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Monday, December 24, 2012

Classic ARGOSY magazine covers by artist Bob Kuhn…


Unlike mainstream magazines published in the 1950s and 1960s, most men’s adventure magazines did not feature Christmas-themed covers on their December issues.

So, alas, there are no covers of MAN’S LIFE or TRUE MEN STORIES showing a herd of vicious reindeers ripping Santa’s flesh.

There are no December issues of MAN’S BOOK or WORLD OF MEN showing Santa rescuing a scantily-clad Mrs. Claus from evil Nazis, or anything like that.

However, there were two vintage men’s adventure magazines that did have some Christmas covers — ARGOSY and TRUE.

Among my favorites are issues of ARGOSY that feature artwork by Robert “Bob” Kuhn, one of the most renowned artists who provided artwork to men’s adventure magazines.

The “manliest” ARGOSY Christmas cover painting Kuhn created is probably the one used for the December 1955 issue.

It features a yeehaw-ing cowboy riding a bull sporting a Christmas ribbon around it’s neck and Christmas ornaments on its horns, on a beautiful starry night.

I also like Kuhn’s nostalgic Christmas painting for the December 1950 issue, showing a man and his dog coming home with the family Christmas tree, which he clearly cut down himself the old-fashioned way.

Bob Kuhn was born in Buffalo, New York in 1920 and studied commercial art at the Pratt Institute in the late 1930s.

In the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s he primarily worked as an illustrator for men’s outdoor sport and adventure magazines, such as FIELD AND STREAM, OUTDOOR LIFE, TRUE and ARGOSY.

He he also did illustrations for books and advertisements.

As you’ll find by perusing the many websites that mention Kuhn, he is best known and beloved for his wildlife art.

And, most of the cover paintings Kuhn created for ARGOSY and other magazines were wildlife and hunting scenes that foreshadow his later work.

Starting in 1964, Kuhn’s wildlife art gained even wider exposure by being featured on the highly popular Remington Arms game art calendars. (The Remington calendars also featured artwork by another great artist who worked for men’s adventure magazines, Thomas Beecham.)

In 1970, Kuhn basically stopped doing commercial artwork. From then until his death in 2007 he focused on doing wildlife paintings for art galleries and collectors.

Paintings from that phase of Kuhn’s career have won many awards and hang in the permanent collections of a number of museums.

In 1991, for example, he was awarded the prestigious 1991 Prix de West award from the Academy of Western Art for his painting “Lair of the Cat,” which now resides in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

There are quite a few lushly illustrated books that showcase Kuhn’s wildlife art.

They include: THE ANIMAL ART OF BOB KUHN(first published in 1973 and written by Kuhn himself); THE ART OF BOB KUHN (one of the “Masters of the Wild” series published in 1989); BOB KUHN: PAINTING THE WILD(published in 2002 by the National Museum of Wildlife Art); and, WILD HARVEST: THE ANIMAL ART OF BOB KUHN(a 2009 retrospective that uses Kuhn's famous “Lair of the Cat” as the cover art).

The most recent book about Kuhn’s work is BOB KUHN: DRAWING ON INSTINCT. It was published in June 2012 by the University of Oklahoma Press to go with a traveling exhibit mounted by the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

By the way, the museum has an excellent page about Kuhn on its website, which includes examples of his paintings and a fascinating time-lapse video showing him creating a painting from start to finish in 2006.

As I write this post, it’s Christmas Eve.

I hope Santa brings you something good tonight. Maybe one of the books about Bob Kuhn’s art.

It probably won’t be the gifts suggested in the advertisements on the back cover of the December 1955 issue of ARGOSY.

I don’t think it’s politically correct nowadays to give someone a bottle of Old Crow for Christmas, let alone a carton of Camels, Winstons or Cavaliers.

Hell, they don’t even make Cavalier cigarettes anymore. And, doctors warn against smoking cigarettes instead of endorsing them.

Bah! Humbug! 

And, Happy Holidays from MensPulpMags.com.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Related and recommended reading…

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mala Mastroberte’s MALALAND MAGAZINES – a unique new book for fans of vintage pulp covers and pinup photos…


Many of the nearly 400 members of the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group associated with this blog are writers, artists or both.

Several have new books that I highly recommend to fans of vintage men’s magazines.

I mentioned one in my previous post: the latest book by the former men’s adventure writer Robert F. Dorr, titled MISSION TO TOKYO.

Another is Tom Ziegler’s book about Bruce Minney, one of the greatest of the many great artists who worked for men’s pulp adventure mags.

That book, BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING, was featured here not long ago in a series of guest posts by Tom.

Today’s post is about a new book by another talented person who often drops by the Men’s Adventure Mags FB group, Mala Mastroberte.

Actually, she’s one of those people who fit the term multi-talented.

Mala is a photographer and a digital artist who uses those skills to make unique recreations of vintage magazine and paperback book covers.

She’s especially fond of recreating covers from the pulp genres, including pulp fiction and pin-up magazines from the 1930s and ‘40s and men’s adventure mags, detective mags and “sleaze paperbacks” from the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Mala also happens to be an eye-poppingly gorgeous model.

She’s the sole model for her own cover recreations, which she started posting on her Flickr page several years ago.

Using wigs, makeup, vintage clothing, and her photo and Photoshopping skills, she makes images of herself and inserts them in place of women shown on vintage magazine and paperback covers, creating new art from old.

She is also increasingly popular as a model for top modern glamour girl photographers and artists, such as Mike James and Sean Smith.

On top of all that, Mala now has two books to her credit.

She self-published her first book, titled LINE-UP, last year. It focuses on her photo recreations of true crime and detective magazine covers.

Mala’s new book, MALALAND MAGAZINES, was published by Binary Publications, an indie publisher that specializes in books about vintage artwork, photography and pop culture subjects.

Other recent and forthcoming books from Binary include THE ART OF JACK DAVIS, THE EARLY PHOTOGRAPHS OF BETTIE PAGE and ARTIST & MODELS: THE GLAMOUR ART OF KENT STEINE. (Kent is a modern pinup artist and author who is also a member of the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.)

MALALAND MAGAZINES showcases 100 of Mala’s magazine and paperback cover recreations.

She explains what the “Malaland” concept means to her in the book’s introduction:

“We all have a place we like to go to - to escape the everyday routine, to forget all troubles, or just to feel at home and be yourself. This is precisely what Malaland is for me. It is a place, a moment in time. but most of all - a state of mind. Fantasyland is usually a solitary place, even if shared with numerous characters. It is still a lone experience, but in a positive meaning of the word. It is as unique, as each individual. An exclusive room of one's own — to quote Virginia Woolf — a place where you can be free, unrestricted, unsupervised and independent. Free.”

In a note on Flickr about her recreation of the cover of the May 1959 issue of the men's pulp magazine MAN'S ADVENTURE (which is included in her new book), Mala provides some of her thoughts on the the depiction of women on men’s magazine covers and the iconic damsel-in-distress art common to men’s pulp mags:

“Working with vintage illustrated magazine covers for a while now, I noticed that the girls gracing the covers of men's magazines seem to have more fun than the ones adorning ladies publications (as beautiful and flawless as the latter ones also are). They exude health, happiness and of course unabashed sex appeal, which I suppose are exactly the qualities any man would like to see in a woman. Nothing wrong with being sexy, healthy and happy about it, but still these images caused and still cause a lot of controversy. Man's adventure genre brings out a whole other level of male fantasies, putting damsels in all kinds of distress, in desperate need of being rescued by a hero. Or at least I should hope that is the idea... Now that's objectification for you! or is it?”

Mala’s book introduction provides more of her interesting perspective on the type of vintage “Good Girl Art” that features femme fatales and damsels in distress. She explains:

“Pin-up imagery used to be, or still is, perceived by some as objectifying and degrading women. Being aware of the social status of women at the time when pin-ups were at the height of their widest popularity, makes me suspicious about the honesty of those smiles. But who can deny those pretty eyes? I know I can’t! I am buying whatever it is they are selling. Just wonder sometimes, what is it exactly... Sex? Health? Youth? Or maybe just pure joy of life?

I do not advocate chauvinism, violence, abuse, guns or smoking, but take guilty pleasure from those vivid images and a certain comfort in knowing that they are not real. Many of the cover images portray women in various stages of undress, sometimes in trouble. sometimes causing trouble, but always very feminine and beautiful. Whatever the scene may be, those images are nothing short of powerful.

The genre used to be predominantly male, with very few female artist exceptions. It was an industry directed at male audiences. Today, women reclaim the genre as both, creators and recipients, embracing the fantasy and making it real. This is my goal as well. By embodying these covers I personify the characters and the narrative, the drama, the style and the aesthetic, the ethos of the vintage era. I try to bring them to reality and to the present through my own body. I enter that world, go deep inside and bring it out.”

Mala’s recreations of men’s adventure magazines covers include some by the best artists who worked for the genre, such as Mel Crair, Walter Popp, Clarence Doore, and Bruce Minney.

She also creates faux men’s pulp mag covers that spring from her own fertile imagination and faux covers from other genres (like the ADVENTURE and LIFE covers shown above).

Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Mala here on MensPulpMags.com.

In the meantime, buy her new book MALALAND MAGAZINES. You will be amazed.

Also check out Mala’s online store, the MALALAND KIOSK, where you can order limited edition posters of her unique pulp paperback and magazine cover recreations.

If you want to learn more about Mala and keep up on the latest news about her, be sure to visit both of her Facebook pages: her personal page and her Malaland page.

They each feature different photos.

And, believe me, there are so-o-o-o-o-o many good ones to see, Mala needs two Facebook sites.

 

Happy Holidays!

 

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Comments? Questions? Corrections? Post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

More book recommendations from MensPulpMags.com...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Robert F. Dorr’s MISSION TO TOKYO – an epic new history book by a former men’s adventure writer…


With the holiday season upon us, I decided to do some posts about books I’d recommend as gifts for fans of vintage men’s adventure magazines.

First up is MISSION TO TOKYO, the latest book by former Air Force veteran, senior American diplomat and men’s adventure writer Robert F. Dorr.

Bob Dorr is currently known as one of America’s top military aviation historians. He has written more than 70 history books over the past few decades. He’s also a regular contributor to various military and history publications.

MISSION TO TOKYO is the third in a recent trilogy of books he has written about World War II airplanes, their crews and key events of the war.

I greatly enjoyed the previous two books in this series — HELL HAWKS! and MISSION TO BERLIN.

But if I had to pick a favorite of the three it would be MISSION TO TOKYO.

It’s an epic account of the American B-29 “Superfortress” bombers and their crews during the war’s final phase.

In August 1945, it was the famous B-29 called the Enola Gay that dropped the first atomic bomb used in wartime on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. The second was dropped by another B-29 on Nagasaki.

Part of MISSION TO TOKYO covers those still controversial events.

But the focus is on the lesser-known firebombing of Japan by American B-29s earlier in 1945. Those missions, using incendiary bombs, actually caused more deaths than the firebombing of Dresden, Germany or the immediate deaths caused by the dropping of a-bombs on Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

As in all of Bob Dorr’s history books, MISSION TO TOKYO uses the personal accounts of the American crewmen and other people involved to make history come alive. (One of the many poignant hidden gems in this one is an account of Yoko Ono’s survival of the firebombing of Tokyo as a child.)

I’ve had the pleasure of talking with Bob several times in recent years and he has confirmed that the writing he did for men’s adventure magazines helped him hone the storytelling skills he later used as a historian.

From the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, Bob was one of the most prolific and best writers of stories for men’s pulp mags. He wrote virtually every type of story that was popular in the genre, from war stories and exotic adventure tales to Cold War spy yarns and “sexposés.”

Bob told me:

“As a young author I cut my teeth writing fast-moving, often tall tales for the men’s pulp adventure magazines and there are some clear connections to my later work. One of my first published articles was about an American bomber crew at war. It was a true story but it read like an adventure novel. That was the idea. But many readers of those stories were veterans, who’d been there. So, when I wrote about warfare for them I had to have the personalities and the details right and avoid puffery. What these men wouldn’t tolerate was to have themselves or the military brass glorified or to have war made glamorous, so I didn’t do those things.”

Recently, I emailed Bob copies of some of his men’s adventure stories that seem like clear precursors of his later work as a historian.

One is about a B-29 crew member who also appears in MISSION TO TOKYO — Medal of Honor winner Henry E. “Red” Erwin.

Titled “Handful of Hell at 20,000 Feet!”, it was the featured cover story in the October 1962 issue of CLIMAX. The great cover painting and illustrations inside are by artist Joseph Cellini (who I think is best known for the cover art and illustrations he did for a long list books for children and young adults.)

During the major firebombing mission over Japan on April 12, 1945, Erwin saved the lives of his fellow crew members on the bomber City of Los Angeles when a phosphorous bomb ignited prematurely while still inside the plane.

He literally picked up the white-hot, flaming bomb and eventually managed to shove it out a window, but was blinded and horribly burned in the process.

Bob was pleased to be reminded that he had written a story about Erwin long before he wrote MISSION TO TOKYO.

He said:

“Erwin was blinded by the phosphorus bomb and suffered grave burns all over his body when disposing of it. He deserved to be one of the very few American enlisted airmen to receive the Medal of Honor, our highest award for valor. I hadn’t met him and didn’t interview him when I wrote my somewhat imaginative account of his experience for CLIMAX in 1962. But I actually did get to know Erwin decades after that story was published and I provide a more factual account of his bravery in MISSION TO TOKYO.”

Another old Robert F. Dorr men’s adventure story I found features the pilot of a P-47 Thunderbolt, the airplane featured in Bob’s book HELL HAWKS! (co-written with former US astronaut Tom Jones).

This one, “The Air Ace Who Downed Six Japs in One Day,” was published in the February 1965 issue of MAN’S MAGAZINE, with an awesome black-and-white illustration by artist Harry Schaare.

It’s about U.S. Army Air Corps Colonel Neel E. Kearby, who was also awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery in World War II.

The Wikipedia entry about Kearby notes that he was awarded the medal for downing the six Japanese fighters mentioned in Bob’s story, during an air battle near Wewak, New Guinea.

I asked Bob what percentage of the stories he wrote for men’s adventure magazines were largely straightforward history.

My use of the phrase “largely straightforward history” in association with vintage men’s pulp mags gave him a chuckle.

He responded:

“My guess would be almost zero ‘straightforward’ history. I’d say about 40 percent were based on real people and events, but with heavy embellishment. Probably 60 percent of the stories I wrote were manufactured from whole cloth.”

Next time I talk to Bob, I’ll have to ask him which category his article “Sex in Japan,” in the August 1964 issue of MAN’S MAGAZINE, falls into.

I noticed that it was written as a first person account. And, Bob was stationed in Japan during part of his career in the foreign service. Hmmm…

You won’t find any juicy revelations about sex in MISSION TO TOKYO.

But you will find gripping anecdotes, fascinating historical facts and fresh perspectives on key events in World War II, written by one of our country’s top military historians — and the only one who was also once a top writer for men’s pulp adventure magazines.

By the way, anyone who would like to get a signed book from Bob Dorr can contact him at (703) 264-8950 or at robert.f.dorr@cox.net.

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Comments? Questions? Corrections? Post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

More book recommendations from MensPulpMags.com...

 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Attack of the Lesbian Wives! – Portrayals of Lesbians in Vintage Men’s Adventure Magazines (Part 4)


Previous posts in my series about lesbians in men’s adventure magazines noted that, early in their careers, some writers who later became well-known novelists penned purportedly true, but essentially made up “sexology” and sexposé books and stories under pseudonyms. (In case you missed those posts, here are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)

For example, the best-selling crime and mystery novelist Lawrence Block once wrote highly believable articles and books about sex-related topics, including lesbians, under the name Dr. Benjamin Morse. The great science fiction and fantasy writer Robert Silverberg did the same using the pseudonym L.T. Woodward, M.D.

Recently, I ran across another interesting example of a pseudonymous sexposé about lesbians in the March 1964 issue of MAN’S EXPLOITS magazine. (That complete issue is now available as download in PDF format in the MensPulpMags.com Payloadz store).

It’s a story that undoubtedly horrified male readers of the magazine, titled “IS YOUR WIFE A SECRET LESBIAN?”

In this case, the writer behind the story’s pen name did not go on to wider, lasting fame. But back in the day he was a prolific contributor to men’s adventure magazines.

He also wrote many pulp sexology books published in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The Editor’s Note on the first page of  “IS YOUR WIFE A SECRET LESBIAN?” says the author — credited as J.H. Berkely — was “one of the nation's most renowned students of human sexual behavior....author of many books, including the best-selling work, ‘The Lesbian In Our Society.’”

If you go Googling for the book THE LESBIAN IN OUR SOCIETY by J.H. Berkely, you won’t find it.

However, you will find a real book by that title first published in 1962, two years before the MAN’S EXPLOITS story was published.

That book is credited to W.D. Sprague, Ph.D.

Sprague is also credited as the author of such classics as SEXUAL BEHAVIOR OF AMERICAN NURSES (1963), PATTERNS OF ADULTERY: A MARRIAGE COUNSELLOR’S CASEBOOK (1964), SEX AND THE SECRETARY (1964), SEXUAL BEHAVIOR OF THE AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE (1965), SEXUAL REBELLION IN THE SIXTIES (1968), SEX CHEATS: A PHYSICIAN’S CASEBOOK OF PSYCHOSEXUAL ABERRATION AMONG THE MARRIED (1969) and THE SENSUOUS HOOKER (1972).

Amazingly, only a few sources (such as Phil Stephensen-Payne’s indispensable site about vintage magazines, Galactic Central) note that W.D. Sprague is a pseudonym for the Bela W. von Block.

Von Block was a professional pulp writer whose full name was Bela William von Block. He was usually credited as Bela W. or B.W. von Block. Sometimes as Bela von Block.

I don’t know why the editors of MAN’S EXPLOITS used J.H. Berkely for this story instead of W.D. Sprague or von Block’s own name. (He wrote hundreds of men’s adventure mag stories under variations of his own name.)

Maybe it was to avoid some copyright issue — or to avoid payment.

But the story is clearly drawn from the book THE LESBIAN IN OUR SOCIETY by, ahem, W.D. Sprague, Ph.D.

The book and story both feature case studies supposedly provided by the “Psychoanalytical Assistance Foundation,” or PAF, for short.

If you Google the name of that organization you will eventually figure out that it only seems to appears in books and articles written by W.D. Sprague — and, in one instance, by J.H. Berkely. (In some cases, von Block called it “The Psychoanalytic Assistance Foundation.”)

The PAF case studies read like a cross between a real scientific document in the style of Alfred Kinsey and a sleaze paperback novel.

For example, here are some excerpts from one cited in the MAN’S EXPLOITS story:

PAF Case History No. 101.8
Name: June L.
Place of residence: Louisville, Ky.
Age: 32 years, 6 months.
       (Mrs.) June L. is married to Ronald L., 45, a building contractor. They have been married 12 years, have two children.
       June L. is a lovely—but rather tense—woman with delicate features and large hazel eyes. Her figure is very feminine, with full, firm breasts and well-rounded hips...
       After they had been married eight years, Ronald bought a new house. When they moved into it, June was delighted to find that the next-door neighbors were friendly and pleasant. She especially liked Marcia O., but also became quite friendly with her husband, Hugh.
       June often visited with Marcia in the mornings and afternoons while both their husbands were away at work and June's children were at school.
       One night, June and Ronald had a particularly angry argument. The next morning, June went to Marcia’s house and unburdened herself, telling the other woman the whole story of her marriage. 
       “I know, dear,” Marcia murmured. “I’ve known it all along.”
       “You've know what all along?” June asked in surprise. 
       “This!” Marcia said hoarsely, and she put her arms around June and kissed her passionately on the lips...
       To her amazement, June found she was sexually aroused by Marcia's touch and kiss. She opened her mouth and allowed Marcia’s tongue to probe hungrily between her lips. June responded to the other woman's kisses and caresses as she had never responded to her husband’s love-making...
       The two women have been having a secret homosexual relationship ever since. Their husbands know nothing of this. Both women submit to their respective husbands “when necessary.”
       “Thank God, it isn’t often!” June exclaims gratefully.

For most of the men who read of men’s pulp adventure magazines in the 1960s, about the only thing that could be more maddening and ego-shredding than the thought of your wife having an affair with another man was the thought that she could be having a lesbian affair.

Was there reason for the manly readers of MAN’S EXPLOITS to worry about their own wives? Yes, indeed! — according to the article by Berkely/Sprague/von Block.

Why, just that year (it claims) an in-depth study by the authoritative (albeit apparently mythical) Psychoanalytical Assistance Foundation “indicated that 29.3 percent—or almost THREE in every TEN married women had engaged in homosexual acts after marriage.”

The good news?

       As far as “stopping” wives from “turning lez” is concerned, there is much that husbands can do, at least in a goodly portion of instances. First of all a husband should treat his wife with affection and consideration. Then, he should read a reliable sex-manual or consult his physician, a psychologist or a marriage counselor to insure that he knows and is able to employ proper sex techniques so that his wife achieves orgasm and is satisfied emotionally as well as physically by sexual intercourse with him. Also, he should see to it that she is not bored by her existence. If he detects signs of boredom or restlessness, he should seek the causes and fake whatever remedial measures are within his power.
       A husband who does these things goes a long way toward insuring that his wife will not wander, that she will not be unfaithful to him, heterosexually or homosexually.

Over the years, men’s adventure magazines published a number of other helpful articles for readers who wanted more information about lesbian wives.

Another interesting one from a cultural history perspective is in the December 1973 issue of MAN’S STORY. (Available as a download by clicking this link.)

It’s titled “THE SHOCKING SCANDAL OF SUBURBIA’S LESBIAN WIVES.”

And, yes, it actually links the spread of middle class, suburban neighborhoods in America to lesbianism.

It also stokes the fear most men had about the burgeoning women’s liberation movement.

In fact, this sexposé paints a true nightmare scenario for the poor schmuck who worked hard at some factory, store or office so he could afford to buy his family a nice home in the suburbs, especially if he harbored any concerns about how women’s lib affected his manliness, his wife and his marriage.

The author, Frank Gorman (who I could find nothing about), lays out his case in the first few paragraphs...

       The sexual revolution in this country has spawned a dark urge as old as Sappho, who wrote poems to her female love partners on the isle of Lesbos about 600 B.C., and as new as this morning's headlines.
       The dark urge is lesbianism.
       Its growth in the past fifteen years has been phenomenal, or is it a coincidence that those same fifteen years have seen the mass migration to suburbia. There is a definite link between the two.
       Today; with a lesbian population in the U.S. of about five million (that's a conservative estimate) there's reason to believe that with the influence of women's lib more and more suburban wives are turning to invert relationships.

According to studies and experts cited in this story “lesbianism is often the consequence of a disordered and confused society.”

And, if you thought suburban life was a good thing, and that a man would be rewarded for working late to pay the bills for that dream house with the white picket fence, fuggedabowdit!

The article explained:

      ...the so-called rigors of suburban living have paved the way to what might be termed a mass inversion. Boredom is one of the prime factors. Denied contact with her husband for periods up to 15 and 16 hours a day, and unable to violate the double standard existing today, the suburban wife may well find herself indulging in a homosexual relationship if only to offset her loneliness.

That’s right buddy, you just can’t win — UNLESS your woman heeds the words of Dr. Bernard A. Bauer, a real life gynecologist from Vienna who wrote some papers in the late 1920s that apparently provided the perfect guidance for women of the 1970s.

As quoted in the story “THE SHOCKING SCANDAL OF SUBURBIA’S LESBIAN WIVES,” Herr Doktor said:

      “Freedom for women means freedom to love. But we cannot go against nature. Woman is intended for reproduction; she has been appointed to take an active part in the reproduction of the race by pregnancy and child-birth. And while these laws of Nature remain every attempt at emancipation is futile.”

There ya go! Problem solved. Oh...wait...

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Comments? Questions? Corrections? Post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Click here to download a complete copy
of MAN’S EXPLOITS, March 1964

Featuring great pulp art, vintage cheesecake photos, cartoons by Bill Ward and wild stories like “WE BATTLED THE BAWDY BANDIT WOMEN OF BALI,” “I RAN A BROTHEL FOR MILLIONAIRES,” “IS YOUR WIFE A SECRET LESBIAN?” and “THE BLOODY HORROR OF THOSE DOPE-CRAZED ANACONDA SEX CULTISTS.”

MAN'S EXPLOITS - 1964 03 March - scans

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Women in Prison – Portrayals of Lesbians in Vintage Men’s Adventure Magazines (Part 3)


I’ll start this third post in my series about the depiction of lesbians in vintage men’s adventure magazines with a startling revelation from a story in the December 1964 issue of MAN’S EPIC, an issue that features a great WWII damsels-in-distress painting by Bruce Minney on its cover.

(Here are links to the first post and the second post from the series, in case you missed them.)

That story, titled “THE LESBIAN EPIDEMIC, OUR NATIONAL SHAME,” explains that when male prison guards beat women prisoners “this sort of thing...contributes to a common anti-male feeling held by lesbians.”

Ya think?

OK. That’s not really a startling revelation. But I did have a revelation while reading this old MAN’S EPIC exposé.

Most men’s pulp mag stories about lesbians have sensationalized titles, headlines and subheads and are illustrated with titillating photos or artwork.

But underneath the usual pulp-sleaze hype, some stories about lesbians in prison made serious points regarding the need for prison reform and almost seem ahead of their time. At least, on that front.

For example, “THE LESBIAN EPIDEMIC” story ends by noting that the United States was spending billions to keep both male and female inmates in shamefully-operated prisons and concludes: “Reform would be infinitely cheaper.”

In its view of homosexuality, however, the story is a reflection of its time.

The author, Aldo Saxon (probably a pseudonym), describes lesbianism as a depraved mental disease that should — and could — be cured.

Aldo writes:

      ...prisons are breeding grounds for the practice of depravity and the recruitment of young innocents to the “queer world.” We must be willing to recognize lesbianism as an illness and treat its sufferers accordingly. Certainly, additional psychiatric help is indicated.

An earlier story from the April 1958 issue of MEN magazine, “WOMEN WITHOUT MEN,” is similarly progressive on the need for prison reform. (BTW, the cover of that issue features a nice WWII action painting by the great Mort Kunstler.) 

The story in MEN is a first hand account written by a woman who worked as a matron (i.e., a guard) at the New Jersey State Prison for Women — a facility popularly called the Clinton Farms Reformatory for Women back when the belief that prisons could “reform” inmates was more prevalent than the idea that prisons themselves needed reforming to achieve that goal.

There’s an intense photo of a young girl behind bars on the first page of the story that reminds me of the poster for Linda Blair’s notorious girls’ reform school movie BORN INNOCENT (1974).

There’s also a scary-sounding subhead on the second page that blares: “They live in a world of their own—a savage, lonely world, full of violent hungers and strange desires.”

Ironically, the other photos and the story itself make Clinton Farms seem pretty mild compared to the harsh images popularized by mid-20th Century women in prison films.

The article’s discussion of lesbianism is straightforward and amazingly unsensationalized. The author, credited as “J. Biddle,” tells us:

     At its worst, it dominates prisons that I've heard about, where masculine types—“boy-girls,” they're called—actually line up new young girls and choose the ones they will “marry.” At its best, no such overt acts occur but the presence of homosexuality is sensed nevertheless, a dark underground stream that cannot be dammed…
     Only a few of the girls are lesbians when they arrive. Many are completely ignorant of it. Others are determined to resist it.
     Yet unavoidable pressures force them toward it. A new arrival is lost and miserable in unfamiliar surroundings. For a girl, even more than for a boy, the natural thing is to find a friend among the inmates who will help her learn the ropes.

There’s nothing like BORN INNOCENT’s infamous rape with a broomstick handle in “WOMEN WITHOUT MEN.” There are no lurid tales of guards abusing the inmates.

And, you can’t help but notice that some of the photos seem out-of-sync with a story that’s supposed to be about “violent hungers and strange desires.”

One shows a group of spiffily-uniformed female inmates roller skating outdoors. Another shows some young ladies playing cards.

A third photo shows two women scrubbing floors. According to the caption, that pic proves the inmates at Clinton “aren’t mollycoddled.” The caption also helpfully explains that scrubbing floors “gives each girl a sense of responsibility.”

Not surprisingly, the women in prison stories published in men’s pulp magazines during the 1970s tend to be a bit more extreme than “WOMEN WITHOUT MEN.”

In the ‘70s, such stories were often like the “caged women” sexploitation movies of that era.

Some have the tongue-in-cheek flair of “chicks in chains” cult films like the early Jonathan Demme classics BLACK MAMA, WHITE MAMA (1973) and CAGED HEAT (1974).

A good example is the story “SEX WAS THE ONLY THING I LEARNED IN PRISON” in the April 1971 issue of MAN’S WORLD.

It’s a sensationalistic “as told to” yarn written by Alex Austin.

Austin was a versatile author who wrote hundreds of stories for men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

He also wrote several novels and edited some interesting story anthologies for Lion Library, the paperback sub of one of the biggest publishers of men’s adventure magazines, Magazine Management. (You can read more about Austin’s work in this previous MensPulpMags.com post.)

The MAN’S WORLD story was (supposedly) told to Austin by a hard-bitten, world-weary prostitute who spent time in several women’s prisons.

The opening paragraphs are eloquently gritty:

     Now I know what cattle must feel like, crowded together in box cars, on their way to the slaughterhouse. Nobody cares about the cattle. Nobody cares about women in prison either. It’s as simple as that. I guess most people can’t get themselves worked up about what goes on in the prisons. They figure any woman who gets herself behind bars must be no good, a bum—so why sweat! Maybe they say, “Oh, it’s too bad ...” Then they go to the movies or have a few drinks and go to bed.
    Well, I'm not trying to plead any case for a lot of innocent lilies or anything like that. But the first night I spent in New York’s Women's House of Detention, I saw a nineteen-year-old kid raped by a bull dyke who'd give Cassius Clay a run for his money. The kid was in for demonstrating about something. I don't know what. It was the dyke's fourteenth arrest.
     This sort of thing happens in women's prisons everywhere. I should know. I've been in enough of them.

Grim stuff. However, like CAGED HEAT, this story has an air of sly, pulpy humor.

I’m not sure if the full-page photo of the scantily-clad young lady with the prison bars is part of the intentional humor. It may be unintentional. Either way, it’s pretty funny.

She looks more like a Victoria’s Secret model than a prison inmate. And, her image is obviously superimposed over the shot of the prison bars, in a pre-Photoshop paste-up job that makes the bars look out of scale.

I wonder if the poor, unfortunate lass had to scrub the floors like the inmates at the Clinton Farms Reformatory for Women. And, did she have to wear that revealing torn slip as she scrubbed away?

Hmmm. I can see it in my mind’s eye. It’s definitely the kind of horrifying image that would spur prison reform. Yessiree!

My co-editor on the WEASELS RIPPED MY FLESH! and HE-MEN, BAG MEN AND NYMPHOS story anthologies, Wyatt Doyle, noticed another funny thing about this story that reflects his vast knowledge of obscure movies.

The photo in the middle of the two-page spread is actually a still from cult filmmaker Andy Milligan’s lost potboiler KISS ME, KISS ME, KISS ME! (1968).

Indeed, all three photos in that spread reflect the fact that men’s adventure magazine editors commonly repurposed totally unrelated stock photos and uncredited movie stills in the “true stories” they published.

Coming up: a look a story that really might have horrified men who read men’s adventure magazines — “THE SHOCKING SCANDAL OF SUBURBIA’S LESBIAN WIVES,” from the December 1973 issue of MAN’S STORY.

For the complete experience, you can click this link or the link below to download and read that entire issue.

[And here are links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4 of this series about “Lesbians in Men’s Adventure Magazines”]

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Comments? Questions? Corrections? Post them in the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

Click here to download a complete copy
of MAN’S STORY, December 1973

Featuring great pulp art by Norman Saunders, John Duillo and Bruce Minney, and wild stories like “The Mafia’s Orgy Island Paradise,” “Terror’s Handmaidens for the Blood Fiend of Toledo,” “I Joined a Kinky Passion Cult” and (gasp!) “The Shocking Scandal of Suburbia's Lesbian Wives.”

MAN'S STORY, December 1973, cover & stories