Edward D. Wood, Jr. has been called “The Worst Director of All Time” and is a winner of the Golden Turkey Award. He has made some of the most laughable, and entertaining, films to ever come out of the independent Hollywood
scene. With classics like the hastily constructed Plan 9 From Outer Space (1958) and the surrealistically-autobiographical Glen or Glenda (1953) Wood has placed an indelible mark on the art of film production resulting in a big-budget life story by movie giant Tim Burton, titled Ed Wood (1994). There is a lesser-known sidelight to Wood’s career as a producer-writer-director-actor, almost another career entirely. Edward D. Wood, Jr. is one of America’s most prolific short story writers and novelists.
Beginning in 1963, just to make meager ends meet for his wife Kathy and himself (insert: “booze”), Wood began to write for some of the major California smut publishers (this does not include Wood’s unpublished, 1948 novel The Casual Company, a Marine comedy that led to his disastrous stageplay of the same name). He would continue to write novels, short stories and essays for the next fifteen years, until his death on December 10, 1978. In that time, Wood, under quite a large number of pseudonyms, is known to have penned at least 80 novels, hundreds of short stories and a slightly lesser amount of non-fiction.
There are more Wood writings discovered every year, usually under another of his many pseudonyms. Publishers like Gallery, Pendulum, Calga, Pad and others would publish sex, smut and sleaze novels at a breakneck pace through the sixties and seventies, and Wood, by all accounts, was the largest on staff “producer,” meaning the volume of his work was a great deal more than his fellow writers. At the same time, Wood wrote many soft and hardcore porn screenplays for A. C. Stephen, Jacques Descent and Joe Robertson.
1963 saw the publication of Wood’s Black Lace Drag, a torrid tale of transvestite hitman Glen and his alterego Glenda (sound familiar). BLD was relatively popular and would go through multiple printings under different titles and pseudonyms. It is also known as Killer in Drag and Twilight Land and has been reprinted up until 1998 by 4Walls 8Windows. In 1967, Wood penned a sequel called Death of a Transvestite. This detailed Glen’s story, as told by himself, while awaiting his punishment on Death Row. Transvestite has also been reprinted many times, 1998 again being the most recent.
In between BLD in 1963 and Transvestite in 1967, Wood penned at least 11 more novels. This period in Wood’s literary career is usually called the Golden Age. Less concerned with the hard-core sex, Wood concentrated on unique characters and wacky situations, all with the undeniable Wood touch (strange grammar, pink angora and transvestites, among others). In this period Wood wrote Orgy of the Dead (1966, less than a straight adaptation of the film, but more of a compilation of horror/sex short stories), Parisian Passions (1966, aka 69 Rue Pigalle), Devil Girls (1967, filmed in 1999 by Bowlegged Man Media) and Bloodiest Sex Crimes of History (1967, “non-fiction”) among others. Early on, Wood teamed his fascination with classic horror movies with the publisher’s demands for sex and, quite literally, started to build his own genre.
Also in this period, Wood penned his only other known series, a novel and it’s sequel. In 1966, Watts… the Difference was published under the name Ray Jones. This peculiar little story dealt with a steamy romance among the fires and looting of the Watts riots in Los Angeles. Pad Library, the book’s publisher, quickly had Wood (under his own name) write Watts… After (1967) based on the popularity of the first novel. Wood was known to be fearful for the next few years about the retribution to be exacted on him for writing the novels from activist groups like the Black Panthers. He was also very, very drunk most of the time.
In this excerpt from Side-Show Sirens (1966, aka Purple Thighs, Pad Publishing), Wood’s fetishes are clearly evident, as is his unique take on grammar and the uses of English:
“I’ll take your word for it.”
“What can I do you out of?”
“Come over and see that big fuzzy boy of yours.”
“The Snow Man?”
“I don’t mean Donna, your half-and-half.”
Duke laughed broadly. “Come on back!”
The two men entered the main entrance in a quick turn, both having to step aside briefly to permit the skinny man, the midget and the fat lady to squeeze by them. The freaks were again heading for the platform and another ballyhoo.
1968 and 1969 saw Wood’s writing move into the Silver Age. Some of Wood’s unique plot construction and characters were still there, but the stories themselves were more preoccupied with explicit sex. In this period, Wood published 19 known novels and a couple of non-fiction pieces on the film Orgy of the Dead (1965), in magazines like Naked Films (1968, Pheonix/Corinth). The Silver Age also saw Wood move away from his horror/sci-fi roots. Titles like Night Time Lez (1968, Columbia), The Gay Underworld (1968, Viceroy), The Sexecutives (1968, filmed as For Love or Money the same year), Hell Chicks (1968, Private Edition) and Mamas Diary (1969, filmed as Operation Redlight the same year) dominated Wood’s writing.
There is an emphasis on gay, lesbian and biker themes in the Silver Age that was only hinted at during Wood’s Golden Age. The Gay Underworld is a selection of stories, “…ripped from today’s headlines!” Each vignette is a transvestite-committed crime, and each includes it’s own fair share of sex. Incest, gay sex, transvestism and orgies were everyday themes for Wood during this period. Wood is true to his transvestite-form in this selection from The Gay Underworld:
Once more his eyes opened up in pure pleasure as he took the panties into his own hands. He rubbed the material to his cheek as he had the dress. Then he spread out the crotch and kissed it. As the material remained over his lips his eyes again found the naked girl and he talked through the crotch of the panties. “Ohh, how much you don’t know what you got girlÃ¢Â?Â¦ How much you don’t knowÃ¢Â?Â¦” He took the panties from his lips and momentarily buried his face in them. After a time of further studying and feeling the soft material he slipped them on under the mini slip.
Also during this period, Wood wrote Raped in the Grass (1968) and Bye, Bye Braodie (1968), for Pendulum’s Pictorial division. The concept of these novellas was truly interesting. Supposedly, the stories are adaptations of actual movies (a Central American revolution and a creepy All Girl’s School, respectively), and the books contain “stills” from the movies on every other page. What was more than likely the case, a series of photographic stills were taken and the story written around the photos… without a movie. From Wood’s forward to Raped in the Grass:
A guerilla band of near-wild men and one sadistic lesbian capture two young girls on a tripÃ¢Â?Â¦ a trip that either one of them will ever forget. They thought they would rather die than submitÃ¢Â?Â¦ but they found a new world of emotional release with these uninhibited, savage people.
1970 to 1972, Wood’s Bronze Age, saw the publication of more short stories and pseudo-non-fictional “studies,” than novels. Wood’s stories appeared in, at least, 20 publications (a few of which, like Horror Sex Tales, were completely Wood written and edited). Getting back to his horror/sci-fi roots, for the short story production at least, Wood penned classics like “Final Curtain,” in Belly Button (Feb. 71), “Dracula Revisited,” in Wild Couples (Mar. 71) and “That Damned Faceless Fog,” from Beavers (Jun. 72). Wood contributed many stories to single issues, and sometimes dominated the entire magazine (writing and editing), for a few “experimental” periodicals from Gallery Publishing. Horror Sex Tales (1972) was a completely Wood-produced magazine with stories including “The Witches of Amau Ra,” “Rue Morgue Revisited,” and “Scream Your Bloody Head Off.” Wood’s penchant for sci-fi was quelled with his inclusion in both issues of Weird Sex Tales, Volumes I and II (1972) and Legendary Sex Tales (1972). Another horror/sex magazine, Monster Sex Tales (1972), also appeared on the stands with a few Wood stories enclosed.
While writing the countless short stories, Wood’s Bronze Age also saw him write and co-write several “scholarly” dissertations on sex, all published by SECS Press (the Sex Education Correspondence School, where Wood had written and directed a series of 12 – 8mm films to be sold to “students” of the school in 1971). During this time, Wood wrote (under the company-shared pseudonyms “Dr. T. K. Peters” and “Norman Bates” as well as his own name and private pseudonyms), among others, A Study of Sexual Practices in Witchcraft and Black Magic (1971), A Study of a Black Sexual Habits and Techniques (1971), The Sexual Man, Book II (1971) and The Sexual Woman, Book II (1971). During this period, Wood also wrote 3 complete novels. They were The Only House (1972, adapted into the XXX film Necromania, written and directed by Wood and the film The Only House, written by Wood both in 1972), To Make a Homo (1971) and Mary-Go-Round (1972), all for Little Library Publishing.
The final phase in Wood’s literary career, the Vodka Age, is a little less illustrious than his previous works. From 1973 until his death in 1978, Wood produced only a handful (for him, at least) of written works and films. Consumed by alcoholism and facing evictions every other month, Wood worked steadfastly on a Bela Lugosi biography, title Lugosi: Post Mortem. Wood admitted that the Lugosi book was his best work and was in the final stages of finishing it when Wood, and wife Kathy, were escorted from their apartment by the Sheriff’s Department. They were only able to take a few suitcases with them and, sadly, the Lugosi manuscript was inadvertently left behind. Presumably, it was thrown out with the rest of the Woods’ possessions. During this period, Wood continued to write smut. Although his pace had been slowed by the ravages of vodka, gin, whiskey and beer, Wood persevered and penned 7 complete books and had multiple short stories included in the anthologies like Tales for a Sexy Night, Volumes I and II (both 1973) and a non-sex story, “Pearl Hart,” about the last and only female stage-coach robber in the United States. This story appeared in Outlaws of the Old West (1973, Mankind Publishing). Wood continued to publish short stories and articles in men’s magazines during The Vodka Age. His work appeared in, at least, 8 magazines including Deuce (Feb. 1973), Bi-Sex (Feb. 1975) and Goldiggers (July 1975).
Wood’s finest achievement in this period (aside from the unfinished Lugosi biography) was his two-volume set on sex films called A Study in the Motivation of Censorship, Sex and the Movies (1973, Edusex Press). These volumes spotlight many films of the genre (exclusively Wood’s later works) and discusses the ramifications (as filtered through Wood’s warped perceptions) of censorship on the film industry. Wood’s last known published work, The Swedish House, in 1978 has yet to be located.
Forced out of yet another apartment in December of 1978, Wood and Kathy took refuge at the home of veteran horror actor Peter Coe. Wood died of an alcohol-induced heart attack on December 10, 1978 in Coe’s bedroom. He was watching football. Many of Wood’s friends believe that having to write the porn for a living was Wood’s real killer. His drinking served to stave off the sting of missing pride that the porn caused, and the heart attack just helped the process along. The fact still remains that Wood, even in a drunken stupor, accomplished feats of writing unheard of today. At least 80 novels, hundreds of short stories, 100+ screenplays and a bevy of non-fiction articles can all be safely attributed to Edward D. Wood, Jr., 1943’s Fastest Typist in New York State and one of America’s Most Prolific Writers (subject matter notwithstanding). Following is a critical analysis of Wood’s seminal work, The Gay Underworld, by known transvestite-criminal, Hayden Davis.
The Gay Underworld (1967) Viceroy Books:
A Critical Analysis by Hayden Davis, DDS
(first published in Filmfax Magazine, Winter 2000-01)
In choosing this volume, as opposed to Mr. Wood’s other tomes, I was struck by the notion of criminal tranvestism. The Criminal Drag, as we call ourselves, is a strange and beautiful creature. Due to a faulty gene (XYY in my case), the predisposition to a life of crime has already been decided by Ishtar, God, Kali, L. Ron, etc. The need to wrap myself in the soft fineries of women’s clothing while I commit my heinous deeds? That is purely instinctual. It resembles a wolf’s inherent knowledge of the pack hierarchy. It is not explained, it is just known. I just know that I am a hard-core criminal, wrapped in the silky embrace of lingerie. I feel I have an affinity for Wood and his feelings.
The Gay Underworld, in my only point of historical contention, is said to be, from the prologue, “Ripped from newspaper headlines!” I disagree. As a student of transvestite and transsexual criminal activity I didn’t recognize a single scenario. Of course, similarities to mine, and my friends, own actions are apparent… but the cases themselves I do not believe exist. Other than the blatant fiction, the remainder of Wood’s opus is, in effect, true and accurate. The average reader will think, “Hells-fire! I can spot a drag a mile away!” or “Those things that he said are happening are as good as impossible!” You, Gentle Reader, are wrong. I know, because I’m right. Take, for example, these instances from the novel that I have had first hand experience in:
1) While not in the Navy, I was in the Coast Guard. Doing my time, quietly I came in contact with 3 Guarders (our cute, self-inflicted nickname) that would dress in women’s clothes, seduce men and then beat them over the head and take their money. Of course, these three men were Canadian immigrants.
2) Cigarette-sized penises are not uncommon. If anyone can find Tommy Loomis, from Flushing, MI, whom I played basketball with, then you will see the man of the Cigarette-Sized Penis. He is probably unmarried.
3) Victorian area philanderers, out to wed old women and steal their money, are notorious cross-dressers. My Great, Great Grandfather, Archibald Davis, wedded his 13th wife while wearing bodice and codpiece assembled to look like utters on a cow.
4) Rubber breast falsies are undetectable when worn with a bra or cemented to a stripper’s body. In this day and age, when breasts are more often than not silicone, the falsie is a breast purist’s dream.
There are many, many more instances where I believe that Wood has struck the nail on the head. You see, us Drags use our pseudo-feminine wiles to better ourselves or, most notably, to better our financial situations. Innumerable are the times that I have seduced a man as “Helga Dunderson.” I would take him back to my home, and even before he could utter the words, “Take me!” he would be knocked out cold (usually with the large, empty crystal decanter that I keep in my handbag). I would then rifle through his wallet, use his credit cards to buy exercise equipment from the television, and dump him naked in a Wendy’s Ã?Â¯Ã?Â¿Ã?Â½ parking lot.
The drag’s “quick change” is also very useful. When being pursued by officers of the law, one need only fling their linen skirt off, shimmy out of one’s blouse, ditch one’s wig and one becomes John Q. Public, esq., not Jane “Colt .45” Doe, convenience store hold-up master!
Edward D. Wood, Jr. uncannily has his finger on the pulse of the vein that comes straight from the heart of The Criminal Drag. Although Wood probably never committed an overt crime as a woman… I am sure he wanted to. We salute you and your work, Mr. Wood, the Janes, Helgas, Shirlees, Sallys, Alecias and Glendas of the world. May your gun ever smoke, and your hose never run.
Joliet State Prison