Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood/Dziawer Odyssey by Greg Dziawer

Me now and him then: Greg Dziaweer and Ed Wood.

I've been in a reflective mood of late, thinking about this odyssey I'm on, researching the work of Ed Wood. How did I get here, to this point of serious obsession? Why am I here and what I am getting from this experience? My mind's in a muddle.  
In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, please indulge me in sharing a bit of my personal journey with Ed Wood and into his Art (yeah, I said it!). 
Last spring, my mother decided to put her home and business up for sale and finally, and more-than-deservedly, retire. Past retirement age, she had continued running the mom-and-pop shop my parents took over from my grandfather, begun in 1937. Open 12 hours a day, seven days of the week. A piece of the fabric of a small and affluent community, situated on a lake. I even had an amusement park down the road a mere mile away, with a wild and rickety old roller coaster that made your teeth hurt. The last day that coaster ran was the day of my second grade field trip to the park. I rode the coaster 27 times that day, wearing a yellow T-shirt with a Saturday Night Fever glitter logo on it. The things one remembers.... 
It was a poignant moment, to say the least, when my mother placed a hand-written sign on the front door of the store and we walked away for the last time last August. THANKS FOR 43 WONDERFUL YEARS, it said, among other sentiments. My father, stricken with Alzheimer's, didn't understand what was happening. The new owner tore down the building two weeks later.  
Although I had not lived there for more than a decade, I spent the first 35 years of my life there. Earlier last summer, my mother began securing sales for pieces of the property, ultimately sold off in four lots: the store on its lot (including the apartment above it where I lived for the first three years of my first marriage, and where my father was born, in the same bedroom he last occupied when they moved out last summer); the vacant lot next to it (a house I had lived in during the latter half of my teens through my mid-twenties was torn down around 2006); a small strip of bare lakefront; and a strip of lakefront with a lengthy deck and cabana (I lived in that cabana most summers through the mid-'90s right on the water).

Rudolph Grey's book.

It was just about a year ago, in the process of helping my parents move out, that I finally took the 3,000 or so books in my mom's attic (deposited there after I sold my house in 2004, a log cabin in an adjacent lot...but that's another story) and stored them in my storage shed. About eight years running now, I've paid them a ridiculous sum to store what are clearly my inessentials, while my mostly-empty attic beckons to fulfill its purpose.

Curiously, though, among those books was Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. and the reprints of Ed Wood's own Hollywood Rat Race, Killer in Drag, and Death of a Transvestite. I kept those out of storage, and no sooner than blinking, my flirtations with Ed Wood immediately caught up with me and I fell into a relationship. I had seen Bride of the Monster first, in the mid-'80s, on a public domain tape. The Hollywood biopic, Grey's book, releases on VHS of rare titles...I kept up with it all.

In particular, I recollect a moment circa 2000, sitting on the floor leaning up against the futon in the living room of that apartment above the store. Watching Glen or Glenda for the first time on DVD. Genius, I knew, but life continued to happen as is its wont, and for more than a decade, Ed Wood was at best on my periphery.

That all changed a year or so ago, and since I've had the privilege of Joe Blevins graciously giving me space on this blog. His work on Ed Wood Wednesdays was largely responsible in fueling my Wood obsession. And I've met many friends, even a few folks who knew Ed. The tribe of Woodologists out there are a generous and smart bunch. Through them - and frankly thanks to a patient application of Google - I've experienced revelations sometimes by the day in the last year. A new tidbit about the esteemed Dr. T.K. Peters. Ruling out a false Ed-tribution. Finding a scan of a Pendulum mag. Even occasionally winning an auction, as much as my bank account permits.

Kitten and Elyse.

It's enriching, this Woodology. A lifelong atheist, I even went so far a month or so ago in an email to a fellow Woodologist to say that this work is bringing me closer to a God I don't believe in. At very least, a spiritual awakening is a pretty heady experience. 

And these revelatory experiences need nurturing. Although Kitten and I got engaged about five years ago, we never followed through on the ceremonial piece. We've both been married before, and the formality seems mere formality. For whatever reason, she impossibly endures my obsession. Next to me, I suspect, she is the most knowledgeable person on planet Earth about the life and work of T.K. Peters, albeit purely via patience. Enduring this obsession can't be easy. Elyse - our 13-year-old daughter - has a phone case made of some sort of black fur. I asked her yesterday if it was angora. 

A muddled mind, indeed, and now impossibly working on the revision to that crucial index, I'm only more bewildered.

She didn't know what type of fur it was. It looked very soft and fluffy, not out of the realm of possibility. Of course most folks don't know that angora when utilized in garments is from rabbits. Angora fur also grows on the backs - and the legs and the chests and the asses - of sheep, but when used in garments it's called mohair. I explained this and Elyse eyed me patiently.


Louie and Chanel (aka Nelby).
The dogs, too, Louie and Chanel (aka Nelby, as I call her) seem to support my obsession in a laissez-faire manner.

Likewise the three cats: Sterling, Johnny and Ivy. Sterling and Ivy often sit here in my lap as I surf and type. Johnny is the Miracle Cat! A few years back, our apartment building was infested with cockroaches, and the landlady told us she was bombing the whole fucking place. We dispatched the cats (then including Nico, Sterling's older sister who passed last September at the age of 15, enduring 5 years of diabetes and a needle twice a day) to a vacant apartment upstairs above a friend. The next day, Johnny was gone. For weeks, we plastered telephone poles with pleas around the neighborhood. Going right for the gut, they said, among other sentiments: "A Young Girl's Heart is Broken!"

We received many calls of sightings. I walked the neighborhood, talking to people on their porches. We returned again and again to the vacant apartment. I pulled out the refrigerator, and ran my hand up inside the back around the motor. We opened every cupboard, over and over.

Johnny the Miracle Cat and Ivy.
Eighteen days after Johnny went missing, I was driving down the highway on my way home from work. The highway of endless construction setups, but no construction. I've been driving that highway back and forth twice a day for almost seven years. My cellphone rang, and it was Kitten.

"They found Johnny!" she said, exultantly. I sped to the apartment, and Johnny was still in the ceiling. A drop ceiling. Earlier, the son of Kitten's friend, both of whom lived downstairs, wandered up to the vacant apartment to smoke a bowl. He heard the sounds of claws skittering across the drop ceiling in the kitchen, the immediate room one enters in that apartment.

By the time I arrived, Justin (the son of Kitten's friend) had removed approximately two-thirds of the ceiling blocks in the kitchen. Johnny was trapped on a block in the corner. When we tried to corner him, he leaped though our hands and into a hollow above the top shelf of the kitchen cabinets. We pried off the edge of the cabinet to get at him, and he finally fell into my arms.

Johnny survived 18 days in that drop ceiling. He had, we discovered, run up a hollow in the corner of the kitchen cabinets. Though he went up, he could not figure out how to go down.

Eighteen days, with no evident source of food or water, living in the cramped three-inch space of a drop ceiling. The Miracle Cat! We immediately took him home, set him down in the kitchen in front of food and water, and he raced to the back of the apartment, the opposite end, to the litter boxes.

And he peed. Then he returned to the kitchen and ate.


Ed Wood is just oddball ephemeral trivia to many, perhaps, but Art matters. And Ed is, to my mind, an Outsider Artist of a very unique stripe. He persisted, even if only on the edges, in spaces where nearly all fail outright. And given inherent limitations, he communicated a distinctive worldview. He was a complicated, imperfect person, no doubt, all too human. His work continues to surprise me, as I increasingly feel I am only scratching the surface of his known work.

My goals are:
  • RECOGNIZE ED (as Outsider)
  • INDEX ED (fully...and no, that's not impossible)
  • ACCESS ED (clamor for won't happen on its own)
Tomorrow is another day. That's a fact. A new BE-gun!

Archivist Dimitrios Otis, who identified Ed Wood's last-directed feature, The Young Marrieds, from a unique print (two exist), told me that Ed is a "duty."

Da Story Must be Told!