And now, gentlemen, if you'll excuse me, I'm overdue for a flight on Wacky Backy Airlines.
In Hollywood, everything is a photo op—even one's own embarrassing release from the stifling clutches of state confinement. Above you see a progression of three press photos made today in 1949, featuring famed stoner Robert Mitchum being freed from the lock-up after his marijuana conviction. Mitchum makes the most of the moment, looking dapper and unruffled despite PTSD over some terrifying episodes in the prison laundry and a few narrow escapes from damage to that pretty face of his. Actually, we have no idea what he went through. We suspect it was reasonably untroubled, but probably only Mitch and his ganja dealer ever knew the truth.
These shots are a follow-up to our look at Mitchum going into jail on February 9. He was supposed to serve sixty days, but earned an early release for good behavior and unshakable cool. We don't know if an early release was also granted to... to... we've forgotten her name—that chick he got caught smoking with who was sent to jail the same day. Anyway, just look at ole Never-Let-Em-See-Ya-Sweat. Doesn't he look great? The hair. The perfectly tailored suit. The roguish gleam in his eye that says he's going to get miiiiiiiles high as soon as he gets home. You know what we love about Mitch? Nothing could keep him down for long.
This is your cell, Mitchum. You'll survive fine. Miss Leeds, yours is in the other wing and I'm sorry to say it's the last anyone'll ever hear of you.
In this press photo, a Los Angeles police deputy named Marjorie Kellog, in black, escorts Lila Leeds and Robert Mitchum to jail after their sentencing for marijuana related charges today in 1949. They'd been arrested the previous August after a police sting operation and been sentenced to a year behind bars, but the judge suspended the sentence and gave them two years probation, sixty days of which were to take place in Los Angeles County Jail. Mitchum had fretted that his acting career was over, but he emerged from his stint in lock-up more popular than ever, and law enforcement axe grinders learned an important lesson—arresting stars in hopes of ruining their careers risked making them appealing as rebels.
Leeds, however, wasn't a star. She was a fledgeling actress who'd accumulated nine film appearances, six of them uncredited. It's possible to argue that, had she been a big star her career would have been severely damaged because she was a woman. But on the other hand Lana Turner went through the scandal of her daughter's killing of Johnny Stompanato, was exposed as a mobster's mistress, yet her subsequent movie was one of her biggest hits. But Turner was seen by the public as someone led astray by a bad man. So in the end it's difficult to say if Leeds got a raw deal because she was a woman. Probably. It's usually a safe bet. We can only say for sure that with no earnings record and no power, her dreams of stardom died.
Just a D.O.G. going about his J.O.B.
Those of us in fat, modern societies tend to forget that hunger is probably the number one behavioral driver inscribed in our genes. It need not be said that this especially goes for animals. To a domesticated dog humans are a good provider of meals, but to a wild dog that's hungry, a human—once he stops moving around, throwing rocks at you, and yelling weird mouth noises at you—becomes the meal. That's sometimes the case even with domesticated dogs, under specific circumstances. Pet dogs trapped with dead owners in houses, apartments, or even sometimes in the woods, start chewing on master's face when they eventually get hungry.
This week in Zacatecas, Mexico a cartel related gang killing led to the grisly sight of a dog trotting down a local street with a severed human head in its mouth. A bystander filmed the animal as it was busily taking care of job one: discreetly get the head somewhere quiet and safe to enjoy in peace. A dog carrying a head presents an awkward mental image, so we thoughtfully provided the camera phone screen grab above. It's low-rez, but as you can see (and never unsee) the dog carried its intended meal upside down by a chunk of handy neck flesh, easy as pie. Dogs are MacGyverish when they need to be. Years ago we were at a barbecue when one jumped on a picnic table, grabbed a pot of pork and beans by the handle, and fled into the nearby trees.
This decapitated head story caught our eye not just because it's unusual, but because PSGP has a history with wild dogs. There was a pack that terrorized the somewhat isolated barrio where he lived in Guatemala, and their aggressive behavior was a problem. They surrounded him more than once. But he was sympathetic to their difficult lives, so he gave them a massive pig's head to eat. He cooked it especially for them, though he admits he didn't season it. Bland or not, he and the dogs subsequently reached good terms, and remained that way. The point is, since he's seen a dog carry a head, this Zacatecas story resonated.
It's important to note at this point that while dogs will eat humans—in part, or given the chance, in whole—that doesn't mean it's a preferred or easy decision. The Zacatecas dog was surely wondering, “Am I still a good boy?” And the answer he probably came up with was, “Let me eat first, have a good scrotal lick and a nap, and I'll get back to that perplexing conundrum later, assuming I remember to do that.” Unfortunately, he never got the chance, as he was relieved of the head by some human killjoys. He'll get another opportunity, though. The cartel wars always provide.
As far as I'm concerned whoever let the cops in should pay all our legal fees.
On this day in 1949, during the wee small hours of the morning, Robert Mitchum, Lila Leeds, Robin Ford, and Vickie Evans were hanging in a secluded Hollywood Hills home smoking a little mota when there was a scratch at the door. The house was the residence of Leeds and Evans, and it had become a spot where people, including Hollywood showbiz types, occasionally partook of the Devil's weed. By some accounts entry could be gained only via a secret knock, which—actually this is pretty clever—was to scratch at the front door like a cat. Since police had been tipped to the house's possible purpose, we can assume they too scratched at the door. We like to think they meowed too, but that probably didn't happen.
Anyway, Evans answered the door, and to her shock and dismay, in barged the police. Evans, Leeds, Mitchum, and Ford were corralled and escorted to the police station—and right into the cameras of the waiting press. The quartet are seen above with their legal representatives. Below, Mitchum, Leeds, and Ford are facing the camera, while Evans is facing away. Mitchum actually thought his career was ruined, but after being convicted of conspiracy to possess marijuana and serving sixty days in jail he continued as a top rank star. The up and coming Leeds, on the other hand, really was ruined by her conviction—at least according to her. Ford, who was a realtor, was also convicted, but we have no idea what happened to him afterward. Only aspiring dancer Evans was acquitted.
Is this where I get legal medicinal weed? Great. I need eighty kilos. For my glaucoma.
The Marijuana Mob, originally published as Figure It Out for Yourself, is another Orchid City caper from James Hadley Chase starring franchise tough guy Vic Malloy, his sidekick Kerman, and of course Paula Bensinger, his girl Friday—because you're not a real detective until you have a sizzling hot office assistant who reluctantly plays the spinster while you romance femmes fatales. Malloy runs a fixer agency called Universal Services, and this time the gig is to help a society woman pay a kidnapping ransom. Secondarily, he also tries to extricate a gambler acquaintance from a frame for murder. Drug dealers do feature prominently in the plot, but there are also many other layers and players. This tale isn't quite on the level of You're Lonely When You're Dead, in our opinion, but it's colorful and surprising. 1952 copyright, with art by Victor Olson.
Some people just can't say no.
Above is an alternate cover for N.R. de Mexico's classic drug sleaze novel Marijuana Girl, a surprisingly good tale of addiction and redemption we wrote about last year. That edition was from Uni Books and had a photo cover. This Beacon edition has a nice painted cover, which is signed but illegible. Have any idea whose signature this is below? Drop us a line.
Up and coming actress gets weeded out of Hollywood.
It was during wee hours, today in 1948, that fledgeling actress Lila Leeds was arrested, along with Robert Mitchum and two others, for possession of marijuana. The photo above was shot at her Hollywood bungalow a few days later to accompany a Los Angeles Times article about the arrest. Leeds was out on bail, and was given the opportunity to explain the circumstances around that fateful night. Her home had been portrayed in newspaper accounts as a party spot for drug users, a characterization she denied. She explained to Times readers that she'd rentedthe place because it was feminine, and because it had space for her two dogs. She also admitted that she used marijuana, which considering she hadn't gone to trial yet maybe wasn't a great idea. When Leeds had her day in court she was convicted of “conspiring to violate state health laws,” and sentenced to sixty days in jail. Robert Mitchum went to jail too, and fretted that his career had been ruined, but it was Leeds who never got another shot in Hollywood, apart from a role in the 1949 drug scare movie Wild Weed, aka The Devil's Weed, aka She Shoulda Said No. And indeed, she probably shoulda said no, because in 1948 a woman who got out of her lane was always severely punished if caught. But even if the drug conviction cost Leeds her career, she remains part of Hollywood lore, and though that's small consolation, it's still more than most can claim.
Seems naive now, but when I heard it was a recreational drug I thought it would make me spend more time outside.
Amazingly, if you go shopping for a copy of N. R. de Mexico's, aka Robert Campbell Bragg's 1951 novel Marijuana Girl, some vendors will try to charge you $200 or more. That's quite an ask for a flimsy old digest novel, but people must pay it, we guess. It certainly isn't the cover art of a hapless model that makes the book valuable. Is it the prose? Well, the book was good, in fact far better than we expected. It sets up as a drug scare novel. The main character, Joyce, goes through the full progression—i.e. youthful smalltown rebelliousness leads to a permissive lifestyle leads to the big city leads to drugs leads to harder drugs leads to prostitution and so forth. We didn't give anything away there—the rear cover provides all that information and more. We're even told Joyce hangs with jazz musicians (which you understand to mean non-whites) and trades “her very soul” for drugs, so you know where this all goes before you even reach the title page.
But Marijuana Girl also defies conventions of drug scare books. For example, it portrays nearly all the drug users as regular folks well in control of their intake. In fact, the two characters responsible for introducing Joyce to drugs are the same two who work hardest to get her off them. Other easy plot choices are avoided as well, which is rarely the case in 1950s novels with numerous non-white characters. But here's really why the book is unique—it goes into amazing detail about the process of consuming drugs. De Mexico zooms close during those moments, sharing the proper technique for smoking joints, clinically explaining how to use a needle, and how to pull blood back into the syringe to rinse out every last molecule of heroin. It's all there. This had to be shocking for 1951 readers, which we suppose is what boosts the book's value for modern collectors. Still, $200? We don't think Marijuana Girl, or any paperback, is worth that much, but it's definitely worth reading.
Lana Turner and Co. stumble badly in counterculture drug thriller.
This Italian promo poster was made for the 1969 thriller Geometria di un delitto, better known by its original title The Big Cube. Plotwise a woman played by Lana Turner marries a rich man and comes into conflict with his twenty-something daughter, played by Karin Mossberg. Their problems worsen when the rich man dies and bequeaths his money to his wife, leaving only a monthly stipend for his daughter. However, according to the will—see if you can follow this—if the daughter marries she inherits everything, but only provided stepmom gives her consent.
No, it doesn't make a bit of sense. The filmmakers wanted to generate conflict and tension, but a nonsensical stipulation in the will isn't needed to do that. Families fly apart over money all the time, even when there's plenty for everybody. But okay, you have to go with it. As the movie wears on the problems between stepmom and stepdaughter are exploited by Mossberg's drug dealer boyfriend, who comes up with the bright idea of driving Turner insane by repeatedly dosing her with LSD. Instead of the perfect murder, he's come up with the “perfect freak-out,” as he describes it. If Turner is certified insane she loses control of the fortune.
This is a movie you watch strictly for laughs, because it's ridiculous. The script and acting are terrible, and the plot must have been conceived under the influence of whatever leftover acid Turner didn't ingest. Basically The Big Cube is a drug scare movie, and like most examples from that sub-genre it's fatally dumb. But you could do worse. Mossberg is radiant, and screen legend Turner is always worth a gander even when her non-elite acting skills are exposed. There's no known Italian release date, but The Big Cube premiered in the U.S. today in 1969.
Scientist takes 7,000 pound elephant on a one way trip.
We don't just read fiction around here. We're deep into Tom O'Neill's Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties. We may talk about the book later. It's full of anecdotes from the ’60s, and last night we came across the story of Tusko and his acid trip, which occurred in August 1962. Tusko was an eleven year-old Indian elephant that had the misfortune of finding himself at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Oklahoma City at the same time a crackpot scientist named Louis Jolyon West was at the University of Oklahoma studying the effects of LSD. Why West wanted to dose an elephant is too complicated to go into here, but let's just say he anticipated the resultant data having human applications.
In order to perform the experiment West had to calculate how much acid to give Tusko, and he decisively fucked up. He administered via syringe more than 1,400 times the human dosage (other accounts vary in this regard, but O'Neill relayed the story directly from West's notes). After the injection West stood back to observe the result. Said result, according to West's notes, was “Tusko trumpeted, collapsed, fell heavily onto his right side, defecated,” seized, and died.
Other versions of the story contain more detail. Apparently Tusko ran around his pen trumpeting (presumably the elephant equivalent of “I am tripping balls, dude!), before falling over. West, his keen scientific senses detecting trouble, decided to calm Tusko by injecting him with either Thorazine or promazine-hydrochloride (accounts vary) and phenobarbital. These doses were also massive, because once you've wildly overestimated the amount of LSD to give to an elephant, it's best to also wildly overestimate the amount of tranqs he might need. These second injections, running into the thousands of milligrams, may have been the actual cause of Tusko's death. We have profound sympathy for all the animals stuck on Earth with us casually murderous, ravenously omnivorous humans, but even in the endless annals of animal cruelty there are episodes so bizarre you can only marvel. Committing elephanticide using LSD is one of them.
After the Tusko fiasco West eventually made his way to a research position in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, and was there at the same time as Charles Manson, which is why his story appears in O'Neill's book. You'd think he'd been run out out of Oklahoma City on a rail, but you'd be wrong. He had CIA connections, and cruelty is an asset in those quarters. He had already dosed humans without their permission during his days at the CIA's MKUltra program, so it actually represented an improvement in his ethics to do the same to an elephant. They say LSD can bring you into contact with the divine. That must be true, because the story of Louis West and Tusko is a work of divine comedy. And just to give it a tinge of pathos, below is a photo of Tusko on his first birthday, when he had no inkling his life would be cut short in the service of pseudo-science.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
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