Human Auction, 1950

From the December 18, 1950 issue of Broadcasting Telecasting:

During two-hour talent show, men were put on block with auctioneer describing their qualifications. Offers of $5 to $35 were bid by telephone for their services to wash dishes, shine shoes, clean bird cages and many other tasks.

human-auction-1950

“Topknot Troubles”

If you collect vintage magazines and ephemera like I do, you know there’s nothing new under the sun. The celebrity names & faces change, there’s “modern” graphics and trends too. But the push on beauty and grooming products remains true. This little bit comes from Beauty On A Budget, a promotional piece for hair & beauty products (copyright 1957 The Gillette Co.). The illustrations may be period, and the kitschy-cute names too, but the tips on treating your hair problems are rather straight out of any beauty column today. Meet Harriet Haystack, Olivia Oilwell, Selma Snowfall, Cora Cornsilk, Barb Wire, and Delia Droop — “six sisters with vexing hair problems.”

beauty on a budget hair problems

Despite their hair problems, most if not all of the sisters must have gotten married as they all have different last names! Perhaps that’s because they were lucky smart enough to watch Gillette’s helpful film, a Toni Company’s color movie entitled Heads Up For Beauty. It included pointers from “famous beauty consultant” Carol Douglas — and those pointers helped Ann Watson “change from an unattractive girl into a radiant bride by improving her personal grooming.” One prays to the YouTube gods for someone to find and put this movie up online.

1957 beauty

Bettie Page & Other Paper Pinup Fantasies

There obviously some errors in the text — the misspelling of Bettie Page as “Betty Page” and frankly, I am completely lost in the description of this paper doll for playboys…

Vintage Bettie Page Paper Doll by Lou Magila 1954

However, this post is not about the text or even the fact that you almost expect one of the options to be a smooth Barbie-doll-esque image to make Bettie go bottomless; it’s about the art of Lou Magila.

Jim Linderman of Vintage Sleaze doesn’t like this artist — or at least the guys’ works. But I have to vehemently disagree.

As a woman, I often find the most real thing about a man’s fantasy is the image of a pinup or media babe inserted into some sketchy scenario. Like the pornos with the world’s luckiest pizza delivery dudes, the scene isn’t as important as just getting to the babe.

Yes, a lot of attention is being brought to the fact that the women in the photos do not even look like the women who posed for them; but the only thing faker than the photoshoped objects of desire are the scenes and situations in which men place the perfected images of women. Is there anything wrong with that? No; they are fantasies after all. (Expecting them to be real is another matter entirely, and one at the very definition of “sanity”.)

So what’s wrong with cartoons, illustrations, comics that capture that luscious and ludicrous point of view? There’s something rather charming about the obviously juvenile approach to just sticking the woman into the simple bare lines. It makes me feel like the artist was aware of how simplistic fantasies are. I don’t know Magila; maybe he was self aware, maybe not. But like a lot of art, you just look at it and get impressions. My impression is that this artist was aware.

Did Magila rip-off other artists? Maybe he or the publisher paid for the rights; maybe not. Maybe, like the altered artists, digital artists, bloggers,etc. of today, artist and publisher alike just figured if they had their hands on something that meant it was in the public domain. Or perhaps they felt that there were enough changes to defend Maglia’s work as derivative. So far, the answers to those intellectual property rights are as unclear as the artist’s level of awareness of the simplicity of male fantasies.

I hope Linderman continues to suss things out.

Dance, Ballerina, Dance (Remembering Kathy Keeton; Gone To Soon & Forgotten Even Faster)

Have you heard about the big Bob Guccione auction that’s being held today?If you haven’t, get over there and look now! This post will be waiting for you when you get back.

Among the erotic offerings from the estate of Penthouse founder, there are Kathy Keeton items up for auction. Who was Kathy Keeton? For starters, Keeton was Guccione’s longtime girlfriend and eventual wife. But she ought to be remembered for far more than that.

Bob Guccione And Kathy Keeton

Remembering Keeton just for her relationship with Guccione would be like simply dismissing Keeton for her beauty. True, Keeton, was beautiful; a ballerina who ended up on the burlesque stage stripping and with small parts in British B-movies, she was beautiful in face and form. But along with those attributes she was damned smart.

vintage nude topless Kathy Keeton Framed Photographic Portrait

Mother Of A Stripper

keeton Spy Who Came in from the Cold 1965

Kathy Keeton was one of the first women in magazine advertising sales. Sure, she was working for Penthouse; and that might upset a few women (then and now) who find all sexuality degrading to women. But at that time, there were few women in magazine publishing — other than Ms, of course. Keeton would help shape the future of Penthouse, especially the US edition, by directing the publication’s marketing efforts; she would co-found, write, and work for OMNI; run Viva: The International Magazine For Women; found a newsletter called Longevity which would become an international magazine; author books; as well as play a fundamental role in strategizing the long-term plans for the company, General Media Communications Inc., which published the magazines. Through it all, Ms. Keeton was noted for her leadership and advancement of women in publishing, including Anna Wintour (Vogue) and Nancy LeWinter (of Mode).

kathy keeton vintage ad for viva

More than a magazine publisher, Keeton knew media in general and was among the first to see the potential of what we now call digital media. She was instrumental in Penthouse’s move to video and, later, the Internet. As early as 1992, Keeton was onto something that many publishers today are struggling to get:

She dreams of eventually putting her magazines on disks. “Niche magazines are the future,” Keeton says. On the high-tech side, she adds: “Knowledge is a key commodity now. Publishers are sitting on a gold mine of software.”

At the time of her death in 1997, 58 year-old Keeton was both president and chief operating officer of General Media Communications Inc. and vice chairman of the holding company that oversaw the publishing arm, General Media International. This was in addition to not only battling breast cancer but the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as well. (Keeton wouldn’t die from cancer, but rather from complications during intestinal obstruction surgery.)

Since Penthouse would beat Playboy in sales (and, subjectively, in other areas as well), it’s a shame that Guccione doesn’t have a bigger name than Heffner; but worse still is how so many have forgotten about Kathy Keeton. Even the official Guccione Collection website has little about her.

I hope to do more research & writing on Keeton; until then, here’s a quick list of her films: Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (Man in a Cocked Hat in the US, starring Peter Sellers, 1959), Expresso Bongo (1959), Too Hot to Handle (released in the United States as Playgirl After Dark, starring Jayne Mansfield, 1960), and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (starring Richard Burton, 1965).

Kathy Keeton's Ballet Notebook

Kathy Keeton's Ballet Ephemera

Kathy Keeton's Ballet Notebook Journal

Looking Back At Vikki “The Back” Dougan (A Biography)

Collecting vintage smut, as I do, I know who Vikki Dougan is; but I’ve been surprised a number of times by both the lack of recognition this iconic beauty has and the lack of information about her. So, ever obsessed as usual, I set out to correct the situation.

Vikki Dougan: you may not recognize her from the front, but you likely recognize her backside — hence her nickname, “The Back”.

dougan signature cleft

In Persistent Pop (July 21, 1974), John Russel writes of how inspirational images of Vikki Dougan were to English pop artists:

A particular prominence was assigned, for instance, to ads which featured a young actress named Vikki Dougan. In memoirs of the period, individual ads featuring Miss Dougan are traced from house to house in ways that recall the hunt for a respectable provenance which plays so large a part in the authentication of Old Master paintings. Of an Esquire photograph of Miss Dougan, Richard Hamilton remembers: “I first saw it decorating a wall in [Alison and Peter] Smithson’s home. I gained my own copy from a student’s pinboard in the interior-design department of the Royal College of Art. Lawrence Alloway gave me the data on her; the photograph had impressed him sufficiently to make him regard it as a file-worthy document. It turned up again recently as one of a group of pin-ups in a painting by Peter Phillips.”

Her images were not only collected by English pop artists, but even inspired works, such as Richard Hamilton’s $he (1958-61).

$he 1958-61 by Richard Hamilton 1922-2011

This biography attempts to fill in some of the blanks about Vikki Dougan.

Before she earned the notorious nickname (and a plethora of puns), Vikki Dougan was born Edith Tooker in New York in 1929, to her parents Wilber and Mary (nee Dougan) Tooker. Legend says that in 1946, at the age of 16, she becomes both a Miss Rheingold finalist (but is disqualified for being underage) and the wife of a William Symons, the owner of a local photo studio.

Vikki’s big break came in 1948, when she (as Vikki Stappers Dougan) won the eighth annual New York Skate Queen competition. In promoting the ninth annual event, the following was mentioned in Billboard (April 2, 1949):

The purpose of the event, a joint promotion of Empire and The New York Journal-American, is to select an ideal girl roller skater and glorify her for a year. Judging will be based on charm, beauty and personality, with no points whatsoever for skating skill. Contestants must only appear on skates. …Professional skaters models and actresses are banned.

(Vikki, as Queen, and finalists followed up in 1949 by heading the “first ever” fashion show, sponsored by the Roller Skating Institute of America (RISA), in which they modeled “30 attractive rink costumes, loaned for he occasion by the Lence Company,” according to Billboard, March 1949.)

Winning the 1948 skating title would launch Vikki’s pretty face and figure into work as a model — and into gossip Walter Winchell‘s gossip columns, linked to DJ Art Ford. Note that in this 1948 “Look Pink” ad for cosmetic company Cutex, she is even credited — but as Vikkie Dougan, “New York model and prize-winning skater”.

1948 vikkie vikki dougan cutex ad

In 1949, Vikki Dougan the “’48 Beauty Queen of Figure Skating” is featured in a comic-strip-style ad for Camels cigarettes, meeting Betty Lytle, one of America’s top-ranking women’s roller skaters. (Skates would be sold with Lytle’s name.) This appears to be the last mention of Vikki Dougan the skater; probably to great relief of Lytle, Dougan, and everyone else.

1949 vikki dougan skater comic ad for camels cigs

All this attention unsettles her husband, Bill Symons. At some point after their daughter Debbie is born in 1950, he is said to have walked-out on their marriage. Dougan gets a divorce in Mexico and (per Winchell’s column in February of 1952) Vikki establishes residency in Florida while working as a cover girl at Ciro’s, in Miami Beach. Also about this time, she is signed to agent Louis Shurr.

vikki-dougan-in-sleepwear-fashion-photo-by-nina-leen-may-1952

Vikki Dougan Gleason Girls photo by Lisa Larsen 1953

In the October 26, 1953, issue of Life, Dougan appears not only on the cover, but in the feature article Careers Aplenty: Vikki Dougan models, acts, designs, mothers. In this article, Vikki is listed as 21 years old and is accompanied in the photographs by her three year old daughter, Debbie. The Life article lists Vikki as having started in modeling at age 13 (as Deirdre Tooker), studied at Betty Cashman studio, and appeared weekly in Jackie Gleason’s TV show — along with the clothes designing, mothering, etc. Life also mentions that Vikki “once caused a stir in fashion circles by using wigs to change her appearance and help her get more modeling jobs” — something also featured in Life (July 28, 1952).

life october 26 1953 dougan cover

LIFE Oct 26 1953 vikki dougan mother

LIFE July 28 1952 wigs

wigs page 2

March 29, 1954, Dorothy Kilgallen mentions Vikki Dougan in her column:

Vikkie Dougan, the pretty blond model who made such a hit with Frank Sinatra in Florida recently returned to New York to discover that thieves had cleaned out her apartment. They took her dresses, jewelry, mink coat… and black wig!

May 28, 1954, there are the gossip reports that Vikki, “the young model, who made the cover of Life recently” had posed as Miss General Electric earlier that day.

Flexees girdle lingerie ad 1955 Vikki Dougan

George Shearing Quintet Velvet Carpet  Capitol T720 dougan 1956

Dougan continues to model (including the 1955 Flexees lingerie ad and on the cover of the George Shearing Quintet’s Velvet Carpet LP), be seen on Gleason’s show — and be mentioned in the gossip columns. In 1956, it was rumored that Gordie Hormel asked her to marry him. She appears as a show girl in Back From Eternity. On April 27, 1956, Winchell On Broadyway reports that Vikki Dugan, “the ‘Away We Go’ gal with the Jackie Gleason show”, signed with MGM. Or did she? On December 21, 1956, Dorothy Kilgallen reports that Dougan “is the first girl to be signed to a Batjac (John Wayne) contract since Anita Ekberg was given her big opportunity.”

In January of 1957, there are reports that Dougan has a role in The Great Man. (She would play Marcia, the new receptionist.)

vikki dougan the great man promo feb 1957

March 29, 1957, Erskine Johnson‘s Hollywood Today column is titled Vikki Dougan Reverses Trend And Backs Into Film Career:

vikki dougan corpus christi times march 29 1957

February 13, 1957, Hedda Hopper reveals that she, Louells Parons, and Hub Keavy are to “pick Miss 8 Ball of 1957. The choice has narrowed to Venita Steenson, Carolyn Jones, Vikki Dougan, Kipp Hamilton, and Adrienne Alison, all beauties. But we’ve go to decide on one, O, dear.” Vikki Is New Ca-rear Girl In Hollywood, by Lee Belser, is so full of puns that they couldn’t publish this on April Fool’s Day and instead published it on April 2, 1957.

lee belser on vikki dougan in anderson herald bulletin april 2 1957

Through this time, Vikki “The Back” Dougan makes the rounds in men’s mags, including pictorials in the April 1957 issue of Nugget.

dougan in nugget april 1957

May 7, 1957: Hollywood gossip columnist Harrison Carroll reports that Vikki has been made queen of the California Chiropractic Association’s “Perfect Posture Week.”

In Clothes Make The Act — And The Actor (Oakland Tribune, May 19, 1957), Lloyd Shearer writes a piece that seems to be tailor made for getting The Back out of negative press. In his article, Shearer begins by discussing this “new trend in show business” whereby talent draws on fashion and “practically any female “name” can earn “5,000 a week and up if her attire clicks with the press.” The piece appropriately finishes with Vikki Dougan & her dresses, stating that it was Milton Weiss (Hollywood publicist who’d worked with Anita Ekberg) who was, umm, behind Dougan’s look.

His first move was to have three expensive dresses made for her — without backs. He then titled his client “The Back” and had her appear at previews and parties in her plunging creations. Soon local photographers zeroed in on Miss Dougan’s bare spinal column, and gagsters began originating such cracks as, “Vikki Dougan makes the best exits in town.”

Finally Vikki was banned from someone else’s preview party because her backless formal was drawing too much attention. The incident received proper press coverage. Today Vikkie — born Edith Tooker in Brooklyn — is riding toward fame on the strength of her clothes, what there is of them. It’s a trend, all right.

You might not want to put too much stock in that story tho; it changes, as you’ll soon see.

However, Dougan’s back does make a splash, landing her tail in the June 1957 (Vol. 4, Issue 6) of Playboy.

vikki dougan in playboy by sam baker

vikki dougan playboy june 1957 article

dougan wirephoto pictorial in playboy

As noted in that issue of Playboy, the photo that really started it all was a wirephoto which came from Dougan’s appearance at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s 1957 awards banquet. On July 10th of that year (some Old Guard Hollywood retaliation, perhaps?) Mike Connolly reported in his column, “New Hollywood game called True Or False: Guessing whether Vikkie Dougan got her idea for backless dresses from watching and old Marlon Brando movie…” (In reference to Sophia Loren in A Countess from Hong Kong.)

The Playboy feature was followed-up quickly by a pictorial in Esquire (August 1957).

vikkie dougan in esquire 1957

Around this time The Limeliters would record a song by Cal Grigsby (pseudonym for Malvina Reynolds and Lou Gottlieb) entitled Vikki Dougan, in which they sing of Vikki’s “callipygian cleft” and beg her to “turn your back on me”.

These photographs (undated, circa 1950s) taken by Life staff photographer Ralph Crane capture America’s love-hate with Vikki Dougan & her notorious backside.

disapproving of the back dougan life mag

vikki-dougan-photo-ralph-crane-life

vikki dougan life

ralph for life the back

Vikki the back Dougan vintage vikkie dougan in sheer black nightie Ralph Crane photo for Life vikkie dougan black nightie Ralph Crane photo vikki dougan black back

In October of that year, press for Hollywood Queens Of Tomorrow, including an AP photo — in which Vikki is not shown from the back:

Fifteen young actresses for whom stardom is predicted wait to go on stage in Hollywood Friday at the fifth annual Deb Star Ball, sponsored by the Hollywood Make-up and Hair Stylists. Several thousand movie people were in the audience at the Palladium. Left to right: Joan Blackman, Peggy Connolly, Patricia Craig, Vikki Ddougan, Dolores Hart, Diane Jergens, Barbara Lang, Ruta Lee, Jana Lund, Carol Lynley, Erin O’Brien, Joan Tabor, Joyce Taylor, Rebecca Welles and Gloria Winters.

hollywood queens of tomorrow deb ball october 12 1957

Ten days later, Vikki Backs In, Helps Maxie Promote Ice Cream Breakfast (by George Flowers, Independent-Press-Telegram, October 20, 1957).

vikki dougan backs in independent press telegram oct 20 1957

On the 21st of that month, Vikki the starlet appears at the annual Publicists’ Association Ballyhoo Ball. This is the famed party where Greta Thyssen had a cheetah on a leash, Joan Bradshaw brought a lion, and Errol Flynn and Maura FitzGibbons were arrested on drunk charges; Vikki “Lady Godiva” Dougan was on an artificial horse.

The November 1957 issue of Modern Man carries photos of Dougan (by David Sutton).

Vikki Dougan Photo by David Sutton  Modern Man November 1957

December 22, 1957, Dougan uses giant scissors for the ribbon-cutting opening of a Safeway Market in Tarzana.

vikki dougan opens grocery store van nuys valley news dec 22 1957

In 1958, Dougan attempts to change her image. It is noted; but still does not please. On March 24, 1958, Harrison Carroll accuses Dougan of wearing “a shapeless sack (looked like a nightgown) over a satin sheath.” On March 27, 1958, Vikki Dougan was reported to be at the Oscar Award Ceremonies — but still not pleasing anyone:

A bizarre note was added by eager starlet Vikki Dougan, who arrived in gaudy makeup and flapper costume.

Poor Vikki can’t win!

In his June 2, 1958, column, Earl Wilson asked Vikki “about the alleged practice of Hollywood gals calling guys for dates.”

“No, but suppose you’re going with an actor and you say after a premiere, ‘I’d like to go to Mocambo’ and he says, ‘But I can’t afford it.’ So you say, ‘I don’t want to embarrass you but couldn’t we go it I paid the bills?'”

It happened to her, she said, “and strangely enough, if men accept it, they resent it.” Vikki said she may be a sexbomb in the papers but she’s had three dates in a year. “The men you go with want to get married,” she added. “The trouble is, they never say when.”

Meanwhile, photos of her continue to circulate in the various men’s mags.

dougan Adam vol 2 no 12 1958

vikki dougan wet in lingerie

May 23, 1959, Harrison Carroll uncovers Dougan professional and relationship news.

If she listened to Lili St. Cyr‘s estranged husband, Ted Jordan, actress Vikki Dougan soon will be displaying even more epidermis than in those backless gowns that used to make Hollywood night clubbers gasp.

Jordan, who just started to date Vikki, tells me she would be great in a genteel strip act.

“She reminds me so much of Lili,” he says. “They have the same nose and mouth, the same beautifully arched back. Vikki is not quite as tall as Lili, but, otherwise, their measurements are about the same.

“And I heard Vikki sing. She’d really do great in night club work. I know the ropes and I could help her.”

I checked with Vikki. She’s not convinced, but she’s listening.

dougan carroll column may 23 1959

Despite roles in three other films (The Tunnel of Love, The Rebel Set, and Here Come the Jets), Vikki’s career clearly wasn’t moving forward enough. (As if the helpful offers from Jordan didn’t tell you that!)

Doris Day retrieving husband Richard Widmark from Vikki Dougan tunnel of love

The backslide was noticed.

In October of 1959, “Remember Vikki Dougan?” is the headline. Not only has she fallen out of the press, but apparently work of any kind. She, and her nine year-old daughter, have been living off a $40 weekly unemployment check for the past eight months.

remember vikki dougan ogdon standard examiner oct 25 1959

A similar article runs in November of that year, in which Dougan says the reason she wore a backless dress in the first place was to avoid posing “in bikinis and other cheesecake.”

backward dougan career independent press nov 15 1959

The ever-helpful Erskine Johnson’s got Dougan’s back again at the tail-end of January of 1960, allowing the actress to spin more tales about her notorious backside.

February 22, 1960, Vikki Dougan (misspelled “Vicki Dougan” in the photo caption) is one of the judges for the Miss Pasadena Contest.

miss pasadena indendent dougan judge may 27 1959

But then crickets chirp and Dougan disappears until August 28, 1960. Then photos of Vikki and former Texas Christian football player tuned actor, Jim Sweeney, appear over the AP and are widely picked up — primarily because he places the diamond engagement ring (along with a friendship ring) on the toe of her left foot. Days later, on September 3rd, she (as Edythe A. Tooker) marries James R. Sweeney; he’s 25, she’s 24.

ring proposal toe dougan

The Pacific Stars & Stripes reports that “Vikki Apparently Needs No Direction” on the set of Peter Gunn (The Candidate episode). (September 16, 1960; photo of Dougan with caption about her appearance on Peter Gunn from San Antonio Light, October 23, 1960.)

pacific stars and stripes sep 16 1960 vikki dougan peter gunn

san antonio light oct 23 1960 dougan gunn

Dougan appears in episodes of Michael Shayne (Murder Is a Fine Art) and Sea Hunt (Amigo) in March of 1961. But it’s rather silent, again, until November 20, 1961, when promo photos and pun-y lines about Dougan doing the twist at New York’s Peppermint Lounge appear.

november 20 1961 vikki dougan twister

On November 26, 1961, Walter Winchel reports that Vikki had “told chums she will sue Leo Guild for including her in his soon-due book Hollywood Screwballs which mentions Oscar Levant, Bing Crosby, F. Sinatra, and Jayne Mansfield, who aren’t suing.”

Earl Wilson’s December 1, 1961, column mentions that Vikki Dougan has “posed in a nightie on the subway for the cover of Subways Are For Sleeping.” (A Percy Faith LP.)

dougan subways are for sleeping

September 9, 1962, columnist Connolly quips, “Vikki Dougan, who used to pose in backless gowns, is slamming out a slim volume of verses to be titled “Purple Mud.” Vikki tells me it will be a backless book.” (If anyone show me a copy — or even prove it wasn’t just a joke, please do!)

Vikki appears once again in Playboy; this time the December 1962 issue, in “Playboy’s Other Girlfriends”. (She would also reappear in the January 1989 issue in “Women Of The Fifties”.)

dougan playboy december 1962

January 18, 1963 Vikki appears in Los Angeles court to divorce Sweeney, claiming he deserted her after going through her $10,000 savings. The divorce is granted and she accepts a $1 per month alimony.

On June 3, 1963, Earl Wilson reports that Vikki plans to open up a Hollywood barbershop for men.

“Remember Vikki Dougan, Hollywood’s gift to the world of backless dresses? She just signed for a feature role in Hootenanny at MGM,” reports Connolly on July 22, 1963. (She did appear in 1963’s Hootenanny Hoot.) But that didn’t pay the bills; August 11, 1963, Wilson says, “Backless Vikki Dougan now works for a cosmetic company.”

In its January 1964 issue, Cavalier runs a “The Back Is Back” pictorial which features 12 nude photos of Vikki Dougan. Dougan initiates a lawsuit against publisher Fawcett, stating that she posed nude for photos for Playboy, but later backed-out, and they did not have her permission to publish them.

dougan the back nude in january 1964 cavalier

There are a few scattered gossip “spottings,” but nothing much of note until February 22, 1967, when Harrison Carroll reports:

Despite the fact that she took along four wigs, my scouts spotted actress Vikki Dougan at a Houston prizefight with famed attorney Melvin Belli. And they looked just as affectionate as they did recently at Scandia. Can’t blame Melvin. Vikki is a beauty. Understand the two also were in Chicago together and visited Hugh Hefner.

Also in 1967, she would appear in Hotel. And there were reports Dougan, along Sugar Ray Robinson, was part of the cast of Tony Randall & Mickey Rooney’s Las Vegas rendition of The Odd Couple at Casear’s Palace.

In November of 1969, the Fawcett/Cavalier lawsuit is settled out of court. Vikki says the magazine paid her $75,000 to settle; Fawcett Publications, Inc., says it didn’t pay that much.

March 21, 1974, Earl Wilson’s It Happened Last Night column focused on “Shutterbug Respect” and mentions that Vikki Dougan (still haunted by her notorious back-side views) “has joined the profession.” (The profession of photographers, that is.)

And after that, Vikki Dougan seems lost — save for those who fell in love with her image. Along with inspiring pop art, Vikki and her sexy back would be the inspiration for Jessica Rabbit.

Here’s a 2009 interview with Dougan, in which she dishes about Jessica Rabbit and Sinatra:

I’d love to know more, so, if you know something — if you know Vikki! — please do share.

Desperate To Be Obscene

EBay seller LadiesOnFilm carries a large number of vintage risque and nude images from publishers of adult magazines from the 60’s through the 90’s. It’s rather clear that many of them are the unused outtakes; but then, I guess “outtakes” are in the mind of the viewer.

It’s funny how often the “bad” pictures seem more natural than the “good” pictures. I find this photo of Carol Newell (by Ron Vogel, 1968) charming. It’s how a woman sits on the stairs, relaxed, not worrying about the planes of her face and the contours of her body… There’s no arching of her back while pointing her toes. That’s how the real girl next door sits.

The women struggle to look natural in odd poses. While the props are often dated and hysterical, it’s the desperate poses for the sake of sexual puns which are far funnier. I can just hear the photographer saying, “That’s it, that’s it, baby. Now just crawl along the floor and choke that plaster snake statue…”

I’m not saying that no simply nude woman has ever taken a bad photo, but they are far more beautiful than those photographs which overreach — either in physicality or in attempts at innuendo.

How Masculine Or Feminine Are You?

A quiz straight out of 1948. I forced hubby to play along. We had identical answers; so, no surprise, our scores were the same, landing us both in the “mixed interests” grey area of the quiz. Which probably just means we are modern, non-stereotypical humans. You?

50 Shades Of Humiliating

Fifty Shades Magazine

When I spotted the cover of the Fifty Shades magazine leering at me from it’s in-your-face product positioning in the check-out lane at a local grocery store, I immediately broke out into a grin of disbelief. Here? In Fargo, North Dakota?! How utterly fabulous!

In a world where human sexuality is taboo — and women’s rights to have it is steadily shrinking, I was so giddy with the mere idea of the magazine sitting on display so blatantly, so defiantly, that I pounced on a copy. And unable to contain myself, I dared to speak aloud.

“I bet you’ve seen a lot of these leaving — and with old ladies like me,” I said to both the male cashier and the bag boy precisely at the moment the cashier was scanning the publication.

The cashier managed to avoid eye contact and comment via hyper-focus on his check-out duties. The bag boy, caught off guard, looked to see what I was speaking about as it was handed to him and he awkwardly, loudly, replied, “Umm, we must have just got these in; I haven’t seen them before now.” Followed by profuse blushing as his brain caught up with what his eyes were reading.

It was rather anticlimactic.

Even though I’m not sure what I was expecting or hoping for.

But if buying this magazine was anticlimactic, it was a major disappointment to read it.

Filled with pages of uncredited “articles” which were so bland it would make the much disliked and even hated Cosmo seem intelligent, Fifty Shades just left me feeling sad, yet again, about the sad state of magazines for women.

In Underwary, feminist platitudes serve to bolster mocking men — while focusing primarily on male pleasure: “It’s your body,” “Men don’t understand lingerie,” “He will blow it,” “Instead of letting him navigate the world of satin and lace all alone, surprise him and say you’re going shopping together. He’ll think you look great, you’ll feel great, and everyone will benefit. (But mostly him.)”

Oh, and don’t forget to exercise and diet too.

Because it’s important for women to focus on their appearance even during fantasies.

*heavy sigh*

Now, I’ve never ready any of the 50 Shades books, so as an ethical reviewer I can’t say anything about how “true” the magazine is to the “steamy series”. But that won’t stop me from having an opinion — an educated opinion — regarding the reaction to the books.

As a woman, I’ve not only taken a rather long road to my own personal sexual discoveries and satisfaction, but along the way I’ve uncovered and pondered our historical and cultural cues regarding sexuality — these being, largely, the reasons it was such a long road. And as a collector, I’ve been documenting this as a part of women’s history as well. The short story is that this whole Fifty Shades thing is not new. Not in terms of books; not in terms of shock and backlash either. We have a lot of dumb rules and taboos about gender and sex (NWS).

For those reasons, this Fifty Shades magazine will not be tossed out but rather saved as part of my collection. As will my scarlet letter “A”. (I got mine! Did you get yours?) The difference, obviously, is which one I believe in, like, admire…

The biggest question then is, do I leave some sort of notes about that so that my kids or future people know why I saved these things, what kind of person I was?

These Eyeglasses Look Upside Down – But They’re Not! (I Want!)

I found this Bert Stern photo of Kecia Nyman at Magdorable! — and fell in love with these glasses from 1965!

I’ve not been able to find anything like them, but I did find another scan of that Vogue issue (July 1965) which states the following:

More spectacles on the half-shell — with a switch that’s new to our eyes

…Worked out for the nearsighted, these clear the field of vision for all close work — reading, writing, gros- or petipoint — but provide quick accommodation for the distant objects that call for optical help.

They look upside down, but they’re not! And more than purely stylish, they solve problems; they’re like the reverse of the classic cheater readers.

I want — nay, I need a pair of these!

The article states that the frames are from the Fashion Eyewear Group of America. If you can help me find a pair, let me know!

Which Cat Is Your Wife?

A “fun little quiz” based on photographs of cats taken by Walter Chandoha — found in Every Woman’s magazine, October 1952. Which seems more than a little odd… Did “every woman” have a wife of their own in 1952?

Note that among the types, The Hypochondriac, The Indolent One, The Intellectual, etc., there is no The Sex Kitten. Too obvious, perhaps? So The Vamp, I guess, is the less obvious choice. Nor is there any The Purr-fect One.

Via, via.

Spin The Wheel, Land On Vera Francis

Who wouldn’t fall in love with a vintage roulette wheel of pinups?

The seller (Grapefruit Moon Gallery), says this in the item’s description (links added by me):

ITEM: You are bidding on a very rare vintage pin up photograph of African American 1955 Hollywood sensation, and later boulevard of broken dreams archetype Vera Francis and a number of other showgirls as a proverbial roulette wheel where every spin is a winner. Measures 8″ x 10″

We are happy to be offering examples from the archives of Vera Francis, who was called a Hollywood Tragedy after being blacklisted from the screen for allegedly selling stories to the scandalous tabloid Confidential, about the inappropriate behavior of her often white co-stars and superiors. But the real tragedy of her career is that despite appearing in movies throughout the early 50s and being splashed upon magazine covers (Jet and Ebony notably) for her breakthrough role in “The President’s Lady” a story about the interracial affairs of American president Andrew Jackson, her name isn’t even featured in imdb for many of her known parts. The combination of her outspoken role in civil rights (Lena Horne was her oft mentioned hero), her “loose talk” and the scarcity of roles for black actresses in the 1950s meant that she disappeared quickly from the scene. However, she retained a lot of her allure in African American theater communities, performing in touring productions throughout the 1950s and 1960s and appearing in cabarets and as a model and pitch woman.

I was intrigued…

According to the San Mateo Times (September 30, 1954), the photo isn’t a true movie still, but promotional photo for MGM’s film, The Prodigal, sent out on the AP.

Researchers working on “The Prodigal” discovered that beautiful girls were the stakes in a gambling game popular in ancient Damascus of about 70 B.C., and so this wheel of feminine fortune was incorporated in the movie now being made at M-G-M. The girls will wear Damascus costumes in the movie, but for this photo the studio dressed the beauties in modern swim suits. The girls, all from Southern California and all making their movie debuts are: (1) Nancy Chudacoff, (2) Alice Arzaumanian, (3) Jolene Burkin, (4) Bobbie White, (Barbara White, (6) Aen-Ling Chow, (7) Marion Ross, (8) Patrizia Magurao, (9) Marjory May, (10) Vera Francis, (11) Jeanette Miller, and (12) Sheela Fenton.

But who was Vera Francis?

In the Encyclopedia of African American Business: Volume 2, K-Z, Vera is a single line entry, listed among the “pioneer models” which drove the development of the Barbara Watson Charm and Model School. In Style and Status: Selling Beauty to African American Women, 1920-1975, she’s merely a “Los Angeles model” quoted along with a few other models quelling the fears of middle-class magazine readers, of the non-white variety, that “the image of models as reckless party girls with loose morals was much exaggerated.” Vera’s comment was “I always keep a regular job, it’s one sure way of staying out of trouble.”

What were Vera’s “regular” jobs? According to the September 25, 1952 issue of Jet magazine, which contains a profile of the young starlet, “Curvaceous Vera Francis, a Hollywood nurse and model, is the comely girl who will steal the affections of Susan Hayward’s husband in the forthcoming 20th Century-Fox film, The President’s Wife the life story of Mrs. Andrew Jackson. Best known for her magazine photo stints, Miss Francis is a Boston-born beauty who worked as a dental assistant and later a nurse for Jeanne Crain‘s children before getting a movie break.”

But sadly, there’s not much more known about Vera — despite the fact that, at least since 1952, Vera Francis was a staple on the covers (and pages between) of Jet, Hue, Sepia and other magazines for persons of color.

So, you know me, I obsessively set about researching Vera Francis, trying to create a biography…

However, I can’t honestly call this a biography; it’s more of a Vera Francs timeline at this point as most of what little (too little) I found is centered on gossip and one-line bits of info. However, given that Vera was a starlet, one can’t entirely ignore the gossip; that’s the only way one really finds more photos. In the Jet pages especially, you’ll see that Vera’s “loose talk” was probably based on some pretty hot action — along with movie talk and other gigs, there was plenty of gossip to rival the starlet’s “staying out of trouble.” Clearly, Vera was out and about, making the scene, hoping to make it in Hollywood.

[If you take these images to post elsewhere, please credit me with a link — I spent more hours than you want to know researching, scanning, cropping, editing this!]

The Vera Francis Timeline

The Daily Gleaner, Jamaica, April 11, 1935, Vera and Beryl Berth were arrested by Detective Hutchinson on a charge of selling ganja.

The Daily Gleaner, June 1, 1935, Vera Francis was “fined five pounds or two months hard labor for a breach of the Dangerous Drugs Law, to wit, selling ganja.” (No mention of Beryl.)

The Daily Gleaner, July 27, 1936, Miss Vera Francis is mentioned in a recital and is listed as being from Boston, U.S.A.

Oakland Tribune, July 13, 1937, Vera was mentioned as an NBC staff actress to take on the roll of Molly Pitcher on the Professor Puzzlewit program.

Jet, September 25, 1952: Announcing Vera’s role in the interracial romance film The President’s Lady.

Jet, October 16, 1952: Featured in “Why Brownskin Girls Get The Best Movie Roles.”

Jet, September 25, 1952: In press about The President’s Lady, a studio spokesman says, “When Lena Horne retires, Vera Francis will take her place.”

Jet, February 19, 1953: Photo caption reads:

Rock-A-Bye Baby: Midget liquor salesman Frankie Dee proved a real attention-getter when he turned up at New York City’s Beaux Arts ball in diaper attire. Actress-model Vera Francis and actor Jimmy Edwards made it a family threesome by obliging “baby” Frankie with his bottle.

Jet, April 16, 1953: when returning to Hollywood, “received offers as high as $100 for her address book that contains names of New York’s bachelors.” (Foreshadowing of the Confidential scandal?)

Jet, August 27, 1953: A guest at a birthday party for Lucky Millinger — Millinder is fed cake by “hi-de-ho” bandleader Cab Calloway while Francis and others look on.

Jet, September 10, 1953: Vera Francis crowns Betty Elaine Parks “Miss America” in an Elks Beauty Contest in Atlanta.

Jet, Sepembert 17, 1953: The actress is featured in the article “Why Hollywood Won’t Glamorize Negro Girls.”

Jet, October 8, 1953: Talking About “Exotic Vera Francis who does public relations work for a national cosmetics account. She was assigned to demonstrate the beauty products in an Atlanta five and ten, but when the store managers, who had asked for her, discovered that the movie starlet’s features were brown, they quickly called off the deal.”

Jet, November 26, 1953:  “Movie actress Vera Francis lost her job as assistant to disc jockey Jack Walker. He fired her for not having ‘humility’.”

Jet, May 6, 1954: At the Shalimar Cafe party for disc jockey Tommy Smalls “Joe Louis is fed by Delores Parker, Vera Francis.”

Jet, May 13, 1954: Caption for the photo reads Elephant Girl: Turning out for the spring arrival of Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Baily Circus in New York, film actress Vera Francis and comedian Nipsey Russell visit with a friendly elephant named Ruth. Vera climbed aboard but Russell played it safe on the ground.

Jet, April 22, 1954: The actress has “midgets” Frankie Dee and Pee Wee Marquette fighting over her.

Jet, June 17, 1954: Caption for the photo reads “Cotillion Capers: A guest at the Cotillion Club’s annual deb ball in Detriot’s Graystone Ballroom, movie star Vera Francis gets an affectionate lift by admiring club members. Curvacious Vera recently embarked on a new career as a calypso-style song and dance entertainer.”

Jet, June 24, 1954: Poses for amateur photographers.

Jet, July 22, 1954: Sheesh — “Mose Thompson, the Detroit  financier, who invited movie starlet Vera Francis to town for a little light balling only to have her snatched from his fingertips by dapper cigar huckster Sterling Hogan.”

Jet, Augus 19, 1954: Vera Francis and Juanita Moore, signed to portray women inmates in Columbia’s Women’s Prison.

Hue, August, 1954: Vera Francis photographed at the Surf Club “Puckered Up for Kissing”.

Jet, September 2, 1954: Said to play role of a jungle girl in the next series of Tarzan pictures.

Jet, September 30, 1954: Said she signs for a feature role as one of 12 international beauties in MGM’s Biblical movie, The Prodigal to play a “maid of India.” (The roulette wheel that started all my obsessive hunting.)

Jet, December 2, 1954: “Now that she has had several minor roles in Hollywood films, shapely actress-model Vera Francis has changed her stage name to Vieja.”

Jet, December 16, 1954: A note that the  “model-actress” to appear in Kiss Me Deadly (a Mickey Spillane feature) and Universal-International’s Tracey (starring Anne Baxter and Rock Hudson — near as I can tell, eventually titled One Desire).

Sepia, December 1954: Vera Francis on the cover and the subject of a feature story.

Jet, May 12, 1955: “Showgirl” Vera Francis adjusts Sammy Davis Jr.’s Windsor knot at the Harlem YMCA’s salute to Sammy.

The Gleaner, March 17, 1955: “Vera steals the show” in Kitty Kingston’s Personal Mention column. Vera is said here to be “of Indian as well as Jamaican origin” which “thrilled” party guests, especially “the ten Government employees of Pakistan on UNESCO Fellowship.” Here Vera’s new professional name, “Veijah” is mentioned and stated as meaning “victory.” The films Vera is to be gearing up for are listed as The Ten Commandments, Kismet, The White Witch of Rose Hall, and The Jungle Drums, to be filmed in Tunisia for Italian Films.

Also in that paper, an ad for Vera Francis appearing in person on the Carib Stage. (Note that Vera Francis is listed as “Jamaica’s Very Own” despite the paper saying in 1936 that she was from Boston.)

Jet, September 8, 1955: Francis “the movie bit player,” underwent a hernia operation at Cedars hospital, LA.

Jet, October 6, 1955: A note that Vera is rehearsing for a road company tour of the play Seven Year Itch. “She’ll wiggle her hips in the role that move actress Marilyn Monroe made famous.”

Lima News, August 24, 1957: In coverage of the Confidential libel scandal, Vera was named as paid informant regarding John Jacob Astor and Edward G. Robinson.

No details were offered. But, according to Shocking True Story: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, “America’s Most Scandalous Scandal Magazine”, “Vera Francis, a black actress, was paid for a story on her affair with socially prominent John Jacob Astor.” (I believe it was this John Jacob Astor — a family with enough scandal that whatever info Vera sold is a footnote too small for me to bother researching. At least right now.)

Jet, January 2 1958: Words fail, so I quote:

Ex-actress Vera Francis writes pals from the West Indies that she’s been secretly wed to a white employee of the New York Central Railroad she met at Billy Graham’s recent revival meeting.

Jet, May 15, 1958: “Former actress-model Vera Francis has turned “producer” in Jamaica, BWI. She presented her husband, George Handiwerk Jr., with a bouncing seven-pound, three-ounce daughter.”

The Gleaner, August 24, 1958: Mentions that Mrs. Vera Handwerk (the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Carby) is slated for the leading role in Calypso, to be filmed in Jamaica.

Jet, June 18, 1959: Vera “now Mrs. George Handwerk Jr. is four months again on her motherhood career, leaving behind in Kingston, Jamaica, her German husband to mind the first-born which she visits her sister.”

Jet, August 27, 1959: Vera Francis divorced “her white husband, George Handwerk,” married on September 8, 1957. They had a daughter, Francena, and Vera was pregnant with a second child.

Jet, January 14, 1960: “Pretty actress Vera (Francis) Handwerk gave birth to an eight-and-one-half pound girl, Janna, her second, in Jamaica, Britsh West Indies.” Here’s the photo that accompanied the news bit.

The Gleaner, November 26, 1961: Vera is listed as the hostess who also M.C’eed a fashion show at Babs Boutique.

But by September 1962, in Negro Digest (Black World), people were wondering where Vera Francis was.

The Gleaner, October 3, 1964: Vera is listed at the Bunny Mother for the Jamaican edition of the Playboy Bunnies.

Pontiac Daily Leader, February 12, 1969: She is mentioned as the “former Vera Francis” — now the Mrs. in Mr. and Mrs. Harlan Robertson. The couple, along with son Randy, were in Odell visiting Vera’s father, Perry Francis. No mention of the daughters.

Nowhere do I find any proof of Vera’s “outspoken role in civil rights”, though clearly she lived her life as a woman who resisted labels and limits — in terms of color and gender.

Additional image/info: In June of 2011, Bonhams auctioned off a lot of Vera Francis archives for $915.

Signs Of The Times: 1969 (Or, Men At Work?)

In light of the recently released Congressional Budget Office report on income inequality, I found this cover of the August 1969 issue of Fortune relevant — especially the The Time Bomb On Wall Street feature. Of course, to know how relevant it really is, I’d need a reading copy of the vintage magazine

PS OK, so maybe I’m stretching the Signs Of The Times dealio to include magazine covers, but it’s my blog; feel free to complain in the comments.

Magazine Equality: Stuff White People Worry Needlessly About

I get mail, paper and electronic. Today’s winner is this one:

Hey, you sell and ship a lot of stuff, and you write about racism, so I’m tossing this question to you — I don’t care if you post your reply, but please don’t out me. (Outing my stupidity is fine! Just not me!)

My question is this: Is it OK if I use torn pages etc. from publications like Jet magazine as packing material, or is that offensive?

Obviously, this is a white person who is worried about this, right? Right.

My Latest Issue Of Jet: Click To Read My Address As Proof (Posting Stuff Like This Is Why I Get A Lot Of Mail)

Why would anyone else even consider what magazines, newspapers, etc. were used as packing material? As long as it’s not Playboy pictorials or other adult stuff, who cares? Even magazine collectors like myself don’t wince (too badly) at the thought of destroying publications in terms of recycling them rather than collecting the past issues or saving them for future collectors.

This is one of those cases of being so overly sensitive to race issues that you go full circle and become racist.

The underlying premise here is based on faulty and racist assumptions:

1. That all people are white unless otherwise stated. And so…

* Not knowing otherwise, the seller here fears that a white person will be somehow offended by a non-white publication included in their box of merchandise.

* The assumed-to-be-white person receiving this package will now assume the seller is black — heaven forbid!

2. That people of color are intolerant and ridiculously possessive of their culture. And so…

* Should the recipient be a person of color, they will somehow be offended that anyone would ruin a proper African-American publication in such a fashion.

* A non-white person receiving their order with such packaging will assume the seller is also non-white; the seller has somehow misrepresented themselves.

3. That people should only read or subscribe to publications by color. And so…

* Any person of any color will find a white person reading or subscribing to any publications for or by persons of color to be some sort of poser or culture-thief.

These are not only faulty and racist assumptions, but fear based ones which, when given in to, perpetuate stereotypes and limit us all.

So my response is this: In the spirit of saving the planet by recycling, in the spirit of saving the planet by practicing brotherly and sisterly love, please, use any and all of your unwanted publications as packing materials — including your Jet Magazine. Treat your publications as you do people — as equals.

I would recycle my copies of Jet; but I save most all of my magazine back issues, no matter their “color.”

Women’s Pages, Then & Now

Jessie Lynne Kerr

You know, by now, that I collect horde vintage magazines, publications, newspapers, and other ephemera. (If not, please send me your recipe for Denial Sauce; the anti-women politics of the time are hard on me.) So I’m completely smitten with Women’s Page History: “A blog devoted to women’s page editors beginning during World War II (when many women were hired by the newsrooms until the war ended) through the early 1970s when the women’s pages were transformed into lifestyle sections.”

Yummy!

The blog is run by Dr. Kimberly Voss, of whom I am more than a bit jealous… I long for some sort of credentials to make my piles of old paper legit. *sigh*

I know, I know; she has a piece of paper, I have a piece of paper. (As in degrees.) And I know that some would argue that (stupid) adage, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” Let me say again how stupid that adage is — very.

But the word “professor” before your name has more than a cache — it has the clout that opens doors. As in getting your phone calls routed properly, messages and emails returned, etc. Of that, I am envious.

Of course, my biggest problem is not specializing — not narrowing my focus. (Watch comments at this post for a link from my other blog, Inherited Values, on that.)

Ooooh, what’s that glossy magazine cover there!

…Where was I?

On a related — to me, anyway — note, check out Jen But Never Jenn (who I met through a mutual fascination of vintage living).  She made her sister and her future brother-in-law a magazine timeline as a “sense of what it was like NOW vs. THEN.”   Amusing, yes. But also an awesome way to put your collection to good use.

Mississippi Paper Burning (Hot Vintage Magazine Blog!)

I’ve fallen in love with a newly discovered blog: Visual Arts Library Picture & Periodicals Collections, part of New York’s School of Visual Arts. And not just because David Pemberton, the Periodical/Reference Librarian who runs the blog, linked to my (obsessively detailed) post on The Mentor magazine, either. (Though I am a sucker for librarians and curators — and links don’t exactly hurt.) No, I’m in love with this new-to-me blog because of it’s content.

Sure, the visuals are great — as you’d expect from a visual arts school library. But it’s more than that. It’s the writing. Not just the historical context I crave, but the frank tone I adore. Such as the delightful description of National Lampoon Magazine as having “heaping sides of boob and toilet humor.” (I know I’m a fan of heaping boobs and even side-boob *wink* I’ve even succumb to toilet humor plenty of times.)

But the best part is the mix of selected offerings. Again using the National Lampoon post, look at this gem from the August 1975 issue:

Many of the magazines have embedded publications in them that parody other actual publications, such as this one that is supposed to have been put out by the state of Mississippi Bar Association featuring articles on “Closing Those Loopholes in Mississippi Lynch Law” and “No-Fault Rape–New Concepts to Protect Our Menfolk:”

I’m absolutely dying to read that! I bet most of the satirical messages are still relevant today. But then I love to read what I collect. …How else can I obsessively research it, over-analyze it, blog about it?

Once Upon A Time… Mail Order Girlfriends

Found at Chateau Thombeau, a lovely look at these pages from Photo Album No. 11, apparently a vintage dating help publication featuring “lonely maidens, widows and divorcees searching for love, romance, happiness and marriage.”

(And don’t those little numbers remind you of criminal booking photos?)

Without seeing the actual publication, it’s hard to say for certain, but it looks as if the “happiness at your fingertips” is based solely on the male reader’s reaction to a photo.

I don’t mean to be cruel or sexist, but if that’s the case, some of these women would only find happiness at their own fingertips; those grimaces are extremely unfortunate. But if they knew how to physically pleasure themselves, they probably wouldn’t have those frowns in the first place. Or probably care to be a mail order girlfriend or bride.

Yes, chemistry is important; but even Playboy has the model’s bio bit. Seems personality was even less important in this vintage mail order girlfriend magazine than in the fantasy fodder pages of men’s mags. Guessing from the photos, this wasn’t that long before Playboy would hit the stands.

I’m surprised head-shots alone were used. Even for the younger gals. How was a guy supposed to check out her breeding hips?

I suppose we should be thankful that this edition is “exclusively for unattached gentlemen.” …But then real gentlemen aren’t the ones to worry about.

And “this edition” is exclusive? That sort of begs the question about other issues…

While American Was being Born… Ladies Who Didn’t Have Enough Sense To Come In Out Of The Rain

From a Modern Woman magazine from the 40’s, some interesting news…

For the benefit of eighteenth century ladies who didn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain, a Parasol Lend-company flourished in Paris, France, about the year 1776. Negro attendants carried the parasols and collected payment upon delivering a charge at her destination. In those times, a parasol cost too much for an average woman to own.

Learning From The Washability Expert

Inside the pages of Modern Woman Magazine, A Magazine Published By The Ice Industry, (Volume 17, Number 1, 1948), an article on how to wash problem fabrics by Mrs. Jean Robinson, “Washability Expert, White King Soap Co.” This particular Mrs. Jean Robinson is somewhat lost to history, but I was reminded of a few things…

As a collector of vintage magazines, I am continually reminded that not much has changed in publishing over the years — and that most of this should be applied to publishing on the web, including blogging. Today’s example, the “washability expert” and her article.

While a title like Washability Expert seems as made-up as any user ID, it can only be assumed that Mrs. Robinson was employed by the soap company much the way many baking product companies had baking experts — experts who created more than just recipes or kitchen tips, but marketing material.

Every (good) recipe or tip produced was put to use cementing relationships with current consumers or cooking up relationships with new customers. Recipes and tips might be collected for publication in cookbooks and brochures, or they might be offered as informational articles to be published in newspapers and magazines — even, as with Mrs. Robinson’s, in corporate publications performing their own marketing efforts. And each was generally an opportunity for a press release too.

The questions were the same as now:

Are there enough recipes/tips for a publication? If so, is it good enough to sell? Or would it be of better use to offer it to customers for free? In either case, should offers be made via a special purchase, direct mail, etc., and is your offer worthy of a press release?

Would it be best to slowly compile and distribute the tips/recipes over time in your own publication, be the sole source for your knowledge? Or should you reach out to other publications, let them publish your wisdom and increase awareness about your products and services?

If and when you do want to share your knowledge(i.e. a guest blog post) to promote your company/site, how do you get them interested in doing so?

The one advantage larger companies had over today’s self-publishing is that Mrs. Jean Robinson and her ilk only had the responsibility of creating the tip, recipe, or article; someone else decided how to make the best use of it.

That’s probably the most markedly different thing about the low-barrier world of the Internet — it’s no longer good enough to just to be an expert, you have to know a lot about marketing too.

(Insert plug for my marketing and blog tour services here.)

Ranch Romances & Adventures

Ranch Romances & Adventures, May, 1971.

Ranch Romances & Adventures

Contrary to what Jack Martin/Gary Dobbs says, I do not see Ranch Romance (& Adventures) magazines as primarily for women.

Jack/Gary says they must be “aimed at young women since all of the stories have a romantic element to them.” But come on now, dude, I know this may be difficult for a man who loves Westerns to admit but the whole genre – from books to films — is nothing but male romance novels and dick flicks. Sure, there’s some action in there; but the guns and body counts are there to win the damsel, the dame — the 500 miles he would walk just to fall down at her door.

Stop living in denial.

You men are just as much suckers for romance as we women are. You want to read about a good chaste kiss, a ravishing bodice ripping — and this publication proves it.

Or does it… Perhaps I am biased more than a bit by my feminine experiences and feminist equality-seeking nature. For over at Laurie’s Wild West, Laurie Powers shares the story behind the pulp magazine, using the publication founder’s own words. Harold Hersey claimed full credit for launching Ranch Romances in September 1924 (The “Adventures” joined the “Ranch Romances” in 1969) in his biography, Pulpwood Editor. Hersey writes:

My home run was Ranch Romances. I conceived of the idea of combining the Western and the love themes in a single magazine under the title of Western Love Stories. Our distributors considered it too close an imitation of the Street & Smith titles. We were told to think up another. The result was Ranch Romances and it was an almost instantaneous hit with women readers. Instead of the cowboy hero, we offered the cowgirl heroine. Bina Flynn, the editor we chose to handle the fresh idea, built the magazine into a huge success.

While I think combining Westerns and Romances is redundant, either I’m wrong — or Hersey’s another one of these men afraid to admit the romantic truth about men. Maybe, just maybe, the truth of Ranch Romances‘ success lies in the complicated truth of this simple line: “Instead of the cowboy hero, we offered the cowgirl heroine.”

Vintage Ranch Romances Magazine

Women likely responded to dreaming the possible dream of a strong female heroine who was still desired by men. Men likely felt reciprocally reassured that even today’s ballsy woman still could be wooed and won by a macho male. (However, as always, the stories end before the truly difficult part of meshing roles and living happily ever after begins; like dirty dishes in the sink, no one wants to get to that part.)

Laurie Powers touches on some of this modernized gender stuff in her post too, so read that as Exhibit A. And as further proof of the male adoption of this publication I’ll let you know that the previous owner of my May 1971 issue was male. And check out the sexist ad on the back cover.

Anyway, this Ranch Romances & Adventures I have makes me sad. (It probably made others sad too as it was the publication’s last year.)

Ranch Romances may have been more of a pulp publication, prior to the mid-1960s at least, with fantastic graphics and fantasy fiction, but by this point the magazine was more personals ads digest than pulpy delight.

Of course, I may be biased. Again. I prefer the vintage styles more than the retro ones, and my “like” barometer is built upon that grading system. But from what I’ve seen and read, Rance Romances & Adventures is a desperate combination of personal pleas and ads designed to make money off those in despair.

(I’ll be sharing more of scans from this particular issue here and over at Kitschy Kitschy Coo as Valentine’s Day approaches.)

Working Mothers Working From Home, 1962

“Working Mothers Needn’t Leave Home,” by Bettijane Eisenpreis, as published in My Baby, June 1962, isn’t terribly earth-shattering per se — other than, perhaps, our notions of the time period. This is how the article begins:

The working mother has long been part of the American scene. Still, many career women feel saddened at leaving their children, Their solution: be housewife, mother and part-time career woman by working in your own home.

What can you do at home? Just about anything. Shoes are designed, books translated, rugs woven, advertising campaigns created, research done, and parties planned from home. This article was written at home.

Honestly, it reads like many WAHM sites and books. (You can click the scans below to read the article in full.) But one thing sort of nags at me a bit…

The name Bettijane Eisenpreis isn’t common, so I believe she is the author of many magazine articles and a few books, including Coping with Scoliosis (1998) — which makes me wonder if Bettijane didn’t work from home because of her health situation. …Not that I do (or would) feel the same about her authoring Coping: A Young Woman’s Guide to Breast Cancer Prevention. So what does that say about me?

Marjorie Hellen: “Identification Girl” The Ultimate Objectification Or Not?

Featured on the cover of People Today, September 22, 1954, was “Marjorie Hellen… TV’s Golden Girl.”

Her story begins on page 55, filed under “People In TV,” Hellen’s story is titled She’s ‘Compatible’ Marjorie Hellen Is Strawberry Blond Trade-Mark on Color TV.

If that’s not intriguing enough, check out the caption under the photo: “Marjorie And Her Rival Black-And-White Test Pattern (rear)”.

From the article:

Millions of NBC-TV viewers are getting slightly frustrated whenever the smiling image of lovely Marjorie Hellen flashes on their black-and-white screens with her quiet announcement: “The following program…will be broadcast in color …” The reason: Around 10,000 TV sets in the U.S., costing between $495 and $1,100, are showing the same girl as she appears on PEOPLE TODAY’S cover–gray-eyed, strawberry blond.

Marjorie, who doubles as a live test pattern for sensitive color cameras, is the “identification girl” for NBC Color TV, which has scheduled 39 90-minute “spectaculars” for its compatible system (the shows can also be received in black-and-white) during 1954-1955.

The article credits “an attack of anemia” for Hellen getting the gig — not specifically for her coloring (though only her doctor knows for sure), but for her availability:

It kept her from going to school, made her available when Claude Traverse, manager of NBC’s color unit, selected her from photos as having the “ideal flesh tone” for lining up color cameras.

Hellen may be more familiar to you as Leslie Parrish; she changed her name in 1959.

Familiar Feminist Faces

This pair of Ms. mugs look familiar… But then, as someone growing up in the 70’s, I saw a lot of the art deco dames — and the word “Ms.” Sometimes the word was a slur; but still…

I have no idea if these were put out by Ms. Magazine. Someone needs to make a site or page devoted to Ms. collectibles… Gads, I hope I didn’t just assign myself another project.

British Ladies Cat Fight With American Women, 1832

Since I love old beauty tips and their cultural context, I was intrigued by A Slip of a Girl’s posts sharing clippings from the March 1831 issue of Atkinson’s Casket (aka The Casket).  In that same issue, found via Google Books, I found this great article on painting on glass — but I wanted more.

In another issue, from 1832, this incredible review of Frances Trollope‘s Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832):

Mrs. Trollope has treated America with the same liberality, and her success in depicting the character of our people, has been nearly as great as captain Hall’s. An unsuccessful speculation in Cincinnati, awakened, it appears, the indignation of Madame T. and she forthwith—with the assistance of the notorious Fanny Wright, with whom she travelled, and whose abominable doctrines she appears to have imbibed—resolved to glut her revenge by writing a book. No doubt she is now satisfied, for she has the pleasure of seeing it stated in print, sanctioned by her name, that the Americana are the most illnatured, ungenerous, wicked, illiterate and vulgar people on the face of the earth ; that their moral sentiment is less elevated than that of the savages, and that the half-horse and half-alligator population of the Mississippi Valley, are as uncouth and as barbarous as a nation of Ourangutangs.

Mrs. Trollope, however, certainly unwittingly, pays American ladies, a very high compliment. Having fixed upon the society of Almacks as the criterion by which to examine the character of our ladies, she finds that they are all utterly destitute of polish; of that easy, lady like deportment, by which English ladies are distinguished throughput the world, and entirely ignorant of those amiable accomplishments in maneuvering, &c. which give her own countrywomen so strong an influence over their husbands. Our ladies are too modest in their behaviour and dress, to meet the views of Mrs. T. ; in company they want loquacity ; they seldom visit theatres; they arc respectful to their husbands, and indefatigable in instructing their children ; they are but indifferent dancers, and speak Italian shockingly incorrect ; and finally they are not carried away with foolish and ridiculous fashions. All these are serious faults in the opinion of the immaculate Trollope, and she vents her spleen at them in no measured terms.

Trollope’s sentiments seem very much to echo those of this article from 1907 — so much so, that I double-checked that Trollope was indeed deceased in 1863. However, as this article, titled British Cockney Writers, shows, this apparently was quite the trend during this period.

Included in this issue of Atkinson’s Casket are some excerpts or “extracts” — of which I found the following quite amusing:

The ladies have strange ways of adding to their charms. They powder themselves immoderately, face, neck, and arms, with pulverised starch; the effect is indescribably disagreeable by daylight, and not very favorable at any time. They are also most unhappily partial to false hair,which they wear in surprising quantities; this is the more to be lamented, as they generally have very fine hair of their own. I suspect this fashion to arise from an indolent mode of making their toilette, and from accomplished ladies’ maids not being very abundant; it is less trouble to append a bunch of waving curls here, there and every where, than to keep their native tresses in perfect order.

Though the expense of the ladies’ dress greatly exceeds, in proportion to their generalstyle of living, that of the ladies of Europe, it is very far (excepting in Philadelphia) from being |n good taste. They do not consult the seasons in tne colors, or in the style of their costume; 1 have often shivered at seeing a young beauty picking her way through the snow with a pale rose-colored bonnet, set on the very top of her head: I knew one young lady whose pretty little ear was actually frost-bitten from being thus exposed.— They never wear muffs or boots, and appear extremely shocked at the sight of comfortaole walking shoes, and cotton stockings, even when they have to step to their sleighs over ice and snow.

They walk in the middle of winter with their poor little toes pinched into a miniature slipper, incapable of excluding as much moisture as might bedew a primrose. I must say in their excuse, however, that they have, almost universally, extremely pretty feet. They do not walk well, nor, in fact, do they ever appear to advantage when in movement. I know not why this should be, for they have abundance of French dancing masters among them, but somehow or other it is the fact. I fancied I could often trace a mixture of affectation and of shyness in their little mincing unsteady step, and the ever changing position of the hands. They do not dance well; perhaps 1 should rather say, they do not look well when dancing; lovely as their faces arc, they cannot, in a position that exhibits the whole person, atone for the want of tournun-. and for the universal defect in the formation of the bust, which is rarely full, or gracefully formed.

PS Apparently this had all been previously published in The Saturday Evening Post; the connections between and history of The Casket and The Saturday Evening Post are well documented here.