Stella Cretek

The truth of the matter

By - May 26th, 2008 02:52 pm
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As a kid I believed everything I read was true, especially the Bible (the Old Testament was particularly frightening), and odd as it may seem, tales from True Confessions magazine, a publication forbidden in my Midwestern childhood home. Fortunately, my best friend lived across the street in the shadow of the Presbyterian Church, and when her mom was away, we two would smoke her mom’s Lucky Strikes and dive into what was forbidden in my home. I confess, those were exciting times.

Recently, I received a yellowing copy of True Confessions: Sixty Years of Sin, Suffering & Sorrow (1919-1979). It was a time-warp packed with familiar ads: Adola brassieres (“flatters where it matters”), Tayton’s Cake Make-Up (“a Hollywood favorite”), Marchand’s Golden Hair Wash (“don’t let time darken your hair”), and Yours-Truly nylon hosiery, which urged me to send for a FREE sample stocking. Tempting? Yes, but even I realized that a single stocking was useless. Balancing the ads promising full-throttle beauty were many hinting at the disaster of scaly skin blemishes, bad breath, and for one on the cusp of young womanhood … underarm perspiration, which could be fixed with a dab of Odo-Ro-No. The publication was aimed at females, ages 20-35, 75% of who were married.

The confessions had sizzling titles: “Shakedown Marriage” (When a showgirl down on her luck meets a naïve lad in khaki on a 36-hour leave, a lot can happen … and does!), “Interrupted Elopement” (But Lester was impatient with anything that thwarted his desires), or this from “My G.I. Joe” (He leaned forward and his big hands covered mine), and “The Girl They Called BAD” (All her sorry, pitiful life, Ivy longed for someone to care, anyone!). Shadow-filled black and white photos of real people in fake situations hinted at Film Noir, another of my early obsessions enjoyed at our town’s Rialto Theater.

I never tried Marchand’s Golden Hair Wash, but seven decades have left me with a mop of natural silver. Recently, I learned on Wikipedia (another benefit of age) that confession magazines gave way to comic books in 1949 before staggering forth in condensed form in Reader’s Digest. My computer also revealed that a 1981 movie (True Confessions) starred two Roberts (De Niro and Duvall), as priest vs. gangster. In 1985, television made a stab at a series culled from the pages of True Confessions, but even the show’s host, Bill (“My Favorite Martian”) Bixby, couldn’t keep it from expiring. In 2006, Dorchester Media linked with Leisure Enterprises to launch paperback anthologies titled True Confessions, True Romance, and True Story.

Believe it, True Confessions is alive and kicking via subscriptions. Magazine touts it as a “glimpse into the forbidden!” An image of the magazine’s cover carries headlines titled “Toxic Love,” “My Son Shot His Best Friend,” “Talk Show Terror” and “Why I Married a Gay Man.” Given our current world of “confessions,” a world where celebs mea culpa daily and Jerry Springer is a hero, the True Confessions of my pre-teen years seems a tad quaint. True Confessions (circa 2007), if you go to the magazine’s website, will give you a shot a penning the perfect tale, and for a writer, it’s tempting to enter the land of hacks. Also included is a recipe for “Wave the Flag” cupcakes and tales from five women who have loved ones in the military. In flipping back through the 1940’s stories from my True Confessions: Sixty Years of Sin, Suffering & Sorrow, I realize that nothing much has changed; it’s just that I was too stupid to unravel the publisher’s simple formula, i.e. “ patriotism sells if you make it sexy.” Here’s an excerpt from “G. I. Joe,” on page 126, written to take minds off the hell known as World War 11.

“In my pocket was a V-mail to Joe in England. And I smiled to myself in the darkness remembering its contents. Mother reminded me to tell him she had been made a supervisor out at the munitions plant.”

On page 121 is a full page ad for War Bonds. It suggests that “War Bonds Today Are Job Bonds Tomorrow.”

A recent perusal of unearthed this:

“When the men in uniform showed up at my door, my heart sank to my toes. I knew exactly what I was about to hear. My husband, Jamie, had been in the Middle East fighting, and he’d written and told me he thanked God for each day he lived through …”

My heart sank to my toes when I realized it was a hoodwink designed to bring in subscriptions. Over the years, True Confessions has mastered the art of putting a romantic spin on the horrors of war. It’s safe to say their only truth was, and still is, their political agenda.

Categories: Dem Bones

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