You know, young lady, I used to have one exactly like that but I used it so much it eventually wore out.
This is a rather amusing shot of professional celebrity, sometime actress, and buttcrack innovator Vikki Dougan's caboose being checked out by an older woman at a Los Angeles social event. You know the story by now. Aspiring star Dougan and her agent were looking for a way to garner publicity, and because so many actresses were wearing low cut dresses that showed cleavage, they cooked up the scheme of having Dougan appear in public with dresses that were low cut in the rear. Thus her nickname: the Back. These dresses would at moments even dip to buttcrack level, which was scandalous, but effective in terms of getting Dougan's name into the tabloids. She soon had the most famous back—and crack—in Hollywood. And of course who can forget the time she showed her girlfur? We certainly can't. The above shot has been nicely colorized, and dates from 1957. Many sites say 1956, but it's part of a photo series made by lensman Ralph Crane for Life magazine and published in ’57. We have an uncolorized shot, slightly different (notice the interested woman isn't wearing glasses in that one) below. We'll have more from Miss Dougan soon.
How do you get famous in Hollywood? Start with good usage of punctuation.
Chili Williams née Marian Sorenson, seen in a nice shot above, was a U.S. model who appeared in a 1943 issue of Life magazine in a dotted bikini, received 100,000 pieces of fan mail, and became known as the Polka-Dot Girl. Subsequently she was almost always photographed in dots. She might as well have had a permanent case of measles, so dominated her life was by dots, but thanks to them she was discovered by Hollywood. Her cinema career didn't quite take off, though, so she next posed covered with commas, indicating that she wasn't done yet. And when that failed she posed covered with ampersands, which she felt was a bolder way of saying she wasn't done yet. And finally, having hit rock bottom, she posed with money signs in a clear cry for help. Later she was arrested for breaking and entering. Only one of the four previous sentences is true. Can you guess which one? Anyway, by the mid-1950s Chili was out of Hollywood, but many excellent photos like the two here survive.
Chorus line turns to picket line for L.A. dancers.
Today in 1938 a group of Carroll Girls—dancers employed by famed theatrical producer Earl Carroll—staged a protest outside the Musicians Union Hall in Los Angeles, an event discussed in the above clipping from Life magazine. The picketing was the result of a spat between Carroll and bandleader Roy Cavanaugh. Apparently Carroll had reneged on a booking and Cavanaugh had appealed to the musician's union and won their backing. The dancers, caught in the middle, took to the sidewalk to denounce the union for being unwilling negotiate a solution that would let the show go on, and let the dancers get paid.
You will notice in the wider shot below that the meat cutters union Local 421 is in the background. We can't explain that, except to guess that the musicians and butchers unions were located in the same area. You'll also notice a lot of musicians playing. Presumably, they're union guys, and presumably they shouldn't be playing—i.e. helping to publicize the picket against their own union. But then again, nothing will divide your loyalties like a woman. Just saying. Been there, lived that.
All told, this looks like the most entertaining protest in history. We picture an epic barbecue thanks to the meat cutters union, and killer tunes thanks to the (soon to be punished) musicians. We'd love to tell you how the Carroll Girls fared with their demands, but we don't know. However, Carroll's stellar run as a show business impresario continued until his death in 1948, so we suspect that even if the Cavanaugh show didn't happen the dancers got over that speed bump and kept working steadily for a long while.
Photographer fatally shot by movie star while staging publicity photo.
This unusual triptych shows actress Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko, better known as Natalie Wood, not watching as she fires off a round. You'll see these photos described simply as Wood shooting a pistol, as if she used a real gun, but we doubt it's real. We don't think the photographer Ralph Crane would have risked having her fire a real gun anywhere in the direction of either himself or an expensive remote operated camera—especially considering the shaky aim involved.
Wood is almost certainly using a Hollywood prop pistol designed to shoot blanks. Crane probably set up about thirty feet away, where he'd be at no risk from superheated gases, blank cartridge debris, etc. On the other hand, maybe the bullet was real—because you never know what sort of crazy shit someone will do with a gun.
Second matter that needs clearing up—some websites say this isn't Natalie Wood. They're wrong. She was eighteen when the photos were made, and was already a big star thanks to 1955's Rebel without a Cause. We mention the film only because Wood's fame means there were hundreds of photos of her from the period, and we've uploaded a nice color one here as well. There's zero doubt. Same eyes. Same haircut. Same mouth. Natalie Wood.
The shooting photos first appeared in Life magazine, and both those and the color image are from 1956. As we've noted in the past, sometimes the narrow column width on Pulp Intl. means images are smaller than we'd like them to be, so we took the liberty of rearranging the black and whites vertically in order to offer a better look at them, and you see the result below. Interested in seeing more rare Wood images? Look here, here, and here.
Hayworth enjoys a not-so-light snack in Santa Monica.
Published today in 1941, we love this Life magazine cover of Rita Hayworth on the beach in Santa Monica, California. But we love the second photo even more. Movie stars will do just about anything to avoid being photographed unhinging their jaws to cram in a pile of food. You can't blame them. Paparazzi lurk in hope of getting exactly this type of shot, which they sell for big money to websites that specialize in making celebs look bad. Hayworth turns the idea into comedy while simultaneously looking appetizing herself. That's star power for you.
Whoa... is the floor swaying or is that me?
Audrey Totter isn't as well known today as she should be, considering she appeared in The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Lady in the Lake, F.B.I Girl, The Unsuspected, The Set-Up, Main Street After Dark, and Tension, but she was well appreciated in her day as a bad girl and film noir stalwart. Her career spanned radio, cinema, and television, and her life spanned ninety-five years, a good run on both counts. This promo photo of her in the typical bad girl's natural habitat—the local gin mill—was made in 1946 and appeared in Life magazine.
The Back makes a spectacle of herself in Hollywood.
In a series of photos made for an edition of Life published today in 1953, actress and model Vikki Dougan takes a stroll around Hollywood and Vine to see what sort of reaction she gets in her back baring dress. Dougan was nicknamed The Back, so this was a publicity stunt designed to increase her recognition as that persona. While the stroll was bold, the dress was actually rather tame for her—on at least a few public occasions her dresses dipped so low she showed ass cleavage, though only at Hollywood events, not outside where she might have gotten in trouble. Still, in the less radical outfit above she draws quite a crowd. Life didn't originally publish all the shots you see here. Some archival images appeared a few years ago and have made their way around the web. If you've been visiting our site for a long time, this series may bring to mind a similar one we shared several years back that was made in Mexico City in 1950 with actress Maty Huitrón. In that group of photos Huitrón was covered from shins to neck, but the effect she had on bystanders was if anything even more profound. You can see that here. Edit: Turns out the cover and the photos come from two different issues of Life. The photos are actually from 1957, according to the Life website, and they would know (though they get the date of Dougan's cover wrong, saying it was from October 23. But we're sure they're right on the year.
Ice is nice, but harder than water.
British skater and actress Belita, who was born Maria Belita Jepson-Turner, frolics in the pool at the Town House Hotel in Los Angeles for a cover of Life that hit newsstands today in 1945. We've shown you this pool before. A window from a swanky hotel bar known as the Zebra Room provided a view through one wall, which meant patrons could watch swimmers while enjoying cocktails. The hotel put together a group of women called Aqua Maidens who performed swim shows, but Belita was not a Maiden. She was already famous for skating in the 1936 Olympics (though she had finished only sixteenth), and had established a Hollywood career with 1943's Silver Skates and 1944's Lady, Let's Dance. She would also make 1946's Suspense, which was unique for combining skating with film noir. In addition to being an ace skater Belita was an accomplished dancer, and the Life photos show her demonstrating her underwater ballet skills. She even wears a tutu in a couple of shots. Interestingly, Picture Post, a British Life-like magazine that was considered imitative, had already featured Belita on its cover, also at the Town House, two months earlier on June 16, 1945. Doubtless both sets of photos were from them same session. So in this case Life was the imitator.
Belita wasn't the most famous ice skater in Hollywood during the 1940s—Sonja Henie was a huge star, and Vera Ralston was probably better known as well. That may be one reason why Belita managed only eight or nine films before moving on to other pursuits. She eventually retired to the village of Montpeyroux, France, where she died in 2005 at age eighty-two. But the photos below are eternal.
And they say nobody walks in L.A.
Ingrid Bergman takes a stroll near downtown Los Angeles in this promo photo made in 1967 for a Life magazine feature titled “Ingrid Bergman: A Day on Bunker Hill.” At this point Bergman wasn't acting much, but she was featured in Life several times that year and, as one of the transcendent movie stars of the 1940s, was never out of mind, even when she was out of sight.
All I really wanted for Christmas this year was Russia. Sigh. This holiday sucks.
Adolf Hitler and cohorts enjoy an uproarious 1941 Berlin Christmas party, where the mood may have been somewhat subdued due to the fact that attempts to crush Russia had so far failed at the cost of more than 800,000 German casualties. The photo was shot by Hugo Jaeger, one of the Führer’s personal photographers, and didn’t come to light until published by Life magazine in 2010.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1966—LSD Declared Illegal in U.S.
LSD, which was originally synthesized by a Swiss doctor and was later secretly used by the CIA on military personnel, prostitutes, the mentally ill, and members of the general public in a project code named MKULTRA, is designated a controlled substance in the United States.
1945—Hollywood Black Friday
A six month strike by Hollywood set decorators becomes a riot at the gates of Warner Brothers Studios when strikers and replacement workers clash. The event helps bring about the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, which, among other things, prohibits unions from contributing to political campaigns and requires union leaders to affirm they are not supporters of the Communist Party.
1957—Sputnik Circles Earth
The Soviet Union launches the satellite Sputnik I, which becomes the first artificial object to orbit the Earth. It orbits for two months and provides valuable information about the density of the upper atmosphere. It also panics the United States into a space race that eventually culminates in the U.S. moon landing.
1970—Janis Joplin Overdoses
American blues singer Janis Joplin is found dead on the floor of her motel room in Los Angeles. The cause of death is determined to be an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
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