The “news” others dare not print.
Did you think we’d run out of these? Think again. Reuben Sturman’s blaxploitation tabloid It’s Happening is back with all the required portions of nudity and provocation that a typical ’70s tab requires. This issue is undated, but it appeared in May 1970, and was number five of volume five—a fact that just blows us away, considering how fly-by-night the thing is. Inside you get centerfold June Jennings, French actress Gabriella Savoi, hot stripper Eulalie Leeds, and an exposé on the French island of Île du Levant, which is said to be a nudist haven. That’s true. Since 1931 the island had been home to Héliopolis, Europe’s first nudist town. Readers learn from an island inhabitant that, “What makes it particularly attractive to girls is that they do not have to spend enormous amounts for fashionable bikinis, loungewear, cocktail dresses, shorts, et al. All they need is a little piece of fabric to cover that intimate spot on their bodies and maybe a straw hat to protect them against the sun.” We’d guess they also need a keen appreciation for middle-aged horndogs with grey chest hair, who'd be looking around wondering why 90% of the beach's inhabitants were men exactly like them. We have fourteen scans from It's Happening below. This is the fifth issue we’ve shared, and you can find the others at our tabloid index here.
Despite appearances It’s Happening is the same under the skin as every other 70s tabloid.
Has it really been two years since we last posted an issue of It’s Happening? So it seems, and here we are, bringing back this black-themed 1970s publication today, when the U.S. is in the midst of one of its periodic racial upheavals. The timing is a fluke—this is an August issue always destined to be posted this month—but we’re reminded by the existence of It’s Happening that racial discord has always generated easy profits for a cynical few media moguls. In this case the head cynic is Reuben Sturman, a clever fox who eventually built a pornography empire his future prosecutors would describe as the largest in America. That description is unconfirmable today (and probably then, too), but there’s no doubt his holdings were vast.
It’s Happening of the 1960s was a bold publication, but by the time this issue appeared it was not dissimilar to other cheapie tabloids. It printed stories about the virile black lovers of white housewives and starlets, or the sporting conquests of black athletes, or current news that skirted actual journalism, but it did not—crucially for a black newspaper—spend time on important issues like police misconduct, advocacy for social change, or any other subject that might have branded it a political paper. Published during a time of constant social turbulence, it doubtless attracted the eyeballs of those looking for something radical and bold. Those readers would have been satisfied with the earlier It’s Happening, but not with the later version.
So once we take bold and radical off the table, the main two differences left between 1970s It’s Happening and other tabloids were its placement of African Americans on every cover, and its deliberate marketing to black America. Even this went only so far—by now about a fifth of each issue had nothing specific to do with the black community at all. These would be stories about white celebs, or maybe weird crimes in some European enclave. So, it was a black paper, yes, but one that had learned not to alienate. A white consumer who liked a typical cheapie tab like, say, Midnight, would have found 1970s It’s Happening comfortingly familiar. We have some scans below, and you can see more of the same in our previous posts here, here, and here.
All citizens possess unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of tabloid depravity.
Earlier this year, the website Darwination sent us two copies of the American tabloid It’s Happening. We posted the first in May, and today we have the second issue. As we pointed out before, the publication was dreamt up by Reuben Sturman, a Cleveland-born son of Russian immigrants who realized that the lack of a cheapie tabloid aimed at black readers represented a large—and potentially profitable—hole in the market. True, there had been the magazine Hep during the 1950s, but that had been a glossy tabloid. And true, Sturman had already delved into African-American erotica with his magazine Tan N’ Terrific, but that had been a photo digest. It’s Happening—provocative, humorous, but mostly plain ludicrous—was what Sturman came up with. See below, and see here.
It takes a village—or at least help from Darwination—to uncover the facts behind mid-century tabloids.
A lot of e-mails of late. Here’s one we got at the end of last week:
I noticed your recent post on
It’s Happening and have just a bit of information for you. It was edited shortly by Michael Resnick, SF writer, and was indeed produced by Joe Sturman, younger brother of Reuben Sturman. I’ve scanned a couple issues, edited by my pal McCoy.
It’s truly a wild, wild tabloid. I’ve got a few more unscanned issues in my collection. I’ll let you know if I ever get more of them scanned. Tabloids are an area of interest of mine, as they are sort of a cultural id and I've scanned a good number of them (though I've never blogged on the subject). It’s almost crazy to think that some of the ones in the 70s were in the checkout line, considering how over the top outrageous they are. Keep up the great work on your blog. I intend to give it a good looking over and will give it a link in my sidebar at Darwination Scans.
Thanks, Beau. We knew someone had info on the publishers. The Sturmans were the sons of immigrant Russians who had settled in Cleveland. Older brother Reuben was for a time one of the most prolific distributors of pornographic magazines in America; little brother Joe published sleaze books and ran three tabloid imprints—National Times, Truth, and It’s Happening. While Reuben was neck deep in all sorts of shady goings on, Joe did not like the sleaze business, and got out of it as soon as he was able. We will explore these two men at a later date, because what we’ve read so far is thoroughly pulp worthy.
Darwination didn't just point us toward the info we related above, but even sent over a couple of issues of It’s Happening. While we assumed the facts about the mag were known by somebody out there, we did not expect anyone to have actual issues. However, we’re not surprised that of all people, it’s the person behind Darwination that does. Everyone with an interest in mid-century magazines should cruise by Darwination and check out the great collection there. It’s tabloids and much more. Below are some choice pages from that issue of It’s Happening that Beau sent over. We’ll share his second issue soon, and we have two more issues of our own to scan and share.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1947—Heyerdahl Embarks on Kon-Tiki
Norwegian ethnographer and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl and his five man crew set out from Peru on a giant balsa wood raft called the Kon-Tiki in order to prove that Peruvian natives could have settled Polynesia. After a 101 day, 4,300 mile (8,000 km) journey, Kon-Tiki smashes into the reef at Raroia in the Tuamotu Islands on August 7, 1947, thus demonstrating that it is possible for a primitive craft to survive a Pacific crossing.
1989—Soviets Acknowledge Chernobyl Accident
After two days of rumors and denials the Soviet Union admits there was an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. Reactor number four had suffered a meltdown, sending a plume of radioactive fallout into the atmosphere and over an extensive geographical area. Today the abandoned radioactive area surrounding Chernobyl is rife with local wildlife and has been converted into a wildlife sanctuary, one of the largest in Europe.
1945—Mussolini Is Arrested
Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, his mistress Clara Petacci, and fifteen supporters are arrested by Italian partisans in Dongo, Italy while attempting to escape the region in the wake of the collapse of Mussolini's fascist government. The next day, Mussolini and his mistress are both executed, along with most of the members of their group. Their bodies are then trucked to Milan where they are hung upside down on meathooks from the roof of a gas station, then spat upon and stoned until they are unrecognizable.
1933—The Gestapo Is Formed
The Geheime Staatspolizei, aka Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, is established. It begins under the administration of SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police, but by 1939 is administered by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or Reich Main Security Office, and is a feared entity in every corner of Germany and beyond.
1937—Guernica Is Bombed
In Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica is bombed by the German Luftwaffe, resulting in widespread destruction and casualties. The Basque government reports 1,654 people killed, while later research suggests far fewer deaths, but regardless, Guernica is viewed as an example of terror bombing and other countries learn that Nazi Germany is committed to that tactic. The bombing also becomes inspiration for Pablo Picasso, resulting in a protest painting that is not only his most famous work, but one the most important pieces of art ever produced.
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