A man called Hawk.
Above is a classic boxing cover from The National Police Gazette, a magazine whose specialization in this area we’ve shared with you before. This time the unlucky pugilist is Kid Gavilán, née Gerardo González, aka The Cuban Hawk (gavilán is Spanish for hawk), who on this June 1953 cover is taking a beating from Sugar Ray Robinson. The occasion was 23 September 1948. Robinson won a controversial decision, and when the two met again the next year Robinson won by decision again. Though Gavilán never beat Robinson he did win the world welterweight title in 1951, and throughout that year, 1952, and 1953 defended it by winning brutal bout after brutal bout. That’s why the Gazette says Gavilán can take it. In 1954 he jumped weight classes and lost a middleweight title bout to Bobo Olson, then afterward fought Johnny Saxton and lost his welterweight crown. The rest of Gavilán’s career was up and down, but he’s remembered in boxing circles as one tough hombre. Below is the unaltered photo from which the Gazette made its great cover.
Yeah, but you should see the other guy.
This is American boxer Carmen Basilio, and bad as he looks on the outside, he feels even worse inside because he’s just learned he lost his welterweight title to challenger Johnny Saxton. That wasn’t what Basilio, the crowd of thousands, and the television audience of millions thought when the final bell rang, but the judges somehow saw a different fight than everyone else and awarded Saxton the decision. Did it have anything to do with the fact that Saxton was mafia-connected, and his “manager, friend, and adviser” was Philly mobster and notorious fight fixer Frank “Blinky” Palermo? Very possible. Basilio later said of the decision, which occurred in March 1956, “It was like being robbed in a dark alley.” Well, he certainly looks like a guy who was robbed. See more on Basilio here.
The Donald Sterling fiasco is a surprise to nobody. What will the NBA do now?
In the U.S. today, in our old home of Los Angeles, the city’s newly ascendant basketball team the Clippers is in the playoffs while team owner Donald Sterling’s racist personal beliefs have blown up in his face and cast a pall over his on-the-court product. You’ve maybe heard the story. His mixed race mistress recorded him insisting that she, well, that she basically reject her own blackness. Specifically, Sterling wanted her to stop posing for Instagram photos with black acquaintances and even told her to stop bringing black friends to Clippers games. The recordings also revealed his bizarre attitude toward his own players, who he feels he “gives” everything they have, despite the lifetime of work they’ve put in to reach the NBA.
Sterling’s legal mouthpiece has implied—but not asserted—that the recordings could be fake or altered. That’s highly doubtful. The idea that the mistress hired a voice actor, staged an argument, and then released the recording to harm Sterling makes little sense. For one, there’s this little thing called voice analysis that can determine whether recordings match certain voices, and anyone who’s watched a Friday night detective show knows that. Second, to make such a recording, or to alter one in order to damage another person’s standing, could be construed as criminal fraud, which seems a hell of a risk to take just to thumb your sugar daddy’s eyes. No, it’s Sterling on the recordings, and his camp has not issued a flat denial because that in itself would harm them in future legal proceedings once their assertion was proven to be untrue.
Some observers have cited Sterling’s charitable work, but let’s be clear—such activities are mandated, not necessarily in the league bylaws, but by the NBA culture. They are the price of owning a team. Just as players must appear at hospitals hugging sick children when they would rather be relaxing at home with their slippered feet on the coffee table, owners are expected to contribute to their communities. Yes, some players love making sickbed appearances because of heartfelt views, and it’s possiblesome of the league's owners enjoy philanthropy, but never forget that the NBA runs ads all year extolling this community service. It is good work, but it is also marketing used to make fans feel better about ponying up tax revenue for multi-million dollar arenas and for laying down hard earned coin for overpriced seats. In short, Sterling would have to deal with a host of league-wide consequences if he didn’t do charitable work. Likewise, there’s no contradiction in the fact that Sterling’s erstwhile mistress is mixed race. It has long been a privilege of old school male power that they can stick their dicks anyplace they like as long as they don’t embarrass themselves or shame their family by treating the person as anything other than a toy. That part isn’t even a matter of ethnicity. The same would be true if Sterling’s mistress were Norwegian: have all the fun you like, just don’t make a spectacle of yourself. At that Sterling has failed stupendously, and not for the first time. A notorious slumlord, in 2009 he lost the biggest housing discrimination suit in U.S. Justice Department history. At the trial witnesses divulged that Sterling believes African Americans smell bad, that Mexicans just sit around smoking and drinking all day, and that Koreans will live in terrible conditions and still meekly pay rent on time every month.
So today there will be a press conference at which NBA commissioner Adam Silver, empowered by public opinion and the other team owners (some of whom, by the way, are rumored to be barely better than Sterling), will presumably announce some form of punishment. It may or may not be severe enough to satisfy many observers, but the real issue that fans may want to consider is whether the NBA somehow enabled the entire
fiasco. Any player who had for years behaved as odiously as Sterling would have been disciplined long ago, yet the NBA brass turned a blind eye on an indicted slumlord and all around heel even as it touted its inclusive values and community minded culture. In fact, it looks suspiciously as if there was one set of rules for the workers and another for the 1%. Perhaps that’s what NBA fans should question, in the league and beyond.
How to break a head of the competition.
Last we saw Joe Louis he had been propelled by a Rocky Marciano punch out of the boxing ring (literally) and into an overdue retirement. But old boxers don’t usually fade away—they more often switch careers (e.g. Tyson/acting). Louis switched to wrestling in 1956, but after being diagnosed with a heart ailment, became a wrestling referee. It wasn’t such a surprising transition, as he had first refereed wrestling way back in 1944 when, during a 30-day furlough from military service, he officiated a match between Ernie Dusek and George Becker.
The above National Police Gazette cover from this month in 1960 shows action between Frankie Jarvis and Gino Garibaldi, with Louis seeming almost zen about it, as if offering a gentle reminder that neck stamping is bad for the karma. Hard to tell who’s the stamper and who’s the stampee, but if we had to guess we’d say Jarvis is on top and Garibaldi is the one being taught the tensile limits of his own spine. We checked both those guys out and while Jarvis produced no hits on the web, turns out Garibaldi was a major wrestling figure who fought more than 1,300 bouts over his career (doubtless some Pulp Intl. readers already knew that, but go easy on us—it was well before our time).
Louis worked as a ref until 1972, and though we don’t know if he was considered proficient or deficient in the profession, he did remain a prominent celebrity through those years, appearing at promotional events and competing on television quiz shows. As a side note, we should mention that his celebrity was even powerful enough for him to break the Professional Golf Association’s color line back in 1952, so the high profile he maintained throughout his retirement was simply the continuation of an established trend. We have several entries on Joe Louis on the website. If you want to see those, just click his keywords below.
Mike Tyson’s new autobiography Undisputed Truth tells of fake penises and coke-fueled boxing bouts.
England’s Guardian website has shared claims from ex-boxing champ Mike Tyson’s new autobiography Undisputed Truth, among them his admission that he used a fake penis called a “whizzer” to pass drug tests. We have a feeling Tyson is referring to the good ole Whizzinator 5000, invented by entrepreneurs George Wills and Robert Catalano, and which we wrote about back in 2008. In short, you’d strap the contraption inside your pants and at the moment of truth use its realistic latex phallus (which sold in various colors, but sadly only one size) to issue a stream of drug-free synthetic urine. We hailed Wills’ and Catalano’s genius, but law enforcement authorities felt differently and charged them with violating one of America’s eight million federal drug statutes.
One gets the impression Tyson’s whizzer was an oft used piece of equipment, because according to his book he was ingesting drugs so routinely that he fought high several times, necessitating lots of faked urine tests. Tyson even claims the brutal 38-second TKO he scored against Lou Savarese occurred during a marijuana/cocaine high. In that bout, Tyson knocks down Savarese with his first punch but Savarese regains his feet. At that point, Tyson crawls fully up in Savarese’s ass, so much so that when the ref tries to stop the fight Tyson just tosses him aside and keeps on chucking hooks and uppercuts. It makes no sense if you think of it as a boxing match, but if you think of it as punishment for standing between a man and his next rail of coke, it all becomes crystal clear.
The fight is probably worth watching, for those who have a spare minute. Even the announcers are bemused by the spectacle. Savarese probably already felt bad all these years about being the opponent in Tyson’s second shortest professional bout—now he surely feels worse knowing Tyson probably thought of him as little more than a brief annoyance to be dealt with before regaining access to the marching powder and Moët. But Savarese should count himself lucky. If he’d put up more resistance he might have ended up being fed to one of Tyson’s pet tigers. It was Aristotle, we think, who in explaining his theory of gravity said: “Stand between a man and his next fat line at your peril.” See our original Whizzinator story here.
Joe Louis fights beyond his prime with predictable results.
It’s been awhile since we shared one of The National Police Gazette’s famed boxing covers, so today we have a smudged and smeared but still compelling one featuring Joe Louis after being knocked down by Rocky Marciano. Louis had taken the fight strictly for the money, which he needed to deal with tax problems. Pretty much everyone (except those sneaky oddsmakers) knew Louis would lose to Marciano, who was a decade younger and the reigning heavyweight champ, and indeed Louis was knocked out in the eighth round. That was today in 1951. We also found the original photo the Gazette used for its cover, which hit newsstands in October 1952. Unfortunately we had to go to a white supremacist website to get it. We’re going to take a long shower, and we’ll continue with our regularly scheduled pulp once we feel clean again. In the meantime, to see more fascinating Gazette boxing covers start here and here, and follow the links in those posts.
American boxing great’s legacy includes seminal film about the antebellum South.
The death of boxing champ Ken Norton has produced some nice tributes, but we wanted to mention that he also made a couple of interesting movies. The one most worth watching is 1975’s Mandingo, a slavery tale that has gone unsurpassed for realism in depicting America’s antebellum South. A few movies are at the same level of historical accuracy (including the amazing Addio Zio Tom, which we’re going to feature here in a couple of weeks), but Mandingo remains notable for its sweaty, oppressive feel and rich cinematography. Norton wasn’t chosen for the pivotal role of Ganymede because he could act. He was chosen because of his physical build and good looks—the first was necessary for scenes in which his character takes part in brutal pit fights, and the second makes the movie’s subplot of forbidden sexual desire plausible. When we featured Mandingo a few years ago we didn’t recommend it fully, but any film which some prominent critics have hailed as a classic and was a clear influence on Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, but which Robert Ebert originally rated a zero has to be worth watching, if only to see what the fuss is all about.
What happens if you stand in the way of progress? You get run over.
The above photo shows the groundbreaking today in 1959 for Dodger Stadium, a venue that would become the home of Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers. In a mostly Latino barrio of Los Angeles known as Chavez Ravine, a long process of buying land from willing sellers, forcing land sales via eminent domain laws, and finally sending in cops to forcibly evict the remaining homeowners resulted in clearing a site about 350 acres in size. The land had originally been slated for public housing, and most of the purchases and eminent domain sales had occurred between 1950 and 1953 for that purpose. But the 1953 election of conservative mayor Norris Poulson halted those plans, because he opposed public housing as “communist” in nature. The land sat idle for five years, but when the parcel was given to the Dodgers in 1958, the remaining occupants had to go. They were smeared in the press in order to turn public opinion against them, and were then evicted, resulting in ugly scenes of families being dragged from their homes. Sulfur and Cemetery Ravines were filled in and the entire site was graded. An elementary school was simply buried whole. A total of eight million cubic yards of earth were moved. Today, Dodger Stadium is considered one of Major League Baseball’s crown jewels.
Today is not just any given Sunday.
It’s Super Bowl time again in the U.S., and as we did in 2009 and 2010, today we’re commemorating the occasion. This time we have a selection of five sports covers from acclaimed pulp artist George Gross. They were published between 1940 and 1951, and are alll college themed. No surprise there—collegiate ball ruled back then. But not today. Today the NFL is America’s passion, and Super Bowl Sunday is the day when even non football fans turn their attention to the sport. After revealing that we once lived in the Bay Area, is there any doubt who we’re picking to win tonight? That’s right—Baltimore in a walk. Just kidding. Chesapeake Bay has its charms, but when we say Bay Area we mean the one and only San Francisco Bay. So we’re backing the Niners, if for no other reason than football may be watching the emergence of a once-in-a-generation talent in Colin Kaepernick. If that’s the case, he can certainly announce his arrival big time with a Super Bowl victory. Final score: San Fran 24—Baltimore 20.
Update: Hey, we're writers, not seers of the future. If we actually knew who would win we'd be as famous as Criswell. At least it was a decent game .
In boxing “almost” is just another way of saying “defeat.”
The National Police Gazette absolutely loved showing boxers getting their faces rearranged, as we’ve previously shown you here and here. On this cover from January 1954 the puncher is Rocky Marciano and the punchee is Roland La Starza, who despite appearances here was a quality fighter whose distinction is in being the man who came closest to defeating Marciano. That was back in 1950, when La Starza’s record stood at 37-0 and Marciano’s at 25-0. La Starza was the darling of boxing writers because of his scientific style, whereas Marciano was considered a brawler. The contrast could not have been more compelling, and the fight was a back and forth affair that thrilled the Madison Square Garden crowd. The two men ended the bout even on the scorecards, but La Starza lost the decision due to a controversial supplemental pointing system that tipped the tables for Marciano.
The above shot is from the September 1953 rematch. Marciano left no doubt who was the better fighter given a second chance. Though La Starza started strong and fought tough into the middle of the bout, the later rounds turned into a Marciano punching clinic. The ref stopped the match in the eleventh, saving him from the indignity of what surely would have been his first knockout suffered. There’s actually video of the fight online, but we decided not to post a link because the yahoo who uploaded it couldn’t resist adding some terrible music, a common problem on YouTube. So instead of the video we’ve uploaded a shot of the Gazette’s “Date of the Month” Melodie Lowell. Check out all our boxing imagery by clicking keyword “boxing” below.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
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.
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