Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 108: 'Dad Made Dirty Movies: The Erotic World of Stephen C. Apostolof' (2020)

Stephen C. Apostolof, wearing his lucky white shoes, looks over a script.

How did Ed Wood do it? How did he churn out dozens and dozens of books, both fiction and nonfiction, in the span of a few short years? He made it look like child's play. I've just had my first and only book published, and it was one of the most arduous and time-consuming tasks of my entire life. Nearly five years lapsed between the day I agreed to sign on to the project and the day I finally held a physical copy of the book in my hands. Along the way, I thought I was going to lose my mind on more than one occasion. Now, however, Dad Made Dirty Movies: The Erotic World of Stephen C. Apostolof is a reality. It's available in paperback from McFarland Books. I hope you like as much as I do, and I like this book a lot. For you e-book readers, it's also available in Kindle and Nook editions.

Our gorgeous book cover.
It all started so innocently. Back on January 26, 2016, Bulgarian journalist and filmmaker Jordan Todorov contacted me via Facebook Messenger, telling me he was very impressed with my lengthy, detailed reviews of the movies that Stephen C. Apostolof made in collaboration with Ed Wood in the 1960s and '70s, starting with Orgy of the Dead (1965) and ending with Hot Ice (1978). Naturally, such flattery is a good way to get my attention. He told me he had a "raw and unfinished" manuscript about Apostolof. I wished him good luck with it. Jordan then suggested I become his coauthor, and I responded with four of the most fateful words of my life: "I could do that."

The next five years would test those words severely. Could I do that? What followed were seemingly endless months of writing, rewriting, editing, and reediting. Jordan and I both spent many hours working on a shared Google Doc that was getting slower and slower to load as it bloated to a gargantuan length. Through this process, I felt like I lived Stephen C. Apostolof's life many times over, until I knew the major beats of his story better than I remembered my own life. During this time, Jordan and I exchanged dozens of direct messages and emails, and we spoke at great length by Skype on numerous occasions. These usually turned out to be sprawling, rambling conversations in which we'd start by discussing the book but usually branch out into innumerable other topics.

I should say that both Jordan and I are very opinionated people, and we were both passionate about making Dad Made Dirty Movies as good as it could be. There were times that I thought my coauthor was being unreasonable about some minor issue, and I'm sure he thought the same thing of me. Generally, though, we got along very well during this lengthy journey. If there's a sequel, I'd be proud and happy to work with him again.

There were some dark times along the path, to be certain. In the late summer of 2018, for example, my father was dying, and I was in no mood to talk about Apostolof, the book, or anything else. This led to one of the rare times when I lost my temper during a Skype call with Jordan. Another grim time was when Apostolof's oldest son Steve died in November 2017. The Apostolof children were always our greatest sources of information, and they've been nothing but kind and helpful in making this book a reality. Dad Made Dirty Movies wouldn't exist without them. I'm very sorry neither Steve nor my father lived to see this book.

Assembling a biography of Stephen C. Apostolof was like completing the Twelve Labors of Hercules. Everything from captioning the photographs to assembling the index was its own little challenge. At each stage, I felt like I was living Steve's life one more time. Jordan and I somewhat naively thought that, when we handed the manuscript over to the publisher, the journey was just about over. Nope. That was over a year ago, and it proved to be just the beginning of a new phase in the book's evolution. More work. More messages. More emails. More Skype calls.

But now the moment of truth has arrived. Dad Made Dirty Movies is a 316-page reality. I suppose this is really just the start of another adventure: marketing the book. I really don't know much about doing that, but I suppose I'll have to learn. In the meantime, here is a homemade commercial I produced for the book. If you haven't bought your copy yet, maybe this will change your mind.

And just for good measure, here's a 30-second music video for the book.

Dirty Made Dirty Movies can be ordered at AmazonBarnes and NobleIndieBoundBAM!BookworksMcFarlandWaterstonesIndigoKinokuniya, and other retailers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Podcast Tuesday: "Punched in the Malph"

Reb Brown (left) threatens Donny Most, while Henry Winkler keeps his cool on Happy Days.

Smoke Manmuscle! Rip Steakface! Blast Hardcheese! By any name, Space Mutiny's Reb Brown is a pop culture treasure, and he happens to guest star in the episode we're reviewing this week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. In Season 5's "Requiem for a Malph," cowardly wise guy Ralph Malph (Donny Most) unwisely steals the girlfriend (Audrey Landers) of a hot-tempered football player (Reb Brown) named Rebel E. Lee. It all leads up to a wild, slapstick-tinged boxing match between Ralph and Rebel.

This episode was a real pleasure to review. In fact, it inspired me to create this little parody, which I recently posted to Twitter:

I guess the underlying premise of this video is that, beneath his goofy exterior, Ralph Malph is a sensitive, even poetic soul. Does the rest of "Requiem for a Malph" bear that theory out? I guess you'll just have to listen to our podcast to find out.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Podcast Tuesday: "PKN, What Does It Mean?" or "You Dirty Frat!"

Tom Bosley and Ron Howard practice a fraternity chant as Henry Winkler looks on.

 The closest I ever got to fraternity life was watching the movie Animal House. Admittedly, that's not close. Frats never appealed to me in the slightest. I know that the Greek system has produced numerous presidents and captains of industry, but I wouldn't have lasted even a semester in one of those noisy, chaotic houses. How would I have ever gotten any reading or studying done? In fact, had I actually attended Faber College in 1962 alongside the Animal House characters, I would have hated both the snobbish Omegas and the loutish Deltas. Maybe that's why I'm neither a president nor a captain of industry today.

In contrast, Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), the ostensible protagonist of Happy Days, is all too eager to join a fraternity in the Season 5 episode "Bye Bye, Blackball." Specifically, he wants to join Phi Kappa Nu, the same frat that his father Howard (Tom Bosley) once belonged to.  To win the approval of the sadistic, paddle-wielding upperclassmen, Richie endures all kinds of humiliating hazing rituals. To get into Phi Kappa Nu, he imitates an airplane, waddles like a duck, and even lets him get covered in feathers.

Unfortunately, the PKNs turn out to be elitist jerks who accept Richie while rejecting his friends Potsie (Anson Williams) and Ralph (Donny Most). This all leads to a dramatic showdown at Arnold's, the local teen hangout, in which Richie has to decide between his loyal pals from Jefferson High and his powerful new college companions. 

How does it all turn out? Find out in the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Young Marrieds Odyssey, Part Five by Greg Dziawer

A familiar set from The Young Marrieds went on to star in some other films!

I've spent a lot of time these last few years delving into silent 8mm porn loops from the 1970s, looking for the presence of Ed Wood. Mostly, I've focused on transcribing the subtitles, as there are hundreds of examples to index, collate, compare, and contrast. The evidence suggests these captions were written by none other than the director of Plan 9 from Outer Space. But could there be other loops with a connection to Ed Wood?

I've already shown that the answer is a definitive yes! For instance, Eddie himself cameos in the loop "Prisoner's Lovemaking."  This short film was originally released in 1972 as loop #17 in the NM Series, whose tagline boasted: "The finest action films Hollywood, Denmark and the World have to Offer!" There was also Best of the NM Series, which carried a 1974 copyright and consisted of at least 30 titles. While a complete index of both series remains lacking, enough examples survive to piece together the basics.

Mickey Zaffarano, the capo of porn.
These two series include some of the earliest loops released to the home market by producer Noel Bloom, son of porn publisher Bernie Bloom. At that time, Noel was partners with gangster Mickey Zaffarano, a capo in the Bonanno crime family and the de facto head of porn distribution in the United States during the '70s. By late 1971, both adult features and loops were transitioning from softcore to hardcore, meaning that they now included unsimulated sex acts.

Back then, pornographic loops were mainly shown at peepshow arcades, where customers could watch a film in short increments by feeding quarters into a machine. Inevitably, however, adult producers began eyeing the home market. Customers who wanted to watch X-rated loops in private would buy (expensive) film reels in adult shops or from under the counter at cigar shops or even drugstores. The 8mm projector had long been a staple in many American homes. In fact, I still have my dad's 8mm camera and projector, along with a few reels of film of me and my family from 1972. It's also highly possible that my dad had some 8mm loops of his own, but if he did, I haven't come across them.

The NM Series box covers I have seen from 1972 are very plain, containing only a picture and an index number with an "N.M." prefix. Released a mere two years later, the Best of the NM Series titles have much more distinctive packaging, with a colorful, stylized logo on one side and a graphic photo and plot summary on the other.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Podcast Tuesday: "The Lap of Luxury"

Henry Winkler gets cozy with Morgan Freeman on Happy Days.

The makers of Happy Days could never have imagined, 40+ years ago, that their lighthearted program would one day be analyzed, dissected, and thoroughly scrutinized on something called the internet. But that's what ended up happening. Each week, my cohost and I review an episode of the nostalgic ABC sitcom on our podcast, These Days Are Ours. This week, for instance, we're talking about the episode "My Fair Fonzie" from November 1977. The plot has Fonzie (Henry Winkler) attempting to woo a snooty society dame named Cynthia (guest star Morgan Fairchild) and subsequently causing chaos at a stuffy yacht club party.

Enjoyable as the episode's main story is, however, I was even more intrigued by a scene at the end of the show in which middle-aged suburbanites Howard and Marion Cunningham (Tom Bosley and Marion Ross) snuggle on the couch. Just as they're about to kiss, their college-age son Richie (Ron Howard) comes bounding through the door with his steady girlfriend Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfiend). Richie and Lori Beth want the couch, but Howard sternly declares, "We were here first, Richard."

What makes the scene so intriguing is that we get a tantalizing glimpse of the Cunninghams' bookshelf. Thanks to some mischievous set decorators, there are some very, uh, intriguing titles in the living room of this supposedly wholesome Midwestern family. Let's see what we have here.

A bookshelf with some very adult titles on Happy Days.

Some Happy Days reading material.
Okay, first of all, this episode is supposedly taking place in 1959, and not one of these books would have been available back then. But that's the least of our concerns. Much more intriguing to me is the fact that the squeaky-clean Cunninghams have at least two, possibly even three copies of Summer in Sodom, a gay porn novel by Edwin Fey from 1964. I also spot at least two copies of Lou Rand's Rough Trade, another gay porn novel from 1964. The cover promises "handsome homosexuals on a rampaging orgy of gay lust." (It was originally published in 1960 as Gay Detective.)

And that's not all! Elsewhere on the bookshelf, we find The Erotic Revolution: An Affirmative View of the New Morality (1965) by Lawrence Lipton. ("With astonishing candor, author, essayist, and poet Lawrence Lipton presents a startling and unique report of sexual morality in America today.") If that's not enough, we have two nonfiction books about the sex industry. Dirty Helen (1966) is an autobiography by ex-madam Helen Worley Cromwell, who is said to have possessed "the dirtiest mouth in Milwaukee." Elsewhere on the shelf is Mr. Madam: Confessions of a Male Madam (1964) by Kevin Marlowe. Since the Cunningham family is depicted as being rather staid, I would imagine that these books were placed there by a naughty crew member.

Not everything is so racy. The Cunninghams also own a copy of John Huston: King Rebel (1965) by William F. Nolan, a biography of the maverick writer-director-actor. Success Is As Easy As ABCC (1968) by M.R. Kopmeyer is a standard self-help book that Howard might need in business. (For the record, "ABCC" stands for "Ask, Believe, Cooperate, Compliment.") The Vietnam-themed short story collection The Weary Falcon (1971) by Tom Mayer would offer Richie and his pals an upsetting glimpse of their own future. The Heron (1970) is the acclaimed final novel by Italian author and activist Giorgio Basani. The Cunninghams even dabble in the supernatural, as suggested by the presence of The World of the Twilight Believers (1970) by Richard M. Garvin and Robert F. Burger.

There's just no telling what you can find in a classic sitcom if you can freeze the frame and zoom in on the image. What else did we find in "My Fair Fonzie"? Listen and find out!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, part 21 by Greg Dziawer

Scenes from the 1976 loop "Jam Session."

"Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es."
("Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are.")
- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Podcast Tuesday: "If You're Going to San Francisco"

Erin Moran confers with Suzi Quatro on Happy Days.

The eternal question.
There was a time when kids supposedly dreamed of running away with the circus in order to escape the stultifying boredom of domestic life. I doubt many of them actually went through with it, though. As I understand it, circus people were traditionally born into the strange, nomadic lifestyle, indoctrinated by parents and grandparents. It's an insular, cloistered world, and it's unlikely that experienced circus performers -- hardened by years on the road -- would want to take on any inexperienced runaways. Would you? And I'm guessing that the alleged "glamour" of circus life would fade away quickly if your job were shoveling elephant shit or hosing down the sideshow freaks.

The 1950s brought a new, even wilder kind of circus called rock & roll. Now this was something that might convince a kid to run away from home. You get to travel from town to town, wear sparkly outfits, and perform for screaming crowds. And, unlike the circus, you can do all this without walking on a tightrope or sticking your head in a lion's mouth. It's a win-win, right? I would guess that rock & roll led to more runaways than the circus ever did. In the 1970s, there was literally a band called The Runaways.

In the Happy Days episode we are covering this week, "Fonzie and Leather Tuscadero: Part 2," young Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) seriously considers ditching her unsatisfying home life in order to join rocker Suzi Quatro on the road. It turns out she's tired of living in the shadow of goody two-shoes brother Richie (Ron Howard). This story turns into one of the more dramatic episodes that we've reviewed so far on the podcast.

Here's our take on "Fonzie and Leather Tuscadero: Part 2" (aka "Fonzie, Rock Entrepreneur: Part 2"). Enjoy it in good health.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, Part 20 by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood hoped to rub viewers the right way with this loop from 1973.

This week, delving even further into Ed Wood's prolific adult film career, we turn our attention to another set of subtitles from a silent 8mm porn loop made in the early '70s. "The Masseuse" possesses many of the same earmarks as other films we have previously detailed in this series, suggesting Eddie's involvement behind the scenes. At the very least, the subtitles here flowed from his trusty typewriter.

Take a look at the following summary of the film, complete with transcribed subtitles, and judge for yourself.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Podcast Tuesday: "Quatro-phenia"

Suzi Quatro guest stars on Happy Days.

ABC loved the "Fonzie Loves Pinky" three-parter that kicked off Happy Days' fourth season. So did America. Filled with action and romance, the trilogy garnered huge ratings and transformed the Tuesday night sitcom from a mere hit into the biggest thing on TV. But there was a catch. Roz Kelly, the actress who played the central character of Pinky Tuscadero, hadn't gotten along well with the cast and crew. After that three-parter wrapped, she was never asked back to Happy Days, though she did guest star on the ill-fated spin-off Blansky's Beauties.

Unable to repeat "Fonzie Loves Pinky," Happy Days tried other, similar stunts to recapture the Nielsen magic. The fifth season infamously began with the "Hollywood" trilogy, which featured the entire cast decamping for California and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) jumping over a shark on water skis. Then, just a few weeks later, the show introduced a new character, Pinky's younger sister Leather Tuscadero. Played by real-life Detroit rocker Suzi Quatro, who was always bigger overseas than in her own country, Leather got her own two-part showcase and made several more appearances on Happy Days over the next few seasons.

Garry Marshall supposedly had the idea to cast Quatro after seeing her poster on one of his kids' bedroom walls. Suzi was no actress and her "glam" appearance was wildly out of sync with the sitcom's quaint 1950s setting, but none of that really mattered. "Fonzie and Leather Tuscadero," also known as "Fonzie: Rock Entrepreneur," was a blast and brought Quatro the mainstream recognition that had long eluded her in America.

Here's our review of the first part of the saga: