A good old-fashioned orgy.
A reader of this website sent in a nice piece of Robert Bonfils art we hadn’t seen before. This is the cover for Orgy of the Dead, novelized from the motion picture of the same name by its screenwriter, schlock film maestro Ed Wood, who gave the world Glen or Glenda and Plan 9 from Outer Space. If you haven’t seen Orgy of the Dead, we’ll tell you that it’s got a werewolf, a mummy, and the (not so) Great Criswell as the Emperor of the Dead. It’s also—of crucial importance—got a bunch of burlesque dancers cavorting in a graveyard, which leads to this classic couplet of Ed Wood dialogue between Pat Barrington and William Bates as they secretly watch Barbara Nordin do a slinky topless dance:
Barrington: “Could it be some kind of college initiation?”
Bates (breathlessly): “It’s an initiation, alright—but not of a college as you and I know of it.”
Well, clearly Bill Bates went to the wrong college. See below. We don’t say Orgy of the Dead is a good movie. But it’s probably perfect background visuals for your next party. Thanks to Andy for sending this book cover our way.
She's not a mid-20th century B-girl out to get Mike Hammer, but this hard-looking tomato would be just as lethal and sexy with a .45 in her hand as she is with that ray gun. Unfortunately, no artist's credit was given in this pulp paperback of 1951.
Submitted by Cary Cotterman
Thank you, Cary, for this great find. We haven't read the book, but after checking out its Wikipedia entry, we will definitely try to get hold of it. Sounds great. Very much appreciated.
It takes a village—or at least help from Darwination—to uncover the facts behind mid-century tabloids.
A lot of e-mails of late. Here’s one we got at the end of last week:
I noticed your recent post on
It’s Happening and have just a bit of information for you. It was edited shortly by Michael Resnick, SF writer, and was indeed produced by Joe Sturman, younger brother of Reuben Sturman. I’ve scanned a couple issues, edited by my pal McCoy.
It’s truly a wild, wild tabloid. I’ve got a few more unscanned issues in my collection. I’ll let you know if I ever get more of them scanned. Tabloids are an area of interest of mine, as they are sort of a cultural id and I've scanned a good number of them (though I've never blogged on the subject). It’s almost crazy to think that some of the ones in the 70s were in the checkout line, considering how over the top outrageous they are. Keep up the great work on your blog. I intend to give it a good looking over and will give it a link in my sidebar at Darwination Scans.
Thanks, Beau. We knew someone had info on the publishers. The Sturmans were the sons of immigrant Russians who had settled in Cleveland. Older brother Reuben was for a time one of the most prolific distributors of pornographic magazines in America; little brother Joe published sleaze books and ran three tabloid imprints—National Times, Truth, and It’s Happening. While Reuben was neck deep in all sorts of shady goings on, Joe did not like the sleaze business, and got out of it as soon as he was able. We will explore these two men at a later date, because what we’ve read so far is thoroughly pulp worthy.
Darwination didn't just point us toward the info we related above, but even sent over a couple of issues of It’s Happening
. While we assumed the facts about the mag were known by somebody out there, we did not expect anyone to have actual issues. However, we’re not surprised that of all people, it’s the person behind Darwination that does. Everyone with an interest in mid-century magazines should cruise by Darwination and check out the great collection there
. It’s tabloids and much more. Below are some choice pages from that issue of It’s Happening
that Beau sent over. We’ll share his second issue soon, and we have two more issues of our own to scan and share.
The Music Man offers a bit of extra Whiz Bang for your buck.
We got an e-mail from Bill S., who writes about our Capt. Billy’s Whiz Bang posting from last week:
Speaking of, said periodical is numbered among “the tell-tale signs of corruption” by Prof. Harold Hill, the Music Man, when he terrorizes the good people of River City with the horrors of Trouble with a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool.
“Is he memorizing jokes from Capt. Billy’s Whiz Bang?”
Saw your post and went for my dvd copy of the great movie, as much about changing times as it is about music. Grabbed a screen shot of Buddy Hackett exposing a young lad as a Capt Billy’s reader to his mother.
Love your site.
You can see in Bill S.'s screen grab that, sure enough, Buddy Hackett is holding a copy of Whiz Bang. Meanwhile, Robert Preston is singing: “Is there a nicotine stain on his index finger? A dime novel hidden in the corncrib? Is he starting to memorize jokes from Captain Billy's Whiz Bang?” But Hollywood may have been taking liberties with the time period here, since the first Whiz Bang was published in 1919 and The Music Man is seemingly set years earlier. Bill S. responded:
Prof. Hill lies about being a grad of Gary Conservatory ’05 (“aught five”) and since Preston looks like no spring chicken, I added 15 or so years. Gets it in the range of the mag. Seems like turn-of-the-century but out in Iowa there might have been a lag. Still might. And so Hackett may just be yanking Capt. Billy’s Whiz Bang #1 out of the kid's pocket. The birth of modern pulp.
Re: the subtle subtext of a new era: it starts with the opening number, actually a “rap” about all the products the traveling salesman can no longer sell, and that even the profession of the drummer may already be obsolete. Hill’s nemesis sells anvils and carries a sample with him. Hill sells band instruments from a catalog by drop ship. He also peddles a teaching philosophy akin to modern self-help fads. The Think Method. And then there’s the unknotting of Shirley Jones’ repression. Oh my! Has any woman ever looked better in a movie?
An underappreciated work, that Music Man. Ripe for ridicule because of the obviousness of well-known show stoppers, but the love song was covered by the Beatles.
Have to agree about the movie. It’s a good laugh. Even that famous Whiz Bang number—the song “Trouble”—is quite funny. If you get a chance, check it out here. It’s worth your time. When Hackett pulls out the magazine—around the 3:00 mark—you can see the cover clearly, and it’s the one below. What Bill says about Shirley Jones is true, also. She’s very tempting. See the post below.
Early '50s paperbacks—when "French" was the byword for erotic.
A delightfully decaying cover from what remains of my collection.
submitted by scorzonera
Even our girlfriends liked this one. Thanks a million, sir. We gather that this was written by French author Louis-Charles Royer in 1931, near the beginning of his prolific career.
A Pulp Intl. reader sends in a little random sin to liven up our (and your) Wednesday.
Here’s an interesting something we received via email from a photographer named Dave Delvecchio. Says Dave:
Hi there. I love the site. I have recently created a few of my own mock pulp covers. Had a little photo shoot at my apartment with some friends. This is what I came up with...
These are nice, clearly. And we can’t resist commenting that these mock-up covers are far more eye-catching than what we generally see in bookstores. Today the typical crime novel’s cover is a stock photo overlaid by white or yellow text. Maybe an embossed trickle of blood somewhere in the mix. Theoretically, such generic covers are easier and cheaper to produce than covers with actual art, but we’re not so sure. Having worked in publishing a bit, it seems to us as if graphic design houses charge a pretty penny for their uninspired efforts, whereas a talented but unknown artist might be tempted to create a nice cover for far less money. But that’s just a theory. In the end, the books sell without nice cover art. Soon, they’ll probably sell without cover art at all, just a qr code splashed across the front. Anyway, thanks for sending these pieces over, Dave.
Veteran illustrator and instructor Vicente B. Ballestar’s pulp art makes the scene in Donostia-San Sebastian.
We love it when readers do some pulp digging for us, especially on a Friday. Here’s an e-mail we got last night from an acquaintance in Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain:
Hola (P.S.G. Pumpometer). Here is some pulp you may like? This exhibit is at Casa Cultura Okendo, which you probably know is in Gros. The art is by Vicente B. Ballestar, a Catalan from Barcelona who painted many pulp covers. I thought the exhibit was quite interesting. There were at least 100 paintings. I have a scan and a few bad photos for you.
So now we’ll fill in the blanks for our friend (and thanks very much, by the way, for sending this to us). Vicente Ballestar was born in 1929, and worked primarily for the German publisher Bastion-Verlag, aka Bastei, where he created many of the often bizarre covers for the popular John Sinclair series. Later he went into fine art, the field in which he still works, and via his internationally published books about painting has become a renowned instructor of watercolor techniques. For someone who has worked steadily for such a long time, is widely read by art students, and has mounted exhibitions in places as far flung as Colombia and Italy, he has a rather minimal web presence. Even his blog is only two pages and hasn’t been updated for a year. But after a search we were able to find a few of his covers, and we’ve posted those below.
How could you forget one of the greatest covers ever?
Guys, I think you should add this one to your list of top pulp covers. Or maybe it just appeals to me because of nostalgia. There were a few times during the late sixties when I saw girls parading around sort of like this, or wearing even less. This would be at a musical festival or some such. Unfortunately, these were never girls that I knew myself. Isn’t that always the way it goes? Anyway, this cover definitely shows that those old sleaze publishers left no stone unturned, but it’s also kind of ironic, because no hippie I knew would have been caught dead reading something this lowbrow. Now, a copy of Tom Wolfe? That would have turned us on.
submitted by J. Ashby
Thanks, sir. It’s an excellent addition to our list. We’ve seen this cover a few times being sold as a postcard, but we never saw the backside before. Backside. See how we did that? Er, any info on the cover artist, or is this by the ever popular Uncredited?
Matchmaker, matchmaker make me a match.
I’ve had these matches for years. They come from probably 1950 and have Blaze Starr on the cover. I never actually saw her dance because I would have been -10 in 1950, but some years ago, and I can’t remember where or when, I came to own this matchbook and it got me interested in burlesque. Today I have numerous photos, programs, coasters and all sorts of memorabilia that I imagine must constitute one of the better collections around. I saw this exact matchbook go on Ebay for forty dollars a while back, so I scanned mine and was going to auction it, but then I changed my mind. After all, Blaze got me started on this hobby, so I probably shouldn’t just sell her. But I had a feeling you would like this, so these scans are yours now.
Submitted by R. O'Carroll
Thanks for sharing. This is exactly the type of item we would never be able to acquire here, and that’s one big reason we put together the reader pulp interface. Nice sub-head, by the way. Not sure we would have thought of that. So, we don’t want to create a dilemma for you, but we did a quick search and found an auction site here where your matchbook sold for $146.18. Does that change your feelings about Miss Starr at all?
From the modern day to the distant past Argosy was your guide.
Below are three Argosy covers sent to us by our friends over at National Road Books, where the trove of these they found are continuously making their way onto the NRB website. In the magazine’s pages each month were eight to ten original adventure tales, and often pieces of novels that were being serialized across numerous issues. The heavy focus on interior art pulp is known for was not a characteristic of these early Argosys, but there were a few illustrations, and the covers were always beautiful. These particular examples, from 1938 through 1940, were painted by Rudolph Belarski (top two) and Emmett Watson. You can find more details here. (update: defunct)
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1933—The Gestapo Is Formed
The Geheime Staatspolizei, aka Gestapo, the official secret police force of Nazi Germany, is established. It begins under the administration of SS leader Heinrich Himmler in his position as Chief of German Police, but by 1939 is administered by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, or Reich Main Security Office, and is a feared entity in every corner of Germany and beyond.
1937—Guernica Is Bombed
In Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the Basque town of Guernica is bombed by the German Luftwaffe, resulting in widespread destruction and casualties. The Basque government reports 1,654 people killed, while later research suggests far fewer deaths, but regardless, Guernica is viewed as an example of terror bombing and other countries learn that Nazi Germany is committed to that tactic. The bombing also becomes inspiration for Pablo Picasso, resulting in a protest painting that is not only his most famous work, but one the most important pieces of art ever produced.
In Detective Comics #27, DC Comics publishes its second major superhero, Batman, who becomes one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, and then a popular camp television series starring Adam West, and lastly a multi-million dollar movie franchise starring Michael Keaton, then George Clooney, and finally Christian Bale.
1953—Crick and Watson Publish DNA Results
British scientists James D Watson and Francis Crick publish an article detailing their discovery of the existence and structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in Nature magazine. Their findings answer one of the oldest and most fundamental questions of biology, that of how living things reproduce themselves.
1967—First Space Program Casualty Occurs
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when, during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after more than ten successful orbits, the capsule's main parachute fails to deploy properly, and the backup chute becomes entangled in the first. The capsule's descent is slowed, but it still hits the ground at about 90 mph, at which point it bursts into flames. Komarov is the first human to die during a space mission.
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