|Femmes Fatales||Jul 31 2015|
Elli Parvo was also known as Elly Parvo and Elly Pardo, but was born in Milan as Elvira Gobbo. In Italian, “gobbo” would most likely be pronounced with a long “o,” like “hobo,” but most English speakers would pronounce it sonically close to “garbo.” That word—garbo—brings up good associations because of the actress Greta Garbo, and as a bonus it’s actually a Spanish word that means “grace” or “elegance.” So that got us pondering how gobbo sounds so bad to our brains, while garbo sounds so good, though they’re nearly identical words. This in turn got us to thinking gobbo might actually mean something lovely in Italian, and if we learned its translation we’d have a new association for the word, and in the same way garbo must have sounded weird to English speakers until it became associated with a beautiful actress, gobbo could be transformed from sounding like something you dredge up from your lungs, similar to an Affleck or a Ruffalo, to something beautiful. So we plugged the word into the translator and you know what it came up with? “Hunchback.” Really. So, from humble beginnings, Elvira Gobbo made the smartest move of her life by changing her name and, as Elli Parvo, became one of the biggest stars and most desired sex symbols of Italian cinema, appearing in fifty films between 1934 and 1960. The above shot is from 1947’s I fratelli Karamazoff, and she’s hoping to down enough shots to black out any recollection of being a member of the hunchback family.
|Vintage Pulp||May 4 2015|
|Vintage Pulp||Jan 13 2015|
1966 cover for La calda notte di Virgil Tibbs—better known as In the Heat of the Night—from Milan based Edizioni Mondadori for their Il Giallo Mondadori series, number 907. The cool cover art is by Carlo Jacono, who we’ll get back to in a bit.
|Politique Diabolique | Sex Files||Apr 7 2011|
In Italy it has to be one of the biggest trials in history. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is facing charges that he paid for sex with a then-underaged prostitute on thirteen separate occasions, and afterward used his power to cover it up. Both Berlusconi and the woman—known as Ruby, but born Karima El Mahroug in Morocco—deny hooking up, but Italian prosecutors claim to possess a wealth of wiretap evidence that will help them prove otherwise. The trial began yesterday, but that initial session lasted only seven minutes before being adjourned. Proceedings will resume in May, and eventually 20,000 pages of evidence will be presented and forty women will be called as prosecution witnesses. Meanwhile the defense witness list includes assorted attendees of Berlusconi’s many parties, including American actor George Clooney, Venezuelan model Aida Yespica, Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, Portuguese football god Cristiano Ronaldo, and a who’s-who of jetsetters, television stars, and showgirls.
Berlusconi didn’t attend yesterday’s court session, and has maintained all along that the event is a politically-motivated set-up. Which prompts us to point out that Berlusconi has been surrounded by scandal since way before he became prime minister. Perhaps that’s why in 2008 he pushed through a law granting himself immunity from prosecution while in office. That law was finally overturned last year, paving the way for what Italiansare calling the “bunga bunga” trial. Berlusconi claims that his famous parties are not bacchanals, as portrayed in the tabloid press, but rather “convivial, elegant soirées of food and song.” Of course, bacchanals are always convivial and elegant on the surface, and remain that way to 99% of the guests. But in a private room upstairs the host’s closest homies and associates are slurping MDMA-spiked Taittinger blanc out of giggling models’ navels. How do we know? Because one of us worked at Playboy before running away to the developing world—which is to say, we know whereof we speak.
We don’t think there’s any doubt that political motivations play a part in Berlusconi’s prosecution, but frankly, we don’t blame his enemies—the man is an international embarrassment. Not because he sleeps with showgirls and models fifty years younger than him—we’d all do that if we could. What? Oh, don’t give us that shit. Of course you would. And to our female readers—yes, you would do the same with a twenty-two-year-old Calvin Klein Jeans model. Or even two of them. No, Berlusconi’s a joke because the same planetoid-sized ego that’s convinced him he’s getting all this trim because of his charm and looks has also convinced himhe can portray his country as one where public office is a farce. Or put another way—part of a prime minister’s job is to bring credibility to a nation, and if he hates that fact, he should step down. True, he wouldn’t be able to funnel models and dancers into cabinet positions, but at least as a civilian his sex life would once again be private (and the public wouldn't have to hear about about the septuagenarian heaving atop some poor teenager like a walrus). In any case, whether Berlusconi returns to civilian life may no longer be his choice. Much of the public despise him, and are calling for his resignation. And even assuming he does secure an acquittal, he faces three more trials on a variety of corruption charges.
|Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique||Nov 25 2010|
How times have changed. Could one of the most brutal killers in the world openly hobnob with the Hollywood set today? We doubt it. But back in the day, a few rumors of murder only bolstered a man’s adventurous reputation, as proved by this November 1958 Whisper showing Rafael “Ramfis” Trujillo, Jr. charming Zsa Zsa Gabor and Kim Novak. One or both women, you may notice, actually appear courtesy an X-acto knife and glue, but what self-respecting tabloid has time to locate a legit photo when paste-up will do the job almost as well? Trujillo did date and bed both Gabor and Novak in real life, which makes this cover technically accurate, and makes him the second most enviable Dominican jet-setter in history.
Ramfis Trujillo reportedly gave most women that frisson some find irresistible, but his life wasn’t all starlets and champagne. Though he wanted nothing more than to be a playboy, there was an obstacle in the form of family baggage. Specifically, his father was a sadistic military dictator who had been put in power in the Dominican Republic by the CIA. Trujillo, Sr. expected his son to continue in the family business. This had been abundantly clear to Ramfis since the day his father made him a full general—with full pay—at age nine. For this and other reasons, he grew up with a warped sense of power and by the time of this Whisper cover had already ordered several murders and indulged in the occasional gang rape. He might have been considered a classic chip off the old block, save for rumors that Ramfis’s father was actually a Cuban named Rafael Dominicis—hence the “illegitimate dastard” tag in the banner. But the story about Ramfis being illegitimate was strongly denied by everyone involved (except Dominicis, who “disappeared”).
In any case, through the late fifties Ramfis tomcatted his way from Hollywood to Paris, and only occasionally let his urbane manner slip to reveal someone considerably less charming beneath. He seemed to have settled into his chosen lifestyle permanently when he married an actress named Lita Milan, below, who had starred opposite Paul Newman inThe Left-Handed Gun. But back in the Dominican, the impulsive Rafael Trujillo, Sr. was behaving less and less like the good lap dog the CIA had put in charge three decades earlier. Eventually, his U.S. benefactors turned against him and he died in a fusillade of possibly CIA-arranged bullets.
Junior succumbed to the pull of familial duty, as well as the desire for revenge, and flew back to the Dominican to restore order. This involved personally killing some of the participants in his father’s assassination. While this must have given him great satisfaction, it did little to stabilize the country. Under pressure from both internal enemies and the U.S., Ramfis Trujillo fled to Spain less than a year later with a casket containing millions in cash, jewels, bonds, and his father. By 1969 he was dead too, due to complications stemming from an automobile accident. In the end he presents an interesting question of nature versus nurture, i.e. was he meant to be a ladykiller, a real killer, or both?
|Musiquarium||Oct 19 2009|
Cover art from an assortment of sixties and seventies soundtracks and collections from Beat records, Italy. Note the Sandro Symeoni art in panel nine. If you missed our earlier post on this master's work, you can find it here.
|Politique Diabolique | Swindles & Scams||May 20 2009|
Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi must have laughed himself silly when a court in Milan declared last night that he had bribed his lawyer David Mills in order to avoid corruption charges and retain illegal corporate profits. Berlusconi was accused of paying Mills 440,000€ in cash, which the lawyer then hid in a series of offshore accounts and shell companies. The money was paid during the late 1990s, when Mills was the star prosecution witness in two trials concerning the corrupt dealings of highly placed public officials. The Milanese court claimed he lied on those occasions to shield Berlusconi, and Mills himself acknowledged this when he claimed, “[I] kept Mr. B. out of a great deal of trouble he would have been in had I said all I knew.” Mills later retracted the statement, but the court decided there was more than a kernel of truth in it.
Though Mills’ testimony explicitly fingered the billionaire prime minister, Berlusconi—pay attention now, because this is where the laughter comes in—had pushed through a law last year that gives prime ministers blanket immunity from any kind of prosecution while they are in office. There's a second loophole as well—under Italian law, statues of limitations expire quickly, which is why David Mills will spend no time in jail despite his conviction, and why Berlusconi’s alleged crimes may no longer be prosecutable by the time he exits office. Berlusconi claimed he needed immunity because the many lawsuits brought against him have distracted him from his job, but his opponents say the constant accusations should be taken as a sign of Berlusconi’s corruption and are exactly why he should resign, rather than go about writing laws antithetical to the concept of democracy. For his part, the prime minister has had little to say about the commotion, but we have a feeling he's somewhere kicking back with a cappucino, smiling rather broadly.