his old local nemesis learns of the find and before he knows it he's beaten, threatened, and told to leave town again—this time for good. Two fisted loners in mid-century fiction rarely take that sort of treatment laying down. When Cain learns that his wife has sold off his family's land, divorced him in absentia, and found comfort in his enemy's bed, something simply has to be done.
Before he gets his vengeful ducks in a row, a near-naked fugitive swims aboard his boat and the mystery deepens. Her name is Mimi Moran, because the alliteration is strong with this book. She's looking for her husband, who it happens is a pilot who flies illegal aliens into the U.S. for the bad guys. Cade Cain decides to help Mimi Moran and that's when the real trouble starts. The Big Kiss-Off is a solid yarn from Day Keene. It has the usual issues common to fiction of the 1950s, for example the hero having to constantly resist forcing himself on his beautiful passenger because he's “only human, after all.” Fortunately, even though “her flesh constantly attracted his hands like a magnet,” he contains himself—mostly. Not someone you'd want near your sister. Or any woman, really. But as a fictional hero he serves his purpose just fine.
With a setting in the endlessly fertile (for genre fiction) Louisiana bayou, and a narrative that wastes no time putting Cain in hot water, The Big Kiss-Off keeps the pages turning. It originally appeared in 1954 but the above edition was published in 1972 by Triphammer Books in Britain, with nice art by Ron Lesser borrowed from Robert Dietrich's (E. Howard Hunt's) 1962 Lancer Books thriller Curtains for a Lover. Notice how Triphammer erased part of Lesser's distinctive signature. That was obviously to keep the figure on their cropped art from looking crowded by the lettering, but we imagine it still annoyed Lesser. You can see a U.S. cover for The Big Kiss-Off in this collection of Day Keene novels we put together back in 2009.
New girl in town gets local Cajuns ragin’ in 1959 shlockfest.
In Louisiana Hussy Nan Peterson washes up in a backwater bayou town and within seconds every male resident loses his gumbo over her. She’s shady as hell but all it takes is a glimpse of cleavage and a coy smile and the guys forget all that. Ah, for the good old days when men bore no responsibility for their sexual behavior. Here’s a dialogue exchange that takes place between two bumpkins named Pierre and Jacques:
“I should have told Lilly the very first night what she was.”
“Telling your wife that you tried to make love to another woman on your wedding night? It wouldn’t be nice, would it, Pierre?”
“Is that what she told you?”
“She didn’t have to tell me. I saw you myself.”
“She forced her love on me! Jacques, she’s a tramp! A nymphomaniac!”
Yup, we men just go where these things between our legs tell us. You don’t blame a compass for pointing north, do you? Of course not. But you will deserve blame if you watch this movie. It isn’t even a film noir, like some websites claim. It’s just a low rent drama—a tacky one. The poster, on the other hand, is one of the all-time greats.
And speaking of men following their dicks, we recently asked a couple of friends which post on Pulp Intl. was their favorite. Did they pick our informative exposés of mid-century celebs, or erudite true crime articles, or innumerable pieces of rare art? Nope. They picked this one.
Whatever happened to baby Jayne?
Above are two photos of the Buick Electra 225 actress Jayne Mansfield was riding in when it slammed into the back of a semi on a stretch of road between Biloxi and New Orleans. Visibility was low that night due to a combination of ocean mist and insecticide from a mosquito fogging truck. Mansfield’s driver Ronnie Harrison probably never had a chance to avoid the collision, especially while speeding on a dark, curving road. He and lawyer Sam Brody were killed along with Mansfield. Her children in the back seat survived, but two of her cherished chihuahuas famously didn’t. In the second photo a sheet-covered Mansfield lies in the foreground after being removed from the wreckage by emergency workers. Virtually any website you visit will debunk the myth of Mansfield’s decapitation. They will tell you her blonde wig flew off and either fooled reporters on the scene or inspired them to create malicious urban folklore. Well, we don’t think so. Mansfield wasn’t decapitated, but we suggest the debunkers look up the word “avulsion” in a dictionary. It’s when one part of the body is torn away from another. Mansfield’s death certificate attributes her demise to a “crushed skull and avulsion of the cranium and brain.” So she lost the top part of her head, including brain matter. Does that count as decapitation? Perhaps not. Whatever you call it, it happened today in 1967.
Going out in a Blaze of glory.
This colorful January 1960 Hush-Hush features Gina Lollobrigida, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and others, but of special note is an exposé on burlesque queen Blaze Starr and Louisiana governor Earl Long. Sometime in the late 1950s the elderly Long got involved with the buxom young Starr, and it was a scandal for the ages. Starr had a routine in which she wriggled around on a sofa so sensually that it began smoldering (thanks to a hidden smoke machine). The routine had been a hit everywhere she worked, and by the time she appeared at New Orleans’ Sho-Bar she had it down to a science. Governor Long had wandered into the place with several friends and staffers, and when he saw the smoldering sofa routine he was smitten. He made his way backstage and asked Starr out to dinner. She responded by asking if she could trust him. His response: “Hell no.”
The two hit it off and, after a few false starts, embarked on an affair. Long was deliriously happy, but others were not, and they used the relationship as grounds to commit him to Southeast Louisiana Hospital—a mental institution. Long couldn’t get out of the bin on his own, but due to a loophole in the law retained his powers as Governor. For a time he ran Louisiana from his hospital room, and eventually devised an escape plan, which involved having the head of the state hospital system fired and replaced with someone who would pressure Long’s doctors to declare him mentally competent. Upon release, Long resumed his relationship with Starr and made plans to run for Congress in the fall. In August 1960 he won a Democratic primary, but just a month later died of a heart attack.
The relationship between Long and Starr has been much dissected since then, and some revisionists have denied that it was at all meaningful to Earl Long. Perhaps not, but it meant something to Blaze Starr. Years later she said in an interview with People magazine: “I still dream about stripping sometimes. When I do, Earl is in the audience watching me do my thing. Then I wake up and feel sad. I miss Earl and I miss being on that stage.” You can catch Blaze’s act here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1962—Cuban Missile Crisis Begins
A U-2 spy plane flight over the island of Cuba produces photographs of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed. Though American missiles have been installed near Russia, the U.S. decides that no such weapons will be tolerated in Cuba. The resultant standoff brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. The crisis finally ends with a secret deal in which the U.S. removes its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing the Cuban weapons.
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