Vintage Pulp | Politique Diabolique Jan 21 2011
LONG WAY HOME
Going out in a Blaze of glory.

This colorful January 1960 Hush-Hush features Gina Lollobrigida, Elvis Presley, Elizabeth Taylor and others, but of special note is an exposé on burlesque queen Blaze Starr and Louisiana governor Earl Long. Sometime in the late 1950s the elderly Long got involved with the buxom young Starr, and it was a scandal for the ages. Starr had a routine in which she wriggled around on a sofa so sensually that it began smoldering (thanks to a hidden smoke machine). The routine had been a hit everywhere she worked, and by the time she appeared at New Orleans’ Sho-Bar she had it down to a science. Governor Long had wandered into the place with several friends and staffers, and when he saw the smoldering sofa routine he was smitten. He made his way backstage and asked Starr out to dinner. She responded by asking if she could trust him. His response: “Hell no.”

The two hit it off and, after a few false starts, embarked on an affair. Long was deliriously happy, but others were not, and they used the relationship as grounds to commit him to Southeast Louisiana Hospital—a mental institution. Long couldn’t get out of the bin on his own, but due to a loophole in the law retained his powers as Governor. For a time he ran Louisiana from his hospital room, and eventually devised an escape plan, which involved having the head of the state hospital system fired and replaced with someone who would pressure Long’s doctors to declare him mentally competent. Upon release, Long resumed his relationship with Starr and made plans to run for Congress in the fall. In August 1960 he won a Democratic primary, but just a month later died of a heart attack.

The relationship between Long and Starr has been much dissected since then, and some revisionists have denied that it was at all meaningful to Earl Long. Perhaps not, but it meant something to Blaze Starr. Years later she said in an interview with People magazine: “I still dream about stripping sometimes. When I do, Earl is in the audience watching me do my thing. Then I wake up and feel sad. I miss Earl and I miss being on that stage.” You can catch Blaze’s act here. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 23
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
August 22
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
August 21
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
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