Desperate Housewives

One Touch of Ecstasy, by Gwynne Wimberly, Frederick Fell, Inc. 1959.

Best line: “There’s a reason we teach you correct posture. If your pelvis isn’t tilted forward, the organs in the area are affected unfavorably.”

The Plot: Poor Louise, married and with an eighteen-year-old daughter has never had an orgasm. Ever since that date-rape in college she’s been all twisted up inside, and marriage hasn’t helped–she’s mired in suburban misery. “The hollandaise had been spectacular” but that can’t disguise the fact that her life is one “cruelly civilized evening of superficiality and loneliness” Continue reading

DIY Cheesecake

How I Photograph Myself, by Bunny Yeager, 1964

I pulled this gem from the SFPL’s 3rd floor page desk, which turned out to be quite a production. Apparently the book could only be looked at in a certain spot, a particular table next to the Art and Music reference desk, under the eagle eye of the reference librarian. I speculated it might be because Bunny Yeager’s photographs—pin-ups, cheesecake, calendar art—fell into some theft vulnerability category the librarians have made up. After all, Bunny Yeager is best known for her Betty Page photos, and Betty Page has quite the cult following, what with bio-pic, books, and a store on Haight Street named after her.

I was hoping that the Bunny Yeager book would tell me more about her career—her transformation from pin-up model to photographer (what’s not to like about the theoretically significant male gaze of the typical cheesecake photographer being replaced by the gaze of the model herself on both herself and fellow models?) and particularly the business end of the pin-up photo biz (who bought the pictures? For how much?). Readers of the Lesbian Career Girl series may have figured out that Dolly, who appears in Lois Lenz, Lesbian Secretary, and the forthcoming Maxie Mainwaring, Lesbian Dilettante, is in part inspired by Bunny Yeager.

DIY A-Go-Go!

Turns out, the title is absolutely literal. This is a guide for women who want to make “glamor” photos of themselves and are too shy to go to a professional (the assumption is that means male) photographer.

As such, it’s a delight. Any time I come across evidence that today’s trends are nothing new, I’m happy. This book takes today’s DIY spirit and applies it to mid-century’s cheesecake photography. Bunny schizophrenically covers topics from both sides of the camera, listing possible poses in one chapter and advising on lighting in the next. She even includes budget-conscious instructions for making a “swimsuit” with a plunging neckline out of a few yards of black wool. This is the one-man-band version of glamor photography.

I learned a lot from this book: the importance of developing multiple smiles, and the many posing possibilities–“standing poses, kneeling poses, reclining poses, sitting poses, poses with props.” (Each category gets its own chart of silhouetted poses to illustrate). I took to heart Bunny’s advice on the importance of props: “Being an experienced model, I can pose for hours without props if I must, but with the addition of these excellent posing assistants, I can go on indefinitely.” One imagines a Guiness Book of World Records entry—longest time spent striking sucessive poses. Props are also helpful for concealing imperfections: “Scars, stretch marks and bruises can be hidden by a prop held gracefully,” she advises. Get out your wagon wheels, towels, and telephones, ladies!

Long before feminists were talking about acceptance for all shapes and sizes, Bunny was there, albeit with a 1964 sensibility. “Near perfection may be obtained with girdles, waist cinchers, padded bras, etc. in everyday life…but what can you do to disguise flaws in the nude figure?” she asks, and answers promptly “Very little.” So just accept your body as it is, she advises. Everyone has some feature worth highlighting in a photograph: “Even when the bosom is impossible to work with, there is always the buttocks and back.”

The book is illustrated abundantly with photos of Bunny, by Bunny. I couldn’t always tell which ones were or weren’t Bunny, probably because of the dazzling array of different smiles, props, and poses she used, not to mention the changing hair color.

Bunny’s matter-of-factness and all-American enthusiasm for her corner of the soft-porn market is infectious: “Come on, admit you like to take off your clothes, and make some good photographs!”

Lesbian Pre-Teens

The tasteful cover is a harbinger of the tedium to be found on this book’s pages

The House in the Mulberry Tree, by Zena Garrett, 1959, Random House

Book Jacket Copy: “Then Elizabeth’s burgeoning, formless emotions, blown hither and yon by the strife around her, crystallized into a youthful and innocent passion for Nonie, nourished by Nonie’s kindness and Elizabeth’s idealization of the relationship that Carter and Nonie seemed to enjoy.”

A dull southern gothic, penned by first-time author and Carson McCullers-wannabe, Zena Garret. The “About the author” blurb gives the reader fair warning: “Her writing career was postponed, however, because Continue reading

Dead Lesbians

Isn't it keen how the reflection of my cell phone mimicks the shadow of the murderer?

I was looking forward to Helen Nielsen’s The Fifth Caller (Morrow, 1959) from the Grier-McBride collection–the library catalog lists “Lesbian physicians–Fiction” as the second subject. Alas, only a completionist collector like Barbara Grier would put this rather dull mystery with its few elliptical references to sapphic tendencies in her lesbian library.

The Plot: Dr. Lillian Whitehall has been found dead in her office and all evidence points to her nurse. Nursie can’t defend herself, because she was found unconscious on the beach with her wrists slashed and has no memory of what happened that day. Tall, square-jawed D.A. Investigator (I’m sorry–I’ve already forgotten his name) thinks Nurse Anna is awfully pretty though, Continue reading

Virtual Pulp–A Lesbian Linkorama

This means work for me, pleasure for others

I’m not a fan of the internet. I’m an old-fashioned gal who prefers knitting while listening to Alan Farley talk about his Noel Coward obsession on the radio to web surfing. I was violently against ebooks until a royalty statement made me change my tune (turns out I’m making money from them!). Continue reading

Pulp for Dad

Twisted Loves, by Mark Ryan “an original Bedside Book”

“A story of strange passions and forbidden lusts that changed a young girl into a twisted sinner!”

This is the template for the exploitation pulp. Lots of big breasted, horny women, sex, sex, and more sex, and then a heterosexual rescue on the final pages. From the cover to the content, this is what most people think of when they think of lesbian pulp.

Continue reading

Inversion on the Beach

The Golden Cage, Tereska Torrès (1959, Avon, published by arrangement with the Dial Press)

“Miss Torres is a very naughty Aphrodite presiding over a multitude of libidinous extravaganzas.” (Parade of Books)

Some pulps are meant to be skimmed, and the works of Tereska Torrès belong to that category. She favors the Grand Hotel approach to fiction: a group of disparate people are brought together by unusual circumstances and Tereska tells us a series of colorful, unrelated stories about them. She used this technique in Women’s Barracks (1950), the ground-breaking pulp that started the craze for paperback lesbians, and she uses it in The Golden Cage, one result being that you have to search for the lesbian content in the midst of the mostly heterosexual shenanigans. The set-up in Women’s Barracks is that a group of women are brought together when they join the Free French troops during WWII. In the Golden Cage it’s Continue reading

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

The Lion House, Marjorie Lee (1959, Rinehart)

“A shockingly candid tale of misbegotten sexuality…” (New York Herald Tribune) “the probable successor to Lolita…you might say Marjorie Lee has dramatized the Kinsey Report” (Hartford Times).

Would that were so! Here’s the shocking truth about this lesbian pulp: no lesbian sex. None. Not even some groping. It’s all come on (look at that cover!) and no delivery. I should have suspected something was amiss, when even Lucy Freeman (author of Fight Against Fears) told me in the forward that I was in for something Continue reading