Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part Eleven by Greg Dziawer

Get it? Washington? York?


The renowned Mr. York.
In our last Wood Magazine Odyssey, I closed by asking the cryptic question: Who wrote "The Legend of Washington York?"

It's a question that continues to haunt me. I additionally opined that solving the York Riddle would spill us beyond the "next and final frontier" of Woodology. That tall claim intimidates as much as it excites me. Once again unto the breach, this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays falls eagerly headlong into the darkest corners of Woodology: the uncredited pictorial text and the gay-themed Pendulum-family mag.

The pictorial "The Legend of Washington York," from the Apr/May issue of Pendulum's Male Lovers, Vol 2 No 1 (and reprinted in the 1971 Male Lovers Annual), runs a mere four pages and its accompanying text is only 10 lines long:

WE'D LIKE YOU TO MEET WASHINGTON YORK,
A MAN WHO'S FAMOUS FOR A FOOT-LONG DORK.

WASH USED TO WORK IN A WRESTLING RING,
TILL HE DECIDED TO GIVE MOVIES A FLING.

"SO WHAT'S YOUR ACT?" ASKED THE TALENT SCOUT;
WASH OPENED HIS FLY AND YANKED OUT HIS TROUT.

"SWEET MOTHER!" CRIED THE MAN, "I AIN'T SEEN A DONG
THAT LONG OR SCARY SINCE THE MOVIE KING KONG!"

NOW LIFE IS EASY FOR WASHINGTON YORK;
HE JUST SITS BEFORE THE CAMERAS, PREENING HIS PORK.

Any of the Pendulum mag staffers could have written these freewheeling rhymed couplets on a lark. At the time, staffers included Leo Eaton, Robin "Redbreast" Eagle and William D. "Bill" Jones... and, of course, Ed Wood.

Though we still lack an answer to the crucial question of who wrote these lines, I must confess that this has become one of my favorite poems. Its accompanying pictorial achieves the pinnacle of Pendulum's authenticity.

Beyond that, I'll let it speak for itself.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Darkness at the heart of 'Marvin'

My slight rewrite of today's Marvin.

Tom Armstrong's Marvin strikes me as one of the unhappiest domestic comedies in the world of syndicated cartoons. Sure, people point to Funky Winkerbean as a cesspool of ceaseless misery, which it is, and The Lockhorns do not disguise their hatred for one another. But the ostensibly cheerful Marvin, about a baby who never ages and the parents who are stuck caring for him for all eternity, seems profoundly darker than either of those other examples. So I decided to take this Sunday Marvin and give it just a slight rewrite.

Here's another recent Marvin rewrite of mine. This is a little more upbeat, because I've given the parents a way out of their personal purgatory.

Shouldn't there be a horror film called Gore-phanage by now?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 64: Ed Wood, Jack Webb, and police procedurals

Two hardworking cops: Harvey B. Dunn and Tony McCoy in Bride of the Monster.

Jack Webb recording Dragnet.
Try to imagine the world as it was before Jack Webb came along. Here's how authors Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik describe that world in their review of Dragnet in the 1989 book Harry And Wally's Favorite TV Shows:
     When Jack Webb first developed the series on radio in 1949, and two years later on TV, Dragnet was a breath of fresh air in the world of pop culture cops. Before Dragnet, crime fighting was usually portrayed on radio and TV in an overly romantic light. Policemen or private eyes would effortlessly deduce the criminal's identity and then outtrick the felon, while engaging in witty repartee and romancing some young lovely at the same time.
      While this image is fine for light entertainment now and then, it paints a wildly distorted image of what real policemen go through. Dragnet changed all that. In Dragnet, thanks to Jack Webb's unwavering dedication to realism, you see the boredom, the red tape, the hard work, the long hours, and the frustration of real police work.
In other words, Webb was essential in shaping the still-vital storytelling form we know today as the police procedural. That's a type of detective fiction in which the audience is shown the steps that police officers go through in solving a crime. It remains a popular subspecies, especially in television, but also in films, novels, short stories, and plays. Dragnet has been accurately called "the most famous procedural of all time." Interesting that Webb's radio show should debut in 1949 with the television adaptation appearing just two years later on NBC. Webb and the character he portrayed, no-nonsense Los Angeles cop Joe Friday, were ascending to prominence just as East Coast transplant Edward D. Wood, Jr. was beginning his three-decade career in film and television in Hollywood.

"Unwavering dedication to realism" is not the phrase that jumps to most people's minds when discussing the work of Ed Wood. Indeed, Eddie's willingness to jump headfirst into absurdity is one of the main selling points of his work today. Dadaists, surrealists, primitivists, satirists, and outsider artists can all claim Ed as one of their own. And yet, consider this: Virtually all of the films with which Ed is most closely associated—especially those from his 1953-1957 golden years—are police procedurals to one extent or another. I'd argue that Jack Webb had as much influence over Eddie's work, if not more so, as Tod Browning or James Whale.

The trend truly starts with Ed Wood's debut feature, 1953's Glen or Glenda, but the seeds were planted even earlier. That same year, Ed wrote and directed Crossroad Avenger: The Adventures of the Tucson Kid, a failed pilot for a proposed Western series starring Tom Keene, who unfortunately proved a dullard in the title role. Keene's straight-shooting character is not actually a cop; he's an insurance investigator. But the basics of his job are not dissimilar to police work. He looks into insurance claims that seem fishy, just the way a cop would investigate a case. He talks to suspects and witnesses and, when necessary, exchanges gunfire with the bad guys. Crossroad Avenger might be described as an Old West equivalent of the radio show Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, which also centered around an insurance investigator. Dollar hit the airwaves just months before Dragnet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Magazine Odyssey, Part Ten by Greg Dziawer

The bonds of matrimony.


Two areas of Woodology still remain to be more fully explored: (1) Ed's work for the gay-themed Pendulum-family magazines and (2) identifying texts accompanying pictorials in those same mags as Ed's work. Both tall orders.

In this week's Ed Wood Wednesdays, we present a few choice excerpts from a short piece that covers both of these areas. This pictorial text, "married & in love............." (and yes, this is how the title is appears in the mag, with 13 ellipses), is from Pendulum's Gay Studs, vol. 3 no. 3 from 1971, one of four such uncredited texts in this issue (as it appears with no corrections):

They simply wanted to get married and that's what they did. Paul became the husband in the affair and Gene the wife or the passive one. Although Gene is not a drag queen, he arrived in the small town wearing a pink sweater set and light brown skirt and a dark, shoulder length wig which matched his own hair. And Paul, the anxious husband, wore his light brown business suit and brown tie. They searched out a Justice of the Peace, paid the license and went through with the ceremony. Gene used a feigned falsetto voice which sounded a bit strained but he was able to talk that off as a hang over from a recent cold. He made up as a good looking girl so there was no denying what the eyes could see.  
It was simple to change the "G" to "J" so that he became Jean for the entrance into the village, the marriage and the exit to an edge of the town where they took a honeymoon motel cottage and there Jean became Gene again. Neither one of them like anything on their bodies when they are having an affair. It's all a very naked. very real happening.  
Most of the GAY crowd don't stay together very long with any one partner because they are a fickle bunch. They are always on the look out for some new trade. But that isn't and hasn't been the intentions of Paul and Gene from the very first when they met at a GAY gathering in one of the local taverns. Both being short of money they were always on the look out for bars which had cocktail hours in which they served hors d' oeuvres or other free foods. In that way they could buy a beer or two and partake of the free meal. Most of the GAY BARS have such offerings quite often and each one attempts out doing the other in order to get the trade. 

The same issue contains a short story by Ed, the classic "I , Warlock" (misidentified as "The Warlock" on the contents page, and the only piece in the mag with a credit). We previously identified a few snippets of pictorial texts that possess an Ed-like ring, without making a claim. I have a stronger feeling about this one, but I'll keep it to myself for now.

Eddie or not? Tell us what you think.

NOTE: Due to the explicit nature of the material from Gay Studs, the photos accompanying this week's article have been posted to the Ed Wood Wednesdays Tumblr.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood/Dziawer Odyssey, Part Two by Greg Dziawer

Only the infinity of the depths of a man's mind can really tell the story.

Sterling, my co-author
Not that anyone asked, but this week I'd like to delve into the methodology—or perhaps the lack thereof—in writing these Ed Wood Wednesdays blog posts. 

At any given time, I'm usually engaged in half a dozen or so angles of Woodology. That entails sitting down for a few hours a night after work here at the PC in my small, cluttered office, Googling away patiently and inquisitively, while sipping a beer or two. As now, Sterling often sits in my lap. Many nights, the hours and the beers increase. And as the weeks wear on, I've engaged myself since last October in producing a blog post every seven days. You are reading the very same right this second!

My obsession with Ed Wood has morphed into a Mission Statement, a "duty":
  • Recognize Ed (as an outsider artist)
  • Index Ed (fully...and no, that's not impossible)
  • Access Ed (clamor for it; it won't happen on its own)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Collaborator Odyssey, Part Five by Greg Dziawer

Eddie Or Not: Was this lusty Hustler paperback penned by Ed Wood?

Dick Trent. Occasionally Richard Trent.

The obsessive Woodologist will certainly recognize this as one of Edward D. Wood, Jr.'s most frequently-used pseudonyms, in a class with the sublime Shirlee Lane. Shirlee/Shirley was also Ed's drag persona... and in a far-fetched thought-experiment of mine, Shirley was the name of his high school sweetheart, the girl whose sweater he wore for the first time and to whom he lost his virginity.
"Shirley wore a fuzzy green angora sweater with a matching green skirt. She had on knee-length white stretch socks which ended in green and white, low heeled shoes. The more young Charlie looked at her clothes, dug his fingers into the soft fur of her sweater at the shoulders, the more he craved wearing the things himself."
-excerpt from Ed Wood's Drag Trade (1967)

It's easy to get lost in Shirley. Take these passages from the short story "Baiting Millie," as published in Hellcats, vol. 2,  no. 3, from July/August 1973, credited to Edw. D. Wood, Jr.:
Artwork for "Baiting Millie."
". . . then there was Shirley . . . . It was a bar pickup . . . but not one which might cause distress between either party . . . . Shirley was a delight to watch as she swayed in her miniskirt . . . she never simply walked, she had a rhythm which could only be classed as swaying . . . . Millie almost let her hand go up under her skirt and masturbate herself right there in the bar when she saw that swaying fanny . . . " 
"...the light tapping came on the locked cubicle door and the little voice asked to come in and Millie was shocked, but she opened the door and there was the exotically beautiful Shirley and Shirley told her that she would do that for her, only she didn't use her finger, she sank down on the toilet seat and inserted her tongue . . . ." 
". . . Shirley was killed in a street accident when absentmindedly she went against the light at an intersection when she was racing to catch her bus across the street . . . it broke Millie's heart and she cried for a week, and she didn't get to her job for a week, illness, a death in the family . . . she wouldn't be fired . . . they depended upon her too much . . . then there was Sharon . . . the luscious Sharon who swayed when she walked . . . she didn't just walk, she swayed with each step . . . she glided . . . she was so much like Shirley . . . . "

Friday, July 22, 2016

John Waters' Mondo Trasho: The Soundtrack (updated for 2016)

Divine carries Mary Vivian Pearce in this ad for John Waters' "gutter film," Mondo Trasho.


Little Richard, the film's patron saint.
After several years of making experimental short films like Hag in a Black Leather Jacket and Eat Your Makeup in the mid-to-late 1960s, Baltimore filmmaker John Waters finally took the feature-length plunge in 1969 with his surreal, almost plotless epic Mondo Trasho. But in those days, Waters was operating on such a low budget that he couldn't even afford to record synchronized sound as he was filming. His first full-length talkie, Multiple Maniacs, was released in 1970, a full 43 years after The Jazz Singer. But just because Mondo Trasho was shot silently, that doesn't mean it's a silent film. In fact, the 95-minute comedy has an incredible soundtrack pieced together a few seconds at a time from records in John Waters' personal music collection. The trouble was, he never got permission to use any of this stuff, meaning that Mondo Trasho has never seen legitimate release on DVD or any digital format.

Nevertheless, the range of music used in Mondo Trasho is stunning. Waters clearly has an ear for rock and R&B, stuff recorded back when the music was raw and vital. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner are all represented here. In fact, Little Richard, Brown, and the Turners can be said to dominate the soundtrack. But Waters uses plenty of classical and operatic music, too. Among the composers who unwittingly contributed to Mondo Trasho: Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner, among others, And then there are total oddities, like Lyda Roberti's "Take a Number From One to Ten" and Mae West's "Treat 'Em Right." And who can classify such recordings as "Visage" by Luciano Berio?

I've been fascinated with Mondo Trasho's soundtrack for the last twenty years, and I've spent plenty of time in used record stores and online forums trying to identify each and every last scrap of music used in the film. Now, I'm happy to say that I have assembled a list that is as complete as I can make it at this time. I've published various versions of my Mondo Trasho soundtrack over the years, but this one makes all others obsolete.

A few notes before we begin. I have decided to catalog every distinct bit of audio that I can detect in Mondo Trasho. This includes occasional sound effects and instances of so-called "wild track" dialogue recorded by Waters and his actors, including Divine, Mink Stole, Pat Moran, and David Lochary. You will notice that many of the songs are repeated, some multiple times. Waters generally uses "Slow Walk" and "Come Go With Me" for the film's many traveling scenes, for instance. A siren and some gunshots from "Riot in Cell Block 9" are heard over and over again as well, as are some strange bleeps and bloops from "Flying Saucer (Parts 1 & 2)" by Buchanan & Goodman. I have tried to denote those instances in which a live version of a song is used. The items printed in red are the last few stragglers, the pieces I still cannot identify fully. Corrections, comments, suggestions, and additions are more than welcome.

That being said, let's have some fun.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ed Wood Wednesdays: The Wood Erotica Odyssey, Part Two by Greg Dziawer

Somehow, "Swish Erotica" doesn't have the same ring to it. You gotta have ED.

Constance Waarren's Hot Tub.

In a previous installment of Ed Wood Wednesdays, we surmised that Swedish House (1978), often listed in bibliographies of Ed's work, is in actuality not a book but a book imprint. Specifically, it was a paperback imprint under the multimedia Swedish Erotica umbrella, the porn industry behemoth that Pendulum Publishers morphed into through the '70s. By 1977, Ed was cashing paychecks from Art Publishers, Inc., publisher of Swedish Erotica books and mags, his last steady job in the final two years of his life. 

Since Woodology is never simple, there's not an obvious candidate with Ed's name or a known pseudonym on any of the covers of Swedish House paperbacks I've found thus far. We'll have to get at this from the opposite end, so let's play another round of Eddie or Not? 

The credited author on three of the (very few) Swedish House paperbacks is Constance Warren, and it's worth noting that she is not credited on the covers but only inside. The index numbers of the Warren titles comprise three of the first five of the brief run: Cabin Fever (SH-101), Hot Tub (SH-104) and Campus Lust (SH-105). All were first published in 1978, photo-illustrated with images from the endless Swedish Erotica loop series. For instance, Campus Lust, the tale of a librarian peeper, was adapted from the Swedish Erotica loop title of the same name. These paperbacks, minus the photos, were reprinted as late as 1989 under the same titles and credits and containing the identical texts. The cover price had risen a dollar by then. It's interesting to think that a dusty copy of an unknown Ed Wood book might still have been languishing on a wire rack in a sex shop by the time his legend was cemented by a Hollywood biopic in the mid-'90s.

The cover of Constance Warren's Hot Tub, a Swedish House paperback from 1978, is depicted at right. Notice the company's signature triple-dot insignia in the upper left hand corner.