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 Siani is the queen of hearts. Livers, spleens, and kidneys too.
There are a surprising number of cannibal sexploitation movies out there. La Dea Cannibale is one of the better known entries. It's an Italian production with Sabrina Siani in the title role as a little girl found by jungle maneaters who grows up to be fine as hell and becomes the queen of the tribe. As per usual in these movies, an expedition to locate her is mounted by cityfolk. These lunch items comprise the father who lost Siani in the first place—along with his arm—accompanied by several witless adventurers. Or maybe it's fairer to call them brave rather than dumb. But when the group come across stray body parts and gnawed upon corpses yet keep right on trekking into the heart of schlockness, what would you call that? Dumb, right?
Pretty soon the cannibals start picking them off with darts and poisoned arrows, but a few stubborn souls eventually reach the evil village, whereupon daddy is shocked to discover his daughter has grown into a bleached blonde bombshell cavorting in only a thong. The question at that point is whether he can wrench her from the clutches of the godless flesheaters. They won't give her up easily and you can really understand that—other jungle tribes in 1970s cinema have white girl goddesses so why shouldn't they? We'd almost recommend this one for laughs if there were a digital transfer out there, but sadly the version we saw was obviously ripped from a VHS tape and it was annoyingly murky. Sort of like its plot. La Dea Cannibale, which was also called Mondo cannibale, opened in Italy today in 1980.
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.
Sørensen throws Playboy fans off her trail.
Tempo was a pocket-sized celeb and pop culture magazine published bi-weekly out of Atlanta and New York City by Sports Report, Inc. We don’t know how long it lasted—this one is vol. 7, issue 9—but we know we’ve never seen one dated before 1953 or after 1958. When Dane Arden appeared on the cover of this one from today in 1956, she was already famous thanks to her appearance as Playboy’s centerfold just the previous month. But she had posed under her real name Elsa Sørensen, and back then that may have kept most Playboy readers from realizing Sørensen and Arden were the same person. We have no idea if that was her intention, or why she’d have wanted to do it, but it’s curious. Our guess is that Playboy wanted an exclusive association with her Sørensen identity, and pressed her to choose a new name for future modeling. Or perhaps she thought of magazines like Tempo as lower class, and didn’t want to diminish her Playboy image. Strange, considering Tempo had been around longer, but possible. Or maybe she simply thought Elsa Sørensen was a little too Danish sounding for Hollywood. But there’s no evidence she ever had an interest in movies, and if she did wouldn’t she have been sacrificing much of the useful recognition she’d gained as a Playboy centerfold? All we can say is it’s one of history’s little mysteries. Hmm… that has a nice ring. Think we’ll claim that one—History’s Little Mysteries™. More Dane/Elsa below, plus Brigitte Bardot, Shirley Falls, Erroll Garner, Sabrina, the Cleveland Browns, Anita Ekberg, et al.
My eyes are up here, cherie.
Paris Frou Frou #58, with Jayne Mansfield, Sabrina, Mickey Hargitay, and many unknowns. We’re really starting to appreciate this magazine because it always seems to have at least two or three truly striking images, including, in this case, the cabaret dancers Mitzi and Mimi (mmm... twins) and the back cover, just above. You may be pondering what exactly is a frou frou? While it sounds like a small, furry mammal, possibly with razor sharp teeth, it’s actually an onomatopaeic phrase originally created in French to imitate the swishing sound of a woman’s skirts, and to describe unnecessary showiness (kind of like this sentence). File that definition away in the cobwebbed nook of your brain reserved for truly useless info that might one day win you a point in a pub quiz or prompt someone to label you a metrosexual. See our other Paris Frou Frou here.
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.
The two guys Top Secret tried to portray as enemies actually kinda liked each other.
As usual, there is an array of interesting teasers on the cover of Top Secret. The squaw in question at left is Jeanne Carmen, who was a famous blonde pin-up, but who was naturally brunette, and had played the role of a Native American girl named Yellow Moon in the cheesy western War Drums. So that’s the source of the squaw reference. Whether Elvis actually stole her from Sinatra, we can’t say. It’s possible any woman in Hollywood would have to be stolen from Sinatra, the guy got around so much. And as if to prove the point, he would later have a fling with the cover star here, Sabrina, aka Norma Sykes. We talked about their tryst in this post from earlier this year.
Anyway, the bit that really caught our attention was not the alleged Elvis-Carmen-Sinatra triangle, but the story about Ingo Johansson being doped. Ingemar “Ingo” Johansson was a world champion boxer who had won the heavyweight crown from Floyd Patterson a year earlier. In the March 1960 rematch, Patterson put Johansson’s lights out with a blow so vicious that Johansson was left twitching on the canvas. It was a definitive victory, just as Johansson’s earlier win over Patterson had been, but in 1960 white-black boxing matches were overtly racially divisive, and so Top Secret took advantage by suggesting that perhaps Patterson’s camp managed to slip the Swede a mickey. That question was answered in the March 1961 third match between the two, when Patterson again knocked Johansson out.
After their careers were over, Johansson and Patterson became good friends and even flew to visit each other in their native countries every year. Top Secret could well have done a story on that, but of course harmony doesn’t sell magazines. So while in the U.S. civil rights strife raged through the rest of the sixties and into the seventies, two guys who once made a living beating the living shit out of each other quietly proved that, given a chance to see each other’s similarities rather than differences, people tend to get along just fine.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—Dorothy Parker Dies
American poet and satirist Dorothy Parker, who was known for her wit and wisecracks, and was a charter member of famed Algonquin Round Table, dies of a heart attack at age seventy-three. In her will, she bequeaths her estate to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. foundation. Following King's death, her estate is passed on to the NAACP.
The Battle of Normandy, aka D-Day, begins with the landing of 155,000 Allied troops on the beaches of northern France in an event codenamed Operation Overlord. The German army by this time is already seriously depleted after their long but unsuccessful struggle to conquer Russia in the East, thus Allied soldiers quickly break through the Nazi defensive positions and push inland in the largest amphibious military operation in history.
1963—John Profumo Resigns
British Secretary of State for War John Profumo resigns after the revelation
that he had been sexually involved with a showgirl and sometime prostitute named Christine Keeler. Among Keeler's close acquaintances was a senior Soviet naval attaché, thus in addition to Profumo committing adultery then lying about it before the House of Commons, authorities pressed for his resignation because they also feared he had been plied for state secrets.
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