Modern Pulp Nov 18 2014
SUICIDE CLUB
Drinking over the limit.

Above, exceedingly rare Mexican cover art for a pulp-style book about the mass suicide/mass murder of more than 900 people at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project of Rev. Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana. That event, from which the current U.S. English phrase “drank the Kool-Aid” is derived (though group members actually drank Flavor Aid), occurred today in 1978. 

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Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp Oct 30 2014
SECRET AGENDA
The mission statement was simple—take cheap shots at every star in the firmament.


Top Secret is in fine form in this issue from October 1962 as it goes after all the biggest celebrities in Hollywood and Europe. Treading the line between journalism and slander is no easy feat, but take notice—Top Secret’s editors and hacks manage to pull off a high wire act. And of course this was key to the tabloids' modus operandi—they had to present information in a seemingly fearless or even iconoclastic way, yet never actually cross the line that would land them in court.

For example, there’s this dig at Frank Sinatra: “Mr. Snarl, Mr. Nasty, Mr. Do-You-Want-A-Belt-In-The-Mouth was as gentle as a lamb. Gone was the usual sneer, the wise-guy leer. Was this the same surly singer whose idea of a good morning’s exercise had been to watch his bodyguards work over a photographer?
 
Grace Kelly takes a few arrows: “It’s a pretty good bet that the immediate bust-up of the marriage won’t come in the next few months, but it sure as shooting looks like her six-year reign as the glamorous princess of that silly little kingdom on the Mediterranean is going to blow up in her prim face.”
 
Christina Paolozzi gets roughed up thusly: “If anything, Christina in the buff is proof that clothes are an underdeveloped girl’s best friends. Therethe Countess stands with a pleased expression that seems to say, ‘Aren’t I something, Mister?’ But all it takes is one quick look to see that there isn’t really anything to get excited about—unless [you love] barbecued spareribs.”
 
Anita Ekberg receives this treatment: “[La Dolce Vita] was something like a peek into the boudoir antics of its star—the gal with the fantastic superstructure that looks like nothing less than two tugboats pulling a luxury liner into port.”
 
And what tabloid would be complete without Marilyn Monroe? Top Secret says she’s dating writer José Bolaños (who the magazine calls a Mexican jumping bean). Editors opt to unveil the news this way: “It seems that this bold bundle of blonde has suddenly gone on a strange Mexican hayride!!! Si, amigo, MEXICAN!”
 
And then there’s cover star Elizabeth Taylor: “And she acted wilder than ever, satisfying all her most urgent urges for Dickie in the most wide open ways. [She] had jumped from tragedy right into disgrace by having a wild fling with Eddie Fisher a mere six months after hubby Mike Todd had been planted six feet under. ‘Mike is dead, and I’m alive,’ she said cynically after running off for a riotous romp in the fall of 1958 with the guy who just then happened to be married to Debbie Reynolds. 'I’m not taking anything away from Debbie, because she never really had it,' luscious Liz sneered."

This issue of Top Secret is, succinctly put, a clinic in mid-century tabloid writing—alliterative and spicy, insinuative and sleazy, but never quite legally actionable. How could Ekberg argue that the tugboat similie wasn’t interpretable as a compliment? Could Christina Paolozzi deny that her ribs show? Could Sinatra claim that his bodyguards neverslugged a photographer? The magazine skirts the edge a bit with Taylor—did you catch how the editors paired “urges for Dick(ie)” with “wide open ways”?—but was she misquoted or truly slandered? Highly doubtful. Top Secret is pure, trashy genius. Magazines don’t have such writing anymore, and that’s probably a good thing—but it sure is fun to look back at how things were. More scans below.


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Vintage Pulp Jun 10 2014
HOT SHOT
It’s gonna be the death of you.

The interest in Mexican pulp art continues to pick up steam. This heroin themed piece was created for a book or comic called Rock Candentes y Mortal, which translates as something like “red-hot and deadly rock.” It was painted, quite skillfully we think, by Jaime S., or alternatively Jaimes. The artists who worked in this market typically signed their work with single names, with the result that today info on most of them is impossible to find. At least for now. Let that be a lesson to you to always sign your work properly. This coming from a couple of anonymous website guys.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 26 2013
STRENGTH AND SKULL
First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the woman.

Today we’re back to Mexican pulp art with a piece from an artist who has signed his work R. Rojas Ordonez, someone we’ve never heard of before. A bit of text on the back of the painting suggests that the skull is somehow controlling the action here, maybe causing one of the characters to act while under a trance. Mexican art has used skulls as a major motif since at least the time of the Aztecs, and it has since been explored by everyone from Diego Rivera to contemporary graffiti artists, so we particularly like how this painting fits into that tradition. As we mentioned back in July when we shared five pieces from Dinorin, this style of art blossomed in the 1970s as covers for Mexican comic books, which makes it post-pulp rather than pure pulp. But the feel is certainly right, and collectors are responding, snapping up examples like this for hundreds of dollars. We’ll share a few more of these later. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 25 2013
MEXICAN GOLD
Collectors discover treasure south of the border.
 
Mexican pulp art is something to which collectors have been paying increased attention in recent years. However, it isn’t really pulp art in the traditional sense because it post-dates the era. That said, the pieces are very interesting. This particular artist signed his work Dinorin and he's gotten so popular that some pieces of his sell for five-hundred dollars or more. But here you get to see them for free. We have five for your enjoyment, and we’ll have more from this genre later.
 

 
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Hollywoodland Jul 15 2013
MEXICO GETS JINXED
Tourist board taps gringa to lure gringos across the border.

The above photos of American actress Jinx Falkenberg show her posing in costume for her film Tahiti Nights, and she’s holding a Mexican tourist poster for which she had modeled around the same time. This isn’t as a much of a mismatch as you might think. Falkenberg was actually born Eugenia Lincoln Falkenberg in Barcelona, Spain. Being Spanish-born (her parents were American) is of course not remotely the same as being Mexican, but it’s worth mentioning. The truth is she was probably chosen for the poster simply because she was the most famous young Hollywood star associated with Mexico in the consciousness of the American public. She spoke Spanish, of course, and had gotten her start in Spanish films like El carnaval del Diablo, but we doubt average Americans had a clue about that at the time. But once she reached Hollywood she continued to act in films with ethnic themes. For instance, in 1943 she starred in Two Señoritas from Chicago, in 1944 she played an islander in the aforementioned Tahiti Nights, and the next year she played a Mexican girl in The Gay Señorita. So when you add together her birthplace, language skills, and movie roles, she isn’t just some random gabacha the tourist board dug up. While it’s possible it might have been more authentic to use Delores del Rio or Lupe Velez, both of them were much older than Falkenberg, and in any case, maybe they were asked and said no. Below you’ll notice that we managed to find that travel poster, and whatever the reasoning behind its creation, it sure came out looking good. The photos date from 1944, and the poster was used for the years 1944 and 1945.  


 
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Hollywoodland May 27 2013
CHARLIE'S ANGEL
There but for the grace of Goddard.

We scanned these photos from Sidney Skolsky’s This Was Hollywood, a magazine we began raiding for images a couple of months back and which was first published in 1955. The brief story here tells about Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard’s relationship. This Was Hollywood makes it sounds like a fairy tale love, and that may be true—how many Western couples marry spontaneously while traveling in China? Unfortunately, after six years they were divorced in Mexico. But the young starlet had lifted Chaplin out of a dark depression and helped refocus his creative energies at a time when he was so unsure of where his career stood that he was considering retiring and moving permanently to China. And of course their film collaborations are timeless. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 25 2013
BUFF VAMPIRE SLAYERS
The makers of Los Vampiros de Coyoacán should have spent more time wrestling with the script.

Okay, so don’t rush out and rent this one. Los Vamipros de Coyoacán is a lucha libre themed movie, but we didn’t expect twenty of the first twenty-two minutes to be devoted exclusively to wrestling. In the first match tag team studs Mil Mascaras and Superzan dispatch their rivals, and in the second some nameless chump is choked to death. Then in the dressing room a bat (on a string) appears, transforms into a vampire, and drinks the corpse’s blood. The spindly finger of suspicion points toward a certain Count Braddock, who lives in a castle with some dwarves. This is a clear-cut case of racial profiling, since anyone could actually have drained the wrestler, but Mil Mascaras and Superzan happen to be right this time, so we’ll let it pass. Anyway, the plot here involves Braddock’s lust for the female lead Nora, played by Sasha Montenegro. Eventually he kidnaps her and the heroes have to venture to Braddock’s castle to try and retrieve her. Do they succeed? Well, there’s those dwarves. The nasty little guys squeak like mice, can turn into bats (on strings), and just love to jump on unsuspecting victims’ backs. But Mil Mascaras and Superzan aren’t the top tag team wrestlers in Mexico City for nothing. Dwarf toss much? Apparently they do. As to whether they rescue Nora you’ll just have to watch. If it helps entice you at all, there are some prostitutes who don’t seem to understand the concept of fleeing from danger. Pretty funny, that bit. Is there anything else to recommend to movie? Not really. But at least you don’t really have to rent it—you can watch the entire thing on YouTube starting with the first segment here. This turkey premiered in Mexico today in 1974. 

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Vintage Pulp Apr 22 2013
AN UNCENSORED WORLD
Uncensored takes readers from New York City to Spain to Havana in search of dirt.


Uncensored returns to Pulp Intl. for the first time in over a year with an issue published this month in 1955. The story of Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra’s tumultuous relationship (and the Spanish bullfighter who helped ruin it) has been covered numerous times, so no need to get into it again just now, but the photos are certainly worth a look. Uncensored shares other nice images as well. There’s Eartha Kitt (described as not much to look at “unlike such Negro beauties as Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne”), Sarita Montiel (who in Mexico was allegedly on the receiving end of a horsewhipping by Miguel Aleman’s jealous wife), and Marlene Dietrich (seen both onstage performing and offstage fulfilling a G.I.’s request for a kiss). The latter photo, from 1945, appeared in Life and many other magazines and remains one of the most famous Dietrich images. So Hollywood starlets take note: if you want millions of dollars in free publicity, no need to get arrested or leak nude photos—just kiss a fan.

Uncensored readers also meet Father Divine, (who we wrote about here), his alleged rival Prophet Jones, get a glimpse of nightlife in the so-called Bohemia of NYC’s Greenwich Village, and are introduced to “The World’s Hottest Hot Spot,” Havana, Cuba. Readers see photos of an actual drug deal taking place on some backstreet and learn that the city is “Babylonian bedlam,” where “one can buy marijuana, cocaine, forbidden wormwood liquor, illegal bon bons, or just oblivion.” There’s a photo of a woman outside a revolving repository at Havana’s Orfanato Beneficia (Beneficia Orphanage) where mothers could leave their unwanted babies as easily as mailing a postcard. The caption on the photo? “Despite its bawdiness, Havana has a heart.” A baby depository? Is it any wonder there was a revolution? Twenty-four scans below for your enjoyment.

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Hollywoodland | Sex Files Mar 13 2013
IMITATION OF SEX LIFE
The Lowdown proves that it deserves its name.


We’re jumping right into our treasure trove of newly arrived tabloids today with a glance at this issue of The Lowdown published in March 1965. On the cover you see Jean Harlow, Carroll Baker, and Ed Sullivan. We talked about Baker recently and there she is in that crazy gown again (below)—or is she? No, on close examination this is yet another version of the dress. Clearly, the photo was shot on a different night than all the others because her hair and jewelry are different. But the actual dress also looks slightly different from both the Oleg Cassini and Pierre Balmain iterations. A reference in the story clears things up at least a little: “Transparency gowns are another of her big passions and she often wears them.” There you have it. Half naked was a fairly standard look for Carroll Baker. They just don’t make stars like they used to.

You might be curious what the article is about. On the cover the header reads: “The Night Carroll Baker Played a Call Girl,” but on the inside, it says: “The Night Carroll Baker Played a Harlot!” The story goes that she wanted to research her role as a prostitute in the movie Sylvia, so sheventured down to Tijuana, Mexico, toured a few brothels, and somehow disappeared alone for two hours: “We don’t know what happened in the house in Mexico or what sights she could have barged in on, but that is bouncy Miss Baker’s bit.” Lost in a Mexican whorehouse. The mind reels. Do we buy it? Not for a minute.

The other story of note asks: “How Hot Was Jean Harlow’s Sex Life?” Well, let's take an up close look and find out. In 1932 when Harlow was 21 years old she married Paul Bern, a director and screenwriter. Bern apparently had never done well in the sex department due entirely to his own lack of passion, and his shyness was well known. To him Harlow supposedly represented a chance at true sexual fulfillment. If the most desired woman in Hollywood couldn’t rouse his slumbering libido, nobody could. According to The Lowdown, Bern failed on the wedding night. Here’s what the text says:
 
In the wee hours of the morning, Jean’s agent [Arthur] Landau received a frantic call from her asking that he come and get her immediately. When [they] got to Landau’s home, according to the agent, Jean stripped off her filmy wedding nightgown to reveal her beautiful body a mass of welts and bruises. “Her back and buttocks were covered with bruises. There was oneespecially bad bruise directly over her kidneys.” The implication here is because Harlow died several years later of kidney failure that she incurred the fatal damage during that wedding night beating. It gets weirder—brace yourselves. Landau goes to Paul Bern’s house, geared for a confrontation:
 
The bridegroom of some eleven hours was [snip] sprawled nude and drunk on the floor of his den. Silently hating the man at his feet, Landau wanted to kick the slight, pasty body of Bern. Instead he rolled the unconscious man to his back to discover what had never been suspected by anybody in the industry. Paul Bern had the sack and penis of an infant boy. The story goes on to explain that the entire mess was hushed up for the sake of Harlow’s career. Two months later Bern committed suicide via a bullet through the brain. One more excerpt:
 
Paul had prepared himself for death by removing all his clothing and stood before the dressing room mirror. [snip] And, staring at his tormented body, he pulled the trigger. The nudity added a sexual element to his suicide that encouraged a spectrum of interpretations of his farewell note:
 
“Dearest dear, unfortunately this is the only way to make good the frightful wrong I have done to you and to wipe out my abject humiliation. I love you. Paul.
 
You understand that last night was only a comedy.”

What was the comedy? Harlow said nothing to the press. But according to Arthur Landau, she told him Paul Bern had spent $200 on a device to increase his manhood. Wearing the contraption he had entered their bedroom intent on finally consummating their marriage. This hope was doomed from the start and the whole plan turned into such a tragic farce that both he and Jean finally gave way to hysterical laughter. That’s probably one of the sadder stories you’ll ever hear. Is it true? It appeared in a biography about Harlow, but we can never know. We can, however, at least answer the question posed by The Lowdown’s story header. No—Jean Harlow’s sex life was not hot at all.


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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 26
1922—Egyptologists Enter Tut's Tomb
British Egyptologists Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon become the first people to enter the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun in over 3000 years. Though sometimes characterized as scholars, Carter and Carnarvon were primarily interested in riches, and cut up Tut's mummy to more easily obtain the jewels and gold affixed to him.
November 25
1947—Hollywood Blacklist Instituted
The day after ten Hollywood writers and directors are cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, the group, known as the "Hollywood Ten," are blacklisted by Hollywood movie studios.
November 24
1963—Ruby Shoots Oswald
Nightclub owner and mafia associate Jack Ruby fatally shoots alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of Dallas police department headquarters. The shooting is broadcast live on television and silences the only person known for certain to have had some connection to the Kennedy killing.
1971—D.B. Cooper Escapes from Airplane
In the U.S., during a thunderstorm over Washington state, a hijacker calling himself Dan Cooper, aka D. B. Cooper, parachutes from a Northwest Orient Airlines flight with $200,000 in ransom money. Neither he nor the money are ever found.

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