Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Fonzie Has Richie's Baby"

Henry Winkler, an unnamed baby, and Lynda Goodfriend on Happy Days.

Some people just have to be the center of attention all the time, no matter the circumstances. You know the type—the bride at every funeral and the corpse at every wedding. On Happy Days, Milwaukee mechanic Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) is such a person. A shameless showboat, he thrives on attention and withers without it. He has to make everything about himself.

The Season 9 episode "Little Baby Cunningham" is a perfect example. The plot has Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfriend), wife of Fonzie's best friend Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), giving birth to her first child. Since Richie is stationed in Greenland with the Army, however, Fonzie takes Richie's place, both in natural childbirth classes and in the delivery room. When Richie, Jr. is born, Fonzie is even the first to hold him! Through all these events, Fonzie carries on melodramatically, stealing focus from Lori Beth, who should be at the center of this story.

If all this sounds a little familiar, it's because Happy Days basically did the same thing in "R.C. and L.B. Forever," in which Fonzie stands in for Richie at the latter's wedding. Ron Howard left the show in 1980 after seven seasons, allowing costar Henry Winkler to take over the show completely. Well, except for Chachi (Scott Baio). Anyway, "Little Baby Cunningham" is very much a sequel to "R.C. and L.B. Forever." Once again, Fonzie replaces Richie during a major life milestone and hams it up shamelessly the entire time.

Does this make for a good episode or a bad one? Find out when we review "Little Baby Cunningham" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, part 27 by Greg Dziawer

A lad and lass get to know each other in Nightclub Rendezvous.

Just prior to the launch of the Swedish Erotica loops in the early 1970s, adult movie honcho Noel Bloom produced a number of X-rated loops under the Danish International Films imprint. These short erotic films were among the first of their kind to be subtitled. This is significant, since I believe that Edward D. Wood, Jr. penned some or all of these subtitles and provided similar services for other loop series. 

Although Swedish Erotica would ultimately become his company's primary loop series, Noel Bloom continued to push the Danish angle throughout the decade. In 1975, just a few years after Danish International Films, Bloom et al. launched the Danish Films series. An early title in this franchise, Nightclub Rendezvous, was not only subtitled, but was also featured in issue two of Danish Films magazine. (There seems to have only been two issues of this publication.) The Danish films loops are strikingly similar to the Swedish Erotica loops—running concurrently and seemingly made by the same creative principles.

Interestingly, Nightclub Rendezvous—labeled #1006 and designated the sixth entry in the Danish Films franchise—opens with the same "logo" as some of the earlier Danish International Films: a young lady licking a large swirled lollipop as she enticingly looks back over her shoulder at us.

From the text in the magazine, we learn that the male and female protagonists are named Larry and Billie. In the loop itself, the only other character, a bartender, is referred to as Duffy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Just Break Up Already, You Two"

Erin Moran and Scott Baio on Happy Days.

As I wrote last week, Happy Days was in flux at the start of its ninth (and antepenultimate) season in 1981. With Richie (Ron Howard) and Ralph (Donny Most) long gone and cool guy Fonzie (Henry Winkler) becoming a grownup with responsibilities, the sitcom was in danger of losing touch with its roots. From the first season onward, Happy Days was mostly about high school-aged kids and their various triumphs and tragedies. It was a happy-go-lucky world of sock hops, malt shops, and double dates. How do you keep that going after nine seasons?

The obvious answer was to shift the show's focus to its younger characters, Joanie (Erin Moran) and Chachi (Scott Baio). Never mind that these two were already supposed to be college-bound high school seniors during Season 8. They were given a second senior year in Season 9. Anything to keep the high school setting. Naturally, Joanie and Chachi's budding, troubled romance became a major source of storylines. Younger viewers could tune in each week to see if J&C were breaking up or making up.

The problem is that Joanie and Chachi are a fundamentally bad couple. When Chachi joined the show in Season 5, he was a  sleazy little schemer, always selling something or trying to con people out of a little money. He brought that dishonesty and insincerity to his relationship with Joanie. He's also a petulant and selfish little twerp, prone to temper tantrums. And Joanie, apparently lovestruck, forgives him for his many, many flaws. The relationship turns her into a weak character when she'd previously been the show's resident firebrand.

These issues are on full display in the episode we're reviewing this week, "Another Night at Antoine's." The plot has Chachi breaking up with Joanie so they can date other people for a while. Sort of a sexual Rumspringa. But then he decides he wants her back, and it all leads to a big, public kerfuffle at a fancy French restaurant. (No points for guessing that it ends with a reconciliation.)

So Joanie and Chachi are a bad couple, but does that make "Another Night at Antoine's" a bad episode? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 135: Let's create some Ed Wood fan art with AI

An image that unites Wood, Spielberg, and Kubrick.

If you've been conscious for the last year or so, you've probably seen a lot of art (or "art," depending on your point of view) that has been created (or "created") by artificial intelligence or AI. Look, I'm not here to debate the ethics of AI or even define what is and isn't art. I'm here to take this awe-inspiring and terrifying newish technology and apply it to Edward D. Wood, Jr. 

I've done this kind of thing before. Back in 2019, I ran some screenshots from Jail Bait through a colorization app. In 2020, I used a site called Preference Revealer to rank my favorite and least favorite Ed Wood movies. Now it's 2022 and AI art is the hot thing, so let's do some of that... with Ed Wood.

I chose a service called Midjourney to do this project. Why? Because I'd seen it in this video by a YouTuber called Mighty Jabba and thought the results looked cool. Very quickly, though, I realized I was in over my head. I don't know a damn thing about how to generate AI art. My first prompt was: "Ed Wood as drawn by Al Hirschfeld." (I assume you know who Al was.) Here are the results:

Prompt #1: "Ed Wood as drawn by Al Hirschfeld"

I'd say that falls somewhere between success and failure. It's not Hirschfeld, but it's not not Hirschfeld either. My second attempt at a prompt was: "Ed Wood made out of Legos." Here's how that turned out:

Prompt #2: "Ed Wood made of Legos."

I don't know what's happening with the top left image, but the other three are at least in the ballpark. I then went on to Wood's repertory players. Folks, I tried and tried to get Midjourney to generate some Tor Johnson fan art, but that stupid computer had no idea who Tor was. None of the artwork even came close. So I ditched Tor in favor of Vampira. More specifically, I tried "Vampira on the beach at night." Even Midjourney knew who Vampira was, and it dutifully belched up these lovely images:

Prompt #3: "Vampira on the beach at night."

What else? What else? Oh yeah. I tried "Elderly Bela Lugosi in the style of the French impressionists." 

Prompt #4: "Elderly Bela Lugosi in the style of the French impressionists."

And I brought it all home with one last, simple prompt: "Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi holding hands."

Prompt #5: "Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi holding hands."

At that point, I realized I had enough for a single blog post and ended my experiment. How did I do? Good? Bad? Indifferent? You probably think you could do better, and I agree. In fact, I urge you to go do just that. There are plenty of AI art sites out there. Make your own stuff. Or, more accurately, get a computer to make stuff for you. You don't have to use Midjourney. Are we at the beginning of a new era in creativity or is this just some dumb internet fad that'll fade in a year? Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Chachi's Mom Has Got It Going On"

Scott Baio and Ellen Travolta on Happy Days.

When Happy Days came back for its ninth season in the fall of 1981, the show's focus had obviously shifted to brash teen lothario Chachi Arcola (played by then-heartthrob Scott Baio). Chachi's off-again, on-again relationship with Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) was at the heart of the season-opening two-parter "Home Movies," while the next episode, "Not With My Mother, You Don't" focused on Chachi's sometimes strained relationship with his widowed mother Louisa (Ellen Travolta). By the next episode, "Another Night at Antoine's," the show had already returned to Joanie/Chachi relationship drama. With Richie (Ron Howard) absent and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) getting older and less relatable to kids, Chachi had essentially been promoted to the status of protagonist

Chachi is an irritating character in a whole host of ways and typifies what many viewers dislike about the later seasons of Happy Days. His rise coincides with the show's fall. Having only debuted in Season 5, the wisecracking Arcola boy felt like an interloper, a usurper, a carpetbagger. I'll admit that I'm a Chachi hater myself. I hate his smug face, his arrogant personality, his nasal voice, his very '80s haircut, and that stupid bandana he wears around his leg in most scenes. I especially hate the way he treats Joanie, turning her into a simpering fangirl who forgives him time and again for his indiscretions and his insensitivity. Where's the firebrand Joanie from the early seasons of Happy Days?

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're reviewing the aforementioned "Not With My Mother, You Don't." Blessedly, this one sidelines Joanie for the most part and turns its attentions to Louisa. Her husband, Chachi's father, has been dead for several years, and she is now gingerly reentering the dating scene. But she is doing so behind Chachi's back, leading some some tense moments. First, Chachi publicly shames his mother in front of the Cunninghams, then he seeks out his mother's boyfriend, a very pleasant obstetrician named Walter Danzig (guest star Michael Byron Taylor). It's all very awkward.

But does it make for a good episode? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast!

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Promo Odyssey, Part Nine by Greg Dziawer

They actually do boil; it just takes a while.

The perils of looking for evidence of Ed Wood texts within the vast reaches of 1970s porn are many. I am assuming that there are more texts out there than currently accounted for. As I mentioned here last week, I recently came across two summaries of early '70s adult films that pricked up my ears for a moment and made me wonder if they could have been penned by Eddie. (Check them out here before proceeding, if you haven't already.)

First off, let me say that we have no evidence that Ed wrote box cover summaries for adult videotapes, which is where at least one of these texts comes from. The IMDb credits its summary of The Candy Store (1972) to VCX, an early and prolific purveyor of porn videos. The summary for Million Dollar Mona (1973) is credited only to Anonymous. I'm already surmising—before even getting to the question of Ed's possible authorship—that this synopsis comes from a box cover or perhaps a catalog.

I am confident, though, that Ed did write box cover summaries for the 8mm loops produced and distributed by Noel Bloom. Noel, you will remember, is the son of Bernie Bloom, Ed's boss at Pendulum/Calga Publishers, where he worked as a staff writer for the better part of the last decade of his life. There is a demonstrable correspondence between Noel's loops and Bernie's magazines, with the latter giving generous press coverage to the former.

VHS arrived in my home in 1981. My dad liked being the "first on the block" with new tech and was an early adopter to the new format. It's worth noting that this was three years after Ed Wood's passing, so it seems on the surface that there's no way Eddie could have written the summaries for The Candy Store and Million Dollar Mona.