|Vintage Pulp||Jul 4 2015|
There’s some confusion online about whether this promo poster for Moon over Miami was painted by Alberto Vargas. Jan-Christopher Horak’s book Saul Bass: Anatomy of Film Design states: “Virtually all movie poster design work remained anonymous, although a few well-known designers received contracts, including Alberto Vargas for Moon over Miami.” On the other hand, several auction sites claim Vargas only worked on the print ads, and that the artist who painted the poster was charged with emulating the Vargas style. So there you go—cleared that right up, no? Well, we tend to believe Vargas would not have received a contract simply for print ads. What would the point of that be? So we think this piece is his.
In any case, we’ve always loved the poster and it prompted us to finally watch the film. Guess what? It’s just what you’d expect from looking at the art—goofy, gooey, and terminally good-natured. None of that is particularly pulp, but hey, crazy as it sounds, some filmmakers actually prefer to downplay death and mayhem. Betty Grable stars here as a woman determined to marry a millionaire. She sets up at a Miami hotel with her sister and aunt, and pretends to be rich herself, with the aim attracting the proper suitors. Confusion ensues, enlivened by musical numbers. Grable proves in this movie why she was a star, as does the object of her destiny Don Ameche, and excellent support comes from Carole Landis and Charlotte Greenwood. We don’t generally go for this sort of film, but we liked this one, as did our girlfriends. Now back to death and mayhem. Moon over Miami premiered in the U.S. today in 1941.
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 3 2014|
On this Confidential from February 1965 the publishers give their cut-and-paste artists a month off and grace the cover with a simple portrait of Brigitte Bardot and her famed pout. Inside the editors air out her love life in a way that today would be called slut shaming—pretty much stock-in-trade for Confidential. The suggestion is she won’t come to the U.S. to act because she’s busy Morockin’ around the clock with Moroccan-born producer Bob Zaguri. Elsewhere in the issue you get Romy Schneider, Jean Harlow, Alain Delon, Peter O’Toole, love behind the Iron Curtain, and an outraged report on pharmaceutical companies marking up medicines 200%, 500%, even 7,000%. Yes, medicines cost too much in the U.S. even back then. But don’t take our word for it. Take Confidential’s—their story ends by declaring that drug companies have Americans by the balls and the only way to avoid the drug price racket is to not get sick.
The cruise is eventually reported to the boat rental agency in Miami, whose owner vows that he will never again allow his vessels to be used for such debauchery. The response from the organizer of the cruises was this: “There are approximately one-hundred thousand boats or ships of some sort or another. I think we’ll be able to find some way to balance supply and demand.” Ouch—zinged right in the Econ 101s. Doubtless Confidential expected the congressional switchboard to light up over this outrageous appropriation of boats meant for exclusively heterosexual usage, but whether it happened we can’t say—the story ends there. And Confidential readers were left to endure thirty days of disquiet until the next gay bashing issue came out. We won't wait quite that long—we'll explore this subject in another tabloid soon. More scans below.
|Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique||May 7 2013|
Above are a couple of scans from an issue of The National Police Gazette published this month in 1963 with cover star Ava Gardner. Gardner had been living in Spain and hadn’t been in a movie in three years, but was about to appear in the historical war drama 55 Days at Peking with Charleton Heston and David Niven. The Gazette discusses how she’d gotten fed up with the U.S.—particularly the American press. She had been particularly annoyed by the rumor that she was involved with Sammy Davis, Jr., a story that took flight after several magazines published photos of the two holding hands. When asked why she was returning to Hollywood after being out of circulation for so long, Gardner, in typically blunt fashion, replied, “I need the money.”
|Vintage Pulp||Apr 30 2013|
|Hollywoodland||Aug 29 2012|
|Mondo Bizarro||Nov 22 2010|
And what the heck—since we referenced Eraserhead, how about a man whose head has been erased? Been a while since we’ve posted a mugshot, so today, courtesy of Deadspin, this unaltered booking photo shows a 25-year-old Miami man who was arrested for soliciting prostitution over the weekend. Word is he asked for some head. Oh please, don't get all high and mighty with us—you were thinking the same damn thing.
|Intl. Notebook | Musiquarium||Apr 7 2010|
Here’s something that immediately caught our eye—a rare film still of Christine Todd as the titular corpse from 1968’s Lady in Cement. Todd’s appearance is during the film’s first few minutes, as Sinatra’s detective character Tony Rome is scuba diving off the coast of Florida and finds her anchored in a block of cement. In the movie Todd’s nude state is merely implied, which is why finding this unobstructed view was such a surprise. We have a similar but less revealing shot from a Japanese soundtrack sleeve, below, with a different superimposed shark. Both images are stunners. But as memorable as Ms. Todd was in her debut, it was, sadly, her only movie role.
|Vintage Pulp | Sex Files||Jul 20 2009|
Here’s a July 1962 issue of the tabloid Vice Squad, with several interesting items on the cover. Cadillac girls—self explanatory. Sexual cripples—ditto. Same with sex roulette, perversion unlimited, and the phobic feature on lesbians and homos. But, aha, the story on Farouk’s $400,000 libel suit is worth detailing. In brief, Ruth Barnes, a Miami madame who went by the nom de directeur Sherry, published an autobiography called Pleasure Was My Business. Her book named a raft of celebrity clients, including the ex-king of Egypt, Farouk I. Furthermore, she claimed he was not only a regular client, but that he once snuck into the U.S. via some helpful port authority folks and rented Madame Sherry’s entire house for a night of fun and games. When Farouk learned he'd been outed, he flipped and sued for libel, specifically claiming he was never in the U.S. at the time in question and he was outraged and infuriated and so forth. Long story short—he lost. So not only had he entered the U.S., he’d also entered Madame Sherry’s house, and followed that up by entering a few of her employees. The epilogue on this guy is so fascinating. Always a bit of a gourmand, he started life thin, and remained so through his heyday, but as middle age approached the eating caught up with him and by age forty he was tipping the scales at nearly three-hundred pounds. One night, after gorging himself as usual, he collapsed and died. He was 45. We’ve taken the lesson to heart here at Pulp Intl., and we’re cutting back on the fatty foods and getting more exercise. But we’re never, ever giving up the hookers so don’t even ask.
|Intl. Notebook||Jan 1 2009|
Fifty years ago on this day, U.S.-installed dictator Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba, acknowledging defeat by socialist forces aligned with Fidel Castro. At the time Cuba was controlled by U.S. business interests and organized crime figures, with 75% of its land in foreign hands, and the capital of Havana serving as an international vice playground. It was known as the Monte Carlo of the Caribbean, and establishments like the Tropicana, San Souci, and Shanghai Theatre were famous for casinos, prostitutes, and totally nude cabaret shows. The El Dorado had an all female orchestra. Mobster Meyer Lansky was royalty. Luminaries such as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Edith Piaf were regular headliners. Havana was simply the place to be.
Less than an hour from Florida by air, New York businessmen who’d told their wives they were at a Miami conference could be enjoying a Cuban whore by lunchtime, and be back in Dade County in time for bed and a phone call from the missus. Alternatively, they could stay all night, or for days at a time, and lose themselves in daiquiris, dancing girls, and the lure of forbidden Barrio Colón. It was paradise—at least if you were a foreigner or one of the wealthy Cubans in partnership with them. For thepoor Havana was pure hell. The billions in revenue earned by casinos and hotels trickled not down, but out—into foreign bank accounts. Malnutrition, illiteracy, and crime were rampant. When Castro ran Batista off the island the party cautiously continued, because his political intentions were not immediately clear. Everyone knew the old system would change; nobody knew exactly how much. But for a brief, post-revolutionary moment Cuba remained open to foreigners, and so the expatriate carnival went on—albeit under a cloud.
But the lines had already been drawn in the greatest ideological battle of modern times. U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower was using the CIA to train Cuban exiles for an invasion to oust the socialists, and Castro was planning to nationalize a corrupt capitalist economy that had excluded those who were too poor, too black, or too lacking in influence to get a seat at the big table. When Castro made nationalization official, the U.S. struck with an embargo, and followed up five months later with the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Since then the ideological battle lines have occasionally shifted, but Cuba remains the prize jewel of the war.
As historical events go, the Cuban Revolution has been invaluable to pulp, providing rich material for authors such as Graham Greene, James Ellroy and a literary who’s-who of others. It has been the subject of countless revisionist potboilers. Stephen Hunter’s Havana is perhaps the best of these novels. In that one Fidel’s fate is in the hands of a goodhearted redneck from Arkansas. Sent by the CIA, the heroic marksman is more than a match for the hapless Cubans, but does he really want to kill Castro? Movies ranging from Errol Flynn’s piece-of-fluff Cuban Rebel Girls, to Wim Wenders’ inspiring Buena Vista Social Club, to Benicio del Toro’s heavyweight Ché, have also used the island as a backdrop. Doubtless Cuba will provide material for as long as authors write and directors film, as its history continues to inspire, and its future continues to be in flux.