Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, Part 12 by Greg Dziawer

This dapper gent was the mascot of Germany's Mister Climax series of loops.

It is now generally believed that Edward D. Wood, Jr. "made" the first 19 entries in the notorious Swedish Erotica series of pornographic 8mm loops in the early 1970s, possibly writing and directing these short silent films and almost assuredly writing their subtitles. But this was far from his only participation in the world of loops. Previous articles in this series have explored the likelihood that, at the very least, Ed continued writing subtitles and perhaps even box cover summaries for this series and numerous other short X-rated films. If so, it's an exciting new world of Wood work for fans to study and analyze.

Commonly, the Swedish Erotica series is composed of loops that were either shot stateside—in Los Angeles and, later, San Francisco—or overseas in Denmark. The foreign-made films were acquired via an international co-distribution deal with European porn behemoth Color Climax. Some of the imports, when repackaged for the home market in America, featured subtitles by Ed. And both the domestic and imported Swedish Erotica loops from this era contain subtitles with distinctive earmarks indicating Ed's involvement. That's over 100 loops, released right through 1978!

It was only recently that I realized the full geographical scope of Ed Wood's career in vintage porn. His work was not limited to just Hollywood and Copenhagen. To wit: Swedish Erotica loop #49, "The Elevator." This film was originally produced by a German company called Tonfilm and released in the Mister Climax series as loop #27, "Fahrstulporno," a title that translates roughly as "lift porn."

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Comics are fun for everybody! Let's read some now!

Batman is not in this article. This image is lying to you.

I know I just did a comics roundup a few weeks ago, but I figured it would be a nice change of pace to post something non-Ed Wood-related to this blog. So let's dive in and swim, huh?

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 84: Ed Wood Goes to College (1974)

This week, let's put the "Ed" in "higher education."

"My school was the open road, pain and suffering my textbooks. My teachers? The gypsies and rapscallions I met along the way."
-Manny Coon

Anderson House in Washington, D.C.
There is no solid evidence to suggest that Edward D. Wood, Jr. earned any degree beyond his high school diploma. But the pre-Hollywood years of his life are still only sketchily documented at best, so it's entirely possible Ed continued his studies in some fashion after his 1942-46 stint in the military. In Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy, Wood's widow Kathy recalled: "He told me he went to Northwestern University in Chicago after he got out of the Marine Corps." Could this have been another of Ed's tall tales or did the director of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) really study at the prestigious institution?

Ed's business partner John Crawford Thomas alleged that Eddie studied writing at the Kingsmith School of the Creative Arts in Washington, D.C. and even typed the script for Crossroads of Laredo on official Kingsmith stationery. The address Thomas lists for the place—2118 Massachusetts Ave. NW—is that of the historic Anderson House, which since 1939 has been a museum and library run by the Society of the Cincinnati. Rudolph Grey's own timeline of Ed Wood's life states that in 1946, Ed studied "at Kings School of Dramatic Arts, Frank Lloyd Wright Institute, Washington, D.C." Note the subtle name change from Thomas' version of the story.

Whatever academic adventures Ed Wood may have had in his own life, higher education remained a sub-motif in his work from the 1950s to the 1970s. In Glen or Glenda (1953), for instance, Dolores Fuller's character, Barbara, is introduced as a college student with "only seven months to go" in her schooling. She is apparently studying psychology and has graduated by the end of the film, crowing, "My studies are through, college is concluded, and I'm free at last!" Not that all this education helps Barbara cope with the tricky issues of life. "The end of study is only the beginning of reality," she somberly declares. I've seen Glenda with college-age audiences, and this line tends to get appreciative howls from them.

In truth, by the way, Dolores Fuller only pursued her own education after leaving Ed Wood. In Nightmare of Ecstasy, she lists "going to college" as one of her proudest post-Wood accomplishments. Eddie, meanwhile, merely frequented a bar called the College Inn with actor Kenne Duncan and cinematographer Bill Thompson.

More college connections? Well, The Undergradute (1971), which Ed Wood wrote for producer Jacques Descent, takes place entirely on a college campus and consists of an explicit sex lecture given by an open-minded teacher (John Dullaghan) to his libidinous students. The Class Reunion (1972), one of Ed's many collaborations with producer-director Stephen C. Apostolof, centers around the horny alumni of "the old alma mater," who gather in a hotel for a weekend to screw, drink, and reminisce. Wood and Apostolof would have explored collegiate life further in two more films, The Basketballers and The Teachers, but neither of these scripts was ever produced.

And then there are the two collegiate-themed articles I'm covering this week, both of them from 1974. Technically, these fall under the category of non-fiction, but Ed's supposed "research" is so obviously fraudulent that I'd be willing to think of them as short stories. These are presented as true-to-life exposés, but they derive solely from the imagination of Ed Wood.

More collegiate adventures.
The stories:
  • "College Cherries," originally published in Fantastic Annual, January/February 1974. Credited to "Dick Trent." 
  • "College Interview," originally published in Cherry, vol. 3, no. 1, January/February 1974. Credited to "Ann Gora." Both of these articles were anthologized in Short Wood: Short Fiction by Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Ramble House, 2009).

Synopses:
  • "College Cherries" describes the sex lives of contemporary college students, particularly females. Girls are no longer concerned about protecting their virginity, so boys are therefore less reliant on prostitutes and homosexuality to fulfill their needs. Meanwhile, the innocent campus fads of old, such as goldfish-swallowing and panty raids, have been replaced by "pot-sex orgy parties." Girls are also much more sexually aggressive now, which is an improvement over the old days, when women entered into marriage with little to no sexual knowledge. College, the article concludes, is a time for people to experiment with as many sex partners as possible. When these young people get married, they'll know "what it's all about" in the bedroom.
  • "College Interview" presents itself as the testimony of a young woman called Dolores S., supposedly a student at "a major university." She does not believe that society will return to the puritanical ways of the past, when girls who got pregnant or even talked about sex openly were disowned by their families. Dolores says things are better now, when people can talk honestly about their sexual hang-ups. She says that sexual frustration drove people to insanity or alcoholism in the past. But no more! Dolores will do whatever she wants, including fellatio and lesbianism. Sex is out in the open, and it can't be "shoved back into the dark closet ever again."
   
Wood trademarks: "Missionary position" (again italicized, cf. "The Exterminator," "Never Look Back"); whorehouses (cf. "The Whorehouse Horror"); typing in ALL CAPS (cf. "Never Up—Never In"); phrase "what it's all about" (cf. Necromania); women's underwear (cf. Bloomer Girls); ellipses (cf. nearly all stories in Blood Splatters Quickly and Angora Fever); invention of the automobile and the airplane (cf. Glen or Glenda); disdain for puritanism (cf. Orgy of the Dead); the scourge of alcoholism (cf. Nightmare of Ecstasy); mention of the play The Blackguard (cf. The Blackguard Returns); character named Dolores (possible nod to Dolores Fuller); "medical men of science" (cf. Glen or Glenda).

Excerpts:
  • (from "College Cherries") "And of course the panty and brassiere raids of yesterday were mild events when considered with the demands of today. Simply stealing the undies isn't enough any longer. Now the boys demand getting into the places which the panties and the brassiere covered… and where the lipstick was once well painted. However there are still the collectors… such as the young fellow who brags about having more than a hundred panties in his locker… each taken from a girl he has laid… or had various forms of sex with."
  • (from "College Interview") "Now isn't it better that the whole thing is right out in the open? There certainly are fewer people going to the rubber room at the happy farm because of their sexual hang ups. Bedlam, the kookoo bin in England, might never have been necessary if the medical men and men of science started thinking with an open mind centuries ago. But they are a stubborn lot. They wanted all the knowledge so they could keep the rest of the people from finding out what a phony most of them were."
   
Dr. Alton in Glen or Glenda.
Reflections: Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, college campuses were seen as hotbeds of sexual experimentation, where students were living wild, libertine lifestyles, finally unshackled from the stifling morality of the past. Or at least that's the image of campus life consistently presented in pornography of the era. In a way, this makes sense. College kids are generally young, healthy, and of legal age. Plus, they're out on their own, living away from their parents for the first time. And students of the era were challenging social and political norms.

But the middle-aged men in the porno biz didn't really care about politics or society. They just wanted to drool over those attractive college kids having no-holds-barred, no-strings-attached sex. Sex without guilt! Sex without commitment! Sex with one partner after another!

It's interesting to me that these adult magazines had to disguise all this as supposed scientific research. Pseudo-documentary films like Glen or Glenda (1953) and The Undergraduate (1971) have been called "white coaters," since they attempt to present salacious or lewd material in a dry, educational manner. "College Cherries" and "College Interview" are the textual equivalent of "white coaters," since they're both written like news articles. In the former, Eddie even cites a bogus expert named Dr. Graham B. Balini, who insists that "Radcliffe girls think petting is dirty because it's teasing. They feel if you are going to do it, it's better just to have sexual intercourse.” Uh huh. Sure. Please do not ask for Dr. Balini's professional credentials.

It's difficult to suss out Ed Wood's true opinion of homosexuality in these articles. In "College Cherries," he writes: "Perhaps something very good has come from the sexual revolution on the campus however, because the incidents of male homosexuality has dropped considerably. When the girls were keeping the legs of their panties tight and the boys couldn’t find a whore or street girl they naturally turned to their own kind for their releases." Naturally, Ed.

In "College Interview," Dolores says that homosexuals will have no problem finding others of their kind on college campuses today, since everything is out in the open. Homosexuals existed in the past, too, "but whoever heard of homosexuality then except a few long bearded psychiatrists who turned out to be some kind of sex freak themselves?" I can't be sure, but I think Dolores is referring to Sigmund Freud here.

In all, "College Cherries" and "College Interview" are minor but interesting footnotes in the Ed Wood saga, mementos of a time when horny, aging men were obsessed with the sex lives of college students. For more nonsense in this same vein, be sure to check out College Girls (1968), a film by Stephen C. Apostolof. Neither Ed nor Steve knew a damned thing about youth culture or college life, but that didn't even slow them down!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Here's the script for Albert Brooks' 'Comedy Minus One,' if you were looking for that (UPDATED!)

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!"

NOTE: The title track of comedian Albert Brooks' 1973 album Comedy Minus One is a unique interactive routine that actually requires that the listener read along with a script. Try as I might, I could not find that particular script anywhere else on the Internet. So what did I do? I typed the whole goddamned thing up myself and posted it to this blog, just on the off chance that someone, somewhere would want or need it. I'm also including the sound file, so you can play along at home. You're welcome. J.B.




Albert: Thank you... thank you... and good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Albert.

You: And I'm You.

Albert: Wait a minute, how could you be me?

You: I didn't say I was you. I said I was me. (L)*

Albert: No, you didn't. I said I was Albert and you said you were me.

You: You've got it all wrong. You said, "I'm Albert," and I said, "I'm You." But I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about me. (L)

Albert: Now I'm confused.

You: Then stop calling yourself Albert. (L)

Albert: I think we should get on with this.

You: I agree. What are we going to do?

Albert: Well, if it's all right with you, I thought we would visit The Auto Mechanic. (A) Thank you very much. Bernie, a little visiting music please...

(MUSIC)

Albert:  Excuse me. I need some work done on my car.

You: Eight-fifty. (L)

Albert:  Eight-fifty? What's that?

You: You said "excuse me." I stopped work and looked up. Time is money. So whatever's wrong with your car, including the time you're using up right now, it's gonna cost you at least eight-fifty.

Albert: That's ridiculous!

You: That's nine dollars. (L)

Albert: Okay, okay. I get the point. You don't come cheap. Now can you repair this car or not?

You: Sure I can repair it. What seems to be the trouble?

Albert: There's a knocking in my engine.

You: It's probably a piston. Let him in. (L)

Albert: I'm not getting anywhere with you.

You: And I'm not getting anywhere with you either. Maybe it's our toothpaste! (L)

Albert: Oh brother.

You: Brother? I almost didn't recognize you! How's Mom? (L)

Albert: How's Mom... stop this! Can you please fix my engine?

You: Oh alright. Open the hood. I'll take a look.

Albert: Wonderful. (He opens hood.) There... it's open.

You: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy! (L)

Albert: What does that mean?

You: That means I'm glad I'm fixing this thing instead of paying for it! (L)

Albert: Are you trying to say this is going to cost a lot of money?

You: Let's put it this way. Remember the nine dollars we talked about earlier?

Albert: Yes. So?

You: Well, we still have the nine and the two zeros, but I'm afraid the decimal point just passed away! (L)

Albert: This car has only seventeen thousand miles on it. Nothing could be that serious.

You: If you're so smart, why don't you fix it yourself?

Albert: Because I don't know anything about cars.

You: Nothing at all, huh?

Albert: No.

You: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. (L)(A)

Albert: Okay, that's it. I'll go elsewhere.

You: Look, mister, you don't have to go elsewhere. I was just pulling your leg.

Albert: If I wanted someone to pull my leg I would have gone to a chiropractor! (L)

(Hint to You: Let Albert have his laugh here.)

You: Now look who's doin' the jokes.

Albert: I have to get one laugh, don't I? (L)(A)

You: Okay... okay. Now, I"m gonna put this car up on the hoist and check it out thoroughly. If it's something minor, I'll fix it for free.

Albert: Well that sounds honest.

You: Maybe to you. To me, it's one the big lies of the century. (L) Now stand back as I raise it up. There she goes... going up... going up... there!  By the way, there is a slight "using of the hoist" fee. (L)

Albert: Using of the hoist? (L)

You: That's right. Each time I raise and lower a car it wears out my hoist just a little bit. I have to charge the customer accordingly.

Albert:  I don't believe it. You mean it actually costs money just to raise this car up?

You: No, it's raised for free. It only cost money if you lower it. (L) It's just ten dollars. (L)

Albert: This is highway robbery!

You: Wrong. This is garage robbery. (L)

Albert: Look, I don't have to stand for this.

You: I agree. You can sit on that hubcap in the corner. (L) Be careful, it's greasy! (L)

Albert: Here is ten dollars. Bring my car down. I'm through with you.

You: (Dramatic) Wait! Don't leave! I need this business, my life is in ruins!

Albert: Ruins? What are you talking about?

You: (Continued dramatic) I'll tell you what I'm talking about: I'm divorced, my son is in jail, my daughter was just kidnapped, I can't pay my bills, and my doctor says I may be dying!

Albert: My God! That's unbelievable.

You: You're right. Let me start over. (L) (Continue over this laugh) I may get divorced, my son should be in jail, my daughter wants to be kidnapped, my doctor...

Albert: Alright! Alright! Now stop with these jokes!

You: If I stop with these jokes this bit falls flat on its ass. (L)

("Face" can be used instead of "ass" if so desired.)

Albert: Please. Just fix my car. Please!

You: Okay. Let me look under here real quickly. (Looking  sounds) Hmmmm... Mmmmmmm... Hmmmm... Well I think I found the trouble.

Albert: What is it?

You: It seems that one of your pistons has pounded its way through the muffler. (L) You're gonna need some new pistons and a new muffler for starters. (L)

Albert: Just a minute! That's impossible!

You: I thought you said you didn't know anything about cars?

Albert: I know enough to know that the pistons and the muffler don't even come near each other.

You: That's fair enough. Let's take another look. (L) Well you were right. The muffler does seem okay. Do you know anything about the camshaft?

Albert: No.

You: We just found the trouble! (L)

Albert: You must think I'm a fool.

You: You're getting warmer! (L)

Albert: Well let me tell you a thing or two. It so happens that I don't have to stand here and...

Jessel: Excuse me... excuse me... are you the auto mechanic?

Albert: Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Georgie Jessel! (A)

Jessel: Say, where's that applause coming from? I thought we were in a garage. (L) Listen, I need some work done on my car.

You: Eight-fifty. (L)

Jessel: Eight-fifty? Oh my God, I didn't realize it was so late! I gotta be somewhere at nine-thirty. Well, I'll see you later. (L)

Albert: No, no, Georgie, the mechanic wasn't giving you the time. That's a price.

Jessel: A price? For what?

You: You said "excuse me." I stopped work and looked up. Time is money. So whatever's wrong with your car, including the time you're using up right now, it's gonna cost you at least eight-fifty.

Jessel: That's ridiculous!

Albert & You: That's nine dollars. (L)(A)

Jessel: Now, look, I don't need this car restored. I just need some repair work. This car belonged to the great Al Jolson!

You: What seems to be the trouble with it?

Jessel: Well every time I stop at a light it gets down on one tire. (L) Of course I'm just kidding. But actually I don't know what's wrong wtih it. That's why I came here.

You: Does it make any funny noises?

Jessel: Who are you talking to?

You: I'm talking to you.

Jessel: Oh. I don't know if it makes funny noises. I mean these days, who can tell what's funny anyway! (L) Enough of this talk. Now I'll make you a deal. You fix my car, charge me almost nothing, and the next time that you're very, very sick you call me, and we'll talk about a eulogy for you. (L)

Albert:  I don't think you'd want this person to work on your car, Georgie. The prices are outrageous and the service stinks.

You: You'll pay for that!

Albert:  I have no doubt. (L)

Jessel: Well I don't need this then. I'm very big in many parts of the world, and anyway I can go to Earl Scheib and for twenty-nine dollars he'll paint over the whole problem! (L) Thanks very much, and I'll see you later. (A)

Albert:  Mr. George Jessel, ladies and gentlemen! Mr George Jessel! He was right in getting out of here, and I'm following his example. Now here's your nine dollars for your valuable time. Here's your ten dollar lowering fee. Put my car down, I'm finished with all this!

You: Put your car down, huh?

Albert: Yes, put it down!

You: Okay. Why I've seen better looking cars in a rodeo! (L) Why this car is so slow you could write "Hello from Hollywood" on the roof and mail it to a friend. (This gets very little reaction so you explain further.) They do that with turtles! (L)

Albert: You never stop, do you?

You: Only when the bit's over.

Albert:  Well in that case... good night ladies and gentlemen! (L)(A)

(MUSIC)

You: (To audience) Hey, you're beautiful!

Albert: You're a beautiful audience, thank you!

You: Thank you. (Very sincere) I'd like to take you all home with me.

*(L) & (A) denote Laughter & Applause


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 83: "The Unluckiest Man in the World" (1969)

The hero of this story can't seem to catch a break.

An offering from Pendulum.
Although it had been nine years since he'd last directed a feature film, Ed Wood hadn't given up on his movie career by 1969. He wrote and starred in two softcore features that year for director Joe Robertson, Misty and Love Feast, and he saw his novel Mama's Diary adapted for the screen as Operation Redlight by producer Jacques Descent. He'd be at the helm of a feature again by the next year.

But Ed's writing career was also staggering forward in 1969. Besides Mama's Diary, his novels that year included Carnival Piece and Toni: Black Tigress. And Ed was also just starting to establish himself as a writer of short stories for Bernie Bloom's Pendulum Publishing. In fact, Bernie included one of Eddie's stories in the first-ever issue of a magazine called Pussy Willow. It's a quirky, colorful little yarn that I believe is worthy of more attention.

The story: "The Unluckiest Man in the World," originally published in Pussy Willow, vol. 1, no. 1, September/October 1969. Credited to "Warren Peace." Anthologized in Short Wood: Short Fiction by Edward D. Wood, Jr. (Ramble House, 2009).

Synopsis: Ugly, calamity-prone John Smith has been rejected by society all his life. Totally unloved and starved for affection, he goes to Tijuana in the hopes of finally losing his virginity. Even there, though, poor John is barred from entering the whorehouses due to his appearance. In a grubby bar, he buys a drink for a toothless old hag named Belinda who claims she was once beautiful. In gratitude, she gives him a potion she says will grant him one wish. John says his wish is for all people everywhere to love him. Once he gets home and actually tries the potion, John finds it works all too well. Not only does his sexy neighbor, Jo Ann Martin, become enamored of him, but so do all the men and women he encounters! His love life certainly perks up, but the poor guy can't get a moment's rest. John moves out to the country in search of peace and quiet, but he remains the unluckiest man in the world so his plan doesn't work.

Wood trademarks: Voyeurism (cf. "Florence of Arabia"); Sunset Strip (cf. Death of a Transvestite, Plan 9 from Outer Space); bar (cf. "The Last Void"); enormously fat and unappealing woman (cf. Hosenose Kate from "Calamity Jane"); witch (cf. "Witches of Amau Ra"); nipples (cf. "The Hooker"); color pink (cf. "2 X Double"); whorehouse (cf. "The Whorehouse Horror"); "rod" (cf. "The Hazards of the Game"); "manhood" (cf. "The Last Void"); erectile dysfunction (cf. "Try, Try Again"); sexually transmitted disease (cf. "Never Look Back"); alleyways (cf. "Gore in the Alley").

Excerpt: "There was another difficulty, too. John Smith had wished for everyone to love him. Soon, strange men started prowling around his apartment and dogging his footfalls. He let a few of them in, especially the tall, handsome ones with rippling muscles; and while they could nibble and tongue his manhood with fevered enthusiasm, and even find a warm niche for his rod, he found a woman's juicy crack more to his liking."

A vintage postcard from Tijuana, Mexico.
Reflections: Some of Ed Wood's stories read less like contemporary fiction and more like fables or those jokes that men tell each other at barbershops. "The Unluckiest Man in the World" is like that. From his generic name to his "repulsive" appearance, John Smith is clearly a character created only to suffer for our amusement. He exists so that the lonely men reading Pussy Willow magazine can say, "Well, at least I'm not that guy!" Eddie doesn't really describe John all that thoroughly—we don't learn his age, height, or body type—so I imagined him as looking and talking like Shemp Howard. When John spends all his money on "a flashy British sportscar" and almost immediately wraps it around a lamppost, that seemed like the kind of thing Shemp might do.

Belinda, too, seems like something out of a fable or fairy tale. She's a kindly but mysterious witch who gives our hero a magic bottle of "god-awful liquid" that grants wishes. From a lifetime of reading and hearing stories like this, we know well in advance that the wish will have all sorts of unintended consequences for John. The wisher has to be very careful with phrasing. John isn't. "I want everyone in the whole world who never noticed me to love me, and me alone—that’s my wish," he says, foolishly. I guess the wish only applies to people who previously ignored John. Since Belinda struck up a conversation with him voluntarily, she'd be exempt.

Interestingly, Ed Wood attempts to write Belinda's lines in a pidgin English dialect, complete with a Mexican accent. An example: "Make a weesh, dearie; and what it is you want weel be." The results are about as authentic as the Mexican characters that Mel Blanc played on The Jack Benny Program and in Looney Tunes. Maybe Ed was influenced by the way Mexicans talked in old Westerns. It's possible he'd seen too many Zorro and Cisco Kid pictures.

Eddie's highly unflattering depiction of Tijuana ("one of the sin-capitals of the world") and its people (who "looked no more appetizing than John Smith") might suggest an anti-Mexican bias, but this does not appear to be the case in the rest of Ed's life. In Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy, Tor Johnson's son Karl remembered his father and Ed going on fishing trips to Mexico, and friend Scott Zimmerman recalled that Ed had aspirations of cliff diving in Mexico. Plus, according to Grey, Ed planned to shoot the film The Day the Mummies Danced in the Guanajuato caves, and Eddie himself claimed that some footage of Bela Lugosi in Plan 9 was filmed in "an old Mexican graveyard that went back to before the turn of the century."

On the other hand, Eddie's former neighbor Florence Dolder testified that Eddie referred to his landlord as a "fucking Mexican" and a "spic." So maybe there was some resentment lurking under the surface. Was Eddie's performance as a Mexican jailer in a 1970s loop a tribute or a slur? You decde.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 82: "The Original Tom of Finland's Circus" (1977)

Well, hello there, fine sir! And aren't you looking sharp in your uniform!

Worthy of study.
Between them, Blood Splatters Quickly (O/R Books, 2014) and Angora Fever (BearManor Bare, 2019) contain 93 short stories by Edward D. Wood, Jr., originally published between 1969 and 1975. These highly eccentric, sex-and-violence-drenched tales appeared in the pages of pornographic magazines, nearly all of them from Bernie Bloom's Pendulum Publishing in Los Angeles. While rightly categorized as pornography, Ed's stories manage to evoke a number of other genres, including horror, science-fiction, crime drama, and even Westerns. Ed Wood's fans owe it to themselves to study these pieces of short fiction, both for their entertainment value and for the insight they offer into Ed Wood as a creative artist.

In the Ed-scripted film Orgy of the Dead (1965), William Bates plays a writer named Bob who specializes in horror stories. When his girlfriend, Shirley (Pat Barringer) reminds him that "there are so many wonderful things to write about," Bob claims that he's "tried them all -- plays, love stories, Westerns, dog stories..." That was Ed Wood for sure. He'd try anything, as Blood Splatters Quickly and Angora Fever readily attest.

Even after two extremely generous collections, there are still Wood stories out there to be rediscovered by fans. The one I'm covering this week was purposely omitted from Angora Fever because it was too sexually graphic, even by Ed Wood standards, and was based on preexisting illustrations rather than being wholly original. But I think this one deserves attention, not only because Ed Wood used his own name on it (many of his other stories were written under pen names) but also because it involves one of the best-known gay artists of all time.

The story: "Circus" (aka "Pekka at the Circus"), originally published in The Original Tom of Finland's Circus (1977). Credited to Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Synopsis: A naive young man named Pekka comes to a traveling carnival, looking for work. After being eyeballed and groped by two muscular male employees, Pekka visits with the boss, a burly, bearded fellow called Kake. During the job interview, Kake takes his penis out and demands that Pekka do the same. After the two men engage in anal and oral sex, Kake says he'll try to find a job for Pekka. The acts at this particular carnival are all of a homoerotic nature, and Pekka is obliged to service a super-strong "cock-man" named Mogi. Kake then takes Pekka to a tent where he meets and has sex with more of the carnival's employees, including the Ringmaster. The men are soon summoned to the main arena, where they grease themselves up and perform a sexually explicit trapeze act under the name The Flying Fuckers.

Wood trademarks: Circus setting (cf. Ed's own purported stint in the circus, plus Killer in Drag, Side Show Siren, etc.); ellipses (Ed's favorite punctuation); drinking (cf. "Never Fall Backwards"); nipples (cf. "Gore in the Alley," "The Hazards of the Game"); whiskey (cf. "A Taste for Blood"); tongue (cf. "The Responsibility Game"); feeling exhaustion during a gang bang (cf. Love Feast).

Excerpt: "Pekka felt that strange stirring at his crotch again… and he suddenly knew what caused it this time. The big, bearded man's eyes were fastened on the front of his pants, just as the men outside the trailer had done. But there was more to the glare this man affixed; he was licking his lips with the end of his tongue."

Manly men on the back cover.
Reflections: Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), aka Tom of Finland, is one of the most renowned gay illustrators of the 20th century -- lauded in some circles, loathed in others. Laaksonen's lovingly rendered images of healthy, muscular, and enormously well-endowed studs helped to change the popular conception of gay men. His powerful, hyper-masculine figures replaced the fey, effeminate "sissy" stereotypes of the past. The artist's defenders say he was rehabilitating the image of the gay community. His detractors claim that he was simply replacing one set of cliches with another.

Either way, Laaksonen's unmistakable artwork caught on in both Europe and America. By the late 1970s, Tom of Finland's signature style was a clear influence on such pop icons as The Village People and Freddie Mercury. Laaksonen was so focused on projecting strength and power in his images that he even rendered some of his characters in Nazi uniforms, a creative decision that remains controversial to this day. The artist claimed that, while he found the Nazis' racist philosophy to be utterly repugnant, he found their uniforms to be very sexy. He's hardly alone in being inexplicably drawn to Nazi iconography in this way. Jack White has said that the red/white/black color scheme of his band The White Stripes was influenced by the Nazi flag, and Mötley Crüe borrowed their umlauts from the Third Reich, according to bassist Nikki Sixx.

Laaksonen's work originally appeared in muscle and "beefcake" magazines in the 1950s and then in glossy booklets whose combination of words and pictures made them similar to comics. "Circus" seems to have been one such booklet, and its success inspired an American publisher to import it and translate it into English. Interestingly, this publication ends with an ad for further Tom of Finland works featuring Pekka, including "Sex in the Shed" and "The Loggers," but the prices are given in deutschmarks and Swedish kronas instead of dollars, and the scant text is given in English, German, and Swedish.

On the face of it, Edward D. Wood, Jr. was an odd choice to write the text for a volume of Tom of Finland's homoerotic illustrations, some of which are presented as ink outlines, not unlike the comics of R. Crumb, and some of which are fully shaded and detailed. After all, Ed was eternally obsessed with femininity, not masculinity. His characters, both male and female, tend to adore anything lacy, soft, and frilly, the very opposite of the Tom of Finland aesthetic.

A Pendulum Pictorial
But Eddie manages to imprint his own style on this material anyhow, and he does it by making Pekka a veritable babe in the woods, a wide-eyed sheep surrounded by hungry wolves. The debasing of an innocent character is a recurrent theme through Eddie's work. See stories like "The Hooker," "Kiss the Pain Away," and "That Damned Faceless Fog" as examples, not to mention movies like The Sinister Urge (1960) and Fugitive Girls (1974). Pekka is yet another lamb being led to the sexual slaughter. And, in true Eddie style, "Circus" ends with an outrageous, highly implausible twist.

One oddity of the text is that Ed retained the characters' Finnish names, including Pekka, Kake, and Mogi, yet they all seem to be American, judging by the way they talk. There are numerous jokes here about Pekka's name sounding like "pecker," for instance. Pekka -- forever the naif -- does not understand these leering remarks. I'll confess to being unfamiliar with most of Tom of Finland's work. I know, however, that Kake was a recurring character in his booklets, and you can buy an official replica of Pekka's member should you so desire.

The magazine itself is quite an artifact. It originally retailed for $8.50. That's over thirty bucks in today's money, so this was not a cheap item. The cover bills itself as "the American version of the international best-seller" and proudly proclaims, "All pictures suitable for framing plus a fantastic centerfold!" No publishing information is given, but the triple-dot insignia in the upper left hand corner suggests this was a Pendulum publication.

Inside, along with many typical Tom of Finland illustrations and Ed Wood's story (printed in pink letters on a tan background) is an introduction undoubtedly penned by Ed as well. As in Glen or Glenda (1953), Ed presents this material as a miniature civics lesson.
The Gay community . . . after many long and arduous years . . . has finally emerged from the closet. Now, homosexual men and women are standing up and admitting to their sexual preferences. With this emergence, they are also seeking equal rights in their communities and in their professions. Their long fight has finally started to bear fruit and the public is beginning to accept them as equals and they are losing the stigma that has long been associated with them. 
This publication is dedicated to those who feel that the "Gay World" is the true world for their personal life and who do not feel that their way of life should be forced upon others in their public or business pursuits. 
Tom of Finland has long been an exponent of the beauties of the male form. His work is presented here as an exemplary expression of the male body in its truest art form. He is one of the finest delineators of the exotic male and is the counterpart of the world-renowned Vargas and Petty who made the American woman's body famous throughout the world.
In other words, give these men leather jackets, muscle shirts, mustaches, skin-tight pants, nipple rings or even the assless leotards they have on, and they're the happiest individuals in the world. They can work better, think better. They can play better, and they can be more of a credit to their community and their government because they are happy.

Still easily available today, The Original Tom of Finland's Circus is quite a find for Ed Wood fans. While it's true that this booklet exists more as a showcase for Tom of Finland's art than Ed's writing, Eddie's words are all over this publication. In addition to the introduction and the story itself, quotations from the text are used as captions on most of the pictures. It's very similar, in that sense, to the Pendulum Pictorials, Raped in the Grass and Bye Bye Broadie, that Ed did back in 1968. But in this case, instead of writing text to go with a set of photos, Ed was writing a story to accompany a set of illustrations by one of the most famous gay artists of the era.

While it's true that "Circus" has little to no plot and is mostly just one graphic sex scene after another, the story nevertheless displays Eddie's authorial quirks. Take this sentence: "The fire began to surge up immediately in Pekka’s sex region, both in the front and in the rear." Once again, Eddie is describing a character's body temperature, and "sex region" is just the kind of clunky neologism Eddie liked to use in his writing. (Compare it to "sex dumb" and "pubic region" from Angora Fever.) While "Circus" is based on preexisting illustrations, it's really no less original than, say, "The Rue Morgue Revisited," which hews very faithfully to the Poe story or to "Exotic Loves of the Vampire," which is clearly inspired by Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Overall, The Original Tom of Finland's Circus is a relic from a time before the AIDS epidemic. Its gay characters are happy and uncomplicated, screwing each other with carefree abandon and never thinking about tomorrow. Moreover, unlike gay men of earlier eras, they're out and proud. No more hiding in the shadows for them! For those reasons, "Circus" is more joyous and healthy than a lot of Ed Wood's heterosexual stories.