She was one Man's ray of light.
This is a fantastic shot. One reason it caught our eye is that we've seen other photos with lacy shadows substituting for lingerie, but this one from 1930 may be the originator of the illusion. The person you see is Lee Miller. She was born in 1907 and became a fashion model in New York City during the late 1920s, before traveling to Paris with the intent of meeting the legendary photographer Man Ray. She succeeded and became his muse, lover, and frequent subject, as evidenced by this photo, which is his work.
Miller was widely acknowledged as one of the great beauties of her era, but modeling was not her career goal. Her plan had always been to become a photographer. Thus in addition to the other facets of her relationship with Ray, she also apprenticed for him. After absorbing what he had to share she eventually went on to shoot acclaimed World War II photos, some of them during perilous live combat, and documented the liberation of the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps, helping expose Nazi atrocities to the world.
In mid-1945 she was in Munich shooting images of the immediate aftermath of the war and posed for a nude shot in Adolf Hitler's bathtub. Yeah—Hitler. Her son, Antony Penrose, later said of the shot, “I think she was sticking two fingers up at Hitler. On the floor are her boots, covered with the filth of Dachau, which she has trodden all over Hitler’s bathroom floor. She is saying she is the victor.”
The photo was of course controversial, but Miller was a pure artist, always willing to make observers see the world in a new way—through her trained eye. So while the shot at top could be seen as reductive of a complex and accomplished personality, it actually reveals an important aspect of who she was—a daring, multi-faceted woman to whom convention was merely a challenge. And it's an overwhelmingly beautiful shot besides.
The only friend I need is Jack and he comes in a bottle. Um—I mean he comes from a bottle.
Mary McCarthy's The Company She Keeps was reviewed positively in The Guardian—in 2011. No small feat for a book dating from 1942. It's a semi-autobiographical novel dealing with love, sex, New York City society, and the search for happiness. It's divided into six episodes starring the same woman, and each section features a different central male figure, usually a love interest, but other times a person who stands in contrast to a love interest, such as the therapist to whom the protagonist vents about her marriage. Needless to say, the book fails the Bechdel test at every turn. It made a controversial splash in the ’40s because of its frank style, and is seen today as a minor classic, the first effort from an author who would go on to greater recognition. The edition you see here appeared in 1955 and the cover art of a woman and her little friend in a bottle—perhaps not Jack Daniel's but something sure to hit the spot anyway—is by Robert McGuire.
It gets awfully boring waiting for your big break.
Lauren Hutton was one of the first supermodels, back when every semi-famous woman walking the runway wasn't bestowed with that term. Hutton shot a series of nudes in 1963, when she was twenty years old and an unknown in New York City, still several years from her first professional contract. We've seen many photos from this session but the above shot, which has been bouncing around online for a few months, seems to us by far the best.
There's no city where time runs out faster.
Donald E. Westlake wanted to call his mystery The Smashers by a different title. He preferred the name The Cutie—as in a hustler or crook who thinks he's cute, or clever. That would have suited the novel well, because the term is used probably two dozen times over the course of a story about a New York City mob fixer told by his boss to find the cutie who murdered a well-connected showgirl and made an improbable patsy of a hapless heroin addict.
With very little time and even less sleep the main character deals with cops, hoods, druggies, and politically plugged in one percenters, narrowing down a list of suspects to find the troublesome villain. The book reads a bit like a police procedural, but written from the opposite side of the fence. The killer, when finally revealed, comes as little surprise, but the book's mystery elements are not its most important anyway. What works here is the NYC atmosphere and the sense of sand running through the hourglass.
The cover you see above is from the rarer-than-rare edition put out in 1963 by the British publishers Four Square. If you want one it'll cost you about $100, which we think is overpriced. But we usually think that. Paperbacks to us are utilitarian. They're things you carry in a rear pocket. Also, you should never pay more than ten bucks for anything you're tempted to grab to smash a moth. But fret not—the Hard Case Crime version published in 2009 under Westlake's preferred title The Cutie is cheap, and, to many eyes, is probably the prettiest version.
We're here for the West Side Story audition. And you better understand this right now—we intend to nail it.
We've talked before about the amazing Harlan Ellison. We came to know him as an unparalleled sci-fi writer, but later discovered he was also a juvenile delinquency author. These gang stories were obscure curiosities for us, but through running Pulp Intl. we've since learned that Ellison's juvie fiction is a much discussed and much collected part of his output. Above you see the rare 1958 Pyramid Books edition of his first novel Rumble, later published as Web of the City, with an amazing cover by Spanish artist Rudy De Reyna. Consider this an Ellison trial run that made it into the light of day. Anyone familiar with him knows this will be a strange and violent tale, but the craftsman who gave the world stories like “All the Birds Come Home To Roost” is not yet in evidence. Plotwise, the protagonist Rusty is leader of a street gang and wants out while he's still young enough to make something of his life. Quitting is a savage and harrowing ordeal. Staying out is impossible thanks to his little sister, whose involvement with the gang pulls Rusty back into the life. Ellison is a guy who once claimed he never revised his work. That isn't true because Rumble was cut down and cleaned up by him, and became Web of the City. Everyone says the revised version is much better. Without having read it, we suspect they're right.
Genetics or athletics? She'll never tell.
Bet you thought all women in the mid-century era were soft and lush. Well, Suzanne Ames, née Suzanne Ainbinder, is tight as a drum and proves it by donning a barely there outfit made of flowers, gossamer, and some overtaxed stitching. She was never more than a bit player in Hollywood, but she had a good career as a dancer in New York City, which is probably where she got the abs. She later founded the Suzanne Ames Landry Performing Arts Studio in Akron, Ohio. First lesson for students—crunches. This photo is undated, but from the early 1950s.
His looks might have been ruined but his reputation was assured.
These mugshots show mobster Al Capone the day he entered Terminal Island Prison in California today in 1939, having been sent up for eleven months for tax evasion. The photos caught our eye because Capone generally tried to hide his scars, but in the second shot you see them clearly, three parallel slashes along his cheek, jaw, and neck. Capone told various stories about how he acquired these marks, but in truth he got them by being a little too familiar with fellow thug Frank Galluccio's kid sister Lena. It happened in 1917 in Frankie Yale’s Harvard Inn, a bar and brothel in Coney Island, New York. After numerous insinuating comments to young Lena, Capone finally told her, “You got a nice ass, honey, and I mean that as a compliment. Believe me.” At as result of that overture Frank Galluccio went at Capone with a knife—aiming for a fatal wound to the jugular but missing three times.
Capone had a notoriously short temper accompanied by a long memory, but even though he'd been disfigured for life during this incident he never sought revenge, even after he became basically the most powerful mobster in the U.S. Again, there are different stories about this, but the consensus seems to be that Capone had violated mob rules by messing with Galluccio's sister, and seeking revenge over what had been his own breach of ethics would have caused him no end of trouble. Galluccio worried about possible revenge, but never regretted what he'd done, saying in an interview many years later, “Fuck him He deserved it.” Ultimately, maybe Capone should have thanked Galluccio for both his gruesome appearance that made many a rival wither, and his nickname that was fearfully whispered coast to coast—Scarface.
Five iconic paintings depict the Ruelhs of aviation.
During the 1930s Wisconsin born artist Ruehl Heckman executed five aviation themed paintings for the Thomas D. Murphy Calendar Company illustrating the reach and romance of aerial machinery by juxtaposing it against far flung natural and urban U.S. vistas. There were five total, all collectible, and you see them above: “Dawn of a New Age,” featuring lower Manhattan and New York Harbor, “Racing the Sun,” featuring an unspecified area of the west, probably Arizona, “The Spirit of Progress,” showing San Francisco Bay and the Bay Bridge, “Flying over Avalon,” featuring Santa Catalina Island at twilight, and “Where Progress and Romance Meet,” showing pre-statehood Hawaii. These paintings are all iconic yet Heckman himself remains barely known. This could be because his career was cut short—he was killed in a car accident in 1942. As of right now he doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. But we think these pieces are quite nice. Like the early Pan Am posters we shared a while back, they capture a romance in aerial transport that is deader than a doornail today.
If she's really anything like a rabbit she's going to need a hole in the bottom of that costume.
We like this strange, rabbit themed cover from the U.S. pop culture magazine Jest, which was published bi-monthly out of New York City and Chicago by Jest Publications, later Timely Features, Inc. Jest was a staple on newsstands from approximately 1941 to 1963. While the rabbit suit on the cover model is funny, we also find it a little creepy—residue from watching Stanley Kubrick's The Shining no doubt. We know—that was a bear suit. But it ruined all animal costumes for us, plus she does look a little evil, doesn't she? Well, the models inside the magazine are less sinister. Some of those include Joan Corey, Kay Morgan, Lucille Lambert, and Loretta Hannings. The editors refer to them as "chorines," which is an interesting word we've seen a few times before. It's a feminization derived from "chorus," but when we see it we mainly think of how white our clothes would be if we threw one in our wash. These images all came from the website Darwin Scans, now sadly idle these last three years and running. But you still may find it worth a look.
Looks like she's well past the tipping point.
Any successful concept has the potential to become a cage for a crime author. Jack Dolph wrote the successful 1948 mystery Odds-On Murder about race tracks and their associated environs, and returned to that milieu for 1950's Murder Makes the Mare Go. In 1952's Hot Tip, for which you see the 1957 Phantom Books cover art above, Dolph is still hanging around the track, where a jockey dies in a sweatbox trying to make weight for a race, and his buddy Doc Connor sets about proving it was murder. There are suspects—the wife who stood to inherit insurance bucks, the estranged brother, and shady gamblers, while artsy Broadway types provide extra color.
Dolph used Doc Connor for all his horse books, with the character's interest in racing legitimizing his constant moonlighting as a sleuth when he probably should have been inoculating babies and reading x-rays. We described these concepts as a cage for authors, but that's our personal bias intruding. Dolph might have loved writing about racing. But either he or the public tired after his fourth foray and fifth novel overall, 1953's Dead Angel, at which point Dolph went out to pasture.
The art on the 1957 edition from Australia's Phantom Books is interesting but uncredited. The British edition from Boardman Books, just above, has nice cover art as well, painted by Denis McLoughlin. And the original art was reconstituted by Horwitz Publications, also Australia based, for usage on the front of Carter Brown's The Tigress, from 1961, below. Though actually, based on the quality of the art, Phantom's Hot Tip art looks like the copy, but the publication dates we have say Phantom was first.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—The Red Baron Is Shot Down
German WWI fighter ace Manfred von Richthofen, better known as The Red Baron, sustains a fatal wound while flying over Vaux sur Somme in France. Von Richthofen, shot through the heart, manages a hasty emergency landing before dying in the cockpit of his plane. His last word, according to one witness, is "Kaputt." The Red Baron was the most successful flying ace during the war, having shot down at least 80 enemy airplanes.
1964—Satellite Spreads Radioactivity
An American-made Transit satellite, which had been designed to track submarines, fails to reach orbit after launch and disperses its highly radioactive two pound plutonium power source over a wide area as it breaks up re-entering the atmosphere.
1939—Holiday Records Strange Fruit
American blues and jazz singer Billie Holiday
records "Strange Fruit", which is considered to be the first civil rights song. It began as a poem written by Abel Meeropol, which he later set to music and performed live with his wife Laura Duncan. The song became a Holiday standard immediately after she recorded it, and it remains one of the most highly regarded pieces of music in American history.
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
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