It's never far below the surface of things.
Recently a friend bought a flat, and tucked away under some floorboards was a cache of fascist artifacts. You see one of those above—an oil portrait of Spain's fascist dictator Francisco Franco, clad in his generalissimo uniform, in the full bloom of power. The Spanish Civil War fueled so much literature. Hemingway, Orwell, Sartre, Ramón Sender, and Graham Greene all wrote important works about the war. You notice there's only one Spanish writer in that list? Obviously, due to censorship the best Spanish books came after Franco was gone, which puts them out of our purview, time-wise. But there are numerous Spanish writers who later tackled the subject brilliantly, for example Jesús Torbado.
We think these items we've posted today are excellent examples of real-world pulp. Just below is the yoke and arrows, an old symbol from the 1400s, adopted by the fascist Falange in 1934, and widely utilizedby the nationalist rebels during the Civil War. With the help of Hitler and Mussolini they prevailed in the conflict, after which the Falange became Spain's only legal political party, with the yoke and arrows one of its main symbols. This example is made of brass. Below that is a fascist flag, and you see the yoke and arrows on it, separated left and right on the bottom. This particular flag is not a perfect match with any we saw online, but it resembles the Spanish Army flag used between 1940 and 1945.
Since we were simply tagging along that morning to look at the newly purchased flat and hadn't expected to uncover any treasures, we weren't carrying a camera or cellphone. At first we asked our friend to shoot the items on his phone, but we quickly realized he didn't understand that we needed clear, steady imagery, so we took over the photography chores and had him and PI-1 hold the stuff. But somehow we got mixed up and didn't reshoot one of the items, and all we have is our friend's blurry shot of it.
That would be the panel below, which features PI-1 holding a cross and wreath of some sort that we've been unable to find anywhere online. We really wish we'd gotten a better photo of it, but by the time we looked at what we had, which was days later, our friend had given away everything.
The bullets need no explanation, but the pennant just above does. It was made for the Reunión Nacional de Instructores de Formación Politica—the National Meeting of Political Training Instructors—which was held in 1955 in Valencia. Obviously that was a convention to train educators in how to indoctrinate students into fascist ideas.
The next panel, just below, shows a pamphlet written by politican José Maria Codón titled La Familia en la Pensamiento de la Tradición, which means The Family in the Thought of Tradition, published in 1959. Fascists were all about traditional family, and of course that meant women had few rights, being reduced in the ideals of the Falange to little more than housewives and baby incubators.
The last panel, below, shows the portrait of Francisco Franco just after we found it, and we suggest that if you have a portrait of any living politician in your home and you're not related to him or her, you're pretty far gone. The portrait is signed, but we can't identify the artist. IL something or LL something. Not Cool J, though considering Franco's regime abducted 300,000 children and sold thousands of them to couples as far away as South America, a lot of people would have fared better with a rapper in charge. Actually, it isn't fair to LL Cool J to set the bar that low. He'd do fine period. You also see in that shot PI-1's shapely stems.
"Fascist" is the epithet du jour, but these artifacts were a reminder that important historical terms are cheapened by internet hoardes applying them to every school board head, municipal bureaucrat, and cable series showrunner with whom they disagree. Some leaders and personalities definitely deserve the label, obviously. As we mentioned above, our friend gave everything away, though we weren't clear whether it was wanted for academic or personal reasons. We thought perhaps a museum might be a good place for it all, but the items don't appear to have great value. For example, we found some Codón pamphlets on sale online for three euros. But even if they aren't worth much in cash, there was value for us in seeing them. We wouldn't have traded the morning for anything.
The king of tabloids sets its sights on the Queen of Greece.
Every month when Confidential magazine hit newsstands, we imagine Hollywood celebrities receiving the bad news that they'd made the cover, and going, “Shit.” This issue published in January 1964 features Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, and Jill St. John. The first three members of that group probably took the news in stride, since they were all tabloid staples by then. St. John wasn't quite at their level, but her links with Sinatra kept her in the scandal sheets for a while too.
A person who wasn't used to Confidential's attentions was Frederica of Hanover, who at the time was Queen Consort of Greece—which is just a fancy way of saying she was married to the King of Greece. Confidential says she was a Nazi, a pretty serious charge, needless to say. Was she? Well, her grandfather was Kaiser Wilhelm II, as a girl she was a member of Bund Deutscher Mädel, which was a branch of the Hitler Youth, and she had brothers in the SS. Also, back in 1934 Adolf Hitler wanted to link the British and German royal houses, and tried to pressure Frederica's parents into arranging for the seventeen-year-old girl to marry the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII. And as Queen Consort she made a habit of meddling in Greek politics in ways that made clear she was not a fan of democracy. None of that is a particularly good look.
She had defenders, though, who believed that for a person in her position it would have been impossible not to have been a member of certain groups and to have socialized with Nazis. It's interesting, isn't it, how the rich and powerful always benefit from a special set of excuses? People can't really expect her to have made a stand, can they? But the excuse is hollow. As a high ranking royal she could have avoided anything she wished. Membership in organizations when she was a little girl is one thing, but as an adult she could have denounced Nazism with damage to her reputation the only potential result. A damaged reputation is no small thing, but if we expect resistance from people who'd have been imprisoned or shot for doing so, we should probably expect the same from people who would have suffered mostly dirty looks.
Confidential focuses on Frederica's July 1963 visit to England. The visit was no big surprise—Frederica, her husband King Paul of Greece, Queen Elizabeth, and her husband Prince Philip, were all related. They were all direct descendants of Queen Victoria. Monarchy is a funny thing, isn't it? The visit triggered a protest of about three thousand British leftists that was violently broken up by five thousand police. The protestors carried banners that said, “Down with the Nazi Queen.” After mentioning this fiasco, Confidential delves into Frederica's history, some of which we've outlined above, then loops back to the protests, which she blamed on the British press. But she had already reached a level of notoriety that usually brought out protestors who loudly booed her, particularly in Greece. She eventually retreated from public life, became a Buddhist, and died early at age sixty-three.
Confidential's unexpected exposé on Frederica wasn't out of character for the magazine. It was the top tabloid dog in a very large kennel. It had an expansive staff, serious reporters, hundreds of informers spread across the U.S. and Britain, and published stories about heavy hitters from all sectors of society. It had a regressive political agenda, as its article filled with terrible slander against gays and lesbians makes clear, but even with its rightward slant it took pains to keep its reporting framework factual. That makes it a priceless source of contemporaneous info about public figures, particularly of the Hollywood variety. We doubt we'll ever stop buying it, because we never know who we'll find inside. Twenty-plus scans below.
Howell Dodd shows his political side.
Here's something unusual. This is a piece by legendary men's magazine and paperback illustrator Howell Dodd, obviously political in nature, titled “Danse Macabre” and commenting on Francoista fascism in post civil war Spain. Francisco Franco, like other former European dictators, continues to loom large over the country he ruled. Laws were only recently passed that might allow for his body to be exhumed from the massive mausoleum he had built for himself, for finally making a census of the estimated 500,000 victims of the Spanish Civil War, for investigations into the fates of tens of thousands who disappeared under fascist rule, and to find out what happened to 300,000 children who between 1939 and 1975 were stolen from their parents and adopted by—i.e. sold to—well-connected families. Some of those children even ended up with childless couples in the U.S. and Latin America. So it was quite a danse indeed. We aren't sure how much Dodd was aware of when he painted this item, but the visual is encompassing regardless. You see a couple of close-ups of the piece below, and you can see Dodd in completely different mode here and here.
For a little while at least, sports can bring a nation together.
The art deco influenced fútbol poster above, which is signed in its lower right corner by an artist whose identity is unknown to us, advertises a match between top flight Spanish sides Valencia F.C. and Real Madrid at Valencia’s Estadio de Mestalla. Months earlier Spain had become a republic after years of dictatorship under Miguel Primo de Rivera, and was about to enter into a period of unrest and rising fascism, leading to civil war and decades more dictatorship under Francisco Franco. But on this particular winter Sunday in Valencia the sole battle took place on the pitch at Mestalla. The star player on the field was Manuel Olivares Lapeña, who you see at right, but it was Jaime Lazcano Escolá and Juan Costa Font who netted goals that day. The game ended in a 1-1 draw—a triumph for a Valencia squad languishing at the bottom third of the table. But Real Madrid won the league.
Don’t cry for me Argentina—the sex was worth it.
We located a worn-out copy of Inside News from April 1964, and on the cover it promises assorted criminal atrocities and indeed delivers. But the piece that really caught our eye (because of some similarities to the current situation of Italy’s buffoon-in-chief Silvio Berlusconi) is the story on Argentine ex-president Juan Perón and his fourteen-year-old mistress Nelida Rivas. The relationship was not something Perón was trying hard to keep secret—he had met her in late 1952 and she soon became a frequent companion. The public was generally forgiving because Rivas was too young to know better and Perón was a widower, his wife Evita having died in mid-1952. Still, he was sometimes grilled by the press and often criticized by opponents. In the end, it was opposition from the Catholic Church that triggered his undoing. His scorn for what he saw as their meddling in his personal business caused him to take a series of political steps that helped justify his excommunication by Pope Pius XII. When this Inside News hit the stands, Perón was living in exile in Spain. To say that his relationship with Nelly Rivas cost him the presidency of Argentina—as Inside News does—is a stretch. But it is fair to say that Perón’s enemies were able to turn Rivas into a mighty handy weapon. Berlusconi take heed.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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