Thomas Wolfe called Confidential (1952-58) "the most scandalous scandal magazine in the history of the world." Today, that statement may no longer be true, but in the relatively tame decade of the 1950s, Confidential went where no publication had gone before in exposing to a curious public the private lives of celebrities. In so doing, the magazine earned the wrath of powerful Hollywood figures who persuaded California's attorney general to file an array of criminal charges that, it was hoped, would silence Confidential and its flamboyant publisher, Robert Harrison. The trial that followed sent the celebrities whose exploits were described in Confidential off in different directions: some to testify in a Los Angeles courtroom and some across the California border or out to sea to avoid defense subpoenas. Truth, after all, is a defense in a libel case. When it was over, Confidential was a different magazine and Hollywood was a different place.
The Rise of a Scandal Magazine
When his accountant told Robert Harrison that the six girlie magazines he published were all losing money and headed for bankruptcy, he began thinking about a new type of magazine. "That same week," Harrison said later, "I thought up Confidential." Six months later, in December 1952, the first issue hit the newsstands. By Harrison's own admission, the first issue was "terrible."
With the next issue, however, Confidential's fortunes began to turn. Among the stories featured... Continued