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.

Before we even begin, however, let me throw in a quick plug for Rob's new YouTube series, Sin & Sci-Fi in the '60s: The Paperback Writers of France Books, which he cohosts with Greg. Their first episode is available here. If you've enjoyed Greg's videos and articles about vintage paperbacks, this show should be right up your alley.

With that out of the way, here's a perfect example of the kind of thing Rob sends me on the regular. It's a semi-legible scan of an article from a forgotten, adults-only tabloid called Rampage. While reviewing When the Topic is Sex (2021), I learned that Ed Wood frequently looted such tabloids for story ideas. I can't find any evidence of Ed drawing specifically from Rampage, which seems to have had a satirical bent, but Rob emailed me this interesting little clipping he said was from around 1971. Here's what he had to say about it:
This blurry mess ... is about drag queens [and] is full of ellipses and words in all CAPS. Could it be Wood? I can’t make out the byline—Randy Johnson?

An early 1970s article from the tabloid Rampage.

I can't say that this is Ed Wood's work, but I know that Eddie would have been keenly interested in it and would likely have swiped some passages from it if he'd found it. Rob also told me that Rampage featured occasional contributions from Criswell, the star of Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957) and Night of the Ghouls (1959).

Recently, Greg and I did a podcast about "Les Pad," a short story from 1968 that we strongly believe Ed Wood wrote under the pen name Caine Richmond. It bears a striking similarity to Nighttime Lez, a novel Eddie wrote under his own name that same year. Anyway, despite our interest in the story, neither of us could decipher the meaning of this particular alias. It was Rob Huffman who pointed out the similarity to Kane Richmond (1906-73), a popular film actor of the 1930s and '40s that Eddie would have certainly known and admired. 

Rob was convinced that Kane Richmond must have worked with Kenne Duncan, one of Ed Wood's closest personal friends and most frequent collaborators, on a few occasions. And, sure enough, Kane and Kenne were both in Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938), a 15-part sci-fi serial from Universal featuring Buster Crabbe in the title role. The entire 299-minute saga was boiled down to a 68-minute feature called Mars Attacks the World (1938). Happily, both Kane and Kenne made the cut as various Martians.

A shared credit for both Kane Richmond and Kenne Duncan.

Rob further discovered that Kane Richmond played the lead role as a wrongfully-accused sea captain in another 15-chapter serial: Republic's Haunted Harbor (1944). The ever-prolific Kenne Duncan had a supporting role in that, too. Moreover, Rob reminded me that Kane is actually name-checked at least once in Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1992). Indeed, on page 120, as part of a chapter called "Weird Scenes with the Pied Piper," actor John Andrews tells this very odd story that I'd never particularly noticed before.

John Andrews tells a story that involves Kane Richmond in Nightmare of Ecstasy.

This little tale has a happy ending, since John eventually did locate an autographed photo of Buck Jones and gave it to an overwhelmed Ed Wood, who then showed it to an unimpressed neighbor. (The latter's reaction: "Who's Buck Jones?") Incidentally, this meandering story in Nightmare of Ecstasy also briefly mentions Criswell, who apparently acted as an intermediary of some sort between John Andrews and Ed Wood.

Criswell seems to be another particular interest of Rob Huffman, since Rob occasionally sends me photos and articles about the famed prognosticator. He reminded me, for example, that an entire book about Criswell is due in February 2023. I'd long since pre-ordred my copy by then, however. But Rob also sent me a very brief clipping by Criswell he found in a 1968 issue of a tabloid called The National Informer. The Great Seer of Princeton, Indiana tells us:
I predict that "Tapestry in Terror" starring Vampira and myself will soon be seen as an hour TV program in September of 1971, so watch for it. This is based on the "Night People" by Edward D. Wood. The sound track will also be available on an LP album!
Fleeting as it is, this clipping is interesting for a number of reasons. We know that no such project ever came to fruition, either as a TV special or as an LP. But what could Cris possibly have been referring to? "Tapestry in Terror" and "Night People" are unfamiliar titles to me. Nightmare of Ecstasy mentions neither of them, though Ed Wood's own synopsis of Orgy of the Dead (1965) ends with: "Was it a dream? Only the Night People know." (And now I'm wondering how and where Rudolph Grey found that synopsis. As usual, he gives no provenance.)

There is an Ed Wood movie from this era that tangentially involves both Criswell and Vampira: the Gothic-themed adult feature Necromania (1971). Eddie famously offered the role of Madame Heles in that film to Vampira, but she turned him down flat. And the coffin seen at the film's climax was purportedly provided by Criswell himself. There never was a Necromania soundtrack LP, but I did assemble my own Necromania album a few years ago and made it available for free streaming. As for "Tapestry," perhaps this article will cause some Ed Wood fan to contact me and tell me exactly what it is. Or was. Or was supposed to be.

I'll close out this tour of The Huffman Files with a few photographs that Rob has sent me in recent weeks. This first one is a snapshot of Ed with Plan 9 star Paul Marco, both looking sloshed to the gills. (Rob says he got this pic from Paul's nephew, Jason Insalaco, "via a site I now forget.") In his email, Rob presented me with one simple but unanswerable question: "Where in the world are Ed and Paul?"

Ed Wood and Paul Marco sometime in the 1970s. (Colorized just for fun.)

I didn't know where Ed Wood and Paul Marco were when this picture was taken, but something about it looked familiar. I remembered that I'd seen a very similar image of Ed in that distinctive jacket during the documentary On the Trail of Ed Wood (1990). In that film, the following image appears while Conrad Brooks is talking about the way Ed and his wife Kathy were living in the 1970s when they moved into their apartment at the intersection of Yucca and Cahuenga in Hollywood. Conrad says:
When I went over there, I gave it a second thought if I should enter that building. It was bad. I felt, jeez, I better have a gun if I go in that building. It was all these strange looking characters. Weirdos. This is a strange place. I thought, maybe I'm at the wrong place. Maybe Duke [Moore] gave me the wrong address. I went to see Ed, and I stepped in his apartment. I couldn't believe it. Ed was puffy and blown-up. He was drinking heavy, very heavy. It hurt me, because I'd known this guy. We were like brothers. So it shocked me. Him and Kathy were drinking very heavy. No money. Place was a mess, like a cyclone hit that place. But Ed performed, talked as though nothing [was wrong]. He was in good spirits. Good spirits.
Conrad goes on to say he visited Ed one more time at "Yucca Flats," only to see his former employer was now at "rock bottom." Soon after that, Connie learned that Eddie had died. This story does not really provide any specific source for the photos, but it does shine some light on Ed Wood's lifestyle in the 1970s.

Ed Wood wearing a very distinctive jacket.

I also pointed out that everyone in the room seemed to be wearing nametags, so perhaps it was some kind of seminar or convention. Rob responded: "They must be at a get-rich-quick real estate seminar, right?" Another question worth asking: Who's taking these photographs?

I'll leave you with a couple of random Paul Marco images that Rob Huffman sent me. One, seemingly taken in the early 1970s, shows Paul posing grandly with Criswell. Where they are (and whose cars those are) I do not know. Fortunately, Edwin Canfield, author of the upcoming Criswell book, does know! Here's what he had to say:
The car Cris and Paul are standing in front of is the Cadillac Limo that Mae West sold to Criswell for one dollar in 1952. The photo was taken at Kenne Duncan’s funeral.
Thanks, Edwin!

Criswell and Paul Marco, the best of pals.

Seeing this beautifully faded snapshot reminded me that fellow Ed Wood fan Shawn Langrick had recently posted a picture of Cris and Paul to a private Ed Wood forum on Facebook. Shawn helpfully provided a lot of context for this image:
Paul Marco and Criswell at the 2nd Christopher Street West Parade, June 27, 1971 (the precursor of the LA Pride Festival and Parade). They are standing in front of M'Goos Restaurant, which was at 6651 Hollywood Blvd. This is from a one second clip in the hardcore "documentary" Keyster.
Thanks, Shawn.

Paul Marco and Criswell in a film called Keyster.

And I'll leave you with one more Paul Marco image that Rob Huffman nicely sent me. This one looks to have been taken in the 1990s and features Paul smiling next to his erstwhile Plan 9 from Outer Space costar, Maila "Vampira" Nurmi. The surviving "Wood spooks," as Rudolph Grey dubbed them, reunited occasionally in the 1980s and '90s for conventions, film festivals, and premieres. Does anyone know offhand which event led to the following picture? It could have had something to do with Ed Wood (1994) or The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1996).

P.S. Before I let you go, I should alert you to the existence of a blog post from 2020 called "The Paul Marco Story" from Will Sloan's Brilliant Thoughts. It includes several of the same photos I have included in this article. Definitely check it out.