Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp Oct 30 2014
SECRET AGENDA
The mission statement was simple—take potshots at every star in the firmament.


Top Secret is in fine form in this issue from October 1962 as it goes after all the biggest celebrities in Hollywood and Europe. Treading the line between journalism and slander is no easy feat, but take notice—Top Secret’s editors and hacks manage to pull off a high wire act. And of course this was key to the tabloids' modus operandi—they had to present information in a seemingly fearless or even iconoclastic way, yet never actually cross the line that would land them in court.

For example, there’s this dig at Frank Sinatra: “Mr. Snarl, Mr. Nasty, Mr. Do-You-Want-A-Belt-In-The-Mouth was as gentle as a lamb. Gone was the usual sneer, the wise-guy leer. Was this the same surly singer whose idea of a good morning’s exercise had been to watch his bodyguards work over a photographer?
 
Grace Kelly takes a few arrows: “It’s a pretty good bet that the immediate bust-up of the marriage won’t come in the next few months, but it sure as shooting looks like her six-year reign as the glamorous princess of that silly little kingdom on the Mediterranean is going to blow up in her prim face.”
 
Christina Paolozzi gets roughed up thusly: “If anything, Christina in the buff is proof that clothes are an underdeveloped girl’s best friends. Therethe Countess stands with a pleased expression that seems to say, ‘Aren’t I something, Mister?’ But all it takes is one quick look to see that there isn’t really anything to get excited about—unless [you love] barbecued spareribs.”
 
Anita Ekberg receives this treatment: “[La Dolce Vita] was something like a peek into the boudoir antics of its star—the gal with the fantastic superstructure that looks like nothing less than two tugboats pulling a luxury liner into port.”
 
And what tabloid would be complete without Marilyn Monroe? Top Secret says she’s dating writer José Bolaños (who the magazine calls a Mexican jumping bean). Editors opt to unveil the news this way: “It seems that this bold bundle of blonde has suddenly gone on a strange Mexican hayride!!! Si, amigo, MEXICAN!”
 
And then there’s cover star Elizabeth Taylor: “And she acted wilder than ever, satisfying all her most urgent urges for Dickie in the most wide open ways. [She] had jumped from tragedy right into disgrace by having a wild fling with Eddie Fisher a mere six months after hubby Mike Todd had been planted six feet under. ‘Mike is dead, and I’m alive,’ she said cynically after running off for a riotous romp in the fall of 1958 with the guy who just then happened to be married to Debbie Reynolds. 'I’m not taking anything away from Debbie, because she never really had it,' luscious Liz sneered."
 
This issue of Top Secret is, succinctly put, a clinic in mid-century tabloid writing—alliterative and spicy, insinuative and sleazy, but never quite legally actionable. How could Ekberg argue that the tugboat similie wasn’t interpretable as a compliment? Could Christina Paolozzi deny that her ribs show? Could Sinatra claim that his bodyguards neverslugged a photographer? The magazine skirts the edge a bit with Taylor—did you catch how the editors paired “urges for Dick(ie)” with “wide open ways”?—but was she misquoted or truly slandered? Highly doubtful. Top Secret is pure, trashy genius. Magazines don’t have such writing anymore, and that’s probably a good thing—but it sure is fun to look back at how things were. More scans below.


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Intl. Notebook Mar 28 2012
LIZARD LADY
She looks about ready to shed her skin.


We ran across this nice piece of art made for a special screening of Lucio Fulci's 1971 giallo Una lucertola con la pelle di donna, aka Lizard in a Woman's Skin. The film is showing this evening at the Prince Charles Theatre in London under the auspices of Cigarette Burns, a film society that has brought vintage movies to The Barbican Centre, the Leeds International Film Festival, the Duke of York’s in Brighton and other locales. The star of this promo art—and of the movie as well—is Brazilian actress Florinda Bolkan, and we love her outfit.
 
We haven't seen Una lucertola con la pelle di donna yet, but we'll get around to it in due time (update: we watched it, though several years later—you can see what we wrote about it here). If you're in London or environs, here's a chance to see a classic giallo on a big screen. In the meantime, below you see a clean version of the image used in the promo art, as well as a shot of Bolkan wearing the same clothes while standing. We can only hope she fired her tailor, because her outfit isn't even properly sewn. Or maybe it's supposed to be that way. With fashion who can tell?

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Modern Pulp Dec 5 2011
PRETTY MESS
It was beauty thrilled the beast.

Tanya’s Island may not be the best sexploitation flick of all time, but it’s surely one of the most earnest. Before she hooked up with Prince and became known as Vanity, Canadian actress D.D. Winters headlined this deeply Freudian beauty-and-the-beast psychodrama about a young actress who lucidly dreams of going to live with her painter boyfriend on a deserted island, only to discover that they are in fact not alone. The imaginary island’s other inhabitant is a sort of tropical sasquatch (but with soulful blue eyes), and within the reverie Tanya develops, her boyfriend becomes jealous and aggressive while the ape seems to take on increasingly more humanity.

Since this all takes place in Tanya’s head, some pretty interesting questions are being raised about the nature of female desire, as well as both the savage and civilized sides of man. Perhaps you’re rolling your eyes now, and that’s fair enough, but a big reason why these seventies skin flicks are great to watch is because the filmmakers took themselves so seriously. Writer/producer Pierre Brousseau even plastered the 1982 Cannes Film Festival with posters in hopes of generating attention for his movie. His strategy probably didn’t boost box office receipts much, but it did increase interest in his lead actress, resulting in her appearance in Playboy, and thence into the arms of Prince. Since Tanya’s Island is indeed about a woman searching for her prince charming, there’s a certain symmetry in this.

But probably the only symmetry you’re really interested in is Vanity’s, so you’ll be happy to know she’s completely naked before the opening credits have finished and remains half or wholly bare through much of the film. And for our female readers, her boyfriend’s member makes a brief appearance as well (though we suspect you won’t find the man attached to that appendage particularly alluring). Soon after this film Vanity would become famous as a singer and consort, and in one of her most memorable songs she cooed: “Ooh yeah, such a pretty mess.” That neatly sums up Tanya’s Island. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1980. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 21 2011
FEUDING THROUGH THE YEARS
Confidential claims there was a rivalry between Jackie Kennedy and Princess Grace. For once, they’re right.

Above, a September 1966 Confidential with a rivalry theme featuring Ursula Andress vs. Claudine Auger, and Jackie Kennedy vs. Princess Grace. Andress and Auger are compared merely for their Bond girl qualities, but Kennedy and the Princess actually did have their resentful moments. These were detailed not just in the tabloid press—even supposedly sober magazines like Time reported on the feud. Perhaps it was inevitable. The two began as friendly acquaintances and ascended to positions of American royalty, a level that was surpassed by Grace Kelly when she became an actual royal with her marriage to Prince Rainier III of Monaco. A widowed Kennedy later married Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who happened to be an epic business and political rival of Rainier. How epic? Rainier actually suspended Monaco's constitution to put an end to Onassis’ meddling in its internal affairs. So taking that into consideration, it’s amazing Jackie and the Princess never tried to choke each other out. But like everyone says, that was a much more polite age. 

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Vintage Pulp Sep 20 2011
BED COMPANY
I’ve done the early to bed bit, now if you’ll handle the early to rise part, this day should work out just fine.

Above, two great, provocative covers by Jean David for Pedro Alvarez’s Bonjour, Princesse... and Dora Christobal’s La maîtresse de Santiago, published by Seine Editions for their collection Plume au vent, 1956/1957. 

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Femmes Fatales Jun 23 2011
LOVER'S LANE
Someday her prince will come.

Above, Austrian-born British actress Jocelyn Lane, who appeared in numerous films and television shows during the ’50s and ’60s, including The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Operation Snatch, Dangerous Youth, and The Gamma People, before going on to marry Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (there’s a mouthful), relaxing here with her dog circa 1960. 

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Femmes Fatales May 5 2011
VANITY GLARE

She was born Denise Matthews in Niagara Falls, Canada. She began her show business career as an actress, using the name D. D. Winters. Her first starring role was in Pierre Brousseau’s Tanya’s Island, one of our favorite bad sexploitation flicks ever, and as eye-catching a debut as you’re ever likely to see. After that she met up with the musician Prince and under his tutelage became simply Vanity. Under that moniker she released music of debatable quality and continued to act in less-than-stellar-movies, but along the way redefined the word sultry. She posed for this aggressive promo image around 1982.  

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Intl. Notebook Dec 30 2010
TRUE ROMANCE
It sounds nice but it isn't all it's cracked up to be.

A couple of days ago we did a post of Mexican film magazines and basically, we knew none of the cover stars. But we were curious, especially about the interestingly named Viviane Romance, and decided to dig a bit more deeply. Born Pauline Arlette Ortmans in France in 1912, her career began in 1925 at age thirteen, when she danced at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre in Paris. The next year she scored a spot as a Moulin Rouge dancer, and at sixteen moved on to dance at the famed Bal Tabarin nightclub. At eighteen she entered and won the Miss Paris pageant but was stripped of her title when she was found to be pregnant.

This loss of her crown, while doubtless dismaying for Romance, also generated public recognition that she parlayed into a film role in 1935’s Princess Tam Tam, in which starred American dancer Josephine Baker. In 1936’s La belle équipe, she played the role of a young woman who destroyed the friendship of co-stars Jean Gabin and Charles Vanel. The film was a hit, and a series of bad girl roles followed in Naples au baiser de feu, La Maison du Matais, Prisons de femmes and Le puritain. She had become one of cinema’s first femmes fatales.

When the German army swept into France in May 1940, Romance found herself caught in a dilemma. The Nazis were eager to create a veneer of normalcy. That meant they were willing to allow the French film industry to function, though under the auspices of their Propagandastaffe, which would censor any content deemed disrespectful or harmful toward Germany. Faced with the choice of working for the Nazis or retiring—which might not have been allowed without serious consequences—Romance chose to continue performing, and starred in Vénusaveugle, Feu sacre, Une femme dans la nuit, and Cartacalha, reine des gitans. In the last, she sang the hit song “Chanson gitane (Sur la route qui va).”

It’s worth pointing out that Romance wasn’t alone in her decision to perform for the Nazis. Many of France’s top stars, including Danielle Darrieux, Junie Astor, René Dary, Suzy Delair, Albert Préjean and others did the same. In select instances, some type of pressure was brought to bear. For instance, in Darrieux’s case, the Nazis had imprisoned her husband Porfirio Rubirosa, and her acting was the price for his freedom. At the same time, it should also be noted that many French actors made the choice to ignore the plight of their Jewish compatriots. The Germans banned Jews from any participation in cinema, and the workers who remained were required to carry cards affirming their non-Jewishness. Thus while the genocidal extent of Nazi plans may not have been crystal clear to some actors, the intent to—at a minimum—erase Jews from public life was certainly no secret. 

But Romance and others performed anyway. And of course, giving the Nazis an inch meant they would take a mile. Ever vigilant for propaganda opportunities, party officials pressured Romance, Darrieux and the other actors into traveling to Germany for a highly publicized visit to several Berlin film studios. Newspapers and newsreels touted the appearances in a blatant attempt to burnish the Nazis artistic bona fides. For the segment of French citizenry opposed to the occupation, the actors had crossed the line. It was one thing to continue working—everyone needed to dothat. But to allow themselves to be used to legitimize the Nazi agenda was an entirely different story. When the Germans were finally expelled from France in 1944, Romance was thrown in jail. We don’t have much information about this event. We can only say she was eventually forgiven—officially at least—for what many perceived as her feeble level of the resistance to the Nazis.

After the war, Romance immersed herself in work, making eight movies in the next three-plus years. In 1949 she played the role of Bella in the film Maya, for which you see the promo art at top. Her performance was lavishly reviewed—she was the toast of Paris again. Romance worked steadily through the next decade until her star began to dim in the early 1960s. She grappled with financial difficulty in the mid-1960s, and at one point had to sell off her possessions to survive. She made her last film, Nada, in 1974, and died in 1991 in Nice, on France’s Côte d’Azur, at age seventy-nine.

It would be journalistically tidy to write that Viviane Romance lived a lifethat somehow embodied her stage surname, but it would also be glib and untrue. The scandal of unwed motherhood, the climb up the ladder while still just a teenager, the shadow of Nazism over the prime of her career, her stint behind bars—none of it can be romanticized. Nor can her three failed marriages. If anything, Romance was like the narrator of the song she once memorably performed, “Chanson gitane.” That woman was strong enough to pass “with a noise of horses” but fragile as “a shiver of tinsel.” Ultimately Romance's story mirrors that of many women who survived dangerous times. They had to be tough, smart, and pragmatic—then when order returned they had to be judged on their failings and hope for forgiveness. 

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Intl. Notebook Aug 26 2010
A ROYAL PAIN
Waiting for the Snowdon to fall.

You’d never put blue, orange and yellow together in an outfit, but those colors coordinate nicely on this Uncensored from August 1971. The magazine had launched in 1953 and become a heavy hitter in the tabloid market by the end of the decade, but by now was running on fumes. However, that didn’t stop it from taking swipes at big targets—in this case England’s royal family in the person of Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon.

Born Margaret Rose, the princess had a rebellious spirit and had married late—at age twenty-nine—to a commoner named Anthony Armstrong-Jones. Jones was a photographer, and if you’re going to slander a photographer, of course you call him a pornographer. There’s no evidence Jones—who became Lord Snowdon—was head of a smut ring, as Uncensored claims, but he did shoot his share of nudes, like the image of Gloria Higdon below, dating from 1959.

His marriage to Princess Margaret was known to be on shaky ground, and by the time the above cover appeared, the couple were leading separate lives. Margaret indulged in a series of indiscreet affairs, and had unconfirmed liaisons with the likes of Mick Jagger, David Niven, and Peter Sellers. Snowdon, on the other hand, became a royal favorite, shooting official portraits for the Queen and other family members.

Lord Snowdon and his wife finally divorced in 1978, and Princess Margaret died at the relatively early age of seventy-two after many years of drinking and consuming prescription drugs. We may actually revisit her at some point—her life reads like just the sort of melodrama we're interested in here. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 14
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
July 13
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
Richard Speck breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
July 12
1971—Corona Sent to Prison
Mexican-born serial killer Juan Vallejo Corona is convicted of the murders of 25 itinerant laborers. He had stabbed each of them, chopped a cross in the backs of their heads with a machete, and buried them in shallow graves in fruit orchards in Sutter County, California. At the time the crimes were the worst mass murders in U.S. history.
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