Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ed Wood's BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: 'Private Girl' (1975)

Ed Wood returns to the theme of prostitution in his late-career story, "Private Girl."

NOTE: This article is part of my ongoing coverage of Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Contents page from Vue, January '75.
The story: "Private Girl," originally published in Vue magazine, Vol. 29, No. 1, January 1975. Allary Enterprises, Inc.

Synopsis: Prostitute Rita is one year into her special arrangement with pimp Danny, whom she met at a cocktail lounge. He keeps her as his "private girl" in a plush apartment and doesn't make her turn tricks like all of his other girls. She's enraged, though, that he has taken on a new girl and has just come from making love to her. Rita claws Danny's face, and he hits her in the lip. Once things calm down, the two begin to talk. Rita worries that Danny will get rid of her once she begins to age, but Danny reassures Rita that she's still his special girl and that she has a lot of good years ahead of her. Then, Danny asks if Rita will entertain Tom Weaver, a friend of his from Detroit -- just talking, he assures her, no sex. Unbeknownst to the prostitute, Danny is going to use this opportunity to move Rita out of the apartment and move his new "private girl" into it. From now on, Rita's freeloading days are over. Danny will put her to "good use."

Wood trademarks: Prostitution and streetwalkers (cf. Orgy of the Dead); alcohol (vodka plus Ed's personal favorite, Imperial whiskey); "love nest" as euphemism for vagina (cf. this collection's "Scream Your Bloody Head Off"); man beating up hooker (cf. The Snow Bunnies); character named Danny referred to as "Danny boy" (cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space - "I can't resist your charm, Danny boy."); breast fetish; expression "You'll shit if you eat regular" (cf. this collection's "Flowers for Flame LeMarr"); repeated use of word "bastard"; pink nightgown; pink satin miniskirt; temperamental, violent woman (cf. "Flame LeMarr"); liquor store; cocktail lounge (cf. The Cocktail Hostesses); reference to oral sex in public alley (cf. this collection's "Hellfire"); long-term effects of alcoholism (Danny tells Rita she drinks too much); expression "old bat" (cf. "Flame LeMarr").

Excerpt: "You were something special. The way you moved your legs. The way your hips swayed, not like some little tramp pick up. You had class. I mean your body had class. You could stand some English lessons, but all the rest of you spells class. And class I like. Class I got to have. And that's what you have, A-1 class."

This Vue is yours for $50.
Reflections: The most damning, damaging passages of Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. appear in its penultimate chapter, "It's a Kind of Glow," which deals with Eddie's ever-worsening alcoholism in the mid-to-late-1970s and his tumultuous, occasionally violent life with Kathy Wood in their last few years as a married couple. After you make your way through those 13 pages of hell on earth, it is difficult to recapture your image of Ed as the misunderstood, goofy 1950s dreamer who made Plan 9 from Outer Space and Glen or Glenda? If there is a single sentence from Nightmare that haunts me, it's this simple pronouncement from Kathy: "Eddie wasn't nice when he was drunk." Actor John Andrews, who once donned an ill-fitting werewolf mask and howled amid the machine-generated fog in Orgy of the Dead, fills in the details. "Eddie," he says, "was a violent drunk" who nearly killed Kathy when she wouldn't stop nagging him. Various associates and friends, including a few of the actors who appeared in Ed's movies, tell war stories about Ed and Kathy's booze-fueled battles during those dark years. Particularly disturbing are some racial slurs attributed to Kathy, allegedly directed at her neighbors.

"Private Girl" is a product of that bleak time in Ed Wood's life. On the surface, it is a thin rewrite of "Flowers for Flame LeMarr" and again tells the story of a woman in the sex trade who is usurped by a younger replacement. But this story is so ugly and violent, it makes "Flowers" look optimistic in comparison. It's depressing but not surprising to read in Nightmare of Ecstasy that two prostitutes were murdered around the corner from where Eddie was living at the time on Yucca and Cahuenga in Hollywood. Chronologically the most recent of the stories included in Blood Splatters Quickly, it is also the first I've encountered in this collection that does not seem to originate from Bernie Bloom's multifaceted, multimedia publishing enterprise. Business-minded Bernie had to cut unreliable Eddie loose eventually, all loyalty aside, and it seems like the split between them occurred in 1974 or 1975. Instead, "Private Girl" ran in Allen Stearn's Vue, a photo magazine that launched circa 1948 and got progressively sleazier over the decades, lapsing from celebrity gossip to outright pornography during its sordid final years. Despite the long history of this publication, very little has been written about Vue. (Here's a nice exception.) The magazine seems to have given up even the last vestiges of respectability when it ran "Private Girl," which is more sexually graphic than Ed's other stories. By then, the magazine's slogan had changed from "America's Photo Digest" to "The Magazine for the Modern Man." I can find no references to Stearn or to Vue past 1975.

Despite the grimness that permeates "Private Girl," there is the occasional flash of Wood-ian charm here, as when Rita says to Danny, "What will you do with me when I do get older, Danny? Throw me out to pasture like a glob of horse turds?" Those looking for insight into Eddie's racial views, meanwhile, may find some clues in this passage, which I will merely excerpt without further comment. It is an exchange of dialogue between Danny and Rita:
     "What in the hell could you have that's unpleasant to remember?"
     "Things. Black things."
     "You been fuckin' the blacks?" He drew back violently. As a first thought he might have clubbed her again. He didn't.
     "You weren't the first. I got around before I came with you."
     "That's not what I asked you."
     "No!"
     He calmed. "Course there isn't anything wrong with fucking with blacks. Some of my best clients are blacks. But my girl has to be straight all the way. Of course I know you wasn't a virgin when I picked you up." 

Next: "Breasts of the Chicken" (1972)

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