Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 162: Who was Patricia?

Patrick/Patricia is a crucial figure in Glen or Glenda (1953).

For reasons known only to himself, Ed Wood formatted Glen or Glenda (1953)— his surprisingly bold exploration of transgender issues—as a Dragnet-style police procedural. The film's inciting incident occurs when a young crossdresser named Patrick aka Patricia commits suicide in his small apartment after being arrested repeatedly for dressing as a woman. On the soundtrack, we hear Patrick's suicide note, presumably read in the man's own voice:
The records will tell the story. I was put in jail recently. Why? Because I, a man, was caught on the street wearing women's clothing. This was my fourth arrest for the same act. In life, I must continue wearing them. Therefore, it would only be a matter of time until my next arrest. This is the only way. Let my body rest in death forever in the things I cannot wear in life.
The policeman investigating the case is the humorless but sensitive Inspector Warren (Lyle Talbot). So concerned is he about the situation that he visits the office of psychologist Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell). It is Alton who relates the two stories that comprise the bulk of the film, the first revolving around Glen/Glenda (Ed Wood), the second revolving around Alan/Ann (Tommy Haynes).

While Glenda moves on from Patrick/Patricia after about the first ten minutes, I could not help ruminating about this key supporting character and the actor who portrayed him. Glenda's own credits offer no help in identifying him, so we must turn to Rudolph Grey's Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992), where the filmography section tells us that this role was played by "Mr. Walter." Furthermore, the book's fourth chapter, entitled "Glen or Glenda & Jailbait" contains a Glenda cast photo provided by Conrad Brooks. There, the actor is identified as Walter Hajdwiecyz. Though he is at the center of the action and obviously among friends, he is unsmiling.

Back row: Makeup man Harry Thomas, Tommy Haynes, Ed Wood, unknown extra.
Center row: Conrad Brooks, Walter Hajdwiecyz. Front row: Henry Bederski.

Unfortunately, I cannot find any records of anyone with the surname Hajdwiecyz in the world. But a handle like Walter Hajdwiecyz can only be Polish in origin, and the similar moniker Hajkowicz is a real Polish surname. As for the "Mr." part, it was once common practice for hairdressers to go by "Mr. _____," omitting their last names. The most famous example was Mr. Kenneth (1927-2013). I'm not saying Mr. Walter was definitely a hairdresser, but he sounds like a midcentury hairdresser. In John Waters' Multiple Maniacs (1970), actor/hair stylist David Lochary is referred to as Mr. David.

Then, we must consider the voice we hear on the soundtrack, reading Patrick/Patricia's suicide note. We can take it on faith that this was Walter Hajdwiecyz himself, though it may not be. I've suggested in the past that this bit of voiceover narration was an inspiration for Johnny Depp's performance in Ed Wood (1994). I know Johnny watched Glenda repeatedly while prepping for the title role, and I feel that the Patrick/Patricia scene may have influenced his vocal cadence. Oddly, though, I don't think Ed Wood himself provided this bit of audio.

My dark horse candidate is another mysterious figure in the Woodiverse: Clancy Malone (aka Scott McCloud), the gawky male ingenue of Jail Bait (1954). I know it sounds screwy to you longtime fans, but these two characters have a very particular way of speaking—low and sort of whispery, their confidence wavering at the ends of sentences. Here, I've presented a little side-by-side comparison. Listen for yourself and make up your own mind. Either way, if you can provide me with more information about Mr. Walter, I'd appreciate it. You know how to reach me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "Today I Am a Fonz"

Henry Winkler on Happy Days.

Happy Days was in real trouble at the start of the 1983-84 television season. Not only was it getting shellacked in the ratings by NBC's The A-Team, it had been rudely ousted from its 8:00 timeslot in favor of a new show called Just Our Luck starring comedian T.K. Carter. When a long-running show is kicked out of its normal place on the network schedule, that's generally a bad sign for its overall health. To make matters worse, the sitcom's budget had been cut and several cast members had been let go. The remaining regulars must have known the show's future was in serious jeopardy. (Time to polish up the old resume?)

The show had been in a similar situation nearly a decade earlier during the 1974-75 season. At that time, it was getting beaten badly by CBS' Good Times and was in line for cancelation. But producer Garry Marshall wouldn't surrender! Instead, he retooled the show and turned it into a massive hit, bigger than it had ever been. No such comeback was in the offing in 1983. Marshall had already started directing feature films by then, and his surviving Happy Days cast members were getting older. Besides, the TV landscape had changed. Happy Days was old hat. Its time had passed.

Even if Marshall and company couldn't save their show, they could still have fun with the time they had left on the air. This week on These Days Are Ours, we review the Season 11 premiere episode, "Because It's There." It's a classic Fonzie adventure in which the beloved mechanic (Henry Winkler) once again has to prove himself by performing a ridiculous motorcycle stunt. You can find out what we thought of this episode by listening to the podcast embedded below.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays: A 'Final Curtain' Call? (Guest Author: James Pontolillo)

Duke Moore stars in Ed Wood's Final Curtain.

Following a well-established trend of sci-fi, suspense and supernatural anthology series on television begun in the late-1940s (more than a dozen programs including The Clock [1949], Alfred Hitchcock Presents [1955], and Strange Stories [1956]), Ed Wood, Jr. proposed his own anthology series entitled Portraits of Terror. Only one episode was produced, a 22-minute pilot called Final Curtain that was shot silent with music, narration and sound effects added in post-production. See Blevins (2013), as well as Rausch and Pratt (2015) for plot synopses and additional details. To date, there has been only a limited discussion concerning the Final Curtain filming locations and an incomplete presentation of identifying photographs. My goal is to better document this obscure piece of Wood-work.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "Swimfan"

Larry Poindexter and Cathy Silvers on Happy Days.

Season 10 of Happy Days might have had some viewers asking, "Who the hell are these people?" The long-running ABC sitcom added four new characters that year—Heather (Heather O'Rourke), Ashley (Linda Purl), Flip (Billy Warlock), and K.C. (Crystal Bernard). Additional real estate on the show was given to Roger (Ted McGinley) and Jenny (Cathy Silvers), both of whom joined Happy Days in Season 8 after the departure of Richie (Ron Howard) and Ralph (Don Most). So that's six newbies jostling for airtime, alongside the show's remaining regulars. Even Potsie (Anson Williams), who'd been with Happy Days since its original 1972 pilot, only made a handful of appearances that season.

ABC greatly reduced Happy Days' budget for Season 11, since the show was getting clobbered in the ratings by NBC's The A-Team. That meant Heather, Ashley, Flip, and K.C. were all cut entirely. Jenny appeared in the series finale but was otherwise absent from Season 11. Somehow, of all the post-Richie characters, it was preppy dweeb Roger who managed to survive, thanks in no small part to the charm of actor Ted McGinley.

But it's sad that the show didn't find more room for Jenny Piccalo in its final season. She was introduced to us as the troublemaking, boy-crazy best friend of Joanie (Erin Moran), and the two characters had a fun, Laverne & Shirley-esque dynamic. When Joanie departed for her own (ill-fated) spinoff, Jenny was then paired up with goody-goody K.C., often serving as a bad influence on her. When Joanie returned to Happy Days, this could have been a great opportunity to revive the Joanie/Jenny friendship from Seasons 8 and 9. But I guess ABC had other ideas about that.

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we review the Season 10 finale, "Affairs of the Heart," in which Jenny has a one-sided romance with a vain, selfish swimmer named Eric (Larry Poindexter). It basically serves as a goodbye to Jenny, giving her one last spotlight episode. Coincidentally, it's also the last time either K.C. or Flip appeared on Happy Days. Is this episode a fitting farewell? You know how to find out.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays: More about Tommy Hood!

Let's explore the Tommy Hood case a little further.

Last week, James Pontolillo told us the saga of Harold Sprankle aka Tommy Hood, an aspiring actor who worked with Ed Wood before being brutally murdered in late 1950. I thought this was one of the most interesting articles that had appeared in this series in quite some time, and I was very grateful to James for bringing Tommy's sad, strange story to my attention. As it turns out, I wasn't even able to use all the material James sent me in last week's article. So let's fix that this week, huh?

(Note: Unless you've read last week's article, this one won't make much sense. So go do that if you haven't already.)

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "Turn Around... And You're Canceled"

Scott Baio and Erin Moran on Happy Days.

In casual conversation, I usually avoid mentioning the fact that I cohost a Happy Days podcast. It's not that I'm ashamed of These Days Are Ours. Far from it. This is a five-year labor of love for me. But I don't know how people feel about Happy Days, and I'm hesitant to mention the show to people I don't know well. Maybe they've never heard of Happy Days. Maybe they've heard of it but don't like it. Maybe they even despise it. 

(True story: at work one day, I just happened to be walking through another department when someone yelled to a coworker, "AND I HATE HAPPY DAYS!" I got out of there quickly before I could hear more.)

On those rare occasions when I talk to people about Happy Days, three are three specific topics that come up with surprising regularity: Chuck Cunningham, jumping the shark, and Joanie Loves Chachi. We've talked about all of these on TDAO. Many times, in fact. This week, we get to talk about Joanie Loves Chachi for perhaps the final time. That spinoff was canceled at the end of its second season in 1983, and its stars, Erin Moran and Scott Baio, dutifully returned to Happy Days in an episode called "Turn Around... And You're Home."

You can hear what we thought of this episode by clicking on the podcast below. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays: Tommy Hood and the City of Broken Dreams (Guest Author: James Pontolillo)

Tommy Hood (lower right) met a tragic fate at the hands of James Francis Silva (upper left) in 1947.

April 4, 1947 in Hollywood was a dry, cloudy day. The temperature had struggled to reach a below average 60 degrees by dusk and the smog was particularly bad. For several years now, industrial smoke and fumes had been choking the Los Angeles basin on a near daily basis. 

Hidden beneath this hazy blanket of pollution, the Gateway Theater sat on the border between the neighborhoods of Silver Lake and East Hollywood. Twelve actors gathered that evening to tread the boards, entertain the crowd, and perhaps start their way down the fabled road to stardom. The cast of The Blackguard was a roll call of the unknown and little-known: Bob Baron, Skip Haynes, Tommy Hood, Don Nagel, Hazel Noe, Millie Phillips, Jack Ringler, Charles B. Smith, Wesley Steadman, Ted Withall, Elizabeth Wolfe, and Ed Wood, Jr. 

The cast of The Blackguard including Ed Wood (lower left) and Tommy Hood (starred).

None could guess what destiny the City of Broken Dreams had in store for them. Most would lapse back into prosaic lives of little to no significance by Hollywood standards. One would chase an ever-receding mirage of success down through the most disreputable sub-basements of the film and publishing industries only to end his days as an impoverished alcoholic. In an unlikely plot twist, he would be posthumously labelled "the World’s Worst Director" and his star permanently fixed in the lower reaches of the Hollywood firmament for all to see. For Tommy Hood, however, the Fates had a much crueler end in store.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "What Would You Do If There Was a Child Right in Front of You?"

Heather O'Rourke on Happy Days.

At what age can kids really act? I know that there are film and television performers who start as babies or toddlers, but at that age, they're really only capable of mimicry and obedience. (Remember those Funny or Die videos with Will Ferrell being bullied by a small child?) The experts say that we start to develop empathy between the ages of three and five, and I think that's crucial to the profession of acting. After all, how can you ever portray someone else until you realize that other people have thoughts and feelings, too?

Actress Heather O'Rourke was just six years old when she started working on Happy Days and seven when her run of episodes ended in 1983. That's just a little younger than Tatum O'Neal, who won an Oscar for Paper Moon (1973) at 10, and Justin Henry, who was nominated at 8 for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Though not an award-winner, Heather was already a showbiz veteran by the time she got to Happy Days, having starred in the original Poltergeist (1982). I think she would have been capable of giving a naturalistic, believable performance on Happy Days if afforded the opportunity.

Very young characters present a unique challenge to both writers and directors. How do you portray these characters realistically and get the best performance out of the actors? For the most part, Happy Days takes the safest route with Heather O'Rourke and turns her into a typical sitcom child, Her character, precocious little Heather Pfister, hits her marks, says her lines loudly and clearly, and seemingly has a quip for every occasion. 

This week on These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast, we're reviewing the Season 10 episode "Babysitting," which is arguably the biggest showcase that Heather O'Rourke has ever had on the show. (It's also one of her last appearances.) Is this the episode where Heather finally emerges as a real human being and not just another smartalecky showbiz automaton? Find out by clicking the play button below.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 161: Contos & Delírios (2022)

A snazzy edition of Ed Wood's short stories in Portuguese.

You might think I have a treasure trove of Ed Wood rarities and memorabilia stashed away somewhere, but you'd be wrong. I live in a fairly small apartment, so I don't have room for much stuff, and I wouldn't have the money to pay for it anyway. Mail room clerks aren't exactly rolling in dough. Most of my Wood collection (Woodiana, if you will) exists only virtually—various videos, pictures, and documents saved to my hard drive. It doesn't take up any extra room in my place, which is nice.

On top of that, I do have some physical objects, including DVDs, videotapes, paperback books (nothing old or valuable), and little novelties like the Drew Friedman-designed Ed Wood, Jr. Players trading cards, a matchbook from the Hunters' Inn, and one of those glow-in-the-dark Criswell dashboard figures. My only truly extravagant Wood purchases were the I Led 2 Lives poster and Mexican Plan 9 lobby cards I bought at auction in 2015. I still don't know what I was thinking when I bought those, and I may well have to sell them someday.

Okay, so maybe I do have a collection of Ed Wood detritus. I don't try to collect Eddie memorabilia, but it does sort of accumulate over the years. Recently, I threw another item onto the pile: a beautifully-designed, hardbound collection of Ed's short stories called Contos & Delírios (2022) from a Brazilian publisher called Darkside. That title translates as Tales & Delusions, and the 33 wild and woody stories contained within this volume are translated into Portuguese, a language I cannot read or speak.

A peek inside the book with an illustration.
So if I don't know any Portuguese, why did I buy Contos & Delírios? How could I hope to understand it? Well, the strange tales in it are taken directly from Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (2014), a book curated by Wood superfan Bob Blackburn. Contos & Delírios even presents this material in the same order, starting with "Scream Your Bloody Head Off" (1972) and ending with "Final Curtain" (1971).  In case you're wondering, the front matter of Contos & Delírios does acknowledge that it is a translation of Blood Splatters Quickly, and there is a paragraph-long biography of Bob at the end of the volume.

The real reason I had to buy Contos & Delírios was because it's a unique and quite lovely presentation of Ed Wood's best short stories, the likes of which I'd never seen before. The collection is nicely bound and has a striking pink, black, and white color design. Even better, each of the 33 stories has a new illustration by transgender Brazilian cartoonist Laerte Coutinho aka Laerte. As a non-Portuguese speaker, it's fun to flip through Contos & Delírios and try to guess which of Ed's stories is being illustrated. "Hellfire" (aka "Fogo do inferno") has Satan lying on his back with a volcano emerging from his crotch. "To Kill a Saturday Night" ("Matando o sábado") has two anthropomorphic penises, complete with arms and legs, casually chatting. "Breasts of the Chicken" ("Os seios de galinha") has a pudgy restaurant customer picking lobster-sized mermaids out of a glass tank.

As for actually reading the stories within this volume, well, I had to rely very heavily on my copy of Blood Splatters Quickly. I thought my decades-ago college Spanish courses might help me, but they didn't. At least not much. I did find it interesting that "The Wave Off" became "Voando em círculos" or "Flying in Circles," while "Calamity Jane Loves Hosenose Kate Loves Cattle Anne" became simply "O amor delas" or "Their Love." I was also amused to see that the aforementioned "Fogo do inferno" carried a footnote explaining that Ed Wood's "lived/devil" pun was "untranslatable in Portuguese." As for the newly-written introduction ("Preliminales dark") by director Paolo Biscaia Filho, I'm afraid it's lost on me, which is a shame. It looks interesting.

I should mention that getting my hands on a copy of Contos & Delírios was trickier than I expected. I bought it from an Ebay seller in Brazil because the price seemed quite reasonable. (I hadn't factored in shipping, which I should have.) The book took many weeks to reach me, and when it finally arrived at my apartment, the mailman wanted a signature that I was not able to provide because I was at work. After trying without success to use the USPS website and hotline—both useless for international packages, apparently—I made the cataclysmic decision to drive to the local post office. At rush hour. On the hottest day of the year. I was still not able to claim the book immediately, but I did set into motion a series of events that ended with the item in my hands. It was a process, let's say.

This was also the year that I tried (legal) edibles for the first time, and I think it says something that getting those shipped to my apartment was much quicker, cheaper, and easier than getting an Ed Wood book. Seriously, though, Contos & Delírios is a neat keepsake for Wood fans, even those who don't speak Portuguese. I wish more of Eddie's stories would receive this deluxe treatment.

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Podcast Tuesday: "If You Knew Susie Like Fonz Apparently Knew Susie"

Henry Winkler and Peter Scolari on Happy Days.

I edit the holy hell out of These Days Are Ours: A Happy Days Podcast. We record the shows on Saturdays at noon and talk for about 35-40 minutes. That recording then gets whittled down to about 20 minutes of usable audio, which I then augment with about five minutes worth of clips from Happy Days plus various other movies, songs, commercials, etc. This includes the closing music, which I try to keep under a minute. The end goal is a show that runs about 25 minutes total. 

I don't think a podcast about Happy Days should run significantly longer than the actual show. Minus commercials, an episode of the ABC sitcom runs about 25 minutes, so I use that as a template for our podcast. In its early episodes, These Days Are Ours was much more slow-paced and rambling, but now I try to be more respectful of the listener's time. I'm glad that anyone listens to TDAO. I don't want to overstay my welcome.

Some of the pruning is obvious. I try to get rid of as much vocal static ("uh," "um," "well," "like," "you know," etc.) as I can without making us sound like robots. Both my cohost and I flub our lines quite a bit, and there are plenty of awkward pauses and dead spaces. It's a tougher call when it comes to digressions from the main topic. This week, for instance, our review of Season 10's "May the Best Man Win" led to a lot of side topics. In editing this edition of the podcast, I chopped out (or severely limited) our discussions of: Elizabeth Taylor's career, Wagner's "Bridal Chorus," marriage manuals, Tom Bosley's real-life parenting skills, and mambo music.

Did I make the right call in getting rid of this material? Or was I correct to keep things short and sweet? Judge for yourself by pushing the play button below.