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.
Actually, the flap on my bikini does slim the hips. It also hides pistols. Now get your hands up, idiot.
William Ard's Like Ice She Was stars his detective creation Lou Largo in a missing persons case. He's looking for a former prostitute who robbed a Montreal casino owner and fled to Miami. He finds her, but the situation escalates to murder and an attempted frame-up. This character was supposed to tentpole a series, and it did, but this was the second and last Largo written by Ard, as he died after writing it. The books thereafter were ghost written by Lawrence Block, and later John Jakes. Like Ice She Was is copyright 1960, and the Monarch Books cover guide has the art as uncredited, which is a shame.
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.
Take a walk on the wild side.
Above are three cover treatments for Sugar-Puss on Dorchester Street, written by Al Palmer, and first published in 1949 (many sources say 1950, but Palmer’s current day publisher Véhicule Press says 1949). Sugar-Puss was set in Montreal in the debauched red light district centered around Dorchester Street (now René Lévesque Boulevard), and spiced with firsthand observations from Palmer, who was a night-crawling columnist for the Montreal Herald and later the Montreal Gazette. His main character, Gisele Lepine, leaves her small farming town, is swept up in bright lights and big city, and pulled into various dramas involving a newspaper man, a cabaret owner, drug-dealers, and chorus girls. Gisele’s situation soon devolves, bringing her up-close and personal with organized crime, murder, and white slavery (always, in mid-century novels, taken to be somehow worse than mere slavery). The novel was Palmer’s only one, but it has managed to endure among collectors, maybe because it has possibly the best title ever. He also wrote a city expose entitled Montreal Confidential. We like all three of these covers, but even if the first two seem of higher quality, with their splashes of purple and yellow, we think version three manages to capture a feeling of loneliness and alienation. The top piece is by Syd Dyke, the middle one by D. Rickard, and the last is by unknown.
Tabloid reveals the secret of successful marriages.
Above, a cover of the Montreal-based tabloid Midnight from today in 1965 with June Wilkinson on the cover and a header offering readers some marital advice. Our advice is never take advice from a tabloid. We’ve featured Wilkinson here quite a bit. You can see all those posts by clicking her keywords just below.
Not exactly Canada’s greatest export.
Here’s another typical cover of the tabloid Midnight. We tend to think of this as a U.S. publication but it actually had offices in both Chicago and Montreal, and was printed in Canada, which presumably makes it a Canadian paper first and foremost. This issue appeared today in 1964 and the imprint had by this point been around for eleven years. We have no idea when it died but we’ve never seen an issue past 1969. We’ll have more from Midnight later, including some complete scans.
Where there’s smoke there’s desire.
Above is a cover for Ronald J. Cooke’s The House on Craig Street, produced by an artist known only as D. Rickard for Harlequin in 1949. That’s the year Harlequin was launched in Toronto, Canada, and we gather that Rickard painted many of the company’s early covers. We had actually seen his work around quite often without knowing who painted it. But we always took note of it, and now that we've attached a name to the output, we’re officially on Rickard's bandwagon. His style reminds us of many of the French covers we share—i.e., verging on impressionistic, as opposed to the realistic work you see from many of the top American artists.
Moving on to the fiction, Ronald J. Cooke’s tale here involves a young advertising man who wants to make it big, and the action is set mainly in Montreal of the 1930s. Though there is a love interest, or even two, this book isn't one of the romances with which Harlequin earned its enduring fame. Cooke went on to write two more novels, and some non-fiction, including books like the popular Money-Making Ideas for Retirees. He also wrote tons of business articles for magazines and trade publications, exciting stuff like “How To Get Better Results for Your Mail-Order Business” and “Labour-Management Ideas That Yield Big Dividends.”
D. Rickard painted another cover for The House on Craig Street for News Stand Library’s U.S. run of the book, which you see at right. Depicting the same scene, this alternate version, also from 1949, seems to us a bit less evocative than the Harlequin cover, almost cartoonish. Anyway, we’ll have more work from this interesting artist later, but if you want to see some now, follow the link to this small collection.
Raquel Welch represents a high water mark for the low rent National Spotlite.
Her body drives men wild. But it isn’t Raquel Welch being quoted on the cover of this National Spotlite published today in 1967, though the juxtaposition of text makes it seem so. No, the line came from a little known actress named Donna Selby, who National Spotlite scribe Hugh Wells interviewed in London. The story is rather amusing, as Wells tells readers how Selby appeared in only a bathrobe, made a pass at him, gave him an unwanted kiss and even licked his ear. He claims to have fled the room, saying to the actress, “I predict that you’ll go places—and quickly too!” But he was wrong about that—try as we might, we can’t find mention of an actress named Donna Selby anywhere.
But getting back to Raquel Welch, the cover shot comes from one of her most famous photo sessions, the same one that produced this excellent image and many others. Welch had gone briefly blonde, and the resultant photos are the only ones we’ve seen of her with golden hair. You know what would make her presence here even better? An interview. But no such luck. National Spotlite is simply making good use of a handout photo. Moving on, readers are treated to a nice shot of Patsy Ann Noble, aka Trisha Noble, just below, who we discussed back in 2009, and alsoappearing in the issue is German actress Dagmar Hank, who acted in several movies between 1958 and 1965. Lastly, in the centerfold you get Molly Peters, who was a Harrison Marks model and whose most notable cinematic output was a bit part in Thunderball.
You have to give National Spotlite credit—unlike many middle tier tabloids of the period this one managed to actually feature relevant and semi-relevant personalities. That comes as a surprise, since it was owned by the infamous Beta Publications of Spotlite Extra and Close-Up Extra fame. But as the flagship paper, National Spotlite doubtless had a higher budget. The masthead tells us it even had offices in New York City and Montreal, which is kind of impressive. Within a few more years, though, the paper regressed to the same form as Beta’s cheaper imprints and was reduced to putting out issues like this one. Like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, for a while National Spotlite coulda been a contenduh. It just never quite made it.
Albert Nussbaum was good at almost everything—but what he really enjoyed was crime.
Above is an Inside Detective published February 1963, containing a feature on Albert Nussbaum and Bobby Wilcoxson, a pair of armed robbers who were among the most sought after fugitives of their time. Nussbaum was the brains of the operation, and was adept at chess and photography, and was a locksmith, gunsmith, pilot, airplane mechanic, welder, and draftsman. With his spatial and mechanical aptitude, many careers would have been available to him, but he chose instead to become a bank robber. Predictably, he was good at that too.
Nussbaum and Wilcoxson knocked over eight banks between 1960 and 1962, taking in more than $250,000, which back then was the equivalent of more than two million. During a December 1961 Brooklyn robbery, Wilcoxson got an itchy trigger finger and machine-gunned a bank guard. The killing landed him on the FBI’s most wanted list. But even after the Feds distributed more than a million wanted posters and involved upwards of 600 agents in the case, they could locate neither him nor the elusive Nussbaum. The pair were just too smart.
But brains are not the same as intuition. Nussbaum was clever enough to arrange a meeting with his estranged wife right under the authorities’ noses, but apparently had no clue his mother-in-law was capable of dropping a dime on him. What followed was a 100 mph chase through the streets of Buffalo that ended only after a civilian rammed Nussbaum’s car.Wilcoxson was arrested soon afterward in Maryland, and both robbers were convicted of murder. But where Wilcoxson got the chair (a sentence which was commuted to life upon appeal), Nussbaum got forty years, which made him eligible for parole.
Before being arrested Nussbaum had begun corresponding with mystery author Dan Marlowe, who encouraged him to put his experiences into fiction. He suddenly had plenty of time on his hands, so he wrote some short stories, and of course, he had an aptitude for that, too. With Marlowe’s help, he scored a gig writing film reviews for the Montreal magazine Take One, and after being paroled years later, wrote fiction that appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchock’s Mystery Magazine, and other places. He and Marlowe eventually lived together, with Nussbaum acting as a sort of caretaker for his mentor, who was in failing health and suffering from amnesia. Marlowe died in 1987 and Nussbaum continued to write, as well as host workshops, and get himself elected president of the Southern California chapter of the Mystery Writer’s Association.
Truly, Albert Nussbaum’s story is one of the most interesting you’ll ever run across, and there’s much more to it than we covered here. Perhaps a suitable summation would be to say that before there was such a term as “street cred” Nussbaum had it in spades. His crimes resulted in a man’s death, and his later fame traded on the very experiences that led to that tragic event—unforgivable, on some level. But still, he proved that, given a second chance, some people are capable of making the most of it. Albert Nussbaum died in 1996, aged 62.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
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