Modern Pulp Oct 13 2016
Bulletproof black man flips the script in Harlem.

So, we watched the entirety of the new Netflix series Luke Cage. Our love of blaxploitation films made it mandatory. Of course, Luke Cage isn't blaxploitation. It's serious black-oriented drama, but anyway we queued it up. For those who don't know, the series is based on a Marvel Comics character who was a bulletproof, super strong black man who lived in Harlem. The show does away with the comic book Cage's bright yellow costume, but leaves the Harlem setting, political machinations, and dealings of crime kingpins that intertwine as normal people try to get on with their lives.

Most members of the sizable cast are black except for several supporting roles, and the occasional one-off—i.e., a technician here, an office worker there. The series is basically an exact negative of about 10,000 television shows over the years that cast blacks in supporting roles. A vocal percentage of the public is not dealing well with it. Some call the show racist. It made us think of the famous unattributed quote: “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” These racially sensitive critics watched How I Met Your Mother, Arrested Development, True Detective and scores of other lily white television shows in droves, but the existence of a single show like Luke Cage is threatening.

But let's put all that aside for the moment. Is the show any good? There are some of the same failings as other action-oriented series, but on the whole it's entertaining. Just be forewarned—it's akin to The Wire more than any superhero extravaganza. The characters are deeply explored. Serious comic book action fans will be disappointed. And second, the complete immersion into an African American culture will be unfamiliarto many viewers. In the end, you simply have to have an interest in the premise and the characters to enjoy the show. For us, the immersion into a nearly 100% black Harlem is one of the show's strengths. For others, not seeing characters that remind them of themselves will be alienating. And that's absolutely acceptable in terms of deciding how to spend one's hard earned free time selecting television shows. Such people should say they aren't interested in the premise. They shouldn't make phony claims that the show is racist.

We think American broadcast media need more shows that reflect reality. Here's the reality—the U.S. is both diverse and extraordinarily segregated. 75% of white Americans have zero black friends, while around 60% of blacks have zero white friends. 100% white environments and white points of view have been shown on television for decades. Luke Cage airs a black point of view, with complex relationships, romantic entanglements, ambitions, dreams, and dealings with harsh realities. There should be room for that, particularly considering television history. On a completely different note, we really are looking forward, twenty or thirty years from now, to a scholarly examination of all these damned superhero shows and movies. There's a real pathology here.


Femmes Fatales Oct 3 2016
Her intentions are abundantly clear.

American actress Anne Francis appears here in a Four Star Productions promo photo made for her television series Honey West, which ran for one season on the network ABC. Francis was a television iron woman, appearing on scores of shows, but she also made a mark in feature films such as Forbidden Planet and Bad Day at Black Rock. This confident shot is from 1965 and shows her looking beautiful in her mid-thirties. About a dozen years earlier, near the beginning of her career, she still looked good but also very different.


Femmes Fatales Jul 23 2016
Everything's better with beer.

You know we live by the beach. They are absolutely packed right now. Sunbathers as far as the eye can see and the mind can comprehend. So in tribute to one of humanity's most primal if slightly bizarre rituals, above is a beachy photo of Japanese actress Yoko Asaji with a Budweiser and little else. Asaji earned acclaim starring on the Japanese television show Kumo no Jūtan, and appears here circa 1975. Hopefully she remembers to hydrate.

Hollywoodland Jul 20 2016
Sigh. I feel like an utter fool. This will completely kill my career. I just know it.

Linda Lawson, who danced at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas as one of the famed Copa Girls, poses with a mushroom cloud on her head in her temporary dual capacity as Miss-Cue, a title bestowed by military personnel participating in the nuclear test Operation Cue at the nearby Nevada Test Site in 1955. High winds had caused the the test to be delayed several times, causing clever soldiers to change the name to Operation Miscue. From there it was just a small leap to actually giving the title to a lucky Vegas showgirl.

The above photo was made at the pool at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during the summer of 1955, and the one at right was made at the same location earlier in the year, with Lawson in a different suit. Hard to know if publicity from getting all mushroom-cloudy helped raise her profile, but in any case she began appearing on television in 1958, and by 1961 had launched a movie career.

So from inauspicious beginnings wearing an oversized tuft of cotton on her head she carved out a résumé of steady work that lasted forty-seven years, which just goes to show that true talent often has a way of overshadowing career sins. All's well that ends well—but we bet she's still mad at her agent. Today Lawson is eighty years old and retired.


Femmes Fatales Jun 19 2016
Blinding curves ahead—proceed with caution.

American actress Patricia Blair strikes a bold pose on this 1959 Columbia Pictures promo for City of Fear, an atomic era thriller about an escaped convict in possession of what he thinks is a canister of heroin but which is really radioactive cobalt-60. We may circle back to this movie later. Blair appeared in a few films but her career was mostly on television, including recurring roles on The Rifleman and Yancy Derringer.


Femmes Fatales May 23 2016
Everything about her is right on the money.

Above, a nice promo photo of American actress Rosalind Cash, best known for co-starring in 1971's sci-fi classic The Omega Man. She went on to score parts on many television shows. 


Intl. Notebook Apr 21 2016
Enterprise goes into dry dock for repairs.

The eleven-foot model of the U.S.S. Enterprise used to shoot television's Star Trek that has been housed in Washington, D.C.'s Smithsonian Institution since 1974 is receiving an overdue restoration. The Smithsonian requested photos from fans or studio staff who could help them return the metal ship to its exact condition from August 1967, when the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” aired. Why that episode? We don't know. In any case, the Enterprise has been modified eight times over the years, and the museum was looking specifically for interior photos or shots of the ship disassembled so they could see how the interior structure was originally arranged. Photos emerged and the Smithsonian is now busily at work rehabbing the starship to its full luster. Since the original framework was wood, the two engines tend to sag over time, so one change being made is to reinforce the interior with a metal collar designed to keep the engines properly aligned. Repainting the exterior is also on the agenda. When finished the Enterprise will be displayed in the museum's new Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, which opens in July. The timing is of course no coincidence. This year—September 8 to be exact—will mark the 50-year anniversary of the Star Trek's premiere on NBC. 


Femmes Fatales Apr 6 2016
Andrea Rau bares her soul and little bit more.

German actress Andrea Rau had a knack for making eye-catching publicity photos, including a very creepy creative shot of her standing in a hole in the woods while wearing a gas mask, but the image above is the prizewinner. It was made when she appeared in 1976 on the West German television show Disco, which ran on ZDF, one of those networks Americans would see while on vacation in Europe and go back home astonished that over-the-air television elsewhere in the world was so much more revealing. Even so, Rau bared a little bit more in the photo than the show. As you can see from looking below, she was well wreathed in foam for home audiences, so this must be one those fun bonus shots that tended to be made back then. Hope she didn't forget to wash behind her ears.


Intl. Notebook Mar 14 2016
It’s all downhill from here.

Here’s a little mid-century ephemera today, an advertisement for New Departure brakes, with Joan Kemp looking happy, but risking a serious accident by not watching the road. We assumed Kemp was at least semi-famous, but it turns out she made only one film appearance—an uncredited turn in 1942’s Journey for Margaret. It’s possible she went on to become a television personality during the ’60s—we discovered a Joan Kemp who was a pitchwoman—but we can’t be sure they’re the same person. The ad is from around 1950.


Intl. Notebook Feb 27 2016
Spock beamed up a year ago today.

Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy died a year ago today, an event we noted at the time with a brief tribute and a photo, though of Nimoy in human form rather than as Spock. Today, for the anniversary, we're going full Spock because we stumbled across this rare promo poster of Nimoy in character holding a model of the Enterprise. While the poster is similar to a widely circulated image available on the Memory Alpha website, as far as we know this particular item has never been posted online without a watermark. So that's our achievement for today.


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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 27
1994—U.S. Prison Population Reaches Milestone
The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history. By 2008 the U.S. Justice Department pegs the number of imprisoned at 2.3 million, and the overall U.S. correctional population, i.e. those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, at 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults.
October 26
1951—Churchill Becomes Prime Minster Again
The Conservative Party wins the British general election, making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time. Churchill is nearly 76 at the time, making him the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone. Churchill remains PM until 1955, when he steps down at 81 due to ill health.
1964—The Night Caller Is Executed
In Australia, Eric Edgar Cooke, who had earned the nickname Night Caller, is hanged after being convicted of murder. He had terrorized Perth for four years, committing 22 violent crimes, eight of which resulted in deaths. He becomes the last person to be executed in Western Australia.
October 25
1938—Archbishop Denounces Dance Music
The Archbishop of Dubuque, Francis J. L. Beckman, makes headlines in the U.S. when he attacks swing music as a degenerated musical system destined to gnaw away at the moral fiber of young people. His denouncement follows on the heels of the music being banned in Germany due to its African and Jewish origins.
1993—Vincent Price Dies
American actor Vincent Price, who had achieved the height of his fame acting in low budget horror movies, and became famous again as the macabre voice in Michael Jackson's song "Thriller," dies at age 82 of complications from emphysema and Pariknson's disease.

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