Saturday, April 6, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "So Soon to be an Angel" (1971)

Try not to think about the Starbucks logo.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
Eddie had a thing for strippers.
The story: "So Soon to be an Angel," originally published in Garter Girls, vol. 5, no. 2, June/July 1971. No author listed.

Synopsis: A stripper named Angel (age: 22, real name: Rebecca Stunisky) performs her famous Fire Dance at an unnamed club. She can't really dance, but the men are there to admire her incredible body. Angel has nothing but contempt for men and takes out a lot of abuse on Perry, a gay man who serves as her masseur, dresser, and personal assistant. She mocks him and calls him "Percy." During their post-show conversation, it emerges that Angel had previously fired Perry and then forced him to make love to her to be rehired. Angel starts to feel woozy from the alcohol she's been guzzling, and she realizes too late that she's about to become a literal angel.

Wood trademarks: Angels (cf. "Super Who?"); disgruntled stripper (cf. "Flowers for Flame LeMarr"); Scotch (cf. "Blood Splatters Quickly," "The Wave Off"); bourbon (cf. "The Wave Off"); term "rot gut"for cheap, bad alcohol (cf. "Calamity Jane"); feathers as apparel (cf. Orgy of the Dead).

Excerpt: "All she thought of was the tinny music, a beat to which her feet found a certain rhythm. She hated that cruddy music. She felt her legs were designed for dancing to better orchestrations… orchestrations, hell, that bunch didn’t even have sheet music… They blew right off the top of their heads. Sometimes it sounded like they had taken the tops off their heads with the blow."

Reflections: A few stories back, while reviewing "The Last Void," I wondered whether Ed Wood were a misogynist. He has a lot of deceitful, vengeful, selfish, and untrustworthy women in his short stories. That's certainly true of Angel in this story, which seems almost like a companion piece to "Flowers for Flame LeMarr." They're both about vain, temperamental strippers whose careers come to a sudden end, though "Flowers" is slightly more forgiving. Maybe Ed mellowed a bit between 1971 and 1973.

Now is also the time to consider whether Eddie had homophobic tendencies. Critics often point out the repeated assertions in Glen or Glenda (1953) that the title character "is not a homosexual." And there are stereotypical, limp-wristed, lavender-scented gay characters in Wood films like Take It Out in Trade (1970) and The Beach Bunnies (1976). Furthermore, Eddie uses the epithet "faggot" in this and other stories in Angora Fever. And yet, I think the author's sympathies probably lie with Perry in this instance. They certainly don't lie with Angel! Other than poisoning his boss, Perry seems like a perfectly reasonable man. And it was obviously wrong for Angel to sexually abuse him in the manner described here.

By the way, Eddie's normally good about working specific elements into his stories to suit the needs of whatever publication had hired him. But "So Soon to be an Angel" appeared in a magazine called Garter Girls, and do you think I could find even one lousy garter in this thing? And it's not like there weren't opportunities. As in most Ed Wood stories, there is a great deal of discussion of what the main female character is wearing throughout "So Soon to be An Angel." Perry wants to garb her in angelic white, while she insists on demonic red. But neither one even mentions a garter!

Next: "Starve Hell" (1973)