Sometimes to find yourself you need to lose yourself.
It's probably fair to call Beebo Brinker a legendary novel—or at least a notable one. Last in a series of lesbian themed tales written by Ann Bannon, née Ann Weldy, but written as a prequel to the other books, it came out in 1962 and follows young Beebo as she arrives in New York City's Greenwich Village and quickly becomes the most intriguing and sought after denizen of the local scene, searching for and finding herself with the help of her roommate Jack Mann, and a trio of diverse sexual partners.
Of the three, her true love is Paula Ash, who arrives too soon to hold on to a Beebo bent on exploring her boundaries. Part of that exploration involves following a famous actress named Venus Bogardus to Los Angeles, where she's contracted to star in a television show called Million Dollar Baby (no relation to the Clint Eastwood movie). Having found her way out of the closet in Greenwich Village, in Hollywood Beebo has to go right back in to protect Venus's public persona.
Beebo Brinker is a talky book, melodramatic in parts, and highly romantic as well, which Bannon manages to make work thanks to better than average authorial skills, a good sense of Village life, and of course an excellent feel for her main character. Even so, we can't recommend it for everyone simply because it's a tale of self discovery and those tend to be more compelling for people below a certain age. If you've compiled a lot of life experience you probably won't find Beebo's groping her way to sexual awakening very fascinating. But objectively, it's a good book, and we liked it.
The cover on this Gold Medal edition, if you didn't recognize the style immediately, is by Robert McGinnis, and the image is custom made for the novel, showing Beebo upon her arrival in the Village with a wicker suitcase and no idea where to go, standing on the corner of Bleecker and Gay Streets. If you've spent time in the Village you know that Bleecker and Gay don't intersect in reality, so that was McGinnis taking a little license. His cover is, in all respects, excellent work.
They're trouble in triplicate.
The above poster was made for Sanbiki no mesubachi, usually known in English as Three Pretty Devils, starring Reiko Ohara, Yoko Ichiji, and Junko Natsu. It concerns three female con artists who are running loose during the gigantic World Expo in Osaka. They engage in every type of grift—they pick pockets, sell counterfeit parking passes, coax free meals from bedazzled older men, engage in a little sexual blackmail, and more. Eventually they get the bright idea to put together an escort service for foreigners, but in order to do so have to cross the local yakuza. Needless to say, that's a bad idea.
The yakuza boss, who's played to the edge of caricature by a frowning, sneering Tsunehiko Watase, perceives the girls more as an opportunity than as competition, and wants to turn them into escorts. Ohara's mancrush Saburo, a yakuza footsoldier, tells her to leave Osaka before it's too late, but when the yakuza find out about his betrayal they shoot the poor sap dead. No self-respecting devil gives up easily, so even cold-blooded murder doesn't end the girls' scheming ways. Eventually their chance for a big score finally comes when Natsu appropriates a bank document worth 200 million yen. The yakuza, as always, stands in their way.
Our synopsis makes this all sound dramatic, but the movie is mostly lightweight, with serious moments but a lot of comedy and music. Regarding the latter, legendary gay performer Pītā has a featured role as a transvestite nightclub singer. It was an early role for him. He's on the promo art in the red turtleneck, which is why there are seemingly four pretty devils on a poster where you'd expect three. While he serves as local color in a nightclub that features prominently in the plot, his treatment by the filmmakers is completely respectful, which is noteworthy considering the year. On the whole, Sanbiki no mesubachi is a pretty good movie. It premiered today in 1970.
Just a little something to help pass the time.
Above is the cover of an issue of National Informer Reader published today in 1974. Some people will tell you that the trans community is a new thing, but it isn't, and we know because vintage tabloids have been obsessed with the subject for more than sixty years. If you don't believe us check here, here, here, here, and here. Reader visits the topic with a story on trans entertainer Jennifer Fox. In cheap tabloids the stories were often made up, but Fox existed. She underwent gender reassignment in 1968 and became a burlesque dancer in Las Vegas. In other stories she's noted that once knowledge of her change became widely known, interest in her exploded and she became a star attraction. The only thing is, we don't think the photo Reader printed is Fox. Her face looks wrong, Fox was usually blonde, and not many burlesque dancers posed frontally nude after becoming famous—it would have devalued the moneymaker. Probably Reader never actually spoke to Fox. The editors simply knew a useful story when they saw it, and used a handout photo that looked good. When it comes to tabloids in this tier almost nothing is 100% accurate. Scans below.
The king of tabloids sets its sights on the Queen of Greece.
Every month when Confidential magazine hit newsstands, we imagine Hollywood celebrities receiving the bad news that they'd made the cover, and going, “Shit.” This issue published in January 1964 features Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Frank Sinatra, and Jill St. John. The first three members of that group probably took the news in stride, since they were all tabloid staples by then. St. John wasn't quite at their level, but her links with Sinatra kept her in the scandal sheets for a while too.
A person who wasn't used to Confidential's attentions was Frederica of Hanover, who at the time was Queen Consort of Greece—which is just a fancy way of saying she was married to the King of Greece. Confidential says she was a Nazi, a pretty serious charge, needless to say. Was she? Well, her grandfather was Kaiser Wilhelm II, as a girl she was a member of Bund Deutscher Mädel, which was a branch of the Hitler Youth, and she had brothers in the SS. Also, back in 1934 Adolf Hitler wanted to link the British and German royal houses, and tried to pressure Frederica's parents into arranging for the seventeen-year-old girl to marry the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII. And as Queen Consort she made a habit of meddling in Greek politics in ways that made clear she was not a fan of democracy. None of that is a particularly good look.
She had defenders, though, who believed that for a person in her position it would have been impossible not to have been a member of certain groups and to have socialized with Nazis. It's interesting, isn't it, how the rich and powerful always benefit from a special set of excuses? People can't really expect her to have made a stand, can they? But the excuse is hollow. As a high ranking royal she could have avoided anything she wished. Membership in organizations when she was a little girl is one thing, but as an adult she could have denounced Nazism with damage to her reputation the only potential result. A damaged reputation is no small thing, but if we expect resistance from people who'd have been imprisoned or shot for doing so, we should probably expect the same from people who would have suffered mostly dirty looks.
Confidential focuses on Frederica's July 1963 visit to England. The visit was no big surprise—Frederica, her husband King Paul of Greece, Queen Elizabeth, and her husband Prince Philip, were all related. They were all direct descendants of Queen Victoria. Monarchy is a funny thing, isn't it? The visit triggered a protest of about three thousand British leftists that was violently broken up by five thousand police. The protestors carried banners that said, “Down with the Nazi Queen.” After mentioning this fiasco, Confidential delves into Frederica's history, some of which we've outlined above, then loops back to the protests, which she blamed on the British press. But she had already reached a level of notoriety that usually brought out protestors who loudly booed her, particularly in Greece. She eventually retreated from public life, became a Buddhist, and died early at age sixty-three.
Confidential's unexpected exposé on Frederica wasn't out of character for the magazine. It was the top tabloid dog in a very large kennel. It had an expansive staff, serious reporters, hundreds of informers spread across the U.S. and Britain, and published stories about heavy hitters from all sectors of society. It had a regressive political agenda, as its article filled with terrible slander against gays and lesbians makes clear, but even with its rightward slant it took pains to keep its reporting framework factual. That makes it a priceless source of contemporaneous info about public figures, particularly of the Hollywood variety. We doubt we'll ever stop buying it, because we never know who we'll find inside. Twenty-plus scans below.
I've been working on some fresh runway poses. I call this one: sociopathicool.
Above: a cover for Australian author Neville Jackson's, aka Gerald Glaskin's 1965 novel No End to the Way. What you see here is a 1967 edition from the British publisher Corgi. This is a significant book, one of the first novels with gay themes to be widely available in Australia. It wasn't legal to mail into the country, so Corgi, the legend goes, flew it in aboard chartered planes to skirt the law.
Plotwise what you get here is a drama about Ray and Cor, two men who meet in a bar and form a relationship that becomes committed, and seems aimed toward permanence—which is exactly when their most serious challenge arises in the form of a bitter ex-lover. This ex is determined to ruin what Ray and Cor have built, up to and including slander, career damage, and more.
We were quite interested in the cover art because Corgi was a mainstream publisher, and with this bright yellow effort they gave this controversial book the full court press. The push, the art, and the quality of the story worked—it was reprinted at least twice, and in fact was Jackson's/Glaskin's best selling book. He was an eclectic and fairly prolific writer, so maybe we'll run across him again later. There's a good bio here. Now we're going to work on that pose.
West German magazine tears down the wall.
German isn't one of our languages, but who needs to read it when you have a magazine with a red and purple motif that's pure eye candy? Every page of this issue of the pop culture magazine Bravo says yum. It hit newsstands today in 1957 and is filled with interesting and rare starfotos of celebs like Romy Schneider, Horst Buchholz, Clark Gable, Karin Dor, Mamie Van Doren, Ursula Andress, Marina Vlady, Corinne Calvet, jazzists Oscar Peterson and Duke Ellington, and many others. This was an excellent find.
We perused other issues of Bravo and it seemed to us—more so in those examples than this one—that it was a gay interest publication. After a scan around some German sites for confirmation we found that it was as we thought. The magazine's gay themes were subtle, but they were there, and at one blog the writer said that surviving as a gay youth in West Berlin during the 1960s, for him, would have been impossible without Bravo. We will have more from this barrier smashing publication later. Thirty-five panels below.
It's not short for Louanne. It's short for Louis. She went to one of those fancy clinics. And I gotta say they did a beautiful job.
This is an interesting nightclub style cover painted by Victor Olson for Donald Henderson Clarke's A Lady Named Lou. It would be amazing if it were actually about an entertainer who began life as a male, like mid-century trailblazers Coccinelle, Abby Sinclair, or Roxanne Alegria (if you've followed Pulp Intl. for a while you know we've written about all three—links supplied). In any case, the book is actually about a woman named, not Louanne or Louis, but Lulu Finn, who tries to make it big but marries a racketeer and gets into heaps of trouble. The cover blurb makes reference to her specialty, and you may be wondering what that is. Lulu has that intangible quality that makes people believe she can dance brilliantly, though she can't, and sing like a thrush, though she's average at best, and converse like a great wit, though she's not that bright. In short, Lulu is a woman who manages to fail upward, but—unlike in the hundreds of real world examples out there—only for a while before it falls apart. This was originally published in 1946 in hardback, with this Avon paperback coming in 1952.
It's not how you start. It's how you finish.
We've talked before about the mid-century tabloid interest in transexuals, and how several trans burlesque performers achieved widespread fame. Those old tabloid covers serve to contradict people who claim that trans issues are a product of the new millennium, or that “it didn't happen in their day.” They just didn't notice. As the links in the above post show, transexual entertainers regularly made headlines in tabloids that sold millions of issues per month. To the list you can now add Gayle Sherman, who you see on this cover of The National Insider published today in 1963. This wasn't the height of her fame. A year later Novel Books would publish I Want To Be a Woman!, touted as the autobiography of a female impersonator. And still, she was just getting started.
Sherman started life as Gary Paradis, but became Sherman after a name change at age sixteen. As a transvestite she scored a job dancing for the Jewel Box Revue, which was a comedic drag queen show that criss-crossed the U.S. for more than thirty years. Probably the Jewel Box Revue deserves a write-up of its own, but the shorter version is it was the most popular extravaganza of its kind, and was run by gay management who were marketing to straight audiences.
Sherman moved on from the revue and worked mainly in Chicago, appearing at places such as the Nite Life, where her act sometimes involved dressing as a witch doctor and roasting a fake baby over a fire while singing Yma Sumac songs. Sometime later she underwent gender reassignment surgery, and all the while was passing through a string of pseudonyms, among them Gerri Weise, Brandy Alexander, and Geraldine Parades.
She eventually opted for breast enlargement surgery and at that point became Alexandria the Great 48, a stage name under which she would become a national celebrity. The number of course referenced her bust size. She was sometimes dubbed “Sophia Loren's twin,” but when audiences paid to see her they got something wholly different. She had left burlesque and moved into standard stripping, sometimes appearing at porno cinemas between features. She continued dancing until 1967, when bluenose politicians in Chicago managed to outlaw nude dancing. Sherman became a hairdresser, and was out of the public eye until her death in 2019.
As we mentioned above, vintage tabloids often featured transexuals, and while those stories were always sensationalistic, they were also surprisingly non-cruel. Not always, but often. The editors' accepting stances probably weren't sincere. Because tabloid readership was generally a cross section of middle class, middle American squares, the tone of the articles tended be: “this wild stuff happens in Hollywood and Paris, but who knows, maybe it's more prevalent than you suspect where you live.” As the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day—the tabs probably nailed it. 1.4 million Americans identify as transexual. There's no total from 1963, but you can bet it would be more than a few. In National Informer, the excellent money quote from the Gayle Sherman article is: “My birth certificate is stamped male, but my body is stamped female.” We have a photo of her below, and she's all woman.
Sekkusu and you shall find.
The above poster was made to promote the Japanese roman porno flick Sekkusu hantâ: Sei kariudo, aka Sex Hunter, and we should note, as we do periodically, that roman porno films are not porn, but imaginative softcore excursions made by very twisted minds. Proving once again that it's amazing what you can imply when frontal nudity is illegal, here you get a tale about an aspiring ballerina (played by pouty Ayako Ôta in her cinematic debut) and her teacher (Erina Miyai looking her very best) who descend into a bizarre bondage odyssey notable for the fact that most taboos you can imagine are shattered, starting with rape and kinbaku-bi, and ending with handicapped sex and incest. In between you get bottle penetrations, a snowballing, an orgy on swings, and other sexual variations. There's a plot, but not one we'll bother to outline, because it's just a framework for one hundred and seven minutes of determined attempts to shock. Even the magical Miyai can't save this one. Sekkusu hantâ: Sei kariudo premiered in Japan today in 1980.
Hi, what's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? Me, I'm trying to score some meth.
Mark Reed's 1952 thriller The Nude Stranger was going for eighty dollars on one website, but we got ours for five as part of a lot. Score. The book has a simple but effective cover painted by an uncredited artist. The story deals with the bizarre, complicated frame-up of a Florida private dick named Chet Egan, which commences when he finds a nude woman in his bed. He lives in a hotel, as people did back then, and she flees into his room from hers after trouble with a man, there to be discovered by Egan when he returns home. He gets the story from her, goes over to her room, takes care of the fella there with the old one-two, and has a corpse on his hands. And from there things go—as they always do—from confusing to confusingest, all written well enough, but unmemorable except for the labyrinthine nature of the central frame-up.
So what we have with The Nude Stranger is another so-so mystery, not a total waste of time, but nothing to go searching for either. And we'd be remiss if we didn't mention that it goes over the top with vicious homophobia. There are three gay males in the narrative, and they aren't referred to with anything other than an assortment of slurs except for one specific instance when Egan actually deigns to use one of their names. If you don't read a lot of old books it might surprise you to know that this level of disrespect is rare—not necessarily because the authors were enlightened on the subject, but because gay characters didn't feature much in vintage popular novels. The Nude Stranger, probably a completely forgotten book in the scheme of things, is notable in that respect. If you happen to be working on a thesis on homophobia in mid-century fiction, well, add this to your sources. You won't even believe it.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1958—Workers Assemble First Corvette
Workers at a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, assemble the first Corvette, a two-seater sports car that would become an American icon. The first completed production car rolls off the assembly line two days later, one of just 300 Corvettes made that year.
1950—U.S. Decides To Fight in Korea
After years of border tensions on the partitioned Korean peninsula, U.S. President Harry Truman orders U.S. air and sea forces to help the South Korean regime repel an invasion by the North. Soon the U.S. is embroiled in a war that lasts until 1953 and results in a million combat dead and at least two million civilian deaths, with no measurable gains for either side.
1936—First Helicopter Flight
In Berlin, Germany, in a sports stadium, Ewald Rohlfs takes the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 on its first flight. It is the first fully-controllable helicopter, featuring two counter rotating rotors mounted on the chassis of a training aircraft. Only two are ever produced, and neither survive today.
1963—John F. Kennedy Visits Berlin
22 months after East Germany erects the Berlin Wall as a barrier to prevent movement between East and West Berlin, John F. Kennedy visits West Berlin and speaks the famous words "Ich bin ein Berliner." Suggestions that Kennedy misspoke and in reality called himself a jelly donut are untrue.
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