Modern Pulp Oct 15 2022
PHILIPPINE STORIES
Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a mandatory look at grindhouse moviemaking during the untamed 1970s.


Machete Maidens Unleashed! is a film we've watched a few times, and whenever a movie racks up multiple viewings we think it needs to be highlighted. It's a fast paced documentary about the wave of low budget exploitation flicks made in the Philippines from the late ’60s through the ’70s. We weren't old enough to see any of them during the actual grindhouse era, but caught them in later years, and one reason we came up with this website was for the opportunity to riff on these types of flicks. Over the last decade-plus we've had the pleasure of writing about entertaining dreck like Savage Sisters, The Big Doll House, Night of the Cobra Woman, and Cleopatra Wong.

Built around interviews with stars such as Pam Grier, Sid Haig, Margaret Markov, Gloria Hendry, and directors/producers like Eddie Romero, Jack Hill, Joe Dante, and Roger Corman, Machete Maidens Unleashed! is an insider's look at a unique era in cinema history. It compellingly juxtaposes snippets of cinematic insanity against clips of the performers involved laughing over the craziness of it all. While the moviesdiscussed often fall into the category of sexploitation, at the time they were also considered an adjunct of the women's liberation movement—a point made by a couple of the actresses interviewed. Coming out of the sexually repressive decades of the fifties and early sixties, nudity was seen as a rebuke to patriarchal control.

Covering productions ranging from 1964's The Walls of Hell to 1979's big budget war flick Apocalypse Now, this is a wide ranging documentary, and by far the most entertaining one on the subject matter we've seen. What with our website's Philippine provenance, and with PSGP having spent a couple of years in Guatemala, another country where life was cheap but fun was unparalleled, this also hit us directly in the nostalgia gland (PSGP feels like the only reason these films weren't made in Guatemala is because everyone actually would have been murdered, instead of just thinking they would).
 
All the interviewees seem to understand that they're from an extinct breed of very brave film performers, making entertainment for audiences ready to see absolutely anything happen. It sometimes seems that modern audiences have forgotten that the filmmaker is not the material, and the actor is not his or her character. The message comes through strongly here that movies are simply make believe. The creators maywant to outrage, or teach, or push censorship envelopes, or illuminate themes that leave audiences enriched in some way, but it's still just a job they perform before going home to their real lives. We wouldn't be surprised if some of the interviewees now feel they'd been traumatized, but during this movie, at least, they shrug off the difficulties of filming—ranging from extreme weather to graphic nudity to military revolt—as obstacles true professionals must navigate.

The title cards of some of these films should be enough by themselves to intrigue you. We have a set below. We've also mixed in some screenshots. We'd love to have uploaded actual production photos, but the films are so low budget those are close to impossible to find. But why look at photos when you can watch the movies? Give it a shot. Quarts of booze are optional. Machete Maidens Unleashed! had its world premiere in Australia in the summer of 2010, and first hit U.S. shores today the same year at the Philadelphia International Film Festival. We've pointed you toward a few Philippine grindhouse flicks above, and you can read about more—there are so many, so please excuse the avalanche of links—here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

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Intl. Notebook Feb 21 2022
CREDIT DUE
Swiss bank receives long deserved exposure thanks to data leak.


We're occasionally asked why we don't do modern true crime write-ups as often as we once did. There are a couple of reasons. We actually have jobs, and the research on crime stories is time consuming. But secondly, modern day swindles, scams, and corruption are out of control to the extent that writing about them seems redundant. But we're making an exception today because one of our previous subjects, who we wrote about way back in 2009, has popped up in the news again. That would be Hisham Talaat Moustafa, who was sentenced to death for hiring out the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim. His was one of thousands of names just revealed in a massive financial data leak from Credit Suisse, one of the most prestigious banks in Switzerland, which hides money for the richest people in the world.

We think everyone knows Swiss banks are corrupt, right? Their first secrecy laws were adopted in 1713. It's safe to say they've been corrupt for almost that long. Over the years Credit Suisse's clients have included Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, who stole $10 billion from the Philippine treasury, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, Panamanian drug lord and CIA informant Manuel Noriega, thousands of Nazis who were hiding their expropriations, and countless shady shell companies. One can insert the usual objections about taxes here, but the point is that regularpeople must pay them, yet the rich and powerful somehow always manage to avoid their fair share, even when they've generated their loot through illegal or even genocidal means. As with many morally rudderless institutions and people, what Swiss banks do is perfectly legal, but “perfectly legal” is the phrase uttered by people who know they're willfully engaged in behavior that obviously should be illegal—and in fact is illegal for everyone but the rich and connected.

Credit Suisse is trying to pretend that the leak reveals old accounts from before the bank cleaned up its practices (which it never substantially did), but the spin won't be effective because the data reveals that the bank is currently holding money for human traffickers, drug lords, oligarchs, stock cheats, treasury looters, mafia kingpins and—in the case of Hisham Moustafa—murderers. Correction—pardoned murderers, since he was released thanks to presidential decree in 2017. The information on all this corruption was originally passed to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung via an anonymous whistleblower, and the odds are good that in a matter of weeks or months that currently unknown person will be outed and have to make a full time job of trying to avoid the total destruction of his or her life and a prison sentence—no pardon pending.

Tax and corruption problems have exploded globally as elite greed has grown, the profits from criminality have soared, digital technology has created previously-unheard-of fortunes, offshoring of profits has become standard practice, deregulation and the de-facto dissolving of anti-trust laws have allowed corporations to grow more powerful than countries, and austerity has shrunk or eliminated the enforcement mechanisms of public institutions. In fact, in addition to funneling money from regular people to corporations and the rich, the other point of austerity is to shrink government to prevent it prying into the affairs of corporations and the rich. Libertarians rejoice. Insider trading, commodities fraud, and money laundering are all now rampant, and there's nothing people can do about it because the government institutions meant to be centers of oversight were taken over by the rich decades ago.

Moustafa paid to have his girlfriend knifed to death. Unlike murderers able to hide behind the fig leaf of non-conviction, his guilt was established as a fact during a criminal court proceeding. He was sentenced to hanging but was retried and had his punishment reduced to a mere fifteen years. He spent, in total before his pardon, nine years in a country club prison, and all the while managed his wealth, built up his billions, andcame out of jail not disgraced and shunned, but welcomed, feted, and once again demanding and receiving VIP treatment, the best tables in the best restaurants, and the ear of the global elite. He threw a few coins to charity along the way to spit-shine his reputation, had his thriving conglomerate Talaat Moustafa Group donate some COVID vaccines, but still he's a murderer who wriggled loose from the hangman's noose, and today enjoys every privilege he ever enjoyed—while his victim is dead forever.

This is the place in which we find ourselves. We all understand, if we actually absorb factual information rather than apologist propaganda or fanciful myth, that the rich have fucked up this world, and the rest of us, as well as future generations, are going to pay to clean up the mess. If it can even be cleaned up, which is doubtful. And that's why we stopped writing about modern crime and corruption. It's pointless. It's banal. Writing about old crimes is an escape, a window into history and the mad hearts of men and women who are long, long gone. Writing about current crimes is self-flagellation. We'll still do it on occasion when the urge strikes, like today, but we're well aware that people tend to complain more as time goes by and we don't want to fall into that trap. We want Pulp Intl. to be a place of entertainment and wonder—by which we mean amazing art, exciting fiction, bizarre historical and Hollywood facts, and beautiful women.

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Intl. Notebook Nov 13 2021
STAR CHRONICLE WITNESS
When is a watershed not a watershed? When the water runs backward.


Above is a cover of National Star Chronicle from today in 1967 that references an event from our old HQ the Philippines. At that time the country, which has always had a problem with regressive males who view women as property, was going through a particularly bad stretch of gang rapes. In June of 1967, four men targeted, abducted, and, over the course of more than a day, raped a popular Filipina actress named Magdalena de la Riva. They freed her afterward, probably feeling safe from repercussions. Among the reasons were: they all came from influential families, men all over the country were getting away with similar crimes, and de la Riva probably would have to sacrifice her social standing and career to come forward.

But the quartet—Jaime Gómez José, Basilio Pineda, Edgardo Payumo Aquino, and Rogelio Sevilla Cañal—underestimated de la Riva's courage, and they also misread the mood of the Philippine public. De la Riva did indeed step forward, and the people were overwhelmingly behind her. The four men, as well as three accomplices who helped plan the abduction, were all arrested. After a sensational trial, convictions for all involved, and a few years of legal wrangling, three of the men who committed the actual rape were executed, with the fourth escaping his fate by dying of a drug overdose in prison. The proceedings were broadcast on Philippine national radio in May of 1972.

At the time the case was considered a watershed for women's rights in the Philippines, a sign of progress on the problem. The quotes in National Star Chronicle offer insight into the prevailing sentiment. One police official said, “These young hoodlums will think twice before carrying on the way they've been. The public is so enraged now, any would-be rapist knows he stands a chance of being torn limb from limb if he's caught.” But the problem persists all these years later, even despite a ramping up of penalties for the crime.

Recent backward movement on the issue is surely due to the fact that some influential people aren't interested in improving the situation. In 2016, then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte commented about the infamous 1989 rape of Australian missionary Jacqueline Hamill, taken hostage by inmates at Davao Prison, “I was mad she was raped, but she was so beautiful. I thought the mayor should have been first.” Duterte was mayor in 1989, so he was talking about himself. He went on to win the 2016 presidential election, despite his comments. In 2017 he said he would congratulate anyone who raped a Miss Universe, and in 2018 he said Davao City had the highest number of rape cases in the country because there were so many beautiful women there. Needless to say, watersheds are not always what they're cracked up to be—especially in the Philippines.
 
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Vintage Pulp Jan 8 2021
A HELL OF A PROBLEM
The Devil went down to Southeast Asia looking for fortunes to steal.


1969's I, Lucifer is Peter O'Donnell's third Modesty Blaise novel, and it's a series we're going through mainly to highlight the great cover art by Robert McGinnis. He didn't illustrate all the books. In fact, this might be the last, which means we'll probably move on to other authors. But that won't be because the Blaise books aren't good. In fact, for the sexy spy genre they're top notch—exotically located, compellingly plotted, and peopled by wacky Bond-style supervillains. Case in point: the titular character in I, Lucifer is a man suffering from a psychotic delusion that he's Satan. The funny part is he isn't evil. The real evil guy is Seff, the opportunist who launches a global extortion scheme that hinges on faux-Lucifer's participation even though his delusion prevents him having a clue what he's really doing. Lucifer might be the only villain we've encountered in a novel who's a victim.

When Seff's murderous extortion hits too close to home for Modesty, she and sidekick Willie Garvin gear up and eventually end up in the Philippines, where they right some wrongs, explosively. As usual Modesty uses sex to get over on the bad guys, and it's a major part of what readers enjoyed about the series. At one point she ponders whether a colleague thinks she's promiscuous. Well, no, she isn't by 1969 standards. But the joy of literature is she can be unpromiscuous, yet we can be there in the room for every one of her widely spaced encounters. This book is particularly amusing along those lines, as it brings two of Modesty's lovers together to be uncomfortable and/or jealous as they're displaced by a third. But sleaze fans will need to look elsewhere. O'Donnell is subtle—if not poetic—with his sex scenes.

Though the sexual aspects of Modesty Blaise were a major attraction of the novels, we enjoy even more the tactical nature of O'Donnell's action, which is probably an influence from his military service in Iran, Syria, Egypt, Greece and other places. It's also probably why so much of the Blaise series is connected to that region. While the tales are always exotic, this entry is even wilder than usual. How wild? It involves precognition, trained dolphins, Moro mercenaries, and body implants that kill remotely, yet it all works. That's because as always, in the center of the chaos, you have Blaise and Garvin, perfect friends, platonic soulmates, and two armed and extremely deadly halves of a razor sharp fighting machine. Abandon all hope ye who cross them.
 
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Vintage Pulp Nov 28 2020
LAYOVER IN HELL
The skies may be friendly, but the ground is an entirely different story.


When you come across a ’70s movie with bad acting, bad scripting, vaudevillian humor, nude women, and a foreign setting, there's a good chance you're dealing with the output of either American International Pictures or New World Pictures. Fly Me comes from the latter studio, and was directed by Cirio Santiago, one of the kings of Asian sleaze cinema.
 
The story deals with three flight attendants played by cinematic obscurities Pat Anderson, Lyllah Torena, and the gorgeous Lenore Kasdorf, who get into various pickles in Hong Kong and Manila—and get various pickles into them. One stew is secretly working for a drug cartel and is kidnapped after failing to perform up to expectations, a second meets and falls for a guy who turns out to be a British secret agent, and the third mostly tries to ditch her mother and get laid.
 
We'd love to tell you the movie is good, but no such luck. It lurches back and forth from sexploitation to lowbrow comedy, and as usual with Cirio Santiago's films, the action scenes are inept. We'll admit to enjoying TNT Jackson, but based on the preponderance of evidence he appears to be a real hack as a director. He's a Filipino legend, though, who helmed something like a hundred films, so he'll certainly have opportunities to redeem himself as we continue our explorations. We'll keep you posted. Fly Me premiered today in 1973.
We love being stewardesses. The pay isn't great but you can't beat the travel.

Oh, Captain, I've always wanted to join the five-inch high club.

This chick is freaking the fuck out. Excuse me, sir. You're one of the hosts, right? You might want to toss this one with the rest of the empties.

Oh no. A creepy foreigner. I heard they attack if you show fear, so just keep walking. Stay calm. Don't run.

Screw that plan. Cork-soled wedge sandals, get me outta here!

I have an idea. Let's go to your room and have screaming hot monkey sex, okay?

Oh! Mom! Hi!

Remove your grubby fingers from my daughter's big fat ’70s bush this instant!

Incongruous crash-zoom of an actual bush!

Hey everyone, I'm looking for my missing girlf—

Er... did I say missing? I meant dead. And I miss her very much and would like a replacement.

I'll take that one. Don't bother wrapping her or anything. I'm gonna eat her right in the car.

Drop dead, creep!

I didn't mean on top of me! Ugh, how rude!

That's him! The head of the sexual slavery ring! Rip his balls off and stomp them into cracker spread!

I've seen things in my police career that were hard to watch, but this is the worst of all.

By the way, you okay? Wanna have sex again or do you need a few hours to recover from your trauma?

Well, girls, Manila sure was a hoot. I wonder what Mogadishu will be like?

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Vintage Pulp Mar 21 2020
TWILIGHT SAGA
The island of Doctor Morose.


There's cheese and there's Philippine cheese. Cheese is mildly fragrant. Philippine cheese is chase-you-from-the-room stinky. Twilight People, for which you see a promo poster above, was made in the Philippines and it reeks to high heaven. But all is not lost—it's also fantastically funny in parts. The story here is a scientist kidnaps John Ashley to an isolated tropical island with the aim of transplanting his personality into the members of a menagerie of feral semi-humans created as the next step in human evolution.
 
This scientist is not just mad—he's a total downer. Nuclear war, pollution, overpopulation, the ecological consequences of civilization—he's worried about it all. His ugly quasi-humans are the answer. In our opinion, anything that makes Pam Grier look less like Pam Grier is not an advancement of any kind, but whatever—she's hairy, others are hairy, and they're the next leap up the evolutionary ladder, so sayeth the script.
 
Ashley can only think of one way to escape this crazy island, which is by using his lips. He works his charms on the sad doc's assistant Pat Woodell, who's the only non-hirsute woman around, and pretty soon her hormones get to simmering and there's trouble in paradise. We really can't blame Ashley for going this route. Woodell is spectacular. Too bad the movie isn't. Think of it as a low budget Island of Doctor Moreau, then watch that film instead. Twilight People premiered in the U.S. today in 1972.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 13 2019
BAD MUTHERS
Teach, nurture, encourage, love. That all comes later. Right now, they're mainly focused on killing.


Yes, there are two movies called The Muthers. We covered the one from 1968 yesterday. Today we turn our attention to the unrelated blaxploitation flick, which premiered this month in 1976. Yesterday's Muthers was a simple nudie romp, rather innocent. Here eight years later we have a full blown savage adventure epic about a clan of female pirates who get themselves deliberately thrown in a coffee plantation/prison camp called Sal Si Puedes—Get Out If You Can—as part of a rescue mission. So what you basically have here is a women-in-prison movie, replete with sweat, cruelty, and a desperate plan to make a break for freedom.

Two of the pirates are portrayed by Playboy centerfolds Jeannie Bell and Rosanne Katon, while model Jayne Kennedy is a sort of privileged prisoner. Without getting too pervy about it, these are three of the more beautiful women from ’70s b-cinema. Another pirate is played by Trina Parks, who while she isn't otherworldly like the goddesses previously mentioned, is certainly plenty hot by any normal measure. We bring up their physical characteristics because it's exactly why director/writer/producer Cirio Santiago cast them. He was an exploitation producer/director nonpareil, and his milieu was putting beautiful women—among them Pam Grier, Judith Brown, Roberta Collins, Margaret Markov, and Colleen Camp—in roles where they drove the action.

The Muthers takes place in what is supposed to be Central America, but it was really produced in the good old Philippines by Santiago and the same people who gave the world movies like She Devils in Chains and Savage! The women Santiago has assembled here karate kick, rabbit punch, and machine gun a series of anonymous bad guys, finally working their way up the prison camp's commandant, played by Tony Carreon. Who comes out on top? You never know in these jungle epics, but you can count on the end being pyrotechnic. Do we recommend this? Well... in terms of sheer quality maybe not, but in terms of watching Bell, Katon, and Kennedy? For sure. Those girls are poison! 
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Vintage Pulp Jul 3 2019
SISTERS IN ARMS
Larger than life and twice as revolutionary.


The schlock factory known as American International Pictures and director Eddie Romero team up for another low budget romp with Savage Sisters, one of numerous shot-in-the-Philippines action epics they put together for the grindhouse circuit. AIP regulars Sid Haig, John Ashley, and Vic Diaz make appearances, but the stars of this one are Cheri Caffaro, Gloria Hendry, and Rosanna Ortiz, playing women caught up in a third world revolution. Violence and dumb comedy combine into an entertaining mix, but entertaining isn't the same as good. Savage Sisters is strictly for movie parties with pals, something you glance at between beers and bong hits to catch the intermittent gun battles and soft titillation. Gil Scott-Heron said the revolution would not be televised. It won't be organized either, if these plotters are any indication. It's ironic that all these AIP movies about overthrowing repressive governments were shot during Ferdinand Marcos's exploitative Philippine regime, but we guess he was just happy to have film production in the country and didn't actually care about the finished product. As long as you don't care too much about the finished product either you can put Savage Sisters in the awful-but-fun bin and enjoy. It opened this month in 1974.

The way you say that word makes me so hot. Say it again. Say... “epaulettes.”

Sorry, dude, I can't reach that knife in your pocket. But I can hold your hand. It'll comfort us both as we die of exposure.

Damn, girl. I never noticed before, but when the light hits your face just right you look a lot like Peter Frampton.

I think we all knew that Iota Kappa Ass has the most difficult initiations of all the sororities but this is just crazy.

It's a revealing outfit for a military assault, I know, but after we shoot up this munitions depot we're headed to the disco.

I think I just realized something. I don't give a fuck about the revolution. I just want to ventilate some honkies.

I'm uniquely qualified to lead this revolution because of my grand vision and infallible foresight. Take my outfit, for instance. This will never go out of style.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 2 2019
SINGLE WET FEMALE
Woman, 20, seeks man any age. Must be open minded. Sex guaranteed. No commitment. Emotional masochist preferred.


Above is a West German poster for the French sexploitation flick Laura, originally titled Laure, starring the sexiest elf in cinema history, Annie Belle, in the tale of a minister's libertine daughter trekking around the Philippines, getting laid with whomever while her boyfriend-later-husband watches and sometimes films. We talked about this one in detail a while back but wanted to share this nice poster. Notice Emmanuelle Arsan is credited as the director? What happened was the actual director Louis-Jacques Rollet-Andriane quit and refused to allow his name to be attached to the film because he didn't get to delve more deeply into his philosophy of freedom and swinging. Which is funny because the movie is almost entirely about freedom and swinging. But give a Frenchman six inches and he'll demand a mile. Read more here. Laura premiered in West Germany today in 1976.

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Hollywoodland Jun 20 2019
FROM MUSCLE BEACH TO MURDER
Pageant winner fulfilled show business and personal ambitions. Then things went wrong.


Beauty pageants are a bit silly, perhaps, but the participants are generally ambitious people who see them as stepping stones to show business or modeling. And in mid-century Los Angeles in particular, even minor pageants occasionally led to stardom. In the above photos high school student Barbara Thomason wins the crown of Miss Muscle Beach 1954. Listed at 5 foot 3 inches and 110 pounds, she was a body-building enthusiast, and in the shot just below she celebrates her hard fought win by pumping a bit of iron while photographers click away and a crowd watches.

Did Thomason's victory lead to bigger things? Maybe not directly, but it probably helped. She was a habitual pageant participant who also won Miss Huntington Beach, Miss Van Ness, Miss Bay Beach, Miss Southwest Los Angeles, Miss Pacific Coast, Queen of Southern California,and ten other titles. All that winning finally got her noticed by Hollywood movers and shakers. In 1955, performing under the name Carolyn Mitchell, she made her acting debut on the television show Crossroads, and in 1958 co-starred in two Roger Corman b-movies, The Crybaby Killer and Dragstrip Riot.
 
But she put her career on hold when she met and married a star—Mickey Rooney, who was nearly seventeen years her senior and nearly two inches her junior. Their union had problems from the beginning. The couple married secretly in Mexico because Rooney was still awaiting a divorce from actress Elaine Mahnken. They would have to wait almost two years before the law allowed them to wed in the U.S. Legalities, though doubtless bothersome, were the least of their problems. During the next six years, during which Thomason bore four children, Rooney indulged in numerous affairs.

It should probably be noted here that Thomason was Rooney's fifth wife. Among the predecessors were goddesses like Ava Gardner and Martha Vickers. We don't know what Thomason's expectations of marriage were, but clearly Rooney didn't know the meaning of the phrase “for better or worse.” The affairs continued, and eventually Thomason did the same with a temperamental Yugoslavian actor named Milos Milosevic, who performed under the name Milos Milos. But what was good for goose was not good for the gander—Rooney found out about these international relations, moved out of the Brentwood house he shared with Thomason, and filed for divorce, charging mental cruelty. The nerve, right?

On the morning of January 31, 1966, while Rooney was in St. John's Hospital recovering from an intestinal infection he'd picked up in the Philippines, Thomason and Milosevic were found together on the bathroom floor of the Brentwood house, dead. Milosevic had shot Thomason under the chin and killed himself with a temple shot using a chrome-plated .38 Rooney had bought in 1964. The consensus is Thomason had decided to dump Milosevic and he flipped out.

The photos below show Thomason on Muscle Beach during her halcyon years there, a mere teenager, frolicking in the sun, filled with youthful hopes for a good life. She won beauty titles, acted in films, married an icon, and had four children. Any of those accomplishments would have been good legacies. Instead her death at twenty-nine overshadowed all the rest, and she's remembered as another celebrity murder victim, Hollywood style, which is always somehow both sensational and banal.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
November 30
1936—Crystal Palace Gutted by Fire
In London, the landmark structure Crystal Palace, a 900,000 square foot glass and steel exhibition hall erected in 1851, is destroyed by fire. The Palace had been moved once and fallen into disrepair, and at the time of the fire was not in use. Two water towers survived the blaze, but these were later demolished, leaving no remnants of the original structure.
November 29
1963—Warren Commission Formed
U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson establishes the Warren Commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. However the long report that is finally issued does little to settle questions about the assassination, and today surveys show that only a small minority of Americans agree with the Commission's conclusions.
November 28
1942—Nightclub Fire Kills Hundreds
In Boston, Massachusetts, a fire in the fashionable Cocoanut Grove nightclub kills 492 people. Patrons were unable to escape when the fire began because the exits immediately became blocked with panicked people, and other possible exits were welded shut or boarded up. The fire led to a reform of fire codes and safety standards across the country, and the club's owner, Barney Welansky, who had boasted of his ties to the Mafia and to Boston Mayor Maurice J. Tobin, was eventually found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
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