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.
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
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.
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