Here's to us waking up bewildered and trying to piece together tonight from fragmentary memories and vague sensations of shame.
Above, a cover for Robert Tallant's Mrs. Candy and Saturday Night. Basically, a woman who runs a New Orleans boarding house filled with unusual renters and a ghost decides to throw a party, which turns out wilder than she expected and leads to some startling revelations about the occupants. Written to span twenty-four hours, the book was well received enough to spawn two sequels, Love and Mrs. Candy and Mrs. Candy Strikes It Rich. The success was not a surprise. Tallant was born in New Orleans, was already experienced writing about it through other published books, and obviously loved the place, quirks and all. If you're looking for real Crescent City feel in a mid-century novel, with jambalaya, voodoo, and all the rest, Mrs. Candy and Saturday Night is it. It's originally copyright 1947, with this Popular Library paperback with Earle Bergey cover art coming in 1951.
Oh, just hanging around the apartment making sure my liver knows who's boss. What about you?
Above is a promo photo of U.S. actress Dorothy Mackaill having a confab and several nightcaps in the 1931 crime drama Safe in Hell, in which she played a New Orleans prostitute who accidentally kills an abusive man and tries to escape to the Caribbean. Like many films made before censorship came into effect in the form of the Hays Code, it's racy stuff for the era, made for an audience of mature, intelligent adults. It's also quite good, though possibly hard to find. If you get a chance, be sure to check it out.
These two are just dying for a vacation.
Yes, it's another book about people stranded on a boat. We just finished the excellent Dead Calm a few days ago, and wrote about it yesterday, and afterward we read all of Return to Vista in time to write about it today. Yes, it literally took one day to blaze through, and we even mixed in a few glasses of white wine and assorted interactions with the Pulp Intl. girlfriends. Return to Vista is not as ocean bound as Dead Calm. In fact, most of it takes place on dry land. Well, semi-dry—the action starts in New Orleans, moves to Vista Island, and stars a cynical journalist back home from some tough years covering the Korean War.
Various online sources say Return to Vista led to an obscenity bust for publisher Sanford Aday. We came across mention of it more than once. But we dug a bit deeper and as far as we can tell it isn't true. It can be difficult to keep track of this stuff, because Aday had run-ins with legal authorities everywhere from his hometown of Fresno to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and all the way out to the Hawaiian Islands. Today in 1961 police raided his facility on North Lima Street in Burbank, empowered by a search warrant that specifically mentioned the novel Sex Life of a Cop, discussed here.
However, the warrant also said police could gather additional relevant material, so they loaded up other books, as well as mail, packages, cartons, bank statements, checks, bills of lading, work records, labels, rubber stamps, et al. They basically emptied Aday's offices with the intent of depriving him of the ability to conduct business. Return to Vista was seized in the raid, but it was part of a haul that included sixty-two titles comprising an astonishing 400,000 paperbacks. Thus we don't think it's accurate to say Return to Vista specifically resulted in an obscenity bust. Unless there's more info out there than we know about—which is always possible.
Return to Vista's purplest passages deal with interracial sex. Also, the two characters you see on the cover decide one last romp is in order before they starve at sea. Sex must bring them luck, because they survive to fight commies. Or at least, they think they're dealing with commies. Turns out the people they're up against are actually even purer utopians than the political sort. Return to Vista wasn't good, exactly, but it was fun. Author John Foster, whose actual name was John West, showed some imaginative touches. He went on to write 1961's Campus Iniquities before fading from the literary scene. The above is from 1960 with uncredited cover art.
Novedades Editores takes readers on a five city tour of street crime and murder.
Mexican pulp art has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the efforts of vendors and collectors. It differs from U.S. pulp in that it was produced decades later—during the 1970s and forward. The covers you see here today are prime examples of what is generally classified as Mexican pulp, made for the comic book series El libro policiaco, or "The Police Book," and published by Novedades Editores during the early 2000s. The series was so popular that, like the U.S. television show C.S.I., the books diversified into multiple cities—New Orleans, New York City, Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco. Each city's stories centered around a local police department staffed by a multi-ethnic array of cops and support personnel. And as the banner text proclaims, the interior art was indeed in color, ninety-two pages of it per issue. All the covers here were created by Jorge Aviña, an artist who began his career during the 1970s, and has had his work exhibited in London, Switzerland, Barcelona, and Paris. We'll have more from El libro policiaco a bit later.
Work halted on San Francisco renovation after 19th century coffin is uncovered.
In San Francisco, where high-end property renovations are occurring all over the city at breakneck speed, even the dead are being pushed out by gentrification. Last week workers digging beneath a home in the Richmond neighborhood unearthed a metal and glass coffin from the 1870s that holds the body of a little girl.
We had no idea such items existed, but after doing a little research we discovered that ornate metal caskets, usually made of cast iron or lead, were popular during the mid- to late-1800s among the more affluent. A Providence, Rhode Island man named Almond Fisk was the first to patent them, which he displayed in 1849 at the New York State Agricultural Society Fair in Syracuse, and the American Institute Exhibition in New York City.
He called them Fisk Metallic Burial Cases, and they came in an amazing variety, including Egyptian style sarcophagi. The coffins were airtight, helping preserve bodies during an era when the embalming arts were not as advanced as today and a week could elapse before arrangements were made to bury a loved one and family gathered for the send-off. They were also welded shut, preventing grave robberies—a serious problem of the times, not only due to valuables that might be buried with bodies, but also due to the price a well-preserved corpse could fetch from unscrupulous medical schools looking for research cadavers.
Fisk's sales materials boast that not only could his burial cases be drained of air, aiding preservation, but—if one chose—filled with any type of atmosphere or fluid. Just a year after he displayed them at those New York exhibitions, former U.S. Vice-President and Secretary of State John C. Calhoun died and was buried in one. The publicity caused a wave of nationwide interest that prompted Fisk to license his expensive invention to other companies. Eventually, Crane, Breed & Co., of Cincinnati and New Orleans acquired a license, and made coffins sporting the types of viewing windows featured on the San Francisco discovery.
What will happen the little girl's body is still unknown. San Francisco ordinances make her the property owner's responsibility. Reburial has been mentioned by said property owner, but we'd be surprised if anthropologists didn't get a look at the girl first. Autopsies on bodies ofthat age have uncovered troves of data about diet, disease, and more. Afterward she can be laid to rest somewhere well out of the way of San Francisco's ongoing makeover into millionaire Disneyland.
Oh, that Katherine Everard. On second thought, maybe the book isn't so bad after all.
“A first novel that holds little promise of a future.” Thus concluded one 1949 review of Katherine Everard's Cry Shame!, aka A Star's Progress. This assessment is funny because Everard was a pseudonym used by American literary treasure Gore Vidal, who'll be remembered far longer than any of his critics. Cry Shame! tells the story of a girl who becomes a stripper in New Orleans at age thirteen, a wife for a much older man at age fourteen, a Hollywood starlet as an adult, and finally—thanks to romantic misfortune—a broken woman. Today's critics claim they can see touches of Vidalian genius in various details of the book. Of course they can. This Pyramid edition comes complete and unabridged—except for the bottom half inch of the cover cut off by some shoddy work at the printer—with art by Harry Bennett.
It's a hard job but they make it look easy.
What better way to complement the collection of paperback covers above than with photos of actual dancers doing what they do best—making their strenuous and often unglamorous work look easy and fun? We present assorted burlesque dancers, showgirls, and strippers from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, both onstage and off, photographed in such hot spots as London, Paris, Tokyo, Rome, New Orleans, and of course New York City. Among the performers: La Savona, Lilly Christine, Lynne O'Neill, the gorgeous Misty Ayres, Patti Cross, Tina Marshall, Carol Doda, Nejla Ates, Lili St. Cyr, Wildcat Frenchie, and more. If you like these, check out our previous set of dancers here.
They're not exactly New Orleans saints.
We love this cover for Noel O'Hara's A Time To Love, which comes from Chariot Books, a publisher previously unknown to us. A married couple are in New Orleans for a convention with no idea Mardi Gras is about to start. When it does both spouses are swept up in the craziness and infidelities result. Sleaze with beautiful cover art by an unknown, 1959.
A Lilly blooms in New Orleans.
Often mistaken by casual observers for Lili St. Cyr because of their similar names and looks, Lilly Christine, née Martha Theresa Pompender, was known in burlesque as the Cat Girl. Where Lili St. Cyr projected a regal beauty, Lilly Christine fashioned herself as a feral animal, grimacing and stalking her way through famed routines such as “Harem Heat” and “The Voodoo Dance,” performing to the sound of tribal drums and showing off the bellydancer-like control she had over her six-pack abs. You can get a sense of all that from the photos below, which come from a series shot at Leon Prima’s 500 Club in New Orleans, where Christine enjoyed her greatest fame. Strangely, though she was quite a celebrity, today she has only a modest online presence, and no uploaded video at all. Hopefully, someone out there will one day digitize a film and put it online, because she probably needs to be seen in motion to be truly appreciated. Lilly Christine died in 1965 at age forty-one and was born today, ninety years ago.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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