Archive for the ‘celebrity’ Category

What to do with old magazines

July 30, 2019
Tommy Handley, a famous face in 1955, on the cover of weekly magazine Tit-Bits

Tommy Handley was a famous face in 1955


People often ask me about selling old magazines and I’ve done several posts about selling on Ebay and the rare titles that are worth taking to auction.

But what about those that don’t sell or even the charity shops don’t want?

Chatting on eBay with a woman from Oxfam reminded me that care homes are another option.  I had a correspondence a few years ago with a dementia nurse who was trying to trace a particular magazine that one of the women in her care had appeared in. It was a needle in a haystack and we never found the specific issue. However, in the process I sent her some 1950s women’s weekly magazines. She said the result was amazing when she passed them around!

The people there, particularly the women, kept each other entertained for weeks afterwards with their reminiscing sparked off by the magazines. Pop and film stars, celebrities and household names they were then, but they are hardly known today. The likes of George Formby, Tommy Handley and Frankie Vaughan have all long since died, but these women were teenagers at the time and the oldest memories live on the longest.



Where did you get those teeth?

April 11, 2019

harmsworth-magazine-1898-white-teeth - 1

Shiny teeth, no skin blemishes and clear white eyes. It’s standard practice nowadays that celebrities on magazine covers such as Vogue look perfect. But when did these little white Photoshop lies start?

It’s well known that the publicity photographs in Hollywood were taken by experts in the art of making anyone look good. And that they were then put into the hands of expert retouchers to take out any real-world blemishes.


But this cover image shows the practice goes back before Hollywood even existed, It’s from a 1898 copy of The Harmsworth, a monthly pictorial magazine that competed with the likes of the Strand. The teeth on the girl have clearly been altered to become perfectly white blocks.

One for Madonna fans

February 13, 2018
Madonna strip cartoon of her life 1986

Madonna strip cartoon of her life: The Story So Far

Hotspot-5 has 156 Madonna issues up on ebay at prices ranging from £4.95 to £24.95.

One of the earliest issues dates back to January 1986. It’s issue 2 of Look-In, the weekly TV magazine for teenagers, which carried a cartoon strip of Madonna’s life called ‘The Story So Far’.

In response to queries, I’ve done several Madonna posts, including identifying the first Madonna magazine cover (and it’s not Smash Hits or i-D).

Madonna front cover Esquire magazine 1994

Madonna on the cover of Esquire magazine in September 1994, dressed up to meet Norman Mailer!

Hotspot-5’s Madonna issues.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design





De Niro can play Sherlock Holmes in Joe Allen’s Exeter Street building

June 11, 2017
Haité's view of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its massive rooftop sign on the right

Haite’s sketch of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its huge rooftop sign on the right

Former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St in 2015

The former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St, without the rooftop sign. Exeter St runs to the right

The glossy monthly Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947

Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947. Another former occupant was Health & Strength in 1910

Joe Allen’s, an American-style bar and restaurant in London’s Covent Garden, is moving from its present site in Exeter Street round the corner into Burleigh Street. I’ve been going there since the 1980s, which I worked for Redwood Publishing in Long Acre, and had one of my favourite meals there – blackened blue fish!

A few years ago when researching my book on magazine design, I learnt that the offices of Tit-Bits and The Strand magazines were on the corner of  Exeter and Burleigh streets in the 1890s, under their founder George Newnes. The southern-most part of Burleigh Street is shown on Haité’s famous Strand cover. The building is still there and later housed Queen magazine. I suspect the Joe Allen premises were the printing works for the magazines.

Joe Allen says its site has been acquired by the actor Robert De Niro,  who plans to open a boutique hotel, The Wellington, in its place. He’s a part owner of the Nobu chain of restaurants and two other hotels. Newspaper reports suggest he is planning to retain the façades of the historic properties on the block that will be knocked through for the development.

If he is looking for a celebrity theme, it could well be Sherlock Holmes, most of whose stories first appeared in The Strand. The site has as much claim to being the spiritual home of the famous detective as any other (221B Baker Street was a fictional address).

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design




Gracie Fields sings for Woman’s World

April 20, 2017
Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and included stills from her films

‘Songs “Our Gracie” Sings’ from Woman’s World in 1933

Sally in Our Alley was a film by Radio Pictures in 1931, and it turned Gracie Fields from a music hall star into a film star, singing her signature song, Sally. ‘Our Gracie’ was also one of the biggest radio stars of the era. Woman’s World, a weekly magazine from Amalgamated Press, recognised this popularity and published at least three Gracie song books from 1933 to 1938 as giveaways with the magazine.

Portrait of Grace Fields form Radio Pictures in the song book

Portrait of Grace Fields from Radio Pictures in the song book

The booklet here, Songs ‘Our Gracie’ Sings from 1933 included a flattering pencil portrait of Gracie and stills from her films, Sally in Our Alley and Looking on the Bright Side. The cover photograph was by Eric Gray. Fields was famed for her Northern accent, and the song book included two songs, ‘Ee-By-Gum’ and ‘Stop and Shop at the Co-op Shop’, that reflected her heritage.

Fields was born above her grandmother’s fish-and-chip shop in Rochdale, but lost her British citizenship when she married the Italian director Monty Banks in 1940. The British authorities then refused to give her a passport at the end of the war, even though she had entertained the troops as a volunteer. No such problems for Vera Lynn.

A First World War Woman's World bases its cover on on 'Sally in Our Alley'

A First World War Woman’s World with a ‘Sally in Our Alley’ cover

The film, Sally in Our Alley, took its title from an 18th century poem that became a popular song during the First World War. And Woman’s World magazine was part of the spread of that song’s fame – a year before a British silent film of the same name was released.

The 27 February 1915 issue of ‘The favourite paper of a million homes’ carried the music and lyrics and featured a cover devoted to the song. ‘Sally in Our Alley’ by H. Gregory Hill took its first stanza from a poem by Henry Carey (1687–1743).

The poem was set to music on p177:

Of all the girls that are so smart
There’s none like little Sally,
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

Oh, when I’m dressed in all my best
To walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she dwells in our alley.

Stills from Gracie Fields' films in the song book

Stills from Gracie Fields’ films in the Woman’s World song book

On this day in magazines: Grazia goes with Kate Moss in 2005

February 21, 2017


First issue cover of Grazia magazine, the weekly fashion glossy. The cover feature for the 2005 February 21, issue was Kate Moss saying she will never marry

First issue cover of Grazia magazine, the weekly fashion glossy. The cover feature for the issue is Kate Moss saying she will never marry

Emap set out to change the face of glossy fashion magazines with Grazia, a weekly glossy, on 21st February 2005. The idea of having the production values of the big fashion glossies on a woman’s weekly is not original, having been tried, in vain, by Home Journal in the 1930s, Riva in 1988 and Real in 2001.

Kate Moss is the cover model, with a newsy story about her views on marriage to provide the topicality – and the celebrity interest – a weekly needs today. Take a look at the Evening Standard, one of London’s free papers, these days and you’ll see there’s barely a story without a celebrity angle.

Inside, Grazia is printed gravure, which gives a silky feel to the matt paper pages, with lots of fluorescent yellow ink and black.

Grazia's contents page shows its signature colour, yellow

Grazia’s contents page shows its signature colour, yellow, with a Tod’s advert opposite

A large format and gravure is the formula that works for Grazia, now published by German-owned Bauer, attracting fashion advertising and selling an average of 117,597 copies of its 50 issues a year, at a cover price of £2 (89.8% purchased).

Grazia‘s success has helped gravure printing become more popular against offset litho, with Cosmopolitan switching over last year when its adopted its ‘midi’ format, and stopped printing at two sizes, handbag and A4. Condé Nast rival Glamour – which popularised the monthly handbag format when it launched – adopted a midi format (276 by 203mm) with its February 2017 issue, and has been printed gravure at Prinovis in Nuremberg, Germany, since 2004. Glamour sells 256,466 copies a month (91.4% purchased; now £1 on the news-stands, against £2 last year); and Cosmo 400,547 (77.7% purchased; £1 on the news-stands).

Bauer has a Grazia data page and Grazia media pack. See Grazia’s ABC sales certificate.

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design



Marriner’s parrot in the New Yorker

October 9, 2016
Neville Marriner obituary  on The Times website in October 2016

Neville Marriner obituary on The Times website in October 2016

The Times had a nice reference to The New Yorker in its obituary for the conductor Neville Marriner on Monday:

If ever a pocket cartoon summed up a man’s achievements it was the celebrated drawing carried by The New Yorker magazine that showed a parrot listening to the radio. Out of the airwaves came the announcer’s voice: ‘That was the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields …’ Quick as a flash, the parrot chirps in: ‘… conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.’

Shame the cartoonist isn’t credited.

Gawker and the ‘crude crunch of global litigation’

August 28, 2016

Gawker has joined the News of the World as road fill, cosmic particles or wherever it is that dead media go. Peter Preston of the Guardian (and one of its past editors) has written about its closure and his worries about the potential effect of legal busybodies on the media in print and online:

Hear the crude crunch of global litigation bent on obliteration, not arbitration. Trump issues writs as heedlessly as he massages statistics: 1,900 of them filed already. Silicon Valley is flexing its muscles. I know many readers here still see press freedom through a Murdoch prism. I know that Leveson’s followers hold his words as holy writ. But the internet – instantaneously, inevitably – gives news a different dimension. It isn’t just another great-and-good opportunity for the regulatory classes … we ought to care, deeply, about its fate.

When you find Private Eye and the world’s oldest English language magazine, The Spectator, on the same side against Leveson’s press regulation, that’s a big worry. Moneyed Silicon Valley, loud-mouthed celebrities, lawyers and their super-injunctions – a dark combination for press freedom.

Different Olympic numbers show Croatia and New Zealand joining Jamaica (and Yorkshire!) as star performers

August 22, 2016
Country  G S B Total/country/population
  46  37  38  121   US (324m)
  27  23  17  67   GB & NI (65m)
  26  18  26  70   China (1,382m)
  19  18  19  56   Russia (143m)
  17  10  15  42   Germany (81m)
  12  21  41   Japan (126m)
  10  18  14  42   France 65m)
  21   S. Korea (51m)
  12  28   Italy (60m)
10    11  10  29   Australia (24m)

Everyone’s raving about how well the GB team has done in the Olympics, but it’s a big country, both by population and level of development. It should do well. Playing with the table from the BBC Olympics website can show up the results on a different light. The UK population is 65 million – but, in fact, that only ranks 21st in the world; China comes top with 1.3 billion, followed by India, the US (324 million), Indonesia and Brazil (the host nation, which came in 13th by gold medals).

So, to come 2nd in Rio is really good by Britain’s population size. But, in terms of population, who are the runaway successes? Well, Jamaica is the one, whether by golds per head of population or overall medals, it’s first or second. Of course, Jamaica has Usain Bolt so it comes to mind as a small country that’s done well. But its great rival in the medals per head of population stakes was a surprise to me. Australia? No. Hungary? It’s up there, at number 4. It turns out that Croatia and New Zealand (that’ll makes the Aussies wince!)  join Jamaica in the top three, whether by golds or total medals.

Rank by golds Country Population Gold Silver Bronze Total Golds/100m pop
1 16 jamaica 2,803,362 6 3 2 11 214
2 17 croatia 4,225,001 5 3 2 10 118
3 19 NZ 4,565,185 4 9 5 18 88
4 12 hungary 9,821,318 8 3 4 15 82
5 11 Neths 16,979,729 8 7 4 19 47
6 18 cuba 11,392,889 5 2 4 11 44
7 2 GB 65,111,143 27 23 17 67 42
8 24 switzerland 8,379,477 3 2 2 7 36
9 10 australia 24,309,330 8 11 10 29 33
10 26 greece 10,919,459 3 1 2 6 28

By golds/head, Britain (7th, 65m pop.) is the only big country (in my definition, population over 50 million); and again is the only big representative  (7th) in terms of total medals/head. It seems Britain has been able to do in Olympic terms what it does so successfully with mobile phone chips, books, jet engines and Formula 1 cars.

Rank by golds Country Population (m) Gold Silver Bronze Total Medals/100m pop
1 19 NZ 4.5 4 9 5 18 394
2 16 jamaica 2.8 6 3 2 11 392
3 17 croatia 4.2 5 3 2 10 237
4 12 hungary 9.8 8 3 4 15 153
5 10 australia 24 8 11 10 29 119
6 11 Neths 17 8 7 4 19 112
7 2 GB 65 27 23 17 67 103
8 18 cuba 11 5 2 4 11 97
9 22 kazahkstan 18 3 5 9 17 95
10 24 switzerland 8.4 3 2 2 7 84

Another potential measure is GDP per head – gross domestic product or the amount of goods a nation makes every year divided by its population. Here, the top five nations are Qatar, Luxembourg, Macau, Liechtenstein and Bermuda. All no-hopers at Rio – you’d have thought being rich would help you be good at sport because you can pay for the kit and training, but it looks like it just makes you lazy. The only top 10 medal country near the top by GDP is Australia (14th by GDP, 10th in Rio). The US comes in at 19 (1 at Rio); Germany 28 (5 at Rio), Britain at  39 (2 at Rio), New Zealand at 49, Croatia 83 and Jamaica 140. So there again, Jamaica, Croatia, Britain, New Zealand and Croatia are all punching well above their GDP weight.

One surprising statistic concerns the county of Yorkshire in England. It has a population of 5.4 million people, but Olympic athletes from there have won 5 golds and 14 medals overall at Rio (5/5/4). That would place Yorkshire 17th in the overall Olympics medals table, just below Jamaica but ahead of Croatia and New Zealand. In terms of golds/head (95), it would displace New Zealand in third place, and by medals/head (265) it would displace Croatia to take third place again. At the London Olympics, it would have come an incredible 12th had it been a separate country!

China is the massive loser given that it is such a massive country, but then it is down at 113 in GDP/head – but still well ahead of Jamaica.

So, there it is – the real Olympic stars are Jamaica, Croatia and New Zealand, with Britain the star among the big states.

bygolds Country pop (m) gold silver bronze total gold/100m pop medals/100m pop
1 US 324 46 37 38 121 14.19 37.33
2 GB 65 27 23 17 67 41.47 102.90
3 china 1,382 26 18 26 70 1.88 5.06
4 russia 143 19 18 19 56 13.25 39.04
5 Germany 81 17 10 15 42 21.07 52.06
6 japan 126 12 8 21 41 9.50 32.46
7 france 65 10 18 14 42 15.46 64.95
8 S korea 51 9 3 9 21 17.82 41.58
9 italy 60 8 12 8 28 13.38 46.82
10 australia 24 8 11 10 29 32.91 119.30
11 Neths 17 8 7 4 19 47.12 111.90
12 hungary 10 8 3 4 15 81.46 152.73
13 brazil 210 7 6 6 19 3.34 9.07
14 spain 46 7 4 6 17 15.20 36.90
15 kenya 47 6 6 1 13 12.70 27.51
16 jamaica 2.8 6 3 2 11 214.03 392.39
17 croatia 4.2 5 3 2 10 118.34 236.69
18 cuba 11 5 2 4 11 43.89 96.55
19 nz 4.6 4 9 5 18 87.62 394.29
20 canada 36 4 3 15 22 11.02 60.63
21 uzbekistan 30, 4 2 7 13 13.20 42.90
22 kazahkstan 18 3 5 9 17 16.80 95.21
23 colombia 49 3 2 3 8 6.17 16.44
24 switzerland 8.4 3 2 2 7 35.80 83.54
25 iran 80 3 1 4 8 3.75 9.99
26 greece 11 3 1 2 6 27.47 54.95

It’s That Man Again’s Tommy Handley

July 31, 2016
1948 Strand cover of Liverpool ITMA comedian Tommy Handley

1948 Strand cover of Liverpool ITMA comedian Tommy Handley

There’s a certain poignancy in this 1948 Strand cover of Liverpool comedian Tommy Handley signing autographs outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House.

Handley was one of the most popular voices on the radio throughout the Second World War in It’s That Man Again, a series that took its title from a newspaper nickname for Hitler and was soon shortened, military style, to ITMA (pronounced ‘Itma’). The first pre-war series in 1939 was set in a pirate commercial radio station (what are the chances that this idea sowed a seed in the young minds of the people who would found Radio Caroline 20-odd years later?).

Once war broke out the setting was changed to the Office of Twerps and various changes were made throughout. Itma also introduced Colonel Humphrey Chinstrap and his catchphrase ‘I don’t mind if I do.’

Inside the Strand, a box credit box explains:

Robin Jaques made this study of Britain’s best-loved comedian as Tommy was ambushed by fans when leaving the B.B.C. headquarters of “Itma.” Autograph hunters are not permitted inside the hall of Broadcasting House, so they lie in wait over the road in Portland Place. And Tommy accepts it all with never-failing humour and kindliness. The tie Tommy is wearing is his favourite. The colours are those of the famous writers’ and artists’ club, the Savage.

Liverpool comedian Tommy Handley in a BBC publicity shot from the ITMA series

The similarity with this BBC publicity photograph suggests that Jacques – one of the best illustators of the era, who also did covers for Radio Times, Punch and the Listener – might have used it as a reference for Handley’s face. His sister was actress Hattie Jacques, who appeared in Itma from 1947.

The February 1948 issue of the Strand will have been on sale in January that year, 12 months before the last broadcast of Itma on 6 January 1949. Handley died just three days later of a brain haemorrhage. As a BBC Radio tribute to Handley puts it: ‘and with him died one of the most popular radio shows of the forties’.

The theory that Jacques used the BBC publicity photograph as a reference is given added weight by the Tit-Bits cover below from 13 June, 1947 – a year before the Strand illustration. Two artists using the same source suggests there weren’t a lot of options – but then this was post-war Britain, with rationing heavily enforced and that will have affected photographic paper. It would be another five years before rationing ended.


This cover was definitely based on the BBC’s publicity photo of Tommy Handley

>>More on the Strand magazine

To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design