Hollywoodland Jan 2 2012
PORTRAIT OF ELIZABETH
Whisper shows it’s still happy to wallow in the muck.

Hy Steirman’s Whisper magazine is generally considered to be less racy than when it was owned by Robert Harrison, but this issue from January 1959 shows a little of the old spark. It slams Elizabeth Taylor for stealing Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds, with staff scribe Orson C. Green spewing forth this venom: But then Liz made clear to the whole world that beneath that lovely exterior there beats a heart of purest gall. She repaid the infinite kindness of her two friends by breaking up their marriage. Green goes on to describe Taylor trying to soak down New York’s PlazaHotel for two weeks of room charges, and then, when asked to pay, phoning up Montgomery Clift and getting him to help her trash the room. The article concludes: In short, Miss Taylor and friend Clift repaid [the Plaza] for its hospitality by deliberately making a mess for some forlorn chambermaid to clean up. Ingrate!

Whisper also takes on ex-King Farouk I of Egypt—who was a favorite tabloid target of the time—describing him as “Fatso Farouk”, “the roly-poly playboy of the Nile”, “the balding balloon boy” and worse. Readers are told that he was at Maxim’s in Paris one night and saw Coccinelle do a song accompanied by a striptease that left her in only a beaded g-string. Farouk, who was famously amorous, was so smitten that he sent his card and a bouquet of flowers backstage. Coccinelle came to say thanks, and when asked by Farouk agreed to go to dinner. Moments after she left thetable one of the ex-king’s aide’s hastily scurried over and explained that Coccinelle had once been a man. Allegedly, Farouk flipped. Whisper describes overturned tables, broken bottles, the works. Readers are told: The whole Riviera rocked with laughter. The bulging butt of the joke fled to Rome.

Whisper goes on to discuss sperm banks, state prisons, Vladimir Lenin, Josip Tito, and “white” slavery, but probably our favorite story is the one headlined: Do Ex-Prostitutes Make the Best Wives? A pertinent question. And whom did they get to write the answer? The byline says: by an Ex-Prostitute. We just love that. As far as whether Whisper gets any of its facts straight, we can’t really offer a guess, but this issue proves that even ten months after the sale from Harrison to Steirman, it hadn’t quite lost its spark. Things apparently went downhill pretty fast in the next few years, but we’ll judge that for ourselves as we examine more issues. Visit our entire Whisper collection by clicking its keyword at bottom. 

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Hollywoodland May 14 2010
WITNESS FOR THE PERSECUTION
1958 Whisper cover cleverly promises readers intensified efforts digging up celebrity dirt.

That was quick, wasn’t it? Here’s another Whisper, this one from May 1958, which is an important date because it was the month that original publisher Robert Harrison sold out to a publishing group led by Sy Steirman. Peter Driben’s monthly cover art had disappeared years before, but this clever inversion of the maxim about three monkeys that hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil almost makes up for Driben’s absence. And what we like best about it is that the idea is conveyed with no words at all. With a glance, readers knew the new Whisper would be getting deep down in the Hollywood muck to entertain them. But the magazine did not exactly live up to that promise, because it had already been sued for obscenity. Steirman actually toned Whisper down, and newstand sales suffered. Whisper lasted for another fifteen years, but was never again the imprint that struck terror into the hearts of Hollywood celebs.

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Modern Pulp Mar 8 2010
DRIBEN LESSONS
It's easier to ask forgiveness than permission. Or better yet, just don't get caught.

We were out barhopping not long ago when we spotted this promo poster on the wall of one of the many joints we visited. You’ll notice most of the text is in English. That’s because Ondarra sort of markets itself to the expat Brit crowd here. Anyway, after a couple of attempts to adequately photograph the poster, we just ripped it down and departed, because hey, why not? This particular poster features the work of mid-century pin-up artist Peter Driben, who painted covers for the Robert Harrison-operated pulp mags Wink, Flirt, Beauty Parade, and others. Driben is one of the most important and prolific pulp illustrators, so we’ll be stealing—or, ahem, borrowing—some more of his work in the future. 

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Intl. Notebook Jan 14 2010
DOUBLE CHECK
Trying to avoid being stuck in a bad pattern.

Above is an issue of Robert Harrison’s Whisper magazine from January 1955. Curious lack of celebrity dish on this cover, which we can only attribute to a rare scandal-free month, but we do like the nudist camp photo. Only, what the hell was this woman wearing? Tablecloths from an Italian restaurant? A flannel shirt and a kilt? We often talk regretfully about events we missed, or stars that were before our time, but one thing we’re glad we never saw with our own tender eyes was a pair of granny panties. With those things blocking the way to the promised land, we suddenly realize storming the beach at Iwo Jima was only the second bravest thing our grandfathers did. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 31
1930—Movie Censorship Enacted
In the U.S., the Motion Pictures Production Code is instituted, imposing strict censorship guidelines on the depiction of sex, crime, religion, violence and racial mixing in film. The censorship holds sway over Hollywood for the next thirty-eight years, and becomes known as the Hays Code, after its creator, Will H. Hays.
1970—Japan Airlines Flight 351 Hijacked
In Japan, nine samurai sword wielding members of the Japanese Communist League-Red Army Faction hijack Japan Airlines flight 351, which had been en route from Tokyo to Fukuoka. After releasing the passengers, the hijackers proceed to Pyongyang, North Koreas's Mirim Airport, where they surrender to North Korean authorities and are given asylum.
March 30
1986—Jimmy Cagney Dies
American movie actor James Francis Cagney, Jr., who played a variety of roles in everything from romances to musicals but was best known as a quintessential tough guy, dies of a heart attack at his farm in Stanfordville, New York at the age of eighty-six.
March 29
1951—The Rosenbergs Are Convicted of Espionage
Americans Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage as a result of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union. While declassified documents seem to confirm Julius Rosenberg's role as a spy, Ethel Rosenberg's involvement is still a matter of dispute. Both Rosenbergs were executed on June 19, 1953.
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