Intl. Notebook Mar 28 2021
SIRRING UP ADVENTURE
It's a tough job but some tabloid has to do it.


Above is the cover of a March 1953 issue of Sir! magazine, and in an example of the ephemeral nature of such items, shortly after we scanned this we spilled a glass of red wine on it. So behold! It's even more rare than it was when we bought it. Above the slash you see boxer Kid Gavilan, he of the famed bolo punch, and on the right is model Joanne Arnold, who we've featured before here, here, and here. She doesn't appear inside. But what you do get is a jaunt through such exotic locales as Melanesia, Tahiti, and Lisbon in search of knowledge and thrills.

We were drawn to the Lisbon story, which the magazine describes as a capital of sin. To us the word “sin” means late nights, good intoxicants, fun women, and excellent entertainment. To Sir! it means being cheated, robbed, framed, and arrested. To-may-to to-mah-to, we guess. We've spent some time in Lisbon and we love it. We don't know what it was like in 1953, but Europe was still coming out of World War II, which means many countries—even non-combatants like Portugal—were wracked by poverty. So we wouldn't be surprised if thieves were out in droves.

Elsewhere inside Sir! you get art from Jon Laurell and Joseph Szokoli, photos of model Jean Williams and Tahitian beauty queen Malie Haulani, a story on the danger of nuclear weapons, anthropological snobbery in exposés about New Caledonia and the Kogi people of Colombia, and fanciful theories about Russian scientists working to keep Josef Stalin alive for 150 years—which didn't work, because he died a mere five days after this issue of Sir! hit the newsstands. Clearly, the magazine is cursed. It certainly cursed our wine glass. We have thirty-five scans below for your enjoyment and other issues of Sir! here and here.
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Hollywoodland Feb 15 2017
FROM SIR! WITH LOVE
Anita Ekberg bares all for art.

Anita Ekberg graces the cover of this February 1957 issue of Sir! magazine, laid back, colorized, and looking good. She gets in depth treatment inside, with a focus on a nude statue of her made by Hungarian sculptor Sepy Dobronyi. The story was perfect for Hollywood gossip rags, and accordingly they all reported breathlessly that Dobronyi wanted to make the statue a nude, and since he was headed back to his studio in Cuba and couldn't have Ekberg sit for him, took a series of nude reference photos. Dobronyi was a scuba diver in his spare time and had collected gold coins from sunken Spanish galleons to use in his art, some of which he applied to Ekberg's likeness, leading to this boob-related witticism from Sir! editors: “Anita's statue has a real honest-to-goodness treasure chest.” The sculpture was mostly bronze, though, and became known as the Ekberg Bronze, which when last seen was in a Norwegian museum, though Ekberg was actually Swedish.

Elsewhere in Sir! you get the short feature, “A Homo Speaks Out.” The title alone. Really. The author, working in confessional form, admits to deep feelings of regret, shame, self-loathing, and so forth at his “condition”—basically writing everything mid-century homophobes would have wanted to read. It ain't pretty, so we won't transcribe any of it. Readers also learn about marriage rites on the Pacific islands of New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), where tribal ceremonies involve all the male members of the groom's family having first crack at the bride. Is that true? We have no idea, and really aren't inclined to find out. To each culture their own, we say—as Americans, we come from the weirdest one on the planet. Other stories deal with Elvis Presley, burlesque, and prostitution. While Sir! wasn't one of the top mid-century tabs, it outdid itself with the Ekberg cover alone, which we consider one of the most eye-catching images of her we've seen.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 9 2013
ALONG CAME A SCHNIEDER
Obscure artist brings an exotic and creepy touch to Sir!


We said we’d get back to Mark Schneider’s work, so today we have seven more Sir! covers to add to the one we posted earlier in the week. His style is certainly unique. These are all from the mid- to late-1950s.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 4 2013
BIG SIR
The case of the missing voodoo sex fiends.


Above and below, the mix of fiction, fact, hysteria, photos, and art that is NYC-based Volitant Publishing’s Sir! This February 1954 issue has a great portrait of Gina Lollobrigida, along with articles on the danger of Peeping Toms, “Hungarian” dancer Yvonne Davis, and how to spot frigid women. The promised story on sex in the Caribbean, which the cover art is supposed to illustrate, does not appear in the magazine. We’ve never seen that happen with a tabloid. Maybe the writer had a Eureka! moment during his field research: Wait—I'm having sex in the Caribbean. Why would I ever go back to New York? In any case, the story is MIA.

Sir! had a few different looks over the years, but the 1953 and 1954 issues, with covers painted by Mark Schneider, were particularly interesting. After 1954 Sir! mixed in photographed covers, which it had already done during earlier years. The post-1954 paintings were mostly by other artists, though Schneider’s work appeared on at least three post-1954 Sir! annuals. The quality of his covers varies, but all had a uniquely lurid mood that many supposedly better artists couldn’t touch. He sure had us looking forward to that Caribbean voodoo sex story. Anyway, we’ll put up a collection of Schneider’s work later so you can see what we mean.
 
In other news, we recently bought a stack of fifty mid-century tabloids from the U.S., and assuming the international mails work as they should, we will have those in hand soonish. We got the lot for fifty bucks, which was really exciting, since we’ve seen some individual issues from the stack being auctioned elsewhere for as much as $100.00. There’s no thrill quite like finding a great bargain. Wait—did we really just say that? God, we’re starting to sound like our girlfriends.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 2 2011
MEXICAN FACT DANCE
Guess what group rears its ugly head in the Mexican vice trade?

Communists were already said to be under every bed in America in 1956, so why not under every bed in Mexico too? In this February 1956 Sir! editors float a preposterous story about communists controlling the vice rackets south of the border. Did they really expect people to buy this stuff? Yes, they did—after all, there was a communist party in Mexico, and hence communists. They had no real-world connection to the vice trade but in the fear mongering climate of that time the Sir! story would not have seemed so farfetched. Does it make you wonder what stories people will laugh at us fifty years from now for believing? Yeah, us too. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 28 2010
BLADES OF GLORY
Where have all the cowboys gone?

Here’s a very nice Sir! cover from July 1958, featuring a cowboy and a vaquero dueling to the death while tied together, straddling a log, and dressed like two members of the Village People. That’s supposed to be American frontiersman Jim Bowie on the left, and since he later dies at the Alamo, we know how this fight ends. And even if we didn’t know he died at the Alamo, we’d know he won the fight. Otherwise when you went into a hunting supply store and asked for a Bowie knife, the clerk would look at you really confused, and say, “Bowie knife? I never heard of a Bowie knife, but if you’re looking for top quality we’ve got these great Gonzales knives.” 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 8 2009
ALL SIRRED UP
Mid-century tabloids used similar practices as today's websites.

Above is an October 1955 cover of the men’s magazine/tabloid Sir!, with a story about Yale’s famous Pig Night we’re certain was borrowed from an identical Hush-Hush story published in September 1955. Most of the old scandal rags didn't have many actual reporters on the ground, so instead they relied on a network of stringers and paid informants. When all else failed, they simply rewrote material from other tabloids, or sometimes even mainstream publications. Sound familiar? It's the same process used by websites today, and back then the practice generated the exact same type of complaints about journalistic integrity. Once again, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The only difference is the old tabloids never really threatened the mainstream media, (though a couple of imprints were top sellers), whereas today's metastasized internet does call into question whether standard media can survive. Only time will tell. A few more issues of Sir! appear below.     

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 01
1955—Rosa Parks Sparks Bus Boycott
In the U.S., in Montgomery, Alabama, seamstress Rosa Parks refuses to give her bus seat to a white man and is arrested for violating the city's racial segregation laws, an incident which leads to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The boycott resulted in a crippling financial deficit for the Montgomery public transit system, because the city's African-American population were the bulk of the system's ridership.
November 30
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
November 29
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
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