Don't look so smug, buster. I've had better.
Natalie Anderson Scott's 1955 novel Hotel Room was originally published in 1953 as The Little Stockade, and it's a tale set in New York City's infamous Hell's Kitchen, involving a woman named Marie who is made into a prostitute by a man she loves but shouldn't. This was Scott's follow up to her hit novel The Story of Mrs. Murphy, which instead of examining a woman stuck in the trap of vice examined a woman stuck in the trap of alcoholism. Unfortunately, this gritty follow-up wasn't as well received. But she still had a decent career, publishing several more books over the years.
Popular Library had the knack of getting artists who painted in the same general style—perhaps the company even required it. Sometimes that makes it hard to know who a cover artist is, but in this case it's Rafael DeSoto. Here he's painted a nimbus around the head of his female figure. We realized we'd seen the same effect before from him, for example here and here—and even here, if you look closely—so we had a scan around the internet to see how often that occurred. While DeSoto did it on some covers, we wouldn't go so far as to call it a trademark. Still, it's a cool effect on a very nice piece of art.
Photographer blinded. Says pearly gates opened and heavenly light struck him in the eyes.
Marilyn Monroe was possibly the most photographed person of her era, but we bet most of you have never seen this shot. The divine Miss M. accidentally flashed a photographer while socializing at a May 1962 Democratic Party fundraiser in New York City. It was a semi-formal affair, but formality only applies to one's outer layer, clearly. To make matters even more interesting, this was the night she famously sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy.
The Pulp Intl. girlfriends love this shot, but when we pointed out that it might not be distinct enough, they got the implication right away and begged us not to do a zoom. Well, we can add that vain hope to the many others they've expressed over the years. Look below. The really interesting part is pondering whether Monroe's sugar cookie was out of the oven from the get-go, or if it happened during the fundraiser. Hmm... Were Monroe and Kennedy ever simultaneously absent that night? There's nothing quite like eating an extra dessert.
Live fast, die young, leave a good-looking corpse.
When we saw Jean Peters in 1953's Pickup on South Street, it was our first exposure to her, and we immediately knew we'd be seeking out more of her work later. Last night we watched another film of hers from 1953—the mystery Vicki, which is based on Steve Fisher's 1941 novel I Wake Up Screaming. Peters plays an up and coming New York City model and actress who's found murdered. The rest of the film, told partly in flashback, details her rise from obscurity to celebrated It girl, and the investigation that follows her killing. Jeanne Crain plays Peters' sister who's dedicated to finding the truth, and Richard Boone takes on the unusual role of an emotionally unstable lead detective whose assumptions affect his objectivity.
The movie plays like a partial retread of 1946's Laura, and like Gene Tierney's famed character Laura Hunt, Peters' aspiring superstar Vicki Reed has a profound effect on people even after her death, from broken hearts to poisonous resentment. But Vicki doesn't have the same atmosphere and narrative heft as Laura. Even though it's a mystery, there are no real surprises. Still, we've seen far worse films, and Peters' performance is fine, if not quite as enjoyable as her jaded working class beauty from Pickup on South Street. We recommend that film unreservedly, and Vicki cautiously. It premiered in New York City today in 1953 before going into national release on October 5.
She barely stomached Hollywood.
Adele Jergens, who appeared in I Love Trouble, The Corpse Came C.O.D., The Dark Path, and numerous other films, got her start in show business, like so many actresses of her era, when she won the a beauty contest—Miss World's Fairest, at the 1939 New York World's Fair. Later, as one of the famed Rockettes dancing troupe, she was named the number one showgirl in New York City. This led to her serving as understudy to burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee in the Broadway production Star and Garter, and from there Jergens never looked back. That's probably why she forgot half of her sweater. This fun image of her with bare midriff was made in Los Angeles in 1946, by the pool at the famed Town House Hotel, a locale we've talked about more than once. Find out why by clicking its keywords below and scrolling through those posts, and you can do the same with Jergens if you want to see what else we've posted about her.
It's nice and warm inside.
This is obviously Marilyn Chambers fronting a poster for her x-rated extravaganza Behind the Green Door, which opened in the U.S. this month in 1972. We shared a Japanese poster for this a long while ago, as well as a another Japanese promo advertising this as a double bill with The Resurrection of Eve. Today we figured we might as well show you the original American promo too.
Why do we coming back to Chambers? Probably her connection to horror films via the David Cronenberg classic Rabid has something to do with it. Not many actors have straddled porn and maintream cinema. Chambers is top of the heap on that score. And she died young at age fifty-six, so that always brings about examinations of a star's legacy. And finally, it's always interesting to see what path porn stars take when they move on. Chambers' path took her to Southern California, where she died in a mobile home in Santa Clarita, a long way from the bright lights of New York City where she first became a star. We had never watched Behind the Green Door, but we remedied that a few days ago, and for those who don't already know we can tell you the movie is a sexual awakening story, with Chambers the star of a live sex show about “the ravishment of a woman who has been abducted,a woman whose initial fear and anxiety has mellowed into curious expectation.” She appears in two vignettes of escalating explicitness, as masked onlookers observe à la Eyes Wide Shut. That's the entire plot.
Chambers looks very good in this movie. We can imagine what it must have been like for cinemagoers to see a woman in this raunchy role who was fully beautiful enough to be a Hollywood star. The party lifestyle she lived began to make almost immediate physical changes, but for a moment, here in the summer of 1972, she was really a goddess. We have a nice image of her below as evidence of that assertion.
Seems naive now, but when I heard it was a recreational drug I thought it would make me spend more time outside.
Amazingly, if you go shopping for a copy of N. R. de Mexico's, aka Robert Campbell Bragg's 1951 novel Marijuana Girl, some vendors will try to charge you $200 or more. That's quite an ask for a flimsy old digest novel, but people must pay it, we guess. It certainly isn't the cover art of a hapless model that makes the book valuable. Is it the prose? Well, the book was good, in fact far better than we expected. It sets up as a drug scare novel. The main character, Joyce, goes through the full progression—i.e. youthful smalltown rebelliousness leads to a permissive lifestyle leads to the big city leads to drugs leads to harder drugs leads to prostitution and so forth. We didn't give anything away there—the rear cover provides all that information and more. We're even told Joyce hangs with jazz musicians (which you understand to mean non-whites) and trades “her very soul” for drugs, so you know where this all goes before you even reach the title page.
But Marijuana Girl also defies conventions of drug scare books. For example, it portrays nearly all the drug users as regular folks well in control of their intake. In fact, the two characters responsible for introducing Joyce to drugs are the same two who work hardest to get her off them. Other easy plot choices are avoided as well, which is rarely the case in 1950s novels with numerous non-white characters. But here's really why the book is unique—it goes into amazing detail about the process of consuming drugs. De Mexico zooms close during those moments, sharing the proper technique for smoking joints, clinically explaining how to use a needle, and how to pull blood back into the syringe to rinse out every last molecule of heroin. It's all there. This had to be shocking for 1951 readers, which we suppose is what boosts the book's value for modern collectors. Still, $200? We don't think Marijuana Girl, or any paperback, is worth that much, but it's definitely worth reading.
If you're happy and you know it drop your shirt.
Here's a historical curiosity. Above are two pressings of an album from Angelina, aka Angelina the Singing Model, released in 1957. Sharp-eyed readers may notice that the sleeves use the name and title font of the iconic mid-century tabloid Confidential. The platters were put out by Davis Records, owned by recording entrepreneur Joe Davis, and try as we might, we uncovered no connection between him and Confidential publisher Robert Harrison. Anything is possible, though. They were both New York based, were both publishers—though of different media—so we bet they knew each other. Did Harrison have any idea his font had been borrowed? There's no way we can know.
During the summer of 1957, when this album was recorded and hit stores, Harrison was deeply involved in the libel case that would lead to him selling Confidential. The trial was in L.A., and he stayed in NYC, refusing to appear in court out west, but even so the proceedings kept him plenty busy. Too busy to notice that a novelty album infringed on his logo? We doubt it. Someone, somewhere in Manhattan, would have said, “Hey, Robert, have you seen this new record that uses the font from your magazine?” For that reason we can't help feeling there's some link between Davis and Harrison that led to the look of these LPs, but for now that will have to remain a mystery.
Moving on to the singer, Angelina was actually New York City-based Joyce Heath, who later founded Joyce Heath and the Privateers. These platters, unlikely as the possibility seems, may have actually helped launch her career. As we said, they came in 1957, and Heath's first recordings under her own name were in 1959. Maybe she kept her semi-topless starring role on the cover of Confidential quiet, but we think it more likely she embraced it. While she does show her breast on the second cover, one little boob, after all, was not that big of a deal post-Monroe and Mansfield.
The album had either a repressing or was initially released with two sleeves. Since there are two levels of explicitness, we suspect the latter. Davis probably wanted a suggestive cover, and one that was even more risqué. On the other hand, the change in Heath's hair color suggests the former possibility—two pressings at different times with a change of hairstyle between. Both albums have 1957 copyrights, though, which means little time would have elapsed. Alternatively it could be that Heath wasn't the model for both covers. But we think she was. The second sleeve says in white lettering across her red shirt, “This is Angelina.” So there you go. And the first model, if you look past the hair color, resembles Heath strongly. At least to us.
And now we get to the music. You want to know whether it's any good, right? Well, it's a joke record, with double entendre songs like, “All the Girls Like Big Dick,” “Shake Your Can,” and “He Forgot His Rubbers.” We gave it a listen and all the tunes are cabaret style, pairing piano and vocal with no other accompaniment. Twelve tunes of that ilk would begin to sound similar anyway, but in this case, they really are all the same song. Same key, same tempo, same mood, etc. We have it on good authority Heath recorded this in one afternoon and what we heard sure lends credence to that assertion. Still, limited as the music may be, it's pretty fun. If you want to know more about Joyce Heath, check the blog whitedoowopcollector at this link.
Who's the hardest dick in New York City? You know who.
We don't know about you, but we had no idea Shaft was a novel that predated the movie until we saw the above cover art. Written by Ernest Tidyman, this originally appeared in 1970 and was quickly snapped up by Hollywood. That edition was a hardback with a black and white cover by Mozelle Thompson and is rare. The edition you see at top was published in 2016 by Dynamite Entertainment and is widely available.
Plotwise, Shaft is hired to find a drug kingpin's kidnapped daughter with the help of Black Panther style revolutionaries. Tidyman's take on New York City and the social climate of the time is entertaining and the violence is swift and brutal. Because filmdom's Shaft was inclusive in his views, even to the extent of a jokingly flirtatious friendship with a gay bartender, we were surprised by the book's homophobia. Tidyman saw Shaft as ultra tough and therefore anti-gay, but the filmmakers saw right through such silliness and decided to turn that aspect of the book on its head. Another change is the treatment of the drug kingpin's daughter. In the movie she's merely kidnapped, but in the novel her captivity takes the form of narcotic and sexual slavery.
In terms of white authors inhabiting the personas of black Big Apple detectives, the trailblazing Ed Lacy did it better with 1958's Room To Swing, but Tidyman manages well enough, we think, even if his prose sometimes meanders. Though we read Shaft only because it was the wellspring of an excellent blaxploitation flick, turns out the book is worth a gander on its own merits. Tidyman also wrote like five sequels. We know nothing about those, but maybe we'll have a look.
If you put your fingers in the honey pot you're bound to make a mess.
We recently read an essay giving Charles Willeford credit as the man who helped originate the genre of South Florida fiction, a profitable niche occupied by John D. MacDonald, Randy Wayne White, and many other authors. Willeford's 1958 novel Honey Gal, originally titled The Black Mass of Brother Springer, is the story of a writer who gets himself appointed minister of a black church in fictional Jax, Florida. He proceeds to use the position to pile up collection money with the aim of stealing it and running away to New York City with a beautiful local girl, the honey gal of the title.
This book is tricky. It's foremost a drama about a man who wants nothing more than a life of leisure, and realizes he's a natural born con man with the gifts to make his dream come true. But the tale is also improbable enough to come across as a farce, funny in parts, though too racially vicious to be considered a comedy, and satirical in the sense that it paints religion as generally a scam. It's a lot to digest, but even so the book, while interesting, is not what we'd call compelling. Willeford has daring ideas, but those who suggest he deserves consideration as a literary author overlook the fact that his writing is not executed at the highest level.
So we think of Honey Gal not as an overlooked classic, but as a somewhat unusual swindle novel written from the point of view of a religious charlatan. In his efforts to gain trust and accumulate cash, the main character accidentally finds himself in a position where his authority as a man of the cloth could do actual good. But will he let his plans for the sweet life be derailed by the opportunity to help others? Will he cool his ardor for that honey gal? Will he have an epiphany on the road to perdition? Hah. You know better than that. Willeford is an entertaining writer, no doubt. Honey Gal is about as different as genre fiction gets.
Laura Gemser makes an emancipation proclamation.
As you've deduced from the above Italian poster for La via della prostituzione, also known as Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade, we've performed a quick turnaround to Laura Gemser, last seen two days ago. In this flick she plays a journalist, a role she inhabited often, and heads to exotic Nairobi with sidekick Ely Galleani. In a Nairobi market Gemser sees a man hurrying a woman through the throng. She'd seen the same pair in the airport, except then the woman was in a wheelchair and the man was pushing it. Gemser asks her local tour guide, “Do you know that man?” His response: “That one? Only by sight. I only know that he's American, and that he comes on business, but I don't know what kind of business. Someone mentioned white slavery. But why do you ask?” Did you just cringe a little? We did too, but we get it—the white kind is far more important than the regular kind, init?
Anyway, while were still marvelling over the sad but somehow uproarious tone deafness of those dialogue exchanges, Gemser was busy jetting from Nairobi to New York City to find more info about this American slaver. After promising her editor the biggest scoop of her career, she manages to charm her way into a slave auction taking place—in an amazing stroke of luck—right there in the Big Apple. She watches as girls as young as seventeen are sold to hairy-knuckled jetsetters, including that mysterious Yank, played by hirsute Italian Gabriele Tinti. Now that she knows the basic shape of the wrongdoing taking place, she needs evidence. How does she gather it? That's right—by infiltrating the slave racket as product. She's accepted as a high priced prostitute, and from NYC she's off to San Diego to work in a private club, where she hopes to blow the racket wide open.
You may be asking yourself, Wait, how is this all voluntary for her if it's a slave ring? That question is never fully answered. Somehow, though, she's accepted in the game as a freelancer, while all the other girls seem to be wholly owned chattel. It doesn't matter. This is sexploitation cinema, and what matters are nudity and sex, which means that mixed into the confounding plotline are an amazing number of sex scenes, which consist of cast members slithering softcore style against each other like salamanders while soporific music drifts across the soundtrack. It's all very silly, but the entire point of these films is to create gauzy eye candy, not dazzle you with cinematic mastery or make social statements more than a micron deep. Emanuelle and the White Slave Trade fulfills all the requirements of the genre, not brilliantly, but certainly adequately. It premiered in Italy today in 1978.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
1992—Sci Fi Channel Launches
In the U.S., the cable network USA debuts the Sci Fi Channel, specializing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal programming. After a slow start, it built its audience and is now a top ten ranked network for male viewers aged 18–54, and women aged 25–54.
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