Detective Pulp Magazine Covers from the other side

Girl on those Pulp Magazines hates the life she leads

New York (UP) — Give her the plain and simple life, Mary Rorrer cried today. No passion, she begged. No sex.

“Something dull.” she pleaded. “Like selling ribbons in a department store. A small-town department store.”

Miss Rorrer is a model for illustrators of those racy, blood- chilling, pulp detective magazines.

“Every month,” she moaned, “you can find me on the newsstands. But am I beautiful? Not me! My hair is askew. My face distorted. Usually, I’m backed against a wall, screaming. And my clothes — they’re spoiled and rumpled and ripped in several places — in short. I’m a mess!”

“Then, she said, “there’s always a man.” He stands menacingly before her, gun or knife, in hand.

“He has something on his mind,” she said. “If my pose is provocative enough the man on the street will be tempted to plunk down a quarter and turn to page 10 to see what it is. That’s art.”

Miss Rorrer, a 23-year-old blonde who earns $25 an hour, said she puts everything into her work but her heart.

“What’s fame?” she wailed. “What’s fortune? I can’t sleep nights, thinking of all those horror scenes I pose for. Nothing but homicide and suicide and attacks on innocent girls.”

Her job not only gave her nightmares, she said, but it interfered with her romances.

“At first, my boy friends like the idea of my being a model.” she said, “but after they see those illustrations — oh, brother.’“

She said the illustrators always chose her as the siren of the piece because they found her “sexy and sultry.”

“I can’t help that, can I?” she sniffed. ‘’Nevertheless, I lose more men that way. They always get the wrong idea about me.”

Miss Rorrer said she came to New York two years ago, bent on an operatic career.

“The critics didn’t think much of my voice,” she said “but the illustrators saw something else in me. And, inasmuch as I was sending a kid brother and sister through school and had to eat, I decided to give it a whirl.”

But the illustrators will soon have to get along without her, she said. She planned to get into another line of modeling — “shoes, or gloves, something sexless” — or return to her home, Hickory, N. C.

“Honestly,” she wept, “I can’t stand it. If I’m murdered in my bed just once more, why — I’ll simply DIE!”

[This article originally appeared in the Monday, 8 December, 1949 issue of the North Tonawanda Evening News.]


  1. Thanks for finding this great article about one of the pulp cover models. I have several photographs from artist Walter Baumhofer which showed that he used models and then painted the cover from the photo. Artist Norman Saunders used his wife as the model in many of his covers. Graves Gladney Shadow covers were self portraits.

  2. If this model felt this way about the work she did for detective pulp covers, I wonder how Margaret Brundage's (illustrator for Weird Tales) models felt…or if she used any.

    Great information on the other models. Thanks, Walker. I have another post on another (unlikely) model for pulp covers coming up sometime in the future.

  3. Love this piece. What a great article from a pulp model – sorry, a blonde pulp model (lol). I wonder if she knew her face (and body) would live on through the ages? Thanks for posting this. Now, if I can just see the code letters to post my little message. Gosh, I wish those letters wouldn't collapse in on themselves …

  4. Margaret Brundage using her daughters as models is a widespread rumour and has often been reprinted. But Robert Weinberg interviewed her and he swears she said she had no daughters. I googled Brundage and I see Wikipedia quotes the Weinberg version saying she had no daughters but there are plenty of other sites still saying she used her daughters, etc. So, as Todd says, make of that what you will…

  5. Far as I can make out, she had one son. Don't know where she got her models, but her daughters were probably not her models. Wonder who the actual models were, though?

  6. Speaking of daughters, Virgil Finley used his, and he must have have some nice looking ones, I must say. Years later, I ran into one of his daughter on Ebay selling his stuff. Lets see the Dime Mystery with the dagger is Aug 1949 and is by Stan Albert Drake as is the Ten Detective Aces Nov. 1945 with the pearls and the gun. Drake went on to do the Heart of Juliette Jones newspaper strip as well as Blondie later. Great artist learning his craft here. Jonathan

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