The Naked City Oct 1 2014
DIFEDE TO BLACK
Be careful what you wish for—you may have to kill for it.


These two issues of Crime Detective, which appeared today in 1962 and 1964 respectively, both feature the same cover photo—each a reverse of the other—of Jean DiFede and Armando Cossentino. DiFede and Cossentino, who were thirty-six and nineteen, were May-December lovers convicted of murdering DiFede’s husband Dr. Joseph DiFede in order to collect a $72.000 life insurance policy (about $560,000 in today’s money). Dr. DiFede was attacked in his bedroom with a hammer and carving knife, and the disarray of the scene showed that he had battled fiercely for his life before succumbing to multiple blows and seven stab wounds. A third person on the scene later turned eyewitness against the lovers, claiming Dr. DiFede gasped to his wife with his last words, “I forgive you everything… Don’t kill me.” Meanwhile Cossentino stood over him and shouted, “Die! Die! Die!”

The eyewitness account (he said the extent of his participation had been helping to clean the crime scene because he feared for his life) was damning enough on its own. Police also discovered that Jean DiFede had bought Cossentino a new convertible, rented an apartment for him, and went on public dates with him. And just for good measure the all-male jury was repeatedly reminded that Cossentino was only two years older than Jean DiFede’s oldest son, who had been instructed to refer to her by her name rather than “mom.” When the guilty verdicts came down, Cossentino was sentenced to die in the electric chair and DiFede got twenty years. Upon hearing her sentence she screamed, “If I have to spend twenty years in jail I’d rather be dead!” As it turned out, neither of them died in prison. Cossentino’s sentence was commuted to life, and both eventually earned parole.

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Vintage Pulp May 30 2013
SLUMBER PARTY OF FIVE
So, let me show you what I meant when I said I wanted us all to come early tonight.

Above is a cover for 1963’s Pajama Party, a book written by Peggy Swenson, who was in reality Richard E. Geis. Interesting fellow, Geis—he specialized in beatnik and counterculture sleaze, churning out lightweight novels like Bongo Bum, Beat Nymph, and Like Crazy, Man, and was indicted for obscenity over a novel called Three-Way Apartment. This was in 1964. Geis went to trial twice, first in California, then in federal court in Iowa. He was convicted but the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the panel overturned the verdict, thus making Geis’s Three-Way Apartment one of those forgotten but important books that helped free publishing from the grip of reactionary prudes. After Geis’s close call with the feds he must have felt artistically liberated, because his writing promptly went to the far ends, so to speak, of taste. Some titles: Anal Husbands and Deviant Wives, The Endless Orgy, Women and Bestiality, and, our two favorites—Orality ’69 and its sequel Orality ’70. Pajama Party was not so notable a book as those—five co-eds have a sleepover that involves a pillow fight, skinny-dipping, a striptease contest and a game of dares, before finally getting down to a little Sapphic lust—but we really like the Paul Rader cover, so there you go.

On a different subject, we got a couple of reader pulp submissions with no art, which tells us our little uploader (located in the righthand sidebar, for those who don't know) is probably malfunctioning. This may have had something to do with the several hours of down time we had a couple of weeks ago that cost us several posts (since restored). But don't worry. The Black Bomber will have it working properly again in a jiff, because that's what he does, at which point we'll let you know and hopefully get resubmissions of those reader offerings. Thanks as always for your patience.

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The Naked City Mar 28 2013
HERO TO ZERO
Former lifesaver convicted of murder in Manchester.


Yesterday in Manchester, England, 46-year-old Stephen Seddon was found guilty of murdering his parents for £235,000 in insurance money. Robert and Patricia Seddon were found shot dead in their home in July 2012, a sawed-off shotgun on the scene indicating a possible murder/suicide. But ballistic experts decided that scenario was not possible, and soon Stephen Seddon—who had boasted to acquaintances before his parents’ deaths that he was about to come into a large sum of money—was arrested. Yesterday’s conviction marked the final chapter of just another sad, senseless murder tale. What’s shocking, though, is the preamble.

In March 2012 Seddon was driving with his parents on a highway when his car hit a brick and skidded into a canal. He dragged his nephew Daniel from the car, then went back for his father while bystanders saved his mother. Seddon was hailed as a hero. Some details of the accident were strange, but police glossed over them. The details? There was no evidence of the car hitting a brick, and Seddon coincidentally happened to be carrying a knife with which to cut his seatbelt and a wheel lock with which to smash out the driverside window as the car went down. Oh, and several witnesses saw him jumping up and down on the roof of the car as it sank. Red flag? You’d tend to think so.
 
Picture the scene: Seddon is jumping on the car trying to help his parents to a watery grave, suddenly realizes he’s being observed, and shifts into hero mode. He must have thought, No way anyone’s going to buy this act. But they did. Or at least, the police, who hadn’t seen him going bouncy bouncy on the car, bought it. But eventually the parents began to suspect their accident was attempted murder. Their deaths occurred the day after Robert Seddon told his doctor that he planned to confront his son. The confrontation led to a double shooting, but yesterday in Manchester justice was served, at least in some form. Stephen Seddon wasn’t just convicted of murder—he was also convicted of attempted murder for the March canal plunge.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 18 2013
GOLDEN FLEECE
You wouldn’t mind terribly if we steal your nickname?


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.

After searching high and low for some idea of whether we were dealing with one woman or two, we finally saw in the IMDB page on the 1995 Jelke biopic Café Society that Patricia Ward and Diana Harris were played by separate actresses—Lara Flynn Boyle and Cynthia Watrous. So was there some confusion in 1961 about who exactly the Golden Girl was? Looking back at our original post on the subject, the photo of the Golden Girl on the cover of Hush-Hush shows a blonde. Confidential has numerous photos of their Golden Girl Diane Harris, and a single photo they identify as Pat Ward. Just plain Pat—no Golden, no nickname at all. And she’s a brunette. So not only does Confidential identify the Golden Girl of Café Society as Diane Harris—turns out so did that March 1961 Hush-Hush. We just didn’t realize it at the time.
 
Our mistake came when we first researched the Jelke trial and found a New York Times movie review that identified Pat Ward as the Golden Girl. From that point we just ran with it and never thought to doublecheck. Until today. Now, based on available evidence, it seems that at some point over the intervening years the historical record got twisted and the label Golden Girl was applied to Patricia Ward, where it stayed even up to thepoint of a Hollywood motion picture misidentifying her. She was indeed Minot Jelke’s girlfriend, whereas Harris was just a fellow high dollar prostie (and corroborating witness), so perhaps some clever scribe, or even the writers of the 1995 movie, decided that such a catchy nickname would be better applied to the girlfriend. At least that’s the way it looks to us.
 
If we’re right, is any of this important? Does it matter that Harris was fleeced of her nickname, or possibly that a movie took liberties and those liberties were later assumed to be facts? Do we expect an award? No, not really, but it’s interesting. Confidential barely recounts the events of the trial. The story is actually about Diane Harris being found dead in a Houston apartment eight years afterward, in September 1960. She was still a prostitute at the time. Confidential tells us: The blonde’s nude body was in bed, a green sheet and a pink blanket covered her. Pictures of herin more glamorous days were on the walls. An autopsy disclosed a large amount of morphine in her body. Police theorize that a combination of drink and drugs killed her.
 
Diane Harris had wanted the best life had to offer, and money meant everything. All her friends and acquaintances knew that about her. According to her maid, even at the end she still bragged about once being able to command fifty dollars per date. An obsessive desire for luxury drove her into the arms of rich, uncaring men, and eventually, in order to maintain her high flying lifestyle, into prostitution. The one piece of her that endured long after she died naked and surrounded by bottles and pills was her famous nickname—The Golden Girl of Café Society. But she eventually lost that too.
 
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The Naked City Nov 5 2012
THE BAD OLDS DAYS
If ever anyone was born under a bad sign it was surely him.


Crime always raises difficult social questions, and it seems to be the belief of each generation that the crimes are ever worse. But this issue of Official Detective Stories from fifty-one years ago details crimes, a criminal, and an entire set of circumstances that could have appeared on today’s front pages. It was the case of Michael Andrew Olds, a troubled Walla Walla, Washington youth who caused all of America to wonder, at least briefly, what had happened to the country they thought they knew.
 
Michael Olds was conceived via rape. His mother was fourteen when it happened, fifteen when she gave birth. Disowned by her relatives, she and her infant son lived wherever they could, and she fed him by stealing milk from front porches. By the time Michael was six months old he was suffering from profound malnourishment. Eventually he was wrested from the girl by state authorities, who placed him in foster care. He was shuttled from home to home, and constantly ran away to search for his mother. He would track her down occasionally, but she had her own difficulties—a series of failed relationships, and three failed marriages—and mother and son were never together for long.
 
Over the years, Michael developed dangerously violent tendencies. Once, when he was sixteen, he choked a four-year-old girl into unconsciousness. One of the psychologists who profiled him summed him up this way: “I am doubtful that Mike will ever make more than a marginal adjustment, for he has been damaged more than the human personality can stand without permanent scarring.” Nevertheless, he was released from foster care at age eighteen. Months later, on the night of March 28, 1961, he robbed a grocery in Seattle, Washington. On the way out the door he fired two shots, both of which struck a woman named Blossom Braham, who died at the scene. One week later he robbed and held hostage a cab driver. He was arrested later that night, and confessed to Braham’s killing.
 
Olds was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. His mother was in court the day of sentencing, at right, and while she sounded a note of regret that her and her son’s lives had turned out so badly, Michael was philosophical. He blamed only himself for his predicament. But the American public, as well as many behavioral experts, felt there was blame to go around. One of Michael Olds’ state-appointed psychiatrists said: “In a day when we are thinking about shooting rockets to the moon, we should not allow conditions to exist where a child is starved emotionally and shuttled about.” A local juvenile authority said: “The boy pulled the trigger, but the background of the whole sordid mess began the moment he was brought into the world.”
 
Sixteen years later Michael Olds was released into the world again. Newly paroled, he went on a violent nationwide rampage, and when it was all done he’d kidnapped five people and shot dead a seventy-five-year-old woman and a cab driver. It was the late 1970s now, and this time through the courts there was not much sympathy for him, yet none of the questions surrounding this murderous child of rape had changed. What hadchanged was that most Americans had hardened toward crime to the extent that they considered the questions immaterial. All that mattered was to make sure Michael Olds preyed on no more innocent people. And that’s exactly what happened. He received two life sentences with no possibility of parole.
 
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Intl. Notebook Mar 7 2012
VOICE LESSONS
The name of the Rose.

Above, two mugshots from today 1946 of Iva Toguri D’Aquino, who was one of many women who broadcast English-language radio from Tokyo during World War II. These broadcasts were aimed at Allied personnel in the Pacific, and the soldiers referred to all the women collectively as Tokyo Rose, despite whatever they actually called themselves on air. D’Aquino called herself Orphan Ann, and her radio stints were limited to twenty-minute segments on Radio Tokyo. It wasn’t much time, but her low, raspy voice made an impression on listeners. What did she say? History.net answers that question by providing an example of a typical D’Aquino intro:

Hello there, Enemies! How's tricks? This is Ann of Radio Tokyo, and we're just going to begin our regular program of music, news and the Zero Hour for our friends—I mean, our enemies!—in Australia and the South Pacific. So be on your guard, and mind the children don't hear! All set? OK. Here's the first blow at your morale—the Boston Pops playing ‘Strike Up the Band!’

When the war ended D’Aquino, who was an American citizen, was taken into custody and shipped back to the U.S., where she was tried and convicted of treason. There was no actual proof that she had done anything traitorous—in fact her humor-tinged broadcasts had often undermined her Japanese employers’ intentions—but she neverthelesslanguished in prison for six years. D’Aquino’s legal troubles only ended in 1977, when U.S. president Gerald R. Ford pardoned her after evidence emerged that witnesses had lied at her trial. Cleared of wrongdoing, and the constant threat of deportation lifted, D’Aquino lived the rest of her days quietly and died in 2006 at age 90.

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Vintage Pulp Dec 28 2011
DR. MANHATTAN
Okay, now you’re going feel a little prick.

Did you ever see the movie Doc Hollywood? Well, 1962’s A Halo for Dr. Michael is the same sort of thing—i.e., a bright young doctor passes up a glittering career in the big city (Manhattan) and practices medicine in a small southern town. He learns a little about himself, and of course finds love. Author Dorothy Worley specialized in this stuff, churning out books such as Dr. John’s Decision, Dr. Jefferey’s Awakening (are you sensing a theme here?) Dr. Michael’s Challenge, and, for a change of pace, Cinderella Nurse. It’s cheeseball stuff, but sometimes only a medical romance will scratch that itch. The cover art, in all its overwhelming pinkness, is by Tom Miller, who did a lot of work for Monarch and Fawcett. You don’t hear his name mentioned with the top rank of pulp artists, but he was a first rate stylist who created more than a few classic images. We’ve collected a few below so you can see for yourself. 

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Intl. Notebook Dec 17 2011
LILI ON LOCKDOWN
The facts of Lili St. Cyr’s arrest are in the numbers.

This mugshot of Lili St. Cyr appears on literally hundreds of sites around the internet, but we’re posting it anyway so we can correct some misinformation. Every source we saw—all of them—refer to this as St. Cyr’s September 1951 booking photo, but it’s actually from today in 1947, a fact that should be abundantly clear from the date under her chin: 12/17/47. The arrest, which was for lewd behavior, occurred in Los Angeles, and when St. Cyr appeared in court several months later she lost her case and was fined fifty dollars—a slap on the wrist. Things didn’t go so leniently for the owner of the Follies Theater, where St. Cyr had performed. He was sentenced to thirty-nine days in jail. See plenty more St. Cyr by clicking her keywords below.

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Hollywoodland Sep 10 2011
PYRRHIC VICTORIA
Former Playboy centerfold gets nine years in prison for shooting her husband.

Actress and former Playboy model Victoria Vetri, aka Victoria Rathgeb, aka Angela Dorian pleaded no contest to attempted voluntary manslaughter earlier this week and was sentenced to nine years in prison. Last October Vetri was arrested after shooting her husband in the chest during an argument, and since then has been in custody, unable to produce the million-plus dollars needed to make bail. Vetri claims her husband, Bruce Rathgeb, precipitated the shooting by slapping her in the face. Rathgeb, of course, says no slap was involved and his wife is simply a verbally abusive lunatic who was constantly accusing him of cheating. Vetri could have gotten life in prison if convicted of attempted murder, the original charge, so being offered a chance to accept the lesser offense of attempted manslaughter represents a victory—though a Pyrrhic one, without doubt. We’ll close the door on Miss Vetri with a shot of her in 1967, when she was a young centerfold calling herself Angela Dorian and could never have imagined, we’re pretty sure, what life had in store for her. 

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The Naked City Aug 18 2011
TANGLED WEBB
Was Madeline Webb a cold-blooded killer or just a woman blinded by love?

This Real Detective from August 1942 hit newsstands during the height of America’s conflict in the Pacific against the Japanese and it tells the story of Madeline Webb, who was the central figure in a murder case so sensational that it managed to distract the country, however briefly, from war. Webb had moved from Stillwater, Oklahoma to New York City with small town dreams of being a Broadway star. Instead she met a petty crook named Eli Shonbrun and fell in love. Webb was living on an allowance from home, but Shonbrun’s income was more sporadic—he survived by stealing women’s jewelry. Eventually he needed another score and, along with two accomplices named John Cullen and Murray Hirschl, he hatched a scheme to rob a wealthy acquaintance of Webb’s, a woman named Susan Flora Reich.

But when the robbery was over Reich was dead, suffocated by the adhesive tape that had been placed over her mouth. Eli Shonbrun and company went into hiding, but the police soon tracked them down, whereupon Hirschl immediately made a deal to testify against the others. He admitted helping to plan the crime, but swore he was not present in the hotel room where it occurred. Madeline Webb also denied being present, and Shonbrun backed up her claim, but Hirschl said she was lying and had actually lured Reich to the hotel. A jury of twelve men deliberated for five hours and returned a verdict of guilty for all three defendants. Shonbrun and Cullen were sentenced to death and Webb was given life in prison. When her punishment was announced in court she sobbed, “Please, please, I didn't!” Shonbrun cried, “You have crucifed her!”

What seemed to mesmerize the American public was the spectacle of Webb and Shonbrun clinging to their love in the face of adversity. They had frequently disrupted the trial with outbursts of support for each other. Whenever Webb seemed to wither Shonbrun managed to pass her notes of encouragement. On the few occasions they came into physical contact they kissed and exchanged “I love yous.” And when Shonbrun’s date with the executioner came in April 1943, he received a final love letter from Webb. He read it in the death chamber at Sing-Sing Prison, then surrendered it to the warden to be destroyed. Five minutes after being strapped into the electric chair Eli Shonbrun was dead.

Madeline Webb served twenty-five years at Westfield State Farm in Bedford Hills, New York, and was by all accounts a model inmate. She promoted educational programs for imprisoned women, taught many illiterate inmates to read, and ran the prison library. Her life sentence carried no possibility of parole, but her sentence was commuted in 1967. After her release she returned to Stillwater where she worked with variouscommunity organizations and cared for her elderly mother, who had spent her life savings on her daughter’s legal fees. Webb died of cancer in 1980 at age sixty-seven, and she did so still protesting her innocence. She was indeed an unlikely murderer. Her family had money back in 1942, and if she had required any she need only have sent a telegram asking for it. But just as New York City proved too much for her show business ambitions, its men may have proved too much for her better judgment. It's entirely possible she was simply too lovestruck by the rough and tumble Eli Shonbrun to derail his scheme. Some light could possibly be shed on this question if the content of her last letter was known—but that went to grave with her. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 01
1910—Los Angeles Times Bombed
A massive dynamite bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California, killing 21 people. Police arrest James B. McNamara and his brother John J. McNamara. Though the brothers are represented by the era's most famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, they eventually plead guilty. James is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His brother John is convicted of a separate bombing of the Llewellyn Iron Works and also sent to prison.
1975—Ali Defeats Frazier in Manila
In the Philippines, an epic heavyweight boxing match known as the Thrilla in Manila takes place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is the third, final and most brutal match between the two, and Ali wins by TKO in the fourteenth round.
September 30
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant, East of Eden, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause, dies in an auto accident at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
September 29
1916—Rockefeller Breaks the Billion Barrier
American industrialist John D. Rockefeller becomes America's first billionaire. His Standard Oil Company had gained near total control of the U.S. petroleum market until being broken up by anti-trust legislators in 1911. Afterward, Rockefeller used his fortune mainly for philanthropy, and had a major effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.

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