Hmm... not bad. Of course, the real test of strength is whether someone goes down when I bust them in the mouth.
Two titans of U.S. culture meet in this photo showing boxing champ Joe Louis examining the muscles of strongman Charles Atlas (née Angelo Siciliano) at Madame Bey's, a New Jersey camp for professional boxers. While Louis and Atlas are legends in their fields, Bey was an interesting personality too, though now mostly forgotten. Her camp was used by top rank boxers who needed to train for upcoming fights, and because the rules banned alcohol, swearing, women, etc., it was considered an ideal place to hone skills while shutting out distractions. The photo was made in 1938.
She's an acquired taste.
A while back we stumbled upon a low budget action-sexploitation flick called Girls Are for Loving starring Cheri Caffaro. It was part of a trilogy, the first of which was Ginger, for which you see a promo poster above. The movie premiered this month in 1971, and also starred Caffaro, who was one of the bolder actresses of ’70s sexploitation cinema. She plays a New York City socialite recruited to bust a New Jersey drug ring. She's given a few tools to help in her mission, but her main advantage is of course her slinky bod, which she uses at every turn. This is a really bad movie, the type of production where the dialogue is so stilted you'll think time has begun to flow backward, while the equally clunky action moves so slowly it might as well be stop-motion.
But we'll admit that the movie has an underdog quality, as less-than-talented writers, less-than-experienced technical personnel, a far less-than-competent director, and a less-than-conventionally beautiful lead actress strive to put together a gritty erotic action epic. You almost root for them, particularly the supporting cast who are asked to do incredible things, such as Casey Donovan, who gets tied spread eagled to a bed with his junk in full view for an extended scene. Clearly the idea is that if there's a male gaze at work in the movie, let females gaze too, and we applaud that.
Donovan, even with his dick in the wind and his hairy crack on display, doesn't have the hardest job here. That would be Herbert Kerr as a pimp and Herndon Ely as a heroin addicted prostitute, who are asked to act out an interracial hate fuck that might kill your sex drive for months. Later Caffaro drops n-bombs and many variations while relating a tale to Kerr about her rape by black men at age sixteen. Subsequently Caffaro is hogtied and taken against her will by a white guy. By the time Girls Are for Loving arrives Caffaro has the hots for her black partner Timothy Brown, so this franchise is equal opportunity sleaze all the way.
If Ginger sounds out there, trust us, you don't know the half of it. But somehow from this mess came two sequels, which we still can't wrap our heads around. Well, scratch that—we get it. All the hate and craziness in Ginger is woven amid five or six sex scenes that deliver what any fan of erotic cinema seeks—and more. We wouldn't go so far as to say these scenes are realistic, but the amount of genitalia on display is high, so no wonder fans made the film a financial success. But the value of Ginger is not artistic or erotic—it's historic. With its in-your-face nudity and harsh racial language it's a type of movie that may never, ever be made again.
Wow, he sees me naked and drops dead. I guess all those guys were right—I do have a killer body.
Above you see a Victor Kalin cover for Girl Meets Body, written by Jack Iams for Dell Publications, and published in 1947. In the story a woman having a nude walkabout on a secluded New Jersey beach encounters a corpse. The discovery unleashes problems with police, mobsters, tabloids, and particularly her husband, who she married in England during World War II, before being kept away from him by the conflict for two years. The husband soon suspects this wife he barely knows and has spent only a few weeks with total has a secret connection to the murdered man.
It sounds sinister, but Iams is not trying to be too serious with this book. Major characters are named Whittlebait, Barrelforth, and Squareless, if that gives you an indication of the feel. The writing style is a bit Thin Man, with numerous quips and asides, and the spouses, named Sybil and Tim, cast as dueling lovebirds. Throughout the arguments there's never a doubt they'll work it out. They also work out the mystery, unconvincingly, but overall, we have to say the book was enjoyable. We were betting Sybil and Tim would be recurring characters, but it doesn't seem like that happened. Girl Meets Body is the first and last of them.
Beautiful jinx finally jinxes herself.
Confidential Detective Cases, for which see an April 1960 cover above, was published bi-monthly from 1942 to 1978 by New York City based Detective House, Inc. The magazine has an appropriately garish crime rag look and many stories of interest, breathlessly reported. The headers are entertaining: “She Stabbed Him—Rather Than Share Him!” “Parade of the Grave-Bound Redheads.” “The Dames All Die for Me.” All these tales are of interest, but today we're focused on one story—the piece about the unlucky death of Janice Drake. It's titled “Big-Time Mob Leader and the Blonde Murder Jinx.” A jinx is of course someone who brings bad luck to others, but what do you call someone who brings bad luck on herself?
Drake was a former Miss New Jersey who had competed in the Miss America pageant, was a semi-famous G.I. pin-up, a professional dancer, and the wife of comedian Allan Drake. She and her husband were known to have an open marriage, and among Janice's male friends were several New York City mobsters. One of these was Anthony Carfano, aka Little Augie Pisano, an associate of crime boss Frank Costello, who was pitted against mob rival Vito Genovese in a power play for control of the New York City rackets. Carfano had thrown his support behind Costello, causing Genovese to develop a homicidal grudge.
This was not a guy to go to dinner with, but on the night of September 29, 1959, Drake accompanied Carfano to a restaurant called Marino's, where they dined with a mob caporegime named Tony Strollo. Strollo was Genovese's right hand man, but Carfano had no idea Genovese was bent on revenge, nor that Strollo had been assigned the job. When Carfano and Drake left Marino's, they were planning to drive to La Guardia Airport to board a night flight to Miami. But two gunmen were stationed in the rear of Carfano's Cadillac and they forced him to drive to a secluded area near the airport, where they shot both him and Janice Drake twice in the head and once in the back of the neck.
Bad luck for Drake, but don't feel overwhelmingly sympathetic. She may not have been married to the mob, as the saying goes, but she was definitely playing footsie with it. Twice she had been present at a mobster's last supper. She went to dinner with Garment District kingpin Nathan Nelson the night he was murdered, and dined with Gambino crime family boss Albert Anastasia the night before he was whacked in a barbershop. Talk about a jinx. She was called to testify in court concerning both slayings, yet for some reason never seemed to comprehend the risks of running with a dangerous—and highly endangered—crowd.
More than a few police figures believed Drake was a mob courier, a high level go-between, a role in which she may learned the identities of Nelson's and Anastasia's killers. She may not have been a target the night she had her last supper and met a messy end, but it could be that since she knew too much, her loss as collateral damage was deemed an acceptable outcome. Others think she was just mob arm candy and finally ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time; anyone in the car with Carfano would have bought it the same brutal way. Whatever the specifics, Drake's early death—she was thirty-two when it happened—was probably inevitable.
O'Neill does her famous bump and grind for her New Jersey neighbors.
Above, a little something we found at an auction page, a promo poster for burlesque performer Lynne O'Neill, who according to this appeared for a week at the Hudson Theatre in Union City, New Jersey. O'Neill was known as “The Original Garter Girl,” and at whatever venue she performed would sell branded garters in the lobby the way bands sell t-shirts. She worked mostly around the New York area because she resided most of her life on Long Island. Like many mid-century peelers she was well known, then mostly forgotten, and finally brought back somewhat into popular culture by an internet fueled revival of interest in burlesque. She died in 2010, but her place in the pantheon of burlesque dancers seems assured, thanks to new photos and artifacts that occasionally turn up. This poster is a good example. It's undated but we're sure it's from 1953 or 1954.
You’re nobody ’til somebody arrests you.
Some items fall into the our-website-is-not-complete-without-them category, so here are Frank Sinatra’s mugshots after being arrested in Bergen County, New Jersey today in 1938 and charged with seduction, which involved having sexual intercourse with a “single female of good repute.” He was locally famous at this point—he had performed with a group called The Hoboken Four, and had sung live on Dance Parade, a show broadcast on New York City’s WNEW radio station. The woman in question was Antoinette Della Penta Francke, better known as Toni Francke. Sinatra had trysted with Francke at least twice, then stopped calling her after his mother Dolly decided she was “cheap trash.” Spurned, Francke went to the police, claimed she had been tricked into intercourse, and was pregnant as a result. But when the authorities later determined that Francke was married they dismissed the charge, since seduction involved staining the reputations of single women.
Francke was persistent, however, and filed a new complaint, this time for adultery, which was basically the same as seduction, but with even more serious implications because it made the cuckolded husband a complainant. Sinatra’s response: “She’s got some nerve, that one. She was the one committing adultery. I didn’t even know she was married.” The Hudson Dispatch reported the second arrest under the headline: Songbird Held on Morals Charge. According to biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli, Sinatra called the newspaper in a rage. “I’m comin’ down there and I’m gonna beat your brains out, you hear me? I’m gonna kill you and anyone else who had anything to do with that article. And by the way, I ain’t no songbird, you idiot. A dame—that’s a songbird.” The adultery charge was also dropped, under circumstances that remain hazy, but we suspect it had to do with elements of falsehood in Francke’s account of what happened. When all was finally said and done Sinatra was free as a… um… bird, but the great shots above survive.
Monroe steps out for the adoring masses.
Marilyn Monroe appears before movie fans at the U.S. premiere of her comedy Monkey Business, which took place at the Stanley Theater in Atlantic City, New Jersey, today 1952.
Thirty-eight years later the FBI still can’t get him Hoffa their list of troublesome unsolved cases.
One of the most famous missing persons in American history is back in the news. The FBI is searching a field in suburban Detroit where they've been informed long missing and presumably murdered Teamsters labor union president Jimmy Hoffa was buried. Hoffa disappeared in July 1975 from the parking lot of a Detroit restaurant and was never seen again.
The new search is occurring because an ex-Mafia underboss named Tony Zerilli told the Detroit TV station WDIV in February that he knew where Hoffa was buried. Zerilli says Hoffa was bound, gagged, smacked on the head with a shovel and buried alive. Why did he come forward now? You guessed it—he’s promoting a book. Did he actually see Hoffa get the brutal treatment he descibes? No, he was told about it—if he’d been there personally that would constitute a crime, right?
Will Hoffa actually turn up? Hard to say. The FBI is making noises that Zerilli is a credible source, but we think two other factors are just as important in triggering this search—Hoffa’s place in American cold case lore is a longtime thorn in the FBI’s side, and, probably of more importance, the Hoffa family remains prominent even today, with one of his sons serving as the current Teamsters president and one of his daughters a former circuit judge. Zerilli says he was told Hoffa was buried beneath a concrete slab inside a barn. The barn has since been razed but the FBI are bringing in heavy equipment to dig up the area. Zerilli’s report is believable in at least one sense—Hoffa has been reported to be buried everywhere from the Florida Everglades to the New Jersey Meadowlands, but the field where the FBI is searching is just a short distance from where he was last seen alive.
America learns the pros and cons of giving versus receiving.
In December 1965 in Essex County, New Jersey, local police raided a large home on 850 Lake Street in suburban Newark where they suspected illegal sexual activity was taking place. A detective entered first and met the house’s owner, a Dutch-born former nurse named Monique Von Cleef. The two had reached the point where she had donned a leather jumpsuit and he had stripped to his boxer shorts. At that moment the cops that had been waiting outside stormed into the house. They found that the entire three-story building had been set-up to service practitioners of sado-masochism. Von Cleef had been running the place for years, and had made a nice business out of punishing submissives—among them doctors, local officials, and many New York businessmen. According to court documents, her file cabinet contained 2,000 names.
The story exploded across America—virtually nobody had ever imagined a bdsm lifestyle existed in the U.S. The house on Lake Street was given several nicknames by the media, but “House of Pain” is the one that stuck. When the above April 1966 issue of Confidential appeared, Monique Von Cleef was facing trial and staring a prison sentence in the face. However to prosecutors’ chagrin, she couldn’t be brought up for prostitution, so they opted for a raft of charges related to lewd conduct, and one charge of possessing obscene materials. Von Cleef was convicted, but saw the decision overturned on appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Many accounts of the legal proceedings suggest thatpowerful men on her client list of 2,000 (or 10,000, if you believe Confidential) exerted influence on her behalf. The truth is her conviction was overturned after justices noted that the police had neglected to obtain a search warrant. The fact that previous appeals had glossed over this fact is actually indicative of how much influence was arrayed against Von Cleef. In any case, the Supreme Court decision made every piece of evidence police had obtained inadmissible. Without those items there was no proof of lewd conduct on the premises, and Von Cleef had never touched the detective.
Von Cleef had been free during this process, using her notoriety to financial advantage. In San Francisco, billed as the Queen of Humliation, she had been giving onstage orations/performances about sado-masochism at a North Beach nightclub called Coke’s. As her case was reaching the Supreme Court, U.S. Immigration was working to deport her—a threat of which Von Cleef was well aware. Thus when she won her appeal and the order came through shortly thereafter to ship her back to her native Netherlands, she had already left the U.S. illegally. Some claim that influential former clients were involved in her deportation, wanting her out of the States where she could do them no harm. That’s possible, but telephones, teletypes, and televisions reached all the way to Holland back then, which meant that if she had wanted to expose her clients she could just as easily have done it from there. She was deported because that’s what U.S. authorities have always done to alien felons. In Von Cleef’s case, though she had won her appeal, she had overstayed her visa.
American tabloids soon moved on to other diversions, and American society followed suit, but Von Cleef maintained a high profile internationally. She opened another dungeon, became a Baroness, wrote a book, appeared in a documentary, and traveled the world promoting her lifestyle. She died in Antwerp, Belgium in 2005, a woman who had gone from nurse to dominatrix, underground to overexposed, and ridden the crazy carousel of American jurisprudence, yet in the end survived and even thrived. One might ask how it was possible, but it seems clear that within her community she was revered from almost the moment she entered it, and she probably enjoyed copious moral and financial support through all her travails. The website dominafiles.com explains best how loyal Von Cleef’s followers were: “What her antagonists didn’t realize was that once an affluent masochist heard about Monique, no matter how, he would travel almost anywhere to see her.”
That’s the sound of the men working on the chain gang.
Dalton Stevens’ cover for this January 1931 issue of True Detective looks a bit like a horror illustration, but it's actually supposed to represent Robert E. Burns, who in 1922 helped rob a Georgia grocery, earned himself 6 to 10 at hard labor, but escaped and made his way to Chicago, where he adopted a new identity and rose to success as a magazine editor. Years later, when he tried to divorce the woman he had married, she betrayed him to Georgia authorities, and what followed was a legal battle between Georgia courts and Chicago civic leaders, with the former wanting Burns extradited, and the latter citing his standing in the community and calling for his pardon. Burns eventually went back to Georgia voluntarily to serve what he had been assured would be a few months in jail, but which turned into more hard time on a chain gang.
Angered and disillusioned, Burns escaped again, and this time wrote a book from hiding, which True Detective excerpts in the above issue and several others. This was a real scoop for the magazine—it was the first to publish Burns’ harrowing tale. The story generated quite a bit of attention, and Vanguard Press picked it up and published it as I Am a Fugitive from a Georgia Chain Gang, which led directly to Warner Brothers adapting the tale into a hit 1932 motion picture starring Paul Muni. The movie differed somewhat from the book, of course, which differed somewhat from reality (Burns himself admitted this later), but his account cast a withering light on the chain gang system. The exposure helped chain gang opponents, who claimed—with some veracity—that the practice was immoral because it originated with the South's need to replace its slave labor after defeat in the U.S. Civil War.
Burns continued to live life on the run, but was eventually arrested again, this time in New Jersey. However, the governor of the state refused to extradite him. The standoff meant Burns was, in practical terms, a free man. That practical freedom was made official in 1945 when he was finally pardoned in Georgia, and his literary indictment of the chain gang system helped bring about its demise. Well, sort of—it returned to the South in 1995, was quickly discontinued after legal challenges, but may yet be reintroduced as politicians push for more and more extreme punishments to bolster their tough-on-crime credentials.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1930—Chrysler Building Opens
In New York City, after a mere eighteen months of construction, the Chrysler Building opens to the public. At 1,046 feet, 319 meters, it is the tallest building in the world at the time, but more significantly, William Van Alen's design is a landmark in art deco that is celebrated to this day as an example of skyscraper architecture at its most elegant.
1969—Jeffrey Hunter Dies
American actor Jeffrey Hunter dies of a cerebral hemorrhage after falling down a flight of stairs and sustaining a skull fracture, a mishap precipitated by his suffering a stroke seconds earlier. Hunter played many roles, including Jesus in the 1961 film King of Kings, but is perhaps best known for portraying Captain Christopher Pike in the original Star Trek pilot episode "The Cage".
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