Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, Part Five by Greg Dziawer

A colorful moment from the loop Hung Like A Horse.

"The Best Known Pornographic Films In The World."
As any serious Woodologist knows, it's now generally accepted that Edward D. Wood, Jr. had a hand in the making of the first nineteen Swedish Erotica 8mm porn loops. While I agree with that assessment, the exact nature of Ed's involvement remains debatable. Did he simply write the captions and box cover summaries? Or did he also edit them or even possibly direct them?

It's widely known among vintage porn enthusiasts that the Swedish Erotica loops—a series that in latter years billed itself as the most popular mail-order loop series of all time—were entirely made in sunny Southern California. But it's not common knowledge that these loops, along with dozens of other related series also produced by Bernie and his son Noel Bloom, were also distributed overseas by a European porn behemoth called Color Climax.

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're taking a glimpse at some short erotic films that were among the first nineteen Swedish Erotica loops but were also distributed under different titles on various Color Climax labels across Europe, in some cases appearing overseas before they were made available to the stateside market. 

Brothers Jens and Peter Theander began producing the magazine Color Climax in 1967 out of an office in Copenhagen, Denmark. Although the legalization of porn was still a few years away in Denmark, their Color Climax Corporation quickly established itself as the biggest distributor of pornography across all of Europe. The mags made their way to the States, too, as I recall titles "from under Dad's bed" back in the early 1970s. I even still have a few I've toted around all this time. Although I used to find it ironic that the majority of pictures in the mags were in black and white, I've grown up since then (sort of) and understand how ballyhoo works. 

Color Climax specialized in producing and distributing magazines, generating perhaps tens of thousands of titles and issues through the years, right into the early 1990s. Still in business as of 2017, they exist now only on the internet. In the company's heyday, it was also a prolific producer and distributor of 8mm loops sold to the home market. Possibly as early as 1969, they had already struck up a co-distribution deal with Bernie Bloom, who since 1968 had been heading the West Coast office of Pendulum Publishers and supervising its growing family of magazine imprints, racking up close to a thousand or more issues into the mid-1970s.

Ed Wood was the most prolific of Bloom's small writing staff, typically four or five writers, churning out articles and short stories accounting for half of all of the magazine texts. As with the Theander brothers, the father-son team of Bernie and Noel quickly followed the magazines with loops, initially producing them under the Cinema Classics label, which was also the production company of the last three known Ed Wood-directed features, The Only House In Town, Necromania, and The Young Marrieds.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Set Decoration Odyssey, Part One by Greg Dziawer

Dig those dandy lions: Some interesting set decorations from Ed Wood's Necromania.

A pair of "Foo Dogs."
A new year seems a good time to start a new Odyssey. And truth be told, the set decorations in Ed Wood's films had preoccupied me—obsessed me, in fact—or the better part of the last half of 2016.

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're beginning a journey into the next level of Ed-phemera. Beyond credits and collaborators, beyond paperbacks and Poughkeepsie, beyond all sanity, there lies the inanimate objects decorating sets in films involving Ed. 

Set decorations, in common usage, are there to assist in creating verisimilitude, a semblance of reality. When a headstone in a cemetery falls over and calls attention to itself, the illusion of reality is utterly shattered. When those objects become most invisible is often when they are most successful. I don't know how many times I had watched The Young Marrieds before I finally grasped it, consciously aware of it and not just experiencing it as a functionally invisible set decoration. In retrospect, maybe it wasn't even me who noticed it—and certainly not in the bigger picture—as porn archaeologist Dimitrios Otis had brought up the subject of set decoration in Ed's work to me numerous times. And right here at Ed Wood Wednesdays, Joe Blevins previously noted set decoration in his brilliantly exhaustive article about The Young Marrieds. However the idea got into my head, there came an eventual moment when, watching the film, I truly saw the objects for the first time.

The statue upon the dresser along the right-hand wall in Ben and Ginny's bedroom in The Young Marrieds finally clawed its way into my consciousness. For a bit, not really thinking it through, I mistakenly thought it had a resemblance to a tiki idol. Just as I quickly came to my senses, a gracious poster in a private Ed Wood forum politely set me straight, informing me that it is a Chinese Imperial Guardian Lion

From Wikipedia:
Since the introduction of the lion symbolism from Indian culture especially through Buddhist symbolism, statues of guardian lions have traditionally stood in front of Chinese Imperial palaces, Imperial tombs, government offices, temples, and the homes of government officials and the wealthy, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), and were believed to have powerful mythic protective benefits. They are also used in other artistic contexts, for example on door-knockers, and in pottery. Pairs of guardian lion statues are still common decorative and symbolic elements at the entrances to restaurants, hotels, supermarkets and other structures, with one sitting on each side of the entrance, in China and in other places around the world where the Chinese people have immigrated and settled, especially in local Chinatowns.
These lions, sometimes referred to by Westerners as "Foo Dogs," are usually depicted in pairs. When used as statuary, the pair would consist of a male leaning his paw upon an embroidered ball (in imperial contexts, representing supremacy over the world ) and a female restraining a playful cub that is on its back (representing nurture).

Is there meant to be symbolism, the lions guarding the marital bed? If so, they are doing a poor job, sitting idly by as Ben and Ginny's marriage is sorely tested. 

A lion (far right) shows up in The Young Marrieds, guarding the marital bed.

A fascination with these lions now set ablaze, I then saw them again for the first time, upon an umpteenth viewing of Necromania. Perhaps I am the last to the party and this was obvious to all, but for me, it was a revelation. Once again, they guard a bed occupied by the married protagonists. Their marriage also crumbling, the Guardians bear mute witness.

While that reading might sound plausible, and a readerly text produces a unique, shared meaning while being experienced, in all likelihood it's just another set decoration from storage, on hand at the studio. Why do I think this? 

As I've poured through 8mm SoCal porn loops, looking for clues of Ed's involvement, the Foo Dog(s) turn up again and again. The usage is often the same as in The Young Marrieds and Necromania, another piece of bric-à-brac  as aesthetic enhancement. Yet there are times that I often feel that one of the lions is placed this way or that for a reason, seeming to judge these debauched and morally vacant couples, a new breed capable of exchanging mere words at the car wash before quickly arranging a hook-up via black rotary phones, ending in a male-fantasy facial. When I spot one of the statues now, I refer to it—in a "Bela-Lugosi-as-God" whisper—as The Guardian. 

Ah, yesss...The Guardian.... 

The lions have supporting roles in Necromania.

In future episodes of the Wood Set Decoration Odyssey, we'll revisit this curious pair of lions, and shine a light on numerous pairs of table lamps. We'll stare at furniture, ashtrays, wall hangings, blankets and pillows, all the while looking at everything except the sex. Nothing else is safe from our scrutiny.

And in case you're wondering what all of this has to do with Ed Wood and why any of it even matters, just be patient. All shall be revealed to those pure of heart.

Bonus: A gallery of Chinese Imperial Guardian Lions has been added to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A rant about celebrity impressions

King of the impressionists: Rich Little at the Laugh Factory.

Let me say right off the bat that I have always been fascinated with celebrity impressions and the people who do them. From a very young age, I always looked forward to seeing impressionists when they appeared on variety shows or talk shows. Johnny Carson and David Letterman booked a lot of celebrity mimics over the years, and I was grateful to them for that. Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, Fred Travalena -- these were my boyhood heroes. Sketch shows like SCTV, Saturday Night Live, and In Living Color were always good showcases for celebrity impressions, too, with people like Dana Carvey and Darrell Hammond specializing in aping the rich and famous.

It must be weird and a little lonely being a famous impressionist. No one cares about you. They just care about the characters you do. It's like being a ventriloquist: Your act requires you to all but suppress your own personality. Ever notice how, in most ventriloquism acts, the human always has a very bland personality, and the dummy gets all the jokes? It's the same way with mimics. When they aren't in character, they're the saddest, most boring people ever.

Anyway, celebrity impressions are alive and well in the age of YouTube. Lots and lots of people do them. But it's devolved into a parlor trick. People don't even bother coming up with funny things for celebrities to say and do. They just copy the voice and mannerisms, and that's it. Well, I say, that's not good enough. Here's a YouTube rant on the topic. It's not meant to be an attack on anyone in particular, despite that angry-sounding title.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Orbit, Part One by Greg Dziawer

Only the finest in home entertainment from Danish International Films.

The title screen from Prudish Secretary.
In a recent Wood Magazine Odyssey here at Ed Wood Wednesdays, we took a look at the text accompanying a photo feature in an issue of Danish Films magazine, ultimately surmising that it may have been written by Ed. The photos were taken from a Danish Films 8mm loop released to the home market under the Danish Films label as #1010 Young and Proper, starring the now-legendary pair John Holmes and Annette Haven. The Danish Films label was closely related to Swedish Erotica. The girls wear the tell-tale colored chiffon neck scarves, and the box covers even display the tell-tale "triple-dot" ellipsis. The Danish Films loops, seemingly a brief series, hailed from 1976.

The aforementioned Young and Proper was also released as Prudish Secretary under a different imprint, this time silent with subtitles. The logo opening the loop is that of Danish Films International, a series of 30+ loops made under the aegis of Bernie and Noel Bloom—one of literally dozens before they finally landed on and stuck to their epic Swedish Erotica series—stretching back to 1973. The font style of the credits is the same as in Swedish Erotica loops issues from approximately 1976 through 1978. Credits don't appear in earlier Bloom-related loops going back at least until 1970, and much Swedish Erotica material was undated. Prudish Secretary runs, depending on projection speed, roughly 15 minutes. The Danish Films cut runs at least a few minutes shorter and carries the year 1976 on the back of the box. 

The credit sequence with the characteristic font.

We know that Ed was captioning loops, but as always, the full extent of his involvement is yet unknown. Hence, we're including the subtitles that appear in Prudish Secretary as part of our new Wood Orbit, an endeavor that will merely highlight work in which Ed may have been involved in some capacity, sensitive to making any false claims of authorship via reckless mis-Ed-tributions of the sort you'll find on eBay

The subtitles are characteristically brief:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

And here's another short story I couldn't sell. Enjoy.

Almonds; delicious but deadly. No, that's not what this story is about.

Note: This, too, was another failed attempt at topical humor. It was supposed to be published before the election. It wasn't. But just so it doesn't completely go to waste, here it is. It has aged like fine milk. This is less a short story than it is a cautionary tale about how not to write a short story. Appreciate it on that level. J.B.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Here's a short story I couldn't sell. Anyone want it?

For some people, 11-9 was the new 9-11.

Note: This was a short story I wrote on November 9, 2016. I tried to sell it but couldn't find any takers. Oh well. It was meant, as you'll soon see, to be topical. Which means that it's now embarrassingly dated and will only become more so as time moves forward. Before it completely turns to dust, I thought I'd post it here. J.B.

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Orbit, Part One by Greg Dziawer

Some gentlemen get to know each other in this 1971 magazine from Calga.

Au-topsy, Au-turvy: Calga's My Boys

My Boys, Vol. 2. No. 3. Aug/Sep 1971.
We ended last week's Ed Wood Wednesdays by mentioning that, in the coming year, we'll venture into a new series of articles I've dubbed the Wood Orbit. The Orbit will be devoted to establishing parameters in which Ed's work might have appeared, sensitive in avoiding any false Ed-tributions while casting a wide and inclusive net.

With upwards of a thousand magazines in which Ed's work may have appeared, and Wood's own claim to have penned a thousand magazine short stories and articles, the Orbit of the magazines is a vast one. This week, in our very first Orbit, we'll summarize a typical Calga magazine from 1971, the very heart of Ed's involvement in adult magazines.

My Boys, Vol. 2., No. 3, Aug/Sep 1971, Calga Publishers, Inc.

Launched in May/June 1970, the gay-themed Calga mag My Boys ran a mere five issues, this number being the last. Calga, you may remember, was the sister publisher to Pendulum, both carrying the W. Pico Blvd. address in Los Angeles were Ed was working as staff writer for publisher Bernie Bloom. Ed was the most prolific of the four or five writers on the Pendulum staff, operating across all fronts. In particular, Ed often wrote the lion's share of nearly all textual content in dozens of gay-themed Pendulum-family mags in the early '70s.

Having seen three out of the run's five issues, I noted that My Boys was unique in being holistic. The photos and accompanying texts are fully integrated in each issue, the former drawing from the same small cadre of models and the latter imagining a narrative and characters for the actions depicted, developing in a pass-the-baton fashion from each photo feature to the next.

The cast of characters for this particular issue of My Boys consists of Don, who is the catalyst of this free-love cohort and who tells the entire story in first person, and his "boys," Kirk, Bruce, Randy, and Pete. All are characteristic of the (largely unknown) models in the Pendulum-family mags: a bunch of nice-looking, everyday guys, presented authentically. The tone of the accompanying texts, which are substantial enough to add up to their own short stories, is almost childlike and innocent, even though the vocabulary is sexually graphic in the extreme. As is also characteristic of the editorial stance of the Pendulum-family mags, the free love ethos is expressed naturally, without judgment, often even celebrated.

This issue of My Boys contains five photo features, as follows:

Monday, December 26, 2016

2016: The year in uncollected comics parodies

My tribute to the sidekicks and second stringers of the comics page.

See that tab up there, the one that says "Comics Fun!" right under the main banner? Click on that, and you'll find all the various comics-related posts on this blog. Generally, these are little spoofs and mashups of long-running newspaper comics, including (but not limited to): Dennis The Menace, Garfield, The Lockhorns, Rex Morgan, M.D., Hagar The Horrible, Blondie, Marvin, Shoe, Six Chix, and Funky Winkerbean.

I post a lot of that stuff to Twitter and Facebook, but not all of it makes it to Dead 2 Rights. So occasionally, I like to do a little roundup of comics stuff I've done recently and semi-recently. That way, people who don't follow me on social media will get to read it. That's what this post is. I was going through the files on my computer, deleting a lot of mages that I don't need anymore, and I came across some of these comics parodies. I figured, this would be an easy way to get some extra mileage out of them.