Charley Jones Laugh Book Magazine Vintage Sleaze Story Finally Told
Finally! Since the web was created, folks have looked up Charley Jones Laugh Book to find nothing. Not that much is deserved. Although it ran monthly for decades, it managed to publish very, very little of merit! Leaning more toward the "vintage" side of "vintage sleaze," Charley still managed to fit in plenty of gams with the gags, and once he figured out it was legs which sold the magazine, he used them frequently.
Charley Jones Laugh Magazine started in 1943, and the origins, as with most of the vintage sleaze, begins with what Tom Brokaw called "The Greatest Generation" but forgot to mention what voracious consumers of patriotic published poon the boys were. Charley actually started publishing in 1933, but it was wartime when he found his true calling (which was bad jokes, bad cartoons and the illusion of sex.) His first magazine was "Downtown Wichita" which even Charley called a "tattle-tale sheet." Laugh book later became one of several titles he published. Another, which was popular with the service boys, was the "Latrine Gazette" which he claims 2 million draftees came to know.
The Latrine Gazette actually was successful enough for the Army to PURCHASE it and distribute it to their recruits. "LISTEN-UP SOLDIERS! Put down that Latrine Gazette and GO DIG ME A HOLE" Later, Charley realized he could double his income with the same content if he put another cover on the magazine, which he did and sold to the Navy! Same jokes and raunch, different title! So the Navy got "HEADliners" instead of the "Latrine Gazette" but if they met in a foxhole, they'd have known the same jokes. I suppose this was the first example of Pentagon redundant spending.
Alas, the war wouldn't last forever, so Charley set his sights on the civilian trade and "Laugh Book" was born. Charley hired the former sales manager for "Autopoint Pencil Company" and together they brought their vision of a small sleazy digest to the Stoll Distribution company in Chicago and left with an order of 20,000 copies. Soon it was national and at one point, 54,000 copies were printed. Otto Stoll of Stoll publications was behind "Captain Billy's Whiz Bang" and other notable endeavors, but not long after Laugh Book switched to Hearst.
The rag continued to operate out of Wichita, Kansas despite their national reach, and on their 20th anniversary moved the operation to...HIS OWN HOME! The number of employees had dropped from 11 at the peak to just two...Charley and Ceora K. Raymond, who was the editor. Talk about streamlined operations! Charley could just reach over from his divan and approve the content (just like Hef does today with Playboy!)
The standard issue was some 60 pages...a few sexy photos from the syndicated Earl Wilson column, cartoons by Jack Lohr, Bill Power, a whole lot of standard clip-art, a spicy cover and jokes. My favorite part was the "letters" section. Unlike the Penthouse letters later on which would inspire a whole generation to imagine getting boffed in the laundromat by the off-duty cheerleading squad...most of the letters to Laugh Book consisted of "I am enclosing a check to cover an order of 45 copies of your wonderful magazine to give to my friends" and "Your magazine made me laugh so hard, I am enclosing a money order for 100 back issues"