Ready, aim, when the concession manager bends over we all nail him in the ass.
Today in 1955 the soon-to-be global tourist attraction Disneyland debuted to 28,000 invited guests, media, and assorted celebrities on hand to lend a bit of glitz to the kitsch. Stars who were present included Eddie Fisher, who hosted the festivities, Debbie Reynolds, Danny Thomas, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, Art Linkletter, Irene Dunne, Jeff Chandler, Eve Arden, Marilyn Maxwell, George Gobel, Margaret Whiting, Gale Storm, Charlton Heston, and many more. The above photo shows, left to right, Adelle August, Steve Rowland, and Kathleen Case enjoying the air rifle attraction, and Case in particular must have been a hell of a shot, firing away from the hard-to-master seated position. No word on whether any of the trio won a prize, but we doubt it. On the other hand, considering the congestion and the mess 28,000 people can make maybe the prize was being allowed to the front of every line and having a celebrity potty watched over by a furry mascot wielding a mop and bucket. We aren't sure how long Case and Co. hung around—it was 101 degrees Fahrenheit that day and the water fountains weren't functioning—but it looks like they went above and beyond the call of publicity. If we had to guess, though, we'd say they left immediately after Case felt the monkey's warm anus on her bare shoulder.
Another case of he said (they did) she said (they didn't).
Above is a cover of National Enquirer that hit newsstands today in 1960 with a cheery looking Debbie Reynolds on the cover. Editors promise the truth about her romance with Glenn Ford, but the quotes around “romance” tell the story—she there wasn't one. The two starred together in the films It Started with a Kiss and The Gazebo, both released in 1959, and the affair rumors quickly sprang up.
Have you noticed a pattern of actors saying there were sexual relationships but actresses saying there weren't? If we were dealing with regular people we'd side with the men maybe 10% of the time, but in the case of movie stars we aren't sure actors had much to gain by lying. On the other hand, during the sexually unliberated years of the ’50s and ’60s actresses had plenty to gain by appearing to be as close to virginal as possible.
So it's another classic case of Hollywood he said/she said. Ford's biographer, who happens to be his son, said there was a physical relationship. How can he be sure? Several ways, perhaps, but notably, Glenn Ford taped all his calls—which is a story we may get into another time—so maybe there was confirmation from those that he and Reynolds were doing the nasty. In any case, we're really just interested in this cool cover shot. Reynolds does polka dots with style.
They always get the best seat in the house.
Below, a collection of film stars, in Hollywood and other places, looking large and in charge while seated in director's chairs. In panel three the actress in the “Bonanza's guest” chair is Karen Sharpe. We don't expect you'll need help with the others, but if so our keywords list them in order.
Politics, show business, and sports collide in one of the U.S.'s oldest magazines.
We've shared lots of issues of The National Police Gazette, but this September 1959 cover, more than others, neatly emphasizes the magazine's three focus areas—politics, celebrity, and sports. Dishing on political figures and celebs was typical for mid-century tabloids, but Gazette's devotion to sports made it unique. And its favorite sport was boxing. Every issue we've seen has reserved a chunk of pages for the sweet science.
In this case the scientist is Sugar Ray Robinson, and the story about him discusses the rivalry he had with Carmen Basilio. The two fought twice when Robinson was in decline at the tail end of his career. Sugar Ray lost the first bout—considered by boxing historians to be one of the greatest fights ever—and a year later won the second. Every boxer declines, but Robinson's career record stands tall—he fought two hundred times and tallied 173 wins, 108 of them by knockout. But for all that hard work he ended up—as boxers often do—flat broke.
Police Gazette was launched in 1845, as incredible as that seems, and was still going strong more than a century later when this issue appeared. We have about twenty-five scans below and seventy-five more entries on Gazette in the website comprising many hundreds of pages. The easiest way to access those, as well as numerous other mid-century tabloids, is via our tabloid index located here.
All celebrities great and small.
We’ve featured Pic magazine only once before, but not because it was an unimportant publication. Quite the opposite—we’ve seen issues as early as 1936 and as late as 1958, making it both a Depression and World War II survivor, presumably no easy feat and certainly a run indicative of sustained popularity. Early issues seemed focused on sports, but it soon broadened to include celebrities. It was launched by Wagner Publications of New York City, and this issue appeared in June 1952 with a cover featuring actress Suzan Ball placing a crown on the head of Akton Miller, a man Pic had chosen as its Hot Rod King. Inside you get a raft of Hollywood stars, including photos of Yvonne De Carlo in Uruguay, Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh, and Joan Vohs, shots of New York Giants manager Leo Durocher and his beautiful actress wife Laraine Day, and some nice boxing pictures. There’s also an interesting feature on the day’s top vocalists (with African-Americans notably excluded), and a profile of crooner Tony Bennett.
But it’s Suzan Ball’s story we’re interested in today. Her path to show business was so typical of the period as to be almost banal—she was spotted in a Santa Maria, California newspaper after winning a cake baking contest. Universal-International scouts thought she looked a bit like Jane Russell, so they swept her up, shuttled her down Highway 101, signed her to a contract and began selling her as a hot new Tinseltown commodity, proclaiming her the New Cinderella Girl of ’52. Soon the influential columnist Hedda Hopper took up the refrain, naming her one of the most important new stars of 1953, thus ensuring that year would belong to Ball.
It was then that her train to stardom jumped the tracks. She injured her leg performing a dance number in East of Sumatra, and later in the year had a car accident and hurt the leg again. Treatment for those two injuries led to the discovery of a cancerous tumor. Soon afterward she fell and broke the limb, and when doctors decided they couldn’t remove the tumor they instead took the entire the leg. That was in January 1954. Ball soldiered on in her show business career with an artificial leg, starring in Chief Crazy Horse, though she lost fifteen pounds during the production, and later playing nightclub dates and appearing on television shows. In July 1955 she collapsed while rehearsing for the show Climax, whereupon doctors discovered the cancer had metastasized and spread to her lungs. A month later she died at age twenty-one. We have about fifty scans below.
Suppressed was in rare form in November 1955.
Above is the cover of the NYC based tabloid Suppressed from this month in 1955. This issue shows Suppressed in full bloom—bold, brash, fearless. Within the next two years a series of Hollywood lawsuits against scandal magazines would begin to make editors wary of being dragged into court for committing libel and slander, but 1955 was still the heyday for celeb bashing, and Supressed engaged in what might be best described as open warfare against film stars. Here’s a small sampling of some of the gut punches in this magazine:
Marlon Brando: silly.
Anita Ekberg: egocentric, a martyr.
Rita Gam: the all-time fizzle of 1955, a bad actress, with a figure that leaves something to be desired.
Judy Holliday: pudgy.
Marilyn Monroe: childishly immature, with an inferiority complex.
Debbie Reynolds: inane.
Gloria Vanderbilt: unable to think of anyone besides herself; has more neuroses than acting talents.
Robert Wagner: pompous, unintelligent.
We could go on, but you get the point. We’ve written many times on this website that nothing in media is truly new, and this is yet another example. Click over to any muckraking celebrity blog right now and you’d think journalism, as well as simple grammar, went down the toilet around the year 2000. But no, they were always in the toilet. Remember, Suppressed and its brethren Confidential, Whisper, On the QT, Hush-Hush, et.al., were not fringe. By itself Confidential was thebiggest newsstand seller in the U.S. These publications were powerful. Like modern American cable news, they assumed leading roles in making the public swallow false political memes—a commie under every bed, a black man in every bed, and the loose women who made it all possible.
But unlike today’s fawning cable news, Suppressed was generally scornful toward the rich. For instance, this issue discusses millionaires’ secret playgrounds while parking quotation marks around words like “classy,” and “the right people.” The actual playgrounds are described as “last stand” resorts, where the rich can feel safe from the rabble of middle class America. A few pages later the editors decry nepotism in Hollywood, naming a dozen famous actors and actresses who allegedly got their start because of mommy and daddy’s money. All in all, Suppressed is a head spinning mixture, and at the end of each issue a typical reader was probably convinced of one thing—the only good people in the world were those who were exactly like him.
And the winner for Best Actress in a movie she absolutely hated—Elizabeth Taylor!
The 1960 melodrama BUtterfield 8—the capital BU being a phone exchange in New York City—was probably one of the most contentious productions in which Elizabeth Taylor was ever involved. Because she had just gotten her name splashed all over every tabloid on the planet for stealing the husband of America’s sweetheart Debbie Reynolds, and because her contract with MGM was ending and she wasn’t coming back to the studio, the suits decided to capitalize on her freshly ruined reputation by casting her as the promiscuous Gloria Wandrous. If the last name feels like a mash-up of “wondrous” and “wandering,” that’s an apt description for the character, who’s a home-wrecking maneater. But the studio suits weren’t done. Just to make sure the scandal rags were all over the story, they cast the man Taylor had stolen in real life—Eddie Fisher—in the film as well. Their goal seemed to be to generate attention and they succeeded. BUtterfield 8 was a success and Taylor snagged an Academy Award for her efforts, but she hated the film. The story goes that she threw her shoes at the screen the first time she saw it. The Japanese posters you see above are exceedingly rare. The first has never appeared online before, we're pretty sure; the second version, in pink with the unusual capital BU in the title, we found at an auction site. We can’t help but think even Elizabeth Taylor would have liked them.
Update: Oops, we forgot we had a third vesion of the poster. An unusual all black edition. We've uploaded it below, butter late than never. Heh. Um...
Whisper shows it’s still happy to wallow in the muck.
Hy Steirman’s Whisper magazine is generally considered to be less racy than when it was owned by Robert Harrison, but this issue from January 1959 shows a little of the old spark. It slams Elizabeth Taylor for stealing Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds, with staff scribe Orson C. Green spewing forth this venom: But then Liz made clear to the whole world that beneath that lovely exterior there beats a heart of purest gall. She repaid the infinite kindness of her two friends by breaking up their marriage. Green goes on to describe Taylor trying to soak down New York’s PlazaHotel for two weeks of room charges, and then, when asked to pay, phoning up Montgomery Clift and getting him to help her trash the room. The article concludes: In short, Miss Taylor and friend Clift repaid [the Plaza] for its hospitality by deliberately making a mess for some forlorn chambermaid to clean up. Ingrate!
Whisper also takes on ex-King Farouk I of Egypt—who was a favorite tabloid target of the time—describing him as “Fatso Farouk”, “the roly-poly playboy of the Nile”, “the balding balloon boy” and worse. Readers are told that he was at Maxim’s in Paris one night and saw Coccinelle do a song accompanied by a striptease that left her in only a beaded g-string. Farouk, who was famously amorous, was so smitten that he sent his card and a bouquet of flowers backstage. Coccinelle came to say thanks, and when asked by Farouk agreed to go to dinner. Moments after she left thetable one of the ex-king’s aide’s hastily scurried over and explained that Coccinelle had once been a man. Allegedly, Farouk flipped. Whisper describes overturned tables, broken bottles, the works. Readers are told: The whole Riviera rocked with laughter. The bulging butt of the joke fled to Rome.
Whisper goes on to discuss sperm banks, state prisons, Vladimir Lenin, Josip Tito, and “white” slavery, but probably our favorite story is the one headlined: Do Ex-Prostitutes Make the Best Wives? A pertinent question. And whom did they get to write the answer? The byline says: by an Ex-Prostitute. We just love that. As far as whether Whisper gets any of its facts straight, we can’t really offer a guess, but this issue proves that even ten months after the sale from Harrison to Steirman, it hadn’t quite lost its spark. Things apparently went downhill pretty fast in the next few years, but we’ll judge that for ourselves as we examine more issues. Visit our entire Whisper collection by clicking its keyword at bottom.
Two for the money.
Here’s a curious item we ran across at our favorite vintage memorabilia shop. It’s a Japanese promo poster for Viva Las Vegas, which… hey, wait a sec. Where’s Elvis? Where’s Ann-Margret? And who are these imposters? Well, turns out Elvis’s immortal Viva Las Vegas was not the first. The first film of that title starred Cyd Charisse, Dan Dailey and Agnes Moorehead, and was released in 1956. During its U.S. run it was known as Meet Me in Las Vegas, but for its international release the title was changed. Plotwise, you’ve got a flick here with a central gimmick that’s just begging to be recycled in a modern romcom. Get this—Dailey discovers that whenever he’s at the gambling tables he cannot lose as long as he’s holding hands with Charisse. If it sounds intolerably cute, well, what do you expect? It’s a mid-century musical. Actually though, the movie isn’t top notch, due mainly to some less-than-stellar acting in parts, but you do get to see Las Vegas as it was before it became the consumerist dystopia it is today, and you get cameos from Vic Damone, Sammy Davis, Jr., Debbie Reynolds, Frankie Laine, Lena Horne and others. Well worth a look.
They’re only happy when it rains.
Is it pulp? Maybe not, but we reserve the right to step outside the parameters of our own website on those occasions we see something that warrants it. This poster for Singin’ in the Rain, with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, was produced for the film’s U.S. premiere. The movie was not particularly popular when released, but today it’s considered one of the best musicals ever made. It hit screens for the first time this month in 1952.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
1947—HUAC Hearings Begin
The House Un-American Activities Committee begins its investigation into Communist infiltration of Hollywood, resulting in a witch hunt that destroys lives, ruins careers, and makes Senator Joseph McCarthy the most feared politician of the era.
1968—Jackie Kennedy Marries
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy marries Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. The marriage comes as a total surprise to the American public, and results in a terrible backlash against her and also makes her the number one target of paparazzi for years.
1989—Guildford Four Exonerated
The men known as the Guildford Four, who were imprisoned for a series of bombs attacks on British pubs that left five dead and 100 injured, are decreed not guilty after an investigation reveals that police colluded in doctoring statements that appeared to incriminate the defendants.
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