Every day is a winding road.
Above, a promo photo of actor and icon Humphrey Bogart. Widely considered the greatest star in American film history, the hard-living Bogart—who was a founding member of Frank Sinatra's infamous Rat Pack and once said the problem with the world was that everyone was a few drinks behind—died of cancer this month, 1957.
Fidel Castro's long vigil over Cuba comes to a close.
Above is a unique artifact we've been holding onto for several years—a photo of a metal Fidel Castro billboard located in the vicinity of Holguin, Cuba, a town in the southeast part of the island. Someone we know shot this and gave us a copy, which we squared up a bit in Photoshop. Political billboards are a common sight in Cuba but this one is unique, as far as we know. It says: “Commander in Chief: Order!” We were out of town when Castro died and didn't have a chance to comment on it, and now we've been beaten to it by everyone. Well, no matter. We've written about him—usually in relation to other iconic mid-1960s figures such as John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald—numerous times, and you can see those posts yourself by clicking his keywords just below. We may not have any new commentary to add, but we do have a piece of art nobody else does.
Kay Kendall deals the room a serious blow.
British actress Kay Kendall is not well known today, but until her early death at age thirty-two she seemed ticketed for longlasting stardom. The above shot is from the comedy Genevieve, where she spontaneously shows the fellas how to play trumpet even though she's absolutely blotto. It's a funny scene in an entertaining movie, and was her breakthrough performance. What wasn't funny was her death. Legend has it that a routine blood test revealed leukaemia, which was disclosed not to her but to husband Rex Harrison, who thought it best to keep her terminal status from her, instead telling her she was suffering from anemia. It isn't clear whether she ever knew what killed her, but one would guess she did, at the end. Today she has a major charity named after her—the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund.
Ure definitely not messing around.
Above, a nice femme fatale style shot of Scottish actress Mary Ure, seen here brandishing a silenced pistol in an MGM promo from Where Eagles Dare, 1968. Sadly, her career was hampered by alcohol and mental illness until she fatally overdosed in 1975 aged forty-two.
You have to be in it to win it.
When the dystopian sci-fi movie Deathsport premiered in West Germany today in 1978, the unusual poster above was used to promote it, the title having been changed to Giganten mit stählernen fäusten, which means “giants with steel fists.” That's obviously a terrible name, but whatever, that's what they went with. And what they got was David Carradine and Claudia Jennings in a tale of defiant freedom fighters known as range guides pitted against the minions of a state at eternal war.
The government needs to propagandize the population into joining the armed forces, so it stages televised gladiatorial spectacles in which statemen use fancy death machines to do battle. These contraptions are supposed to be so cool they bedazzle credulous viewers into joining the war effort. This is a really interesting point for an American movie to make, but this is b-cinema, which means the death machines are really just motorcycles the prop department welded extra aluminum to.
The budget may be low, but the framework of the movie is sound. Against its totalitarian/post-apocalyptic backdrop you get an ambitious stateman, played by all time b-movie villain Richard Lynch, pursuing a personal grudge against Carradine's legendary range guide. You may not know who Richard Lynch is by name, but if you've watched even a few terrible ’70s movies you know his face because of its distinctive scarring.
The movie also offers up cannibal mutants, desert mysticism, silver jumpsuits, crystal swords, and naked women—including Jennings in a couple of her nudest scenes. Ah, but don't fret, lovers of manmeat—Carradine wears a loincloth for most of the film. True, he's got one of those high fat content ’70s bodies, but on a typical Friday night, were the clock to strike closing time at the club, you'd take his hairy hunkiness home and be happy about it. In a way, that's true of the movie too.
The queen in her castle.
Jayne Mansfield lounges with one of her dogs and a teddy bear in a very pink promo photo made in 1966. Actually, there are two dogs here—look in the mirror and you'll see her famed chihuahua reflected there. Mansfield had a thing for pink. When she bought her 40-room mansion on Sunset Boulevard in L.A.'s Holmby Hills enclave she had the entire residence decorated in that color, with pink fluorescent lights, pink furs in the bathrooms, a pink heart-shaped bathtub, a fountain that cascaded pink champagne, and a pink heart-shaped swimming pool. All class, right? She dubbed the place the Pink Palace and it was one of Tinseltown's most famous landmarks. Mansfield died a year after the above photo was made, and the house changed hands several times before the wrecking ball came calling. Conservationists made efforts to save it, but of course this is L.A. we're talking about—change is the city's default setting. The house was razed in 2002
Rie Nakagawa loses battle with cancer.
We talked just last week about Rie Nakagawa's film Danjo Seiji-gaku: Kojin jugyo, aka Man & Woman Sexology: Private Lessons, and we also wrote up her film Kaben no shizuku, aka Beads from a Petal back in February. News came that she died of cancer in Tokyo yesterday. Though known mainly for her roman porno films, she had continued working and had appeared on television as recently as last year. Japanese cinema is a bit less luminous today.
Ali invades Japan and helps invent MMA.
When Muhammad Ali died last week we remembered we had some rarities laying around, but it took a few days to find them. These are the items we were searching for—posters from Ali's June 1976 match at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan arena with Japanese wrestler Antonio Inoki. In what would now be called a mixed martial arts bout, Ali and Inoki fought to a draw, however this was not a freeform battle, but rather a tightly regulated exhibition match. Nevertheless, Ali's leg was so damaged from Inoki's repeated kicks that an infection set in and for a brief time the medical discussion turned to amputation. Today the Budokan match is considered by Ali fans an embarrassment in the boxer's storied career, but it was also an important precursor to MMA, a case study in how boxing and MMA are incompatible sports, and yet another example of Ali's trailblazing nature. He was the king and he will be missed.
Ghost hunter hit by train while searching for creature said to lure victims in front of trains.
A few days ago in Louisville, Kentucky a woman was hit and killed by a train, but this was no ordinary accident. Twenty-six-year-old Roquel Bain and her boyfriend had come to Louisville to take part in a ghost hunting tour of an abandoned sanitarium, but first decided to investigate a local legend—the Pope Lick Goatman. This cryptid is said to use a hypnotic gaze to lure victims onto the Pope Lick Trestle, where they are then hit by a passing train. Bain and her companion walked onto the trestle and shortly thereafter a train came along, as they tend to do about every half hour, according to locals. Bain's boyfriend was able to hang from the edge of the structure as the train passed but Bain was hit and hurled one hundred feet onto the valley floor.
The Goatman legend has the hallmarks of a high school stunt that grew over the course of years. Since locals are aware that trains pass frequently, we suspect the game decades ago was to simply cross the trestle before one came along. A bridge that long, a schedule that tight, it was a reasonable bet everyone would have to run for their lives at some point. Fun and games. But dangerous ones, with occasional deaths. At thatpoint the Goatman story probably came into being to provide motivation to risk the trestle, or maybe someone just dreamed it up to explain why people were always crazy enough to be up there. “There must be some weird lure for these people,” someone comments. “Like what? A siren?” someone replies sarcastically. “Hah hah. Yeah. Well, there's no water up there. Plenty of cows and goats, though. Half man, half goat.” Then in 1988 came director Ron Schildknecht's 16-minute movie The Legend of the Pope Lick Monster, and the story of the Goatman began to spread. Of the people who visit from outside the area, many arrive believing the rickety-looking trestle is abandoned, which Bain may have thought as well. The crossing still would be dangerous without a train, but at least you could do it at a comfortable pace. The story of Bain's death caught our eye for two reasons. First because PSGP was born and raised in southern Ohio and had heard of this bridge. He never braved the crossing—before interlopers from out of state began visiting the site regularly, Louisville locals would have viewed an Ohio kid in their backwoods as a good candidate for an ass-whipping. They probably still do.
The second reason this story struck us is because we just wrote about personal risk-taking a few days ago, and this is obviously the flipside of it—risk is exhilarating but it can get you hurt or killed. Bain and her boyfriend were just trying catch a thrill, which we totally understand. Hell, we don't see it as very different from dirt biking or ocean kayaking, but that's just us. You have to feel bad for everyone involved, though. Wait a sec—did we really just write that? Last time something like this happened we thought it was hilarious. Are we getting soft? Damn. Blame it on the Pulp Intl. girlfriends.
No matter how far she ran dissatisfaction followed close behind.
This gold colored June 1963 cover for Confidential magazine is entirely given over to actress Barbara Payton, whose self-penned hard-luck story appears inside and details her life troubles. The tale is well known and is one we’ve touched upon before—early marriage and early motherhood, followed by stardom, romances, and riches, followed by booze, drugs, divorces and crime. Confidential being Confidential, the editors neglect to mention that the story here is not an exclusive, but rather is excerpted from I Am Not Ashamed, Payton’s painfully revealing autobiography.
I Am Not Ashamed did not sell especially well, and was pretty much forgotten a few years after its release. But it reappeared by chance two decades later when Jack Nicholson famously lent a rare copy to Jessica Lange to help her prepare for her femme fatale role in The Postman Always Rings Twice. Today the book is widely available. Just a few seconds reading Payton’s words conjures the suspicion she had a ghostwriter, and indeed, it was the king of lowbrow literature Leo Guild who gave shape to the prose, which reads like gutter level sleaze fiction.
For example: “He hated what I had been [but] loved me for what I was. He tortured himself. Every part of my body reminded him of another man.” And this bit: “I had a body when I was a young kid that raisedtemperatures wherever I went. Today I have three long knife wounds on my solid frame. One extends from my buttocks down my thigh and needed I don’t remember how many stitches.” Payton’s anecdotes are cringe worthy, but they read like she’d gotten a grip on her life. No such luck. After four more long years of drugs, drink, and disaster she was found dead on her bathroom floor in 1967.
Payton post-mortems usually describe her problems as self-induced, but that’s simplistic. In the 1950s famous men did anything they wished, but women had to be careful not to be seen doing the same. Still do today. That’s the part Payton had problems with. Even so, she had several happy periods during her life. One of those was the stretch she spent in Mexico married to a young fisherman. About this time she says, “We fished and I caught big ones, and we loved and for a couple of years it was beautiful. My big problems were what to cook for dinner. But it was inevitable the ants in my pants would start crawling again.”
We like that passage, because nearly all the stories about Payton declare, or at least suggest, that everything that happened after Hollywood stardom was part of a terminal plummet. That’s pretty much the default setting in American journalism—anything other than wealth and fame is by definition failure. It’s an idiotic conceit, even a harmful one, and Payton reveals that in Mexico she landed someplace solid and safe, and got along fine without money or recognition. Two years of happiness is nothing to take lightly. But she just couldn’t sit still—not because of where she was, but because of who she was.
And the spiral continued—cheaper and cheaper forms of prostitution, physical confrontations that resulted in her getting some of her teeth knocked out, and more. In all of these tales there’s a recurrent theme of lowly types taking advantage of her, but we can’t help noting that she was paid a mere $1,000 for her autobiography, an absurdly deficient amount for a former top star with a crazy story to tell, which suggests to us that guys in office suites take as much advantage—or more—of a person’s hard luck as guys in alleys. We have some scans below, and Payton will undoubtedly appear here again.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
2011—Elizabeth Taylor Dies
American actress Elizabeth Taylor, whose career began at age 12 when she starred in National Velvet
, and who would eventually be nominated for five Academy Awards as best actress and win for Butterfield 8
and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. During her life she had been hospitalized more than 70 times.
1963—Profumo Denies Affair
In England, the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, denies any impropriety with showgirl Christine Keeler and threatens to sue anyone repeating the allegations. The accusations involve not just infidelity, but the possibility acquaintances of Keeler might be trying to ply Profumo for nuclear secrets. In June, Profumo finally resigns from the government after confessing his sexual involvement with Keeler
and admitting he lied to parliament.
1978—Karl Wallenda Falls to His Death
World famous German daredevil and high-wire walker Karl Wallenda, founder of the acrobatic troupe The Flying Wallendas, falls to his death attempting to walk on a cable strung between the two towers of the Condado Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wallenda is seventy-three years old at the time, but it is a 30 mph wind, rather than age, that is generally blamed for sending him from the wire.
2006—Swedish Spy Stig Wennerstrom Dies
Swedish air force colonel Stig Wennerström, who had been convicted in the 1970s of passing Swedish, U.S. and NATO secrets to the Soviet Union over the course of fifteen years, dies in an old age home at the age of ninety-nine. The Wennerström affair, as some called it, was at the time one of the biggest scandals
of the Cold War.
The federal penitentiary located on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay closes. The island had been home to a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison over the years. In 1972, it would become a national recreation area open to tourists, and it would receive national landmark designations in 1976 and 1986.
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