Friday, March 29, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "The Hazards of the Game" (1972)

Getting up close and personal.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
An issue of Garter Girls.
The story: "The Hazards of the Game," originally published in Garter Girls, vol. 6, no. 1, March/February 1972. Credited to "Dick Trent."

Synopsis: Pete is a contract killer who has been having a torrid love affair with an underwear model named Georgia for the last seven and a half months. She knows all about his line of work and discusses it openly with him after a night of vigorous lovemaking. Pete doesn't seem to mind; he enjoys his job and even admits he occasionally experiences an erection while killing someone. Pete suggests Gloria get into making pornographic films, but she's squeamish about getting a sexually-transmitted disease. Pete counters that STDs are just "hazards of the game" in her job, as bullets are in his. Gloria can tell that Pete is especially keyed up, the way he always is before doing a job, but she's shocked to learn the identity of his next target.

Wood trademarks: Cross-dressing (cf. Glen or Glenda, Love Feast); contract killer (cf. Killer in Drag, Death of a Transvestite); angora and other fur (cf. "Hitchhike to Hell," many other stories); marabou (cf. Bride and the Beast); sheer nylon and lingerie (cf. Glen or Glenda); the color pink (cf. "2 X Double"); "dork" as slang for penis (cf. "To Kill a Saturday Night," "The Autograph," "Come Inn"); booze/whiskey (cf. nearly all of Blood Splatters Quickly).

Excerpt: “Yeah! I can just see us getting married and settling down and having a flock of kids…. What do you do for a living, daddy…? I kill people, young son or daughter… that’s what I do, and I make a lot of money, that’s why you can go to all these fine private schools…. And soon I’ll teach you my business.”

Reflections: Ed Wood wrote a lot about prostitutes and hitmen. These are occupations that recur in his fiction, both short-form and long-form, with surprising regularity. In reviewing the stories in Blood Splatters Quickly, I drew a comparison between prostitution and Ed's own writing career. It's not difficult to imagine Ed seeing himself as a literary prostitute of sorts, churning out page after page of sleazy pornographic text just so he could buy booze and pay his rent.

But if Ed was a whore, perhaps he also thought of himself as a contract killer, too. His occupation may not have been overly respectable, but he was good at it. He was a professional who kept getting hired because his bosses knew he got results. He was the right man for the job, in other words. This very story, for instance, was written for a garter-themed magazine, and you'd better believe Ed includes numerous references to garters and stockings here.

Whether you're killing people, selling your body, or writing smut, it's important to enjoy what you're doing so you can take pride in your work. That's a very consistent theme in Wood's fiction. Our main characters in this story both love what they do. Even Sandra, the traumatized streetwalker from "Gore in the Alley," enjoys some aspects of her scandalous profession. Whatever the job is, you make it yours somehow. That's how you get through the day.

It's clear that Ed was thinking about his own writing career when he wrote "The Hazards of the Game." Georgia explicitly compares Pete to a writer and says he should consider that line of work. But Pete says it'd never work. For one thing, he can't type. We all know that wasn't a problem for Ed.

Next: "The Hooker" (1972)