Forget it, Jake. It's Tinseltown.
We were poking around the architecture forum skyscraperpage.com and ran across this interesting photo of a billboard advertising the film Chinatown. This was located in Los Angeles at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Marmont Lane, and as you can see it touts the opening of the film today in 1974. We lived on the west side of L.A. for four years, and used to pass this spot occasionally. Marmont Lane winds to the right toward the famed Chateau Marmont Hotel, where luminaries such as Howard Hughes, Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean once made the scene, and a couple met their ends, including Helmut Newton and John Belushi.
We knew the intersection was one of the city's most important billboard spots and wondered what else had been advertised there. So we had a look. We expected to find an assortment of examples, but it turns out the locale was so coveted a relative few companies monopolized it. The first was the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, which erected a sign there in 1957, complete with a rotating showgirl and an illuminated marquee listing the headlining acts.
The sheer novelty of the sign helped establish the heavily trafficked intersection as one of L.A.'s go-to spots for promotion, and the sign itself became a landmark. In fact, in 1961 Jayne Mansfield unveiled a Rocky and Bullwinkle statue across the street that was inspired by the Sahara showgirl. It was commissioned by Jay Ward, producer of the television series Rocky and His Friends, for the opening of his office complex.
After the Sahara moved on in 1966 the location was divided into two-tiered advertising. For almost three decades the iconic Marlboro Man towered above the intersection on the higher billboard, first on a horse, and later sans mount. During the time Chinatown was advertised Mr. Marlboro was standing vigil above. The lower location hosted ads for Stroh's and numerous other products, but was a particularly popular home for movie billboards. We found shots of billboards for Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Black Sunday, and other popular films of the 1970s.
Tens of thousands of billboards dot the Los Angeles landscape, especially around Hollywood. An uptick of political billboards has some Angelenos considering whether these objects are more akin to visual pollution. They're already illegal in entire U.S. states, including Hawaii and Maine. We always thought they further cluttered an already chaotic landscape, but we imagine they will survive in Los Angeles longer than almost anywhere else in the U.S. Tinseltown is a place where you don't get people's attention unless you scream for it. Nothing screams better than a well placed billboard.
Clothes encounters of the Hollywood kind.
We've been gathering rare wardrobe and hairdresser test shots from the golden era of Hollywood, and today seems like a good day to share some of what we've found. It was standard procedure for all the main performers in a movie to pose for such photos, but the negatives that survive tend to belong to the most popular stars, such as Cary Grant, who you see at right. You'll see Marilyn Monroe more than amply represented below. What can we do? She's possibly the most photographed Hollywood figure ever, and she was beautiful in every exposure. But we've also found shots of a few lesser known stars, such as Giorgia Moll and France Nuyen.
Some of the shots are worth special note. You'll see Doris Day as a mermaid for The Glass Bottom Boat, Liz Taylor as a kid for National Velvet and an adult for Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Farrah Fawcett in lingerie, Sheree North in both front and rear poses, and Yul Brynner looking like an actual man by sporting a body that had to that point seemingly known neither razor nor wax (he ditched the fur for his actual onscreen appearances). Usually the photos feature a chalkboard or card with pertinent information about the production and star, but not always, as in the case of Brynner's photo, and in Audrey Hepburn's and Joan Collins' cases as well. If the names of the subjects don't appear on the chalkboards you can refer to the keywords at bottom, which are listed in order. We may put together another group of these wardrobe shots later.
Happiness in Hollywood can be hard to hold onto.
Uncensored gives readers the lowdown on all the Hollywood trysts and splits in this issue published this month in 1962. José Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney apparently broke up—after eight years and five children—over Ferrer's insistence on carrying on extramarital affairs, as was his natural right. At least that's what he thought: “Since the beginning of our marriage he has engaged in a series of affairs with other women,” Clooney is quoted. “I discussed this with him prior to our separation, but he said he couldn't change his way of life.” Apparently the Puerto Rican born Ferrer was old school with the whole machismo thing. But all was not lost between him and Clooney. They married again in 1964 and managed to stay together another three years.
Pivoting to the hook-ups, Uncensored explains how Joan Collins stole hotel heir Nicky Hilton from Natalie Wood, but Robert Wagner stole Collins from Hilton, leading to Natalie Wood stealing Wagner from Collins, and Collins falling into the arms of Warren Beatty. Mixed in with those four are James Dean, Tab Hunter, Lance Reventlow, and Elvis Presley. Or so the magazine says. That's a lot of guys and only two women, but the old tabloids loved to slut shame women while either ignoring or approving the antics of men. For example, Beatty was already known in 1962, after some years in television and with two hit movies behind him, as a fuckboy, but that's not mentioned here at all. These days, though, that immunity is largely gone. Although you'd have to have the brain of a fourteen-year-old to believe—as many people do—that he's slept with 12,000 women.
Uncensored next gets to Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. It's since been established that the two hooked up, but at the time this magazine was published the pair were generating mere rumors. Why? Because Monroe was flying to Las Vegas regularly and staying in Sinatra's home there. There's no rationale needed for this pairing—beautiful people tend to get together. But the editors actually offer a rationale for Monroe's interest in Sinatra and it's simply amazing: “Monroe is having all kinds of troubles with her studio and would like a man around the house to fight her battles for her.” Huh? That one makes no sense to us. Let's run it through our trusty Mid-Century Tabloid Filter™: Buzz...whirrrr... clickety click... Aha. What Uncensored means is Monroe was so emotionally fragile she had to have a guy around 24/7 to handle angry phone calls. Interesting, but we're still not buying it. Twenty scans below.
We must have sex on the brain, because everything we see reminds us of it.
Remember our last group of Japanese posters containing the English word “sex”? No? Go directly there. Also, perhaps visit here, here, and here. Now that you’re back, today we have another set of posters with sex in the text (you have to look closely at some of them, but it’s there). One Japanese word for sex is セックス, and the phonetic transvocalization of the English is “sekkusu,” but their poster artists often seem to prefer plain old sex. Why? Well, why do Americans use the French word “chauffeur” instead of saying, “that underpaid guy who drives my car”? Because it's cooler, that’s why. Most of these posters are for American x-rated films, but panel two, just below, is for the Natalie Wood movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, which definitely isn’t x-rated. But it should have been. Because Natalie Wood. And, um, wood. On the other posters you get Kay Parker, Nina Fause, Maria Arnold, Jennifer Welles, Constance Money, Annette Haven, and Inge Hegeler. And if you want to know the titles, those are all on the posters in English too (though sometimes wrong, as in Expose Me Lovely which turns into Exporse Me Lovely), but it’s probably easier to just look at the bottom of the post, where we’ve listed them in order.
Police Gazette trots out its resident experts to give readers advice sure to get them in deep trouble.
This April 1972 issue of The National Police Gazette offers up Australian bellydancer Rozetta Ahalyea as its cover star, touts a method about picking winning horses, instructs how to outsmart used car racketeers, and suggests what to do when your wife goes on a sex strike. Concerning the latter, is the answer to apologize for whatever fucked up thing you did? No—Gazette suggests withholding her allowance, or possibly disappearing one or two nights a week until she realizes she could lose you. Yeah, that’ll totally make things better.
Inside the issue are stories on Jackie Kennedy and Jack Ruby, Natalie Wood and her lovers, wiretappers, naked witchcraft, cosmetic surgery, and Cassius Clay, who the editors refuse to call Muhammad Ali despite his name change of eight years earlier. Gazette also offers to tell you what you don’t know about lesbians. And what would that be? According to hypnotherapist Dr. Frank Caprio, they’re all mentally damaged. Come on, surely you didn’t expect a different answer from the Police Gazette? Caprio states: “There is some degree of homosexuality, latent or overt, in all women. [During] sexual development the homosexual component becomes sublimated in the form of friendships and non-sexual activities. However, in some instances this repression of the homosexual component is not successful and the individual finds herself the victim of bisexual conflicts.”
What kind of conflicts? Well, he cites the case of a woman who vomited uncontrollably for weeks due to unknown causes. After exhausting her options with physicians, she came to him for help and he determined that her guilt about a lesbian experience in her past was the cause of her non-stop cookie tossing. Caprio considers it an extreme but understandable reaction to a distasteful experience. So there you have it—everything you need to know about lesbians, provided for you by a heterosexual, middle-aged chauvinist who believes that “female homosexuality represents a flight from the responsibilities of marriage and motherhood.” Scans below.
Hail to the kerchief.
This very rare image of Russian-descended American actress Natalie Wood should serve as inspiration for those of you suffering through the last weeks of winter. Cold weather goes away, and then you too can sit laughing in the sun. This shot, showing Wood wearing the all-but-extinct summer headkerchief, is from around 1968.
Um, do I only get one shot at this, or can we smooth it over and do it again?
In this publicity photo, Russian-born actress Natalie Wood smiles after imprinting her hands, shoes and signature in fresh concrete in the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Wood was the 118th personality to be thus honored, and probably the only one to do it with this particular hairstyle. That was today in 1961.
You may not recognize her because the old Yugoslav magazine Filmski Svet, aka Film World was a little heavy handed with the retouching, but the crimson clad figure below is Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko. You’re thinking, “Nata Zaka who?” Well, maybe you know her better as Natalie Wood, the great American actress of Russian descent who was born in California. Filmski Svet has made her into a mannequin, but we still find this a striking cover. It appeared in September 1964.
Ten ways to be adored.
Below, assorted covers of Hayat, which became one of Turkey’s most popular celebrity magazines beginning in the 1950s. From top to bottom the cover stars are Jayne Mansfield, Ursula Andress, Anita Ekberg, no idea because we can't read Turkish and her name isn't on the cover, Marilyn Monroe, Debra Paget, Ava Gardner, Natalie Wood, Ann-Margret, and Brigitte Bardot.
On the Q.T. sees strippers everywhere.
On the Q.T. asks on this September 1963 cover whether Hollywood has gone strip crazy, and they have a bit of a point, for once. In the previous year, more or less, movies that featured stripping as a major plot device included Natalie Wood’s Gypsy Rose Lee biopic Gypsy, as well as A Cold Wind in August, Portrait of a Young Man, Girl in Trouble, Night of Evil, Satan in High Heels and The Stripper, with Joanne Woodward. There were possibly even more films, but you get the drift—Hollywood had indeed discovered strippers and had begun featuring them to titillating effect. But while some of the films were more serious and racy than others, none actually showed any naughty bits, despite the breathlessness of On the Q.T.’s reporting.
Other countries, notably France, had already unveiled the human form in cinema, but the first true nude scene in a mainstream American motion picture (excepting the pre-Code films of early Hollywood) came in Sidney Lumet’s 1964 drama The Pawnbroker when both Linda Geiser and African-American actress Thelma Oliver bared their torsos. Interestingly, the nudity barrier probably would have been breached in 1962 by Marilyn Monroe, who filmed a semi-nude pool frolick in Something’s Got To Give. But the production was scrapped, so we’ll never know whether the scenes would have been released as originally shot. Thus two obscure actresses take the prize, and from that point forward Hollywood’s floodgates were open.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1940—Trotsky Iced in Mexico
In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe
(not an ice pick) by Soviet agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky dies the next day.
1968—Prague Spring Ends
200,000 Warsaw Pact troops backed by 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring political liberalization movement.
1986—Sherrill Goes Postal
In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States postal employee Patrick Sherrill shoots and kills fourteen of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
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