The Daily Heller: That Was No Lady, That Was …

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You may never have heard the Rodney Dangerfield joke that was standard fare among the old-school standup comedians of the 1950s:

Q: Who was that lady I saw you with last night?

A: That was no lady, that was my wife!

Ta Dum! It was such a laugh riot that an entire episode of "The Golden Girls" was based on the line. Well, that piece of trivia has nothing to do with this post. It is just a cheap yuk, if that. This post is loosely about the blonde bombshell stereotype that was ubiquitous as the go-to model-type for these here and many other Dell 10-cent pulp book covers—"loosely" because I went looking to find one of the real human models to interview and came up empty-handed. Their collective stereotyped look had allure but it also had its sales appeal. Sex and sales in the pulpdom trade were one and the same. The masters of pulp art had it down pat. But the 10-cent pulp began with a more literary impetus.

George T. Delacorte (namesake for the famous Central Park fountain) was the putative father of paperback pulp fiction with his Dell imprint. He sold the good and the bad, at an affordable price. The publishing imprint created 36 thin, paperback editions containing a single short story told in only 64 pages (advertised as "too short for popular reprint at a higher price"). It was a bold experiment to release short unabridged "vestpocket" novellas, many by popular authors and a few by critically exemplary ones, into these pamphlet-sized mystery thrillers. They were covered with enticing images by the finest pulp artists in the business (what would be considered politically incorrect today, yet hot numbers back in the day). Here are a few, including a famous story by W. Somerset Maugham that was turned into a Bette Davis flick too.

Robert Stanley
Bill Fleming
Barye Phillips
Victor Kalin