Tabloid tells curious readers everything they always wanted to know about things that are none of their business.
The last time we checked in on Top Secret was with their October 1962 issue. Today we’re visiting January 1964 and plenty has changed in the intervening months. Foremost—the paper and printing quality have degraded to what surely must have been the lowest standard available at the time, which is why our scans are grainy. But we can still recognize June Wilkinson on the cover, who we’re told is retiring from modeling, and inside readers hear from Ursula Andress, Jack Lemmon, Brigitte Bardot, Shirley MacLaine, Mandy Rice-Davies and more.
Editors also tout “one of the most earth-shaking advances in the exploration of outer space!” Wow. Was it warp drive? A transporter beam? A stargate? No. It was that America’s newest astronaut, Edward Dwight, Jr., was a different skin color than the other astronauts. We might deign to call that an advance in the attitudes of NASA during an age of state apartheid. Space travel, on the other hand, remained space travel, unchanged. Top Secret implies Dwight was the first black American qualified to be an astronaut, and by so doing avoids admitting that the door was simply closed before his arrival. You know this game—all backslapping, zero introspection. But we get it. “Our First Negro Astronaut!” is a bit more celebratory than, “We should have done this from the beginning.”
But we must move on, because the real gem in this issue comes later, in the story you see announced in the cover’s blazing red banner: Hidden Homos—How To Spot Them! Goodness, where to begin with this? First, we’ll say we would dearly love to reproduce this entire article as an artifact of an intellectual dark age, but it’s Saturday, and time is fleeting. Just know that the language is baroque in its viciousness. Thestory begins with the tale of a company president who unknowingly hired a gay man and had no idea until several years later when the hiree—now a manager—got drunk at a company party and began slapping and scratching another man. Soon four employees were involved in this spat. The company president exclaimed: “My God! Those men are all queers!”
Top Secret explains: “Once the camouflaged homosexual has gotten himself a snug berth, he starts easing others of his ilk into the office. Before long, most of the straight male employees are out on their ears and the camouflaged fags have taken over.” Editors then list the eight most common types of gay men against whom normal, red-blooded Americans must be vigilant (by refusing to hire for any sort of job, potentially harassing out of the neighborhood, and possibly reporting to the authorities). Ready? Here we go with a few highlights:
1: The Overly Fastidious Dresser—obsessive interest in clothes is a feminine trait, and in men it may well be a danger signal.
2: The Overly Hygenic Type—their faces are invariably too-closely shaven. They make a fetish of washing their hands.
3: The Uriah Heep Type—he seeks to prove how very humble and insignificant he is by heaping praise upon others.
4: The Maiden Aunt’s Delight—these men associate with older women because such women make no heterosexual erotic demands upon them.
5: The Solitary Drinker—although he is not gregarious or even friendly, his eyes are constantly roving, covertly peering at others in the bar, particularly other men, seeking a sign of recognition from another secret swish. When he sees one he will give a signal in return and soon both fruitcakes will depart to enjoy a “courtesy exchange.”
6: The Octopus—they put their hands on other men’s shoulders, dig them in the ribs, slap their thighs…
7: The Middle-Aged Mama’s Boy—such an obvious Oedipal situation may indicate homosexual tendencies or homosexuality in adult men of any age, married or single.
8: The Youth Lover—he is constantly engaged in youth work, organizing clubs, leading outings, playing the part of the jolly, ebullient uncle.
It would be interesting to do the opposite of everything on this list and see how long it takes our social, family and sex lives to fall apart. Just a thought. Anyway, Top Secret finishes the article with this bomb: “These are by no means the only types of secret swishes but they are the ones the average person is most likely to encounter.” So basically, the list is all well and good, but anyone can be gay. To which your average non-Neanderthal would reply, “Yes, anyone can be gay. And?” Well, and the editors of Top Secret suggest that anyone displaying suspicious behavior should be investigated more closely. Hmm… we wonder what depth and form those investigations should take? More scans below.
Mandy Rice-Davies dies of cancer.
Mandy Rice-Davies, one of the central figures in the John Profumo Affair of 1963, died of cancer early this morning. Most accounts of the scandal describe Rice-Davies as a prostitute, and indeed Stephen Ward, one of the principals in the fiasco, was imprisoned for living off the earnings of Rice-Davies and other women—another way of saying he pimped. But Rice-Davies spent a good portion of her final years denying she was a call girl, saying she didn’t want her grandchildren to remember her that way.
Whatever her means of support during the Profumo Affair, what is certainly true is that she was young and beautiful and somehow found herself at the nexus where rich, entitled men and beautiful women always seem to meet. The Profumo Affair's world of secret parties, middle-aged male egos, and a lurking Soviet spy came into being during the most paranoid years of the Cold War, and John Profumo’s role in it cost him his position as Secretary of State for War in the British government.
After the scandal Rice-Davies sang in a cabaret in Germany, lived in Spain, moved to Israel where she opened nightclubs and restaurants in Tel Aviv, released music and books, appeared on television and in film, including the The Seven Magnificent Gladiators and Absolute Beginners, and was involved in the development of a Stephen Ward-based Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. She accomplished plenty. But as long as she is remembered it will be for Profumo, Christine Keeler, the parties and scandalous revelations, and the near-collapse of the British government in 1963. If you’re interested in reading more, we talked about Rice-Davies in a bit more detail here and here.
Caught with her pants down.
Q: What do you do when you find yourself in the middle of a national scandal? A: Parlay the recognition into money. The above photo of Welsh-born party girl Mandy Rice-Davies made us think yet again of that question and answer. The first time we remember considering them (because Rice-Davies was before our time), was during the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. Lewinsky appeared on the cover of a national magazine and an acquaintance of ours commented that she must be mortified by the entire situation. But we noted, “Not so mortified that she didn’t manage to get into an expensive photography studio and get these shots made.” Not an affordable thing for a D.C. intern with legal fees looming, but no problem for a person who has signed a representation deal and is being backed by managers.
Likewise this photo of Mandy Rice-Davies tells the world she isn't the least interested in hiding, but rather in embracing her unexpected fame, derived from her role—along with friend Christine Keeler—in the Profumo Affair that rocked Britain’s conservative government in 1963 with tales of wild parties, paid sex, and nuclear secrets. Rice-Davies used the notoriety she gained to release pop singles, open nightclubs bearing her name, and write an autobiography and a novel. She and Keeler weren’t the first ordinary citizens to rise to fame on the back of a sexual scandal, nor the first to use that recognition for their benefit, but their case seems like a historical marker, telling us we were entering fully into an age inwhich infamy, pain and public spectacle would rank equally with creativity and intelligence as undifferentiated collateral to be traded for cash. A culture of Hiltons, Kardashians and Joe the Plumbers speaks to this truth. You can read more about Mandy Rice-Davies here.
All the boys loved Mandy Rice-Davies.
The infamous Profumo Affair exploded onto British front pages during the spring and summer of 1963, outing Secratary of State for War John Profumo’s affair with the call girl Christine Keeler, and leading directly to his humiliation and resignation. More than a year later the other call girl at the center of the scandal—Mandy Rice-Davies—was promoting a tell-all book about her time in the sex trade. It was called The Mandy Report and on the cover of Confidential from May 1964, we see Rice-Davies holding the book and looking pretty darn pleased with herself.
The Mandy Report was actually rather cleverly formatted as a tabloid-style magazine, and between the covers Rice-Davies claimed to have spent quality time between the sheets with the likes of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Robert Mitchum, Bob Hope, George Hamilton and many other household names. Mostly, the men denied it, of course, but to paraphrase Rice-Davies herself: “Well, they would, wouldn’t they?”
Call us prejudiced, but we tend to believe women about situations like these, even when they happen to be trying to drum up sales—and especially when they aren't. In pulp novels women publicly lie about this stuff all the time, and as a fictional device it's fun, but in the real world there's a lot of potential for danger and social loss that makes us think falsehoods in this area are relatively rare. But that's just us.
We don't know how many copies The Mandy Report eventually sold, but the fact that it's still widely available online might be an indication that it did okay. Later in life, Rice-Davies stayed in the spotlight, acting in film and television. That’s her below, relaxing on a beach on Majorca circa 1963, and if you're curious you can read a bit more about the Profumo Affair at an earlier post, here.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1914—RMS Empress Sinks
Canadian Pacific Steamships' 570 foot ocean liner Empress of Ireland is struck amidships by a Norwegian coal freighter and sinks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with the loss of 1,024 lives. Submerged in 130 feet of water, the ship is so easily accessible to treasure hunters who removed valuables and bodies from the wreck that the Canadian government finally passes a law in 1998 restricting access.
1937—Chamberlain Becomes Prime Minister
Arthur Neville Chamberlain, who is known today mainly for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938 which conceded the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany and was supposed to appease Adolf Hitler's imperial ambitions, becomes prime minister of Great Britain. At the time Chamberlain is the second oldest man, at age sixty-eight, to ascend to the office. Three years later he would give way to Winston Churchill.
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