The Naked City Sep 16 2014
ACCIDENTAL HISTORY
Danger lurks on every street.

Have you ever marveled that you don’t crash every time you climb into your car? There you are, hurtling along in your metal box, surrounded by other drivers texting, phoning, GPSing, groping on the floor for iPod chargers. Or maybe you’re the one doing those things. But even without modern distractions driving isn’t easy, and today we present ample evidence of that truth, with a collection of calamitous photos from a simpler automotive age. These are all from Los Angeles and environs 1945 through 1955. Ready? Fasten your seat belt.

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The Naked City Sep 1 2014
ALICE IN CHAINS
There’s no such thing as a private life for a woman on trial.


This cover of Front Page Detective from today in 1968 features suspected murderer Alice Crimmins, and it caught our eye not only because of its bold graphic style, but because it’s a prime example of what is today called “slut-shaming.” It’s a term we don’t like, but we didn’t make it up. Basically, it’s the process of assassinating the character of women who dare to have multiple sexual partners, or perhaps who have few partners, or even one, but seem to enjoy sex a little too much. Generally it doesn’t matter if she’s married or single—it’s a special trap designed just for women.  

Alice Crimmins’ two children vanished in July 1965 and were later found dead. Crimmins was made to answer at her 1968 trial not only for her whereabouts and actions relating to the crime, but also to describe her sex life in detail, both pre- and post-murder. The press routinely labeled her a “sexy redhead” or “sexpot,” a phenomenon demonstrated on the above cover. She was also called an “ex-cocktail waitress” even though she held that job for mere months. During one courtroom exchange the prosecutor made Crimmins admit that sometime after the deaths of her children she went swimming nude with a male friend, prompting one of the mostly male jury to grumble, “A tramp like that is capable of anything.”

In the end Crimmins was convicted of manslaughter, the verdict was overturned, and she was tried again. The second trial took place in 1971 and featured less overt slut-shaming than the first, but Crimmins was notorious by that point and her reputation once again may have contributed to her conviction, this time for both manslaughter and murder. These verdicts were struck down in 1973, the manslaughter conviction was quickly re-instated, and Crimmins served another four years before being paroled in 1977, after which she went on to live in quiet obscurity. See more of Front Page Detective’s lurid cover style here.

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The Naked City | Vintage Pulp Jul 29 2014
PAYBACK IS A HITCH
They say vengeance is a dish best served cold, but we recommend passing entirely.


Above is a very nice True Detective from July 1959 with a Brendan Lynch cover depicting a woman startled by the arrival of a criminal. It’s actually a perfect cover, because inside the issue you get an interesting story related by Elma Baldwin, who was kidnapped by a paroled convict named Richard Arlen Payne. Payne snatched Baldwin and three her kids at gunpoint as part of an ill-conceived plan to trade them for the release of his former cellmate Burton Junior Post, aka Junior Starcher, who was serving time at West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville. Payne didn’t want Starcher out because they were buddies. Quite the opposite—he had vowed to kill the man, and threatened to torture and murder the Baldwins if his demands weren’t met. He wrote in a note to Governor Cecil Underwood, “My purpose is to kill and take the head of my worst enemy, who is now out of reach. I must kill him or go mad.”

You’re probably asking why Payne never did anything to Starcher while they were cellmates. Payne’s answer was simple: “I could have killed him at any time, and I thought about it very seriously. At times I had a blade to his throat. But he was as good as done for anyway, because I knew once I got in the free world there were ways that I could get at him.”

Well, maybe not so much. In any case, the kidnapping was big news in 1959, probably owing to its sheer incomprehensibility. Today it’s mostly forgotten but remains a good case study of the benefits of being able to let go one’s anger. The entire event lasted only twenty hours, ending with a brief shootout in which nobody was injured, followed by Payne’s admittance to a mental asylum. Asked if Starcher had done anything specific during their time at Moundsville to engender such hatred, Payne said, “Well, nothing I can put my finger on. It was just a sort of natural hatred.”

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The Naked City Jun 29 2014
ALL TIRED OUT
When the wheels come off.

The above photo shows twenty-two-year-old Eddie M. Gonzalez, who was discovered dead behind a service station located at 3822 E. Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. In the background is police detective A.W. Frank. Police decided the cause of death was an accidental overdose, a deduction made thanks to fifty capsules of an unnamed drug found on the deceased’s person. To us the whole scene looks strange—a well-dressed, well-groomed person in shiny shoes who can afford fifty capsules of drugs doesn’t seem like the type who would need to ingest them behind a gas station and end up tangled in a pile of tires. And if suicide was his aim, why fifty leftover capsules? But maybe we’re just conspiracy minded. The photo is part of the University of Southern California’s digital archive and was taken today in 1952. 

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The Naked City Jun 20 2014
GUN RAID KILLS BUGS DEAD
Top of the world one second. An anecdote the next.

Mobster Bugsy Siegel met his end in a Los Angeles bungalow belonging to his girlfriend Virginia Hill. His killer attacked from the dark through a window, spraying a burst of automatic fire from a .30-caliber military M1 carbine as Siegel was sitting on a sofa. Accounts of the damage to Siegel are all over the map, but the morgue photos tell the story. The shots came from a front rightward angle. He was hit in the torso with bullets that pierced his lungs, and he was hit twice in the head—once in the right cheek, and once in the right side of the nose. The pressure from that bullet passing through his skull blew his left eye out of its socket, but he was not actually shot in the eye. It happened today in 1947.

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The Naked City Jun 16 2014
L.A. LEAP
Bridge to nowhere.

Above, another photo from the coffee table book so morbid it will put you off your coffee—Scene of the Crime: Photographs from the LAPD Archive. This image shows the aftermath of a suicide leap from L.A.’s 7th Street Bridge, today 1959.

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The Naked City Jun 2 2014
HARVEY'S PRIDE
They were on a collision course from the moment they met.


This cover of the The National Insider published today in 1963 touts a true story about actual people for a change of pace, in this case Harvey and Christine Holford. Thirty-one-year-old Harvey Holford was a club owner and well-known figure in Brighton, England; eighteen-year-old Christine Hughes was a local party girl. They met, romanced, and married each other, but Christine quickly found Harvey a sexual bore and he soon resented her constant bedding of other men. At one point he shaved her head bald as punishment for her philandering, then later apologized by buying her a sports car. But these stints of tranqulity never lasted long. The last straw came when she allegedly taunted him using their daughter Karen, claiming she wasn’t his, which resulted in him shooting her.

When police came to their flat the couple were sitting up in bed. She had six bullet wounds, one in the face, and was long gone from this world. She was propped against her husband, who was comatose from an overdose of pills. But he recovered and was held in Lewes Prison until he could stand trial for murder. The day before the proceedings were to begin he tossed himself from a window and fractured his skull. He recovered again, and eventually went to trial before a sympathetic judge who, referring to Christine’s taunt about the paternity of the couple’s daughter, at one point told those assembled in the court, “Can you imagine any words more calculated not only to sear and cut deeply into the soul of any man but to rub salt into the wound at the same time?” Harvey Holford was later acquitted of murder to vigorous applause from the public gallery, and convicted instead of manslaughter, serving three years before being paroled in 1964.

Of course, the key to acquitting a man of murdering his adulterous wife is to consider her a piece of property rather than a human being, and there’s little doubt that’s what happened in the Holford case, for as hurtful as infidelity may be, male pride eventually heals whereas dead wives never do. Harvey claimed to have acted in a fit of passion—the very quality Christine always claimed he lacked in their marriage—but we tend to think divorce is the more sensible remedy for unfaithfulness. Or sometimes even—call us crazy—reconciliation. To this day, though, many still doubtless think Harvey Holford was blameless. Luckily for him, the presiding judge was one of them.

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The Naked City May 30 2014
BACKSTREET BOYS
United they stand, divided they fall.

This photo shows the sheet covered body of Fernando Reyes, aged 17, who was killed after a brawl escalated into gunplay on Lamar St., in the hinterlands east of the Los Angeles River. The onlookers include two plainclothes detectives, the deceased’s brother, a friend, and several bystanders. It happened today in 1952.

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The Naked City May 21 2014
FLIGHT FROM FLORENCE
To every action there is always an equal reaction.

The top photo shows an LAPD policewoman named Florence Coberly, who in a dangerous undercover operation, was asked to lure a serial rapist named Joe Parra. This would require placing herself in harm’s way so police could catch him just before the act. Supported by more than thirty cops hidden in unmarked cars and stationed around the neighborhood, Coberly did exactly that, drawing the suspect, which in turn drew her backup. Parra tried to run, and photo two shows him after he was gunned down. Strangely, Coberly was later arrested for shoplifting and drummed off the police force. But that would be several years later. These shots are from 1952, a year at the end of which she would win the LAPD’s Policewoman of the Year award. These images come from the USC digital archive of mid-century Los Angeles Examiner photos. 

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The Naked City Mar 1 2014
HI AND BYE
Knocked for a loop in Los Angeles.

Were the police being whimsical? We don’t know. This evidentiary photo taken at Pacific Ocean Park shows the curious path that 19-year-old John Lee O’Brien took when he fatally plunged from a roller coaster into the sea, today in 1927. The image comes from the Los Angeles Public Library’s archive of twentieth century police photos. There are two accounts of what happened here. One says O’Brien fell 50 feet, but that doesn’t explain the strange loop in the photo.
 
The more plausible story is version two. In that one, O’Brien was showing off by standing up during the ride. When the car went around a curve, he lost his balance and plunged 125 feet into the ocean. A fall from that height would have his descent beginning from the higher track in the photo, whereupon—boing!—he struck the lower track, rebounded and fell a further 50 feet into the water, unconscious or possibly already dead. Maybe that’s what the loop signifies—bounciness. The coaster, by the way, was called the High Boy. See below.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 19
1934—Arrest Made in Lindbergh Baby Case
Bruno Hauptmann is arrested for the kidnap and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of the famous American aviator. The infant child had been abducted from the Lindbergh home in March 1932, and found decomposed two months later in the woods nearby. He had suffered a fatal skull fracture. Hauptmann was tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and finally executed by electric chair in April 1936. He proclaimed his innocence to the end
September 18
1919—Pollard Breaks the Color Barrier
Fritz Pollard becomes the first African-American to play professional football for a major team, the Akron Pros. Though Pollard is forgotten today, famed sportswriter Walter Camp ranked him as "one of the greatest runners these eyes have ever seen." In another barrier-breaking historical achievement, Pollard later became the co-head coach of the Pros, while still maintaining his roster position as running back.
1932—Entwistle Leaps from Hollywood Sign
Actress Peg Entwistle commits suicide by jumping from the letter "H" in the Hollywood sign. Her body lay in the ravine below for two days, until it was found by a detective and two radio car officers. She remained unidentified until her uncle connected the description and the initials "P.E." on the suicide note in the newspapers with his niece's two-day absence.
September 17
1908—First Airplane Fatality Occurs
The plane built by Wilbur and Orville Wright, The Wright Flyer, crashes with Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge aboard as a passenger. The accident kills Selfridge, and he becomes the first airplane fatality in history.
1983—First Black Miss America Crowned
Vanessa Williams becomes the first African American Miss America. She later loses her crown when lesbian-themed nude photographs of her are published by Penthouse magazine.

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