The Lowdown has the scoop on a fantastic plastic.
Today we're back to tabloids with an issue of The Lowdown published this month in 1962. The cover features Bob Hope goofing around, Elizabeth Taylor looking serious, Kim Novak nuzzling, and a random naked party girl randomly partying naked. Inside the issue are stories on Hope getting the hots for trans star Coccinelle in a French nightclub, Novak raking a series of suitors over the coals, and baseball players succumbing to greed. So much material in these tabloids, and so little time to highlight a story or two. But forced to make a choice, we're opting to discuss a piece on something called Scoobeedoo. How can we not? We all remember the cartoon, and now this story seemed guaranteed to tell us where the name of the legendary dog came from. We never knew we wanted to know that. But when we saw the word Scoobeedoo we realized, yes, we want to know.
Lowdown describes Scoobeedoo as a craze and a do-it-yourself gimmick. Apparently, it was popularized when French singer Sacha Distel wrote a 1958 song of the same name. But he didn't invent it—he just sang about it. The actual thing was invented by a French plastics company and called Scoubidou. It was basically a spool of brightly colored plastic cord that could be woven or tied to make—well, whatever you wanted. Youcould make lampshades, baskets, placemats, keychains. A California man famously used it to make bikinis. We imagine it would work for household repairs, light sexual bondage, whatever you needed it for. The stuff was as popular as the hula hoop for a while. Apparently figures in the electrical industry even complained that a shortage of wiring insulation was due to Scoubidou because it used the same type of plastic.
Readers above a certain age will already know about all this, of course, but we had no idea. We weren't around back then. And that, succinctly, is why we maintain this website—because we learn about a past we never experienced. But surprisingly Scoubidou isn't just the past. It apparently still exists. It even has a Wikipedia entry with examples of the many things you can make (but no bikinis). So this was a very informative issue of The Lowdown, all things considered. The only thing we're bummed about is that our Scoubidou research provided no actual confirmation that the cartoon dog Scooby-Doo got his name from the toy. But he had to, right? Maybe a reader has the answer to that. In the meantime we have more than twenty scans below for your enjoyment and other issues of The Lowdown you can access by clicking the magazine's keywords at bottom.
Update: a reader does have the answer. One of you always does. J. Talley wrote this:
The series was originally rejected by CBS executives, who thought the presentation artwork was too frightening for children and that the show must be the same. CBS Executive Fred Silverman was listening to Frank Sinatra's “Strangers In The Night” (with the scatted lyric “dooby-dooby-doo”) on the flight to that ill-fated meeting. After the show was rejected, a number of changes were made: the Hanna-Barbera staff decided that the dog should be the star of the series instead of the four kids, and renamed him Scooby-Doo after that Sinatra lyric. The spooky aspects of the show were toned down slightly, and the comedy aspects tuned up. The show was re-presented, accepted, and premiered as the centerpiece for CBS's 1969-1970 Saturday Morning season.
Thanks, J. That's another hole in our historical knowledge successfully filled in. Is it any surprise Sinatra was involved somehow? That guy really got around.
Tonight they're gonna party like it's 1955.
Questions abound on this cover of Inside Story, but for each one there's an answer. What did Prince Rainier not tell Grace Kelly? That the palace in Monaco was cold and drafty, and she couldn't sleep in the nude anymore because the premises were open to the public from 9 to 5. What was the amazing Frank Sinatra hoax? His studio Carlyle Productions started a whisper campaign that he was such a dedicated actor that he actually used heroin while filming the heroin drama The Man with the Golden Arm. What is the secret fear that haunts Perry Como? That his family might be kidnapped.
All of these pieces are fascinating, but since it's baseball season and people are high on the front-running New York Yankees right now, we'll point to the story, “The Real Reason the Yankees Lost!” What they lost was the 1955 World Series, and it happened—according to Inside Story—because they were partying too hard. They were ensconced at the Concourse Hotel for the Series, a hole-up made possible by the fact that their opponents were the Brooklyn Dodgers. So with both the home and away games taking place in New York City, and the players barred from sleeping in their own houses to avoid family distractions, the superstar Yanks did some major league carousing.
Inside Story scribe Manuel Shaw describes an allegedly typical scene: “Mickey Mantle, Phil Rizzuto, and several other Yankees were sitting around the lobby of the hotel when three lovelies from a nearby night spot showed up. Since the cuties were entertainers familiar to one or two of the players, and were rabid Yankees boosters, it was not remarkable that they were soon in animated conversation with the group, which shortly adjourned from the lobby to an upstairs suite.”
Then he moves into this bit: “A beauteous brunette [was in the hall] clad only in a negligee. The two players wanted to spend some time with her, and they agreed that they would rather do it separately, but she insisted it would be more fun if they both stayed, and after a while she persuaded both of them to come back with her to her room. Soon a real party was underway, joined by many other Yankees, and several doting females who lived at the hotel.”
Well, what good is being a member of the famed Yankees if you can't do some Yankee doodle diddling? Most guys we know can't resist a free beer, let alone a woman in lingerie. A little later in the story, after the question of whether professional gamblers employed the party girls to distract the Yanks, we get this: “If true, this parallels the persistent story in gambling and diamond circles that the voluptuous Marilyn Monroe was introduced to Yankee star Joe DiMaggio just in order to take his attention off the Yankee pennant drive of a few years back.”
Did Inside Story really just say Marilyn Monroe was a mafia Trojan horse? Yup. They did. No ambiguity there. The magazine does not go so far as to say Monroe was aware of the set-up, so perhaps it was a matter of maneuvering her into the same space as DiMaggio at the same time and letting nature take its course. There are worse ways for a man to fall from the sporting mountaintop. And talk about a soft landing. We doubt the story, but you never know. There are far crazier tales starring Monroe. We have about thirty-five scans below, and more tabloids coming soon.
A change is gonna come.
The mid-century tabloid obsession with transsexuals and gender reassignment continues with this issue of The National Insider published today, 1964. This time the subject is Abby Sinclair, who started life as Alvin Sinclair, but changed her sex and—like Coccinelle and Christine Jorgenson before her—became famous on the exotic dance circuit. Somehow Insider got exclusive rights to Sinclair’s story, and ran it as a serial entitled “I Was Male.” The series was later published as a book.
Sinclair, who sources agree had beautiful results with her reassignment, went on to a dual career as a stripper under the management of famed NYC promoter Bobby Colt, and as a manicurist named Alice at the Stage Barbershop in Manhattan. We found this out from a copy of (don’t laugh) The Beaver County Times from June 1965. Our guess is that the manicurist job was an excuse to get close to New York celebs, since her workplace was the preferred haircut stop for the likes of Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, and Tom Poston.
The Times shares an anecdote about a famous columnist who saw Sinclair at Lou Black's Bellydance Emporium one night and recognized her from the barbershop. He sent a note to her only to be informed by Bobby Colt: "That's not Alice, and it's not a girl. That's a guy named Alvin Sinclair from Brooklyn who had one of those operations." Though it sounds as if Colt was turning his own client into a punchline, he really wasn't—the sex change was Sinclair's calling card, and all of her regulars knew she had been a man. For Colt, the more people who knew the story the better. We found nothing more on Abby Sinclair—her moment in history passed quickly. But life goes on, and wherever she went we suspect hers was always eventful.
Fifty years ago one big question about Kennedy was whether he was the puppet of a foreign religion. Sound familiar?
The National Police Gazette hits all bases in this vibrant September 1959 issue, telling us about Billie Holiday’s heroin woes, Carmen Basilio’s feud with Sugar Ray Robinson, Mickey Mantle’s lack of respect from his employers, and Debbie Reynolds' divorce. But we’re focused on the John F. Kennedy article. Just fifty years ago Americans were suspicious enough of Catholics that Kennedy’s opponents were able to exploit his religion during his campaign for president. The far right Aryan Knights are quoted from a press release: The Romanist church organization insolently pretends to temporal authority over various governments and people of the world, including our own United States. The League goes on to claim that Rome wants Catholicism established as America’s state religion, and that those who refuse to conform will be prosecuted or destroyed.
Hmm... The leaders of an overseas religion want to take over America using the President as a Trojan Horse? Why does that ring a bell? Merrill J. Fox, head of the Federal Party, said: “Kennedy is bound to carry his religion over into politics. He does it now, subconsciously. Kennedy wouldn’t be good for our country because he isn’t his own boss.” Interesting, no? These fearmongers are basically forgotten today, consigned to that copious dustbin of history which is home to some of the most odious loudmouths who ever emerged from the woodwork. But at the time these guys made a fine living. And when you revisit some of their laughable assertions, it becomes clear that green—not red, white and blue—was their focus. Put another way, you'll never go broke telling people what to be afraid of. With regard to our current era, there’s an old saying that applies: The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Because people have incredibly short political memories, it seems like a good time to update this piece and be a little less coy about our insinuations. We're writing now in 2018. At the time we wrote the original post there had been three years of suggestions that Barack Obama had a secret muslim agenda directed from somewhere or other in the Middle East, or possibly Africa. These days, now that Obama's stint in the White House has come and gone with no forced conversion in America to sharia law, people will try to pretend the fear campaign never happened, partly because they now know it's embarrassingly stupid to have believed it. But tens of millions of conservative voters did believe it, thanks to a drumbeat heard mainly on far right radio from 2007, through the presidential campaigns, and into the first couple of years of Obama's presidency. As we said, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Days go by and still I think of you.
In the United States, Major League Baseball’s 2010 season opened last night with a couple of games, but today is the first full slate of baseball, and in commemoration we’ve tracked down a few images of baseballers from the past. We won’t identify every player, but we do want to make special mention of a few. In panel two below you see Ty Cobb spiking catcher Paul Kritchell in the nuts. Why? That's just how he rolled. Panel three shows Buck Leonard of the Homestead Grays running out a grounder against the Philadelphia Stars during the 1945 season, and below him is Oscar Charleston. Leonard, Charleston, and Josh Gibson, in panel eleven, are all Negro League players who were inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame way back in the early seventies. Allthree are considered by sports historians to be among the best who ever played their positions, though they never played in the Major Leagues. Lastly, in panel fourteen you see Lefty Grove, one of the great pitchers of his era, frozen in time just before a game, forever young.
We decided to post all these photos because we’re basically a history site, and baseball, more than any other American sport, is inextricably bound with the country’s history. When you think of Ted Williams, you don’t just think of baseball—you think of World War II. When you think of Joe DiMaggio, you think of Marilyn Monroe and her tragic ending. Hank Aaron, chasing a sacred record with grim determination, is part and parcel of the civil rights movement—not for anything he said, but just because that was his place in time. For every era of baseball, the facesconjure moments on the field, but also events far from the confines of the ballpark. This is what makes the boys of summer such a special group. Seasons change, winter inevitably comes, careers and lives end, but their niches in history are secure. Meanwhile these images are a reminder of just how long and wonderful the summer can be. Enjoy the season everyone.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
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