Thursday, December 1, 2022

The 2022 Ed-vent Calendar, Day 1: The Basketballers (1973)

Mockup poster for an Ed Wood/Steve Apostolof film that never was.

It seems like every year, there are more and more of those specialized advent calendars based on different brands or franchises. You know the ones I mean. There's a Disney one, a Marvel one, a Mario one, etc. But there's never been an official Ed Wood advent calendar! It's an outrage! Isn't the director of Glen or Glenda (1953) as worthy of his own advent calendar as Harry Potter, Lego, or Pokemon? And yet, we Woodologists have been denied!

Well, this year, I'm setting out to change that with a series I call The 2022 Ed-vent Calendar. Each day in December until Christmas, I'll post a bite-sized article about some little aspect of Ed Wood's life or career. Nothing too serious, just a little Wood to get you through the hectic holiday season. Sound good? Then let's continue.

For Day 1, I'm choosing The Basketballers, an unproduced script Eddie wrote for his frequent collaborator, director Stephen C. Apostolof, in 1973. In Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992), Rudolph Grey describes the film thusly: "Unfilmed screenplay by Ed Wood and Stephen Apostolof involves sports, sex and drugs on a small town college campus." I wonder if the tone would have been similar to Apostolof's previous film, College Girls (1968)?

The Basketballers is one of several Wood/Apostolof projects that never went before the cameras, but this one must've gotten fairly far along in preproduction. In the Apostolof archives, now in the possession of the director's youngest son Chris, there exist at least two drafts of the screenplay: one from 1973, another from 1974. For the record, Ed Wood is the sole credited screenwriter on both drafts. Intriguingly, the second one carries the legend: "Property of Valentine Enterprises Inc., Hollywood, Calif." Was Valentine some production company that either Steve or Ed was trying to start?

Two drafts of The Basketballers.

Despite co-authoring an entire book about Stephen C. Apostolof—and have I mentioned that it makes a swell Christmas present?— I have never actually seen or read the screenplay for The Basketballers. Those pictures up there were taken by Bob Blackburn when he visited Chris Apostolof in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. Apparently, Steve's archives include a fair amount of Basketballers ephemera, including the contract Eddie signed with Apostolof Film Productions, Inc. to write the script on October 10, 1973. Coincidentally, that would have been Eddie's 49th birthday.

Ed Wood signed a contract to write The Basketballers on October 10, 1973.

Perhaps most intriguing of all is this mockup of a poster for The Basketballers. To me, it's clear that Steve fully intended to go into production on this script. Like all of the Apostolof films of this era, The Basketballers would have been released under the familiar SCA banner. Note that the poster also proclaims that the film will be in Eastman color. Up until the late 1960s, many low budget sex films (including a few of Apostolof's) were still in B&W. Meanwhile, those scantily-clad cheerleaders are highly suggestive of College Girls and may even have been modeled on Steve's leading lady, Marsha Jordan.

A rough draft for a Basketballers poster.

As further evidence of how serious Steve Apostolof was about The Basketballers, here's a trade paper ad for another Wood/Apostolof joint, Fugitive Girls (1974). This one proudly proclaims that The Basketballers, which now even has its own logo, is being prepared for a "June release." Since Fugitive Girls itself didn't come out until July 1974, Steve must have been looking forward to June 1975. As we now know, that didn't happen. But Steve and Ed weren't done yet! Their next collaboration, The Beach Bunnies, would come out in 1976.

This trade ad for Fugitive Girls mentions The Basketballers.

And that's it. That's Day 1 of The 2022 Ed-vent Calendar. I don't think the subsequent articles will be this long, but I wanted to kick off this series with something special. Hope you enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 137: "The Beacon" (1973)

Are you turned on by the color of Pepto Bismol? (Artwork from Savage.)

You know, it's a small world. Back in the 1950s, my mom's parents ran a little bar in Northern Michigan called The Beacon. I picture it as a place frequented by flannel-clad deer hunters. Almost nothing remains of this long-gone beer joint, apart from some well-worn jukebox 45s that I still have in my collection—everything from Pat Boone to Fats Domino. In fact, I hadn't even thought about The Beacon in a long time until the great Bob Blackburn sent me a vintage Ed Wood story with a curiously familiar title.

The story: "The Beacon." Originally published in Savage (Gallery Press), vol. 2, no.2, June/July 1973. Credited to "Stanley John."

Synopsis: Jeanne, an 18-year-old Kansas farmgirl, is driving home one dark night after losing her virginity to her boyfriend, Jim. She unwisely decides to take a desolate, poorly maintained backroad in order to return home at a "respectable hour." As she drives down this bumpy, winding path, she thinks back to the sexual ecstasy she recently experienced with Jim. Unfortunately, Jeanne's car gets hopelessly lodged in a deep rut, leaving her stranded in the middle of nowhere.

Jeanne ponders whether to just spend the night in her car when she sees a bright yellow light in the distance—a beacon signaling to her. The light emanates from the attic of a remote farmhouse. When the girl knocks on the door, she is very surprised to find that the inhabitants, an attractive couple named Kirk and Elaine, are elegantly dressed and have decorated their home in an ultra-modern style. At first, Jeanne is skeptical and afraid. (Why should they be so dressed up in the middle of the night?) But she soon warms to Kirk and Elaine and partakes of the food and drink they offer.

This, too, proves a mistake. The now-drugged Jeanne finds herself being used like a living sex toy by Kirk and Elaine. The former ties her up while the latter penetrates her with a rubber strap-on. They continue with their "weird sexings" even after Jeanne passes out. As we ultimately learn, Kirk and Elaine do this all the time. They deliberately booby-trap the road, sell the cars to the local scrapyard, and bury the drivers beneath the house after drugging and raping them. This is to be Jeanne's fate as well.

Excerpt: "The nightmare began to move rapidly, in a blur of lights, faces, penises, arms, legs, breasts, thighs, buttocks, pubises. . Jeanne was pulled from the bed and led to the corner of the room. Kirk dangled a long rope in one hand and held his dick in the other."

Table of contents from Savage's June/July 1973 issue.
Reflections: It was typical for the adult magazines published by the Pendulum/Calga/Gallery consortium in the 1970s to have particular themes. Voyeurism, lesbianism, group sex, lingerie—whatever you were into, they had a magazine especially for you. The theme of Savage seems to have been S&M. An editorial on the magazine's contents page from its June/July '73 issue explains this fetish in the driest, most convoluted way possible. It starts out like so:
When one thinks of how strongly integrated our understanding of body abuse is to corporal punishment it is easier to comprehend why it is so very difficult to accept the existence of a pain-pleasure principle.
Clear as mud, huh? Try diagramming that sentence.

Ed Wood very likely penned that editorial, and he is also undoubtedly the author of "The Beacon," a strange and unsettling short story published in that same exact magazine and credited to the nonexistent Stanley John. (Any similarity to the horror host and author John Stanley is coincidental.) This particular issue of Savage also included "The Movement," which Ed wrote under his more common pseudonym, Dick Trent. I now fully understand why editor Bob Blackburn included that article in the S&M section of When the Topic is Sex.

Eddie sometimes ignored a magazine's theme when he wrote his stories and articles. None of his pieces for Garter Girls feature garters, for instance. But he did give the readers of Savage a little bondage action in "The Beacon." I'm not sure if the magazine's audience would be sated by that, however, since the bondage scene is brief and occurs in the midst of a rape/murder. Is the reader supposed to identify with or envy Kirk in this story? That's an upsetting thought.

"The Beacon" is one of Ed Wood's many tales of innocence defiled, and it would have fit in beautifully in Blood Splatters Quickly or Angora Fever. Yes, the narrator does tell us that sophisticated Elaine is wearing an angora sweater (with nothing underneath!), but the connection to Wood goes much deeper than that. Many of Ed's stylistic quirks are here, including an abundance of ellipses and RANDOM CAPITALIZATION. Some of Eddie's favorite words, like "thrill" and "lovely," turn up here, too. Like any good Ed Wood protagonist, Jeanne experiences "chills" twice—once while making love to Jim and once while thinking back on it. This is emblematic of Wood's writing; his characters are forever having hot flashes or cold chills.

What really makes this an Ed Wood story is its overall structure. The setup—a luckless woman stranded on a country road in the night after having car trouble—is pure Eddie. Similar events occur in both Night of the Ghouls (1959) and Orgy of the Dead (1965). The sinister farmhouse in "The Beacon" has many first cousins in the Wood canon as well. Think of the old Willows place in Bride of the Monster (1955) or the titular bordello in "The Whorehouse Horror" (1972), not to mention the crumbling castle in "Dracula Revisited" (1971) and even Madam Heles' pleasure palace in Necromania (1971). (Remember that some of Madam Heles' guests never leave.) It's also typical for Eddie's short stories to take a gruesome turn about two-thirds of the way through, so the ghoulish payoff of "The Beacon" is highly Woodian.

Most importantly, like many of Ed Wood's films and stories, "The Beacon" intertwines and essentially equates sex and death. If you have sex, you die. I could not help but feel that Jeanne was being severely punished for losing her virginity to Jim, a massively-endowed barley deliveryman. Elaine even tells her, "You're not all that innocent." So even a stranger can tell that Jeanne has been deflowered. From that perspective, "The Beacon" becomes a cautionary tale to young women, as if there were any reading Savage in 1973.


Special thanks to Bob Blackburn for sending me this story and making this article possible.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 136: The Huffman Files

"We have top men working on it right now." "Who?" "Top... men."

This series has unexpectedly been on hiatus for the last few weeks. Sorry about that. What can I say, folks? Life gets in the way of Ed Wood scholarship sometimes. It's certainly not for lack of material to cover. In fact, there's way, way too much still left to cover. And more of Ed Wood's work is being discovered all the timearticles, stories, novels, scripts, loops, and even feature films. Had we but world enough and time...

Meanwhile, loyal reader and former Ed Wood Summit Podcast guest Rob Huffman has been faithfully flooding my inbox with photos and press clippings about Eddie and his various professional associates. I think his intent was to inspire me or Greg Dziawer to write a new article. Well, in a roundabout way, he was successful, because this week we are delving deep into The Huffman Files.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "The Sting"

Josh Cadman and Denis Mandel on Happy Days.

One of the weirdest things about the movie Grease (1978) is its depiction of a supporting character named Eugene Felsnic (Eddie Deezen). He's instantly recognizable as the textbook, all-American nerd. He dresses like Pee-wee Herman, talks like Jerry Lewis, and generally moves about in a klutzy, uncoordinated way. The other students at Rydell High treat Eugene like absolute garbage throughout the entire movie. The first time we see him, he's being harassed on the stairway. Some other students zap Eugene with a joy buzzer and steal his bowtie. They threaten to steal his glasses, too, but he somehow holds onto them. (He has an astigmatism.) 

If Grease were a horror movie, Eugene would be the character who snaps and starts bumping off his classmates in cruel, elaborate ways. (The 1986 slasher flick Slaughter High actually does have a similar plot.) But there's no redemption or revenge for Eugene Felsnic. He passively accepts his classmates' abuse with only mild consternation. The only saving grace here is that Eugene seems oblivious to the fact that he's on the bottom rung of the Rydell social ladder. Most of the time we see him, he's grinning like a jack-o-lantern, hopping around, and applauding enthusiastically (too enthusiastically) for just about everything. He seems fine.

Borrowing a page from the Grease playbook, Happy Days has its own nerdy Eugene character. In this case, it's Eugene Belvin, played by Denis Mandel. He has a lot in common with Grease's Eugene Felsnic. They both dress, act, and talk like cartoonish stereotypes, and their classmates treat both of them horribly. Even Fonzie (Henry Winkler), Eugene's teacher, bullies him a little. And, just as in Grease, this is all acceptable because Eugene is such a cluelessly cheerful schmuck.

In Season 9, Happy Days finally gave Eugene his own spotlight episode: "Hello, Tough Guy." The plot has poor Eugene trying to convince Jenny Piccalo (Cathy Silvers) that he's a macho, macho man by beating up Chachi (Scott Baio) in a staged "fight" at Arnold's. When this doesn't work, Eugene is called upon to defend Jenny's honor by fighting a towering thug named Lou (Josh Cadman) at a seedy dive called Vinnie's.

Who will survive and what will be left of them? Find out when we review "Hello, Tough Guy" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "The Big Chill"

Vahan Moosekian on Happy Days.

It was inevitable. We reviewed an episode of Happy Days I loved ("Just a Piccalo"), then an episode I hated ("No, Thank You"). The logical next step was an episode I was totally indifferent to. And that's what "Baby, It's Cold Inside" is. It's the most basic, stock sitcom episode you can imagine. The damned thing might as well have been assembled from a kit. This didn't need even need to be a Happy Days episode especially; just about any family sitcom could have done this story.

The plot has Joanie (Erin Moran) taking care of her infant nephew, Richie, Jr., while her parents (Tom Bosley and Marion Ross) are out of town. She wants to prove to her folks that she's a responsible young woman, not just a little kid. Naturally, there are complications. The boiler breaks down during a cold snap, and a wisecracking repairman who calls himself Rudy to the Rescue (Vahan Moosekian) wants $200 to fix it. Also, Richie, Jr. is suffering from his first-ever cold. To make things worse, Joanie's friend Jenny (Cathy Silvers) has invited all their idiot friends over to the house for an impromptu party. How will Joanie handle all these disasters at once? The answer turns out to be not that interesting, quite frankly.

Can we turn a dull episode into an exciting podcast? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. If nothing else, if you stick around until the end, you'll hear some music by the one and only Weird Paul. Thanks, WP, for letting us use your song!

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #28 by Greg Dziawer

Two ladies enjoy each other's company in Caine Richmond's "Les Pad."

Dick Trent and Ann Gora are names known to any true Ed Wood superfan, since Eddie wrote books, articles, and scripts under these monikers for years, but have we discovered yet another of his many professional pseudonyms?

The sheer volume of texts written by Edward D. Wood, Jr. in the 1960s and '70s is unquestionably, well, voluminous. At some point in the early 1960s, Ed began writing for the adult entertainment industry—paperbacks and screenplays at first, followed by magazine articles and 8mm porno loops. By the end of the decade, he was writing all of these and then some, often concurrently!

In the midst of this writing frenzy, an obscure adult publishing company called Bernel and Associates—likely a predecessor to the Pendulum/Calga powerhouse that employed Eddie for years—briefly published a small number of adult mags. No one knows for sure how many, but one was Tailgate from 1968, which seemingly ran for just one issue. In that lone edition, there are three texts. One of them, an article called "Sappho" credited to Caine Richmond, appeared here last year. I suggested, gently, that it might be the work of Edward D.Wood, Jr.

But "Sappho" was not the only text in that issue credited to the mysterious Caine Richmond. The other was an intriguing short story called "Les Pad." This week on The Ed Wood Summit Podcast, Joe Blevins joined me to break it down, and we implicitly asked the question: could it, too, have been written by Ed Wood?


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

Further reading:

Kane Richmond
P.S. Reader Bill Shute has some additional insight into the "Caine Richmond" pseudonym:
Using the name of one of the greats of serials and b-movies, Kane Richmond, spelled creatively, is certainly something Ed Wood would have done.... proudly. This is a man who was excited to get old genre-film pros such as Reed Howes (who he wrote about admiringly in Hollywood Rat Race) and Herbert Rawlinson in his films. Had Kane Richmond still been working in films in the 1950s (he retired from the screen and went into the business world circa 1948-49), there's no question that EW would have tried to get him for a film and would have loved chatting with him about his serials and low-budget action films. It always puts a smile on my face when Ed Wood champions an old-time Hollywood figure, someone who was largely forgotten by the industry.

Thanks for the added info, Bill! 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Jumping the Nun"

Diane Adair (aka Diane Diefendorf) and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

Nuns were weirdly popular in the 1960s. Cheerful, fun-loving nuns, that is. (Dour, punishment-inflicting nuns apparently had the decade off.) One of the biggest films of the era was The Sound of Music (1965), the tuneful story of a manic pixie dream nun, Maria (Julie Andrews), who leaves her convent to work for a stern, widowed Austrian baron (Christopher Plummer) as a nanny to his seven rambunctious children. In short order, with some help from a score by Rogers & Hammerstein, Maria wins over the children and then their father, teaching them how to enjoy both life and music.
"The $ound of Money" (MAD, 1967)

And this was just one example of the nunsploitation trend! On TV, there was Sally Field in The Flying Nun (1967-70), a gimmicky sitcom about a petite nun whose habit allows her to become airborne for short periods of time. And on the pop charts, there was "Dominique," a French-language novelty song by Sœur Sourire aka The Singing Nun. With its catchy melody, it became a widely-loved #1 smash hit in 1963, but the authors of The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste (1990) maintain that "Dominique" forever robbed nuns of their dignity and mystique. They write of the song: "It was a pop music phenomenon, and it toppled nuns from their pedestal. Suddenly the world was faced with an epidemic of kooky, perky, goofy nunnish antics."

MAD tackled this very phenomenon when they parodied The Sound of Music as "The $ound of Money" in 1967 with art by Mort Drucker and a script by Stan Hart. That marvelous satire includes spoofs of many of the songs from the film, including "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" MAD's version was called "How Do You Solve the Problem of Religion?" and it went (in part) like this:
How do you solve the problem of religion?
How do you handle nuns and not offend?
Just simply have them doing things they wouldn't!
Don't follow the norm,
Or stay true to form.
Pretend!

Just show a kooky nun who rides a scooter.
Or show a Sister try to fly a kite.
The movies can make folks feel
That all these events are real,
And being a nun is fun from morn 'til night!
People will eat up films about religion!
Just keep them corny, saccharin and trite!
The ninth season of Happy Days takes place in 1963, the year of "Dominique," so it's only natural that they'd have their own take on the nunsploitation genre. Their version was called "No, Thank You" or "The Nun's Story." The plot has a young nun named Gloria (Diane Adair) teaching history at Jefferson High. Not knowing his new colleague is a bride of Christ, Fonzie (Henry Winkler) pursues her romantically (without success) and even forces a kiss on her. Naturally, when he learns the truth, Fonzie is eaten up with guilt. But Gloria is one of those happy-go-lucky, non-judgmental '60s pop culture nuns, so she's not mad at all. The episode ends with Gloria knocking Fonzie into the water at a carnival dunk tank, a scene that reminded me very much of the MAD song about "the problem of religion."

But how is the episode overall? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "A Simple Desultory Phil Silvers (or How I Was Sgt. Bilko'd into Submission)"

Phil Silvers and Cathy Silvers on Happy Days.

After Ron Howard and Don Most left Happy Days in 1980, taking the characters of Richie Cunningham and Ralph Malph respectively with them, the producers brought in some replacements to round out the cast, namely Ted McGinley as Roger Phillips and Cathy Silvers as Jenny Piccalo. Roger, a straight-laced, preppie basketball coach, was an obvious substitute for the very square Richie Cunningham. But does that mean gossipy, boy-crazy Jenny Piccalo was somehow the new Ralph Malph?

At first, these characters would not seem to have much in common. Were they to meet, the conversation would probably be a little awkward. But, upon closer inspection, I can see how Jenny Piccalo became the show's new Ralph Malph during its final seasons. After all, Ralph is the wacky, wisecracking sidekick to the more responsible, pragmatic Richie, just as Jenny is the wacky, wisecracking sidekick to the more responsible, pragmatic Joanie (Erin Moran). 

It's important to remember here that Joanie's personality changed subtly over the course of nine seasons. She started out as the somewhat bratty, insult-slinging kid sister whose main job was to keep Richie's ego (and those of his idiot friends) in check. She was even the first character to utter the show's immortal catchphrase, "Sit on it!" But as the sitcom wore on, Joanie matured, toned down her personality, and even settled into a long-term relationship with Chachi (Scott Baio). She was in danger of losing her edge, but the wilder Jenny Piccalo was able to tempt her into various hijinks and shenanigans, just as Ralph once did with Richie.

Jenny's relationship with her father Roscoe (played by Cathy's real-life father, Phil) is even similar to Ralph's relationship with his father Mickey (Jack Dodson). In the Season 4 episode "Last of the Big Time Malphs," Ralph runs up a gambling debt but can't talk seriously about the problem with Mickey because the latter is such a zany jokester. Jenny runs into a similar problem during "Just a Piccalo," the Season 9 episode we're reviewing this week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. She's facing vandalism charges after trying to steal a statue from the park, but she doesn't feel she can go to Roscoe for help. How interesting that both Mickey and Roscoe are played by classic sitcom stars: Jack Dodson from The Andy Griffith Show and Phil Silvers from Sgt. Bilko.

I hope you'll join us for our review of "Just a Piccalo." As usual, this episode let us talk about a whole bunch of topics, including the brilliant career of Phil Silvers. This one was a real treat to record.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Let's Talk About Talking About Sex"

(left to right) Erin Moran, Scott Mitchell Bernstein, Scott Baio, and Kevin Rodney Sullivan on Happy Days.

Sex education. Even the phrase makes me cringe a little. I remember, back in fifth grade, we had to get a special permission slip signed by our parents before we could take our school's one-day sex ed course. I was too mortified to give my parents such a permission slip, so I just skipped school that day. I can't remember where I hid out (probably home), but I got mercilessly clowned on by my classmates when I returned to school the next day. And they were right: I was a total wuss. So, a year later, I actually got my parents to sign the permission when it was time for our sixth grade refresher course. I remember almost nothing of what we were actually taught that day.

Since it's a sitcom about hormone-crazed teenagers in high school, Happy Days was eventually going to do a sex ed episode of some kind. It was inevitable. Nevertheless, the writers held out until Season 9's "Fonzie the Substitute" aka "Give Me Puberty or Give Me Death." The plot? Fonzie (Henry Winkler) fills in for Roger (Ted McGinley) during the latter's high school health class. The sneaky students trick Fonz into giving an impromptu lesson about puberty, which gets Roger in hot water with the board of education.

This counts as one of Happy Days' many "very special episodes" since it's about the importance of teaching kids the facts of life, and the topic is handled respectfully. Maybe too respectfully. The actual topic of sex is never discussed in any detail onscreen. The only biological fact we get from "Fonzie the Substitute" is that you can't get pregnant by making out while wearing a bathing suit. 

Other than that, how is the episode? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Nympho Odyssey by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg shows us how to have fun on the beach.

As time wears on, mysterious or once-thought-lost film works involving Ed Wood continue to turn up. The 1971 erotic biker film Misty aka Nympho Cycler is a good example. Before it appeared on disc roughly a decade ago, this obscure movie was completely unknown under the latter title and barely known under the former. In Rudolph Grey's 1992 book Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr., it's listed in the "Chronology" section as an "uncompleted" film. The only quote about the film in the main body of the book comes from filmmaker Joe Robertson: "In Misty, [Ed Wood] was in a jacuzzi and all dragged out."

The film's profile stared rising with a DVD release in 2014, which Joe Blevins reviewed here. Back then, he noted that the film had turned up previously on tape in the UK in the early '80s from Dapon, the same company that released The Young Marrieds on tape at the time.

While there's been speculation that the film was directed by Joe Robertson, Casey Larrain told me last year that she recollects Ed Wood himself directing it. For what it's worth, the IMDb page for the film now agrees. Casey also recalled a scene shot at Venice Beach, with Ed directing. He had gathered a group of homeless men for the shoot. "He brought a bottle of jug wine, and we sat in a circle passing it around. Joints were being passed around. Actual marijuana!" She was certainly recollecting the the nighttime beach orgy scene from Nympho Cycler

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "In Which Fonzie Cucks Roger"

Ted McGinley and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

As tough as it is to believe, our humble Happy Days podcast just turned four years old this month. Yes, the first episode of These Days Are Ours dropped on October 2, 2018. What a different world it was back then. We hadn't even heard the word "Covid," and England still had a queen. Gosh, we were all so innocent. I genuinely hope TDAO has improved over the course of those four years, both technically and content-wise. Our show is extremely low-tech and low-budget, but I want it to be listenable and enjoyable nevertheless.

Even after 190 episodes, I still screw up majorly sometimes. Take this week's podcast, a review of the Season 9 Happy Days episode "The Other Guy." During the recording, I must have been hitting the microphone cord or something, because there were a lot of clicks and clacks on my end. I did my best to edit around them. Several minutes of audio simply had to be thrown out. A few lines had to be rerecorded completely. In short, this episode was an editing nightmare. It might have been easier to junk the episode entirely and start over from scratch, but I managed to piece together a show from what I had.

How did it turn out? Well, just listen and find out for yourself.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Fonzie Has Richie's Baby"

Henry Winkler, an unnamed baby, and Lynda Goodfriend on Happy Days.

Some people just have to be the center of attention all the time, no matter the circumstances. You know the type—the bride at every funeral and the corpse at every wedding. On Happy Days, Milwaukee mechanic Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler) is such a person. A shameless showboat, he thrives on attention and withers without it. He has to make everything about himself.

The Season 9 episode "Little Baby Cunningham" is a perfect example. The plot has Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfriend), wife of Fonzie's best friend Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard), giving birth to her first child. Since Richie is stationed in Greenland with the Army, however, Fonzie takes Richie's place, both in natural childbirth classes and in the delivery room. When Richie, Jr. is born, Fonzie is even the first to hold him! Through all these events, Fonzie carries on melodramatically, stealing focus from Lori Beth, who should be at the center of this story.

If all this sounds a little familiar, it's because Happy Days basically did the same thing in "R.C. and L.B. Forever," in which Fonzie stands in for Richie at the latter's wedding. Ron Howard left the show in 1980 after seven seasons, allowing costar Henry Winkler to take over the show completely. Well, except for Chachi (Scott Baio). Anyway, "Little Baby Cunningham" is very much a sequel to "R.C. and L.B. Forever." Once again, Fonzie replaces Richie during a major life milestone and hams it up shamelessly the entire time.

Does this make for a good episode or a bad one? Find out when we review "Little Baby Cunningham" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Loop Odyssey, part 27 by Greg Dziawer

A lad and lass get to know each other in Nightclub Rendezvous.

Just prior to the launch of the Swedish Erotica loops in the early 1970s, adult movie honcho Noel Bloom produced a number of X-rated loops under the Danish International Films imprint. These short erotic films were among the first of their kind to be subtitled. This is significant, since I believe that Edward D. Wood, Jr. penned some or all of these subtitles and provided similar services for other loop series. 

Although Swedish Erotica would ultimately become his company's primary loop series, Noel Bloom continued to push the Danish angle throughout the decade. In 1975, just a few years after Danish International Films, Bloom et al. launched the Danish Films series. An early title in this franchise, Nightclub Rendezvous, was not only subtitled, but was also featured in issue two of Danish Films magazine. (There seems to have only been two issues of this publication.) The Danish films loops are strikingly similar to the Swedish Erotica loops—running concurrently and seemingly made by the same creative principles.

Interestingly, Nightclub Rendezvous—labeled #1006 and designated the sixth entry in the Danish Films franchise—opens with the same "logo" as some of the earlier Danish International Films: a young lady licking a large swirled lollipop as she enticingly looks back over her shoulder at us.

From the text in the magazine, we learn that the male and female protagonists are named Larry and Billie. In the loop itself, the only other character, a bartender, is referred to as Duffy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Just Break Up Already, You Two"

Erin Moran and Scott Baio on Happy Days.

As I wrote last week, Happy Days was in flux at the start of its ninth (and antepenultimate) season in 1981. With Richie (Ron Howard) and Ralph (Donny Most) long gone and cool guy Fonzie (Henry Winkler) becoming a grownup with responsibilities, the sitcom was in danger of losing touch with its roots. From the first season onward, Happy Days was mostly about high school-aged kids and their various triumphs and tragedies. It was a happy-go-lucky world of sock hops, malt shops, and double dates. How do you keep that going after nine seasons?

The obvious answer was to shift the show's focus to its younger characters, Joanie (Erin Moran) and Chachi (Scott Baio). Never mind that these two were already supposed to be college-bound high school seniors during Season 8. They were given a second senior year in Season 9. Anything to keep the high school setting. Naturally, Joanie and Chachi's budding, troubled romance became a major source of storylines. Younger viewers could tune in each week to see if J&C were breaking up or making up.

The problem is that Joanie and Chachi are a fundamentally bad couple. When Chachi joined the show in Season 5, he was a  sleazy little schemer, always selling something or trying to con people out of a little money. He brought that dishonesty and insincerity to his relationship with Joanie. He's also a petulant and selfish little twerp, prone to temper tantrums. And Joanie, apparently lovestruck, forgives him for his many, many flaws. The relationship turns her into a weak character when she'd previously been the show's resident firebrand.

These issues are on full display in the episode we're reviewing this week, "Another Night at Antoine's." The plot has Chachi breaking up with Joanie so they can date other people for a while. Sort of a sexual Rumspringa. But then he decides he wants her back, and it all leads to a big, public kerfuffle at a fancy French restaurant. (No points for guessing that it ends with a reconciliation.)

So Joanie and Chachi are a bad couple, but does that make "Another Night at Antoine's" a bad episode? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 135: Let's create some Ed Wood fan art with AI

An image that unites Wood, Spielberg, and Kubrick.

If you've been conscious for the last year or so, you've probably seen a lot of art (or "art," depending on your point of view) that has been created (or "created") by artificial intelligence or AI. Look, I'm not here to debate the ethics of AI or even define what is and isn't art. I'm here to take this awe-inspiring and terrifying newish technology and apply it to Edward D. Wood, Jr. 

I've done this kind of thing before. Back in 2019, I ran some screenshots from Jail Bait through a colorization app. In 2020, I used a site called Preference Revealer to rank my favorite and least favorite Ed Wood movies. Now it's 2022 and AI art is the hot thing, so let's do some of that... with Ed Wood.

I chose a service called Midjourney to do this project. Why? Because I'd seen it in this video by a YouTuber called Mighty Jabba and thought the results looked cool. Very quickly, though, I realized I was in over my head. I don't know a damn thing about how to generate AI art. My first prompt was: "Ed Wood as drawn by Al Hirschfeld." (I assume you know who Al was.) Here are the results:

Prompt #1: "Ed Wood as drawn by Al Hirschfeld"

I'd say that falls somewhere between success and failure. It's not Hirschfeld, but it's not not Hirschfeld either. My second attempt at a prompt was: "Ed Wood made out of Legos." Here's how that turned out:

Prompt #2: "Ed Wood made of Legos."

I don't know what's happening with the top left image, but the other three are at least in the ballpark. I then went on to Wood's repertory players. Folks, I tried and tried to get Midjourney to generate some Tor Johnson fan art, but that stupid computer had no idea who Tor was. None of the artwork even came close. So I ditched Tor in favor of Vampira. More specifically, I tried "Vampira on the beach at night." Even Midjourney knew who Vampira was, and it dutifully belched up these lovely images:

Prompt #3: "Vampira on the beach at night."

What else? What else? Oh yeah. I tried "Elderly Bela Lugosi in the style of the French impressionists." 

Prompt #4: "Elderly Bela Lugosi in the style of the French impressionists."

And I brought it all home with one last, simple prompt: "Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi holding hands."

Prompt #5: "Ed Wood and Bela Lugosi holding hands."

At that point, I realized I had enough for a single blog post and ended my experiment. How did I do? Good? Bad? Indifferent? You probably think you could do better, and I agree. In fact, I urge you to go do just that. There are plenty of AI art sites out there. Make your own stuff. Or, more accurately, get a computer to make stuff for you. You don't have to use Midjourney. Are we at the beginning of a new era in creativity or is this just some dumb internet fad that'll fade in a year? Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Chachi's Mom Has Got It Going On"

Scott Baio and Ellen Travolta on Happy Days.

When Happy Days came back for its ninth season in the fall of 1981, the show's focus had obviously shifted to brash teen lothario Chachi Arcola (played by then-heartthrob Scott Baio). Chachi's off-again, on-again relationship with Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) was at the heart of the season-opening two-parter "Home Movies," while the next episode, "Not With My Mother, You Don't" focused on Chachi's sometimes strained relationship with his widowed mother Louisa (Ellen Travolta). By the next episode, "Another Night at Antoine's," the show had already returned to Joanie/Chachi relationship drama. With Richie (Ron Howard) absent and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) getting older and less relatable to kids, Chachi had essentially been promoted to the status of protagonist

Chachi is an irritating character in a whole host of ways and typifies what many viewers dislike about the later seasons of Happy Days. His rise coincides with the show's fall. Having only debuted in Season 5, the wisecracking Arcola boy felt like an interloper, a usurper, a carpetbagger. I'll admit that I'm a Chachi hater myself. I hate his smug face, his arrogant personality, his nasal voice, his very '80s haircut, and that stupid bandana he wears around his leg in most scenes. I especially hate the way he treats Joanie, turning her into a simpering fangirl who forgives him time and again for his indiscretions and his insensitivity. Where's the firebrand Joanie from the early seasons of Happy Days?

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're reviewing the aforementioned "Not With My Mother, You Don't." Blessedly, this one sidelines Joanie for the most part and turns its attentions to Louisa. Her husband, Chachi's father, has been dead for several years, and she is now gingerly reentering the dating scene. But she is doing so behind Chachi's back, leading some some tense moments. First, Chachi publicly shames his mother in front of the Cunninghams, then he seeks out his mother's boyfriend, a very pleasant obstetrician named Walter Danzig (guest star Michael Byron Taylor). It's all very awkward.

But does it make for a good episode? Find out by listening to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast!

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Promo Odyssey, Part Nine by Greg Dziawer

They actually do boil; it just takes a while.

The perils of looking for evidence of Ed Wood texts within the vast reaches of 1970s porn are many. I am assuming that there are more texts out there than currently accounted for. As I mentioned here last week, I recently came across two summaries of early '70s adult films that pricked up my ears for a moment and made me wonder if they could have been penned by Eddie. (Check them out here before proceeding, if you haven't already.)

First off, let me say that we have no evidence that Ed wrote box cover summaries for adult videotapes, which is where at least one of these texts comes from. The IMDb credits its summary of The Candy Store (1972) to VCX, an early and prolific purveyor of porn videos. The summary for Million Dollar Mona (1973) is credited only to Anonymous. I'm already surmising—before even getting to the question of Ed's possible authorship—that this synopsis comes from a box cover or perhaps a catalog.

I am confident, though, that Ed did write box cover summaries for the 8mm loops produced and distributed by Noel Bloom. Noel, you will remember, is the son of Bernie Bloom, Ed's boss at Pendulum/Calga Publishers, where he worked as a staff writer for the better part of the last decade of his life. There is a demonstrable correspondence between Noel's loops and Bernie's magazines, with the latter giving generous press coverage to the former.

VHS arrived in my home in 1981. My dad liked being the "first on the block" with new tech and was an early adopter to the new format. It's worth noting that this was three years after Ed Wood's passing, so it seems on the surface that there's no way Eddie could have written the summaries for The Candy Store and Million Dollar Mona.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "8MM"

Erin Moran on Happy Days.

Happy Days is not usually thought of as an innovative or experimental series. And for good reason: it's a very safe, predictable, mainstream show, meant to appeal to the widest possible audience. Many of its viewers were young children who simply wanted to see their hero, ace mechanic and ladies' man Fonzie (Henry Winkler), in action. Producer Garry Marshall was not really interested in pushing the limits of the prime time sitcom, at least not this time around. (He and director Jerry Paris had both previously worked on the more daring The Dick Van Dyke Show.) The only way Happy Days truly stands out from its competitors is that it's set in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Over on CBS, meanwhile, M*A*S*H (the other big 1950s-set show of the era) was constantly testing the boundaries of the sitcom genre. The very subject matter, i.e. the Korean War, meant that violence and bloodshed were major elements of the series. The plots freely mixed comedy with drama, sometimes veering into outright tragedy. Stories didn't necessarily come to a tidy resolution after 30 minutes. And the producers were even experimenting with the very form of the half-hour comedy, sometimes formatting episodes as pseudo-documentaries or dream sequences. Aesthetically, Happy Days and M*A*S*H were polar opposites.

But Happy Days did occasionally break out of its rut and do something unusual. There are the history episodes, for instance, like "The First Thanksgiving" and "The Roaring Twenties," where we get to see what the characters would look and act like if they'd lived in other times. There are musical episodes like "Be My Valentine" and "American Musical," in which the actors get to show off their singing and dancing skills. And then there's "Home Movies," the two-part episode that starts Season 9. Not only does this one have a rare multi-story format, it's all presented as a home movie that Joanie (Erin Moran) is sending to Richie (the absent Ron Howard). It's about as M*A*S*H-like as Happy Days ever gets.

But does that mean it's any good? Find out on the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Promo Odyssey, Part Eight by Greg Dziawer

Wood fans, it's time to put your knowledge to the test!

Ed's type of gal? Candy Samples in fur.
I often opine about this or that chunk of text and wonder aloud if it could have been written by Edward D. Wood, Jr. The endeavor is predicated, of course, upon the notion that there are works by Ed out there yet to be attributed to him. The challenges inherent in this are many, and it is easy to lose my way.

When I make such surmises in articles like this one, I often ask rhetorically, "What do you think?" This week, however, I really do want to know what you think.

A few months back, I was looking through the IMDb page of adult superstar Candy Samples (who had cameos in Drop Out Wife and The Cocktail Hostesses) when I found a couple of intriguing summaries of her early 1970s films. One such summary was credited to the video company VCX, the other simply to "Anonymous." In both cases, the promo copy had just enough panache to make me scratch my head and wonder aloud if Ed could have written it. Apart from more details about the provenance of these summaries, which I'll share next week, I'd like to truly hear your thoughts and share them here.

First up, the summary for 1972's The Candy Store:
Seldom seen Candy Samples plays a bordello madam who loves to show her ladies how to please her customers. Candy's fans will be delighted by this full-length feature film, which showcases both the mature beauty and remarkably erotic personality of the legendary bust queen. Her "house" features a bevy of stunning young girls, trained by Candy Samples herself to perform feats of sexual magic with their hot, luscious bodies and moist, hungry mouths. The non-stop hardcore action encompasses a wide spectrum of adult sexuality, from the traditional to the bizarre. 'Madam' Candy sees it as her duty to personally instruct and even assist her lovely girls in satisfying the many exotic demands of her clientèle. Bust lovers will thrill to the stiff-nippled antics of Candy and her girls. The oral interludes are bountiful and intense, especially when Candy demonstrates her own personal sperm-simmering techniques. The buxom superstar even wields a whip in the interest of maintaining house discipline! Variations to please every sexual taste are contained within this hard-hitting Candy bonanza.—VCX

Next up, we have 1973's Million Dollar Mona:
The reporter Jimmy Ryan is pleasured under his blanket by his lover when his angry editor calls to break his day off. Jimmy is told to report why does famous Mona von Groana hide in a hotel. Going there, her maid Nympho Mania casually jumps to his arms before sending him to Mona's bedroom. Mona herself is even more harassing. Eventually she exposes her buxom figure to make him forget his interview. She then ties him up in bed until he leaves. Mona then goes to her bathtub, where her maid gives her a breast massage which leads to bed. Mona tells her maid she wants to peep on her with Jimmy if he returns. Her wish comes true when Jimmy's editor angrily sends him back. But as Mona hides due to stealing her husband's inheritance, his men break in and kill the maid and her. Jimmy, who hides in Mona's clothing, gets fired but finds the money. He can therefore finally have his lover pleasure him under his blanket without interruptions.—Anonymous

Now that you've read these summaries, do you have a guess? You can message me privately on Facebook (I'm Greg Dziawer there) and let me know what you think and why. You can also tell me if you'd like me to credit your conclusions or share them anonymously.

Join us next week, and I'll share your thoughts as well as mine!