Monday, November 30, 2009

Pulp Memoirs - A Comprehensive List

About a year and a half ago I posted a list of memoirs penned by authors who wrote for the pulp fiction magazines during the golden age of pulps. My list was pretty lame: it only consisted of 6 titles. Then my long-suffering friends from the pulp magazine groups contributed about 20 more, which were added as comments. I promised at the time that I would eventually repost everything all in one blog. Well, now it's happening, a year and a half later.

The decision to re-post this list is partly fueled by my recent reading of Daisy Bacon's memoir, LOVE STORY WRITER, which was published in 1955. Daisy writes very little of her personal life but her advice on how to get published in the pulps must have been invaluable to writers at the time, and now LOVE STORY WRITER gives us a good view into what it must be have to be the head editor of Street & Smith's LOVE STORY MAGAZINE.

So here's the list, in alphabetical order based on the author's last name. Any comments that the contributors had about the books is included in quotes. Thanks to all who contributed! And again, if you have any more to add, just add them in the comments and I'll see to adding them to the list.

I'll be adding entries as they are given to me.

Bacon, Daisy. LOVE STORY WRITER. 1955. Memoir, but more of a writing guide, by the editor of Street & Smith's best selling magazine of all time, LOVE STORY MAGAZINE.

Bedford-Jones, H., POST MORTEM. 1980. "This is a small booklet that was published by the executor of the Vincent Starett literary estate that was limited to 86 copies and printed by a Missouri antiquarian bookseller. I believe the material was originally written in 1947, two years before the death of its author. The material is more readily available as part of the book KING OF THE PULPS: THE LIFE AND WRITINGS OF H. BEDFORD JONES, a biography/bibliography of the author written and compiled by Peter Ruber, the late Darrell C. Richardson, and Victor A. Berch and published in 2003 by Battered Silicon Dispatch Box."

Blackburn, Tom. "Take with Soda," in WRITER'S DIGEST, April 1944. "An exceptional memoir."

Bloch, Robert, ONCE AROUND THE BLOCH. 1993. "Published by Tor, this is Bloch's 'Unauthorized Autobiography.'"

Bonham, Frank. "Tarzana Nights," essay on ghosting for ed Earl Repp.in ONE RIDE TOO MANY. Barricade Books

Cave, Hugh B. MAGAZINES I REMEMBER; SOME PULPS, THEIR EDITORS, AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO WRITE FOR THEM. Tattered Pages Press. 1994. "This is based on correspondence between Cave and fellow writer,Carl Jacobi. The letters start in 1931, so at least part of the book was written during the pulp era." Arkham House also published "Cave Of A Thousand Tales" The Life and Times of Hugh B. Cave in 2004.

Clarke, Arthur C. ASTOUNDING DAYS: A SCIENCE FICTIONAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY. He has many interesting things to say about the magazine especially the 1930's and 1940's.

Coburn, Walt. "Walt Coburn: Western Word Wrangler: An Autobiography." 1973.

Cushman, Dan. PLENTY OF ROOM & AIR. (1975).

DelRey, Lester; EARLY DEL REY; Doubleday, 1975, and numerous story prefaces, etc on pulps/stories/editors

Eggenhofer, Nick, HORSES, HORSES, ALWAYS HORSES: THE LIFE AND ART OF NICK EGGENHOFER. Sage Publishing. 1981. "Eggenhofer was THE artist for Street & Smith's
WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE. This is part autobiography/part art book."

Eshbach, Lloyd Arthur. OVER MY SHOULDER: REFLECTIONS ON A SCIENCE FICTION ERA. "A wonderful memoir. It was published by Oswald Train in 1983. It more involved book publishing than the pulps but it did involve many pulpish people."

Gibson, Walter B., "My Years with the Shadow," in THE CRIME ORACLE and THE TEETH OF THE DRAGON, 1975. "This is one of two introductions to this Dover Book that reprints two of the adventures of The Shadow. The second introduction is by John L. Nanovic, editor of THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE."

Gibson, Walter B. THE SHADOW SCRAPBOOK, 1979. "Anthony Tollin, current publisher of THE SHADOW and DOC SAVAGE, was a contributing editor to this book which contains Gibson's memories of writing the Shadow novels for Street & Smith, a previously unpublished Shadow story, comic strips, a list of the stories, and more."

Gruber, Frank. THE PULP JUNGLE. 1967. One of the best-known memoirs by one of the contributors to BLACK MASK.

Gruber, Frank; 39pp preface in BRASS KNUCKLES, Sherbourne, 1970

Gulick, Bill. SIXTY-FOUR YEARS AS A WRITER. Caxton Press, 2006. "Gulick was a regular contributor to THE SATURDAY EVENING POST and other national magazines, but got his start by writing for the pulps. He discusses his apprenticeship as a pulp writer in a few short chapters at the start of his book."

Hersey, Harold. PULPWOOD EDITOR. 1938. Hersey was the creator and editor of some of the strangest pulp titles of all time, including SPEAKEASY STORIES, PRISON STORIES, STRANGE SUICIDES and MEDICAL HORRORS.

Johnson, Ryerson. essays, mysterywriter.com

Nanovic, John, "I Never Called Him Bill," in THE CRIME ORACLE and THE TEETH OF THE DRAGON, 1975. "This is one of two introductions to this Dover Book that reprints two of the adventures of The Shadow. The second introduction is by Walter B. Gibson, author of most of The Shadow novels."

Pohl, Frederik. THE WAY THE FUTURE WAS. who celebrated his 90th birthday this past Thanksgiving Day). "In addition to his career as author, agent, lecturer, ambassador, etc., Fred was also one of the youngest pulp magazine editors at age nineteen working for Popular on Astonishing Stories and Super Science Stories. Rick Hauptmann (Jack Williamson's bibliographer) opined on several occasions that Fred's book was his finest work of fiction!"

Powers, Paul. PULP WRITER: TWENTY YEARS IN THE AMERICAN GRUB STREET. 2007. A memoir of Powers' career as a writer for WILD WEST WEEKLY, penned in 1943 and discovered in 1999 by his granddaughter, Laurie. Includes a Prologue and Epilogue by Laurie that discusses the history of Wild West Weekly and Powers' life after 1943.

Price, E. Hoffman. BOOK OF THE DEAD FRIENDS OF YESTERYEAR: FICTIONEERS AND OTHERS. 2001. "This is a collection of the author's memories of his fellow pulp writers that, according to Peter Ruber's introduction to the book, was a work-in-progress for 33 years. The first chapter, a piece on WEIRD TALES editor Farnsworth Wright, appeared in July 1944 in W. Paul Cook's magazine, THE GHOST." With an introduction by Jack Wiliamson.

Price, E. Hoffman, FAR LANDS OTHER DAYS. 1975.

Rouse, William Merriam and Babcock, Miriam DuBois, THE PULPS, THE
ADIRONDACKS, AND COON MOUNTAIN BILL, 2006. "The first fifty-some pages of this collection of pulp stories and previously unpublished fiction is a biography of this ARGOSY writer, written by the author's stepdaughter. It is largely based on Rouse's correspondence. A bibliography of the author's published fiction, compiled by Albert Tonik and Larry Estep, follows the stories."

Smith, Clark Ashton. THE BLACK BOOK OF CLARK ASHTON SMITH. 1979.

Steeger, Henry. "Notes and Name Droppings from an Editor's Chair," in PURPLE PROSE, #16. "By Henry Steeger, the man who began Popular Publications in partnership with Harold Goldsmith. May be out of print."

Turner, Robert. SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE WRITERS...BUT, I WOULDN'T WANT MY DAUGHTER TO MARRY ONE. 1977.

Tuttle, W. C. MONTANA MAN. 1966. "An autobiography of the great Western writer, published by Avalon Books."

Whitehouse, Arch, THE FLEDGLING: AN AERIAL GUNNER IN WORLD WAR I. 1964. "Not a memoir of his writing years, this is the story of the aviation fiction writer's WWI years."

Williamson, Jack. WONDER'S CHILD: MY LIFE IN SCIENCE FICTION. 1984.

Woolrich, Cornell. BLUES OF A LIFETIME. 1991. "Edited by Mark T. Bassett and published by Popular Press, this is more a collection of autobiographical sketches left among the author's papers."

Wormser, Richard and Skutch, Ira. HOW TO BECOME A COMPLETE NONENTITY. 2006.

Other Biographies and Histories Recommended by Contributors (This is NOT a complete list of pulp fiction history books by any means):


PULP FICTIONEERS: ADVENTURES IN THE STORYTELLING BUSINESS was published in 2004 by Adventure House.

PULPWOOD DAYS, VOL. ONE: EDITORS YOU WANT TO KNOW was published in 2007 by Off-Trail Publications (Locke, himself). I still sell copies of these last two titles.

Donovan, Frank. HARRY BEDWELL: LAST OF THE GREAT RAILROAD STORYTELLERS. 1959.
"The Harry Bedwell book is worth reading because very little is out there about the long running pulp, RAILROAD STORIES. Also has a nice bibliography in the back listing Bedwell's pulp and slick appearances. It's online free through the Google website and copies are also available on abebooks.com."

Fugate, Francis and Roberta. SECRETS OF THE WORLD'S BESTSELLING WRITER. 1980. "A detailed look at the style and techniques of Erle Stanley Gardner, mostly in his own words from letters and his extensive notebooks. There are a number of references about his experiences in learning to write for the pulps,although the focus is on the writing and storytelling skills and not the related pulp history history."

Del Rey, Lester. THE WORLD OF SCIENCE FICTION, 1926-1976 by Lester Del Rey, Garland
Publishing, 1979.

Reynolds, Quentin James. "The Fiction Factory; Or, From Pulp Row to Quality Street: The Story of 100 Years of Publishing at Street & Smith. Random House (1955). Not quite a pulp-writer's memoir, but it has info on S & S's magazines, and not just their genre titles.

Warner, Harry, Jr. ALL OUR YESTERDAYS and A WEALTH OF FABLE

From Ken McDaniel: “you might want to consider the excellent Jon Tuska prefixes to his 2 or 3 hardcover anthologies(one of them was Star Western).”

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers - Wild West Weekly Style

I went to my aunt's on Saturday with one goal in mind: to help her reorganize her collection of WILD WEST WEEKLY's. I was thinking it would take me maybe an hour tops. Oh, how wrong I was.

When my aunt and I reunited in 1999 and we discovered the unpublished manuscript for Pulp Writer, she did not own one WILD WEST WEEKLY copy. When she and her brothers (one being my father) were growing up, my grandfather wouldn't let them read them. Read the classics! he would roar at them. So they grew up without collecting any of the 440 stories he wrote for the magazine.

But since 1999, Pat and her husband Ted have been on a mission: to collect all of her father's stories that were published in any form.

About a year ago we got together and finished a quasi-organization of the magazines. So it's not like they were in a huge pile. Still, on Saturday, it took us three hours just to put all the magazines in chronological order and check them off the list to determine which issues they were still missing. Three hours.

Sure enough, I found two more issues with Thanksgiving themes. Here they are, with Kid Wolf in one (sans the turkey) and Sonny Tabor in the very next year.



We still are checking to see if we have all of the WWW issues we need; I have probably close to a hundred at my house as well and they need to be inventoried too. That's for another day.

So when you read about all this work, are you SURE you want to become a collector? I can only say that even with all the work, it's still a great feeling when you see a copy of an issue that you've been dying to get a hold of for years, like these two for me:



Or when you fall on something that is a complete surprise, like this one that is the March 10, 1928 issue, one of the oldest issues of WILD WEST WEEKLY after it had been acquired by Street & Smith. This was even before my grandfather's first story was published in the magazine. And my aunt didn't even know that she had it. That's what happens when you start collecting these by the hundreds.

The thing that troubles me about this copy is that it was severely cut off at the right side, and the edges aren't the rough cut that other pulps were at the time. At first I was suspicious, thinking that it was a facsimile, but other than those two factors, it does appear to be an original.

At this point, we have decided that the next project is to inventory all of the post-Wild West Weekly stories that my grandfather wrote. We have collected some of the magazines, but there is no actual list that has been compiled of the stories, the magazine they appeared in and the dates. I really don't think that there should be more than twenty, but researching my grandfather's career has been full of surprises, so you never know.

Over the next few weeks, I share more of the issues that I brought home. There are some really spectacular covers. Plus I'm going to write a bit more about the history of the magazine. That, along with everything else I've got on the burner. December is going to be plenty busy.

Speaking of Romance: Harlequin Covers Hit the Big Time

If you're going to be in Las Vegas anytime soon, you might want to check out the exhibit at the Paris Las Vegas of Harlequin romance novel covers. "The Heart of a Woman: Harlequin Cover Art 1949-2009" is, as the L.A. Times article calls is, "a small, intellectually provocative display in a town incessantly struggling with its portrayal of the fairer sex." I think the key word in that statement is the last word.

The L.A Times article says that the curator of the display never read any of the romances but studied the 60 years of Harlequin covers and determined which ones would be in the exhibit by the quality of the art. One of the other conclusions she came to was that many times the covers displayed female fantasies of a professional nature, rather than a sexual one.

The article says:

"For example, the covers of doctor-nurse romances of the '50s and '60s showed workplace lovers chatting as equals, which might be linked (as another placard tells us) to the frustration of women who 'felt sequestered in the domestic realm of postwar suburbia.' In exotic-locale tales of about the same period, women were the doctors, though only in foreign and often tropical destinations.

....A decade later, women apparently dreamed of romance amid danger. In 1959's "The Yellow Snake" -- one of Semmelhack's favorite covers -- a gun-wielding, professorial man and a blond woman in pearls gasp at (as the placard helpfully explains) an 'overtly phallic snake.' "

I don't know. Something about deconstructing these covers rubs me the wrong way. (Excuse the pun.) Even the curator admits that when these covers were created, it's not like anyone at Harlequin was really thinking about the woman's place in society at that point in time. "I don't think anybody sat back and thought it out," the curator said.

So why do it now? These covers were created to sell books, not start a revolution.

As a side note, way way back in the early 90s, for a short time I dated a guy who ended up being a Harlequin cover model. He fit the role perfectly: chiseled face, killer body....actually, as I look back on it now, I think his looks were rather bland. Just like the Harlequin models. But, in real life, this guy was no hero. Which is why we dated only for a very short time.

Anyway, check out the article.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sushi at the Food Court and Saturday Morning Hamburger Heaven

What a combination, huh? Makes you want to run to the medicine cabinet and get that bottle of Pepto Bismol.

Yesterday I traveled up to the Santa Clarita Valley once more. But this time it wasn't to do research or interview anyone for the Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley series. No...this time my best friend Kris and I dared to do something very, very dangerous....

BLACK FRIDAY.


Believe it or not, we went to the mall and lived to tell the tale. We even had sushi at the Food Court (something that some people may think is the most dangerous activity of all). But it actually was very good - a step above the sushi you find prepackaged at the supermarket (NEVER again, I said after the last time) and just below one of your finer sushi restaurants where you pay $3 for a piece of tuna. This was pretty good.



The short story is that it was crowded, but not so crowded that it was unbearable. Kohl's, in fact, was downright deserted at 3 in the afternoon. We found a lot of really good deals in that store, too. Macy's was ho-hum when it came to bargains, however.

Anyway, here are some of my recommendations for good places to visit in the cyber world today, in case you get overloaded on college football. (The great rivalry between USC and UCLA is being played out today...guaranteed it'll be viewed on a few television sets here in So Cal).

First of all, Paul Brazill's guest blogger today is Joseph Grant, who writes a great essay on the latest fad in the publishing world of taking classics and throwing zombies, vampires, etc. into the mix. Grant isn't too pleased with the trend, and neither am I. Sheer laziness, if you ask me, on the part of the writer.

Another great series is at The Night Editor, Jake Hinson's great blog. Right now he's exploring Color Noir, films that may have been considered great noir films, but they're in color. Jake asks the question "can a color film be a film noir, or is noir defined by sharply delineated chiaroscuro cinematography?"

And finally, if you're into reading some great essays about current events, you can't miss my friend Kimberly's Type Like the Wind blog. She's got some great essays over there and links to articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker. Makes me almost want to re-subscribed to the New Yorker, but then they'd start arriving every week and piling up unread, generating all those guilty feelings again....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Lust in the Dust: The Western Romance Pulps

Boy, are you guys and gals in for a treat. As some of you know, I've been investigating the life of Daisy Bacon, who was editor of LOVE STORY MAGAZINE. Yesterday I decided to post some pulp covers from the romance pulps. Then, seeing how many there were, I decided to narrow it down to romance Western pulps. And these are a sample what I found. I had to quit looking because my arms were getting so tired from being at the computer. I'm not kidding.

Mind you, there are no duplicate titles in here, save for one magazine, RANCH ROMANCES. That's because RANCH ROMANCES was the longest running of all pulps, lasting until 1971. (In the last year it was retitled RANCH ROMANCES AND ADVENTURES.) In honor of its longevity, I have included three of its covers throughout the years.

So tell us, which cover is your favorite? And which title?

Fighting Romances from the East and West, November 1925

Ranch Romances, August Number Two, 1931

Far West Romances, April 1932

Thrilling Ranch Stories, November 1933

Romantic Range, June 1937

Cowboy Romances, August 1937

Romantic Western, January 1938

Romance Roundup, May 1938

Rangeland Romances, May 1939

Ranch Romances, December 1941

North West Romances, Summer 1942

Lariat, January 1946

Rodeo Romances, April 1947

Golden West Romances, December 1949

Western Love Romances, February 1950

Romance Western, June 1950

Two Western Romances, Winter 1950

Romance Western Roundup, February 1951

Rangeland Love Stories, August 1951

Real Western Romances, December 1951

Fifteen Range Romances, September 1954

Ranch Romances, May 1966

Happy Thanksgiving

What I'm thankful for:

1. My family's love and support, as always. Especially during the past two years which have been ones of upheaval for me.

2. That I'm still employed and that my employer lets me work at home for most of the week. Saves the wear and tear on the car and my health.

3. That I've been able to stay healthy and so has my family.

4. My circle of friends located here in California, who came to help me move on New Years Day rather than relax and watch football on TV. One friend in particular, Sheri Ann, flew all the way down from the Bay Area to help me move.

5. That I've had the opportunity to write about my grandfather and his career in pulp fiction. Through that, I've found my own voice and have also been introduced to a whole new circle of friends.

6. That I was smart enough to make the leap and go to PulpFest this year. Not only did I have a great time, I met some of the most wonderful people, including those of you who read and comment on my blog. I consider you all like family now and I hope that continues.

7. My best friend Kris, who has been there for me for over 20 years now. She always has a willingness to listen and is always supportive, no matter how off the wall I've become. And her daughter Sara, who is my goddaugther, who has turned into a beautiful young woman. Both of these women continually to show me on a daily basis what friendship and unconditional love is all about.

8. The new friends I've made this year, including my circle of "Dodger friends." Together we've had some unforgettable times at games, but I consider them friends for all seasons, not just baseball.

9. My friends on the Internet, some of which have become very close. Regardless of where they live, and that we've only talked on line, they're still very important to me. One friend in particular has allowed me to travel down a road which I haven't navigated in a long time, and for that I'm grateful.

10. Those who come and read my blog and comment. You've made my blogging experience a true joy and have given me the confidence to keep going and explore new topics. I couldn't have done that without your comments.

So I guess it is all about the people who come in and out of your life, huh? So everyone enjoy your day with the people you love, and thanks again for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Five Favorites from 2009 (and a couple more)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

I'm following pattinase's suggestion and listing some of my favorites from 2009. And while Patti stuck to film, TV and dvd, I think I'm going to modify it a bit.

I think you all will see a pattern here, which is that most of my favorites have been around a while - there's nothing new on this list except for one or two. That's because I'm stubborn and tend to stick to what I know.

Favorite TV show: Family Guy. I admit with more than a little embarrassment that I've never been a regular Simpsons watcher. Just have never gotten in the habit of watching it, and I'm not one who necessarily gravitates to animated shows. I don't care for South Park; I just don't get the humor of shock and revulsion.

So I missed the first four years of Family Guy. Then a friend turned me on to it this year. Once my head stopped spinning, I was hooked. The show is irreverent without being distasteful; well, sometimes it is distasteful but somehow they pull it off. It's the one and only show on television right now that can make me laugh out loud nonstop for a half hour.

Favorite book
: Sons of Texas by Elmer Kelton. What a fantastic story and so well told. Michael Lewis' journey into Texas kept me riveted and incapable of doing anything else until I had finished it.



Favorite book I reviewed
: The Tarnished Star by Jack Martin. Best discovery of the year. Great story and stunning writing.


Favorite Internet site: This is a no-brainer. Facebook. Another phenomenon I resisted for God knows how long. Now I have reconnected with people I lost touch with 30 years ago, schoolmates, friends that normally I wouldn't get to see other than every few years, and family. And have made a lot of new friends. Yes, there are negative aspects of Facebook: most notably privacy issues, the creepiness of Facebook stalkers and the risk of hackers. But I find the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Favorite blog (other than my own)
: This will be a surprise to some people, who think I'd pick something pulp or Western-related. But my favorite blog is currently my new best friend Melissa Marsh's blog, Writing with Style: One Dame's Thoughts on the Writing Life. Melissa combines so many things that I love and I feel are very important to feeding my feminine soul: writing, history, needlework, and vintage collecting. So many girly things, so little time.

Honorable mention
: Davy Crockett's Almanac. Dave combines so many things that I love: pulp, Western, vintage radio, and sometimes things that really surprise me. Plus he's just an all around great guy and fellow writer who appreciates those who read and comment on his blog.

And a couple more:

Favorite subject I've blogged on: No surprise here. The Movies of the Santa Clarita Valley series. It's gotten me interested in writing again. What could be more rewarding?


Favorite local haunt
: It's a toss-up between the Long Beach Dog Beach and Dodger Stadium. The Dog Beach for the friendly atmosphere - you can't go away from the place without talking to at least one stranger. Dodger Stadium is a gorgeous place and the favorite hangout for a lot of people. Despite the wretched ending to the season, it was a pretty terrific year.



That's it for me. Your turn!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Means Turkey on Pulp

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I know it's early but I figured that most people will be on the road or in the kitchen Thursday morning. I'm supposed to go to a friend's, but it depends on how bad this head cold gets by Thursday morning.

To commemorate the day, here are four pulp covers that feature Thanksgiving themes - which, in most cases means a freshly killed turkey and in a couple of cases, buzzards. Finding these was hard going - I even went into the Fiction Mags Index and started to hunt around. But I don't have an extra 20 years to go through the entire index looking for November issues so these will have to do for now. To compensate, there's a funny photo at the end of a model that you will all recognize if you read my post from yesterday.

So have a good one, everyone. Enjoy your friends and family and drive carefully.









The Story With No Name, Part 17

It's Wednesday (or at least close to it here on the Pacific Coast) and that means The Story With No Name is on. Part 17 is by Peter Averillo and is featured on Open Range. If you missed any or all of the first 16 parts, they are now all combined on one blog now, The Culbin Trail.

Now this story is not going to go on forever. There will be an end to it, and it's coming sooner rather than later. So if you want to get caught up in all the action, better to do it before it rides off into the sunset.

My Favorite 60s TV Show: That Girl

This essay is part of a series that ran yesterday on several blogs called My Favorite TV Show. Mine is late. If you want to check out the other contributions, go to pattinase.


In January of 1969 my stepfather moved us from Germany back to California. He had been an executive for an airline, but had quit to be a carpenter. I guess he wanted to get back to nature or his roots. That's the only thing I can come up with to reason why he decided on such a drastic change.

We ended up in the Sierra Nevada in a little town called Dorrington, way up Highway 4 and about an hour from Angels Camp. There was the historic Dorrington Hotel, a motel across the way, and a small grocery store next to the hotel. That was it. And tons and tons of snow. That winter, in fact, would break records for snowfall.

It was a shock for me and my sister, going from living fairly well on my stepfather's salary and being the center of attention in foreign lands, (we were "the American girls" who lived in the downstairs apartment) to living in a place that might have been on another planet. We went from being distinct and financially well-off to being no more special than any of the other kids and, worse, rather poor. Hal didn't get work right away, and so my mother went to work as a secretary. She had always worked as a secretary; it was the only job she had known and the only thing that I figured I'd be doing after I got out of school. College? That was for really smart, really rich kids.

The one consolation was that when we moved into the cabin on Ben Thorne Drive, that the television became my and my sister's property. Hal hated television and didn't want anything to do with it. And so the big console, probably manufactured in 1960, ended up in our bedroom.

So I settled in to watch the television for the winter. One night, a perky brunette with a hat with ribbons waltzed onto the screen. She was very pretty with the blackest hair and the thickest eyelashes and the biggest black eyes I'd ever seen. She was living in the big city, in New York. She was on her own and on her way to being an actress or a model. She had her own place. She strode through the streets of New York as if she owned the place and she knew how to fly a kite. And she had a boyfriend. She was That Girl.


She was everything I wasn't. She was gorgeous and I was a twelve year old with an overbite with, judging from my parent's financial situation, no chance in hell of ever getting braces. I already had acne spreading across my face and wore glasses with thick brown frames. Ann Marie, played by Marlo Thomas, was ditzy and talkative and kind of flied through life with a childlike wonder and enthusiasm that never wavered. I was quiet and withdrawn, shell shocked after being moved all over the European continent - four different schools in one year - and beginning to realize that my stepfather had a serious and sometimes treacherous drinking problem.

But it wasn't as if I watched Ann Marie, as she went through her mad cap life with her long suffering boyfriend Donald(comedic genius Ted Bessell), with jealousy. In fact, she opened up another life full of possibilities for me. A possibility that once I was out of school, I could go out on my own. Up to that point, I only had my two older sisters as role models, and both of them had married almost immediately after graduating from high school. Ann Marie was following her dream. I could do that - I could move to the big city and get my own apartment. And I could be anything I wanted to be.

Ann Marie navigated the big city with ease, her mini-skirts short enough to be sexy but not enough to shock middle America. She got into situations, yes, but always managed to get out of them (albeit not without the help of her Donald, who always seemed on the verge of having a nervous breakdown). She made friends in the city, learned several skills, and never, never forgot to smile. She was doing it, and though externally,she was a ditz, she really did have some brains. Even at twelve, I knew I was smart. If she could make it, I certainly could. I began to make my plans.

Now, looking back on the show, I imagine I'd probably shudder at Marlo Thomas's somewhat still very conventional role. The show premiered in 1965, and the woman's liberation movement was in its infancy. Yes, she was pretty, but she was so naive and a little goofy and still relied on Donald to get her out of scrapes, so she wasn't threatening to male watchers. Yes, she was out on her own, but she was still trying to do what pretty (translation: dumb) women were supposed to do: act and model. (I guess if she was trying to be a lawyer or doctor or even a banker it wouldn't make good television.) She wasn't married, but it was pretty much a given that at some point Donald would get some cojones and pick up Ann Marie, kicking and screaming in that squeaky voice, and carry her off to the altar. As for premarital sex, are you kidding me?

But still, That Girl showed me that women can go out on their own and be something other than secretaries or file clerks. They could navigate the urban jungle, make friends, and didn't have to be married in order to feel that their lives were whole. Mostly, seeing her cheery smile and sunny disposition was a haven for me, a twelve year old girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Marlo Thomas got me through that winter and her reruns got me through several summers. Later she married Phil Donahue and supported various causes and much, much later, she played Rachel's mother on Friends, still looking great and managing to get some pretty sweet gigs on television. Looking back on it now, you could say that Marlo showed us how it could be done even after her big role in show business was long gone and she was old enough to be a grandmother. We could do it all and still stay feminine even when society thought we were past our prime - and even have some fun in the process.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cowboy Monday - Danny Hogan on Reading Pulp Westerns For the First Time

It's Cowboy Monday and to celebrate, go to fellow blogger's Paul Brazill post today. He has a guest blogger, Danny Hogan, who has written a delightful essay on discovering pulp Westerns.

As for me, I'm going to leave you with a few more WESTERN STORY MAGAZINE covers and call it a day (or at least a morning). I love the work on these early covers - truly magnificent.