Wednesday, November 25, 2015

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

The cover of Dirk Malloy's Camera Action. Note the Midwood clover in the upper left corner.

Note to readers: You know what time of the week it is, friends? Yes, it's time to turn Dead 2 Rights over (temporarily) to Greg Dziawer so that he can enlighten us with his investigations into the strange, shadowy world of Edward D. Wood, Jr. I'm traveling out of state to visit relatives for the Thanksgiving holiday, so this is the last new content you'll be seeing at Dead 2 Rights for the next several days. But Greg has provided us with plenty of food for thought this Thanksgiving weekend through his examination of some vintage paperback books dubiously attributed to Edward D. Wood, Jr. Ready to separate wheat from chaff? Read on. And have a lovely Thanksgiving. J.B.

The Wood Paperback Odyssey
Who wrote Dirk Malloy's Camera Action?
... And ID-ing the “lost” A Study of the Sexual Man, Book One

So who did write Dirk Malloy's Camera Action? Well, Dirk Malloy did, to end the suspense quickly. But there has been some lingering suggestion that Dirk Malloy could be another one of Ed Wood's pen names. And, truth be told, Dirk Malloy is a pseudonym.

Why do I bring this up? In last week's first installment of the Wood Paperback Odyssey, we delved into the true authorship of Norman Bates' Male Wives, sometimes credibly claimed to be written by Ed Wood. There's also reasonable circumstantial evidence: Ed collaborated frequently with Charles D. Anderson, and they worked together closely at Pendulum. Nonetheless, Ed had no involvement with Male Wives.

I bring this up – to finally answer my own question – because in my travels I occasionally come across far more spurious claims of works that supposedly involved Ed. And before a spark becomes a fire, we should put it out. Which isn't to say that anyone is believing Ed's involvement here, as evidenced by the fact that the Ebay listing claiming this has been up for months now, with a "buy it now" price of a mere $22.00. Real vintage Ed paperbacks are into the hundreds.

A Leo Eaton/Ed Wood collaboration
from the T.K. Peters source.
But even a blind squirrel occasionally finds a nut: I landed the super-rare A Study of the Sexual Man, Book One at Etsy for a mere $21.99 a couple weeks back, lucky that the seller had no idea what they had, not listing Ed's name, nor Pendulum, nor even one of the credited names, T.K. Peters, highly associated with Ed. I was about 30 pages deep on the seller's listings (got there because I found a non-Ed Pendulum paperback listing and just started clicking through out of blind hope) when the title on the cover and the name on the cover, T.K. Peters, caught my eye. Without the relevant keywords, no one looking was going to find it. And, truth be told, few were looking and the seller isn't to blame. Although The Sexual Man, Book 2 is a known work of Ed's, information on its predecessor is almost non-existent. Almost. I found a copyright listing for it in at the invaluable Library of Congress' Catalog of Copyright Entries Jul-Dec 1971. Credited there to just Leo Eaton (another of Ed's fellow staff writers at Pendulum) – under an oft-used pseudonym, Frank Leonard - I later learned that it's listed on Ed's very own resume, as verifiably accurate (if still largely yet made public) a document as Wood scholars and fans have got.


An excerpt from the introduction to A Study of the Sexual Man, Book One (intro signed, "Frank Leonard, Los Angeles, 1971"):
As Madison Avenue and the advertisers jumped on the band-wagon, the confused and bewildered male looked around to find that all aspects of his nice, safe, male-dominated society were pandering the woman's sexuality. 
I digress. Because Dirk Malloy's Camera Action will eventually sell and the listing will eventually disappear, let's document the details of the claim here.

In an Ebay listing for the adult paperback Camera Action, a 1967 Midwood title (an East Coast publisher that never published a known Ed-affiliated work), written by Dirk Malloy, the seller opines: “I believe this is an original Ed Wood Jr. book! I attempted to find out online but found no list for his books written under pseudonyms."

A rare Midwood Triple!
I “attempted” to do the same, which I guess means something different to me. And maybe “find out” is a post on Yahoo! Answers. I simply googled Dirk Malloy. Though there are lists of Ed's pseudonyms online, and lists of his paperbacks that include known pseudonyms, maybe there is truly, “no list for his books written under pseudonyms.” I'm being charitable.

Dirk Malloy is easily identified as a pseudonym for Hank Gross. As Dirk, he wrote dozens of sleaze paperbacks (which sound very much like man's man fantasies when not in Mr. Teas territory, seemingly there in Camera Action) during the peak of that medium's era in the latter half of the '60s. A post with content from an unidentifiable source hinting Dirk's own website (hankgross.com once existed, but the domain is now for sale) painted a succinct portrait befitting what you'd expect from the persona of a writer of sleaze paperbacks named Dirk Malloy:
Dirk Malloy is a raconteur, a lover of the ladies, and a writer of books aimed especially at men with lusty and intellectual interests like his own. He is a third-degree black belt in aiki-jitsu, has traveled extensively, rides a Harley, explores both theoretical physics and the wacky stuff, drinks his scotch straight, loves a good belly laugh, and has tasted both victory and defeat in life and in love. In short, a complete man.
Dirk Malloy: Father of the Most Interesting Man in the World?

In 2010, he published much of his work as e-books, still available. His bibliography fanciful and eclectic, it includes everything from Celebrity Sex Scandals to Gourmet Cat Recipes to Raunchy Jokes for Guys to Jesus Plays the Catskills.
In this sublime retelling of the story and teachings of Christ's life, Jesus himself takes the mike and tells it to a Borscht-belt crowd as a Jewish comic might. It's the New Testament as you've never heard it before! So here he is, ladies and germs, the King of Kings, the Lamb of God...let's give it up, folks, for JESUS!
His bio glosses over his work in adult paperbacks, though he reprinted some of them digitally. I am going to check out the reprint of 1967's The Dirtiest Dozen, a document of the meteoric rise of sex newspapers in the late '60s, covering Screw and its pretenders:
The male could grind his thighs against those of the heroine as much as he pleased, but he could not, under any circumstances, drop in on her cunt – not that it mattered, since she didn’t have one anyway. And of course, heaven help the publisher if, despite the obstacles of having neither a pud nor a place in which to put it, the hero had the temerity to actually shoot his load.
Oh, well. I thought my friends and I had made up the word "pud" in the fifth grade.

I'll also be checking out Sexual Fetishism, which covers painfully neglected, harshly real territory, the description getting lost in parentheses:
Take a walk on the wild side with this breezily-written guide to sexual fetishes, from agalmatophilia (arousal by statues) to renifleurism (urine and underwear, to doraphila (fur fetish), including quotes from some of the estimated 50 million practicioners and a comprehensive glossary of over 700 fetishes you probably never heard of.
This tiny Smashwords profile photo is the only
one I could find of Hank Gross/Dirk Malloy.
Many more astounding facts to come in future editions of Ed Wood Wednesdays:
  • Reviews of The Sexual Man, Book One and Pendulum's Young Marrieds, a paperback from 1971
  • “Unknown” fellow staffers at Pendulum identified. 
  • "Down Shirlee Lane"
  • The story of Golden State News and its myriad magazine lines (Classic, Cougar and Gold Line Publications among them), the blueprint for Pendulum, where Ed's work still largely remains unidentified
  • "One Million A.C. Stephens," the first installment of the Wood Script Odyssey; and the epochal revealing of the real T.K. Peters
"More than a fact!"

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Social Media Buzz: Another short story by Joe Blevins

"Eat your soul? Who, me?"

     After gently knocking twice, the dapper young man cracked open the door of his immediate supervisor's tastefully-appointed office and tentatively peered in.
     "Mr. Van Landingham?"
     The other man, fiftyish and conservative, did not rise to greet the young man but remained seated behind his desk as he said, "Come in, Korey. Have a seat, please."
     The young man entered the room, closed the door behind him, and respectfully sat down in a chair across the desk from his boss.
     "How do you think you've been doing in your role of Social Media Manager for the General Mills family of cereals?" said the older man.
     "Uh, good, I guess?"
     "Okay. Okay. Interesting. Now, one of your professional duties these last six months has been maintaining the Twitter account of Buzz the Bee, the cartoon mascot of our Honey Nut Cheerios brand. Is that correct?"
     "Uh, yes, it is."
     "All right. Now we're getting somewhere. Well, Korey, I took the liberty of printing out some of your recent tweets from that account. I have them right here. Do you mind if I read them out loud?"
     "Not at all."
     "Okay, here's one: 'Nothing like a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios to start your morning right.' Now, normally, that would be a damned fine tweet, Korey, but you chose to end it with the hashtag '911WasAnInsideJob.' Can you explain that?"
     "Well, uh, Mr. Van Landingham..."
     "Please. It's Kevin."
     "Well, Kevin, it's not that I personally think 9-11 was an inside job. But, of course, the account is written from Buzz's point of view. It's what he thinks. He's a multi-faceted character."
     "Okay, fair enough. But how about this one? 'Bee happy. Bee healthy. Life begins at conception.'"
     "Well, children do make up a substantial portion of our customer base, Kevin. And if they're not carried to term, they're not going to be eating any of our delicious Honey Nut Cheerios, are they?"
     "Hmmm. I suppose not. But then, there was this tweet that contained only a photo of actress Neve Campbell topless in the 2007 film I Really Hate My Job."
     "What, specifically, is the issue with that one?"
     "The issue, specifically, is that it's a photo of actress Neve Campbell topless in the 2007 film I Really Hate My Job. We try to keep our social media content family-friendly, Korey."
     "Are you saying then, Kevin, that General Mills considers the female body to be inherently shameful, something to be hidden away from view?"
     "Well, no, not exactly. But..."
     "Haven't you heard of the Free the Nipple campaign, Roderick?"
     "Kevin."
     "Whatever. It's a vital, burgeoning movement in this country right now. Shouldn't General Motors..."
     "Mills."
     "...Mills be at the forefront of change for once? There's nothing wrong with breasts, Kevin. Breasts produce milk, and what goes better with cereal than milk?"
     "Yes, but did you have to post that same photo every hour on the hour during the Paris terrorist attacks? People were beginning to wonder if it was some kind of code. Now I have the NSA breathing down my neck."
     "People always fear what they don't understand, Kevin. That's what I'm up against every time I tweet something on behalf of Buzz the Bee. You don't know what kind of an awesome responsibility this is. While you're tucked away in this cozy little office of yours, I'm out there on the front lines! Right now, people are starving for the truth, and I'm there to feed it to them, 140 characters at a time. The new millennium needs its own Che Guevara, and why shouldn't it be a cartoon spokes-bee? The truth will out! Viva the Bee!"
     As the young man pumped his fist in the air and assumed a pose of hard-won victory, the older man reached into a desk drawer, pulled out a small blow gun, raised it to his mouth, and shot a dart directly into his subordinate's neck. The young man slumped over instantly. The older man paused, sighed, then picked up the landline phone on his desk.
     "Gladys? Have maintenance send a crew to my office immediately. We have another Code B to take care of. Say, how many more nephews do you think the CEO has left, anyway?"

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I tried to fix 'The Dinette Set,' and it defeated me.

(left) Julie Larson's original Dinette Set panel; (right) My "corrected" version.

Julie Larson's The Dinette Set, a single-panel cartoon feature, is somehow celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015. It started in the Los Angeles Reader under the title Suburban Torture back in 1990 and became nationally syndicated under the name The Dinette Set seven years later. The feature's appeal and longevity baffle me. It's a domestic comedy focused on the adventures of two middle-aged sisters, Verla Darwin and Joy Penny, and their respective spouses and friends. It's supposed to be a gentle satire of middle class life, but it comes off as condescending and snide, and the characters are interchangeable and dull.

What really bugs me about The Dinette Set, though, is that it's a humor strip that doesn't know how to tell a joke properly. Each panel is saturated with unfunny, superfluous textual gags: T-shirt slogans, posters and signs, product labels, etc. All of this extraneous text is handwritten in the exact same style. Larson tries to distinguish each panel's primary, dialogue-based joke by writing it in larger letters, but the words push right up against the edges of the balloons, rendering them only semi-legible. The strip is a difficult-to-read eyesore.

Part of the reality of doing a syndicated newspaper comic is that each installment will contain a certain amount of clutter: the artist's signature, a date, a plug for the syndicate, and probably some mention of a promotional website, too. As distracting as these can be, they're a necessary evil. I firmly believe that jokes, at least when presented in the form of comic strips or cartoon panels, need a little breathing room. A certain amount of negative space helps. Charles Schulz, one of the masters of the form, used tons of negative space in Peanuts. But Julie Larson clutters up every square inch of her panels with unnecessary verbiage. Her jokes are suffocating. And they weren't too strong to begin with!

So I took a typical Dinette Set panel and tried to "fix" it. First, I eliminated as many props and background actors as I could without sacrificing the integrity of the scene, i.e. a baby shower with numerous guests and presents. I wanted to focus the reader's attention on the two primary characters, the ones who are actually talking to each other. I especially wanted to remove any distracting details around those characters' faces. When you're drawing a cartoon like this, you're like a director working with actors. I wanted to make sure their faces were the focal point of this scene. I also reduced the dialogue in size so that it had some air around it, while removing some redundant words in Mrs. Darwin's response. I didn't see any reason for both women to say the words "a Clapper for the baby's overhead light." Once was enough.

But my efforts were in vain. This stubborn Dinette Set panel was still pretty bad, even after my so-called "corrections." I think my version is a slight visual improvement, but the cartoon is still stifling and uninspired, and the joke still doesn't land the way it should. In desperation, I tried to convert this into a New Yorker-style cartoon with no word balloons and the dialogue rendered as a caption below the picture.


Nah. Still sucks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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

Some latter-day reprints of Ed Wood's many, many, many paperback books.

Note to readers: It's that time of the week again, folks, when I step aside and hand the reigns of Dead 2 Rights over to faithful contributor Greg Dziawer, who has graciously consented to continue the labor-intensive Ed Wood Wednesdays series for me. This week, Greg takes us deep into the heart of Eddie's career as a paperback writer and shows us how to separate the real gold from the fool's gold. Once again, some censoring of images has been necessary. Take it away, Greg. J.B.


The Wood Paperback Odyssey
The Key to Barclay House's Male Wives by Norman Bates

The story must be told!
A veritable cottage industry, the sale of rare Ed Wood works, artifacts and memorabilia is an increasingly pricey world. And if you had one of these items to sell, let's say a paperback, and it had somewhere been suggested or even implied that it was written by Ed, your asking price just increased 10x. Of course, what we really all want to know is if Ed really did have any involvement in this hypothetical paperback. While I, as much as anyone – out of hope and enthusiasm, I tell myself – go flush with the excitement of seeming discovery when I come across the occasional magazine short story or porn loop that seems plausibly to have a connection to Ed, my reason eventually overtakes my impulsive emotion and reminds me of the truth. A Janus-faced truth, which also states that there remain tons of unidentified work by Ed.

Let's investigate an actual paperback to make these considerations worth our while. Let's get at the unvarnished facts, the very haven of truth.

Barclay House: unlocking closed
Psycho-Sexual minds!
FACT: Male Wives was published in 1969 by Barclay House, North Hollywood, as Psycho-Sexual Study #7031, published under the pseudonym Norman Bates.

FACT: Barclay House was an imprint of Brandon House (and so was Essex House), all lines marketed as sociological non-fiction to evade legal scrutiny. Credited to Norman Bates, Teenage Pimp (1970) – a delirious title and cover – was Barclay House Psycho-Sex Study #7096.

FACT: The Library of Congress' Catalog of Copyright Entries Jan-June 1969 lists Male Wives' author as Charles Anderson. And elsewhere from the same volume: Bates, Norman, pseud. See Anderson, Charles.

FACT: Though not listed in Nightmare of Ecstasy or Muddled Mind, Male Wives is listed — credibly and authoritatively — here, a derivative of having been included at the incredible exhibit here. That translates to this. The cover alone may be worth it!

(left) Teenage Pimp: Every boy's fantasy.
(right) Male Wives: Gay pulp fiction masquerading as hippie-era sociology.

You get the point. Excepting the Norman Bates titles, Ed is nowhere credited at Barclay House. Charles D. Anderson held down dual roles at Pendulum from 1970 or so, as editor and staff writer. The gig overlapped with writing paperbacks for Barclay House. In an interview I've yet to locate, Anderson is reputed to say that all Norman Bates credits are written solely by him. That includes a ton of short stories in various Pendulum magazine titles, concurrent to Ed's insanely prolific work there. Of course, Anderson/Bates did, indeed, collaborate with Wood/Trent (in this case, as just one example) on Pendulum's A Study of Fetishes & Fantasies from 1973.

 Pendulum's Little Library imprint aped the look and feel of the popular Liverpool Library Press.

People: All going some-vere!
MORE THAN A FACT: Ed did not write, or collaborate on Male Wives, or for that matter, Teen-Sex Swapping, a 1970 Barclay House title by Norman Bates. Charles D. Anderson did write as, a fittingly evocative doppelganger, Marion Crane, penning Brother John and Sister Mercy in 1972 for Little Library Press, an imprint of Pendulum, under which Ed's To Make a Homo was also published in 1971.

And as trivia, not suggesting Ed's involvement, the cover of Barclay House #7406 – Satan, Demons & Dildoes by Eugene Richards from 1974 – is a still from Orgy of the Dead.

Caveat Emptor. Let the buyer be-vare.

Be-vare, take care. Be-vare....

More to come about Bates/Anderson, Pendulum/LLP/et al and real Ed paperbacks to come in future Wood Wednesdays.


That other Norman Bates regards that other Marion Crane in Psycho (1960).

Monday, November 16, 2015

My 21-year-old theory about 'Pulp Fiction'

You know any of them old jokes? No, but I know an old theory.

It's all about Travolta, man!
I don't know why this popped into my head today, but I started thinking about a theory of mine concerning the movie Pulp Fiction. This was an idea I started toying with back when the movie was new in 1994, and it never got any further than some primitive, now-obsolete Usenet discussion groups. In those bygone days, I was probably frequenting alt.fan.tarantino or something similar. I think this idea of mine found some traction there, but it probably only amounted to a single stranger saying it was "kind of interesting." That was enough for me back then. Likes and RTs hadn't been invented, so we had to make due with what was available.

Anyway, my theory was that Pulp Fiction, at least the parts concerning the Vincent Vega character, was a movie-length tribute to the career of star John Travolta. It starts with the character's name. Vincent was also the name of Travolta's character on Welcome Back, Kotter. The "Vega" part was simply an acknowledgement that Travolta was a superstar. The actor became famous through television but never did another recurring role on a series after Kotter. That's why Vincent claims never to watch television. He knows he's not on it anymore, so what's the point? And his offhand question to Jules, "What's a pilot?" is a punning acknowledgement of Travolta's own well-known love of aviation. The actor is a certified pilot with five aircraft and a private runway.

Synonymous with disco.
Okay, now we get into more specific nods to iconic Travolta roles. Uma Thurman's Mia Wallace actually calls Vincent "cowboy" at one point, obviously bringing Urban Cowboy to mind. Also, when she's trying to lead Vincent to the intercom in her home, Mia says "disco" when he finds it, referring to the genre of music with which Travolta became synonymous after Saturday Night Fever. Having Vincent and Mia win a dance contest, meanwhile, is another obvious Fever parallel. A less-obvious one is when Vincent's partner, Jules (Samuel L. Jackson), decides to give up being a criminal, which he refers to simply as "the life." This is analogous to a sub-plot from Fever in which Travolta's character, Tony Manero, has a brother who is leaving the priesthood. And where does Jules live? Inglewood, CA, a near-perfect sound-alike for Travolta's own home town of Englewood, NJ.

Pulp Fiction references Grease a few times, too. Not only do Mia and Vincent visit the 1950s nostalgia-themed eatery Jack Rabbit Slim's, which he calls "a wax museum with a pulse," but Vincent also says that he'll be "a fucking grease spot" if Mia overdoses while in his care. And then there is Mr. Vega's antagonistic relationship with boxer Butch Coolidge. To say the least, Butch and Vincent get along poorly throughout the entire movie. This, I suggest, is an in-joke referring to the fact that Bruce Willis provided the voice of the baby in Travolta's Look Who's Talking from 1989.

Anyway, that's my theory, which is mine. There's not much more to it than what I've already described in the paragraphs above. I just wanted to record it here for posterity. Thank you for indulging me.


Friday, November 13, 2015

The world is my BarcaLounger. I shall not want.

Men love to recline in their BarcaLoungers. Women like to stand next to BarcaLoungers.

No joke here. No clever insights. No navel-gazing critiques. Just a man and his BarcaLounger. There is, I think, no greater achievement of Western Civilization in the 20th century than the luxuriously-padded reclining chair. A BarcaLounger or a La-Z-Boy is the finest chair a man could hope for in this lifetime, certainly far superior to any king's throne. Have you ever seen a throne, like the ones on Game of Thrones? Not comfy. Some thrones are made of gold and bedecked with jewels. But gold and jewels do not caress the nether regions. The opposite, really. So give me a BarcaLonger any day. In fact, let's just look at some more vintage recliner ads, eh?

"Santa, it's been three days. Is everything all right at home?"

"Okay, Gretchen, you can sit in the special chair, too. When the men aren't using it."

"We need to talk about your drinking, Helen. It's awesome. Keep it up."

Would you believe Ted died 20 minutes ago? You would?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pharus literally can't even right now

A few panels of Pharus in "action."

#winning
Pharus does not have time for your bullshit, okay? In addition to being a major star of the funny pages, he's also dying. Yes, because of us selfish surface dwellers and our rampant pollution, this poor little fish-boy is terminally ill, beyond all medical hope, a goner for sure. He should have an expiration date stamped on his clammy little forehead. And, to make matters worse, Spider-Man's half-crazy, half-stupid wife, Mary Jane, has recklessly decided to pick him up as if he were a big yellow football and just tote him around New York until she finds someplace to put him. That can't be good for him. What's she looking for? A night deposit box, maybe?

Okay, some backstory is necessary here. The current plot in the inaccurately-named newspaper comic strip The Amazing Spider-Man has Spidey duking it out with Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner. It's tough to know whom to root against here, since they're both dicks. As readers of the strip know, Peter Parker is lazy, selfish, incompetent, and prone to terrible wisecracks. But Namor's no prize pig himself. He has the snooty, imperious manner and flowery diction of a would-be alien conqueror from a 1950s sci-fi movie. It doesn't help that he habitually wears some kind of shiny, quilted vest-thing over his bare, hairless chest, nor that he has the most jagged eyebrows and the sharpest widow's peak in the comics business.

But it is Pharus, the sick little Atlantean boy, who has truly captured the nation's heart since he was introduced by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber on October 26, 2015. Namor dragged him up to the surface, where he can sort of breathe with the aid of special pills for a short while, as tangible evidence of the terrible effect we are having on those who call the ocean their home. And America has been in the grip of Pharus-mania ever since then. His design seems somewhat inspired by Zan and Jayna, the Wonder Twins from The All New Super Friends Hour, except that Pharus is much less prone to tomfoolery, doesn't seem to have any super powers, and noticeably lacks a monkey sidekick. With those qualities, it's no wonder he's been such an immediate sensation.The character is a non-stop delight, whether he's begging to be let go:

Wasn't "Let Me Go (Surface Woman)" a Billy Ocean song from 1986?

Whining like a bitch:

Manhandled by Mr. and Mrs. Spider-Man.

Or just lying unconscious on his pitiful little stretcher:

Truthfully, this is 90% of what Pharus does.

And if you're still not convinced of the character's innate lovability, just feast your eyes on this little collage, which I humbly call Big Ol' Wall O' Pharus Faces, No. 1.

So. Much. Pharus. (And, yeah, he turns blue on the weekends. I know.)

A star, clearly, is born. Hollywood execs, get out your checkbooks now. This kid's going places.

Ed Wood Wednesdays: Greg Dziawer on 'Operation Redlight' (1969)

Real-life American GIs with Vietnamese prostitutes in Saigon, 1967.

Note to readers: Once again, this is the time of the week when I hand the reigns of Dead 2 Rights over to Greg Dziawer, who has graciously consented to continue the Ed Wood Wednesdays series for me. This week, Greg has been delving into one of the "missing-in-action" films on Ed Wood's screen-writing resume. Let me thank Greg again for the time and effort he has put into reviving this series. And now, without further ado, here's Greg. J.B.

A Descent into Operation Redlight

One of the most elusive titles in Ed Wood's filmography remains Operation Redlight, a film that has yet to turn up. Any reviews from its era have not survived into the internet era (or have eluded me). It was briefly mentioned here by Joe in a previous Ed Wood Wednesdays article, as part of a review of the Ed-scripted The Undergraduate, owing to both films being produced by the  same man, Jacques Descent. I recently contacted Mr. Descent and happily received a quick reply with plenty of fresh details:
Jacques "Jack" Descent
"I purchased the rights to Ed Wood's book called Mama House, which I produced as Operation Redlight. Ed wrote the screenplay, and Donald Doyle directed, and of course it featured also Ed. It was a co-production with Marty, a friend that put up part of the financing. Marty was the owner of American Film Lab on La Brea Ave in Los Angeles and one of the conditions to obtaining part of the financing from Marty was that his film laboratory would process the dailies. 
The film was shot in 11 days with exteriors in Canoga Park and all interiors at the former house of Norma Talmadge in the Los Feliz Hills. This was definitely a low budget venture and the lab ran into a problem from the first day of production so the whole film was shot without ever seeing a daily. Eventually after the wrap party Marty informed me that all the exposed film was processed in one evening and because of problems and break down over 35% of the exposed film was ruined."
A Bill Ward cartoon
Jack, as he signed this message to me, may be recollecting an original manuscript with that title. The also-elusive paperback was published by Tiger Books/Powell Publications the same year as the film was produced. Release information is yet unknown. In Nightmare of Ecstasy, it's identified as Mama's Diary. In Jack's own filmography and subsequently on the film's IMDb page, the only actor listed is Ed. 1969 was a busy year for the writer/thespian, including two additional adaptions of his screenplays in which he starred: The Photographer (aka Love Feast) and Misty (aka Nympho Cycler), commonly listed as from 1971 but likely shot in '69 and released in '70. The book summary in Nightmare sounds amazing, and at 224 pages this is one of the lengthiest – if not the lengthiest – of Ed's novels:
A popular sex novelist is “drafted” to run a chain of whorehouses in Vietnam. The characters are caricatures evoking the sex cartoons of Bill Ward. According to Kathy Wood, “Eddie treasured that book. It was something he did that he really liked and I liked it too...” Apparently, Wood wrote a screenplay of the book which was made into a movie Operation Redlight by Jacques Descent Productions. Wood was reportedly not entirely pleased with the results.
It's fascinating to imagine Ed playing the “popular sex novelist”, and a tribute to low-budget exploitation film-making that Vietnam was represented by southern California and the environs of a faded Hollywood star's mansion.

A 16 room/6 bath Venetian villa that Norma Talmadge shared with Buster Keaton's producer Joe Schenck, The Cedars, as it became known, makes quite the luxurious Vietnamese brothel! The property – in the hills overlooking Los Angeles – also appears in Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd. (1950). More recently owned by fashion designer Sue Wong, the estate has housed Errol Flynn, Jimi Hendrix, Dennis Hopper (scenes from Easy Rider were shot there, and the wrap party was held there), Lou Reed, and Arthur Lee of the band Love through the years. Howard Hughes played the piano in the solarium, and Marilyn Monroe partied there. Bela Lugosi and Ralph Bellamy stayed there. And also Johnny Depp, as he was “channeling Ed Wood."

The Cedars today, its angels, saints, and lions restored.

If Ed was, indeed, “not entirely pleased with the results,” he nonetheless curiously saw fit to supply Jack with another screenplay just a year or two later. The paycheck, understandably, was preeminent. In future Ed Wood Wednesdays, we'll hopefully have much more to share about  Operation Redlight and Jack Descent. Needless to say, we heartily thank Jack for sharing!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

'Apartment 3-G' is going away, and we all need to feel bad about that.

A Sunday Apartment 3-G from the days when the strip was drawn by Alex Kotzky.

November 21, 2015 is fast approaching, citizens. The execution date of Apartment 3-G, the long-running soap opera strip, looms, and there is little we can do to stop it. After 54 years, a staple of the funny pages will be gone forever, virtually unmourned by all but a dwindling handful of fans. Its executioners, the decision-makers at King Features Syndicate, probably consider this a mercy killing. A3G, once one of the best-drawn strips in the business, has been in alarming decline for at least a decade and a half, with the last year in particular being downright embarrassing. The strip's original writer, Nicholas P. Dallis, and original artist, Alex Kotzky, both died back in the '90s. The current creative team consists of writer Margaret Shulock, who also contributes to the underwhelmng humor strip Six Chix, and artist Frank Bolle, a comic book veteran who is now 91 years old and clearly no longer at the peak of his powers.

Sadly, I only caught up with Apartment 3-G during its waning years, and this was due to the strip's regular appearances on Josh Fruhlinger's satirical blog, The Comics Curmudgeon. By then, Dallis and Kotzky were both long gone, and the strip's characters had already devolved into inexpressive, mannequin-like automatons who stiffly interacted with each other in front of bland, interchangeable backdrops, complete with standard props that could pop up anywhere. Some fans even started nicknaming these all-purpose set decorations: "Drapey," "Lampy," etc.

A recent Apartment 3-G featuring Drapey and Lampy in the second panel.

And yet, aided by Fruhlinger's frequent and piquant commentary, I did find myself getting involved in the lives of A3G's lovelorn characters: three ambitious young women sharing an apartment in New York City. There was idealistic blonde teacher Lu Ann Powers, red-haired nurse Tommie Thompson, and, best of all, scheming, man-hungry Margo Magee, who has held any number of ill-defined jobs over the years, including talent agent and event planner. In the strip's heyday, these characters were modeled after, respectively, Tuesday Weld Lucille Ball, and Joan Collins. Today they look -- and act -- more like the generic humanoids you'd find in a first aid pamphlet. The cast is rounded out by the gals' kindly neighbor, Professor Aristotle Papagoras, and a whole host of relatives, suitors, professional associates, and romantic rivals.

I won't kid you folks and say that  Apartment 3-G is one of the greatest comic strips of all time. It's not. In fact, in the last year, it has been allowed to lapse into near-total incoherence. The current, badly bungled storyline, in which Margo suddenly lapses into a coma only to recover almost instantly, may be what killed the strip off forever. It seemed that the only people reading A3G by then were those who were making fun of it. So King Features Syndicate pulled the plug. The long-running feature is not going out with a bang, nor even with a whimper. It's just going. There is some speculation that the strip will not even bother to tie up its existing plots or give its main characters a proper sendoff.

This feels all wrong. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, Apartment 3-G was once kind of magnificent. It was certainly a part of newspaper readers' lives for decades. And now it's unceremoniously being given the hook, like a bad Vaudeville act that's outstayed its welcome. That's almost too sad to contemplate. What the strip really needed was an all-new creative team who really cared about the characters and wanted to tell great stories about them. But that's not going to happen.

So farewell, Margo Magee. May you cause as much havoc in the next realm as you did in this one.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Did I ever tell you about the time I met Gunnar Hansen?

A photo of Gunnar Hansen in his iconic role.

Gunnar "Leatherface" Hansen died yesterday at the age of 68 from pancreatic cancer. I feel I should say something about that, because I routinely count The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) among my favorite films of all time, and Gunnar's a major part of that. I first saw the film sometime back in the '90s, when video stores still existed. I was making a point of seeing just about everything filed under "HORROR" at the local Family Video, and I thought I'd finally check out TCM, a movie I knew by title and reputation but had never actually screened. I don't know exactly what I was expecting, probably something cartoonish and over-the-top, but it certainly wasn't this: a weird, intense, almost artsy movie with the feeling of a genuine nightmare. In fact, this is one of the few movies to ever work its way repeatedly into my dreams. And in those dreams, frequently, is Gunnar Hansen, the man-mountain, with his blood-soaked apron, wildly unkempt hair, and mask made of human skin. Danny Peary once wrote that Gunnar Hansen makes one of the most memorable first appearances in cinema history, and it's true. When he comes bounding into the frame, wielding that sledgehammer, well... Let's just watch the scene together, huh?



There's nothing like the finality of that sliding door at the end of the scene. Tobe Hooper wanted audiences to know that the '60s were over, and he sent Gunnar as his 6'4", 300-pound messenger. In this respect, Leatherface is a hammer of God or maybe a chainsaw of God. In time, I've come to understand Leatherface as the loyal, simple junkyard dog protecting his family's property. His brothers, the Hitchhiker and the Old Man, are the sadistic sickos in the clan. Their (big) little brother is just following orders. It's interesting that Tobe Hooper rarely, if ever, leaves us alone in the presence of the killers. Besides the iconic "danse macabre" at the end of the movie, the one major exception is that marvelous little scene in which Leatherface is shown in a dither after placing Pam, his home's second intruder of the day, on a meathook. After dispatching Pam, the butcher runs down the hall of his corpse-strewn home, looks out the window to see if anyone else is coming, whimpers in utter confusion and dismay, then sits down and buries his head in his hands. "What else could go wrong today?" he seems to wonder.

I've dutifully watched all (or most of) the Chainsaw sequels and reboots, but no film in the franchise can touch the original for pure visceral power. Those other movies are trying to be shocking; the original is shocking. Maybe it's because its production was famously unpleasant, difficult, and even dangerous. The story is fictional, but some of the horror we're witnessing in Chainsaw is real. I've learned this over the years from DVD commentaries, articles, and documentaries about the subject. In those, Gunnar Hansen proved himself to be the very opposite of his character. When talking about the movie, he was uncommonly gentle, intelligent, and well-spoken, with a good sense of humor.

When I met Gunnar Hansen in person, he proved to be all of those things. Normally, I stay away from the convention circuit, but when my hometown of Flint played host to a massive comic book show about 15 years ago, I decided to attend because... well, frankly, because there was a young lady who said she'd be there and whom I wanted very much to impress at the time. It didn't work out with me and this young woman, a big Sailor Moon fan, but the convention did give me the opportunity to sidle up to Gunnar Hansen's table. This show was mainly geared toward comic books and animation, so Gunnar wasn't at all busy. We talked for quite a while, and he was incredibly gracious and patient. A class act all the way.

Good night, Gunnar Hansen. Maybe we'll meet again in my nightmares.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

A phantom menace... named Dennis

It's tricky to put Dennis side-by-side with real people and not have him look freakish.

Today's Dennis the Menace, pictured above left, offers a most intriguing alternate timeline: Dennis Mitchell need never have been born at all. Imagine that world. George Wilson, 30 pounds lighter and sporting a full head of chestnut-colored hair, would be enjoying an active and inventive sex life with his wife, Martha. Their coupling would be so loud, in fact, that it could be easily overheard by their childless neighbors, Henry and Alice Mitchell, whose marriage would still be as cold and loveless as it is now. Oh, yeah. They were always a bad couple. Dennis' birth just exacerbated an already-terrible situation.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Peggy Gravel for President! (We might as well.)

Do you want REAL change in America? Peggy Gravel's the woman for the job!

Foreign poster for the film.
Folks, I have found the ideal candidate for the 2016 presidential election. She's tough, she's well-spoken, and she's definitely not afraid to assert herself. Better yet, she accurately portrays the belief system of millions upon millions of voting Americans. Her name is Peggy Gravel, and she's a married mother of two from the Guilford section of Baltimore.

Does it matter that Peggy Gravel is merely a fictional character played by Mink Stole in John Waters' 1977 film Desperate Living? I honestly don't think so. One of the current GOP frontrunners, Donald Trump, is essentially a fictional character invented for the media, and all of the candidates are "playing a role" to one extent or another. So why not go all the way and nominate a made-up character from a movie?

Does it matter that Peggy Gravel is a murderess with a long history of mental illness? Of course not! This is America, the land of second, third, fourth, and fiftieth chances! And, besides, you think all those previous presidents who served in the military didn't kill bunches of people? Peggy only killed one, maybe two people, tops. As for the mental illness thing, have you heard Ben Carson lately?

But don't take my word for it. Let Peggy Gravel explain herself in her own words. Here are some choice Gravel quotes for the media to pore over. (NOTE: Feel free to substitute "America" for "Mortville" and "country" for "town" when quoting Peggy.)

What is it with the Coen Brothers and immobile old men?

Michael Hogan as Otto Gerhardt in FX's Fargo.

Have you been watching the second season of Fargo, Noah Hawley's vast, expansive adaptation of the 1996 Coen Brothers classic, on FX? I'll assume you have. Of course, this season, like the previous, is packed with references not only to the original movie but to other titles in the Coen canon as well. This season's UFO gimmick seems to derive from The Man Who Wasn't There, for instance, while the Waffle Hut location seems like a nod to The Ladykillers. But the weirdest trope to emerge in the series, by far, is represented by Michael Hogan's character, Otto Gerhardt, the patriarch of a regionally-powerful North Dakota crime family. At first glance, Otto is an obvious counterpart of Harve Presnell's business tycoon Wade Gustafson from the '96 film. The two actors even look nearly identical. But a strange thing happens to Otto in the first episode: he suffers a debilitating stroke and is rendered mute and immobile thereafter. He's still very much a part of the plot, but he's doomed to sit and watch the horrible events unfolding all around him, unable to participate. If you saw the last episode, you know how difficult this can be for him.

What's really weird is that Otto is the latest in a whole string of motionless, speechless, geriatric men in the work of Joel and Ethan Coen. The boys can't get enough of this character type, it seems. But why? How has this become such a strong archetype for them? Let's trace this odd behavior back to its roots.

Harry Bugin as Pete in Barton Fink.

Way back in 1991, accomplished New York musician and actor Harry Bugin played the understated role of Pete, the seedy Hotel Earle's terminally-depressed elevator operator, in Barton Fink. Although Pete was a man of very, very few words, he was at least able to engage in some rudimentary dialogue with John Turturro. The Coens must have fallen in love with Bugin's craggy, downtrodden appearance, as they brought him back as the scheming Aloysius in The Hudsucker Proxy three years later. Harry's real claim to pop culture immortality, however, arrived in 1998, when he portrayed Arthur Digby Sellers in The Big Lebowski. In the film's tangled plot, Sellers is a former Branded writer who is now confined to an iron lung in the living room of his modest North Hollywood home. All Bugin has to do in the movie is lie on his back, wheeze, and look miserable. Sellers is little more than a noisy piece of furniture in this film.

"Now, Harry, what we want you to do is..."

Were the Coens done with immobile old men after this sterling example? They were not. In 2008, they released their "middle-age panic" comedy Burn After Reading. In it, John Malkovich plays Osborne Cox, a hard-drinking, short-tempered man who leaves his job at the CIA rather than accept a demotion. Cox is portrayed as a pretentious nitwit who has nothing of value to say, yet refuses to shut up. Ever. In one scene, Cox spends an afternoon aboard a yacht with his aged father, also apparently an ex-CIA man, and the son tells his dad about his ill-considered plan to quit his job and write his "memoir." The father does not talk, move, or react in any way, and at the end of the scene, we see Malkovich pushing him along the pier in a wheelchair. One gets the sense that this unfortunate, helpless man is being held hostage by his useless, long-winded son.

John Malkovich monopolizes the time of his invalid father in Burn After Reading.

And the Coens still weren't done, even after that bravura (uncredited) performance. In 2013, they gave the world Inside Llewyn Davis, the sometimes-comic, sometimes-tragic story of a 1960s folk singer who can't seem to find a foothold in the music business or in life. Throughout the film, the constantly-struggling title character debates whether he should continue on with his music or follow his father's example and become a sailor. This being a Coen Brothers movie, Llewyn is sabotaged by bad luck, bad timing, and his own bad choices at every turn, until virtually all doors seem closed to him. At one point, perhaps out of a vague sense of filial obligation, he goes to see his father, who is now wasting away in some godforsaken rest home. As you may have guessed by now, Hugh Davis (Stan Carp), remains still and silent throughout his "meeting" with his son. His room is so dim that the man himself is almost invisible, practically a ghost.

Stan Carp is a real chatterbox in Inside Llewyn Davis.

And that brings us to the present and season 2 of Fargo, where it looks unlikely that Otto Gerhardt will make any kind of recovery. It seems like Hawley was inspired by the characters from The Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading, and Inside Llewyn Davis and wanted to create the ultimate immobile Coen Brothers geezer. Unlike his predecessors, Otto is no one-scene wonder. No, he's still in the thick of it, stationary though he is. The last episode, in fact, put poor Otto at the epicenter of the violence and mayhem. It's an interesting twist on one of the strangest tropes I can ever remember. By the way, before we leave this topic, we must say a word or two about the mysterious, impossibly ancient Rabbi Marshak, the reclusive cleric portrayed by Alan Mandell in 2009's A Serious Man. Marshak is basically immobile and nearly speechless in that film, which he spends parked behind his impressive desk, but eventually he does open up a little in his momentous-seeming summit with the protagonist's pot-smoking son (Aaron Wolff), who has just survived his bar mitzvah. Only a man with Marshak's old school gravitas could possibly make Jefferson Airplane lyrics sound like a pronouncement from God. Behold:

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

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

Travel further into the "smut magazine" vortex with Edward Davis Wood, Jr.

REMINDER TO READERSGreg Dziawer has volunteered to continue the popular Ed Wood Wednesdays series for this blog, allowing me to concentrate on other writing projects. The following article is entirely Greg's work, which I am now happy to present to you, the Dead 2 Rights faithful. The crude censoring of images remains, unfortunately, a necessity. - J.B.


Pendulum's The Boy Friends and Ed Wood's "Captain Fellatio Hornblower"

Pendulum pushes the envelope into
gay and interracial terrain.
"There is no mistaking the thoughts in a man's mind!"
-Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda?
   
"He was naked and the young sailor with him in the back seat had the thirteen buttons of his front flap open and his manhood was rigid and being serviced by Paul. The boys in blue surprised the action with a double flashlight blast. There was no dressing or zipping up of trousers. They went to the station in the black and white as they were."
-from Ed Wood's uncredited story in The Boy Friends 

As Ed Wood toiled away at his desk Monday through Friday in the Pendulum editorial offices on West Pico in the late '60s/early '70s – the last of the few lasting and significant day jobs he ever held – his typewriter often drifted into a stream-of-consciousness reverie of pet themes, obsessions, confessional autobiography, oblique turns of phrase and mind, and – indeed –  even something akin to ecstasy. Which is as good an introduction as any to another long little-seen short story written by Ed at Pendulum. Though uncredited in The Boy Friends, a gay-themed magazine published by Pendulum circa 1969-1972, the magazine seller here both wisely identified and graciously scanned it. You can guess the theme of this Pendulum mag and this story from their titles.


Two gents just enjoying each other's company.
"Captain Fellatio Hornblower" by Ed Wood (uncredited)
The Boy Friends, Vol. 3, No. 3 (1971)

   An attorney just doesn't seem to make it unless he specializes in one particular vein of law. Anyway, that's the way Captain Ralph Henry Hornblower (late of the U.S. Navy and far from being a Captain - more like an Ensign), thought. And there was no one to argue with him, certainly not his landlord who rented him the entire penthouse suite of a tall office building.
     Of course Captain Hornblower (and his magical title) wasn't always the success he presently claimed. There were the lean years right after World War II in which he served. There was the struggling through law school, and the time he was caught having a fruity session with one of his classmates, at the all male school. But it was better that the incident be kept quiet than to have him expelled and with all the notoriety that might accompany such a scandal. Besides, it was thought, boys will be boys, and being such they are always investigating things . . . even their bodies . . . or the body of the boy in the next bunk to him. It was one of the hazards of a one sex school.
     And if we pin-point it right down to the nitty gritty, the one time he was caught wasn't the first time he'd done such a thing and it certainly wasn't the last. Captain Ralph Henry Hornblower was quite the rounder, and if the nick name started anywhere, it started in those law school days. And the name stuck with him throughout his own circles and cliques.
     Captain Fellatio Hornblower!
     And to the Captain it was a badge of acceptance, a badge of honor.
     But the badge did little for his general law practices when he went out into the make a buck world. There was too much general for the Captain and very few clients. Thus he hit upon the one program which turned out right for him. There had been a time that he, starving, and an author, starving, sat down to bite a crust of bread over a bottle of cheap wine and eat a few other physical morsels, that the author decided he should quit writing about the world and places he'd never been. He should write only about the things he knew and start selling for money instead of rejection slips.
     This hit home for the Captain also. After all, what did he know about general law except what he learned from law books? And there was a general law practitioner on every street corner and hundreds more in every tall office building. He had to specialize, and like his writer friend, he had to specialize in what he knew.     Thus back to the law libraries and to the musty books dealing with all the sexual deviations known to mankind, but especially to homosexual relationships where it concerned the law. And it would appear homosexuality of any kind had a hell of a lot of relationships with the law, when discovered. Yet he couldn't find one attorney who specialized in that one phase of crime in the entire town. There was a built-in market for him. It takes one to know one. It certainly takes one to understand one. And Captain Fellatio Hornblower was the ONE.
     He didn't have to advertise even if advertising was permissible in his profession. One case, selected because he was on the right spot at the right time when an arrest was made put his name up high. He simply presented the boy with his card which simply read HORNBLOWER, then an address and phone number. It might have smelled a bit of the old ambulance chaser, but it was only a one time operation and the word got around like wildfire and was accepted just as the wheat accepted quickly the wildfire.     Hornblower moved up quickly in the legal world, once he had made the change over, and continued to climb the ladder of success until he reached the penthouse offices, with an apartment and bar attached for special occasions. And there were many special occasions, and the more financially secure he became, the more lavish were his special occasions.     However, the one thing for sure: if a client got Fellatio to blow his horn the courts stood up and took notice.
     A successful lawyer first charges a lot of money, and second wins a lot of cases. But then a lawyer doesn't become successful and make a lot of money if he doesn't win cases. Fellatio Hornblower seldom lost a case, that's how good he was. He had a good voice, a resounding one when he wanted, but most of all he had convincing tones which could sway the hardest of jurors. And strange as it may seem it appeared most of the time that the jurors were waiting to be swayed and enjoyed the process. He was a showman from the word go, and along with the medical terms for the things his deviate clients might have perpetrated, he sparced his words with the hard core terms which shocked, but enlightened the listeners.
     There were none, even the most ignorant, who didn't know exactly what he was talking about. And there were none that didn't hang onto each word he spoke and dangle expectantly for the next one.     But it wasn't only the jurors . . . the judge and the clients themselves were just as enthralled. His court appearances also assured a packed courtroom. The showman of the attorney's circle. The director of thoughts and curver of minds. The twister of fiction which always came out fact.
     "But then, who really wants to put these poor homos behind bars anyway? The greatest number don't even need a doctor. They don't go around molesting children. They are in the greater part consenting adults doing their thing."
     It always worked!
     "Besides! You the tax payer must pay for every inmate the prisons house. Leave those expenditures for the real criminals who are out to do harm to society. There is no harm in the makeup of the homo. Leave him alone and he is bound to leave society alone. Why ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there is a place in this world for each and every one of us . . . and we must understand that all of us have our own little problems. You! You! You! You and you! Do you think your problems rate that you be put away behind prison bars? And perhaps one or more of you may have the same problem as my client. Perhaps it might be one of your closest relatives or friends. Think about that! Would you care to be, or have your relatives or friends in the same situation as my client?"
     It always worked!
     Then there was the ceremony of paying Fellatio or the devil, his dues. And it always took place in the penthouse, starting with the desk where the check was presented, then to a congratulatory drink, then on into the bedroom where any other little gratuity might be in order. Gratuities were always in order, and the pleasure of being on the outside looking in caused those gratuities to be considerable in a tremendous amount of the incidents.
     "What do you do when you find out a client is really guilty?" questioned a friend.
     Fellatio could only laugh. "Good friend! All of my clients are guilty or they wouldn't have been picked up and charged in the first place. The only problem is what is the extent of their guilt. And is it worth making a big deal out of. Most of the cases are dropped because of insufficient evidence. Witnesses don't like to appear in such cases . . . all the embarrassment and that sort of thing. In the beginning the excitement of the moment, they will swear they have seen everything, but when it comes time to get them on the stand their memory has an immediate black-out, a failure which can't be redeemed. The more vile the deed the less available the witnesses.
     "In the kind of cases I handle it is seldom the arresting officer is on the scene during the commission of the act. He is the second party brought in and therefore must take the word of those who have been the informants. Very poor witnesses for the state. After all, what can they say except to repeat what they have heard second-hand? A complaint is made and they must act upon it. That's where I come in! A complaint is only a complaint until the facts are proven. Law is a very strange and intricate entity. But one by which we must all live and be governed.
     "The law is the law. But there are thousands of ways of interpreting the law. And that's the key to the entire operation. Interpretation!"
     Fellatio Hornblower knew whether or not he was going to win a case even before he entered the courtroom. In fact his brain was so intuned to what the eventualities would be that he knew how a case would run even before he took it. Fellatio liked to win. He didn't take cases he knew he'd lose. There were a few losses however, but it was through tricks he had not expected. There were not many.
     Then there was one Paul Mestroni who was picked up on the beach in an automobile. He was naked and the young sailor with him in the back seat had the thirteen buttons of his front flap open and his manhood was rigid and being serviced by Paul. The boys in blue surprised the action with a double flashlight blast. There was no dressing or zipping up of trousers. They went to the station in the black and white as they were. The arresting officers were first hand observers.      Fellatio Hornblower was contacted by Paul when he used his one phone call, and bail was set quickly by a desk sergeant. But the arraignment was delayed until the next morning.
     Fellatio had to know the story. "You know what this is going to do to you in the navy?" he asked of the young, frightened sailor who shook his head. "Well, the one thing for sure is you'd better unpack your civilian clothes."
     The shore patrol came into the station waiting room and took him from the police. He was not to be Fellatio's client.
     "Poor kid," muttered Paul as he got dressed from the bundle the police had tied his clothing into. "But if they stand around on street corners looking for some action they gotta' expect to be busted. After all, I didn't rape the punk . . . and he wanted five dollars. You know what that makes him! You should, you've handled enough of their kind."
     "You know, you guys never cease to amaze me. You go out looking for a score on any street corner. You pick up bums, tramps, bumboys, anything to get your jollies. You speak all kinds of words of love to them in preparation for getting his pants and drawers off, then when you get it, or get busted the love words cease to exist and he becomes what you went to pick up in the first place . . . bums, tramps, bumboys!" Fellatio Hornblower frowned deeply, the same frown he had used on tough witnesses or an obstinate juror. "Whore! I wonder which is the worst whore?"
     "Well," grinned Paul fixing his tie. "That's the name of the game I guess. You win some and you lose some. The street corner whores are always the losers. You know that!"
     "You keep saying, I know that. Listen mister. I don't know anything about your kind of life, physically that is. I look a case right up the ass and see where the dirt is. Then like a dutiful mother I wipe it clean. Then you go right back on the street the next weekend and the whole process starts all over again."
     "That's what keeps you in business barrister."
     "True, so true. Sadly true, but true. There are times I look forward to my retirement."
     Paul grinned again and slipped into his violet, velvet jacket. "You'd die within a year. Lawyer, you couldn't last a month without the entaglement of cases like mine. You going to get me off?"
     "I haven't heard all the facts yet."
     "That will come later. You going to get me off?" He opened the packet containing his wallet, watch and diamond ring. He selected five one hundred dollar bills and handed them to Fellatio Horn-blower.      "Just a retainer as usual."
     "Want to visit a psychiatrist for another six months?" Fellatio pocketed tl e money after folding it.
     "Hell, why not! Especially if the next one is as cute as the last one."
     "Okay! You'll get off with a slap on the wrist as usual. I'll see what I can do about the condition of the psychiatrist's appearance."
     A jury loves to think they have saved some poor boy from a life of torture in some prison when they feel he has a slight mental problem. It is easy to sway them into recommending the criminal proceedings be dropped and the poor lad have a few psychiatric treatments. No one wants to confine a sick person to a cell, unless he's dangerous or has committed some heinous crime. A poor homo getting mixed up with strange boys who lead them on . . . Paul would never see a second appearance in court . . . on that particular charge. There would be others. Of that Fellatio Hornblower could be positive. They always came back . . . most of them. But generally the crime was no more than the first time. The only difference was that the charge was a second or third or whatever. None of them ever changed. They could take psychiatric treatment from now until hell freezes over and they would come out with the same ideas as when they first went in.
     None of them wanted to change!
     That was the entire point. In order for any psychiatrist to help a person, that person has got to want to be helped. Like the alcoholic. He can't even start for a cure until he admits he is an alcoholic, then wants the cure himself. The homosexual male or the female, or any of the other deviates . . . they simply do not want any kind of a cure. They like life the way it is. Any change would take away from their personality. They want to retain that personality.
     "Like many of them want to be picked right out of the crowd," tells Fellatio Hornblower. "Not all of them of course. Some would rather stay in the background and not be discovered. But many want to be recognized. It does something for their ego. That particular difference takes them out of the realm of the common ordinary status and puts them in the different limelight. That's the way they must have it for a comfortable life.
     "At first when they're caught they are scared out of their wits. The cops and the booking and all the other processes that go with being arrested. But by the time they get to court there is the feeling that they have suddenly begun to enjoy their position in the unusual. Actually when the trial is over and they are once more on the street there is the feeling also of reluctance on their part that it's all over. Now they must return to their regular life and all the spectacle is gone.
     "Naturally I make it more of a spectacle, in the courtroom, than it really needs. But that's what wins cases. I blow my horn a lot. Fellatio Hornblower the hornblower. That's me, and I guess I get a lot of my kicks being in the limelight too. Right out there in the courtroom. And I'm always out to win. I hate to lose. That's why I don't lose very often. I can out-shout any other attorney in the country. I can out-shout just about anybody in the country. And as I learned a long time ago. The guy who shouts the loudest is the one who is listened to and heard the longest.
     "Hitler was a master of shouting. And he will go down in history for all time. Perhaps I won't go down in history, but you can bet your ass I'll be heard as long as I'm around."
     Fellatio Hornblower then ushered Paul Mestroni to the door. "Don't you want a little something extra . . . like in the bar and the bedroom?" questioned the startled man as he was shown to the door.     "You're not my type. I'm not one who goes around street corners for my character analysis. That's where you belong. See you in court . . . next time." 
• • •

The same black man on the cover of 
 Vol 4 No 1 from 1972
In the oft-ironic world of Wood, add this one to the list: The magazines that Ed wrote for in his latter years were purchased then, principally, for their proven assistance in achieving customer satisfaction. The stories and articles were likely rarely read. Flash forward 40-45 years, and issues now sell for 50+ times the original cover price... largely if not solely because they contain Ed's work. For which he was paid, we might add, an hourly wage that maybe covered a bottle of Imperial per story. 

Highlights:
  • "It might have smelled a bit of the old ambulance chaser, but it was only a one time operation and the word got around like wildfire and was accepted just as the wheat accepted quickly the wildfire."
  • "A successful lawyer first charges a lot of money, and second wins a lot of cases. But then a lawyer doesn't become successful and make a lot of money if he doesn't win cases."
  • "The director of thoughts and curver of minds. The twister of fiction which always came out fact."
  • "Like the alcoholic. He can't even start for a cure until he admits he is an alcoholic, then wants the cure himself. The homosexual male or the female, or any of the other deviates . . . they simply do not want any kind of a cure. They like life the way it is."
  • "Hitler was a master of shouting."

The Captain returns!
A follow-up story – "The Return of Captain Fellatio Hornblower" – appeared in Gallery's Man to Man, Vol. 1 No. 2 (not to be confused with the '50s/'60s pinup men's magazine). Gallery was a later magazine imprint as Pendulum diversified in its short existence (roughly 1967 to 1975), into SECS Press, EduSex, Pendulum Books, Calga, others and perhaps even others yet to be explored. The July/August issue of The Boy Friends featured a Dick Trent article about VD, "Where Did it Come From?," "The Sex Superman" by James Olsen, and the uncredited "Tattoos Are His Thing," all possibly written by Ed. "Captain Fellatio Hornblower" has – beyond pilfering the title to employ, given the context, the easy pun – no connection to C.S. Forester's series character. In and of itself, it is one of the most breathtaking of Ed's stories that I've ever read.

Next week's Wood Wednesday: "A Taste For Blood," credited to Ed, from Pendulum's lesbian-themed Hellcats.