Vintage Pulp Jan 28 2014
A PERFECT STRANGLER
Don’t take it personally, my dear. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, two can keep a secret only if one is dead.

We have it on good authority that Keep it Secret! is now required reading for all new employees of the National Security Agency and the cover hangs as a poster in the cafeteria. The book was written by Philip Chambers for Sexton Blake Library, which was a line of mysteries printed by London’s Amalgamated Press between 1915 and 1968, and which starred the titular Blake—a fictional British detective almost as famous as Sherlock Holmes. Over the years about two-hundred authors wrote Blake stories. Philip Chambers wrote or co-wrote seven entries in the series between 1960 and 1963, with this one appearing in 1961. The cover art is by Stefan Barany, who worked for Amalgamated on the Sexton Blake line for a couple of years but seems to have had virtually no other output. He was a very capable artist, though, based on this effort.

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Politique Diabolique Oct 14 2013
STATE OF AFFAIRS
London drug raid uncovers no drugs but raises serious questions.


Over the weekend, a squad of drug cops raided the London flat of a woman named Natalie Rowe based on what they described as a “tip from a member of the public.” The drug cops found no drugs, no drug paraphernalia, no sign that drugs had ever been consumed in the apartment. Why is this such an interesting story? Because Rowe, formerly a prominent madam who procured women for paying male customers, is mere days from publishing an autobiography in which she details early 1990s sex and drug parties attended by various Tory politicians. She claims one of the politicians was current Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne. He appears in the photo above with Rowe, along with what she says is a line of cocaine (in full, fat view between the yellow vase and the wine glass).

After the raid Rowe made an official complaint to police, saying she suspected she was targeted because of her forthcoming book. She was quoted in the tabloid The Sunday People: “I’m not into conspiracy theories. I’d like to think the fact I’ve been unfairly targeted by the police has nothing to do with the fact my book is about to be published, which happens to be very embarrassing for the Chancellor. But it’s certainly made me wonder.” Well, we’re into conspiracy theories and we’ll just come out and say that, especially in light of all the other dubious police activity in Great Britain these days, you’d have to be willfully blind to think the raid occurred for any other reason than at the behest of an influential government official.
 
Think about it. Would a mere “tip from a member of the public” trigger an expensive full-scale drug raid, with no corroborating intelligence whatsoever, such as surveillance, reports from undercover police, or multiple complaints from neighbors? If so, any Brit with a personal enemynow knows how to ruin that person's day. A single tip will bring a phalanx of police crashing through their door. Does your neighbor's dog bark late at night? Call the drug cops. Did some total ass get a promotion you wanted? Call the drug cops. So, let’s dismiss with this “tip from a member of the public” nonsense. Clearly, a full-scale drug raid that takes place with no corroborating intelligence doesn’t occur because of some random tip. It occurs because someone with great influence wants it to happen.
 
Were we to speculate, we’d suggest that the cops were searching for anything that would justify serious charges against Rowe and cast doubt on whatever she has written. But it seems they failed to find any leverage. Do we actually care if George Osborne hoovered rails of coke in his youth? Not in the least. It puts him in the same company as many politicians, including Barack Obama, who wrote in his autobiography of how in his youth he did "a little blow.” But the raid, which looks to us like pure abuse of power, is certainly a troubling event in a country that many residents already believe is morphing into a police state. Is some plebe threatening your status and/or power? Call the drug cops. In any case, we’ve got our Kindle charged and ready for Rowe’s book.

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Intl. Notebook Sep 10 2013
LOTUS ACQUISITION
James Bond submarine car sells at auction.

We’ve shared a lot of James Bond memorabilia over the years (who can forget our Honeychile Ryder figurine), which means we couldn’t possibly let this story pass. The Lotus Esprit turbo used in the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me sold at auction yesterday in London for £550,000, or about $864,000. The car is one of eight used in the film. For the sake of comparison, other Bond vehicles, such as the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 used in Goldfinger, have sold for millions. But probably the price was low here because the car, though equipped with a propeller and fins, is not a functional vehicle, according to the auctioneers RM Auctions. But what makes the story so interesting is that the car was found in a Long Island storage unit in 1989 by a construction contractor who’d bought the contents unseen. American storage companies often arrange blind auctions when rental payments on storage spaces lapse. Buyers take the chance that something valuable might be inside, but just as likely might find nothing but junk. This particular buyer had been hoping to find power tools or other useful items, but instead was shocked to find the Lotus. His purchase price for the storage unit—$100.

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Vintage Pulp Aug 15 2013
LONDON CALLING
Whatever gets you through the night.

Paul Anna Soik is another great pulp artist who we hadn’t gotten to previously, but better late than never, especially when we’re talking about this particular cover. The scene is London's Soho district near Charing Cross Road, and he presents an image of two listless souls in an urban night infused with streetlight glare, marquee glow, and a sort of carnivalsque seediness. We know the location because the Palace Theatre is in the background. The book is a realistic look at vice and prostitution, and we can assume the woman here is a hooker, though an improbably upscale one to be soliciting. But Soik lived in Canada, so maybe he wasn’t all that familiar with London street trade. This is a Harlequin book, and Soik was basically a Harlequin house artist who painted numerous covers during the company’s early years. This one, which we think is one of his best, appeared in 1955. We’ll have more from him later.

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Mondo Bizarro Aug 10 2013
PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
Private British crime collection could be opened to public.

The London Metropolitan Police’s 150-year-old collection of crime artifacts, currently held in room 101 at New Scotland Yard, may open to the public in the near future if the recommendations of the Greater London Authority are followed. The GLA’s report says charging the public to view the collection could generate millions of pounds—for example, even a 90 day exhibition at could raise £4.5 million if visitors were charged £15 each. What exactly does the Met have in its possession that's worth £15 a pop? The collection, begun in 1874 as a teaching tool for rookie officers, and then called the Black Museum, contains weapons, death masks, and assorted criminal tools, as well as unique items such as the umbrella and ricin pellet used to assassinate Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in 1978, the pots serial killer Dennis Nilsen used to boil his victims, along with some sludgelike human remains, Jack the Ripper’s infamous “From Hell” letter, and another letter he sent to London’s Central News Agency in September 1888 in which he gloated, “I am down on whores and I shan’t quit ripping them till I do get buckled.” The Museum also contains artifacts from other serial killers, including John George Haigh, John Christie, and Dr. Neil Cream. We think the items should be displayed for their historical value, but the opening of the collection is by no means a foregone conclusion. Only time will tell if the GLA’s recommendations will be met. If you want to read a detailed account of a visit to the Museum, we recommend visiting the London blog greatwen.com, where we found the above photo.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 31 2013
REGALLY BLONDE
Raquel Welch represents a high water mark for the low rent National Spotlite.


Her body drives men wild. But it isn’t Raquel Welch being quoted on the cover of this National Spotlite published today in 1967, though the juxtaposition of text makes it seem so. No, the line came from a little known actress named Donna Selby, who National Spotlite scribe Hugh Wells interviewed in London. The story is rather amusing, as Wells tells readers how Selby appeared in only a bathrobe, made a pass at him, gave him an unwanted kiss and even licked his ear. He claims to have fled the room, saying to the actress, “I predict that you’ll go places—and quickly too!” But he was wrong about that—try as we might, we can’t find mention of an actress named Donna Selby anywhere.

But getting back to Raquel Welch, the cover shot comes from one of her most famous photo sessions, the same one that produced this excellent image and many others. Welch had gone briefly blonde, and the resultant photos are the only ones we’ve seen of her with golden hair. You know what would make her presence here even better? An interview. But no such luck. National Spotlite is simply making good use of a handout photo. Moving on, readers are treated to a nice shot of Patsy Ann Noble, aka Trisha Noble, just below, who we discussed back in 2009, and alsoappearing in the issue is German actress Dagmar Hank, who acted in several movies between 1958 and 1965. Lastly, in the centerfold you get Molly Peters, who was a Harrison Marks model and whose most notable cinematic output was a bit part in Thunderball.

You have to give National Spotlite credit—unlike many middle tier tabloids of the period this one managed to actually feature relevant and semi-relevant personalities. That comes as a surprise, since it was owned by the infamous Beta Publications of Spotlite Extra and Close-Up Extra fame. But as the flagship paper, National Spotlite doubtless had a higher budget. The masthead tells us it even had offices in New York City and Montreal, which is kind of impressive. Within a few more years, though, the paper regressed to the same form as Beta’s cheaper imprints and was reduced to putting out issues like this one. Like Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, for a while National Spotlite coulda been a contenduh. It just never quite made it.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 3 2013
BETTIE PAGES
She knows how to make love to a Kamera.

It’s a proud moment finding new material on one of the world’s most famous pin-up queens. This pocket-sized collection entitled Intimate Studies of the Fabulous Betty Page (name misspelled) was put out by Harrison Marks’ London-based Kamera Publications, Ltd. in the late 1950s. We gather that a reprint was published in the 1990s. This is not that version. It's the original. We saw one go for $172.00 on an American auction site, but this one came from Hong Kong and cost less than one tenth that amount. We managed to score some other Kamera digests too, and we’ll try to get some scans from those up at some point.

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Femmes Fatales Jun 11 2013
G-L-O-R-I-A
Just about five feet ten a-from her head to the ground.

These two shots by famed Italian photographer Angelo Frontoni show dancer and actress Gloria Paul, who was born in London but was of Italian extraction and spent most of her career in Italy. She worked steadily beginning in 1961, and appeared in such films as The Intelligence Men, For a Few Dollars Less, and Darling Lili. In 1996 she was the victim of an accident in which a water tank in her home fell through the roof of her shower and broke her back. After time in a wheelchair she eventually regained the ability to walk, but her dancing career was over.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 6 2013
COLD SPOT
The first cut is the deepest.

You see this cover for 1958’s Jack Spot—The Man of a Thousand Cuts around the internet quite a bit, especially on auction sites, because Hank Janson, aka Stephen D. Frances, is a very popular vintage author. But you don’t often see the back cover. Since we were talking about a spread-legged/phallic symbol motif yesterday, we thought we’d show you another example. The excellent art, which we found at a very interesting website here, is uncredited, so it seems. As far as content, the book is a biography of a notorious London gangster named Jack Comer, née Jacob Camacho, who as a youth became known as Jack Spot due to a mole on his cheek. Spot was quite a troublemaker, and used his knife-fighting skills and aptitude for vice to build and maintain a criminal empire that stretched from London to Tangier. Probably he deserves a heavier treatment on this website at some point, but we’ll see about that later. However, we can pretty much guarantee we’ll get back to Hank Janson, because he wrote numerous novels, and also created a character named Hank Janson who starred in some of the books, and, just for good measure, later stepped aside and let the pseudonym Hank Janson be inhabited by several other authors. Pretty convoluted, but it’s just the type of thing we love here. 

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Hollywoodland | Vintage Pulp Feb 7 2013
DRESS TO EXCESS
If there’s such a thing as the most amazing dress ever made, Carroll Baker wore it.


In the summer of 1964, promoting her movie The Carpetbaggers, American actress Carroll Baker attended a premiere at London’s Plaza Theatre in Piccadilly Circus wearing a $28,000.00 transparent dress from designer Pierre Balmain. She had worn it before at the U.S. premiere in June, which means Londoners had an inkling what they were going to see, but what resulted was, well, a circus. The crowd went nuts and the situation devolved into what some newspapers described as a near riot. The above National Examiner, published today in 1972, features Baker wearing what we noticed was a similar but not identical dress. We got curious where it came from, and so we went looking.

Turns out in late 1964 designer Oleg Cassini, entranced by the Balmain dress, designed a similar version for Baker to wear at a promotional event in Las Vegas. The difference is in the placement of the beading—Balmain’s left a v-shaped peek-a-boo, whereas Cassini’s left a diagonal opening across the chest. You can see the difference below. Cassini had built his version of the dress in Baker’s absence using a model of identical size, but it didn’t really fit because bodies have all sorts of differences, even if their crude numerical aspects are ostensibly the same. Baker endured eighteen precarious hours in a gown that was so tightshe couldn’t shake hands without it shifting to reveal parts she wanted to keep hidden. She later wore the dress—hopefully altered—at a premiere of Cheyenne Autumn, and a photo of her posing with a dozen costumed Native Americans survives today in the Associated Press archives.
 
But the dress wasn’t finished quite yet. The next year immortal costumer Edith Head designed yet another variation on Balmain’s original for Baker to wear promoting the film Harlow. We don’t know where the previous two gowns went, but the Head version, one of several she put together, survived and has appeared in Hollywood fashion exhibitions as recently as 2003. Baker also wore a Balmain (or Cassini or Edith Head copy) during a 1966 troop tour in Vietnam, and the only reason a full firefight didn’t break out among the GIs the moment she unveiled herself is probably because that version had no cut-outs (right).
 
Extreme publicity stunts were apparently not unusual for Baker. She considered herself a good actress, but felt that she couldn’t become a star in Hollywood without promoting herself as a sex symbol. “I’ve tried just acting,” she once said, “but sex sells at the box office.” As time wore on, she went from threatening to walk off the set of Station Six—Sahara due to the director pressuring her to appear nude to playing unclothed roles in The Sweet Body of Deborah, Così dolce... così perversa, and Paranoia, as well appearing nude in Playboy and Playmen. Nothing like a shrinking bank account to totally reshape one’s morals. In 1966 AP scribe Doris Klein wrote that Baker was “almost too pretty, too much like a slim teenager to play a sexpot.” But Baker became one of the biggest sexpots in the world. Looking at the 1964 Balmain, and the three to six versions that followed, we’d say it was inevitable.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 25
1939—Batman Debuts
In Detective Comics #27, DC Comics publishes its second major superhero, Batman, who becomes one of the most popular comic book characters of all time, and then a popular camp television series starring Adam West, and lastly a multi-million dollar movie franchise starring Michael Keaton, then George Clooney, and finally Christian Bale.
1953—Crick and Watson Publish DNA Results
British scientists James D Watson and Francis Crick publish an article detailing their discovery of the existence and structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, in Nature magazine. Their findings answer one of the oldest and most fundamental questions of biology, that of how living things reproduce themselves.
April 24
1967—First Space Program Casualty Occurs
Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov dies in Soyuz 1 when, during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere after more than ten successful orbits, the capsule's main parachute fails to deploy properly, and the backup chute becomes entangled in the first. The capsule's descent is slowed, but it still hits the ground at about 90 mph, at which point it bursts into flames. Komarov is the first human to die during a space mission.
April 23
1986—Otto Preminger Dies
Austro–Hungarian film director Otto Preminger, who directed such eternal classics as Laura, Anatomy of a Murder, Carmen Jones, The Man with the Golden Arm, and Stalag 17, and for his efforts earned a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, dies in New York City, aged 80, from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.
1998—James Earl Ray Dies
The convicted assassin of American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., petty criminal James Earl Ray, dies in prison of hepatitis aged 70, protesting his innocence as he had for decades. Members of the King family who supported Ray's fight to clear his name believed the U.S. Government had been involved in Dr. King's killing, but with Ray's death such questions became moot.

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