An issue of a classic American magazine up for your enjoyment, Ballyhoo!
Get the scan here.
Ballyhoo was the brainchild of editor Norman Anthony who had pitched the idea to George Delacorte at Dell for a magazine without sponsors, indeed for a magazine that that lampooned Madison avenue and the burgeoning advertising industry. Anthony had been in humor magazines for years and is remembered for always wanting to push the envelope. He'd been an editor for Judge but felt that there was too much pressure from advertisers about propriety. In his short run as editor for Life, he radically altered the magazine, discarding much of the traditional content. With Ballyhoo, he finally got the chance to really change the mold of the American humor magazine
Here is an article in Time from May 11, 1931, in which Delacorte expresses his reservations about the "freshness" of the magazine (Anthony supposedly tried to have some of the initial issue's 150,000 copy pressing wrapped in celophane, but I'm unsure if any issues were actually shipped this way). Delacorte's reservations quickly evaporated, I'm sure, as the first copy sold out quickly. The magazine was a complete success, exploding in popularity. Theodore Peterson's excellent 1964 book, Magazines in the Twentieth Century, says, "Although the circulation figures are unreliable, the first issue of 150,000 copies was said to have sold out in five days; the second issue sold 450,000 copies, the third 675,000, and the fourth more than 1,000,000. In a few months circulation exceeded 2,000,000." Within a couple years, the circulation would drop back down to about 300,000, but it's 2 million plus circulation mark would not be passed until the 40s with Life and Woman's Day. Advertisers soon pleaded for page space and ads were introduced. It says something that at times it can be difficult to tell between the real and the parody...
The rocketing onto the scene of this magazine seems unique in that it begat a whole craze. Mimicking the readily identifiable patchwork colors of the cover design, clothing makers rushed out dresses, ties, scarves, etc. with the Ballyhoo theme. A book from Simon and Schuster, greeting cards, games, songs and more were produced on the theme, and Anthony even wrote a musical show titled Ballyhoo (which introduced a youn Bob Hope to the stage). A neat piece of trivia for you pinball fans like me out there, the first pinball game had a Ballyhoo theme. You can see it here if you scroll half way down the screen. I can't tell for sure, but it looks like the Bally game company stuck with half of the name of this first machine. And all this talk of faddishness and cultural saturation leads nicely into our covergirl or cover woman, rather, as labeling Mae West as anything but just won't do.
A few nice pics of West, my kind of gal. This first one (a pic of Mae on trial for obscenity for her Broadway show "Sex" in 1927) is taken from a nice review of She Done Him Wrong (1933) over at Lolita's classics (she's also got a review of I'm No Angel also from the year previous the publication of this Mae West issue). The other two, more in a pin-up vein - Mae West had curves in all those places flappers didn't.
You get a sense in this issue of how big of a sensation West was. She was just everywhere. Here up-front sexuality and disarming wit took the nation by storm and single-handedly had decency groups up-in-arms. And like most fads, perhaps seeing Mae everywhere did get tiresome.
On the other hand, what's not to like? The gag men break out the breast jokes en masse for this issue, bawdy humor being a specialty of Ballyhoo . The crude audacity of Ballyhoo is a great surprise, but I think it's done with such a wink and a smile that they were able to get away with much more than other magazines might have.
Steady, men, steady.
The centerfold, notice the Minnie parody in the bottom left.
The photo gags in here are pretty funny, you can see how this magazine might have influenced later pubs like Help! and National Lampoon. This page takes aim at the haterz
And also tonight, a bonus issue from the following month, March 1934 - The Clean Number. Involving many plumber's jokes, a lost genre of dirty joke?
The scan's here.
Big thanks to scanmeister McCoy for the edit work on both of tonight's issues. I've got a few more of these I mean to work into my scanning rotation, so you can check back here from time to time for a fresh scan.