Anita Ekberg bares all for art.
Anita Ekberg graces the cover of this February 1957 issue of Sir! magazine, laid back, colorized, and looking good. She gets in depth treatment inside, with a focus on a nude statue of her made by Hungarian sculptor Sepy Dobronyi. The story was perfect for Hollywood gossip rags, and accordingly they all reported breathlessly that Dobronyi wanted to make the statue a nude, and since he was headed back to his studio in Cuba and couldn't have Ekberg sit for him, took a series of nude reference photos. Dobronyi was a scuba diver in his spare time and had collected gold coins from sunken Spanish galleons to use in his art, some of which he applied to Ekberg's likeness, leading to this boob-related witticism from Sir! editors: “Anita's statue has a real honest-to-goodness treasure chest.” The sculpture was mostly bronze, though, and became known as the Ekberg Bronze, which when last seen was in a Norwegian museum, though Ekberg was actually Swedish.
Elsewhere in Sir! you get the short feature, “A Homo Speaks Out.” The title alone. Really. The author, working in confessional form, admits to deep feelings of regret, shame, self-loathing, and so forth at his “condition”—basically writing everything mid-century homophobes would have wanted to read. It ain't pretty, so we won't transcribe any of it. Readers also learn about marriage rites on the Pacific islands of New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), where tribal ceremonies involve all the male members of the groom's family having first crack at the bride. Is that true? We have no idea, and really aren't inclined to find out. To each culture their own, we say—as Americans, we come from the weirdest one on the planet. Other stories deal with Elvis Presley, burlesque, and prostitution. While Sir! wasn't one of the top mid-century tabs, it outdid itself with the Ekberg cover alone, which we consider one of the most eye-catching images of her we've seen.
Fidel Castro's long vigil over Cuba comes to a close.
Above is a unique artifact we've been holding onto for several years—a photo of a metal Fidel Castro billboard located in the vicinity of Holguin, Cuba, a town in the southeast part of the island. Someone we know shot this and gave us a copy, which we squared up a bit in Photoshop. Political billboards are a common sight in Cuba but this one is unique, as far as we know. It says: “Commander in Chief: Order!” We were out of town when Castro died and didn't have a chance to comment on it, and now we've been beaten to it by everyone. Well, no matter. We've written about him—usually in relation to other iconic mid-1960s figures such as John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald—numerous times, and you can see those posts yourself by clicking his keywords just below. We may not have any new commentary to add, but we do have a piece of art nobody else does.
Havana shopping street catered to the international upper crust.
We're back from vacation. We were surrounded by colonial era architecture, which brought to mind this photo of Havana, Cuba, a former colonial city thousands of miles from where we were, but similar in many respects. The shot was taken along Calle San Rafael sometime during the 1940s. There's a lot of detail in this—in the distance we can see Bar Uncle Sam and a Philco store, and in the foreground the cars and flowing sidewalk mosaics are interesting too. Of particular note is the perfume store El Patio, where a sign tells us the Dana brands Emir, Tabu, and Platino are available. These were pricy concoctions, affordable for only the rare few, sold by a fancy perfumer that got its start in Barcelona back in 1932. Presumably Isaac Habif was a perfume or cologne too, but we can't find mention of it anywhere.
Some of the other businesses on San Rafael included the swank coffee shop Salon H, top jewelers Letrán de Isaac Barquet, Cuervo y Sobrinos, and Gastón Bared, two academies—Academia Pitman and Academia Gregg—which were expensive and private, the department stores Fin de Siglo and El Encanto, Indochina, which was an exotic gift shop, the eyewear boutique El Telescopio, and La Exposición, which sold furs—yes, in that climate. In all, Calle San Rafael wasn't just an ordinary thoroughfare, but a major shopping street serving Havana's economic elite. It remains a shopping street today, but the mosaics and fine brands are long gone. For a bit more on colonial era Havana, have a look here. And for an interesting array of post-revolutionary photos, look here.
Comprehensive photography book looks back at Cuba during the 1960s.
Seems everyone's talking about Cuba these days. Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the island in ages, and every megacorporation from Home Depot to Major League Baseball wants to do business there. By any measure, Cuba's is a remarkable story, particularly its educational and medical accomplishments in the face of an economic blockade that keeps out everything from computer chips to breakfast cereal.
Despite that embargo, Cubans can convincingly claim to be better off than residents in nearby capitalist nations like Honduras (highest per capita murder rate in the world), El Salvador (thousands killed each year by rampaging drug gangs), Haiti (59% poverty rate), and even Puerto Rico ($70 billion in debt—an astonishing $20,000 per resident). But one thing Cubans don't have is the opportunity to accumulate wealth. That may be about to change.
At such a moment, then, it seems like a good opportunity to look back at Cuba as it was during the heady days during and just after the Cuban Revolution. Cuba la fotografía de los años 60 is a large volume of images from that time, shot by such figures as Ernesto Fernández, Alberto Korda, and Raúl Corrales. The photos are mostly rare, and the technical quality is consistently high. We scanned the images below several years ago (the book appeared in 1988), but only just got around to sharing them today. As a bonus, there's an eloquent preface written by Roberto Fernández Retamar, which we've uploaded in its entirety.
If you've followed Pulp Intl. for a while you probably know we lived in Central America for some years, spending most of our time in Guatemala, but traveling around to numerous countries on the isthmus and in the Caribbean. So the region is a subject of some interest to us. Cuba will gain plenty from being allowed to reconnect with the world, but it will lose plenty too. It's impossible to know what sort of balance will be struck. Cubans, excited but also concerned, hope for a better one than exists in many of its neighbor countries, but only time will tell.
It's brain versus brawn in sunny Cuba.
Our favorite luchador Santo el Enmascarado de Plata has taken on monsters and men and beaten them all like your grandmother beats a dusty throw rug. In Santo contra cerebro del mal, or Santo Versus the Evil Brain, he takes on a man with a monstrous plan—a villain who wants to use a thoughtsucking machine to steal scientific secrets and sell them to international bidders. Needing Santo's brawn to pull this off, he kidnaps him, sucks him, and turns him into a dickbag. Don't worry, though—Santo is eventually located by his buddy El Incognito and, after a serious ass whipping administered with the utmost love, restored to his right mind. What a wonderful world it would be if all it took were a couple of suplexes and powerbombs to clear the evil out of people's brains. A single wrestler sent to the headquarters of every transnational bank could save the planet. This is the first Santo film, shot in Havana in 1961, the year of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and we have to say later entries are much better. But this one does have excellent exteriors shot around town, mainly in the suburbs, which look little different from Miami. The old part, with its baroque buildings and tight streets, was a little too logistically tricky for location work, we're guessing. Havanaphiles and fans of retro thoughtsucking machines, enjoy. All others, maybe take a pass. Santo contra cerebro del mal premiered in Mexico today in 1961.
Jesus. I'm schvitzing like a pig. Shoulda packed my summer mask.
These cholesterol readings are off the charts. What the hell does this guy eat?
Santo! Do something!
Hey, don't look at me. I'm thoughtsucked.
This ain't exactly her first rodeo.
Since we brought up a buxom burlesque dancer yesterday, we thought a return to the subject was appropriate. Here you see a Technicolor lithograph of Betty Howard, who was aka Betty "Blue Eyes" Howard, but who also called herself The Girl Who Has Everything. And by everything she meant boobs—forty inches worth. Howard was a star by the late 1940s, and hit her stride during the 1950s, dancing all over the U.S. and in Cuba. This particular shot is entitled “Strictly from Vegas,” and we can only assume she was a major presence there at some point. You may remember Howard led off our collection of vintage burlesque dancers back in 2010. If you haven't seen it, or are perhaps up for a revisit, check it here.
From Guanajay to Hollywood in a single bound.
Estelita Rodriguez was born in Guanajay, Cuba in 1928, signed with MGM at the tender age of fourteen, signed with Republic at seventeen, and appeared in such films as Tropical Heat Wave, Rio Bravo, and the unforgettable Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter. This promo shot dates from 1945 and was made when she was playing the character of Lupita in the musical Mexicana with Tito Guízar and Constance Moore.
Hasta siempre, Comandante.
Since we mentioned in our Kennedy post that Mercocomic had serials about other historical figures, we decided we’d go ahead and share these Spanish Che covers from 1978. The complete run was three issues in the order seen, and the art is once again from the excellent Prieto Muriana, who even worked in a Pietà on cover three. “Hasta siempre, Comandante,” by the way, is a very famous Carlos Puebla song recorded by everyone from Joan Baez to Nathalie Cardone.
Adam's yearly special gives readers everything it’s got.
This Adam from 1960 is one of parent company Knight Publishing Corp.’s special annuals and features Lynn Hayward on the cover, plus the similar-looking Sheika Moser on the overleaf, both beautifully photographed by Keith Bernard. Hayward never appeared anywhere again, as far as we can tell, but Moser starred in numerous magazine layouts, including several for Spree, Gala and Eyeful. Inside the magazine you get fact, fiction, humor, and all the other elements that characterize mid-century men’s magazines, including many more women. Among them are Cuban dancer-turned-actress Chelo Alonso, burlesque queen Candy Barr, model-actress Ann Atmar, and others.
On a side note, we haven’t talked about our recent trip to the U.S. yet because we’ve just been too busy, but we did manage to collect quite a few more pulp items you’ll be seeing in the coming weeks. This particular Adam is an internet find, and you can locate it yourself with minimal effort. However, we did buy a dozen actual, physical issues of unrelated-to-the-above, hard-to-find, and never-before-uploaded Australian Adam. The new discovery pushed our issue total for that imprint well above fifty. But those are for later. Today, it’s good old American Adam. We have more than forty scans below for your enjoyment.
Fifty years on and the American mainstream media have completely retreated into an alternate reality.
Stories about John F. Kennedy’s assassination have been appearing in the media for several weeks leading up the 50th anniversary of the event, as various outlets try to get ahead of the wave of interest, but we’re purists here, so we’re sharing this poster today, on the actual anniversary of the murder. Let’s get the basics out of the way first. As we’ve mentioned before, a Gallup poll taken days after the killing showed that a majority of Americans believed Oswald was not the only participant. That percentage has gone up since, reaching more than 80%, according to some surveys. That means people who believe Oswald acted with others have always been the majority, and today are the vast majority. That’s something your trusted media outlet always leaves out, doesn’t it? The point is if you think there was a conspiracy, you are the norm, part of an overwhelming norm, rather than some crackpot minority.
It’s an important point because many of the articles published today ask questions like, “Why do people believe in conspiracies?” The problem with that question lies in its framing—it implies that we live in a world that has no or few conspiracies, that it’s silly to believe they exist. That’s very interesting, considering that in the Libor scandal up to 20 major banks conspired to rig interest rates in a $350 trillion derivatives market, that Britain’s spy agency GCHQ conspired to secretly tap into the fiber optic cables that carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic, that the bank HSBC conspired to launder billions of dollars in South American drug cartel money, that ING conspired to violate sanctions against certain types of business dealings with Cuba and Iran, that News of the World conspired to illegally hack the phones of private citizens, and that Merrill Lynch conspired to deliberately overcharge 95,000 customers $32 million in unwarranted fees. All of these happened in just the last few years.
To listen to the mainstream media, you’d almost think there weren’t actual criminal proceedings or lawsuits extant in every example we just mentioned. It takes a willful disconnection from reality to deny how prevalent conspiracies are in modern life when hundreds of perpetrators are at this moment sitting as defendants in court because they were caught… um conspiring. If we want to delve into a few historical examples of conspiracies, then note that the NSA conspired to mislead the U.S. public about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, that American asbestos companies conspired to cover up the truth about the danger of their product, and that in 1962 the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff conspired to kill American citizens. That conspiracy took the form of a proposal called Operation Northwoods. In short, American citizens would have been killed in a series of terrorist bomb attacks that would have been blamed on Cuba. Northwoods was approved for implementation by every one of the sitting Joint Chiefs. Really let that sink in. The only reason the American government did not kill American citizens is because John F. Kennedy said no—he wasn’t interested in committing high treason and murder so he could invade Cuba.
All of the examples we’ve cited above—a small percentage of the whole, by the way—are incontrovertible historical facts, easily referenced in reams of unearthed documents and on the internet. And all are conspiracies by definition. So the question we should be asking today isn’t why so many people believe in conspiracies, but why the mainstream media are so far removed from the factual realities of human, corporate, and political existence, why they are so resistant to the simple truth that conspiracies are how powerful actors circumvent regulations, laws, and democratic rights. Or more to the point, exactly what planet do mainstream journalists live on? Not this one, seemingly.
Here at Pulp Intl., we do not style ourselves as truth tellers or serious investigators. We just like pulp art and good white wine, and if we can combine the latter with our naked girlfriends, all the better. Do we think JFK was the victim of a conspiracy? Yes. But he was dead before we were born, so in truth, we don’t feel any great passion about it. But to us he is symbolic of the steep decline of the modern American mainstream press. Consider this: in a world where conspiracies incontrovertibly occur, and occur so often that it's actually difficult to keep track of them all, the American press continues to use terms like "conspiracy theory" as an epithet and treats anyone who questions the official JFK assassination story like a fool or a nut case. At the very least, that’s a disservice. At worst it's deliberate social engineering.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
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.
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.
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