It was a different flavor of men's magazine.
Zest magazine, with its bold graphics and cover portraits, looks like a classic mid-century tabloid, but its banner tells you it's really a men's magazine. It lives up to its billing in this issue from January 1956—issue number one, actually—with short stories from Michael Avallone and H.P. Lovecraft, real life adventure tales, scare stories (“Is Your Daughter a Sex-Film Star?), glamour photography, and humor.
The Lovecraft tale, “Rats in the Walls,” is called “the greatest horror story ever written.” We wouldn't go that far, but it's freaktacular, like everything Lovecraft wrote. It had originally been published in Weird Tales in 1924, and we imagine that its bizarro mutant/cannibalism themes were pretty shocking back then. The Avallone story, “The Glass Eye,” is novella length. He had already published three novels and was building a reputation as a reliable author of thrillers, which makes his inclusion a nice coup for a new magazine.
The photography in Zest is just as impressive as the fiction. Readers get to see rare shots of major celebs such as Sophia Loren, Sabrina, and Delores del Rio. All in all Zest was a high budget effort, but it lasted only two issues. Why did it fold? No idea on that. Competition in the market was plenty stiff at the time. On the other hand, maybe two issues are all that were planned. We're thrilled to show you one of them, comprising thirty-plus scans below for your Thursday enjoyment.
In this week's episode she uses two torpedoes to blow up Monroe and Mansfield.
We've seen our share of torpedo boobs but these take the prize. Norma Ann Sykes, better known as simply Sabrina, makes munitions couture look almost passable in this promo shot made in 1957. The bra gets most of the credit for this physics-defying image, of course, but her reported 41-inch bust had something to do with it too. We recently called Sabrina the one-name star time forgot, but that isn't true. Though she never became the British Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield she was touted as, and her film career was scant, she was an outsize celebrity and tabloid staple who received up to 1,000 fan letters a week.
She used the recognition to tour the world as a cabaret act and, according to reports, on one occasion an adoring crowd of 10,000 caused part of the roof to collapse at Maylands Airport near Perth, Australia. With these and other adventures to her credit, it's fair to say Sabrina is one of the most noteworthy celebrities of her era. There's an extensive website about her that you can access at this link. If you visit, make sure to check the section “Sabrina Incidents,” and you'll see what we mean by other adventures. One thing is clear—Sabrina hasn't been forgotten. Not on that website, not on this one, and probably not anywhere.
Parisian publisher does erotica as only the French can.
Today we have for your enjoyment an issue of Paris Frou Frou, #46, published in 1956. This was the brainchild of S.N.E.T.P., which decoded is Société Nouvelle D'editions Théâtrales Parisiennes. See, the French understood that smut must wear a fig leaf of intellectualism, which is exactly why we write so much on Pulp Intl. rather than just publish reams of nude photos. Hah, just kidding (did we mention the Pulp Intl. girlfriends are out of town?). The eroticism is just a bonus that comes with all the fiction, film, and art. And it's a bonus that helps our traffic.
Anyway, on the cover of this mag is Austrian actress Nadja Tiller, and the rear features a nice shot pairing yanks Lori Nelson and Mamie Van Doren. With a wrapper like that the inside must be nice, and indeed it is. You'll see Sabrina, the one-name star time has forgotten, as well as U.S. nudist model Diane Webber, aka Marguerite Empey. If your memory is very sharp you'll recall one of the same Webber photos appearing in an issue of the U.S. magazine Male from 1958 we shared a while back. Mixed in with the celebs is the usual assortment of Parisian showgirls. We'll revisit Paris Frou Frou later.
Sabrina covers her biggest assets.
Every once in a while we run across stories about Hollywood stars insuring their body parts. A couple of examples: Bette Davis was famous for her small waist and insured it against weight gain for the equivalent of $400,000; and 1920s comedian Ben Turpin, who was famously cross-eyed, took out a policy of similar value should his eyes ever straighten. National Enquirer insists on this cover from today in 1960 that British star Sabrina, aka Norma Ann Sykes, insured her breasts. The tabloid is in fact correct—she allowed her manager Joe Matthews to insure her endowment with Lloyd's of London for £UK100,000. In today's cash that would be about £2.4 million, or $3.2 million. You may think that's excessive, but when's the last time your boobs caused a riot? Unfortunately the weight she carried on her torso led to chronic back pain and a failed attempt at a surgical fix that left her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She died in obscurity last year. It was a sad ending for the former sex symbol. But once upon a time she was a one-name star—just Sabrina—and a global obsession.
Mid-century tabloid hits all the familiar tabloid notes.
Lowdown makes the rounds in this issue published in May 1965. Inside, Ann-Margret claims she doesn't want to be a tease (fail), editors ask if women are more immoral than men (which they really are, once you take war, genocide, faithlessness, and generally violent tendencies off the table), and June Wilkinson's photo is among those used in a story about women supposedly receiving insurance covered breast implants from Britain's National Health Service.
Probably the most interesting story concerns Swedish actress Inger Stevens disappearing for a week. Lowdown hints at an alcohol binge, which is nothing special (hell, we do those) but while there are plenty of sources citing a 1960 suicide attempt, we found no other mention anywhere of Lowdown's missing week. The story is notable because Stevens would die at age thirty-five of a drug overdose.
Elsewhere you get nude skiing in Austria, Richard Chamberlain and his hit television show Dr. Kildare, the sex powers of mandrake root, and Belgian born actress and dancer Monique Van Vooren endorsing regular exercise. Scans below—oh, and sorry about the quality. Lowdown's printing process caused scanner problems. It's never happened before, so hopefully we won't encounter the issue again.
Sabrina slips her top in London and Ava replaces her Spanish bullfighter with an Italian actor.
This issue of Exposed from October 1957 gives top billing to British sex symbol Sabrina, aka Norma Ann Sykes, and tells us she lost her dress in the street and caused a riot. How did it happen? During a public appearance in London someone supposedly stepped on the hem of her dress. The garment came off, the Brits went bonkers over her 41-inch bare bust, and Sabrina was so distressed that she fainted, so we’re told. Is this story true? We tend to think so, because Exposed goes on to ponder whether the whole fiasco was a publicity stunt. Their ruminations lend the tale just the right element of verisimilitude, so we’re going to say yes, it probably happened. Also on the cover of Exposed, like clockwork, appears Ava Gardner. Readers are told she’s doing the dirty with Italian actor Walter Chiari. This would have been after splitting with Frank Sinatra but before the official divorce. But wait—didn’t we just write about her seeing Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín while also still married to Frankie? Come on people—that was so 1956. Sometimes you have to wonder how Gardner had time for all these affairs, but let’s just say that if she liked a man she always found a way to squeeze him in.
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