Even if the folklore is untrue, you have to give it credit for staying power.
The rumor about John Dillinger’s enormous penis has been debunked often enough that we don’t need to bother, but the interesting question remaining is how the rumor got started in the first place. Nobody knows, but this Tijuana bible entitled A Hasty Exit may be the first depiction of Dillinger with an oversized member. Tijuana bibles often starred famous and infamous people, and all the men had enormous rods, because what’s the point of a dirty book otherwise? But still, this is a curious artifact, considering the folklore surrounding Big John’s dilly of a pickle. It doesn’t have a copyright, but it has for many years been grouped with other bibles dating from the 1930s. We’re putting it at 1934 or after because the Evelyn character here probably is supposed to be Dillinger’s girlfriend Evelyn Frechette, who was unknown to the wider public until her April 1934 arrest. The Captain Tracy character is, of course Dick Tracy. Dilly and Dick get freaky, below. See more Tijuana bibles by clicking here, here, or here.
Hah hah, this is so much fun. Wait—what do I win again?
This Whisper from March 1955 features a striking cover image and the teaser at lower right: The Story the Whole Town Is Whispering About. What story was that? Seems Whisper had discovered key parties, a type of sexual swapping where men placed their keys in a hat or bowl and women blindly grabbed a set and went home with the person whose keys they chose. The phenomenon is generally associated with the 1970s, and has certainly become more widely known since the novel and movie The Ice Storm featured it as a central plot device, but there are many who doubt such parties were real. Here we have proof that the idea (if not the practice) existed in 1955.
Liberace is finally forced to take up arms against the tabloids.
A long while ago we shared the cover of a 1956 Whisper featuring George Sanders. The same issue had an article on Liberace, and we’re returning to that today as part of our look at mid-century tabloid attitudes toward gay culture. In general of course, the tabloids were brutally insulting, using overt as well as coded language to get intimations of homosexuality across. Theoretically, when dealing with public figures they had to be somewhat cautious, but both Rave and Inside had in 1954 written stories insinuating that Liberace was gay, and in 1955 Suppressed and Private Lives did the same. In Whisper, a journalist writing under the name Sylvia Tremaine refers to Liberace as a “creature,” labels his speech as “simpering,” and describes his move to television this way: “From there it was just a brief flutter to a local TV program.”
You’ll notice there’s deniability in all those words—Whisper could claim there was nothing defamatory in the language. Ridiculous, of course. Clearly the magazine was calling Liberace gay, and only a fool would claim otherwise, but defamation had not occurred to an extent that would stand up in court. Thus we see the joy of coded language. The same occurs in the U.S. today in certain media outlets with language directed at African Americans. The disparagement is clear, but deniable. Or for a cinematic example of coding, consider the Maltese Falcon and how the character of Joel Cairo is announced by flute trills on the soundtrack. Clear, and yet deniable. But in its Liberace article Whisper then throws deniability out the window with this: “Hollywood snickerers are wondering, in fact, if all the male hormones earmarked for the Liberace boys weren’t hogged by George, leaving Lee with only his nimble fingers.” That goes a bit beyond code, wouldn’t you say?
Liberace did not sue, and the tabloids simply built momentum. Later in 1956 Britain’s Daily Mirror called him a “deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium-plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother love.” Robert Harrison’s Confidential piled on in 1957. It published a three-part tale of Liberace attacking a hapless press agent. A sample from that hit piece: “Fatso plumped onto the couch alongside his young guest, and before you could say Gorgeous George, the pair were [wrestling]. In a matter of moments, it turned into a boxing bout, too, with the press agent throwing desperate lefts and rights at Liberace. The latter, his determination stiffening, merely clung tighter. The floor show reached its climax when Dimples, by sheer weight, pinned his victim’s shoulders to the mat and mewed into his face: 'Gee, you’re cute when you’re mad!'”
Liberace’s lawyer John Jacobs filed lawsuits against both Daily Mirror and Confidential, demanding a whopping twenty million dollars from the latter. Adjusted for inflation, that's about $174 million in today's terms. You can almost imagine Robert Harrison spitting up his coffee when he heard the settlement demand. Equally you can imagine Liberace’s reluctance to dignify the article, but Confidential at the time had readership in the millions. Something had to be done. It had become open season on his private life. Even the press photo below toyed with him. Thedescriptive text, written for newspaper staff, is meant to simply get across the basic facts of the photos and is typically pretty dry stuff. But this describes Liberace as "the curly-haired pianist" and says his walk is "jaunty." Clear, but deniable.
In the end, Liberace received $40,000 from Confidential and $53,000 from the Daily Mirror, substantial sums for the time. In addition to his legal victories, the constraints against tabloid journalism were becoming more defined. Of course, Liberace had won the cases by perjuring himself in court about being gay. In 1987 when he died of complications related to AIDS, Daily Mirror refused to show an iota of deference or respect and published a piece referring to the 1950s settlement. It was headlined: Any Chance of a Refund?
Bringing American values to the world.
If you visit this site a lot, you’re used to this—we promise to get back to something and then take forever to do it. But to our credit, we do eventually keep our promises. Today, we’re finally returning to that pile of Japanese x-rated promo posters we’ve accumulated (Japanese as in designed and printed in Japan, but to promote American movies). Above is a poster for a porn compilation entitled That’s Porno, released in 1979 and comprised strictly of sex scenes culled from various films, freed from the tyranny of plotlines and character development (just kidding—we live for plotlines and character development). You have to love the art, which consists of the lips of twenty-two x-rated actresses, some well known, such as Georgina Spelvin and Annette Haven (or Heaven, according to the text), and others virtually forgotten, like Karen Devin and Tina Louise (the other Tina Louise). Anyway, we have eight more posters below and relevant info.
Baby Face II, with Stacy Donovan, Candy Evans, and Taija Rae. Just to make sure Japanese audiences got the point, the word “sex” appears front and center. We’ve talked before about the usage of this English word on Japanese posters as a signifier and here you get another example.
Beach Blanket Bango, with Cindy Taylor and Rene Bond, 1975. Notice the word “fuck” at upper left. Again, is this more descriptive than the Japanese word for the same act, or is the English a signifier of decadence?
Expose Me, Lovely, with Annie Sprinkle, Jennifer Welles, and Jody Maxwell, 1976. The designers misspelled the word “expose,” instead putting “exporse,” but they did get “sex” right, and there’s “erection” right next to it, for good measure.
Savage Fury II, with Christy Canyon, Randy West, Tony Montana, and Ron Jeremy, 1989. Boldly goes where Savage Fury I dared not—into the pants of Ron “The Hedgehog” Jeremy.
V—The Hot One, with Annette Haven and John Leslie, 1977. This one is considered one of the better adult flicks of the seventies, with a real plot, a serious message, and a legendary star in Haven.
Tell Them Johnny Wadd is Here, with Annette Haven and John Holmes, 1976.
Olympic Fever, with Candida Royale, Seka, Paul Thomas, and Ron Jeremy, 1979. We’re betting the shot put was the climactic event here, immediately preceded by the breast stroke and pole vault.
Honey Pie, with Jennifer Welles, Terri Hall, and Annie Sprinkle, 1975.
That’s all for today. We have about a hundred more of these, not all as interesting as this group, but sometime down the line we’ll pick out a few more worthy examples and share them. In the meantime, be sure to check our previous entries on this subject here, here and here.
1950s male fitness magazine features a surprising guest star.
Today we’re back to the bodybuilding publication Tomorrow’s Man. The content of TM was health focused, but in the same way that the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is about swimwear. We’ll let a contemporary from the period say it: “When I was a closeted teenager Tomorrow’s Man was my favorite guilty pleasure magazine. I was so impressed that in 1965 I mentioned Tomorrow’s Man specifically in my first novel What They Did to the Kid.” That’s from award winning author Jack Fritscher.
So you had a health and fitness publication that—for some customers—also served as a sexual outlet, exactly like Sports Illustrated. One difference here, though, is that underaged boys were often featured in TM’s pages, and that holds true for this issue as well, in which a fifteen-year-old boy named Steve Jano poses in the woods wearing a thong and holding a spear. Of course, back then there were nudist publications that published photos of entire families—including completely naked pre-pubescent girls—so there’s nothing going on with TM that heterosexuals weren’t doing too, probably long earlier and doubtless in far greater numbers.
None of that is the reason we wanted to share this issue, but as we’ve said before, sometimes to get where we want we have to first address the elephant in the room. Okay, done. What actually struck us about this issue from May 1956 is the inclusion of Marilyn Monroe. We thought we’d seen Monroe everywhere, but no—here she is in a male bodybuilding publication. There seems to be no limit to her range. But we do think she needs to bump up the weight she’s lifting just a bit. You can check out more TM covers here.
Give a monkey a banana and he’ll be your friend for life.
Rampage is not the most visual of tabloids, but the stories are colorful enough to make up for it. Of those, there’s one clear winner in this issue published today in 1973. It deals with a live sex show in “the Casbah,” presumably Morocco, in which a girl teaches a monkey oral sex by shoving a banana inside her vagina. Once the chimp reaches third base, it’s only a matter of time before he slides into home. We’ll let Rampage scribe Casey Coozer (uh, right) describe the climax, so to speak, of the story: “Now came the best part of the show. As the audience watched these monkeyshines on stage, a troupe of Casbah whores took each man in the crowd and [snip] started blowing us right there. The ape is balling, the chicks are blowing, and at the end it seemed like everyone came at the same time. God, the fucking noise was unbelievable. [snip] The whore onstage is going absolutely bananas, the monkey is screaming like he just woke up with a leopard’s jaws around his head, and everybody, I mean everybody, is creaming!”
Nothing much we can say about that except we never saw anything of the sort during our trip to Morocco. Would we actually want to see chimp on human sex? Well no, but we still have to wonder if it might be preferable to having a knife-scarred maniac utter these words to us: “You talk big now, but next time I see you I’m going to kill you.” Monkeysex or murder threat? Hmm, tough call. Elsewhere in Rampage there’s an amusing story about sexual promiscuity in the Greek isles, more bestial action involving a woman and a cocker spaniel, and the tale of a woman held captive in a Haitian sex camp. A while back we posted an issue of Rampage from 1969 and said the paper promised but didn’t deliver. Amazing what four years and a loosening of American obscenity laws can do. This Rampage delivers all the madness and mayhem anyone could want. Of course, another change from 1969 is that the paper now bears a slogan: “America’s top satire and humor weekly.” In other words, the stories are made up. But what imaginations these guys had. Ten scans below.
She was adult film's most ardent Desirée.
Above is a beautiful frontal image of Desirée West, who was one of the first African American adult actresses, appearing in features from 1973 through 1980 under many names. Though she generally played bit parts, she was eventually inducted into the X-Rated Critics Organization's Hall of Fame during the 1990s and remains fondly remembered today. For obvious reasons.
Is it just us or is it getting warm around here?
Sometimes we get a little lazy with our scanning. You already know that. A couple of years ago we shared the cover and two pages from an issue of The Lowdown and discussed the murder trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard. In that issue were some other interesting pages, particularly of German actress Elke Sommer. We had made her our very first femme fatale way back, so we always thought she was amazing, but we gained a new appreciation for her after watching her in Deadlier than the Male. Really, scientists should double-check that global warming didn’t start in 1967, because that’s how hot she is in that movie. Anyway, we realized The Lowdown’s photos of Sommer might not have appeared online before, so we decided to take care of that today. What are those naughty secrets about her, you ask? The Lowdown says she was a swinger before she got married.
And speaking of global warming, we also wanted to share a couple of pages in which The Lowdown tries to cast doubt on the cancer causing properties of cigarettes. Reading the article, we’d venture to say that the debate was at about the same place as that over global warming today. Here’s a choice line from the piece: “Air pollution by gasoline vehicles and industrial gasses are a more likely cause of lung cancer." Here'sanother one: “Blaming lung cancer on cigarettes may actually be retarding research into the real causes of the disease.” And what the heck, here’s one more: “Smoking shows no statistical link to the rates of still birth, abortion and birth complications.” So there you have it—conclusive proof. The alarmists were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.
Elsewhere in the issue you get Zsa Zsa Gabor behaving badly on an airplane and a penetrating report on whether Danish girls sleep around. Some interesting stats in that one. According to The Lowdown
, the doctor and researcher Kirsten Auken (a real person, by the way) discovered that only 1.4% of Danish wives were virgins when they married. And in the mid-1960s, no less. But the piece concludes on this note: “Danish girls do not sleep around. Oh, sure, they’re more frank and honest about sex than American girls, but Danish girls don’t deserve the reputation they’ve got
.” How does the writer manage this conclusion? Well, consider this quote from one of Dr. Auken’s subjects: “I wouldn’t marry a man if I hadn’t been to bed with him 50 times." So Danish girls didn’t sleep around—they just slept with the same man over and over. Somehow, that fits into a global warming theme too, don’t you think? Anyway, that’ll finally do it for this issue of The Lowdown
. If you want to see the cover, click over to our original post here
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.
National Bulletin warns against indulging in too much of a good thing.
The cheapie American tabloid National Informer warns on this cover from today in 1968 that too much sex can drive you insane. We would think the opposite is true, but the article quotes the eminent (or perhaps entirely fictional) Dr. Frans Hersen, head of the renowned (or fictional) American Sex Institute: We visited mental hospitals looking for sex problems related to a totally different study and suddenly noticed that many of the cases in the various institutions were all related to TOO MUCH SEX (emphasis theirs). So there you go—the science is clear. We have plenty more National Bulletin tucked away inside Pulp Intl. and you can see those by starting here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Bonnie and Clyde Are Shot To Death
Outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who traveled the central United States during the Great Depression robbing banks, stores and gas stations, are ambushed and shot to death in Louisiana by a posse of six law officers. Officially, the autopsy report lists seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow and twenty-six on Parker, including several head shots on each. So numerous are the bullet holes that an undertaker claims to have difficulty embalming the bodies because they won't hold the embalming fluid.
1942—Ted Williams Enlists
Baseball player Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox enlists in the United States Marine Corps, where he undergoes flight training and eventually serves as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida. The years he lost to World War II (and later another year to the Korean War) considerably diminished his career baseball statistics, but even so, he is indisputably one of greatest players in the history of the sport.
1924—Leopold and Loeb Murder Bobby Franks
Two wealthy University of Chicago students named Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, Jr. murder 14-year-old Bobby Franks, motivated by no other reason than to prove their intellectual superiority by committing a perfect crime. But the duo are caught and sentenced to life in prison. Their crime becomes known as a "thrill killing", and their story later inspires various works of art, including the 1929 play Rope by Patrick Hamilton, and Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film of the same name.
It's easy. We have an uploader that makes it a snap. Use it to submit your art, text, header, and subhead. Your post can be funny, serious, or anything in between, as long as it's vintage pulp. You'll get a byline and experience the fleeting pride of free authorship. We'll edit your post for typos, but the rest is up to you. Click here
to give us your best shot.