Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Is This Even a Nostalgia Show Anymore?"

Henry Winkler and Deborah Pratt on Happy Days.

Happy Days can trace its roots back to a fateful 1971 meeting between two TV executives, Paramount's Tom Miller and ABC's Michael Eisner, who were snowed in at the Newark Airport and decided to use that time to brainstorm a new series. Miller and Eisner decided that a nostalgia-themed show might be a good idea, since the clothes and hairstyles wouldn't look dated just a few years later in reruns. They handed off the idea to Odd Couple producer Garry Marshall, who decided to set it in the 1950s. A half-hour pilot aired in early 1972 as part of the anthology series Love American Style, but ABC passed on the project.

The very next year, however, the movie American Graffiti and the stage musical Grease proved that nostalgia could be a potential goldmine, so ABC regained interest in Marshall's series. Happy Days finally joined the network's prime time schedule in January 1974. By this point, it had already changed rather drastically from the original pilot. Cast members Ron Howard, Anson Williams, and Marion Ross remained, but they were joined by Tom Bosley, Erin Moran, Donny Most, and, perhaps most significantly, Henry Winkler as greaser mechanic Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli, the epitome of cool. Also, while the pilot was set in the gentle, pre-rock years, the new, more raucous Happy Days was chockablock with oldies by Bobby Darin, Fats Domino, Bill Haley, and more.

Winkler's character ultimately became the focal point of the series, and Happy Days gradually moved away from its roots. In the first two seasons, the characters could barely get through a conversation without making references to fads, fashions, and pop culture icons of the 1950s. But this aspect of the show grew less and less important over time. After a few seasons, the action of the show was shifted to the early 1960s.

By 1979, Happy Days was in its seventh season and was scarcely recognizable as the show it once was. It bore only a passing resemblance to that Love American Style pilot. Apart from Fonzie's leather jacket and the oldies emanating from the jukebox, you could barely tell Happy Days was supposed to be taking place in any other time than the late '70s. A perfect example of this phenomenon is the episode "Fonzie Meets Kat" from September 25, 1979. The far-fetched plot involves a mysterious woman named Kat Mandu (Deborah Pratt) who breezes into Milwaukee from parts unknown and intervenes during a bar fight between Fonzie and a sailor named Rico (John Papais). None of this seems designed to evoke a sense of nostalgia in viewers, unless they spent a lot of time at dockside bars getting into martial arts battles.

But what did we think of "Fonzie Meets Kat"? You can find out by listening to the latest episode of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #17 by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg attempts to untangle another mystery about Ed Wood.

It ain't easy trying to ID the adult paperbacks and magazine articles that Ed Wood may have written nearly 60 years ago. This is a largely neglected body of work, and the rabbit holes run deep (no pun intended).

Last week on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, I took a dive down one of those rabbit holes with my friend and fellow Woodologist Rob Huffman. Together, we autopsied what might have been some of the earliest examples of Ed Wood's adult magazine work, dating back to the early 1960s. Some of you asked to see the actual texts, so this week, I'm doing the first ever Ed Wood Summit Podcast story time! The story "It Takes Four to Tangle" was identified many moons ago as possibly being Wood's work, and in this podcast, I'll read it out loud to you.

Have a listen and tell me what you think!

As a reminder, all episodes of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast are available here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "For Sale: One Soul, Never Used"

Richard Levin on Happy Days.

There has to be one. If you have 255 episodes of a prime time American sitcom, one of those episodes will have to be the lowest-rated on the Internet Movie Database. In the case of Happy Days, it's the Season 7 episode "Chachi Sells His Soul," which first aired back on September 18, 1979 and which now rates a miserable 5.8 according to IMDb users. Does it deserve this dubious distinction?

Well, to be frank, this episode has a lot going against it. First of all, it's about Fonzie's smart-alecky cousin Chachi (Scott Baio), who has long been one of the more divisive characters on Happy Days. Secondly, it ventures into wild fantasy territory, with Chachi agreeing to sell his soul to a wisecracking demon named Melvin Scratch (Richard Levin) in exchange for being loved by the world. Third, it's basically a glorified commercial for another ABC sitcom, Out of the Blue, starring comedian Jimmy Brogan as an angel named Random trying to earn his wings on Earth.

But does that add up to "worst Happy Days episode of all time"? It's tough to say. It's a silly, gimmicky show, for sure, and many viewers will find Melvin annoying after a few minutes. He's a hyperactive, giggling nerd in the grand TV tradition of Horshack, Urkel, and Screech. Also, he wears very tiny shorts. In contrast, when the angel Random shows up near the end, he's so casual and low-energy that he barely makes an impact on the viewer. "Chachi Sells His Soul" is an obvious ripoff of the Season 5 classic "My Favorite Orkan," but neither Melvin nor Random is in the same league as Robin Williams' lovable alien Mork.

On the other hand, this episode certainly isn't boring. And it isn't overly sentimental and mawkish, the way Happy Days sometimes can be. There's a lot to unpack here. This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we talk about all the good points and the bad points of "Chachi Sells His Soul." I really hope you'll join us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #16 by Greg Dziawer with Rob Huffman

This week, Greg and Rob explore Ed Wood's work for a company called France.

Ed Wood's fans know that their hero wrote numerous adult books, stories, and articles for Pendulum Publishing in the 1960s and '70s. Earlier this year, however, I stumbled upon an LA Weekly article by Tony Mostrom suggesting that Eddie also wrote for another adult publisher called France. According to Mostrom, Wood "penned cruddy porn paperbacks" for the company in the "dreary" early 1960s. Ed's work for France is much less known than his work for Pendulum, and I was eager to learn more about it.

I reached out to my friend and colleague Rob Huffman, who subsequently shared a few more details with me, gleaned from crime-fiction author John Gilmore's 2011 memoir Laid Bare. Rob then realized he had learned about Ed Wood working for France years ago, so we started digging for texts to review.

The results of our endeavor comprise this week's edition of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast.

During our conversation, Rob and I made our surmises about Red Garter #1, a magazine published by France (aka International Publications, Inc.) in 1962. You can find a scan of that magazine right here. What do you think? Is this the work of Edward D. Wood, Jr.? We have additional thoughts on this topic, so there will be much more to come!

Meanwhile, all episodes of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast can be found here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"

Vicki Frederick, F. William Parker, and April Clough on Happy Days.

Hubris. That's the only word for it. During the 1978-79 television season, ABC's Happy Days and its spinoffs dominated the prime time ratings. Laverne & Shirley was #1, while Happy Days itself was tied for third with Mork & Mindy. (Another ABC sitcom, Three's Company, was in second place.) Promisingly, the new show Angie, a romantic comedy from Happy Days producer Garry Marshall, was #5. All told, ABC had seven of the top 10 shows on television. Things were going great.

So what did ABC do for the 1979-80 season? Change it all up, naturally! The first order of business was breaking up the powerhouse one-two combo of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley that had been such a ratings smash for years. Happy would retain its usual berth, Tuesday nights at 8:00, but Laverne would be moved to Thursdays, displacing Mork & Mindy to Sundays! And Angie, which had been retaining much of its lead-in from Mork on Thursdays, would be moved to Tuesdays, following Happy Days.

Confused yet? So were viewers. As a result of these schedule changes, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, and Angie all plummeted from the Top 10, never to return. (Three's Company, which retained its usual Tuesdays at 9:00 slot, survived nicely.) ABC later came to its senses and reteamed Happy and Laverne, trying to undo some of the damage it had done. It kind of worked, and their ratings perked up a little without ever reaching their former highs. Angie couldn't be saved, however, and was canceled at the end of the season.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're covering "Shotgun Wedding," the first new episode of that tumultuous 1979-80 season. It's an epic crossover between Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, the last time these two sibling shows would ever overlap. In fact, when it originally aired, "Shotgun Wedding" was in two parts. The story started on Happy Days on Tuesday, September 11, 1979 and then concluded on Laverne & Shirley on Thursday, September 13. However, for syndication purposes, Happy Days filmed an alternate ending so that its half of the story could be viewed as a standalone episode.

I know how complicated this all sounds. Believe me, we're just as befuddled as you are. But just listen to our podcast, and maybe together we can figure it out.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 123: Bob Steele, the would-be Wood star

Bob Steele (right) with newspaper columnist Bill Soberanes.

Bob Steele (1907-1988) never appeared in any of Ed Wood's films or TV shows, but it wasn't for lack of trying. According to Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992), Eddie had two major unrealized projects involving Steele, a superhumanly prolific actor whose screen career spanned from 1920 to 1974. 

Steele's story is an interesting one. A Portland native, he had been part of his family's vaudeville act since his early childhood. For his first few years in Hollywood, largely appearing in movies directed by his own father, he went by his real name, Bob Bradbury, Jr. In 1927, he started using the catchier name Bob Steele and stuck with it for the rest of his career.

Like Wood regulars Tom Keene and Kenne Duncan, Steele was best known for his work in modestly-budgeted Westerns. His main employers were poverty row studios like Monogram, Republic, and the lowly PRC. But the diminutive actor earned a fan following anyway, becoming a screen idol to a generation of matinee-attending kids. In The Hall of Fame of Western Film Stars (1969), author Ernest N. Corneau puts it this way:
A perennial favorite of Western fans, Bob has contributed a major portion of talent and skill toward the advancement of the Western genre. Audiences who saw him in action were never short changed when it came to thrills and excitement. Although unusually short in height for a cowboy hero, he proved himself quite capable of handling any rough stuff, whether it involved fisticuffs or stunt riding. He truly earned his title of "The Little Giant of Westerns."
Ed Wood was undoubtedly one of Bob Steele's ardent admirers. In 1953, Wood envisioned "a series of low-budget Westerns" called Bob Steele of the Border Patrol. The text doesn't clarify if this was to be a TV series or a film franchise. Either way, it sounds a lot like Tom Keene, U.S. Marshall

Grey does mention that Border Patrol was to be produced by a company called Commodore. I found only a couple of known Commodore titles: a 1953 Clyde Beatty adventure film called Perils of the Jungle and a Los Angeles TV talk show called Help Thy Neighbor in which host Hal Styles attempts to drum up donations for Los Angelinos with hard-luck stories. Both Perils of the Jungle and Help Thy Neighbor were produced by a man named Walter White, Jr., who also produced the iconic Hopalong Cassidy radio show (1948-1952) under the Commodore banner. 

Bob Steele was also supposed to have appeared in Ed Wood's thwarted Western/horror hybrid, The Ghoul Goes West (aka The Phantom Ghoul). Between being namechecked in both Tim Burton's Ed Wood (1994) and Ted Newsom's Look Back in Angora (1994) and having its screenplay published in 2016, The Ghoul Goes West is one of Ed's best-known unrealized projects. Eddie originally announced the film in 1953, but production was delayed by Bela Lugosi's stint in rehab. When Gene Autry dropped out of the movie in 1955, Eddie considered Bob Steele as a possible replacement before shelving the project altogether.

Admittedly, I have not seen enough B-grade Westerns of the 1930s and '40s to be that familiar with Bob Steele's cowboy career. As it turns out, however, I definitely have seen some of his more high-profile, mainstream pictures. You probably have, too. For instance, Bob played the villainous Curley in the 1939 version of Of Mice and Men starring Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney, Jr. Bob's other credits include The Big Sleep (1946), Rio Bravo (1959), McClintock! (1963), and Hang 'Em High (1968). Steele never worked with Ed Wood, but he did work with such famed directors as Howard Hawks, Don Siegel, William Wellman, and Michael Curtiz. On the small screen, Steele was a regular on the '60s frontier comedy F Troop as Trooper Duffy and made appearances on many of the big shoot 'em up shows of the era: Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Maverick, etc. He did some non-Western shows, too, including Family Affair, Judd for the Defense, and Then Came Bronson.

Starting in the mid-1950s, Bob Steele transitioned mainly to television while making occasional motion pictures. In 1966, somewhat embarrassingly, The Los Angeles Times mistakenly declared Steele dead. It seems a rodeo star with the same name had passed away. The actor -- then 59, still working steadily, and supposedly in good health -- set the Times straight. They corrected the mistake in their July 15, 1966 edition with a rather lengthy article by staff writer Paul Henniger.

"I'm not dead!" declared Bob Steele.

A little later that same year, on October 16, 1966, the Petaluma Argus-Courier printed a long, flattering article by Bill Soberanes about Bob Steele, presenting him as the last man standing of the old-time Western stars, the ones who didn't need stuntmen. Note, too, that Steele worked with the aforementioned Clyde Beatty.

A flattering tribute to Bob Steele.

As it turned out, Bob Steele kept working until 1974, finally ending his career with a supporting role in the somewhat forgotten thriller Nightmare Honeymoon starring Dack Rambo. He died on December 21, 1988 at the age of 81, having outlived his premature obituary by 22 and a half years. Touchingly, his actual obituary from the January 4, 1989 edition of the Petaluma Argus-Courier was also written by Bill Soberanes. (Despite what the article says, Steele was just shy of his 82nd birthday when he passed away.)

It was the end of the trail for Bob Steele.

We'll never know what magic (or anti-magic) Ed Wood and Bob Steele could have made together. Bob Steele of the Border Patrol would probably have been typical of Eddie's film and TV Westerns -- straightforward, moralistic, and a little on the bland side compared to, say, Glen or Glenda (1953). Ed Wood tended to rein in his eccentricities when he made cowboy pictures, such was his reverence for the genre. Meanwhile, The Ghoul Goes West remains one of the great "what if"s of Ed's entire career. We can only speculate what kind of movie might have resulted from that unfilmed, genre-hopping script.

Despite his extensive and varied filmography, Bob Steele is not an actor I would ever have noticed under normal circumstances. My dad was a great fan of cheapie Westerns and was a regular attendee of the Saturday matinees as a child. Perhaps he sat through a few Bob Steele pictures -- or a few dozen of them. If he were still around, I'd ask him. As it is, Bob remains an intriguing footnote in the career of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 122: Who was Scott Zimmerman?

Scott Zimmerman of Cincinnati, OH as he appeared in (from left to right) 7th grade, 8th grade, and 9th grade.

Rudolph Grey interviewed dozens of subjects for his 1992 book Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. To tell the story of "the world's worst director" as fully as possible, Grey chatted with Ed Wood's friends, coworkers, and relatives -- a truly motley collection of human beings representing many walks of life. Most of the witnesses quoted in this book were in show business; some were not. But, even among this diverse group, Scott Zimmerman may be one of Nightmare's most unusual interviewees. 

Scott is quoted twice in Nightmare of Ecstasy. The first such instance occurs on page 66, during the chapter on Bride of the Monster (1955). He talks about the establishing shots in Bride and whether the Old Willows Place was a real location.

Scott Zimmerman discusses the establishing shots of the house in Bride of the Monster.

A much, much longer quote from Scott Zimmerman appears on pages 121 and 122, as part of the chapter entitled "Weird Scenes with the Pied Piper." The chapter consists of people sharing anecdotes about Eddie's personality and lifestyle. We learn about his mercurial nature, his irresponsible spending, his love of partying, his arguments with his wife Kathy, his TV-watching obsession, his love of cowboy films (especially those of his idol, Buck Jones), and his notorious habit of calling people up in the middle of the night to talk about whatever was on his mind. Scott is one of those to contribute a story, which I will include in full because it is rich with details:

Scott Zimmerman reminisces about Ed Wood.

Isn't that a great story? Scott Zimmerman was not in show business at all in 1975. He was just a nerdy teenager from Cincinnati who decided on a whim to call Ed Wood after watching Bride of the Monster on TV and ended up learning a lot about Eddie and his films in the process. This anecdote reminds me of what television personality Tom Bergeron has said about calling comedians Moe Howard and Larry Fine of The Three Stooges out of the blue circa 1972 and actually getting to interview them. Notice that Bergeron's story and Zimmerman's story both happened during the 1970s. I guess you could just call up your favorite stars back then, and it wasn't considered stalking.

Incidentally, I cannot pinpoint the exact TV showing that Zimmerman mentions. However, Bride of the Monster was broadcast numerous times in the 1970s, particularly in the late night hours on local stations across America (including Ohio). The movie was practically a staple of the small screen back then. I have every confidence that this part of Scott's story actually happened. Many Ed Wood fans were doubtlessly created by these after-hours broadcasts. 

Here's a typical mid-1970s newspaper listing for Bride of the Monster, this one taken from the May 16, 1975 edition of The Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune. I found this same basic capsule summary, complete with Tor Johnson's name rendered as "Thor," in other papers of the era. Some substituted "mad scientist" for "weird wizard," but the rest of the wording was more or less the same.

Bride of the Monster plays on TV in 1975.

But who exactly was Scott Zimmerman, other than a random fan who spoke with Ed Wood on the telephone in 1975? Unfortunately, Rudolph Grey does not supply any details about this mysterious man in the "Biographical Notes" section of the book. From pages 163 to 169, the book's main interviewees are listed alphabetically by last name and given brief descriptions. However, the final person named in that section is Mildred Worth, wife of Bride of the Monster composer Frank Worth. Sorry, Scott.

Grey does include Scott Zimmerman's name in the "Acknowledgements" section at the very end of the book. There, Scott is identified as one of those who provided "information, assistance and the use of valuable materials." I wonder how Grey knew to contact Scott in the first place? Could he have been following a lead from Kathy Wood? (Scott indicates that he spoke with Kathy before ever talking to Ed.)

Both Scott and Zimmerman are common names, so it figures that there are a lot of Scott Zimmermans out there in the world. How will we determine which of them was the Ed Wood fanatic? If our Scott was a teenager in 1975, that puts his birth somewhere between 1956 and 1962. We also know that Scott lived in the Cincinnati area, so that narrows it down even further. I found yearbook photos (included above) of a Scott Zimmerman who attended Finneytown High School in Cincinnati in the late 1960s. He seems to be a likely candidate. This skinny, gawky kid with the broad smile and prominent nose and ears looks like someone who might've stayed up late to watch Bela Lugosi in Bride of the Monster.

What happened to Scott Zimmerman? Did his love of movies cause him to pursue a career in Hollywood? Is he still alive today? Scott, if you're out there, let's talk. Alternately, if you're not Scott Zimmerman but have some details to share about him, let me know.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "The Potsie Chase"

Anson Williams and Allan Rich on Happy Days.

Season 6 of Happy Days is bizarre. What other word can I use to describe it? These 27 episodes (airing between September 1978 and May 1979) vary wildly in tone from one week to the next. The show's writers seem to be trying every possible approach, from soapy melodrama ("Fonzie's Blindness," "Kid Stuff") to Saturday morning escapism ("The Claw Meets the Fonz," "Fonzie's Funeral"). What unites these stories? Really, only the dependable cast of regulars. I wonder if even they were confused by these scripts. Cowboys? Gangsters? An exorcism? What's going on here?

I don't mean to say that Season 6 is bad. In fact, I found it quite entertaining for the most part. But the series had lost all direction by this point. It isn't even particularly nostalgia-driven anymore, though there are still occasional golden oldies on the soundtrack and scattered references to TV shows and movies from the past. We're miles away from Season 1 and even further away from the original, quaint 1972 pilot. Interestingly, this was pretty much the end of Happy Days' stranglehold on American popular culture. The show would tumble from the Top 10 the next season, never to return.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're reviewing the Season 6 finale, "Potsie Quits School." The plot has hapless college student Potsie Weber (Anson Williams) confronting a stern, dictatorial anatomy professor (Allan Rich). It's my theory that this episode is the show's direct response to CBS' The Paper Chase, which was airing against Happy Days on Tuesday nights that year. Naturally, like most Potsie-centric episodes, this one features a big musical number, namely the immortal "Pump Your Blood."

I hope you'll join us for our review of "Potsie Quits School." This podcast also contains our overall thoughts on Season 6 and our picks for the Top 5 episodes of the year. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #15 by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg goes on an expedition of sorts.

We may never know the exact number of adult paperbacks Ed Wood wrote in the '60s and '70s. With a reasonable degree of certainty, we can attribute about 60 such books to Ed, including those written under his own name and those written under various pseudonyms. I've heard mention, however, that there may be more, perhaps many more!

In the massive ocean of tens of thousands of adult paperbacks, it's truly a daunting notion to know even where to begin.

In this week's edition of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, I share some thoughts on how to drain that ocean into a shallow and narrow pool. And, as I did earlier this year, I go on a little fishing expedition, surveying a sampling of paperbacks put out by publishers who we know published work by Ed.

Just a reminder: all episodes of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast can be found right here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Wax Off"

Anson Williams and Scott Baio on Happy Days.

When you were a kid, were you ever coerced into selling cookies, candy bars, or magazine subscriptions as part of a fundraising campaign? Did you have a lemonade stand in front of your house? Did you and your friends ever try to start a business of your own? I'll admit, I was not much of an entrepreneur as a child. It just held no appeal for me whatsoever. Plus I was lazy and spoiled. My business experience back then was limited to manning a table at my parents' garage sale. (And I likely ducked out on that after an hour or so.)

Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio) is definitely an entrepreneur -- or a huckster, more accurately. When Happy Days introduced this brash adolescent character in Season 5, his schtick was selling shoddy (stolen?) goods out of a paper bag that he carried with him wherever he went. Eventually, he started working as a busboy at Arnold's or as an assistant to his cousin Fonzie (Henry Winkler) at Bronko's Auto Repairing. He and his single mother are barely making ends meet, so Chachi needs every cent he can scrape up -- both for necessities and for fun.

In the Season 6 episode "Chachi's Incredo-Wax," that desperate need for cash leads him to sell bottles of furniture polish to everyone he knows. The problem is, the polish is defective and ruins everything it touches. The episode plays a lot like "The Hair-Brained Scheme," the series finale of The Brady Bunch. You remember that one. Bobby sells a bottle of hair tonic to his brother Greg, but the tonic ends up turning Greg's hair orange the day before graduation!

Does "Chachi's Incredo-Wax" live up to the high standards of that classic Brady Bunch episode? Find out when you listen to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #14 by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg chats with James Pontolillo (not pictured here).

For the latest episode of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, I had the wonderful experience of speaking with James Pontolillo, author of The Unknown War of Edward D Wood Jr: 1942-1946, the indispensable tome that reveals Eddie's service record during World War II and after. It's truly a book that every Wood fan should read.

Jim had previously messaged me with another astounding find, discovering one of Ed's last paperbacks serialized in a magazine in the mid-'80s, close to a decade after his passing. Watch the podcast to hear all of the details:

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "The French Mistake"

Patrick Gorman and Ron Howard on Happy Days.

Somehow, the French people have developed a reputation for rudeness, pretension, and arrogance. In movies, TV shows, and comedy sketches, French characters are often depicted as chortling, dismissive snobs with a seething contempt for foreigners. Think of John Cleese's French guard in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), the one who taunts King Arthur (Graham Chapman) with such devastating insults as: "Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries!" There's no comeback in the world for that.

Is this reputation deserved? You tell me. As a child, I went on a European vacation with my family, including a week or so in Paris. Apart from one stressed-out waiter at the (otherwise excellent) Stop Cluny, I can't remember anyone being especially rude to us. Maybe, decades ago, some comedy writer had a bad vacation in France and came back home doing an exaggerated French accent. Fair or not, the stereotype stuck around for decades.

The March 1979 episode "The Duel" is Happy Days' version of the "rude Frenchman" story. The plot has French fencing champion Jacques Du Bois (Patrick Gorman) coming to Milwaukee as part of his college tour and being rude to everyone he meets, including Richie (Ron Howard), Fonzie (Henry Winkler), and Joanie (Erin Moran). It all builds up to the titular showdown between Jacques and Fonzie, with America's pride on the line.

What did we think of "The Duel"? Find out by listening to the latest episode of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #13 by Greg Dziawer

Milton Knight and some of the topics of this week's show.

This week, it was my distinct pleasure to have a far-ranging conversation about Ed Wood with legendary artist Milton Knight, the man perhaps best known for designing the Robotnik character on the syndicated series Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. Milton has worked extensively in comics and animation as well as being a commercial illustrator, but he's also a major Ed Wood fan. You may remember my previous interview with Milton from 2019.

In this new episode of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, Milton and I expand on what we discussed in that article. Our topics include: Glen or Glenda (1953), the male rape fantasy of The Violent Years (1956), the curious case of the Bernie Bloom sex comic Not Tonight Joseph, plus lots more!

Milt was recently interviewed at length about all aspects of his career at the The Grottu Orloff Show, Also be sure to check out Milt's work at his site and support his work at his Patreon.

Many thanks to Milt for joining me and continuing to be a friend of this series!

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Mork Returns... But Why?"

Robin Williams and Ron Howard on Happy Days.

For decades, clip shows were a necessary evil of network television. Each series only has so much money to work with per season. The producers have to cut costs somewhere. Why not recycle some classic moments from previous episodes, linked together by a thin wraparound story? That way, you let your fans relive some cherished memories without having to make an expensive, all-new episode.

I would say that the traditional TV clip show thrived—if that's the word—between the 1970s and the 1990s. Back then, older episodes were not so easily accessible through DVD or streaming, so fans may have actually welcomed the chance to revisit some favorite scenes. It may have been The Simpsons that killed off these patchwork shows once and for all. The long-running Fox animated series undermined the trope with such slyly self-referential episodes as "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show" and "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular." After the dreadful "Gump Roast" in 2002, however, even The Simpsons gave up on clip shows.

Happy Days did more than its fair share of clip shows over its decade-long run. Season 6's "Mork Returns" (aka "The Fifth Anniversary Show") is merely one example among many. What sets this apart is the participation of Robin Williams as the manic alien Mork from Ork. Williams' guest shot in Season 5, "My Favorite Orkan," had been a sensation and led to the top-rated spinoff Mork & Mindy. It was only natural that the character would return to Happy Days someday. Why they brought him back for a lowly clip show is anyone's guess.

Does Robin Williams manage to make "Mork Returns" an episode worth watching? Find out when we review it on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 121: 'Love Making U.S.A.' (1971)

The respectable narrator of a not-so-respectable documentary.

I've been seeing the title in Ed Wood filmographies for years, but until very recently, I had not actually sat all the way through director Joe Robertson's 1971 sex documentary Love Making U.S.A. Why? Well, I guess I never found the movie particularly appetizing, since I knew it simply contained recycled footage from Love Feast (1969), an earlier collaboration between Robertson and Wood. But it was always there—an itch begging to be scratched. When I saw that Something Weird Video offered a download of the film for only $5.99, I took the plunge.

My background knowledge of Lovemaking U.S.A. was minimal. Philip R. Frey's The Hunt for Ed Wood referred to it as "a 'documentary' about the porn industry. There are scenes from early porn films, as well as footage of contemporary productions." David C. Hayes' Muddled Mind: The Complete Works of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (2001) had a vivid but somewhat misleading description: "This is a very, very sad period in Wood's life. The film is a XXX hardcore porn that stars John Holmes, Joe Robertson in drag and Ed. Luckily for everyone involved, Ed isn't naked... he just conducts 'sexy' on the street interviews." Neither Frey nor Hayes had claimed to see the film, but both were seeking a print for review.

The plain title card for Love Making U.S.A. 

Then there is Something Weird Video's own description of the film, written by porn blogger Prince Pervo. Since he definitely has seen the movie, Pervo's capsule review is more accurate: "Love Making U.S.A. isn't just another porn film," he writes. The critic explains the grab bag nature of the movie. It contains, among other things: a "prehistoric stag film" called A Free Ride (1915); some behind-the-scenes footage from Tomatoes (1970) (another Robinson film) with Anna Travers; a few minutes of John Holmes making love to the strains of Ravel's Bolero; and a documentary segment shot in Griffith Park at an event called Gay-In III. Pervo notes that director-producer Joe Robertson himself appears in this segment as "a tough gay-basher who turns out to be wearing nylons and high heels." As for the Ed Wood content in Love Making U.S.A., Pervo writes: "Then — surprise! — we watch the infamous Edward D. Wood, Jr. take pictures of smut-star Casey Lorrain [sic]!" 

Viewers will remember actress Casey Larrain from her roles in two Joe Robertson sexploitation flicks, the aforementioned Love Feast (aka The Photographer or Pretty Models All in a Row) and Nympho Cycler (aka Misty) (1971), both of which costarred Ed Wood. Casey is also one of the prostitutes at Madam Penny's Thrill Establishment in Ed Wood's Take It Out in Trade (1970). When she spoke to the authors of The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood (2015), Casey stated that she had only worked with Ed once for "a week and a half to two weeks" and that the footage had been spread out over several films. "I only worked with him the once," she said, "but he apparently cut that footage up and used it in all kinds of different projects."

Reader Rob Huffman shares this anecdote about his meeting with Casey Larrain:
"When I spoke with Ms. Larrain, she thought Take It Out In Trade, Nympho Cycler, and Love Feast were are all one movie. Bear in mind she was thinking back 50+ years ago. She has specific memories of a screening of dailies for Nympho Cycler, though. She said Wood was there and he was indeed the director of the film. She did two hardcore scenes with [John] Holmes before calling it quits. Her whole approach to the films was that she was a hippie who was unashamed of her nudity. She knew she was attractive, and was already modeling. It was just a gig."
I cannot confirm that Love Feast, Nympho Cycler, and Take It Out in Trade were all shot at the same time, but the footage in Love Making U.S.A. is definitely recycled from Love Feast. Those of you who have seen that 1969 sex comedy will remember that Ed Wood portrays Mr. Murphy, a drunken sot who summons young women to his home by pretending to be a fashion photographer. Casey Larrain plays Linda, the very first model to show up at Murphy's doorstep, only to be steered into his bedroom.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Putting the FUN in Funeral!"

Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

Do you ever think about your own funeral? It's difficult not to. As Tom Lehrer once famously sang, "When you attend a funeral, it is sad to think that sooner or later those you love will do the same for you. And you may have thought it tragic, not to mention other adjectives to think of all the weeping they will do." 

So right now, I'd like you to imagine your own little send-off ceremony. Who will show up? What will they say about you? Will it be a lavish, extravagant affair or perhaps something a bit more humble? Maybe your funeral will be a joyous celebration of your generous and productive life. Maybe it will be like something out of a soap opera or a Greek tragedy, with the mourners wailing uncontrollably because you were snatched away so quickly from them by the cruel hand of Death. Maybe it'll just be a little dull.

In the Season 6 Happy Days episode "Fonzie's Funeral (Part 2)," Arthur Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) gets the rare opportunity to attend his own funeral! Some gangsters want him dead, so he pretends that he is, and the Cunninghams throw a fake memorial service in his honor. Calling himself "the widow Fonzarelli," Fonzie dons a black dress, a gray-haired wig, and a veil so that he can be there without arousing suspicion from the bad guys.

The Cunninghams know Fonzie is really alive, but some of the mourners think the service is real and grieve accordingly. Among the attendees: Officer Kirk (Ed Peck), Arnold Takahashi (Pat Morita), and the cast of Laverne & Shirley (Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams Eddie Mekka, Michael McKean, and David Lander). Fonzie gets to hear what all of these people say about him when they believe he's dead. That's a privilege most of us will never have.

Does any of this make for a good episode? Find out when we review "Fonzie's Funeral (Part 2)" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 120: A brief introduction to "Range Revenge"

Barbara Parsons and Conrad Brooks in Range Revenge (1948).

What was Edward D. Wood, Jr.'s first movie? That sounds like a pretty basic question, but the answer is not immediately clear. As with determining his so-called "last" movie, a lot depends on your definitions and parameters. 

If you were going strictly by Tim Burton's 1994 biopic Ed Wood, you'd think that Eddie had never stepped behind a camera until he made Glen or Glenda (1953). In Burton's film, he decides on the spur of the moment to become a filmmaker and assembles a cast and crew through his theater and studio contacts. But dedicated fans know that our man from Poughkeepsie had been involved in both film and TV productions for several years by the time he made Glenda.

If you don't limit yourself to Ed's feature-length directorial efforts, the field of candidates for his "first movie" widens considerably. How far back do you want to go? In Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992), a man named Fred Robertson -- apparently a friend of Eddie's father -- remembered seeing about four minutes of footage that Ed Wood shot as an adolescent with his first camera. Robertson recalled "scenes of [Ed] playing G-man with cap pistols" and "a couple of guys playing cops and robbers." So it sounds like there was at least some semblance of a narrative to what I'll call The Robertson Footage

Do we count this as Ed Wood's first movie? Before you answer, consider that the current IMDb entries for such prominent filmmakers as Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, and the Coen brothers contain similar homemade efforts. Incidentally, I think I've discovered a slight discrepancy in the saga of Ed Wood's infamous first camera. A photo caption in Nightmare says that Eddie received a "Kodak City [sic] Special," as a gift on his 17th birthday in 1941. But in that same book, Kathy Wood relates an anecdote about her late husband filming the doomed Hindenburg airship, which famously crashed in 1937. Was this yet another of Eddie's tall tales?

Ed Wood clutches a Kodak 16mm camera.

Since The Robertson Footage has never resurfaced, let's confine ourselves to Ed Wood's professional efforts from his 30-year tenure in Hollywood. Most filmographies, including the one in Nightmare, begin with the wobbly Western called Streets of Laredo or Crossroads of Laredo, shot in 1948 but abandoned in post-production and not completed until 1995. When I began this series of articles eight years ago, Laredo was the first Ed Wood movie I reviewed. At the time, I called it "very primitive and somewhat of a chore to watch."

A dark horse candidate for Ed's directorial debut is another 1948 Western -- Range Revenge, starring Wood mainstay Conrad Brooks and his two brothers, Henry and Ted, alongside Barbara Parsons and B-Western star Johnny Carpenter. Rudolph Grey doesn't even mention Range Revenge in Nightmare of Ecstasy. Other books like Muddled Mind: The Complete Works of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (2001), The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood (2015), and Ed Wood, Mad Genius (2009) skip over it, too. 

Conrad Brooks alone kept the memory of the film alive. The first opportunity fans had to see this footage was in 1993, when Connie hosted a grab-bag-style documentary called Hellborn: The Aborted Masterpiece of Edward D. Wood, Jr., produced in conjunction with Cult Movies magazine. That hourlong tape contains previously unseen footage from Eddie's abandoned juvenile delinquent movie Hellborn, but it also includes what Brooks claims is Ed Wood's first professional directing job in Hollywood.

Connie's story about the footage goes this way: In 1948, he and his brother, Henry Bederski, were visiting Hollywood from their native Baltimore for a few weeks. They hadn't come West to be in showbiz necessarily, but they got to know a few people in the industry, including Edward D. Wood, Jr., himself fairly recently arrived from Poughkeepsie. Connie and Ed became fast friends, and Henry told Ed about his plan to make a modest "home movie" of himself and his brother to send back to Baltimore.

Sensing an opportunity, Eddie took over the project, offering to film the little screen test on a "good camera" for $60. That's nearly $700 in today's money, probably a hefty chunk of change for Conrad Brooks in those days. Henry and Connie felt Ed was overcharging them, but they acquiesced because they liked him and felt he needed the cash. The original plan was for Connie to act, Henry to direct, and Eddie to act as cameraman. Once they started filming on 16mm in Griffith Park, however, Ed cajoled Henry into acting and took over as director.

As with The Robinson Footage, it seems like there was at least some attempt at a narrative with Range Revenge. "The script was thrown away," Brooks told Cult Movies editor Michael Copner with a chuckle. This suggests that there was a script in the first place. Despite that, the actor remembers the shoot being a lot of fun. Brooks balks at giving the film a title. "Call it whatever you like," he jovially tells Copner. 

In later interviews, however, the actor specifically referred to the project as Range Revenge and said that his brother Henry had written a script for it and was annoyed by Eddie's interference. According to Brooks, Ed Wood "took over the whole picture" and "just shot things at random." The 11 minutes of overexposed black-and-white footage on the Hellborn tape bear out that description. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "The Candy Man Can... But He Probably Shouldn't"

Richard Moll, Gino Conforti, and Cliff Emmich on Happy Days.

There's "over the top," there's "way over the top," and then there's "Fonzie's Funeral." If you thought "Hollywood" and "Westward Ho" were the silliest multi-episode sagas in Happy Days history, you ain't seen nothing yet. "Fonzie's Funeral" has it all: gangsters, explosions, secret passageways, counterfeit money in coffins, the works -- all done in the hammiest way possible. Scenery isn't just chewed, it's devoured. This is a story so utterly absurd, it took two episodes to tell it.

Actually, this is par for the course in Season 6. For some reason, the show did a lot of Scooby Doo-esque episodes with creepy villains and spooky music that year. "Fonzie's Funeral" is the culmination of a trend that started with "Fearless Malph,"  "The Evil Eye," and "The Claw Meets the Fonz." You wouldn't think a nostalgic family sitcom set in the suburbs of Milwaukee would have a lot of use for stock shots of lightning, but these turn up frequently on Season 6 of Happy Days.

The plot of "Fonzie's Funeral" involves Fonzie (Henry Winkler) and Richie (Ron Howard) discovering that a counterfeiting ring is operating out of a local funeral home. The mastermind of this criminal operation is a corpulent, white-suited villain known only as the Candy Man (Cliff Emmich), aided and abetted by his two henchmen, diminutive Sticky (Gino Conforti) and towering Eugene (Night Court's Richard Moll). When Fonzie turns some of their "funny money" over to a treasury agent (John Moskal, Jr.) as evidence, Candy Man's goons retaliate by blowing up the garage where Fonzie works. "Part 1" ends with Richie racing to Fonzie's rescue. Does he make it in time to save America's favorite mechanic?

This is just one of many questions my cohost and I will ponder when we review "Fonzie's Funeral (Part 1)" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #12 by Greg Dziawer and Joe Blevins

Each person's fingerprints are unique. Remember that.

Last week, I presented a vintage magazine article for your consideration: a lengthy review of the 1979 Swedish Erotica loop "Sweet Alice" starring Seka and Big John Holmes. This week, Joe Blevins joins me on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast to break it all down. Among many other considerations, we do ultimately make our summary statements. Could Ed Wood have written this?

Watch and tell us what you think:

We'd love to hear your opinions, any and all, so please comment on the video at YouTube and don't be shy. Could this be, in FACT, one of the final substantial pieces of text ever written by Edward D. Wood, Jr. before he finally fell into the BIG BLACK?
Special thanks to our brand spanking new sponsor at The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, TripleXBooks! Visit triplexbooks.com and get your vintage adult paperback fix! They're currently having their "Xmas in July" sale with all books just $1 apiece.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Pyg-marion"

Don Most and Suzi Quatro on Happy Days.

It's easy in show business to get typecast or pigeonholed. People think of you as one thing, and it's difficult to change their perception. We've all seen this happen to performers. If Carrot Top wanted to become a serious dramatic actor, we'd be skeptical. If Kid Rock suddenly started composing string quartets, we'd have questions.

But the same thing can happen to any of us. Are you the "funny" one in your group? The "serious" one? The "healthy" one? Maybe you mentioned to somebody once that you collected owl figurines, and now that's all you get for every birthday and Christmas! How do you break out of these patterns?

This is the problem that plagues Leather Tuscadero (Suzi Quatro) and Ralph Malph (Don Most) as they embark on a romantic relationship in the Season 6 Happy Days episode "Marion: Fairy Godmother." Leather wants people to think of her as a woman, not just a leather-clad rock goddess. Meanwhile, Ralph wants the world to take him seriously, even though he's a notorious jokester. Can they change their image in time for the big ROTC dance? And can Marion (Marion Ross) turn Leather into a proper lady in just a few days?

These questions and more will be answered when we review "Marion: Fairy Godmother" on the latest episode of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. Join us!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Erotica Odyssey, Part 4 by Greg Dziawer

This week, let's look at a text from the late 1970s and guess if Ed Wood wrote it.

For the last few years, I have been scouring the texts from late '70s Swedish Erotica film magazines, looking for evidence of Ed Wood's participation. Eddie's known magazine credits virtually ceased after 1975, but we have evidence that he was still cashing checks from Swedish Erotica right into the summer of 1978. His paystubs from that period bore the euphemistic name "Art Publishers, Inc."

Today, I present to you the entire (uncredited) text from Swedish Erotica film magazine #28. The issue features a pictorial with text entitled "Sweet Alice." Unusually for this series, the pictorial comprises the entire issue. Most of the SE film mags included three to four features apiece and sometimes even a page of short capsule reviews. 

The photos for the pictorial were taken on the set of the corresponding silent 8mm film, also titled "Sweet Alice" and released in 1979 as loop #240 in the Swedish Erotica series. It stars John Holmes and an uncredited Seka. I am deliberately avoiding any textual analysis, because I want you to read the story without any preconceived notions.

Let's go!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Ah, Yes, I Remember It Well"

Tom Bosley and Marion Ross on Happy Days.

When you review every single episode of Happy Days, you really learn to appreciate Tom Bosley and Marion Ross. As loving parents Howard and Marion Cunningham, these two were truly in it for the long haul. While other cast members come and go, Tom and Marion help keep the show connected to its roots. Tom may not have been in the earliest pilot (his part was played by Harold Gould back then), but he was an integral part of the weekly series from 1974 to 1984. Marion, meanwhile, is the single constant presence in Happy Days from that first pilot all the way to the series finale. Even Anson Williams can't say that, since Potsie was conspicuously absent from Joanie and Chachi's wedding.

Important as they are to the show, Howard and Marion don't get too many showcase episodes to call their own. Richie and Fonzie tend to monopolize the airtime, especially in the series' early seasons. That makes Season 6's "Married Strangers," the subject of this week's These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, a rarity. The plot revolves around Howard and Marion feuding on their 23rd wedding anniversary. They attempt to rekindle the magic of their early days by meticulously recreating their honeymoon down to the smallest detail. As you might guess, this strategy does not work terribly well.

Contrary to the episode's title, Howard and Marion's problem stems from the fact that they know each other too well. A quote commonly attributed to Mark Twain says that "familiarity breeds contempt and children." The Cunninghams definitely have children, and occasionally they have contempt for each other, too. Not a lot but some. It's to be expected when you spend 23 years together. Luckily, they have a lot of love, too.

Does any of this make for a good episode of Happy Days? You'll have to find out when we review "Married Strangers" this week on These Days Are Ours.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed-Tribution Odyssey, Part Six by Greg Dziawer

T.K. Peters got groovy in his later years.

A few months back, on a slow Saturday afternoon, I sat down and scanned the covers of many of the paperbacks credited to American educator, author, and renaissance man, Dr. Thomas Kimmwood "T.K." Peters (1879-1973). While Peters wrote about many topics, ranging from botany to psychology, it was his vast research on sex that provided the basis for numerous books in the early 1970s. Edward D. Wood, Jr. in particular drew on Peters' source material numerous times while writing sex manuals during those years. In fact, while Peters is often mistakenly cited as a pseudonym for Ed, he was undoubtedly a real person with a distinct and fascinating life of his own.

T.K. Peters' material was turned into two primary series of books, totaling approximately 50 tiles -- SECS Press' Sexual Educational Clinical Series and Calga's Sexual Enlightenment Series. SECS and Calga were both imprints of Pendulum, a West Coast publisher for whom Ed Wood worked in the '60s and '70s. In this article, I'll include some sample covers from both SECS and Calga. For good measure, I'll toss in a cover from Pendulum's Psychomed series, too. While never credited to Peters, the Psychomed books are clearly cut from the same cloth.

NOTE: Ed Wood did not necessarily work on all these books. He definitely worked on some of them, though.