On the first day of Christmas the Gazette gave to me—a Hitler.
Just in time to ruin everyone’s Christmas shopping, this National Police Gazette from December 1960 splashed Adolf Hitler’s face on its cover along with an inset of Swedish actress May Britt (who could hardly have appreciated the inclusion). George McGrath’s story minces no words, opening with this: Indisputable evidence that Adolf Hitler is alive and living in the Argentine has has been uncovered by the Police Gazette. Although this new information is in the hands of government intelligence chiefs, the United States and its allies are not lifting a finger to catch the runaway Nazi dictator.
By now you’re familiar with the basics: Hitler sent his possessions ahead to Mar del Plata, Argentina eighteen months before World War II’s end, later escaped Europe by u-boat, and set up shop with some of his top brass to begin plotting a return to the global stage. This particular version of the story managed to cleverly sneak in a shot at the Soviet Union, claiming Nikita Khrushchev didn’t want Hitler found. Considering the many millions of soldiers and civilians the Russians lost defeating the guy, that makes zero sense, but hey, this Gazette was published during the Cold War—Russia had to be blamed for everything.
This makes the twenty-second Hitler Gazette cover we’ve posted of twenty-nine we’ve found so far. Each story adds a little bit more to the labryrinthine tale of his daring dash to South America, but this is the first story we’ve seen claim that his capture would divide the Allied nations. Why? Because some would want him executed (obviously), while others would want him forgotten (not so obviously). The only rationale given for the latter position is that Hitler’s capture would open old war wounds. That’s pretty hard to swallow, but also beside the point. The point was magazine sales and the editors undoubtedly achieved that. We’ll have more from the Gazette later.
When it comes to suicide there’s nothing like the real thing.
It’s been a few months, so we’re bringing Hitler back on The National Police Gazette. This example from March 1951 is the twenty-first Hitler cover we’ve located, all of them from the 1950s and 1960s, which means he starred for the Gazette at least yearly for two decades. But of course, that’s just an average based on the issues we’ve found so far. We know for certain there were others, and ultimately we’ll probably determine that he was featured closer to twice a year. As you can see yourself, this time Gazette is concerned with Hitler’s fake suicide, which journo Harvey Wilson says was propaganda put out by the Soviets to cover for their failure to capture him as Berlin burned.
Leaving aside the question of who’s really doing the propagandizing here, it’s a clever little pivot by the Gazette, which went from merely claiming Hitler had escaped to blaming the escape on Moscow, resulting in a nifty mash-up of two of post-War America’s biggest boogeymen—Hitler and Khrushchev.
Later the Gazette would claim Hitler or his henchmen were tight with other enemies of the American power elite, including Abdel Nasser and Juan Peron. One year after the above issue came out, Gazette turned around and in its May 1952 issue, at right, blamed Hitler’s escape on the Allies. And let's not forget the infamous Hitler-in-Antarctica story, truly one of the all-time creative highlights of mid-century tabloid journalism. Well, wherever Hitler fled, the Gazette’ll straighten it out for us in due time. We just have to keep digging up issues. Meanwhile, a couple of scans below, and more from the Gazette to come.
The Lowdown proves that it deserves its name.
We’re jumping right into our treasure trove of newly arrived tabloids today with a glance at this issue of The Lowdown published in March 1965. On the cover you see Jean Harlow, Carroll Baker, and Ed Sullivan. We talked about Baker recently and there she is in that crazy gown again (below)—or is she? No, on close examination this is yet another version of the dress. Clearly, the photo was shot on a different night than all the others because her hair and jewelry are different. But the actual dress also looks slightly different from both the Oleg Cassini and Pierre Balmain iterations. A reference in the story clears things up at least a little: “Transparency gowns are another of her big passions and she often wears them.” There you have it. Half naked was a fairly standard look for Carroll Baker. They just don’t make stars like they used to.
You might be curious what the article is about. On the cover the header reads: “The Night Carroll Baker Played a Call Girl,” but on the inside, it says: “The Night Carroll Baker Played a Harlot!” The story goes that she wanted to research her role as a prostitute in the movie Sylvia, so sheventured down to Tijuana, Mexico, toured a few brothels, and somehow disappeared alone for two hours: “We don’t know what happened in the house in Mexico or what sights she could have barged in on, but that is bouncy Miss Baker’s bit.” Lost in a Mexican whorehouse. The mind reels. Do we buy it? Not for a minute.
The other story of note asks: “How Hot Was Jean Harlow’s Sex Life?” Well, let's take an up close look and find out. In 1932 when Harlow was 21 years old she married Paul Bern, a director and screenwriter. Bern apparently had never done well in the sex department due entirely to his own lack of passion, and his shyness was well known. To him Harlow supposedly represented a chance at true sexual fulfillment. If the most desired woman in Hollywood couldn’t rouse his slumbering libido, nobody could. According to The Lowdown, Bern failed on the wedding night. Here’s what the text says:
In the wee hours of the morning, Jean’s agent [Arthur] Landau received a frantic call from her asking that he come and get her immediately. When [they] got to Landau’s home, according to the agent, Jean stripped off her filmy wedding nightgown to reveal her beautiful body a mass of welts and bruises. “Her back and buttocks were covered with bruises. Therewas one especially bad bruise directly over her kidneys.” The implication here is because Harlow died several years later of kidney failure that she incurred the fatal damage during that wedding night beating. It gets weirder—brace yourselves. Landau goes to Paul Bern’s house, geared for a confrontation:
The bridegroom of some eleven hours was [snip] sprawled nude and drunk on the floor of his den. Silently hating the man at his feet, Landau wanted to kick the slight, pasty body of Bern. Instead he rolled the unconscious man to his back to discover what had never been suspected by anybody in the industry. Paul Bern had the sack and penis of an infant boy. The story goes on to explain that the entire mess was hushed up for the sake of Harlow’s career. Two months later Bern committed suicide via a bullet through the brain. One more excerpt:
Paul had prepared himself for death by removing all his clothing and stood before the dressing room mirror. [snip] And, staring at his tormented body, he pulled the trigger. The nudity added a sexual element to his suicide that encouraged a spectrum of interpretations of his farewell note:
“Dearest dear, unfortunately this is the only way to make good the frightful wrong I have done to you and to wipe out my abject humiliation. I love you. Paul.
You understand that last night was only a comedy.”
What was the comedy? Harlow said nothing to the press. But according to Arthur Landau, she told him Paul Bern had spent $200 on a device to increase his manhood. Wearing the contraption he had entered their bedroom intent on finally consummating their marriage. This hope was doomed from the start and the whole plan turned into such a tragic farce that both he and Jean finally gave way to hysterical laughter. That’s probably one of the sadder stories you’ll ever hear. Is it true? It appeared in a biography about Harlow, but we can never know. We can, however, at least answer the question posed by The Lowdown’s story header. No—Jean Harlow’s sex life was not hot at all.
Castro salvages his U.S. visit by moving uptown.
On September 18, 1960 Fidel Castro and his delegation arrived in New York City and, after sleeping at the Shelburne Hotel for one night, were asked for a $10,000 deposit for their twenty rooms after allegedly causing extensive damage. The Cubans either didn’t have it or were insulted by the demand (reports vary), and Castro pointedly expressed his annoyance at a press conference, which is where the above photo was shot fifty-one years ago today.
Castro said that if the situation wasn't resolved he and his delegation would sleep in Central Park. They were poor mountain people, he reminded everyone, and spending a few days outdoors wouldn't be a big deal. But Harlem’s stately Hotel Theresa intervened with an offer of lodging and Castro moved uptown, where he was greeted by cheering crowds of Harlem residents. Some cheered because they supported Castro, or because they saw the move as a rebuke against Manhattan’s white establishment, or both.
During his stay at the Theresa, Castro received visits from Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev and activist Malcolm X. The event prompted President Dwight D. Eisenhower to call the Cubans “troublemakers.” The photo caption, you’ll notice, opts for a simpler narrative, and says only that Castro was dissatisfied with his room at the Shelburne.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
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