Hollywoodland Jun 27 2012
LIGHT AS A FEATHER
Mansfield proves that love can make a broken man whole.

In Hollywood, nothing seems to last. Jayne Mansfield and Hungarian bodybuilder Miklós “Mickey” Hargitay divorced in 1964, but this great cover of Whisper from this month in 1957 shows them a year before their 1958 marriage. They’re blissful and striking a pose they repeated for the press over and over—i.e., ex-Mr. Universe Hargitay demonstrating his strength by easily lofting the zaftig Mansfield in his arms. The occasion of this photo was Hargitay’s arrival at NYC’s Idlewild Airport. Mansfield had waited on the tarmac for the plane to land, then sprinted to her sweetheart and leapt into his arms.

You may notice Hargitay’s swollen eye and bandage. He was returning from Washington, D.C., where he had been performing in the Mae West Revue, a stage show West—the noted maneater—had stocked with assorted hunks of tasty beef. One of those hunks was an ex-wrestler named Chuck Krauser who adored West and had more than a professional relationship with her. When Hargitay threw some unkind words West’s way, Krauser threw three punches Hargitay’s way and down went Mickey. A witness described the fracas this way: “He planted a tremendous haymaker on Mickey’s head.” Hargitay emerged from the beatdown with a black eye, a cut lip, a limp—and grounds for a lawsuit, which he quickly filed.

The interesting thing about the episode re: Whisper is that it happened in June 1956—exactly a year before the above cover appeared. And Whisper not only digs up an old photo, but takes the liberty of reversing it. Hargitay was actually slugged over the left eye by the right-handed Krauser. In any case, it’s amazing how happy Hargitay looks considering the entire world knew he’d gotten his ass whipped. And consider also that he was definitely feeling some aches and pains.

But perhaps having an ecstatic Jayne Mansfield waiting for you raises spirits and dulls hurts. Either that or those bodybuilding competitions had trained Hargitay to keep a smile locked on his face even when he was straining every muscle in his body. We should mention, though, that Mansfield did her share of heavy lifiting too, by being publicly supportive concerning the fight. She observed that Mickey could have killed Krauser, but was too much of a gentleman. It might not have been true, but take note girls—that’s how you bolster your hurting guy’s fragile ego.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 29 2012
EXPERT DRIBEN
Caution: miles of dangerous curves.


Below, a small selection of Peter Driben covers featuring his trademark full-bodied beauties, which he painted for six Robert Harrison-owned imprints, 1940s and 1950s.

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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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Intl. Notebook Oct 16 2011
DIVINE INTERVENTION
Where did he come from and where did he go?

This Whisper from October 1955 examines Ava Gardner’s love life, Ernest Hemingway’s courage, and Marilyn Monroe’s mole, all of which, while worthwhile subjects, are less interesting to us than the piece on Father Divine. Who was Father Divine? Well, he was a preacher who claimed to be God and had as many as two million followers during his heyday in the 1930s. Of course, that number depends on where you do your research. Some sources try to distinguish between “true followers” and sympathizers who attended his rallies, but that’s like saying seventy percent of the people at a rock concert aren’t true fans. Attendance at events is an accepted method for determining popularity, and consideringthe fact that Father Divine had verifiable rallies in places as far away as Switzerland and Australia, we think the two million figure is accurate.

Why was he so popular? Hard to say. Charisma and an imaginative doctrine are givens. But it was national exposure that really helped swell the ranks of his followers. From the point of view of a typical magazine editor, you eventually can’t resist writing at least a blurb about a person who claims to be God. When that person proves to be polished and intelligent, and his belief system more nuanced than suspected, the article becomes its own public relations. Thanks to steady press coverage, what started as a local congregation in Brooklyn, New York eventually spread to become a multi-ethnic and pan-national movement. But with popularity came scandals. The most notorious of these was when a Divine follower named John Hunt, a California millionaire who had dubbed himself John the Revelator, kidnapped a 17-year-old girl named Delight Jewett and repeatedly had sex with her, either before or after brainwashing her into thinking she was to be the “mother of the new redeemer of the world,” i.e., a new Virgin Mary.

Father Divine’s ministry survived the Hunt scandal and others, and in fact only began to shrink as Divine himself aged and became less active. The cover of Whisper asks if he is dead. Fair question—he was pushing eighty by then and hadn’t been seen in public for months. But he would resurface weeks later in a flurry of press coverage, pronouncing himself“healthy in every organ, muscle, sinew, joint, limb, vein and bone, and even in every atom, fiber and cell of my bodily form.” But Divine was in fact in declining health and had been for some time. Ten years later he died of natural causes at the age of (because his exact birth date is unknown) eighty-nine or ninety. Or he left behind his corporeal form and permanently inhabited his spiritual one. Depending on whom you ask. 

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Vintage Pulp May 27 2011
BEATING UP THE BEARD
The communist that couldn’t shoot straight.

Sexual slander is a time-honored propaganda technique, and today we have two examples, both aimed at Fidel Castro. Confidential, at top, suggests that Castro raped a teenaged girl, while Whisper goes a slightly different route and tells readers he’s afraid of women. Both offer up a version of Castro as less than a man, and during that time of communist hysteria it would have been quite pleasing for people to believe. The really clever element of fabrications like these is that if anyone had called bullshit on the writers it would have been seen as a de facto defense of Castro politically, and thus called into question their patriotism. We would suggest that the same dynamic holds true today. But just how influential were these magazines? Surely not very. Well, you’d be wrong. By 1957 Confidential was the biggest selling newsstand publication of any type in the U.S. Its circulation had reached 4 million per issue, but Confidential editors claimed—and there is reason to believe they were right—that every purchased issue of the magazine was actually read by an additional ten people. Confidential’s circulation had declined somewhat by 1960, but it was still a powerhouse, and Whisper wasn’t doing terribly either (though it's circulation too had been declining for a few years). These two issues, from May 1960 and May 1962, span a period of time when Castromania had reached a fever pitch—at least until the Cuban Missile Crisis came along. We have other tabloid covers with amusing Castro stories here and here, and we’ll compile an aggregate post of others a little later.

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Hollywoodland Feb 8 2011
SHINY HAPPY PEOPLE
I’m all smiles darling, since I met you.

Above is a great Whisper cover from February 1958 with Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra. They had divorced a year earlier, so it’s safe to say they were not feeling quite as blissful toward each other anymore. However, the pair remained friends after the split, which is more than most of us can say about our exes. Inside the issue you get an array of articles on Porfirio Rubirosa, Linda Christian and others. As for the piece on how to spot an alcoholic, we already know how to do that—listen for a British accent.*

Just kidding—we can drink any Brit under the table. Is that a challenge? Hell yes! (as long as you’re buying) 

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Sex Files Jan 26 2011
FIGHTING MAD
The year of living d’Angerously.

This January 1967 issue of Whisper digs up dirt on Gina Lollobrigida, Eddie Fisher and Connie Stevens, and tells us why Uncle Sam wants to deport a topless dancer. The latter is actually an interesting story. The topless star in question is Iranian-born burlesque dancer Yvonne D’Angers, aka Yvonne Boreta, and the reason she was being deported was for obscenity.

D’Angers, who was also known by the nickname the Persian Lamb, had already been involved in a 1965 obscenity trial over the employment of topless waitresses and dancers by various San Francisco nightclubs and had gotten herself on the radar of political bluenoses scandalized by her act at the Off Broadway.

When the deportation order came, d’Angers waged a very public battle against it and finally, in 1967, chained herself to the Golden Gate Bridge in protest. The press turned out in droves for the bizarre spectacle, and all the publicity made her nationally famous. At that point she was able to make the leap into motion pictures, appearing in 1968’s Sappho Darling, 1970’s Move with Elliot Gould, and the 1971 Russ Meyer flick The Seven Minutes. And in the end d’Angers was never deported, so, in this case at least, protest paid. So there's a lesson for all of us.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 6 2011
CHANGING TIMES
Curious George goes to the hospital.

This January 1954 issue of Whisper tells readers about a stripper named Lola Dewitt Stewart who bit a cop, covers a gala Harlem dance, and exposes the voodoo rites of Haitian virgin priestesses. The issue also contains a profile of Christine Jorgensen, the most famous transsexual of her day. Jorgensen—whose name is misspelled "Jorgenson" by Whisper editors—had been born George Jorgensen and had lived unhappily as a male for twenty-five years. After a stint in the Army, he learned about the possibility of becoming more feminine and started by taking hormones, and later travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark to have his male sex organs removed. At the time, Denmark used castration on sexual criminals, which is why the procedure was legal there. Jorgensen, now female in appearance, returned to the U.S. and New York’s Daily News broke her story with one of the most famous headlines in publishing history: Ex-G.I. Becomes Blonde Beauty. Jorgensen parlayed the recognition into a show business career, establishing a blueprint for later transgenders like Coccinelle. Jorgensen finished the last of her reassignment surgeries in the mid-1950s and, now sexually female, continued in show business for many years. She danced in Las Vegas, appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, was voted “Miss Neutral Zone” by American soldiers serving in Korea, and had high-profile romances. Later in her life she reflected that she was proud to have been part of the sexual revolution. “We may not have started it,” she said of herself and other transgenders, “but we gave it a good swift kick in the pants.” 

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Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique Nov 25 2010
WRITTEN IN THE BLOOD
No matter how far we run the strings of our history are still attached.

How times have changed. Could one of the most brutal killers in the world openly hobnob with the Hollywood set today? We doubt it. But back in the day, a few rumors of murder only bolstered a man’s adventurous reputation, as proved by this November 1958 Whisper showing Rafael “Ramfis” Trujillo, Jr. charming Zsa Zsa Gabor and Kim Novak. One or both women, you may notice, actually appear courtesy an X-acto knife and glue, but what self-respecting tabloid has time to locate a legit photo when paste-up will do the job almost as well? Trujillo did date and bed both Gabor and Novak in real life, which makes this cover technically accurate, and makes him the second most enviable Dominican jet-setter in history.

Ramfis Trujillo reportedly gave most women that frisson some find irresistible, but his life wasn’t all starlets and champagne. Though he wanted nothing more than to be a playboy, there was an obstacle in the form of family baggage. Specifically, his father was a sadistic military dictator who had been put in power in the Dominican Republic by the CIA. Trujillo, Sr. expected his son to continue in the family business. This had been abundantly clear to Ramfis since the day his father made him a full general—with full pay—at age nine. For this and other reasons, he grew up with a warped sense of power and by the time of this Whisper cover had already ordered several murders and indulged in the occasional gang rape. He might have been considered a classic chip off the old block, save for rumors that Ramfis’s father was actually a Cuban named Rafael Dominicis—hence the “illegitimate dastard” tag in the banner. But the story about Ramfis being illegitimate was strongly denied by everyone involved (except Dominicis, who “disappeared”).

In any case, through the late fifties Ramfis tomcatted his way from Hollywood to Paris, and only occasionally let his urbane manner slip to reveal someone considerably less charming beneath. He seemed to have settled into his chosen lifestyle permanently when he married an actress named Lita Milan, below, who had starred opposite Paul Newman inThe Left-Handed Gun. But back in the Dominican, the impulsive Rafael Trujillo, Sr. was behaving less and less like the good lap dog the CIA had put in charge three decades earlier. Eventually, his U.S. benefactors turned against him and he died in a fusillade of possibly CIA-arranged bullets.

Junior succumbed to the pull of familial duty, as well as the desire for revenge, and flew back to the Dominican to restore order. This involved personally killing some of the participants in his father’s assassination. While this must have given him great satisfaction, it did little to stabilize the country. Under pressure from both internal enemies and the U.S., Ramfis Trujillo fled to Spain less than a year later with a casket containing millions in cash, jewels, bonds, and his father. By 1969 he was dead too, due to complications stemming from an automobile accident. In the end he presents an interesting question of nature versus nurture, i.e. was he meant to be a ladykiller, a real killer, or both? 

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Vintage Pulp May 14 2010
WHISPER FROM THE PAST
Driben covers and clever interior design made the early Whisper a visual treat.

Whisper magazine from May 1951. This is the first time we’ve posted an issue of the early Whisper, with its classic cheesecake covers painted by Peter Driben. Inside, the designers do good work with a three-color format, using judicious swaths of red to spice up the visual interest. The women pictured—Joy Madison, Cindy Sullivan, Pat Swanson, and the curiously named Kevin Daley—left nary a ripple in the historical record. Too bad the internet didn’t exist then—they could have leaked a sex tape and had nice careers in reality television. We have more of these old Whisper mags we’ll be posting soon. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
January 21
1950—Alger Hiss Is Convicted of Perjury
American lawyer Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury in connection with an investigation by the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC), at which he was questioned about being a Soviet spy. Hiss served forty-four months in prison. Hiss maintained his innocence and fought his perjury conviction until his death in 1996 at age 92.
1977—Carter Pardons War Fugitives
U.S. President Jimmy Carter pardons nearly all of the country's Vietnam War draft evaders, many of whom had emigrated to Canada. He had made the pardon pledge during his election campaign, and he fulfilled his promise the day after he took office.
January 19
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
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