One of Rome's foremost celeb photographers gives On the Q.T. the lowdown on his profession.
We managed to buy this issue of On the Q.T. published in July 1963 for seven dollars, which is about the range we prefer for a tabloid that's often overpriced. Inside we found Shirley MacLaine, Melina Mercouri, Elsa Martinelli, Richard Burton and Liz Taylor. As expected the focus is on Hollywood, but in this issue the piece that jumped out at us was an insider's account of the Italian paparazzi lifestyle written by top paparazzo Vito Canessi. He details his techniques for obtaining photos, his legal obligations, and the lengths some paps go to in getting saleable shots.
One of his examples involves taunting a target into a chase: “When French sexpot Brigitte Bardot and her flame of the moment, actor Sammy Frey, were conducting a sizzling romance which ranged across most of Italy, the paparazzi taunted love-hungry but brave Sammy into chasing them. But unknown to Sammy, his furious foot race was being photographed by other paparazzi behind him. It was a hilarious set of pictures of frail Sam, arms swinging and feet churning, zig-zagging through the streets of Rome...”
But sometimes their tactics backfire. Paparazzo Umberto Spragna, a 260-pound giant, tried to shoot photos of the married Burt Lancaster walking in Rome with Italian starlet Beatrice Altariba. “The big photog didn't know it, but Lancaster is quite a man himself. He found himself flying through the air, his camera smashed, and a furious Lancaster punching him liberally. The paparazzo fled the scene. Later he sued the actor for assault. Lancaster simply ignored the action and it was forgotten. That kind of thing gives me cold chills.”
Paparazzi behavior was closely examined—briefly—decades later with the paparazzi-involved death of Princess Diana of Wales. But a look at various celeb videos from recent years reveal the paps to be basically unchanged, as they sometimes taunt celebrities verbally, hoping for photographable retaliation. But one need not feel more than passingly sorry for celebs. Occasional harassment is the price of fame. It may be unpleasant, but it's better than working for a living.
Though paparazzi come under the umbrella of defenders of press rights, with their often malleable ethics they're probably not people you'd have at your dinner table. It often works that way. Rights defenders tend to be either people actually testing the limits of rights, or people negatively affected by forces that would curtail those rights. Either way, they're sometimes outside the social mainstream. But the rights they defend apply to all. Thirty scans below.
You're annoyed? I'm the one who's a human armchair.
This is a classic piece of tabloid art. Brigitte Bardot is pictured on this National Enquirer published today in 1962 reading what is supposed to be a tabloid paper and looking annoyed. The art suggests she thinks the press is lying about her, reporting fake news, as it were. And being the tabloid press, it probably was. Below you see the photo Enquirer cropped to get the cover. In it, Bardot sits on her younger sister Mijanou's lap between takes on the set of the 1959 comedy Voulez-vous danser avec moi?, aka Come Dance with Me, in Nice, France. Sis looks just as bothered as Brigitte, but she was probably just bored, since she wasn't appearing in the film. She did act in more than a dozen movies of her own, though.
She liked little boys when she was little, and she loves little boys now.
This issue of Midnight published today in 1967 has a cover that's the opposite of the last one we shared, which was about the world's youngest mother. This one has the world's oldest mother, and goes for the double tabloid whammy by adding an underaged father to the mix. According to the sources we checked, the oldest pregnancy confirmed by birth records occurred at age 70, a feat shared by three women, all of them, weirdly, from India. So this cover is not only untrue, but because it's fiction it casts doubt upon the previous claim from Midnight about the world youngest mom. We already knew that, though. Still, we do hope to be getting it on at eighty-six. Chances are slim, but it's a worthy goal.
Deep inside the civil rights movement.
Above we have an issue of The National Insider that hit newsstands today in 1966, and as you can see the cover is given over to Sheriff Jim Clark, who tells the story of how he saw civil rights activists involved in an orgy in Selma, Alabama. Clark actually writes the article himself, and it's mostly a defense against unflattering portrayals of him in the national press. He claims the accounts are part of “one of the most effective propaganda campaigns since Josef Goebbels sold Adolf Hitler to 70 million Germans—and destroyed a nation in the process.” It's always best to drop Hitler into the narrative early, Godwin be damned. Clark goes on: “The civil rights organizations and their hired agitators who descended on Selma knew that the sheriff must enforce the law and maintain order. They knew, and I knew, that I was playing into their hands. I was the heavy. They were the martyrs.”
This is fascinating stuff. Clark thought protestors were in Selma not to seek redress for abuses, but to be deliberately arrested. It's a classic case of constructing an alternate reality to confirm one's own prejudices. Civil rights protestors risk arrest, and are willing to be arrested, but do not prefer it. They prefer notice from the target of their protest, and news coverage of the event in order to spread their point of view. They don't hire agitators. It's an accusation always leveled, and not once proven. By Clark's formulation, public protest of any sort is not about seeking rights, but creating chaos. Conveniently, then, the only way to avoid creating chaos is not to protest at all, and accept one's lot in life. See how that works? Clark says, “I disapproved of civil rights protestors because they put themselves beyond the law.” But of course the law was what denied them equality, therefore no petition for redress could happen anywhere except beyond the law.
But what of the orgies? Here's Clark: “Dozens of Selma and Dallas County people swore to seeing sex acts between whites and Negroes. White teenaged girls making love in public with Negro men. White men dressed as priests making love with Negro girls. Make no mistake about it—sex and civil rights go together.” Of course this is always tactic number two. After refusing to accept the purpose behind civil protest, you then disparage the people. The fact that Clark went in a sexual direction shows what was really on his mind. “Sex and civil rights go together.” Which is to say, if blacks achieve the rights they seek, we can kiss our white girlfriends and daughters goodbye. It's almost comedy material, except it's hard to laugh knowing so many people were swayed by this argument. Sex is no longer overtly used as a propaganda weapon, but the smearing of rights protestors continues.
Taking a step back and looking at it from the reality based world, we cannot think of any instances where civil rights protestors risked their safety and freedom fighting oppression that was a figment of their imaginations. In every case the protestors were correct, from southern Alabama to South Africa. Sometimes it's ethnic majorities that are oppressed, but never the economically dominant. Sometimes the economically oppressed and economically dominant are the same ethnicity, leading to scenes such as those during the Great Depression when white police violently broke up the protests of the white unemployed. But in order to believe that rights protestors would risk their already tenuous status over a non-issue, one already has to have a low opinion of them. The upshot of Clark's article is that the Selma marchers had no true grievances. We know today that's false. Similarly, there are people who would have us believe that today's civil rights protesters have no valid grievances. This again, is demonstrably false. We'll have more from The National Insider later.
Uncensored turns its unique journalistic eye toward Anita Ekberg.
There's nothing quite like tabloid writing, a fact once again amply demonstrated by Uncensored. This issue is from June 1963, and check out this short paragraph from its feature on Anita Ekberg: “This is the Uncensored story of how Prince Philip bagged a rare and exotic Scandinavian pouter pigeon. Though its native habitat is Sweden, this double-breasted dove prefers the warmer climate of Italy. It also migrates as far from home as London and Hollywood.”
Double-breasted dove? They don't write like that anymore, and a good thing too. It's sexist, of course, but the tabs were generally belittling of both females and males—though in different ways. Women were derided for dating around, such as when Uncensored refers to Ekberg as “Sexberg,” whereas men were usually disparaged for not being manly enough. That typically involved either being rebuffed by women, not scoring with enough women, or sexually preferring men. You see this in the story on Marcello Mastroianni, who's called “lazy” for passing on Brigitte Bardot. And you see it in the story on the United Nations, which is referred to as the “U.N. pansy patch.”
From the perspective of 2017, the heteronormative insecurity is pretty obvious. Men are to be prowling wolves, and any failure to live up to the ideal prompts insults; women are to be readily available for action, but not to other men. The story on Ekberg treads the line of admiring her beauty, but being suspicious about the freeness of her affections. There's a photo of her dancing with a black G.I. in Rome, and while the caption is neutral, in the context of the story the meaning of the shot is clear: “Ekberg will even dance with a black man!”
We love the photo. Ekberg looks a bit baffled, as if the soldier is telling her, “We'd be in mortal danger for doing this in most of the United States, you know,” and Ekberg is saying, “What the hell are you talking about?” The photo also shows how tall Ekberg was, almost 5' 7”, probably 5' 10” in heels, which is towering for an actress who needed to star alongside all those mid-sized leading men. We think this is the first time this image has appeared online.
Other elements worth noting in this issue include French actress and Pulp Intl. femme fatale Dominque Boschero as a mermaid, Marlene Dietrich looking dapper in a tux, Jayne Mansfield and one of her famed toy poodles, and burlesque queen Blaze Starr sudsy in a bathtub. There are plenty of other great shots too, and you can see them all below in nearly forty scans. Uncensored will return.
National Spotlite gets right to the good parts.
This National Spotlite published today in 1970 knows its readers want to see boobs. It touts “the girl with the 50” bust,” and leaves a little space at bottom left for those boring witch cult sex orgies. Since Informer dealt with the boobs first, we'll follow suit. The girl with the 50” bust is Suzanne Pritchard, who was a mid-level glamour model and sometime dancer, whose go-to move was squeezing said boobs together between her arms. You can see what we mean in the interior photos, and the first thing you'll probably notice is that Suzanne Pritchard is not the woman pictured on the cover. No, that's an unnamed beauty who probably had no idea she'd end up on the front of Spotlite. Cue sleazy agent: “Hey, I said I'd get you some exposure. What didja expect? Harper's-fucking-Bazaar?”
Inside the issue there's another familiar face besides Suzanne Pritchard's. In a feature entitled “The Art of Taking a Bath” we see none other than German star Karin Schubert. Cue agent: “Hey, I said I'd get you some exposure. What didja expect? The cover? It was taken.” Actually, while the unnamed cover star doubtless knew of her turn in the Spotlite, in all likelihood Schubert had no clue. As we've mentioned before, we have a background in media, and her shot was undoubtedly what we used to call a handout photo—i.e. images given to magazines and newspapers for use in publicizing a celebrity. Agents back then kept tabs on how many photos were sent out and where, but didn't monitor whether they were used months or years later. The process was a bit more structured by the time we worked at magazines, and today it may well be computerized.
Every tabloid has its focus. Some were oriented towards scandals, others sexual perversion, still others violence and gore. National Spotlite was eclectic, but this issue's recurring theme is breasts. Schubert's bath story has this line: “Women with large breasts should make sure the underside of their mammaries get a good scrubbing. The ideal method is to have someone else cup your breasts into the air while you scrub.” To us, that actually sounds like an incredibly inefficient way to wash one's breasts, but that's really beside the point, isn't it? In sleazy tabloids, everything is foreplay and all roads lead to the bedroom. We have seventeen scans below, all of them designed to get you heated up and ready to perform.
Going back to find a simpler place and time.
This issue of the tabloid Midnight was published today in 1965, and as you can see the cover touts a story about a girl who gave birth at age four. Her name is Nang Rwan and she's supposedly from the town of Naung-nga-yan, Burma (now Myanmar). Midnight scribes Leroy Hansen and David Lee tell readers that Rwan is a member of the Pa'O ethnic group, a people whose girls are known for early fertility, like ten years old. But fertility at four is extreme even for the Pa'O, which led village elders to consider her early period to be a gift from the gods. Because of this, even though everyone admits Rwan was raped, and this criminal still walks among them because they have no idea who did it, their belief is that the child is a god-king destined to lead the Pa'O to prosperity and happiness.
We'll just stop there for a moment and say we consider this all to be very unlikely. Not the rape and pregnancy part—distressingly, a confirmed list of youngest mothers contains girls who bore children at age five and up. No, the unlikely part is that Midnight claims to have caught wind of the pregnancy early on and were able to get to Burma to witness the birth. Hansen and Lee embarked on a “difficult” journey to reach the village and arrived as Nang was nearing full term. Once there, they met her in person, with the story informing readers, creepily: “Nang walked in, dressed in a flowing red robe embroidered with beads. We asked to see her alone and she undressed. With our own eyes we saw her body as mature as 16-year-old girl's and as pregnant as any mother imminently facing the birth of a baby.”
Thus the two Midnight writers were in the village for the big event, and report that the infant, which was a boy, was whisked away to be cared for various village midwives. Nang Rwan, once recovered, was displayed in the center of the hamlet while people trekked hundreds of miles to offer her gifts that made her the richest person in the region. But the elders never allow her near the golden child. She hears her baby cry in its special god hut but she can't see him or hold him. So while she's proud to have given birth to a deity, she's unhappy. Bittersweet indeed. But there's one problem with this whole Nang Hwan story. Actually, there are numerous problems, none of which we need to detail because you're having the same problems, we suspect. But the problem that concerns us in terms of veracity is that Nang Rwan isn't on that official list of world's youngest mothers we mentioned, which seems odd considering Midnight devotes two full pages to her and she should have been well known. But we were not able to confirm any of the tabloid's assertions outside the story itself. So as interesting and detailed and morbid as the tale is, we have to call it fiction. At least until further evidenced. See more from Midnight by clicking its keyword below.
Tonight they're gonna party like it's 1955.
Questions abound on this cover of Inside Story, but for each one there's an answer. What did Prince Rainier not tell Grace Kelly? That the palace in Monaco was cold and drafty, and she couldn't sleep in the nude anymore because the premises were open to the public from 9 to 5. What was the amazing Frank Sinatra hoax? His studio Carlyle Productions started a whisper campaign that he was such a dedicated actor that he actually used heroin while filming the heroin drama The Man with the Golden Arm. What is the secret fear that haunts Perry Como? That his family might be kidnapped.
All of these pieces are fascinating, but since it's baseball season and people are high on the front-running New York Yankees right now, we'll point to the story, “The Real Reason the Yankees Lost!” What they lost was the 1955 World Series, and it happened—according to Inside Story—because they were partying too hard. They were ensconced at the Concourse Hotel for the Series, a hole-up made possible by the fact that their opponents were the Brooklyn Dodgers. So with both the home and away games taking place in New York City, and the players barred from sleeping in their own houses to avoid family distractions, the superstar Yanks did some major league carousing.
Inside Story scribe Manuel Shaw describes an allegedly typical scene: “Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, and several other Yankees were sitting around the lobby of the hotel when three lovelies from a nearby night spot showed up. Since the cuties were entertainers familiar to one or two of the players, and were rabid Yankees boosters, it was not remarkable that they were soon in animated conversation with the group, which shortly adjourned from the lobby to an upstairs suite.”
Then he moves into this bit: “A beauteous brunette [was in the hall] clad only in a negligee. The two players wanted to spend some time with her, and they agreed that they would rather do it separately, but she insisted it would be more fun if they both stayed, and after a while she persuaded both of them to come back with her to her room. Soon a real party was underway, joined by many other Yankees, and several doting females who lived at the hotel.”
Well, what good is being a member of the famed Yankees if you can't do some Yankee doodle diddling? Most guys we know can't resist a free beer, let alone a woman in lingerie. A little later in the story, after the question of whether professional gamblers employed the party girls to distract the Yanks, we get this: “If true, this parallels the persistent story in gambling and diamond circles that the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe was introduced to Yankee star Joe DiMaggio just in order to take his attention off the Yankee pennant drive of a few years back.”
Did Inside Story really just say Marilyn Monroe was a mafia Trojan horse? Yup. They did. No ambiguity there. The magazine does not go so far as to say Monroe was aware of the set-up, so perhaps it was a matter of maneuvering her into the same space as DiMaggio at the same time and letting nature take its course. There are worse ways for a man to fall from the sporting mountaintop. And talk about a soft landing. We doubt the story, but you never know. There are far crazier tales starring Monroe. We have about thirty-five scans below, and more tabloids coming soon.
Poke around inside National Informer and there's no telling what you'll find.
Today we have another National Informer from a water damaged batch we rescued last year. This issue delivers the usual goods—or bads, depending on your point of view—including breast fondling techniques for men, sex fantasies women are ashamed to talk about, and why married couples should consider the “pro's and con's” of swapping. With all the sex stories here, the few attempts to be a real newspaper come across as jokes, such as when editors pose the question of whether hot dogs cause cancer. Hot dogs? What next? An exposé on the annual Chicopee Kielbasa Festival? Stick to what you're good at, we say. And Informer is good at smut.
Of the smut in this issue, we're partial to the centerspread article on sex resorts. Informer reports that this is a growing trend in the liberal European countries, then claims even Africa is getting in on the act: “There is a little country called Gambia, in West Africa, that has only 300,000 people, three hotels, and a growing tourist boom. The big attraction about Gambia is that the government officially closes its eyes to all goings-on. That's why Gambia has become the IN place for Swedes who come to frolic nude along its sparking white beaches.”
Gambia as a Swede swinger's paradise circa 1972 is news to us, but checking online, it certainly looks worth a visit. White beaches? Plenty of those. White people? Thin on the ground. Perfect, because we prefer friendly locals any day of the week over hoards of backpack lugging foreigners. Elsewhere in Informer, one of the issue's models looks familiar. Didn't the woman in the ad directly below appear—frontally nude with a Mona Lisa smile—in Informer's October 1972 issue? Decide for yourself. We have eighteen scans below and many more tabloids to share going forward. If you like this sort of thing check our tabloid index at this link.
The feeling is probably mutual.
National Star Chronicle scores again with an absurd sour grapes headline on this cover from today in 1964. We checked to see if an illness that makes men sick when they're around women exists but came up with nothing. Nothing clinical at least. Our non-clinical diagnosis is he's a terminal wimp. Interestingly, though, we did find that this phenomenon happens to women. The website circleofmoms.com has an entire discussion thread about women whose husbands make them physically ill. No joke. It's a lengthy thread too, filled with woman after woman writing things like, “My God! I thought I was the only one.”
Their symptoms relate to hygiene, so the jig is up, guys. Shower every day, even days you just lay on the sofa watching sports. Wash your stinky crevices. Cut your toenails regularly and dispose of every last clipping. Trim your nose hairs and don't walk around with them on your shirt afterward. Floss, carry mints, avoid beer breath, and possibly even beer. Let's just say you need to generally get your shit together and accept the harsh truth that achieving non-repulsiveness will take constant effort. Ironic isn't it? Each time Chronicle's stricken man sees a woman his day is ruined; and the only time we've seen this Chronicle our lives were ruined. It's a cold, cold world.
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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