Vintage Pulp Mar 25 2011
BILLY THE KID
Two ships passing in the night.

Confidential magazine, more so than other mid-century tabloids, could be counted on to report upon Hollywood’s interracial romances. Generally, the editors took no definitive stance on the divisive issue, but by placing such stories front and center were clearly pandering to their mostly conservative readership’s prejudices. In this issue from March 1956, it’s Billy Eckstine and Denise Darcel who are put under hot lights. Eckstine was a popular crooner sometimes referred to as the “black Sinatra”, the “sepia Sinatra” or even the “bronze balladeer”; Darcel was a French-born actress. When they met he was separated from a wife he would later divorce and was enjoying the NYC party circuit; she was an émigré from France circa 1947, newly divorced, and trying to establish a film career.

What broke them up? Even Confidential doesn’t know for sure, but career pressure is a likely culprit. Eckstine lost a movie contract when word got out that he was spending time with Darcel. It was a significant blow, because leading movie roles for African-Americans—rare today—were pretty much non-existent back then. Eckstine had already carved out a pan-racial popularity in music, but was denied a chance to do the same in cinema. He wouldn’t appear in a movie as an actor until 1975’s Let’s Do It Again. His music career survived, however, and he remained a hitmaker for another ten years.

As for Darcel, she made some Hollywood films, but never broke big. On a few French websites we learned that her career was possibly damaged by Howard Hughes after she refused his advances, but we can’t confirm that in a language we’re actually fluent in, so don’t quote us. We do know that at age forty she went on to a career in burlesque, which you see below. Asked why she had made the move into erotic dance, she replied, "Because that's where the money is." However, that period didn't last long—three years, more or less. In any case, Eckstine and Darcel certainly look happy on the cover of Confidential. The photo is from the party where they met. Asked that night about Eckstine by a reporter, Darcel said, “Billy is sooo wonderful!” 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
March 22
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals of the Cold War.
March 21
1963—Alcatraz Closes
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
March 20
1916—Einstein Publishes General Relativity
German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein publishes his general theory of relativity. Among the effects of the theory are phenomena such as the curvature of space-time, the bending of rays of light in gravitational fields, faster than light universe expansion, and the warping of space time around a rotating body.
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