Saturday, May 4, 2019

Ed Wood's ANGORA FEVER: "Try, Try Again" (1971)

C'mon, Tony, don't give up.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Angora Fever: The Collected Short Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (BearManor Bare, 2019).
The story's full artwork.

The story: "Try, Try Again," originally published in Suck 'Em Up, vol. 4, no. 2, October/November 1971. Credited to "Ann Gora."

Synopsis: Tony is struggling with sexual performance issues, and it's ruining his life. He hasn't been able to have sex for the last three months, and it's having a detrimental effect on his health, his appearance, and even his job! He meets a beautiful new girl, Jeanie, in a cocktail lounge and takes her back to his apartment, fearing that the same old thing will happen. Once she gets naked on his bed, his erection will disappear. And, true to form, that's exactly what happens. But Jeanie notices that Tony perks up when he sees her in her angora sweater and matching pink miniskirt. Perhaps it's time for him to consider a change of clothes... and a change of name as well!

Wood trademarks: Erectile dysfunction (cf. Necromania); vitamins (a lifelong passion for Criswell, cf. Plan 9 from Outer Space); breasts described as "mounds" (cf. "The Hooker," "A Taste for Blood," "So Soon to Be an Angel," "Unfriendly Persuasion"); limp penis compared to worm (cf. "Florence of Arabia"); tongues (cf. "Gore in the Alley," "The Hazards of the Game," "The Responsibility Game"); the color pink (cf. "2 X Double"); angora sweater (cf. "Gore in the Alley," "The Responsibility Game"); cocktail lounge (cf. The Cocktail Hostesses); Scotch (cf. "The Responsibility Game," "So Soon To Be an Angel"); cross-dressing (cf. Glen or Glenda, Death of a Transvestite, Killer in Drag); male and female versions of the same name (cf. Glen or Glenda); nylon (cf. "Then Came Thunder").

Excerpt: "He locked the door behind them and gazed at the gorgeous creature dressed in the furry pink angora sweater and matching pink miniskirt. Her legs, encased in sheer nylons ended in shoes which curved to the curve of her dainty feet. She was all woman and there was no doubt about that."

Reflections: Yesterday, I reviewed a story that had very few of Ed Wood's usual tropes, and today's story consists of almost nothing but those tropes. Who else but Eddie would write about a successful businessman who solves all of his personal and professional problems by slipping into a pink angora sweater? That's textbook Ed Wood right there. Reading all these stories back to back like this has really given me a new understanding of Eddie's particular quirks and obsessions. You can feel, in these pages, how he truly longed for any soft materials. Angora, yes, but also marabou, silk, satin, and even nylon. There's a line in Orgy of the Dead (1965) -- "This one would have died for feathers, furs, and fluff!" -- that describes the author to a T.

And Ed's characters are forever guzzling Scotch in his stories. Maybe that was wishful thinking on Ed's part, since he was reduced to drinking bottom-shelf, rotgut Imperial (an American blended whiskey) during those years. Interestingly, the few times that Scotch is mentioned in Nightmare of Ecstasy, it's usually when Ed himself is telling anecdotes about Bela Lugosi. In a chapter called "The Wood Spooks," for instance, Ed talks about a time when Bela called him in the middle of the night, begging for him to bring over a bottle of Scotch. Ed complied, only to have Bela point a gun in his face. This anecdote made it into Ed Wood (1994), but keep in mind that, in this same story, Eddie claims to have been attacked by a shark in the South Pacific.

In searching for that story in Nightmare of Ecstasy, I came upon this little gem from Valda Hansen.
I'm including it here because of that detail of Ed saying he was "turned on" during this strange little game. It suggests that Eddie's level of arousal depended greatly on fantasy and role playing, which is also true for Tony, the hero of "Try, Try Again." But it's important for Eddie to establish that his protagonist is a strict heterosexual who has plenty of willing female companions. He just occasionally enjoys dressing up in women's clothing and even assuming a female identity, that's all. It's Glen or Glenda all over again: "Glen is not a homosexual. Glen is a transvestite, but he is not a homosexual."

One last point: "Try, Try Again" is what I'd call one of Ed Wood's "uptown" stories. By the 1970s, Eddie was living in abject poverty, and a lot of his characters were doing the same. Many of the stories in Angora Fever take place in back alleys, basement apartments, and flophouses. But Ed's imagination did not stay on Skid Row. Occasionally, he liked to write about characters who shower regularly, dress fashionably, work in fancy offices, and have swanky apartments, too. So a Wood story might take place in the gutter or in a penthouse, but I think there's a special level of verisimilitude to the ones that take place in the gutter.

Next: "The Loser" (1975)