It's not how you start. It's how you finish.
We've talked before about the mid-century tabloid interest in transexuals, and how several trans burlesque performers achieved widespread fame. Those old tabloid covers serve to contradict people who claim that trans issues are a product of the new millennium, or that “it didn't happen in their day.” They just didn't notice. As the links in the above post show, transexual entertainers regularly made headlines in tabloids that sold millions of issues per month. To the list you can now add Gayle Sherman, who you see on this cover of The National Insider published today in 1963. This wasn't the height of her fame. A year later Novel Books would publish I Want To Be a Woman!, touted as the autobiography of a female impersonator. And still, she was just getting started.
Sherman started life as Gary Paradis, but became Sherman after a name change at age sixteen. As a transvestite she scored a job dancing for the Jewel Box Revue, which was a comedic drag queen show that criss-crossed the U.S. for more than thirty years. Probably the Jewel Box Revue deserves a write-up of its own, but the shorter version is it was the most popular extravaganza of its kind, and was run by gay management who were marketing to straight audiences.
Sherman moved on from the revue and worked mainly in Chicago, appearing at places such as the Nite Life, where her act sometimes involved dressing as a witch doctor and roasting a fake baby over a fire while singing Yma Sumac songs. Sometime later she underwent gender reassignment surgery, and all the while was passing through a string of pseudonyms, among them Gerri Weise, Brandy Alexander, and Geraldine Parades.
She eventually opted for breast enlargement surgery and at that point became Alexandria the Great 48, a stage name under which she would become a national celebrity. The number of course referenced her bust size. She was sometimes dubbed “Sophia Loren's twin,” but when audiences paid to see her they got something wholly different. She had left burlesque and moved into standard stripping, sometimes appearing at porno cinemas between features. She continued dancing until 1967, when bluenose politicians in Chicago managed to outlaw nude dancing. Sherman became a hairdresser, and was out of the public eye until her death in 2019.
As we mentioned above, vintage tabloids often featured transexuals, and while those stories were always sensationalistic, they were also surprisingly non-cruel. Not always, but often. The editors' accepting stances probably weren't sincere. Because tabloid readership was generally a cross section of middle class, middle American squares, the tone of the articles tended be: “this wild stuff happens in Hollywood and Paris, but who knows, maybe it's more prevalent than you suspect where you live.” As the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day—the tabs probably nailed it. 1.4 million Americans identify as transexual. There's no total from 1963, but you can bet it would be more than a few. In National Informer, the excellent money quote from the Gayle Sherman article is: “My birth certificate is stamped male, but my body is stamped female.” We have a photo of her below, and she's all woman.
If you use the sleeper car you might never wake up.
This Italian poster for was made to promote Le jene di Chicago, which opened in Italy today in 1952, but was made in the U.S. and is better known as The Narrow Margin. It's a movie we talked about back in April. The Italian title translates as “the hyenas of Chicago,” which makes sense—a potential federal witness is dogged by a pack of predators that want to kill her. It's a movie worth watching. You can read about it here.
She's dangerous, untrustworthy, and cruel—but hey, what beautiful woman doesn't come with a little baggage?
We'd been meaning to get to Milton K. Ozaki, aka Robert O. Saber for a while, and when we came across Murder Doll we took the plunge. Plotwise, Chicago private eye Carl Good finds himself in the middle of an out-of-town gangland takeover. This is no ordinary invasion—the head honcho is rumored to be the beautiful ex-mistress of an eastern mobster. The problem is nobody knows exactly who she is. Good is hired to find this bombshell criminal, as he coincidentally acquires both a hot new secretary and a hot new girlfriend. Hmm... Maybe one of them is not what she seems. This is a mostly unremarkable mystery that even a trip to a nudist colony can't elevate, but it started well, with a clever nightclub murder, and it's very readable in general, so we'll give Ozaki a pass for this lusterless effort and hope he dazzles us next time. It came from Berkley Books in 1952 and the cover artist unknown.
The walls close in on a cop and his witness in a trainbound crime thriller.
Another b-movie makes good, as inexpensive little film noir The Narrow Margin turns out to be an excellent expenditure of time. It's built around a great premise—tough cop Charles McGraw is tasked with escorting the widow of a gang lord from Chicago to Los Angeles to testify in a graft probe. A shadowy cabal of crooks plans to stop this at all costs, so the question is whether McGraw can get his witness to L.A. alive.
The widow/femme fatale is played by Marie Windsor of the cool Kubrick noir The Killing and the not-cool prison break thriller Swamp Women, and here she has a role perfectly suited for her as a jaded and selfish mobster's moll. She oozes cynicism as McGraw tries to reconcile his hatred for her with his duty as a public servant, but there's more to her than he knows, and Jacqueline White as another passenger is full of surprises too.
With much of the film taking place in the various cars and compartments of a train, the visuals and title mirror each other, and the same is true thematically, as the killers slowly close in, creating increasingly constrained circumstances for McGraw. With clever noir stylings, a plot that draws you in from the first minutes, and a surprising switcheroo, The Narrow Margin is a winner. It was remade in 1990 with Gene Hackman and Anne Archer, but the first and better version premiered in the U.S. today in 1952.
Any way you splice her she's pure perfection.
The above photo shows U.S. actress Geene Courtney posing with a fishing rod during November in Chicago, a city in which, that time of year, people's nasal hairs usually freeze into stalagmites after a few seconds outside. But during this particular November—1949 it was—Chicago was unusually warm, with the mercury at one point climbing to an amazing 76 Fahrenheit, or 24.5 Celsius. That quirk of the weather is why Courtney is in shorts and heels, rather than a parka and mukluks, and the result is one of sexiest vintage shots we've seen. As a side note, the only similarly named actress from the period we found online was Gene Courtney, with one “e”. She has credits starting from 1951, so Geene and Gene are probably the same person, equally beautiful.
After seventy-three years she's finally lost her title.
We've seen this photo in numerous online spots, and why not? It's amazing. But none of those sites bother to explain the provenance of the image. We dug around, and it appears we're the first website to have done it. The Mystery Writers of America, which was founded in 1945 in New York City and soon expanded to other locations, in its early years used to throw what they called a Clues Party. In November 1947 the party was in Chicago, and the MWA awarded the title of Mystery Girl to the woman who performed best in a scream test—as opposed to screen test. Four contestants—Marybeth Prebis, Betty Rosboro, Bobby Jo Rodgers, and Portia Kubin—let fly with their most bloodcurdling screams, and the winner was Kubin, above. The MWA stopped throwing Clues Parties at some point, which seems a shame, but they established the coveted Edgar Award, so maybe that's an okay trade. Kubin was probably an aspiring actress but a glance at various online sources shows no film credits, which means this was her only shot at celebrity. But what a shot.
A Haven for your deepest desires.
We're always on the lookout for GGA style art even when it doesn't occur on vintage book covers, and above you see an example—a promo poster for Annette Haven's adult flick Black Silk Stockings. We have no idea who painted this piece, but it could easily front a detective thriller or sleaze novel. It's also a very good likeness of Haven. We didn't watch the film but we know it's a vignette style story with all five segments involving black stockings. Of course plot is just a fig leaf. Sex is the point. You know what to expect.
Black Silk Stockings premiered in Chicago, Illinois today in 1978 (yes, in an actual cinema, if you can imagine a time when regular people used to be seen going inside to get boners—and even bonettes). John Holmes, John Leslie, and Linda Wong co-starred, along with Pulp Intl. mega femme fatale Desirée West. What do we mean by mega? Look here. And along those lines we searched for a photo of Annette Haven wearing the titular black silk stockings but had no luck. You'll have to make do with the stockingless shot we found.
He's about to become an unneeded accessory after the fact.
Here's a photo we've seen around the internet for a while, a 1948 shot of a man in divorce court in Chicago begging his wife's forgiveness as her lawyer looks on. No other context was provided on any of the web pages we checked, but we have an idea of the details here. The soon-to-be-bachelorized husband is saying, “I made a terrible mistake, honey! It's just that she was young and smokin' hot and I thought you were going to be at your mother's another two days, but now that I've experienced unspeakable perversion and mind-bending sexual variations I didn't even know existed, I realize it's you that I really want!”
Meanwhile the attorney, who's almost smiling over this scene, is like, “Let me tell you why I love being a divorce lawyer. It's because your wife, like so many of my female clients, is hellbent on revenge, and has a hotel room booked on State Street, some bottles of Champagne waiting on ice, and three flavors of edible panties ready to be gnawed directly off her vulva. I'm heading over there with her right now. Call her Monday, and if you still want to reconcile, by then she'll probably be multi-orgasmic. She told me success turns her on, so it's a good bet. Oh, and your divorce agreement stipulates that you have to pay her legal fees, and I'll be billing by the orgasm. Okay, chat soon.”
John Dillinger's body—most of it anyway—to be exhumed in September.
At the request of his family, Great Depression-era gangster John Dillinger will be exhumed from the Indianapolis grave where he was buried in 1934 after being shot down by FBI agents outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago. There's been no official explanation for the request, however the dig should resolve a couple of pieces of Dillinger folklore. The first would be whether it's him in the grave at all—an urban legend that the FBI shot the wrong man has simmered since his death. And the second would be whether there's a cock attached to the corpse—a particularly odd legend suggests that Dillinger had a monster member that was somehow snipped before burial and whisked away by a morbid collector.
The rumor of body part theft is no surprise. Grave robberies had been a problem in the U.S. throughout the 1800s, and while these had waned by 1934, as a precaution Dillinger was buried under scrap iron and slabs of concrete covered by a layer of poured cement. The bit about him being hung like a mule is harder to trace. Some say it was caused by a morgue photo which appeared (if you really used your imagination) to show him with an erection, but being the subject of at least one Tijuana bible certainly didn't hurt either. In the dirty comic “A Hasty Exit,” which we think was published in mid-1934 before his death, Dillinger uses a massive unit to pleasure his girlfriend Evelyn Frechette and her pal Nellie. Of course, everyone in Tijuana bibles had dinosaur dicks, but we're speculating here.
It's possible the public won't find out why Dillinger is being brought back above ground (though DNA testing to prove ancestry seems like a good bet), or whether all the famed gangster's parts are intact. We doubt most people actually care. But for us pulp followers the story is somewhat interesting, because Dillinger is an icon of the pulp era.
As a bonus, the story has also served as a reminder that we have many more filthy Tijuana bibles we need to upload. We'll get to that as soon as we can. In the meantime, while we all wait for that September exhumation to finally settle longstanding urban legends, you can satisfy your historical interest in John Dillinger by exhuming his Tijuana bible here. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1915—Claude Patents Neon Tube
French inventor Georges Claude patents the neon discharge tube, in which an inert gas is made to glow various colors through the introduction of an electrical current. His invention is immediately seized upon as a way to create eye catching advertising, and the neon sign
comes into existence to forever change the visual landscape of cities.
1937—Hughes Sets Air Record
Millionaire industrialist, film producer and aviator Howard Hughes sets a new air record by flying from Los Angeles, California to New York City in 7 hours, 28 minutes, 25 seconds. During his life he set multiple world air-speed records, for which he won many awards, including America's Congressional Gold Medal.
1967—Boston Strangler Convicted
Albert DeSalvo, the serial killer who became known as the Boston Strangler, is convicted of murder and other crimes and sentenced to life in prison. He serves initially in Bridgewater State Hospital, but he escapes and is recaptured. Afterward he is transferred to federal prison where six years later he is killed by an inmate or inmates unknown.
1950—The Great Brinks Robbery Occurs
In the U.S., eleven thieves steal more than $2 million from an armored car company's offices in Boston, Massachusetts. The skillful execution of the crime, with only a bare minimum of clues left at the scene, results in the robbery being billed as "the crime of the century." Despite this, all the members of the gang are later arrested.
1977—Gary Gilmore Is Executed
Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by a firing squad in Utah, ending a ten-year moratorium on Capital punishment in the United States. Gilmore's story is later turned into a 1979 novel entitled The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer, and the book wins the Pulitzer Prize for literature.
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