Just for fun let’s go back to 1959 when this issue of Rugged Men could be yours for 35 cents. Eisenhower was about to retire and Jack Kennedy and Richard Nixon were on the verge of a historic presidential campaign. Hollywood lost Errol Flynn, George Reeves, Lou Costello, Mario Lanza, Ethel Barrymore and Cecil B. DeMille. Some of the top films that year were Ben Hur, North by Northwest, Rio Bravo, and Operation Petticoat. Best selling novels included Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, Exodus by Leon Uris, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Hawaii by James Michener. None of these authors appear in Rugged Men Magazine, but Lou Cameron does.
Red-Headed Hero From Hell by Lou Cameron is a feature article about Tom Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald, and his adventures at sea in the 1700s. There is nothing special about the article, except Cameron’s stylistic flourishes are sometimes fun to read: “Surrounded by dense clouds of yellow smoke; the hellish figures charged! The terrified Spaniards fled – one would be crazy to do battle with devils!” Obviously, there’s no way Cameron could have known such details based upon actual historical records, but Rugged Men readers required rugged prose. All of the articles make for good examples of a magazine style that is long vanished, but fun to peak at today.
Fire Ants Ate Me Alive by T. Marshward as told to Roland W. Wilkes is exactly what it sounds like. A sensationalistic piece of first person prose that I thought was a real hoot. The opening lines here are a classic hook: “Five thousand feet below me, Mexico’s Sierra Madre del sur mountains were a gentle-grey-green, flattened to mere ripples by my altitude. Easing back on the stick, I flew my twin-engined, modified Navion into the morning sun. I was taking a well-earned vacation from the California rocket laboratory where I worked as a missile engineer. It had been a night and day grind for me for more than six months, since Sputnik 1 went up. I needed a rest – but quick.” Later, after crash-landing in a remote area, our studly narrator finds himself eaten alive by fire ants. This excruciating ordeal concludes with: “Since I got the artificial feet and stainless steel hands, at least I’ve been able to get a night watchman job. I never go out in the daylight. Children scream when they see my face. Even the adults can’t look at it.” Now that’s what I call a rugged man!
The Harlots Wanted My Blood by John M. O’Brian is such a great title. It turned out to be a good story, too, not far removed from Mickey Spillane’s “let’s kill commies” type of prose. Set in the St. Pauli red-light district of Hamburg, Germany, my favorite line in this hardboiled story was “The Pauli broads make the Piccadilly commandos look like sorority sisters.” Here’s a tale about some AWOL pals, a chum with purple hair, and tough broads with guns. I Cried Like a Child by William Dahn is a Korean war story, masculine and tough as an iron tank. I Have the World’s Ghastliest Job by Jack T. O’Halleran is life through the eyes of a morgue attendant. Let’s just say it ain’t pretty. The Bloodiest Day of the West by Ephriam Anderson is about the Mountain Meadows massacre in Utah, told in testosterone enriched prose.
The Man Who Really Was Dracula by Winthrop Evanston gets down and dirty with details about Baron Karl Von Allendorf, a nobleman who died in 1532 and who nurtured a taste for human blood. Too Many Tons of Terror by William R. Dennison is about a zookeeper who finds himself in trouble on a safari; and I Saved 3000 Freedom Fighters by Gyula Istvan is another war story. The Racket In Phony Sex Research by Allan J. Dickinger (now I wonder if that’s his real name?) is preceded by a full page advertisement for a mail-order sex manual. The article purports to warn people about phony men – presumably rugged men – conducting surveys about sex. We all know what they really want. The Dagger at America’s Throat by Fred Lovett is about those teenage harems in Omaha that you’ve all heard about. The country’s gone to hell, that’s for sure.
Finally, this edition of Rugged Men features pin-up model Marlyn Maher posing in a photo-feature called Fire and Ice. She’s hot, she’s cold, she’s cute, she pouts and she’s half naked. I also enjoyed some of the advertisements you see reproduced here. Best of all is the cover. I don’t know who the artist is, and the cover has nothing whatsoever to do with the articles and stories, but I like it so much I’m using it as inspiration for a story I’m writing.