Rumors of her demise were greatly exaggerated.
We've featured the Canadian tabloid Midnight numerous times. This one appeared on newsstands today in 1968. On the cover readers get a headline referring to Robert F. Kennedy, who had been assassinated the previous month. His name is accompanied by a prediction that his killer, Jordanian nationalist Sirhan Sirhan, would in turn be assassinated. It wasn't an outrageous prediction—during the late 1960s newsworthy figures were being dropped like three foot putts. Sirhan was never murdered, though, and he's still around today, languishing at Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego County, California.
Sirhan is an interesting character, but it's the story on Susan Denberg we're interested in today. Denberg, née Dietlinde Zechner, is a German born beauty who became a Playboy Playmate of the Year and screen actress, was a desired Hollywood party girl who had relationships with Hugh Hefner and Jim Brown, and was generally regarded as one of the major sex symbols of her time. But she also became a drug addict. After making the 1968 film Frankenstein Created Woman Denberg returned to Europe and shunned the movie business. In fact, she kept such a low profile that for years sources incorrectly reported that she had died.
Midnight journo John Wilson claims to have visited Denberg in a Vienna mental hospital near the beginning of her self-imposed exile, and his article is basically a recounting of his chat with her. He describes her depressing surroundings and portrays her as a sort of broken bird, quoting her as saying, “I was a real party girl, going out every night, dating one man after another, running around doing wild things like getting drunk and dancing nude at parties. And then someone got me started on LSD and it made everything seem so clear. It was wonderful. Only I couldn't keep away from it, and after a while that was all I was doing, staying in my room and dropping LSD.”
In 1971 Denberg had a child, and by 1972 was making her living on the nudie bar circuit, working as a topless server at the adult cinema Rondell in Vienna, and later dancing fully nude at another Vienna nightspot called Renz. She also worked elsewhere in Europe, including Geneva, where in 1974 she tried to commit suicide by swallowing a reported 200 sleeping pills, an amount that surely would have been fatal had she not been quickly found and sped to a hospital. In 1976 she became a mother again and retired from nude dancing. Today she lives quietly in Vienna.
Denberg's story is filled with twists and turns, and yet it isn't unique in a place like Hollywood. As she makes clear, once enough power brokers, modeling agents, and studio types tell a woman she's special she's probably going to believe them, but once she believes them it's hard for her to keep her head on straight. She sums up her journey to Midnight, “They told me I was beautiful enough to go all the way to the top. They told me about all the fun up there, the kicks. They never told me about the booze and the drugs, the long slide down.”
In other news child leave bill passes Congress with broad bi-partisan support.
The saying goes that if guys had to have children humans would go extinct, but what would really happen is we men would immediately confer upon ourselves every possible birth related advantage. We're talking sixteen weeks paternity leave, laws that hold our jobs for us while we're away, Planned Parenthood clinics everywhere like Taco Bells, completely unfettered access to birth control, Father's Day a three-day weekend holiday in the summer, the whole nine. And childbirth would become macho: “Dude, when I gave birth I was like, fuck the epidural. I wanna feel this shit. Seriously, what kind of girly-man uses anesthesia? I had a friend, he did it without painkillers, he said when the contractions got bad he bit down on a bullet. Me, I had my buddies there and they were all screaming, "Crown motherfucker! Crown motherfucker!” I was like, "Yo Doc, am I delivering a baby or a basketball?" But when it really started to hurt I just headlocked the neonatologist and choked him out.
This is a test of delinquency broadcast system. In the event of a real emergency you'd be royally screwed.
This poster was made to promote the Japanese pinku flick Kôkôsei banchô: Shin'ya hôsô, aka High School Boss 3: Midnight Broadcasting, starring Eiko Yanami and Keiko Matsuzaka. Third in a tetrology, the film is exactly as the title suggests—a tale of delinquency, prostitution, and revenge, with the extra twist of being centered around a radio station. Basically, one of the deejays on the program “All Night Music” reads a letter over the air from a young prostitute, who is later found to have committed suicide while three months pregnant. A search for the people responsible for the tragedy reveals that a prostitution racket is being run out of the local high school. Revenge follows. The tagline for this film is top notch: “When the town goes to bed, we get up!” Kôkôsei banchô: Shin'ya hôsô premiered in Japan today in 1970.
We'll put our six against their six anytime.
This cover of Midnight from today in 1968 gets us back into more tolerable tabloid territory after some hair-raising recent examples from National Spotlite dealing with rape and incest. Today we deal merely with scientists resurrecting the dead. Since they chose experimental subjects of no particular importance, it got us thinking about six people who could do some actual good if brought back. We restricted ourselves to figures from the pulp and post-pulp eras—no Cleopatra or Leonardo DaVinci. Here's our list:
George Orwell, because his wit and political insight are sorely needed in this day and age.
Babe Ruth, because we never saw him play, and we love the idea of someone who was great without taking what he did very seriously.
Marilyn Monroe, because nobody was better on a movie screen, and also because one of her most valuable qualities—usually overlooked—was how her ditzy characters always reduced supposedly smarter men to weak little boys.
Martin Luther King, Jr., so whenever some multi-millionaire cable pundit professes an understanding of him we can go straight to the source and hear: “I was against you and everyone like you.”
Albert Einstein, because perhaps only he could convince the growing ranks of proud know-nothings that intelligence, learning, and worldliness are good qualities.
Paul Rader, Rudy Nappi, George Gross, or any one of about a dozen other departed illustrators, because art.
So there you have it. We had a difficult time coming up with six, but after a few days playing around with about a dozen names we narrowed it down to a group we think would really enrich our existence. Honorable mentions: Amelia Earhart, Willie Mays, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Elmore Leonard, et al. Maybe you would find choosing easier. Give it some thought and see what your list looks like.
St. Cyr tells all for the cheapie tabloid Midnight.
This Midnight published today in 1964 has the usual clickbait on the front cover—I Ripped My Baby To Pieces. Why? Because she hated her husband. Very interesting, but today we're drawn to the banner and Lili St. Cyr's “Torrid Life Story,” in which, for the most part, she talks about her sexual attitudes. The interior header screams that she seduced a 14-year-old boy, and that's again the equivalent of today's internet clickbait. St. Cyr was sixteen herself, which is an age difference we'd hardly call scandalous. The clickbait worked, though. It made us quite eager to read the story. It's written in first person and touted as a Midnight exclusive.
Ordinarily we'd be skeptical a cheapie tabloid could score an exclusive with a world famous celebrity, but in this case we think Midnight is telling the truth. We have a few reasons: Midnight was a Canadian rag, headquartered in Montreal; St. Cyr was from Minnesota, but spent her early years dancing in Montreal; and Midnight was too well known a publication to get away with lying about the source of the story. Thus we can be sure St. Cyr wrote the piece. She eventually authored an autobiography in French, which makes us suspect she wrote this article for the Canadian Midnight—which was called Minuit—and it was translated and printed in the U.S. later. Just a guess. It was apparently part of a series, by the way, but we don't have the other issues of Midnight. Now on to the juicy stuff.
On virginity: “When you have it you try like hell to keep it. You lose it with an unconscious sigh of relief, and once you've lost it you wonder why you tried so hard to keep it in the first place.”
On her first: “Right now, as I write these lines, [all I] can recall about him is that he was blonde and his first name began with an R. As a matter of fact, I don't remember any of my first intimate boyfriends.”
On her others: “I've been called a child snatcher dozens of times because that is the way I like my men. I can't help it.”
On Hollywood star Victor Mature: “One bad thing about Vic though. Liquor and sex just don't mix for him. If he makes love, he's got to be cold sober or he can't perform.”
On Las Vegas: “There is something dead and decadent about the town. It builds to nowhere. It accomplishes nothing. And the people in it are infected with this live-for-today attitude.”
Those are the highlights. Except that readers also get three photos with the article. We already shared a much better version of one of those way back in 2009. The other two are in this post—the shot of St. Cyr as a child, when she was still Willis Marie Van Schaack, and the one below of her in goddess mode. Midnight was printed on cheap-ass paper, but the scans still look pretty good. Willis Marie's tale is interesting too. She was ahead of her time. What she writes could have been written by a character on Girls. It's impossible for us to not respect her boldness and determination to have exactly the life she wanted, particularly during the age in which she lived. We have plenty on St. Cyr in the website. Just click her keywords below.
She liked little boys when she was little, and she loves little boys now.
This issue of Midnight published today in 1967 has a cover that's the opposite of the last one we shared, which was about the world's youngest mother. This one has the world's oldest mother, and goes for the double tabloid whammy by adding an underaged father to the mix. According to the sources we checked, the oldest pregnancy confirmed by birth records occurred at age 70, a feat shared by three women, all of them, weirdly, from India. So this cover is not only untrue, but because it's fiction it casts doubt upon the previous claim from Midnight about the world youngest mom. We already knew that, though. Still, we do hope to be getting it on at eighty-six. Chances are slim, but it's a worthy goal.
Going back to find a simpler place and time.
This issue of the tabloid Midnight was published today in 1965, and as you can see the cover touts a story about a girl who gave birth at age four. Her name is Nang Rwan and she's supposedly from the town of Naung-nga-yan, Burma (now Myanmar). Midnight scribes Leroy Hansen and David Lee tell readers that Rwan is a member of the Pa'O ethnic group, a people whose girls are known for early fertility, like ten years old. But fertility at four is extreme even for the Pa'O, which led village elders to consider her early period to be a gift from the gods. Because of this, even though everyone admits Rwan was raped, and this criminal still walks among them because they have no idea who did it, their belief is that the child is a god-king destined to lead the Pa'O to prosperity and happiness.
We'll just stop there for a moment and say we consider this all to be very unlikely. Not the rape and pregnancy part—distressingly, a confirmed list of youngest mothers contains girls who bore children at age five and up. No, the unlikely part is that Midnight claims to have caught wind of the pregnancy early on and were able to get to Burma to witness the birth. Hansen and Lee embarked on a “difficult” journey to reach the village and arrived as Nang was nearing full term. Once there, they met her in person, with the story informing readers, creepily: “Nang walked in, dressed in a flowing red robe embroidered with beads. We asked to see her alone and she undressed. With our own eyes we saw her body as mature as 16-year-old girl's and as pregnant as any mother imminently facing the birth of a baby.”
Thus the two Midnight writers were in the village for the big event, and report that the infant, which was a boy, was whisked away to be cared for various village midwives. Nang Rwan, once recovered, was displayed in the center of the hamlet while people trekked hundreds of miles to offer her gifts that made her the richest person in the region. But the elders never allow her near the golden child. She hears her baby cry in its special god hut but she can't see him or hold him. So while she's proud to have given birth to a deity, she's unhappy. Bittersweet indeed. But there's one problem with this whole Nang Hwan story. Actually, there are numerous problems, none of which we need to detail because you're having the same problems, we suspect. But the problem that concerns us in terms of veracity is that Nang Rwan isn't on that official list of world's youngest mothers we mentioned, which seems odd considering Midnight devotes two full pages to her and she should have been well known. But we were not able to confirm any of the tabloid's assertions outside the story itself. So as interesting and detailed and morbid as the tale is, we have to call it fiction. At least until further evidenced. See more from Midnight by clicking its keyword below.
Just one look was all it took.
British actress Barbara Steele became known for starring in Italian gothic horror films, a genre in which she could put her penetrating eyes to good use. Some of her films include The Pit and the Pendulum, Nightmare Castle, and The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock, as well as mainstream efforts like 8½, Pretty Baby, and 2016's Minutes Past Midnight. She also moved into producing shows for television, earning credits on The Winds of War, Queer Eye, and other shows. No date on the above shot but we're thinking it's from around 1965.
Tabloid conjures yet another imaginary woman who can't say no.
Midnight fabricates an actress named Barbi Simms on this cover from today in 1968. She's supposedly sixteen and unable to control her sex urges, which is common enough in cheapie tabloids. And she supposedly gained this appreciation from being raped, also common in cheapie tabloids. But unusually, Midnight editors revealed the title of a film she was starring in: The Lights Are Cut, which she was shooting in Liverpool when interviewed. This is not common. Generally, details subject to confirmation are lacking in these phony tabloid stories. It was easy enough to determine that The Lights Are Cut never existed, nor did any actress named Barbi Simms. And even if she had, she would never have claimed to be more-or-less okay with being sexually assaulted. Duh. As we've pointed out before, these tales spring wholly from the minds of second-rate male editors. We picture them hunched over typewriters in smoky offices above neon lit liquor stores, coughing up phlegm and chortling, “Oh, this is good. This is gold. Our readers'll love this.” The weird part is they must have been right—Midnight was a very successful tabloid.
Fact challenged tabloid may have predicted presidential assassination plot.
Midnight claims in this issue published today in 1968 that a conspiracy was afoot to assassinate Richard Nixon during his presidential campaign, but with mid-century tabloids the question is always: Is this true? We found no mention of the plot anywhere, though Midnight is pretty authoritative in its assertions, claiming three men were involved, two of whom were in FBI custody, with the third having been picked up by Mexican police in Tijuana. But authoritative or not, the paper got this one wrong.
Weirdly, though, there may have been a plot to kill Nixon in 1968, but a week after the above Midnight hit newsstands. Though the episode is little remembered today, a man of Yemeni origin named Ahmed Rageh Namer was arrested along with his two sons Hussein and Abdo on November 12—a full eight days after Midnight made its arrest claims—and charged with conspiracy to assassinate Nixon, who had won the presidential election the previous Tuesday. You can see Namer under arrest in the photo just below.
The evidence against him and his sons was scant—an informant claimed the father possessed two rifles, had asked him join him in the killing, and had offered him money to do so. This was back before the word of a shady informant could get a person thrown in a black pit in Guantanamo for ten years, so the Namers actually got a trial and their defense lawyer of course shredded the case. All three men were acquitted in July of 1969.
But how weird is it that Midnight would fabricate an assassination story a week before the FBI uncovered what they thought was an actual assassination plot? Maybe Namer read Midnight and got the idea. Nah... he was probably just innocent in the first place. But still, how odd. Sometimes history is stranger than fiction. Elsewhere in the issue you get a bit of Hollywood gossip and a pretty cool photo of Maureen Arthur and another of Carmen Dene, below. See more Midnight at our tabloid index.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
1976—Gerald Ford Rescinds Executive Order 9066
U.S. President Gerald R. Ford signs Proclamation 4417, which belatedly rescinds Executive Order 9066. That Order, signed in 1942 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, established "War Relocation Camps" for Japanese-American citizens living in the U.S. Eventually, 120,000 are locked up without evidence, due process, or the possibility of appeal, for the duration of World War II.
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