Femmes Fatales Oct 21 2020
WOODSON SHINES
Or she did until she went into the Bermuda Triangle.


Above is a sultry shot of Julie Woodson, a U.S. born model and actress whose modeling work consisted of fashion and an April 1973 Playboy centerfold, and whose acting career consisted of only one credited role—1978's giant monster flick The Bermuda Depths. Basically, in the Bermuda Triangle, where legend claimed boats disappeared, a giant turtle is discovered to be the culprit. Woodson was pretty bad in the movie, though no worse than anyone else in the cast, in our opinion. But in the end, her film career disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle too, because it was her first and only shot at movie stardom.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 20 2020
HARD TIME
Alexandra Hay gives convicted criminals much needed re-entry assistance.


What happens when a prison warden's nympho daughter goes to live with her father at a progressively managed correctional institute where the inmates are allowed to roam free over the grounds? You can probably guess. 1,000 Convicts and a Woman has a cartoonishly low rent poster, which is appropriate, because the movie is cartoonishly low rent too. Alexandra Hay stars as Angela, the constantly giggling, hot-blooded daughter who uses her feminine wiles to get some jailhouse lovin' under her father's too-trusting nose. This is often classified as a sexploitation movie, and that's technically true, but it's lightweight, and not very racy. In fact, it was originally released under the innocuous title Fun and Games. Only for its U.S. run was it called 1,000 Convicts and Woman, as well as Story of a Nympho. Both those titles are false advertising, but the movie is probably still worth a glance. It premiered today in 1971.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 18 2020
WHAT'S THE CATCH?
No tricks here—just two superstars at their very best.


Above is a beautiful Japanese poster for 泥棒成金, or Dorobô narikin, much better known as To Catch a Thief. We bet just seeing Cary Grant and Grace Kelly's faces told you that at a glance. Don't believe the hype in full—Grant and Kelly are two of the era's most mesmerizing stars and are in amazing form, but this film is decent-not-great. It had its Japanese premier today in 1955. 

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Intl. Notebook Oct 18 2020
FIRE SALE
Private island available. Great views. No services, no electricity, no refunds.


Above, an alternate view of the Dominic Chama nuclear test conducted on Johnston Atoll, aka Kalama Atoll, today in 1962. You can see the other photo here. In 2005 the place was put up for auction by the U.S. government as a potential vacation getaway or possible eco-tourism hub. We're not sure how much eco there was, considering the place was not only nuked multiple times, but used for biological weapons testing and Agent Orange storage, but it didn't matter because there were no takers, and the offer was withdrawn. It might still be possible to buy it, though, if you have any connections in the U.S. State Department. We bet your resort would get glowing reviews.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 17 2020
SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVILISH
So I couldn't help noticing all the notches on your bedpost. What are those about?


Today we have more elongation for you from the brush of grandmaster illustrator Robert McGinnis. This cover for the 1959 thriller Epitaph for a Tramp features one of his deliberately out-of-proportion femmes fatales, with a long lower half and a small head. He would stretch his girls to freakish lengths as time went by, but we especially like this phase from him. For an example of how unusual his women would get, check out these four examples we shared a while back. And if those intrigue you, there are also numerous examples of later McGinnis on the website of Hard Case Crime, with the best ones appearing here, here, and here.

Epitaph for a Tramp was written by David Markson, and the story involves a detective who finds himself drawn into danger when a mortally stabbed woman staggers through his door and dies. She's the tramp of the title, a woman who in one year of marriage cheated on her husband with—count em—thirteen men. Her cuckolded husband is occasionally sympathetic toward her, which is a bold writerly move for a period when most people—male and female—subjected women to ugly judgments for perceived sexual availability. But Markson was an ambitious author who would go on to become a celebrated literary figure with tales such as This Is Not a Novel and the acclaimed Wittgenstein's Mistress.

Here he does hard-boiled with a cleverness of phrasing that's rare, but often misses the mark too. For example, quips like, “Bare lightbulbs helped the hallway look like something other than the esophagus of a submerged whale,” just don't work. Sometimes a dim hallway can just be a dim hallway. But the story is reasonably interesting and the main character Harry Fannin fits the private dick mold well. As he tries to unmask a murderer he also unmasks a complex, troubled victim, a character who in our experience is unique in mid-century fiction. That's worth a lot, even if the book isn't perfect. We'll see if Markson did better with his second detective entry Epitaph for a Dead-Beat.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 16 2020
BRUTE'S FORCE
The best-laid plans of mice and miscreants often go awry.


This is a striking poster. It was made for the 1970 West German movie Mädchen mit Gewalt, which in Japan was called Shiki-jou Gunrentai, and in English was called The Brutes, among other titles. Basically it's about two sexual predators who meet Helga Anders at a go-kart track and manage to maneuver her to a remote quarry, where they intend to have their way with her. It's an indication of how strange the movie is that its remainder, all seventy minutes of it, takes place in that quarry. Without getting into too much detail, cooperation between the two guys devolves into a deadly enmity, leading to an ending that will provoke comment. It all sounds pretty dodgy, we know, but it's a serious movie, not any sort of nudie flick meant to appeal to your mini-brain. In fact, the most titillating moment you'll get is when you see Astrid Boner's name in the credits. This is real cinema, with a real attempt at a message. Successful? Well... Mädchen mit Gewalt premiered in Germany in 1970, and reached Japan today in 1971.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 15 2020
SCENTS AND SENSIBILITIES
All you guys down here on the waterfront reek of fish. But that's okay. I used to live by the industrial pig farm, and the men there... pee yew!


Didn't we just feature a cover for Waterfront Girl last month? Nope. That was Waterfront Blonde. Totally different book. Similar themes, though. We wouldn't go so far as to call books about untamable waterfront girls a sub-genre of mid-century fiction, but more than a few tales of that type hit newsstands during the 1950s. This one came from Amos Hatter, aka James W. Lampp, and tells the story of, well, an untamable waterfront girl on the mighty Mississippi. It's from Original Novels, was published in 1952, and the cover is uncredited.

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Hollywoodland Oct 14 2020
MY THREE GUNS
I call this one Robbie, the second one Chip, and the third one... well I forget. But they're all great!


Above are three promo photos of U.S. actor Fred MacMurray, two from his film noir Singapore, and one of unknown provenance. While MacMurray made his name in deadly serious films such as Double Indemnity and Pushover, many fans remember him better as the affable father from the television series My Three Sons, on which he starred from 1960 until 1972, as the show chronicled the life of a widower and his three sons Robbie, Chip, and Mike. Why was he a widower? We don't think it's ever revealed, but perhaps a firearms “accident” had something to do with it. 

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Femmes Fatales Oct 14 2020
THE CAT'S WAY
I'd like a medium pizza, thin crust, with mice, birds, and extra cheese.


Julie Newmar has some catnip, comes down with a case of the munchies, and uses her special cat phone to get some food delivered to the crib in this trippy promo shot from the television series Batman. She played the iconic villainess known as the Catwoman, guest starring on the show in 1966 and ’67.

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Intl. Notebook Oct 12 2020
HOT HAVANA, COOL HAVANA
Whether by day or night the action was non-stop.


We love vintage nightclub photos, and vintage pix of people partying in general. Since Havana photos are unusually interesting, we're always drawn to them. There's a large number of Havana photos out there, but not primarily because of Cuba's political history. The photos really exist because Cuba was a pioneer of Caribbean tourism, attracting travelers beginning in the 1920s through a heyday of the mid-1950s. The island was promoted as a place of sophistication, mixed with permissiveness, unpredictability, and a touch of the primitive. This prompted various movers and shakers—from New York City businessmen to top musicians to Hollywood stars—to flock to Havana. And where important people went, cameras followed.

Was the Havana image true? Probably, based on what we've read. But it was not unique. During the same period Tangier had a similar reputation, as it attracted writers like Paul Bowles, William S. Burroughs, and numerous gay expatriates. During the 1960s Acapulco was knownas a great place to go for thrills. During the 1980s, Ibiza or Mykonos. The 90s, Thailand or Goa. The 00s, Tulum. Havana wasn't unusual in terms of what it offered. Bigger, yes. More convenient for Americans, for sure. But numerous far flung locales have served as paradises for foreign visitors to lose themselves and get crazy.

Most or all of the aforementioned places are considered to have changed for the worse, whether through ecological damage, destruction of historic architecture, unchecked overbuilding, overtourism, or all four scourges at once. But it was revolution that changed Havana, a fact that gives vintage photos from there a particular poignancy. A typical narrative is that while elites and tourists partied, exclusion, inequality, and poverty helped fertilize the seeds of upheaval. But we don't judge anyone in these shots. We've lived in similar circumstances in Central America. We were even partners in a beach bar in the Caribbean. We were always well aware of the prevailing socio-political problems, and we sympathized greatly with the local populations. But it didn't stop us from partying the nights away.

There's an immense feeling of freedom being in a simpler place—and for all its opulent nightclubs and restaurants, Havana is said to have exuded a primeval sensuality that intoxicated tourists and expatriates. If you live in the U.S. or some other modern nation, that feeling isn't something you can achieve by merely paring down your current lifestyle. The things you give up continue to exist all around you. By rejecting those, you become a weirdo. But by living in a less modern nation your life truly changes top to bottom, and you gain this while still existing above the local mean. That's the paradox, or the injustice, depending on your point of view: your satisfaction derives partly from the ability to take or leave anything you wish, because you are economically able to do so. You live more simply than you did, yet live better than most people around you. It isn't noble, but it's very much an attraction.

Bowles and Burroughs lived well in Tangier because it was immensely cheaper than Europe or the U.S. With the savings gained they hosted parties and had time to hone their literary crafts. They were a part of the local society, but existed in a middle-upper stratum, high above the impoverished, well below the Moroccan elites, benefitting from the general perception that foreigners from rich nations are themselves rich. That's how it was for us too. So there's inequality built into thattype of expatriate experience. It's unavoidable. A friend of ours lived in a stick shack on Cayos Cochinos for an entire year and he was still considered a rich foreigner. Everyone knows you have a choice. The Americans who partied in Cuba could never have been anything but wealthy invaders, no matter the reality of their finances, or the inclusiveness their sensibilities.

Living comfortably means the novelties one experiences seem thrilling or romantic. When we were knocking around Guatemala, El Salvador, and the Bay Islands, we turned washing our clothes by hand into an enjoyable ritual, yet understood quite well that many families' daily water intake literally depended on walking a mile to a river. Buying food from the local fruit and veggie stand was far more convenient than queuing at the supermarket for meat, and we ended up dropping to our college weight, but we were nevertheless aware that many people couldn't afford any food, and would have been disgusted at how pleased we were that our reduced fat intake meant we could show six pack abs at the beach. We helped some local families, both financially and logistically, but when your downsized existence is a choice you can never truly fit in.

But the freedom you feel is real. Offloading the burdens of modern life brings legitimate satisfaction. The pursuit of pleasure takes on a special joy. We hit bars, parties, and gallery mixers continually. As foreigners there's no social stigma to drinking every night. Unless you have a job—and we didn't—it's how you form a social circle. Locals generally disapprove, but their judgements carry little weight. So when welook at Havana partying shots we don't quite see oblivious, entitled people, because we know it isn't that simple. Most of them knew what was percolating. Stability was diminishing fast. There was a dissolved parliament, large protests, a 1953 battle in Santiago de Cuba, and other signposts on the way to change. It was clear the fun could never last.

The assortment of people you see here are caught on film like insects caught in amber, long dead but preserved. They're having a few laughs, enjoying some drinks, executing deft turns on dance floors, making their small, temporary marks on the world, leaving behind images showing them for one sliver of a moment in timeless eternity. Things changed in Havana, and now things have changed for all of us. If circumstances where we can dance and laugh and shout together in hot crowded places without fear of sickness ever return, be sure to embrace them fully. We don't just mean in some far flung tropical enclave. We mean anywhere. Because if it isn't a virus that takes those pleasures away, it'll be the march of years. You'll want to have done your best with this gift called life.

An ice cream vendor patiently waits for potential customers to emerge from the Capri Hotel and Casino, 1958.

Fashion model Jean Patchett and author Ernest Hemingway, who habitually went shirtless, lounge at Finca Vigia, his house in Cuba, 1950.

Above, Constantino Ribalaigua Vert, the "Cocktail King of Havana," inventor of the Papa Doble daiquiri, and owner of the famed bar El Floridita.

Liberace performs on stage at the Tropicana with headline dancer Ana Gloria Varona, 1954.

A Coke and a smile from two soft drink vendors.

Patrons enjoy drinks at El Floridita, 1955.

Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante stands by while Marlon Brando tries his hand—or both of them—at the conga drum at Hotel Packard, 1956.

Mafia kingpin Meyer Lansky, on the right in this shot, attends the opening of the Hotel Riviera in December 1957.

Famed entertainer Zulema dances the rhumba at the Zombie Club, 1946.

Three women liven up the room from their perch on the bar at Cabaret Kursal.

Cesar Romero and Tyrone Power enjoy a drink and a chat at Sloppy Joe's Bar.

Revelers including Errol Flynn and Desi Arnaz, Jr. form a conga line during the Yoruba festival known as Dia de Babalú-Ayé.

José Abeal Otero, founder of Sloppy Joe's Bar, mixes up a giant batch of liquid magic. No, this isn't the same person as above, Ribalaigua. They were both small, dapper guys.

A firebreather thrills onlookers in front of the Saratoga Hotel, 1949.

This photo shows Nat King Cole and his wife Maria Cole, along with Martin Fox, who was the owner of the Tropicana, accompanied by his wife Ofelia and an unknown fifth party.

U.S. born vedette and movie star Tongolele, aka Yolanda Montes, poses outside the Capri Hotel and Casino, 1958.

Meme Solis and Elena Burke pose at the entrance to the 21 Club, located in the Capri Hotel.

These photos show Silvano Chueg Echevarría, a master of percussion and an iconic musical personage. Let's go back to that Marlon Brando photo for a sec. Brando was an aficionado of percussive instruments. During that 1956 jaunt to Cuba he made it known that he wanted to buy drums from real percussionists. One of the musicians he met was Echevarría. All the Havana percussionists knew of Brando, of course, but thought he was a musical dilettante. At some point he finagled his way onto a nightclub stage, sat in with a band, and truly amazed onlookers with his ability on the conga. He wasn't a master, but he was pretty good. He won respect, and bought his drums.

Raquel Revuelta, Manuel Corrales, and Mariano Rodriguez leave the famed bar Bodeguita del Medio and walk through the Havana night to other locales, other adventures, 1958.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 28
1919—Volstead Act Passed
The U.S. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson's veto, paving the way for alcohol Prohibition to begin the following January. The Act, named for Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Andrew Volstead, was supposed to create a better society but instead helped lead to the rise of violent organized crime gangs. The law wouldn't be repealed until 1933.
1922—Mussolini Comes Into Power
During the second day of the event known as the March on Rome, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini officially takes control of the Italian government when King Victor Emmanuel III cedes power. Supported by a coalition of military, business, and right-wing leaders, Mussolini remains in power until 1943, when defeat in World War II begins to look inevitable.
October 27
1994—U.S. Prison Population Reaches Milestone
The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history. By 2008 the U.S. Justice Department pegs the number of imprisoned at 2.3 million, and the overall U.S. correctional population, i.e. those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, at 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults.
October 26
1951—Churchill Becomes Prime Minster Again
The Conservative Party wins the British general election, making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time. Churchill is nearly 76 at the time, making him the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone. Churchill remains PM until 1955, when he steps down at 81 due to ill health.
1964—The Night Caller Is Executed
In Australia, Eric Edgar Cooke, who had earned the nickname Night Caller, is hanged after being convicted of murder. He had terrorized Perth for four years, committing 22 violent crimes, eight of which resulted in deaths. He becomes the last person to be executed in Western Australia.
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