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