Vintage tabloid looks forward to better sex in the future but should have been happy with the present.
This issue of the low rent sexploitation tabloid National Informer published today in 1971 asks what will sex be like in the year 2020. We'd answer that compared to 1971 people will have less of it, and when they do it will come with recycled puritan guilt and fears of fatal disease. Other than that it'll be great! We jest, of course. We have no clue what 1971 sex was like, but National Informer makes clear that there were plenty of worries. Like what if you didn't know proper etiquette for your first orgy? Or what would you wear to the nude-in at Golden Gate Park? And could you get it up after popping three Quaaludes?
With the myriad sexual challenges of the period, it's no wonder people thought 2020 sex would be better, as a utopian article by Tom Bridges makes clear. Our favorite line: “Sex will be just another physical satisfaction in human living, with no stigmas attached.” Um... no. And this bit is great: “There will be sex schools in every city, attended by millions, which will teach by demonstration excellent sexual techniques. Anyone who doesn't attend and graduate will be a social dropout and considered illiterate.” Little could Mr. Bridges have suspected that the U.S. wouldn't come up with enough money to run normal schools, let alone sex schools.
It's fun to read how much faith Informer has in a brighter future. Optimism was actually a chararistic of the time period, we've noticed, whether talking about politics, science, or anything else. But a funny thing happened on the way to the post-millennial sexual mecca Informer imagines—the eunuchs took over the harem, and when 2020 finally arrived, the events of that shitty year were (notice we're already talking about it in past tense—that's how bad it was) enough to kill everyone's sex drives. Well, at least 2021 is just around the bend, and in the event of the virus actually being conquered, maybe a new sexual revolution will take hold, with love-ins and all the rest. We'll believe it when we see it, but it never hurts to dream, right?
The skies may be friendly, but the ground is an entirely different story.
When you come across a ’70s movie with bad acting, bad scripting, vaudevillian humor, nude women, and a foreign setting, there's a good chance you're dealing with the output of either American International Pictures or New World Pictures. Fly Me comes from the latter studio, and was directed by Cirio Santiago, one of the kings of Asian sleaze cinema.
The story deals with three flight attendants played by cinematic obscurities Pat Anderson, Lyllah Torena, and the gorgeous Lenore Kasdorf, who get into various pickles in Hong Kong and Manila—and get various pickles into them. One stew is secretly working for a drug cartel and is kidnapped after failing to perform up to expectations, a second meets and falls for a guy who turns out to be a British secret agent, and the third mostly tries to ditch her mother and get laid.
We'd love to tell you the movie is good, but no such luck. It lurches back and forth from sexploitation to lowbrow comedy, and as usual with Cirio Santiago's films, the action scenes are inept. We'll admit to enjoying TNT Jackson, but based on the preponderance of evidence he appears to be a real hack as a director. He's a Filipino legend, though, who helmed something like a hundred films, so he'll certainly have opportunities to redeem himself as we continue our explorations. We'll keep you posted. Fly Me premiered today in 1973.We love being stewardesses. The pay isn't great but you can't beat the travel. Oh, Captain, I've always wanted to join the five-inch high club. This chick is freaking the fuck out. Excuse me, sir. You're one of the hosts, right? You might want to toss this one with the rest of the empties. Oh no. A creepy foreigner. I heard they attack if you show fear, so just keep walking. Stay calm. Don't run. Screw that plan. Cork-soled wedge sandals, get me outta here! I have an idea. Let's go to your room and have screaming hot monkey sex, okay? Oh! Mom! Hi! Remove your grubby fingers from my daughter's big fat ’70s bush this instant! Incongruous crash-zoom of an actual bush! Hey everyone, I'm looking for my missing girlf— Er... did I say missing? I meant dead. And I miss her very much and would like a replacement. I'll take her. Don't bother wrapping her or anything. I'm gonna eat her right in the car. Drop dead, creep! I didn't mean on top of me! Ugh, how rude! That's him! The head of the sexual slavery ring! Rip his balls off and stomp them into cracker spread! I've seen things in my police career that were hard to watch, but this is the worst of all. By the way, you okay? Wanna have sex again or do you need a few hours to recover from your trauma? Well, girls, Manila sure was a hoot. I wonder what Mogadishu will be like?
Rare celestial event returns to night sky to dazzle and amaze.
Last year we showed you a stunning photo of Marisa Berenson personifying a celestial being. Well there were other images from that iconic session, so we decided to bring her back in an alternate—and equally amazing—photo. Along with quasars, pinwheel galaxies, and planetary nebulae, Berenson is one of the most beautiful and mysterious phenomena in the cosmos. See the other shot here.
Stop your damn whining! I always ask you nicely to help out around here but you never listen until I act like a bitch!
A bit of western art today, a cover for Hot Town, from Perma Books and Frank Malachy, aka Frank McAuliffe. This is from 1956, with art by veteran frontier painter Tom Ryan.
Hemingway's lament for the downtrodden working class is supposed to be his worst novel. But is it really?
Don't let the cover blurbs fool you. In general To Have and Have Not is considered by critics to be Ernest Hemingway's worst novel. Originally published in 1937, it was completely rewritten and became a great 1944 movie with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. If you've already seen the movie but never read the book, hold onto your hats, because this is extraordinarily rough stuff from Hemingway, a tale of desperation and murder in the depths of the Great Depression. Harry Morgan is a Key West boat captain who's stiffed for $825 after his three-week charter skips town. That would be about $15,000 in today's money, so it's no surprise that losing this bundle means Morgan, who's married, has three kids, the usual assortment of bills and responsibilities, and has spent his life fighting to get ahead, is now destitute.
If you opt to read the book, make sure not to gloss over exactly how far in the hole Morgan is. $825 dollars would bend the morals of most people in 1937, just as $15,000 would today. After being cheated out of this cash he makes a fateful decision to turn criminal himself by running illegals from Cuba to Florida. That's when things go from bad to worse. If you look closely at the cover art on this Perma Books edition from 1953 you'll see what the result of Morgan's criminal foray was. That's one reason cover art is so interesting. The scene the artist chooses to depict—in this case it's Tom Dunn—can sometimes be so specific as to give away an important plot point. If you can't tell what we're talking about by looking at the art we'll give you a hint. What happens to Morgan is the also title of an earlier Hemingway book.
But moving on, To Have and Have Not is—we'll just come out and say it—brutally racist. There are some who would like to gaslight you into thinking you're seeing something that isn't there, and others who would prefer you to ignore this, but you shouldn't, because racism is actually pivotal in the narrative. Morgan's initial foray into crime is against people he clearly feels are subhuman. They and other ethnic groups are referred to with slurs, and these come not just from Morgan's mouth, and from his thoughts, but from the writer's thoughts too. There are places where Morgan uses actual names to refer to characters that Hemingway still refers to by slurs. Think: “Hey Joe, give me a hand with these poles,” said Harry. The [slur] put down his coffee and helped Harry with the poles. So while it's always good to separate the author from their fiction so they have freedom to create any sort of characters they wish, it still raises an eyebrow when you read something like that.
Another aspect of To Have and Have Not that may jar is its lack of sympathetic characters. Morgan's ex-prostitute wife Marie is probably the nicest person in the book, and even she drops n-bombs all over place. But you have to root for someone, so it's her and Harry. You do it because they're at the economic mercy of terrible people. Most of these folks—who are generally of a better class—wouldn't use racial slurs, but they also wouldn't think twice about ruining someone for a few dollars. And while Harry employs a black man and gets along with him fine, you can be sure none of his rich charters would let a black man deign to speak to them. So in its way, To Have and Have Not is relevant in 2020 by starring a working class character who's uncouth, uneducated, and devoid of genuine empathy, but who constantly deals with people that think they're better than him and really aren't.
This is why losing the charter and those $825 bucks is such a clever way to open the novel. The charter, Johnson, flies away and doubtless never gives what he did much thought, but in shafting a working man creates wreckage that crushes not just the man he cheated, but those around him. We think this is the way to focus on the book if you read it—acknowledge the obvious deficiencies of Harry Morgan, but pay close attention to the secondary characters. This is what Hemingway wanted, which is why Morgan's narration lasts for only a while. Everything after his first crime caper is told from outside his point of view. As the book goes on, Hemingway drags you deeper into the lives of these ancillary characters, dispassionately leaving a struggling Morgan to recede into the distance.
So is To Have and Have Not Hemingway's worst book? We don't like it as much as his other works, but with its changes in point-of-view, mood, and even narrative tense, it's also more challenging than those books. Ultimately, the most serious indictment of To Have and Have Not comes from the author himself—he thought it was his worst book too. And who are we argue with Ernest Hemingway? But on the other hand, when you write The Sun Also Rises and For Whom the Bell Tolls, and win a Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea, and later win a Nobel Prize for your body of work, your worst book can still be pretty good.
She knows the best way to a man's heart—ballistically speaking.
It's been a couple of years since we had a cover by French illustrator Jean Salvetti, so here's one for Dorothy ouvre le bal, or “Dorothy opens the ball,” published in 1952 by Paris based Éditions le Trotteur and written by Oscar Montgomery, aka José del Valle. There were three books in the Dorothy series, with this one coming second. Short synopsis: Dorothy goes to Egypt, hurts a bunch of bad men. As you can see, Salvetti signed his work Salva. More Salva here, here and here.
She had more facets and more talent than most.
This photo shows U.S. actress, poet, screenwriter, playwright, journalist, and activist Ruby Dee. That's a lot of professions, but we're mainly concerned with her acting. In pursuit of that passion she appeared in such films as St. Louis Blues, Raisin in the Sun, and on television shows like The Fugitive and Peyton Place. This is a mighty nice image of one of Hollywood's most respected multi-hyphenates. It's from 1962.
The truth is I only listen to classical, but all the guys at those concerts are too old and frail to risk taking to bed.
Last stop for the scum of humanity on the road to hell? Sign us up! But 1953's Honky Tonk Girl isn't the throwaway novel you'd expect. The premise is unique—a Dixieland jazz musician named Johnny Nickles fears he's recorded a haunted album. The platter, The Ghost Album, is so titled because it's a tribute to dead jazz kingpins, and seems to have heralded a series of misfortunes: the band's arranger dropped dead of a heart attack; Johnny's girlfriend stole his money and car; his band lost the cushy house gig they'd been promised; and now, playing nightly in a dive bar in nowheresville, the band's drummer has been murdered. Nickles decides to solve the case and gets help from a hooker, a chanteuse, a cop, and some obvious clues. We thought the idea of a haunted album would be the launch pad for a memorable book, but Beckman doesn't quite get this one airborne because—despite his extensive pulp pedigree—he's middling as a writer. But what does come through is his musical knowledge and familiarity with the hand-to-mouth existence of ambitious young jazzmen. We give it a 5 for prose and an 8 for atmosphere. The cover art, on the other hand, is a solid 10. It's by the always amazing Howell Dodd.
Murder mystery explores the turbulent years of pre-Malaysia Singapore.
We grabbed this beautiful hardcover copy of Suddenly, at Singapore from Scottish publishers William Collins, Sons & Co. for two reasons. First, the cover art is by the legendary Barbara Walton, one of the great illustrators of the mid-century period, and the title promises exotic thrills. Though we're lucky enough to live in an exotic land ourselves, we never get tired of tales set in Asia, Africa, or the Mediterranean. And speaking of exotic, Gavin Black is a pseudonym far less exotic than the author's real name—Oswald Wynd. Why use a pen name when you're named Oswald Wynd? Beats us, though the fake name does sound more real.
Anyway, Suddenly, at Singapore involves the Harris Brothers, two adventurous anglos born and raised in Singapore who own a shipping company that, in addition to legit cargos, transports black market weapons around the Java Sea in a fleet of Chinese junks. The story opens with the older brother Jeff being murdered, and younger brother Paul vowing revenge—as soon as he figures out who ordered the killing. He's also involved in an as yet unconsummated martial affair, and is trying to send his wife back to the U.S. to get her out of his hair. The two plotlines eventually braid together, and pretty soon the hero and both his women are in all kinds of difficulties.
This was a quick read, decent not great, but with nice local color derived from Black's/Wynd's time spent in the region. The story takes place before Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak merged into Malaysia, and Black channels some of the political tension and economic lawlessness that prevailed during that time, but doesn't delve into it in a detailed way. He would do that later, though—we gather that this was the first of numerous Paul Harris thrillers. We also hear from those in the know that Suddenly, at Singapore is the worst of the lot, so we may try the second book Dead Man Calling when we get the hankering for South Seas craziness again.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions
about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire
in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
1934—Baby Face Nelson Killed
In the U.S., killer and bank robber Baby Face Nelson, aka Lester Joseph Gillis, dies in a shoot-out with the FBI in Barrington, Illinois. Nelson is shot nine times, but by walking directly into a barrage of gunfire manages to kill both of his FBI pursuers before dying himself.
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