Saturday, April 30, 2016

Once a year, a new 'Zomby'

That's the deal.

A brief history of this blog's many, many logos

The first two logos this blog ever had.

When this blog started back in October 2009, it was focused almost exclusively on zombie movies and zombie-related humor. Dead 2 Rights was created specifically as a forum for a fictional character I played on a podcast called Mail Order Zombie from 2008 to 2013. I didn't even set up this blog myself. It was done for me by the people who ran that podcast. The original logo, featuring a group of smiling, blue-eyed zombies with perfect teeth, was designed by an artist named Scott Cole. I loved it and kept it for years. Mail Order Zombie ceased production in 2013, and I completely dropped the pretense of writing the blog in character. By then, the blog was mostly about my own life and my own interests anyway. Reluctantly, I decided to junk the old, beautifully designed logo in favor of a crude one I made myself. It was just black lettering on a white background. The full name of the blog became Dead 2 Rights: The Personal Blog Of Joe Blevins. I made that switch because the old articles had been credited to the nonexistent character I played on Mail Order Zombie. Those skinny, hand-drawn letters reading "DEAD 2 RIGHTS" are meant to resemble the opening credits of Dr. Strangelove, by the way.

Functional as the black-and-white logo was, it was a little spartan for my taste, so I moved on to a series of more fanciful mastheads. Like the following:

We'll miss ya, Fran.

Aren't those cute? For a while, this blog's mascot was an old-timey character actor named Slim Summerville. I cancelled out his eyes and pasted his picture over the carpet pattern from The Shining. So that was another Kubrick reference. By then, I was pretty heavily into the Ed Wood Wednesdays phase of Dead 2 Rights. Since Eddie made a lot of adult movies, I found myself doing Internet searches for porno actresses and pin-up models. Somewhere along the way, I must have discovered the name of Fran Gerard, who didn't appear in any movies but was a memorable Playboy Playmate in 1967. She might have been the first Playmate to wear glasses in her pictorial. I thought she was adorable, so she became the face of Dead 2 Rights for a while. The logo was kitschy and sexy and retro -- all the things I wanted the blog to be. You'll see I was enamored of Cooper Black and those damned Dr. Strangelove letters. During this era, the blog also acquired a new subtitle: The Journal Of Important Matters.

Then a weird thing happened, and the blog's appearance had to reflect that change.

The most recent logos. Notice how unsexy they are.

Sometime in late 2014, Google got really uptight about having sexually-related content on Blogger, the platform I use to publish Dead 2 Rights. People with Blogger sites got a bunch of threatening e-mails about what content was and was not appropriate and said that blogs that didn't comply would be restricted from searches and could be blocked altogether for some users. My blog got a voluntary but still embarrassing orange "Content Warning" screen slapped on it, and some readers found that they could no longer access the site at all. Google eventually relented (somewhat), but I'd had enough. I censored the holy hell out of Dead 2 Rights and lobbied to get the warning screen taken off. After some rigmarole, I was successful. At that point, it was no longer appropriate to have a Playboy Playmate as the unwitting "face" of the blog, so Fran Gerard was replaced by Thomas Bowdler, the man whose name became synonymous with censorship. The subtitle was changed to A Decent Blog For Decent People in order to emphasize my moral turpitude.

I got sick of looking at Bowlder pretty quickly, and I'd always wanted to experiment with a "log cabin" motif, so the site became Dead 2 Rights: A Folksy, Down-Home Blog. I liked this much better, but I thought it was getting a little corny. Therefore, I ditched the backwoods design altogether and went for a super-plain look with a skinny, nondescript logo, once again (yawn) employing those skinny Dr. Strangelove letters. The problem with this version of the site was that it was so bland it was hideous. I hated looking at it, so I gave Dead 2 Rights its most recent makeover. The current banner is minimalist but colorful and takes its version of the logo directly from Scott Cole's original 2009 design. I thought it paired well with the Soviet propaganda posters I currently use as the site's wallpaper.

And that's a pocket history of Dead 2 Rights. Not that you asked for it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

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

Ed Wood's movies often had some very interesting trailers.

Bad, Bad, Gang! on DVD.
Although I've implicitly established the precepts of my little strain of Woodology in previous Ed Wood Wednesdays posts , this week we're detouring down another road, fittingly violating the principal Principle, i.e. foisting a speculative Ed-tribution on an unsuspecting public, minus the facts.

It was mere days ago when porn archaeologist Dimitrios Otis, the resurrector of Wood's then-unknown last-directed feature The Young Marriedsmentioned in an exchange with me that he would be penning the liner notes to John Donne/Donn Greer's Bad, Bad Gang! from 1972 – a cross between a roughie and a biker film – featuring Ric Lutze and a pre-boob job Rene Bond. Soon to be released on DVD by Synapse/Impulse Films in the longest version yet available, Bad, Bad, Gang! has no previously known association with Ed Wood. Then again, Dimitrios and I have previously discussed his compelling proposition that Ed worked on the script for Donne/Greer's Shot On Location. See his liner notes in the Ed Wood's Dirty Movies  DVD triple-feature from After Hours Cinema for the details.

In one of those happy accidents, the very next day, I was looking through listings of old Something Weird Video compilations for the trailer to The Only House In Town, which is included in the out-of-print Bucky's '70s Triple XXX Movie Trailers Vol. 2 (1994), when I stumbled upon the trailer for Bad, Bad, Gang! listed in Vol. 7 of that same series.

As soon as I heard the voice-over once I tossed it on, I sensed something... familiar. It sounded to me like Ed Wood himself. I played it back. Then I pulled up the trailer for Fugitive Girls, which we know is Ed in the voice-over, for comparison. Though it felt inconclusive to me, it seemed a strong possibility that this was the selfsame voice.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sometimes, you just have to draw Orson Welles in Microsoft Paint

Sorry to do this to you, Orson.

Sometimes, when I am very, very bored or short on inspiration, what I'll do is open up YouTube and Microsoft Paint at the same time and draw my interpretation of what's on screen. My time limit is however long the video runs. When it's over, I'm done. Ready or not. It's a simple, stupid game that helps pass the time and calm my nerves. What I like about it is that there's (generally) not much time to concentrate on little details. You get the essence of something and move on. So today, I was doing that with a 1962 interview with director Orson Welles on a British TV show called Monitor. He was already getting heavy by '62, and he looked sweaty, tired, and uncomfortable while talking to the host about Citizen Kane for the bazillionth time. But he got through the interview anyway. Something about that struck me as interesting, so I made the picture you see above. Hope you enjoy it. Either way, have a nice day.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Today's 'B.C.' needed to go on for a couple more panels

That's, uh, that's some overbite you've got there.

And now it does. You're welcome.

See, a caveman would have no paradigm for "greeter," "candelabra," or "bed and breakfast." He'd feel like Alvy Singer visiting Annie Hall's family here. "They're talking swap meets and boat basins." I would like to point out that the background for this strip, particularly those mountains behind the blond-haired caveman, might fit in on a Yes album cover... if they were drawn with more detail.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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

Some of the films of sound mixer Sam Kopetzky.


Sam Kopetzky
"Sam the man. I liked Sam," Jacques Descent recently told me.

Just because Jacques had produced two Ed Wood scripts, 1972's The Undergraduate and 1969's gone-missing Operation Redlight (for which he also served as cinematographer), I had no reason to think he also knew sound mixer Sam Kopetzky (1937-2003) when I emailed him the credits to Sam's only directorial effort listed on the IMDb: 2069 A.D., a sci-fi soft porn feature starring Marsha Jordan (as Marsha Kopete). I wondered if, given the associations and credits, it was something he had somehow worked on. As it turned out, Jacques knew Sam well, and ended his reminiscences by saying, "Speak well of Sam." I will.

Perhaps we need to back up a moment. Who is Sam Kopetzky?

Saturday, April 16, 2016

An open letter from 'Captain America: Civil War'

Captain America: Civil War wants you to know a few things.

Hello, America.

I'm Captain America: Civil War. I'm a major motion picture from Marvel Studios and Walt Disney coming to a theater near you on May 6, 2016. That's just around the corner. Maybe you've seen an advertisement for me at a movie theater. Or on television. Or on the Internet. Or in the back of a cab. Or on one of those little screens they have at gas pumps now. So you have heard of me? That's nice.

So...

'Sup? Let's get to know each other. Mind if I put on some music?



There. Isn't that better? I thought so, too. Why don't you lie down while I pour you a glass of Amaretto and give you a nice, relaxing foot massage?

That's more like it. Can't you just feel all the stress leaving your body? Oh, yeah.

Now, baby -- do you mind if I call you baby?

Baby, I know that you've been hurt by big budget, major studio superhero films in the past. And I mean the very recent past. Not to be too forward, but I heard through the grapevine that you just suffered a bad breakup with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Someone told me that you came out of the theater depressed and disoriented. You even said you were "done" with superhero movies forever. Is that right? Don't be shy, America. Captain America: Civil War is here to listen to you. Speak from the heart.

Okay. That's what I thought.

Well, baby, I'm here to tell you that the bad times are over and the good times are just beginning. I know you've been down some tough roads, and, believe me, I feel your pain. Dawn of Justice may have broken your heart, but that's just because he's a chump who doesn't respect and cherish you like I do. That ain't gonna happen with Captain America: Civil War. I know it's difficult, but I'm asking you to trust again. Captain America: Civil War is here to make everything all right.

Don't forget: I'm just a $250 million franchise film standing in front of a nation of ticket buyers, asking them to love him.

Yeah, I took that line from Notting Hill. I'm genuinely sorry about that. But my screenplay is all new, baby, I swear. Take my hand, America. You won't regret it.

Did I mention that I have Spider-Man? And no origin story this time? Oh, you like that, don't you? Yeah,  you do, you saucy little minx.

So, what do you say? Do we have a date on May 6? In 3D and IMAX in selected locations?

Oh, yeah.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

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

You can't spell Swedish Erotica without Ed.


"A couple of times I had to let [Ed] go, 'cause the drinking got too much. And he'd call me up and say, 'Pappy, pappy, I need you.' And I said, 'Are you straightened out now?' 'I've straightened out now, I swear.' I said, 'Okay, come on back to work.'" 
-Bernie Bloom, Nightmare of Ecstasy

"How many times did I plead with Ed to stay with Bernie and a regular guaranteed paycheck? He tested Bernie too many times. When Bernie fired him, it broke his heart."
-Kathy Wood, Nightmare of Ecstasy


Just when was Ed's last job that provided a regular paycheck? When was he last fired by Bernie Bloom? Despite the invaluable anecdotes in Nightmare of Ecstasy, specific dates regarding Ed's latter life and work are hard to pin down, increasingly as the 1970s wore on.

What we do know is that Ed left Golden State News, a prolific West Coast adult slick magazine distributor and publisher, along with its general manager, Bernie Bloom, circa 1967-68. Bernie incorporated Pendulum Publishers, Inc., his own publishing company, the East Coast arm of adult mag mogul (and later convicted murderer) Michael Thevis, in 1968. Although the interpretation of events presented in Nightmare is open to debate, the common wisdom and reasonable inference until now is that Ed was last fired by Bloom in roughly 1973-74. His outpouring of hundreds and hundreds of short stories and articles across the Pendulum-family of magazines, including Pendulum, Calga, Gallery Press, and its unincorporated imprints SECS Press and Edusex, slows to a trickle then, and subsequent Pendulum-family magazines that contain Ed stories are most often reprints.

Through his remaining years, Ed's known work becomes increasingly sporadic. But in the suitcase Ed packed and carried away from the Yucca Flats apartment – his last and final eviction mere days prior to his death – he inadvertently left behind one final clue about his work in the last few years of his life: a stack of 1977-78 paystubs from Art Publishers, Inc. (No TurboTax in those days.)

Ed Wood's final paystubs from 4-6-78 and 3-30-78.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Merle Haggard (1937-2016): A brief remembrance

Merle Haggard, seen here in the early 1980s.

A few nights ago, irked by the prolonged existence of the Country Music Awards, I took to Twitter and went on a half-bitter, half-comedic, anti-CMA rant. It's not that I'm against country music. Far from it. Some of the best, most moving songs I've ever heard have come from that genre. The problem is that, every time I have the misfortune of tuning into a radio station that plays contemporary C&W, all I ever seem to hear is overproduced pop pap. It's tough to tell the commercials from the songs sometimes. What really sparked my ire that night, though, was I'd just been listening to a country song that had stopped me dead in my tracks, not a few hours beforehand: Merle Haggard's 1981 hit, "Are The Good Times Really Over?" What I liked about the song was how direct and honest it was. America had gone through a lot of hard times during the 1970s, and this was Merle delivering his unhappy but necessary State of the Union address. Could such a recording still be made today? It doesn't seem to have any connection with the music being advocated by the CMAs in 2016. That night, I googled Merle's name and was happy to find he was still alive. Old but alive. Well, now he's not. He died on his birthday at the exact age of 79. How's that for a country song premise? Anyway, here's the song that impressed me so much. Enjoy. And RIP, Merle.

Addendum: This article is not intended as an endorsement of every single view expressed by Merle Haggard in this song. Throughout his catalog, Mr. Haggard expressed a number of sentiments with which I do not personally agree. "Okie From Muskogee" is a perfect example. That song does not express my philosophy in any way, shape, or form, and yet I like it anyway. I wouldn't change it. Again, my admiration is for the directness and candor of the lyrics. If Muskogee were really as Haggard describes it, I wouldn't last ten minutes there. I liken my appreciation of Merle Haggard to my appreciation of The Notorious B.I.G., who was the subject of another post on this blog. I cannot possibly endorse the violence, misogyny, and homophobia in Biggie's lyrics, but that doesn't really affect my enjoyment of his music one bit. In fact, I don't really like hearing my own opinions echoed in art. Don't tell me what I already know or what you think I want to hear. Tell it to me like you think it is, and I'll make up my own mind. That's what Merle Haggard did, consistently and brilliantly.

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Immortality Odyssey by Greg Dziawer

David De Mering, seen here in Plan 9 From Outer Space, presided over the funeral of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

As a little detour this week, I went ahead and transcribed the eulogy from Ed Wood's funeral service, based on a few images of both the handwritten original and the reproductions floating around on online auction sites. Death comes for us all eventually, and it came for Edward Davis Wood, Jr. on Sunday, December 10, 1978. The official cause of death was arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease. He was 54. No autopsy was performed.

David DeMering, who played copilot Danny in Plan 9 From Outer Space ("Hey, Edie, how about you and me balling it up in Albuquerque?"), delivered the eulogy, which referenced several of Eddie's films and the actors who appeared in them. Other attendees at the service included Paul Marco, David Ward, and Criswell. Eddie's body was cremated, and the ashes were scattered at sea. DeMering himself died in 1980, about a month shy of his 49th birthday.

Dear friends and loved ones, we are here today to pay our respects, and to honor the memory of our good and loyal friend: Eddy D. Wood Jr.

First I would like to quote from John 1.25-26: Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and who ever.”

Ed Wood was born in Paukeepsie N.Y. on Oct. 10, 1924, as Edward Davis Wood JR, son of Mr. Edward Davis Wood SR. and Mrs. Lillian Wood. He is survived by one brother, William Wood, and his wife Kathleen Everett Wood. Ed went into the USMC in 1942. He served for 4 years and earned a number of medals and citations and received an Honorable Discharge. Ed passed from this life on Dec. 10, 1978 from a heart attack ---- let us pray ---

O God the Lord of Life, the Conqueror of Death, our help in every time of trouble, who dost not willingly grieve or afflict the children of Men. Comfort us who mourn, and give us the grace, in the presence of death, to worship thee, that we may have sure hope of Eternal Life and be enabled to put our whole trust in thy goodness and mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

After the USMC, Ed later came to H'wood where he made a name for himself as an actor and director. Most of us here have worked with Ed in one or more capacities. He acted, wrote, produced and directed with such stars as Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson, Ken Duncan, Lyle Tylbert, Gregory Walcott, Tom Keen, Johnie Carpenter, Chriswell, VAMPIRA, & Paul Marco, and myself David DeMering, as well as a number of others – Ed was instrumental in bringing Bela Lugosi back into pictures after a number of years out of the industry. 
Ed's first picture was “I Led Two Lives” that now has become a classic. It starred Bela Lugosi, Ed Wood and Lyle Talbert. Marge Usher, Co. produced Ed's picture “Bride of the Monster” with Bela Lugosi, Tor Johnson and Paul Marco. 
In closing, let us pray: the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my Soul: he landeth me in the path of righteousness for his names' sake. Yea, though I walk through the shadow of Death, I will fear no Evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comport me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my hand with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen. 
Now with keeping with what I am sure would be Ed's wishes, let us all drink a toast to his memory and wish him the very best in his life to come – 
Rev. David DeMering, D.D.

I've made some edits in transcription, largely punctuation and capitalization, leaving some interesting misspellings. (The eulogy is zero for two in spelling actor Lyle Talbot's name correctly, for instance.) I'll largely let this one speak for itself. Needless to say, though no one knew it that mid-December day in 1978, Ed was soon to become immortal in a sense, a recurrent theme in his work. The interested reader is referred to Rudolph Grey's Nightmare Of Ecstasy for some interesting anecdotes regarding DeMering, who was Bunny Breckenridge's secretary during the making of Plan 9 From Outer Space.

The funeral scene from Plan 9. Rev. Lynn Lemon presides.

And, just for the sake of contrast, here is the sermon delivered in Plan 9 by Rev. Lynn Lemon, a real-life Baptist minister and an investor in the project, over the fictional grave of Tor Johnson's Inspector Daniel Clay.
Greater love hath no man, than to lay down his life for another. It is always difficult to have last words over the grave of a friend. And Inspector Daniel Clay was a friend. A dear friend to me and to all of us. The bell has rung upon his great career. Now we lay him to rest. A rest well deserved, but so premature.
Requiescat in pace, Eddie. Amen.

A caption from Ted Newsom's Look Back In Angora.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

How 'SCTV' made the most of its celebrity impersonations

Dave Thomas (left) and Martin Short on SCTV.

One of the delusions under which Saturday Night Live continues to operate is that celebrity impressions are inherently funny on their own. On SNL, it's generally enough for cast members to look, talk, and dress like well-known public figures. Actually doing anything interesting with the impressions is secondary or tertiary at best. The show usually concocts some very contrived reason for its imitations, i.e. "What if [so-and-so] auditioned for Star Wars/James Bond/Back To The Future/whatever? Wouldn't that be wacky?" Sometimes, if they're really desperate, they'll throw together an all-star Family Feud sketch and just burn off a whole bunch of celebrity impressions at once. The whole point seems to be recognition. We're supposed to watch in utter stupefaction and say, "Hey! That guy sounds just like that other guy! Amazing!" Never mind that celebrity impressions are so commonplace that YouTube has a seemingly endless supply of them or that the IT guy at your workplace probably does a halfway decent Christopher Walken.

SCTV did things a little differently. More so than SNL, SCTV was concerned with developing full personalities and lives for its recurring characters, rather than reducing them to a few easily identifiable tics and catchphrases. It's amazing, in retrospect, how much we learned about Bobby Bittman, Johnny LaRue, Edith Prickly, Guy Caballero, Lola Heatherton, and others. And that thoroughness occasionally extended to the show's celebrity impersonations, at least the ones that made multiple appearances. It's not enough on SCTV to simply mimic another performer's way of talking; the show's best sketches make a study of the person's thinking and behaving as well.

The supreme example of this is Dave Thomas' Bob Hope impression. Bob wasn't locked into one sketch or format on SCTV, so he could pop up in all kinds of places. He might unexpectedly drop by during The Sammy Maudlin Show, casually ruining Bobby Bittman's set. Or he might be hosting a pro-am golfing tournament in the Middle East or mentoring Rick Moranis' nervous, adoring Woody Allen. One of my favorite Hope skits from SCTV is a talk show parody called "Stars In One," which teams Thomas with Martin Short as probing interviewer Brock Linahan, a parody of genuine Canadian TV personality Brian Linehan. Like his real world counterpart, Short's character has an eerie talent for keeping his guests off-balance with a combination of flattery and acrimony, buttering them up one moment and undercutting them the next. In the sketch, there is palpable tension between Linahan and Hope, the latter an old-school showbiz lifer who barely speaks the same language as his verbose, wide-eyed inquisitor.

This sketch just floors me. It would be impossible to imagine on SNL. "Stars In One" never goes for an obvious punchline, though SCTV's trusty laugh track chortles away somewhere in the background. It's an honest-to-goodness character piece about two guys with very different ways of looking at the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Are they both right and wrong simultaneously? It's tough to pinpoint a favorite line here, but I'll nominate this beauty from Hope: "You know, you have a way of asking a question that makes you forget what it's about by the time you get to the end. When you stop talking, it's like walking to the edge of a cliff. I have no idea what you just asked." What's amazing here is that Brock Linahan has managed to rattle Bob Hope a little with his ridiculously wordy query about the Vietnam War. Hope, understandably, wants to rely on glib one-liners, but Linahan is throwing his rhythm off. In just four minutes, the sketch manages to reveal Hope's philosophy about movies, comedy, politics, and more. Anyway, just watch.