|Intl. Notebook||Jan 10 2016|
Last night Rolling Stone, one of the U.S.’s top investigative magazines, published a pulp-worthy article on its website about Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo. The magazine sent actor Sean Penn to the jungles of Mexico to interview Guzmán, a meeting that came about at the drug kingpin’s behest because he was interested in making a movie about his life. Long story short—Guzmán ended up being captured Friday in Sinaloa, Mexico after a gun battle with police, and his ongoing contact with Hollywood figures was the primary factor that led authorities to him.
Guzmán has been imprisoned before, so nothing new there. He escaped both times. He may well escape again. His most recent breakout is detailed in the Rolling Stone article—he disappeared through a hole in his shower (see below), dropped into a mile-long tunnel, and rode away on a specially designed motorcycle on rails that had been modified to runin a low-oxygen environment. All this took at least $1 million to achieve. According to Penn and Rolling Stone, Mexican engineers were flown to Germany for specialized training in tunnel building.
The article is worth a read. Penn describes being waved through police checkpoints to Guzmán’s jungle lair, and when that fact is measured against his capture, it suggests a factionalized Mexican state, with the president and certain other top authorities conducting an anti-drug crusade even as military figures, federal officers, and local cops often work for the drug lords. But Mexico is not uniquely corrupt, and that is something that must be emphasized. The wealthy north is also in the drug trade.
Consider—the British bank HSBC knowingly laundered hundreds of millions of dollars of Guzmán’s drug profits. Yes, they knew about it. The bank was caught, and its heads talked about a “failure of standards,” but all the bankers skated from justice for this terrible crime thanks to their connections in the political world. Is this any different from Joaquín Guzmán motorcycling to freedom through a tunnel? We don’t think so. This is something that global authorities desperately want to keep the general public from understanding—the drug trade is an integral part of capitalism, not some dark subset of it.
Not convinced? The U.S. bank Wachovia laundered drug cartel money and deliberately failed to apply anti-laundering measures to $378.4 billion that passed through the institution. That amount of money is equal to one-third of Mexico's gross national product. The result? Fines of about $160 million—less than 2% of the yearly profits—and no jail for anyone in the executive suite. The list goes on. Liberty Reserve, Bank of America, Western Union, and J.P. Morgan all have drug ties. There are doubtless more we don't yet know about.
Articles in The Wall Street Journal and other establishment papers try to paint the banks as victims. Yet in the end, there are always executives who know exactly what’s happening—just like the cops that waved Sean Penn through those Mexican checkpoints. Besides, since when do victims get to charge millions in fees for their crimes? In the same way U.S. slavery was enabled by banks in New York City and Boston, which even accepted slaves as collateral, the southern drug trade cannot exist without the money laundering operations of the northern banks. And the amounts of money involved don’t just influence markets—it shapes them. Roberto Saviano, possibly the world’s foremost expert on the global drug trade, and author of the blockbuster exposé Zero Zero Zero, says, “It’s not the world of cocaine that must orbit around the markets, but the markets that must rotate around cocaine.”
|Hollywoodland||Jun 30 2015|
This gold colored June 1963 cover for Confidential magazine is entirely given over to actress Barbara Payton, whose self-penned hard-luck story appears inside and details her life troubles. The tale is well known and is one we’ve touched upon before—early marriage and early motherhood, followed by stardom, romances, and riches, followed by booze, drugs, divorces and crime. Confidential being Confidential, the editors neglect to mention that the story here is not an exclusive, but rather is excerpted from I Am Not Ashamed, Payton’s painfully revealing autobiography.
|The Naked City||May 9 2015|
A dismayed but dapper narcotics suspect named Walter Collins gets a double grilling from two LAPD detectives as they sort through a stash of contraband pharma. Collins looks like he’s got a headache, which may very well be true considering the circumstances, but of course he’s actually hiding from the intrusive Los Angeles Examiner photographer documenting his downfall. The photos were made today in 1952.
|Hollywoodland||Jan 8 2015|
The above photos show Barbara Burns when she was busted for drugs today in 1958 after LAPD officers found track marks on her arms. Burns was the well-to-do daughter of famed comedian Bob Burns, but her father had died of kidney cancer in 1956. Barbara Burns was sentenced to probation after the arrest, and the story got some play in national newspaper, with several calling her probation sentence a storybook opportunity at a second chance. But she didn’t cooperate in the role. She managed to cobble together some behind-the-cameras television work, but was arrested for heroin possession in 1959. That time she served ninety days in jail and admitted in an interview, “I’m really hooked. I had nothing else to do, and my mother wouldn’t talk to me. I wanted to be a singer but I was too heavy and they told me it would help me lose weight.”
|The Naked City||Dec 16 2014|
|The Naked City||Jun 29 2014|
The above photo shows twenty-two-year-old Eddie M. Gonzalez, who was discovered dead behind a service station located at 3822 E. Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles. In the background is police detective A.W. Frank. Police decided the cause of death was an accidental overdose, a deduction made thanks to fifty capsules of an unnamed drug found on the deceased’s person. To us the whole scene looks strange—a well-dressed, well-groomed person in shiny shoes who can afford fifty capsules of drugs doesn’t seem like the type who would need to ingest them behind a gas station and end up tangled in a pile of tires. And if suicide was his aim, why fifty leftover capsules? But maybe we’re just conspiracy minded. The photo is part of the University of Southern California’s digital archive and was taken today in 1952.
|Sportswire||Nov 15 2013|
England’s Guardian website has shared claims from ex-boxing champ Mike Tyson’s new autobiography Undisputed Truth, among them his admission that he used a fake penis called a “whizzer” to pass drug tests. We have a feeling Tyson is referring to the good ole Whizzinator 5000, invented by entrepreneurs George Wills and Robert Catalano, and which we wrote about back in 2008. In short, you’d strap the contraption inside your pants and at the moment of truth use its realistic latex phallus (which sold in various colors, but sadly only one size) to issue a stream of drug-free synthetic urine. We hailed Wills’ and Catalano’s genius, but law enforcement authorities felt differently and charged them with violating one of America’s eight million federal drug statutes.
|Politique Diabolique||Oct 14 2013|
Over the weekend, a squad of drug cops raided the London flat of a woman named Natalie Rowe based on what they described as a “tip from a member of the public.” The drug cops found no drugs, no drug paraphernalia, no sign that drugs had ever been consumed in the apartment. Why is this such an interesting story? Because Rowe, formerly a prominent madam who procured women for paying male customers, is mere days from publishing an autobiography in which she details early 1990s sex and drug parties attended by various Tory politicians. She claims one of the politicians was current Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. He appears in the photo above with Rowe, along with what she says is a line of cocaine (in full, fat view between the yellow vase and the wine glass).
|Vintage Pulp||Mar 23 2012|
As Cool and the Crazy opened, we thought the lesson was that cool was acceptable but crazy was what happened when you crossed the line. It quickly became clear that cool and crazy are synonymous, with both terms meaning that you’re beyond the pale, i.e. basically fucked. Lead actor Scott Marlowe plays Bennie Saul, and he’s both cool and crazy. The crazy part is clear, because he’s an M dealer (“M” being hepcat-speak for marijuana). He deals because he owes a big-time criminal lots of money, and the only way he can repay his debt is to get his buddies hooked on the M.
He decides to approach the task methodically. He starts with one member of his crew. This is where the cool comes in. He seduces the guy into trying it, then stands by and smirks as the poor fella tries to crawl between the grain on a wooden table. Later the same hapless chump dances with a bus stop sign as if it’s a woman, demonstrating his underlyingloneliness. Yes, Fred Astaire danced with a coat stand in Royal Wedding, and it was cute, but this bus stop sign dance is edgy stuff, highly disturbing. We hear that in the unrated version of the scene the character sexually assaults a merge sign because it was really asking for it.
Anyway, in the subplot, brooding delinquent-in-waiting Jackie Barzan meets a girl, which is only possible because he’s cool, but not yet crazy. Like Brando in The Wild One. The girl, Amy, is neither cool nor crazy. She’s warm and totally sane, with big, soulful eyes that drip redemption. Like Mary Murphy in The Wild One. While in Amy’s house one day, Jackie starts handling a ceramic bauble and Amy tells him to putit down, because it’s extremely valuable and irreplaceable. So, she’s sane, but stupid. She should know, via the Moviemaking 101 Handbook, that when an expensive bauble is handled, it will later be stolen or broken.
So, back we go to signdancer, who by now is so hooked on the M that he’s going to lose his mind if he doesn’t partake every day. The problem is he’s already spent his entire net worth. So, being a good friend but a terrible boyfriend, Jackie steals Amy’s priceless trinket to sell for more evil M, but he accidentally breaks it. Conveniently, this happens right in front of Amy, and rather than rat out his buddy, Jackie pretends to be hooked on the M himself. He whines, “You don’t know what it’s like when you’re hooked on the smoke, Amy! It’s the worst! Just the worst! When you’re hooked… you’re hooked!”
Later Jackie… actually, you know what? Let’s just yank the ripcord and end this agonizing freefall. You’ve got better things to do, right? We’ll summarize by saying that in mid-century drug movies all roads lead to either the nuthouse or a fiery wreck. That’s poor Bennie Saul in there, below, no longer cool. But he doesn’t charbroil in vain. His deathserves to reform Jackie, and perhaps even give him a shot to get back with Amy, who may be out one priceless tchotchke, but never runs dry of forgiveness.
As bad as Cool and the Crazy was, it’s an informative example of mid-century drug hysteria. All it needed was an ending voiceover: “And so Bennie Saul, rather than working hard and staying on the straight and narrow like a good American, took a shortcut that led to the graveyard. But while it’s too late for Bennie Saul, it isn’t for the rest of you out there. Play by the rules, obey the law, pay your taxes, and all your money will eventually be given away to a bunch of criminal bankers in something called a bailout.” Well, that last bit probably wouldn’t be in there. Maybe in the remake though. Cool and the Crazy opened in the U.S. this month in 1958.
|Hollywoodland||Dec 26 2011|
Sean Connery makes as many appearances in sixties and seventies tabloids as just about any celeb of the time, so here he is again in an article promoting his role in Diamonds Are Forever, which would premiere just a couple of weeks after this December 1971 National Police Gazette hit newsstands. Connery talks about his futile struggle to portray James Bond as a balding hero, and quips about making his stylist thin his wigs so there was almost no point in wearing them at all. Connery said about Bond’s aging, “No one is immortal—not me, not you, and not James Bond.” It was a commendable sentiment, but naïve. Seems as though Connery didn’t realize United Artists had already branded Bond well beyond the point where the character was tethered to any concept of aging. The studio proved that when it brought the much younger Roger Moore on the scene for 1973’s Live and Let Die. Moore would later give way to Dalton, who gave way to Brosnan, who gave way to Craig, as Bond himself remained eternally forty-ish through the passing years. Elsewhere in the Gazette you get a report on the hash capital of the world, the world’s greatest racing systems, and the usual assortment of random beauties in bathing suits. All that, plus hashish toasted cheese, below.