Tabloid tells curious readers everything they always wanted to know about things that are none of their business.
The last time we checked in on Top Secret was with their October 1962 issue. Today we’re visiting January 1964 and plenty has changed in the intervening months. Foremost—the paper and printing quality have degraded to what surely must have been the lowest standard available at the time, which is why our scans are grainy. But we can still recognize June Wilkinson on the cover, who we’re told is retiring from modeling, and inside readers hear from Ursula Andress, Jack Lemmon, Brigitte Bardot, Shirley MacLaine, Mandy Rice-Davies and more.
Editors also tout “one of the most earth-shaking advances in the exploration of outer space!” Wow. Was it warp drive? A transporter beam? A stargate? No. It was that America’s newest astronaut, Edward Dwight, Jr., was a different skin color than the other astronauts. We might deign to call that an advance in the attitudes of NASA during an age of state apartheid. Space travel, on the other hand, remained space travel, unchanged. Top Secret implies Dwight was the first black American qualified to be an astronaut, and by so doing avoids admitting that the door was simply closed before his arrival. You know this game—all backslapping, zero introspection. But we get it. “Our First Negro Astronaut!” is a bit more celebratory than, “We should have done this from the beginning.”
But we must move on, because the real gem in this issue comes later, in the story you see announced in the cover’s blazing red banner: Hidden Homos—How To Spot Them! Goodness, where to begin with this? First, we’ll say we would dearly love to reproduce this entire article as an artifact of an intellectual dark age, but it’s Saturday, and time is fleeting. Just know that the language is baroque in its viciousness. Thestory begins with the tale of a company president who unknowingly hired a gay man and had no idea until several years later when the hiree—now a manager—got drunk at a company party and began slapping and scratching another man. Soon four employees were involved in this spat. The company president exclaimed: “My God! Those men are all queers!”
Top Secret explains: “Once the camouflaged homosexual has gotten himself a snug berth, he starts easing others of his ilk into the office. Before long, most of the straight male employees are out on their ears and the camouflaged fags have taken over.” Editors then list the eight most common types of gay men against whom normal, red-blooded Americans must be vigilant (by refusing to hire for any sort of job, potentially harassing out of the neighborhood, and possibly reporting to the authorities). Ready? Here we go with a few highlights:
1: The Overly Fastidious Dresser—obsessive interest in clothes is a feminine trait, and in men it may well be a danger signal.
2: The Overly Hygenic Type—their faces are invariably too-closely shaven. They make a fetish of washing their hands.
3: The Uriah Heep Type—he seeks to prove how very humble and insignificant he is by heaping praise upon others.
4: The Maiden Aunt’s Delight—these men associate with older women because such women make no heterosexual erotic demands upon them.
5: The Solitary Drinker—although he is not gregarious or even friendly, his eyes are constantly roving, covertly peering at others in the bar, particularly other men, seeking a sign of recognition from another secret swish. When he sees one he will give a signal in return and soon both fruitcakes will depart to enjoy a “courtesy exchange.”
6: The Octopus—they put their hands on other men’s shoulders, dig them in the ribs, slap their thighs…
7: The Middle-Aged Mama’s Boy—such an obvious Oedipal situation may indicate homosexual tendencies or homosexuality in adult men of any age, married or single.
8: The Youth Lover—he is constantly engaged in youth work, organizing clubs, leading outings, playing the part of the jolly, ebullient uncle.
It would be interesting to do the opposite of everything on this list and see how long it takes our social, family and sex lives to fall apart. Just a thought. Anyway, Top Secret finishes the article with this bomb: “These are by no means the only types of secret swishes but they are the ones the average person is most likely to encounter.” So basically, the list is all well and good, but anyone can be gay. To which your average non-Neanderthal would reply, “Yes, anyone can be gay. And?” Well, and the editors of Top Secret suggest that anyone displaying suspicious behavior should be investigated more closely. Hmm… we wonder what depth and form those investigations should take? More scans below.
She only looks sweet.
So, we’re digging into our big stack of x-rated Japanese promos again today. We’d do it more often, but when we do our girlfriends give us a hard time. Anyway, above you see the American actress Angel in a very nice publicity image from around 1985, and below you see two promos for her movies Too Hot To Touch and L’Amour, from 1987 and 1984. Her very presence in the industry speaks to the mainstreaming of porn in America. In previous years it had been impossible for the adult industry to entice women as beautiful as Angel in large numbers, but the early/mid-1980s videocassette revolution meant more fans, which meant more money to earn, which made adult films more viable as a career, and changed the status of adult actresses from that of fringe celebrities into true stars.
After some early modeling that saw her earn a cover of Seventeen magazine, Angel turned eighteen and leaped immediately into the adult industry. During a two-year period bracketing her arrival, actresses such as Stacy Donovan, Crystal Breeze, Candy Evans, Jacy Allen, Traci Lords, Southern California prototype Shauna Grant, the luminous Ginger Lynn, and an entire busload of other beautiful women made the same move. Angel, aka Jennifer James, made about forty films during her x-rated career, acting for seven years and retiring in 1991. Of all the stars who emerged during the first half of the 1980s, she remains one of the most fondly remembered. You can see nine more x-rated posters from Japan here.
Goliath Books exposes Third Reich porn to the light of day.
Of all the books Berlin-based publishing company Goliath has produced, perhaps none is more essentially pulp in nature than Private Pornography in the Third Reich. 1950s and 1960s men’s adventure magazines were obsessed with Nazis, and Third Reich spies littered post-war pulp fiction. The stories and art were often sexual in nature, such as here and here, sometimes hinting at or portraying depravity behind closed doors. With Private Pornography in the Third Reich the doors are closed no more. Stepping into forbidden salons, we’re presented not only with challenging images, but the social questions pornography raises, plus the specter of Third Reich authoritarianism and eventual war.
According to Hitler’s formulation, the perfect Aryan female was a mother. His Nazi state gave medals to women who had eight children or more, as long as mother, father and offspring were of perfect Aryan stock. It bears mentioning at this point that increasing numbers of modern day scientists have done away with race because it seems less and less to exist biologically. It is, evidence suggests more each day, an entirely social construct into which humans willingly and unwillingly self-organize. Hence there was never a master race. The theory makes as much sense scientifically as the theory of a master wizard.
But racial purity was Hitler’s obsession, and to force procreative sex on a country he felt needed to replace millions of military age men killed in the Great War his regime repressed the idea of recreational sex, driving sexual freedom and sexual expression underground. Prostitutionwas banned, sending an estimated 100,000 women and 35,000 men into the shadows. But as always, the rich, powerful, and connected could obtain whatever they wished. Secret dens of sexual performance and prostitution sprang up, and a black market in pornography blossomed, gaining momentum once it became clear that selling it outside Germany was an efficient means of accessing foreign currency.
Private Pornography in the Third Reich is sliced into ten sections: postcards/portraits, nudism, petting, oral sex, heterosexual intercourse, lesbian couples, lesbianism with toys, sado-masochism, and threesomes. If that sounds like a lot of photos, it is—200 images in digest size from a collection originally put together by Hans von Bockhain. The book contains only a brief introduction then presents its photos without captions or explanations. But none are needed—if pornography is the sexual id of a society then what we see is a pornographic subculture in a bread-and-circuses moment, indulging in wild diversions as the grip of an authoritarian state tightens.
In another few years the Reich would have near total control of life in Germany, and operate a chain of concentration camps in which those deemed sexual deviants could be imprisoned. As a historical document of the sex industry during the anti-lust years leading up to that period,Private Pornography in the Third Reich is fascinating. The subject is taboo, the photos perhaps more so. They range from artful salon compositions to raunchy reverse cowgirl penetration shots, which means it may not be coffee table material for everyone, but for the adventurous it’s certain to live up to aesthetic expectations, and provoke vigorous debates as well. Read more at Goliath Books.
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.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
2009—Farrah Fawcett Dies
American actress Farrah Fawcett, who started as a model but became famous after one season playing detective Jill Munroe on the television show Charlie's Angels
after a long battle with cancer.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
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