Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 156: The Films of Bela Lugosi (1980)

Toward the end of his life, Ed Wood contributed material to this book.

People may compare Ed Wood and his misfit cronies to the characters in Nathanael West's Hollywood-set novel The Day of the Locust (1939), but Eddie's life actually reminds me of another Nathanael West novel: A Cool Million (1934). That darkly comedic book tells the story of Lemuel Pitkin, an industrious young lad from Vermont who ventures from his quaint hometown of Ottsville into the wider world to seek his fortune. Not only does poor Lemuel not find his fortune, alas, he keeps losing body parts during his various misadventures. By the end of the book, he's missing his teeth, his scalp, his thumb, an eye, and a leg. But even then, Lemuel's brave, foolish optimism has not entirely left him. (And it probably should have.)

There's a certain hapless, Pitkin-esque quality to Ed Wood, who wound up a penniless, toothless, washed-up alcoholic living in one of the worst apartment buildings in Hollywood and yet still had big dreams for the future and fond memories of the past. Just check out this letter, excerpted in Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992), that Eddie wrote to author Richard Bojarski in March 1978, just nine months before Ed died:

"Too much on the fire."

Breaks your heart, doesn't it? Ed's talking about productions in both Norway and Mexico, and he can't even pay his rent in good old Los Angeles. I Awoke Early did eventually get filmed, but not until Eddie was in his grave. The Day the Mummies Danced, meanwhile, is still waiting for its day in the sun.

Richard "Bojak" Bojarski (1934-2009) was a writer and cartoonist from New York who specialized in classic horror history. His work appeared in magazines like Castle of Frankenstein and The Monster Times, and he published at least two full-length books: The Films of Boris Karloff (1974) and its natural sequel, The Films of Bela Lugosi (aka The Complete Films of Bela Lugosi) (1980). Bojarski got into contact with Ed Wood while researching the latter. Nightmare of Ecstasy includes an amusing/alarming anecdote about the epic meeting of Bojarski and Wood.

"I didn't know what he was talking about."

Sadly, Ed Wood did not live to see the publication of The Films of Bela Lugosi, which I'm sure he would've gotten a kick out of. Nevertheless, Bojarski graciously includes Ed's name in the acknowledgements at the front of the book. (Also thanked: Conrad Brooks, Paul Marco, Alex Gordon, and Mona McKinnon. Woodites aplenty!)

The book is not a biography of Bela Lugosi, per se, but it does include a 33-page biographical section—think of it as a sketch of Mr. Lugosi rather than a portrait—as well as an affectionate introduction by Lugosi's Mark of the Vampire (1934) costar, Caroll Borland. The main body of the book is an illustrated and annotated filmography, with each of Bela's films from Dracula (1931) to Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957) receiving a few pages apiece. For each movie, we get an assortment of B&W photographs, a rudimentary cast and crew list, quotes from reviews, and a few paragraphs of critical and historical commentary from Bojarski himself. (I'd have appreciated synopses of the films, but no dice.) For the sake of completeness, the author also includes an index of Bela Lugosi's pre-Dracula films, including those made in Germany and Hungary, as well as a list of Bela's many stage credits. All useful stuff, by the way.

The photographs in The Films of Bela Lugosi, including both publicity stills and behind-the-scenes shots, are excellent. Lugosi fans will want to own a copy of this book just to browse through it and see how their hero evolved over the decades. Wood fans will take note of a few photos in the biography, including one of Eddie and Bela posing in front of the Jail Bait (1954) poster and another of actors Tony McCoy and Loretta King visiting Bela in the hospital. Three Ed Wood films are included in the main body of the book—Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955), and Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957)—and each is nicely illustrated. I especially liked a shot of Bela on the Glenda set, flanked by Ed Wood, cameraman Bill Thompson, and producer George Weiss. And Eddie himself would have enjoyed the shot of Tor Johnson throttling pesky George Becwar in Bride of the Monster.

Is there any unique Ed Wood content in The Films of Bela Lugosi? A little, I'd say. A smidgen. We have to remember that this book was published over 40 years ago, well before the dawn of the internet, so it's amazing that Bojarski has his facts as accurate as they are. Bela's time with Ed is covered in the last two pages of the biography section of the book. Glenda and Bride are cited as examples of Lugosi working with "independent film producers" when he couldn't get work elsewhere. The book then briefly describes Bela's now-famous stay in rehab, including the fact that the premiere of Bride of the Monster served as a fundraiser for the actor's mounting hospital bills.

What's interesting is that Bojarski devotes a fair amount of coverage to the unmade Ed Wood script, The Ghoul Goes West. He tells us that the cast of Bride delivered the script for Ghoul to Bela when the latter was still in the hospital, and the horror-Western was to be the great actor's first role after his release. Unfortunately, says Bojarski, Gene Autry dropped out of the project "because of other commitments and backing dried up." Ed's authorship of The Ghoul Goes West is not mentioned here, nor is Ed referenced when Bojarski discusses the Las Vegas stage show The Bela Lugosi Revue. (Let me acknowledge here that Eddie's participation in that show is disputed by some.)

Eddie's name finally sneaks in during the third-to-last paragraph of the biography. Bojarski refers to Ed Wood as Bela Lugosi's friend and credits him as the director of Plan 9. He also says that Ed had further projects lined up for Bela, including Revenge of the Dead and The Vampire's Tomb, but that these plans were thwarted by Lugosi's death in 1956. Bojarski alleges that Lugosi died while reading the script for Final Curtain, but again he does not attribute this script to Ed Wood.

There are further interesting Woodian tidbits in the entries for Glenda, Bride, and Plan 9. The entry for Glenda, for instance, includes a humorous excerpt from the Los Angeles Herald Tribune's utterly bewildered review. (Sample quote: "Lugosi, the shrink, and an invisible omniscient narrator come together in a blend, or blenda.") In his own notes for the film, author Richard Bojarski reports that Lugosi's salary was $5,000 and says that Lugosi's role in Glenda was filmed at Jack Miles Studio in Los Angeles. Assessing the film critically, Bojarski says that it is an interesting look at transvestism and sex-change but acknowledges Glenda's "budget deficiencies" and "amateurish performances." As to Lugosi's role, Bojarski says the actor brings an "appropriate eeriness" to the film but complains that "his performance was weakened by awkwardly written dialogue." Funny, I can't remember Lugosi having any actual dialogue in the film, only monologues.

We then move on to Bride of the Monster. Bojarski quotes an article about the movie from something called the Independent Trade Review. This obscure publication must have disappeared into the ether entirely, since I can find no other articles from it. Anyway, their assessment of Bride is pretty standard stuff. (Sample quote: "Rest of cast tries hard despite cliché lines.") In his notes on the film, Bojarski alleges the project began with producer Alex Gordon under the title The Atomic Monster. Unable to raise money, Gordon handed the project over to Ed Wood, who "reworked" Gordon's script. Bojarski tells us that Lugosi earned only $1,000 for this film, which was shot at Ted Allen Studios and Centaur Studios. Bojarski also talks about the film's various titles and gives one I don't think I'd heard before: Monster of the Marshes.

The production of Bride is a big part of the Ed Wood legend, and Bojarski gives us many of the expected highlights, such as how Wood ran out of money midway through, how meat packer Donald McCoy and his son Tony took over the production, and how the film's octopus was borrowed from the John Wayne film Wake of the Red Witch (1948). If you've seen Ed Wood (1994), read Nightmare of Ecstasy, or sat through pretty much any Wood documentary, you've heard some version of this story. Again, though, keep in mind that The Films of Bela Lugosi came out in 1980, so this was all new information to most readers. What I found interesting about this section of the book is that Bojarski refers to Bride of the Monster as "Lugosi's last worthwhile performance" and calls it "an excellent example of an actor rising above his material." I wonder what Eddie would have thought of that, had he lived to 1980.

The annotated filmography ends with Plan 9 from Outer Space, which Bojarski lists as a 1959 release. I've gone back and forth on calling it a 1957 film and a 1959 film. (Currently, I say 1957.) As usual, Bojarski includes a quote from a vintage review, this time choosing one from the Motion Picture Herald. The Herald's critic must have been dozing through the picture, though, since he sees nothing to distinguish Plan 9 from the glut of late-1950s science-fiction flicks and calls Ed's screenplay "routine." Plan 9 is many things, but routine it is not. Bojarski apes this sentiment in his notes on Plan 9, blandly comparing it to Unidentified Flying Objects (1956) and Earth vs. The Flying Saucers (1956). (I've seen the latter but not the former. Maybe I should check it out.) As usual, what stands out here is Bojarski's assessment of Bela Lugosi's acting performance:
Lugosi was convincing as an elderly man mourning his dead wife before an open grave. The scenes of Lugosi stalking a cemetery in his Dracula costume as a corpse raised from the dead are deeply moving, especially as it was his last role.
I think this may be the only time I've ever heard any part of Plan 9 described as "deeply moving," but I must admit that Bojarski has a point.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "Jenny Loves Bingo"

Cathy Silvers and Robert Pierce on Happy Days.

Just like All in the Family, Happy Days was notorious for launching spinoff after spinoff—five in all, not counting the three (!) animated series. But Joanie Loves Chachi was different from the other Happy Days satellite shows. While Mork & Mindy and Laverne & Shirley both featured guest characters who'd only appeared fleetingly on Happy Days, JLC centered around two ongoing characters, Joanie Cunningham (Erin Moran) and Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio), who were central to the original show. Happy Days had never done this before, moving two of its regulars to another night and another show.

Because Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi were so intimately related, crossovers between the two sitcoms were frequent. Marion Ross, Tom Bosley, and Henry Winkler all put in appearances on JLC, while Scott Baio and Erin Moran were practically regulars during the tenth season of Happy Days. This was done to spark interest in the flailing JLC, which was struggling against the powerhouse Magnum P.I. on Thursdays. But Happy Days' own ratings were crumbling by 1982-83, so it was in no position to help its undernourished sister series.

Nevertheless, in January 1983, Happy Days did its biggest crossover episode with JLC yet: a little concoction called "Life is More Important Than Show Business." This time, Joanie and Chachi brought their whole band with them: Mario (Derrel Maury), Annette (Winifred Freedman), and even spaced-out drummer Bingo (Robert Pierce). The latter gets to have a weird, amusing quasi-romance with hormone-crazed Jenny Piccalo (Cathy Silvers).

But what else does this episode have in store for us? And is life more important than show business? Find out by listening to the podcast below.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 155: Letters from Female Impersonators, Vol. 3 (1961)

Ed Wood as "Shirlee" in the pages of Letters from Female Impersonators, Vol. 3 (1961).

One of the most exciting aspects of studying Ed Wood is that Eddie was so hyper-prolific, both as a writer and a filmmaker, that I will likely never run out of material of his to cover on this blog. Somehow, in 54 turbulent years, he managed to produce several lifetimes' worth of material. And there's an army of people out there—not a big army, but a determined one—scouring the archives in search of more Wood work. And they're finding it! Still today, over 44 years after Ed Wood's death, more of the man's articles, scripts, and films continue to bubble to the surface.

Last week, for instance, Austin filmmaker and queer historian Elizabeth Purchell posted something incredibly exciting to Facebook and Twitter: several pages from a 1961 publication called Letters from Female Impersonators, Vol. 3. What makes these pages so special is that they feature vintage photos of Ed Wood in full drag, along with a letter he wrote under the name "Shirlee." This was such an astounding find that some fans were skeptical at first, but a scan of the entire magazine turned up at the Digital Transgender Archive. The doubt soon evaporated.

Irving Klaw and Bettie Page.
Letters from Female Impersonators, Vol. 3 is almost too good to be true. It comes to us from Nutrix Co. of Jersey City, NJ. You'd think a company with that name would be selling vitamins or protein shakes, but this Nutrix (a pun on "new tricks") was an adult fetish publisher of the late 1950s and early '60s. Besides Letters from Female Impersonators, their offerings include: Tales of Female Domination Over Man, Brutal Punishment for Captive Girls, Manacled Slaves Bondage Adventure, Punished in Petticoats, and Psycho Girl Handled with Restraint. The company's history was brief but memorable. As Shawn Langrick recently pointed out on Facebook:
Nutrix Co, from Jersey City, NJ, was the publisher of this and other "fetish" mags in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Irving Klaw was apparently the President of Nutrix. They were forced out of business in 1964 after being indicted on 84 obscenity charges.
In case you've forgotten, the Brooklyn-born Klaw (1910-1966) was the self-proclaimed "pin-up king" most closely associated with commissioning the fetish photos of Bettie Page. If you want to delve into Nutrix's legal woes, here is a good place to start. And there's more here. It seems that it was the company's bondage publications that got them into trouble most often.

The Ed Wood content in Letters is generous: seven full pages of a 64-page publication. (I've seen it described variously as a "magazine," a "book," and a "booklet." Choose the term that suits you.) We get four large B&W pictures of Ed in drag, plus a lengthy letter in which Ed gives his semi-fabricated backstory to the editor. 

Fans will want to spend some quality time studying the photos. We see Eddie in a variety of outfits and at least two brunette wigs—one with Bettie Page-type bangs, the other without. Although Ed's face has started to bloat and droop just a bit in his late 30s, he appears still relatively trim in the full-body shots. His makeup and jewelry are tasteful. I believe I see at least two separate angora sweaters—a cardigan and a pullover. Also, and I may be misinterpreting something here, but it looks like Ed has a bulging vein in his right forearm in one picture.

Who could have taken these shots, some of which are slightly blurry and overlit? Ed's wife Kathy is one candidate. These snapshots appear to have been taken at home, and I'd like to think we are looking at Ed and Kathy's bungalow at 6136 Bonner St. in North Hollywood. In any event, we get a glimpse of Eddie's very early 1960s-looking furniture. I noticed that, in one of the pictures, Ed appears to be doing domestic work, tidying up the living room. This is similar to the behavior of Alan/Ann ("Tommy" Haynes) in Glen or Glenda (1953).

(left) "Tommy" Haynes in Glen or Glenda; (right) Ed Wood in Letters from Female Impersonators.

The accompanying letter, attributed only to "SHIRLEE," is another keeper. Apart from the novelization of Casual Company, we have relatively few examples of Ed Wood's prose pre-Killer in Drag (1963), so that makes Letters from Female Impersonators, Vol. 3 especially valuable. I like that Ed kicks things off with one of his trademark stilted, oddly phrased sentences: "The best way to inform you is to give you some facts about myself." And what, pray tell, are those "facts" he wants the editors at Nutrix to know? Well, first and foremost, Ed talks about his early love of women's sweaters and their omnipresence in his life. "I learned to like the softness," he writes.

Eddie also gives us a rundown of his time in the Marine Corps during World War II, but he does not feel the need to exaggerate his heroism this time. He says only that he did four years, was stationed in the South Pacific,  and received an honorable discharge in 1946. No battle stories here. He then mentions working as a female impersonator in New York City, including at the long-gone Moroccan Village. He then mentions doing a "sweater girl" act in Washington D.C., where he had moved to "further my writing studies." If you'll recall, sweater girls were a major motif throughout When the Topic is Sex (2021). Eddie's brief time in D.C. has long been part of his self-curated legend, and in this letter, he states that he purchased his first angora sweater during this era.

Eddie devotes the next few paragraphs of his letter to another pivotal time that may or may not have actually happened—his stint on the carnival circuit. I think this letter gives us more detail than any other version of Ed's story. He claims he started as the operator of a coin pitch game and wore "male clothing." Business was lousy, though, so he started dressing in drag. This led, Ed says, to doing a "half-man and half-woman act" and eventually a "striptease in the girlie shows." What's especially interesting is that Ed says he had "a large natural bosom and needed no fillers to pad up my bust lines." When Eddie wrote about cross-dressing later in life, he often mentions men who do not need to rely on falsies to fill a brassiere.

Speaking of Ed's writing career, it's one of the major themes of this letter to Nutrix Co. "Always I have been writing," he states with confidence, mentioning a 1945 play and a 1946 novel. (Could both of these be Casual Company? It definitely existed in both forms back then.) Already in self-promotion mode, Eddie also offers to send several of his "unpublished articles" to Nutrix. He even cites three never-before-seen titles: "Pink Panties at Tarawa," "Caught in a Bombing Raid With Skirts On," and "Transvestite in a Studio Wardrobe." While it's unlikely these works will ever resurface, Eddie all but certainly reused this material in later stories and articles. To quote a line from Necromania (1970): "Baby, I don't waste a thing!"

If anything gets short shrift here, it's Ed Wood's filmmaking career. He'd been making movies for over a decade by this point, but he mentions nothing of being a director. Instead, he maintains that his female impersonator act landed him a starring role in I Led Two Lives aka Glen or Glenda aka I Changed My Sex. He does not boast about having written and directed this motion picture, and he doesn't even bother to name drop Bela Lugosi. I suppose he was tailoring this letter toward a specific audience, and these readers would be much more interested in hearing about the $400 angora dress that Eddie had "handknit for me alone."

Letters from a Female Impersonator, Vol. 3 is a wonderful artifact and we should all be very grateful to Elizabeth Purchell for bringing it to our attention in 2023. I'm telling you, the field of Woodology is only getting more and more interesting, and I know there are some more incredible Wood discoveries headed your way in the months to come. Boy, are you lucky!

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "The Pros and Cons of Falling in Love"

Michael Spound and Crystal Bernard on Happy Days.

Crystal Bernard was obviously brought onto Happy Days in Season 10 to replace Erin Moran, who had been moved over to the ill-fated Thursday night spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi. With Erin gone, Happy Days still needed a perky young female character, and Crystal was there to fill that role. But is there any significant difference between Crystal's character, K.C. Cunningham, and Erin's character, Joanie Cunningham? Well, yes. Somewhat. Let's get into it.

From the earliest days of the series, Joanie was Happy Days' resident smart aleck—a quip-slinging, precocious little wisenheimer whose barbs keep the other characters, especially her brother Richie (Ron Howard), in check. Over time, Joanie matured, and her personality evened out a bit. She was still feisty and strong-willed, but she was no longer so caustic with her remarks. She showed a little more vulnerability, too, letting us know that even the seemingly fearless Joanie occasionally doubted herself. In many ways, she lost her autonomy due to her romantic relationship with Chachi (Scott Baio), though the two still argued frequently.

K.C, on the other hand, is supposed to have had an extremely sheltered childhood, even attending a religious boarding school in Texas before coming to live with her uncle, Howard (Tom Bosley), and his wife, Marion (Marion Ross), in the suburbs of Milwaukee. She is extremely naïve, gullible, and innocent—the ultimate goody two shoes. This makes her an interesting foil for the more worldly, boy-crazy Jenny Piccalo (Cathy Silvers).

The Season 10 episode "Prisoner of Love" gives K.C. one of her most interesting showcases on Happy Days. The plot has her falling for a newly-arrived mechanic named Jim (Michael Spound), only to learn that he's a convict on a work release program. Chaste as their relationship is, this is still one of the most scandalous chapters in K.C.'s young life. How does she handle it? Find out on this week's edition of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 154: Another grab bag article

Yeah, it's another one of these articles. Sorry.

Because we're such good friends, I can tell you that my original idea for this week's article went bust-o, and I had to scramble for a replacement idea at the last minute. Oh well. These things happen in bloggerdom. So I decided to make this week's column another one of those "grab bag" affairs. Sometimes, they're a good way of covering little items that wouldn't quite merit an article on their own.

A dying gardenia.
Like, for instance, did you see the career-spanning interview that actress Patricia Arquette recently did with Vanity Fair? It's one of those deals where they show you clips from your old movies and TV shows and ask you to comment on them. I wondered if they would ask her about her role as Kathy in Ed Wood (1994), and to my delight, they did. Patricia shared this anecdote, which I don't think I'd heard before:
I got to meet Kathy O'Hara, who I portrayed in Ed Wood. My sister Alexis was already dressing in drag and doing shows in drag but hadn't really come out as transgender. And there was this whole storyline with Ed Wood, where he was a cross-dresser. And being able to talk to Kathy, who accepted Ed, loved Ed, didn't judge Ed for being a cross-dresser in the 1950s, was really a beautiful thing. 
I remember, she said to me, "You know, Eddie was so funny, the way he looked at the world. And he saw beauty in everything. One day, I showed up, and I was meeting him, and I was wearing this kind of rust-colored suit. And Eddie goes, 'Stop! Stop right there! I gotta get you something!' He ran down the street and then ran back, and he was like, 'Look at this gardenia! It's exactly the color of your suit!'" Now, of course, that's like a dying gardenia. It's like a rotting gardenia. It was so beautiful, like, Eddie didn't realize that it was something other people would cast away. He saw the beauty in this. And she saw the beauty in Eddie seeing the beauty in this thing and his innocence of his vision of the world. So beautiful to see somebody who could love people like that. It's nice.
Naturally, readers keep sending me little tidbits of information as well, bless their Wooden hearts. Recently, a reader named Matty (@Reverend_Banjo on Twitter) sent me this very interesting missive:
Hey Joe. You've commented before on whether a scene in Fugitive Girls was influenced by A Clockwork Orange. As you say, Eddie kept tabs on pop culture, but I'd also like to point out that he used the phrase "ultraviolence" in 1965's Hollywood Rat Race, long before the film version of A Clockwork Orange. I'm interested in where he could've picked up "ultraviolence," since it's used in a (characteristically) idiosyncratic way. "If nudity is used for ultraviolence..." Perhaps he read the novel? 
This sent me down a little bit of a rabbit hole. Did the term "ultraviolence" actually originate with Anthony Burgess' 1963 novel, A Clockwork Orange? That book certainly popularized the term, but I found it in newspaper articles as early as 1923 in America and 1935 in England. Meanwhile, Google's Ngram Viewer says it goes back at least to 1926. It's certainly possible, though, that Eddie read the Burgess novel. I know he scoured the newsstands looking for fodder for his own writing, so a copy of A Clockwork Orange could have reached him there.

Finally, I want to say a word or two about Meatcleaver Massacre (1977), since a reader named Steve Frisch contacted me through Facebook to ask about this film and my review of it. Eddie's involvement is still speculative, but I want you to know that the film is now freely available on Tubi in a print that is much, much better than the one I reviewed. Sadly, this version lacks the explanatory Christopher Lee footage. Oh well. Can't have everything. We do, however, have our clearest view yet of the extra who is supposedly Ed Wood during the press conference scene. Judge for yourself.

Is this Ed Wood in Meatcleaver Massacre?

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "Life in the Flip Lane"

Billy Warlock and Heather O'Rourke on Happy Days.

There's something off about Happy Days in its later seasons, and I think I've figured out what it is. The thing that most great situation comedies have in common is teamwork. When we tune in to classic shows like Cheers or All in the Family or The Mary Tyler Moore Show or M*A*S*H or Seinfeld, we want to see the members of the core ensemble interact with one another. Most of the comedy comes from those interactions. Just about every great sitcom I can name is an ensemble show. You get people with different personalities and different goals and stick them in one place where they have to deal with each other. Hijinks ensue.

But Happy Days does not feel like an ensemble show in its final seasons. There's no core group of characters that we want to see interacting with each other each week. The show's original "gang of four" is long gone -- Ralph (Don Most) and Richie (Ron Howard) departed from the series entirely, Potsie (Anson Williams) mostly sidelined, and Fonzie (Henry Winkler) busy with a new girlfriend, Ashley (Linda Purl), and her precocious daughter, Heather (Heather O'Rourke). Fonzie had once mentored his nephew, Chachi (Scott Baio), but Chachi's replacement, Flip (Billy Warlock), has no real connection to Fonzie. The two rarely have cause to interact. 

In other words, Happy Days in its tenth season (which originally aired in 1982-83) feels like a lot of disconnected parts, with only Fonzie himself acting as a common thread. That leads to oddball episodes like the one we're covering this week on our podcast: "I Drink, Therefore I Am." The plot brings together Flip and Heather, two characters whose lives would probably not intersect too often. Unfortunately, they're brought together because Flip and his loser friends accidentally hit Heather with their car while drinking and driving. Whoops!

Does anything worthwhile come from this unlikely mashup? Find out this week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.

Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 153: The Ballad of Bruce Spencer

Bruce Spencer had a brief and almost memorable screen career.

I get the weirdest emails. Most of it, as you might guess, is about Ed Wood. For reasons of their own, people contact me. Some have questions about Ed. Some want copies of Ed's movies or scripts or stories. If I can oblige these people, I do. If I can't, I apologize. Others are working on Ed-related projects of their own and want me to know about them. And still others simply want to share some strange trivia about Ed Wood and his films.

At the right-hand side of this blog, you'll see a section called "So What's This All About, Anyway?" This is where I explain who I am, what this blog is, and what other projects I've worked on. I also give an email address where people can reach me. Most of my email goes to that address. Every once in a while, though, people will contact me through an alternate email address, one I don't generally give out or publicize. I'm never quite sure how people find this address, and I kind of don't want to know. But the determined ones seek me out there.

Recently, at that alternate address, I received an interesting email from a reader named Ed Goldstein. His letter, entitled "A new member of Ed Wood's Universe and a tale" was so interesting that I thought I'd share it with you now:
I was watching Racket Girls (aka Pin-Down Girl, aka The Blonde Pickup) in its MST3K version when a familiar face appeared. It took another viewing in its original format to ascertain that the actor playing Eddie, a low level thug for The Syndicate was definitely the same one who played the man who made homosexual advances toward Conrad Brooks in Glen or Glenda. I've identified him as Bruce Spencer. Mr. Spencer had only one credit on IMDb, and as they've accepted my addition to his record, he now has two. There is nothing else I can find about him, so aside from 30 seconds in Ed's orbit (probably via George Weiss, producer of both films) and a small speaking role in Racket Girls, there might not be much else to know. Might be fun to scour early 50's films to try to spot him.

I see you are also a Svengoolie fan. Here's a story about next week's offering. Realart Pictures re-released Man-Made Monster in the 1950s, but changed the title to The Atomic Monster to attract a new generation of sci fi fan. They were successfully sued by Ed's good friend Alex Gordon because he had submitted a script with that title to Realart some time before. That title became Bride of the Monster. Alex happily settled for $1000.

Gordon, his lawyer and Realart's lawyer found a common love of movie making and decided when the suit was done to go into pictures together. Gordon was on the creative side, the two lawyers on the money side. Gordon eventually became unhappy and left. Gordon's lawyer, Samuel Arkoff, and Realart's Lawyer, James Nicholson, eventually named their company American International Pictures and became the kind of giants of the B picture world that Ed Wood aspired to be.
What did I tell you? I get the weirdest emails... and some of the best.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "Pfists of Pfury"

Linda Purl and Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

Even after doing a Happy Days podcast for almost five years, I know very little about the real-life city of Milwaukee where the sitcom is set. One thing I do know about Wisconsin's famous Brew City, however, is that a luxury hotel called the Pfister is one of its most famous landmarks. I know this because Happy Days references the Pfister Hotel frequently. But the references don't stop with just the hotel itself. No, no. On Happy Days, seemingly everything in town is named Pfister -- parks, orphanages, department stores, etc.

Happy Days' obsession with the name Pfister peaked in Season 10 with the addition of two characters actually named Pfister: Fonzie's girlfriend Ashley Pfister (Linda Purl) and Ashley's daughter Heather Pfister (Heather O'Rourke). And all this led to an episode called "Hello, Pfisters," in which Ashley attempts to reconcile with her estranged parents (Peter Gunn's Craig Stevens and soap opera legend Marla Adams). Since Ashley's family (or pfamily?) is supposed to be very wealthy, it's possible that all those parks and stores and whatnot were named after Ashley's grandparents or great-grandparents.

Silly title aside, is "Hello, Pfisters" any damned good? Find out on the latest installment of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast.