Friday, December 31, 2021

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (2021): An introduction

When the Topic is Sex (2021). Cover illustration by Evan Quiring.

Well, it's that time again. A new compilation of Ed Wood's extensive magazine work is upon us, the third of its kind in recent years. This time, it's called When the Topic is Sex, and it is now available from BearManor Media in hardcover or paperback editions. Like the two previous Wood compendiums, Blood Splatters Quickly (2014) and Angora Fever (2019), When the Topic is compiled and edited by Bob Blackburn, the Los Angeles resident who befriended Eddie's widow Kathy Wood in her later years and became co-heir of her estate. 

A new book to devour.
It's nothing short of a small miracle that these volumes exist at all. Bob Blackburn curated these books by purchasing vintage adult magazines containing Eddie's work on the secondary market, sometimes at considerable expense. Ed Wood fanatics owe him a debt of gratitude for that. Simply put, Bob tracked these stories down so that we could enjoy them in the 21st century. Otherwise, a vast swath of Ed Wood's literary output might've been lost to time.

I've repeatedly said that fans who want to familiarize themselves with Ed Wood's writing style—and thus with the man himself—should pick up Blood Splatters Quickly or Angora Fever and read his short stories, most of them written in the early 1970s when Wood was a penniless alcoholic. From these sex-and-violence-strewn tales, you'll get a sense of Eddie's quirks as an author: his stilted syntax, his oddball approach to punctuation, his often surreal and meandering plots, and his love of particular words and phrases. Above all, those short stories demonstrate how Eddie could direct nearly any subject toward his three great muses: death, booze, and women's clothing.

It's true that Eddie churned out dozens of novels in the 1960s and '70s, but these are usually very expensive and difficult to find. Besides, many fans may find these books challenging to read because Ed Wood (he of the notorious "muddled mind") had trouble maintaining a coherent plot over the course of a couple hundred pages. His novels tend to get bogged down with flashbacks and digressions. The great thing about the short story form is that it forces Ed to stay at least somewhat focused on the task at hand. He knows he has to bring his plot to some kind of conclusion after a few pages, so he's more apt to get to the point. Having read many of Ed's novels, I can say with confidence that the short stories contain all of the author's idiosyncrasies, just in a more digestible form.

What sets When the Topic is Sex apart from Blood Splatters Quickly and Angora Fever is that those previous compilations focused on Eddie's short stories, i.e. his brief works of fiction, some of them supernatural. The articles anthologized in this new book, however, are examples of Ed Wood's plentiful but overlooked nonfiction. I use the term "nonfiction" with caveats. As Bob Blackburn points out in his explanatory foreword, some of Ed's supposedly "factual" articles were based on real-world research, while others were entirely concocted from the author's alcohol-soaked imagination. 

Bob further maintains that Eddie's nonfiction articles "more than his short fiction really show more of the real person of Ed Wood in them." I don't know if that's necessarily true—it doesn't gibe with my experience as a reader—but I will say that Wood's nonfiction has a tone of its own, distinct from his novels and short stories. He's slightly more stiff and formal when writing this material, but he's also more optimistic and even-handed. Think back to Glen or Glenda (1953) when kindly Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell) starts narrating in the style of a high school civics film:
Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even the lounging outfit he has on, and he's the happiest individual in the world. He can work better, think better. He can play better, and he can be more of a credit to his community and his government because he is happy.
That's the Ed Wood who emerges from the nonfiction. You can also see this side of Ed's personality in the unsigned editorials he wrote for Pendulum Publishing's adult magazines. Greg Dziawer recently wrote about how those "idealistic" articles differ in tone from Eddie's seedy, often downbeat fiction.

Author and publisher Bill Shute further sets the stage with an excellent essay called "Edward D. Wood, Jr.: Professional Writer," which serves as the introduction to When the Topic is Sex. In describing the nonfiction articles, Shute writes: "Wood comes off as thoughtful, measured, and wanting to consider and respect differing viewpoints." Shute also asserts that these allegedly fact-based articles allowed Eddie "to basically riff on a theme in a unified way." 

As you might guess from the compilation's title, many of the articles in this book are about sex (and changing sexual mores), but Eddie sounded off about a number of topics, including the film industry and even school busing. Shute warns us that "some of this material is extremely politically incorrect by today's standards." (Bob Blackburn gives a similar warning in his foreword, though the term he uses is "squirm inducing.") Longtime Wood fans should be able to handle it, though—especially those brave souls who have been willing to explore Eddie's pornographic work, both on screen and in print. Once you've seen Eddie strip down to his jockey shorts in Love Feast (1969), very little should shock you.

Bob Blackburn has pieced When the Topic is Sex together from over 80 individual articles, originally published between 1971 and 1973 in various adult magazines. The two previous Wood compilation books provided many hours of entertainment for me, and I am confident that When the Topic is Sex will do the same. I hope you'll join me as I make my way through this volume and share my thoughts on it. Perhaps along the way, I'll come to agree with Bob Blackburn that these nonfiction articles bring us closer to the "real" Ed Wood.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #23 and #23.5 by Greg Dziawer

It's been an eventful first year for The Ed Wood Summit Podcast.

As 2021 draws to a close, so, too, does the freshman year of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast. I started these conversations about the life and work of Edward D. Wood, Jr. back in January and have kept the series going these past twelve months. Sometimes, I've had guests along for the ride; other times, it's just been me.

Today, as we rapidly approach the end of December, I reflect back on the first full year of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast and pose some subjects for 2022. Join me, won't you?

After finishing the podcast, I realized I had few more ideas to express, so I added this short addendum. Enjoy!

Thanks for watching! I'll see you all again in the new year! As a reminder, all episodes of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast are available right here!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Orbit, Part 7 by Greg Dziawer

Two male models pose for the cover of Pendulum's The Boy Friends.

Christmas has arrived early this year! Instead of candy canes or sugar plums, I offer you a clutch of uncredited texts that could well be the work of Edward D. Wood, Jr.!

Ed's many adult paperbacks, along with the short stories and articles he wrote for magazines, remain the core of his known literary output. We've previously highlighted other forms of texts from his adult magazine work, however, including his editorials and the texts accompanying pictorials. There's a stark tonal difference between the short stories—pulpy and often violent, nihilistically wallowing in the worst aspects of human nature—and these other texts.

Nowhere is the plea for sexual freedom and tolerance voiced as earnestly as it is in the editorials. In Pendulum's all-male magazines (including those published under the Gallery Press and Calga imprints), the tone is idealistic and optimistic. The Boy Friends was one of the earliest of Pendulum's all-male titles, and each issue features a fresh but uncredited editorial.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "My Best Mom's Wedding"

Marion Ross and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

Happy Days is rightfully thought of as a 1970s phenomenon, like leisure suits and disco, but the nostalgic sitcom ran well into the 1980s. It finally expired in 1984 after an incredible run of 11 seasons and 255 episodes. It's weird to think of a quaint, fairly corny show like Happy Days coexisting in the same pop culture landscape as video games, rap music, and Ghostbusters. But it did. 

I wonder if the cast and crew of Happy Days had any trepidations in December 1979 about what the new decade would bring. Big changes were soon coming to the ABC series. Ron Howard and Don Most left after the 1979-80 season, for instance. More broadly, America's TV-watching tastes changed in the early '80s, moving away from traditional family sitcoms and toward nighttime dramas (Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest) and action shows (The A-Team, Magnum PI, The Fall Guy). That was definitely bad news for the Fonz and his pals.

As it turned out, the last episode of Happy Days to premiere during the 1970s was Season 7's "Here Comes the Bride, Again." In my opinion, this is one of the highlights of the season. It tells a sweet story about Marion (Marion Ross) convincing her grouchy husband Howard (Tom Bosley) to have a second wedding, since their original wedding took place in a bus depot and was anything but romantic. Their son Richie (Ron Howard) wants to stage the event in the Cunninghams' back yard, but he has numerous obstacles to overcome, including a grouchy neighbor (played by Ron's father Rance Howard) and two incompetent caterers (played by radio comedy legends Bob and Ray).

You can hear everything we have to say about "Here Comes the Bride, Again" on the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. Hope to see you over there!

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 126: Is this Ed Wood's only Christmas novel?

Santa curls up with a copy of Ed Wood's 1968 novel Nighttime Lez.

We know Ed Wood celebrated Christmas. In the '50s, when he was still living with actress Dolores Fuller, he famously produced some 3D cards featuring himself dressed as Jesus. Those cards remain prized collectibles among Ed's fans even today. Later, according to Nightmare of Ecstasy, Eddie proudly gave out copies of his own paperbacks as Christmas presents. I like to think of him offering The Oralists (1969) or Purple Thighs (1968) to his bewildered landlord in lieu of rent.

The Yuletide season does not figure all that prominently in Ed's creative output, however. Offhand, I can't remember even a mention of the holiday in any of his movies, pornographic or otherwise. But what about his written work? Eddie churned out so many novels, nonfiction books, short stories, and magazine articles that the topic of Christmas must've come up at least a few times, right? Recently, I immersed myself in Eddie's literary work from the 1960s and '70s, mainlining one book after another. Since the holidays were approaching, I naturally started looking for mentions of Christmas in any of these sex-and-violence-drenched classics.

A later edition of the book.
Eventually, I hit pay dirt. Nighttime Lez (sometimes printed as Night Time Lez) is yet another of Ed Wood's many salacious, adults-only novels. It was published in 1968 by a company called Columbia, which had previously released Eddie's debut novel Black Lace Drag. For whatever reason (authorial pride?), Eddie used his real name on this tale of Sapphic intrigue, eschewing any of his usual pseudonyms. 

Thematically and stylistically, Nighttime Lez is very standard Wood stuff. I'm sure he wrote it quickly and without a great deal of thought. The plot revolves around a beautiful young woman in Los Angeles named Paula Thomas. Dissatisfied with her heterosexual experiences, she tentatively visits a lesbian bar called The Iris Inn. There, she almost immediately becomes physically involved with two monstrously butch older women: owner Tommy and barfly Sam. But these two grotesques initiate her into the lesbian lifestyle, and soon Paula encounters some younger, more attractive women, including Jeni, Sin, Loretta, and Doris (who is Tommy's current paramour). All of these women, butch and femme alike, form a close community of friends with benefits. They spend their time drinking, partying, and hooking up. The only male member of the group is Henry/Henrietta, a cross-dressing bartender with an odd sense of humor.

The title vaguely suggests that Paula may be living a double life, and indeed she is. By day, she's a well-paid corporate secretary at the Tishman building on Wilshire Boulevard and is unapologetic about sleeping her way up the corporate ladder. This plot point allows Ed Wood to include a few heterosexual love scenes along with the many, many lesbian ones in Nighttime Lez. Paula's latest boss is mild-mannered Ralph Henderson, a married man so enamored of Paula that he wants to take her with him whenever he travels overseas. Some of the other female employees at the Tishman building are jealous of Paula, but it doesn't seem to bother her much.

To keep things interesting, Ed Wood throws a few soap opera-type plot complications at his characters. Sam contracts pneumonia. Tommy and Doris almost break up. Henry/Henrietta dates a troublemaking straight guy who tries to sexually assault Paula. And Paula? Well, let's say that our favorite secretary is not as careful about birth control as she should be. (In this book, Ed Wood opines that birth control should be a woman's responsibility, since men hate wearing those uncomfortable condoms.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "A Truly Pointless Episode"

Henry Winkler (at right, holding exclamation point sign) on Happy Days.

Did your hometown have a place where teenagers would go to make out on dates? Maybe a scenic spot with a spectacular view? I don't think mine (Flushing, Michigan) did, but I would have had no need of such a place even if it had existed. A social pariah then as now, I went on just one passionless date during my high school years. But my classmates had dates, so did they have a place to go? Our town had a park, and I vaguely remember that kids would visit it on the weekends after lights out. It was just a flat expanse of lawn, nothing particularly scenic about it. Certainly no mountains, valleys, canyons, etc. Not even a lake or pond.

The kids on Happy Days certainly have a scenic place to go on dates. It's called Inspiration Point, and from what I can tell, it's a forested area that overlooks... something. Maybe a valley or canyon. We never do see what the kids are allegedly looking at, but we take it on faith that it provides sufficient inspiration for their furtive post-sock hop groping sessions. Obviously, the Fonz (Henry Winkler) is a habituĂ© of Inspiration Point. But Richie (Ron Howard), Potsie (Anson William), and Ralph (Don Most) go there a lot, too. With their dates, that is, not with each other.

In fact, the characters on Happy Days mention Inspiration Point so often that it was only a matter of time before the Point got an episode of its own. That moment finally came with Season 7's "They're Closing Inspiration Point." As you might guess from the title, the Point is threatened by encroaching development, specifically a highway overpass. It's up to Richie and his pals to save the place by appealing directly to the local planning commission. Think Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), only it's about horny teenagers.

What did we think of "They're Closing Inspiration Point"? Find out by listening to the latest and perhaps greatest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 125: The floating trumpet in 'Night of the Ghouls' (1959)

Let's talk about that trumpet.

I will never forget my first screening of Night of the Ghouls (1959). I saw it on Friday, October 30, 1992 as part of an Ed Wood quadruple feature, alongside Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957). This was my first time seeing any of Eddie's movies, and it was the night that made me a fan for life.

Accessibly weird and endlessly quotable, Glenda and Plan 9 were the hits of the evening, as you might expect. The organizers of the marathon wisely scheduled Night of the Ghouls (aka Revenge of the Dead) to run last. The supernatural thriller, a film both sluggish in its pace and confounding in its construction, just about cleared the room. I stuck it out and have since come to love Ghouls, though I admit that my first viewing was an endurance test.

In particular, the séance scenes in Night of the Ghouls caused multiple walkouts. If you'll recall, the film's plot revolves around a fraudulent psychic called Dr. Acula (Kenne Duncan), who bilks customers out of their money by pretending to communicate with their dead relatives. The con artist demonstrates his "skills" through a variety of cheap theatrical tricks, the kind a Scooby Doo villain might use to scare meddling kids away from an amusement park. One particularly obscure detail: a trumpet dangling from wires so that it looks like it's floating in midair.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "But You ARE, Don! You ARE in That Chair!"

Henry Winkler, Ron Howard, and Jim Knaub on Happy Days.

Sitcoms exist to amuse us, give us a few chuckles, and distract us from the problems of our everyday lives. They're light entertainment, nothing more. Or are they?  You see, sitcoms are made by concerned, caring, deeply moral people who have thoughts and feelings about a wide variety of social issues. And they reach an audience of millions of people across America each week! Can't sitcoms educate the public a little? In fact, isn't it their responsibility to mix in some learning with the guffaws?

And so, we get the "very special episode," i.e. a sitcom story that tackles some decidedly unfunny subject in the interest of creating a brighter world for all of us. The VSE really became a subgenre of its own during the 1970s (perhaps thanks to Norman Lear), and Happy Days was not immune. In Season 7, for instance, they did "The Mechanic," an episode in which Fonzie (Henry Winkler) hires a handicapped man named Don (real life wheelchair athlete Jim Knaub) to work in his garage. Don is embittered about the accident that put him in a wheelchair, and Fonzie definitely has a phobia about working with the disabled. So it seems they both have a lot to learn. What do you wanna bet that they both grow and change by the closing credits?

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we review "The Mechanic" and tell you whether it works as education, as entertainment, as both, or as neither. Join us!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Musical Odyssey, Part Three by Greg Dziawer

Peter Gooch as Ed Wood in Hubcaps Afire Over Hollywood.

In the lightning-in-a-bottle moment surrounding the release of director Tim Burton's biopic Ed Wood in 1994, a veritable cottage industry of Wood-related works emerged. Though receiving universal critical praise, the film tanked at the box office and its namesake faded back into the cult infamy from which he had briefly emerged into mainstream pop culture.

A forgotten footnote today, leaving behind little in the public record, was the stage musical Hubcaps Afire Over Hollywood. Its initial run in Fort Worth, TX ran concurrently to the release of Burton's film in October 1994. After a brief second run in early 1995, the play all but disappeared. Here's Perry Stewart's review of that staging from the October 11, 1994 edition of The Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Glen or Glenda Odyssey, Part 8 by Greg Dziawer

"Not half man-half woman, but nevertheless, man and woman in the same body."

It must have been shocking to the so-called "normal" people of the Truman-Eisenhower era when the headlines announced that, in mere months, a man named George Jorgensen was about to become a woman named Christine Jorgensen. While far from the first to undergo sex reassignment surgery, Christine was the first to dominate the headlines. Her successful reassignment was confirmed in the papers in early December 1952. By February of 1953, Christine made her heralded return to the states. 

In the interim, a fledgling filmmaker named Edward D Wood Jr had shot his first feature, Glen or Glenda, partially inspired by the Jorgensen case. Although the project was intended as quickie exploitation, Ed would imbue it with his own personal travails regarding sexual identity. While the film would wind up as a cult favorite, Christine became a pop culture icon and fixture of newspaper and magazine articles. To some extent, she remains a household name three decades after her death. 

I've shared details of Christine's fame previously, including some of those aforementioned articles. This week, I invite you to have a look at another article, deriving from that cataclysmic moment in 1953 when Christine Jorgensen took the world by storm. Sir! claimed to be a "magazine for males." It devoted the cover of its May 1953 issue (vol. 1, no. 8) to Christine. Like other magazines of the era aimed squarely at the average joe, Sir! featured a stew of the weird and the exotic, including plenty of sex and violence. One article warns that water is actually bad for you, while another details the sex lives of eunuchs. There's a pinup photo feature about the all-but-forgotten Linda Lombard, plus a clutch of pulp fiction short stories. An article called "The Effeminate Killers" even asks this daunting question: "Are bullfighters homosexual?" It's a dizzying array of overheated content.

Amid all this is "The Real Truth About Christine," credited to Dr. Albert A. Brandt. Here is the article in its entirety. You may have to click on these images to see them at a larger size. 

Pages 6 and 7.

Pages 8 and 9.

Pages 64 and 66.

You can check out the entire May 1953 issue of Sir! here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Maneaters on Motorbikes"

Karen Jensen and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

I am old enough to have lived through most of the original run of Happy Days, and I'm sure my family tuned into many of those Tuesday night broadcasts on ABC in the '70s and '80s. Tens of millions of Americans did, after all. But the way I really got to know the show was through syndication. Under the title Happy Days Again, the nostalgic sitcom aired every afternoon, Monday through Friday. This was the same way I originally saw shows like Three's Company and The Brady Bunch.

Very little of Happy Days stayed with me into my adult years, apart from the bare basics -- Richie, Fonzie, Arnold's, etc. I can distinctly remember feeling very grown-up when I started ninth grade, because I associated high school with the Happy Days gang. I wondered if I, too, would start wearing a varsity jacket and attending sock hops. (Neither happened.) Other than that, the show was just a vague blur of jukeboxes and motorcycles in my mind.

The Season 7 episode "Fonzie Vs. The She Devils," however, made a huge impression on me. It definitely stood out among its brethren. Revisiting this adventure for These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, I can see why. This is one bizarre show. The plot centers around a tough, all-female biker gang called, yes, the She Devils led by the astonishing Big Bertha (Judy Pioli). They're like something out of a 1960s B-movie. Unfortunately, Chachi (Scott Baio) has just dumped one of the She Devils' sisters, so they kidnap him, drag him back to their headquarters in an abandoned beauty parlor, and threaten to shave his head. Who can save Chachi's scalp? Only his cousin Fonzie (Henry Winkler), who infiltrates the She Devils' headquarters by masquerading as a Jerry Lewis-esque nerd named Artie.

You can see why a show like this would stick with me. But does being memorable equate to being good? Find out when we review "Fonze Vs. The She Devils" on this week's podcast!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Summit Podcast #22 by Greg Dziawer

The 1966 novel Mask of Evil has occasionally been attributed to Ed Wood.

If you are more than a casual fan of Ed Wood, you likely know that many of the adult paperbacks attributed to him were originally published under pseudonyms. While Wood left behind resumes that aid in identifying many such works, there are titles that seem purely speculative.

One of these is 1966's Mask of Evil, credited to Charlene White. I don't know the precise provenance of the attribution, but at present no less than Cornell University makes the assertion that it was written by Ed.

James Pontolillo recently imaged and shared a copy with Joe Blevins and myself, and the three of us sat down on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast to ponder whether we think Mask of Evil was truly written by Ed. Tune in and find out what we think!

Please support our new podcast sponsor, 30th Street Graphics ( Once you're there, click Contact (from the menu at the right side of the screen) and tell them that Greg at The Ed Wood Summit Podcast sent you. You'll receive a one time BOGO, a second digital scan of equal or lesser value from this amazing site. 30th Street Graphics has a trove of nearly a thousand books, comics, and mags featuring the best of the best in the fetish nostalgia space: Eric Stanton, Gene Bilbrew, Leonard Burtman, Bettie Page, Irving Klaw, Nutrix, Robert Bishop, Bill Ward, Eros Goldstripe, Female Mimics, and much more!

All episodes of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast can be found right here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "About Last Knight..."

Tom Bosley and Ron Howard on Happy Days.

Ron Howard got typecast as a nice guy for obvious reasons. The product of a stable (by showbiz standards) upbringing, he looks and talks like a stereotypical nice guy. According to the people who have worked with him, he is a nice guy, maybe one of the nicest in Hollywood. Ron's most iconic characters -- Opie Taylor, Steve Bolander, and Richie Cunningham -- are all built around this essential wholesomeness and decency.

That's not a bad thing. Ron made a lot of money and became very famous for being a goody two shoes in films and TV shows. In short, niceness made him a star. But it does get a little boring after a while. During Season 7 of Happy Days, the writers gave Ron Howard a chance to stretch a little with the episode "King Richard's Big Knight." The plot has Richie Cunningham being surreptitiously drugged by his frat brother Bullfrog (Gary Epp) during a party and subsequently undergoing a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde-type transformation. For a few glorious minutes, Ron gets to play an evil/obnoxious version of Richie, one who slings insults at his friends and casually rides a motorcycle in his family's living room.

Does this add up to a good episode? Find out when we review "King Richard's Big Knight" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 124: Drowning in a sea of Ed Wood

Ed Wood wrote way too much.

When I started this project in 2013, my humble goal was to review the 25 or so Ed Wood movies I had on DVD at the time. Basically, I was looking for an excuse to watch everything in the Big Box of Wood collection from S'more Entertainment, since I'd gotten that set as a gift several months previously but hadn't watched most of it. 

Honestly, I didn't plan on reviewing Eddie's books. This was to be a movie-focused series. Besides, the books weren't even readily available, apart from four titles (Killer in Drag, Death of a Transvestite, Devil Girls, and the posthumously-published Hollywood Rat Race) that had been reprinted in the '90s. I reviewed those outliers and then went back to discussing Ed's movies. Still, though, those other Wood books were always there, beckoning to me.

Thinking back, I probably learned of Ed Wood's writing career from Ted Newsom's documentary Look Back in Angora (1994), where it's briefly mentioned by narrator Gary Owens. Around that same time, Rudolph Grey's book Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992), which includes a Wood bibliography alongside his filmography, gave me a true sense of just how much Eddie had written in the '60s and '70s -- novels, short stories, nonfiction, etc. Grey helpfully listed dozens of titles and even provided tempting synopses and excerpts.

Fast forward to 2021. Because of this series, I've been the grateful recipient of many of Ed Wood's books. Not the pricey vintage paperbacks, you understand, but some of the (circa 2009) reprints from Ramble House that were quickly withdrawn from the marketplace. Recently, I've been making my way through a lot of them (about 30 as of today), one right after the other. I am figuratively drowning in a sea of Ed Wood. I haven't approached this in any kind of systematic or sensible way, and I for damned sure have not been taking notes. 

Because of this ramshackle approach, Ed Wood's books have blurred together in my mind. For instance, Eddie wrote at least three carnival-based novels: Mary Go Round, Side Show Siren, and Carnival Piece. You will probably not be shocked to learn that these three books (all enthusiastically recommended, by the way) contain numerous shared plot elements. There's always a traveling carnival that's stopped outside some hick town for days on end because of rain. There's usually a local girl who wants to escape her humdrum life so she joins up with the show. She'll take up with a macho guy who holds some position of authority within the carnival. A murder occurs. Then more murders, each more gruesome than the last. Some fat-bellied local sheriff starts poking around, asking questions and threatening everyone. Meanwhile, the sideshow freaks and other carnival performers exchange gossip and accusations while occasionally being bumped off.  It all builds to a splashy, violent climax in which the killer dies.

Then, there are Ed's many so-called nonfiction books, which are mainly pseudo-educational tomes about sex, violence, sexual violence, and violent sex. Largely forgoing any real research, Eddie would string together a bunch of fabricated vignettes and try to pass them off as "case histories." Drag Trade is like that. So are The Gay Underworld; The Oralists; Sex, Shrouds and Caskets; Suburbia Confidential; and probably many more titles in the Wood bibliography. These volumes really read more like short story compilations, only themed around a particular topic like necrophilia, cross-dressing, or religion.

In compiling these "case history"-style books, Eddie frequently plagiarized himself. The cartoon character Mr. Peabody once proudly declared, "I never chew my cabbage twice." Ed, on the other hand, would gladly chew his cabbage three, four, or five times if he had to. Tasked with churning out reams of text at a daunting pace, Eddie would revisit the same topics again and again, and he'd shamelessly recycle plots until they were threadbare. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Blame It on Sheriff Lobo"

Erin Moran and G.W. Bailey on Happy Days.

TV is a cutthroat, high-stakes business. It's tough to get a show on the air in the first place and just as tough to keep it there. Network executives may say they want to entertain, enlighten, and inform the public, but they're really only interested in the bottom line. How much money is your show making for us? Could another show potentially make more? That's what matters. If your show isn't profitable -- or as profitable as it could be -- it's gone.

This was especially true in the 1970s, when entertainment options were much more limited than they are now. With no internet or streaming and with home video and cable still in their infancy, network TV ruled the world. Viewers basically had a choice of three major channels, plus PBS and a few independent stations. That was it. NBC, CBS, and ABC couldn't afford to air a "niche" or "cult" show, at least not for long. Back then, each series was expected to attract a third of the nation, if not more. That's a hell of a lot of pressure.

Producer Garry Marshall knew that as well as anyone. The reason his series Happy Days lasted 11 seasons is that it made ABC a lot of money. It did that by attracting a lot of viewers. And by "a lot," I mean a lot. This humble, nostalgic sitcom routinely garnered the kind of Nielsen numbers that only huge events like the Super Bowl do today. The higher a show's ratings, the more it can charge advertisers. Naturally, any downturn in viewership is cause for serious concern.

In the fall of 1979, Happy Days' ratings took a nosedive. Going into its seventh season, it was still winning its time slot (Tuesday nights at 8:00), but NBC's rowdy, action-packed The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo was catching up fast. What was ABC to do? One idea was for the show to do slightly more risque stories. Nothing too spicy, you understand, but just suggestive enough that ABC could do leering promos. 

Last week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we talked about one such episode called "Burlesque." This week, we talk about another: "Joanie Busts Out." The plot has Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) considering posing nude for girlie photographer Jake Whitman (guest star G.W. Bailey). The episode itself is very tame and chaste, but Happy Days was criticized in the press for tackling such smutty material in the first place. The title alone is enough to raise eyebrows.

Is the episode's bad reputation deserved? Find out when you hear our review!

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Young Marrieds Odyssey, Part 7 by Greg Dziawer

(left) A shot from The Young Marrieds; (right) a print by Rico Tomaso.

I've spent an inordinate amount of time in recent years delving into the set decorations at talent agent Hal Guthu's (now-demolished) little studio on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles. Interiors for both Necromania (1971) and The Young Marrieds (1972)—generally believed to be the final two features directed by Ed Wood—were shot there, as were many other adult features and loops.

Hal had a variety of props and backdrops that directors could use when they shot at his studio. We've discussed, for instance, the wonderful pather panting, the imperious gold skull, a pair of ubiquitous Chinese Guardian Lions, and more. Items from Guthu's studio show up not only in Ed's two features, but in dozens and dozens of silent 8mm loops.

Two items from The Young Marrieds have long intrigued me: a pair of large paintings that hang above the striped couch in Ben and Ginny's living room. They're a matched set, featuring the same man and woman embracing, and look to be done in charcoal. While I always assumed they were commercially-available prints, I was never able to identify the artist responsible for the originals.

Two groovy prints seen in Ed Wood's The Young Marrieds.

Until now! That artist turns out to be Chicago-born illustrator and painter Rico Tomaso (1898-1985). In the 1920s, Tomaso studied with Robert Henri, a leader of the artistic movement known as the Ashcan School. He served in the Navy during WWII, after which he studied the work of the French Impressionists. He initially rose to prominence in the 1950s, first illustrating ads and soon after drawing covers for popular magazines ranging from men's adventure titles to The Saturday Evening Post. By the '60s, then nearing retirement age, Tomaso turned his attention to commissions and fine art. Unfortunately, he is largely forgotten today.

The pair of paintings in The Young Marrieds hail from the '60s. One of them, at least in an incarnation I have seen, carries this very apt quote at bottom edge: "....and they lived happily ever after?" It's questionable, indeed, if Ben and Ginny's marriage will survive, despite the attempt to revitalize it via swinging.

Before the film's final swinging orgy, we see a set of framed bullfighting images in Jim and Donna's bedroom. While scanning through some work by Tomaso, I stumbled upon some very similar paintings of a matador. The paintings in The Young Marrieds are not by Tomaso but seem to be inspired by his work.

(left) Jim and Donna's bedroom; (right) One of Tomaso's bullfighting prints.

As fun as it is to imagine a group of swingers who also collect Rico Tomaso prints, the truth is no doubt less interesting. Hal Guthu could very well have had a predilection for Tomaso, but it is just as likely that he just happened across these at swap meets and flea markets—which he frequented to find set decorations—and they caught his eye.

One final note: either Ben and Ginny left the paintings behind when they moved or they were already left there by the previous tenant. In any event, you can see one of them hanging above a familiar kitchen sink in the loop The Plummer [sic]. That, like other silent 8mm loops released as part of the M Series, is credited on the clapperboards to a certain Herb Redd and Marv Ellis, who beyond a handful of loops seem to have no other credits.

As we ID more paintings and perhaps find more work by Rico Tomaso hanging on the walls at Guthu's place, we'll report it in future editions of this series.
Special thanks to Shawn Langrick for supplying invaluable details for this article. Be sure to check out his incredible vintage adult media site here. A mini-gallery of Rico Tomaso's artwork can be found here. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "The One with Elvira in It"

Cassandra Peterson, Irving Benson, and Ron Howard on Happy Days.

What rotten timing, huh? Two days after Halloween, our podcast covers an episode of Happy Days featuring Cassandra Peterson, better known as horror hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Where were you last week, Cassandra? Then again, we've covered a Christmas episode in March and a Thanksgiving episode in May, so I guess our listeners should be used to this kind of thing by now. At least this time, we were kind of close to the target.

The episode in question, "Burlesque" from November 6, 1979, is quite a curio. The thin plot has Howard Cunningham (Tom Bosley) staging an old-fashioned burlesque show to raise money for his beloved Leopard Lodge. It's really just an excuse for the cast of Happy Days to sing, dance, and perform a few very corny, old-fashioned skits, accompanied by a bevy of scantily-clad cuties supposedly recruited by Fonzie (Henry Winkler). Besides Cassandra Peterson, the main guest star is comedian Irving Benson, basically playing himself. In real life, Irving was a comedian in vaudeville and burlesque, so he probably could have done this Happy Days episode in his sleep.

Why would Happy Days do an episode like this? Well, during the 1979-80 TV season, the show's ratings were faltering. In particular, NBC's The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo was giving Happy Days the most fearsome competition it had faced since Good Times during the 1974-75 season. At the direction of ABC, Happy Days experimented with some slightly racier, more salacious episodes in an effort to win back viewers. "Burlesque" did well in the ratings, and Happy Days ultimately outlasted Sheriff Lobo, but the squeaky-clean family sitcom did get some negative publicity in the process.

Was it worth it? Is "Burlesque" a hidden gem in the Happy Days back catalog? Find out this week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #21 by Greg Dziawer with W. Paul Apel

Has Greg turned up a forgotten Ed Wood classic?

Late one night, about a month ago, I was idly paging through some vintage adult magazine scans from the early 1970s. I was just about to go to bed when the text of a particular short story caught my tired attention. I read some more, and upon closer inspection, it seemed a little bit like it could have been written by Ed Wood!

The story in question, "The Golden Rivet," was uncredited. It was surrounded by captioned pictorials (including "The Love God" and "Wild Women of the West") that claimed to hail from sex films. The magazine itself—the first issue of Skin Film Erotic Cinema Review from 1970—carried a Swedish publishers address in the index.

What was going on? I invited W. Paul Apel back to The Ed Wood Summit Podcast to discuss it with me. Tune in and find out the truth about the mysterious Golden Rivet!

Thanks to the poster at Internet Archive for scanning and uploading the entire magazine issue here. And a special thanks to our podcast sponsor Triple X Books ( The next time you grab some affordable vintage adult paperback scans there, drop an order note and let them know The Ed Wood Summit Podcast sent you!

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Makin' it Rain"

Marion Ross and Henry Winkler on Happy Days

Maybe Marion Cunningham and Marge Simpson have more in common than I originally thought. Just like Marge, Marion (played by Marion Ross) is a nurturing, overprotective TV mom with a boisterous, rotund husband and three children, one of whom is often overlooked. (Sorry, Maggie and Chuck!) More than that, both Marion and Marge are defined by their sweetness and naivete. Their societal roles as wives and mothers keep them largely confined to their homes, away from the evils of the world. Their lives are defined by routine: cooking, cleaning, shopping, and generally taking care of the family. 

Obviously, if you're going to write a story involving such a character, you will have to interrupt that familiar, workaday routine. Surprisingly, both The Simpsons and Happy Days came up with numerous parallel stories for their respective matriarchs. Just a few weeks ago, we reviewed the Season 7 Happy Days episode "Marion Goes to Jail," which I compared to The Simpsons' "Marge in Chains." In both stories, the mom character is sent to jail, which only makes her family appreciate her all the more.

This week, we're reviewing "Fonzie's a Thespian," which bears a strong similarity to another classic Simpsons adventure, namely "A Streetcar Named Marge." In short, both Marion Cunningham and Marge Simpson seek excitement in their lives by participating in community theater. And they both have to deal with pompous, overbearing directors. One difference between these stories is that Marion's husband, Howard (Tom Bosley), is supportive from the beginning, while Homer Simpson needs an entire episode to stop being an insensitive jerk.

You can find out what we thought of "Fonzie's a Thespian" by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. As luck would have it, it's available now!

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Orbit, Part 6 by Greg Dziawer

Two ladies on the cover of Tailgate magazine, 1968.

As time wears on, I become more convinced that there are numerous texts written by Ed Wood that have yet to be unearthed. Last week, Joe Blevins and I discussed one such item, a paperback that is surely a title previously known but considered lost. And we've previously noted other instances of Ed's work that had never even been properly Ed-tributed.

This week, let's turn the clock back to 1968. This was a highly productive year for Ed's paperback work, with such releases as Purple Thighs, Hell Chicks, and The Sexecutives. It was also the year Bernie Bloom and Michael Thevis launched a company called Pendulum Publishers, Inc. through which they released numerous adult books and magazines. When Pendulum incorporated in April 1968, the very first staff writer Bernie hired was none other than Ed Wood. 

Happily, Ed's work at Pendulum is quite well-documented. In the early 1970s, he compiled a detailed resume listing much of his textual work there. Thus far, thanks to archivist Bob Blackburn, two volumes of short stories from that prolific body of work (Blood Splatters Quickly and Angora Fever) have been published. I highly recommend you grab them both if you haven't already done so.

Obsessive Wood fans may be familiar with the Ed-tribution of text in the inaugural (and perhaps only) issue of the 1968 magazine Fetish in Film. Like so many other sex mags of the time, it is comprised of photos and stills from a variety of then-contemporary sexploitation films, with accompanying pictorial text. It is credited to Bernel Associates and carries a P.O. Box in Los Angeles as its address. Although not identified as such, the opening text could be a possible Ed-itorial, which is why we're sharing it here.

Did Ed Wood write this for Fetish in Films magazine?

While we're at it, let's check out the index page, which lists a number of topics for the photo features and accompanying texts. It should be highly interesting to Wood fans.

The Fetish in Films index page.

Less known than Fetish in Films—and barely whispered of in the back alleys where Wood obsessives lurk—is another Bernel Associates magazine called Tailgate. Like Fetish in Films, Tailgate may have only lasted one issue. It, too, came out in 1968 and lists the same Los Angeles P.O. Box (35163) as its address. Curiously, on the indicia page (which contains no listing of the contents), Bernel Associates is noted twice, the first time with an apparent typo as "Berneu Assoc."

This issue contains three texts and numerous pictorials accompanied by "humorous" captions. Please have a look at the final text in this issue, "The Legacy of Sappho," credited to Caine Richmond.
"The Legacy of Sappho" from Tailgate magazine.

Just what's happening here? I surmise that, after leaving the large adult paperback/magazine distributor Golden State News, Bernie Bloom struck out first independently and formed Bernel Associates. (The name could well be a portmanteau combining Bernie Bloom with his son, Noel.) After publishing only a few magazines under the Bernel banner, Bernie then partnered with Michael Thevis and began Pendulum Publishers, Inc.

I'll let these two texts speak for themselves. Could they have been written by Ed Wood? What do you think?

In future installments of this series we'll share more from these two magazine issues. Both are exceedingly rare and hard to find today. Meanwhile, on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, we'll also perform a thorough analysis of the lengthiest text from Tailgate, also credited to Caine Richmond.

Let's keep hunting. There's more Wood out there!

  • I once saw a listing for a third Bernel Associates title, but for the life of me cannot locate that info in my notes.
  • You can grab the two volumes of Ed's short stories here and here. A third volume of articles is shortly on the way!

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Anyone for Venice?"

Ron Howard and Jenny Sullivan on Happy Days.

After eight seasons of The Andy Griffith Show and two more of The Smith Family, Ron Howard was not exactly eager to do yet another sitcom when he begrudgingly agreed to star in Happy Days. By then, he already had his sights set on a directing career anyway. Nevertheless, he consented to play fresh-faced Milwaukee teen Richie Cunningham because he (correctly) assumed the role would keep him from being drafted by the military and serving in Vietnam. 

Ron's contract with ABC called for him to do seven seasons of Happy Days, and he honored that commitment like the true professional and showbiz lifer he was. But he was never particularly enthused with the series, especially when it became a vehicle for Henry Winkler's cool, attention-grabbing Fonzie character. Plus, he was tired of being typecast in "kid" roles. At the end of Happy Days' seventh season in 1980, Ron left the show and devoted himself full-time to directing.
SIDE NOTE: He wasn't quite done playing Richie Cunningham, even then. In addition to voicing the character on The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang in 1980 and 1981, Ron appeared in a few Season 11 episodes of Happy Days, plus a couple of subsequent reunion specials and even a 2008 Funny or Die video with Henry Winkler.
Happy Days viewers were probably shocked at this development, but there had been some foreshadowing on the show. For example, the Season 7 episode "Richie Falls in Love" demonstrates that Richie Cunningham also experiences some wanderlust and longs to be taken seriously as an adult. The plot: Richie meets and becomes infatuated with a traveling photojournalist named Barbara (Jenny Sullivan). After spending just one night with this woman, Richie wants to drop out of school, quit his job, leave his family, and fly to Venice with Barbara.

Does that make for a good episode? This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we talk about "Richie Falls in Love" and ponder the riddle that is Richie Cunningham. We do hope you'll join us. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #20 by Greg Dziawer and Joe Blevins

Did Ed Wood write Sex Salvation (1975)? The answer may surprise you.

I'm always on the hunt for books written by Edward D. Wood, Jr. in the 1960s and '70s. You never know quite where they'll turn up, which is part of what makes the hunt so fun. A few months back, while I was scanning through some vintage adult paperbacks published by Eros Goldstripe, one title immediately jumped out at me as having been written by Ed Wood: 1975's Sex Salvation, credited to Raoul Woody. Eros Goldstripe was the company behind such Wood paperbacks as Diary of a Transvestite Hooker (1974), Forced Entry (1974), and TV Lust (1977), so it seems likely that they would have handled more of Eddie's work during this era. 

Sex Salvation proved quite a find, and I knew I wanted to share it with other Wood fans. This week on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, I talked with Joe Blevins about this remarkable novel, which is striking for its graphic depictions of sex and violence as well as its sincere spirituality. Could Sex Salvation be an unknown paperback written by Ed, or maybe even a known paperback that has thus far gone without notice? Tune in to find out!

You can grab your own scan of Sex Salvation for a mere couple of bucks here and draw your own conclusions. Be sure to note your order that The Ed Wood Summit Podcast sent ya!

All episodes of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast can be found right here.