Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 128: Some thoughts on 'Purple Thighs' (1968) and 'Forced Entry' (1974)

Two of Ed Wood's salacious novels: Purple Thighs and Forced Entry.

In November 2021, I reported to you that I was drowning in a sea of Ed Wood. What I meant by that was, I decided to read a bunch of Ed's novels and nonfiction books back to back over the course of just a few months. Why? Well, Eddie wrote a ton of books in his heyday, and if I'm ever going to understand this strange and complicated man, I have to make it through at least some portion of his vast literary canon. Why not just dive in headfirst and see what happens? 

Now, I don't own any of the rare and pricey paperbacks from the '60s and '70s, but a reader of this blog was kind enough to share with me some of the reprints from the extremely short-lived "Woodpile Press" series from 2009. Mainlining these volumes over the course of a few months was a real education (or Ed-ucation, I suppose), but the books tended to blend together in my mind. So recently, I decided to revisit some of these books and see if they made a stronger impression on me the second time around.

The edition of Wood on Acid that I consulted.
For whatever reason, I settled on a "Woodpile Press" volume entitled Wood on Acid, which contains the text of two full novels: Purple Thighs aka Lost Souls Delivered (1968) and Forced Entry (1974). I vaguely remembered both of these from the first time around, but a lot of the details had faded from my memory. They seemed like perfect candidates for revisiting. What did I think of them this time? Well...

Purple Thighs, Eddie's take on hippies and LSD, is definitely the more interesting and fun of the two novels. I think it helps that Eddie wrote it six years before Forced Entry. He was on the downward spiral by '68, for sure, but things weren't as dire as they were in '74. Ed Wood may not have been at the peak of freshness when he wrote Purple Thighs, but he hadn't completely curdled yet. Speaking of curdling, though, it's remarkable how much America soured between 1967 and 1968. We went from the Summer of Love to the Entire Year of Hate in a very short time. In its own cockeyed way, Ed's novel reflects this sad societal change.

The plot of Purple Thighs revolves around Adam, an honest, hard-working law student who just wants to get an education, darn it. He can't concentrate on his studies, though, because of all these darned dirty hippies loudly protesting against the war. (Seriously, in this book, Ed never passes up an opportunity to remark how filthy and foul-smelling the hippies are.) What's Adam to do? The only logical thing: drop out of school, ditch his nice girlfriend, and go "undercover" among the acid-dropping hippies. It's sort of like Ed Wood's variation on John Howard Griffin's Black Like Me (1961). Call it Hippie Like Me. Oh, by the way, there's a rather gratuitous framing device wherein Adam tells his adventures to a psychiatrist named Dr. Thyme Hammer, who's paying him for his time.

So, anyway, Adam goes to some hippie neighborhood -- I think it's supposed to be Haight-Ashbury, but Ed never really specifies -- and starts to blend in among the locals. Almost immediately, he meets and moves in with a groovy chick named Eve, who introduces him to the wonderful world of LSD-enhanced sex. Right from its bewildering first chapter, Ed's parody of the Book of Genesis, Purple Thighs is full of references to the biblical Adam and Eve. This makes sense because Kathy Wood said that her husband frequently took inspiration from the Good Book. The snake, the garden, the apple, they're all here in this novel, serving some vague allegorical purpose.

Even on acid, Adam is kind of a dullard, the sort of square-jawed, macho hero Eddie seemed to love to put in his stories. Fortunately, Purple Thighs has an outstanding supporting cast of characters, many of whom have truly asinine names straight out of an AIP biker flick. My favorite has to be Rigor Mortis, a local creep who dresses like The Phantom of the Opera and is toted around in a cheap coffin by his henchmen, Crisp, Crap, and Head. (Or was that Snap, Crackle, and Pop?) Rigor likes to be buried alive in a different spot every night, and his thugs begrudgingly comply... until it all inevitably goes wrong. And we mustn't forget Glory Girl, the friendly neighborhood drug pusher who turns out to have an incredible secret. I don't want to spoil the plot too much, but if Purple Thighs had been made into a movie (and it should have been), Ed Wood might've played this part himself.

Anyway, Adam and Eve's neighborhood is being ruined by a bunch of phonies who have moved in just to party, take drugs, have sex, and mooch off others. I couldn't help but think of the song "Who Needs the Peace Corps?" by Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention: "Every town must have a place where phony hippies meet. Psychedelic dungeons popping up on every street." I also thought about R. Crumb's comic, "I Remember the Sixties," in which he talks about the decline and fall of "the Haight." Eventually, Adam, Eve, and some of the more responsible hippies move away to some kind of quasi-utopian commune. I guess it's a happy ending. Ed Wood's contempt for the counterculture seeps through nearly every page of this novel, so it's nice that he shows at least a little leniency towards them in the book's final pages.

By the way, the book's original title, Lost Souls Delivered, is Ed Wood's punning variation on "LSD." He used the same title for an article in 1972. As for the new title, Purple Thighs, I think it's a reference to body painting, a practice that was popular among hippies in the late '60s. There's a brief body painting sequence in the novel in which a young woman's body is bedecked with garish colors.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "America's Shameful Game Show Past"

Marion Ross and Lyle Waggoner on Happy Days.

I first learned of the notorious TV game show Queen for a Day (1956-1964) in a book called The Encyclopedia of Bad Taste (1990) by Jane and Michael Stern. The title of that book should give you some idea of the caliber of the show. In fact, I think I'll let the Sterns describe this truly bizarre and memorable program:
Like other game shows,
Queen for a Day gave away prizes, but the twist was that the prizes went to a contestant selected by audience applause. To earn applause, contestants had to tell what they needed and why. Some wishes were frivolous, but the one who invariably received the loudest ovation was the woman who told the most heart-rending story about the suffering in her life. 
Broadcast from Hollywood's Moulin Rouge theater-restaurant, Queen for a Day set standards of toe-curling tastelessness that have remained unequaled in game show history. In order to win, it was almost always necessary for the contestant to whimper and moan as she enumerated her miseries, and thereby made herself seem even more wretched than any of the other sad ladies hoping to be crowned. As she wailed her tale of woe, host Jack Bailey told jokes to keep the mood of the show light. (A contestant sobbed that her house was robbed on New Year's Eve. "Happy New Year," laughed Mr. Bailey.) 
Adding to Queen for a Day's stunning tactlessness were the prizes. Women whose lives had collapsed around them were awarded trips to the hairdresser and lunch at a movie studio, plus prizes to fit their particular dilemma. A woman whose husband was paralyzed and lay dying in the hospital was given a new car to go visit him and a year's supply of men's deodorant to bring him as a present. One contestant whose husband had died in bed pleaded for a new mattress. The end of each program was a dazzling coronation scene, during which the chosen Queen, always crying hysterically, was swathed in ermine and crowned, given a bouquet of red roses, and led to her velvet-covered throne by scantily clad courtiers, as Jack Bailey showered her with gifts, which were always announced by their brand names. 
In its eighth season in 1980, Happy Days gently satirized Queen for a Day with an episode called "Dreams Can Come True." The plot has Marion Cunningham (Marion Ross) competing on a Queen for a Day-type game show called Dreams Can Come True, hosted by the smarmy Bobby Burns (guest star Lyle Waggoner). She hopes to win $800 so she can send Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfriend), her future daughter-in-law, on a flight to Greenland to visit the absent Richie. Unfortunately, to win the game, Marion has to defeat two other downtrodden housewives whose problems make the Cunninghams' financial woes look trivial in comparison.

On this week's installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we talk about "Dreams Can Come True" and the legacy of Queen for a Day. Join us, won't you?

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Ed Wood Summit Podcast #24 by Greg Dziawer

Ed Wood blazed a few trails in the adult entertainment industry.

Ed Wood toiled away in the adult paperback, magazine and film industry for the last decade and a half of his life. The timeframe coincided with societal sea changes resulting in the introduction of pornography as a mass consumer object.

Could he fairly be considered a pioneer?

Check out this episode of The Ed Wood Summit Podcast for my answer to that question, as well as a general overview of Ed's work in the adult industry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "The Curse of Rogers Hornsby"

Henry Winkler with a beard on Happy Days.

What was Happy Days going to do without two of its core characters, straight arrow Richie Cunningham (Ron Howard) and practical joker Ralph Malph (Don Most)? The show had a longer-than-usual time to ponder that question, since an actors' strike delayed the start of the 1980-81 television season. The producers had a twofold solution to their dilemma: bring in some new characters and redefine several of the existing characters.

Some of that restructuring would have happened anyway, even if Ron Howard and Don Most had stayed with the show. The initial focus of Happy Days was on teenagers and high school, a logical choice since the sitcom was aimed at younger viewers. But Richie, Ralph, and their pals had long since aged out of adolescence by Season 8. They, along with Fonzie (Henry Winkler) and Potsie (Anson William), graduated from dear old Jefferson High back in Season 4.

In Season 8, Happy Days introduced some new Jefferson High students and made Fonzie one of their teachers, so he could act as a mentor to the next generation. That starts to kick in with the episode "Live and Learn," in which Fonzie gets off to a rocky start as an auto shop teacher to a gang of wacky misfits, including Eugene (Dennis Mandel) and Bobby (Harris Kal). It's at this point that Happy Days starts to resemble its old Tuesday night neighbor, Welcome Back, Kotter.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we talk about "Live and Learn" and the changes that the show was going through in its eighth season. Join us, won't you?

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

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

This week, Greg delves once again into those pesky paperbacks.

angora (noun)

1.  the hair of the Angora goat or Angora rabbit 
2.  yarn, fabric or a garment made from this hair. 

Ed Wood famously had an angora fetish. If there is something close to a fingerprint in Ed's writing, it's this soft, furry fabric. In fact, angora shows up ubiquitously in many of Ed's known adult paperbacks and is present in the vast majority of them.

Early last year, I began performing fishing expeditions into the world of adult paperbacks, predicated on the notion there are still unknown paperbacks written by Ed out there. One of the biggest challenges in this endeavor is finding the right stream in which to cast my net. I've never seen a total of how many adult paperbacks may have been written and published during the genre's heyday—roughly the early '60s through the early '80s—but it is conservatively in the many tens of thousands.

Late last summer, I was lucky to procure sponsorship for a few episodes of the The Ed Wood Summit Podcast from Triple X Books. While that relationship allowed me to get my hands on plenty of e-books, it unexpectedly resulted in a winnowing process. When I communicated with the proprietor of the site, he was curious about my endeavor to ID unknown works by Ed Wood. He graciously offered to search the entire text database of over 18,000 adult paperbacks offered on the site. Naturally, angora was one of the terms he searched for.

Not counting any of Ed Wood's known works—just a handful of Ed's verified titles are offered by Triple X—the result totaled a mere 118 paperbacks (roughly 0.65555555555556%) mentioning angora. I have been combing through that list, hoping to find one novel written by Ed. It's a daunting task, but I'm encouraged by a discovery I made prior to receiving the list: Raoul Woody's Sex Salvation. This novel validated my gut feeling that there's more Ed out there.

My findings thus far indicate that there were just a handful of writers who used the term angora with any commonality, albeit with nowhere near Ed Wood's frequency. Let's look at a few of them individually.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Just Like Starting Over"

Erin Moran and Scott Baio on Happy Days.

For about a year in the early 2000s, I lived at a motel. Sort of. See, I was teaching at a high school in a small, somewhat isolated town in northern Illinois, and apartments were not especially common in this part of the world. The principal suggested that I try the local motel, since it had some apartment units on the property. They were small apartments, to be sure, but extremely cheap. Since I was pretty much broke at the time, this seemed like an acceptable option.

The motel was quite a find, a relic of the 1950s "See the USA in your Chevrolet" era. There was nothing of real interest in this town to make it a destination for travelers, so the motel mainly existed to give families a place to stop on their way to someplace else. But even this type of business had become scarce by the early 2000s. I guess that's why they turned some of the units into apartments. 

My own little one-bedroom bachelor pad had decades-old appliances from companies that didn't exist anymore and genuine shag carpeting that was impossible to keep clean. The actual "motel" part of the motel had developed a somewhat sleazy reputation by the time I lived there, not helped by the fact that its next door neighbors were a pawn shop and a massage parlor that stayed open all night. I kind of loved this place. I'm all about faded glory. Plus, they let me use the pool. Sweet.

Anyway, my memories of motel life were rekindled this week when I reviewed "No Tell Motel," the Season 8 premiere of Happy Days. As the title indicates, the story largely takes place at a sleazy motel. Joanie (Erin Moran) and Chachi (Scott Baio) reluctantly take shelter in such an establishment after their car breaks down, leading to a tense evening. This was the first episode to air after the departure of Ron Howard and Don Most, and it shows the direction the show will take: a whole lotta Joanie and Chachi.

Is it good? Is it bad? Find out when we review "No Tell Motel" on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Written Wood by Greg Dziawer

This week, Greg gives us an overview of Ed Wood's prolific writing career.

Ed Wood, filmmaker. This is how he is commonly remembered today. If you are a casual fan of Eddie, you likely found him through his low-budget 1950s movies, which earned him the title of "The World's Worst Director." While that is an argument for another day, there is unquestionably a far more prolific avenue of Ed's work and creativity to travel: texts. Many of them, of many kinds. We've shared many in this series. This week, let's delve into a high-level summary of those iterations, both known and speculative.  (Click the hyperlinks below for examples and to dig deeper.)

1. Theatrical Plays 

While the play itself appears to be lost, Casual Company, a comedy cowritten by Ed's fellow service member Harry Kone, is one of his first documented texts. And it surely was staged. An August 1946 Poughkeepsie Journal article notes that it had by then been staged 48 times for military and civilian audiences. It even played at Poughkeepsie High School, Ed Wood's alma mater. That same article notes that Ed wrote other plays, all comedies in "working draft" form, and that one was titled The Inconsiderate Corpse. These plays appear, sadly, to all be lost.

2. Novelizations of Plays

Penned by Ed solo, the novelized version of Casual Company survived, and was subsequently re-printed in serialized fashion in Cult Movies magazine in the '90s. In the August 1946 article mentioned above, it's also noted that a (now lost) novelized version of The Inconsiderate Corpse was completed but in "working form" and would be going through rewrites. It's worth pointing out that the same article lists Ed's ambition as a theatrical writer and actor. After he arrived in Hollywood in 1948, his interest would, of course, shift to film.

3. Film Scripts

Glen or Glenda, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Bride of the Monster. Those are just a few of the many film scripts Eddie wrote. In fact, he would write all of the feature films he directed, in addition to penning scripts directed and produced by others, including the majority of films made by Stephen Apostolof.

4. Script Polishing 

Jack Descent, who purchased five scripts from Ed and ultimately produced films from two of them, mentioned to me that Ed was known for quickly polishing scripts written by others. The extent of this work and specific titles are unknown.

5. Movie Trailer Voiceover/Narrations

Ed himself narrates a number of trailers, including for many of the aforementioned Apostolof films. While we can't say it with certainty, it's reasonable to suppose he wrote the voiceover copy as well. Known examples, literally and figuratively, evoke his distinctive "voice."

6. Film Reviews/Overviews

Would a filmmaker write an uncredited review of his own film? While again we can't say with certainty what Ed may or may not have written, there were a number of sex film mags that covered the work Ed was involved in during the late '60s and early '70s. This one, covering Necromania, is equal parts review and feature overview.

7. Teleplays

In addition to feature film scripts, Ed also wrote for television, this iteration of text largely explored in the early '50s. He sometimes wrote for others and sometimes directed his own script, as here.

8. Paperback Fiction Novels

Among Ed's texts and outside of his film scripts, his adult paperbacks are undoubtedly the best known work. You don't have to be a Wood obsessive to be familiar with, or to have even read, such paperbacks as Killer in Drag or Death of a Transvestite. Those are just a few of the many dozens of paperbacks we know of, and there are likely many more that are lost or unidentified. The number could, in fact, well exceed a hundred titles. Just last year, one more turned up, and I will be sharing a few new finds soon! Be careful, though, as the rumor mill oft-times misattributes titles to Ed's hand.

9. Sociosexal Paperbacks

Different than his fiction paperbacks, the sociosex titles generally focus upon a sexual topic or cluster of sexual topics, told from a pseudo-academic point of view. Several of these titles include a byline for Dr. T.K. Peters, sometimes mistaken to be yet another pseudonym's of Ed's. It's not, but only lends murkiness to attributions in this vein. Often, the texts is accompanied by graphic sexual photos on the facing page. Those photos are often strangely captioned, arguably by Ed himself, yet one more textual iteration of his work.

10. Book Reviews

Similar to film reviews, we have to ask the question: would an author, uncredited, review his own work? While we once again cannot say for certain due to the lack of credit, it's hard to imagine that anyone else would have taken the time to review them. Last year's incredible compendium of Ed articles When the Topic is Sex includes a few examples. (And those titles are yet another paperback iteration, the "Pendulum Pictorial.")

11. Short Stories

We've seen two great compilations of Ed's adult magazine short story work in recent years, Blood Splatters Quickly and Angora Fever. Ed was sometimes credited under his own name, while at other times the stories were credited to a pseudonym or given no credit at all. A mid-'70s resume, typed by Ed himself, exhaustively lists hundreds of titles, but as we have seen, there are others. Perhaps many others. Earlier in his career, Ed was represented by Forry Ackerman as his literary agent, and he may have additionally produced work in the sci-fi/horror realm that is now lost.

12. Magazine Articles

As with the short stories, Ed penned a staggering amount of articles for adult magazines in the last decade of his life, perhaps starting as soon as 1962 or 1963. As Joe Blevins noted here last week in his wrap-up to his comprehensive review of every article contained in When the Topic is Sex, there are many iterations of what constitutes an article, from faked interviews to research-based pieces.

13. Magazine Editorials

Though uncredited, the editorials for many of the sex magazines Ed wrote often strongly suggest his authorship. Have a look at a few and decide for yourself!

14. Pictorial Texts ("Short Picture Subjects") 

The typed resume earlier mentioned contains pages and pages of titles listed as "short picture subjects." My first inclination years back was that they might be titles of loops that Ed had subtitled. Then one day, leafing through a magazine, I recognized a title from the resume as the title to a text-accompanied photo feature. That resume lists a staggering 716 items of this type in a mere three years. While these are uncredited, they are most often written by Ed, as can be verified by that resume. 

One thing about the pages of that resume had puzzled me, a notation on the upper right of each page of the "short picture subjects" section: "1500 min." Thanks to James Pontolillo for letting me know that this likely was shorthand for "1500 words minimum," which means those photo features with shorter texts or just captions could very well have been written by Eddie, too! The "short picture subjects," like other textual iterations written by Ed, tend to have their own distinctive and highly consistent internals, e.g. extolling the wonders of free sex and imagining the mind states of the models in the photos. In select instances, they can be quite extensive, as here.

15. Loop Subtitles and Box Cover Summaries

It was first noted in Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy that Ed wrote subtitles for silent 8mm pornographic shorts (aka loops). Again, internal consistencies suggest that the same author may have penned the subtitles for literally hundreds of loops. While generally sparse, the subs most often warm up the sexual action when not punctuating the likely sounds (Mmmm's and Ahhhh's.) We've delved into the subtitles often, here, here and elsewhere throughout this series. The box cover summaries for the loops, too, often suggest Ed's voice.
16. Miscellaneous

Into this category, we'll put photo captions, loop and magazine titles, ancillary magazine texts, magazine ads, and loop series taglines. I could go on an on with possible iterations. How about copy for sales training filmstrips? He surely wrote copy for commercials and industrial and sponsored short films, first for Story-Ad Films in the late '40s and then while on loan-out from Rocket Pictures to Autonetics in the early '60s.

Just how much could Ed Wood possibly have written? We'll keep trying to answer that question as this series continues.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Podcast Tuesday: "Down in the Malph"

Jack Dodson and Don Most on Happy Days.

One of ABC's more, uh, eccentric decisions in the spring of 1980 was to schedule the episode "Ralph's Family Problem" as the seventh season finale of Happy Days. On some level, it makes sense. Actor Don Most was leaving the long-running sitcom, and the episode highlights his character, jokester Ralph Malph. And the episode's not bad by any means. It's always a pleasure when TV veteran Jack Dodson returns as Ralph's father, zany optometrist Dr. Mickey Malph. This was a classy way for Happy Days to say goodbye to both Ralph Malph (the character) and Don Most (the actor).

On the other hand, "Ralph's Family Problem" is not at all typical for Happy Days and is definitely not the kind of splashy entertainment normally reserved for the end of a TV season. Instead, it's a quietly dramatic, downbeat episode in which Ralph grapples with his parents' imminent divorce. There's a lot of moping and soul-searching in this story, and the episode ends on a quietly ambiguous note. That's not exactly Happy Days' brand. For seven seasons, we've seen Ralph as the inveterate class clown, always making corny jokes. Only rarely do we get the impression that there's a real, vulnerable human being behind the dribble glasses and whoopie cushions.

This week's installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast is a special one, since we're not only reviewing "Ralph's Family Problem" but giving our Top 5 lists for the year. We also give our overall thoughts on the seventh season and the show's future without Ron Howard and Don Most. We hope you'll join us.