"Confidential was a periodical published quarterly from December 1952 to August 1953, and then bi-monthly until 1978. It was founded by Robert Harrison and is considered a pioneer in scandal, gossip, and exposé journalism. Newsweek said it featured 'sin and sex with a seasoning of right wing politics'.
Its journalism consisted just as much of innuendo as of exposés. For example, the magazine alleged that Bing Crosby was a wife beater and that Rock Hudson and Liberace were homosexuals ('Lavender Lads'), and made public the fact that Robert Mitchum had been charged with smoking marijuana. Apart from spreading gossip and outing homosexuals, Confidential combined its exposés with a conservative agenda especially targeted at those who sympathized with the political left and at celebrities that it claimed were engaged in inter-racial affairs.
Humphrey Bogart described its popularity: 'Everybody reads it but they say the cook brought it into the house.'
Confidential's technique for the writing of an article was also innovative. In 1955 Time described the journalistic approach: 'By sprinkling grains of fact into a cheesecake of innuendo, detraction and plain smut, Confidential creates the illusion of reporting the 'lowdown' on celebrities. Its standard method: dig up one sensational ‘fact’ and embroider it for 1,500 to 2,000 words. If the subject thinks of suing, he may quickly realize that the fact is true, even if the embroidery is not. […] The magazine specializes in finding one black mark in a subject's distant past, and hammering him with it...'
The first issue was published in 1952 under the headline "The Lid is Off!". Under the slogan "Tells the Facts and Names the Names" Confidential soon became the fastest growing magazine in the U.S. After only a couple of issues the magazine claimed its circulation was four million copies. As each copy was reckoned to be read by ten persons this meant that the publication reached every fifth American if Confidential's own figures were accurate). Robert Harrison was estimated to make half a million dollars per issue.
By July 1955, TIME was decrying Confidential's success: 'In a little more than two years, a 25¢ magazine called Confidential, based on the proposition that millions like to wallow in scurrility, has become the biggest newsstand seller in the U.S. Newsmen have called Confidential ('Tells the Facts and Names the Names') everything from "scrawling on privy walls' to a 'sewer sheet of supercharged sex.' But with each bimonthly issue, printed on cheap paper and crammed with splashy pictures, Confidential's sale has grown even faster than its journalistic reputation has fallen.'
Due to Confidential's success, and the large amount of revenue it generated, competing magazines soon were created – Hush-Hush, Uncensored, Naked Truth, Rave, Private Affairs, Revealed, Side Street, Exposed, The Lowdown, Exclusive, Blast, Inside, On the Q.T. All of these magazines had striking slogans in the Confidential tradition: "Uncensored And Off The Record", "What You Don’t Know About The People You Know", "Stories The Newspapers Won’t Print!", “All The Facts...All The Names”. Even Confidential recycled their own articles in Whisper, one of Robert Harrison’s other publications."
The Washington City Paper said:
"Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer were a couple of New York City newspapermen who had the chutzpah in 1951 to publish a book, Washington Confidential (*), that promised the 'low-down on the big town.' The writers had earlier published Chicago Confidential, which, according to the dust jacket for WC, 'was viciously attacked and vilified by public officials, notables and literary critics all over the country.'
The fact that Lait and Mortimer's publisher, Crown, thought such information might help sell the new book said a lot about everyone involved. It said they were way ahead of their time in understanding that scandal and hyperbole sell so much better than facts and reason."
"In the new book Shocking True Story, Henry E. Scott details the rise and fall of Confidential magazine which was the TMZ of 1950s Hollywood sleaze. We have an excerpt. And Scott was nice enough to scan some covers.
The magazine, in stripping away layer upon layer of Hollywood puffery, left a legacy of skepticism and cynicism that was quickly embraced by Americans who had come to doubt the oh-so-wholesome image of life they saw projected endlessly on the silver screen.
Although Confidential eventually fell, it spawned dozens of imitators, some of which continue to prosper. In many ways, Confidential was father to the National Enquirer, the Star, E! True Hollywood Story, Access Hollywood, TMZ.com, and for that matter, today's Vanity Fair. Confidential was, in a sense, inevitable. 'Half-fictionalized as they are,' said Camille Paglia, the feminist social critic who grew up reading Confidential, 'the tabloids, with their twin themes of sex and violence, tell the lurid pagan truth about life.' As Robert Harrison put it, 'I sincerely believe the basic vehicle of the story-behind-the-story will be here long after we are all dead.'"
See more here: http://gawker.com/5454839/when-gossip-was-gritty-confidential-magazine
Beltway Confidential, Los Angeles Confidential and now... Forum Confidential.