Long before the general public knew it existed, LSD was the drug of choice among celebrity elites.
We’re back to the gossip magazine Uncensored today, with its info-packed cover telling us about gay Toronto, lesbian Hollywood, Sean Connery’s sex secrets and rumors about Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. But the standout item here (aside from the appearance of the non-word “rejuvination” and the misused term “capitol”) is the one on Cary Grant and his experimentation with LSD. Before the Beatles, Timothy Leary, and Carlos Castaneda, LSD was the drug of choice for a rarefied circle of glamorous elites who ingested it as part of their psychiatric therapy sessions. We’re talking about people as famous and diverse as aquatic actress Esther Williams, Time publisher Henry Luce, director Sidney Lumet, authors Aldous Huxley and Anais Nin, and composer André Previn.
Cary Grant never tried to keep his LSD use secret. In fact, he spoke glowingly about it in a 1959 interview with Look magazine, saying that it had brought him close to happiness for the first time in his life. He also said that LSD taught him immense compassion for other people, and had helped him conquer his own shyness and insecurity.
But by 1968 the U.S. government—which had experimented extensively with LSD in hopes of using it as a truth serum or a form of chemical warfare, and had dosed thousands of people both willingly and unwillingly—was moving toward declaring the drug illegal. Grant’s wife Dyan Cannon had famously cited LSD usage as a primary factor in seeking a 1967 divorce, and the counterculture embrace of the drug was beginning to frighten middle America and the White House. That’s the backdrop against which this August 1968 Uncensored appeared, and by October of the year LSD was illegal. But the fact that public opinion had shifted—or more accurately, had been pushed by a steady, government-initiated anti-LSD campaign—did not particularly harm Grant’s public standing.
When he died in 1986 he was still one of the most revered Hollywood actors ever. And about his LSD usage he had no regrets. Quite the opposite—he commented: “Yes, it takes a long time for happiness to break through either to the individual or nations. It will take just as long as people themselves continue to confound it. You’ll find that nowadays they put you away for singing and dancing in the street. ‘Here now, let’s have none of that happiness, my boy. You cut that out; waking up the neighbors!’ Those darn neighbors need waking up, I can tell you, constable!”
Top Secret says scandals are good for stars’ bank accounts, but what else would a scandal rag claim?
Here’s a fascinating February 1960 issue of the mid-century tabloid Top Secret with a selection of dish on the celebs of the day. Of particular note is the item on Lana Turner and Elizabeth Taylor. Top Secret claims scandals made them the highest-paid stars in Hollywood. What were the scandals? Well, in 1958 Lana Turner’s teenaged daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed mob enforcer Johnny Stompanato to death. The sensational murder trial that followed ended in Crane’s acquittal on the grounds of justifiable homicide, i.e., Stompanato had been beating Turner and Crane put a stop to it. As for Taylor, her scandal involved taking Eddie Fisher away from his wife, the incredibly popular and beloved singer/actress Debbie Reynolds. Later the same year Taylor agreed to star in Cleopatra for a million dollars—an astonishing sum at the time. But while Top Secret draws a direct line between this kind of pay and a messy personal life, there’s another possible consideration. In light of Lana Turner’s 1958 Academy Award nomination, and Elizabeth Taylor’s eventual five nominations and two wins, maybe the two were highly paid because of their talent. It’s just crazy enough to be true.
Hard facts and grim fairy tales.
Above is the cover of a December 1963 Uncensored, with Ava Gardner, Richard Burton, Carroll Baker and Steve McQueen. Inside, you get them, plus Suzy Parker, Elizabeth Taylor, Gemel Abdel Nasser, Cary Grant, Marlon Brando, Ursula Andress, Sean Connery, and the great Jean Seberg. And as a bonus, you can learn about hypnotism. We did it, and it really works. *wiggling fingers* Yooou will retuuurn to our website eeeevery daaaay. See all of our Uncensored posts here.
Police Gazette tries to draw correlation between meat and murder—of humans.
The good folks at the National Police Gazette are in rare form on this December 1973 cover. For instance, the teaser “The Truth About Liz and Dick” carries a rather interesting double meaning. Taylor was always bashed in the tabloid press for being a bit of a harlot, however, leaving aside the obvious sexism of the sentiment, her reputation was probably undeserved. Her fifth husband Richard Burton pointed out, during the height of the furor over their affair and marriage, that Taylor had loved only five men in her life and married them all, whereas certain actresses who had never been married might as well have had yield signs outside their bedrooms to deal with all the traffic. We’re paraphrasing. He was just trying to point out the chasm between perception and reality. Of course, the press didn’t care about that and dutifully continued to portray Taylor as a dragon lady.
But that isn’t the story that interests us—we’ve talked about Taylor here and here, and that’s enough for this year. Check the text in the blue box. The editors pair a teaser about some murders in the Houston, Texas area with one suggesting chemicals in meat can turn you gay. You’re probably gay before you eat the meat, but that point notwithstanding, this is one of the most insidious pieces of gay-bashing you’re ever likely to find, because the murders to which Gazette editors are referring are none other than the Corll/Brooks/Henley killings of 1970-1973. They became known simply as the Houston Mass Murders, and they were the worst serial killings in American history at the time. We mean worst in terms of numbers—twenty-seven confirmed dead. And the sexual nature of the crimes had anti-gay forces ready to take to the streets.
The story is stranger than anything we could invent—it involves a man, two boys, and an unholy pact between the three. When Elmer Wayne Henley met Dean Corll and David Brooks in 1970, Corll and Brooks had already killed nine Houston teenagers, including two boys Henley knew. Corll, pictured at left, was the leader, with the younger Brooks functioning as more of an assistant whose job was to lure attractive teenaged victims. Henley, who was fifteen at the time, was supposed to be just another victim, but Corll took a particular liking to him and recruited him. How he knew Henley would be amenable to the arrangement is one of those eternal mysteries. Henley could have simply appeased Corll long enough to get out of his clutches, then called the police. But in yet another validation of unerring serial killer instinct, Henley actually did join in the crimes. Like Brooks, his job was to lure fresh victims. For every boy he delivered, Corll paid two-hundred dollars.
The arrangement worked fine until one night in mid-1973, when Henley brought his girlfriend and a male acquaintance to Corll’s house. We’re a little fuzzy on why that happened. It may have had something to do with the girlfriend deciding that night to run away from home, and Henley being somewhat baffled as to where to take her. At any rate, it’s clear he didn’t plan for Corll to harm her. However, Corll was enraged that Henley had brought two friends over. Keeping a low profile was crucial. After an argument, he seemed to calm down and began to drink and socialize. The teenagers got plastered and passed out—and awoke tied up. Corll screamed that he was going to torture and kill them all, but a desperate Henley convinced Corll he was still a loyal accomplice and would rape and kill his girlfriend while Corll dealt with the other boy. Corll agreed, but once untied, Henley got his hands on Corll’s pistol and shot him six times, leaving him in the very dead state you see below.
By the time the December Police Gazette hit the streets, all of America was in an uproar over the murders. Corll had shot some boys, strangled others, and tortured them all in the most painful ways, including shoving glass rods up their urethras. All had been raped. And this meant Corll’s sexuality became central. So, taking all that into consideration, you can see that the Gazette is really being quite inflammatory on their cover. It would have been equally valid to discuss whether it is heterosexuality that leads to murder—after all, in terms of sheer numbers, straight folks have gay folks beat all to hell in the killing department. But as we’ve pointed out before, reason doesn’t sell tabloids, so the Police Gazette gleefully tarred an entire community in pursuit of profits. Now, as far as how they tie all this to chemicals in meat, well, that’s just too silly to get into today. Maybe some other time.
Above: investigators unearth the skull of one of Corll's victims.
The Roman fling of Mrs. Taylor.
Founded in 1845 by George Wilkes, the National Police Gazette published through 1982, making it one of America’s longest running magazines. It began with a focus on police related matters, and over the years evolved (or devolved, depending on your point of view) into a pure tabloid that sometimes skirted the edge of obscenity. The issue above is from September 1963, the year Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton met and began an affair while filming Cleopatra.
At the time Taylor was married to Eddie Fisher, who was one of the most popular singers in America. Taylor had already gotten bad press when Fisher fell for her and divorced American sweetheart Debbie Reynolds as a result. When news broke that she had cuckolded Fisher while filming in Italy, Taylor’s reputation was damaged yet again. She was a scarlet lady squared.
Paparazzi chased her and Burton all over Rome in one of the first examples of what today is a standard ordeal for even the least important movie stars. There’s a lot to the Cleopatra story—a runaway budget, an emergency tracheotomy, a strike by female extras, and more. We hope to get to it in the future, as well as post the stack of magazines we have that are devoted to the Taylor/Burton/Fisher triangle.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1928—Earhart Crosses Atlantic Ocean
American aviator Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly in an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean, riding as a passenger in a plane piloted by Wilmer Stutz and maintained by Lou Gordon. Earhart would four years later go on to complete a trans-Atlantic flight as a pilot, leaving from Newfoundland and landing in Ireland, accomplishing the feat solo without a co-pilot or mechanic.
1939—Eugen Weidmann Is Guillotined
In France, Eugen Weidmann is guillotined in the city of Versailles outside Saint-Pierre Prison for the crime of murder. He is the last person to be publicly beheaded in France, however executions by guillotine continue away from the public until September 10, 1977, when Hamida Djandoubi becomes the last person to receive the grisly punishment.
1972—Watergate Burglars Caught
In Washington, D.C., five White House operatives are arrested for burglarizing the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel. The botched burglary was an attempt by members of the Republican Party to illegally wiretap the opposition. The resulting scandal ultimately leads to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and also results in the indictment and conviction of several administration officials.
1961—Rudolph Nureyev Defects from Soviet Union
Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defects
at Le Bourget airport in Paris. The western press reported that it was his love for Chilean heiress Clara Saint that triggered the event, but in reality Nuryev had been touring Europe with the Kirov Ballet and defected in order to avoid punishment for his continual refusal to abide by rules imposed upon the tour by Moscow.
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