We better enjoy this place while it lasts. Once men find out they'll try anything short of a military siege to get in.
Above, a cover for Lesbian Gym from Brandon House, by Peggy Swenson, aka Richard Geis, copyright 1964. This one caught our eye because the Pulp Intl. girlfriends are always mocking the guys in their gym, whose apelike nature—so they tell us—emerges rather strongly there. We can't comment because we don't go to the gym. We do a bit of heavy lifting at the local bar, though. Good thing we're naturally skinny. A couple of sources attribute this cover to Fred Fixler, but we think they're wrong. Keep this in the uncredited bin.
Hey, Sarge, I'm ready for those nocturnal maneuvers you mentioned.
Not long ago we put together a large collection of lesbian paperback covers from the mid-century period. This one—Harry Whittington's Rebel Woman, 1960, from Avon Publications—we held back. It was just too awesome to mix in with the fifty or so we posted earlier. As we mentioned before, since these were mainly written by men, they reflected male fantasies and assumptions, and this one is prototypical anti-lesbian sleaze. An American mercenary gets involved in a Latin American revolution and is captured by a squad of female rebels. When he realizes the leader of the group is an old flame he figures he has nothing to worry about. But when he “saw the way she looked at the girl Dolores [he knew] the twisted path she had taken.” He decides she'll need to be reconverted to the hetero team, but that may be harder than it seems at first glance. Whittington may have gone to hell for writing this one.
Bad girls, sad girls, you're such dirty bad girls.
It's been five years since our last National Tattler, but we're returning to it because this cover published today in 1967 caught our eye. There were only two types of lesbians in mid-century tabloids—those to be converted to hetero love, and the dangerous kind. Tattler claims to have caught wind of a gang of the dangerous kind, rapists no less, and bikers to boot. We have our doubts. In addition to brutal lesbians you get Melina Mercouri kicked out of Greece by fascists. This story is actually true. Mercouri helped bring international attention to the cabal of colonels who had illegally taken over the country and in retaliation they revoked her citizenship and confiscated her property. But Mercouri outlasted the military junta, resettled in Greece in 1974, and later became the country's minister of culture.
When girl meets girl sparks fly.
Above and below is a small percentage of some of the thousands of lesbian themed paperback covers that appeared during the mid-century period, with art by Paul Rader, Fred Fixler, Harry Schaare, Rudy Nappi, Charles Copeland, and others, as well as a few interesting photographed fronts. The collection ends with the classic Satan Was a Lesbian, which you’ve probably seen before, but which no collection like this is complete without. Hopefully most of the others will be new to you. Needless to say, almost all were written by men, and in that sense are really hetero books reflecting hetero fantasies (fueled by hetero misconceptions and slander). You can see plenty more in this vein on the website Strange Sisters.
The point of no return.
Most mid-century lesbian fiction was written by men disguised behind pseudonyms. While Sloane Britain was indeed a pseudonym, its owner was actually a woman—Midwood-Tower editor Elaine Williams, who published from 1959 until committing suicide in 1964 at age thirty-three. The Needle concerns a woman who gets hooked on heroin and follows her long and winding road downhill, with the expected stops at dealing, prostitution, withdrawal, and relapse. But there are also a couple of great twists you don't get in typical heroin novels. Considered a classic of the drug sleaze genre, it was published in 1959. This fits nicely with our collection of needle paperback covers from a few years ago, which you can see here.
Hi, I'm your neighbor from row two, plot nine. I can't believe how massive your unit is. And your mobile home's big too.
A beautiful girl named Cherry Gordon who was abandoned by her birth mother and raised by adoptive parents gets into the porn racket, lets booze take over her life, runs afoul of the law, and even descends so far into depravity as to consort with lesbians. All this happens because she wants to be a singer and actress—so let it be a lesson never to follow your dreams. The story is written from Cherry's point of view, which is hilarious considering how little feel as a writer trashmaster deluxe Orrie Hitt has for women. But what does have plenty of feel is Paul Rader's cover for this 1963 Beacon Signal edition. No trash there.
Don’t think too hard, my sweet. You might hurt that pretty head. Now off with the pants.
From Chicago born author Edmund Schiddel comes The Other Side of Night, a chronicle of the troubles and trials of a group of diverse New Yorkers on a particular New Year’s Eve. The menagerie includes an heiress, an aging beauty, a morbidly obese woman, a facially disfigured vet, a nymphomaniac, and a piece of Ivy League man candy. Schiddel was gay, and while he does feature a gay character here, his participation is minimal. We gather this was the norm for Schiddel, inserting gay secondary characters, but never focusing on them in the narratives. He was more interested in peeling back the tawdry layers of accepted society with occasionally controversial results. The Other Side of Night appeared in 1954, and the cover art, which we love for the expression on the male figure’s face, is uncredited.
For some directors pushing the envelope comes naturally.
Picture the scene: It’s 1978 and sexploitation director Jesús Franco, who has redefined sleaze cinema for the masses with fifty movies, including several in the women-in-prison genre for the West German market, is chilling on his terrace in Malaga, Spain soaking up the sun. He’s chatting with his frequent collaborator, producer Erwin Dietrich, about the next project, which they’re calling Frauen für Zellenblock 9.
Jesús: "We can probably save money by using the old costumes from Frauen im Liebeslager. Same idea, right? Women all sweaty in some godforsaken prison."
Erwin: "We left those in Cyprus. Did I mention there’s a Frauen im Liebeslager theme restaurant where the old set used to be? I hear it’s real classy. Anyway, it would’ve cost too much to have that clothing shipped out here."
Jesús: "What about the things from Das Frauenhaus or Frauengefängnis? Where’s all that? And Frauen ohne Unschuld. That stuff too."
Erwin: "Warehouse fire. Suspicious circumstances. Insurance paid off, though. But shit, Jesús, why give the girls costumes at all? Just have them be naked the whole movie."
Jesús: "What? Are you nuts?"
Erwin: "I’m just saying—why bother? Audience wants skin, give them skin. Keep the girls chained up naked the whole time. And that escape scene of yours? Just have them do it naked."
Jesús: "They all get shot in the end. I can’t have them shot naked. That’s… I don’t know… eew."
Erwin: "They can be shot naked, trust me. We make it sexy. They get shot, lay them out like centerfolds."
Jesús: "Erwin, cut it out. I mean, I admit I’m intrigued by the idea artistically, but I don’t think the girls would go for it. It’s a little too crude."
Erwin: "Oh, and I suppose all the muff-diving scenes are Shakespeare? What are these girls—aspiring Catherine Denueves or something? Isn’t one of them a porn actress?"
Jesús: "Karine? Sure, but she’s hoping to go mainstream. Anyway, it’s the fucking jungle, Erwin. There are all kinds of thorns and sharp rocks out there. Spiders. Ticks. I can’t have them running around in all that with their great big bushes out. I mean…lice…you know? Although I am intrigued. Artistically, I mean."
Erwin: "Exactly. It’s art. Last Tango in Paris, right? Bertolucci has Brando shove butter up a girl’s poop chute and the critics go bananas."
Jesús: "That’s funny." *sigh* "But I’m no Bertolucci."
Erwin: "You’re right. You’re better. One day you’ll get a lifetime achievement award for all this filth, trust me. You’ll be remembered. The crazy risks you and the girls took will seem amazing to later generations."
Jesús: "You think so?"
Erwin: "I know so. In your own twisted way you’re a genius. So anyway—naked the whole movie, okay? Or at least the entire second half. Oh, and lots of sweat. And a shower orgy. And some torture. And some pee."
Now fellas, don't fight. There's more than one jacket and boots ensemble in the world.
Some people are just bad at sharing, a fact amply illustrated by the cover of Marcus Miller's Boy Meets Boy, written for Greenleaf Classics' subsidiary Nightstand Books, 1968. Miller, who was really Samuel Dodson, wrote more than a dozen gay-themed sleaze novels in a four year span between 1966 and 1970. Some of the juicier entries include The Mother Truckers and Copsucker, the latter of which is an especially noteworthy title even in the fertile genre of sleaze. The Miller pseudonym was used for hetero sleaze too, all of which was written by Milo Perichitch. The art for Boy Meets Boy is by the always amusing Darrel Millsap, whose best work you can find here and here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
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