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.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ed Wood Extra: Ed, Red, Bela, and Slick (Part 1 of 2)

Martin Landau begs to differ with Bobby Slayton in this moment from Ed Wood.

INTRODUCTION:
 Before I head out for the Christmas holiday, I thought I'd share a previously unpublished Ed Wood article I had sitting in my "Drafts" folder. I was inspired by Greg Dziawer's article, "The Wood Halloween Odyssey," to share my own thoughts about Bela Lugosi's June 1954 appearance on The Red Skelton Show alongside fellow horror icons Vampira and Lon Chaney, Jr. The episode in question is a fascinating cultural artifact in a number of ways, and I wanted to write about it. Please enjoy and have a safe and happy holiday. J.B.

The published screenplay.
When Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander were writing the screenplay for the 1994 biopic Ed Wood, they rifled through Rudolph Grey's 1992 patchwork biography Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. looking for weird details and crazy anecdotes they could use. One passage chosen by the duo appears on page 103 of Grey's book in a chapter called "The Wood Spooks." Here, through new and archival quotes, Maila "Vampira" Nurmi, actor John Andrews, and Ed Wood himself give their thoughts on the time Bela Lugosi guest starred on CBS' long-running comedy series The Red Skelton Show in 1954, allegedly with Ed Wood in tow as his personal dialogue coach.

At that point in history, Skelton had only been with the so-called "Tiffany Network" a single season. A popular radio comedian turned TV star, he'd done two years on NBC before changing networks in 1953, and his show was not yet the ratings powerhouse it would soon be for CBS until its controversial cancellation in 1970. (For its last season, The Red Skelton Show briefly moved back to NBC, finally expiring for good in 1971.) The episode with Lugosi, "Dial 'B' For Brush," occurred as Skelton was in the process of rebuilding his TV brand. Skelton's show was not a Top 30 hit in 1954. In the broadcast, likening himself to a little boat caught in a storm, Skelton elaborately thanks CBS and his chief sponsor, Geritol, for their faith in him.

For Nurmi, this Red Skelton gig occurred during the year-long period when she hosted a celebrated horror show as her Vampira character on Los Angeles television. She showed some of Lugosi's movies on that iconic, now mostly-lost series. But Red Skelton was the first time she actually worked with the legendary Lugosi in the flesh. She'd long since forgotten the script by the time she talked to Rudolph Grey decades later, but she recalled being in "the kind of mausoleum they have where the caskets roll in and out of the wall." She described Lugosi as being an "elegant" and "genteel" man who mostly "stayed in his dressing room alone." The actor clearly made a strong impression on the nascent horror hostess. "He made me feel like a noblewoman," Nurmi enthused. "And here I was, this Hollywood tramp."

It was the contention of actor John Andrews (the werewolf from Orgy of the Dead) that Ed Wood assisted Bela Lugosi on The Red Skelton Show at Lugosi's insistence. "Eddie, they don't know how to write for me. You write. You write," Lugosi is claimed to have said at the time. But Ed himself didn't claim to have written the show.

Ed Wood merely says the following: "I was Lugosi's dialogue consultant. There were certain words which had to be changed because he couldn't form them properly." That's it. A rather modest boast, if it can even be called such.

In the book Bride of the Monster: Scripts from the Crypt by Gary Rhodes and Tom Weaver, this is cited as yet another example of delusional, grandstanding Eddie trying to insert himself into the Lugosi legend where he didn't belong. The skeptical authors won't even acknowledge that Eddie was involved with the show at all. It's important to note that Rhodes and Weaver merely offer their interpretation of the events. But if Wood were trying to make up a tall tale to enhance his own career, couldn't he have done better than saying he was a dialogue consultant on a show that wasn't even that big a hit at the time? One senses that Rhodes and Weaver are overcompensating for the hagiography and hero worship of Ed Wood by consistently portraying Ed as a self-promoting, opportunistic hack.

Comedian Bobby Slayton
Anyway, the story of Ed assisting Bela on The Red Skelton Show—even if apocryphal— must have been convincing enough for Karaszewski and Alexander, because a version of the anecdote makes it into Ed Wood. About a third of the way into Tim Burton's film, Eddie (Johnny Depp) is cold calling potential producers and investors for Bride of the Monster (at that point still called Bride of the Atom), when one respondent asks whether Bela is "available Friday night." Cut to a busy TV studio, where a nervous Bela (Martin Landau) is going over his script with Eddie. The idea that Ed somehow "got" Bela the TV gig is purely an invention of the screenplay. None of the participants, including Eddie, ever made that claim.

Possibly for legal reasons, no direct mention of Red Skelton or The Red Skelton Show is made in Ed Wood. The program Bela is working on is simply "a 1950s variety show" and its brash, gravel-voiced star (Bobby Slayton) is merely identified in the script as "the show host, a cheesy comedian." In reality, Red Skelton was a straight-ahead comedy series consisting of a monologue and some sketches. But here, it's a full-fledged variety showcase, closer to what Ed Sullivan was doing on Toast of the Town on Sunday nights. There are showgirls backstage, and Criswell (Jeffrey Jones) appears on the show to give his incredible, inaccurate predictions about how man will have colonized Mars by 1970.

It is unlikely that Alexander and Karaszewski had seen any footage from the real Red Skelton broadcast from 1954, so -- as with their parallel universe version of Ed's play The Casual Company -- they simply imagined what the vintage broadcast would have been like. In some respects, they weren't too far off the mark, and in others, they were wildly wrong. In their script, the cranky, impatient host appears as "his 'Slick' character, a befuddled moron in a funny hat" in a silly, vaudeville-style sketch opposite Bela Lugosi as "the Count." A sexy female announcer describes the premise to the audience: "And now we take you to a castle in Transylvania. Watch out. The landlord's a real pain in the neck."

In full, the host's character is referred to as "Slick Slomopavitz, seeker of adventure," and he seems to have wandered into Dracula's castle in search of shelter, rousing the centuries-old vampire from his coffin in the process. The idea is for Slick and Lugosi to trade scripted quips, reading from cue cards, but the comedian decides to improvise gags during a live broadcast, and the elderly Lugosi is confused and disoriented. The sketch is cut short, and the furious host storms off, complaining that "we should've got Karloff." Lugosi has thus been humiliated on national television, and it's now Eddie's job to pick him back up again.

It's true that live TV shows in the 1950s were prone to gaffes and unexpected happenings. Sets could topple over. Actors could flub their lines. Complete strangers could wander onto the set. The Lugosi character in Ed Wood is not wrong when he says that "this live television is madness." But it's very unlikely that a professional comedian with his own network show would start improvising brand new lines during an already-in-progress scene with a non-comic who is working from cue cards. It's Slick, not Bela, who would be called on the carpet for this. The surviving footage of the genuine broadcast reveals that nothing remotely like this happened on The Red Skelton Show in 1954. The show went according to schedule, and Lugosi was active and engaged throughout. He really throws himself into the comedy, even singing and dancing a little when necessary.

Red Skelton in character.
And that brings us to the television program itself. The Red Skelton Show is such a product of its time that it may not translate all that gracefully into ours.

The same isn't necessarily true of Skelton's comedic contemporaries of the 1950s. Through numerous series and specials, Sid Caesar set a sketch comedy template that Saturday Night Live would later follow, while giving the next generation of humorists, including Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, and Woody Allen, their start in showbiz. Jackie Gleason's The Honeymooners is still being aped by sitcoms today, while Lucille Ball's I Love Lucy has never left the air in over half a century. Their work isn't as ubiquitous these days, but Jack Benny and Phil Silvers created onscreen personas that still resonate in scattered reruns and YouTube clips. Today's comics may not be directly influenced by Benny and Silvers, but it's still possible to detect elements of their personalities in their work. Ernie Kovacs, too, is still cited as a pioneer, maybe the first comedian who truly understood what made TV different from other media.

But Richard "Red" Skelton is something else: a holdover from a vanished, now almost forgotten era in American entertainment. Television itself was a relatively young medium in Red's day, and its vaudeville roots were in plain sight back then. A veteran of vaudeville (as well as the medicine show and burlesque circuits), Skelton specialized in comedy that was broadly silly, brazenly obvious, and often shamelessly sentimental, verging on bathetic. Slapstick and pantomime were key to his appeal, as was his folksy, friendly manner. Viewers could sense his warmth and sincerity coming through the cathode ray tubes, and they tuned in every week for more.

In a way, it's extremely bizarre casting that aggressive, motormouthed Bobby Slayton, the so-called "Pitbull of Comedy," should essentially stand in for Red Skelton in Ed Wood. These two performers' styles were vastly different. Skelton's classic character, Clem Kadiddlehopper, does have a few things in common with Slick Slomopavitz, including a low IQ and a goofy, ill-fitting costume.

Modern viewers might dismiss The Red Skelton Show as corny and old-fashioned, and they wouldn't be wrong. The host preferred the more gentle label "clown" to "comedian," and he even made a second career out of his cloying clown paintings. Other than being a relatively early adopter to the television medium, Skelton was not really an innovator. He was more of a traditionalist. That extended to his ultra-conservative political views as well. When he was abruptly ousted from CBS in 1970, after years of Top 10 ratings, Skelton blamed the encroachment of the hippie counterculture. Today, the routine for which Skelton is arguably best known, a word-by-word annotation of the Pledge of Allegiance, has virtually no comedy in it. It is simply a statement of unswerving patriotism.

It was Skelton himself who largely kept his own reruns off the air in the 1970s and beyond. He was embittered over the cancellation of The Red Skelton Show and never got over it. So the series did not become a staple of syndication the way I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners did. As a result, several generations grew up without Red as a cultural touchstone. Skelton died in 1997, and there have been various repackages of his vintage shows since then, marketed mostly to people who remember watching the comedian decades ago.

(left) Red Buttons; (right) Red Skelton
Do people even know who Red Skelton is anymore, apart from the "Pledge of Allegiance" routine? I was just listening to an episode of The Best Show With Tom Scharpling this week, and the host spent a good five minutes, maybe 10, absolutely lacerating Skelton as a one-joke hack from the bad old days of show business. "Do you know Red Skelton? He was a comedian... and he sucked." But the person Scharpling was describing (and unkindly imitating) was clearly Red Buttons. It was Buttons who did the "never got a dinner" routine, not Skelton. Really, Buttons and Skelton were not much alike stylistically. But they had similar stage names, looked somewhat alike, and worked at about the same time, so they might as well have been the same guy. That's how cruel time can be. And it gets worse: Scharpling claimed Skelton was in The Star Wars Holiday Special. He wasn't. That was Art Carney. So now, Carney, Buttons, and Skelton have all been folded into one person. Kinda sad.

But how has that Bela Lugosi broadcast held up? That's the question I hope to answer when I do a moment-by-moment breakdown. Look for that sometime in mid-2017 at the earliest. Or maybe never. Probably never.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part Thirteen by Greg Dziawer

This week, Ed (maybe) instructs us on how to shoot a home movie.

As nothing spells "XXX-mas" quite like vintage '70s pornography, in this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays we're sharing another magazine text from the Swedish Erotica film review magazines, circa 1977-1978, when we know Ed was punching the clock for the last time in yet another iteration of Bernie and Noel Bloom's by-then multimedia porn empire.

The following instructional article, whose text has been transcribed exactly as it originally appeared nearly 40 years ago, advertises itself as the first in a series that looks to have never gone beyond this first installment. It was published in Swedish Erotica Film Review #10. Featuring John Holmes and a bright yellow "SALES TO MINORS PROHIBITED" warning on its cover, this Carter-era porno magazine boasted a then-steep cover price of $12.50, which amounts to nearly $50 in today's money. Enjoy.
NOTE: The incredibly explicit, eminently NSFW photos accompanying this article have been posted to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr. They arrive to us courtesy of the website VintageSleaze.com.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

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

A shadowy moment from one of Ed Wood's 1970s porno loops.

The one and only John Holmes
In a recent installment of Ed Wood Wednesdays, we shared the onscreen captions from one of Eddie's early 1970s pornographic loops, specifically Swedish Erotica loop #7 Park Lovers, starring a young John Holmes. This week, we're providing the same service—literally, as you'll see—for SE loop #10 Hollywood Starlet, and using that loop as a springboard to some larger related topics.

Hollywood Starlet was originally released circa 1974 on 8mm silent film to the home market as well as to adult arcades. Its box cover/catalog summary describes it as a follow-up to Park Lovers:
After their meeting at the zoo last week, Debbie is anxious for another date, this time at her home and on her terms, which is to be stripped and made love to slowly and with tender loving care. One of the great action films of all time. 
It also stars Holmes and the same unidentified actress as in Park Lovers, a woman often misidentified as porn star Eve Orlon. The most compelling correspondence, though—which tells us quite a bit about the miserly nature of adult pornography in its nascent years—comes courtesy of the film's own captions, Swedish Erotica's clumsy substitute for audible dialogue:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Poughkeepsie Odyssey, Part Two by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood lived here at 35 Delano St. in Poughkeepsie, NY.

Miracle on Delano St.

An overhead view of Eddie's old neighborhood.
In our first Poughkeepsie Odyssey, we recently shared a few details about Ed's final residence in his home town of Poughkeepsie, NY before he left for World War II: a modest apartment at 1 Fountain Place. Previously, the historical record had only identified Ed's birthplace, another apartment house at 115 Franklin St., a structure that was torn down within the last few years. Could he have resided elsewhere in Poughkeepsie while growing up?

We'll find out in this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays!

Eddie's father and namesake, Edward Davis Wood, married Lillian C. Phillips on November 28, 1922 at the Hedding Methodist Church in Poughkeepsie, New York. Little more than a year later, Lillian was pregnant with the couple's first son, Edward Davis Wood, Jr. Flash forward a decade, and the 1940 US census record has the family living at 35 Delano St in Poughkeepsie. 

According to that same document, the Woods were already living at 35 Delano at least as early as 1935. This residence—and, yes, it's still standing—is located about six blocks north of Ed's first home on Franklin St, and roughly a quarter mile from the east end of the Mid-Hudson Bridge. 

Delano is a one-way street that bends like an elbow about halfway through. It extends east from Clover St. before abruptly changing its mind and plummeting south to Union. The Woods' former residence at 35 Delano is located right near that elbow. The entire block largely consists of apartment houses and buildings.

The apartment house itself is a sturdy colonial built in 1870 with three units—presumably a ground floor apartment and two upstairs apartments—and a fireplace. Totaling ten rooms occupying 3,000 square feet, 35 Delano contains four bathrooms for its inhabitants. In 1940, Ed's neighbors at 33 and 37 Delano respectively were: Edward L. Food, a machinist, and his wife, Anna; and Pete J. Yerganson, a laborer who lived with his mother, also named Anna, his wife, Elaine, and their nine-year-old son, Richard.

Edward Davis Wood, Sr. would have been his mid-forties by this time. He was a custodian at the local post office, a job for which he earned $1,100 in 1939. That was a high-end salary among his (entirely Caucasian) neighbors at the time. And he needed the money, since the Woods had a second child by then: Eddie's oft-overlooked younger brother Howard William Wood, who typically went by his middle name.

There's always a bit of a wrinkle in cases like this. Joseph Masterson, the census taker who recorded these details on April 22, 1940, listed Edward D. Wood, Jr. as 16 years old. If Eddie was born in October of 1924—and I believe he was—he would actually have been 15 in April of 1940.

The 1940 census lists Ed's age as 16.

Meanwhile, a wedding anniversary article for Ed's parents in the Poughkeepsie Eagle News from November 28, 1940 places the Woods at their subsequent residence, 1 Fountain Place. The family, therefore, must have moved from Delano to Fountain Place sometime between April and November of 1940.

Eddie's parents celebrate an anniversary.

Not starring: George Keseg.
Already residing at 1 Fountain Place was Ed's close high school friend, George Keseg. George worked at the Bardavon Theater, like Ed, and was in the same grade at Poughkeepsie High School. The pair enlisted into the military on the same day in 1941, with Ed dropping out of school in his junior year. George was badly injured in the war and returned to Poughkeepsie in 1944. By 1946, when Ed briefly returned home after the war before leaving Poughkeepsie for good, he attempted—apparently without success—to stage his play, The Casual Company, there, with Keseg part of the acting troupe. 

Close as they eventually became, Wood and Keseg did not grow up together. The 1940 census places George at 1 Fountain Place, but in 1935, Keseg lived in Yonkers, about 70 miles due south. By 1940, he resided with his older sister, Helene, and her family: brother-in-law Joseph Wermter (born in Germany) and George's adolescent nieces, Joanna and Janet. Incidentally, Joseph made $1,250 as a bearing grinder in 1939.

What happened in Poughkeepsie wouldn't stay in Poughkeepsie, at least not for long. Ed returned briefly to his home town after the war in 1946, but he left again and soon landed in Hollywood. He never went back. But we'll go back again, right here at Ed Wood Wednesdays!

Special thanks to my friend, expert Woodologist James Pontolillo, whose research into Ed's upbringing in Poughkeepsie infuses this article throughout. For more views of 35 Delano St., check out the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Dave Foley, ladies and gentleman! Dave Foley!

Can you identify which skit this is based on?

On the train trip to Indiana for Thanksgiving last week, I started making a digital portrait of Dave Foley from Kids in the Hall. I don't know why. Just seemed like a thing to do. Since then, I've worked on it for a few minutes at a time here and there. Eventually, I realized I was never going to finish it. There's a whole background I was going to do that I didn't do. So here's the part I got finished. Enjoy. Or don't.

As a bonus, here's an unfinished portrait of one of Dave Foley's influences, Jack Benny. Why I chose this moment, some kind of press conference, to represent Benny, I don't remember. I do know that making all those little microphones was more trouble than it was worth.

Jack Benny takes questions from the press.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

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

A compilation of Ed Wood's loopiest work from the 1970s.

Man, across the endless reaches of time, endeavors to bend reality into a shape reflecting his own needs, and his own desires. One of the principle means through which he does this is technology.

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're again investigating one such technology: the 8mm home-market porn loop.

Although its lifespan was brief—with peak production lasting just over a decade, spanning and spilling over the edges of the 1970s—the 8mm porn loop enjoyed a historically significant run. New communication technologies before and since have been quickly seized by early adopters packaging and selling graphic sexual content. It happened to Gutenberg many times over, and it happened when VHS tapes obsolesced 8 and 16mm home projectors in the space of just a couple of years. It's happening now, in increasingly complex ways. 

Yet pornography remains startling, because it always seems new. Sudden. And there is a world of difference between having access to billions of pornographic images and millions of hours of pornographic video in the palm of your hand, and buying an 8mm loop via mail order, seven or so minutes long, and silent. You would also feel dirty just plucking the plain-brown-wrapper package out of your mailbox. You probably still feel dirty now. 

That was part of the fun a few weeks ago when I received the CineFear DVD compilation Ed Wood's 8mm Porn Loops. Collecting a dozen of the first nineteen Swedish Erotica loops—now commonly held to have been "made" by Ed Wood—this is a pioneering effort. Grassroots labels have been, since the VHS era, if not earlier, the proving grounds for "cultish" ephemera subsequently proffered to the masses by a cultural middleman. Technology in motion.

CineFear has been nurturing obscurities by providing accessibility since 1990, and its proprietor Keith Crocker explained to me his intent in releasing this collection: "Certainly the point is to prove and shine more light on this being the work of Wood himself."

The back cover of the disc.
The disc itself is a no-frills affair: a completely plain white DVD fittingly packaged in a pink plastic case with a homemade cover. The cover photo is a close-up of Ed smilingly impishly, a nicely-chosen image from Love Feast. The back cover includes a few stills and a brief text, including suitably wow! rhetoric: "Can you imagine these two titans [Ed and John Holmes] working together?"

Given this vintage and available sources, quality is predictably variable, with some loops looking better than others. One title, the most intriguing of the series for many Woodologists, #14 Devil Cult, unfortunately cuts off all but half of the very first caption. And yes, these are all captioned, as were the original 8mm releases. For me personally, it was a first when watching this collection to see a captioned version of #9 Lusty Neighbor and to see #10 Hollywood Starlet for the first time. You'll find these loops floating around on the internet, streaming or links to files in private forums, including foreign releases (sometimes dubbed in German!) under various imprints related to global porn giant Color Climax. Props to Keith for drawing from original sources: "That box of porno that had the initial loops I transferred came from a friend years and years and years ago." 

The simple menu has one option, to play nearly two hours of loops continuously, in the order in which they were numbered and released. Originally silent, the loops are presented here accompanied by jazzy funk and rambling guitar rock from the era. For the record, this collection contains a dozen loops, five starring John Holmes, titles as they appear in the credits:

  • #1 The Virgin Next Door (Part One)
  • #2 The Virgin Next Door Part Two
  • #3 School Girl
  • #4 Western Lust
  • #5 Love Mates
  • #6 Wet & Wild
  • #8 Girl on a Bike
  • #9 Lusty Neighbor
  • #10 Hollywood Starlet
  • #14 Devil Cult
  • #15 Behind the Ate Ball (Part One)
  • #16 Behind the Ate Ball Continued from Part One

A worthwhile collection for any serious Woodologist or fan of vintage porn. And CineFear is soon beginning work on transferring the remaining seven titles of the first nineteen loops from the Swedish Erotica series, supplemented by additional loops from other series that carry the same signatures.

We'll talk more about those signatures, and much more about the loops, right here in future Ed Wood Wednesdays!

Special thanks to Keith Crocker at CineFear for providing a review copy of the DVD.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part Twelve by Greg Dziawer

Annette Haven (left) and John Holmes worked for Danish Films. Did Ed Wood?

Prudish & Proper

Even Seka wore the scarf.
While we like to debunk false claims of Ed Wood's authorship around here, every now and then something comes up compelling us to go against the grain and make a claim of authorship of our own. In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're going the latter route, looking at an uncredited text from a now-obscure magazine.

The Danish Films loop series, a brief series running for roughly 20 (currently known) titles, was related to Swedish Erotica. These loops are clearly the forerunners of the next wave of Swedish Erotica loops: cast members, aesthetic, even the de rigueur candy-colored chiffon scarves the girls wear tied around their necks. Often all they are wearing, and done for branding purposes, those trademark scarves appear sporadically through SE loop #132 in 1978 and remain standard from that point forward right into the videotape era. It all carries over. Even an expert would be forgiven for mistaking a Danish Films loop for a Swedish Erotica loop. And there were corresponding magazines that featured images and on-set stills from the loops accompanied by anonymous text, just like the Swedish Erotica film review magazines.

Of course, the majority of these loops were neither Danish or Swedish, but rather shot in '70s SoCal and often featuring the biggest stars of Golden Age hardcore. The Swedish Erotica loop series, as is now generally agreed, kicked off with Ed Wood making the first 19 loops circa 1973. I could go into far greater detail, and will in future articles, but for now it's only necessary to sketch these highlights for context. 

What we're really interested in is answering this question: Did Ed Wood write the following text?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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

You'd need your own projector and a screen to see much of Ed Wood's work in the 1970s.


"When Caballero first started [as Cinema Classics], they just did 8mm movies. They'd put one-liners, captions, on the bottom of the screen, just like silent films. They gave Ed a hundred bucks to write ten movies. There had to be fifty lines in each movie, minimum."
-Phil Cambridge
Pendulum-family magazine artist and friend of Ed Wood
(source: Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy)


The Swedish Erotica logo in purple.
The general consensus these days credits Ed Wood as writer/director of the first 19 (likely beyond) Swedish Erotica loops. First sold via mail order to the home-market in 8mm, circa 1973/1974—in my estimation, some of the loops were shot a year or two earlier—the series laid the first foundational stone of one of the paramount brands of the so-called Golden Age of porn. In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're taking a closer look at one of these loops, endeavoring to discover a fingerprint or something like it.

And that matters because, beyond this series, Ed may very well have worked on 800+ loops in some capacity, as early as 1968, through the mid '70s. Editor. Director. Writer. Actor. Boxcover summaries. And, perhaps his mainstay in this channel, onscreen captions.

The seventh loop in the Swedish Erotica series—following Wet & Wild and preceding Girl on a Bike—-Park Lovers stars John Holmes and a female performer commonly misidentified as porn actress Eve Orlon, whose credits include The Undergraduate and Fugitive Girls. (More on her later.)

There are 32 captions in this particular loop, totaling 115 words. That's an average of 3.59 words per line, these captions ranging from one to seven words in length.

I gave my plain-jane handwritten transcriptions of the captions to my partner Kitten just minutes after I had completed them. She reacted with disdain, and pointed out to me what should have been obvious: the reductionist, cro-magnon level of sheer pornography. The inherently discordant cinematic presentation, with its relatively elaborate pans and candy-colored sets, ossifies into an, at best, outmoded past. The worst of it enters the sad realm of "It only hurts at first."

Buck up! This is porn!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Musical Odyssey, Part Two by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood as he appeared in a theatrical program for The Blackguard Returns in 1949.

A yellowing photo from Ed's acting days.
When you think about Ed Wood's work, it's likely that film comes to mind, and possibly even his paperbacks and short stories. Theater? Not so much.

But, in fact, Ed caught that bug early. As an usher at the Bardavon Theatre, he saw movies and fell in love. But the Bardavon was also a live performance venue. Although the dates are unknown—it seems likely it was the late 1930s or early '40s—Ed also joined a band, singing and playing drums. And he learned to play a number of string instruments and started his own singing quartet, Eddie Wood's Little Splinters (as detailed in the 2015 book Dreaming in Angora: The Life and Films of Ed Wood by Pablo Bendix III). Even more nebulous, he also had a band named The Sunshine Mountaineers. You'll also find the occasional reference to Ed being part of the Drama Club in High School. 

Perhaps written during the war or just after, Ed penned a comedy for the stage titled The Casual Company—now presumably lost, but he also novelized it and that survives, reprinted serially in four issues of Cult Movies magazine back in 1994. Although The Casual Company played very briefly to negative reviews in Hollywood in 1948—recall the opening scene of Tim Burton's Ed Wood—it played dozens of times on military bases after the war. Ed tried, apparently unsuccessfully, to get it off the ground in Poughkeepsie in 1946.

After the failed production of The Casual Company in Hollywood, Ed landed a role acting in the stage play The Blackguard Returns in 1949. If you are reading this before November 17, 2016, a variety of items related to this production are on auction, estimated at $4,000 +. (Thanks to Woodologist and uber-memorabilia collector Dennis Phelps—who exhaustively chronicled the work of Wood make-up artist Harry Thomas—for letting us obsessive Wood fans know about this auction in a private Wood forum.)

In the years since Ed's passing, as his cult fame grew, a variety of theatrical productions have come along, some based upon his work, and some on the man and his life. What promises to be one of the very best of these is Ed Wood The Musical.

We covered it here briefly last week, and earlier, definitively by this blog's creator, Joe Blevins. Containing a whopping 21 songs by totaling 74 minutes—all incredible, with the ominous number "Glen or Glenda" my personal favorite—by composer Rick Tell, Ed Wood The Musical brilliantly interweaves these songs through high and lowlights from Ed's life, which any serious Woodologist will certainly view as very knowing. Travel back to Ed's upbringing in Poughkeepsie. Visit his final years in North Hollywood, with Days of Wine and Roses-like scenes played out in squalid apartments, between Ed and Kathy Wood, his second wife, remaining with Ed for over two decades until his sad demise. I could go on, but that will spoil the fun of seeing Ed Wood The Musical on stage for the first time. 

Ed Wood The Musical in its Myspace days. Note the inclusion of "Dale Evans" on this track list.

With Rick Tell nurturing this project for over a decade now, the 21 songs are its heart and soul. Rick has graciously given us the gift of releasing all of them. You can even find an old Myspace page (remember that?) initiated in 2008, with a number of tracks. The musical then briefly went under the title Ed Wood's Monsters of Hollywood (with a book co-written by Rick), and then apparently another iteration titled Dreamer. At the time, the track "Dale Evans 'Queen of the West'" was a part of Monsters of Hollywood, highly reminiscent of the song "Dreamer" in the current set of songs for Ed Wood The Musical.

Rick Tell's ultimate goal is to see Ed celebrated with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As awesome as that will be when it becomes a reality, the time is nigh to make Ed Wood The Musical a reality. Depending on when you read this, the current crowdfunding campaign to stage The Musical is slated to end on November 17, 2016. If you are reading this prior to that date, what are you waiting for? Get over to Indiegogo and donate now!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Take away the characters, and 'Family Circus' becomes a haunting series of still-life images

Disused Jungle Gym (20106)

Where have they gone, the lovable, melon-headed characters who normally populate The Family Circus? Where are rambunctious Billy, inquisitive Dolly, sensitive Jeffy, and dear, sweet, hopeless PJ? For that matter, where are their parents: long-suffering Thel and checked-out Bill? All of them seem to have mysteriously vanished. Were they raptured into Heaven to be with their dear departed Grandfather? It's unknown, but the world they inhabited -- at least the buildings, furniture, and other non-living objects -- seem to be just fine. Perfectly intact. It's a puzzler, this one. But aren't these images eerily beautiful?

The Lonely Ottoman (2016)
The Rack (2016)
Couch on the Edge of Oblivion (2016)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

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

Overture! Curtains! Lights! This is it, the night of nights!

"I've worked really hard at what I love - I even raised the money for my first film." 

-Ed Wood, Hollywood Rat Race

It's an old tradition in the arts.
Perseverance. As any artist knows, and Ed Wood surely understood, perseverance is a key ingredient to success. Although he left behind a number of unrealized projects—which is the critical stress point separating those who hit walls and give up from those who retrench—he still dreamed of future projects right to the end. 

There's an inevitable, pragmatic side to it. You've got to fund your art. In days of yore, wealthy patrons supported writers and artists. You could, of course, be expected to have to paint your patron's bratty teenage son. Or, if you flash-forward to the mid-20th century, you might have to cast friends and associates of the patron in your film, no matter their degree of talent. 

Thanks to the internet (seriously), an artist today can solicit patronage via crowdfunding websites. There's equity here, as your project is in fair competition and stands on its merit. You don't need connections, the whole world in reach. And your patrons won't meddle. 

Joe Blevins (superbly and exhaustively) covered Ed Wood The Musical previously at Ed Wood Wednesdays. That was in 2014, when it was an active crowdfunding campaign. And earlier this month, on Ed's 92nd birthday, a new campaign for the musical launched at Indiegogo

Since he first dreamt up the musical in 2004, ultimately composing twenty-one amazing songs and co-authoring the book, composer Rick Tell has remained a tireless champion in pursuit of bringing it to the stage. I recently asked him (via email): why?
Well first, I am the kind of person who hates to give up on a good idea or cause. Second, I really think the Ed Wood story is a story that should resonate with many different people and has a universal message of following your dream and of being true to yourself. Also I love the fantastic characters in his life and feel my score and book truly evoke the fun and tragedy of the Ed Wood story. Ed Wood who ironically escaped oblivion by winning the Golden Turkey Award for being the worst director of all time deserves to be honored and his life celebrated. 

Composer Rick Tell.
Rick went on to eloquently tell me about the roots of his artistic affinity to Ed:
Ed was a dreamer but he was also a doer who wasn't afraid to fail. I applaud his courage and I, along with many other creative people, understand the pain of rejection, the elation of success, and the feast or famine existence we endure for the love of our art. 

And I wondered, finally, how Rick has managed to fight through the frustration of working so long to bring the production to the stage. I should have known better, as Rick's reply reminded me:
Frustration? Show biz ain't for the timid. Seriously, the work is its own reward if you truly love what you do. 

My question was assumptive, and wrong. Which is why I'm not an artist. I can, though, be a patron, and so can you, by making your donation NOW!

The campaign is slated to end in mid-November. I'm going to tell you a little more about the musical, as it moves into its final week. (Or better still, celebrating it having reached goal.) The brilliant device of Criswell as Virgil-like guide through Ed's life. Ed Wood The Musical's previous iteration as Dreamer. I could go on and on, and I will next week right here at Ed Wood Wednesdays.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

'Hi And Lois' turns into a drama so easily

Filmed in Depress-O-Vision.
  
Autumn is a time of death and decay, but that idea is rarely reflected in newspaper comics, with their gaudy colors and cheap punchlines. Fortunately, the darkness is lurking just below the surface and can easily be brought to the forefront. It takes very little to turn this Hi and Lois Sunday strip into a tense domestic drama similar to Robert Redford's Ordinary People. Just tweak the dialogue a hair, erase the phony smiles from the characters' faces, and desaturate the colors. Boom. Instant Oscar bait. I think the idea here is that Lois Flagston is trying to create the "perfect" jack-o'-lantern because she cannot attain perfection in her own life. And she makes her husband and children suffer because of this. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Everybody's a critic: Why the Cubs made me think about Flebus

Ain't it the truth?

I did this during tonight's Cubs game. It was a rough one, and I needed to relieve some stress. I apologize. You will forgive me, I hope. I guess I was trying to remember what the protagonist from Flebus (1957) looked like. Have you seen Flebus? It's a short cartoon by Ernest Pintoff and Gene Deitch. The title character was drawn in an abstract, minimalist style that was considered pretty hip by 1957 standards. After I finished this, I did a quick Google search and learned that Flebus looked nothing like I remembered. But, anyway, I thought it would be funny if there were a creature who had the same basic body shape as an abstract cartoon, but more realistic flesh and teeth and eyes. I really don't know what the point of all this was, to be honest.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Halloween Odyssey by Greg Dziawer

Vampira and Bela Lugosi get comfortable.
 
Red Skelton (left) and Bela Lugosi.
To celebrate the upcoming holiday, we're delving into a crevice of Woodology: the fabled (sometimes claimed nonexistent) TV episode of The Red Skelton Show featuring Bela Lugosi as a guest star in the feature skit "Dial 'B' for Brush." Airing on CBS from 8:30pm-9pm on July 15, 1954, the program also featured Lon Chaney, Jr. and Maila Nurmi, the latter initially unrecognizable from her Vampira persona, excepting the unmistakable, truly bloodcurdling scream, but billed as such in the spoken credits, in addition to the necessarily ubiquitous Red Skelton, again essaying his signature character, "wise fool" Clem Kadiddlehopper.

Let's assemble a brief annotated timeline around this episode:
  • February-March, 1954: Bela, spoofing his vampire persona, headlines a self-titled burlesque revue at the Silver Slipper. Ed Wood is Bela's self-styled (and self-identified) "producer" at the time. His involvement in the revue is likely limited to self-interested promotion and assisting Bela with his dialogue, though Ed variously claims to have "designed" it, scripted it (or part of it), or even to have directed the rehearsals. 
Maila Nurmi as herself.
  • April 30, 1954: The Vampira Show debuts on KABC-TV, ABC's Los Angeles affiliate. A first of its kind, the show stars model Maila Nurmi stars as Vampira, a ghoulish hostess of vintage horror films. Vampira is an immediate sensation, featured in Time, Life and Newsweek. Darkly comic, clearly smarter than the rest of us, and strikingly beautiful, Nurmi's Vampira garnered her an Emmy nomination for 1954, despite the show being abruptly cancelled a little less than a year after it debuted. "Bela Lugosi and Ed Wood sat and watched The Vampira Show in Lugosi's modest suburban home. Lugosi thought that her appearance on the cultural radar screen meant that gothic horror had made a comeback." (Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror by W. Scott Poole). It's not hard to imagine them enraptured, watching Vampira hosting an airing of Bela's mad scientist programmer The Corpse Vanishes from 1939. 
  • July 15, 1954: Lugosi guest stars on The Red Skelton Show alongside Skelton, Lon Chaney Jr. and Vampira. Not surprisingly, the sketch concentrates on horror comedy and includes everything from dancing skeletons to a musical quotation of J. Bodewalt Lampe’s "Misterioso Pizzicato." Along with standard horror jokes (Lugosi complains, "They don’t make girls like they used to. I know; I take them apart!"), the episode features topical humor, including allusions to Dial M for Murder (1954), Liberace, Ralph Edwards, and -– quite subtly, through Skelton selling a brush from Denmark that can be used for "either his or hers" –- Christine Jorgensen, whose sex change story had partially inspired Wood’s Glen or Glenda
  • October 29, 1954: The episode of The Red Skelton Show featuring Bela airs in repeat on CBS, fittingly two days before Halloween. Bride of the Monster, directed and written by Ed (with Alex Gordon) and starring Bela, had begun shooting earlier that week, on a Tuesday, October 26th.
Gary D. Rhodes and Tom Weaver describe the fateful Red Skelton episode in their highly recommended book, Bride Of The Monster: Scripts From The Crypt (Bear Manor Media, 2015):
"Once again, Wood insinuated himself in Lugosi’s history, later purporting to have acted as Lugosi’s dialogue coach. Perhaps he did; perhaps he didn’t. At any rate, the Skelton episode is curiously (even if coincidentally) prescient in terms of Bride of the Atom. 'Prof. Lugosi' wears a lab coat for two of its three key scenes. He orders about a dumb henchman. And on a threadbare lab set, Lugosi affixes a silly apparatus to Skelton’s head that – after Lugosi throws a switch – transforms Skelton into a monster. These plot points and props would be echoed in Wood’s film."
Red Skelton's film.
The "Dial 'B' for Brush" skit, inspired by Skelton's feature The Fuller Brush Man (1948) , is oft-claimed to feature Peter Lorre. We won't go into all of that now, but suffice it to say that Lorre is not present here. He did, though, appear frequently on Skelton's shows, both TV and radio. Perhaps the historical record has conflated an appearance as a mad scientist in one episode, and alongside a dead-ringer Vampira lookalike in another. Skelton's January 1955 spoof of The Honeymooners, for instance, affords us the priceless opportunity to see Lorre growl, "POW! Right in the kisser!" It also ladles on the requisite, one-note physical "comedy" by Skelton as Norton, more foolish Clem than graceful Carney.

Meanwhile, highlights of the "Brush" skit include Bela dancing off into the commercial break fadeout, and Maila Nurmi's mute (almost), near-motionless intensity throughout, a sharp counterpoint to all of the overacting by everyone else.

And I'll highlight one more moment from the show: At the 14:32 mark, there's this brief pitch from Clem: "This is a genuine Mohair bristle. This is Mohair bristle, and you should have heard Mo scream. This wood is imported from Denmark.This brush is either his or hers." 

Mohair garments, as any self-respecting Woodologist knows, are made from angora fur sourced from sheep. Angora garments are also made of angora fur. Angora from rabbits. This brings to mind a quote from an article called "From Birthday Suits To Shrouds," as published in Flesh & Fantasy, Vol. 4, No.4, 1971 (Pendulum Press):
"Furry sweaters such as angora, mohair and brushed wool are high on the list of fetishes which are desired, tremendously so with the male transvestites. The garments with any fetishist might be worn or they might amply be felt and rubbed or even looked at. It is at such times that the human partner becomes almost secondary as the sexual illusion and stimulation comes strictly from the fetish love-object. The partner is simply a receptacle."
Aggregating newspapers of the era, a site called TakeMeBack.To lists Dial M for Murder as among the most popular films of May 1954 and The Vampira Show as one of the most popular TV shows. Criswell, incidentally, wrote in one of his monumental books of predictions, 1969's Your Next Ten Years, that the top male star of the 20th century, whose fame would last, would be Red Skelton. His female pick? A fact: his friend and benefactor, Mae West. Alas, Criswell is another matter, one to be taken up in the future.

Happy Halloween from Ed Wood Wednesdays!

Bonus: You can catch a full (albeit reconstructed) episode of 1954's The Vampira Show streaming here, featuring The Corpse Vanishes, along with Vampira's intro ("Everyone knows EE-leck-triss-ity is for chairs.") and outro, plus original commercials from that era.