Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The 'Young Marrieds' Odyssey, Part One by Greg Dziawer

Ben exits the Nude A Go Go in Ed Wood's The Young Marrieds.

Loser of the Week

Sportscaster Stu Nahan
I remember Stu Nahan (1926-2007) as one of the color commentators in the Rocky films. Not yet in my teens, I don't think it occurred to me that Stu Nahan was essentially playing himself. For the better part of 30 years, from the 1970s through the '90s, Stu was a sports anchor in the Los Angeles television market. Early on, he appears to have had a bad week in the local press, the very same week that Ed Wood and crew were shooting the exterior location of the strip club in The Young Marrieds.

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we're taking a trip down La Cienega Blvd in West Hollywood, circa spring 1971.

I'm sure many of you noticed the two moments in The Young Marrieds when Ben exits the strip club, and quickly rushing by behind him as the camera follows him, we see a sign on the building. The club, as identified by Joe Blevins previously here at Ed Wood Wednesdays, is the Nude A Go Go. We can make out part of the sign to the right of the entrance in the first shot of Ben exiting, and the sign to the left of the door reads:


Not sure what this meant exactly, I inferred it might have something to do with Stu having made a sports prediction (or predictions) with a computer, obviously novel at the time. The prediction(s) must have been wrong, and were likely regarding an LA team, as the proprietors of the Nude A Go Go saw fit to dub Stu their Loser of the Week. Incidentally, the sign also listed Fidel Castro and Richard Nixon among its losers of the week. But what was this all about?

La Cienega Blvd. as it appears today. Note the antique store in the background.

Porn archaeologist Dimitrios Otis, the very man who found a print of The Young Marrieds and connected the dots to Ed from the "Richard Trent" director credit (Dick Trent was a common pen name), toured the location of the strip club with none other than actor and adult film flamekeeper William Margold. Dimitrios told me that Margold said the Stu Nahan reference on the sign, "had to do with perhaps Nathan acquiring some computer supposed to predict a winner (hard to imagine what "computer" that could have been) and of course failing." While that skewed with my surmise, I've been unable to locate more specific details, and sadly Mr. Margold passed away earlier this year, just as I contacted to ask him what else he knew. 

A sign for Alan Hale's Lobster Barrel
On that trip, Margold also pointed out to Dimitrios a building across the street. The Lobster Barrel was a steak and seafood joint, and at the time, it was partly-owned by none other than Alan Hale. The Skipper would not only live on in syndication after Gilligan's Island was cancelled in 1966, but in the flesh at the Lobster Barrel. This page approximates Hale's active participation in the restaurant at 15 years, through 1982. Scroll down to the comments for anecdotes and remembrances, including the priceless mention of The Skipper's typical greeting to patrons: "Come on in, the water's fine!" A forum board from 2004 has this to say about Hale's activity at the restaurant:
Alan often greeted customers wearing his skipper's hat just like the one he wore in the show. He would stroll through the restaurant greeting patrons, signing autograph cards and even giving away several "Captain's Hats." Folks said time after time that Alan had always shown extreme good will which made their experience much more memorable. 
Another version of the experience from the same board:
He'd be sitting at the bar in his skipper's hat, getting hammered. Then he'd go around from table to table, shaking people's hands and chatting with them, whether they were into it or not.
In another universe, it's interesting to imagine two aging, drunk men in their "costumes"—Shirley meets The Skipper—telling stories of their Hollywood past at the bar.

Fantasies aside, The Lobster Barrel is no longer there at 826 N La Cienega, but the building that housed it still stands. Across the street, things have changed even more dramatically since 1971. The street—shot late last year by Mike Hickey at the same angle of the camera panning as Ben exits in The Young Marrieds—is vastly different. The building (881 N La Cienega) that once housed the Nude A Go Go is gone, but (thanks to the eagle eyes of Mike Hickey and Dimitrios Otis) there remains the same antique shop sign in the distance.

The Lobster Barrel's sign is visible in this still from The Young Marrieds.

The Losers as it looked way back when.
You may still be asking yourself why the Nude A Go Go would devote signage to taking a shot at Stu Nahan. Well, as it turns out, before it was the Nude A Go Go, it was the legendary Hollywood club The Losers and the sign was a carry-over. Eddie Fisher made the sign in 1962 (presumably the proprietor at the time was a Debbie Reynolds fan?) and in that sign you can see that the very same signs were still there a decade later when they passed by in the background of a brief shot in an obscure porn film, albeit the frames of the signs look to have been painted white (or possibly replaced). Smut film aficionados will likely recognize The Losers as breeding ground for Russ Meyer talent. Erica Gavin, Kitten Natividad, Haji and Tura Satana all danced there. In this clip of marquee drive-by footage, you can see the club was still The Losers in 1970 (at the 0:19 mark). 

If that's not enough ephemera for you, recall this poetic bit of trivia: 
KTLA gained a bit of notoriety among fans of the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 on November 30, 1991 with the airing of their mockery of the movie War of the Colossal Beast. In the movie, there are scenes of a KTLA news anchor predicting where the title character Glen Manning will end up next. That anchor is the real KTLA reporter Stan Chambers, with the station since the beginning and still reporting daily from the field (as of 2009). The anchor ends up pronouncing the station's call letters as "KIT-lah". In a skit segment later in the show, Joel Robinson, portrayed by Joel Hodgson, mocks the anchor's "KTLA Predicts" style of newsreading and parodies Criswell. The phrase "KTLA Predicts" became a catchphrase among fans of the show.

And finally, I entered the bit of trivia about the sign in The Young Marrieds on Stu Nahan's IMDb page in a fit of irreverence. You'll notice that among Stu's film and TV appearances, he turned up in the 1981 made-for TV film The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island

I couldn't make it all up if I tried, and fortunately I don't have to. 

We'll return to The Young Marrieds Odyssey, to the inside of the strip club, identifying one of the models in the photos that flit through Ben's mind in his moment of decision at the film's climax, and of course we'll revisit the set decorations, all right here in future Ed Wood Wednesdays.
Special thanks to self-confessed location junkie Mike Hickey for the shot of La Cienega today, and to Dimitrios Otis and (belatedly) William Margold for sharing details about the location.