|Femmes Fatales||Jun 28 2015|
American actress Gwen Verdon was born in Culver City, California. That’s a little like being born in Hollywood—Culver City was home to Triangle Studios, The Culver Studios, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and other production houses, and it remains home to Sony Pictures Entertainment. Verdon entered the studio system at age eleven and eventually appeared in such films as Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, The Blonde from Brooklyn, and Damn Yankees! This photo is a promo from the latter film, and dates from 1958.
|Intl. Notebook||Dec 6 2012|
Above is a photo of Manhattan, New York City, in the year 1947, looking from Battery Park toward midtown. Here you see everything—the Staten Island Ferry Building at bottom, Wall Street to the right, the 59th Street Bridge crossing Welfare Island at upper right, and in the hazy distance, the Empire State Building—at that time arguably America’s most recognized symbol. In the aftermath of a war that had destroyed Europe’s and Japan’s industrial capacity, the U.S. was the unquestioned power on the planet, with massive economic might, a military that had taken up permanent residence in dozens of countries, and a growing stock of nuclear weapons. Two years later the Soviets would detonate their first nuclear bomb, shaking the American edifice to its foundation. Meanwhile, all around the world, the seeds of change were taking root. Below is a look at the world as it was in 1947.
Firemen try to extinguish a blaze in Ballantyne’s Department Store in Christchurch, New Zealand.
American singer Lena Horne performs in Paris.
The hustle and bustle of Hong Kong, and the aftermath of the execution of Hisakazu Tanaka, who was the Japanese governor of occupied Hong Kong during World War II.
Sunbathers enjoy Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, and a military procession rumbles along Rua Catumbi.
Assorted Brooklyn Dodgers and manager Leo Durocher (shirtless in the foreground) relax at Havana, Cuba’s Estadio La Tropical, where they were holding spring training that year. Second photo, Cuban players for the Habana Leones celebrate the first home run hit at Havana’s newly built Estadio Latinoamericano.
Thousands of Muslims kneel toward Mecca during prayer time in Karachi, Pakistan.
A snarl of traffic near St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The city hall of Cape Town, South Africa is lit up to celebrate the visit of the British Royal Family. Second photo, during the same South African trip, the royals are welcomed to Grahamstown.
A wrecked fighter plane rusts in front of Berlin’s burned and abandoned parliament building, the Reichstag. Second photo, a shot of ruins in Berlin’s Tiergarten quarter, near Rousseau Island.
A crowd in Tel Aviv celebrates a United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.
Men and bulls run through the streets of Pamplona, Spain during the yearly Festival of San Fermin.
Fog rolls across the Embarcadero in San Francisco; a worker descends from a tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Detectives study the body of a woman found murdered in Long Beach, California. Two P-51 Mustang fighters fly above Los Angeles.
Danish women from Snoghøj Gymnastics School practice in Odense.
Tens of thousands of protesters in Cairo demonstrate against the United Nations vote in favor of partitioning Palestine.
A beauty queen draped with a sash that reads “Modern 1947” is lifted high above the boardwalk in Coney Island, New York.
A woman in Barbados holds atop her head a basket filled with fibers meant for burning as fuel.
Mahatma Gandhi, his bald head barely visible at upper center, arrives through a large crowd for a prayer meeting on the Calcutta Maidan, India.
Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson is hounded for autographs in the dugout during a Brooklyn Dodgers game.
|Intl. Notebook||Nov 27 2012|
We received an email a couple of days ago from a reader named Joe R., who pointed us toward an item about Norton Records, a New York City based vintage vinyl dealer whose Brooklyn warehouse was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Sandy. Above you see a photo taken of the building just after the storm, and you can see that the street is flooded and water has gotten into the facility.
According to Norton’s website, most of their catalog stock was destroyed by floodwaters. No surprise, seeing the photo. But they're still selling what's on hand, and a purchase at this time would help with recovery costs. Like many vintage vinyl dealers, they also have a pretty nice stack of sleaze fiction, so you collectors out there might want to take a look at their selection. We’ve uploaded a few covers, including Dale Koby’s Sin Lens (art by Paul Rader), Milton Geller’s Don’t Like Me—Love Me!, and Frank Gavin’s Crossfire.
The prices are lower than you would typically find on, for instance, Ebay (where we came across a couple of items from Norton’s catalog going for over $30, which is more than double what they charge). If you bought something you’d be supporting a business at a time of struggle, plus it’s officially holiday season again, and nothing says Christmas quite like a dirty paperback under the tree. Thanks, Joe, for sending this item over.
Norton Records warehouse photo by Nick Cope
|Sportswire||Oct 18 2012|
Did you know there was a football team called the Brooklyn Dodgers? This nice little piece of Americana reminds us of that fact. It’s the cover of a program for an NFL game between the Dodgers and the Washington Redskins, played at Ebbets Field today in 1942. The Brooklyn Dodgers football team existed from 1930 to 1944, at which point it became the Brooklyn Tigers for one season, then the next year merged with the Boston Yanks. This move came about due to a decline in the on-field product caused by wartime shortages of players. But before being folded into another franchise and effectively disappearing, the Dodgers helped bring the NFL into the mass media era when its October 22, 1939 game against the Philadelphia Eagles was broadcast on television. That was the first NFL broadcast ever. Another historical note: the unusual Dodgers nickname derives from the fact that through the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were so many trolley lines running through Brooklyn that people from that borough were called “trolley dodgers.” Naturally, this is also the reason the All-America Football Conference team called the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the baseball Brooklyn Dodgers, both adopted the nickname. Of course, baseball’s Dodgers were the first to do so, by decades. Lastly, on the cover is a photo of Frank Kinard, who played for the Dodgers/Tigers and, just to make the whole name thing even more convoluted, played for the New York Yankees of the All-America Football Conference. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971. You can learn plenty more about the Brooklyn Dodgers at the website luckyshow.org.
|The Naked City | Vintage Pulp||Feb 16 2012|
Above is an Inside Detective published February 1963, containing a feature on Albert Nussbaum and Bobby Wilcoxson, a pair of armed robbers who were among the most sought after fugitives of their time. Nussbaum was the brains of the operation, and was adept at chess and photography, and was a locksmith, gunsmith, pilot, airplane mechanic, welder, and draftsman. With his spatial and mechanical aptitude, many careers would have been available to him, but he chose instead to become a bank robber. Predictably, he was good at that too.
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 2 2012|
This cover scan of Archie Joscelyn’s 1950 western Border Wolves was sent over from National Road Books, which is good timing, because the art is by George Gross and we featured one of his very best pieces back in October and said we’d get back to him. Gross (who should not be mixed up with German painter George Grosz) was a prolific artist who, as we mentioned in that previous post, was incredibly diverse, producing covers for Argosy, Baseball Stories, Bulls Eye Detective, Northwest Romances, Wings, Fight Stories, Saga, and many others. He was born in 1909 in Brooklyn, New York, began painting pulp covers in the 1930s and worked steadily through the 1980s, dying at the ripe age of ninety-four. You would suspect, looking at the shooting technique of the cowboy on the cover of Border Wolves, that Gross didn’t know much about guns. While that’s possible, we think the weird shooting position is a result of wanting to fit the cowboy’s entire arm on the cover. But he must have liked the result, because he used this awkward stance twice (see below). There are quite a few web archives of Gross art, so if you want to see more, let your fingers do the walking.
|Intl. Notebook||Oct 16 2011|
This Whisper from October 1955 examines Ava Gardner’s love life, Ernest Hemingway’s courage, and Marilyn Monroe’s mole, all of which, while worthwhile subjects, are less interesting to us than the piece on Father Divine. Who was Father Divine? Well, he was a preacher who claimed to be God and had as many as two million followers during his heyday in the 1930s. Of course, that number depends on where you do your research. Some sources try to distinguish between “true followers” and sympathizers who attended his rallies, but that’s like saying seventy percent of the people at a rock concert aren’t true fans. Attendance at events is an accepted method for determining popularity, and consideringthe fact that Father Divine had verifiable rallies in places as far away as Switzerland and Australia, we think the two million figure is accurate.
Why was he so popular? Hard to say. Charisma and an imaginative doctrine are givens. But it was national exposure that really helped swell the ranks of his followers. From the point of view of a typical magazine editor, you eventually can’t resist writing at least a blurb about a person who claims to be God. When that person proves to be polished and intelligent, and his belief system more nuanced than suspected, the article becomes its own public relations. Thanks to steady press coverage, what started as a local congregation in Brooklyn, New York eventually spread to become a multi-ethnic and pan-national movement. But with popularity came scandals. The most notorious of these was when a Divine follower named John Hunt, a California millionaire who had dubbed himself John the Revelator, kidnapped a 17-year-old girl named Delight Jewett and repeatedly had sex with her, either before or after brainwashing her into thinking she was to be the “mother of the new redeemer of the world,” i.e., a new Virgin Mary.
Father Divine’s ministry survived the Hunt scandal and others, and in fact only began to shrink as Divine himself aged and became less active. The cover of Whisper asks if he is dead. Fair question—he was pushing eighty by then and hadn’t been seen in public for months. But he would resurface weeks later in a flurry of press coverage, pronouncing himself“healthy in every organ, muscle, sinew, joint, limb, vein and bone, and even in every atom, fiber and cell of my bodily form.” But Divine was in fact in declining health and had been for some time. Ten years later he died of natural causes at the age of (because his exact birth date is unknown) eighty-nine or ninety. Or he left behind his corporeal form and permanently inhabited his spiritual one. Depending on whom you ask.
|Sex Files||Sep 2 2011|
Virginia McManus, who you see above having a smoke, stars on the cover of this September 1959 Confidential because she transformed from a New York City teacher into an expensive Manhattan call girl. Her fame was typically short-lived in the tabloid universe, but it was hardly usual in its details. McManus was a child prodigy, scion of a well-to-do Chicago family. She moved to New York when she got a job as a substitute biology teacher at Brooklyn’s William Maxwell Vocational High School. But the job didn’t pay well, and she had a difficult relationship with her parents that precluded asking for money, so McManus made the decision to sell sex.
She was arrested for prostitution in October 1958, but acquitted of the charges. The arrest did nothing to deter her—quite the contrary, she gave up teaching and became a full time lady of the evening, eventually partnering with a woman named Beatrice Garfield, whose midtown Manhattan apartment was their base of operations. In February 1959 police raided that apartment and found a nude McManus entertaining two businessmen. This time she was convicted and served three months in New York’s Women’s House of Detention.
In Confidential, she reveals that half the women in her jail were lesbians, and that confinement actually made their lives easier, at least in terms of hooking up without public scorn and legal risk. She was making an important point, but of course it read like something right out of a sleaze pulp novel, and the public ate it up. McManus, understanding the financial opportunity being presented, wasn’t long in writing a book. That book, entitled Not for Love, was published the next year and explained how a child prodigy who could read the Bible at age three and earned a Master’s Degree in literature became a hooker.
There were several fascinating passages: she admitted that prostitution had been an easy transition for her because she had always been promiscuous, writing, “I had been able to go to bed with five men, all complete strangers, without guilt or horror or even as much revulsion as I had anticipated.” She described some of the other call girls, and how their emotional fragility led to depression and drug abuse, and revealed that, “Inwardly, I hadn’t changed a bit. These “girls” have not matured into adult women, despite the nature of their activities.”
The book was an instant bestseller, and for a time the erudite McManus was everywhere. The woman who spoke so frankly about her experiences in the sex trade, and who had written that, "My father was a shadowy figure in my life, scarcely distinguishable from any other big man with a hat and cigar," was a case study for everyone from Freudians to feminists. But this was New York City, after all, where there were so many scandals and so little time. Eventually, she was pushed from the front pages, the bestseller list, and finally from memory. Today, save for a few copies of her book that appear on auction sites, little trace of her exists in the historical record.
|Intl. Notebook||May 11 2010|
American illustrator Frank Frazetta died yesterday of a stroke at the age of 82. He was a master of sci-fi and fantasy imagery, imbuing his pieces with a sensuality and movement that became a trademark as he depicted scenes from an imaginary prehistory inhabited by monsters, demons, sword-wielding warriors, and zaftig princesses. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and educated in art at the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts, over several decades Frazetta’s paintings adorned scores of books, magazines, album covers and movie posters. Frazetta’s work is easy to locate online, so we decided to post a slightly more wide-ranging selection than you would normally find, in an effort to chart the progression of his career and to illustrate his great range. Still more art is viewable here.
|The Naked City||Jan 8 2009|
Thanks to court papers filed this week in Brooklyn, New York, we finally know what happened to John Favara. Mr. Favara was the unlucky soul who accidentally killed John Gotti, Sr.’s twelve-year old son Frankie in an auto accident back in March 1980. Frankie rode in front of Favara’s car on a borrowed motorbike at the exact moment when Favara was briefly blinded by the setting sun. Police quickly cleared Favara of any wrongdoing, but John Gotti, Sr., aka The Dapper Don, wasn’t having it.
Favara knew he was in trouble, and went to the Gotti home to apologize, but was chased away by a baseball bat-brandishing Victoria Gotti. John Gotti suggested that Favara leave town, but he had a wife, two kids and a job in New Hyde Park, which made moving impractical. Parties unknown left Frankie Gotti’s funeral card in Favara’s mailbox, and yet more unknowns spraypainted the word “murderer” on his car, but still he didn’t hightail it. Maybe he thought it would all blow over. It didn’t. Favara finally disappeared that July. Witnesses saw a man assaulting him with a board outside his workplace that day, and several others heard the squealing of tires, but Favara’s body was never found.
This week’s court papers, containing testimony by Charles Carneglia, aka Charlie Canig, reveal that he and several other Gotti associates beat Favara, forced him into a van, and shot him in the legs. Favara was then driven to a secret Brooklyn location where he was killed and stuffed into a 55-gallon drum of acid, which dissolved his body. The moral of the story is twofold: first, when a Gotti “suggests” you leave town, think “Uruguay”; and second, now that we know from an insider how the Mafia operates, I guess we can stop hoping Jimmy Hoffa’s body turns up.