Musiquarium Oct 2 2023
JAZZ SET
If you're going to put a musical group together make it the best.


It's been awhile since we featured Polish art, so today we're revisiting the interesting aesthetic of that country with a small collection serving as a reminder that jazz was the predominant popular musical form during the heydey of the pulp era. Polish artist Waldemar Świerzy painted this series of portraits featuring American jazz icons. He signed them all on the left edges. The phrase “wielcy ludzie jazzu” on the top of each print means, “great jazz people,” some of whom, you've noticed, he painted more than once. Świerzy was born in 1931, and painted these in the mid-1980s, focusing mainly on musicians who had been active and popular during his youth. There are even more we didn't show here. Several of these musicians are mentioned by name in books we've read, for example Louis Armstrong, who's the subject of a brief discussion in Harold Sinclair's New Orleans based novel Music Out of Dixie. We think this is nice work by Świerzy. You can see more Polish art here, here, and here.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 1 2023
ALL THAT JAZZ
Mid-century paperback artists were in tune with the times.


There are numerous jazz themed mid-century paperback covers. The jazz milieu—with its smoky clubs, passionate personalities, and idiosyncratic ways—fascinated readers. Above you see a small collection of fronts that visually reference the uniquely American (black American) art of jazz. We've also added a couple of the many torch singer and crooner covers out there that seem jazzy enough to fit. The artists are Barye Phillips, Stanley Zuckerberg, Harry Barton, Mitchell Hooks, Julian Paul, and others. We've previously posted quite a few jazz covers, and we have a few jazz themed books still to read, so in both cases you won't see those pieces here. We don't keyword for jazz, which means a search for those we've already posted would bring up a welter of books, movies, tabloids, and album covers. Therefore, in order to save you the trouble of wading through all that, here are some links. We'll limit ourselves to ten: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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The Naked City Nov 28 2012
BOSTON INFERNO
How it started nobody can remember for sure. How it ended nobody can ever forget.


Above is a photo of the aftermath of the Cocoanut Grove fire of 1942. Its appearance belies the scope of the disaster that took place there. The Cocoanut Grove had been founded as an illegal speakeasy and, after the 1933 repeal of Prohibition, became Boston’s trendiest nightspot. It consisted of several properties that had been consolidated into one, and was a labyrinth of tropical-themed bars, lounges, and dining rooms, complete with a famous “rolling roof” that allowed patrons to dance under the stars during warm summer nights. The club’s cobbled together construction meant there were many points of egress, but owner Barnet “Barney” Welansky was preoccupied with the possibility of people using these to dash without paying their checks, and had hidden some exits behind curtains, locked others, boarded up a plate glass window, and bricked over an emergency exit.

About 10:15 p.m. one frigid November night a fire started for the most banal of reasons. A soldier in the Melody Lounge, which was in the basement, had either loosened or removed a light bulb in an artificial palm tree to create the privacy he desired in order to make out with his date. A busboy was ordered to replace or tighten it. He climbed onto a chair and lit a match so he could see, very likely using one from a matchbook like the one at right. Moments later the canopy of artificial palm fronds overhead caught fire. Whether it was the match or the light bulb that started the blaze nobody ever figured out for sure, though the busboy unambiguously blamed himself and the match.

But in any case, flames blossomed through the paper and rattan decorations. Waiters tried to douse them but they quickly became what witnesses described as a fireball. This fireball raced up a staircase to the lounges and bars on the ground floor and men and women ran upstairs with their hair ablaze. The flames burst into the main level and triggered a deadly crush at the revolving door entrance, which was immediately rendered useless as patrons tried to escape by pushing in opposite directions. Another crush formed at a set of double doors that opened inward from the street. In the panic, the patrons couldn’t organize themselves enough to step back so the exit could be opened. As people struggled, passed out, and piled up before the doors, the flames consumed everything.
 
Many people escaped. They ran through the kitchen, or squeezed through barred windows. The house band’s bass player, Jack Lesberg, who later went on to perform with Louis Armstrong and Sarah Vaughan, among others, smashed his way out using his stand-up bass. Five survivors barricaded themselves in a walk-in freezer. In all, about half the occupants escaped, but in the end the fire killed 492, which was thirty-two more people than were legally allowed to inhabit the building. Some patrons were so quickly overcome by fumes that they died sitting at their tables. Firemen described charred corpses with glasses in their hands. Barnet Welansky went to jail for multiple counts of manslaughter, but was pardoned after only four years by Massachusetts Governor Maurice J. Tobin, who had been the mayor of Boston at the time of the fire. Helps to know people, and helps even more to drink with them. The Cocoanut Grove fire—or inferno might be a better word—was today in 1942.

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Musiquarium Oct 25 2011
HER MAJESTY'S SHORTEST-LIVED BOND
The theme song said he had all the time in the world. Never trust a theme song.

We ran across a rare, Japanese-issued James Bond theme song collection and decided to steal a few photos because inside was this brilliant poster of George Lazenby by Frank McCarthy. Lazenby took over the Bond role for 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in which the character got married only to see his new wife gunned down at film’s end. We’ve been involved in some spirited debates about where Lazenby fits in the Bond pantheon—some of his defenders even say he was the best Bond. We wouldn’t go that far, but he did have one of the best theme songs, Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All the Time in the World,” which opens this compilation. Ironically, Lazenby didn’t have much time—United Artists booted him out of the Bond role the next year when Sean Connery returned to film Diamonds Are Forever. If you haven’t seen On Her Majesty’s Secret Service we recommend it. And you can listen to “We Have All the Time in the World” here.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 15
1939—Adams Completes Around-the-World Air Journey
American Clara Adams becomes the first woman passenger to complete an around-the-world air journey. Her voyage began and ended in New York City, with stops in Lisbon, Marseilles, Leipzig, Athens, Basra, Jodhpur, Rangoon, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Wake Island, Honolulu, and San Francisco.
1955—Nobel Prize Winners Unite Against Nukes
Eighteen Nobel laureates sign the Mainau Declaration against nuclear weapons, which reads in part: We think it is a delusion if governments believe that they can avoid war for a long time through the fear of [nuclear] weapons. Fear and tension have often engendered wars. Similarly it seems to us a delusion to believe that small conflicts could in the future always be decided by traditional weapons. In extreme danger no nation will deny itself the use of any weapon that scientific technology can produce.
1997—Versace Murdered in Miami
Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace is shot dead on the steps of his Miami mansion as he returns from breakfast at a cafe. His killer is Andrew Cunanan, a man who had already murdered four other people across the country and was the focus of an FBI manhunt. The FBI never caught Cunanan—instead he committed suicide on the houseboat where he was living.
July 14
1921—Sacco & Vanzetti Convicted
Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti are convicted in Dedham, Massachusetts of killing their shoe company's paymaster. Even at the time there are serious questions about their guilt, and whether they are being railroaded because of their Italian ethnicity and anarchist political beliefs.
July 13
1933—Eugenics Becomes Official German Policy
Adolf Hitler signs the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, and Germany begins sterilizing those they believe carry hereditary illnesses, and those they consider impure. By the end of WWII more than 400,000 are sterilized, including criminals, alcoholics, the mentally ill, Jews, and people of mixed German-African heritage.
1955—Ruth Ellis Executed
Former model Ruth Ellis is hanged at Holloway Prison in London for the murder of her lover, British race car driver David Blakely. She is the last woman executed in the United Kingdom.
1966—Richard Speck Rampage
Richard Speck breaks into a Chicago townhouse where he systematically rapes and kills eight student nurses. The only survivor hides under a bed the entire night.
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