Kenneth Anger explores Hollywood's darkest recesses in his landmark tell-all.
Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon is the grandaddy of all Tinseltown exposés. It was published in 1965, banned ten days later, and shelved until 1975. It's exactly as advertised, outing everybody that was anybody for everything. Entire chunks are devoted to Charlie Chaplain, Lana Turner, Errol Flynn, Fatty Arbuckle and other cinematic luminaries. Some of its claims have been proved false—for instance the assertion that Lupe Velez died with her head in a toilet, and that Clara Bow screwed the USC football team (we doubt anyone really believed that one, even back then). But other tales are basically true, including accounts of various legal run-ins and feuds.
Anger's writing is uneven, but at its most effective mirrors the type of pure tabloid style that influenced the likes of James Ellroy and others. Besides the salacious gossip the book has a ton of rare celeb photos, and those are of real worth. We've uploaded a bunch below. They came from a digital edition because our little paperback was too fragile to get on a scanner. By the way, don't feel as if we're working overtime on our website this Christmas morning—we uploaded everything in advance and are actually nowhere near a computer today. We're glad you took a minute to drop by. Copious vintage Hollywood below.
New tabloid serves up Russell, Monroe, and others.
Jane Russell, wedged into an outfit that turns her boobs into footballs, graces the cover of the debut issue of Exposed, a high budget tabloid launched by Fawcett Publications in 1955. It arrived on a crowded newsstand already occupied by Confidential—then arguably the most circulated magazine in the U.S.—as well as Whisper, Hush-Hush, Uncensored, and similar publications. The get-up Russell is wearing is a costume from her starring role in 1954's The French Line, and we sort of assumed the shot had been at least slightly doctored, and we seem to be correct. Judge for yourself at right. At least her boob punishment was offset by the fact that her outfit was too flimsy to include one of the deadly corsets that sometimes made their way around stars' waists.
Russell is in Exposed to illustrate a story about sex in cinema, but she isn't the most exposed occupant of the magazine. That would be Marilyn Monroe, whose famous Playboy nude is reprinted for a story about hustlers reprinting her photos. We'll just assume Exposed licensed their Monroe shot. Apparently, though, those other miscreants were selling her likeness by the thousands without permission and without compensating Monroe. Exposed shows her in court testifying for prosecutors. The prosecution may have won its case in 1955, but in the here and now Monroe is sold from Tegucigalpa to Manila, unlicensed all of it. Which just goes to show the more things change the more they stay the same.
Probably the highlight of the issue is a long story about detectives who make their living catching cheating couples in action. Exposed offers up numerous photos of these pairs caught in the act in motel rooms and secluded homes. Are these photos real? Well, we have our doubts. Even the most cleverly posed action shots have those intangibles that mark them as fakes, but that's just our opinion. Judge for yourself. Elsewhere in Exposed you get “Sophie” Loren, Errol Flynn, Marguerite Chapman, Franchot Tone, and other big time celebs.
We're pretty proud of this acquisition. It wasn't terribly expensive, but we've seen it priced much higher than what we paid. Maybe down the line we'll flip ours for a tidy profit. But that's what we always say. Much to the Pulp Intl. girlfriends' chagrin, our office just piles higher and higher with mid-century ephemera and we haven't sold a single piece yet. Exposed goes to the top of the precariously tottering pyramid. We have about thirty-five scans below, and plenty more tabloids on the way.
New tabloid explodes onto the gossip scene.
When we describe Dynamite as a new tabloid, it's only partly true. It was a new imprint. But its publisher, the Modern Living Council of Connecticut, Inc., was headquartered at the Charlton Building in Derby, Connecticut, which is where Top Secret and Hush-Hush based operations. When you see that Dynamite carried the same cover font as Top Secret and Hush-Hush, and that those two magazines advertised in Dynamite, it seems clear that all three had the same provenance. But unlike Top Secret and Hush-Hush, it doesn't seem as if Dynamite lasted long. The issue above, which appeared this month in 1956, is the second. We are unable to confirm whether there was a third. But if Dynamite was short-lived it wasn't because of any deficiencies in the publication. It's identical in style to other tabloids, and its stories are equally interesting.
One of those deals with Henry von Thyssen, the Dutch born, German descended heir to an industrial fortune, and his wife, Nina Dyer, heiress to a tea plantation in Sri Lanka, back then called Ceylon. The von Thyssen family manufactured steel in Germany, including for Hitler's Third Reich, and came out of World War II unscathed, as big companies that profit from war always do. Dyer was a dilettante famed for making bikinis popular on the French Riveria. According to Dynamite, von Thyssen was so desperate to marry Dyer that he allowed her to keep her boyfriend, the French actor Christian Marquand. Society gossips whispered,but both spouses were fine with the set-up until von Thyssen accidentally ran into Dyer and Marquand in Carrol's nightclub in Paris and was forced to save face by starting a fight. The couple soon divorced, but not because of infidelity, as many accounts claim. What finally broke the couple up was that Dyer dropped Marquand. Dynamite tells readers: “[von Thyssen] has ditched his sloe-eyed Baroness because now she's decided she loves him.”
Interesting, but there are many similar stories about open high society marriages. What interested us, really, was the portrayal of Dyer. Apparently she had at some point been strongly influenced by Asian women. Her husband described her as “soft and feminine and oriental looking.” Dynamite painted this word picture: “She walks as though she has a water pot balanced on her head, her dark, slanting eyes are inscrutable, and her movements are so languorous and cat-like that von Thyssen gave her a baby panther as a companion.” Dyer eventually had two panthers, and was often seen walking them on the Croisette in Cannes. After her marriage to von Thyssen ended she quickly married Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, but that marriage ended in divorce. Over the years she had been given many gifts. Besides the panthers there were cars, jewels, and a Caribbean island. But the one thing money never bought for her was happiness. She committed suicide at age thirty-five.
There's a lot more to learn about Nina Dyer—her modeling career, her adventures in the south of France, her free-spirited ways in the Caribbean, her 1962 E-Type Jaguar Roadster that was found in Jamaica in 2015 and restored for a November 2016 auction, and more. So we'll be getting back to her a little later. We still have about fifty tabloids from the mid-1950s and we're betting she appears in more than a few. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Dynamite is a story tracking Marilyn Monroe's movements around Fire Island during a summer 1955 vacation, a report about Frank Sinatra being barred from the Milroy Club in London, an exposé on prostitution in Rome, a breakdown of the breakdown of Gene Tierney's engagement to Aly Khan (Sadruddin Aga Khan's brother), and a couple of beautiful photos of Diana Dors. We have about thirty scans below for your enjoyment. Odds are we'll never find another issue of Dynamite, but we're happy to own even one. It's great reading.
In Lincoln Heights Jail, that is.
If you suspect the jailhouse photo above is associated with a good story you’re correct. Hollywood party animal Errol Flynn, pictured here in L.A.’s Lincoln Heights Jail, was arrested for public intoxication along with 21-year-old Irish aspiring actress Maura Fitzgibbons. It was an unexpected end to what was supposed to have been a celebratory night. A couple of hours earlier Flynn and Fitzgibbons had been at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades where the Publicists’ Association was staging an annual costume party called The Ballyhoo Ball. When Flynn and Fitzgibbons made their entrance a man approached for an autograph. Flynn explained, politely according to witnesses, that he would comply but never socialized or signed autographs until he had a drink in his hand. But the man insisted on an immediate autograph—he said the hatcheck girl was his wife and a big Flynn fan.
Flynn reluctantly let himself be led by this insistent man to the hatcheck stand, whereupon he saw that the man’s wife, who appears in the photo at right, was attractive. Since Flynn was a consummate horndog, he suddenly became eager to comply and not only signed an autograph, but even managed to steal a kiss on the cheek. Making polite chit-chat afterward, Flynn asked the man what he did for a living and learned that he was a cop. Or at least said he was. But since the man was in civilian clothes, Flynn said, “If you’re a cop where’s your badge?” Or something to that effect. When the man produced a badge Flynn grabbed it and tossed it to his date Fitzgibbons. This was a costume party, remember, so it’s quite possible Flynn never believed him. And it’s virtually certain the cop never considered that the situation might make any claim to be a cop appear to be a prank. In any case he got upset and arrested Flynn and Fitzgibbons.
Once at the Lincoln Heights Jail the police either decided the arresting officer—whose story was markedly different from Flynn’s, Fitzgibbons’ and several other witnesses—had been overzealous. Or perhaps they simply decided to show a little preferential treatment to a movie star. In any case, they offered to let Flynn go with a warning. But the actor was indignant: “I want to be arrested. I want the whole world to know of the injustice of this deed.” So the cops tossed Flynn in a cell with a group of Mexican drunk and disorderlies who were still singing tequila-fueled ranchero songs. Even as late as 1957 Flynn was one of the most recognizable men in the world, so when the realization struck the detainees that the newly arrived drunk and disorderly was Errol Flynn everyone stared in stunned amazement. Then they began shouting, “Viva El Capitán Blood! Viva El Capitán Blood!” They started up the ranchero songs with renewed vigor, and Flynn sang along in the choruses. As for Fitzgibbons, below, she never earned a single credited role in Hollywood, which makes her Ballyhoo Ball arrest the height of her fame. That all happened in the wee hours today in 1957.
Inside Story was never a top tabloid, but it still managed to entertain.
Sex, celebs, and swindles make up the bulk of this Inside Story from October 1958 with Swedish bombshell Anita Ekberg starring on the cover. All tabloids had a snappy slogan. Inside Story’s is “Tells the facts about people, the news, and the world we live in.” Doesn’t exactly send chills down the spine, does it? Maybe that’s why Inside Story was always strictly a middle of the pack tab, never achieving the rarefied heights of Confidential or Police Gazette. But on to the stories. In this issue readers are told that a relationship with Anita Ekberg comes at a high cost—not in money, but in frayed nerves due to her demanding behavior, alleged examples of which are detailed from London (caught by police having sex in a parked car) to Rio de Janeiro (abandoned her boyfriend and flew back to Sweden without a goodbye). Inside Story also expounds on Marlon Brando and Anna Kashfi, as well as Gloria de Haven and the unnamed Central American dictator’s son (Ramfis Trujillo, discussed last year) who was so struck by her beauty that he spent a fortune in time and money trying to get her into bed. Errol Flynn's supposedly inflated reputation as a lover also takes a hit, and both the horse racing industry and restaurant business provide material for insider horror stories. All in all, it’s a nice slate of articles, well worth the twenty-five cent asking price. We have twenty pages of all this for your enjoyment below, including a large scan of Diana Dors, because, well, she’s Diana Dors.
Walking on air, fairest of the fair, there she is… Miss Nude America.
Our copies of National Informer span a time during which the paper was transitioning from typical tabloid to sex magazine. In our issues from 1966 to 1968, you get alarmist political journalism, which by the 1970s becomes drooling quasi-smut, as we see in this issue that first hit newsstands today in 1972. Of course, this shift from commie-baiting to masturbating meant abandoning a rightward leaning readership for a leftward leaning one. Clearly the move was meant to boost readership, but it didn’t work. It wasn’t Informer’s fault, though. All the old school tabloids were taking a beating. Even the venerable National Police Gazette, which had begun publishing lifetimes earlier, in 1845, died during the seventies. But Informer had a shorter history, a smaller audience, and a lower budget. In a tabloid sea where old battleships like Gazette and Confidential couldn’t turn quickly when the weather changed, Informer was a mere speedboat. Turn it did, and quite easily. Hugh Hefner’s Playboy had obliterated America's already battered pubic hair barrier in 1971 and Informer followed in its wake. But more explicitness did not bring more readership, as far as we can tell. National Informer and its sister publication National Informer Weekly Reader were dead by 1974.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1953—NA Launches Recovery Program
Narcotics Anonymous, a twelve-step program of drug addiction recovery modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous, holds its first meeting in Los Angeles, California.
1942—Blimp Crew Disappears without a Trace
The two-person crew of the U.S. naval blimp L-8 disappears on a routine patrol over the Pacific Ocean. The blimp drifts without her crew and crashes in Daly City, California. The mystery of the crew's disappearance is never solved.
1977—Elvis Presley Dies
Music icon Elvis Presley is found unresponsive by his fiancée on the floor of his Graceland bedroom suite. Attempts to revive him fail and he's pronounced dead soon afterward. The cause of death is often cited as drug overdose, but toxicology tests have never found evidence this was the case. More likely, years of drug abuse contributed to generally frail health and an overtaxed heart that suddenly failed.
1969—Woodstock Festival Begins
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, which was billed as an Aquarian Exposition, takes place on a 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. It would run for three sometimes rainy days and feature thirty-two acts performing at all hours of the day and night. Today the festival is regarded as one of the greatest events in popular music history.
1977—Radio Signal Arrives from Deep Space
An unidentified radio signal, nicknamed the WOW Signal for the notation a scientist made on a computer readout, is briefly detected by the SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) project's Big Ear radio telescope. Despite a month of searching the same section of space, the signal is never found again.
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