Getting on the same page.
These two December 1960 promotional photos show American welterweight/middleweight boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and Italian middleweight actress Rita Giannuzzi hamming it up after Robinson’s draw with rival Gene Fullmer at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Robinson and Giannuzzi were slated to appear together in a boxing-related movie—title to be determined—backed by lightweight producer Felice Zappulla and filmed in Europe. Apparently the idea never quite caught on, because the movie never happened.
Twelve leading causes of headaches and bodily pain.
The National Police Gazette devoted much of its space to boxing. Above you see twelve pages, some originals and some reprints, from its monthly feature the Gallery of Champions. Of course, Jimmy Carter, at top, later went on to become president of the United States. Really a remarkable story.
, Jimmy Carter
, Max Schmeling
, Joe Louis
, Billy Papke
, Georges Carpentier
, Jess Willard
, Packey McFarland
, Ezzard Charles
, Jack O’Brien
, Jack Dempsey
, Henry Armstrong
, magazine art
All celebrities great and small.
We’ve featured Pic magazine only once before, but not because it was an unimportant publication. Quite the opposite—we’ve seen issues as early as 1936 and as late as 1958, making it both a Depression and World War II survivor, presumably no easy feat and certainly a run indicative of sustained popularity. Early issues seemed focused on sports, but it soon broadened to include celebrities. It was launched by Wagner Publications of New York City, and this issue appeared in June 1952 with a cover featuring actress Suzan Ball placing a crown on the head of Akton Miller, a man Pic had chosen as its Hot Rod King. Inside you get a raft of Hollywood stars, including photos of Yvonne De Carlo in Uruguay, Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh, and Joan Vohs, shots of New York Giants manager Leo Durocher and his beautiful actress wife Laraine Day, and some nice boxing pictures. There’s also an interesting feature on the day’s top vocalists (with African-Americans notably excluded), and a profile of crooner Tony Bennett.
But it’s Suzan Ball’s story we’re interested in today. Her path to show business was so typical of the period as to be almost banal—she was spotted in a Santa Maria, California newspaper after winning a cake baking contest. Universal-International scouts thought she looked a bit like Jane Russell, so they swept her up, shuttled her down Highway 101, signed her to a contract and began selling her as a hot new Tinseltown commodity, proclaiming her the New Cinderella Girl of ’52. Soon the influential columnist Hedda Hopper took up the refrain, naming her one of the most important new stars of 1953, thus ensuring that year would belong to Ball.
It was then that her train to stardom jumped the tracks. She injured her leg performing a dance number in East of Sumatra, and later in the year had a car accident and hurt the leg again. Treatment for those two injuries led to the discovery of a cancerous tumor. Soon afterward she fell and broke the limb, and when doctors decided they couldn’t remove the tumor they instead took the entire the leg. That was in January 1954. Ball soldiered on in her show business career with an artificial leg, starring in Chief Crazy Horse, though she lost fifteen pounds during the production, and later playing nightclub dates and appearing on television shows. In July 1955 she collapsed while rehearsing for the show Climax, whereupon doctors discovered the cancer had metastasized and spread to her lungs. A month later she died at age twenty-one. We have about fifty scans below.
, Santa Maria
, Pic Magazine
, New York Giants
, Joan Vohs
, Marilyn Monroe
, Leo Durocher
, Laraine Day
, Chief Crazy Horse
, Hedda Hopper
, Suzan Ball
, Joe Louis
, Coley Wallace
, Jersey Joe Walcott
, Ezzard Charles
, Clarence Henry
, Bob Satterfield
, Tony Bennett
, Kat Starr
, Patti Page
, Doris Day
, Mary Ford
, Rosemary Clooney
, Johnnie Ray
, Yvonne De Carlo
, Peggy Dow
, Debbie Reynolds
, Janet Leigh
, John Wayne
, Toni Arden
, Eddie Fisher
, Tony Martin
, Dizzy Dean
, Joanne Dru
, Alan Abel
, Sally Forrest
, Esther Williams
, Ava Gardner
A man called Hawk.
Above is a classic boxing cover from The National Police Gazette, a magazine whose specialization in this area we’ve shared with you before. This time the unlucky pugilist is Kid Gavilán, née Gerardo González, aka The Cuban Hawk (gavilán is Spanish for hawk), who on this June 1953 cover is taking a beating from Sugar Ray Robinson. The occasion was 23 September 1948. Robinson won a controversial decision, and when the two met again the next year Robinson won by decision again. Though Gavilán never beat Robinson he did win the world welterweight title in 1951, and throughout that year, 1952, and 1953 defended it by winning brutal bout after brutal bout. That’s why the Gazette says Gavilán can take it. In 1954 he jumped weight classes and lost a middleweight title bout to Bobo Olson, then afterward fought Johnny Saxton and lost his welterweight crown. The rest of Gavilán’s career was up and down, but he’s remembered in boxing circles as one tough hombre. Below is the unaltered photo from which the Gazette made its great cover.
Yeah, but you should see the other guy.
This is American boxer Carmen Basilio, and bad as he looks on the outside, he feels even worse inside because he’s just learned he lost his welterweight title to challenger Johnny Saxton. That wasn’t what Basilio, the crowd of thousands, and the television audience of millions thought when the final bell rang, but the judges somehow saw a different fight than everyone else and awarded Saxton the decision. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Saxton was mafia-connected, and his “manager, friend, and adviser” was Philly mobster and notorious fight fixer Frank “Blinky” Palermo? Very possible. Basilio later said of the decision, which occurred in March 1956, “It was like being robbed in a dark alley.” Well, he certainly looks like a guy who was robbed. See more on Basilio here.
Well, what if I don’t want to go to my corner?
Above you see a very interesting dust jacket for W.R. Burnett’s 1930 novel Iron Man, which is the story of a mechanic turned middleweight boxer turned world champion. Burnett had more than fifty films made of his fiction and screenplays, including Little Caesar, High Sierra, The Asphalt Jungle, Scarface, and many more. But we’re focused on the cover art today. It’s by Edna Reindel, and it has both an art deco influence and a purely Reindel style that downplays outright aggression in favor of smoldering defiance, like Enrico del Debbio’s boxer in Rome’s Foro Italico. Alternatively, it could look like something more prosaic, like a male model’s runway pose (it’s okay to think of Zoolander—we did too). Anyway, we find this an incredibly beautiful piece of art, certainly wallworthy, and doubtless a contributing factor why first editions of this book go for between $75 and $200. We will definitely find more of Reindel’s work and share it later.
, Little Caesar
, High Sierra
, The Asphalt Jungle
, Edna M. Reindel
, W.R. Burnett
, Enrico del Debbio
, cover art
How to break a head of the competition.
Last we saw Joe Louis he had been propelled by a Rocky Marciano punch out of the boxing ring (literally) and into an overdue retirement. But old boxers don’t usually fade away—they more often switch careers (e.g. Tyson/acting). Louis switched to wrestling in 1956, but after being diagnosed with a heart ailment, became a wrestling referee. It wasn’t such a surprising transition, as he had first refereed wrestling way back in 1944 when, during a 30-day furlough from military service, he officiated a match between Ernie Dusek and George Becker.
The above National Police Gazette cover from this month in 1960 shows action between Frankie Jarvis and Gino Garibaldi, with Louis seeming almost zen about it, as if offering a gentle reminder that neck stamping is bad for the karma. Hard to tell who’s the stamper and who’s the stampee, but if we had to guess we’d say Jarvis is on top and Garibaldi is the one being taught the tensile limits of his own spine. We checked both those guys out and while Jarvis produced no hits on the web, turns out Garibaldi was a major wrestling figure who fought more than 1,300 bouts over his career (doubtless some Pulp Intl. readers already knew that, but go easy on us—it was well before our time).
Louis worked as a ref until 1972, and though we don’t know if he was considered proficient or deficient in the profession, he did remain a prominent celebrity through those years, appearing at promotional events and competing on television quiz shows. As a side note, we should mention that his celebrity was even powerful enough for him to break the Professional Golf Association’s color line back in 1952, so the high profile he maintained throughout his retirement was simply the continuation of an established trend. We have several entries on Joe Louis on the website. If you want to see those, just click his keywords below.
Mike Tyson’s new autobiography Undisputed Truth tells of fake penises and coke-fueled boxing bouts.
England’s Guardian website has shared claims from ex-boxing champ Mike Tyson’s new autobiography Undisputed Truth, among them his admission that he used a fake penis called a “whizzer” to pass drug tests. We have a feeling Tyson is referring to the good ole Whizzinator 5000, invented by entrepreneurs George Wills and Robert Catalano, and which we wrote about back in 2008. In short, you’d strap the contraption inside your pants and at the moment of truth use its realistic latex phallus (which sold in various colors, but sadly only one size) to issue a stream of drug-free synthetic urine. We hailed Wills’ and Catalano’s genius, but law enforcement authorities felt differently and charged them with violating one of America’s eight million federal drug statutes.
One gets the impression Tyson’s whizzer was an oft used piece of equipment, because according to his book he was ingesting drugs so routinely that he fought high several times, necessitating lots of faked urine tests. Tyson even claims the brutal 38-second TKO he scored against Lou Savarese occurred during a marijuana/cocaine high. In that bout, Tyson knocks down Savarese with his first punch but Savarese regains his feet. At that point, Tyson crawls fully up in Savarese’s ass, so much so that when the ref tries to stop the fight Tyson just tosses him aside and keeps on chucking hooks and uppercuts. It makes no sense if you think of it as a boxing match, but if you think of it as punishment for standing between a man and his next rail of coke, it all becomes crystal clear.
The fight is probably worth watching, for those who have a spare minute. Even the announcers are bemused by the spectacle. Savarese probably already felt bad all these years about being the opponent in Tyson’s second shortest professional bout—now he surely feels worse knowing Tyson probably thought of him as little more than a brief annoyance to be dealt with before regaining access to the marching powder and Moët. But Savarese should count himself lucky. If he’d put up more resistance he might have ended up being fed to one of Tyson’s pet tigers. It was Aristotle, we think, who in explaining his theory of gravity said: “Stand between a man and his next fat line at your peril.” See our original Whizzinator story here.
Joe Louis fights beyond his prime with predictable results.
It’s been awhile since we shared one of The National Police Gazette’s famed boxing covers, so today we have a smudged and smeared but still compelling one featuring Joe Louis after being knocked down by Rocky Marciano. Louis had taken the fight strictly for the money, which he needed to deal with tax problems. Pretty much everyone (except those sneaky oddsmakers) knew Louis would lose to Marciano, who was a decade younger and the reigning heavyweight champ, and indeed Louis was knocked out in the eighth round. That was today in 1951. We also found the original photo the Gazette used for its cover, which hit newsstands in October 1952. Unfortunately we had to go to a white supremacist website to get it. We’re going to take a long shower, and we’ll continue with our regularly scheduled pulp once we feel clean again. In the meantime, to see more fascinating Gazette boxing covers start here and here, and follow the links in those posts.
American boxing great’s legacy includes seminal film about the antebellum South.
The death of boxing champ Ken Norton has produced some nice tributes, but we wanted to mention that he also made a couple of interesting movies. The one most worth watching is 1975’s Mandingo, a slavery tale that has gone unsurpassed for realism in depicting America’s antebellum South. A few movies are at the same level of historical accuracy (including the amazing Addio Zio Tom, which we’re going to feature here in a couple of weeks), but Mandingo remains notable for its sweaty, oppressive feel and rich cinematography. Norton wasn’t chosen for the pivotal role of Ganymede because he could act. He was chosen because of his physical build and good looks—the first was necessary for scenes in which his character takes part in brutal pit fights, and the second makes the movie’s subplot of forbidden sexual desire plausible. When we featured Mandingo a few years ago we didn’t recommend it fully, but any film which some prominent critics have hailed as a classic and was a clear influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but which Robert Ebert originally rated a zero has to be worth watching, if only to see what the fuss is all about.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1961—Bay of Pigs Invasion Is Launched
A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro. However, the invasion fails badly and the result is embarrassment for U.S. president John F. Kennedy and a major boost in popularity for Fidel Castro, and also has the effect of pushing him toward the Soviet Union for protection.
1943—First LSD Trip Takes Place
Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann, while working at Sandoz Laboratories in Basel, accidentally absorbs lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD, and thus discovers its psychedelic properties. He had first synthesized the substance five years earlier but hadn't been aware of its effects. He goes on to write scores of articles and books about his creation.
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