You’re nobody ’til somebody arrests you.
Some items fall into the our-website-is-not-complete-without-them category, so here are Frank Sinatra’s mugshots after being arrested in Bergen County, New Jersey today in 1938 and charged with seduction, which involved having sexual intercourse with a “single female of good repute.” He was locally famous at this point—he had performed with a group called The Hoboken Four, and had sung live on Dance Parade, a show broadcast on New York City’s WNEW radio station. The woman in question was Antoinette Della Penta Francke, better known as Toni Francke. Sinatra had trysted with Francke at least twice, then stopped calling her after his mother Dolly decided she was “cheap trash.” Spurned, Francke went to the police, claimed she had been tricked into intercourse, and was pregnant as a result. But when the authorities later determined that Francke was married they dismissed the charge, since seduction involved staining the reputations of single women.
Francke was persistent, however, and filed a new complaint, this time for adultery, which was basically the same as seduction, but with even more serious implications because it made the cuckolded husband a complainant. Sinatra’s response: “She’s got some nerve, that one. She was the one committing adultery. I didn’t even know she was married.” The Hudson Dispatch reported the second arrest under the headline: Songbird Held on Morals Charge. According to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, Sinatra called the newspaper in a rage. “I’m comin’ down there and I’m gonna beat your brains out, you hear me? I’m gonna kill you and anyone else who had anything to do with that article. And by the way, I ain’t no songbird, you idiot. A dame—that’s a songbird.” The adultery charge was also dropped, under circumstances that remain hazy, but we suspect it had to do with elements of falsehood in Francke’s account of what happened. When all was finally said and done Sinatra was free as a… um… bird, but the great shots above survive.
A history of Rome in three volumes.
We watched Frank Sinatra’s 1967 detective movie Tony Rome last week and, except for some nice Miami exteriors and the presence of Jill St. John, it was strictly average. But it did give us the idea of digging up the source material, so above you see the covers of the three popular books in the literary series, published in 1960, ’61, and ’62. In an attempt to make readers think the tales were real-life adventures they’re credited to Anthony Rome, but they were actually written by veteran author Marvin H. Albert, who churned out more than one hundred books in the western, mystery, spy, and history categories. In addition to writing as Rome, he published as Albert Conroy, Al Conroy, Nick Quarry, Ian MacAlister, and J. D. Christilian. The cover art above is by, top to bottom, George Porter, Bob Abbett, and Victor Kalin. A while back we published a rare promo image from the film version of Lady in Cement and you can see that rather unusual shot here.
Confidential dishes dirt but tries not to cross the line.
Confidential gives Kim Novak the cover and Lili St Cyr the inset on an issue published this month in 1965. Inside, the editors offer readers mostly lukewarm rehash, as was Confidential’s usual approach during its fangless mid-1960’s years, but there are also a few interesting tidbits. We learn that Lili St. Cyr took more than thirty Nembutals during her 1958 suicide attempt, yet still managed to survive though as few as three pills can be fatal. Ramfis Trujillo’s wild Parisian parties are detailed, including the time he and his entourage shot up the lobby of the Hotel George V. And we find out that Frank Sinatra paid a $400 fine in Spain for disturbing the peace when he blew up after a woman threw a drink on him.
But make no mistake—the once mighty Confidential was walking on eggshells after being on the wrong end of some costly lawsuits. Maverick owner Robert Harrison had sold the magazine to Hy Steirman, who realized the easiest way to avoid litigation was to take on targets that either wouldn’t fight back or couldn’t be bothered to care. Ramfis Trujillo, for example, was a mass-murderer and likely found articles about his crazed partying flattering. Thailand’s dictator Sarit Thanarat is also slammed in this issue, and you can bet he gave less than a shit about the write-up—if he was even aware of it. Editors sling mud at Marilyn Monroe, who was dead. Amorphous group targets, like the “limp wrist set,” the Mafia, real estate swindlers, and escaped Nazis make up the rest of the subject matter.
But even if Confidential wasn’t kicking ass and taking names in 1965, its visuals were still quite nice, with those impactful black, white and red graphics, and that super hip language that’s so much of its time but which is still amazing to read today. Try this on for size: “Call the men in the white coats and get the whacky wagon rolling, your favorite swinging correspondent is ready for Flipsville!” We’re always ready for Flipsville, and we’re always ready for mid-century tabloids, too. How many of these do we have left in our collection? You wouldn’t believe us if we told you. We’d sell some, but how could we possibly part with them? We’re stuck with them. And so are you. Twenty-plus scans below.
Miles away from ordinary.
National Informer Weekly Reader once again dabbles in real journalism with a piece about Juan Corona, the Mexican-born killer who in 1971 committed what was at the time America’s largest serial murder. Corona was violent-tempered, savagely homophobic, schizophrenic, had been institutionalized earlier in his life and had endured electroshock treatments. When he finally snapped and went on his spree it was to rape and murder twenty-five male farm laborers during a six-week period and bury them in the orchards around Yuba City, California.
Among many strange aspects of the crimes, Corona typically chopped crosses in the backs of his victims’ heads with a machete, and buried them face up with their arms over their heads and their shirts pulled up to cover their faces. Reader doesn’t offer much new information six months after his arrest, opting instead for a few big photos and short captions. Even though Corona typically wore casual work clothes, Reader digs up a photo of him in a sombrero and charro suit, because nothing says, "I'll chop up you, your family, and your little dog too, motherfucker," like mariachi garb. Using an atypical photo is of course a transparent move to make certain subjects appear more alien to readers, and it remains a common and highly troublesome aspect of American murder coverage today.
But Reader is a tabloid, after all, and so elsewhere in the issue you get more standard tabloid fare—five women giving up secrets about Farnk Sinatra, Mandy Burnes explaining several ways to beat a hangover, a fearful story about the coming explosion in the number of hippie doctors, a guide to Soho for swingers, a millionairess who made her fortune selling German sex aids, and the usual assortment of bad cartoons. Also, we have a suspicion that’s an Aslan pin-up on the front cover, which would be the second Reader has stolen—er, borrowed. Nineteen scans below.
The mission statement was simple—take potshots at every star in the firmament.
Top Secret is in fine form in this issue from October 1962 as it goes after all the biggest celebrities in Hollywood and Europe. Treading the line between journalism and slander is no easy feat, but take notice—Top Secret’s editors and hacks manage to pull off a high wire act. And of course this was key to the tabloids' modus operandi—they had to present information in a seemingly fearless or even iconoclastic way, yet never actually cross the line that would land them in court.
For example, there’s this dig at Frank Sinatra: “Mr. Snarl, Mr. Nasty, Mr. Do-You-Want-A-Belt-In-The-Mouth was as gentle as a lamb. Gone was the usual sneer, the wise-guy leer. Was this the same surly singer whose idea of a good morning’s exercise had been to watch his bodyguards work over a photographer?”
Grace Kelly takes a few arrows: “It’s a pretty good bet that the immediate bust-up of the marriage won’t come in the next few months, but it sure as shooting looks like her six-year reign as the glamorous princess of that silly little kingdom on the Mediterranean is going to blow up in her prim face.”
Christina Paolozzi gets roughed up thusly: “If anything, Christina in the buff is proof that clothes are an underdeveloped girl’s best friends. Therethe Countess stands with a pleased expression that seems to say, ‘Aren’t I something, Mister?’ But all it takes is one quick look to see that there isn’t really anything to get excited about—unless [you love] barbecued spareribs.”
Anita Ekberg receives this treatment: “[La Dolce Vita] was something like a peek into the boudoir antics of its star—the gal with the fantastic superstructure that looks like nothing less than two tugboats pulling a luxury liner into port.”
And what tabloid would be complete without Marilyn Monroe? Top Secret says she’s dating writer José Bolaños (who the magazine calls a Mexican jumping bean). Editors opt to unveil the news this way: “It seems that this bold bundle of blonde has suddenly gone on a strange Mexican hayride!!! Si, amigo, MEXICAN!”
And then there’s cover star Elizabeth Taylor: “And she acted wilder than ever, satisfying all her most urgent urges for Dickie in the most wide open ways. [She] had jumped from tragedy right into disgrace by having a wild fling with Eddie Fisher a mere six months after hubby Mike Todd had been planted six feet under. ‘Mike is dead, and I’m alive,’ she said cynically after running off for a riotous romp in the fall of 1958 with the guy who just then happened to be married to Debbie Reynolds. 'I’m not taking anything away from Debbie, because she never really had it,' luscious Liz sneered."
This issue of Top Secret is, succinctly put, a clinic in mid-century tabloid writing—alliterative and spicy, insinuative and sleazy, but never quite legally actionable. How could Ekberg argue that the tugboat similie wasn’t interpretable as a compliment? Could Christina Paolozzi deny that her ribs show? Could Sinatra claim that his bodyguards neverslugged a photographer? The magazine skirts the edge a bit with Taylor—did you catch how the editors paired “urges for Dick(ie)” with “wide open ways”?—but was she misquoted or truly slandered? Highly doubtful. Top Secret is pure, trashy genius. Magazines don’t have such writing anymore, and that’s probably a good thing—but it sure is fun to look back at how things were. More scans below.
The National Police Gazette packs a bigger punch than its size would suggest.
This April 1944 National Police Gazette totals a mere sixteen pages, including both covers. During the early 1950s the page count would rise, pretty much doubling and remaining that way for most of the next three decades. But small though this issue may be, it still contains some interesting items, such as blurbs on singer Frank Sinatra and baseballer Bob Feller, as well as an attractive cover featuring Betty Duval, and interior photos of other beauty queens. The most notable item is probably the centerfold, which is reserved for Marjorie Tallchief, a full-blooded scion of the Osage Nation who as a ballerina rose to the lofty position of première danseuse étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet. Some online sources say Marjorie Tallchief was aka Maria Tallchief, while others say the two were sisters. It’s the latter group that have it correct—Marjorie and Maria were separate people, and both were acclaimed ballerinas. They were also part of a generation of Native American ballet dancers—including Yvonne Chouteau and Rosella Hightower—to achieve widespread fame around the same time. Scans below.
Who’s that knocking at my door?
This issue of Confidential from this month in 1955 was one of the magazine’s high points (or low points, depending on your perspective). In this issue the world learned about the infamous Wrong Door Raid in which a group of men that included Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra broke down an apartment door in West Hollywood in an attempt to catch DiMaggio’s ex-wife Marilyn Monroe in bed with another man. We’ll let Confidential describe the delicious scene:
The human battering ram backed up and struck again—four or five times in all—before the hinges gave, the door toppled with a terrible crash, and his momentum carried him sailing inside. The rest of the amateur raiders tumbled right after him. A faint light coming from the window told the private eye they were in a bedroom. Any further confirmation he needed was coming from the bed in the form of shrill screams. The investigator had a camera slung around his neck and—without waiting for the lights to be turned on—he blasted away with his flash bulbs.
At some point, DiMaggio and Co. realized that it wasn’t Monroe in the bed and that they had invaded the wrong apartment. Cue panicked retreat, overturned furniture, broken glass, the works. The story is well known today and you can read full accounts on various websites, butwe thought we’d share this cover anyway because we love the photo Confidential chose for Monroe, and the entire episode is a reminder of how bland modern day celebrity scandals really are.
Confidential basked in the glow of its exposé, but events turned sour rather quickly. Even though DiMaggio, Sinatra and the rest were the ones who had broken the law (or several laws), and Confidential had merely reported the truth, Hollywood was fed up. The stars and studios mounted a concerted push in the state legislature, which resulted in indictments against the magazine. With the constant threat of lawsuits hanging over Confidential like a cloud, publisher Robert Harrison made a deal to refrain from writing about stars’ private lives. One of his biggest scoops had helped lead to his magazine’s de-fanging.
Claire Kelly demonstrates the fine art of strap-tease.
American actress Claire Kelly was once called the screen’s most exciting discovery since Rita Hayworth, but her career comprised mainly unremarkable film and television appearances. She did, however, spend a lot of time in the tabloids thanks to a messy divorce/custody battle with George DeWitt, and her liaisons with Frank Sinatra, Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, and Lance Reventlow (son of Barbara Hutton, who for a while was the second richest woman in the world). Kelly eventually gave up acting and married into money. This nice shot of her is from around 1959.
Uncensored takes readers from New York City to Spain to Havana in search of dirt.
Uncensored returns to Pulp Intl. for the first time in over a year with an issue published this month in 1955. The story of Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra’s tumultuous relationship (and the Spanish bullfighter who helped ruin it) has been covered numerous times, so no need to get into it again just now, but the photos are certainly worth a look. Uncensored shares other nice images as well. There’s Eartha Kitt (described as not much to look at “unlike such Negro beauties as Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne”), Sarita Montiel (who in Mexico was allegedly on the receiving end of a horsewhipping by Miguel Aleman’s jealous wife), and Marlene Dietrich (seen both onstage performing and offstage fulfilling a G.I.’s request for a kiss). The latter photo, from 1945, appeared in Life and many other magazines and remains one of the most famous Dietrich images. So Hollywood starlets take note: if you want millions of dollars in free publicity, no need to get arrested or leak nude photos—just kiss a fan.
Uncensored readers also meet Father Divine, (who we wrote about here), his alleged rival Prophet Jones, get a glimpse of nightlife in the so-called Bohemia of NYC’s Greenwich Village, and are introduced to “The World’s Hottest Hot Spot,” Havana, Cuba. Readers see photos of an actual drug deal taking place on some backstreet and learn that the city is “Babylonian bedlam,” where “one can buy marijuana, cocaine, forbidden wormwood liquor, illegal bon bons, or just oblivion.” There’s a photo of a woman outside a revolving repository at Havana’s Orfanato Beneficia (Beneficia Orphanage) where mothers could leave their unwanted babies as easily as mailing a postcard. The caption on the photo? “Despite its bawdiness, Havana has a heart.” A baby depository? Is it any wonder there was a revolution? Twenty-four scans below for your enjoyment.
What was it Shakespeare wrote about rough winds and May?
Above is a publicity photo of American singer/actor/comedian Sammy Davis, Jr. with his Swedish bride, actress May Britt. The shot dates from today in 1960, and as you might guess, that was a very bad time for mixed couples. Sammy had for years been making tabloid headlines for dating white women ranging from Tinseltown icon Kim Novak to Canadian singer Joan Stuart, but when he announced plans to marry Britt, a chunk of the general public lost its collective mind. He faced racist banners and chants in London, received rafts of hate mail, and was confronted in Los Angeles with the bizarre spectacle of three men marching outside the Huntington Hartford Theater in nazi regalia. Even two admirers, John and Robert Kennedy, allegedly asked Frank Sinatra to tell Davis to delay the wedding until after the 1960 presidential election.
Professionally, Britt had to choose between her career and Davis, because it was quite clear that she would never be hired in Hollywood if she married him. Some websites suggest that she lost little because she was a minor talent at best, but she had appeared in over a dozen films and had made the cover of Life magazine twice before even meeting Sammy, so her expectations of a strong run in Hollywood were in no way delusional. Obviously, she chose love over career, and wed Davis at his home in the Hollywood Hills. Some of the guests at the reception included Peter Lawford, Diana Dors, Barbara Rush, Janet Leigh, Leo Durocher, Shirley MacLaine, Milton Berle, and Edward G. Robinson, Jr. The marriage lasted eight years—not long in the real world perhaps, but an eternity by Hollywood standards.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1919—Volstead Act Passed
The U.S. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson's veto, paving the way for alcohol Prohibition to begin the following January. The Act, named for Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Andrew Volstead, was supposed to create a better society but instead helped lead to the rise of violent organized crime gangs. The law wouldn't be repealed until 1933.
1922—Mussolini Comes Into Power
During the second day of the event known as the March on Rome, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini officially takes control of the Italian government when King Victor Emmanuel III cedes power. Supported by a coalition of military, business, and right-wing leaders, Mussolini remains in power until 1943, when defeat in World War II begins to look inevitable.
1994—U.S. Prison Population Reaches Milestone
The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history. By 2008 the U.S. Justice Department pegs the number of imprisoned at 2.3 million, and the overall U.S. correctional population, i.e. those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, at 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults.
1951—Churchill Becomes Prime Minster Again
The Conservative Party wins the British general election, making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time. Churchill is nearly 76 at the time, making him the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone. Churchill remains PM until 1955, when he steps down at 81 due to ill health.
1964—The Night Caller Is Executed
In Australia, Eric Edgar Cooke, who had earned the nickname Night Caller, is hanged after being convicted of murder. He had terrorized Perth for four years, committing 22 violent crimes, eight of which resulted in deaths. He becomes the last person to be executed in Western Australia.
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