|If you're cramming for your Ed Wood finals this week, you're in luck!|
Earlier this year, in an episode of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, Joe Blevins and I reviewed Ed Wood's 1967 adult paperback Watts... The Difference. For those who may not have access to a copy of the book, here are my extensive notes. These aren't meant to be editorial; I simply noted whatever jumped out at me. In conjunction with our podcast commentary, this should give you the flavor of the book.
CONTENT WARNING: The offensive words and slurs are Ed's, as are all of the flashbacks, reveries and dreams that overwhelm the narrative.
We open with the usual PAD Library editorial... elliptical and sounds Ed-like
- Opening paragraph is packed: Rocky, 27, flashing back. Santa Monica. The death of Sammy, his friend, lying on their backs and looking up at the sun... the conflation of colors
- Rocky tears into Sammy for his negative self-talk: "I'm just a dumb Spik."
- Rocky is the "smartest" guy in Watts... he recognizes that getting overcharged for candy = the exploitation of a racist system
- Sammy's death
- Drinking with a white girl, still reflecting back on Sammy
- Rocky met her at a "fruit bar" and she asks why he was there
- He pours a shot of Imperial
- She says, "I carry an angora sweater with me all the time."
- Dialogue throughout for all sounds like "they scare the hosses"... but chapter ends (a different vernacular): "Lover... I believe you're an advocate of the bottomless bathing suit, also..."
- No sex in Chapter 1... just a few references to Ed's fetishes
- "Rocky knew he was drowning."... in a swimming pool.
- Evokes memories of Sammy's death and we cut right to Sammy's funeral (cinematic and not novelistic)
- Sammy's mother hits Rocky at the funeral and calls him a "nigger"
- Rocky tells the "priest" - who calls him "boy" - that he needs to be at the graveyard for the funeral
- Existential: "One day you're standing around on a street corner looking at everybody, then the next there is only the big black."
- We jump cut to Rocky being rescued from drowning
- Jumpy stream-of-consciousness... a scene of Rocky interrupting his mom and the Preacher "lessening"... then we end at the pool, Rocky drinking with the blonde
- The blonde was the "Cotton Belt Queen" from Alabama and got a free trip to Hollywood and never returned
- "She had read Hollywood Rat Race..." but did not heed its warning (Rat Race was then unpublished)
- We get to know her... a bar girl
- "Have you ever heard of Rance Holiday?"
- Rance is an "independent movie director" and she slips on a "pink angora cardigan"... he is a "drag queen"
- Rocky is on television (works for Rance)
- Rocky meets "Angie" (a diminutive of "angora"?)... real name "Ruth Cooper" (Ed had a cousin Ruth to whom he gave an angora sweater during the War)
- More drinking...whiskey, gin
- Worth noting we still have not had a sex scene or leveraged the setting in Watts
- Rocky argues with his mother and leaves... he meets "Gimme"... in a pin-striped suit and wide-brimmed hat
- Gimme is a pimp... we get an episode of him exchanging money for drugs with one of his girls, Lois
- Lots of capitalized words throughout... DEATH earlier... now WHITEY and BLACK and GIN and even black POWER
- Gimme hires Rocky as a driver, and he has larger political/social ambitions
- Finally, a sex scene opens the chapter! Rocky and Angie... very quaint
- Gin, angora... ubiquitous motifs
- Flashback scene in Alabama... Ruth's dad Jim Cooper taking stock of her budding sexuality and the two "darkies" who ogle her... they are farm hands
- Jim uses the word "hillbilly" when talking to her, and distances himself from it
- Jim tells her - Ruth - that she "might be causing them a time of it in their jeans"... referencing the "darkies" as well as the "white trash" farm hands
- Ruth is chased and assaulted by the black farm hand, Rufus. She ultimately "screamed in delight"... "Then the big black took over all her senses..."
- Jim goes off on the captured Rufus... calls him a "boogie"
- Jim orders Rufus nailed to a cross like Christ... Ruth assents outwardly that he assaulted her but inwardly she "grins"
- Rocky is now staring at the ceiling...no longer at the sun. Gimme and Preacher Moses have been killed, part of the "organization"
- Formation of the organization is compared to Hitler's "Bund"
- Rocky learned early: "...money IS control!"
- The preachers exploit religion to raise money for BLACK POWER, and Rocky became Gimme's bodyguard by age 19
- Gimme provides an exegesis of exploiting ("cannon fodder") the situation for self-gain... and promises Rocky will benefit owing to his LOYALTY
- Rocky realizes that there is someone behind Gimme leading the ORGANIZATION
- Rocky: "Many a night he lay on his neat bed, and stared at the ceiling..."
- Thunder/lightning as the leader is introduced...revealed to be Preacher Moses
- Gimme, Moses and Rocky are attacked at the bar with Molotov cocktails
- And then Rocky is with Angie... blue angora... staring at the ceiling, comparing it to her staring at the moon
- Rocky references, despondently, having his eyes "bandaged up"... not knowing if day or night
- "And he rode all night." Rocky, Angie, blue angora, drinking. STILL no detailed sex
- Angie has a shock of "intestine gas" and we cut back to Ruth Cooper in pain, with her mom Dorothy and dad Jim...in the aftermath of Rufus' "attack"
- The sheriff arrives. Jim: "...my daughter has been raped by a jig." The sheriff questions him regarding Rufus' death... nailed to a tree
- Ruth's rape described by Jim: "...dainty panties"
- Lengthy (boring) talk, Jim, Dorothy and Sheriff Maude. Dorothy eventually confesses that Jim ordered the death of Rufus
- Maude expresses that Jim is okay and will never be charged: Good Christ, man, I knowed it was you all the time." The trio drink.
- Ruth is upset that her daddy is being taken away... though Maude has already said it's just a formality
- And one last snapshot: Angie attacking Rocky, him hitting her, an agreement that she was still just asleep. He drinks whiskey and she drinks gin
- The cops interrogate Rocky. Full name given: "Gimme Karris". Rocky makes literal references to witches to the cops...an implied witch hunt
- Rocky mentions "black face" during the interrogation
- The organization is, as mentioned earlier without context, the "Mosites". The cop politicizes it... a portrait of a welfare state
- Lots and lots of dialogue... Rocky is released and boards a steamer in San Pedro
- He meets Mala Smith: "The girl was a petite little negro with long raven black hair which fell lavishly down the back of her yellow mohair slipover sweater. Her cute little rump strained dangerously against the tight yellow stretch capri pants, and the nails on her toes were painted a shocking pink which expounded against her high-heeled, open-toed shoes."
- Mala flirts with Rocky...says she is nearly 18 and, "That's not exactly jail bait, now is it?"
- "Her little butt rode the yellow stretch capris like jello in a perfect mold."
- "Rocky glanced at her and the desire for her young body ate at his brain..."
- Finally! SEX! He fondles her breasts, lightning and thunder flash across his "mind's eye" and, "the BAD BLACK closed in over him..."
- We open with mention of Rocky/Angie and jump-cut to a 9-month's-pregnant Ruth Cooper
- "I don't want a black baby," Ruth cried. She feels ostracized at school... she is embarrassed by her swollen stomach. The boys are no longer "attentive"
- Ruth is suicidal, and refers to the baby as "the bastard"
- Her mom and doctor leave her alone, and she is visited by Caraway (the "white trash" farm hand who killed Rufus): "Wigglin' your ass all over the farm in them tight skirts and them tight pants..."
- Caraway goes nuts and rants... says it's his WHITE TRASH baby
- Her dad Jim and Doc Benson return, and Caraway is finished off
- And then we cut to Rocky and Angie: "Her nails bit into the flesh of his back and he had to slap her for release... She glared at him with almost maddened eyes."
- Last line of chapter: "Rape me Rocky... Hurt me Rocky... Rape Me... Rape... me... Rape me..."
- Rocky is roughed up by the organization, and Mala Smith is implicated
- "...a striking cobra..."
- Finally, when asked about Africa, Rocky says: "I come from Watts..."
- LOTS of dialogue, the leader ranting at Rocky... they release him and then he is with Mala: "She wiggled her little butt in emphasis."
- Chapter coda: cutting back to Rocky/Angie... UP, OUT and IN all in caps
- The return of Rance Holiday. His home is in Beverly Hills. Angie visits his office at the studio in a "white angora slipover"
- "...from the time she had been Ruth Cooper and had been out to win a beauty contest."
- Rance: "He was never in male attire if her could help it and never without panties..."
- Rance falls into a reverie... tells Angie he must feel the "dainty fragrance" of her in her undergarments
- Rance appropriates Angie's clothing. Says he is, "Ginger."
- Rance and Angie become a thing... and then she see Rocky Alley on tv and pines for him
- And then we cut... Rocky with Angie... he calls her hands "dainty" as she washes her panties
- Rocky is happy with Angie...but recollects Mala: "The way she wiggled her little fanny in those tight stretch capri pants and hefted her lovely boobies in those blouses or sweaters."
- And now he is with Mala, who chides him for looking at the boys. He's moved up in the organization, but Mala is distrustful
- "On her trek through the outer office she paused at the desk of the gay boy in question, and carefully, daintily draped her fuzzy sweater over his startled shoulders."
- "Foremost" is mentioned again... a member of the organization... the "Ubangi With Doctor"... earlier mentioned that Swahili would become the language. Now he is revealed to be a charlatan, espousing "Mumbo Jumbo," "running a lucrative racket."
- Foremost tells Rocky that he a PACK LEADER who will lead an attack on Los Angeles. He says the "first fire bomb will be tossed right here in Watts..."
- Rocky considers turning on Foremost, and then: "Watts is on fire..."
- Madness ensues and Rocky fails to save Mala: "The girl's dead."
- Mala had not died from fire. She took an overdose of sleeping pills
- "So, Watts---the difference."
- Coda: Angie serving Rocky coffee, happily
- Finale suggests Rocky becomes a TV star because he was seen on TV jumping out of a burning building
- Rocky and Angie: "And he rode all night," Rocky said. "And he rode all weekend," she said and inserted her tongue between his lips, searching for his...
|The cover of Ed Wood's Watts... The Difference.|
Be sure to check out this post for more paperback notes -- specifically, Joe's notes on Ed Wood's Security Risk (1967). They accompany our podcast review of that espionage novel. We also reviewed the sequel to Watts... The Difference here.