|Vintage Pulp||Oct 8 2009|
Above is an October 1955 cover of the men’s magazine/tabloid Sir!, with a story about Yale’s famous Pig Night we’re certain was borrowed from an identical Hush-Hush story published in September 1955. Most of the old scandal rags didn't have many actual reporters on the ground, so instead they relied on a network of stringers and paid informants. When all else failed, they simply rewrote material from other tabloids, or sometimes even mainstream publications. Sound familiar? It's the same process used by websites today, and back then the practice generated the exact same type of complaints about journalistic integrity. Once again, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The only difference is the old tabloids never really threatened the mainstream media, (though a couple of imprints were top sellers), whereas today's metastasized internet does call into question whether standard media can survive. Only time will tell. A few more issues of Sir! appear below.
|Intl. Notebook||Sep 16 2009|
All very interesting, but then we come to this slightly more obscure reference to Yale and Pig Night parties. Intriguing, no? So, since we have a collegiate theme going today, let’s take a closer look at this. Yale during the 1950s had a thriving frat culture of rich young men sporting well-developed senses of entitlement along with a hair-trigger willingness to party like it was 1999. One house in particular, Delta Kappa Epsilon, was the jock frat. And we all know how sensitive jocks are. Pig Night was an annual ritual in which DKE pledges were sent into New Haven to invite townie girls to a fraternity dance. At midnight, the lucky ladies were gathered and an announcement was made in front of the entire frat. The girls had not been selected because they were beautiful, or interesting, or fun—but because they were the ugliest girls the pledges could find—i.e. “pigs.” Big laughs all around.
The girls invariably stormed out, angry, or humiliated, or tearful, and that made it all the more fun. All this from a frat claiming to seek candidates who “combined in the most equal proportions the gentleman, the scholar, and the jolly good fellow.” We don’t know exactly when DKE’s Pig Nights ended, but we did find references to them continuing while George W. Bush was president of the frat during the mid-’60s. We draw no conclusions from that, although you might. But remember—fucked up as it is, back then Pig Night would have fallen into the category of good clean fun. Not that it was truly harmless—just that the victims were unfairly expected to pretend it was. Today, nobody would tolerate such an event. Which is good, because though we’re vocal here at Pulp about the sad decline of movie, book, and magazine art, we’ve also said before that we think human beings are slowly getting better.
|Hollywoodland||Feb 12 2009|
We already talked about the infamous pulp tabloid Confidential and its lurid mix of sex, drugs, race and crime. Today we have a February cover from their competitor Hush Hush. We found no issues of this tabloid dated pre-1955, so we feel certain ’55 was the year Hush Hush appeared to further terrorize a Hollywood that was already cringing under Confidential's baleful glare. This particular issue probably hit the stands in ’58 or ’59, and by the early 60s Hush Hush and a swarm of tabloids that included Uncensored, On the Q.T. and Top Secret were making life difficult for Hollywood A-listers who assumed their private lives should remain private. We don't know much more about Hush Hush. There are few information sources out there—not even a Wikipedia page. But we'll dig deeper and revisit this subject later on.
|Hollywoodland||Dec 2 2008|
This month in 1952, right wing scandal rag Confidential hit newsstands for the first time. It was owned by Robert Harrison, who got his start in publishing at the New York Graphic, one of the earliest celebrity scandal sheets. Confidential was based in New York City, but its focus was Hollywood and its environs. To gather information Harrison cultivated a vast network of west coast informants—everyone from hotel concierges to taxicab dispatchers. The magazine was lurid, filled with doctored photos, and shamelessly exploitative of hot-button social fears. A typical issue might accuse Hollywood glitterati of using illegal drugs, sympathizing with communists, associating with other races, or working for the mob.
The formula worked. Within two years Confidential grew into a bestselling magazine. It screamed from American newsstands about interracial affairs, LSD parties, and backalley abortions, always in a glaring red-yellow motif that would become its visual trademark. Humphrey Bogart once famously called Robert Harrison “The King of Leer,” sentimentswhich were echoed throughout Hollywood. Stars were galled not just by the magazine’s constant attacks, but the fact that they originated from three-thousand miles away. It meant Confidential either fabricated its stories, or gathered info by means of spies. Neither possibility was pleasing to consider.
Hollywood began fighting back. Ronald Reagan, who at the time was a snitch for Tinseltown’s hated blacklisters, chaired a committee that smeared Confidential staff. Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield
at one point banned mail delivery of the magazine. In 1957 the Kraft Commission put Robert Harrison on trial for conspiracy to publish criminal libel. The trial ended in a plea deal, but not before Hollywood stars realized their greatest ally was the legal system. Lawsuits kept Confidential in litigation from that point forward, and Harrison finally sold out in 1958.
The new owners managed to keep Confidential going, but mindful of lawsuits the magazine had lost under Harrison in 1956 and 1957, operated more cautiously. Soon, readers began to suspect the tabloid was no longer living up to its stated credo: “Telling the facts and naming the names”. Confidential stopped flying off newsstands. Sales dipped to a third what they had been at their zenith. A 1970s shift in editorial focus toward hippie counterculture did little to reverse fortunes, and Confidential finally folded in 1978.
Though defunct, its twenty-two year run was a success by almost any standard. Confidential outlasted a dozen competitors, and its influence extends into today’s newsstand tabloids, Hollywood-oriented television shows, celeb blogs, and even popular fiction. Author James Ellroy’s award-winning pulp thrillers frequently reference Hush Hush, a Confidential copycat. And Pultizer Prize winning columnist Stephen Hunter wrote a bestselling thriller about the Mafia’s presence in Hot Springs, Arkansas during the 1950s, a subject Confidential covered in its very first issue.