Welcome to Wilson's house of pain and leather.
American actress Ajita Wilson was born in Brooklyn but became a big star in Italian sexploitation and porn movies. She was transsexual, having been born George Wilson, but opting for gender reassignment in the mid-1970s. She launched her career in New York City, making a name for herself in the red light district of the era, which back then was centered around Times Square, these days aka Disneyland east. Not long after she launched her adult career she was seen by a European producer and offered a chance to work across the pond in historic Rome. She jumped at the chance.
Wilson appeared in close to fifty movies, starting with 1976's The Nude Princess. In Perverse oltre le sbarre, which is known in the U.S. as Hell Behind Bars, she plays a killer and jewel thief named Conchita who gets tossed in the prigione and has to negotiate the usual women-in-prison staples—corruption, violence, lesbianism, and a sadistic warden. Oh, and let's not forget screechy girl fights, and sexual harassment showers. Did we leave anything out? Ah, cavity searches. Can't forget those. Torture by high voltage shock. Illicit drugs. Karate chopping double-crossers. Breathy sexploitation soundtrack. Maybe that doesn't count, though, because the prisoners theoretically can't hear it.
Yes, this prison Ajita ends up in is pretty bad, but it could be worse—at least the warden lets the women wear lingerie. Rita Silva and Linda Jones co-star in what becomes a standard WIP escape drama, and of course the escape is more fraught than anyone expected. As prison sexploitation Perverse oltre le sbarre is the same as most others, with the exception that the budget is obviously lower. With nearly fifty films to her credit Wilson almost certainly made something better. We'll take a look and see if we can find which efforts those might be, and you'd be advised to do the same and skip this one. We'll see Wilson again, though. Perverse oltre le sbarre opened in Italy today in 1984.
National Spotlite gives readers a Halloween fright.
Another colorful National Spotlite cover, another set of wild stories to go along with it. In this one, published today in 1971, a couple of alleged New York models named Joan Goddard and Ursula Daniels expound upon the joys of same-sex love. These stories get explicit. How explicit? See if this doesn't make you sit up and take notice: “Her tongue quivered inside my sheath, licking its moistness and crawling up to flick and toy with my love-button. Then she sucked in the lips of my sex, taking my entire vagina in her warm mouth, scratching the delicate folds of flesh with her teeth and licking it all with her marvelous tongue.”
Written by a guy, don't you think? We can't confirm that. We can't—shall we say—put a finger on it, but it's a strong suspicion. Know why? Because generally these magazines were put together by balding forty-somethings in smoky offices as they burned through caffeine by the cup and anti-hemorrhoid cream by the tube. In any case, you see once again that these ’70s tabs were just sleaze literature in disguise, and in this case the goal was to titillate male readers, but also leave them disconcerted about being left out of potential woman sandwiches. If women were no longer sexually interested in men, surely the world was going to hell in a handbasket.
Lesbian models are fine as far getting male readers hot and bothered, but the story that's really meant to blow minds is “Sexual Witch Cults, U.S.A.” Again, more sleaze in disguise: “In the name of Beelzebub our Lord and Master, I consecrate thee. In this act we join with His Satanic Majesty in recognizing his power over our bodies and minds.” And the fucking begins. A naked man, his penis jutting solid from his thighs (!), strides up to the slim, dark girl on the altar and slides his full length into her waiting triangle.
The idea here is sexual devil cults—filled with men whose penises jut directly from their thighs—are spreading across the U.S. like hellfire. After two full pages of sexual detail that would make even a confessional priest blush, expert mystic Paul Rashau is wheeled out to admonish readers that, despite all the multiple orgasms and red hot sexual ecstasy, the cultists are “monkeying with forces they don't understand, and will surely destroy themselves.” Hmm... Scary, but even so, we might take the multiple orgasms now and worry about burning in hell later. But that's just us. See extensive scans from Spotlite here, here, here, and here.
Laura Gemser turns out to be one twisted sister.
Laura Gemser again? Really? Well, she made a lot of movies and we find them highly amusing. This one was called Suor Emanuelle, aka Sister Emanuelle, and we'll tell you up front it'll probably be wildly offensive to anyone with religious beliefs, as she plays the horniest nun in L'Aquila, Italy. She doesn't start that way. At first she's one cold penguin, but as we've mentioned before, exotic places heat her up. Plus in the convent she finds herself in close company with Mónica Zanchi, who knows exactly which of Gemser's buttons to press. That chilly old convent starts cooking, with Gemser giving in to Zanchi, and Zanchi regularly hiking Vinja Locatelli's treasure trail. But it wouldn't be ’70s sexploitation without some hairy men. Enter Gabriele Tinti as a bank robber hiding out in the stables. Gemser and Zanchi both take carnal communion with him, multiple times. All in all, Suor Emanuelle is a typical Gemser sex flick—ethereal, ridiculous, a bit quaint by today's standards, and not to be taken at all seriously. We give it two-and-half nipple-kisses. It premiered in Italy today in 1977.
I know it's supposed to be a good luck symbol, but I'm seeing it in the mirror and it's kind of turning me off.
Above, an alternate poster for the Japanese melodrama Manji, aka All Mixed Up, which premiered today in 1964. And before any readers get all mixed up, it has nothing to do with Nazis. We already talked about the movie, and you can read what we wrote here.
Everybody who was anybody was fair game in Harrison's Hollywood.
In independent journalism there's a battle raging at all times, as those with power attempt to intimidate the press, make its work difficult, control its narrative, restrict its access, redefine what constitutes journalism, or even cast individual members of the press as public enemies. It's a battle that never ends. Confidential magazine was an important soldier on the journalistic battlefield. For ages anything that appeared in Hollywood gossip magazines was carefully crafted and groomed by the studios, which maintained power by denying access to all but officially accredited press outlets.
Maverick publisher Robert Harrison was a visionary who realized the public would open their wallets and pay for the lurid truth—even if the rush to get startling scoops meant the truth was sometimes only half-correct. Confidential appeared in 1952, and had the studios quivering in their boots by 1954. The issue you see here came later, this month in 1963, in what is acknowledged as the magazine's later, tamer period, a defanging that came about thanks to numerous lawsuits launched by Hollywood stars, backed by powerful California politicians.
Confidential still managed to entertain, even if its stories were of a less invasive nature than before. But notwithstanding the new rules of engagement, some targets received particularly scathing treatment. Liz Taylor and Richard Burton were among them. The magazine says their legendary affair on the set of Cleopatra began as a studio publicity stunt, which backfired when Taylor actually fell for Burton—and into his bed. That may be true, but failure can be relative. On one hand Taylor's squeaky clean image was ruined forever, but on the other the story of her affair generated immense amounts of free press for Cleopatra.
Other celebs who get cooked on the rotisserie include Joan Collins, Anthony Newley, Rex Harrison, Vince Edwards, and pioneering trans entertainer Christine Jorgensen. The magazine also tackled the issue of street prostitution in New York City and an epidemic of glue sniffing among American teens. We have a set of scans below and—stop us if you've heard this before—an entire tabloid index with thirty more posts about Confidential, to be found here.
When you girls invited me here I think I heard a word other than “sax.”
This amazing cover was painted by Warren King. We'd give just about anything for a lithograph of this. Hot Lips is about an “all-girl" orchestra called the Musical Queens and the things they do when boys aren't around. Which we can understand. Just look at the male figure here, whose name is Pete. What exactly does he bring to this party? A sense of brooding entitlement? A vague homophobic hostility? The latter, for sure, since he lost his wife to another woman and is dismayed to find himself in sexual competition with the band's man-hating sax player. Why does saxy Mona hate men? Because her husband turned out to be a drag queen. But all Pete has to do is wait a bit, because while the wholesome, virginal object of desire in this, Althea, may be tempted by wild musical lesbians, such assignations are never permanent in mid-century genre fiction. It's heteronormativity or death—literally, sometimes. Put Hot Lips in the lesbians-are-bad bin with a pile of other novels from the period. We'll keep an eye out for more cover work from Warren King, because this is just great. It's copyright 1952.
To Bibi or not to Bibi? That's a rhetorical question.
Remember way back when we talked about the Marie Forså sexploitation flick Bibi? Probably not. It was years ago. In any case we found a collection of promo images from the film and we're not going to pass up an excuse to revisit it because, though the film is not great, Forså and women like her are historical treasures, artifacts of a type of cinema that has all but disappeared. Some say that's a good thing. We don't. To have sex is biologically hardwired into us, and it's constantly on our minds, therefore exploring its possibilities in media—whether visual, written, musical, or merely spoken—is about as normal a compulsion as we can imagine. Bibi is a helluva piece of media. It was made in Sweden but these promos are West German, and show Forså and co-stars Anke Syring, Birgit Zamulo, et al., in a colorful light. Bibi, aka Girl Meets Girl, aka Confessions of a Sex Kitten, premiered in West Germany today in 1974.
An errant pass leads to an infamous court case.
The National Insider takes on a controversial subject with this issue that hit newsstands today in 1963. The gist of the story is that forty-something George Brinham invited sixteen-year-old Laurence Somers to his London flat, made a pass by saying, “Give us a kiss,” and got clocked on the head by a shocked Somers with a wine decanter. Brinham died, and Somers went on trial for murder. As the details came out, the British public learned that Somers didn't merely hit Brinham once, but three or four times. He then dragged Brinham's body into the bedroom, hit him once more for good measure, and tried to stage the apartment to look as if a burglar had been the assailant. But haste makes waste—he left his coat and a pair of gloves in Brinham's flat. Police caught up with him shortly thereafter and he was arrested and charged with murder.
The case was fascinating. The judge immediately reduced the charges from murder to manslaughter. Defense attorneys portrayed Brinham, a former Labor Party official, as predatory and decadent. A pathologist testified that his body showed “physiological indications of the practice of homosexuality,” and added that his skull was “half the normal thickness.” Meanwhile, Somers' virility and youth was played up, how he once swung a sledgehammer in an abattoir and became unusually strong. At the end of the trial the judge flatly directed the jury to find Somers not guilty, stating: “[Brinham] attempted to make homosexual advances. I think that is about as clear a case of provocation as it is possible to have.” In the end the jury indeed set Somers free.
In general, bludgeoning someone to death for making a non-violent pass, further damaging the body, tampering with the scene, attempting a cover-up, and failing to report a death should result in some charge or other sticking. But not this time. Insider's take on the event pretends journalistic impartiality, but in reality weights the scales. Somers gets the final word: he discusses his incredulity at “setting out for an innocent Saturday night and finishing up a killer.” He'd heard about homosexuals, he says, but never met one. The same could be said of the British public. But after George Brinham was outed, it thought it had. The case confirmed mainstream Britain's toxic prejudices against gay men. But Somers was never forgotten by friends and advocates—his murder became a spark for the gay rights movement of the 1970s.
Ladybug sings the blues for French music lovers.
This is a cool little item. It's a record sleeve from famed transgender entertainer Coccinelle, whose nickname is French for “Ladybug.” The record is called Jacques Dufresnoy dit Coccinelle, referencing her pre-trans name, and there are two tunes—“Je cherche un millionaire” on the a-side, and “Avec mon petit faux-cul” on the b. We think both songs are pretty cool evocations of a bygone era of supper clubs, cabarets, and jazzy dance numbers. We were born too late to go to such places, but we can listen to this type of music and pretend. If you want to pretend too, you can listen to the songs here and here.
That's a lovely compliment, but I haven't showered since yesterday. I did make some muffins earlier.
This is an interesting cover for the 1962 novel Sweet Smell of Lust by Arnold Marmor, with its mirror perspective and extra large Oscar standing on the bureau. Basically, it's the story of two women vying for the same plum film role. One woman is older, desperate, and ruthless enough to pull dirty tricks for the role, while the other is young and naive to the point that she'll do whatever she's asked, even if it means ending up on her back. There's something in the air indeed—pheromones. Agents, directors, criminals, hardcore partiers, and the obligatory oversexed lesbian round out the cast. There are numerous vintage books in this Hollwood sleaze category, so many that the genre cries out for a cover collection. Maybe we'll put one together.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
Winston Churchill resigns as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom amid indications of failing health. He had suffered a mild stroke during the summer of 1949, and another, more severe stroke, in June 1953. News of these events were kept from the public and from Parliament, who were told that Churchill was suffering from exhaustion. After his retirement he suffered yet another stroke in February 1956, but survived for nine more years before finally dying of a fourth stroke in 1965.
1976—Howard Hughes Dies
Eccentric American billionaire Howard Hughes, one of the world's richest men, and a former movie magnate and aviation pioneer, dies on an airplane en route from Mexico to Texas. After years of self neglect, he is almost unrecognisable and fingerprints are used to identify his body. In addition, he is determined to have died without a will, meaning twenty-two cousins inherit his fortune.
2005—Rainier III Dies
Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, whose 50-plus year reign made him one of the longest ruling monarchs of the 20th century, dies of heart and kidney conditions after more than a year of progressively worse health. Rainier is probably best known outside Europe for marrying American actress Grace Kelly, and he was buried in Monaco next to her, twenty-three years after she had perished in a car accident.
1943—Conrad Veidt Dies
German actor Conrad Veidt, who starred in films such as The Man Who Laughs and The Thief of Baghdad, but was most famous for playing the Nazi antagonist Major Strasser in the all-time cinema classic Casablanca, dies of a heart attack on a golf course in Los Angeles, just six months after Casablanca was released.
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