A legendary boxer faces the winter of his discontent.
The National Police Gazette asks on a cover from this month in 1950 “What Will Happen to Joe Louis?” It's a poignant question. Louis had earned more than $4 million during his boxing career (about $40 million in 2016 money), but thanks to predatory managers and slimy handlers had received only about $800,000 of it. However, his gross earnings left him with a huge tax bill, forcing him to fight past his prime in an attempt to pay off the debt. In September 1950 he met Ezzard Charles and was thrashed. For his pain he earned just over $100,000—not nearly enough to pay off the government. Left with no choice, he decided to shoot for another big payday. First he notched several wins again club level fighters, then booked a bout against another top boxer. That boxer was twenty-seven year old Rocky Marciano, and the meeting ended with Louis being knocked clean out of the ring. So, getting back to the Gazette's question: "What will happen to Joe Louis?" What happened is he retired and became an exhibition fighter, still carrying that heavy debt, and he never paid it off.
But since you're about to have so much of it inflicted on you shouldn't you be telling yourself it isn't real?
The cover you see here was painted by Eric Tansley, who produced relatively few paperback fronts as far as we can discern, but who was prolific in other areas, including illustrating nature books and making western fine art. This nice effort for British author Robert Westerby's Only Pain Is Real is from 1953.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and a hundred years changes the eye.
It's been a while since we checked in with The National Police Gazette, that most venerable of U.S. magazines, launched all the way back in 1845. Today we venture to the year 1919, one of its famed pink issues, with cover star Clarine Seymour. She's described as pretty by the editors, but before you smirk and say beauty standards have really changed in a hundred years, check out the inset photo at right. So you see, Gazette's cover doesn't capture Seymour at her best.
Yeah. Maybe she still doesn't exactly strike you as a stunner. That's because you were right the first time—beauty standards have changed in a hundred years. For both women and men. They've diversified, too, in ways that would shock Gazette readers of 1919. Seymour would maybe today be more a cute best friend type than a leading lady. However, before she died suddenly in 1920 due to complications following intestinal surgery, she was well on her way to a successful leading career in silent cinema, having appeared in more than twenty features and shorts.
Beauty standards may be different but the human body hasn't changed in a hundred years. A lot of what beauty is has to do with clothing, hair, etc. As proof, we have some nude images from around 1920 that could have been made yesterday. We may post one of those later, just for the fun of it. Elsewhere in the Gazette you get the usual celebs, boxers, and news briefs, all offering a fascinating view onto what the U.S. looked like during the heyday of the pulp era, which according to most scholars began in the last few years of the 19th century. The society, the people, the pulp, and the Gazette would all become more recognizably modern in a few more decades.
My father is tougher than your father.
This bit of World War II propaganda, which was created by the Graphics Division of the U.S. government's Office of Facts and Figures in 1942, caught our eye for a couple of reasons. It features champion boxer Joe Louis, which is interesting enough, but it also features a quote he had uttered while taking part in a military charity event: “We’re going to do our part… and we’ll win because we’re on God’s side.”
This is an interesting turn of phrase because of the inversion of “our” and “God.” The way Louis formulates the idea suggests God desired the war and the U.S. was just helping out. Usually you hear the sentiment expressed as, “God is on our side,” but Louis's quote has more power loaded into it than the standard iteration. It casts Japan as not just battling an enemy nation, but battling the natural order of the cosmos.
Of course, the Japanese also thought they were divinely guided, and over in Europe where Germany was fighting several countries at once, the opportunistic Adolf Hitler, though a skeptic in private, declared himself a Christian in public and busily used religious sentiment in his devoutly Catholic nation to whip up support for his rule. We have a sizable collection of World War II propaganda inside Pulp Intl., originating from many countries, which we think is worth a look. You can see some of it here, here, here, here, here, and here.
When worlds collide you want front row seats.
So, everything we write today, pretend we wrote it yesterday. Ready? We talked briefly about Muhammad Ali's proto-MMA experience a few weeks ago. We've been saving this item to share. It's an actual unused ticket stub for the Muhammad Ali-Antonio Inoki exhibition match at the Nippon Budokan arena today yesterday in 1976, exactly forty years forty years and one day ago. Oh yes. This is rare. At least we think it is, because we've never seen another one. We've uploaded it vertically below so you can get a good look at it by dragging it to your desktop and rotating it.
Ali invades Japan and helps invent MMA.
When Muhammad Ali died last week we remembered we had some rarities laying around, but it took a few days to find them. These are the items we were searching for—posters from Ali's June 1976 match at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan arena with Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. In what would now be called a mixed martial arts bout, Ali and Inoki fought to a draw, however this was not a freeform battle, but rather a tightly regulated exhibition match. Nevertheless, Ali's leg was so damaged from Inoki's repeated kicks that an infection set in and for a brief time the medical discussion turned to amputation. Today the Budokan match is considered by Ali fans an embarrassment in the boxer's storied career, but it was also an important precursor to MMA, a case study in how boxing and MMA are incompatible sports, and yet another example of Ali's trailblazing nature. He was the king and he will be missed.
He gave every last drop of his blood—to the IRS.
This National Police Gazette cover from this month in 1951 shows a bloodied Joe Louis in the midst of a title bout loss to Ezzard Charles in September 1950. Louis had retired, but when the U.S. government's Internal Revenue Service came after him for $500,000 in back taxes, he fought again—at age thirty-six—with the agreement that the proceeds would clear his debt. Thus Gazette's sub-head: “Why Joe Louis Can't Quit.” He'd hoped to pay off the entire bill with one fight, but the crowd was small and the purse far less than expected. With debt still outstanding, he did the only thing he could—take more fights.
And in the center of the magazine Gazette offers up Hazel Nilsen as its Date of the Month. Gazette featured established personalities on its calendar pages only occasionally, which means the magazine's promo shots today serve as an encyclopedia of aspiring starlets who almost—but never quite—made it. Nilsen was aiming for Broadway because of the excitement of acting before a live audience, but never appeared in a play. Instead she scored small roles in three Hollywood westerns between 1949 and 1952, including as an Indian maiden named White Fawn in Apache Chief, before fading from the scene. Showbiz is a cruel mistress.
They didn't call him the Bronx Bull for nothing.
How much beating can a fighter take? National Police Gazette asks that burning question on the front of this issue that hit newsstands this month in 1950. The cover star is Jake LaMotta, the Bronx Bull, who was famous for being able to take a punch—or fifty—and his unseen opponent is French fighter Robert Villemain. The photo was made during their December 1949 bout, a match LaMotta lost by unanimous decision. But his reputation as someone who could take a punch grew even when he lost, and eventually reached legendary proportions. His most serious beating occurred in February 1951 during a bout with Sugar Ray Robinson that was dubbed the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre. By the end the fight had become an epic of human destruction, and almost certainly caused permanent damage to La Motta. But in ninety-five professional matches to that point he had never been knocked to the canvas and he didn't fall that night either, even during a vicious final-round barrage that had LaMotta staggering around the ring. So the answer to Gazette's question—How much beating can a fighter take?—is simple. If you're LaMotta, you can take plenty.
It’s time to say goodnight.
The National Police Gazette loved fighters in general and Rocky Marciano in particular. He appeared on the magazine’s cover at least a dozen times, and above you see another colorful photo-illustration put together from a shot made during his first bout with heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott, which the much younger Marciano won by TKO. The fight was today in 1952, and the photo appeared on the Gazette a year later in September 1953.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1950—Alger Hiss Is Convicted of Perjury
American lawyer Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury in connection with an investigation by the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), at which he was questioned about being a Soviet spy. Hiss served forty-four months in prison. Hiss maintained his innocence and fought his perjury conviction until his death in 1996 at age 92.
1977—Carter Pardons War Fugitives
U.S. President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all of the country's Vietnam War draft evaders, many of whom had emigrated to Canada. He had made the pardon pledge during his election campaign, and he fulfilled his promise the day after he took office.
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign
comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
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