Don't fool around on Donna Mae.
We're back in Los Angeles County divorce court, a place that got so much celebrity usage during the mid-century period it probably could have benefitted from a VIP section. Above you see famed burlesque dancer and model Donna Mae Brown, aka Busty Brown, attending a spousal support hearing today in 1960. Brown performed throughout the U.S. but was based in L.A., headlining at the New Follies, Strip City, and other popular nightspots. Busty wasn't her only alias. The era was all about unwieldy nicknames meant to generate free publicity, therefore she was also known for a while as “Miss Shape of Things To Come,” and “Miss Anatomy.”
In this case, what was to come was monthly support. She was seeking funds from her second ex-husband Maynard Sloate, a high powered agent whose clients included Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, and Dinah Washington, and who later went into club ownership—including the aforementioned Strip City—through which he trafficked such stars as Anita O’Day and Redd Foxx. At the end of the day Brown, who had initiated divorce proceedings due to Sloate's various infidelities, won fifty dollars monthly, and twenty percent of her ex's gross earnings as support for herself and her children.
The notably slender Brown, who's a brunette above and below, but earned her fame as a platinum blonde, was one of the bolder models of her era, going topless in magazines, baring all for nudie film loops, and getting truly revealing for underground photo club shoots. The latter practice even got her arrested in 1953. The trio of poolside shots below give you a sense of how far she was willing to go, but they're not among her most explicit photos, because there's only so far we're willing to go. If you poke around online you might find those images. She's also fifth in a collection of photos we uploaded a few years ago. I'll admit there are a couple of aspects of marriage to Donna that I'll really miss.
Vintage glamour magazine produces treasure trove of rare celebrity photos.
Above you see the cover of Jem magazine, founded by famed bodybuilder Joe Weider as one of the first high budget competitors to Playboy. He also launched the similar imprint Monsieur. The scans above and below are from the very first issue of Jem, published this month in 1956. It came out during the heyday of the era when magazines of this type gave equal billing to Hollywood celebrities and erotic stars (something we try to emulate on Pulp Intl.), which means you'll not only see rare photos of actresses like Anita Ekberg, Jayne Mansfield, and Kim Novak, but also burlesque dancer and model Candy Barr (on the cover and in the beautiful masthead page), model Betty Brosmer (who was Weider's wife), and dancer Lili St. Cyr. Jem also poached July 1956 Playboy centerfold Alice Denham, which must have served as a shot across Hefner's bow. In addition to all those attractions, you get illustrations by Dwight Howe, Ken Wyeth, John Martin, and Jack Lyons. The magazine is so vibrant we uploaded every page that had either photos or art, making for a whopping fifty panels to enjoy below. We found this on Archive.org, but we're going to see if we can locate a few in real life.
Gentlemen prefer blondes. So do elderly billionaires, used car salesmen, and pornographers, but let's leave all that aside for now.
We said we'd get back to Anita Loos and here we are. We said that eleven years ago, but what can you do? Above you see a French edition of her classic comedy Les hommes préfèrent les blondes, better known as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, with Marilyn Monroe—who starred in the movie version—front and center on the cover. We read the book a while back—its full title is actually Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady—but haven't talked about it, so we'll just tell you that it's simply ingenious, taking the form of the diary of a somewhat vacuous and entitled socialite flapper named Lorelei, who is to gentlemen what sugar is to flies. Lorelei is a material girl obsessed with wealth and status, who expects adoration and basically plies most of these guys for gifts. But of course she does choose someone in the end.
The novel is built from short stories Loos wrote for Harper's Bazaar in the early 1920s. It was originally published in book form in 1925, with this edition coming in 1959, a few years after film version's French run. Loos' masterpiece wasn't loved by critics, but it was a runaway success anyway and ended up being printed in thirteen languages. Little known factoid—unlike the film version, which takes place on a cruise ship, a chunk of the novel occurs aboard the Orient Express, with Lorelei displaying herself to the crème of European gentlemen from Paris to Budapest. She even meets Sigmund “Froid.” Gentlemen Prefer Blondes obviously isn't pulp style at all, but Monroe had a pulp-worthy life, so that's connection enough for us. If you want a mental break from gunplay and mayhem, this is a good option.
Can you name the five stars in the constellation Ludlow the Genius?
Above you see five pin-up paintings that came from the brush of Mike Ludlow, an artist we featured the first time only recently. He rose from humble beginnings in Buffalo, New York, to become an acclaimed figure that at his zenith painted portraits of major actresses for Esquire magazine. That's where all these pieces were originally published, and if you haven't identified them all, they are, top to bottom, Anita Ekberg, Gina Lollobrigida, Virginia Mayo, Denise Darcel, and Betsy von Furstenberg. All these stars have been featured on Pulp Intl., and you can see interesting posts on them at the following links: Ekberg, Lollobrigida, Mayo, Darcel, von Furstenberg.
Whoever said the Barr examination is a terrible ordeal is just wrong.
These photos dating from 1957 show burlesque dancer Candy Barr mid-routine, entertaining a crowd with the help of a live band, possibly the Johnny Cola Band, and we suspect these photos were shot at the Colony Club in Dallas, where Barr often performed. Don't quote us on it. We keep meaning to write in detail about Barr but she keeps getting superseded by other subjects. But we will get to her eventually, because she's a very interesting historical figure and fits perfectly into the pulp mold. For now just enjoy these three shots of her shedding her striped costume all the way down to a sequined g-string and striped pasties. See more Candy here.
Looking back at one of the solar system's hottest celestial bodies.
Anita Ekberg's film noir Screaming Mimi opened in West Germany today in 1960. We've had a look at one West German poster, but today we've decided to share another one. This version is similar to the U.S. promo, but the unusual color palette makes it seem like a completely different design. We think's it's really beautiful.
Ekberg personifies every father's wish.
Swedish superstar Anita Ekberg poses in New York City for this promo photo commemorating Father's Day, which in the U.S. happens to be today. How many fathers wish they had someone like Ekberg around the house? All of them. This was shot in 1958.
Being the object of every man's desire will tend to take a toll.
It took us a while to figure it out, but this is a West German poster for Anita Ekberg's drama Screaming Mimi, which we talked about a couple of years ago. Die blonde Venus is a pretty generic re-titling, in our opinion, but we do like this unusual visual approach for the poster. The movie is about a woman suffering from the effects of a traumatic event in her past, who takes on a new identity and suffers the double misfortune of being dominated by her lover and targeted by a killer. It's definitely worth a watch. You can read more about it here. After opening in 1958 it finally premiered in West Germany today in 1960.
The Lowdown has the scoop on a fantastic plastic.
Today we're back to tabloids with an issue of The Lowdown published this month in 1962. The cover features Bob Hope goofing around, Elizabeth Taylor looking serious, Kim Novak nuzzling, and a random naked party girl randomly partying naked. Inside the issue are stories on Hope getting the hots for trans star Coccinelle in a French nightclub, Novak raking a series of suitors over the coals, and baseball players succumbing to greed. So much material in these tabloids, and so little time to highlight a story or two. But forced to make a choice, we're opting to discuss a piece on something called Scoobeedoo. How can we not? We all remember the cartoon, and now this story seemed guaranteed to tell us where the name of the legendary dog came from. We never knew we wanted to know that. But when we saw the word Scoobeedoo we realized, yes, we want to know.
Lowdown describes Scoobeedoo as a craze and a do-it-yourself gimmick. Apparently, it was popularized when French singer Sacha Distel wrote a 1958 song of the same name. But he didn't invent it—he just sang about it. The actual thing was invented by a French plastics company and called Scoubidou. It was basically a spool of brightly colored plastic cord that could be woven or tied to make—well, whatever you wanted. Youcould make lampshades, baskets, placemats, keychains. A California man famously used it to make bikinis. We imagine it would work for household repairs, light sexual bondage, whatever you needed it for. The stuff was as popular as the hula hoop for a while. Apparently figures in the electrical industry even complained that a shortage of wiring insulation was due to Scoubidou because it used the same type of plastic.
Readers above a certain age will already know about all this, of course, but we had no idea. We weren't around back then. And that, succinctly, is why we maintain this website—because we learn about a past we never experienced. But surprisingly Scoubidou isn't just the past. It apparently still exists. It even has a Wikipedia entry with examples of the many things you can make (but no bikinis). So this was a very informative issue of The Lowdown, all things considered. The only thing we're bummed about is that our Scoubidou research provided no actual confirmation that the cartoon dog Scooby-Doo got his name from the toy. But he had to, right? Maybe a reader has the answer to that. In the meantime we have more than twenty scans below for your enjoyment and other issues of The Lowdown you can access by clicking the magazine's keywords at bottom.
Update: a reader does have the answer. One of you always does. J. Talley wrote this:
The series was originally rejected by CBS executives, who thought the presentation artwork was too frightening for children and that the show must be the same. CBS Executive Fred Silverman was listening to Frank Sinatra's “Strangers In The Night” (with the scatted lyric “dooby-dooby-doo”) on the flight to that ill-fated meeting. After the show was rejected, a number of changes were made: the Hanna-Barbera staff decided that the dog should be the star of the series instead of the four kids, and renamed him Scooby-Doo after that Sinatra lyric. The spooky aspects of the show were toned down slightly, and the comedy aspects tuned up. The show was re-presented, accepted, and premiered as the centerpiece for CBS's 1969-1970 Saturday Morning season.
Thanks, J. That's another hole in our historical knowledge successfully filled in. Is it any surprise Sinatra was involved somehow? That guy really got around.
She was one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
The Grand Canyon? Forget it. Mount Everest? Overrated. When it comes to natural wonders nothing beat Anita Ekberg, who you see here looking impressively statuesque in two killer shots used by Movieland magazine for a supplement called “Pin-Ups.” These were published in 1955, but they're timeless.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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.
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