How the hell have you done it?

On April 18th of 1961, it was announced that iconic Hollywood star Gary Cooper was dying of cancer after a glittering 36 year career that saw him amass countless fans, plaudits, and awards across the globe. Weeks after that news broke, and just days before he died, Cooper received the following fan letter from Kirk Douglas,

This film should break ground

Early 1968, before Stanley Kubrick took the helm of A Clockwork Orange and created the classic we now know, Hollywood producer Si Litvinoff sent both a draft of Terry Southern‘s script and a copy of the original novel to John Schlesinger, just one of the filmmakers he approached to direct before pinning Kubrick down (incidentally,

You must not worry about Santa

In 1961, immediately after overhearing her parents discuss the possibility of Soviet nuclear tests at the North Pole, 8-year-old Michelle Rochon grabbed a pencil and wrote a letter to U.S. President John F. Kennedy, in which she asked him to prevent the tests for one particular reason. Her letter, and the reply she soon received

Grow up as good revolutionaries

In 1955, Argentinean-born Che Guevara met Fidel Castro and quickly joined his efforts to oust Fulgencio Batista as leader of Cuba — a revolution in which he would go on to play a major role and which would lead to Guevara becoming Finance Minister under Castro’s rule. By 1965, Guevara was keen to spread his

Have you enjoyed embracing men?

In 1961, four years after losing his job as a U. S. Army astronomer on account of his homosexuality, 36-year-old Frank Kameny saw his latest appeal against the dismissal rejected by the Supreme Court. However, the decision only strengthened his commitment to the wider cause: Kameny went on to become a major figure in the

Don’t ever call me a liberal

Today would have been the 90th birthday of Norman Mailer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and journalist who also happened to write some enormously entertaining letters in his lifetime. Below are just three of the many thousands. The first was sent to one of his writing idols, Ernest Hemingway, along with a copy of The Deer Park;

Does IBM know that HAL is psychotic?

In August of 1966, 2 years prior to the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick wrote to the vice president of his production company and asked whether IBM — a company with whom Kubrick consulted during production, and whose logo briefly appears in the film  — were aware of HAL‘s murderous actions in the

Please advise

I think it’s safe to assume that the advice reluctantly given in response to this wonderful memo, sent by record producer Teo Macero to executives at Columbia Records, was essentially, “Let Miles Davis call his next album whatever he wants.” And rightly so. As we now know, the title stayed, and Bitches Brew was released to the public four months later. It is now

Regarding your Hampton Wick

Since 1968, at which point she and her best friend famously sought out and made a plaster cast of Jimi Hendrix‘s penis, legendary groupie Cynthia Albritton (a.k.a. Cynthia Plaster Caster) has been immortalising rock stars’ members — and, since 2000, breasts — in plaster for the world to see; and quite successfully too, as evidenced by

Your road manager needs a POKE

In March of 1966, as their Australian tour came to an end, a few members of The Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts — decided to unwind by taking a short break in Fiji. It was during that visit, and due in no small part to a flippant remark made by their

What do I want in a doctor?

In 1964, following the retirement of his regular physician, 62-year-old novelist John Steinbeck was asked by his new doctor to complete a routine medical questionnaire for his records. Steinbeck did exactly that, and on reaching the last of its many pages, the Grapes of Wrath author discovered, and left blank, a small space reserved for

There is no money in answering letters

In 1961, comedian Groucho Marx and filmmaker Woody Allen met for the first time and embarked on a friendship that would last 16 years. Groucho—the elder of the pair by 45 years—reminded Woody of “a Jewish uncle in my family, a wisecracking Jewish uncle with a sarcastic wit,” whilst Woody was, according to Groucho in

Please send in your letters

When, in September of 1965, it was suggested to Charles Bukowski that a collection of his letters would be an attractive proposition for publishers and the reading public, the legendary poet quickly set about recovering as much material as he could by way of the following form letter — written in his own inimitable style

The morning mail is my enemy

In March of 1961, nine years after the publication of Charlotte’s Web, author E. B. White received a letter from a young fan named Cathy Durham who wanted to know when, if ever, his next children’s book would see the light of day. He replied, in part: “I would like to write another book for children but

Come here father

In August of 1966, following years of controversy and multiple arrests for his “obscene” stand-up routines, pioneering comedian Lenny Bruce was found dead at his home after a morphine overdose. He was 40-years-old. Approximately a year and a half before he passed away, as he faced jail following a drug conviction, Bruce wrote a letter to his

The proverbial “really good” sci-fi movie

On March 31st of 1964, Stanley Kubrick initiated contact with author Arthur C. Clarke by way of the following letter, in which the filmmaker declared an interest in the two collaborating to produce, in his words, “the proverbial ‘really good’ science-fiction movie.” Clarke was immediately keen — so much so that just three weeks later, on April 22nd,

Tolstoy wasn’t Sendak, either

Mid-1961, as he prepared to illustrate one of Tolstoy’s books, 33-year-old Maurice Sendak wrote to his editor, the legendary Ursula Nordstrom, and expressed some doubts about his own capabilities as a writer. Her typically supportive and rousing response can be read below. Two years after this letter was written, Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are—edited by Nordstrom—was

let me begin by not beginnin

Early-January of 1964, at which point his third studio album was soon-to-be released, 22-year-old Bob Dylan wrote the following letter to Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen — both founding editors of Broadside, a highly influential underground magazine of the period — and spoke of, amongst other things, his recent rise to fame, the money and guilt that came with it, and

Cowboys must be deranged

In July of 1964, a reader named Marian Forer wrote the following letter to John G. Fuller, the editor of a popular column in Saturday Review magazine called “Trade Winds” that collated whimsical news items and thought-provoking anecdotes from all corners. Forer’s letter was later featured, in part, in the column.  (Source: Dear Wit.) Winnipeg, ManitobaCanada

Getting Star Trek on the air was impossible

In November of 1966, two months after the first Star Trek series premièred in the U.S., science fiction author Isaac Asimov wrote an article for TV Guide in which he complained about the numerous scientific inaccuracies found in science fiction TV shows of the day — Star Trek included. That show’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, didn’t take kindly

I do not apologize for myself nor my fears

On December 13th of 1963, at a dinner event in New York, the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee awarded its annual Tom Paine Award to Bob Dylan, for his contribution to the fight for civil liberties. Despite not having prepared one, a nervous and slightly drunk Dylan gave a speech that evening — a controversial speech in which

It has never got easier

In March of 1962, acclaimed author John Steinbeck wrote the following letter to Edith Mirrielees — a lady who, as his professor of creative writing at Stanford 40 years previous, had been an enormous influence on his development as a writer and, he later claimed, one of the few things he respected about the university. His fantastic, insightful letter

Thank you, Mr. Hitchcock

In March of 1962, Alfred Hitchcock took a break during filming of The Birds in Bodega Bay and visited a local school to greet the pupils. Soon after, the school’s principal wrote the following letter of thanks to the filmmaker, and described the visit’s positive effect on one particular child. Transcript follows. (Source: Hitchcock, Piece by Piece;

Greetings Worm

From the pages of Diane Keaton‘s memoir, Then Again, come four brief and unsurprisingly entertaining letters from the inimitable Woody Allen. Says Keaton: I was his endearing oaf. He was my “White Thing.” […] We thrived on demeaning each other. His insights into my character were dead on and—duh!—hilarious. This bond remains the core of our

The problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism

Early-1966, believing its contents to be “immoral,” the Hanover County School Board in Virginia decided to remove all copies of Harper Lee‘s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, from the county’s school libraries. As soon as she was alerted, Lee responded perfectly by way of the following letter, written to, and later published in, The Richmond News Leader. Also

He is called Mick Jagger

In April of 1962, 18-year-old Keith Richards wrote the following enthusiastic letter to his aunt, “Patty,” and described, amongst other things, an encounter some months previous that would ultimately change his life — the moment he met Mick Jagger for the first time since being childhood friends. Three months after the letter was written, “The

You are mistaken in calling it a novel

In September of 1961, a young publicist at Simon & Schuster named Nina Bourne began sending out copies of a forthcoming book to a whole host of notable readers, in an attempt to solicit a blurb or two for its release. They were accompanied with an enthusiastic note from Bourne that read, “This is a

I should like more money

The great Al Hirschfeld had been supplying his much-loved caricatures to the New York Times for 37 years when, in 1962, tipped over the edge by the newspaper’s accounting department, he sent the following amusing letter to the Sunday editor, Lester Markel. His request for a raise was granted. Transcript follows. (Source: The Paper’s Papers: A

Go easy with my money

In April of 1961, the inimitable Groucho Marx received a glossy annual report from the Franklin Corporation, a company in which he had recently become an investor. After flicking through the report, Groucho had some concerns, and so wrote the following letter to the company’s President, Herman Goodman, to inform him. (Source: The Groucho Letters;

The suspense was unbearable

In 1965, a popular British comic by the name of “Eagle” published the following dramatic letter from an an avid young reader. In fact, that 12-year-old boy was Douglas Adams, future author of, most notably, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and this very short story was his first published work. (Source: The Salmon of Doubt; Image:

Dear Son

In May of 1962, 37-year-old Malcolm Scott Carpenter became just the second American to orbit the Earth, as he piloted the Aurora 7 into space. On the eve of this historic journey, his father, Marion, proudly wrote him the following wonderful letter. (Source: For Spacious Skies; Image: A photo of Earth, taken by Scott Carpenter

Like all frauds your end is approaching

In November of 1964, fearful of his connection to the Communist Party through Stanley Levison, the FBI anonymously sent Martin Luther King the following threatening letter, along with a cassette that contained allegedly incriminating audio recordings of King with women in various hotel rooms — the fruits of a 9 month surveillance project headed by William

The Heroes of Our Time

June, 1964. Marlon Brando sends a telegram to Martin Luther King and declines an offer to assist in a forthcoming demonstration due to ill-health and legal troubles. Brando was an active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, both vocally and financially, and in fact had been standing just “a few steps behind Dr. King when

YOUR ANONYMOUS GODARD

Mid-1968, the British Film Institute invited acclaimed filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard to open a series of lectures at the National Film Theatre in London. A fee was agreed, the invite accepted, and flights booked. In the days prior to the event, the BFI received two telegrams from Godard. The first can be seen below. The second

Space: The Final Frontier

On August 1st of 1966, just weeks before NBC’s season premiere of the original Star Trek series, two of the programme’s producers — Bob Justman and John Black — contacted Gene Roddenberry and asked him to quickly write the show’s now-famous opening monologue (see clip above), to be recorded by William Shatner. For the next

Thanks for being my Dad

Today marks a decade since the death of George Harrison; with that in mind, here are two endearing handwritten letters from the late-Beatle. The first was written in 1968 to a fan who, having previously been advised by Harrison to learn the sitar, had then cheekily asked him for the money needed to purchase one.

HAVE SECURED CONTRACT FOR BEATLES

On May 9th of 1962, after many weeks of trying, Brian Epstein met with the A & R man at Parlophone — George Martin — for a second time, and played him some more material by The Beatles. Martin wasn’t overly impressed with the songs, but provisionally signed the act on the strength of their manager’s enthusiasm, and on

Here are the pictures

Jimi Hendrix sent the following letter to Reprise Records in September of 1968. It was essentially a set of fairly strict instructions with regard to the sleeve design of his forthcoming record, Electric Ladyland: a photo of the band surrounded by kids in Central Park, taken by Linda McCartney, was to feature on the front

Your loving son, Jimi

October, 1966: Very soon after forming The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jimi Hendrix writes a postcard to his father back home in the U.S. and fills him in on recent developments. Two months later — as mentioned by Jimi — the band’s first single, “Hey Joe,” was released. Their debut album, “Are You Experienced,” soon followed; it is

Who do you think you are — Marilyn Monroe?

Amusing proof, if it were needed, that Marilyn Monroe was difficult to pin down at times, even for New York Times journalists on deadline. The month after this letter was sent, Monroe began shooting her final movie, The Misfits, and not long after that she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic in New York. She described

You are the hippest of cats

The following note was written by Audrey Hepburn in 1961, shortly after hearing the musical score for her latest movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for the first time. Such was her delight, she wrote a charming letter of praise to its composer, Henry Mancini; a man who would later be awarded an Academy Award for his efforts. Short, but

POSSIBLE ACTIONS TO PROVOKE, HARRASS, OR DISRUPT CUBA

On February 2nd of 1962, Brig. Gen. William Craig sent the following memo to Brig. Gen. Edward Lansdale, commander of the Kennedy administration’s Operation Mongoose — a secret project kick-started by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in order to “help Cuba overthrow the Communist regime.” This particular memo, entitled “POSSIBLE ACTIONS TO PROVOKE, HARRASS, OR DISRUPT CUBA,”

The Factory

The Factory, c.1966 | Image: Tuscene One can only imagine the parties that occurred on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street during the 60s, for this was Andy Warhol‘s Factory, the very studio in which his famous silkscreens were created on a daily basis; a veritable hot-spot that welcomed a steady stream of visitors that

I NEED TO TELL YOU MY EMOTION

From one master to another. A telegram received in 1968 by Stanley Kubrick shortly after the release of his cinematic tour de force, 2001: A Space Odyssey—sent to him by fellow filmmaker, Federico Fellini. Transcript follows. (Source: The Stanley Kubrick Archives.) Transcript SERCEIVED 4.9.68 DISTRIBUTION MR KUBRICK METROBRIT BORWO ERE STALBANS TELEGRAMS ONE MSGE FOR YOU720 1.55 LONDON

We were not found wanting

On November 27th of 1963, Charles Jack Price, then-Administrator of Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, proudly sent the following memo to all staff and made clear his appreciation for their professional conduct over the past week—a period during which, as the world’s population looked on in horror, the hospital had seen the deaths of

Cannes is a place of mental humiliation

Below we have two letters from Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, both written in May of 1960, in which he makes clear his apparent hatred of awards ceremonies. The first letter, addressed to the founder of the Cinémathèque Française, Lotte Eisner, sees Bergman labelling the Cannes Film Festival as a “place of meat market and mental humiliation”; in

There is no way to replace Walt Disney

On December 15th of 1966, less than two months after the discovery of a malignant tumour in his left lung, Walt Disney passed away. Hours later, his brother Roy sent the following memo to all employees of the company. In the following days, Roy Disney announced the postponement of his retirement; he then spent the next

Gee whiz, that master alarm certainly startled me

Whilst working as “Chief of Apollo Data Priority Coordination” during the Apollo space program — or, as Gene Kranz fondly labelled him, “pretty much the architect for all of the techniques that we used to go down to the surface of the Moon” — NASA engineer Bill Tindall was renowned within the agency for the informal tone of the incredibly important

It is a good thing to be laughed at

Although tame by today’s standards, when it was first aired by the BBC in 1962, the late-night satirical TV show That Was The Week That Was broke new ground as its incredibly talented cast and crew mocked the political establishment in a manner previously unseen on television, live to millions of viewers. Unsurprisingly, the reaction from

It can never be as bad in fiction as it is in real life

On January 7th of 1964, having held his tongue for two months despite a steady stream of criticism, author Ken Kesey wrote the following letter to The New York Times in defence of the Broadway adaptation of his novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest; a stage show which had attracted a fair amount of

Permission to Synchronise

Tom West, c.1966 | Image: Jessamyn West, at Flickr When he wasn’t designing incredibly precise clocks at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in the 1960s, Tom West could often be found travelling the world with one in his possession, on his way to accurately set the time at a foreign satellite observatory. Unsurprisingly, suspicions were sometimes aroused

Your happiness means my happiness

On August 6th of 1962, a day after 36-year-old Marilyn Monroe passed away, the following unsent letter, addressed to ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, was discovered at her desk, folded up in her address book. It is thought they were planning to remarry. Transcript follows. (Source: MM-Personal: From the Private Archive of Marilyn Monroe; Image: Joe DiMaggio &

My favorite feature is the Obituary department

In 1961, the following submission letter — written by an aspiring author aged just 14 — arrived at the offices of Spacemen Magazine accompanied by a copy of “The Killer,” the polite youngster’s latest short story. Unfortunately for him the magazine’s editor, Forrest Ackerman, didn’t deem the tale worthy of inclusion at that point, and it would be another 33

IN MEMORY OF A ONCE FLUID MAN

On January 31st, 1967, during a break from filming his role as Kato in Green Hornet, Bruce Lee wrote and illustrated the following letter to friend and metal-worker George Lee, the man responsible for crafting the Jeet Kune Do founder’s weaponry and other fighting equipment. This was the year Bruce Lee’s new, dynamic martial arts system

As soon as I stop speaking the pearls disappear

It was in 1963 that Diana Vreeland became the highly influential editor-in-chief of Vogue, having previously worked at Harper’s Bazaar for 25 years first as a columnist and then fashion editor. Add to these achievements her “discovery” of both Lauren Bacall and Edie Sedgwick, plus her role as style-advisor to Jaqueline Kennedy whilst First Lady, and

The tracks sound terrific so far, especially King Bee

December, 1964. An 18-year-old aspiring musician called Roger writes an endearing illustrated letter to his girlfriend, Jenny Spires, in which he describes his band’s first recording session. It was, in fact, the first of many, and before long both Roger and his band, The Tea Set, would become known by different names: he, as Syd Barrett; his band, Pink

My Definite Chief Aim

When he wrote the following mission statement in January of 1969, Bruce Lee was 28 years of age and a minor TV star in the United States, having featured in a number of shows which included, most notably, the ill-fated Green Hornet series. With his second child recently born and no financial security to speak of, the clearly determined

You have something graceful and tender and feminine

When he wrote the following letter in 1966, Marlon Brando was above the Atlantic Ocean flying from New York to London. Also on that plane was the letter’s recipient — a senior air stewardess who, having taken care of another passenger following a sudden downturn in health mid-flight, had spent much of the journey sitting directly in

The Grateful Dead has many problems

December 27th, 1967: After many weeks of fruitless and often shambolic recording sessions in studios on both the west and east coasts of the U.S., Warner Bros. Records executive Joe Smith writes a very stern letter to co-manager of the Grateful Dead, Danny Rifkin. In it, he informs Rifkin of the band’s frustrating lack of

Mia’s Haircut

Mia Farrow, 1965 | Images: IMDb; Msinginaction One morning in 1965, Mia Farrow arrived for work on the set of Peyton Place looking decidedly different: she had, overnight and without warning, chosen to have the majority of her long hair chopped off. To make matters worse for an instantly panicked crew, filming was currently mid-episode. A

I expect to make the best movie ever made

Writing to Stanley Kubrick in 1968, then-semi-retired actress Audrey Hepburn politely turns down his recent offer and asks that he keep her mind for future work. The role she refused? Joséphine de Beauharnais, the love-interest in Kubrick’s unfilmed epic: a large-scale biographical film based on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte for which Kubrick ultimately amassed a

The mass audience will never learn

On April 14th, 1960, comedian Steve Allen wrote the following letter to journalist Nat Hentoff, congratulating him on his latest Village Voice column (available to read here) in which Hentoff questioned some unfavourable reviews of Lenny Bruce‘s stand-up act. Bruce, recently a guest of Allen’s on his prime-time talk show, had caused widespread controversy following his

Do not hand over any tapes to Paul McCartney

Below we have two letters that perfectly illustrate the rift that ultimately tore The Beatles apart following the death of manager Brian Epstein and Apple Corps‘ subsequent failings. First, the draft of an undated letter in Lennon‘s hand that essentially bars Paul McCartney and his new manager, Lee Eastman, from accessing The Beatles’ recordings without authorisation; followed by a

Maybe it’s just catharsis. But I think it’s more.

On February 12th of 1965, having recently screened the show’s pilot episode to NBC executives only to hear rumblings of negativity, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry wrote the following letter to his agent in order to reiterate his vision for the show and make known his unwillingness to compromise its integrity just to make “a

I don’t support Clay’s decision to refuse induction

“Ain’t no Vietcong ever called me Nigger.” – Muhammad Ali, 1966. In a frank letter to friend William Reinmuth in May of 1967, retired heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano weighs in on the debate surrounding fellow boxer Muhammad Ali‘s public refusal, in 1966, to serve in the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War. The situation

Cal Tech students are primitive little shits

From the early-1960s, a brief but characteristically humorous letter from Dorothy Parker. At this late point in her life – having previously founded the Algonquin Round Table; penned much poetry; worked as an Oscar-nominated screenwriter; and written for numerous publications including Vanity Fair and The New Yorker – Parker was sporadically reviewing books for Esquire magazine and, it seems, teaching at Caltech. Judging

Even the most sophisticated society can still fall prey to an invasion of monsters

Early-1966, celebrated journalist Alex Haley bravely entered the headquarters of the American Nazi Party in Virginia and proceeded to interview its founder – retired U.S. Navy Commander, George Lincoln Rockwell – for Playboy Magazine; to further intensify the situation, Rockwell, until then unaware of his interviewer’s African roots, sat through the entire meeting within reach of a

You have lit the flame of aspiration within so many of us

At New York’s The Village Gate in October of 1962, legendary jazz tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins played a rousing set to an audience that included another notable jazz musician: Sonny Rollins. So impressed was Rollins with his idol’s live performance that he later sent the following eloquently worded letter of admiration to Hawkins. A year later,

20 years of experience dictates the following…

When he began scripting dramas for television in the late-’40s/early-’50s, screenwriter Rod Serling was something of a pioneer in what were then largely uncharted waters. Before long his talents were recognised: in 1955 his teleplay, Patterns, won huge acclaim; then, in 1959, the first episode of his greatest hit, The Twilight Zone, graced the screens.

I can only drive a car in which I have some confidence

Above: Rindt’s non-fatal crash in 1969. Photographer unknown. Source. This past week was the 40th anniversary of the death of Jochen Rindt, the only posthumous Formula 1 World Champion. Rindt was a singular talent who, like many other unique drivers, did not survive the very dangerous sport of Formula 1 racing. Up until very recently

Is there a space program which we could win?

On April 20th of 1961, a despairing John F. Kennedy sent the following memo to his Vice President and Chairman of the Space Council, Lyndon B. Johnson. Just 8 days previous, on the 12th, the Soviets had strengthened their lead in the Space Race by successfully sending cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into orbit; in addition, a

Some mean man killed my dady too

Above: Monroe Young Jr. III On November 22nd of 1963, whilst travelling through Dealey Plaza in an open-top limousine, then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy was tragically shot dead; millions of stunned people around the world immediately began to mourn. On December 1st, 1963, just over a week later, a young empathetic schoolboy named Monroe Young Jr. wrote the following heartbreaking

Let’s make use of this opportunity

In November of 1966, ever the optimist, Bruce Lee wrote the following letter to one of his students, Taky Kimura. Early ratings for The Green Hornet – his first acting role in front of U.S. audiences – had proven to be disappointing, however Lee was well aware that the exposure from just a single season as Kato

This little girl has her Walters crossed

Thanks to the endearingly confused efforts of a young cartoon fan in 1964, we have the following charming sequence of letters to enjoy. The fan in question — Wendy — fancied acquiring some pictures of Woody Woodpecker and the character’s creator, and so attempted to ask him directly. Indeed the request reached Walter Lantz, but not

Art, like love, speaks through and to the heart

During the run-up to a benefit show at Carnegie Hall in January of 1961, civil rights activist Martin Luther King sent the following supportive letter of thanks to Sammy Davis, Jr., as a result of his active role in its preparations. At the time Davis was looking to star in an anticipated – but ultimately

An A&R man must be “human”

Following his departure from Sun Records in 1958, Johnny Cash joined forces with Columbia Records to release all future material; however it wasn’t until 1964, six years later, that Cash – a recording artist renowned within the industry for his inability to adhere to schedules – officially signed with the label. The following letter of commendation was

I can’t be stopped

Although unsurprising, it’s fascinating to see early flashes of Muhammad Ali‘s confidence and charm as illustrated by the following letter. This was in October of 1961, Ali was aged just nineteen, and in fact wasn’t Ali at all but rather Cassius Clay; he had ninety-five amateur wins and nine professional victories already under his belt;

I hear you like Tomato Soup

As product marketing manager for Campbell’s, William MacFarland must have been overjoyed with the incredible public reaction to Andy Warhol‘s first exhibition as a fine artist in 1962, as present at the gallery was his now world-famous Campbell’s Soup Cans piece: 32 silkscreened portraits, each representing a different variety of the company’s soup product, all

The best reappraisals are born in the worst crisis

On February 11th of 1961, just a week after her final movie was released to disappointing reviews, a depressed, exhausted and frequently ill Marilyn Monroe admitted herself for psychiatric treatment in New York. Whilst there, Marlon Brando sent the following note of support. Tragically, just over a year later Monroe passed away. The note sold

Will you please have a brilliant idea?

From the office of author Ian Fleming in 1961, below is a letter requesting the services of artist Richard Chopping, the man responsible for creating the iconic dust jacket illustrations that helped strengthen the James Bond brand. Chopping’s trompe l’oeil paintings – each of which took a month to produce – had already featured on

Negro Bucks and White Hoodlums

In the iconic 1963 photo shown above, a young Tougaloo College lecturer and two of his students defiantly stage a sit-in at a whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter in Jackson, Mississippi whilst surrounded by disapproving onlookers. All three are covered in sugar, salt, mustard and their own blood. In the middle, head turned, is Joan Trumpauer

Don’t keep remembering what you’ve lost

In 1964, more than forty years after losing his own leg in a childhood accident, award-winning cartoonist Al Capp – creator of the wildly successful Li’l Abner strip – generously sent the following letter to a young fan who had recently become a fellow amputee. It’s beautifully written, and one can only imagine just how

How to wash George Harrison’s car

In 1962, Beatles guitarist George Harrison wrote the following humorous letter — a tongue-in-cheek, step-by-step guide to washing his car — to a young Beatles fanatic by the name of Susan Houghton. It’s worth noting that the owner of the soon-to-be-grime-covered Ford Classic at Forthlin Road, as mentioned in step 7, was a certain Mr. McCartney. Transcript

Why should I?

Sensing an opportunity, the UK government’s marketing department approached the incredibly popular novelist Agatha Christie in 1961 in an effort to drum up some publicity; the assumption being that Christie, having just been awarded an honorary degree by the University of Exeter, would in return be more than happy to help. Christie’s response was humorously

I really do not happen to like champagne

Playboy Magazine were clearly determined to feature a photograph of Fred Astaire, drink in hand, in their January ’62 issue; so much so in fact, that they rather desperately ran with a picture despite three separate refusals from the man himself. Understandably annoyed but ever the gentleman, Astaire made his displeasure known by sending this remarkably

The most beautiful death

Brave New World novelist Aldous Huxley was diagnosed with cancer in 1960, at which point his health slowly began to deteriorate. On his deathbed in November of 1963, just as he was passing away, Aldous — a man who for many years had been fascinated with the effects of psychedelic drugs since being introduced to mescaline

Metal fasteners, tape, and staples

It’s surprising to think that two astronauts on the brink of leaving Earth would have either the time or inclination to respond to mail from enthusiasts, but that’s exactly what happened in May of 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin replied to a young Belgian by the name of Jean Etienne. Jean’s father –

Happiness is within you…

Please excuse me while I exhibit another music-related letter, again courtesy of the near-bottomless Hard Rock Memorabilia vaults. Today’s poetic gem was penned rather beautifully by the late Jimi Hendrix on an unknown date, to a girlfriend he affectionately called ‘little girl’. It’s all at once exceptionally sweet, gently encouraging and yet another example of

People who write sonnets should be hung

Robert Bly has never been afraid to speak his mind. The notoriously opinionated, highly influential poet, author, editor, translator and activist wrote the following note to an aspiring poet when he was editing The Sixties; a legendary poetry journal which, as a result of its highly critical tone, attracted an inordinate amount of written reaction

I am Adam and I’m alone again with all my ribs intact

The following letter, written by Jack Kerouac in 1962 following an apparent escape from New York’s many temptations, is predictably fascinating and equally saddening. Over the course of just three pages addressed to Jacques Beckwith, Kerouac manages to touch on his general ill-health, his many troubled relationships with women (most notably then-girlfriend Lois Sorrell), the

My real name is David Jones

David Bowie was just 20 years of age and yet to make a dent in the music scene when, in September of 1967, he received his first piece of fan mail from America. The fan in question was 14-year-old Sandra Dodd, a New Mexico resident whose uncle, a manager of a local radio station, had

The KKK will receive a taste of its own medicine

May, 1964: The world looks on as peaceful, non-violent protests against racial segregation turn sour in St. Augustine, Florida. During the coming weeks many protesters will receive verbal and physical abuse from local segregationists, most notably Klansmen. The SCLC, founded by Martin Luther King, lends support to the protests. June 30th, 1964: Controversial activist Malcolm

You are Elvis Presley. I am Andy Kaufman.

On February 27th, 1969, 20-year-old Andy Kaufman wrote the following letter to his idol, Elvis Presley, and spoke of both his admiration for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and his desire to meet him in person. It would be another 3 years until Kaufman’s now famous Elvis act was first televised—a performance which Presley himself later

Daddy, my Poppy hasn’t grown yet

On May 11th, 1964, the following heartwarming letter was written by war veteran David Bailey in relation to a missing Returned from Active Service badge. I’ll offer no more details so as not to spoil the story. Transcript follows. Thanks to Linda for the tip.  Source Transcript 16 Lambeth Street,PANANIA.11th May, 1964 The Officer in

You must have the wrong author

The BBC have just uploaded a small collection of correspondence to and from author Enid Blyton and it makes for fascinating reading, providing more proof that Blyton, whilst adored by the millions of children who read her material, had a tougher time when it came to convincing adults that she was a writer of talent.

Your own name is a delightful one

Due to his obvious love of language, it’s unsurprising to me that J. R. R. Tolkien was an avid letter writer – almost as unsurprising as the moment I saw his artistic, near-calligraphic handwriting for the first time – but reading the following missive shines a light on something I wasn’t aware of: his reported

There is no time to be tactful

For fans of Mad Men it will prove difficult to learn of the story behind ‘Peace, Little Girl‘ – a brutal 60 second television spot which first aired on September 7, 1964 – and not imagine the offices of Sterling Cooper. The ad was conceived by agency Doyle Dane Bernbach on behalf of President Lyndon

Please – no preferential treatment

As well as writing approximately 500 novels and many articles and essays, prolific and now legendary science fiction author Isaac Asimov somehow found the time to work for The Horn Book Magazine — a well regarded publication in which he reviewed and commented on science books — for nine years. The following letter, written by Asimov to

If this letter doesn’t do it – nothing will

In 1962, Marilyn Monroe was shooting what was to be her last movie. Photographers Billy Woodfield and Lawrence Schiller received the assignment to cover the shoot and had obtained Monroe’s confidence, at least enough to allow them to photograph Monroe nude and semi-nude during a swimming pool scene. Playboy Magazine – which was launched with