Modern Pulp Feb 8 2010
CRUISE CONTROL
Pacino's violent thriller tells us that sometimes playing a role involves finding out who you really are.

We just saw this movie for the first time a few months ago and it falls squarely into the category: could-not-be-made-today. That doesn’t automatically make it good, but it just so happens this is a pretty good flick. You’ve got a young, intense Al Pacino, noirish direction from William Friedkin of Exorcist fame, and a story focused on sex, drugs, and violence. Basically, Pacino plays a cop who goes undercover in New York City’s gay BDSM subculture. He’s looking for a killer, which requires him to play the role of an available, leather-clad party boy. But there’s deep cover, and then there’s deep cover. When you cross the line trouble always results. The art above comes from a promotional pamphlet, and it conveys the mood of the film quite nicely. We recommend it, with a reservation—if you’re progressive-minded, you’ll probably hate it. But you know that going in. Whenever Hollywood portrays a so-called subculture for a genre flick, it’s an affront to those being portrayed, whether gay, Chinese, black, female, religious, Texan, environmentalist, Iraqi, or what have you. Could Hollywood make films that portrayed all these segments of society in only positive terms? Sure, but who’d go see them? So bring on the action, and we’ll deal with the caricatures by agreeing that they’re just living cartoons, designed to offer some thrills and chills. Cruising premiered in the U.S. today in 1980. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 22 2010
PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
The shape of men to come.

Assorted Tomorrow’s Man pocket-sized magazines, circa 1950s and 1960s. TM is part of a group of mid-century physique or bodybuilding magazines often described as beefcake publications, which is to say it was either expressly produced for, or happened to appeal to a mainly gay clientele. During the late 1960s, when fully nude male bodies became legal to publish, TM declined, along with similarly-themed magazines like Vim, Adonis, and Body Beautiful. On a side note, one of the pulp era’s greatest illustrators George Quaintance was able to gain an audience for his work by painting covers for beefcake magazines. You can see some of those pieces here. 

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Modern Pulp Sep 19 2009
GLBT OR NOT GLBT
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

Here’s a little piece of modern pulp we found in a bar in Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain. We had just finished a round of tasty apple-flavored shots, and there it was on the bartop at a place called Akerbeltz. The magazine is called Gehitu, and it’s published by a GLBT rights organization based in Northern Spain. The magazine is nicely put together, promotes a cause we respect, and is filled with events information, but what interests us most is their usage of an iconic photo of Ursula Andress, who they’ve given winglike appendages and depicted as wounded but unbowed. If we assume this is a visual reference to Hamlet’s famous “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy, then it’s a poignant and clever rebranding. Since we started this website we’ve discovered that small magazines, flyers and pamphlets are goldmines of pulp styled art. In those media we tend to find creators who truly get what pulp is about. We’ve been picking up these bits and pieces, and with today’s post have shared one of our many finds. We’ll have more for you down the line.     

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Vintage Pulp Aug 11 2009
HARD SELL
Yep, this little baby has settings for suck and blow.

Some of the old pulps were suggestive—others figured why merely suggest when it’s so much more fun to grab the reader by the crotch. The cover of J.X. Williams’ Extra-Duty Wife is groin-level Freudian clownery that approaches sleazy perfection. And author J.X. Williams is a personage—or perhaps we should say creation—of some interest. About a hundred schlock and gay pulp novels appeared under his name, and he also seemingly directed such underground films as Psych-Burn, Peep Show, Satan Claus, and Virgin Sacrifice. The question of whether he actually exists is one we’ll tackle at another juncture. More J.X. Williams items below.

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Vintage Pulp Jul 15 2009
BLONDE AMBITION
Their eyes were watching bod.

We love this cover for Anita Loos’ 1925 novel of ambition and materialism Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Brilliantly rendered by Earle Bergey, the so-called gentlemen here are leering caricatures evincing monstrous thirst for the beautiful young blonde. The book became a bestseller, and twenty-three years later a film with Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell. The book’s cover image helped establish Bergey’s reputation as an illustrator without peer, and more than eighty years later it’s one of the most common pulp images on the internet. As a bonus we’ve posted one of his Gay Book Magazine covers below, and you can see it sports an identical motif. In addition, below that, we have the American poster for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, because the film opened in the U.S. today in 1958. We’ll post more Bergey art later, and also talk about Anita Loos, who lived a turbulent, thoroughly pulp-worthy life.

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Intl. Notebook Jun 17 2009
THE FORBIDDEN DANCE
Rudolph Nureyev’s defection from the Soviet Union fascinated the world—and changed his life forever.

One of the more interesting pulp events of the 1960s occurred when a little-known ballet dancer named Rudolph Nureyev broke away from two Russian guards at Le Bourget airport in Paris and dashed through a security station shouting in English, “I want to be free!” His sprint into Western arms made him internationally known, rocked the dance world, and strained relations between the Soviet Union and France. It was one of the first high-profile defections, and the inside story had all the pulp elements we love best—secret romance, political intrigue, lots of headlines, and a fascinating personality at the heart of it all.

For three weeks prior Nureyev had been performing in Paris with his troupe, the Leningrad Kirov Ballet, and in his off hours enjoying the City of Light with society friends. News of these associations had filtered back to Moscow and, concerned, Soviet authorities decided to summon Nureyev back to the motherland for a chat. For two weeks they had trying to get him sent home, but Kirov directors and the Soviet embassy in Paris had been deliberately unhelpful. Finally, on the day the Kirov was supposed to board a flight to London for the next leg of their tour, two Soviet security guards intercepted Nureyev and told him he was wanted in Moscow. His dash for freedom minutes later set off a chain of events that would end with him receiving asylum in France.

Most assumed Nureyev had been thinking of defection for quite a while, but Soviet records declassified in the late 90s suggest he planned to return home. There were rumors he had fallen in love with a beautiful Chilean heiress named Clara Saint—in fact, this story was reported in much of the Western press—but in reality Nureyev was gay and had been seriously involved with a male dancer from Leningrad named Taja Kremke. It was Kremke who convinced Nureyev his talent would never flourish in the Soviet Union, but still, left to continue his tour with the Kirov, Nureyev likely would have flown home at its completion. Despite his general unhappiness, it seems to be the actual arrival of the security guards that triggered his defection. When the guards appeared he immediately knew he was in deep trouble and feared returning to Moscow meant he would not be allowed to dance anymore.

News of the defection broke huge. The West gleefully used it deride the Soviets, who had been riding high on the triumph of sending the first human into space two months earlier. Soon the Clara Saint story began to be widely reported. But it soon became obvious neither politics nor love had been the primary trigger of the event, but a burning desire to dance and live unhindered. Nureyev got his wish—residing in the West he expanded his dance repertoire and acted in motion pictures. He also tookadvantage of his more permissive surroundings by pursuing relationships with famous men such as Tab Hunter, Eric Bruhn, and Anthony Perkins, and by posing for a very famous set of nude photos exposing his celebrated endowment. But he lost almost as much as he gained—he was completely cut off from his family back in Russia, and didn’t see his mother again until she was dying. Nureyev himself began to die from AIDS around 1990, and finally succumbed January 6, 1993. He was perhaps the greatest ballet dancer of the twentieth century, and the event that forever changed his life happened today in 1961.  

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Vintage Pulp May 9 2009
GUIDED MUSCLE
Only the strong connive.


The novel Muscle Boy appeared in 1958, courtesy of author Bud Clifton, aka David Derek Stacton, and concerns a nineteen year-old bodybuilder who gets involved with a shady photographer. The photographer sells racy pix to private customers and, as we all know quite well, when photographs are involved (see the previous post) trouble is sure to follow. The story was inspired by an actual crime ring based in San Francisco, but Clifton transplanted the action to Muscle Beach and populated it with an assortment of flamboyant party boys and hustlers. The book sold well, and today it’s a bit of an underground classic, which probably explains why we saw it on Amazon for $80. We love a trashy tale, especially when it comes with Robert Maguire art like this one, but what’s the point spending that much to read about bad decisions, humiliation and regret when we can live those things ourselves simply by putting the same amount of money into alcohol? We’re nothing if not logical around here.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 11 2009
FRIENDLY SKIES
We'd like to introduce you to some old Quaintances.


This stylized cover painting of bodybuilder and actor Steve Reeves, as well as the covers below, were painted by the late George Quaintance, who was a pioneer of male physique art during the 1950s. Quaintance's work was considered "beefcake" art, and appeared mainly on bodybuilding magazines. He never had an official gallery showing, for the obvious reason that mid-twentieth century America would not have tolerated public display of his Greek god figures with their prominent bulges. But he earned a measure of cult fame anyway, and undoubtedly must have gotten a real charge out of expressing his sexuality right under the noses of the establishment. You can see more of his stunning pieces here.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 14 2009
ROMANCE LANGUAGE
Pulps for women found a major market in the U.S.


Pictured below, you see assorted romance pulps from the 1930s and 1940s. These did quite well during the golden age of pulp, and in fact, Ranch Romances was among the last true pulp magazines published, appearing on newsstands until the 1960s. The people who painted these covers remain mostly unknown, but these are some representative examples of the art.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 09
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
December 08
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
December 07
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
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japanese themed aslan cover
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