Wednesday, June 29, 2016

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

Another piece of the Pete La Roche puzzle has surrfaced.
Recently, we shared an article by the mysterious Pete La Roche, a man whose name is often touted as a pseudonym for Edward D. Wood, Jr., from a late 1960s adult mag, and this week we're sharing another La Roche-credited article. Like the piece about William S. Hart, the following article is also about a Western film star and also first appeared in True West magazine in 1971:

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Spirits from the vasty deep

Pink Flamingos family portrait, modeled after a Diane Arbus photo (right).

What's in my filing cabinet.
Probably the oldest thing I have in my apartment, other than what's in the refrigerator (that's a joke; my fridge is empty), is a large gray filing cabinet that I keep in my bedroom/home office. It's an ugly, ungainly monstrosity that dates back to, I'm guessing, the 1950s. There's nothing elegant about it. In fact, it has sharp metal corners that have injured me several times. Why do I keep it around? I don't know. Sentimentality, I guess, though I can't say for sure where the cabinet came from or how it came into my possession. I used to have two of them, but I threw one out. So what's in the one remaining filing cabinet? Junk, mostly. Old CDs and VHS tapes take up the top three drawers. The fourth is filled with manila folders, containing assorted papers from the late 1980s and 1990s.

I was more of a pack rat back in the '90s. I was also more fanatical about my pop culture obsessions: Rocky Horror, They Might Be Giants, Spinal Tap, John Waters, Phantom of the Paradise, A Clockwork Orange, "Weird Al" Yankovic, etc. I still like all that stuff, but I'm not a rabid collector the way I used to be. I have a few thick folders of newsletters, postcards, and clippings related to They Might Be Giants, dating back to about 1988 or so. Nowadays, I barely keep up with TMBG. I think I've skipped their last two or three albums, something that would have been unthinkable to my teenage self. I haven't seen them in concert in god knows how long. Sixteen years at least. Yikes.

What happened? I dunno. People get older. Ardor cools. Adulthood calls. There are bills and dental appointments and shit like that. The Internet killed a lot of my fandom, really. When I started out as a TMBG fan, it was hard finding their stuff. I had to go to out-of-the-way record stores to locate EPs and singles. Press coverage was minimal, so I obsessively clipped every magazine and newspaper article I could find. That was oddly rewarding to me. Now, with just a one-second Google search, I could find more information about TMBG than I could ever hope to get through in a dozen lifetimes. Yawn.

But every once in a while, I get the urge to go through that filing cabinet and rifle through my grunge era memories. Today I went through my personal John Waters archives. Mostly, it was articles I'd photocopied at the college library. There was a mid-1990s Polyester Odorama card, too, and it very much retained its original smell. To a fault, you might say. The oddest, most personal find was a bit of fan art I'd apparently started and then abandoned about 20 years ago. It depicted the cast of Pink Flamingos posed as if they were in a Diane Arbus photo. Drawn in pencil on fragile typing paper, it was badly faded and barely visible. You can see it at the top of this post. Other than making it darker so that it shows up on your screen, I've left it as it was back then. It reminds me of the person I used to be, the one who would do crude fan art while watching VHS tapes of his favorite John Waters movies.

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

Splash page drawing credited to ErtaG, from Dominion Publishing's Salt,y vol. 1,  no. 6, 1969.

If I asked you to reflect for a moment on avenues of promotion for Ed Wood's work, you might first conjure trailers for his '50s auteur corpus or even the hyperbolic trailer for 1974's Fugitive Girls narrated breathlessly by screenwriter and supporting player Ed. In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, however, we're taking a glimpse at another promotional avenue: a vintage magazine ad for Ed's paperback books, presented in its original context.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Disintegrating 'Blondie'

Three takes on today's Blondie.

I am no longer satisfied with merely discussing or even deconstructing the comic strip Blondie. Now I want to completely disintegrate it. I want to watch it devolve into chaos in front of my eyes. This strip has been running continuously since 1930, and there's a good chance that it was never once funny in all those 86 years. But there's an eerie kind of perfection to Blondie. It seems to take place in this vacuum-sealed Pleasantville reality that stopped evolving sometime during the Eisenhower years. Every once in a while, they make some cosmetic change to the strip to keep it up to date, like giving Dagwood Bumstead a computer at his desk or letting his wife Blondie start her own catering company, but the DNA of the strip does not change. Look at the way Dagwood and his boss, Mr. Dithers, are dressed in the strip up at the top. Where do you even buy clothes like that, except at some vintage resale shop in Brooklyn? And look at their anatomy. Why are Dagwood's shins so short? And why do Dithers and (I think) all the male characters bend their knees like that when they stand? Being a Blondie character would be so uncomfortable. The clothing looks itchy, and the poses are unnatural.

Presented here are the original strip, plus two of my variations on it. In the first, Dagwood has been removed, and it is suggested that he might be Mr. Dithers' own personal Tyler Durden. But then, I wanted to take it a little farther and get rid of both Dagwood and Dithers. Look at that third version of the strip, beautifully depopulated. It's subtle, but the camera angle actually changes from panel one to panel two. And yet, the shine on the floor is in exactly the same spot. The floors in Blondie tend to be very, very shiny indeed. It's one of my favorite visual elements of the strip. I prefer the floors to the human characters.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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

A new variation on Glen or Glenda? perhaps: Artwork by Phil Cambridge.

"I asked him about angora, why not silk or satin? He said, 'There's nothing more sensual than angora.'"
-Phil Cambridge, Nightmare of Ecstasy

"And he wore those women's cuffs, and always an angora top, an angora sweater... He was always on the sauce... always."
The art of Phil Cambridge adorned hundreds of splash pages for short stories and articles appearing in the Pendulum family of  adult magazines, including dozens by Ed Wood. This week, we're taking a closer look at some of Phil's work: his fine, flowing lines and evocative shading effortlessly painting somber moods. His work, as much as any of the artists at Pendulum, defined the look and feel of these mags. Ed was the go-to writer at the Pendulum office for the gay-themed mags. His stories and articles there among his most revealing and personal, and Phil contributed some of his most plaintive work in that milieu.

Note: Due to the nature of the artwork in this week's story, the images themselves will be posted to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr. They are, to one degree or another, NSFW. Proceed with caution.

  • A splash page image by Phil Cambridge for the uncredited article "Gay Power" from Gay Studs, vol. 1,  no. 2, 1969. 
  • "Blindfold" from The Boy Friends, vol. 2,  no. 1. Artwork by Phil Cambridge.
  • The Cambridge splash page for Ed's short story "I, Warlock." This story also appeared in Gay Guys Book 1 with an identical layout. A Libra Press publication circa 1971.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fun time with the funnies! For fun!

I've actually made this cartoon less depressing than it normally is.

Have I ever written about Pluggers here before?  It's a syndicated newspaper cartoon feature by Gary Brookins, the same guy who draws Shoe now. It's a one-panel deal, like Ziggy or Dennis The Menace, so it's technically not a comic. Anyhoo, Pluggers is about the daily trials and travails of  aging, out of shape, working-class white people, except all the parts are played by animals like cats, dogs, rhinos, and chickens. Most of the punchlines are phrased in the form of "You're a plugger if..." so it's kind of like Jeff Foxworthy in cartoon form. What's weird is how relentlessly bleak it is. The average plugger is morbidly obese, depressed, sedentary, and stuck in an inescapable rut. Their lives suck. So naturally, it's a good fit with the modern day comics section, a veritable all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of misery. I've referenced the dour Funky Winkerbean here, you may have noticed.

One of the least depressing of the so-called "legacy" or "zombie" strips -- those titles that continue for decades after their creators die -- is Blondie. The strip's protagonist, suburban dimwit Dagwood Bumstead, is so relentlessly upbeat that he cannot fathom real-world problems, like the ones that plague pluggers ever day. He is a real Pollyanna type. I mentioned that this week over at Josh Fruhlinger's blog, The Comics Curmudgeon, and for my troubles I was awarded the coveted "Comment of the Week."  Enjoy.

“How wonderful being Dagwood must feel. Imagine seeing the world through his sclera-less eyes and processing it with his Dippity-Do-covered brain. When a homeless panhandler mysteriously disappears from the streets of his hometown, Dagwood’s assumption is: ‘Oh, he must have found gainful employment at a place that treats him like a human being of value. What a rich, fulfilling new life he must be living now.’” –Joe Blevins
And, just because I thought it was funny, here's a mashup of "Rex Morgan, MD" and Reservoir Dogs.

And here's a special Garfield ghostwritten by Dilbert creator Scott Adams:

Maybe it's more legible at this size?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

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

Greg said it was okay to reuse this header image from last week. In fact, he requested it.
Anyone who has read more than a handful of my Ed Wood Wednesdays posts certainly knows that false claims of Ed's authorship (or mis-Ed-tributions, as I like to call them) really get my goat. First off, when claimed deliberately, it's lying. And lying, as we all well know, is wrong. An infantile ethical hangup. Secondly, it's lying for the sake of material gain, and as we also know, two wrongs don't make a right. Now, of course, there are those who claim that one who does wrong is right, and one who does right is wrong.

This week we're pulling the string and unraveling three current Ebay auctions, all of them mis-Ed-tributing titles credited to Dr. T.K. Peters. All three issue from the same seller, and in the interest of fairness, I will assume he/she makes the claim in ignorant good faith. In other words, I've yet to email the seller. His/her username at Ebay (redboldface) curiously suggests the word baldface, a word I've only ever heard used in conjunction with one other word (begins with L). Make of that what you will.

To cut to the chase, for once - and not repeat the stories of Wood at Pendulum/Calga, and Bernie Bloom, and the T.K. Peters source - here are the auction postings (until the links finally disappear) and who actually wrote them:

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Leroy victorious!

It had to end with one of them dying.

King Features Syndicate released the last-ever installment of The Lockhorns, a cartoon feature that has been running in newspapers since 1968, today. Actually, no, that's not true at all. I don't know why I said that. Upon further reflection, this cartoon didn't seem complete. Here's a multi-panel version of my Lockhorns finale. Enjoy.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Okay, here's my pitch for the Jenga movie

C'mon, who else was realistically going to star in the Jenga movie?

It's going to happen one way or another. With The Angry Birds Movie already in theaters and a Tetris movie on the way, it's only a matter of time before Jenga: The Movie is put into development at Universal or Paramount. Someone's getting a payday out of this. Why shouldn't it be me? I want to be the one to write this thing. So here's my pitch.

The Dark Tower.
We start with a flashback to the late 1980s, when the first commercially-produced Jenga games hit the market. A severely nerdy high school kid, Wes Zwolinski (even his name means he's last at everything), develops an almost supernatural knack for the game, and his skills start to attract the attention of the other kids his age, including his longtime crush, Noreen. An intramural Jenga championship is soon organized, and Wes deftly defeats a number of opponents. In the final round, he is pitted against rich kid and bully Chas Van Landingham, who has heretofore made Wes' life a living hell. Even Wes' normally distant father, George (Stacy Keach), has shown up for the event and sits in the front row. Just when Wes seems on the verge of winning, Chas distracts him with an especially cruel taunt. Wes knocks over the Jenga tower in such alarming fashion that one piece becomes airborne and hits George right in the face. The victorious Chas exits the high school gymnasium with Noreen on his arm, while George is taken off in a stretcher, unconscious. Wes is devastated. 
Cut to the present day. Wes is now a scruffy, forty-something man played by Adam Sandler. He works in a mall shoe store owned by Chas (Jason Bateman), who treats him horribly and who is now married to Noreen (Jennifer Aniston). Wes' glory days are long behind him. He gazes at a stack of shoeboxes piled improbably high and sighs deeply, thinking of what might have been. Chas walks by and slaps him on the back of the head, causing him to topple the tower of boxes. Wes' home life is no better. He sleeps on a forlorn couch in the basement of his parents' home. George, grouchier than ever, still bears a scar on his face from the long-ago tournament incident. He criticizes Wes without mercy. In the interim, Wes has had a son named Josh with his now-ex-wife Carla (Leah Remini). Wes has a good relationship with Josh; in fact, it's the only bright spot in his life. They play board games together, but Wes won't even look at Jenga. Too many memories. 
A problem arises when Wes gets behind on his child support. (Don't judge him too harshly. He gets taken in a Nigerian e-mail scam.) He may lose contact with Josh forever if he can't raise some money quickly. He walks around his neighborhood, thinking about what to do. Just then, a flier gets carried along by the wind and hits Wes smack in the face. He studies it. It's an all-ages Jenga tournament with a whopping $25,000 prize. Wes knows what he must do. He goes into training in order to regain his Jenga skills. Having previously established that Wes' favorite show in the 1980s was ALF, the character of ALF (still voiced by Paul Fusco) becomes sort of a wisecracking mentor to Wes, appearing to him in visions. "Who the hell are you talking to down there?" George wants to know. 
It all leads up to the big Jenga tournament. An initial joke is that most of the contestants are much, much younger than Wes. But our hero carries on anyway and advances through the various rounds. Some of the opponents are very eccentric indeed, including a jumpy, bug-eyed fellow played by Steve Buscemi. Kill Bill, El Topo, and numerous Sergio Leone films are referenced and parodied during this passage of the movie. Jenga inventor Leslie Scott makes a cameo here, too. Naturally, the final round comes down to a rematch between Wes and Chas, with Wes' whole life on the line.

So what do you say, Hollywood? Do we have a deal or do we have a deal? You know how to reach me. My contact info is in the sidebar at the right side of the screen. Let's talk.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: Advertising T.K. Peters by Greg Dziawer

Well, maybe not everything, but Greg's working on it.

NOTE: Greg Dziawer has been doing extensive research into the career of Dr. T.K. Peters, whose name is often touted as a literary alias for Edward D. Wood, Jr. Much more Peters-related material will appear in this space in the weeks to come. For now, here is a preview of what Greg's been working on. Enjoy. J.B.
A T.K. Peters book from SECS.
There was a time when many considered the name T.K. Peters, which appeared on close to 50 photo illustrated sociological sex paperbacks, to be a pseudonym of Ed Wood. Or even a shared pseudonym of multiple authors at Pendulum Publishers. Leo Eaton, fellow staffer of Ed's at the Pendulum magazine offices in Los Angeles, laid these notions to rest when he revealed that Peters was a real person and that the paperbacks were sourced from a comprehensive sex study he had sold to Pendulum.

The sociological angle was a legal gambit, justifying the hardcore sex of the photographs (the raison d'etre of the books, with a pic on each right-hand facing page), common practice of many adult publishers during the transition to the legalization of pornography. These kinds of books exploded across the adult paperback world in the late '60s and early '70s, albeit briefly, when the educational pretenses quickly became unnecessary.

The following scans are of two advertisements, both of which appeared in many Pendulum/Calga/SECS Press magazines, regardless of theme, circa 1971. The first ad consists solely of titles from the Peters source, whose name is not even mentioned in the copy, as part of the SECS Press Encyclopedia of Sex series. The second ad throws in a few titles from Calga's Sexual Enlightenment Series and even a couple from the non-Peters PsychoMed series (published by Pendulum's Atlanta office). 

As you check them out, how many of the Peters titles in these ads do you recognize as being by Ed? He wrote or collaborated on approximately a dozen books from the Peters source. The answer is below, after the second scan.

"Every aspect of sex... from foreplay to orgasm..."

"Photos are censored. Books are not!"

So how many did you spot? If you said zero, then congratulate yourself. You really know your T.K. Peters!