Intl. Notebook May 18 2021
WHATEVER MARILYN
Palm Springs residents thought they'd seen the last of mega Monroe. They were wrong.


At Pulp Intl. we report on all things Marilyn Monroe, from her life and loves to her alleged porno film, so of course we couldn't let this one slide by. A giant Marilyn Monroe statue inspired by her famous subway breeze scene in The Seven Year Itch is set to be installed in Palm Springs, California. The twenty-six-foot high statue, created by Seward Johnson and called “Forever Marilyn,” already resided in the city from 2012 to 2014, and when she left plenty were happy to see her parachute-sized panties leave town. Now she's scheduled to return to a site near the Palm Springs Art Museum and some locals have their knickers in a twist. There are two objections: that the statue is garish and lowbrow, and that it's sexist. Both complaints inarguably state the obvious—it's garish and sexist. Sort of like Pulp Intl.

In our case, we preserve historical art for discussion and learning. Since plenty of art and literature from the period we highlight is sexist, our website is sexist also—at least to some. We suggest they not visit. But the Monroe statue is a 2011 creation, and as such isn't a piece of history per se, so much as a tribute to it. It's also in a public place, which makes it a matter of public debate. We can't think of any recent item that ties more contemporary issues into a Gordian knot than this statue. Yes, it's garish. Yes, it's sexist. Yes, it's a little creepy in the #metoo era.Yes, in some amorphous way it's tangentially related to the denial of progress and rights for women. Conversely, yes, it's entertaining. Yes, it's a tribute to an icon (a sexualized tribute, as she was a sex symbol—something that barely exists today). Yes, it's a tribute to golden age Hollywood. Yes, it's inspired by a moment from a comedic film that made millions of people, both male and female, feel good. It's a thorny issue, for sure.

But there's a silver panty lining. Monroe has done something the greatest minds and most determined politicians have not been able to manage—unite right and left. When we were younger it was always conservatives who seemed to hate sex and anything that reminded people of it. Fast forward a couple of decades and now liberals are getting the same way. This isn't true of all conservatives and liberals, of course. But as groups, they both let reactionaries dominate discourse, which creates the impression of intolerance within the whole. The people who hate on the Monroe statue at the highest volume come from the sexual conservatism realm on one end of the spectrum, and the women's rights realm on the other. The discovery that they have common interests qualifies as good news.
 
We see this as a starting point for national healing. Don't get us wrong—in our opinion both conservatives and liberals should simply say, “Whatever,” to “Forever Marilyn,” and move on. But since they seem to be in agreement about blowing everything that hints at feminine sexuality way out of proportion, seems to us the sky's the limit in terms of other potential areas of agreement. We don't know about you, but we're heartened by that. We feel a little better about things. A nation torn nearly asunder has a chance to heal the rift starting with Monroe's granny panties. They're the most magical undergarments since Eva Braun's. Thanks, Marilyn. You may have saved us yet.
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Hollywoodland Jun 24 2020
THE NEAL DEAL
B-movie actor generates A-list headlines for all the wrong reasons.


Show business careers go off the rails for a wide array of reasons—lack of talent, lack of audience appeal, substance abuse, and a predilection for general mayhem all come to mind. Hollywood actor Tom Neal fits legendarily into the last category. From his debut in 1938 through 1951 he logged more than seventy film appearances. That's incredible output by any measure. Most of his roles were in b-movies, but there were some notable parts mixed in. His career highlights included Another Thin Man, the film noir Detour, and Crime, Inc.

Neal caused minor scandals early in his career, but he graduated to the majors beginning in early 1951, when he met tempestuous actress Barbara Payton and the two began dating. Payton had announced her engagement the previous year to debonair leading man Franchot Tone, but her ideas about commitment weren't of the standard variety. She was still married to an Air Force Captain named John Payton while dating Tone, and had allegedly slept with Gary Cooper and Steve Cochran while working with them on the 1950 western Dallas. When Neal met her, she kicked Tone to the curb and announced she and Neal would be marrying. But Payton was fickle, to say the least, and ended up dropping Neal and getting re-engaged to Tone. All this while still married to her Air Force guy.

One thing Hollywood people can count on is crossing paths with their colleagues at one point or another—especially if they're dating the same woman. When Neal crossed paths with Tone and Payton in September 1951 at her apartment, he intended to punish the man who had won Payton's hand. Everyone in Hollywood knew Neal had been an amateur boxer. Maybe the qualifier “amateur” gave Tone excessive confidence. Maybe he didn't know that Neal, who you see below with barbells overhead and a tube sock in his shorts, had accumulated a 31-3record in the ring. Maybe Tone slipped on a dollop of Beluga caviar. Payton said Tone simply had no choice about fighting because Neal attacked him. Whatever the reason, Neal floored Tone with his first punch, and continued to beat him afterward, delivering cheek and nose fractures. Tone lay in an eighteen hour coma in the hospital. Ironically, that was the day Payton's divorce had come through.

1951 had been a pretty good year for Neal up to that point. But from then onward he was Hollywood persona non grata. He'd had more roles in ’51 than he would the entire rest of his career. We wouldn't go so far as saying that means Tone had the last laugh, since it would have been a extraordinarily painful laugh, considering the injuries and cosmetic surgery that followed. But okay, in that karmic way that's never fully satisfying, Tone at least must have felt a bit of Schadenfreude. Neal was blacklisted, and Payton was his. The good times didn't last. Hesoon discovered that Payton—wait for it—had never stopped seeing Neal, including while Tone was in the hospital with a broken face. So there went that marriage. It seemed as if Neal had unequivocally won Payton's affections after all, and she does look happy in the 1952 photo above, but it's probably no surprise to learn that the two parted ways after a few tumultuous years, some broken windows, and at least one police intervention. Payton went on to have truly epic problems that would put a South American novela to shame.

Neal nursed his severely damaged career along, landing only occasional minor parts, and by the time the ’60s rolled around couldn't beg, barter, or buy a role. He had been married for a few years during the late ’50s, and in 1960 he married again, to a receptionist named Gale (sometimes Gail) Bennett, who you see below. In April 1965 police were summoned to Neal's home in Palm Springs where they found Bennett dead. She had been shot through the back of the head with .45 calibre pistol, the slug entering her skull behind her right ear and ending up in a sofa cushion. Neal wasn't on the premises when police arrived, but was soon arrested, and claimed the shooting had been an accident, the result of a struggle over the gun after his wife pulled it on him.

Accounts of the killing vary, as they always do. In some, Neal shot Bennett as she was taking a nap. In others, they argued. We even found one that said Neal claimed the accident occurred while he and Bennett were making love. At trial Neal's defense attorney claimed a mystery man had pulled the trigger. We were struck, however, when we found that Bennett had secretly filed for divorce, and in the filing specifically mentioned Neal threatening her with a .45 automatic. If that detail struck us, it certainly must have made an impact on the jury. In the end, after a sensational trial, the dozen jurors convicted Neal of involuntary manslaughter.

Neal spent only six years behind bars before being paroled. That's a pretty sweet deal for what many suspected was a clearcut case of premeditated murder. Also, note that during the dust-up with Tone, one witness said Neal threw more than thirty punches after Tone was down. That could be construed as attempted murder, were you inclined to put a label on it, and if that was the plan it almost worked. Doctors thought for a while Tone would never awaken. Neal was a rough and tumble fellow, there's little doubt. But looks and a bit of charm will carry you a long way in life. Eventually, though, even those can run dry. Neal died eight months after his release from prison, aged fifty-eight, of heart failure, looking a shell of his former self.
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Hollywoodland Jun 20 2014
A GREAT ESCAPE
Steve McQueen enjoys a moment of reflection.

Above, a rare photo of American actor Steve McQueen lounging poolside at his home in Palm Springs, California, 1963. That would have been around the time his movie The Great Escape was released, making him the top box office draw in the world. But in Palm Springs he spent a lot of time escaping Hollywood by riding motorcycles and shooting pistols in the desert, two favorite pursuits. 

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
October 23
1935—Four Gangsters Gunned Down in New Jersey
In Newark, New Jersey, the organized crime figures Dutch Schultz, Abe Landau, Otto Berman, and Bernard "Lulu" Rosencrantz are fatally shot at the Palace Chophouse restaurant. Schultz, who was the target, lingers in the hospital for about a day before dying. The killings are committed by a group of professional gunmen known as Murder, Inc., and the event becomes known as the Chophouse Massacre.
1950—Al Jolson Dies
Vaudeville and screen performer Al Jolson dies of a heart attack in San Francisco after a trip to Korea to entertain troops causes lung problems. Jolson is best known for his film The Jazz Singer, and for his performances in blackface make-up, which were not considered offensive at the time, but have now come to be seen as a form of racial bigotry.
October 22
1926—Houdini Fatally Punched in Stomach
After a performance in Montreal, Hungarian-born magician and escape artist Harry Houdini is approached by a university student named J. Gordon Whitehead, who asks if it is true that Houdini can endure any blow to the stomach. Before Houdini is ready Whitehead strikes him several times, causing internal injuries that lead to the magician's death.
October 21
1973—Kidnappers Cut Off Getty's Ear
After holding Jean Paul Getty III for more than three months, kidnappers cut off his ear and mail it to a newspaper in Rome. Because of a postal strike it doesn't arrive until November 8. Along with the ear is a lock of hair and ransom note that says: "This is Paul’s ear. If we don’t get some money within 10 days, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits." Getty's grandfather, billionaire oilman Jean Paul Getty, at first refused to pay the 3.2 million dollar ransom, then negotiated it down to 2.8 million, and finally agreed to pay as long as his grandson repaid the sum at 4% interest.
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