|Hollywoodland||Sep 23 2014|
A world-weary Sammy Davis, Jr. appears here in a photo shot by Peter Basch in the back of a Chicago limousine. Davis was about to go to New York to star on Broadway in Clifford Odets and William Gibson’s Golden Boy, a musical involving a boxer’s turbulent career, doomed interracial romance, and eventual suicide. Not exactly an uplifting night out, yet the show ran for 569 performances and the cast album cracked the Top 40. That’s called star power, and Davis, who was already huge in Hollywood and the music industry, had it to spare. The photo dates from 1964.
|Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp||May 24 2013|
Jayne Mansfield, Mickey Hargitay, Elvis Presley, Eartha Kitt, and more. This issue of Whisper published this month in 1965 tells tales about some of the most popular stars of the day. And then there’s Hayley Mills, former child star who was trying to make a full-grown career for herself where breaking from type often involves shocking the public. In Mills’ case, she planned to star in the film Candy, which was to be an adaptation of the banned satirical novel Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg had based on Voltaire’s Candide. Considered one of the sexier novels of the time, it touched on homosexuality, masturbation, interracial relations, and seemed like a disastrous choice for wholesome Hayley Mills. But if she actually wanted to change that image what could do it? Candy could. Whisper warns Mills away from the role: “We’ll bet her fans—and the moviegoing public at large—won’t buy it.” Dire words, indeed. But in the end, Mills never got the role. It went instead to Swedish actress Ewa Aulin.
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 18 2013|
Today we have a January 1961 issue of Confidential for you, with cover stars Sammy Davis, Jr. and May Britt. Since we’ve already discussed Sammy and May of late, and even made her a recent femme fatale, we’ll skip past them and focus on another interesting story—the tale of Diane Harris, who shot to notoriety as a witness in the infamous Minot Jelke pimping trial of 1952. We wrote about it back in 2009—Jelke was an oleomargarine heir who was cut off from his trust fund and decided to turn his girlfriend Patricia Ward into a prostitute in order to make ends meet. Ward became known as the “Golden Girl of Vice” and “The Golden Girl of Café Society,” which is why it’s interesting that Confidential calls Diane Harris “The Golden Prostitute.” Apparently Jelke had the Midas touch.
Confidential wastes no time in its article. It begins: She gave herself a title… Lady Diana Harrington. The New York D.A. gave her another… the Golden Girl of Café Society. Houston police gave her a third, less flamboyant title… prostitute. Uh oh—the New York District Attorney’s nickname for Harris is identical to Patricia Ward’s nickname. After a few more paragraphs of reading, it becomes clear that Confidentialbelieves the Golden Girl is Diane Harris—not Patricia Ward. While it’s true that Harris did use some aliases, including Lady Diana Harrington and Mary Lou Brew, nowhere is the name Ward mentioned as a pseudonym.
|Hollywoodland||Nov 13 2012|
Above is a publicity photo of American singer/actor/comedian Sammy Davis, Jr. with his Swedish bride, actress May Britt. The shot dates from today in 1960, and as you might guess, that was a very bad time for mixed couples. Sammy had for years been making tabloid headlines for dating white women ranging from Tinseltown icon Kim Novak to Canadian singer Joan Stuart, but when he announced plans to marry Britt, a chunk of the general public lost its collective mind. He faced racist banners and chants in London, received rafts of hate mail, and was confronted in Los Angeles with the bizarre spectacle of three men marching outside the Huntington Hartford Theater in nazi regalia. Even two admirers, John and Robert Kennedy, allegedly asked Frank Sinatra to tell Davis to delay the wedding until after the 1960 presidential election.
|Vintage Pulp||Dec 24 2011|
Above, a Japanese poster for the original Ocean’s Eleven, with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, Sammy Davis, Jr., et.al., in a tale of the ultimate Las Vegas casino heist, which is basically just a flimsy excuse for the boys to sing, joke, drink, and look cool. They're great at all of those, and the movie is great too. It opened in Tokyo today in 1960.
|Femmes Fatales||Oct 22 2010|
Cuban-descended American-born dancer and singer Lola Falana, who was discovered in a New York City nightclub by Sammy Davis, Jr., and went on to become a major star in Italian cinema.
|Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp||Apr 26 2010|
Above is a colorful cover of the tabloid Top Secret, from this month 1960, with Sammy Davis, Jr. composited next to a woman the magazine says is his future wife, Canadian singer Joan Suart. But things change quickly in Hollywood. Davis had just broken off his engagement with Stuart and was already seeing Swedish actress May Britt, who he would marry in the autumn. In any case, Stuart doesn't look anything like Kim Novak, the world class beauty Davis had briefly been involved with and who he may well have been pining for since their split. We’ve mentioned the story before: when Novak was possibly the most famous woman in cinema, she and the Candyman started sleeping together. Her studio bosses weren’t about to risk the news reaching the public, so they spoke to some Mafia friends and had Sammy kidnapped to throw a scare into him. It worked, and the affair with Novak ended.
It gets worse. The Mafia then pushed Davis into a marriage with a black dancer—just to squelch the Novak rumors that had begun to crop up—and the union lasted less than a year. His marriage to May Britt lasted longer, about eight years, but even though Sammy had found a woman the Mafia didn’t care about, most other Americans were scandalized. It was driven by racism, of course, but it was also driven by that eternal desire to control women’s sexuality. Ask any woman you know, and she'll agree that men are always trying to tell her whom she can sleep with, irrespective of skin color. Davis thought he could handle the public fallout from his interracial marriage, but when John F. Kennedy caved in to political pressure and removed him from the bill of a White House party, it scarred Davis and led to the bizarre sight of him endorsing Richard Nixon and even hugging him on live television.
There’s a second interesting story here, about the child star Evelyn Rudie, left. Rudie was nine years old in November 1959 when, without telling anyone where she was going, she hopped on a plane for Washington, D.C., with the purpose of seeing First Lady Mamie Eisenhower. Rudie supposedly broke open her four piggy banks and collected $160.00 in change, which was just enough for a ticket to D.C. And why did she want to see the First Lady? Here’s what she said at the time: “When I saw Mrs. Eisenhower in Washington last year, she told me that her grandchildren and the President enjoyed my acting so much. So I decided to talk with her and see if she couldn’t get me a part in a film or television series.” That’s called going straight to the top. But Rudie never got to see the First Lady. Mainly, she just made headlines. And that’s the most interesting part about this—the headlines did not concern the fact that she had traveled alone, but that the whole scenario might have been a publicity stunt. How times have changed. Today, her parents might end up in jail for neglect. We’ll have more from Top Secret soon.
|Vintage Pulp||Sep 16 2009|
All very interesting, but then we come to this slightly more obscure reference to Yale and Pig Night parties. Intriguing, no? So, since we have a collegiate theme going today, let’s take a closer look at this. Yale during the 1950s had a thriving frat culture of rich young men sporting well-developed senses of entitlement along with a hair-trigger willingness to party like it was 1999. One house in particular, Delta Kappa Epsilon, was the jock frat. And we all know how sensitive jocks are. Pig Night was an annual ritual in which DKE pledges were sent into New Haven to invite townie girls to a fraternity dance. At midnight, the lucky ladies were gathered and an announcement was made in front of the entire frat. The girls had not been selected because they were beautiful, or interesting, or fun—but because they were the ugliest girls the pledges could find—i.e. “pigs.” Big laughs all around.
The girls invariably stormed out, angry, or humiliated, or tearful, and that made it all the more fun. All this from a frat claiming to seek candidates who “combined in the most equal proportions the gentleman, the scholar, and the jolly good fellow.” We don’t know exactly when DKE’s Pig Nights ended, but we did find references to them continuing while George W. Bush was president of the frat during the mid-’60s. We draw no conclusions from that, although you might. But remember—fucked up as it is, back then Pig Night would have fallen into the category of good clean fun. Not that it was truly harmless—just that the victims were unfairly expected to pretend it was. Today, nobody would tolerate such an event. Which is good, because though we’re vocal here at Pulp about the sad decline of movie, book, and magazine art, we’ve also said before that we think human beings are slowly getting better.