Hollywoodland Feb 15 2017
FROM SIR! WITH LOVE
Anita Ekberg bares all for art.

Anita Ekberg graces the cover of this February 1957 issue of Sir! magazine, laid back, colorized, and looking good. She gets in depth treatment inside, with a focus on a nude statue of her made by Hungarian sculptor Sepy Dobronyi. The story was perfect for Hollywood gossip rags, and accordingly they all reported breathlessly that Dobronyi wanted to make the statue a nude, and since he was headed back to his studio in Cuba and couldn't have Ekberg sit for him, took a series of nude reference photos. Dobronyi was a scuba diver in his spare time and had collected gold coins from sunken Spanish galleons to use in his art, some of which he applied to Ekberg's likeness, leading to this boob-related witticism from Sir! editors: “Anita's statue has a real honest-to-goodness treasure chest.” The sculpture was mostly bronze, though, and became known as the Ekberg Bronze, which when last seen was in a Norwegian museum, though Ekberg was actually Swedish.

Elsewhere in Sir! you get the short feature, “A Homo Speaks Out.” The title alone. Really. The author, working in confessional form, admits to deep feelings of regret, shame, self-loathing, and so forth at his “condition”—basically writing everything mid-century homophobes would have wanted to read. It ain't pretty, so we won't transcribe any of it. Readers also learn about marriage rites on the Pacific islands of New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), where tribal ceremonies involve all the male members of the groom's family having first crack at the bride. Is that true? We have no idea, and really aren't inclined to find out. To each culture their own, we say—as Americans, we come from the weirdest one on the planet. Other stories deal with Elvis Presley, burlesque, and prostitution. While Sir! wasn't one of the top mid-century tabs, it outdid itself with the Ekberg cover alone, which we consider one of the most eye-catching images of her we've seen.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 9 2013
ALONG CAME A SCHNIEDER

We said we’d get back to Mark Schneider’s work, so today we have seven more Sir! covers to add to the one we posted earlier in the week. His style is certainly unique. These are all from the mid- to late-1950s.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 4 2013
BIG SIR
The case of the missing voodoo sex fiends.


Above and below, the mix of fiction, fact, hysteria, photos, and art that is NYC-based Volitant Publishing’s Sir! This February 1954 issue has a great portrait of Gina Lollobrigida, along with articles on the danger of Peeping Toms, “Hungarian” dancer Yvonne Davis, and how to spot frigid women. The promised story on sex in the Caribbean, which the cover art is supposed to illustrate, does not appear in the magazine. We’ve never seen that happen with a tabloid. Maybe the writer had a Eureka! moment during his field research: Wait—I'm having sex in the Caribbean. Why would I ever go back to New York? In any case, the story is MIA.

Sir! had a few different looks over the years, but the 1953 and 1954 issues, with covers painted by Mark Schneider, were particularly interesting. After 1954 Sir! mixed in photographed covers, which it had already done during earlier years. The post-1954 paintings were mostly by other artists, though Schneider’s work appeared on at least three post-1954 Sir! annuals. The quality of his covers varies, but all had a uniquely lurid mood that many supposedly better artists couldn’t touch. He sure had us looking forward to that Caribbean voodoo sex story. Anyway, we’ll put up a collection of Schneider’s work later so you can see what we mean.

In other news, we recently bought a stack of fifty mid-century tabloids from the U.S., and assuming the international mails work as they should, we will have those in hand soonish. We got the lot for fifty bucks, which was really exciting, since we’ve seen some individual issues from the stack being auctioned elsewhere for as much as $100.00. There’s no thrill quite like finding a great bargain. Wait—did we really just say that? God, we’re starting to sound like our girlfriends.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 2 2011
MEXICAN FACT DANCE
Guess what group rears its ugly head in the Mexican vice trade?

Communists were already said to be under every bed in America in 1956, so why not under every bed in Mexico too? In this February 1956 Sir! editors float a preposterous story about communists controlling the vice rackets south of the border. Did they really expect people to buy this stuff? Yes, they did—after all, there was a communist party in Mexico, and hence communists. They had no real-world connection to the vice trade but in the fear mongering climate of that time the Sir! story would not have seemed so farfetched. Does it make you wonder what stories people will laugh at us fifty years from now for believing? Yeah, us too. 

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Vintage Pulp Jul 28 2010
BLADES OF GLORY
Where have all the cowboys gone?

Here’s a very nice Sir! cover from July 1958, featuring a cowboy and a vaquero dueling to the death while tied together, straddling a log, and dressed like two members of the Village People. That’s supposed to be American frontiersman Jim Bowie on the left, and since he later dies at the Alamo, we know how this fight ends. And even if we didn’t know he died at the Alamo, we’d know he won the fight. Otherwise when you went into a hunting supply store and asked for a Bowie knife, the clerk would look at you really confused, and say, “Bowie knife? I never heard of a Bowie knife, but if you’re looking for top quality we’ve got these great Gonzales knives.” 

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Vintage Pulp Oct 8 2009
ALL SIRRED UP
Mid-century tabloids used similar practices as today's websites.

Above is an October 1955 cover of the men’s magazine/tabloid Sir!, with a story about Yale’s famous Pig Night we’re certain was borrowed from an identical Hush-Hush story published in September 1955. Most of the old scandal rags didn't have many actual reporters on the ground, so instead they relied on a network of stringers and paid informants. When all else failed, they simply rewrote material from other tabloids, or sometimes even mainstream publications. Sound familiar? It's the same process used by websites today, and back then the practice generated the exact same type of complaints about journalistic integrity. Once again, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The only difference is the old tabloids never really threatened the mainstream media, (though a couple of imprints were top sellers), whereas today's metastasized internet does call into question whether standard media can survive. Only time will tell. A few more issues of Sir! appear below.     

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 21
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
August 20
1940—Trotsky Iced in Mexico
In Mexico City exiled Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky is fatally wounded with an ice axe (not an ice pick) by Soviet agent Ramon Mercader. Trotsky dies the next day.
1968—Prague Spring Ends
200,000 Warsaw Pact troops backed by 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia to end the Prague Spring political liberalization movement.
1986—Sherrill Goes Postal
In Edmond, Oklahoma, United States postal employee Patrick Sherrill shoots and kills fourteen of his co-workers and then commits suicide.
August 19
1953—Mohammed Mossadegh Overthrown in Iran
At the instigation of the CIA, Prime Minster of Iran Mohammed Mossadegh is overthrown and the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi is installed as leader of the country.
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