Hollywoodland Jan 19 2010
CONFIDENCE BUILDING
No indiscretion was too small for Confidential.

Above is a January 1957 Confidential with Joan Crawford in the spotlight and Elvis in the wings. The Crawford story involves her playing cougar with a boytoy bartender. She’d call, or have an assistant call, and he’d drop everything, scurry over to her house, and be seen leaving the next morning. Pretty salacious claim, but of course, the bartender is never named and so the story is impossible to prove. The Elvis article is in a similar vein. Basically, Presley signed an autograph on a girl’s bare skin, and she ended up going home with him. The next morning the girl called a friend to have the signature photographed before she showered it off.

You can get a sense from these two pieces just how extensive Confidential’s network of spies was, and who they were—cabbies, switchboard operators, busboys, mailmen, and doormen. You can also, if you imagine yourself as a movie star, get a sense of how paranoid Hollywood players must have been. Every misstep—no matter how small—was splashed across Confidential’s pages.

For a while, the stars simply hoped against hope they could stay under the radar, but eventually they went on the offensive and ran Confidential into the ground with lawsuits. But in 1957, the magazine was still at the height of its power, selling millions of copies and being read secondhand by millions more who were too prim to be seen buying a scandal sheet. Confidential’s actual circulation may have been quadruple its sales figures. Humphrey Bogart said it best: “Everybody reads it but they say the cook brought it into the house.” 

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