Intl. Notebook Apr 13 2010
PAINT IT BLACK
Confidential tries a new look on the outside, sticks with the tried and true inside.

Here’s an unusual black Confidential from April 1958, which offers a mere trio of cover teasers. But the streamlined look outside doesn’t change the interior formula, which means you get the usual selection of dubious journalism, including a piece on black voter turnout designed to get white people seriously worried, and a story on CIO president Walter Reuther that emphasizes the possibility that he was shot by communists. But the most interesting story—to us, at least—concerns oilman/billionaire J. Paul Getty and gossip columnist/society hostess Elsa Maxwell, because the two well-known figures present an instructive lesson in contrasts.
 
Getty came from a wealthy family; Maxwell’s humble background made her an intruder in high society. Getty was as vicious as a mongoose, but his wealth prevented what would have been a well-deserved fall from grace; Maxwell used pure charm and intelligence to rise to a position as the most celebrated society hostess in the world. The worst Maxwell probably ever did was dish on society types in her gossip column; Getty once allowed kidnappers to cut off his grandson’s ear rather than part with a ransom, and once extended to Alfried Krupp von Bohlen—a German munitions baron who had given lavishly to the Nazi Party, used Jewish slaves in his industries during WWII, and allowed his factory yards to be used for executing POWs—an invitation to his house warming party. Advantage, Maxwell. One other thing in her favor—she’s the person the phrase “the hostess with the mostest” was popularized about. We’d take that as a legacy any day.
 
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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 24
1954—Communist Party Outlawed
In the U.S., during the height of the Red Scare, President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Communist Control Act into law. The new legislation bans the American Communist Party, and prohibits people deemed to be communists from serving as officials in labor organizations.
1968—France Explodes Nuke
France tests a two-stage nuclear weapon, codenamed Canopus, on Fangataufa, French Polynesia.
August 23
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
August 22
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
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