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.
Midnight proves that sexual desire sells.
Above, a cover of Midnight from today in 1962 with French actress Véronique Vendell telling readers she wants to be wicked. If you've seen Midnight before you know this was its modus operandi—pair a model or actress on the cover with a quote about her sexual availability. Examples:
Were any of these quotes truthful? Doubtful, but they must have worked to attract readers, because Midnight was around for a long while.
Virginity wasn’t against the law, but topless dancing was—until she came along.
Burlesque dancer Yvonne D’Angers graces the cover of this Midnight published today in 1967. She was born in Teheran, Iran and reached the height of her fame after a 1965 obscenity trial, a government threat to deport her, a publicity stunt where she chained herself to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, and a 1966 appearance in Playboy. There’s surprisingly little about her online—not even a measly Wikipedia page. But she was important within her milieu—she was one of four defendants in the aforementioned obscenity trial, along with Carol Doda, Kay Star, and Euraine Heimberg, and the acquittal legalized topless dancing and waitressing in San Francisco. That decision made San Fran the first city in the U.S. where this was the case.
D’Angers’ main haunt was the Off Broadway on Kearney Street, but she also danced at Gigi’s, which was located on Broadway, and she worked in Las Vegas, in addition to touring the U.S. She was married to Off Broadway owner Voss Boreta, and he was her manager, making her part a client list that included Doda and the topless girl-band The Ladybirds. She was also—though this is not often noted—a college graduate anda painter. She billed herself as being naturally endowed, but both she and Doda were said by people who knew them early in their careers to have been worked on by cosmetic surgeons. The above shots of D’Angers, pre-fame, pre-blonde, versus post-fame, 44D, hanging out with Trini Lopez, seem to confirm those stories. Well have more on D’Angers (and Doda) later.
There’s nothing like the pitter patter of little jackboots.
Check an English language bio on Gisela Fleischer and it’ll likely say she’s a West German woman who claimed to be Adolf Hitler’s daughter, and that the Swiss paper Tribune de Genève broke the story in 1966. Well, guess what? The above Midnight is from today in 1965, and inside, readers are told that Abigail Van Buren—aka Dear Abby—received a letter from West Germany that began: “I need some advice in a hurry. Should I marry a rabbi? I am the daughter of Adolf Hitler.” Fleischer’s mother Tilly Fleischer had competed in javelin at the 1936 Olympic games. According to Gisela, Hitler was impressed enough to invite her mother to the Berghof for dinner and that meeting in Obersalzberg was the beginning of an eight-month affair.
Gisela claims to have been born in December 1937 at a special Nazi clinic, but never knew who her father was until later in life. Midnight journo Cyrus Bell claims to have spoken to Fleischer, and the gist is basically that learning she was Hitler’s daughter was a good thing, because it helped her finally know and accept herself. She says at the end, “Now I can say, like Antigone in the tragedy by Sophocles, that I was born for love and not for hate.” But by now you know that Midnight couldn’t land a scoop if you dropped the entire editorial staff into a Breyer’s factory. While the Dear Abby connection might well be true, it turns out Fleischer first made her Hitler claims in mid-1965 in the European magazines Oggi, Ici Paris, and Bunten, and Midnight merely reprinted them.
Fleischer was mostly ignored until she revealed all in a 1966 book called Mein Vater Adolf Hitler, published in France as Adolf Hitler mon père. Reactions to this event were skeptical, to say the least. A famous wit of the day wrote a satirical piece called, “I was Hitler’s toothbrush.” Fleischer kept her story alive with interviews in other magazines, but she had stiff competition—two people claiming to be the offspring of Hitler and Eva Braun had surfaced, a woman named Eleanor Bauer claimed to be Hitlerspawn, and the same assertion was made by a Frenchman named Jean Marie Loret. Even Martin Bormann’s son claimed to be in reality the result of an encounter between Hitler and a girl known only as Uschi.
Proof will probably never turn up in any of these cases, but is it very hard to believe a man with Hitler’s power and obsession with Aryan womanhood was sowing his seed whenever the urge struck? As Goliath books and Hans von Bockhain have documented, 1930s Germany was an extraordinarily decadent time anyway. In addition, it’s rare that dictators do not have mistresses. From there it’s easy to imagine children being the result. Some historical researchers have portrayed Hitler as a sexual deviant—impotent shit freak seems to be the favored theory—but most historians believe he had a normal sex life, whatever that is. We’ll have more from Midnight later, and you can see other issues by visiting our tabloid index.
Here’s a pop quiz for you, since you think you’re so damn clever. Is it better to be a live tramp or a dead loudmouth?
Harry Whittington’s The Lady Was a Tramp, aka Murder at Midnight, is the story of a man who hires a detective to solve the murder of his angelic daughter only to have the detective discover that the daughter was not such an angel after all. The book features Pat Raffigan, who is a character Whittington used often. 1951 on this, with uncredited art.
In tabloid publishing no tragedy is taboo.
The Canadian tabloid Midnight, never what you would call a classy publication, goes beyond the pale with this issue published today in 1969. The child on the cover did not suffer the effects of diet soft drinks, but rather those of the anti-nausea drug thalidomide, which was routinely prescribed to pregnant women during the 1960s to prevent morning sickness. The results for 10,000 or more expectant mothers and their infants were what you see above—or worse. Midnight takes that still raw wound and pretty much rips it open with this cover, but hey—anything for sales, right? When things like this happen, the after-effects echo on endlessly. An $81 million thalidomide lawsuit settled just two years ago, and scores of other filings remain in court systems around the world.
Midnight twice in the same day.
We mentioned a while back that the cheapie tabloid Midnight was printed in Montreal, which made it more of a Canadian than American publication. Above you see a rare cover of Minuit, which was the Canadian Midnight. This hit newsstands today in 1966, and it’s basically a duplicate of the Nobu McCarthy cover we shared on this day last year. Well, not an exact duplicate. As you can see by looking at the image on the right, the cover text on the U.S. version says: “I’m wild, wicked, and willing,” but on Minuit McCarthy says, “Je dis ‘oui’ aux hommes,” which means, “I say ‘yes’ to men.” The sentiment is the same, but we're reasonably sure both lines were made up by Midnight—and Minuit—editors. Thanks to the website viellemarde.com for this image.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—First Space Program Casualty Occurs
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when, during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after more than ten successful orbits, the capsule's main parachute fails to deploy properly, and the backup chute becomes entangled in the first. The capsule's descent is slowed, but it still hits the ground at about 90 mph, at which point it bursts into flames. Komarov is the first human to die during a space mission.
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder
, Carmen Jones
, The Man with the Golden Arm
, and Stalag 17
, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.
1912—Pravda Is Founded
The newspaper Pravda, or Truth, known as the voice of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, begins publication in Saint Petersburg. It is one of the country's leading newspapers until 1991, when it is closed down by decree of then-President Boris Yeltsin. A number of other Pravdas appear afterward, including an internet site and a tabloid.
1983—Hitler's Diaries Found
The German magazine Der Stern claims that Adolf Hitler's diaries had been found in wreckage in East Germany. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks for the sixty small books, plus a volume about Rudolf Hess's flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945. But the diaries are subsequently revealed to be fakes written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger. Both he and Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann go to trial in 1985 and are each sentenced to 42 months in prison.
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