Monday, May 20, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Tears on Her Pillow" (1971)

I see neither tears nor pillows in this picture.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
Another issue of Lezo.

The story: "Tears on Her Pillow," originally published in Lezo, vol. 5, no. 4, November/December 1971. No author credited.

Synopsis: Because of her love of sex, poor Paula has earned an unwanted reputation as the easiest girl in school. If only there were some way for her to achieve orgasms without having to rely on men! One day, while walking home from school, Paula and her friend Sally have a very interesting conversation. According to Sally, there are girls called lesbians who have sex with other girls, bypassing men altogether. Paula is shocked but intrigued, especially when she finds out that pretty head cheerleader Jennie Partridge is a lesbian. Sally promises to teach Paula how women make love to each other and says that, someday, they can have a threesome with Jennie. Paula realizes her days of heartbreak at the hands of men are over.

Wood trademarks: Character named Paula (cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space, The Violent Years, Fugitive Girls); woman addicted to sex (cf. "Insatiable"); "sex scene" (cf. "Florence of Arabia," plus references to "making the scene" in "The Hazards of the Game" and "Unfriendly Persuasion"); anti-men rant (cf. "Kiss the Pain Away," "The Hooker," "Out of the Fog"); "soft nightie" (a twofer, since soft things and nighties are both Ed Wood trademarks); "creeps" (cf. "Dial-A-Vision"); character learning about lesbians for the first time (cf. "Wanted: Belle Starr"); tongue (cf. "Insatiable"); "snips and snails and puppy dog tails" (cf. Glen or Glenda); blonde (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell," "Florence of Arabia"); tight sweater (cf. "Florence of Arabia"); cross-dressing (cf. Glen or Glenda); trying someone on "for size" (cf. "Starve Hell," "The Devil and the Deep Blue-Eyed Blonde," "Filth is the Name for a Tramp," "Those Long Winter Nights," "Big Man-Little Man"); nipples (cf. "Trade Secrets"); mutilation of breast (cf. "The Rue Morgue Revisited," "Breast of the Chicken"); white angora (cf. "Baiting Millie"); orgasm described as explosion (cf. "Howl of the Werewolf"); pink clouds (cf. Devil Girls); miniskirt (cf. "Baiting Millie"); panties (cf. "Baiting Millie").

Excerpt: "I've been with her right in her own house, right in her own bedroom, and we both got into a couple of nighties and I got right down between her legs and she got right down between mine, and we made lesbian love together. What do you think of that?"

The full (censored) artwork for this story.
Reflections: During the course of this Angora Fever project, the catalog of "Wood Trademarks" has grown steadily as I've identified more of Eddie's pet phrases, fetishes, obsessions, and authorial quirks evident in these texts. There are just so many of them, and the list only keeps getting longer. Today, for instance, was the first time I decided to note Ed's repeated use of the expression "try [someone] on for size" after noticing it in several of these tales. Meanwhile, Eddie uses the color pink so often (it comes up 80 times in Angora Fever and 40 more in Blood Splatters Quickly) that I gave up even trying to keep track of those references. Just know that Ed Wood sure liked pink.

But there are certain aspects of Eddie's style that I can't boil down to identifiable tropes. Take this statement from "Tears on Her Pillow" as knowledgeable Sally is talking to naive Paula: "You sure are sex dumb." Now, Eddie has never used the term "sex dumb" before in Angora Fever, and he won't use it again. But, nevertheless, it's so typical of the way he writes. He loves to coin these terms that should exist but don't, and he generally does it by crudely juxtaposing two words. Someone who is ignorant about sex is "sex dumb." Makes sense, right?

There is a streak of misogyny running through many of Ed Wood's short stories, but "Tears on Her Pillow" is one of his more female-friendly works. At the story's beginning, he notes that women who enjoy sex are labeled as "whores," but no such epithet is applied to men. Why? It's a double standard. And his heroine, Paula, seems well on her way to a life of sexual fulfillment without shame or guilt by the end of this story.

The only troubling aspect of "Tears on Her Pillow" is the implication of violence, coercion, and psychotic jealousy in the lesbian community. For example, in describing her relationship with Jennie Partridge, Sally says, "I was going to lay with Julie Smith a couple of weeks ago and Jennie got so jealous she threatened to cut my nipples off if I did." Cut her nipples off? Damn, Ed! (And what is your thing about mutilating women's breasts, anyway?) Later in the story, Sally makes a veiled threat to Paula as they plan their first tryst:
It's all safe. I've done it there dozens of times. But you got to promise one thing. Once we get started you can't turn me down. I could get awfully angry if you turn me on, get me all heated up and then you back down. There’s nothing worse than the temper of a girl who has been turned on and got all sexually hot, then she is left cold on the bed… unsatisfied. You got to go through with it all the way. First I do it to you to show you how it’s done, then you do it for me.
In Ed Wood's world, the might-makes-right prison rules of Fugitive Girls (1974) apparently apply everywhere.

Next: "A Piece of Class" (1973)

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Insatiable" (1974)

She's gotta have it, I guess.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
The full artwork for "Insatiable."

The story: "Insatiable," originally published in Cherry, vol. 3, no. 1, January/February 1974.

Synopsis: Shirley has been having an intensely sexual relationship with Jim for six months, but now he's out of town, and she's going crazy for male companionship. She thinks back to her short-lived fling with a rich but under-equipped man named Harry. After breaking off her three-week affair with Harry, she'd gone to a cocktail bar and met Jim. She knew immediately this was the man she'd been searching for all her life. Before Harry, Shirley had been with Bobby, who liked to wear her clothes and used to pull out during lovemaking so that he could watch himself climax in the mirror. As Shirley thinks back to Jim and her other lovers, she starts fixating on the number six. Why? She realizes that Jim is in jail for kicking her, and she is (apparently) in a hospital.

Wood trademarks: The word "insatiable (cf. "A Taste for Blood," "The Responsibility Game," "The Devil and the Deep Blue-Eyed Blonde," "The Movie Queen"); teaching someone to be insatiable (cf. Tanya and Carl in Necromania); panties (cf. "Mice on a Cold Cellar Floor"); sheer nylon (cf. Glen or Glenda); character named Shirley (cf. Necromania, Orgy of the Dead, many stories in Angora Fever); "fuzzy rug" and fur fetish (Ed has a well-documented love of fuzzy and furry items; the character Harry shares that love in this story); cocktail lounge (cf. The Cocktail Hostesses); "shot his load" (cf. "Florence of Arabia," "A Taste for Blood"); man failing to please a woman sexually (cf. The Snow Bunnies, Necromania); "worm" as euphemism for a flaccid penis (cf. "Florence of Arabia"); martini (cf. "Unfriendly Persuasion"); "fluffy" ("The Loser"); stockings (cf. "Spokes of the Wheel"); "jollies" (cf. "Never Up-Never In"); cross-dressing (cf. Glen or Glenda); nighties and negligees (cf. "Spokes of the Wheel"); tongue (cf. "Never Up-Never In"); "lovely" (cf. "Trade Secrets"); "little man in the boat" (cf. "Witches of Amau Ra").

Excerpt: "Cocktail bars! What a pleasant place to make a pickup… only she hadn't been out for a pickup that night… she'd only told Harry a few minutes before to get the hell out of her life and stay out of it, what a bore he had been, Harry and his high airs, his stacks of money, his fancy car, his fancy house, his fancy clothes, his fancy words, and his dinky peter."

An unrelated film from 1980.
Reflections: Yesterday, Ed Wood nearly defeated me with "Baiting Millie," a bewildering pseudo-"story" that was really one long, incoherent paragraph. Instead of normal sentences, it consisted of jumbled phrases connected by ellipses. At first, I thought "Insatiable" was a welcome return to simplicity and clarity. Sure, the ellipses were still there, but at least this was divided into manageable sentences and paragraphs. I soon realized my optimism was misplaced when "Insatiable" revealed itself to be just as confusing as "Baiting Millie." For one thing, the timeline keeps getting jumbled as Shirley's thoughts jump from one relationship to another. And then, about two-thirds of the way into the story, Eddie again gave up on organizing his work into sentences and paragraphs. The last few pages are presented as one long, baffling block of text, a la "Baiting Millie."

To be honest, I have no idea what's actually supposed to be happening at the end of "Insatiable." Clearly, Shirley is an unreliable narrator. Her mind is in a muddle, like a thick fog, and she can't make sense to herself sometimes. I thought she was sitting in a cocktail bar, apparently the same one where she'd met Jim, and thinking back on her past relationships. But maybe she's not? Maybe these are the thoughts of a woman who's been driven insane by sex? Or is she in the hospital because of the violence inflicted on her by Jim? Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? No clue.

Throughout this Angora Fever project, I've discussed Ed Wood's various "modes" as an author. There's his torture porn mode, his uptown mode, his quasi-poetic mode, his down-and-dirty mode, etc. Well, I think I have to add another to the list: his stream-of-consciousness mode. This is when he taps into the psyche of a character and presents that person's thoughts verbatim, regardless of whether they make any narrative sense. If nothing else, "Insatiable" gives us some insight into Shirley's state of mind during what is obviously a fraught time in her life.

P.S. I knew that Insatiable was the title of an X-rated feature film starring Marilyn Chambers and Swedish Erotica graduate John Holmes, but that film didn't come out until 1980 and has no connection to this story whatsoever.

Next: "Tears on Her Pillow" (1971)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Baiting Millie" (1973)

Ed used his real name for this one.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
The full artwork for this story.

The story: "Baiting Millie," originally published in Hellcats, vol, 3, no. 1, July/August 1973.

Synopsis: Millie is a slightly butch lesbian who works in an office and has had affairs with various women, including coworkers, over the years. Currently, she is fixated on Sharon, a pretty new girl at her office. Although she wears pantsuits, Millie does not approve of mannish, "bull dyke" lesbians. If she wanted a man, she'd be with a man. She does occasionally have heterosexual dates, just to keep up appearances, but she doesn't let guys get far with her.

Millie thinks back to her relationship with a coworker named Margie, who had been initiated into lesbianism by a teacher in grade school. But this relationship had ended because Margie's need for sex was insatiable, and there was no way she could be satisfied with just one woman. Then there was Shirley, a woman Millie had picked up in a bar. This was not an office romance, since Shirley worked as a ticket taker in a movie theater. Their relationship lasted a year, ending when Shirley had carelessly run into the street and been struck by a vehicle. And now, Millie is hung up on Sharon, but she knows it will never work. She tries to forget about this girl, but then Sharon follows Millie into the bathroom of a cocktail bar. Millie knows that the whole cycle is starting over again.

Wood trademarks: Sharon (cf. The Young Marrieds, Swedish Erotica loops); fluffy (cf. "The Loser"); miniskirt (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell," "The Hazards of the Game"); "lovely" (cf. "The Hooker"); intra-office affairs (cf. "The Responsibility Game," The Cocktail Hostesses); "fanny" (cf. "The Last Void," "Never Fall Backwards"); sweater (cf. Glen or Glenda); cocktail bar (cf. The Cocktail Hostesses); dildo (cf. Necromania); riverlets (alternate spelling of "rivulets," cf. "Then Came Thunder"); nylon stockings (cf. "Detailed in Blood"); "conventional" (cf. Necromania); "bull dykes" (cf. "The Price of Jealousy"); ellipses (Ed's favorite punctuation, used heavily in this story); "titties" (cf. "Tank Town Chippie"); "boobies" (cf. "Out of the Fog"); Margie (cf. "Out of the Fog"); purple passion (cf. "Then Came Thunder"); insatiable (cf. Necromania); white angora (cf. "The Hazards of the Game"); lesbian who prostitutes herself to men (cf. "Out of the Fog"); Shirley (cf. "The Hooker"); movie theater ticket taker (cf. "Closet Queen").

Excerpt: "She was not a confirmed butch, the aggressor, although she did prefer that role, but she hated men’s underwear, they were too conventional, and she didn’t dare wear men’s outer clothes, she didn’t really approve of the butches that did, it took everything away from the makeup that they were trying to produce, a girl should be a girl, even though she preferred having her love affairs with other girls, that was the way a lesbian should always act, she had to be a girl with a girl, if she wanted a man then she wouldn’t be a lesbian, and if she wanted to be a man, then she was missing the whole point of being a lesbian…"

Reflections: Ed Wood was either overcome with inspiration when writing "Baiting Millie" or was starting to lose his grasp on sanity. This semi-incomprehensible story consists of one seemingly endless, 3,114-word paragraph. For the most part, Eddie doesn't even bother organizing his rambling text into sentences. It's just a string of phrases connected by ellipses and commas. Our viewpoint character, Millie, reflects on her life, her past relationships, and her current obsession with coworker Sharon, and this is all presented as one continuous series of thoughts. But the net result is that "Baiting Millie" is a bewildering wall of text.

My guess is that Eddie wrote this in a feverish frenzy of creativity. He was so eager to get this material down on paper that he didn't have time to worry about such niceties as punctuation or readability. I'll bet his typewriter got quite a workout that day. While reading "Baiting Millie," one can almost hear the clacking of the keys and the dinging and ratcheting sounds of the battered machine.

If I'd been his editor back then, I probably would have said something like, "Ed, you have to organize this story into sentences and paragraphs so that people can read it and understand it. And go easy on the ellipses, buddy." But that's why it's a good thing that I wasn't his editor. Bernie Bloom at Pendulum Publishing seemingly took Eddie's freshly-typed manuscripts and ran them verbatim, no questions asked. This is unfiltered Ed Wood, as pure as it gets.

Next: "Insatiable" (1974)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Morbid Curiosity" (1971)

Looks like the opening credits to Plan 9.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).

The story: "Morbid Curiosity," originally published in Switch Hitters, vol. 2, no. 3, December/November 1971. Credited to "Dick Trent."

Synopsis: Charlie, 28, is a handsome and successful writer who happens to live next door to a cemetery because it's quiet and peaceful there. His current girlfriend, Shirley, lives next to a funeral parlor and wants to make love on or even in one of the graves. Charlie has never even considered this as a possibility, but Shirley claims this will be the greatest sexual thrill either of them has ever experienced. Not wanting to lose her, Charlie reluctantly accompanies her to the graveyard. But when these two have wild sex on a newly-replanted grave, something quite unexpected happens to interrupt their fun.

Wood trademarks: "Morbid curiosity" (cf. "The Hazards of the Game"); character called Charlie (cf. "Where Did Charlie Get on the Train?"); character named Shirley (cf. Necromania, Orgy of the Dead, Wood's own drag name); martini (cf. "Unfriendly Persuasion," "Where Did Charlie Get on the Train?," "Out of the Fog"); "shit-head" (cf. Nightmare of Ecstasy); "make the scene" as slang for sex (cf. "The Hazards of the Game," "Unfriendly Persuasion"); nipples (cf. "The Movie Queen"); wiggling fingers (cf. the dream sequence in Glen or Glenda); living next door to a cemetery (cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space, "Invasion of the Sleeping Flesh"); having sex in a cemetery (cf. "In the Stony Lonesome"); necrophilia (cf. Necromania, Orgy of the Dead); fur rug (cf. "Trade Secrets"); ghouls (cf. Night of the Ghouls, Orgy of the Dead); pink clouds (cf. Devil Girls); maggots (cf. "Blood Drains Easily"); funeral (cf. Plan 9); funeral parlor (cf. "Blood Drains Easily").

Excerpt: "Don't become jealous of a graveyard, darling. In all sex there has to be some kind of an illusion. You have yours. Just think about it. You're not always thinking of me when you're pumping up and down. I've seen you with closed eyes. I've seen you shoot off to your little pink cloud."

Korah and his men are swallowed by the earth.
Reflections: "He didn't want to be buried," Kathy Wood said of her late husband Ed in Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. "He had a horror of the thought of being under the ground." And so, when he expired at the age of 54 in 1978, Ed Wood was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean. To this day, there is no headstone or monument where fans can go to pay their respects to the man.

And yet, there is no denying that Eddie was absolutely obsessed with graves and cemeteries. His first movie to contain a funeral scene was the first one he ever made: Crossroads of Laredo in 1948. In Ed's most famous movie, Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), the opening credits actually appear on tombstones. Did the writer have an erotic obsession with death and the dead? Well, spend some time with his books, stories, and films, and you tell me.

But there is no pleasure without consequences in the world of Edward D. Wood, Jr., and indeed, he gets to play the role of a vengeful God to the characters he creates. Charlie and Shirley's punishment  at the end of this story bears a remarkable similarity to an incident in the Book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Old Testament. In this volume of the Bible, Moses has been chosen by God to lead the Israelites, and anyone who complains or disobeys is punished severely -- fire, leprosy, plague, etc. One poor dope, Korah, unwisely plots against Moses, so the earth itself opens up and swallows him along with all 249 of his co-conspirators. The incident is mentioned twice:
"And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods." - Numbers 16:32 
"And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign." - Numbers 26:10
So, following God's example, Eddie has his ghoulish lovers swallowed by the earth in the most literal way possible. The author had been living in earthquake-prone California for nearly a quarter of a century by the time he wrote this story, which must also have influenced him. When Ed Wood smites these two sinners, is he just punishing them or atoning for his own sins, real and imagined?

Next: "Baiting Millie" (1973)

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Ed Wood Extra! A 'Necromania' soundtrack album

Ric Lutze and Rene Bond in Ed Wood's Necromania.

Remember record stores? I sure do. When I lived in Joliet, IL, there was a great one called the Crow's Nest. It's long gone now, killed off by streaming. But in its heyday, it was one of my favorite places in the world. Sometimes, I went in there looking for a specific album, but generally, I'd just browse through the racks and see what they had. I found a lot of cool stuff that way, including the 1995 soundtrack album for Orgy of the Dead from Strangelove Records. Jaime Mendoza Nava's catchy, eclectic lounge-exotica score deserves to be immortalized on a shiny plastic disc.

I recently revisited another Ed Wood movie, Necromania and heard how much memorable music there is in it, too. Record stores and compact discs probably aren't coming back, so I did the next best thing. I created a virtual Necromania soundtrack album on SoundCloud. You can listen to it right now, and I would really appreciate it if you did.

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Kiss the Pain Away" (1973)

I guess these are supposed to be Beth and Barbara from today's story.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
An issue of Gemini.

The story: "Kiss the Pain Away," originally published in Gemini, vol. 2, no.1, March/April 1973. Credited to "Shirlee Lane."

Synopsis: Barbara, an office worker, wanders into a rough neighborhood while looking for a bus stop. There, in a dark alley, she is manhandled by a filthy bum who rips her expensive new clothes and masturbates on her. Before he can do anything else, the man is chased away by a group of women from a nearby lesbian bar. They invite Barbara into the bar, and a large woman named Beth steers her into an apartment at the back of the place. Barbara soon realizes that Beth has plans of her own.

Wood trademarks: Alley (cf. "Gore in the Alley"); angora sweater (cf. "Try, Try Again"); getting clothes dirty (cf. "Filth is the Name for a Tramp"); character named Barbara (a favorite of Ed's going back to Glen or Glenda); panties (cf. "Gore in the Alley"); "rod" (cf. "Witches of Amau Ra"); "dork" (cf. "Florence of Arabia"); "beer bar" (cf. "Starve Hell"); "fluff" (cf. "The Fright Wigs"); anti-men rant (cf. Drop Out Wife); "bastard" (cf. "Once Upon a Gargoyle"); innocent young woman preyed upon by lesbian (cf. Fugitive Girls, "The Hooker").

Excerpt: "She had undressed in front of other girls many times, especially at college… and there had been a couple of strange ones… but none of them affected her as much as the big woman who stood in front of her, hands on hips. But she slowly, almost painfully, stood up and slipped the once beautiful angora sweater up over her head."

Reflections: There are days when reviewing a collection of Ed Wood stories is a lot of fun... and then there are days when I have to discuss stuff like "Kiss the Pain Away," in which a woman experiences two different kinds of sexual assault within the course of about an hour. Many of Ed Wood's short stories take place in a filthy, fallen world where seemingly everyone is either a predator or a victim. Ed seems to take particular glee in debasing Barbara here, systematically robbing her of her clothes, her dignity, and her autonomy.

And, really, what is it with Ed and stories about predatory lesbians? It's a pattern that emerges again and again in his movies and stories: a young woman is frightened and in distress, and she's "helped" by an older woman who really wants to take sexual advantage of her. Why did Eddie feel the need to revisit this idea again and again? Generally, pornography is about scratching a particular itch, so to speak. Was this very specific scenario (old dyke vs. young fluff) a favorite fantasy for certain men, the way that French maids or Catholic schoolgirls are for other men? Was it a favorite fantasy for Ed? What are we to make of passages like this?
      Beth turned to one of the girls who had stayed behind with her. "Take over the joint for a while, Gus. I’ll see to the little fluff here."
      The one called Gus winked. "I bet you will."
She winked? Is this supposed to be a delightful little in-joke between them?

This story's title, meanwhile, reminded me of a popular song from a few years back. It makes a welcome antidote to today's story, as it deals with sex that is consensual and enjoyed by both parties.

Next: "Morbid Curiosity" (1971)