The Lowdown has the scoop on a fantastic plastic.
Today we're back to tabloids with an issue of The Lowdown published this month in 1962. The cover features Bob Hope goofing around, Elizabeth Taylor looking serious, Kim Novak nuzzling, and a random naked party girl randomly partying naked. Inside the issue are stories on Hope getting the hots for trans star Coccinelle in a French nightclub, Novak raking a series of suitors over the coals, and baseball players succumbing to greed. So much material in these tabloids, and so little time to highlight a story or two. But forced to make a choice, we're opting to discuss a piece on something called Scoobeedoo. How can we not? We all remember the cartoon, and now this story seemed guaranteed to tell us where the name of the legendary dog came from. We never knew we wanted to know that. But when we saw the word Scoobeedoo we realized, yes, we want to know.
Lowdown describes Scoobeedoo as a craze and a do-it-yourself gimmick. Apparently, it was popularized when French singer Sacha Distel wrote a 1958 song of the same name. But he didn't invent it—he just sang about it. The actual thing was invented by a French plastics company and called Scoubidou. It was basically a spool of brightly colored plastic cord that could be woven or tied to make—well, whatever you wanted. Youcould make lampshades, baskets, placemats, keychains. A California man famously used it to make bikinis. We imagine it would work for household repairs, light sexual bondage, whatever you needed it for. The stuff was as popular as the hula hoop for a while. Apparently figures in the electrical industry even complained that a shortage of wiring insulation was due to Scoubidou because it used the same type of plastic.
Readers above a certain age will already know about all this, of course, but we had no idea. We weren't around back then. And that, succinctly, is why we maintain this website—because we learn about a past we never experienced. But surprisingly Scoubidou isn't just the past. It apparently still exists. It even has a Wikipedia entry with examples of the many things you can make (but no bikinis). So this was a very informative issue of The Lowdown, all things considered. The only thing we're bummed about is that our Scoubidou research provided no actual confirmation that the cartoon dog Scooby-Doo got his name from the toy. But he had to, right? Maybe a reader has the answer to that. In the meantime we have more than twenty scans below for your enjoyment and other issues of The Lowdown you can access by clicking the magazine's keywords at bottom.
Update: a reader does have the answer. One of you always does. J. Talley wrote this:
The series was originally rejected by CBS executives, who thought the presentation artwork was too frightening for children and that the show must be the same. CBS Executive Fred Silverman was listening to Frank Sinatra's “Strangers In The Night” (with the scatted lyric “dooby-dooby-doo”) on the flight to that ill-fated meeting. After the show was rejected, a number of changes were made: the Hanna-Barbera staff decided that the dog should be the star of the series instead of the four kids, and renamed him Scooby-Doo after that Sinatra lyric. The spooky aspects of the show were toned down slightly, and the comedy aspects tuned up. The show was re-presented, accepted, and premiered as the centerpiece for CBS's 1969-1970 Saturday Morning season.
Thanks, J. That's another hole in our historical knowledge successfully filled in. Is it any surprise Sinatra was involved somehow? That guy really got around.
Mid-century tabloid hits all the familiar tabloid notes.
Lowdown makes the rounds in this issue published in May 1965. Inside, Ann-Margret claims she doesn't want to be a tease (fail), editors ask if women are more immoral than men (which they really are, once you take war, genocide, faithlessness, and generally violent tendencies off the table), and June Wilkinson's photo is among those used in a story about women supposedly receiving insurance covered breast implants from Britain's National Health Service.
Probably the most interesting story concerns Swedish actress Inger Stevens disappearing for a week. Lowdown hints at an alcohol binge, which is nothing special (hell, we do those) but while there are plenty of sources citing a 1960 suicide attempt, we found no other mention anywhere of Lowdown's missing week. The story is notable because Stevens would die at age thirty-five of a drug overdose.
Elsewhere you get nude skiing in Austria, Richard Chamberlain and his hit television show Dr. Kildare, the sex powers of mandrake root, and Belgian born actress and dancer Monique Van Vooren endorsing regular exercise. Scans below—oh, and sorry about the quality. Lowdown's printing process caused scanner problems. It's never happened before, so hopefully we won't encounter the issue again.
Is it just us or is it getting warm around here?
Sometimes we get a little lazy with our scanning. You already know that. A couple of years ago we shared the cover and two pages from an issue of The Lowdown and discussed the murder trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard. In that issue were some other interesting pages, particularly of German actress Elke Sommer. We had made her our very first femme fatale way back, so we always thought she was amazing, but we gained a new appreciation for her after watching her in Deadlier than the Male. Really, scientists should double-check that global warming didn’t start in 1967, because that’s how hot she is in that movie. Anyway, we realized The Lowdown’s photos of Sommer might not have appeared online before, so we decided to take care of that today. What are those naughty secrets about her, you ask? The Lowdown says she was a swinger before she got married.
And speaking of global warming, we also wanted to share a couple of pages in which The Lowdown tries to cast doubt on the cancer causing properties of cigarettes. Reading the article, we’d venture to say that the debate was at about the same place as that over global warming today. Here’s a choice line from the piece: “Air pollution by gasoline vehicles and industrial gasses are a more likely cause of lung cancer." Here'sanother one: “Blaming lung cancer on cigarettes may actually be retarding research into the real causes of the disease.” And what the heck, here’s one more: “Smoking shows no statistical link to the rates of still birth, abortion and birth complications.” So there you have it—conclusive proof. The alarmists were wrong then, and they’re wrong now.
Elsewhere in the issue you get Zsa Zsa Gabor behaving badly on an airplane and a penetrating report on whether Danish girls sleep around. Some interesting stats in that one. According to The Lowdown
, the doctor and researcher Kirsten Auken (a real person, by the way) discovered that only 1.4% of Danish wives were virgins when they married. And in the mid-1960s, no less. But the piece concludes on this note: “Danish girls do not sleep around. Oh, sure, they’re more frank and honest about sex than American girls, but Danish girls don’t deserve the reputation they’ve got
.” How does the writer manage this conclusion? Well, consider this quote from one of Dr. Auken’s subjects: “I wouldn’t marry a man if I hadn’t been to bed with him 50 times." So Danish girls didn’t sleep around—they just slept with the same man over and over. Somehow, that fits into a global warming theme too, don’t you think? Anyway, that’ll finally do it for this issue of The Lowdown
. If you want to see the cover, click over to our original post here
We take back everything we said—the postal service rocks.
Well it worked again. We’re definitely feeling total confidence in the postal system now. Why that first issue of Adam disappeared a while back we’ll never know, but after that little mishap we successfully received one shipment, so this time we decided to go for broke. Above is the result of that experiment—forty-four American tabloids. Even with postage in the $40 range, these came out to about two dollars apiece. Very exciting, and since the collection consists of all the heavyweights—Whisper, Hush-Hush, On the QT, Confidential, Uncensored, The Lowdown, et al.—we’re pretty much set for the foreseeable future. You want mid-century tabloids? This is where to find them. Accept no substitutes. On a side note, remember we said we were refinishing a 150-year-old desk? There it is above in final form. Note that the legs are topped by carved demon heads. We haven’t yet figured out who he’s supposed to be, but he emanates a palpable aura of evil that’s a bit… Hang on a sec. Did you hear that noise? Probably the wind, but we better go check anyway. Be right ba—
Frank Sinatra and Rex Harrison have a little disagreement.
This July 1957 issue of Lowdown shines light in every corner of show business with stories about singer Billy Daniels, stage star Tina Louise, screen actress Kay Kendall, and call girl Nella Bogart. It also delves into international politics with stories on Hungarian leader János Kádár and King Abdulaziz, aka Ibn Saud, of Saudi Arabia. But you know we love Sinatra stories, and so what interests us most is the piece about Frank Sinatra and British actor Rex Harrison brawling. Turns out it wasn’t a brawl, so much as a scuffle. In brief, Harrison slapped Sinatra twice because he thought Frank was hitting on actress Kay Kendall, who happened to be Rex’s girlfriend. The legend goes that Kendall and Sinatra were on a balcony chatting when Harrison appeared and tried to lead her away. Kendall had been appreciating Sinatra’s shirt, and she mentioned to Harrison how much she liked it. Sinatra deadpanned, “It’s just an old shirt. Off-white. Sort of yellow.” Harrison slapped him, and Sinatra said, “It’s still yellow.” Another slap and Sinatra walked away.
Some tabloids, including Lowdown, suggested that Sinatra’s “yellow” comment was meant as a reference to Harrison’s behavior with Carole Landis back in 1948. What had Harrison done? Well, he was married to Lilli Palmer back then but was having an affair with Landis. One night Landis swallowed forty Seconal pills, and Harrison and Landis’s maid found her non-responsive the next day. Harrison thought he felt a faint pulse, but rather than call paramedics immediately, he futilely searched her phone book for the information of her personal doctor, his aim being to keep the situation private. After failing to find a number he bailed and left the maid to deal with the situation. Yellow indeed. It’s highly doubtful Sinatra had any of that in mind, and in fact, he professed respect for Harrison, both before and after the slapping, so we have to chalk the tabloid rumors up to overactive imaginations.
Still though, one can’t be surprised that Harrison was defensive. He knew he was gossiped about around town, not only because of Landis, but because he routinely ruined other women’s lives as well. He was a serial cheater. In fact, he didn’t really consider it cheating. To him, a man’s right was to have any woman he wished, marriage vows notwithstanding. Not only was he wedded to Lilli Palmer while sleeping with Carole Landis, buthe was still married to her while sleeping with Kay Kendall. We could go on, but that’s all we’ll do on Harrison today. Rest assured, though, that he’ll turn up in future tabloids. With stories emanating from a seemingly endless collection of emotionally battered wives, lovers, friends, co-stars, waiters, chauffeurs, maids, and doormen, his reappearance is inevitable.
Lowdown takes a look under the hood.
Lots of info in this Lowdown published in November 1956, but the prestigious banner position is reserved for a U.S. Supreme Court justice who editors claim was a member of the racist organization the Ku Klux Klan. The man in question is Hugo Black, a career Democrat who served on the high court until 1971, and indeed had been a member of the Klan in Alabama. You probably already know this, but for those few who don’t we’ll note here that the Democratic Party was the more conservative party in the U.S. with regard to racial issues until Democratic President John F. Kennedy endorsed, and his Democratic successor President Lyndon B. Johnson signed, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This event led to the cementing of Democrats as the preferred party for black voters and the defection of millions of conservative white voters to the Republican Party, radically shifting the political spectrum of 1960s America (though only with regard to race, since both parties have drifted rightward on virtually all other issues since then).
Anyway, despite the KKK’s racist agenda, and the fact that Black’s racist bona fides were pristine (as a senator he once filibustered an anti-lynching bill), his Klan membership may have been more strongly tied to the group’s anti-Catholic agenda. This in turn prompted him to become a leading defender of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment: i.e., the separation of church and state. In short, his fear and hatred of Catholics led him to do everything he could to keep religion out of politics. Or so certain biographers claim. Much more revealing, perhaps, are Black’s own words on the subject: “I would have joined any group if it helped get me votes.” Uttered near the end of his life, the phrase confirms once again—to us, at least—that a politician is a construct, not a person. Basically, you can never know what any of them really believe, because they’ll say anything to win office. Some of the most successful ones present a mask upon which the various segments of the public can project any face they wish. Maybe that’s why Hugo Black felt so comfortable under a hood.
Paul Hornung was one of the NFL’s greatest players, but he couldn’t outrun the truth.
Above is a Lowdown from November 1963, with stories on Liz Taylor, Jackie Gleason, Inger Stevens, and Green Bay Packers football player Paul Hornung, who had gotten into hot water with the NFL. Hornung enjoyed a fast lifestyle, and had gotten to know other fast people, including a gambler named Barney Shapiro who routinely called asking for inside information to facilitate his betting. Pretty soon, Hornung was betting too, up to $500 a game on both the pros and college. When NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle found out, he suspended Hornung for the 1963 season, which is about when Lowdown weighs in with their “not guilty!” claim. But Lowdown was wrong—Hornung was guilty, and he admitted it. The revelation was a stunner, and became a story so big that ESPN recently rated it the second most shocking sports scandal of all time, surpassed only by the O.J. Simpson murder trial. But Hornung had one thing going for him—he was beloved by football fans. Eager to forgive, they did exactly that when he repented. Convinced of his sincerity, the NFL reinstated Hornung for the 1964 season, and he continued a career that would end in the Hall of Fame.
For Sinatra, every year was a very good year.
The publishers of The Lowdown went for titillation overload on this screamingly bright November 1961 cover, managing to hit several of the hot button issues of the day, from birth control to lesbianism. Frank Sinatra gets the star treatment here, and The Lowdown actually gets one right—Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe (bottom left) were involved in 1961, around the same time her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio (second from left) was growing concerned about the people around her and asked her to remarry him in hopes of stabilizing her life. Was Sinatra one of the people DiMaggio distrusted? Perhaps, but Monroe said no to Joe's proposal and was dead the next year.
As for Sinatra and Brigitte Bardot (bottom right), we can’t find any references to the two being involved, but they did meet during 1959 to discuss co-starring in a film to be helmed by Bardot’s ex-husband Roger Vadim (second from right). After the three of them talked about the project for a couple of days the idea fell through because Bardot didn’t want to work in Hollywood and Sinatra didn’t want to work in Paris. Did Sinatra and Bardot manage to sneak off for some international relations? We tend to doubt it—in addition to traveling with her ex-husband Vadim (who surely would have frowned on her cheating), she was married to actor/producer Jacques Charrier. Still, you can’t really put anything past Sinatra. But short of reading every Hollywood tell-all ever published, we just can’t say whether he and Bardot got together. The Lowdown hints yes, but take it for what it’s worth.
Tabloid pretended concern for singer’s career, but it was all a ruse.
On the cover of this August 1955 issue of the tabloid Lowdown the editors get confrontational with the then-governor of Michigan, G. Mennen Williams. The story involves chart-topping singer Johnnie Ray, who in June 1951 was convicted of propositioning a man in the restroom of a Detroit burlesque house called the Stone Theatre. Lowdown’s insistence upon a pardon for the singer is simply a backdoor way of airing out the scandal while pretending to crusade on his behalf.
How do we know that was Lowdown's intent? Simple—because any tabloid worthy of labeling itself such would have known Ray was bisexual. He pled guilty on that solicitation charge without even bothering to bring a lawyer to court, and his sexual involvement with both halves of the husband-wife comedy team of Bob Mitchell and Jay Grayton was not exactly a state secret.
On stage Ray was an emotional singer whose antics earned him the nicknames the Prince of Wails (for his unrestrained style) and the Nabob of Sob (for his tendency to burst into tears), so even if his fans didn’t realize he was bi, they certainly understood that macho was not his stock-in-trade. Which meant, in the end, he had a nice career even with the tabs dogging his heels. He scored numerous big hits, including “Cry” in 1951, and “You Don’t Owe Me a Thing” in 1957. But even if Ray was impervious to slander, some of Lowdown’s other victims were less fortunate. We'll discuss some of them in the future.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1946—Antonescu Is Executed
Ion Antonescu, who was ruler of Romania during World War II, and whose policies were independently responsible for the deaths of as many as 400,000 Bessarabian, Ukrainian and Romanian Jews, as well as countless Romani Romanians, is executed by means of firing squad at Fort Jilava prison just outside Bucharest.
1959—Sax Rohmer Dies
Prolific British pulp writer Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, aka Sax Rohmer, who created the popular character Fu Manchu and became one of the most highly paid authors of his time writing fundamentally racist fiction about the "yellow peril" and what he blithely called "rampant criminality among the Chinese", dies of avian flu in White Plains, New York.
1957—Arthur Miller Convicted of Contempt of Congress
Award-winning American playwright Arthur Miller, the husband of movie star Marilyn Monroe, is convicted of contempt of Congress when he refuses to reveal the names of political associates to the House Un-American Activities Committee. The conviction would later be overturned, but HUAC persecution against American citizens continues until the committee is finally dissolved in 1975.
1914—Aquitania Sets Sail
The Cunard liner RMS Aquitania, at 45,647 tons, sets sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England to New York City. At the time she is the largest ocean liner on the seas. During a thirty-six year career the ship serves as both a passenger liner and military ship in both World Wars before being retired and scrapped in 1950.
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