Hollywoodland | Sex Files Mar 13 2013
IMITATION OF SEX LIFE
The Lowdown proves that it deserves its name.


We’re jumping right into our treasure trove of newly arrived tabloids today with a glance at this issue of The Lowdown published in March 1965. On the cover you see Jean Harlow, Carroll Baker, and Ed Sullivan. We talked about Baker recently and there she is in that crazy gown again (below)—or is she? No, on close examination this is yet another version of the dress. Clearly, the photo was shot on a different night than all the others because her hair and jewelry are different. But the actual dress also looks slightly different from both the Oleg Cassini and Pierre Balmain iterations. A reference in the story clears things up at least a little: “Transparency gowns are another of her big passions and she often wears them.” There you have it. Half naked was a fairly standard look for Carroll Baker. They just don’t make stars like they used to.

You might be curious what the article is about. On the cover the header reads: “The Night Carroll Baker Played a Call Girl,” but on the inside, it says: “The Night Carroll Baker Played a Harlot!” The story goes that she wanted to research her role as a prostitute in the movie Sylvia, so sheventured down to Tijuana, Mexico, toured a few brothels, and somehow disappeared alone for two hours: “We don’t know what happened in the house in Mexico or what sights she could have barged in on, but that is bouncy Miss Baker’s bit.” Lost in a Mexican whorehouse. The mind reels. Do we buy it? Not for a minute.

The other story of note asks: “How Hot Was Jean Harlow’s Sex Life?” Well, let's take an up close look and find out. In 1932 when Harlow was 21 years old she married Paul Bern, a director and screenwriter. Bern apparently had never done well in the sex department due entirely to his own lack of passion, and his shyness was well known. To him Harlow supposedly represented a chance at true sexual fulfillment. If the most desired woman in Hollywood couldn’t rouse his slumbering libido, nobody could. According to The Lowdown, Bern failed on the wedding night. Here’s what the text says:
 
In the wee hours of the morning, Jean’s agent [Arthur] Landau received a frantic call from her asking that he come and get her immediately. When [they] got to Landau’s home, according to the agent, Jean stripped off her filmy wedding nightgown to reveal her beautiful body a mass of welts and bruises. “Her back and buttocks were covered with bruises. Therewas one especially bad bruise directly over her kidneys.” The implication here is because Harlow died several years later of kidney failure that she incurred the fatal damage during that wedding night beating. It gets weirder—brace yourselves. Landau goes to Paul Bern’s house, geared for a confrontation:
 
The bridegroom of some eleven hours was [snip] sprawled nude and drunk on the floor of his den. Silently hating the man at his feet, Landau wanted to kick the slight, pasty body of Bern. Instead he rolled the unconscious man to his back to discover what had never been suspected by anybody in the industry. Paul Bern had the sack and penis of an infant boy. The story goes on to explain that the entire mess was hushed up for the sake of Harlow’s career. Two months later Bern committed suicide via a bullet through the brain. One more excerpt:
 
Paul had prepared himself for death by removing all his clothing and stood before the dressing room mirror. [snip] And, staring at his tormented body, he pulled the trigger. The nudity added a sexual element to his suicide that encouraged a spectrum of interpretations of his farewell note:
 
“Dearest dear, unfortunately this is the only way to make good the frightful wrong I have done to you and to wipe out my abject humiliation. I love you. Paul.
 
You understand that last night was only a comedy.”
 
What was the comedy? Harlow said nothing to the press. But according to Arthur Landau, she told him Paul Bern had spent $200 on a device to increase his manhood. Wearing the contraption he had entered their bedroom intent on finally consummating their marriage. This hope was doomed from the start and the whole plan turned into such a tragic farce that both he and Jean finally gave way to hysterical laughter. That’s probably one of the sadder stories you’ll ever hear. Is it true? It appeared in a biography about Harlow, but we can never know. We can, however, at least answer the question posed by The Lowdown’s story header. No—Jean Harlow’s sex life was not hot at all.


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Intl. Notebook Jan 11 2013
VISIONARY ART
They only have eyes for you.


We were researching our recent post on fascist-era femme fatale Isa Miranda when we stumbled across fourteen sets of eyes from some of the most famous starlets of the 1930s. They were on a Brazilian fashion blog called Cajon DeSastre, now defunct, and we gather they came from a book—Fashion at the Time of Fascism—which we’d love to read if we could find a copy. Anyway, just a little eye candy for Friday.

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Vintage Pulp | Sex Files Jan 16 2012
SKIN FLICKS
A new tabloid hits the newsstands with a twist on the usual formula.

In our continuing search for rare magazines of high entertainment value (if sometimes dubious quality), we stumbled across the above gem—the first issue of the self-described sexploitation film graphic Flick. Published in the U.S. out of Libertyville, Illinois, it was basically just reviews of x-rated films in tabloid form. The publishers admit in their introductory editorial that the tabloid market is glutted, but insist America needs a magazine that helps porn consumers separate the wheat from the chaff. They do it with utter seriousness and, as a bonus, also throw in some musings on film history, with discussions of Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, Theda Bara, Jean Harlow, and Hedy Lamarr, who all had pre-Hays Code flirtations with screen nudity.

It might be difficult to imagine actors appearing nude on screen during the 1920s and 1930s, but the idea back then was that, because the medium was considered an art form, motion picture nudity was no different from nudity in sculpture, photography or painting. Theda Bara's and Jean Harlow’s screen nudity was merely implied, but Hedy Lamarr went all the way in her 1933 Czech-made romance Ekstase, aka Ecstasy, in which she ran starkers through the woods, giving audiences a gander at her backside and breasts. She was known at the time as Hedy Kiesler, but it’s her.

There’s also a non-nude love scene containing what some critics believe is the first cinematic depiction of an orgasm. As you can imagine, Ekstase was controversial. Only four-hundred prints were ever made, and most of those were butchered by censors. By the 1940s, the only complete copy known to exist was in Russia. It had first been Hungarian property and had been exhibited in Budapest in ’33, but because the Hungarians had fought alongside Nazi Germany and helped conquer swaths of Russian territory in the early 1940s, when the Russians reversed those gains and occupied Budapest in 1944, they sort of helped themselves to a few choice cultural treasures.

Elsewhere in this inaugural Flick you get reviews of the adult films A Hard Man’s Good To Get, Sisters in Leather, College Girls, and Jack Hill’s first full-length effort Mondo Keyhole. The editors remind readers that their magazine is a collector’s item. At the time—January 1970—they probably imagined it would be quite valuable in forty-one years. Well, we got it for $4.00. But just for the hell of it, maybe we’ll hang onto it for another forty-one years. You never know. By the way, if you’re curious, you can actually see that famous Hedy Lamarr nude scene here. It is not a complete version, though. We doubt a complete one exists. See ten scans from Flick below. 

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Intl. Notebook Nov 29 2011
VICTIMS AND WIVES
Does your wife want to kill you? The National Police Gazette tells you how she'll do it.

Those scamps at The National Police Gazette are at it again in this issue from November 1971, the cover of which screams: The 3 Ways Wives Murder Their Husbands—and get away with it! What ways would those be, we wonder? Well, murder method one is: Feed Him To Death. Here’s the juicy bit from that section: Women prepare the meals. If the husband is overweight, has high blood pressure, and has been warned by his doctor to avoid certain foods, the truly concerned wife will follow the instructions. But we know of case after case where the wife insidiously fed her husband what he shouldn’t have had, worsening his condition until the fatal heart attack. The scenario runs on for a bit, but you can imagine the rest.

Murder method two is: Nag Him To Death. Our favorite line is this: Nothing can weaken a man’s will to live as much as a nagging wife, a leading psychiatrist has stated. She can undermine his health just as surely as an invading virus. What follows are some quotes from various quacks supporting the thesis, backstopped by a bogus study. But we aren’t buying. The Pulp Intl. wives are nothing but rays of sunshine. And we’re not saying that because they’d beat us if we didn’t. Murder method three is: Sex As a Weapon. The money quote: Sexologists have long known that certain acts associated with love play are super tension-producing. Oral sex, for example, can make dangerously inordinate demands on the husband’s blood pumping system. Heh. Blood pumping system.

Gazette asserts that the vast majority of murders committed by wives fall into the three categories listed, making them impossible to prosecute. Their advice? Know about the deadly weapons at your wife’s disposal, and develop the proper defenses. No word on what those defenses might be, though not being an asshole and making your wife want to kill you comes readily to mind. Did we mention our girlfriends are rays of sunshine? Elsewhere in this Gazette you get Jean Harlow, Jacqueline Bisset, and more. We’ve uploaded a few scans, and of course we still have a stack of Gazettes to post later.

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Hollywoodland Jun 8 2011
JEANEOLOGY
The prime of Miss Jean Harlow.

Above is the front page of New York’s Daily News, from today 1937, with a headline about the death the previous day of starlet Jean Harlow. Harlow was world famous, and her passing, which came suddenly, or at least seemed to, triggered wild speculation in the tabloid press because of confusion over what had killed her. Left to fill the fact vacuum, the tabs claimed she had died variously of alcoholism, complications from an abortion, over-dieting, sunstroke, poisoning due to her platinum hair dye, and VD. Eventually doctors realized she had died of kidney failure, and had actually been ill for a long time. She had been fatigued for weeks, and the previous year had suffered a bout of septicemia and sustained a bad sunburn—both indicators of kidney dysfunction. But a correct early diagnosis probably would have made little difference, since there was no treatment for kidney related illnesses in 1937—penicillin wasn’t in commercial usage yet, and dialysis was a decade away. Harlow was twenty-six when she died. Below is a selection of publicity photos of the woman nicknamed the Blonde Bombshell. She was one of the first sex symbols in American cinema, and remains one of the most revered. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 10
1919—Zapata Is Killed
In Mexico, revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata is shot dead by government forces in the state of Morelos, after a carefully planned ambush. Following the killing, Zapata's revolutionary movement and his Liberation Army of the South slowly fall apart, but his political influence lasts in Mexico to the present day.
1925—Great Gatsby Is Published
F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby is published in New York City by Charles Scribner's Sons. Though Gatsby is Fitzgerald's best known book today, it was not a success upon publication, and at the time of his death in 1940, Fitzgerald was mostly forgotten as a writer and considered himself to be a failure.
April 09
1968—Martin Luther King Buried
American clergyman and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., is buried five days after being shot dead on a Memphis, Tennessee motel balcony. April 7th had been declared a national day of mourning by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and King's funeral on the 9th is attended by thousands of supporters, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
April 08
1953—Jomo Kenyatta Convicted
In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta is sentenced to seven years in prison by the nation's British rulers for being a member of the Mau Mau Society, an anti-colonial movement. Kenyatta would a decade later become independent Kenya's first prime minister, and still later its first president.
1974—Hank Aaron Becomes Home Run King
Major League Baseball player Hank Aaron hits his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's 39-year-old record. The record-breaking homer is hit off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and with that swing Aaron puts an exclamation mark on a twenty-four year journey that had begun with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League, and would end with his selection to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.
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