Femmes Fatales Nov 9 2021
SMOKE AND FIRE
Hepburn brings a special kind of style to Hollywood.


We don't smoke, but Katherine Hepburn sure makes smoking look good in this RKO promo photo shot by Ernest Bachrach in 1935. Though she had a long and storied career, this early shot is pretty much her iconic image. Prints of it are even sold on Wal-Mart's website. Hepburn is incomparable. Her must-watch films include Bringing Up Baby, Adam's Rib, The Philadelphia Story, The African Queen, Long Day's Journey into Night, The Lion in Winter, the groundbreaking Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (which inspired an excellent reggae song by Black Uhuru), and On Golden Pond.
 
You can sum up Hepburn's output by saying she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar twelve times and won a quartet, the most ever. The Oscar has failed to stay as relevant as it could have over recent decades, and the Academy has made some embarrassing Best Picture choices (Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction—really?), but it's always been a reliable measure of acting quality, so Hepburn's four wins are meaningful. The one thing she didn't do was make a lot of pulp style movies. One that looks as if it qualifies is the 1946 drama Undercurrent. We'll circle back to that and the divine Miss H. in a bit. 

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Vintage Pulp Dec 28 2020
ADAM AND EVENING
U.S. Adam goes in search of adult entertainment after dark.


We're taking a break from the Australian Adam magazine to remind everyone that the unrelated U.S. men's magazine Adam was also filled with colorful art, fun fiction, weird facts, and beautiful models—in this case Danish pin-up and centerfold Elsa Sorensen, aka Dane Arden, who you see on the cover. We still think the down under Adam is the best, but northern Adam is always worth a look, and this issue published in 1960 is a representative example. Actually, there were two northern Adams. There was a French magazine of that name too, unrelated to the others. We've been meaning to locate one to buy online, but the price hasn't been right yet.

Anyway, this issue of Adam contains the usual fiction and humor, plus features on strip clubs in Paris, Tokyo, and Long Beach, a profile on New Orleans torture mistress Madame Delphine Lelaurie, and other pleasures of the evening. It also highlights the “dirtiest book ever written”—supposedly Il Commandante di Pompeii, which we suppose can keep you company on lonely nights if you don't get to Paris, Tokyo, or Long Beach. We have many scans below, and other issues of U.S. Adam you can find here, here, here, and here. And if you're interested in the Aussie Adam we have scans from almost seventy issues in the website, and you can see them by starting here.
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Intl. Notebook Sep 13 2018
CHICAGO MATINEE
An afternoon on the South Side.


The above photos show the Regal Cinema in Chicago one afternoon during the spring of 1941 as locals flock to see The Philadelphia Story, starring Katherine Hepburn, James Stewart, and Cary Grant. The shots were made by Farm Security Administration photographer Edwin Rosskam, who had been tasked with documenting life in Chicago's black belt, which is where racist housing practices forced African Americans to live. Most of Rosskam's photos made abundantly clear that the underclass status forced upon blacks by redlining—the utilization of mortgage and insurance practices to hem them into tightly packed areas—led to less than desirable conditions, but many of his shots showed joyous moments and bustling civic life. These images of people decked out for a matinee are examples. They're part of the Office of War Information Collection maintained by the Library of Congress.

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Vintage Pulp Sep 2 2016
FROM BAD TO WORSE
My life has gone horribly wrong, but at least I still have my digni— Oh, great. My fly was open this whole time, wasn't it?


In David Goodis' 1954 thriller Street of No Return, a down-on-his luck nobody named Whitey, who had been a great singer years ago only to lose his voice, career, and sobriety—thanks to a dame, of course—finds that even for a man at rock bottom things can get worse. And it involves something more serious than discovering his fly is open, though that would be funny. What happens is an impulsive act of compassion drags him into a pit of murder and corruption, set against the backdrop of Puerto Ricans-vs-cops race riots in Philadelphia. There are plenty of reviews of this online, so for details just look around. This one caught our eye because of the intricate and gritty cover art, yet another top effort from Barye Phillips.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 21 2016
CORNER STORY
What's in the box? Uh, you know, lipstick, gum, cigarettes, the souls of men I consume. The usual.


Above, really nice front and rear cover art for The Blonde on the Street Corner by David Goodis, which was published by Lion Books as a paperback original in 1954. Set in Philadelphia during 1936, the book examines a bunch of guys who have big dreams but no money, no motivation, and no ideas how to escape dead-end Philly. The narrative is basically plotless, like the characters' lives. Talk about a great depression. The cover art, by Robert Maguire, is beautiful but the blonde depicted is nothing like the blonde Goodis writes about. Goodis's blonde is overweight, married, and in her mid-thirties. She does have a sexual aura, though, and certainly fits the mold of a femme fatale. This is considered lesser Goodis, but it's still good enough.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 4 2016
GETTING YOUR PHILLY
What do they expect? It's called the City of Brotherly Love.


Above is a cover of the early tabloid Philadelphia Briefs published today in 1934, which caught our eye because it has a nice drawing of actress Anita Page, along with an Easter Bunny that seems to looking up her skirt. Bad, bad bunny. Briefs was one of the purest early examples of the American tabloid form, with its reporting focused mainly on big city dangers faced by upstanding young white women, among those perils the predations of darker races—often referred to in the parlance of the Depression years as “sepias” or “ebonys.” To quote: “White, sepia, and ebony wrapped in erotic embrace. White girls in their teens abandoning their ivory bodies to ebony clutches as boy and girl friends cheer drunkenly.” Interesting, no?
 
This style of reporting served a specific purpose. As James H. Adams put it in his book Urban Reform and Sexual Vice in Progressive Era Philadelphia, the goal was to, “demystify the city through the use of cultural archetypes and narratives that defined why the city was evil, the threat that the city posed to orderly society, and the measures that reformers needed to take to clean up the urban space.” In other words, Briefs created negative, often transparently ridiculous stories that had the effect of convincing readers that barriers maintaining the structure of contemporary society were under siege. These tales of white girls and brotherly love would distress many people even today, so you can imagine the outrage in 1934. See more Briefs here.

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Mondo Bizarro Aug 3 2015
A HITCH IN THE PLAN
San Francisco or bust? Looks like it was bust big time.


The odd photo you see above shows hitchBOT, a hitchhiking robot created by Canadian professors David Harris Smith and Frauke Zeller. It can't move on its own. It's programmed to respond to human voices, have rudimentary conversations, ask for rides, and post updates to the internet. Good samaritans take hitchBOT as far as they want, then leave it where it can catch another ride. In this way the bot successfully made three separate cross country journeys the breadth of Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands. But here's the thing—“cross country” has a whole different meaning in the U.S., where there may be more cross people per capita than anywhere else on Earth. Is it any surprise that when sent to traverse America hitchBOT was murdered almost before its journey began?

It had been tasked with traveling from Boston to San Francisco, but made it only to Philadelphia before being decapitated and gutted. It was a sad end for the well-traveled and kind-hearted hitchBOT. More of a sociological experiment than a science undertaking, it essentially relied on human kindness to get around, and found it sorely lacking in America. Maybe you're surprised how hitchBOT's travels concluded, but in our opinion ending up shattered on a Philly roadside was entirely predictable. Hell, we've ended up shattered on a roadside a few times, and we have every possible human advantage. Poor hitchBOT hadn't a prayer.

But before you jump to the conclusion that Canadian college professors are hopelessly naive, note that hitchBOT was programmed for the possibility his travels would be cut short. His final update was, “Oh dear, my body was damaged, but I live on back home and with all my friends. I guess sometimes bad things happen to good robots! My trip must come to an end for now, but my love for humans will never fade. Thank you to all my friends.” So it's clear that Smith and Zeller anticipated their bot dying. We're not sure if they anticipated the sheer viciousness of its demise, but it's okay because like hitchBOT said, all its data is safe back in Canada, which means it can be downloaded into another robotic shell.

But why bother? Subsequent trips to the U.S. would surely end with it being obliterated in increasingly baroque ways. Wrapped in chains and dumped in a river comes to mind as a possibility. Doused in gasoline and set afire in a Walmart parking lot is also likely. Deliberately flattened on the freeway shoulder by someone driving a shitbox they don't mind damaging a bit also could easily happen. Or possibly just riddled with .45 bullets until there's nothing left but unrecognizable debris and a hitchin' thumb. Well, we'll see if hitchBOT has more journeys, but if we had to guess, we'd say Smith and Zeller learned everything they need to know—that their neighbors to the south are monsters.

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The Naked City Nov 25 2014
A LITTLE TO THE RIGHT
Good aim is helpful for committing murders, and absolutely crucial for solving them.


Front Page Detective shows on this November 1971 cover how to attract eyeballs with lurid art and titillating text. Eisenhower’s social secretary murdered? That sounds intriguingly political, but it turns out Eisenhower’s only connection is that his White House had more than a decade earlier employed the murder victim in a secretarial position. Though no political angle exists, the crime itself is still very interesting. Laura Carpi, scion of a prominent Philadelphia family, disappeared in February 1971. In June the decomposed body of a woman was found in New York City’s East River, labeled an accidental drowning victim, and twenty days later interred on Hart Island as a Jane Doe in the potter’s field there. After the body was identified as Carpi’s, the New York Times published a sensational story claiming that her head had been removed before burial for study by junior pathologists, or, according to some sources in the pathologist’s office, simply to be used as a desk ornament. The Times claimed that a technician had been cleaning out whatever grisly remnants of flesh were still attached to the skull and happened to find a bullet lodged in its neck tissue. Dealing now with a suspected homicide, police focused on missing persons, and eventually summoned Carpi’s dentist. Recognizing his own work, he made the positive identification. 

The ME’s office became the center of a storm, with Chief Medical Examiner Milton Helpern blasting the Times story for insinuating that “the doctors in this office are cutting off people’s heads to make ashtrays.”  He pronounced the entire article “grossly distorted.” Perhaps it was, but uncovering a murder by chance never looks good, and he didn’t help his cause when he responded to a question about why his staff had failed to discover the bullet by saying that he ran a mortuary, not a graveyard, and was extremely busy. Though his answer was callous, it was also correct. His office had a contant flow of bodies coming through—that year more than 1,800 alone that had been victims of murder—and his staff was overworked. Add to this the facts that Laura Carpi had thick hair that concealed the small caliber entry wound at the base of her skull, the slug had left no exit wound, and the head had been four months in the water, and it’s possible to see how mistakes could be made. As to why the head was kept, the unconvincing official reason was that it was because the dentalwork would allow for possible future identification—which only made sense if all the Jane and John Does on Hart Island were also headless.

In any case, the finger of suspicion for the murder immediately pointed toward Carpi’s estranged husband Colin, at right, who was battling for custody of their four children. Not only would the loss of this battle and subsequent divorce settlement wipe him out financially, but he was also well aware that his wife had been seeing another man. For various reasons—jurisdictional issues and general reluctance to pursue the crime—Colin Carpi didn’t go to trial for two more years. A mountain of circumstantial evidence pointed at him, but his acquittal was deemed by most legal experts to be the right decision. The prosecution simply bungled its presentation to the jury, and even if the courtroom aspect had been perfect, much of Colin Carpi’s suspicious behavior could be chalked up to the circumstances around the custody battle and his wife’s affair. Perhaps a not-guilty verdict was an anti-climax after the high drama associated with the identification of Laura Carpi’s body, but not finding the perp is the way it often goes in true crime, and real life.

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Sportswire May 8 2014
CARMEN MOANS
Yeah, but you should see the other guy.

This is American boxer Carmen Basilio, and bad as he looks on the outside, he feels even worse inside because he’s just learned he lost his welterweight title to challenger Johnny Saxton. That wasn’t what Basilio, the crowd of thousands, and the television audience of millions thought when the final bell rang, but the judges somehow saw a different fight than everyone else and awarded Saxton the decision. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Saxton was mafia-connected, and his “manager, friend, and adviser” was Philly mobster and notorious fight fixer Frank “Blinky” Palermo? Very possible. Basilio later said of the decision, which occurred in March 1956, “It was like being robbed in a dark alley.” Well, he certainly looks like a guy who was robbed. See more on Basilio here.

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Intl. Notebook Aug 27 2013
GABY CHIC
There’s only one way to tan—the Gaby way.

Gaby Suntan Lotion was a popular sunscreen manufactured during the 1940s by Gaby, Inc. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and above is a stand-up cardboard counter display touting its famed greaseless composition. Other versions of the ad informed consumers that the lotion was also alcohol free. Of course, what drew us to this is the pin-up style art painted by an unknown, not its SPF qualities. But it does it inspire us work on our tans a bit. After all, summer’s almost over.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 06
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
December 05
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
December 04
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
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