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.”
I really don't know if I can survive another day of this.
Summer is coming just in the nick of time for Reiko Ike, who tends to wilt during the cold Japanese winter months, as you see her doing in this photo. It comes from an issue of the Japanese magazine Weekly Playboy and was published in January 1978 as part of a pin-up calendar. Reiko got the month of May, which is the commencement of new hope, the efflorescence of the natural world, and a good time to shop for bathing suits. Unless you prefer to go au naturel. Either way summer is the most fantabulous time of the year.
She's a stone cold killer but there's another side to her.
This unusually glamorous shot of Japanese action star Meiko Kaji looking hair salon fresh is from the pages of the Japanese magazine Weekly Playboy. It's always strange to see her without a sword or a gun in her hands, but we dig it. The date is, we're thinking, around 1972. The actual image is timeless.
Sokol's racy cartoons gave Playboy a touch of—well, maybe class isn't the word—but something.
It's nice to have friends that like Pulp Intl. We had a visitor not long ago who brought us some pages he'd clipped from old Playboy magazines. It was an unsolicited and much appreciated gift. This friend is an animator in Hollywood, so he has a keen interest in the work of British cartoonist Erich Sokol, who was one of the best visual humorists regularly published in Playboy. Sokol's mission was simple—try to be artful and funny, while discussing sex in an entertaining way. His style is distinct—curvaceous women with wide, archer's bow mouths, men with long noses and often baffled expressions, and, compared to other cartoonists, deep dimensionality and color in the backgrounds.
Sokol was a wit off the page as well. Friends and acquaintances describe him as a bigtime partier who dreamt up much of his material while drinking in bars. As with any vintage humor his gags are hit and miss today. After five decades that's no surprise. Time can be a humor killer—we made a quip earlier today and it was stale before we even finished it. In any case, when Sokol's humor falls flat it's still cute, at least as far as we're concerned. Our girlfriends might feel differently. Six of these cartoons are original scans, and we augmented the group with examples we found online. We also enlarged the text to make it more easily readable. Enjoy, and keep an eye out for more Sokol, because we plan to revisit him a bit later.
Never say Neva when it comes to tigerskin rugs.
This Technicolor lithograph, which is titled “Tiger Lil” and was printed by Champion Line, shows Neva Gilbert, a Playboy model who was the magazine's July 1954 centerfold. The litho, which also dates from 1954, is generally identified as originating with Playboy, but it actually came from a group of photos first owned by the Baumgarth Calendar Company. Back then Hugh Hefner often paid outside photographers for images. For that reason it's possible the photo is pre-1954, but if so, not by much.
Gilbert herself had forgotten about the shots. She was busy trying to establish an acting career and never saw her own centerfold until 1979. She had no idea Hefner had culled some shots for Playboy. In fact, she had no idea what Playboy was until someone told her she was in it. Speaking of culling, we are not fans of killing rare animals to turn into gaudy home decorations, but we imagine that if you had one of these on your floor back then they greatly increased your odds of a woman doing exactly what Gilbert has done. The Pulp Intl. girlfriends doubt it, but they always do. And of course, we want to prove them wrong. Anyone got an extra tiger rug they want to sell?
Sigh. Just pose and get paid. And remember—nobody I know will ever see these photos.
This Technicolor lithograph published by Champion Line features Dolores Del Monte, Playboy magazine's centerfold for March 1954, in a shot entitled “Radiant Beauty.” Del Monte began her modeling career posing for the legendary photographer Bruno Bernard and the acclaimed pin-up painter Zoe Mozert, at times making as much as $50 a day. That was in 1951, when that pay rate was the equivalent of about $500 in today's money. A year later Del Monte quit modeling. In 1954 the above photo was offered to Playboy. Though Bruno Bernard shot it, the centerfold credited the John Baumgarth Company of Melrose Park, Illinois. Such are the entanglements of copyright. When Del Monte received a letter asking permission to use her likeness she assumed Playboy was a standard pin-up magazine, and the images requested were from a shoot she recalled where she wore a leopard pattern bathing suit. Wrong on both counts, and one can only imagine her reaction when the centerfold hit newsstands, since she was not only married but a mother by then. Well, at least she got the $50. And the world? It got something priceless. We have lots more classic Technicolor lithos, and you can see those by clicking here.
Cars were her addiction—and her destruction.
Above is a rare photo of U.S. born model, actress, and thrill seeker Claudia Jennings, who started as a Playboy centerfold, moved on to cinema, and died aged twenty-nine before her talent could be realized. Even so, she left behind several entertaining b-movies, such as Moonshine Country Express, Deathsport, and the eternal shlock classic Gator Bait. Jennings loved to drive fast. She considered herself an expert. She once said she could do just about anything with a car, a motorcycle, or a truck, including an 18-wheeler, but crashing was certainly not part of the plan. She died on California's Pacific Coast Highway today in 1979 when her Volkswagen sports car rammed a truck head-on.
We guarantee this won't be the last Waltz.
This Technicolor lithograph doesn't have the blank advertising banner at top the way our many other examples do, but it's the same idea, manufactured by Copr. C. Moss and titled “Rhapsody in Red.” This was a particularly popular image, and it was picked up by more than one company. While the above version is from C. Moss, we've also seen a version from the mid-1950s manufactured by J.S.J. and titled “Sandra.” But the model is not Sandra—she's Playboy centerfold Margaret Scott, who was also known as Marilyn Waltz, and that fact goes a long way toward explaining why this image became so popular.
Scott/Waltz posed for the C. Moss shot in 1950 when she was nineteen but didn't hit Playboy's pages until 1954, when she was the centerspread for April. The magazine then brought her back as a playmate in April 1955, so obviously Hefner loved her. After either the first or second Playboy appearance, we suspect the enterprising owner of the 1950 negative recognized her and decided to sell her image for a fresh run as a lithograph. J.S.J. stepped up, bought the neg, and called her Sandra. This is an amazing image. Waltz has another litho we haven't shared yet, but we'll get around to that at some point. Bonus shots below. Click her keywords and you'll see our other posts on her.
This woman is simply dynamite.
U.S. actress Annie Lee Morgan used a couple of pseudonyms in her career. When she broke into celebrityhood as a nude model for Playboy she was Jean Bell, and later as an actress she was often Jeannie Bell. By whatever name she was one of the most beautiful performers of the 1970s, which makes it a shame b-movies and television shows were the extent of her career. Her best known role? Probably the blaxploitation actioner T.N.T. Jackson—which you can read about here. The above shot is undated but probably from around 1973.
The mafia are no match for Jim Brown.
In the blaxploitation flick Slaughter Jim Brown plays Slaughter—no first name—a former Green Beret captain whose underworld connected father is killed by a car bomb. He vows revenge and guns down some of the responsible parties at an airport. That's when the government steps in and turns Slaughter into an operative in exchange for dropping murder charges. All he has to do is head to Mexico and capture the top mobster. South of the border he goes, where shootings, chases, and general mayhem follow as he pretty much turns the country upside down. There are occasional interesting visual flourishes during the violence, including hallucinatory ultra wide angle shots. Maybe director Jack Starrett heaped on the style a bit heavily, but it does set Slaughter apart, and in the end doesn't really harm the final product. Another thing heaped on is the racial insults, even more than in most blaxploitation, and if there's a lesson being imparted it's that eventually n-bombs go off in your face.
Blaxploitation is nothing without its femme fatales, and in those roles Slaughter casts Marlene Clark and Stella Stevens. Clark, though talented, is mere window dressing here; Stevens gets a substantial temptress role, and she's perfectly suited for it, a dozen years after her Playboy centerfold appearance at age twenty-two, and about twice as beautiful in her mid-thirties. According to Brown, Slaughter is one of the three favorite films he starred in. Maybe Stella had something to do with that. In an interview some years back she was asked about the love scenes and said, “I was told that in the movie he did with Raquel Welch, he had a towel put between them, because he didn’t want to touch her flesh in the love scene with her.* I can tell you, we didn’t have anything between us except good feelings and fun.” Well, it looks to us like they had a good time too, and why not? Stevens is hot as hell and Brown is unadulterated manhood on a level few males can hope to reach. We think this one is well worth a watch for fans of the genre. Slaughter premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.*Jim Brown is no fool, and we doubt he ever made such a request. Welch wore undergarments, which was probably always the plan, considering she has done no nude scenes during her career.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
1969—Woodstock Festival Begins
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which was billed as an Aquarian Exposition, takes place on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. It would run for three sometimes rainy days and feature thirty-two acts performing at all hours of the day and night. Today the festival is regarded as one of the greatest events in popular music history.
1977—Radio Signal Arrives from Deep Space
An unidentified radio signal, nicknamed the WOW Signal for the notation a scientist made on a computer readout, is briefly detected by the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project's Big Ear radio telescope. Despite a month of searching the same section of space, the signal is never found again.
1912—U.S. Invades Nicaragua
United States Marines invade Nicaragua to support the U.S.-backed government installed there after José Santos Zelaya had resigned three years earlier. American troops remain for eleven years.
1936—Last Public Execution in U.S.
Rainey Bethea, who had been convicted of rape and murder, is hanged in Owensboro, Kentucky in what is the last public execution performed in the United States.
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