Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 127: 'When the Topic is Sex' (2021)

Just some of the nearly 80 articles contained within this book.

NOTE: This article concludes my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

There has never been a better time to be an Ed Wood fan than right now. For one thing, more of Eddie's movies are available on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming than ever before. When I was first getting into Ed Wood back in the early 1990s, I had trouble even finding the biggies—Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955) and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957)—on VHS or airing on television. Now I'm fairly drowning in Ed's movies, spanning from his earliest days in Hollywood (1948's Range Revenge)  to the very end of his life (1978's Hot Ice). And, I assure you, more of them are coming.

One of Ed Wood's many magazine articles.
Wood scholarship has also exploded in the new millennium. Thirty years ago, Rudolph Grey's groundbreaking Nightmare of Ecstasy was the only full-length book about Ed Wood's life and career. In the years since, however, we've had Ed Wood, Mad Genius (2009) by Rob Craig, The Cinematic Misadventures of Ed Wood (2015) by Andrew J. Rausch and Charles Pratt, Jr., Scripts from the Crypt: Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster (2019) by Gary D. Rhodes and Tom Weaver, Ed Wood and the Lost Lugosi Scripts (2019) by Rhodes and Weaver, and The Unknown War of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (2017) by James Pontolillo.

Arguably, though, the most essential Ed Wood books to emerge in recent years have been the collections of Wood's own short stories, Blood Splatters Quickly (2014) and Angora Fever (2019), both curated by superfan Bob Blackburn. In the 1960s and '70s, Eddie wrote dozens of short stories for adult publisher Bernie Bloom, who used them as filler in his X-rated magazines like Body & Soul, Swap, Garter Girls, Two Plus Two, Young Beavers and many more. With Eddie's full-length novels and sex manuals largely out of print and out of the price range of most people, these compilations are the best way for fans to experience what Eddie was like as an author. 

But Ed Wood's magazine work was not confined to those wonderfully delirious short stories. Not by the tail feathers of a cockatoo. With his nimble typing fingers and ability to generate reams of text in a small amount of time, Eddie was Bernie Bloom's go-to writer for any number of assignments, including editorials and photo captions. Above all, from roughly the late 1960s to the mid-1970s, Eddie wrote innumerable nonfiction articles on topics ranging from the sexual revolution to witchcraft to politics. On rare occasions, he used his own name for these stories, but he was more likely to write under a pseudonym like "Dick Trent" or "Ann Gora" or go uncredited altogether.

At last, Bob Blackburn has assembled a massive compilation—the biggest yet—of Ed Wood's nonfiction magazine work from this era. When the Topic is Sex contains nearly 80 articles, nearly all of them taken from Bernie Bloom's magazines. Make no mistake, this is a tome: 544 pages of Wood's whiskey-soaked ramblings from the Richard Nixon years. It is not the kind of thing you read in one sitting, unless you are incredibly dedicated to your Wood-ian studies. You may want to bring it with you when you travel. Or, better yet, keep a copy in the privy. I can think of few books more appropriate for that particular room of the house.

Indeed, some readers may see When the Topic is Sex as an imposing, impenetrable block of text. I'd recommend they start with the more manageable Blood Splatters Quickly—a mere 33 stories, including what I'd call Eddie's best and most accessible work as a writer. For the real sickos, the ones who watch Plan 9 with a remote control in hand so they can freeze the frame at any given second, When the Topic is Sex is a godsend. Bob Blackburn assembled this book by buying these magazines himself, one by one, on the secondary market. Trust me, you don't have the time, money, or patience necessary to do this. Bob's done the tough part; all you have to do is buy a copy and read the darned thing.

Realizing that this much Ed Wood could be overwhelming, Bob has mercifully organized this material into 11 themed chapters. There are sections about cross dressing, lesbianism, social issues, etc. Probably due to Bob's long career in radio, each of these chapters is named after a popular song. The lesbian section of the book, for instance, is called "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," while the section about cross-dressing is "Dude Looks Like a Lady." Other sections include "Society's Child," "What the World Needs Now," and "Hot for Teacher."

I referred to the contents of When the Topic is Sex as nonfiction, but that's an ambiguous term when discussing the work of Ed Wood. There are at least three distinct levels of reality in this book. It really depends on how much research Ed did for a particular piece. 
  • In some articles ("More Oddities in the News," "Yes or NoThe Candidates on Busing"), Ed relies almost solely on quotes gleaned from actual newspapers, magazines, tabloids, and books. When Ed Wood was in his research-heavy mode, he occasionally found himself writing articles about other people's articles. "A Tax on Sex?" is a good example of that. 
  • At the complete opposite end of the scale are Ed's many fake "interviews" ("College Interview," "Interview with the Man on the Street About Censorship") in which he pretends to talk to nonexistent people about some controversial or taboo subject. 
  • Somewhere in the middle—in the vast gulf between "totally researched-based" and "totally made up"are articles like "The Changing Woman" in which Eddie quotes some legitimate sources but supplements that information with his own opinions and memories.
For as long as I've been doing this series, I've tried to find common ground with Eddie, i.e. ways he and I are similar. But that's been tough. I don't drink. I don't cross dress. I don't make movies. I wasn't in the Marines. I have (almost) all my own teeth. I don't have an angora fetish. I've never lived in Hollywood or pursued a career in show business. The Great Depression and World War II were before my time. Ed Wood and I have simply not shared many experiences. Our lives only overlapped for three years.

But I do know what it's like to churn out a lot of articles in a short amount of time, many of them simply piggybacking off other people's work. From 2014 to 2017, I wrote for a fairly large pop culture website that covers films, TV, music, video games, etc. Most of my articles could be classified as filler material or clickbait: brief writeups about movie trailers and viral videos. The turnaround time was extremely brief. Once I took an assignment, I had only about an hour to write it, proofread it, select an appropriate header image, and submit it to an editor. Ed Wood's articles for Bernie Bloom could likewise be considered filler, and I'm sure Eddie churned them out quickly, one after another.

Furthermore, just like Ed Wood, a surprising number of my articles were about other people's articles. Basically, I'd summarize a recent noteworthy article that had been published somewhere online, tell people why they should read it, and provide a link to it. My pay for doing this was $15 per story. That was the going rate for all the clickbait articles I did back then, regardless of what they were about. The only way to make a go of it financially was to write 5-7 stories per day, every day. Like Eddie, I prioritized quantity over quality. It was the most fun job I ever had, and I was heartbroken to lose it. I'll never know what it was like to be Edward D. Wood, Jr., but I have some inkling of what his relationship with Bernie Bloom was like.

When the Topic is Sex sheds a light on an aspect of Ed Wood's life that had previously been hidden in darkness. People who only know Plan 9 or Glenda may not even be aware that Ed wrote anything besides screenplays. Others may have heard of his novels or short stories, thanks to Nightmare of Ecstasy or some of the Wood documentaries. But how many fans have plunged into his nonfiction work? Those who do will find that all of Ed's usual quirks and obsessions are on display here but in a form you may not have expected. You wanna know Ed—what fascinated him, what haunted him, what worried him, what motivated him? Get a copy of this book and spend some time with the man.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "The Decade That Roared"

Lynda Goodfriend, Anson Williams, Ron Howard, and Don Most on Happy Days.

When That '70s Show premiered on Fox in 1998, the very first episode was set in the year 1976. I always thought that was a shortsighted decision on the part of the producers. They could have started the series in 1970, but I guess they were impatient to get to late '70s stuff like Star Wars, leisure suits, and disco dancing. The nostalgic sitcom ran for eight seasons and 200 episodes, but it only managed to cover about three and a half years in the lives of its characters. What choice did they have? If time had progressed naturally on That '70s Show, the final season would have been taking place in the year 1984!

Happy Days had a similar dilemma, but they handled it somewhat more gracefully. In its early days, the show's raison d'ĂȘtre was pure 1950s nostalgia: sock hops, hula hoops, jukeboxes, malt shops, and plenty of early rock music (Bill Haley, Fats Domino). The scripts are often deliberately vague when it comes to mentioning years, but judging by the pop culture references in the dialogue, the first season of Happy Days seems to take place in the mid-1950s.

Over the course of its eleven seasons, the series covers about a decade in the characters' lives: 1955 to 1965. The changeover from the 1950s to the 1960s happens sometime in the sixth season, though it's barely acknowledged in the dialogue. In the later seasons, nostalgia becomes much less important to the show. Apart from Fonzie's leather jacket and the occasional oldie on the soundtrack, you could be watching any 1980s family sitcom.

Maybe the writers of Happy Days got bored with the 1950s and '60s occasionally. I mean, how many jokes about Dwight Eisenhower can you do? During the seventh season, which takes place circa 1961-62, the show abandoned its usual format for an episode called "The Roaring Twenties." Legendary actor Pat O'Brien (of Angels with Dirty Faces fame) guest stars as Uncle Joe, a garrulous old coot with fond memories of speakeasies, jazz music, and gangsters. This sets up a long flashback sequence with all the Happy Days actors playing 1920s versions of themselves.

Does this little experiment work? Find out when we review "The Roaring Twenties" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (1971)

This is always how my driver's license photo turns out. (Photo from Gold Diggers)

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

The article: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" Originally published in Gold Diggers (Pendulum Publishing), vol. 4, no. 1, January/February 1971. Credited to "Shirlee Lane."

Excerpt: "The best way for a certain type of female to be seen, or so she believes, is to commit a crime. There certainly she will have taken out some of the steam or revenge and all the world will know about it in one quick sweep. She has won some kind of a psychological point."

A phrase that haunted Ed Wood.
Reflections: How appropriate that When the Topic is Sex should end with an article called "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" That title comes from a 19th century English nursery rhyme that has been attributed to poet Robert Southey. In case you've forgotten, it goes like this:
What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Snips and snails and puppy dog tails
That's what little boys are made of

What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice and everything nice
That's what little girls are made of
That simple little verse had a major impact on Ed Wood, probably from his early childhood when he was still forming his ideas about masculinity and femininity. When little Eddie was a boy, he didn't want to be associated with "snips and snails and puppy dog tails," especially not when he could be made of "sugar and spice and everything nice." (What the hell is a snip, anyway?) 

Ed worked through some of these gender confusion issues in his directorial debut, Glen or Glenda (1953). There, Bela Lugosi's godlike character, The Spirit, repeatedly talks of "puppy dog tails and big fat snails." And during the film's extended dream sequence, the cross-dressing Glen (played by Wood himself) is taunted by an unseen little girl who makes this speech:
I'm a girl. I'm nice. You're a boy. A puppy dog tail. Ha ha ha. Everything nice. Puppy dogs' tails. Puppy dogs' tails. Puppy dogs' tails. I'm a girl. I'm nice. Everything nice, everything nice. Ha ha ha. Puppy dogs' tails.
Eighteen years after Glen or Glenda, Ed Wood was still thinking about that pesky English nursery rhyme. Under the pseudonym "Shirlee Lane," a variation on Ed's own drag name, he penned the 1971 article "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" for Gold Diggers magazine. The premise of the article is rather outrageous. The women's liberation movement, it states with apparent sincerity, is causing women to become criminals! That's right. Men and women are switching roles in our society. Men are becoming more effeminate and wearing their hair long, while women are become more masculine and are stealing cars... and worse! Ed writes with obvious alarm:
A pistol or a rifle in the hands of a woman can be just as dangerous as if held in the hands of a male . . . and just as deadly as if the weapons were being held on target by the best weapons expert.
Female criminality is another classic Wood-ian motif. It's at the center of his scripts for The Violent Years (1956) and Fugitive Girls (1974), plus his novels Devil Girls (1967) and Hell Chicks (1968). The tough, snarly female characters in these stories often act and talk like men. The distaff delinquents in The Violent Years even have masculine-sounding names like Paula, Geraldine, Georgia, and Phyllis (variations on Paul, Gerald, George, and Phil, respectively). Basically, this article suggests that giving women the vote in 1920 eventually led to a generation of female supercriminals. (And, yes, just as in "The Changing Woman," he specifically points to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.)

Does Ed Wood have any sources for the bold claims made in this article? Yes, surprisingly. He quotes Professor Herman Venter, head of the criminology department at the University of Pretoria. According to Venter, South Africa is witnessing a dramatic increase in female criminality as a direct result of "the emancipation drive." He also states that "men throughout the world are losing their fiber and are becoming more and more effeminate." I cannot verify these particular quotes, but Professor Venter was quite real. Wood also quotes a psychiatrist named Dr. John Levy, who also seems legit.

However, Ed Wood's main source for "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" was an article in The Los Angeles Herald Examiner by columnist Phyllis Battelle. Ms. Battelle was a prominent writer from at least the 1950s to the 1970s, guesting on The Tonight Show in 1959 and writing a book about the Karen Ann Quinlan "right to die" case in 1977. Apparently, Ed Wood saw Battelle's article in the Herald Examiner, thought it was interesting, and decided to piggyback off her research. He even ends "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" with a passage directly from Battelle:
However in closing this article which was inspired by Phyllis Battelle's column it is only right in using her own closing words: "So in the long run the liberation movement, may prove to be healthy after all. If only we can restrain the female sex from carrying their aggressive privileges too far."
In a sense, then, we can say that When the Topic is Sex ends with Eddie borrowing another writer's words. This, too, is entirely appropriate. Many of the articles in the book were written this way, with Ed casting about for ideas and appropriating the work of other authors.
But there's still plenty of room for Ed Wood to be Ed Wood in this article! He even mentions his beloved angora sweaters, suggesting that the newly-effeminate males are now wearing them, along with "velvets, satins, nylons and laces." And "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" contains plenty of Ed's trademark tortured syntax. For example, he begins this piece with a long, rambling paragraph about mischievous schoolboys dipping girls' pigtails in inkwells.
We can't help but wonder that if the ball point pen and the automatic Flair pen were not invented and each desk in the schoolroom still had the open inkwell if certain aspects of school life might have reversed itself in that at one time little boys were always dunking the little girl's hair in the inkwell. The little girls didn't have a chance to reciprocate in kind, when those open inkwells were in style few little boys ever had long hair. We wonder if those open inkwells would find the girls of today dunking in the long hair of the boys.
Good god, Ed. That is the longest, most confusing way to phrase your idea. Just try diagramming one of those sentences. It'll kill ya. And Ed keeps the awkwardness going in the next paragraph:
Retaliation devices are in the making if the Women's Liberation puts their demands completely to the foreground.
You might well wonder what the hell "retaliation devices" are. I couldn't tell you. I doubt Ed Wood could have told you in 1971. It was just a phrase that popped into his head. And if it was in his head, it damned sure wound up on the page. That's just how he worked. And this marvelous passage is followed by one in which Eddie states that girls are becoming "just as much of a slob as the boy." That's the magic of Ed Wood. Reading When the Topic is Sex is like being able to download the contents of a man's mind.

Next: My concluding thoughts on When the Topic is Sex

Friday, March 25, 2022

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex: "Trucking's a Ball" (1974)

Ed Wood wrote about truckers? That's a 10-4, good buddy.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

The article: "Trucking's a Ball." Also known as "Truckin's a Ball." Originally published in Fantastic Annual (Pendulum Publishing), 1974. Credited to "Dick Trent."

Excerpt: "The girls will stick out a thumb on the highway, but it will not be directed at the comforts of some late model automobile with the neatly dressed, freshly shaved driver behind the wheel. In fact, the girls won't even put a thumb out to those men. It is only when the roar of the truck comes along that their thighs begin to quiver and their titties begin to rise and fall rapidly under their sweaters or blouses."

Only in the 1970s: C.W. McCall.
Reflections: Are you old enough to remember trucker-mania? In the 1970s, the long-haul trucker briefly became a pop culture icon in America, inspiring movies, TV shows, toys, and even pop songs. When else could "Convoy" by C.W. McCall have topped the charts? The timing of this phenomenon actually makes some sense, if you put it into its proper historical context. In the wake of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal, we Americans were deeply distrustful of authority, and truckers seemed like antiestablishment heroes we could root for. They lived by their own rules, often enraging the cops in the process, but they weren't wimpy, peace-loving hippies. They were rough, tough dudes who could handle themselves in a fight.

It's only natural that Ed Wood wrote an article about truckers, but as usual, he had his own particular spin on the subject. "Trucking's a Ball" is not really about truckers, per se, but about the women who obsessively follow truckers around for sexual reasons. Ed has given this matter a lot of thought and pinpointed the exact reason that the ladies love trucker drivers: the smell. As he writes: "It's the man smell. The tough, rough man smell that seems to come off to them as all male . . . and these girls want only that . . . all male." This is one of those days when I'm glad When the Topic is Sex isn't a scratch-and-sniff book.

There's an odd double standard at play here when it comes to personal cleanliness. Ed had nothing but contempt for hippies and wrote often about how filthy they were, both in their clothing and their bodily hygiene. (It's almost never a good sign when a character in one of his novels is wearing dirty jeans.) But he lionizes those same exact qualities in truckers, even pointing out that truckers will wear "the same underwear" for days on end. Why is it okay for truckers to be slobs but not hippies? Maybe it's because truckers are at least contributing to the economy, while hippies probably aren't.

Going into more detail than anyone might want, Ed writes that a tucker's feet "are encased with grime in the heavy socks and boots he's worn for hours on end." That reminded me of a line from Glen or Glenda (1953). "His feet encased in the same, thick, tight-fitting leather that his shoes are made of." That must be one of Ed Wood's weirdest motifs: "encased" feet. 

Speaking of motifs, Ed Wood often used the curious term "pink clouds" to describe the pleasurable sensations that a woman might experience while having sex or taking drugs (or both). I first encountered it while reading his 1967 novel Devil Girls. He uses it here, too, in a passage about what it's like to have sex in a truck while it's actually in motion! Naturally, this requires two truckers: one to make love, another to drive. Ed's imagery is almost hallucinogenic: 
And as they will tell it, this is one of the really great sensations of intercourse . . . when the roar, the throb, the rhythm of the motor comes tearing through every fibre of their bodies, that's when they have intercoursed themselves right up onto pink cloud number nine . . . and it is strange when you hear all these girls telling about the smelling man, the worst of the lot, they have had, yet at all times when they speak of reaching their climax they refer to it as some sort of pink . . . cloud . . . heaven . . .blanket . . . surf . . .always pink . . . and pink in any other terms might be thought of as all the clean things in the world.
Along with those references to pink clouds, Ed makes sure to mention the odor of the truckers, too. He really thought this was a major selling point for women. Maybe there should have been a cologne for men who wanted to smell like a trucker. Eau de Diesel Fuel or something.

Incidentally, "Trucking's a Ball" is yet another article that I had already reviewed on this blog. I first discussed this article back in 2020, just weeks before the pandemic began. And now here we are, finally emerging from the shadow of COVID-19 after two brutal years, and I'm still writing about this  ridiculous Ed Wood trucker article. The more things change, huh?

Next: "What Are Little Girls Made Of?" (1971)

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex: "The Changing Woman" (1971)

Women are changing, according to Ed Wood. (Photo from Two Plus Two)

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

The article: "The Changing Woman." Originally published in Two Plus Two (Pendulum Publishing), vol. 3,  no. 3, September/October 1971. No author credited.

Excerpt: "Many social critics have explained the turbulence of modern times in terms of the seize-the-day life-style of the Atomic Age. Bedroom troubles can often be traced to the same source. Why should a young woman live out the best years of her life, the years of her youth and beauty, with a man who has not begun to tap her pleasure resources?"

Was Ed responding to this book?
Reflections: Ed Wood, feminist? You're correct to be skeptical. If you've read Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992), specifically the parts detailing Ed's marriage to Kathy Wood, you know that he was not exactly an ally to the women's rights movement. He had more of a caveman mentality in that department. But for an article called "The Changing Woman" in 1971, he at least tried to look at sex and marriage from a woman's perspective. The title, I'm sure, is meant to evoke The Sensuous Woman (1969), the groundbreaking book by Terry Garrity (credited only as "J") that told women it was healthy and normal to enjoy sexuality.

In "The Changing Woman," Ed Wood basically furthers the message of The Sensuous Woman, although, unlike that book, he does not focus on female masturbation. Instead, he focuses on women demanding and receiving satisfaction while having sex with their husbands. Women can't be denied pleasure anymore, says Ed. They've read the findings of Kinsey and Masters and Johnson and have thus become more knowledgeable about sex. The days of them being submissive slaves to their husbands are over. Ed presents this as a step forward for humanity, but maybe there's a touch of fear in it, too, as if some powerful force has been unleashed on the world and now cannot be controlled.

Eddie also launches what must be his most scathing attack on the institution of marriage. I was actually a little taken aback by this passage:
The relation of the sexes in marriage in this country provides one of the greatest mysteries of our culture: how has the institution of matrimony managed to survive such an absurd, unequal, humiliating, exasperating arrangement? We all know the misconceptions involved. The man is the master—sexually as well as authoritatively and economically. The husband takes, the wife gives, submits, yields, and likes it. 
Yes, Ed Wood refers to marriage as "absurd, unequal, humiliating" and "exasperating." Perhaps he was too much in denial to realize that he embodied all the worst sexist stereotypes described in his own article! Or perhaps he did feel guilty about his treatment of Kathy, and this article was his way of atoning for past sins. Only the infinity of a man's mind can really tell the story.

Eddie also writes a lot about the long-running "cold war" between men and women and seems to believe (or worry?) that women will be the ultimate victors. It's interesting that Ed's pal Criswell espoused similar views on his 1970 album The Legendary Criswell Predicts Your Incredible Future. It's my pet theory that Ed ghostwrote at least part of that astonishing LP. In one telling excerpt from the album, Criswell intones:
I predict that man will truly be the slave of woman. You women now control 93% of the wealth and spend 87 cents out of every dollar, so what are we poor men to do? Personally, I welcome it, because we men have made such a mess of things, you women must naturally come to our rescue and do better.
I can very easily imagine Eddie and Cris getting drunk on cheap wine and talking about all of these issues. When it comes to the advancement of women in the 20th century, Ed sees two major milestones: the 19th amendment and the invention of the pill.

By the way, I should mention that Ed Wood finds a comfortable balance between research and improvisation in "The Changing Woman." When discussing female orgasms, he quotes specific, scholarly passages from Human Sexual Response (1966) by Masters and Johnson. So the article has some scientific validity. For the most part, though, this is just Eddie philosophizing off the top of his head. That's good, because it leads to wonderfully incoherent passages like this one:
Selflessness and the ability to give are as important in sex as they are in life. Unfortunately, many women still take to bed with them the old attitude that they are doing their mates a favor just by letting them have their way. They still harbor the old notion that it is more than enough that a man should be allowed to touch their nudity, let alone penetrate them. 
"Touch their nudity"? Okay, Ed, whatever you say.

Next: "Trucking's a Ball" (1974)

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex: "Sex and the Twisted Beat" (1971)

Today, Ed gives us his thoughts on rock musicians and groupies. (Illustration from Switch Hitters)

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

The article: "Sex and the Twisted Beat." Originally published in Switch Hitters (Calga Publishing), vol. 2, no. 2, June/July 1971.

Excerpt: "Facts being facts, most of the musical groups like the idea of all the free sex they want, not to mention all the other goodies the girls offer . . . such as narcotics along with sex. Men on the road, actors, musicians, and the like are frequently lonely men and the sight of such usually pretty girls is bound to turn them on. When sex is placed right there in front of them, there are few emotionally strong enough to refuse. However, the more in the lime-light they happen to be, the larger the supply of lovelies becomes."

Rock groupie Cynthia Plaster Caster
Reflections: Ed Wood had no particular understanding of rock music or youth culture in general, but his job occasionally required him to write about these subjects anyway. In 1971, for instance, he penned an article for Switch Hitters called "Sex and the Twisted Beat" about the so-called groupie scene. The author's near-total ignorance of the subject is reflected in the fact that he fails to name even one rock musician or rock song, though he claims that rock lyrics are becoming more sexually explicit. Eddie may not have been able to tell Vanilla Fudge from Iron Butterfly, but he knew that rock stars were having lots of anonymous sex with their female fans, and he figured that merited an article for other horny middle-aged men like himself. 

In truth, women have been following popular musicians since time immemorial—Eddie specifically mentions Frank Sinatra's ardent fans in the 1930s and '40s—but the term "groupie" didn't enter into the language until the mid-1960s. And by then, it was rock musicians, not jazz singers, who were attracting the most attention from love-starved young ladies. Ed seems to think that the word "groupie" refers to women who want to have sex with an entire rock group rather than just the lead singer. Whatever the origin of the word, Ed describes their methodology:
It is a tremendously competitive situation. The girls will bribe managers or advance publicity men, even the hotel workers. It is nothing to find them climbing fire escapes, for there is little that will keep them from their intended purpose. The more of their heroes they can attest to having "bedded", the more in esteem the girls are held by those of lesser accomplishments. 
It's interesting that, in his script for The Beach Bunnies (1976), Ed has the character Elaine (Brenda Fogarty), a magazine editor, go to similar lengths to meet the movie star Rock Sanders (Marland Proctor). Now I wonder if the seed for that idea started with this article.

Anyway, as I was reading "Sex and the Twisted Beat" and its tales of sexual debauchery on the road, I started thinking about the notorious "plaster casters," the late '60s/early '70s groupies who would make plaster molds of rock stars' penises. And then a miracle occurred: Ed Wood devoted the last third of the article to the plaster casters! I was flabbergasted. It was like Eddie was reading my mind! Even after reviewing 70+ articles from When the Topic is Sex, nothing like that had ever happened before. The timing here is bizarre, since groupie Cynthia Albritton (aka Cynthia Plaster Caster) stopped making her molds circa 1971, the very same year this article went to press.

Despite or perhaps because of Ed Wood's total lack of familiarity with rock music, "Sex and the Twisted Beat" is one of the most enjoyable articles in When the Topic is Sex. Eddie is once again in "no research" mode, although he does correctly identify Cynthia Plaster Caster as being from Chicago. Ed was really loopy when he wrote this one. My favorite passage is when he starts talking about how "the kids" are experimenting with sex:
People certainly learn quicker if they understand what they are being told. One can put a lot of jelly on the bread but the bread is still there. So what is it called if the jelly isn't there? That's how the kids apparently see the whole sphere of things in this, the modern age of sexual revolution. Sexual revolutions have been plotted and attempted many times before in history but they have seldom gained such a foothold as they have at this time. 
Do me a favor and read that passage out loud. Really put some feeling into the line, "One can put a lot of jelly on the bread but the bread is still there. So what is it called if the jelly isn't there?" That's like Ed Wood's version of a Zen koan.

Next: "The Changing Woman" (1971)

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex: "Freemont Street Flame" (1971)

Now that's a classic Ed Wood title. (Illustration from Spice 'N' Nice)

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

The article: "Freemont Street Flame." Also known as "Fremont Street Flame." Originally published in Spice 'N' Nice (Pendulum Publishing), vol. 2, no. 3, November/December 1971. No author credited.

Excerpt: "Give them a lot of suggestion and you're going to be in the top time for a long while to come. Put every thing on the table at once and the meal is all over. But serve it up gently and in smaller doses and you keep your audience on the edge of their seats. Anticipation can be the most enjoyable part of any affair. Sometimes even more of a pleasure than the final blow off which everybody knows is coming anyway."

Fremont Street in the 1970s.
Reflections: Like "An Age of Hunchbacks," "Freemont Street Flame" is another article I was looking forward to mainly because of its title. In this case, it was because the title made it sound like one of Ed Wood's short stories. And, sure enough, the piece reads exactly like something from Blood Splatters Quickly or Angora Fever. It would have fit in beautifully in either one of those collections, although Blood Splatters Quickly already has a story about a stripper called Flame.

"Freemont Street Flame" technically qualifies as one of Eddie's nonfiction articles because it purports to be the testimony of a real-life Las Vegas stripper. But, really, this is a piece of short fiction written in the first person. File it alongside "Commentary: Article by 'T'" and "Greenwich Village Lure." All these articles came out in 1971, which can't be a coincidence. Eddie must've been going through a phase, like Picasso's Blue Period. The similarity between "Freemont Street Flame" and "Greenwich Village Lure" is especially striking, since they're both about strippers with colorful nicknames. And the narrators both describe their writing processes. Here's what "Flame" has to say about that:
Now you've got to excuse me if I don't put the words down too well here. I'm kind of new at this writing business. But when the publishers of Spice and Nice (this delightful magazine) asked me so sweetly if I would put a little bit down about myself on paper, I jumped at the chance. I guess every girl likes to say things about herself most of the time. Everybody is always saying that girls are always talking. Well this isn't really like talking I guess because I'm silent as I sit down at the typewriter. Only the words are racing through my mind. I'm not very fast on this damn machine either. But I guess I'll hack my way through what I have to say. 
In reality, Ed Wood was famous for his lightning speed on the typewriter. It's a big part of why he was able to be so prolific, especially in the last decade of his life. I also like that he gets the title of the magazine slightly wrong. (It's Spice 'N' Nice, Eddie, not Spice and Nice.)

Honestly, these fake testimonials have been some of my favorite pieces in When the Topic is Sex, and "Freemont Street Flame" might be the best one yet. As with those other articles I mentioned, Eddie truly seems to love getting into character and writing from the perspective of a woman. I suppose it's a form of literary drag, a way of getting his male mind into a female body. And the narrator of "Freemont Street Flame" (we never learn her actual name) is the kind of woman Eddie loved: a fun-loving, uninhibited gal who speaks her mind. She even boldly slags New York City, saying it can't compete with Vegas in terms of entertainment: "They couldn't compare with the lowest club we have around here."

What makes this story extra fun—and makes "Fremont Street Flame" one of the longer pieces in When the Topic is Sex—is that, before she was a successful stripper on Las Vegas' second most famous street, our narrator danced in a "girlie show" run by her own parents (!) on the carnival circuit. So we get a whole section about carnivals, which is one of Ed Wood's favorite subjects. He wrote multiple novels about carnies, and they're among his best work as an author. He even claimed to have been a sideshow performer himself, though this may be more of Ed Wood's active imagination. He was obviously enamored of carny life, duping the rubes and staying one step ahead of the law, and wrote about it whenever he could. "Fremont Street Flame" is really a twofer: a carny story attached to a Vegas stripper story.

I personally have no emotional connection to Las Vegas, even though Elvis said you'll never be the same again after you see it. My parents took me there once on vacation, but I was a kid, and this was way before the town became a family-friendly tourist destination. At that time, there was little to nothing for a kid to do in Vegas. I just remember it being hot, blindingly bright in the daylight, and dirty. We went to a performance of the musical Ain't Misbehavin', and there were bugs crawling on our table. The gambling mecca obviously has a more important role in the Ed Wood mythos, since it's where Ed and Kathy were married. Kathy describes this in Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992):
We went to Las Vegas and got married between poker and craps and went on to Salt Lake City in a blizzard, eating canned sardines and crackers, living dangerously and crazy happily, missing cows, deer, rabbits on the road.
Ed's enthusiasm for the town is obvious in this article. Maybe Las Vegas is the purest manifestation of the dreams Ed had when he was growing up in Poughkeepsie—trashier, gaudier, and more exhilarating than even Hollywood could ever be.

P.S. When originally published in Spice 'N' Nice magazine in 1971, this article was clearly labeled "Freemont Street Flame." But in the body of the article itself, the name of the famous Las Vegas thoroughfare is correctly spelled as "Fremont." In this case, I think the booboo was the magazine's fault, not Eddie's.

Next: "Sex and the Twisted Beat" (1971)

Podcast Tuesday: "One Billboard Outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin"

Anson Williams on Happy Days.

Just as movies are often filmed out of sequence, television episodes are often broadcast in a different order than they were originally produced. Ultimately, a TV network decides when (or if) a particular episode will air; the producers of a series have little to no say over this. "A Potsie is Born," a showcase for actor-singer Anson Williams, was the final episode of Happy Days produced during the 1979-80 television season, but it ended up being only the third-to-last (or antepenultimate) episode to air. Isn't it crazy how TV works sometimes?

At the end of that fateful season, the seventh for the nostalgic sitcom, both Ron Howard and Don Most left the show to pursue other career opportunities. Their characters, Richie and Ralph, disappeared instantly from Happy Days with very little explanation or fanfare. They were there, and then they weren't. This was quite a dilemma for Anson Williams. His character, the sweet but dense Warren "Potsie" Webber, was largely defined by his relationships to Richie and Ralph. He and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) are not really friends; they're friends-in-law. Without his buddies, who was Potsie? The show never really found a satisfying answer to this question in its remaining four seasons.

In a way, then, "A Potsie is Born" marks the end of an era for Anson Williams as much as it does for Ron Howard and Don Most. This is the last big Potsie story during the Richie/Ralph era of Happy Days. Does it make for a good episode? Find out when you listen to the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex: "The Girls of the Golden State" (1971)

Ed Wood salutes the ladies of his adopted state. (Illustration from Nude But Nice)

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

The article: "The Girls of the Golden State." Originally published in Nude But Nice (Pendulum Publishing), vol. 1, no. 2, May/June 1971.

Excerpt: "Clothing certainly does make the woman. There is nothing worse than watching some girls wearing absolute garbage and think it's cute. This rarely happens with the girls from a downtown business building. It is supposed that their bosses see to that . . . at least during the working days of the week. Who can say what they will look like on those off hours and weekends?"

Reflections: No one has ever written quite like Ed Wood. Eddie just had a way of stringing words and phrases together that was exclusively his own. Take his 1971 article "The Girls of the Golden State" as an example. The premise of this piece is simply that California sure has a lot of pretty girls, most of whom came to the state for the motion picture and television industries but wound up as secretaries, topless waitresses, nude models, and porn stars instead. Conceptually, this is nothing special or profound. Eddie has advanced similar ideas in other articles from When the Topic is Sex.

What makes this particular article worthwhile is Eddie's peculiar grasp of the English language. There's something almost alien about his writing style. I keep flashing back to a quote from actress Valda Hansen in Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992). 

Valda Hansen on Ed Wood: "He doesn't belong here."

That quote must've struck Rudolph Grey as significant, too, because he ends the entire oral history section of the book with it. It seems that even Kathy Wood herself thought of her husband as a quasi-alien. 

Take this random sentence from "The Girls of the Golden State": "Then, too, the hostesses and other personnel needed to keep a megalopolis running on a prettier keel are crying out for the more pleasant appearing of the applicants." It's difficult to imagine a native speaker of English phrasing a sentence that way. I mean, "keep a megalopolis running on a prettier keel"? Who talks like that? Ed Wood, that's who. I'm also reminded of what Roger Ebert said of Ed Wood's idol, Bela Lugosi, in a review of Dracula (1931):
Lugosi had been living and working in the United States for a decade by the time the film was made, and yet there is something about his line readings that suggests a man who comes sideways to English--perhaps because in his lonely Transylvanian castle, Dracula has had centuries to study it but few opportunities to practice it.
Obviously, Eddie grew up with the language and had plenty of opportunities to practice it, but he still writes like someone who "comes sideways to English." In Ted Newsom's documentary Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora (1994), narrator Gary Owens explains it this way:
Calling an Ed Wood script illogical is like saying dreams make no sense. Images and words went straight from his mind to the page. His stream-of-consciousness dialogue was like a ransom note pasted together from words randomly cut out a Korean electronics manual.
Note that comparison of Ed's writing to Korean. It strikes me now that we commonly use the same word, "alien," to refer to those from different countries and from different planets. Maybe that's why Ed and Bela had such a connection: they both felt like outsiders.

Occasionally in When the Topic is Sex, I've come across articles in which Ed Wood keeps his weirdness in check and writes in a straightforward, almost anonymous style. "The Girls of the Golden State" is not one of those articles. Here's how Eddie describes the plight of women who become adult film actresses:
This might seem the answer to the aspiring young lady who hasn't previously given up on ever getting before the cameras. However, it is only the whipped cream layered over another solid brick. The career in these films is short-lived for any girl, since the producers want new faces for each production . . . new faces and new exquisite bodies. The girls must continually look for new production companies, and eventually they run out and the girl is back behind the desk or coffee urn. 
"The whipped cream layered over another solid brick." Phrases like that are why I read Ed Wood articles.

Next: "Freemont Street Flame" (1971)

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex: "The Pimp" (1972)

If hooking is the world's oldest profession, is pimping the second oldest? (Illustration from Fetish Annual)

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

The article: "The Pimp." Originally published in Fetish Annual (Gallery Press/Pendulum), 1972. Credited to "Dick Trent."

Excerpt: "We find that many of these relationships begin when the whore is jailed. There she meets other girls . . . and generally some form of sexual relationship comes about. And when they get out of prison the relationship continues in the pimp/whore—husband/wife lesbian relationship. But it is also a fact that it is seldom a lesbian pimp will have more than one girl working for her."

One of the many books Ed Wood used.
Reflections: As we have seen throughout When the Topic is Sex, Ed Wood sometimes did his homework when he wrote nonfiction articles and sometimes didn't. When he wrote "The Pimp" for 1972's Fetish Annual, Eddie definitely did his homework. He might have even been stone cold sober when he wrote it. Virtually the entire article consists of quotes from books on the subject of prostitution. Among these are: 
  • An unnamed book by sociologist Sara Harris; Harris wrote numerous books about sex and prostitution, including Cast the First Stone (1957) and The Puritan Jungle: America's Sexual Underground (1969).
"The Pimp" might be the most research-heavy article in this entire collection, citing works by doctors and by those who have worked in the prostitution profession. Some of these authors are colorful characters in their own right, including anarchist doctor Ben Reitman and real-life madam Polly Adler. Polly even got her own posthumous biopic in 1964 with Shelley Winters in the lead!

While this is good news for the reader who earnestly wants to know about pimping, it's bad news for Ed Wood fans, since this type of article leaves very little room for Eddie to be Eddie. When the Topic is Sex is most fun when Ed is blatantly making things up or is supplementing the facts with his own curious brand of philosophizing. There's very little of that here. In "The Pimp," he sticks to the facts... or at least what he thinks are the facts.

And what are those facts? According to Ed Wood, the pimp has largely been obscure up to this point in history, operating in the shadows of American society. "Much is written about the prostitute and the madams, and the whorehouses and, the call girls, etc.," Ed complains, "but little is expounded upon the pimp." This is tough to imagine today, since the gaudily-dressed pimp—generally seen driving a Cadillac and carrying a jewel-encrusted walking stick— has become a vaunted figure in popular culture through songs, movies, TV shows, video games, and even Halloween costumes. My own thoughts about the profession are inextricably tied to Pimpbot 5000 from Late Night with Conan O'Brien in the '90s and Eddie Murphy's Velvet Jones from Saturday Night Live in the '80s.

When Ed wrote this article, real-life pimp Iceberg Slim (1918-1992) had been writing about his life for a few years already, but the blaxploitation film Willie Dynamite (1973), which centers around a pimp, had not been released. Neither had Taxi Driver (1974), in which Harvey Keitel plays a white pimp named Sport. In that film, Sport memorably sweet talks Iris (Jodie Foster), a teenage prostitute in his employ. "The Pimp" includes a similar monologue, clipped from The Second Oldest Profession. It reads, in part:
Now I'll admit I got another woman. But you know me, she don't mean a damned thing to me; she is just helping me pay my debts; you are my heart. I love you. None of these broads can give me anything, only you. I am just crazy about you. My one ambition is to see you get out of the racket. I am just fussing around with Pearl, so as to get a little more money to pay our debts. The more money Pearl earns the sooner you will stop hustling. I wouldn't live with that woman if she was the last woman on earth. Look at your lovely hair. Hers is like a horse's tail. You have a beautiful body. I bet if the artists in town knew about you, you would be the most popular model in town.
The entire monologue is much longer, but you get the idea. I can easily imagine Harvey Keitel's character saying very similar things to his women. Actress Jodie Foster has said that Keitel imitated R&B singer Barry White for this scene.

The madams quoted in this article are divided on the merits of pimps. Beverly Davis "detests pimps and won't allow them on her premises," but Carol Erwin says that she only hires girls with pimps because the free agents are too wild and hard to control. They're lazy and they drink, and some of them even "romance" the customers, which is strictly a no-no. Better to hire a girl who's under the thumb of a pimp.

Ed Wood, for his part, seems to look approvingly upon these men. Sure, he allows, there are those who beat the girls violently, but these bad eggs are "far from being a majority." In fact, the average pimp is "a mighty good guy to have around in case of trouble." Ed even gives pimps credit for "adding to the decline of venereal infections in the United States." In a sense, then, "The Pimp" can be seen as Ed Wood's tribute to an important yet widely misunderstood profession. We salute you, Mr. Pimp! Keep up the good work. You're doing your part to keep America clean!

Next: "The Girls of the Golden State" (1971)

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex: "Prostitutes as Wives" (1971)

Can you turn a ho into a housewife? Ed Wood has some thoughts.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

The article: "Prostitutes as Wives." Originally published in Orgy (Pendulum Publishing), vol. 3, no. 4, November/December 1971. Credited to "Dick Trent."

Excerpt: "The full time prostitute has become bored with the whole sex scene. It has meant nothing to her. And when she finally gives it up as a lost cause she is giving it up happily. Nothing is going to make her more happy then to know she has the same man coming home to her every night and it will be the same man she will wake up to the next morning."

Andy Kaufman marries a hooker on Taxi.
Reflections: When I was reading Ed Wood's 1971 article "Prostitutes as Wives," I could not help but remember what actor Peter Fonda, star of Easy Rider (1969), told Rolling Stone writer Elizabeth Campbell about the title of his most famous film:
"Easy rider" is a Southern term for a whore's old man, not a pimp, but the dude who lives with a chick. Because he's got the easy ride. Well, that's what's happened to America, man. Liberty's become a whore, and we're all taking the easy ride."
"Prostitutes as Wives," I suppose, is Ed Wood's take on these "easy riders," the ones who decide to make the arrangement permanent, but he seems to view them more favorably than Peter Fonda did. In fact, this article weighs the pros and cons of marrying prostitutes and concludes that the former outweigh the latter. Yes, Ed says, men should marry prostitutes!

Ed begins this piece by describing the same sexual double standard that was at the heart of yesterday's article, "A Look at the Nymphomaniac." Namely, young men are expected to be sexually experienced by the time they marry, but young women are not. A girl is supposed to be virginal and pure until her wedding night. But this brings with it its own set of problems, as Ed explains:
But here comes the rub! Even though she must be a virgin, he expects all the pleasures of a professional. If she doesn't know what it's all about he feels cheated. She is just a 'dumb broad' who doesn't know her ass from a hole in the ground. How can women be so dumb? He might just as well do what he has done for years . . . masturbate. It would be just about as exciting. 
This is an unworkable and unfair system that is quite cruel to the ladies. Incidentally, Ed provides us with a list of derogatory terms directed as sexually-active young women—not just the usual ones like "tramp" and "bitch" but obscure ones like "turkey," "gobbler," and "clap trap." That last one is kind of clever, I must admit. Mean but clever.

So if marrying virgins is impractical, how about marrying hookers instead? Ed informs us that, after years of taking on male clients, many prostitutes are looking to get out of the business and settle down with a nice guy. They're experts when it comes to pleasing a man, after all, and they're very unlikely to cheat on their husbands and ruin a good thing. You don't have to worry about them getting pregnant unexpectedly either, because ex-prostitutes are very careful about birth control. You might worry about venereal diseases, since they've had so many partners, but Eddie says it's not a problem. He writes:
As any doctor, who has examined these prostitutes will tell . . . they are among the cleanest agents around. This is because the professional prostitute has learned early that her body is the only thing she has to sell . . . to use for making a living. And she is not going to sell a diseased or crippled body. She learns all the protections there are and she practices those protections thoroughly. And she generally has her own personal physician who takes care of her regularly. Few ever become unknowing, unwilling carriers. 
So everything's coming up roses for the man who sees a streetwalker and decides to put a ring on it. According to Ed, this type of gent "has everything, sexually, going for him." This is actually one of the more focused and coherent articles in When the Topic is Sex. Ed might've even been sober or semi-sober when he wrote it. 

What's great about Ed Wood as a writer is that he will approach a topic from an angle that I had not anticipated. I assumed, for example, that this article would be about men who marry experienced prostitutes, i.e. women who have been employed in "the world's oldest profession" for years and are looking to retire. And that is what "Prostitutes as Wives" is mostly about. But Ed also writes about housewives who become prostitutes either out of boredom or to supplement their husbands' meager income. This is an entirely different situation.

Ed Wood does not seem to approve of these "amateur" housewife prostitutes. Unlike the professionals, these silly women don't know how to protect themselves against diseases or unplanned pregnancy. Men are liable to end up with a child who looks suspiciously like the blond-haired milkman. No, says Ed, what you want is a woman who used to be a hooker, not one who aspires to be a hooker. Just one of the many valuable life lessons to be found within When the Topic is Sex.

Next: "The Pimp" (1972)

Friday, March 18, 2022

Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex: "A Look at the Nymphomaniac" (1972)

Let's look at a typical nymphomaniac... through a keyhole, preferably.

NOTE: This article continues my coverage of Ed Wood's When the Topic is Sex (BearManor Media, 2021).

The article: "A Look at the Nymphomaniac." Originally published in Fantastic (Gallery Press), vol. 1, no. 1, August/September 1972.

Excerpt: "It is reflected that by today's standards, Madam V. wouldn't be singled out at all because of her particular sex drives. She might be classified as more normal than many other classifications designed for sexual use and abuse. Times and values have indeed changed and are continually changing. Sexual permissiveness has apparently turned around to what makes one happy and keeps one from striking out for the Rubber Room At The Happy Farm."

The library of Ed Wood's youth.
Reflections: Before I get into the merits of Ed Wood's 1972 article "A Look at the Nymphomaniac," I want to discuss a topic that comes up frequently in this article and others included in When the Topic is Sex. You might call it one of the principal motifs of this collection.

Specifically, Ed Wood feels that libraries used to keep their sexually-explicit books hidden away in some dank dungeon beneath the building. In "A Look at the Nymphomaniac," for instance, Ed refers to "the no-no books which couldn't be checked out by the simple man on the street." Ed says this policy existed because the doctors of the past wanted to keep the general public ignorant about sex. Why they'd want to do that, he doesn't say.

Is any of this true? Since Ed Wood grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York, I decided to ask Shannon Butler, the current historian for the Poughkeepsie Public Library District, about how libraries worked in Ed's day. Here's what she had to say:
Adriance Memorial Library was the only library in Poughkeepsie at the time [Ed Wood lived here] with the exception of the Vassar College library, so [Ed] certainly would have come here. As far as a forbidden storehouse of books, I doubt that ever existed. In the old days of the library, the collections were all over the place, including the basement, and in those days it was a "retrieval only" system, meaning the librarian would go and get what you wanted. Perhaps by the mid-century, they might have had a separate area for the storage of more "mature" subjects but we don't have any record of old floor plans to determine if such a location existed.
So not exactly a definitive answer. Maybe this was the way it merely seemed to Ed when he was a child, i.e. the adults were keeping "the good stuff" to themselves. Reader Guy Deverell pointed me to this article, implying there was some truth behind Ed's suspicions.

Anyway, by the time Ed wrote "A Look at the Nymphomaniac," he was a grown man and had access to as much adult-oriented material as he wanted. Books, magazines, tabloids, films, you name it. Eddie devoured as much of this material as he could and then regurgitated it in his own work, adding his own fetishes and quirks along the way. In a perfect world, "Nymphomaniac" would be a neat companion piece to Ed's "Satyriasis and Prostitution" from the previous year. In truth, however, this is just a random junkpile of sketchy information and dubious ideas loosely themed around nymphomania.

In a a way, "A Look at the Nymphomaniac" is a first cousin to Ed's glossary articles like "There Are Different Words" (1974) and "Sexual Terminology" (1971). He devotes two sections of "Nymphomaniac" to defining sex-related terms, not just "nymphomania" and "nymphomaniac" but also "hyperesthesia," "priapism," "hyperhedonia," and "voluptuary," among others. My guess is that Ed must've owned some dogeared dictionary of sex terms and wanted to get as much use out of it as he possibly could. Here, it feels like Ed is blatantly trying to pad out the article with text. Maybe he was paid by the word or by the column inch. 

If this article has a thesis, it's that the term "nymphomania" has historically been used to stigmatize women who simply had a healthy appetite for sex, equal to that of a man. Despite the findings of Freud and Kinsey, we still don't seem to think that women should be as interested in sex as men, so we label them as sick or abnormal. Ed describes the grossly unfair double standard:
Herewith, we then are to believe that the woman who felt she required more than the usual amount of sex was one of those horrid persons to which the nymphomaniac title was given. She could be pointed out in the street . . . be scoffed at . . . have her name bandied around in the saloons or the pool hall . . . and she might be searched out by the same type of male. However, in the case of the male who found himself in the same position as that over-sexed woman it was a different story. He was looked upon as the most virile of males. He had a healthy outlook upon the sex life. In all respects he was normal. 
After reading that, you might be tempted to label "A Look at the Nymphomaniac" one of Ed Wood's more progressive articles. But, Ed being Ed, he can't stay on topic for long. He includes some nonsenseattributed to a psychologist whose existence I cannot confirmabout how all lesbians subconsciously long to be loved by men. He also says that nymphomaniacs might be responsible for "the massive attacks of VD which are striking the nation." So, yeah, not the most feminist-friendly material ever. Still, though, Ed is willing to acknowledge that women enjoy sex. That's something, right?

Next: "Prostitutes as Wives" (1971)