Confidential: Tells the Facts and Names the Names


Aug. 10-15, 1957

Los Angeles

In testimony that was at times as colorful as its red and yellow
covers, the Confidential magazine trial continued with an appearance by
its former editor in proceedings that were all the more interesting
because of celebrities who were trying to avoid appearing.

One of the more prominent reluctant witnesses was Tab Hunter, who
ultimately did not testify but earned his way into the headlines by
trying to escape publicity.

Hunter was the subject of a
September 1955 article implying that he was gay. His plea was that
because the article was not part of the prosecution’s case against
Confidential his testimony was unnecessary. Defense attorney Arthur J.
Crowley’s strategy was to subpoena as many stars as possible to prove
that Confidential’s stories were accurate and said he needed Hunter
because he wouldn’t know until the trial got underway whose testimony
might be required.

Although Errol Flynn, below right, came to Los Angeles in hopes of testifying
against the magazine, many celebrities left town to avoid being
called.  "We’ve been covering certain nightclubs and premieres," in
hopes of serving subpoenas, said former LAPD Officer Fred Otash, a
private detective often employed by Confidential. "Some of these people
are lying pretty low."

The main witness for the prosecution
was Howard Rushmore, a former staffer of the Communist Daily Worker and
onetime member of the Communist Party who became editor of Confidential
in October 1954.

Rushmore testified that Confidential
publisher Robert Harrison hired him out of frustration because the
magazine’s stories weren’t racy enough.

"Mr. Harrison told me
our stories were too tame," Rushmore testified. "He said we needed
stories that would make our readers whistle and say: ‘I never knew that
before.’ "

The first task was to get scandalous material.
Rushmore said Harrison didn’t like the stories submitted by Los Angeles
newspaper reporters
because they were too tame. Instead, Rushmore was
to develop a stable of informants who could provide a higher caliber of
dirt. I’ve already looked at Ronnie Quillan’s
checkered career as a Confidential informant, but the main source of
information was Francesca de Scaffa, an actress who was briefly the
third wife of actor Bruce Cabot. Rushmore described De Scaffa as "our
chief Hollywood source."   

"She said she had access to almost
every home in Hollywood and she could get a lot of stories," Rushmore
testified. "She said she would get material even if it involved affairs
for her with male subjects."

However, De Scaffa proved
unreliable, Rushmore said. "When an article based on her information
resulted in a lawsuit, she changed her original story and admitted that
she had not been present," he testified. "This gave me concern as to
her reliability."

(To complicate matters, De Scaffa attempted
suicide in May 1957 while hiding in Mexico City to avoid the
Confidential trial. She was eventually deported to Cuba as "an
undesirable visitor," The Times said).

In many cases, the
details were unimportant, Rushmore said. "Harrison often overruled his
attorneys on the matter of whether articles were too dangerous to print
and expressed the opinion that in the case of film people articles
could be printed without documentary proof," The Times said.

To be continued.

Note: According to Who’s Who in France, De Scaffa married French envoy and politician Raymond Offroy, who died in 2003.

(I suppose you are wondering why The Times used Marilyn Monroe in a Page 1 headline on a story that barely mentioned her. So am I. Like many articles in Proquest, this story is incomplete because it changed between editions. Sometimes the jump from Page 1 is lost or in other cases all that remains is the jump of a story. In this case, Monroe is mentioned in the lede and nowhere else. Such are the mixed rewards of research. Bonus fact: On Aug. 1, 1957, Monroe, who was married to playwright Arthur Miller, was rushed to Doctors Hospital in New York, where she suffered a miscarriage.)

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About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in #courts, #gays and lesbians, Film, Hollywood, Television and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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