America's worst tabloid pops the bubbly and starts the year strong.
Above is a cover of the tabloid National Informer that hit newsstands today in 1972 featuring an unidentified Champagne toasting model. We love how the editors emphasize the word “truthful” in the second banner, beneath the name of the paper. That's a bold claim from one of the ultimate bottom shelf tabloids of the era, one that traffics in faux news and sensationalism more than actual journalism. But we won't argue the point. Whenever one's reputation is less than stellar don't leave it to chance: tell people what opinion to have of you. National Informer says it's truthful, fine.
There are a couple of stories of note in this issue. According to Informer, German high wire artist Karl Traber died when he lost his balance during a walk between the towers of two Munich churches and fell two-hundred feet onto a spiked fence. We couldn't find a single reference to anyone named Karl Traber online, though we did to a Traber family who remain famous today as aerialists. We did a Boolean search within German websites and still found no Karl Traber who suffered this grisly death. It's no surprise. Cheap tabloids often leave you with more questions than answers. We'll blame it on sloppy journalism (maybe they got a name wrong?) rather than false reporting. But since we don't want to spend our Monday searching the internet, we'll just move on.
Later in the issue Informer's resident seer Mark Travis produces a slate of predictions, and one of them qualifies as his wildest ever: I predict the invention of a serum which is injected into the bloodstream to create more pigmentation of the skin and turn a white person black. It will be very popular among the young college students. This serum [snip] will enable white youngsters from affluent homes to really see what life in the ghetto is like. Since the results will wear off in a few weeks if the injections are discontinued, it will be quite an adventure to “go black” for a short period of time. Only a wig will be necessary to complete the disguise. And since another drug which works in reverse—lightens the skin—will enable any Negro who desires to do so to pass for white, it will soon be impossible to tell who is white, who is black, and who is one in the disguise of the other.
We think we know how that would turn out: the caste-destroying serum would be banned in all fifty states, plus overseas U.S. territories, and bring penalties for usage ranging up to execution. We're only half kidding. Imagining the possible fallout from such a form of recreation makes us want to pitch the idea to some of our Hollywood friends. Can you imagine the television show that could be produced? Travis has made some blah predictions over the years, but we bet this one hit a nerve among Informer's readership. Unfortunately, we don't have the next few issues to check the infuriated responses in reader mail. Maybe it's better that way. As a side note, this is the thirtieth issue of Informer we've shared.
Blaze Starr drums up interest in her dancing.
Actress, burlesque dancer, and famed consort Blaze Starr looks like a natural with this authentic animal hide djembe, and she'd surely be the center of the best drum circle of all time, but we suspect she rarely needed props to help her draw a crowd. She was one of the top performers of her era, taking her talents from the stage to cinema with the naturist paean Blaze Starr Goes Nudist, and later becoming infamous when her affair with a prominent U.S. governor became public. We talked about that episode a little here, if you don't already know her and are interested. We tried to date this photo made by James Kriegsmann but it was tricky. Online claims are often incorrect, and we've replicated such errors a few times by trusting them, so our method these days is to be evidentiary about it and try to find the shots on or inside magazines. Most sources, including the respected Getty Images, date the photo to 1960 or 1962, but we found it inside a January 1957 issue of Modern Man. The photo could have been made earlier, even several years earlier, but we're calling it 1956 and we feel pretty confident about it.
In show business the camera never sleeps.
Night and Day, for which you see the cover of an issue—its very first issue, actually—that was published this month in 1948, billed itself as America's Picture Magazine of Entertainment. It was launched in New York City by Alho Publishing, and as you'll see it came out of the gate swinging for the fences with its visual content, from its bisected cover featuring burlesque dancer Lili St. Cyr and actress Ramsey Ames, to its tongue-in-cheek feature on the twenty-seven types of kisses, to its approving look at George White's Scandals revue at Hollywood's Florentine Gardens. Interesting side note on Scandals—Wikipedia says it ended in 1939. Well, obviously not quite. Elsewhere Night and Day touches on college hazing, professional football, and the Greenwich Village art scene. In total, it's a gold mine for vintage photos.
Our favorite offering in the magazine is its quiz on Hollywood stars and their stand-ins. You just have to take a good look at twenty performers, and try to determine which twenty random people are their stand-ins. To score well on such a quiz you'd have to be either the biggest Hollywood head in history or someone who has the opposite of face blindness, whatever that would be. Face unforgettability, maybe. Even though we don't expect many people to try the quiz, we worked hard to put it into internet-usable form. In the magazine the photos were five-across on the page, which made them too small for the column width of our website. So we rearranged them to be two-across, and thus enlarged, they're clear, though you have to do a lot of scrolling. Nevertheless, it's there if you want, along with fifty other panels to eat your time with marvelous efficiency. Please enjoy.
The Hollywood movie star stand-in quiz begins below. First you get twenty famous actors and actresses:
And below are their twenty stand-ins. If you get more than half of these right you're a human face recognition algorithm. Quit your day job immediately and report to the FBI.
Below are the answers.
For this act you better get your folding money ready too.
This is an item you see other places around the internet, but we like it enough to post it anyway. It's a foldable table tent of Lilly Christine made around 1956 for the dual purpose of promoting one of the world's most famous burlesque dancers, and serving as a price list for drinks. This was made for Leon Prima's 500 Club in New Orleans, and a glance at the other side reveals that the price list was short: all drinks—$2.55; repeat drinks $1.55. Does that strike you as pretty steep for 1956? Us too. Plugging that into the old currency converter we get a 2022 price of—holy shit!—$27.28 for that first drink.
Prices like that will certainly keep the riff-raff out. The back of this particular table tent was written on by a guest (see below). It's dated October 10, 1956, and declares: Lilly is a really beautiful and sensuous creature and an “artist” (quotation marks in original). It also says her harem gave a sensational performance too, and since her harem was male that strikes us as a nicely enlightened comment for the time. We'd think most customers would be dismayed seeing muscular hunks up there with the object of their lust, but not this person.
You'll also notice the table tent advertises a second act named Carrie Finnell. We bet you've never heard of her, but she was an early—if not original—burlesque dancer who was born twenty years before Christine and had carved out an impressive career on the live stage, first as a Ziegfeld Girl, then as a peeler. You see her here checking to make sure her right boob is still where it's supposed to be.
The legend goes that Finnell was famous for the gimmick of the world longest striptease, which involved removing an article of clothing each week to higher and higher admission fees. It lasted fifty-four weeks. That's a lot of clothes, but then Finnell was a lot of woman. It's also a lot to pay, whether you take the entire multi-week journey or show up just for the finale, but since Finnell mainly danced in Cleveland we're betting the drinks weren't $2.55. So that's something, at least.
It's interesting, don't you think, that in the 500 Club a lifetime ago you had nights of gender equality (female and male erotic dancers on the same stage) and body equality (Finnell)? It's amazing the things that were done long before anyone thought to get exercised about them. We've cleaned up the table tent a bit from the form in which we found it, but it's still a bit worn, so we thought we'd give you Lilly—unfolded, unbent, uncreased, and incomparable—below. And of course we have plenty more of her in the website, so feel free to look around. She'll be back. That's a promise.
100 pounds of trigger pull weight.
Above is reedy Iso Yban, here pictured with a toy machine gun and not much else. Her various bios say she was born in Essen, Germany, but moved to Paris, where she became a dancer at Le Crazy Horse, and as a model posed under the aforementioned name, as well as Yso Iban, Isi Yban, Marlène Funch, Christina Madison, Belinda, et al. This bold shot was made by French lensman Serge Jacques and it dates from the late 1960s.
Garner's portrayal of a classic detective feels a lot like a Rockford Files test run.
Raymond Chandler's novels have been adapted to the screen several times. One of the lesser known efforts was 1969's Marlowe, which was based on the 1949 novel The Little Sister and starred future Rockford Files centerpiece James Garner as Chandler's famed Philip Marlowe. You see a cool Spanish popster for the movie above, painted by Fernandez Zarza-Pérez, also known as Jano. As usual when we show you a foreign promo for a U.S. movie, it's because the domestic promo isn't up to the same quality. In this case the U.S. promo is almost identical, but in black and white. The choice was clear.
Since you know what to expect from a Chandler adaptation, we don't need to go into the plot much, except to say it deals with an icepick murderer and ties into show business and blackmail. What's more important is whether the filmmakers made good use of the original material, either by remaining true to its basic ideas or by imagining something new and better. They weren't going for new in this case. They were providing a vehicle for the charismatic Garner and ended up with a movie that features him in the same mode he would later perfect in Rockford.
Marlowe has a few elements of note. Rita Moreno plays a burlesque dancer, and it's one of her sexier roles. Bruce Lee makes an appearance as a thug named Winslow Wong. Garner is the star, so it isn't a spoiler to say that Lee doesn't stand a chance. He's dispatched in unlikely but amusing fashion. Overall, Marlowe feels like an ambitious television movie and plays like a test run for Rockford, but it's fun stuff. We recommend it for fans of Chandler, Moreno, Lee, Carroll O'Connor (who co-stars as a police lieutenant), and especially Garner. It premiered in the U.S. in 1969, but didn't reach Spain until today in 1976.
It's getting late, fellas. I really should be in bed with someone by now.
Sim Albert's 1953 Croyden Books novel Confessions of a B-Girl, which features cover art by Lou Marchetti, tells the story of a New Orleans stripper named Peg Christy who wants to get out of the racket before it turns her into a prostitute. She takes in a naive nineteen-year-old who's arrived in town penniless, and when the girl's hot uncle shows up Peg suddenly develops the courage to take a stab at reform and romance. Of course, she sort of forgets to tell uncle hunk she's a nightclub dancer, and that, along with the club owner's homicidal streak and her young roomie's assorted problems, provide the drama in the tale. Sleaze digests generally give you sex, misunderstanding, sex with the wrong guy, heartbreak, sex, and redemption, and Confessions of a B-Girl does basically that, but with less sex, and a dose of surrogate motherhood thrown in. It's no better than average quality for the genre, but we're glad we bought it because we're suckers for novels about burlesque dancers. Marchetti's art, by the way, fits nicely into our collection of bar covers, which you can see here.
You paid the cover charge to get in. Now you have to pay the uncover charge or get out.
The brush behind this cover for Wade Miller's 1946 debut thriller Deadly Weapon was paperback vet Bob Abbett, and it's one of his better pieces in a portfolio filled with top efforts. The book is good too. It's about an Atlanta detective who drives to San Diego to avenge the death of his partner, and as befits such a concept, features excellent Sam Spade-like repartee between main character Walter James and a local cop named Austin Clapp. Some of the action is centered around a burlesque theatre and its headlining peeler Shasta Lynn, but the deadly weapon isn't a femme fatale, as implied by the art, but Walter James himself. The man is hell on wheels. He even uses his car to ram another auto and its occupants over a cliff. Overall, Deadly Weapon is well written, well paced, and well characterized (if a bit saccharine in the romantic subplot). Wade Miller—who was really Bob Wade and Bill Miller acting as one—started his/their career on a good note with this one.
Cancans de Paris is always uncanny.
Above: a few pages from the French burlesque publication Cancans de Paris, the seventh time we've taken a look at this mag, with this example dating from September 1965. As always there are mainstream celebrities mixed in with the peelers, including Carroll Baker, Brigitte Bardot, Elke Sommer, Kim Novak, Sean Connery, Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida, and French born ballerina Ludmilla Tchérina. At the top of panel two there's also a minor Raymond Brenot illustration. See some major ones here, and just click the Cancans keywords below if you want to see more issues.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1985—Matt Munro Dies
English singer Matt Munro, who was one of the most popular entertainers on the international music scene during the 1960s and sang numerous hits, including the James Bond theme "From Russia with Love," dies from liver cancer at Cromwell Hospital, Kensington, London.
1958—Plane Crash Kills 8 Man U Players
British European Airways Flight 609 crashes attempting to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem Airport in Munich, West Germany. On board the plane is the Manchester United football team, along with a number of supporters and journalists. 20 of the 44 people on board die in the crash.
1919—United Artists Is Launched
Actors Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, along with director D.W. Griffith, launch United Artists. Each holds a twenty percent stake, with the remaining percentage held by lawyer William Gibbs McAdoo. The company struggles for years, with Griffith soon dropping out, but eventually more partners are brought in and UA becomes a Hollywood powerhouse.
1958—U.S. Loses H-Bomb
A 7,600 pound nuclear weapon that comes to be known as the Tybee Bomb is lost by the U.S. Air Force off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, near Tybee Island. The bomb was jettisoned to save the aircrew during a practice exercise after the B-47 bomber carrying it collided in midair with an F-86 fighter plane. Following several unsuccessful searches, the bomb was presumed lost, and remains so today.
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