Intl. Notebook | Sex Files May 21 2024
INFORMERLY KNOWN AS
The paper that never published a truthful word.


Speaking of gonzo newspapers, here's an issue of National Informer published today in 1972, with its “truthful news of all the facts of life.” That in itself is a higher level of satire than yesterday's competitor Rampage ever managed. This issue of Informer is all sex, with wonder pills, wonder drugs, hookers, and bedroom variations galore, including dominant women—and men whose egos can't handle it. There's a photo of a model captioned: “If you want your little to girl to grow up to be a big girl don't let her start taking birth control until seventeen.” We had to read it twice. Is that some sort of incest quip? There's nothing these tabloid editors wouldn't print.

Informer also once more welcomes resident seer Mark Travis. We remember when he took over for the (not so) Great Criswell. Of the two, we liked Criswell better. Plus he had a better handle. Travis predicts the rise of disposable clothing, a massive outpouring of U.S. budget on artificial lakes, and a sudden trend of home rifle ranges. These seers were early versions of modern day cable pundits—they could constantly be wrong and still keep their jobs. But once we accept these papers as satire, then it's clear that the predictions were supposed to be wrong. It's excellent work if you can get it. Twenty-plus scans below.
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Intl. Notebook | Sex Files May 20 2024
SLURPING BEAUTIES
They slurp, you slurp, we all slurp in Rampage.

It's always fun to see which direction Rampage goes in each ridiculous centerspread, and in an issue published today in 1973 they highlight a mother and daughter who lick houseguests. This stuff is priceless. It's reported by “Karl Peabody,” who visits a Los Angeles businessman who runs his home "Burmese style," whatever that is, with a compliant wife and daughter required to entertain guests. Soon comes the licking, and we bet you can guess which part of this pseudonymous reporter gets licked. Rampage claims on its front cover that it's America's “top satire and humor weekly.” We're not so sure about the humor part of the formula, but the satire is certainly there.

We often wonder why people who bought Rampage didn't just go full porn and buy Playboy or whatever. But maybe Rampage and its ilk were displayed more openly at newsstands, and possibly as checkout line items in drugstores and the like, leading to impulse purchases. We figure the average buyer would read the paper twice—once out of curiosity, and again to make sure it was as dumb as it seemed the first time. With tens of millions of newsstand browsers every week, even a miniscule purchase rate would probably keep a tabloid afloat. Of course, we've bought dozens of these gonzo newspapers, so who are we to talk? Therefore we humbly submit for your perusal a selection of choice Rampage imagery.
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Intl. Notebook May 11 2024
ASKED BUT NOT ANSWERED
Enquiring minds want to know, but people can't always get what they want.


Tabloids are our thing. We've talked quite a bit about how influential they were during the 1950s. Apparently, considering the revelation that a recent presidential candidate depended upon one to catch and kill stories that could harm his campaign, they still are. This National Enquirer hit newsstands today in 1958. The cover has a rare shot of Ireland born actress Maureen O'Hara, who says she doesn't have a lot offer but wants a man around the house. She had plenty to offer, but she'd been divorced for around five years, so the headline makes sense. We'd have bought this but some joker wanted eighty bucks for it, which made milk come out our noses, we laughed so hard. We generally get our tabloids for fifteen, and the ones we choose are usually far more colorful than this early-period Enquirer.

We wonder if the ask was so high due to the paper's current newsworthiness. The whole situation is interesting, because unlike old top-tier tabloids like Confidential and Whisper that often uncovered inconvenient truths, the newer interations generally just make everything up, which places them closer to satire than news. Even so, tabloids remain the traditional last stop for people wanting to sell sensational stories, but who've been turned away by more ethical publications, which means facts occasionally land on tabloid editors' desks. Former Enquirer head David Pecker understood that, has testified during the ongoing Donald Trump hush money/finance disclosure trial that he expected it to happen, and, as it turns out, he was correct in spades.

Politics is a dirty business, but politicians are generally pretty square. Enquirer wouldn't have found itself in a position to help 95% of them, but for a serial cheat and swindler like Donald Trump (fact, not opinion), whose flaws have been famously described as “fractal” (i.e. inside his flaws are more flaws, ad infinitum into bottomless, kaleidoscopic eternity), Enquirer was uniquely able to weight the electoral scales. Pecker must have felt a tremendous sense of power. We would have. The politics-journalism nexus hinges upon access, and having access in D.C—basically being an insider—is like being an insider in Hollywood, but with the added heady sensation of being in the center of world-shaping events. It must really be something to have the president's ear.

We'd give a lot to have been in some of those Enquirer interview sessions, especially the Karen McDougal ones. A year after McDougal was made Playmate of the Year, PSGP (one of your two Pulp boys) started as a temporary hire at Playboy Entertainment Group and rose to have an office and a staff, before chucking it and running away to Guatemala. So there's a six degrees of separation aspect to it for him. It's a shame Enquirer killed McDougal's and Stormy Daniels' stories. Tabloids are part of the dark underbelly of U.S. culture. They've always catered to prurient interests. And reveled in it. But hiding prurience? That's low. In a rational world that would cost Enquirer the actual designation “tabloid.” We'll talk to the National Association for Tabloid Oversight (the other NATO) about that. Oh right—it doesn't exist. Well, it should.

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Vintage Pulp Apr 19 2024
REST UNEASY
When there's a killer on the loose you'd better sleep with one eye open.


This poster for While the City Sleeps doesn't impress with masterly art the way so many vintage promos do, but its simplicity is, in an oblique sort of way, we think, meant to echo tabloid covers from the era. RKO made a special poster in collaboration with Confidential magazine, which you'll see below. The movie's plot is pure tabloid fodder. A serial killer has slain women in New York City, leaving the cryptic message “Ask mother,” written on the walls of one murder scene. Vincent Price, owner of Kyne News Service, part of a media empire comprising ten newspapers, a wire service, and other interests, offers the position of executive director to three employees in order to draw them into cutthroat competition with each other. Soon it becomes clear that finding the identity of the “lipstick killer” is the winning move. Intrigue and subterfuge take over the office. Everyone gets involved, from senior editors to stringers to gossip columnist Ida Lupino, but the killer is too clever to be caught.

At least until intrepid Pulitzer Prize winning television reporter Dana Andrews airs a scornful and taunting broadcast, deliberately setting up his own fiancée as bait. He doesn't even ask her permission. Well, he does, but only after arranging to publish their engagement announcement in the New York Sentinel right next to a story about the killer. Reckless? Yes. Presumptuous? For sure. There are intertwined plotlines here, but Andrews using his true love as a lure was the most interesting aspect for us. He isn't the only heel on display. The movie is ostensibly about a serial killer, but is really a framework for exposing backbiting and cynical ambition in the big city. Director Fritz Lang, in what was his penultimate U.S. film, explores the cruel banality of what, these days, some call “hustle culture,” and brings the production to a conclusion that's, in the words of Thomas Mitchell's character, “Neat, but nasty.” Our words are: a mandatory watch. While the City Sleeps had a special world premiere today in 1956.
Edit: Vintage movies are excellent windows into bygone customs and practices. There's a great moment in this one. Rhonda Fleming and James Craig are chatting in her apartment late one night when the doorbell unexpectedly buzzes. They look at each other confused for a second, then Fleming says, “It's probably the drugstore. That was the last bottle of Scotch.”

You know, there were a lot of things wrong with the mid-century era. But there were a few things right too. Getting the all-night drugstore to deliver booze has to be one of the most right things we've ever heard of, so we give thanks to While the City Drinks—er Sleeps—for clueing us in, and suggest you call your congressional rep immediately and ask for a law allowing pharmacies to deliver alcohol. If not for yourself, do it for the children. 
 
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Hollywoodland Dec 23 2023
BOND RESTRUCTURING
Diamonds are forever, but Connery wasn’t.

Sean Connery made as many appearances in sixties and seventies tabloids as just about any celeb of his time period, so here he is again in an article promoting his role in Diamonds Are Forever, which would premiere just a couple of weeks after this December 1971 National Police Gazette hit newsstands. we talked a bit about the source novel for the film, and author Ian Fleming's troubles with his publishers. It's interesting, so check here if you wish.

In Gazette, Connery speaks of his futile struggle to portray James Bond as a balding hero, and quips about making his stylist thin his wigs so there was almost no point in wearing them at all. Connery said about Bond’s aging, “No one is immortal—not me, not you, and not James Bond.” It was a commendable sentiment, but naïve. Seems as though Connery didn’t realize United Artists had already branded Bond well beyond the point where the character was tethered to any concept of aging.

The studio proved that when it brought the much younger Roger Moore on the scene for 1973’s Live and Let Die. Moore would later give way to Dalton, who gave way to Brosnan, who gave way to Craig, as Bond himself remained eternally forty-ish through the passing years. Elsewhere in the Gazette you get a report on the hash capital of the world, the world’s greatest racing systems, and the usual assortment of random beauties in bathing suits. All that, plus hashish toasted cheese, below.

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Hollywoodland Jul 31 2023
NOT SO LOUD
Shhh! Character assassination in progress.

Above are some scans from an issue of the tabloid Whisper published this month in 1963. We've shared hundreds of tabloids over the years, and we always marvel at them. How would you describe the compulsive need to know what's going on in other people's lives? Is it a from of comparison? Is it schadenfreude? Is it envy? The American Psychological Association calls it natural behavior stemming from the fact that humans are social animals curious about what's going on around them. It's why, according to the APA, we gossip about friends and neighbors.

Your first thought, in terms of tabloids, might be that celebrities are neither friends nor neighbors. However, the headshrinkers tell us they are. People create parasocial relationships with celebrities, and thus the same dynamic exists. And nobody is immune. Condescending remarks about celebrity gossip are liable to come from people inordinately involved with their favorite baseball player, acclaimed author, or television talking head. Some people let celebrity fashionistas suggest what they should wear, while others who consider themselves above such silliness let television pundits tell them who to hate.

We find mid-century tabloids incredibly interesting, even if everybody being gossiped about is long departed. The robust sales of tabloids on auction sites seems to confirm that we aren't alone. In this issue Whisper digs dirt on numerous titans of celebritydom—Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Audrey Hepburn, Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin, and others. Editors also let their bigot flags fly by predicting “one of the most sinister trends in history—an organized homosexual drive” to take over the U.S. That one still sells in some quarters. We'll have more from Whisper soon.

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Intl. Notebook Jun 24 2023
MAN TO WOMAN
The more things change the more they stay the same.


Reading old magazines has helped teach us that things have not changed as much as some people would like you to believe. This issue of Man to Man hit newsstands this month in 1957. We've now seen trans stories in nine mid-century publications, and keep in mind we've not seen even a fraction of a percent of all the magazines ever published. The person under the spotlight this time is Abdel Ibrahim, and Man to Man editors say about him merely that he's “changing from a man into a woman,” and, “he's in an Egyptian hospital for an operation designed to help.”

This dispassionate tone has been the norm, from what we've seen, and shows yet again how the process of creating hysterical prejudice works. First, you train people to believe something unprecedented is occurring, then you frame that as a threat to people's “way of life.” But these old tabs serve as an inconvenient truth—sex reassignments have been around for quite a while, and before then, men who passed or attempted to pass as women go back into the depths of history.

During the mid-century era many trans people became national or international celebrities, from Coccinelle to Christine Jorgensen to Ajita Wilson. The knowledge of transexuals was so mainstream that the top-selling tabloid Whisper even published a 1965 story titled, “A Doctor Answers What Everyone Wants To Know About Sex Change Operations,” with the key word in that header—everyone—suggesting that the dominant reaction socially speaking was neither anger nor fear.

Elsewhere in Man to Man you get Zsa Zsa Gabor, including in one photo that looks familiar, sex myths of 1957, motel peepers, war, crime, fiction, a bit of nudism, and a bit of burlesque. You also get two pieces of art from popular illustrator Mark Schneider, who we've highlighted before. He mainly worked for Sir! magazine. We put together a collection of his covers for that publication which you can see here. You can also see three more issues of Man to Man by clicking its keywords below and scrolling down.
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Intl. Notebook May 18 2023
READ AND LEARN
What you learn won't be correct, but it'll at least be stimulating.


We have more tabloidy goodness for you with an issue of the venerable National Informer Reader published today in 1975. Inside is the expected sex advice and investigatory smut, but what's interesting is that by this point Reader was growing more gender inclusive by publishing photos of nude men, particularly in its personal ads section. There are about eight pages but we'll spare you most of them—neither the men nor women are what you'd call model types. But we've shared the guys from the interior stories. We even zoomed on a couple. It's only fair, considering all the naked women this publication has provided over the years. Macho-sensitives be forewarned—swinging dicks below. Even with its forays into male nudity and lesbianism, however, Reader was still mainly a heterosexual men's tabloid. Where else would you find a banner: “Do You Lust for Your Neighbor's Snatch”? We have only a few more issues to share, and while we could restock, we'll probably move on to new brands. There's no shortage of them to choose from. Twenty scans below.

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Intl. Notebook May 8 2023
RUFF AROUND THE EDGES
National Bulletin's fake cover story was unconscionable even in 1972.


This issue of National Bulletin published today in 1972 features a cover touting rapists going on strike. Do we have any doubt that this sprang from the brows of middle-aged editors with smoker's coughs, fallen arches, and no dates? As we've documented before, cheapie tabloids often trafficked in such imaginary stories. This one is akin to comedy—unamusing, tone-deaf comedy. The gist is that the head of RUFF—the Rapist's Union for Fun and Frolics—says raping women isn't fun anymore because they're too liberated and actually enjoy it. It would have been crude already in 1972 (that's why the editors did it), but these days such sentiments send a cringe through the deepest recesses of your body. The honchos at National Bulletin would, of course, say they're just riffing, yet the fact that the idea was considered by them to be viable as humor still says so much. And what it says isn't good.

So why share such items? Well, we're mainly interested in the art and graphics of old paperbacks and movie posters, and the rare photos of celebrities found in period tabloids. There are starphotos in these publications that literally don't exist online until we upload them. As lovers of old Hollywood, it's mandatory that we do so. But also, in our view, it's important to document vintage social attitudes. And here's why—after enough time passes it's easy for bad faith entities to pretend such beliefs never existed. Sharing these tabloids reminds us both of where we came from, and where we're going. In terms of promotional art and aesthetics, we believe we've ended up someplace worse than before—no matter how many book design awards are given to whichever Photoshopped covers of whatever year. Conversely, in terms of social development, we believe things are generally—despite an eddy of a few years or a decade here or there—improving.

So we're presented with divergent movement—trains traveling in opposite directions on parallel tracks during the mid-century era. On one track is excellent and commemorable visual content, and on the other is a set of social attitudes with which we tend to disagree. While it's true we could separate the art from its context, we think that's a bad practice. Many of the emails we've gotten from students, researchers, filmmakers, writers, and history buffs curious about these magazines indicate to us that without context, understanding the true characteristics of art is impossible. It'd be like looking at Picasso's “Guernica” without knowing there was such as thing as the Spanish Civil War. Yeah, it's still a great painting. But knowing its political genesis makes it more interesting. Knowledge is armor.

Bulletin moves on from the fictional rape story to offer up slightly less horrible fare in its other pages. Readers learn about lesbian communes, consensual bondage, prostitute conservationists, and sexually depraved athletes. Editors also tell readers Americans are losing the “sex race”—i.e. formerly virile men are becoming weak and impotent. If you're thinking you've heard similar masculine moaning on modern cable television, you'd be right, but the sad difference is that Bulletin's story is meant to be farce, whereas modern cable news is deadly serious about “feminization.” Accompanying the text is a photo of a woman taking the pants off a smiling wax figure of Richard Nixon. That is legitimately funny. We've enlarged it below. Feel free to spread that marvelous image far and wide. More tabloids to come.

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Intl. Notebook Feb 22 2023
PINK JOURNALISM
Police Gazette was a different shade of tabloid.


Above: scans from an issue of The National Police Gazette published this month in 1942. Back then the magazine averaged sixteen pages, which means you just saw everything except a few pages of advertisements. Gazette would later greatly increase its page count, lose its pink shade, and take on the outward appearance of a standard tabloid, but it always stood apart from Confidential, Whisper and other top scandal sheets because it was less focused on Hollywood. Instead, it saved space for boxing, baseball, horse racing, and burlesque. It was one of the longest lived magazines in the U.S., and you can track its evolution through more than seventy-five issues at our tabloid index at this link. Just click and scroll down to “Police Gazette.”

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
May 25
1938—Alicante Is Bombed
During the Spanish Civil War, a squadron of Italian bombers sent by fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to support the insurgent Spanish Nationalists, bombs the town of Alicante, killing more than three-hundred people. Although less remembered internationally than the infamous Nazi bombing of Guernica the previous year, the death toll in Alicante is similar, if not higher.
1977—Star Wars Opens
George Lucas's sci-fi epic Star Wars premiers in the Unites States to rave reviews and packed movie houses. Produced on a budget of $11 million, the film goes on to earn $460 million in the U.S. and $337 million overseas, while spawning a franchise that would eventually earn billions and make Lucas a Hollywood icon.
May 24
1930—Amy Johnson Flies from England to Australia
English aviatrix Amy Johnson lands in Darwin, Northern Territory, becoming the first woman to fly from England to Australia. She had departed from Croydon on May 5 and flown 11,000 miles to complete the feat. Her storied career ends in January 1941 when, while flying a secret mission for Britain, she either bails out into the Thames estuary and drowns, or is mistakenly shot down by British fighter planes. The facts of her death remain clouded today.
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