|Vintage Pulp | Sex Files||Mar 19 2014|
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.
|Hollywoodland | Sex Files||Feb 26 2014|
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?
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?
|Sex Files||Sep 11 2013|
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.
|Vintage Pulp | Sex Files||May 13 2013|
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.
|Vintage Pulp | Sex Files||May 6 2013|
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.
|Sex Files||Apr 18 2013|
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.
|Intl. Notebook | Sex Files||Mar 18 2013|
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.
|Hollywoodland | Sex Files||Mar 13 2013|
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.
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.
|Vintage Pulp | Sex Files||Jan 8 2013|
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.
|Sex Files||Jan 4 2013|
There’s an interesting item making the rounds today, not strictly pulp, but worth a mention. Apparently a 1684 sex manual entitled Aristotle’s Compleat Master Piece will be offered for sale by Lyon and Turnbull auctioneers in Edinburgh, Scotland. The book, which was written in English and published there but banned until the 1960s, is part reference guide, part medical manual, and part anti-sex screed. For example, while the text offers suggestions for sexual enjoyment, and contains medical style drawings, it also warns couples what can happen if children are conceived in sin—namely that it would be born covered with hair or that Siamese twins would result. The author of the Compleat Master Piece is not known, but it's clear nothing Aristotle wrote made it into the text. Which could be considered a good thing. Great thinker and all, certainly smarter than we’ll ever be, but nobody’s perfect, and he whiffed badly a few times when it came to sex. Like for instance, he believed testicles were merely weights, and semen was produced from blood via body heat, with the best stuff coming from the area around the eyes. Given the choice, maybe we’ll take our sex advice from the anonymous hack. Auctioneers expect the book to fetch up to $650.