Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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

Lyle Talbot as captured by the legendary Drew Friedman.

Lyle Talbot in Plan 9.
One of the most persistent myths surrounding Edward D. Wood, Jr. concerns his untimely death on December 10, 1978. The standard story goes that Eddie passed away while watching a football game on TV, despite the oft-repeated fact that he had no interest in the sport whatsoever.

Well, I recently learned a little more about that fateful game while researching one of Wood's most frequent collaborators: Lyle Talbot (1902-1996), the sturdy, incredibly prolific character actor who appeared in Crossroad Avenger, Glen or Glenda, Jail Bait, and Plan 9 from Outer Space, amid dozens of other assignments in a film and TV career spanning six decades. In interviews, Talbot staunchly avoided mention of working with Ed Wood. But that changed with Tim Burton's 1994 biopic elevating popular interest in Eddie to its then-and-still pinnacle. 

With Glenda and Plan 9 back in the spotlight, Lyle Talbot ultimately acquiesced and started talking to the press about his days working with Ed Wood in the 1950s. Take, for instance, an article I found in the October 2, 1994 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle. Here, although Talbot's work with Wood is described as being from a "fallow" period in his career, the actor is finally empathetic toward his former boss. And that's despite the fact that he reveals his possible—and very personal—reason for his decades-long separation from the world of Wood.

Here is the article in its entirety:

TV listing for the game.
While Talbot perpetuates some longstanding myths about Ed Wood, including the canard that Plan 9's flying saucers were "hubcaps," the article nevertheless reveals a plethora of details worthy of further research. The most revealing for me—and perhaps I missed it previously—is the fact that Eddie was supposedly watching an Oakland Raiders game the day he died.

That historic contest, played at the Miami Orange Bowl to a crowd of 73,003, determined whether the Raiders or Dolphins would make the playoffs. It aired live on television, with local coverage in Los Angeles beginning at 1:00 in the afternoon, opposite The Big Valley, Get Smart, and Adam-12. As fate would have it, Don Shula's Dolphins defeated John Madden's Raiders on that strange and mournful day by a score of 23-6. By the time the Dolphins' offense overwhelmed the Raiders' defense in the second half, Ed Wood had graduated to another realm.

Then, of course, there is Talbot's story about the time an inebriated Ed Wood crashed at his place following a premiere, only to be surprised the next morning by the sight of Eddie in "a frilly nightgown with a brassiere over it." This was not the only time that Eddie raided the closet of a wife's friend, but it was Talbot's shocking introduction to the world of cross-dressing. As he told reporter Bob Stephens: "I was astonished. I was naive. I didn't know what a transvestite was until then."