I'm going out for a spin. If you need me just look for the brightest light in the evening sky.
There's a common assumption that Swedish actress Anita Ekberg began her acting career in Europe and later appeared in Hollywood productions, but the opposite is true. She debuted onscreen in 1953's The Mississippi Gambler, and her first credited role was in Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, for which the above promo image was made. She had competed in the 1951 Miss Universe Pageant, and as one of six finalists been awarded a contract with Universal Studios. In Abbott and Costello Go to Mars she played a member of the Venusian Guard (Abbott and Costello's ship landed on Venus by mistake). By 1955 she was a regular supporting player, and by the next year was earning $75,000 a movie. Not a bad way to fly.
Two men find out that nothing in life is truly free except trouble.
An interesting story came out of Byram, Mississippi yesterday that caught our eye because it's pure pulp. We actually read a book a while back that has the same plot set-up. We can't remember the title but we wouldn't kid you. Anyway, the story is two men happened upon an Acura sedan on the side of a country road with a sign on it reading “free car.” The keys were in the ignition, so they took it for a ride, presumably with plans to keep it. In the book the guy actually was asked to drive the car, instead of finding it, but it had same basic opening.
At some point, we like to imagine, one of our Mississippi duo sniffed a couple of times, turned to the other and said, “Bro, was that you?” After a fierce fart denial, a counter accusation, and an agreement that the ten pine tree air fresheners scattered around the car's interior couldn't be making the aroma, they stopped, opened the trunk, and found a corpse. At least, that's how we picture them finding it. More likely, after the intial jubilation had passed, they simply realized a free car—even a used Acura sedan—was too good to be true. The baggage in back was identified as Anthony McCrillis, last seen a few days earlier. According to the Byram sheriff there were no signs of obvious trauma—on the corpse he meant, the two guys are probably still freaked. An investigation is ongoing.
The humor here—and yes, it's a little funny—comes in thinking about the note writer. Did this scheme spring forth from his brow unbidden, or had he worked his way up to it? Like did he start years back by leaving a bag of free clothes somewhere, but they were all infested with ticks? Thenmaybe he left an umbrella somewhere but when someone opened it a dead parakeet fell out? And later, jazzed over his bird caper, maybe he left a free recliner on the road that had a cat under the cushion. The guy fascinates us, whoever he is. His cold, calculating callousness is a sheer marvel. And yes, we're assuming there was a murderer, and McCrillis didn't plan to give the car away, wrote a note, made one last trunk check, oopsed his way inside and pulled the lid shut after him. There's a killer for sure. One with a wicked sense of humor. But the joke's on him because he'll get caught. He has to. You can't mess around with a car, a corpse, and a note, and leave no evidence unless you're Fantômas or Jame Gumb. After his conviction he'll be told he's getting a free prison cell, but find he's actually housed with some six-five lifer with face tattoos and a mental catalogue of callous ideas that have made three prison psychiatrists leave the profession. You know what that would be called, right? Karma.
Whatever happened to baby Jayne?
Above are two photos of the Buick Electra 225 actress Jayne Mansfield was riding in when it slammed into the back of a semi on a stretch of road between Biloxi and New Orleans. Visibility was low that night due to a combination of ocean mist and insecticide from a mosquito fogging truck. Mansfield’s driver Ronnie Harrison probably never had a chance to avoid the collision, especially while speeding on a dark, curving road. He and lawyer Sam Brody were killed along with Mansfield. Her children in the back seat survived, but two of her cherished chihuahuas famously didn’t.
In the second photo a sheet-covered Mansfield lies in the foreground after being removed from the wreckage by emergency workers. Virtually any website you visit will debunk the myth of Mansfield’s decapitation. They will tell you her blonde wig flew off and either fooled reporters on the scene or inspired them to create malicious urban folklore. Well, we don’t think so. The debunkers should look up the word “avulsion” in a dictionary. It’s when one part of the body is torn away from another. Mansfield’s death certificate attributes her demise to a “crushed skull and avulsion of the cranium and brain.” So she lost the top of her head, including brain matter. Does that count as decapitation? Perhaps not. Whatever you call it, it happened today in 1967.
Candid Press might have been the cheapest tabloid ever published.
Above you see an ultra low-rent Candid Press cover from today in 1966, with the inside scoop on an interracial love affair that got the Mississippi Klan riled up and ended in a castration. Sadly, these were not uncommon events during America's apartheid era, but Candid Press had no intention of doing any real reporting on it. Instead they were about pure sexual tease, with this and other stories re-enacted photographically by models who always seemed to lose their tops. All very interesting, but of special interest to pulp fans is a feature on Vera Novak, a well-known Harrison Marks model who had shot some nudie reels and acted in a film called It’s a Bare, Bare World.
These nudie reels are way before our time, but we know they are remembered fondly. Technically they're porn, but in reality they're way too innocent to be classified that way. There's no sex at all, and the nudity is chaste by any standards. Novak had established a name as a nudie model, but the article above describes how she was about to make the leap into A-features with a part in 1967’s big budget Bond spoof Casino Royale. But guess what? She never made it into the film. Possibly she shot scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, but she’s definitely not credited as a cast member. So, like many of the actresses we write about, she passed from film history into undocumented private life where, we can only hope, she was happy.
Birthplace of mysterious blues legend to be restored.
Nearly everything about enigmatic bluesman Robert Johnson could have come directly from the pages of a pulp novel. Some say he sold his soul to the Devil at a dark crossroads in exchange for the ability to play guitar. Only two photographs were ever taken of him during his life. He died in 1938 after a jealous husband poisoned his whiskey with strychnine. And nobody knows for sure where he is buried, though there are three spots that claim the distinction. The only agreed upon fact about Johnson’s life is that he came into the world in 1911 in a house in Hazlehurst, Mississippi. Now, that house is slated for restoration by its owners, the county of Copiah, Mississippi. Over the years it has fallen into disrepair, but when originally built by Johnson’s stepfather it was considered a spacious and modern home, particularly by the standards of the sharecropping south. Copiah County officials hope to draw some of the music tourists that visit the nearby Mississippi Delta region, which seems a safe bet considering Johnson’s stature. He is considered by most music aficionados the greatest bluesman ever, and one of the most unique guitarists. He is also, without doubt, one of the most mysterious figures in musical history.
I know I promised to lay some pipe for you, miss, but are you sure you want to put plumbing in this old place?
American author Hubert Creekmore was born in Mississippi in 1907 and spared no effort trying to get out once he reached adulthood. He disliked the south for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, he was gay, which was not at all accepted there at the time. Second, he was a gifted poet, also not readily accepted in the blue collar south. But while he was able to more or less keep his sexuality a secret, he wasn’t as easily able to disguise his literary pretensions.
He eventually left Mississippi to attend college, published his first collection of poems in 1940, and later served in the Navy. When he returned to Mississippi, work was scarce, but he was able to earn money via the Federal Writer’s Project, a program established by Franklin Roosevelt to offer financial support to writers. Yes, half a century ago the U.S. federal government considered literature important enough that it subsidized fledgling writers.
Anyway, Cotton Country was Creekmore’s first and possibly best novel, appearing in 1946. As you can probably discern from the suggestive pulp cover, it concerns a rebellious girl’s attempts to escape the influence of her fanatically religious father. Creekmore had a successful literary career, but was always unpopular in the south because of his focus on religious, sexual and racial intolerance. However, his work is highly regarded, and remains widely available. He died in New York City in 1966.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1987—Andy Warhol Dies
American pop artist Andy Warhol, whose creations have sold for as much as 100 million dollars, dies of cardiac arrhythmia following gallbladder surgery in New York City. Warhol, who already suffered lingering physical problems from a 1968 shooting, requested in his will for all but a tiny fraction of his considerable estate to go toward the creation of a foundation dedicated to the advancement of the visual arts.
1947—Edwin Land Unveils His New Camera
In New York City, scientist and inventor Edwin Land demonstrates the first instant camera, the Polaroid Land Camera, at a meeting of the Optical Society of America. The camera, which contains a special film that self-develops prints in a minute, goes on sale the next year to the public and is an immediate sensation.
1965—Malcolm X Is Assassinated
American minister and human rights activist Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City by members of the Nation of Islam, who shotgun him in the chest and then shoot him sixteen additional times with handguns. Though three men are eventually convicted of the killing, two have always maintained their innocence, and all have since been paroled.
1935—Caroline Mikkelsen Reaches Antarctica
Norwegian explorer Caroline Mikkelsen, accompanying her husband Captain Klarius Mikkelsen on a maritime expedition, makes landfall at Vestfold Hills and becomes the first woman to set foot in Antarctica. Today, a mountain overlooking the southern extremity of Prydz Bay is named for her.
1972—Walter Winchell Dies
American newspaper and radio commentator Walter Winchell, who invented the gossip column while working at the New York Evening Graphic, dies of cancer. In his heyday from 1930 to the 1950s, his newspaper column was syndicated in over 2,000 newspapers worldwide, he was read by 50 million people a day, and his Sunday night radio broadcast was heard by another 20 million people.
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