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.