Mamie Van Doren can add value to anything, but even she can't save The Girl in Black Stockings.
This bright poster was made for the b-drama The Girl in Black Stockings. It had its world premiere in England today in 1957 and, in contrast to the art, is a colorless murder mystery set in and around a lodge hotel in a tiny western U.S. town—the kind of place where, you know, “nothing like this has ever happened before.” Lex Barker stars as a Los Angeles lawyer who goes to this arid little stopover for peace and quiet, but discovers a body that's been mutilated as though by a psychopath. A county official warns, “The type that did this—they don't stop with just one.”
Sure enough, more deaths follow and—as doctors are wont to do—Lex inserts himself right into the middle of the investigation. His professional acumen is needed. There are a lot of suspects. Anne Bancroft as the local beauty, Mamie Van Doren as a stereotypical blonde floozy, Ron Randell as a woman hating lodge owner who's confined to a wheelchair—or is he?—and Marie Windsor as his unhealthily attached spinster sister are all under the suspicious gaze of the plodding but tenacious sheriff John Dehner.
Sadly, the mystery isn't compelling and the dramatic aspects of the narrative are blah because none of the characters are interesting. All the main actors have done well in other movies, but here they're hobbled by a poor script, particularly Randell, who's forced to mouth numerous cynical and self pitying soliloquies. Van Doren, who we feel confident saying cannot act, is also bad here. She has a drunk scene that will make you cringe, it's so wooden.
The end result is a dismissable movie that's only barely remembered because it was shot in Utah, which provides some nice scenery, and because it has Van Doren, who was obviously cast to provide a different type of scenery, and achieves that function with ease. We'll always take a look at any film in which she appears. She's no Marilyn. But she's not far behind. Yet even with her presence and some long looks at the Beehive State, we can't recommend The Girl in Black Stockings.
Oh good Lord! She's been murdered and mutilated beyond recognition! Somebody call a doctor! What the..! Don't you knock? I'm in the midst of a consultation here! I can advise you only informally until I hear back from the town's insurance network, Sheriff. But you might start with an immediate canvassing effort and a check for similar crimes in the state going back at least ten years. Actually, knowing there's a killer on the loose and any of us could be snuffed out next doesn't make me horny, Diana. But thanks for thinking of me. Well, Sheriff, turns out the town has a three murder deductible. I'm afraid my hands are tied until a fourth person is slain.
Mysterious monolith found in desert. Local wildlife now walking upright and demanding better mobile coverage.
Someone cue Also sprach Zarathustra. In Utah a helicopter pilot from the Department of Public Safety's Aero Bureau was counting bighorn sheep in a remote part of the state when he overflew a strange object, and upon turning back for a second look was astounded to sight a metal monolith planted in the desert. Estimated at ten to twelve feet (about three meters) high, the object is shiny, silvery, rectangular, and appears to be man-made. Appears to be. Advanced metalwork is assumed to be a solely human ability, but that's just an assumption. We also thought we were the only species that masturbated until we saw dolphins do it.
The slab story has taken on a mostly humorous life of its own, as observers reference 2001: A Space Odyssey, the movie which appears to have inspired the creator of the rectangle. The film's monolith triggers a quantum leap in human evolution, which in 2020 we could really use, but since modern culture is little more than a seven-billion-person rugby scrum in which nobody has noticed the ball got lost decades ago, we don't think a comparable evolutionary leap is coming. Anyway, there's nothing out there in the desert but sheep, so maybe it wasn't made for humans at all. Everyone should keep close watch on those bighorns. Maybe they'll make an evolutionary leap and, like in the film, start using old femurs to break heads. Sheepherders beware.
For our part, there's little doubt the slab is actually just a piece of guerrilla art, planted in the wilderness years ago, where it has patiently waited for discovery. As a publicity stunt it's ingenious. Once authorities inevitably remove and examine the piece, they'll most likely find some identifying mark, and at that point the artist will come forward or be identified. People are already speculating it was made by deceased monolith master John McCracken. However it turns out, we think it's appropriate that this discovery, one of the most confounding in recent memory, was inspired by 2001, one of the most baffling films ever. The desert slab will eventually be explained to most people's satisfaction. The movie? Never.
Update: the monolith has vanished. Its next probable sighting will be in a barren wilderness near you.
Happiness is to age well in Hollywood.
Joi Lansing was born Judy Rae Brown in Salt Lake City, Utah, and could be the best thing ever produced by a state famous for its natural beauty. While she appeared in the film noir Touch of Evil, as well as on scores of television shows, she can't be said to have achieved major stardom. However she had a long career owing partly to the fact that she didn't seem to age—quite a useful trick in Hollywood. Despite that, don't believe it when you see other sources claim the above photo was shot in 1959. She had good genes, but not quite that good. The shot is from 1956, when Lansing was twenty-seven.
These two things are called eyes, and if you don’t want to be offended you can do something incredible—close them.
Studio nudes of Susanne Haines have been floating around the web for a while now, and they made us curious who she is. No info was readily available, but after some digging it turns out this obscure dancer has a very interesting story. She born and raised around Sacramento, California, and spent some time in Utah, before winning the Miss Placer County beauty contest in 1963 when she was sixteen. Several years later, as an unhappily married college student, she saw an ad asking for a go-go waitress and took the job to get away from her husband. She was soon earning $72.50 a week serving drinks in a nightclub.
From there it was a short leap to the stage—and a bump in earnings to $450 a week as she peeled for male customers. In May 1969 she was performing at the Pink Pussy Kat in the Sacramento suburb of Orangevale when two sheriff’s deputies entered and found Haines and two other women serving drinks topless. When Haines took the stage and performed a dance number that ended with her completely naked, the cops arrested her along with fellow dancer Sheila Brendenson for indecent exposure and lewd and dissolute conduct. Club owner Leonard Glancy was arrested for soliciting.
That case didn’t reach court until late summer, when it landed before the bench of Judge Earl Warren, Jr., son of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, who had just retired in June. Glancy had kept the Pink Pussy Kat open by featuring only bikini dancing, and he also cooked up an ingenious scheme of having patrons pay to watch nude dances on closed circuit television, as in the photo just below, since it was only “live” nudity that was legally dangerous.
Early in the trial, Judge Warren Jr. agreed with defense attorney Ronald Sypnicki and D.A. Kenneth Hake that, since there was no film or photos of the offending performance, the only fair thing was to allow the jurors to see it for themselves. That couldn’t happen in the courthouse, so Warren had the jury conducted to the Pink Pussy Kat, where Haines performed nude under psychedelic illumination to songs such as “Israelites” and Jimi Hendrix’s hip shaker “Foxy Lady.” Because the bar was open to regular patrons in an attempt to recreate the normal atmosphere of a nude performance, Haines received raucous applause after each of her numbers.
Asked for comment by reporters afterward, Warren deemed his decision a sound one, saying, “[They] got a better look than we could have given them with just plain oral testimony or by trying to re-create some of these things in the courtroom.” Five days later Warren proved his faith in x-rated field trips by taking another panel to another nudie club during a trial involving stripper Carol Doda. The Haines case lasted for five weeks total.The jury was finally sent to their chambers the second day of October, and after ten hours of deliberation returned with a verdict of guilty on the indecent exposure charge, but innocent on lewd conduct. Warren explained that it had to be guilty on both or innocent on both—if the exposure was indecent the conduct was obviously lewd, or conversely neither was true—and the jury was sent back into their chambers. After another hour of deliberation, Haines and Brendenson won acquittals, as did club owner Glancy on his soliciting charge.
Brendenson quit dancing after the trial, but Haines was ready to get naked again, and Glancy was more than willing to provide a stage. The county sheriff had said he’d continue to jail dancers despite the jury’s verdict, and Haines racked up seven arrests at the Pink Pussy Kat—plus about fifteen others at various venues over the years. But she also was nationally known thanks to the trial and won the title of Miss Nude Universe in 1972, which in turn pushed her earnings as high as $1,000—about $5,700 in today’s money. Fame didn’t deter the morals squads, though. She was arrested for indecent exposure in Oklahoma and this time lost a $5,000 judgment. Later she was arrested for larceny.
Not long after, realizing her life was going in a direction she couldn’t control, she quit show business and became an evangelical Christian. In 1978, under her married name Susanne Haines Register, she wrote an autobiography, a cautionary tale of life in the fast lane entitled—what else?—Take It All Off. She does just that in the four shots below. They were made, like the one at top, around 1969.
Some people just can't live a quiet life.
Seems like everyone is talking about Joyce McKinney these days, thanks to the newest film from American documentarian Errol Morris. Entitled Tabloid, it opened in the U.S. Friday and has gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews as the director revisits an infamous tabloid case from 1978. That incident involved McKinney, a former beauty contest winner, kidnapping the object of her desire, handcuffing him for three days to a bed, and repeatedly raping him in an attempt to get pregnant. At least that’s one version of the story. McKinney’s version is that the kidnappee, Kirk Anderson, came with her willingly, and that a woman raping a man is like “putting a marshmallow in a parking meter.” That comment alone will give you an idea of the unusual personality Morris chose for his film, yet no matter how well Tabloid does, the notoriety it generates for McKinney will never approach the level it reached in 1978, when the U.S., the U.K., and possibly the entire western world were enthralled by her sordid story.
The case would have been a sensation anyway, but the fact that those involved were members of the largely unknown (in 1977) Mormon (or Latter Day Saints) religion gave the tale that much more sizzle. And there was also the addition of an accomplice named Keith May, whose involvement seemed to derive from the fact that he was too smitten by McKinney to refuse her anything—including assistance arranging for sex with another man. In short, the British papers knew great material when they saw it, and they were soon in a race for scoops. The more they dug into McKinney’s past, the more tabloid gold they unearthed.
McKinney was not originally LDS, but had converted to Mormonism after moving to Provo, Utah. Before that she had lived in Wyoming, where, in 1972, she won the Miss Wyoming World beauty contest. Very little gets tabloid editors excited like the phrase “beauty queen,” and the stories on McKinney snowballed as a highly amused British public lapped up the details. These facts were salacious but also undeniably comical. The public learned of the velvet handcuffs used to restrain Anderson. They learned that he had ended up in Britain only because he had begged church elders to send him overseas so he could escape the obsessive McKinney. The papers discovered that before McKinney’s involvement with Anderson she had met but failed to successfully woo Wayne Osmond, of the famous Osmonds musical group. The tabloid Daily Mirror discovered that she had worked as a nude model and soon those photos began to see the light of day.
McKinney’s bail hearing was an event virtually unprecedented in the history of British courts. Before a mob of reporters, the prosecution made its rape claims, and McKinney countered by saying that, due to the fact that his mother had been so domineering, Anderson could only get aroused by being restrained. She said that when she first walked into the bedroom wearing only a see-through nightgown Anderson began “grinning like a monkey.” Her description of Anderson’s specialLDS underwear was a revelation to the court, press and public alike. Every time she opened her mouth she seemed to say something uproarious. Even when she wasn’t speaking she was able to dominate a situation, as seen in the photo above of her displaying a handwritten sign succinctly telling her side of the story. Eventually McKinney and her accused accomplice Keith May were both granted bail, and both promptly traveled to Ireland, and from there fled to Canada using fake passports and disguised as members of a deaf-mute mime troupe.
Once back in the U.S. McKinney started going by her middle name and kept a low profile—or as low as a person like her could manage. But tellingly, her version of low profile included numerous encounters with the law over the next three decades, though these never came to the attention of British authorities. But the list is long. McKinney was charged with passing bad checks, assaulting a public official, burglary, and making threatening statements toward another woman. She was also arrested for harassment against Kirk Anderson after allegedly confronting him near his workplace in Salt Lake City. But perhaps the most notable charge against her is her 2004 arrest for animal cruelty, a brush with the law that is thick with irony because of how McKinney finally reappeared in the public eye.
In 2008 McKinney paid a group of South Korean scientists to clone her dead pit bull Booger. When the procedure succeeded she announced it via press conference and, it’s safe to say, she didn’t get the reactions she was expecting. For while McKinney had gotten into the aforementioned spots of trouble over the years, crucially, nobody in the press ever connected the woman now going by her middle name to the infamous sex criminal from the late 1970s. But after the cloning announcement,people immediately noticed the resemblance between the middle-aged dog lover and the fugitive from British justice. McKinney denied the connection until the evidence became overwhelming, at which point she confessed the truth during a teary call to an AP reporter. She complained bitterly about people dragging up her past, saying, “I don’t want that garbage in with the puppy story,” but of course she had thrust herself willingly back into the limelight.
With the release of Tabloid, the same pattern is repeating itself. McKinney participated in the documentary willingly, but now says she was taken advantage of and never wished to be viewed in a humorous light. Errol Morris says he has made an accurate document of an outsized personality, and that the humor in Tabloid derives from the simple fact that Joyce McKinney is funny. Morris claims to have explained as much to his suddenly reluctant star, telling her, "Joyce, you use certain kinds of language. You must know you are funny. In fact, you're one of the funniest people I've ever met." But McKinney, unimpressed, says she is considering a lawsuit. However it turns out, it’s worth noting that this is the third time during her life that Joyce McKinney has managed to make world headlines. She may not want to admit that she’s funny, but at the very least it’s clear that she isn’t a person who can live a quiet life. And if you can’t stay under the radar, you really don’t have much choice about how people see you.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
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