Albert Nussbaum was good at almost everything—but what he really enjoyed was crime.
Above is an Inside Detective published February 1963, containing a feature on Albert Nussbaum and Bobby Wilcoxson, a pair of armed robbers who were among the most sought after fugitives of their time. Nussbaum was the brains of the operation, and was adept at chess and photography, and was a locksmith, gunsmith, pilot, airplane mechanic, welder, and draftsman. With his spatial and mechanical aptitude, many careers would have been available to him, but he chose instead to become a bank robber. Predictably, he was good at that too.
Nussbaum and Wilcoxson knocked over eight banks between 1960 and 1962, taking in more than $250,000, which back then was the equivalent of more than two million. During a December 1961 Brooklyn robbery, Wilcoxson got an itchy trigger finger and machine-gunned a bank guard. The killing landed him on the FBI’s most wanted list. But even after the Feds distributed more than a million wanted posters and involved upwards of 600 agents in the case, they could locate neither him nor the elusive Nussbaum. The pair were just too smart.
But brains are not the same as intuition. Nussbaum was clever enough to arrange a meeting with his estranged wife right under the authorities’ noses, but apparently had no clue his mother-in-law was capable of dropping a dime on him. What followed was a 100 mph chase through the streets of Buffalo that ended only after a civilian rammed Nussbaum’s car.Wilcoxson was arrested soon afterward in Maryland, and both robbers were convicted of murder. But where Wilcoxson got the chair (a sentence which was commuted to life upon appeal), Nussbaum got forty years, which made him eligible for parole.
Before being arrested Nussbaum had begun corresponding with mystery author Dan Marlowe, who encouraged him to put his experiences into fiction. He suddenly had plenty of time on his hands, so he wrote some short stories, and of course, he had an aptitude for that, too. With Marlowe’s help, he scored a gig writing film reviews for the Montreal magazine Take One, and after being paroled years later, wrote fiction that appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchock’s Mystery Magazine, and other places. He and Marlowe eventually lived together, with Nussbaum acting as a sort of caretaker for his mentor, who was in failing health and suffering from amnesia. Marlowe died in 1987 and Nussbaum continued to write, as well as host workshops, and get himself elected president of the Southern California chapter of the Mystery Writer’s Association.
Truly, Albert Nussbaum’s story is one of the most interesting you’ll ever run across, and there’s much more to it than we covered here. Perhaps a suitable summation would be to say that before there was such a term as “street cred” Nussbaum had it in spades. His crimes resulted in a man’s death, and his later fame traded on the very experiences that led to that tragic event—unforgivable, on some level. But still, he proved that, given a second chance, some people are capable of making the most of it. Albert Nussbaum died in 1996, aged 62.
Sing-Sing the body electric.
This True Detective from November 1939 features a cover painting of mobster Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, whose flight from authorities had taken him from the U.S. to Mexico, and then to Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Cuba, and across the ocean to England, France and Germany. Buchalter had begun his career in organized crime by shaking down pushcart operators in Brooklyn, and had risen through the ranks of the criminal-controlled fur industry by doing every type of dirt imaginable, from issuing threatening phone calls to garment union activists to throwing acid in a competitor’s face. Eventually he was running a criminal empire that stretched to both coasts, and was acting as head of the infamous assassination squad Murder, Inc.
In 1936 Buchalter went into hiding after he became aware that criminal charges were being prepared against him. Not long after he dropped out of sight, he was indicted for smuggling an estimated $10 million in heroin into the U.S. from Hong Kong. The FBI printed a million posters and displayed them in every post office, police station, and federal building in America. All this attention was a problem for U.S. mob bosses, and so with characteristic unsentimentality, they decided Buchalter had to surrender. Convincing him was not difficult. While he undoubtedly had the flair and intelligence to dodge the feds indefinitely, living in another country away from the old neighborhood and away from the hundreds of underlings who respected him was not his style. Buchalter was a mobster through-and-through. To him, an anonymous existence, even in a tropical paradise or cosmopolitan foreign capitol, was little different from being in prison.
Buchalter’s associates got word to him that if he came back to the U.S. he would be able to surrender personally to J. Edgar Hoover. Surrendering to the Feds meant he would not face a more serious group of charges brought by Manhattan D.A. Thomas Dewey. But it was wishful thinking. The federal charges were rapidly followed by Dewey’s charges and Buchalter earned a fourteen-year jolt in the pen. His legal team hoped tohave the sentence reduced via appeals and procedural maneuvers, but when a snitch fingered Buchalter for ordering the murder of a candy store owner named Joe Rosen, he was tried for the killing, convicted, and sentenced to execution. By some estimates Buchalter had been responsible for a thousand murders as head of Murder, Inc., but all it took was one to seal his fate. Louis "Lepke" Buchalter was electrocuted in Sing-Sing prison's famous "Old Sparky" electric chair on March 4, 1944, perhaps while realizing life on a beach in Costa Rica hadn’t been so bad after all.
When Hush comes to shove.
There’s a veritable smorgasbord of sin on the cover of this March 1956 Hush-Hush. The magazine starts by outing former German tennis star Gottfried von Cramm’s affair with actor Manesse Herbst back in the mid-1930s. Von Cramm had already been jailed in Nazi Germany for the Herbst affair, and before that had been blackmailed by Herbst for enough money to relocate to Palestine, so the Hush-Hush story must have felt like having a vulture land on him after he was already picked clean. Luckily, he had just married serial bride Barbara Hutton (who you may remember from our post a while back on the amazing Porfirio Rubirosa), and since she was the richest woman in the world at the time, we doubt von Cramm's social life was seriously crimped by Hush-Hush's homophobic rehash.
The bit on Adlai Stevenson is of similar nature—he was closely monitored by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, who periodically leaked false rumors that Stevenson was gay. The Hush-Hush story reads like a smear, but no actual files are produced because, well, they were top secret. It wouldn’t be until 2007 that a declassification of Hoover’s files revealed that FBI agents followed Stevenson for thirty-five years, sometimes even tailing him internationally. In they end they discovered nothing, except perhaps that Hoover was obsessed with homosexuality, for reasons that are yet to be fully determined, but for which there are plenty of interesting theories.
Harry Belafonte gets a spotlight as well, but for political reasons. By 1956 he was a leading figure in the American civil rights movement and was highly critical of U.S. domestic and inter-national policy, and so Hush-Hush does what any respectable red-baiting scandal rag would do—suggest he was brainwashed by communists. While the story is pure baloney, it did turn out to be prescient in one sense—Belafonte did begin explicitly endorsing communist ideals, and remains a supporter of Fidel Castro and other leftist leaders today.
Moving along, Ann Woodward was a respected New York City socialite who shotgunned her husband dead in the fall of 1955, apparently believing him to be a burglar. There had been a series of robberies in her neighborhood, so her story made sense, but the fact that she had fired twice raised a few eyebrows. Hush-Hush happily throws a little fuel on the fires of suspicion by dredging up some marital strife and implying the shooting wasn’t an accident. But a grand jury felt differently and failed to issue an indictment. Twenty years later, Truman Capote wrote a book about the shooting and minced no words in voicing his suspicions that Woodward was a murderer. Woodward committed suicide soon thereafter, supposedly in despair that her past had been aired out again.
As always, there’s plenty more dirt and dish we could discuss, but we’ll stop for now because we already have more tabloids than we’ll probably ever be able to post. In fact we just bought fifteen rare copies of the National Informer from an auction site and they only cost us two dollars apiece. And of course we also have a giant folder of tabloids we’ve downloaded. Probably the only way to use them all would be to launch a tabloids-only site, but who has the time? Not us, sadly. More on Hush-Hush later.
Real life murder and mayhem dominated the last week.
Real-world pulp is everywhere you turn these days. And since our mission here at Pulp Intl. includes not just showing you wonderful pulp art from days gone by, but charting modern day pulp incidents wherever and whenever they occur, here’s a little roundup of the previous week, a seven day span that included the shooting death of another boxer, the arrest of more than forty people—including rabbis and Democratic officials—for fraud, and the clandestine peephole recording of sportscaster Erin Andrews, who later admitted the blurry nude steaming up the internet with a hotcurler and a fresh bikini wax was indeed her.
Vernon Forrest’s murder brings to three the number of ex-athletes killed in July. Steve McNair ran afoul of a disturbed lover, and Arturo Gatti is thought by Brazilian police to have gotten similar treatment from his wife, but Vernon Forrest seems to have been killed for money. The former welterweight and light middleweight champ reportedly was at a gas station putting air in the tires of his car when a man approached and asked for money. Nine of ten people probably would have freaked in that situation, but what did a former boxing champ known as the Viper have to fear? So he took out his wallet—which the man promptly snatched and bolted with. Forrest gave chase, and at some point exchanged gunfire with the robber. Either during that exchange, or a few moment later as he fled back toward his car, he was shot multiple times—and the world lost yet another great athlete who had provided so many thrilling memories.
We move to the subject of Erin Andrews, the popular ESPN sportscaster who was illicitly recorded nude in a hotel room. Yes, we analyzed the dirty little .avi file, and we have to wonder why she didn’t just deny being the figure in the recording. To our discerning eyes it does appear to be her, but there is no way to be 100% sure. If she had denied it, the official record on the story would have read “hoax,” and that would have made anyone claiming otherwise a crackpot by definition. Don’t get us wrong—we’re not among those who think the whole thing was a publicity stunt. We’re pretty sure we know those when we see them. Besides, just watching Andrews fret over her body and do those weird semi-squats is enough to convince us she truly thought she was unobserved. But having been recorded in such poor quality, why not deny it? Perhaps she’s simply honest—to a fault.
For a good example of people whose fault is dishonesty, observe the New Jersey 44 (™ Pulp Intl.). Several of those snared have already professed total innocence, though it’s hard to manage an effective denial when one of your crowd has already admitted trafficking in human kidneys for more than ten years. We think it’s safe to say the dominoes in Jersey will soon begin to tumble, and when they do, the line of crooks outside the Newark prosecutor’s office waiting to turn state’s evidence will look like the Late Show queue outside the Ed Sullivan Theater. The whole situation is ripe for ridicule, but frankly, we’ve exhausted ourselves making fun of Rod Blagojevich, Silvio Berlusconi, and Sarah Palin, so let’s just put the New Jersey 44™ in the UFC octagon and see who survives. The blood drenched winner receives a full pardon, a lifetime supply of Oxy-Clean, and dibs on all the salvageable organs.
Newly declassified documents show the FBI tried to stop the distribution of Deep Throat.
In the U.S. this week, declassified FBI documents revealed that the U.S. government conducted a wide-ranging investigation into Gerard Damiano, director of the 1972 porn film Deep Throat. The heavily redacted documents showed that FBI agents across the nation were directed by top figures at the agency to conduct a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Deep Throat producers and distributors in a deliberate effort to stem the tide of sexual freedom that was sweeping the nation. Records show they seized prints of the film, and questioned everyone associated with its distribution, from delivery boys to theater managers.
Included in the stack of documents is an August 1973 letter stating that Damiano was being considered for prosecutorial immunity. The papers don’t say what crime exactly Damiano had committed, but at the time the film was thought to violate obscenity statutes and, because of an assumed link between porn and organized crime, various RICO charges might also have been considered. Ironically, the second-in-command at the FBI at that time was Mark Felt, who would soon play Deep Throat in real life when he became a secret source for Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during their Watergate investigation into Republican Party corruption. He adopted the moniker Deep Throat as his code name, and his real identity remained a mystery until he came forward in 2005.
Despite the FBI’s efforts, the tides of cultural change were too strong. What had been universally offensive just a generation before was seen as entertaining in 1972, and Deep Throat became the most popular x-rated film ever released, eventually earning more than 300 million dollars after an initial investment of around $25,000. At the height of the Deep Throat craze, the film was booked into mainstream cinemas and moviegoers attended packed showings without an iota of shame. Since then American culture has changed again, and, though consumption of pornography is so widespread it generates untold billions of dollars in yearly revenue, it has lost its aura of respectability and is virtually always consumed in private.
Murdered lawyer points accusatory finger two days after his death.
In a twist right out of a Mario Puzo novel, a Guatemalan lawyer killed in a shooting Sunday reappeared on a posthumous videotape yesterday claiming the person who ordered his killing is Guatemala’s president, Alvaro Colóm. On the video, Rodrigo Rosenberg claims he ran afoul of important government officials after representing businessman Khalil Musa, who was slain in March along with his daughter. Rosenberg says Musa was killed for refusing to help launder drug money at Guatemala's Rural Development Bank, which is mostly government owned.
President Colóm dismissed the accusation, saying, “First of all, I am not a murderer. Second, I am not a drug trafficker, and everything he says there is totally senseless.” Colóm has reportedly asked the UN and FBI to investigate Rosenberg’s killing, but the country has been thrown into a state of unrest, with many calling for the president to step aside until the issue is resolved.
It’s just the latest blow for Guatemala, which has suffered a CIA-backed coup, numerous corrupt governments, and the recent rise of powerful drug cartels. As yet President Colóm has shown no intention to step aside, but Rosenberg’s accusations—factual or not—are extraordinarily damaging. Speaking of himself in the past tense, Rosenberg says: “I was a 47 year old Guatemalan, with four beautiful children, with the best brother one could ask of life, with wonderful friends, and with an overwhelming desire to live in my country.”
He tried to auction a vacant Senate seat—with the FBI listening to every word.
In the U.S., Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has been snared in an FBI sting operation. His crime wasn’t the usual men’s room sexual solicitation. No, he was caught trying to sell Barack Obama’s soon-to-be vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. Under Illinois law, the governor of the state has the authority to appoint a successor when a Senate seat is vacated. FBI recordings reveal Blagojevich, a Democrat, discussing the appointment with virtually anyone he felt had something to offer in return. What incredible balls.
The conversations apparently were close to bearing fruit. Recordings reveal Blagojevich weighing a $500,000 offer from an as-yet anonymous source. Also on his wish list were such goodies as an ambassadorship, a cabinet post, possibly the establishment of a non-profit foundation in his name, or even an appointment for his wife to some powerful corporate board. President-elect Obama was not involved in these negotiations, it seems clear, because in one recording Blagojevich rails against Obama staffers for refusing to play along with the scheme, at one point declaring, “They’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them.”
There seems very little chance Blagojevich can spin his way out of this mess, considering at one point he says a Senate seat is “a fucking valuable thing—you just don’t give it away for nothing.” Sadly, Blagojevich may be more rule than exception in Chicago politics. Slate magazine reported back in 2006 that the region is considered one of the most corrupt on the American political landscape, and has produced more indictments over the years than any area save central California/Los Angeles and south Florida. Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris have been formally charged with soliciting bribes and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1918—U.S. Congress Passes the Sedition Act
In the U.S., Congress passes a set of amendments to the Espionage Act called the Sedition Act, which makes "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces, as well as language that causes foreigners to view the American government or its institutions with contempt, an imprisonable offense. The Act specifically applies only during times of war, but later is pushed by politicians as a possible peacetime law, specifically to prevent political uprisings in African-American communities. But the Act is never extended and is repealed entirely in 1920.
1905—Las Vegas Is Founded
Las Vegas, Nevada is founded when 110 acres of barren desert land in what had once been part of Mexico are auctioned off to various buyers. The area sold is located in what later would become the downtown section of the city. From these humble beginnings Vegas becomes the most populous city in Nevada, an internationally renowned resort for gambling, shopping, fine dining and sporting events, as well as a symbol of American excess. Today Las Vegas remains one of the fastest growing municipalities in the United States.
1928—Mickey Mouse Premieres
The animated character Mickey Mouse, along with the female mouse Minnie, premiere in the cartoon Plane Crazy, a short co-directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. This first cartoon was poorly received, however Mickey would eventually go on to become a smash success, as well as the most recognized symbol of the Disney empire.
1939—Five-Year Old Girl Gives Birth
In Peru, five-year old Lina Medina becomes the world's youngest confirmed mother at the age of five when she gives birth to a boy via a caesarean section necessitated by her small pelvis. Six weeks earlier, Medina had been brought to the hospital because her parents were concerned about her increasing abdominal size. Doctors originally thought she had a tumor, but soon determined she was in her seventh month of pregnancy. Her son is born underweight but healthy, however the identity of the father and the circumstances of Medina's impregnation never become public.
1987—Rita Hayworth Dies
American film actress and dancer Margarita Carmen Cansino, aka Rita Hayworth, who became her era's greatest sex symbol and appeared in sixty-one films, including the iconic Gilda
, dies of Alzheimer's disease in her Manhattan apartment. Naturally shy, Hayworth was the antithesis of the characters she played. She married five times, but none lasted. In the end, she lived alone, cared for by her daughter who lived next door.
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