Monday, January 31, 2011

Norma DESMOND Magazine, March 1952

Lolly Parson's called it the publicity stunt of the ages - a bit of Kabuki theater designed to put famed silent screen star Norma Desmond back on the public radar screen, and boy did it ever.  She shoots this guy for running out on her, and then her butler Max calls up silent screen comedian Harold Lloyd and asks what to do. 

"Well," says Lloyd, "its a good thing she grabbed that prop gun that you keep in the house or you would have to buy stock in Bon Ami to clean up all the guts and blood.  First, I'd get the slob out of the pool before he ruins the water, nurse him back to health in the maid's quarters.  Next, call up Stretch Longstreet, no one remembers him or his films.  Invite him over for coffee near the cabana - when Stretch's enlarged heart gives out from the caffeine, shove him into the pool and call the cops.

And thats what happened.  And then there was all that emoting on the TV screens with Hedda reporting in the background and Lolly Parson's grinding her teeth at home.  You know they got Miss Desmond off on a technicality, but by then she was wildly popular with everyone in the country, except Rose Kennedy.

And then, before you know it, Norma Desmond is back up on the screen; she's making movies and selling out theaters, and then launches her own monthly rag.  It was so lush - measuring two feet by eighteen inches.  Large splashy images, interviews with all the people that one would need to know to get ahead in the film business, and then there were the coupons!  Who can forget those!

Even though she's been dead for forty years - she fell out of her famous bed and drowned in a dishpan of water and Epsom salts that she had been soaking her feet in before retiring for the evening - the magazine continues in a sort of sorts. 

Sold to Faversham Magazines, and renamed DESMOND, it continued along being the fashionable publication that Norma had hoped it would be.  Things changed in 2006 when Faversham was taken over by some lout from London who declared that print was dead.  He  spent down its capital on foolish things like sub-prime mortgages designed to give value added income to his share holders, and cheap Albanian hookers (as if there is any other kind) for his staff writers.  Eventually milked drier than one of Miss Desmond's breasts, its remaining assets were sold to Drinnan Woolens who relaunched the magazine, sans the DESMOND name, as a site for people who loved to knit and Mitten Drinnen  it is today.

Of course, Norma would have been philosophical about it.  Yeah, shooting that Joe guy was one smart move, but nothing beats a good dying scene in a movie.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Infomaniac Monthly, November 1950

The origins of Infomaniac Monthly (The Magazine for Bitches who need to know on a need to know basis) are murky, but the "coded" text, for those who didn’t need to know it, was perplexing, to say the least. It’s publisher was a real kitten with a whip who went by the name “Mistress MJ”. Still it was one of the must reads in Ottawa by the territorial government, and said Queen Mary found its contents very subversive - yet she claimed she only read it for the coupons.

Every November the magazine held a contest and gave away either a McLaughlin Buick or a Meteor Niagara (later a LeMoyne). You know, those folks in Manitoba really love their LeMoynes. The only time the contest backfired was November of 1959 when the faithful readership almost rioted when the car give-a-way was a basic Frontenac sedan. Really!

Like all trends, the magazine got popular in the lower forty-eight when husband’s began using the excuse that they “had to cross the Ambassador to get a copy of Infomaniac.” When what they were really up to was visiting the titty bars in Windsor for a show and a quickie lap dance before heading home, the copy of Infomaniac covering their stained trousers.

It reached its frenzied peak in 1970, when the American talk show (of the same name) was hosted by David Suskind, and he invented Maria Muldare to “feltch her violin,” and put on a show for the audience.  After that elephant sat down in the living rooms of middle America, you could hear a pin drop.  Now that the lid was off the box, and Pandora (and society, too) ran amok in its efforts to find a dictionary and look it up, and break the code.  "Feltch.  That's a funny word, isn't Andy," Aunt Bea was heard to say in an episode of the Andy Griffith Show.

Oddly, there was no definition for the word until a minister's housewife in the Quad Cities caught "feltching that chocolate pudding out of the container"  at a church function.  How unhygienic is that?  Dessert?  I'll pass.

Today, Infomaniac is a blog - electronic media media, they call it.  New fangled like dental floss and stuff like that.  And at it's essence, its back to being what it was meant to be - the place where Bitches who need to know on a need to know basis find out what it is that they to know. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Thombeau's Weekly, 1936

Reading Thombeau's Weekly while on the beach in Cape Cod was one of mother's favorite pastimes because it made Rose Kennedy nuts.  Of course, Mother loved the articles, but it was the way that its editor framed his opinion pieces that drove Eunice and Jack's mother crazy.  Everything was logically free-form and Mrs. Kennedy couldn't wrap her mind around that.

"You know that when the children were young, I would set up a bulletin board with little articles of the day on the wall of the nursery," Rose would begin to blather on hoping Mother would take the chit-chat bait. 

"That's nice," Mother would reply, riveted to an article on how Gloria Swanson taught Joe Kennedy to be a cunning linguist.  "Really nice." Of course you would only get that type of information in Thombeau's, sandwiched in between pictures of the latest in honor guards wearing avant guard uniforms and recipes for rattlesnake stuffed filets.   

And who can forget those crossword puzzles!  Each puzzle was really hard - "MOMA and Dada" required that you knew the names of the mothers of the founders the Dadaist movement. Now that was one for the records - and if you were clueless enough to think that the puzzle was about baby talk, well, you missed that boat. 

But if you completed the puzzles and found the code, and solved that insiders puzzle, then fabulous things could happen in your life. 

The puzzle father completed (Bead's, Bangle's and Bible's) gave him the password to get into San Simeon for the weekend.  And even then he had to show it to Hearst's butler to prove he had actually completed the puzzle in ink just to get in the door.  But it was worth it; it's how I ended up with Cary Grant and Randolf Scott as my God parents.

An eclectic mix of articles, images and probing questions, it's daring expose "Your Manicurist, Friend or Fiend?" shocked California.    It was a guaranteed seller at the newsstands - even housewives in Azusa and El Cerito kept it in the house because it made them feel as if they had arrived.  Isn't that charming?

Of course Jackie made sure every room at the White House had the latest issue of Thombeau's on hand.  Rose bore a stiff upper lip.  She didn't get it, or the allure of Oleg Cassini (which Thombeau's reported on, in depth) and she "missed the only magazine that (she) could evah love," the long defunct Woman's Home Companion, Damn it!

It was daring, and it wasn't for everybody - and if it were, well then, it wasn't Thombeau's.  And simply put, if you didn't get Thombeau's Weekly magazine, then you would never get Thombeau's Weekly.  Savvy?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

VOGUE, January 1900

VOGUE Magazine has always been a thorn in the sides of women.

While "style" may be indestructible, it certainly goes out of favor in rapid fashion.  One month everything is all bosoms and cleavage and the next month they expect you to be flat chested.  Smoking is a sign of women's freedom, and then the next minute it makes one smell terribly bad.  Bother.

Until the hatching of that Anna Wintour creature, Vogue was a magazine of real style and substance.  Ms. Wintour has reduced it to an advertising monthly.

But back in its heyday, Vogue tackled some really difficult topics like "fem" odor, why it was better to keep the teeth you have instead of the type you put in a cup and the importance of looking good after childbirth ("No husband wants to comfort a hot sweaty dying woman who has exhausted her value to him.")

Of course Vogue has missed a few calls in its day.  Its most notable mistake was promoting a full bosomy woman in April of 1922, then turning around and declaring the flat chested flapper the style icon of the decade.  "It isn't like a men's collar that one can attach to a shirt, or toss away when it get dirty.  Do the editors of Vogue not understand that a woman's bosom is attached?" wrote H.L. Mencken.

Needles to today, it still lurks on the nation's magazine stands, and in the homes of people who claim to love it, although the truth is, they only buy it because it makes them look fashionable when they carry it home.