|Mondo Bizarro | Politique Diabolique||Nov 4 2016|
Midnight claims in this issue published today in 1968 that a conspiracy was afoot to assassinate Richard Nixon during his presidential campaign, but with mid-century tabloids the question is always: Is this true? We found no mention of the plot anywhere, though Midnight is pretty authoritative in its assertions, claiming three men were involved, two of whom were in FBI custody, with the third having been picked up by Mexican police in Tijuana. But authoritative or not, the paper got this one wrong.
Weirdly, though, there may have been a plot to kill Nixon in 1968, but a week after the above Midnight hit newsstands. Though the episode is little remembered today, a man of Yemeni origin named Ahmed Rageh Namer was arrested along with his two sons Hussein and Abdo on November 12—a full eight days after Midnight made its arrest claims— and charged with conspiracy to assassinate Nixon, who had won the presidential election the previous Tuesday. You can see Namer under arrest in the photo just below.
The evidence against him and his sons was scant—an informant claimed the father possessed two rifles, had asked him join him in the killing, and had offered him money to do so. This was back before the word of a shady informant could get a person thrown in a black pit in Guantanamo for ten years, so the Namers actually got a trial and their defense lawyer of course shredded the case. All three men were acquitted in July of 1969.
But how weird is it that Midnight would fabricate an assassination story a week before the FBI uncovered what they thought was an actual assassination plot? Maybe Namer read Midnight and got the idea. Nah... he was probably just innocent in the first place. But still, how odd. Sometimes history is stranger than fiction. Elsewhere in the issue you get a bit of Hollywood gossip and a pretty cool photo of Maureen Arthur and another of Carmen Dene, below. See more Midnight at our tabloid index.
|Politique Diabolique||Aug 10 2016|
When asked for comment, Satanic Church leader Lucien Greaves took time from etching pentagrams and deflowering virgins long enough to suggest that children being threatened with eternal hellfire need the healthy alternative belief system Satanism provides. He's being disingenuous, of course—the Satanists are really just atheists with a finely honed sense of humor. The confrontation promises to be political theater of a uniquely American sort, but it will inevitably end in judicial defeat for Christian clubs. At least until they manage to write Christianity into the U.S. Constitution—not so farfetched, considering there are politicians like Arizona's Sylvia Allen publicly pondering whether her state can force citizens to attend church. Maybe the founding fathers should have taken a tip from Satan and written the Constitution in blood. That way breaking the deal would cost politicians their souls.
|Politique Diabolique||Sep 11 2015|
His destruction was indicative of the fact that the communist witch hunts which had begun in Washington, D.C. had by 1951 spread into every sector of society—the entertainment industry, the professional ranks, labor unions, and black communities such as Watts, Harlem, and Oakland. It was a disgraceful period in U.S. history. Consider—many other countries, particularly those in Europe, lived up to their democratic ideals by allowing communist parties to have a voice in the political discourse. But given free reign to disseminate their solutions, communists didn’t then and haven’t since had great success convincing significant numbers of voters to follow their path. In the U.S., by contrast, top political powers decided that Americans could not be allowed to hear such ideas at all. Thus the anti-democratic red squads were conceived and over the next two decades ruined thousands of careers and lives.
|Politique Diabolique||Jul 9 2015|
Collier’s isn’t the most visually striking of magazines, but this issue that hit newsstands today in 1954 caught our eye because it contains several nice photos of Marilyn Monroe. There’s also a bit of interesting graphic art, specifically a colorful baseball illustration by Willard Mullin. The other item that attracted us was a story called “What Price Security?” about U.S. government overreach in its search for communists. No art to speak of, but the content gives a window onto the Red Scare period of American life. Author Charlotte Knight tells readers that government efforts against communism have been “so irresponsibly administered that it may have done more harm to the United States than to its enemies.” Sound familiar?
Knight slams witch hunting Senator Joseph McCarthy, and characterizes the fervor around alleged subversives in Washington, D.C. as creating a ripe environment for paranoiacs and liars to ruin innocent people. But of course, as well written as Knight’s article is, she should not have been surprised by anything she discovered. Witch hunts always become vehicles for revenge, personal advancement, and profiteering, because society and politics become warped in such a way as to clear a path for these pursuits. History invariably judges such periods as human tragedies and political failures, though sadly, too late for the ruined and the dead. Scans below.
|Intl. Notebook | Politique Diabolique||Dec 19 2014|
Mandy Rice-Davies, one of the central figures in the John Profumo Affair of 1963, died of cancer early this morning. Most accounts of the scandal describe Rice-Davies as a prostitute, and indeed Stephen Ward, one of the principals in the fiasco, was imprisoned for living off the earnings of Rice-Davies and other women—another way of saying he pimped. But Rice-Davies spent a good portion of her final years denying she was a call girl, saying she didn’t want her grandchildren to remember her that way.
After the scandal Rice-Davies sang in a cabaret in Germany, lived in Spain, moved to Israel where she opened nightclubs and restaurants in Tel Aviv, released music and books, appeared on television and in film, including the The Seven Magnificent Gladiators and Absolute Beginners, and was involved in the development of a Stephen Ward-based Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. She accomplished plenty. But as long as she is remembered it will be for Profumo, Christine Keeler, the parties and scandalous revelations, and the near-collapse of the British government in 1963. If you’re interested in reading more, we talked about Rice-Davies in a bit more detail here and here.
|Politique Diabolique||Nov 12 2014|
Yale University historian Beverly Gage has found an uncensored version of a threatening letter sent to civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. that FBI director J. Edgar Hoover personally engineered. The letter, which she found as part of research into an upcoming Hoover biography and which has been confirmed as his handiwork, features a fake disgruntled supporter taunting and chastising King, and later urging him to commit suicide. The suicide part is unspoken, but the letter states:
|Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique||Sep 27 2014|
This National Insider from today in 1964 claims that American politician Barry Goldwater had “nervous breakdowns” in 1937 and 1939, but in the midst of his run for president denied they happened. Well, who wouldn’t, right? There’s no new reporting here—Insider is merely echoing the claims of publisher Ralph Ginzburg, who had written of the breakdowns in his magazine Fact, and as evidence had referenced an interview Goldwater’s wife had given Good Housekeeping in May 1964. That’s the inspiration for the line: Barry Says “None” …Wife Says "Two.” Ginzburg was garnering attention for Fact by attacking people from all over the political spectrum, including Bobby Kennedy, and he eventually lost a libel suit regarding his Goldwater claims.
The Goldwater breakdowns are a matter of record today. Ginzburg’s libel suit hinged not on the fact of those incidents, but on embellishments such as his convoluted assessment that Goldwater was “...a man who obviously identifies with a masculine mother rather than an effeminate father.” Goldwater made Ginzburg pay for his ill-considered words, but in the end, both of their careers faltered. Goldwater was crushed in the 1964 presidential election by Lyndon Johnson, and Ginzburg went to jail—not for libel, but for obscenity related to his other magazine Eros. It’s all just another interesting story conjured by another random tabloid cover. And there are still more to come—we have about a hundred full tabloids remaining, everything from Police Gazette to Midnight. We’ll never be able to post them all, but you can bet we’ll try our damndest.
|Politique Diabolique||Sep 9 2014|
When in doubt, grin idiotically. That’s the mantra in American politics, and that’s why we were completely unsurprised when Texas governor Rick Perry’s mugshot showed him smiling like he’d just learned a dirty secret. For the most part, we think that if a person under arrest were guilty he’d be distressed he got caught, thus not smiling, and if he were innocent he’d be even more distressed to have been railroaded, thus doubly not smiling. But Perry certainly wasn’t the first politician to pull the I’m-smiling-because-I’ve-got-nothing-to-worry-about routine, which is why his photo inspired us to locate more examples. Below we have a small rogues gallery of cheerful mugshots. Charges cover a range—campaign finance violations, criminal trespass, drunk driving, drug charges, and nobody here has served prison time. Hmm, do you think they knew all along they never would? Maybe that’s the dirty secret.
|Politique Diabolique||May 8 2014|
When you have a site category called politique diabolique, it’s malpractice to leave stories like this alone. In Oklahoma back in 2012, a state representative named Mike Ritze used a legal loophole to get a plaque of the Ten Commandments installed on the lawn of the statehouse in Oklahoma City. State sponsorship of religious displays is expressly forbidden there because of that whole separation of church and state thing, but because Ritze was also a private citizen and he made a gift of the plaque, it was supposedly not covered by separation laws. An impartial court might have had something different to say about that, but in any case, thanks to Ritze warping state law, Christian groups finally got what they wanted—a religious monument on state property and a brazen in-your-face to America’s founding fathers. Congratulations and backslapping all around.
The same lawmakers are now working hard to pervert more laws—specifically those regarding historic preservation—to stop Satan’s arrival. There are three possible conclusions to the fiasco. If the Satanic monument is blocked, particularly by using preservation laws to protect a two-year-old plaque, lawmakers will have proven that what they say about inclusive religious freedom is false, because future monuments,whether Jewish, Mormon, or other, would be likewise blocked. If they allow the monument, Satanists will have equal standing with God on state property and children who pass by will exclaim, “Mommy, look a goat man! Can I go for a ride?” And if lawmakers remove the Ten Commandments, everyone from Satanists to Constitutional scholars will get what they wanted in 2012, and Ritze and Co. will drink the bitter milk of defeat. Only men blinded by piety could paint themselves into such a corner. For our part, we don’t want Satan at the statehouse, if only to spare Oklahomans the future scandal of certain legislators being caught genuflecting before him under a sickle moon. Do you doubt it? Then you don't know politics.
|Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique||Mar 31 2014|
Whisper features a political figure on this cover from March 1964, namely Indonesian ruler Kusno Sosrodihardjo, later known as Sukarno, who we’re told was offered twenty prostitutes while visiting his country’s embassy in Copenhagen in 1961. In fact, the magazine goes on to claim that the embassy housed a brothel. Though it sounds like a typical tabloid tall tale, it’s actually true. Time magazine had written about it in its October 1963 issue, stating: A diplomat may be only a cookie pusher, but the kind of cookies pushed by Indonesia’s charge d’affaires in Copenhagen tumbled, not crumbled. Last week Danish police announced that Gustin Santawirja not only ran his country’s embassy, [snip] but was also a procurer on the side. Santawirja got into the tart trade in 1961 when Indonesia’s PresidentSukarno showed up in Copenhagen on an unofficial visit. Amiably, he rounded up some girls for the visiting entourage. So successful was the venture that he decided to supplement his entertainment allowance by running a fulltime poule hall. “Poule” is French for “hen,” by the way, and Whisper was correct, but it was also late to the party. We give no credit for publishing what was already widely known.
Lastly, Whisper offers up an exposé of Gina Lollobrigida’s complicated personal life. For years she had been protesting that she was not a sex symbol (as if she’s the one who actually gets to decide that), but rather a nice girl. She tells an interesting story from her early career about Howard Hughes’ efforts to romance her, which were fruitless but led to her being stuck in a hotel “for six weeks like a prisoner.” In the end, she fled
back to Italy and, because Hughes owned her American contract, she was unable to make movies in the U.S. She became an international star just the same, acting exclusively in Europe, but having attained celebrity claimed it was difficult for her. She complained: “When I am with people I am constantly watched, and I can’t get used to this sort of thing—that they look at me as a chimpanzee in a zoo.” Sounds bad, but she eventually learned to enjoy it. In 2000 she commented to Parade magazine, “I’ve had many lovers and still have romances. I am very spoiled.” So it seems even the worst parts of celebrities’ lives aren’t really all that bad. Assorted scans below.