Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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

Another week, another obscure author to ponder.

A Carr-penned paperback
In a previous installment of the Wood Erotica Odyssey, we identified the supposed title Swedish House from Ed's resume as a paperback line and not a paperback title, as has been commonly surmised. We subsequently delved into one author of titles from the Swedish House line, concluding those titles were not written by Ed. This week, we'll take a closer look at Hudson Carr.

Hudson Carr is credited author of (at least) three titles in the Swedish House line, a brief paperback line from 1978 published by Art Publishers, Inc. The company that once began as Pendulum Publishing in the late '60s, where Ed worked as a magazine staff writer (see previous Odysseys et al for more on this) morphed through the '70s into the publisher/producer/distributor of Swedish Erotica loops, magazines and books. Even that megalith, begun modestly a mere decade earlier by Bernie Bloom (a patriarchal figure in Ed's life for well over a decade in his final years) under sponsorship from porn kingpin and later convicted murderer Michael Thevis, would soon be subsumed by an even bigger porn empire: Caballero Control. Corp, run by Bernie's son Noel Bloom.

With no known Swedish House paperback titles credited to Ed or a recognized pseudonym of his, Hudson Carr is worth considering. He was writing adult paperbacks in the Los Angeles/Hollywood area where a cluster of large and small paperback publishers operated in the first half of the '70s. 

The earliest Carr credit I came across is for Nightmare for a Virgin (1971) from Brandon House's imprint Dansk Blue Books (DBB-128). The very next year, Carr penned The Carnal Kiss for Brandon. Although the genre's material had become numbingly graphic by this point, Carr was obviously having fun:
There I'd be, halfway up the hill to glory, and Mitch was pouring his boiling fluids into my hungry, aching womb. And it wasn't like Mitch didn't know any better—he's a college man with three years of business administration under his belt. Maybe he didn't graduate, but in my opinion, he's smarter than any of the guys who went on for their master's degree! 
-The Carnal Kiss, 1972, Brandon Books BB-6233

Told as a first-person series of confessions across the sexual spectrum, with pseudo-scientific wrappers (an intro, and summations at the end of each confession, or in this case, "kiss") citing the usual suspects, from Freud and Jung to Masters and Johnson, The Carnal Kiss is a perfectly representative artifact of its era. That's not something I'd likely find myself saying about a title written by Ed. But that's not a FACT, so we need to dig deeper. 

The Nymph-Stud House followed, again from Brandon (BB-6522) and also with a "scientific" intro. But for the main course, in place of first-person confessions, we here get narrative text, playing to Carr's strengths. The pace never lags, and "Judson Carr" (as the introduction mistakenly introduces him) even aspires to an occasionally breathless literary flair:
Still lying on her back, her feet pointed towards the sea, she opened her legs, exposing her damp thighs to the cooling breeze off the ocean. It felt good and she liked it and just before she fell asleep again she felt the dampness start between her legs and she wished the surf would just once reach her and soothe the heavy heat that felt so good. 

Carr/Rodriguez penned The Making of a Teenage Call-Boy for Barclay House in 1973. We'd go too far afield to dig into all of the details surrounding the relationship of Brandon Books, Brandon House and Barclay House, and where Bernie Bloom and Dansk Blue Books fit into the picture. Suffice to say, at least two of Ed's fellow mag staffers wrote for these publishers. And if you guessed that Hudson Carr is one of them, you win the prize!

But if Hudson Carr is a co-worker of Ed's and not Ed, then who is he?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Time for a clown cartoon. Sorry.

Oh, Snoodles, when will you ever learn?

Credit where credit is due: I found a one-panel cartoon by Ryan Burke at this site and then decided to expand it to a full comic strip. I sincerely hope you don't enjoy it.

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part Eleven by Greg Dziawer

Get it? Washington? York?

The renowned Mr. York.
In a previous article, I closed by asking the cryptic question: Who wrote "The Legend of Washington York?"

It's a question that continues to haunt me. I additionally opined that solving the York Riddle would spill us beyond the "next and final frontier" of Woodology. That tall claim intimidates as much as it excites me. Once again unto the breach, this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays falls eagerly headlong into the darkest corners of Woodology: the uncredited pictorial text and the gay-themed Pendulum-family mag.

The pictorial "The Legend of Washington York," from the Apr/May issue of Pendulum's Male Lovers, Vol 2 No 1 (and reprinted in the 1971 Male Lovers Annual), runs a mere four pages and its accompanying text is only 10 lines long:









Any of the Pendulum mag staffers could have written these freewheeling rhymed couplets on a lark. At the time, staffers included Leo Eaton, Robin "Redbreast" Eagle and William D. "Bill" Jones... and, of course, Ed Wood.

Though we still lack an answer to the crucial question of who wrote these lines, I must confess that this has become one of my favorite poems. Its accompanying pictorial achieves the pinnacle of Pendulum's authenticity.

Beyond that, I'll let it speak for itself.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Darkness at the heart of 'Marvin'

My slight rewrite of today's Marvin.

Tom Armstrong's Marvin strikes me as one of the unhappiest domestic comedies in the world of syndicated cartoons. Sure, people point to Funky Winkerbean as a cesspool of ceaseless misery, which it is, and The Lockhorns do not disguise their hatred for one another. But the ostensibly cheerful Marvin, about a baby who never ages and the parents who are stuck caring for him for all eternity, seems profoundly darker than either of those other examples. So I decided to take this Sunday Marvin and give it just a slight rewrite.

Here's another recent Marvin rewrite of mine. This is a little more upbeat, because I've given the parents a way out of their personal purgatory.

Shouldn't there be a horror film called Gore-phanage by now?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 64: Ed Wood, Jack Webb, and police procedurals

Two hardworking cops: Harvey B. Dunn and Tony McCoy in Bride of the Monster.

Try to imagine the world as it was before Jack Webb came along. Here's how authors Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik describe that world in their review of Dragnet in the 1989 book Harry And Wally's Favorite TV Shows:
     When Jack Webb first developed the series on radio in 1949, and two years later on TV, Dragnet was a breath of fresh air in the world of pop culture cops. Before Dragnet, crime fighting was usually portrayed on radio and TV in an overly romantic light. Policemen or private eyes would effortlessly deduce the criminal's identity and then outtrick the felon, while engaging in witty repartee and romancing some young lovely at the same time.
      While this image is fine for light entertainment now and then, it paints a wildly distorted image of what real policemen go through. Dragnet changed all that. In Dragnet, thanks to Jack Webb's unwavering dedication to realism, you see the boredom, the red tape, the hard work, the long hours, and the frustration of real police work.
In other words, Webb was essential in shaping the still-vital storytelling form we know today as the police procedural. That's a type of detective fiction in which the audience is shown the steps that police officers go through in solving a crime. It remains a popular subspecies, especially in television, but also in films, novels, short stories, and plays. Dragnet has been accurately called "the most famous procedural of all time." Interesting that Webb's radio show should debut in 1949 with the television adaptation appearing just two years later on NBC. Webb and the character he portrayed, no-nonsense Los Angeles cop Joe Friday, were ascending to prominence just as East Coast transplant Edward D. Wood, Jr. was beginning his three-decade career in film and television in Hollywood.

"Unwavering dedication to realism" is not the phrase that jumps to most people's minds when discussing the work of Ed Wood. Indeed, Eddie's willingness to jump headfirst into absurdity is one of the main selling points of his work today. Dadaists, surrealists, primitivists, satirists, and outsider artists can all claim Ed as one of their own. And yet, consider this: Virtually all of the films with which Ed is most closely associated—especially those from his 1953-1957 golden years—are police procedurals to one extent or another. I'd argue that Jack Webb had as much influence over Eddie's work, if not more so, as Tod Browning or James Whale.

The trend truly starts with Ed Wood's debut feature, 1953's Glen or Glenda, but the seeds were planted even earlier. That same year, Ed wrote and directed Crossroad Avenger: The Adventures of the Tucson Kid, a failed pilot for a proposed Western series starring Tom Keene, who unfortunately proved a dullard in the title role. Keene's straight-shooting character is not actually a cop; he's an insurance investigator. But the basics of his job are not dissimilar to police work. He looks into insurance claims that seem fishy, just the way a cop would investigate a case. He talks to suspects and witnesses and, when necessary, exchanges gunfire with the bad guys. Crossroad Avenger might be described as an Old West equivalent of the radio show Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, which also centered around an insurance investigator. Dollar hit the airwaves just months before Dragnet.

Just a man with a job to do: Lyle Talbot in Glen or Glenda.

But then we come to Glen or Glenda, ostensibly Ed Wood's statement on his own transvestism as well as the then-shocking sexual reassignment surgery of Christine Jorgensen. There is no real reason for this movie to be a police procedural, and yet it is one. The movie's framing story centers around the eminently Webb-ian character of Inspector Warren (Lyle Talbot, who would eventually appear in an episode of Dragnet 1967), a veteran of the police force who investigates the suicide of a transvestite. His inquiries lead him to the office of Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell). The movie-length conversation between Alton and Warren comprises the spine of the film. At one point, the doctor mentions his guest's reputation as "a hard-hearted policeman." The inspector replies with a monologue that, in its clumsy but earnest way, attempts to explain the plight of all professional lawmen:
Isn't that what's thought of most policemen? The laws are written. The policeman is hired to see that those laws are enforced. We have a job to do. As in most jobs, there is always someone who doesn't want that job to be done. In most factories today, the employer has put up suggestion boxes. Even the employer needs advice once in a while. I think in the case we're referring to, I need advice. Maybe it shouldn't have happened as it did. Perhaps the next time we can prevent it.
If this weren't a story about a cross-dresser, that monologue could have come directly from Joe Friday himself. Compare it to Friday's infamous "John Law" monologue from Dragnet. An excerpt of that speech follows:
It's awkward having a policeman around the house. Friends drop in. A man with a badge answers the door. The temperature drops 20 degrees. You throw a party, and that badge gets in the way. All of a sudden there isn't a straight man in the crowd. Everybody's a comedian. "Don't drink too much," somebody says, "or the man with a badge'll run you in." Or "How's it going, Dick Tracy? How many jaywalkers did you pinch today?" And then there's always the one who wants to know how many apples you stole. All at once you lost your first name. You're a cop, a flatfoot, a bull, a dick, John Law. You're the fuzz, the heat; you're poison, you're trouble, you're bad news. They call you everything, but never a policeman.
You might think that a nonconformist like Wood, who surrounded himself with outcasts and deviates, would be incompatible with the notoriously straight-arrow, right-leaning Webb. But Eddie was a conservative man in matters of politics. He didn't approve of illicit drugs, rock music, hippies, or protesters. As Eddie got further and further into writing paperback novels in the late 1960s, one of his pet themes was how Los Angeles was being overrun by long-haired, androgynous degenerates. That was largely what Dragnet was about during those same turbulent years. Eddie and Jack might have agreed on a lot, had they ever met.

Moore and Duncan: They're cops!

But let's get back to the 1950s, when Ed Wood was making the movies on which his professional reputation would one day depend. In the Wood films from that period, there is one motif that comes up over and over and over again, even more than angora sweaters or the resurrection of the dead. Watch Jail Bait or Bride of the Monster or Plan 9 From Outer Space or Night of the Ghouls, and you know what you'll see? Hard-working, stressed-out police officers tasked with solving seemingly impossible cases. 

How appropriate that Ed's career as a mainstream (or mainstream-ish) director ended with 1960's The Sinister Urge, maybe the single most Dragnet-esque movie in Wood's entire filmography. Here, Kenne Duncan and Duke Moore are police officers dedicated to stamping out the menace of pornography, even if that means spending hours sorting through the smut themselves. Tough break, guys. Wood must have been fond of these characters, as he planned to bring them back for a never-to-be sequel called The Peeper.

Most of Wood's cop characters are plainclothesmen, just like Joe Friday. Their hours are long. Their pay is short. And the job wreaks havoc on their private lives. Poor Duke Moore spends Night of the Ghouls in a tuxedo, having been called away from attending the opera with his wife. Even when detectives Lyle Talbot and Steve Reeves stop off for a drink after work in Jail Bait, their professional duties don't end. They immediately run into a pair of known criminals and have a tense conversation with them. A policeman's job is never done. No wonder Reeves barely has time to half-heartedly flirt with Dolores Fuller's character.

The cops who populate Ed Wood's movies are in the Jack Webb/Dragnet mold in that their work brings them no apparent joy whatsoever. Their jobs are anything but effortless, and they don't engage in any "witty repartee" either. Even if Ed could have written such dialogue, his characters wouldn't have been in the mood to recite it. Their lives do not seem fun. In Plan 9, two uniformed patrolmen played by Conrad Brooks and Paul Marco are dispatched to the local cemetery to investigate the strange goings-on there. "What are we doing out here?" Brooks whines. "I was off duty an hour ago." Marco is not sympathetic: "Aw, don't ask me any questions. I'm just a hired hand, just like you."

That outright hostility is not typical of Wood's cop characters, but the general air of world weariness is. Marco sees himself and the other police officers in the film as "hired hands," men who have a job to do. It may not be a glamorous job or even a safe one, but it has to be done by somebody. That's something both Jack Webb and Ed Wood inherently understood.

P.S. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Joe Friday's deathless catchphrase, "Just the facts, ma'am." Jack Webb never actually uttered those four words on Dragnet, but the line became associated with the character anyway because of numerous parodies and impersonations. And, as every Ed Wood fan knows, one of the hallmarks of Wood's writing is that his characters insist on being told "the facts." Whether this is a symptom of Webb's influence on Wood is unknown, but it does lend credence to the theory anyway.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part Ten by Greg Dziawer

The bonds of matrimony.

Two areas of Woodology still remain to be more fully explored: (1) Ed's work for the gay-themed Pendulum-family magazines and (2) identifying texts accompanying pictorials in those same mags as Ed's work. Both tall orders.

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we present a few choice excerpts from a short piece that covers both of these areas. This pictorial text, "married & in love............." (and yes, this is how the title is appears in the mag, with 13 ellipses), is from Pendulum's Gay Studs, vol. 3 no. 3 from 1971, one of four such uncredited texts in this issue (as it appears with no corrections):

They simply wanted to get married and that's what they did. Paul became the husband in the affair and Gene the wife or the passive one. Although Gene is not a drag queen, he arrived in the small town wearing a pink sweater set and light brown skirt and a dark, shoulder length wig which matched his own hair. And Paul, the anxious husband, wore his light brown business suit and brown tie. They searched out a Justice of the Peace, paid the license and went through with the ceremony. Gene used a feigned falsetto voice which sounded a bit strained but he was able to talk that off as a hang over from a recent cold. He made up as a good looking girl so there was no denying what the eyes could see.  
It was simple to change the "G" to "J" so that he became Jean for the entrance into the village, the marriage and the exit to an edge of the town where they took a honeymoon motel cottage and there Jean became Gene again. Neither one of them like anything on their bodies when they are having an affair. It's all a very naked. very real happening.  
Most of the GAY crowd don't stay together very long with any one partner because they are a fickle bunch. They are always on the look out for some new trade. But that isn't and hasn't been the intentions of Paul and Gene from the very first when they met at a GAY gathering in one of the local taverns. Both being short of money they were always on the look out for bars which had cocktail hours in which they served hors d' oeuvres or other free foods. In that way they could buy a beer or two and partake of the free meal. Most of the GAY BARS have such offerings quite often and each one attempts out doing the other in order to get the trade. 

The same issue contains a short story by Ed, the classic "I , Warlock" (misidentified as "The Warlock" on the contents page, and the only piece in the mag with a credit). We previously identified a few snippets of pictorial texts that possess an Ed-like ring, without making a claim. I have a stronger feeling about this one, but I'll keep it to myself for now.

Eddie or not? Tell us what you think.
NOTE: Due to the explicit nature of the material from Gay Studs, the photos accompanying this week's article have been posted to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

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

Only the infinity of the depths of a man's mind can really tell the story.

Sterling, my co-author
Not that anyone asked, but this week I'd like to delve into the methodology—or perhaps the lack thereof—in writing these Ed Wood Wednesdays blog posts. 

At any given time, I'm usually engaged in half a dozen or so angles of Woodology. That entails sitting down for a few hours a night after work here at the PC in my small, cluttered office, Googling away patiently and inquisitively, while sipping a beer or two. As now, Sterling often sits in my lap. Many nights, the hours and the beers increase. And as the weeks wear on, I've engaged myself since last October in producing a blog post every seven days. You are reading the very same right this second!

My obsession with Ed Wood has morphed into a Mission Statement, a "duty":
  • Recognize Ed (as an outsider artist)
  • Index Ed (fully...and no, that's not impossible)
  • Access Ed (clamor for it; it won't happen on its own)