Friday, August 19, 2011

Fun Finds: Early '60s Fan Mags

The dog days of summer and I have been nowhere in sight for a little while now. So sorry to be remiss in posting, but I was out of town, relaxing and recreating in the restful resort known as Oglebay Park in West Virginia. I just couldn't bring myself to break away from the balcony with its mountain view, nor the company of my best friend who was there with me, in order to work on The Underworld. And then, sure enough, there was a different sort of mountain (of work!) waiting for me when I returned to the office.

Anyway, I haven't completely forgotten my loyal friends and true who visit here looking for the fun and the freakish. Before I left, I was on yet another of my never-ending scrounges through a dusty antique store and came upon two potential “finds” lying in a battered copper double-boiler. There were two old fan magazines, one in decent condition and one that looked like someone had rolled it up and beat his wife, child or dog with it repeatedly. Both featured Annette Funicello on the cover, who I have nothing against, but is hardly a favorite. If you like her, you may really enjoy some of the pictures here today. After asking the clerk, I was told that the mags were $2.00 apiece, so I snatched them up, eager to see what else was inside.

In what is a perfectly bizarre occurrence considering my adoration of the era, the majority of the celebrities featured in these two magazines are ones that I really don't have a strong connection to. The ones I do have an affinity for (such as John Gavin and James Franciscus) had negligible photos and articles inside. Nonetheless, I scanned in quite a few pages just in case the stars matter to you. Different strokes for different folks!

First up is Teen Screen from around November of 1963. The front cover was shown above and this is the back (a wraparound.) It's interesting in that the cover doubled as a lipstick advertisement when it was turned to the back. Her nails are also featured prominently and the Cutex color (Whisper Pink) is noted right on the front of the cover.

One of the first featured stars is singing sensation Bobby Rydell, who had not only served up the hit song “Wild One” a few years before, but was also enjoying a featured role in the hit movie Bye Bye Birdie, playing Ann-Margret's befuddled boyfriend Hugo. His acting career was minimal as he was primarily a singer (and still sings today with Frankie Avalon and Fabian.) His presence amidst the late '50s/early '60s pop culture was important enough to warrant the authors of the stage musical (and later movie) Grease to name the school of the primary characters Rydell High. Not my type at all, but a friend of mine's mother was cuckoo over him.

Then there's the Q & A section in which dizzy fans, primarily teenage girls, write in with their questions. A couple of things struck me here. One is that, for no apparent reason (not my cropping!), the response to the question about Elvis's first hit song and movie is partially missing. The rest of “Heartbreak Hotel” and the fact that Jailhouse Rock was his film debut were left hanging in the air for poor Gail Washington of Bridgeport, Connecticut to wonder about ever after... Then there's the girl who was asking what Gardner McKay's religion was! (Couldn't she tell from his tight white pants during Adventures in Paradise? Ha!) Most shocking to me was the knowledge (and I guess it's true??) that Connie Stevens lengthy ponytail of the early '60s was REAL. I'm still not sure about that one, but maybe so.

Next is a chit-chat section about Hollywood. The columnist (or headline writer) actually misspells Burl Ives' name at the top, referring to him as Burl Ive. For some reason, Burl was featured significantly in these magazines!! A less teen-worthy attraction would be hard to imagine to my mind. In this and countless other articles, Richard Chamberlain's love life is speculated on madly. There's a shot of a Go-Kart race that features Jim Mitchum, Jody McCrea, Don Grady and others (including, if my eyes don't deceive me, ubiquitous TV and movie character actor Royal Dano!)

Speculation about Richard Chamberlain's love life continues with a photo of him with Imitation of Life's Susan Kohner. The caption reads “Something between Dick and Susan Kohner?” I'd say dick is what came between Richard and any woman! The bottom right photo has actress Jenny Maxwell and her “escort.” These days, I'd say more people know who Bill Bixby was than who Ms. Maxwell, though she certainly led a captivating life in a way. Married at sixteen (to a twenty-four year-old assistant director), she was the divorced mother of a young son by the time of this snap. Sadly, in 1981 at the age of thirty-nine, she and her estranged second husband were shot dead in a botched robbery attempt at their home.

In the readers' letters section, there's an amusing debate about the manners and habits of Hayley Mills. This is followed by another picture and one pro and one con letter each about 'Dick' Chamberlain, as he was then referred to quite often. It is impossible to overestimate the pressure that was placed on him at this point in his career, as the star of Dr. Kildare and of several movies, to conform to the heterosexual ideal. No wonder he remained in the closet for such a long time. It is amazing to see and read about his popularity and witness the way he was adored and scrutinized then.

Here we have a photo featurette about young Disney actor Tommy Kirk and his preparations for a date. An utterly complete fabrication in every conceivable way, the piece takes us through each step of his afternoon, from calling the lucky girl on the phone to showering and selecting an outfit to the “surprise” appearance of a pal to the setting of mood music as HE waits for HER to come over! What ever happened to a guy going to a girl's house to pick her up for a date?!

Incidentally, Kirk's friend Clive Clerk was a dancer who made his debut as Rock Hudson and Doris Day's dry cleaning delivery boy in Send Me No Flowers and proceeded to eke out a career as a young male TV and movie performer (including the 1965 Patty Duke opus Billie) until about 1970. He apparently had a hit song out at the time of this article called “Just a Boy.” Really? In 1975, he originated the role of Larry in Broadway's A Chorus Line, the proceeded to change his name to Clive Wilson and concentrate on life as an artist. He died in 2005 at the age of fifty-nine.

Considering the way Tommy Kirk later opened up to Movieline magazine, he more than likely would have rather had his date with Clive Clerk! Born in Louisville, Kentucky, but raised in California, he struggled to come to grips with his homosexuality. Being under contract to Walt Disney only made things doubly difficult and shortly after this staged photo shoot, he was dropped by Disney Studios because of his sexual orientation even though he was still able to turn out hits like The Monkey's Uncle, his final film there. (Well, actually the firing had more to do with the twenty-two year-old's interlude at a swimming pool with a fifteen year-old boy, whose mother went straight to Walt with the news!) He almost caught a break with the 1965 John Wayne film The Sons of Katie Elder, but he was part of a much-publicized marijuana party bust and the job was squelched before he even started it. Michael Anderson Jr. inherited the role. What followed was a lengthy period of rotten movies and drugs. Thankfully, he later pulled it together and got out of the business, running his own carpet and upholstery cleaning company.

Now I'm posting the list of available fan clubs that were presented in the issue. I'm posting these primarily for two reasons. One is to show you what you got for your $0.25 to $1.50 or so and the other is to show you some of the names of the stars who had fan clubs who you may not recall or ever even have heard of!

I admit that when it comes to music, I am far less knowledgeable than I tend to be with TV and movies, but I like to think that someone prominent enough to deserve space in a national magazine and attract enough fans for a club would at least ring a bell. Not so for such legendary performers as Timi Yuro, Joey Dee, Elsie Tillman, Mike Clifford, The Tokens, Cathy Arnoldy, Linda Scott, Garry Miles, Johnny Maestro or Ailyene Silverman... Bobby Vee, who I have heard of, but no nothing about, had two competing fan clubs listed!

Knowing that Annette Funicello probably has a fair amount of fans out there who would find the aforementioned wraparound cover interesting, I went to the trouble of fusing it together into one jpg file. It's imperfect because of wear to the magazine and due to my own lack of skill at anything even remotely associated with photo-shopping. I will mention, though, that the actual magazine I posted from above, was wrinkled and darkly yellowed, so I did at least try to use the computer to bring the pages back to their original black and white splendor as close as I was able to accomplish!

Moving on, we cut to about six months later and the issue of TV Star Parade, again featuring Miss Annette on the cover in a buxom pose. Walt Disney had implored her never to be shown in a bikini, he was so fond of her wholesome image and disapproved of the two-piece suits. This was a considerably more polished and diverse magazine than the teen one, though it covered a lot of the same ground (and was still only $0.25!)

The first feature concerned Bonanza star Michael Landon (who, like several stars of his day, is referred to by a short nickname, in this case “Mike.”) Landon was profiled here in The Underworld not long ago, so if you click on his name in the column to the right there is much more to be found about him there. At this point in his life, he was on wife number two, the former model Lynn and their blended family was growing.

The article, surprisingly, doesn't shy away from the couple's prior divorces and even mentions his first wife, Dodie, by name, including the information that she lived nearby and that he was on good terms with her. It does, however, neglect to mention that his and Lynn's baby Leslie, shown with them here, was actually conceived and born in 1962 while they were both still married to their prior spouses!! Also, I'm ever-so-slightly confused by the fact that this magazine was the July issue and, thus, was sold in May or June and it mentions their upcoming baby, expected to be born in June, yet Lynn is svelte as ever and shows no sign of pregnancy at all! The baby would be Michael Landon Jr., born June 20th, 1964. Landon, of course, would eventually dump Lynn for his third wife Cindy, something Lynn would never completely come to terms with.

In this magazine's readers' questions section, we see queries about Rory Calhoun, Petticoat Junction's Jeannine Riley and Auntie Mame and 77 Sunset Strip actor Roger Smith. In a vivid example of the unreliability of showbiz rags, the question about Smith concern's his marriage to Victoria Shaw (who doesn't even rate being mentioned by name, though she was a working actress herself!) is answered with the news that they are happily married and plan no divorce. In fact, the couple was divorced the following year and two years after that, Smith married Ann-Margret, to whom he is still wed to this day!

There's also a question about Underworld fave Betty White (pictured with a couple of simian friends, a demonstration of her longstanding love for both domesticated and undomesticated animals.) Amazingly, someone wanted more of Ray Walson, too! Then there's an inquiry about Randy Boone, the nephew of Pat and cousin to Debby, who was appearing on The Virginian and would later work on Cimmaron Strip with Stuart Whitman. He later had a seminude photo published in a ladies magazine, though I don't know what Uncle Pat thought about that. (Then again, ol' Pat once had a full frontal snap taken of him while young as part of a comedic “dick in a box” prank, so maybe there was no judgement? Hustler magazine got a hold of it and published it in order to shame him during his ongoing born-again Christian campaign.)

Not that you could miss them, but don't forget to spot the advertisements here either. There's the amusing waterproof lash and brow stain Dark-Eyes (there's no better way to get a chiseled man in a swimsuit to wave at you, trust me!) Then for the burgeoning artist, there's the sketch of a scantily-clad young lady who's ready for the dress shown nearby to be applied to her frame. Man... when I was a kid, the Art Instruction School test asked you to draw a pirate or a turtle or maybe a house. This is so much more fun.

Interestingly, there's an article on Paul McCartney's “bride” Jane Asher. They refer to her as his “secret bride,” but the two were never actually married. After meeting with The Beatles in 1963, she did proceed to have a romance with Paul, one that eventually led to a 1967 engagement, but the passive-aggressive relationship was all said and done by 1968, punctuated with a boldface period when she came home one day to find him in bed with another woman. To her credit and unlike so many other hangers on, she never once exploited the failed relationship by penning a book or even giving further interviews. She hasn't to this day! She was most recently seen (looking quite chic) in the hysterical British comedy Death at a Funeral. As for Sir Paul, he just performed in concert for four hours at a stadium here, still going strong.

Speaking of McCartney and The Beatles, this next chick I had never heard of at all, but, like I said, music is not my expertise, if I even have one. The headline for the story says that she was bigger than The Beatles, but we know that wasn't true! Rita Pavone was an Italian singer who had a few hits here and there outside her country, mostly hitting it big in Spain. Her U.S. record career lasted just over a year, though she did make appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show from 1965 through 1970. Her androgynous style is highlighted in the profile and the photos.

This being half a year after the first magazine in which the authenticity of her lengthy, dishwater-blonde hair was called into question, we now find that Connie Stevens has cut and bleached it. Freshly married (since October of 1963) to actor James Stacy, she and Jim pose for a series of fluffy shots around their backyard deck and barbecue grill. One of Connie's big secrets, by the way, for grilling chicken is to baste it with Kitchen Bouquet! No thanks...

They both had been in the business for about six or seven years by this time. Some of Connie's most lasting work was already behind her, though she was hardly through. Jim was still making a name for himself, though within a decade he would be dealt a devastating blow. After his divorce from Connie in 1966, he was married to True Grit's Kim Darby for just over a year, fathering one girl with her. Then in 1973, he and a girlfriend were riding his motorcycle when a drunk driver struck them, killing her and causing him to lose his left arm and left leg. Though he did continue to work for a time, often in specialized roles or projects, he eventually unraveled into a mess of drinking, a suicide attempt, charges of molestation and even a jail term. These happy photos give no indication of what was to come for him.

Another performer who I have nothing against, but who also never lit my fire, was Donna Douglas of The Beverly Hillbillies. Here, we have a photo spread featuring her walking around Los Angeles (out of her hillbilly jeans and flannel shirts for once) reflecting on life without her young son who was back home in Louisiana while she was out in California earning a living.

Married at sixteen, she was a divorced mother of a son by the age of twenty-one in 1954 (though this was not a shotgun wedding. The baby was born in 1954!) She went off to New York to fashion a career and did find work on stage, on TV and in films until she hit it big in 1962 with Hillbillies, which kept her employed steadily through 1971. Hopelessly typecast (and bound by some strict religious scruples), her career floundered afterwards, so she turned to singing and writing as well as real estate. Now at seventy-seven, she makes it to nostalgia conventions and other events. Same basic hair, just framing an older face.

An obligatory article about Richard Chamberlain tells about his visit to an Easter Egg Hunt for the blind. Yes, you read that correctly!! The eggs had special decals applied to them which stood out from the shell, helping the children to determine what they were once they were lucky enough to find them. Yet another in the endless string of faux dates is Allyson Ames, an aspiring TV actress who wasn't able to forge a lasting career.

If you think Allyson Ames is obscure, try on Sandy Millar, the date of Paul Peterson in this profile. She performed on one episode of My Three Sons and that is IT! (There's a mention here of Mr. Novak, but that must have been as an extra or tiny bit.) She later had a son in 1972 who grew up to be Chris Morrissey, a writer and director of low-budget, experimental types of films in the Roger Corman vein with a sometimes comic edge (sample title: Superstar Female Serial Killer.) Peterson, who'd grown up before viewers' eyes as the son on The Donna Reed Show, found his career sliding off the radar after that series' cancellation in 1966. At age eighteen here, he'd already lost his virginity five years prior and had been boinking costar Shelley Fabares' stand-in. After career trauma and some dabbling in drugs, was able to turn it around. He later became one of the chief advocates for the rights and protection of child stars in show business based on his own sometimes horrific experiences as a youth (such as losing his virginity at thirteen to a hot coworker – Just kidding!)

If Rita Pavone unseating The Beatles wasn't enough, how about someone taking over Elvis' spot in the music business hierarchy? This article places London-raised singer Cliff Richard as the successor to The King's crown. While it's true that Cliff Richard enjoyed incredible success in the U.K. and in many other nations, for some reason he never truly caught on in America. Richard was a twenty-one year-old with three younger sisters who had to bring home the bacon for them and his mother when his father died in 1961. At the time this article saw print, he was right on the cusp of becoming an active Christian (eventually touring with Billy Graham!), something that was at deep odds with the rock 'n roll career he had been pursuing. (Born Harry Webb, his stage name Cliff had even been chosen because it was similar to the word “rock!”)

More significantly, his last name of Richard was selected because of his adoration of Little Richard. This dichotomy between the potentially exploitive rock world and the more inspiring music he enjoyed as well as his image as a teen idol and a sexy male singer versus the speculation that he might be homosexual caused no small amount of angst for him. Richard has never come out as gay, though he called upon the Church of England to affirm same-sex marriage and has lived with a priest for a decade.

After many years of inactivity on the U.S. charts, he scored a top ten hit in 1979 called “We Don't Talk Anymore.” This was followed the next year by the duet “Suddenly” with his close friend Olivia Newton-John, from the soundtrack of Xanadu. Shortly thereafter, his U.S. career was over again, but he has remained popular, especially in concert, in much of the rest of the world. He was knighted in 1995, the first British subject who was a rock star to have this honor bestowed on them.

I'll wrap up the article examination with this full-page photo of Miss Annette. Like I said, if she is your bag, this post should be something of a goldmine for you! I didn't scan in the article about her, which had to do with her going horseback-riding while continuing to maintain that immaculately-coiffed, impossibly thick hairdo!

One of the things I found fascinating, and which I touched on briefly above, was the advertisements sprinkled throughout the magazine. In many cases, the ads are more fascinating than the articles! It was a big trend at this time to send away for photos of the stars. Oh to be able to still be able to do this at the prices shown. This one, for example, allows one to receive a dozen 4” x 5” photos of the stars of his choice for only $1.00. You just circled the names of the ones you wanted. That would have been like Sophie's Choice for me.

Taking that into consideration, I think there's something amiss about this other ad. It purports to send the customer 2000 photos, in all shapes and sizes, for just $1.00. I just really cannot see this being legitimate and it wouldn't surprise me to find out that these envelopes, with a dollar bill inside each one, went straight into the hands of someone who swiftly closed up shop after securing a certain amount of money and fled! How could this be real?! (Especially when other ads are charging so much more?)

On the clothing front, we have this fun concoction. It's a dress-cum-playsuit, available in four color combinations, that serves almost every conceivable recreational or household chore need. The sizes listed confuse the hell out of me, but, then again, a lot of things do! It even includes the belt, though it's advertised as only a two-piece get-up. I think there's something so wondrous about these sleek, well-groomed, old-fashioned models, too...

From the same company – Riviera Originals, but far more unusual (and distinctive!) is this newsprint shirt/jacket. Finally, the men will have an excuse when they stare at her tits. They can say they're reading the stock market updates or the sports page and ask her to please hold still (or maybe even crouch up close to read the fine print!) My question is, when she gets dressed in the morning, are her fingertips black from the ink? Ha!

This feminine protection ad is fun not only because of the model's makeup and expression, but also because it does uninformed men like me a favor in helping to explain (in fair detail) all the differences between the many various types of sanitary napkins. As a kid, I had no clue what in the world super or maxi referred to. I do have to admit to being a little taken aback by the new “Miss Deb” that suggests use for nine year-old girls! No kidding?? Maybe I'm still in the dark (and happily so!)

Have you ever seen a more perfect eye than the one in this Maybelline ad? I used to draw eyes in school all the time until some girl begged me to stop because her friend drew eyes everywhere and then killed himself. This eye reminds me so much of the ones I used to doodle and draw constantly. If I'm not mistaken, Ultra Lash mascara is still sold by that company, but not for $1.00 anymore! (Nor is there a $0.69 “refill” available. Can you imagine?! The brushes are always being accused of containing bacteria after a while. How many ladies just kept using theirs over and over and over?!)

Apart from Miss Funicello, the other chief star featured in these magazines is Richard Chamberlain. Here we have an ad that allows you to send away for a life-size 6' x 2' poster of him! For the total cost of $1.25, Dr. Kildare himself could be stationed in your dorm room or hung on the closet door. He was truly, truly popular.

I've told you before that I always try to make some sort of attempt to save the best for last. This time, there was nothing really that spectacular to wind the post up with, but I did manage to cough up something rather amusing. Earlier in the post, I mentioned Randy Boone and his TV career that eventually sputtered out in the mid-'70s. (He then segued full time into country music, something that he pursues to this day.) Like many celebs in the free-wheeling '70s, he allowed himself to flirt with nude photos in an effort to increase interest in his career. I don't know HOW anyone expected these particular ones to ignite any job offers, though. It's not that his body was bad. Far from it. It's just that they are goofy, awkward and extremely uncomfortable. The distracted expressions and bizarre poses may rate as some of the least effective handling of the camera towards a scantily clad male that I have ever seen, at least when meant for use as publicity photography. Is it really that hard to take a flattering picture of a semi-nude man? Oh, and do take note that, unless Randy had six fingers - like Anne Boleyn, the very tip of his penis is saying hello in that first shot!

'Til next time, my friends. Today is my birthday, so I will be embroiled in a variety of activities with that over the weekend. The old oak tree has one more ring around it today. Ugh!


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