The Naked City Nov 25 2014
A LITTLE TO THE RIGHT
Good aim is helpful for committing murders, and absolutely crucial for solving them.


Front Page Detective shows on this November 1971 cover how to attract eyeballs with lurid art and titillating text. Eisenhower’s social secretary murdered? That sounds intriguingly political, but it turns out Eisenhower’s only connection is that his White House had more than a decade earlier employed the murder victim in a secretarial position. Though no political angle exists, the crime itself is still very interesting. Laura Carpi, scion of a prominent Philadelphia family, disappeared in February 1971. In June the decomposed body of a woman was found in New York City’s East River, labeled an accidental drowning victim, and twenty days later interred on Hart Island as a Jane Doe in the potter’s field there. After the body was identified as Carpi’s, the New York Times published a sensational story claiming that her head had been removed before burial for study by junior pathologists, or, according to some sources in the pathologist’s office, simply to be used as a desk ornament. The Times claimed that a technician had been cleaning out whatever grisly remnants of flesh were still attached to the skull and happened to find a bullet lodged in its neck tissue. Dealing now with a suspected homicide, police focused on missing persons, and eventually summoned Carpi’s dentist. Recognizing his own work, he made the positive identification. 

The ME’s office became the center of a storm, with Chief Medical Examiner Milton Helpern blasting the Times story for insinuating that “the doctors in this office are cutting off people’s heads to make ashtrays.”  He pronounced the entire article “grossly distorted.” Perhaps it was, but uncovering a murder by chance never looks good, and he didn’t help his cause when he responded to a question about why his staff had failed to discover the bullet by saying that he ran a mortuary, not a graveyard, and was extremely busy. Though his answer was callous, it was also correct. His office had a contant flow of bodies coming through—that year more than 1,800 alone that had been victims of murder—and his staff was overworked. Add to this the facts that Laura Carpi had thick hair that concealed the small caliber entry wound at the base of her skull, the slug had left no exit wound, and the head had been four months in the water, and it’s possible to see how mistakes could be made. As to why the head was kept, the unconvincing official reason was that it was because the dentalwork would allow for possible future identification—which only made sense if all the Jane and John Does on Hart Island were also headless.

In any case, the finger of suspicion for the murder immediately pointed toward Carpi’s estranged husband Colin, at right, who was battling for custody of their four children. Not only would the loss of this battle and subsequent divorce settlement wipe him out financially, but he was also well aware that his wife had been seeing another man. For various reasons—jurisdictional issues and general reluctance to pursue the crime—Colin Carpi didn’t go to trial for two more years. A mountain of circumstantial evidence pointed at him, but his acquittal was deemed by most legal experts to be the right decision. The prosecution simply bungled its presentation to the jury, and even if the courtroom aspect had been perfect, much of Colin Carpi’s suspicious behavior could be chalked up to the circumstances around the custody battle and his wife’s affair. Perhaps a not-guilty verdict was an anti-climax after the high drama associated with the identification of Laura Carpi’s body, but not finding the perp is the way it often goes in true crime, and real life.

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Vintage Pulp Oct 2 2012
IRAN SO FAR AWAY
We haven’t been there but we’re pretty sure it’s nothing like this.


Today we have a Stag magazine from October 1967 with cover art by Mort Kunstler illustrating Emile C. Schurmacher’s exotic yarn about sex crazed women in Kashgai, Iran. Apparently free love was flowing like crude oil in the Fertile Crescent—or maybe it was just flowing in Schurmacher’s fertile imagination. That’s un-retouched color, by the way. Somehow, the magazine took some wear and tear over the years but did not fade. Content-wise, it follows the time-honored men’s magazine form, with tales of loose women, righteous violence, and international adventure, all while hitting the political hot buttons of the moment—Vietnam, hippies, and drugs. Fifteen years earlier it would have been Korea, commies, and the Mafia. The semi-gloss, two-color interior illustrations have a wonderful impact, including Charles Copland’s nice spread for W. J. Saber’s centerpiece story “The Big Frame.”
 
Also of interest is an exposé on Wallace Groves, a Wall Street exec/felon who, after serving a prison term for mail fraud, jetted down to the Bahamas, bought 214 square miles of wilderness and turned it into the resort and gambling haven known today as Freetown. Apparently crime really does pay, especially on Wall Street, but we digress. We love how the Bahamian wilderness is described in the text as useless. One day not too very far in the future, everyone—not just scientists and environmentalists—will think of resorts and gambling havens as useless and pristine swaths of trees and wetlands as indispensable. When that day inevitably comes, stories like these will seem like profiles in civilizational lunacy, but we digress again.
 
You also get an interesting story on Milton Helpern, an NYC pathologist who by 1967 had conducted 80,000 autopsies and been called as an expert witness in innumerable trials, typically by prosecutors on behalf of murder victims. The footer on the article pits Helpern against F. Lee Bailey, the famous Boston defense attorney, with inset text telling readers that Helpern’s experience “beats any lawyer’s grandstand play any day.” We have a feeling Bailey won a few battles too. All in all, you get more than your money’s worth with Stag—great art, diverting stories, and pervasive fantasies that women the world over hang around naked waiting for a Western stud to happen along. Highly recommended publication. Scans below.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 15
1945—Laval Executed
Pierre Laval, who was the premier of Vichy, France, which had collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, is shot by a firing squad for treason. In subsequent years it emerges that Laval may have considered himself a patriot whose goal was to publicly submit to the Germans while doing everything possible behind the scenes to thwart them. In at least one respect he may have succeeded: fifty percent of French Jews survived the war, whereas in other territories about ninety percent perished.
1966—Black Panthers Form
In the U.S., in Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale form the Black Panther political party. The Panthers are active in American politics throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but eventually legal troubles combined with a schism over the direction of the party lead to its dissolution.
October 14
1962—Cuban Missile Crisis Begins
A U-2 spy plane flight over the island of Cuba produces photographs of Soviet nuclear missiles being installed. Though American missiles have been installed near Russia, the U.S. decides that no such weapons will be tolerated in Cuba. The resultant standoff brings the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. The crisis finally ends with a secret deal in which the U.S. removes its missiles from Turkey in exchange for the Soviets removing the Cuban weapons.
October 13
1970—Angela Davis Arrested
After two months of evading police and federal authorities, Angela Davis is arrested in New York City by the FBI. She had been sought in connection with a kidnapping and murder because one of the guns used in the crime had been bought under her name. But after a trial a jury agreed that owning the weapon did not automatically make her complicit in the crimes.
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