Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 113: Howard William Wood (1926-1986)

Today, we're putting together a jigsaw puzzle with lots of missing pieces.

"The records will tell the story."
-Patrick/Patricia in Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda (1953)

Today, as a change of pace, let's talk about Ed Wood's younger brother Bill. As far as I know, no one's ever written an article about this man, and I think it's high time someone did.

You might not know that Edward D. Wood, Jr. even had a brother if you had only seen the Tim Burton biopic from 1994 or most of the well-known documentaries about Eddie like Flying Saucers Over Hollywood or Look Back in Angora. Howard William Wood (1926-1986), referred to by relatives as William or Bill Wood, is not mentioned in any of them. He's barely mentioned in Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992). However, that landmark biography does contain a couple of interesting anecdotes about Eddie's younger sibling. In a chapter called "Childhood/The World Outside," Eddie's mother Lillian remembers:
Junior and his brother William, they always got along good. If anybody did anything to each other, they were right there to tackle 'em. But... he was very jealous of Junior. I don't know why, because we did for both of them. We never did for one and not the other. Never.
A small brass Buddha.

About 100 pages later, in the chapter "The Wood Spooks," Eddie's widow Kathy says:
When Eddie's brother Bill was sent to Vietnam, he came over to our house on the way over. It was around Christmas. I put out all the best silver and cooked a big dinner... We sat there drinking the whole bunch of us, and it ended up in a big fight. I had given Bill a little brass statue of Buddha a newscaster gave Ed. I said to him, "Take this with you for luck." From what I understand, he fell off the back of a transport truck in Japan and ended up in the hospital -- never did get to Vietnam! Bill was always a little bit jealous of Eddie, and I think his wife was the same way. They were jealous of his success.
And that's it. Bill is never mentioned in the book again. I must confess, I've read Nightmare dozens of times, and I didn't even remember the anecdote about the Buddha statue. Why a newscaster would give such a thing to Eddie is beyond my comprehension. The thread that connects Lillian's story to Kathy's story is Bill's jealousy of Ed. Certainly, Eddie's showbiz ventures attracted lots of press attention over the years. Apparently, Bill and Ed became estranged, and Bill spent his remaining years forging a life that was as far away from Ed's as possible.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "Prelude to the Afternoon of the Fonz"

Leslie Browne and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

Think ballet is strictly for sissies? Well, think again, bucko! The toughest guy in Milwaukee, auto mechanic and daredevil Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler), is about to show you that ballet is actually very cool. That's right. In the Season 5 Happy Days episode "Do You Want to Dance?" from May 1978, our favorite Midwestern greaser dates a ballet dancer named Colleen (real life ballerina Leslie Browne) and even helps her demonstrate some elegant moves to her students. Between makeout sessions, Colleen shows Fonzie that there's more to culture than Bill Haley records and motorcycle magazines. But there's a problem, you see. Colleen has dreams that may take her far away from Milwaukee. Will Fonzie stand in the way of those dreams?

Roger Ebert said that he was very rarely moved by love but that he was often moved by sacrifice. That's what "Do You Want to Dance?" is really all about. Fonzie wants to keep Colleen near him, but he knows deep down that she belongs in New York if she's going to reach her full potential as a dancer. I guess she couldn't do that in Milwaukee. I know this wasn't intentional, but a hidden theme of "Do You Want to Dance?" is that Milwaukee is a cultural wasteland where dreams go to die.

Anyway, my cohost and I discuss this episode (and a bunch of other stuff) in detail in the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. You can find our latest show right here. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit #2 by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg goes "fishing" for some rare paperbacks.

Finally. I had waited patiently for close to four weeks for the arrival of a box of vintage West Coast paperbacks that I had purchased on Ebay the day after Christmas. And then, just prior to the end of my work day, the box arrived safely on my doorstep via the good old US Postal Service. I couldn't wait to go though its contents, a can of Lionshead beer in my hand.

This was something of a fishing trip, as I was hoping to potentially ID another one of Ed Wood's X-rated novels. My quest was equal parts wrongheaded and near-impossible, since this box contained a smattering of 1960s adult paperbacks with only tenuous connections to Ed Wood. But the possibility was there, nevertheless! 

And what did the box ultimately contain? Did I unearth a new Ed Wood classic? Well, I am proud to share my findings with you in the following video.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Podcast Tuesday: "J. Edgar Hoover Was Into Weird Stuff"

Henry Winkler and Lynda Goodfriend on Happy Days.
We're back! Did you miss us? That's right, These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast returns with its first new episode of 2021. We took a few weeks off for the holidays, but we figured we had better get back to the job of reviewing Happy Days episodes, since we have about 144 more of them to cover. At the rate we're currently going, we should be done by 2024!

This week's podcast is devoted to the lowly Season 5 clip show "Richie's Girl Exposes the Cunninghams" aka "The Fourth Anniversary Show." The thin plot has college student Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfriend) interviewing her boyfriend's family and friends so she can put together a report about the average American middle class family. This one was so obscure that it didn't even air in Happy Days' usual Tuesday night timeslot. Instead, ABC dumped this thing on a Friday night, where it was followed by a episode of the doomed Barney Miller spinoff, Fish

Did "Richie's Girl Exposes the Cunninghams" deserve this ignoble fate? Does it rise above the status of mere clip show to become something truly special? Find out by listening to our latest podcast.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, Part 24 by Greg Dziawer

The pioneering film Tongue has a surprising connection to Ed Wood.

"We were then satisfied that, with proper lubrication and better adjustments, a little more power could be expected." 
Orville Wright
Logo for the Foxy series of loops.
I've spent a good deal of time these last few years untangling Ed Wood's involvement in 8mm porn loops in the 1970s, and one of my surest conclusions is that Eddie wrote the subtitles for numerous silent loops during this time.

Upon closer inspection, it became obvious that the subtitled loops—regardless of which series released them—had strong internal consistencies. In fact, the subtitles are just one of the major correspondences in these movies. Beyond that, I've ID'ed numerous set decorations as well as cinematic tropes ranging from editing to camera setups and movement.

Released between 1971 and 1978, these particular loops on which Eddie worked were produced by Noel Bloom. During these same years, Noel's father Bernie employed Ed as an adult magazine staff writer. As I've shown before, however, Noel was not only producing his own loops but was occasionally releasing foreign ones, usually Danish, with English subtitles.

Occasionally, Noel Bloom also distributed loops that were excerpts from adult feature films. To wit: Foxy, loop #3, "Lube Job." It, too, was given the customary subtitling treatment, as follows:

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Inaugural Wood Summit by Greg Dziawer

Here's the story... of a guy named Eddie...

Late last year, I had the idea to gather some of my friends and colleagues in the world of Woodology for a discussion about Ed Wood's life and work. On Sunday, January 3, 2021, we made that idea a reality, talking for an hour and a half by Zoom. Besides myself, the panelists that afternoon included: film archivist Keith Crocker, humorist and performer Mike H, author James Pontolillo, and the founder of this blog, Joe Blevins.

Our conversation was far-ranging and touched on myriad aspects of Ed Wood's life and career, from his 1950s films to his extensive work in pornography in the 1970s. We also shared items from our personal Wood collections, including some astonishing artifacts from the past. And we discussed our own histories with Ed Wood -- what drew us to his work and why we continue to be fascinated with him today.

The entire conversation has now been uploaded to YouTube. Be sure to check out the description box beneath the video; it contains links to the panelists' numerous other projects.

I am grateful to all the panelists, who literally spanned from coast to coast.