Poitier heads to parts unknown after a long and unique career.
Above is a photo of one-of-a-kind actor and cultural icon Sidney Poitier, who died yesterday aged ninety-four in the Bahamas, where he was born and lived much of his life. He starred in a couple of our favorite lightweight movies, including 1961's Paris Blues and 1992's Sneakers, but this shot is from 1967's unforgettable and topical drama In the Heat of the Night, one of many landmark movies in which he starred. He changed the game. That's really all you can say. See another cool shot of him here.
You can pull a man from water but you can't make him breathe.
And in contrast to Yôko Azusa, who's very adept in water, here you see a photo of someone who didn't fare well in that medium. This shot shows cops fishing drowning victim John Ray Thompson from MacArthur Park Lake in Los Angeles today in 1951. This is another curious and macabre discovery from the digital archives of the Los Angeles Examiner. Such imagery fascinates us because this type of news content, now unseen in the U.S., was prevalent in Central America when we lived there. We assume it still is. It was known as nota roja, basically “red reports,” essentially, if it bleeds it leads. The Thompson photo shows no blood, but the principle is the same. We have no idea how he drowned. Whether by accident, suicide, or murder, that information doesn't appear anywhere online that we looked, and might not have been printed back in ’51 either. Examiner photographers shot rolls of film every week, and editors picked the best photos for the paper. There's no guarantee an item on Thompson's death ever ran. But however he drowned, it was a bad ending.
Sheena embarks a day late on a long journey.
This photo shows U.S. actress Tanya Roberts in character as Sheena in her 1984 lost world flick Sheena, riding what we suspect is a white horse dyed to look like a zebra, and we were going to make an excuse to share it eventually because it's an amazing image. Unfortunately, it became relevant because Roberts died last week. Bizarrely, it happened a day after her announced death. Somehow her publicist told the world she had died, then learned in the middle of an interview that her employer was still alive. Then Roberts died the next day. That's a new one as far as we know. In any case, she looks goddesslike in this photo, and will be remembered for her roles in the James Bond film A View to a Kill and the television series Charlie's Angels (third iteration). Fare thee well, Sheena.
There's been a pink diamond Barbie, a fashion queen Barbie, and a Sunset Malibu Barbie, so why not a bottomless Barbi?
You need to look twice but, yes, in this circa-1972 pin-up poster Barbi Benton is missing pants. Or a skirt. Or tights. Or whatever. Benton may be best known as the consort of a world famous pornographer (Hefner, again), but she also acted, guesting on many of the cheesiest television shows of the ’70s and ’80s. Think CHiPs, Vega$, Sugar Time!, The Love Boat—six times—and Fantasy Island—eight times! For our money her zenith was 1983's notably skin-filled sword and sorcery flick Deathstalker. Come to think of it, we may watch that tonight. Meanwhile this image is amazing. Our scan is about 1900 pixels wide, which would be worth framing if we were inclined, but which we'd never do because we aren't seventeen anymore, so our walls have to be home to serious art. Not our rule, but we abide by it.
Look what the cat dragged in.
Cats get a bad rap in ’70s horror films. They're always shown lurking, staring, yowling, hissing, flying into frame from some elevated position off-camera, and standing sentinel over murdered bodies. Felines come to the fore once again in the Italian giallo-horror flick La morte negli occhi del gatto, aka Seven Deaths in the Cat's Eye, as beautiful young Jane Birkin ventures into the Scottish countryside for a stay at creepy old Castle Dragonstone, which seems cursed or haunted by a feline or felines. Shortly after her arrival bodies start appearing. Who's doing the killing? Is there really a curse? Why does that darn cat keep turning up?
All of the answers and more are revealed, as is the reason behind the carnage, and guess what? It isn't the cat's doing at all. The problem is entirely human and has to do with coveting the castle. Seems everyone wants their own pile of rocks in windblown bumfuck Scotland. Yes, the plot is as blah as we made it sound, but at least the poster art is excellent. There's a another poster, an even better one, with Birkin on it. We digitally restored it to hi-rez perfection, then Photoshop corrupted the file right when we were putting the final touches on it. We aren't going to repeat all that work, so you'll never see what we did. Maybe there's a curse after all. La morte negli occhi del gatto premiered in Italy today in 1973.
If heaven were like this it would get crowded mighty fast.
We don't believe in angels, but if we did this is pretty much what we'd want them to look like. This photo shows heavenly adult film actress Shauna Grant, who, like several other ’70s and ’80s adult film actresses, we've featured before. One reason we do it is because we see a line that extends from pulp all the way into porn via the former's focus on sex. Though authors were not generally able to write explicitly about it at the time, sexual gratification was the prime motivator for many pulp characters. You also see it where pulp intersects film noir, but serious legal risk prevented filmmakers of the ’40s and ’50s from exploring the themes deeply. The pulp influenced literature of the ’50s, and the films of the ’60s pushed the envelope more, but were still constrained by censors.
Around the time Grant was making her debut in porn in 1982, directors en masse were beginning to rework pulp and film classics into thrillers with sex centrally placed. 1981's Body Heat and The Postman Always Rings Twice, 1982's I, the Jury and Cat People, 1984's Against All Odds, and 1987's No Way Out, are just a few examples. The trend continued through 1990's The Grifters, 1994's The Getaway, and beyond, with all these films making clear what was only hinted in source material dating back to the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s—guys will go to almost any length for sex. For real world proof of that, scroll down to yesterday's Barcelona orgy story. But usually it isn't just sex that gets fictional males in trouble—it's amazing sex. If it were just vanilla sex they wouldn't lie, cheat, steal, and murder. No, it's sex that blew their fuses. So that thread weaves neatly into porn, because porn was designed to implant concepts of sex that average people had never experienced—even if the experiences shown were not reality, but something more like performance art. Grant was one of the art's most popular practitioners. And she fits with our ideas about pulp for another reason too—she's freighted with pulp-like tragedy due to dying early via suicide today in 1984, two days after shooting herself in the head. We have a couple of other Grant items that might interest you, here and here.
Master of all he surveys.
We wanted to do a small post on Kirk Douglas, who died yesterday at the astonishing age of 103, but we took time to look around for a unique photo. This shot shows him in one of our favorite cities, Donostia-San Sebastian, standing atop Igeldo (or Igueldo), one of the seaside town's several large hills. He's looking toward the Bahia de la Concha with the Torreón de Monte Igueldo at his back. It's a majestic shot, fitting for such an icon, far better than showing him greased up as Spartacus, in our opinion. It was made in 1958 when he was attending the sixth Zinemaldia, aka the San Sebastián Film Festival, which was showing his film The Vikings. We don't generally do posts on Hollywood deaths. Why? Because there are so many. Anyone who loves vintage film knows that significant performers, writers, and directors are dying regularly, and we don't want Pulp Intl. to become an obituary roll. But for Kirk Douglas, one of film's all time greats, a consummate actor, an indispensable film noir bad guy, all the rules must be broken. See another max cool image here.
Albert Camus' fatal 1960 auto accident may have been a KGB assassination.
Italian author Giovanni Catelli has just published a book that claims French writer Albert Camus was assassinated by the KGB, rather than dying in an auto accident, as largely believed. When you say the words “Cold War intrigue,” we're all in, so the story caught our eye. Catelli's theory, which he first began airing in 2011, is that the KGB silenced Camus because he was a globally famous figure who made a habit of criticizing the Soviet Union. The order was allegedly given by Dmitri Shepilov, the USSR’s minister of internal affairs, after Camus slammed him in the French newspaper Franc-Tireur in March 1957. Camus died in 1960, so the killing took three years to come to fruition, according to Catelli.
His book length argument, La mort de Camus, is getting white hot press right now, however it's very interesting to look back at contemporary articles about the crash. Camus was riding as a passenger in a car driven by his publisher Michel Gallimard, with Gallimard's wife Janine and their daughter Anne in the rear seat. Michel Gallimard died, but his wife and daughter survived to describe the crash. Michel was driving fast and had been told to slow down, and had drunk wine at dinner.
A gander at the wreckage of the heavy Farcel Vega HK500 attests to its speed. We checked the various articles popping up online and found none that mentioned either the velocity of the car or the drinking of the driver, but that's how the internet works—a fantastic claim circles the world five times faster than anything resembling balance or a fact check.
Catelli, though, has an answer for the reckless driving theory—the Soviets had attached a device to the car that would puncture a tire only in the event of sufficient speed. If the Soviets came up with the device described, it would not kick in without the added ingredient of driver haste, which often happens in conjunction with alcohol consumption, which in turn is a near certainty when talking about French people, all of which means the chances of a crash with muddied circumstances were pretty high. The device, if it ever existed, was certainly clever. It would be like a device that tied your shoelaces together, but only if you went downstairs in a rush, and you happened to live in a fourth floor flat with a balky elevator.
Catelli's belief that Camus was disposed of via assassination is bolstered by the fact that the car he was riding in somehow careened off a stretch of straight road thirty feet wide. Nobody described Michel Gallimard trying to dodge a hedgehog or pothole, so despite speed and possible drunkenness, some unforeseen factor seems required to send the vehicle into the weeds. On the other hand, three years is a long time to enact a death plot. We've seen Yankees and Red Sox fans patch their shit up in less time. But let's move this death from the settled bin into the mysterious bin, which is where we like everything to be anyway. Camus, the famed absurdist, once wrote that, “There can be nothing more absurd than to die in a car accident.” And if Catelli is correct, nothing can be more convenient either.
Don't let my title fool you. I'm not here to play and I'm definitely not about to mate with you.
This rare shot shows Playboy Playmate of the Year and actress Claudia Jennings in danger mode, a facet of herself she showed quite often in her various gun toting roles in b-movies, including Deathsport, The Great Texas Dynamite Chase, and 'Gator Bait. This is from 1969.
Forget it, Jake. It's Tinseltown.
We were poking around the architecture forum skyscraperpage.com and ran across this interesting photo of a billboard advertising the film Chinatown. This was located in Los Angeles at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Marmont Lane, and as you can see it touts the opening of the film today in 1974. We lived on the west side of L.A. for four years, and used to pass this spot occasionally. Marmont Lane winds to the right toward the famed Chateau Marmont Hotel, where luminaries such as Howard Hughes, Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean once made the scene, and a couple met their ends, including Helmut Newton and John Belushi.
We knew the intersection was one of the city's most important billboard spots and wondered what else had been advertised there. So we had a look. We expected to find an assortment of examples, but it turns out the locale was so coveted a relative few companies monopolized it. The first was the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas, which erected a sign there in 1957, complete with a rotating showgirl and an illuminated marquee listing the headlining acts.
The sheer novelty of the sign helped establish the heavily trafficked intersection as one of L.A.'s go-to spots for promotion, and the sign itself became a landmark. In fact, in 1961 Jayne Mansfield unveiled a Rocky and Bullwinkle statue across the street that was inspired by the Sahara showgirl. It was commissioned by Jay Ward, producer of the television series Rocky and His Friends, for the opening of his office complex.
After the Sahara moved on in 1966 the location was divided into two-tiered advertising. For almost three decades the iconic Marlboro Man towered above the intersection on the higher billboard, first on a horse, and later sans mount. During the time Chinatown was advertised Mr. Marlboro was standing vigil above. The lower location hosted ads for Stroh's and numerous other products, but was a particularly popular home for movie billboards. We found shots of billboards for Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Black Sunday, and other popular films of the 1970s.
Tens of thousands of billboards dot the Los Angeles landscape, especially around Hollywood. An uptick of political billboards has some Angelenos considering whether these objects are more akin to visual pollution. They're already illegal in entire U.S. states, including Hawaii and Maine. We always thought they further cluttered an already chaotic landscape, but we imagine they will survive in Los Angeles longer than almost anywhere else in the U.S. Tinseltown is a place where you don't get people's attention unless you scream for it. Nothing screams better than a well placed billboard.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
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.
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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