Los Angeles and the invention of Flight.
The above photos show the historic funicular railway Angels Flight, which opened in downtown Los Angeles in 1901 in the Bunker Hill area, with tracks running from Hill Street up a steep incline to Olive Street. There are only a few vintage funicular railways left in the U.S. Angels Flight—along with the impressive Monongahela Incline and the Duquesne Incline, both located in Pittsburgh—is among the most famous.
But it didn't operate without interruption. It closed in 1969 when Bunker Hill was redeveloped—in reality a destruction of an entire historic working class neighborhood—and reopened a block south in 1996. The railway's historical significance is architectural, but also cinematic. It appears in quite a few vintage films, most notably in Hollow Triumph, Night Has a Thousand Eyes, Act of Violence, Criss Cross, M, and Kiss Me Deadly.
The area near Angels Flight is set for a new redevelopment, as adjacent Angels Knoll, one of the last pieces of greenery in downtown Los Angeles, is to be bulldozed for another of the supposedly-mixed-use-but-really-millionaires-only skyscraper complexes that are popping up all over world as a way for one percenters to park their money.
Angels Flight will survive this new construction, at least for now, though it will be dwarfed by a forty story glass highrise mere feet to its south. Well, L.A. has rarely let the environment or historical significance stand in the way of making money, and when you look at it that way, the fact that Angels Flight survives at all to this day may be proof of a higher power.
Everything tastes better with Marilyn.
With holiday season upon us perhaps you're looking for something to add to your man cave that will make friends and loved ones question your taste. Above is a Marilyn Monroe whiskey decanter, commemorating her blockbuster comedy The Seven Year Itch, manufactured by the McCormick Distilling Company. This would go well with that wall mounted singing trout you bought back in the ’80s, and the novelty gumball machine you never bothered to refill. But probably the best thing about this item is that when your wife pokes her head in the room and asks if you're coming to bed anytime soon, you can pour another drink and say, “Marilyn wants me to stay.” Get 'em while supplies last.
Vickers tells Midnight readers what's what.
This cover of Midnight dated today in 1965 features Laura Vickers, who is touted as an actress, but who had no credited film roles. In fact, for a while we thought she was a made up person, but that wasn't Midnight's style. The magazine had enough cred to get legit celebrities for its covers. So we kept checking and it turns out Vickers was an obscure glamour model who appeared in super low rent magazines like Flirt 'n Skirt and Black Nylons. Midnight was probably the closest she ever came to mainstream recognition—which is to say, not very close. So what's the score? As usual with this tabloid it's about sex. A man who knows the score knows what women want. But we don't need Midnight to know what that is. The Pulp Intl. girlfriends keep us well informed what women want: it all.
Albert Camus' fatal 1960 auto accident may have been a KGB assassination.
Italian author Giovanni Catelli has just published a book that claims French writer Albert Camus was assassinated by the KGB, rather than dying in an auto accident, as largely believed. When you say the words “Cold War intrigue,” we're all in, so the story caught our eye. Catelli's theory, which he first began airing in 2011, is that the KGB silenced Camus because he was a globally famous figure who made a habit of criticizing the Soviet Union. The order was allegedly given by Dmitri Shepilov, the USSR’s minister of internal affairs, after Camus slammed him in the French newspaper Franc-Tireur in March 1957. Camus died in 1960, so the killing took three years to come to fruition, according to Catelli.
His book length argument, La mort de Camus, is getting white hot press right now, however it's very interesting to look back at contemporary articles about the crash. Camus was riding as a passenger in a car driven by his publisher Michel Gallimard, with Gallimard's wife Janine and their daughter Anne in the rear seat. Michel Gallimard died, but his wife and daughter survived to describe the crash. Michel was driving fast and had been told to slow down, and had drunk wine at dinner.
A gander at the wreckage of the heavy Farcel Vega HK500 attests to its speed. We checked the various articles popping up online and found none that mentioned either the velocity of the car or the drinking of the driver, but that's how the internet works—a fantastic claim circles the world five times faster than anything resembling balance or a fact check.
Catelli, though, has an answer for the reckless driving theory—the Soviets had attached a device to the car that would puncture a tire only in the event of sufficient speed. If the Soviets came up with the device described, it would not kick in without the added ingredient of driver haste, which often happens in conjunction with alcohol consumption, which in turn is a near certainty when talking about French people, all of which means the chances of a crash with muddied circumstances were pretty high. The device, if it ever existed, was certainly clever. It would be like a device that tied your shoelaces together, but only if you went downstairs in a rush, and you happened to live in a fourth floor flat with a balky elevator.
Catelli's belief that Camus was disposed of via assassination is bolstered by the fact that the car he was riding in somehow careened off a stretch of straight road thirty feet wide. Nobody described Michel Gallimard trying to dodge a hedgehog or pothole, so despite speed and possible drunkenness, some unforeseen factor seems required to send the vehicle into the weeds. On the other hand, three years is a long time to enact a death plot. We've seen Yankees and Red Sox fans patch their shit up in less time. But let's move this death from the settled bin into the mysterious bin, which is where we like everything to be anyway. Camus, the famed absurdist, once wrote that, “There can be nothing more absurd than to die in a car accident.” And if Catelli is correct, nothing can be more convenient either.
National Informer gets inside its readers heads.
We mentioned a while back that we bought some waterlogged tabloids. Above is the latest example from that pile—National Informer, published today in 1971, dipped like a teabag in liquid sometime after that. Inside you get the usual wild sex stories, cartoon humor, and phony outrage. But the winner in this issue is the article, “The Sexual Implications of Your Dreams.” We're going to quote it at length, because it's pretty funny:
When a man dreams of seeing a woman's sexual organs exposed, it means that a woman will soon offer herself to him. If the genitals are covered with sores, this is a bad omen, and indicates a long, serious illness which will require long treatment or surgery.
Dreams of oral intercourse with a woman indicate that success and wealth will be obtained, but that it will be quickly spent. Dreams in which a man engages in anal intercourse with a woman indicate that he will be highly successful financially, and will amass a considerable fortune.
That's priceless, and the last prediction makes perfect sense, since so many rich men have obtained their fortunes by fucking people in the ass. But Informer is not to be trusted with something as important as predicting the future. If you're looking for real dream interpretation, buy a dream book. We recommend Madame Zodia. She's legit.
Elsewhere in the issue is a handout photo of fishnet stockinged Swedish actress Janet Agren. Informer uses her to illustrate a story called “How Girls Make It Hard on Guys When It Comes to Sexual Satisfaction.” It's basically a primer on how to get women in bed, with one clever horndog taking the opportunity of a cross falling off a wall to tell a woman God wants her to have sex. That's low. And ingenious. Sixteen scans below and more Informer here.
The girl next door has a mentally unbalanced doppelganger.
These rare Marilyn Monroe pin-up posters, which are life-sized and were advertised in magazines as something to hang on a bedroom or closet door, appeared in 1953. Two different companies made these. At least we assume so, because they have different street addresses printed on them where the curious could write for info. On the platinum poster it's Pin-Ups, Dept. K, Box 86, Boston, Mass. That pretty much guarantees only single men could buy them. “Honey, what's this letter you've stamped that's addressed to Pin-Ups?” The other address works better for the partnered up: Life-Size, Dept. X, Redstone, New Hampshire. “Honey, what is this life-size place you're sending a letter to? Life-size what?” Okay, maybe that one doesn't work either.
Monroe started her career as a girl-next-door type, but had become a star, gone platinum, and gotten her famed poodle hair-do by 1953. The two pin-up companies—assuming they were separate—both somehow had the identical negative from earlier in Monroe's career. One was content to print her as she was, but the folks in Boston decided on a platinum makeover. It was a canny move, except the re-do is different enough in an almost subliminal way to make her look like a psychopath smiling because she's about to devour a human kidney. Maybe not the best thing to have staring from your closet door after midnight. At least she's wearing blue. It's well known to be the sanest color.
It's possible one company was responsible for both of these pieces, and it simply had two addresses at some point during 1953, but we're sticking with the two printer theory. What isn't a theory is that Monroe is a consummate work of art. Even when she's terrifying. We have an absolute pile of Monroe material in the website, and if you click her keywords below you'll be set upon a path that could keep you busy for a large part of your day. But focusing only on sheer pin-up awesomeness, even though the above examples are great, we prefer the one at this link. If it's not her best it's close.
China figures out how to kiloton of people.
This photo shows the first Chinese nuclear device, detonated today at Lop Nur in 1964. The U.S., Russia, France, and England were already members of the worst club ever devised—the nuclear club, the one aliens will write into the galactic history books as proof of humanity's inferior intelligence. China's tower mounted bomb was about the size of the U.S. bomb dropped on Hiroshima, a mere balloon pop. For the sake of comparison, the most powerful nuke ever detonated exploded with the power of 57 million tons of TNT, more than 1,500 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs combined. Put another way, it was ten times more powerful than all the munitions expended during World War II. Put still a third way, its shockwave circled the entire Earth three times. China very well might build a bomb like that too one day. Just to be like the cool kids. See another image of the above test here.
For British movie lovers Continental Film Review was their ticket across the English Channel.
Continental Film Review was first published—as far as we can discern—in November 1952. We decided on that month because we saw a copy from February 1953 numbered Vol. 1 Issue 4, and the masthead said the magazine was published the first week of every month. CFR would go on to become one of Britain's most popular film magazines, exposing English language readers to the wide variety of foreign movies being made across continental Europe. The above issue appeared this month in 1966 with cover star Maria Pia Conte, and numerous film personalities inside, including Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Bates, Rossana Podesta, Evi Marandi, and more. We have other issues we'll get around to sharing at some point. In the meantime see more here, here, here, and here.
Politics, show business, and sports collide in one of the U.S.'s oldest magazines.
We've shared lots of issues of The National Police Gazette, but this September 1959 cover, more than others, neatly emphasizes the magazine's three focus areas—politics, celebrity, and sports. Dishing on political figures and celebs was typical for mid-century tabloids, but Gazette's devotion to sports made it unique. And its favorite sport was boxing. Every issue we've seen has reserved a chunk of pages for the sweet science.
In this case the scientist is Sugar Ray Robinson, and the story about him discusses the rivalry he had with Carmen Basilio. The two fought twice when Robinson was in decline at the tail end of his career. Sugar Ray lost the first bout—considered by boxing historians to be one of the greatest fights ever—and a year later won the second. Every boxer declines, but Robinson's career record stands tall—he fought two hundred times and tallied 173 wins, 108 of them by knockout. But for all that hard work he ended up—as boxers often do—flat broke.
Police Gazette was launched in 1845, as incredible as that seems, and was still going strong more than a century later when this issue appeared. We have about twenty-five scans below and seventy-five more entries on Gazette in the website comprising many hundreds of pages. The easiest way to access those, as well as numerous other mid-century tabloids, is via our tabloid index located here.
Japanese brochures hearken back to a legendary venue.
It's been a while since we've done anything extensive on burlesque, so today we have something unique—the covers of Japanese brochures printed during the 1950s and 1960s to promote the famed burlesque show at Nichigeki Music Hall in Tokyo. The building that hosted those shows—the Nichigeki Theatre, below—was an architectural wonder located in Yurakucho district near Ginza. The multi-level structure welcomed music acts as well as burlesque, and had its concert stage graced by Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Krupa, and Oscar Peterson. But it is remembered, first and foremost, for its fifth floor burlesque hall.
Nichigeki Music Hall's burlesque shows began during Tokyo's grim postwar years in March 1952. It showcased both local dancers and foreign stars, often from the Folies Bergère. The program changed often, and always had evocative names like “Devil Vamp Missile Glamours” or “Aqua Girls Bottom-Up Mambo.” The clientele at these shows was international—largely U.S. soldiers from Japan's occupying forces, and tourists. Indeed the Hall advertised specifically to attract that crowd. Interestingly, the shows were produced by Toho Company, the movie studio behind the Godzilla franchise, as well as quite a few softcore movies.
Frontal nudity in entertainment was illegal in Japan, so Nichigeki's extravaganzas featured feather boas, fans, frilled mini skirts, g-strings, and the like, all designed to dazzle the audience and obscure thedancers' naughty bits. As time went by public tastes veered toward the explicit and attendance at the Hall began to decline. It closed in 1981 and the brilliant art deco influenced building was demolished, another sad architectural loss on a list so long it's pointless to even contemplate it.
But at least the brochures survive. They're amazing, front and rear, as you'll see below, with a mix of stunning paintings by Noboru Ochiai, and lovely photos. Make sure you note the titles of the shows. Our favorite: “The Lady was a Stallion,” but “A Snail's Rhapsody” is good too. On a related note, you may want to check out the post we did on archetecturally significant cinemas. You'll see some real beauties there, including another shot of the Nichigeki Theatre. We'll get back to Nichgeki Music Hall's amazing brochures a bit later. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1967—Boston Strangler Convicted
Albert DeSalvo, the serial killer who became known as the Boston Strangler, is convicted of murder and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison. He serves initially in Bridgewater State Hospital, but he escapes and is recaptured. Afterward he is transferred to federal prison where six years later he is killed by an inmate or inmates unknown.
1950—The Great Brinks Robbery Occurs
In the U.S., eleven thieves steal more than $2 million from an armored car company's offices in Boston, Massachusetts. The skillful execution of the crime, with only a bare minimum of clues left at the scene, results in the robbery being billed as "the crime of the century." Despite this, all the members of the gang are later arrested.
1977—Gary Gilmore Is Executed
Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by a firing squad in Utah, ending a ten-year moratorium on Capital punishment in the United States. Gilmore's story is later turned into a 1979 novel entitled The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer, and the book wins the Pulitzer Prize for literature.
1942—Carole Lombard Dies in Plane Crash
American actress Carole Lombard
, who was the highest paid star in Hollywood during the late 1930s, dies in the crash of TWA Flight 3, on which she was flying from Las Vegas to Los Angeles after headlining a war bond rally in support of America's military efforts. She was thirty-three years old.
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