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Confidential: Tells the Facts and Names the Names

August 10, 2007 |  8:26 am

1957_0810_rushmore 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.' "

1957_08_15_confidential_flynn 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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