|Vintage Pulp||Feb 6 2012|
You never want to go too long without a little National Informer in your life, so we’ve brought you another issue of our all-time favorite tabloid, this one published today in 1972. It’s an almost all-sex issue, with articles about fetishism, group sex, lesbian sex in prison, male contraceptive pills, hookers flying the friendly skies, and advanced stimulation methods to drive your partner wild. Mixed in there, in a place where you’d easily overlook it, is a great paste-up photo of Richard Nixon playing chess with Fidel Castro. Chess had something you could almost call mass appeal in the U.S. back in the 1970s, and Castro was a chess aficionado who once hosted a tournament in Havana that drew Mexican Grandmaster Filiberto Terrazas, American Grandmaster and world champ Bobby Fischer, and Soviet-Armenian Grandmaster Tigran Petrosian. So, in the context of the times, the Nixon/Castro composite isn’t as random as it seems. We’ve blown up the photo below, and included other pages of interest.
|Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique||Feb 4 2012|
Today we have a cover for the 1964 espionage novel Ring Around Rosy, and normally, what would be of the most interest here is yet another perfect piece of art by Robert McGinnis, but in this case we have an author whose life may have been even more rife with danger and intrigue than those of his characters. Many of you probably already know that Gordon Davis was in reality E. Howard Hunt, who was involved in the Watergate Hotel scandal which led directly to the toppling of Richard Nixon’s presidency, a landmark moment in the American psyche because it represented a loss political innocence for millions of citizens. But that all came later, when Hunt was pushed unwillingly into the light after the bungled Watergate operations. What makes him fascinating is everything that came before.
E. Howard Hunt was a dedicated writer in his early years, and after winning a Guggenheim fellowship, went on to publish as the aforementioned Davis, as well as Robert Dietrich, and David St. John. He joined the CIA in 1949, and was stationed in Mexico City along with William F. Buckley. While there, he helped plan the overthrow of Guatemala’s president Jacobo Arbenz, which brought about unrest that funneled into a civil war in which 200,000 people were killed, about 90% of them civilians. A few years later Hunt helped to create a Cuban government-in-exile that would take over that island after Fidel Castro was ousted by U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs insurgents. The invasion didn’t come off as planned, though, and the fallout was damaging enough that Hunt needed to rehabilitate his career.
He took a position as chief of the CIA’s illegal domestic spying branch the Domestic Operations Division shortly after its formation in 1962 by John F. Kennedy. The idea behind the Division was to spy on enemies inside the U.S., which ostensibly meant acting against foreign embassies that might be harboring spies, but in a classic—and inevitable—example of mission creep, pretty soon the Division began illegally spying onAmerican citizens, specifically civil rights activists. After a couple of years Hunt was re-stationed in Mexico City, where sources claim he had dealings with Lee Harvey Oswald in the time leading up to Kennedy’s assassination. Hunt categorically denied ever meeting Oswald, though he later made revelations regarding Kennedy. In any case, being on the government payroll wasn't what he wanted to do anymore—he never got over his anger at Kennedy’s refusal to invade Cuba or overthrow Castro—so he decided to get into the private sector.
This eventually led to him becoming a member of Richard Nixon’s Special Investigations Unit, aka the White House Plumbers, which were both fancy names for the collection of men who were the President’s secret fixers. This was exactly the sort of off-the-books work Hunt had been seeking. It allowed him to remain in the black ops game, but freed him from accountability to layers of career bureaucrats. Under Nixon’s direction and that of White House Special Counsel Charles Colson, Hunt broke into various residences—in violation of both property and spying laws—looking for dirt on people such as reporter Daniel Ellsberg and politician Teddy Kennedy. He was also involved in disinformation campaigns, such as forging fake cables suggesting that John F. Kennedy had ordered the assassination of foreign officials, and trying (but failing) to link a would-be assassin to Democrats by planting George McGovern campaign material in the house of Arthur Bremer, the man who shot conservative politician George Wallace.
We’ve drifted pretty far away from the subject of Ring Around Rosy (which by the way is an adventure concerning Cuba, as were several of Hunt's books), but let’s drift a bit further, and make this point: isn’t it fascinating that in an age in which so many conspiracies have been documented andverified, people are still afraid to believe behind-the-scenes machinations are what really make the planet go ’round? Hunt's dirty tricks are all a matter of record, and had profound effects on international affairs, yet many would like to believe he is a rarity. But whether we're talking about hushed meetings in political backrooms or secret get-togethers between bankers at private clubs, conspiracies are the engine of the world. It isn’t a nice realization, but it’s a logical one.
Hunt wrote novels throughout his black ops years, but as time wore on often used his literary gift to grind axes, modeling characters after men he hated. For example, JFK appeared thinly disguised in the 1972 political potboiler The Coven, in which a youthful, charismatic, Catholic presidential candidate is a secret Devil worshipper. The quality of Hunt’s fiction had declined since his Guggenheim fellowship days, according to many critics, but his name and background guaranteed sales, and still does today (as any Hunt-related internet comment chain, with their pronouncements about his “real deal tough guy” qualities, makes quite clear).
At the end of his life, Hunt dropped a bombshell by confessing to involvement in a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. He described himself as a “benchwarmer” in the plot, i.e., somebody to be brought in if the first team failed, and named everyone involved. The confession was made to his son, which gave rise to questions about both veracity and motive. But if Hunt had confessed on the front page of the Washington Post can wereally doubt that there would still be droves of people unwilling to accept it? It makes sense, though. If Watergate stole the political innocence of millions of Americans, proof of an assassination plot by members of the U.S. government against their own president would be a national cataclysm. So Hunt’s confession is forgotten, while everything else he ever did, survives.
|Intl. Notebook||Sep 19 2011|
On September 18, 1960 Fidel Castro and his delegation arrived in New York City and, after sleeping at the Shelburne Hotel for one night, were asked for a $10,000 deposit for their twenty rooms after allegedly causing extensive damage. The Cubans either didn’t have it or were insulted by the demand (reports vary), and Castro pointedly expressed his annoyance at a press conference, which is where the above photo was shot fifty-one years ago today.
Castro said that if the situation wasn't resolved he and his delegation would sleep in Central Park. They were poor mountain people, he reminded everyone, and spending a few days outdoors wouldn't be a big deal. But Harlem’s stately Hotel Theresa intervened with an offer of lodging and Castro moved uptown, where he was greeted by cheering crowds of Harlem residents. Some cheered because they supported Castro, or because they saw the move as a rebuke against Manhattan’s white establishment, or both.
During his stay at the Theresa, Castro received visits from Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and activist Malcolm X. The event prompted President Dwight D. Eisenhower to call the Cubans “troublemakers.” The photo caption, you’ll notice, opts for a simpler narrative, and says only that Castro was dissatisfied with his room at the Shelburne.
|Vintage Pulp||May 27 2011|
Sexual slander is a time-honored propaganda technique, and today we have two examples, both aimed at Fidel Castro. Confidential, at top, suggests that Castro raped a teenaged girl, while Whisper goes a slightly different route and tells readers he’s afraid of women. Both offer up a version of Castro as less than a man, and during that time of communist hysteria it would have been quite pleasing for people to believe. The really clever element of fabrications like these is that if anyone had called bullshit on the writers it would have been seen as a de facto defense of Castro politically, and thus called into question their patriotism. We would suggest that the same dynamic holds true today. But just how influential were these magazines? Surely not very. Well, you’d be wrong. By 1957 Confidential was the biggest selling newsstand publication of any type in the U.S. Its circulation had reached 4 million per issue, but Confidential editors claimed—and there is reason to believe they were right—that every purchased issue of the magazine was actually read by an additional ten people. Confidential’s circulation had declined somewhat by 1960, but it was still a powerhouse, and Whisper wasn’t doing terribly either (though it's circulation too had been declining for a few years). These two issues, from May 1960 and May 1962, span a period of time when Castromania had reached a fever pitch—at least until the Cuban Missile Crisis came along. We have other tabloid covers with amusing Castro stories here and here, and we’ll compile an aggregate post of others a little later.
|Hollywoodland||Aug 5 2010|
Hush-Hush magazine goes for broke in this issue from August 1963, offering up a slate of tales narrated in their usual breathless style. First, they tell us how Roddy McDowall took nude photographs of Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra and tried to sell them, but was thwarted when she “erupted like Mount Vesuvius”. They then demonstrate the limits of their imaginations by telling us that Italian singer Silvana Blasi reacted like “an uncontrollable Mount Vesuvius” when an African-American dancer was hired at the Folies Bergère. Two volcano similes in one issue is bad enough, but the same mountain? For investigative journalism, Hush-Hush shows us photographs of a dead Carole Landis and an unconscious Susan Hayward, and concludes that sleeping pills are bad. And finally, the magazine stokes the fires of paranoia with two stories: in the first, they explain how Fidel Castro plans to conquer America with heroin, which he’s growing with the help of two-thousand Chinese advisors; in the second, they reveal that the second wife of Dr. Sam Sheppard is a Nazi who plans to revive the Third Reich, and that she’s being helped by—you guessed it—Fidel Castro, who is somehow a communist and a Nazi. Neat trick that. As we’ve mentioned before, though these stories are laughable, people actually believed them, and believed them by the millions, as evidenced by Hush-Hush’s sales figures. The lesson is clear: the choice between popularity and truth is really no choice at all.
|Hollywoodland||Mar 2 2010|
Above is a Hush-Hush from March 1960 with a spotlight on Errol Flynn’s “perverse fling with his Lolita.” They’re talking about fifteen-year old Beverly Aadland, below, who we’ve mentioned before. The article is the beginning of a long tradition of journalists writing the truth—or at least their version of it—about Flynn. Since his death he’s been tagged as a bisexual, a fascist, and a Nazi spy. As recently as 1988 Aadland offered her truth about Flynn in a People interview, and a 1990 book by biographer Tony Thomas rejected the fascist claims, pointing out instead that Flynn had left-leaning politics, though he had made racist comments in letters and conversation.
Thomas claimed Flynn’s true feelings were evidenced by his support for the Loyalists during the Spanish Civil War and his friendship with Fidel Castro. Flynn has also been depicted with assorted personality quirks in films such as 1996’s The Australian, with guy Pearce, and 2004’s The Aviator, with Leonardo DiCaprio. So, suffice it to say that he’s never gone out of style. But as far as whose story to believe concerning who Flynn was, we can’t say. We doubt the conflicting accounts will ever truly be settled—with the passing of Beverly Aadland just last month, all the people who knew Flynn personally are dead.
|Intl. Notebook||Dec 1 2009|
|Intl. Notebook||Jul 13 2009|
Take a look the above item from the July 1965 issue of America’s oldest tabloid—rightwing scandal sheet The National Police Gazette. That’s Claudia Cardinale on the cover, by the way, but we’re pointing to the Castro story. The crack reporters at the Gazette were the first to discover that Fidel was arming southern Negroes for the coming race war. How papers like the New York Times got scooped on this we have no idea, but perhaps it’s because, of all the mid-century tabloids, the Gazette was more obsessed with Castro than most. So in addition to constantly digging for even the most miniscule news items on La Barba, they also made shit up. The only way Castro could have done everything he was accused of in this period was for him to have been triplets working twenty-four hours a day. In fact, we may even have seen a story to that effect somewhere. Pulp Intl. will be exposing more Castro plots as time goes on, and—trust us—the bombshells we’ll drop will change your entire perception of history. A hint? Think harpy/alien hybrids trained in Kama Sutra and flute to drive American men so wild with desire they lose all sense of reason. It was called Project Palin. This is top secret stuff, so we really can’t say any more than that.
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 8 2009|
This Saturday Evening Post cover, with an article about worsening conditions inside Cuba, features one of the most dynamic Fidel Castro images from the 1960s. The story qualifies as propaganda, because it fails to mention the U.S. embargo as a cause of the problems, instead blaming them on corruption, administrative incompetence, and, ultimately, an inferior political system destined for collapse. The collapse never happened, and Castro remains a polarizing figure on the world political scene. He has appeared on thousands of magazine covers, both respectable and trashy. This issue of the venerable Saturday Evening Post first hit newsstands today, forty-six years ago.
|Musiquarium||Mar 31 2009|
Assorted album sleeves from Argentine soundtrack maestro Lalo Schifrin, circa 1970s.