Soon I realized—you don't mind if I rest my hand here do you?—I realized while at this all girls college that...
We've seen author Clement Wood before. He wrote Studio Affair, which we shared a cover for as part of this large collection, and among his other books was the anthology Flesh and Other Stories. He was multi-talented, a fact demonstrated by his forays into poetry, singing, and teaching, and he strived to be a serious author, with such diverse efforts as Julius Caesar: Who He Was and What He Accomplished, Tom Sawyer Grows Up, The Complete Rhyming Dictionary, and Sociology for Beginners. All of which meant dick to Berkley Books when it published its paperback edition of Desire. Lurid sells—and possibly kills. This appeared in 1950, and you have to wonder if Wood was mortified to death, because he died the same year.
Has your husband ever kissed you on the neck like this? No? Well, it's called foreplay, and we lesbians do it all the time.
Above is a cover for Odd Girl by Artemis Smith. The book, published in 1959, is often called a lesbian classic, and since we just read Satan Was a Lesbian, we thought we'd double up on this theme. But there's really no comparison between the two books. Satan Was a Lesbian is a crude joke, while Odd Girl is the incisively written tale of Anne, a New York City beauty who thinks she's gay and goes about searching for her true self in a world of lesbian bars and among an assortment of friends and lovers. The other women—Cora, Skippy, Beth, Esther, etc.—run the gamut from butch to femme, and in Smith's competent hands have distinctly different personalities too. As far as the men in this tale go, the focus is on one—Anne's youthful mistake of a husband Mark, who she's desperate to get rid of via divorce or annulment. If only it were that simple. If vintage fiction teaches any lesson it's that bad men don't go away easily.
We liked this book. It was serious and adult, wasn't exploitative, and had the feel of realism. The latter quality we couldn't have confirmed through personal experience, not being gay women, but the tale simply felt accurate for the period. And no wonder, because when we checked into Artemis Smith it turned out she was actually a gay woman who lived in New York City, was the author of the lesbian oriented novels The Third Sex and The Bed We Made, and was active in the mid-century civil and gay rights movements. She's probably better known today as Annselm L.N.V. Morpurgo and has a very active Twitter feed of a progressive bent. If you intend to take a foray into early lesbian fiction, Odd Girl is about as good as it gets. It's not a literary masterpiece, but it's as well written as most genre novels, and is a consistently entertaining read.
Excellent work! Now make them submit sexually while I get back to those mortgage bankers I'm slow roasting.
We'd been planning to read Satan Was a Lesbian for a while, but because we have plenty of experience with sleaze novels we didn't have high expectations. The good news is those expectations were surpassed. The bad news is the book still isn't good. The title alone makes it sound like a punchline in search of a publisher, but author Fred Haley—actually a pseudonym for Monica Roberts—tries to be serious as she tells the story of Charlene Duval: turned to lesbianism when barely a woman, initiated into rough practices by the violent Billie and her partner Karen, emotionally touched by her innocent young lover Cynthia, eventually case-hardened into a take-no-shit woman of the world. Is she really Satan? Come on, would Satan be named Charlene?
Think of Satan Was a Lesbian as the Thelma and Louise of vintage lesbian fiction, with the added tragedy that the book sometimes sells for as much as $350. Really? Yes. Just because of a catchy title and a piece of lurid Doug Weaver cover art? Yes, and not only that, but even refrigerator magnets and posters of this cover go for fifteen bucks, so to say everything associated with it is inflated in value is an understatement. But if you poke around and show some patience, you might not have to pay a fortune. The thing about these types of books is that eventually someone always sells them without knowing what the market is because they just want to get rid of grandpa's dog-eared old smut. Alternatively, you could buy a refrigerator magnet, stare at it, and make up your own story. It would probably be nearly as good.
Sir Squeezalot starts slow but once he gets warmed up he's a hell of a lot of fun.
1967's Diary of a Dyke was published by Greenleaf Classics for its imprint Pleasure Readers, and the, er, interesting cover was painted by Tomas Cannizarro. The book was written by Robert Silverberg under his Don Elliott alter ego. The distinguished Silverberg is of course famous as the mind behind award winning novels like A Time of Changes and Lord Valentine's Castle, but early in his career he paid the bills by surreptitiously cranking out sleaze classics like LSD Lusters and Sin on Wheels. When these serious writers are outed for their early smut we always picture them reacting like vampires suddenly exposed to the light, shrinking into a far corner and hissing eternal curses. But Silverberg seems pretty chill about having worked in soft porn. He even wrote the foreword to one of the reprints. We'll undoubtedly run across more from him and his worse half later, but until then feel free to click his/their keywords below and explore our previous postings.
Coffee isn't going to get the job done today. You got any of that 8-ball left over from last weekend?
Based on the bummed expressions on the faces of the coffee drinkers on this cover for Larry Tuttle's The Bold and the Innocent, they've just come to the conclusion that they need stimulation of a higher order than caffeine. At least that's what it looks like to us. But this is a swinger sleaze novel, which means the only way they'll get their hands on 8-balls is if they have sex with 4 guys. That doesn't happen. Instead the story deals with two married women who cross the line with each other. You know the one. The lesbian line. That always leads to serious trouble in mid-century fiction, and The Bold and the Innocent is probably no exception. 1965 on this, with uncredited art, though it's possibly Bill Edwards.
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. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—Apollo Fire Kills Three Astronauts
Astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee are killed in a fire during a test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Although the ignition source of the fire is never conclusively identified, the astronauts' deaths are attributed to a wide range of design hazards in the early Apollo command module, including the use of a high-pressure 100 percent-oxygen atmosphere for the test, wiring and plumbing flaws, flammable materials in the cockpit, an inward-opening hatch, and the flight suits worn by the astronauts.
1924—St. Petersburg is renamed Leningrad
St. Peterburg, the Russian city founded by Peter the Great in 1703, and which was capital of the Russian Empire for more than 200 years, is renamed Leningrad three days after the death of Vladimir Lenin. The city had already been renamed Petrograd in 1914. It was finally given back its original name St. Petersburg in 1991.
1966—Beaumont Children Disappear
In Australia, siblings Jane Nartare Beaumont, Arnna Kathleen Beaumont, and Grant Ellis Beaumont, aged 9, 7, and 4, disappear from Glenelg Beach near Adelaide, and are never seen again. Witnesses claim to have spotted them in the company of a tall, blonde man, but over the years, after interviewing many potential suspects, police are unable generate enough solid leads to result in an arrest. The disappearances remain Australia's most infamous cold case.
1949—First Emmy Awards Are Presented
At the Hollywood Athletic Club in Los Angeles, California, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents the first Emmy Awards. The name Emmy was chosen as a feminization of "immy", a nickname used for the image orthicon tubes that were common in early television cameras.
1971—Manson Family Found Guilty
Charles Manson and three female members of his "family" are found guilty of the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, which Manson orchestrated in hopes of bringing about Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic war he believed would arise between blacks and whites.
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