|Dr. Eric Vornoff mourns the life he left behind in Bride Of The Monster (1955).|
"Home? I have no home. Hunted, despised, living like an animal! The jungle is my home."
-Dr. Eric Vornoff (Bela Lugosi) in Bride Of The Monster
|Kubrick: Communication breakdown.|
Directors return to what interests them or what has worked for them in the past. Ed Wood is no exception to the rule. Watch his movies (or read his novels and stories, for that matter) and you'll notice certain stubbornly recurring themes: death, transvestism, alcoholism, etc.
But, occasionally, binge-watching a director's entire filmography -- or most of it, anyway -- reveals unexpected fixations. A few years ago, for instance, I noticed how Stanley Kubrick often showed his characters as being spatially isolated from one another and, thus, reliant on technology for communication. This is most obvious in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), in which his main characters are in outer space and can only speak to relatives or journalists back on Earth via television monitors. But then there is poor, lonely Wendy in The Shining (1980), trapped in a mountaintop hotel with her deranged husband and deeply disturbed son. Her only lifeline to the outside world is her CB radio, which she uses to speak to local lawmen, perhaps her only friends in the world. And then there is Dr. Strangelove (1964), a film in which the action takes place on three hyper-isolated fronts: the War Room in Washington, Burpelson Air Force Base, and a bomber plane called the Leper Colony. The whole movie hinges on long-distance communication between these three locations. Too often, messages are either not received or are misinterpreted along the way, ultimately leading to disaster.
|Portrait of Ed Wood as a young man.|
Home was not an issue for Ed in the first few decades of his life. As Greg Dziawer has ably pointed out in his articles about Ed Wood's early youth, the future director of Plan 9 From Outer Space lived with his family in various locations scattered throughout his hometown of Poughkeepsie. But, other than that, his childhood seems pretty sedate and predictable. He grew up in a stable, two-parent household and was able to make and maintain friendships with boys his age at school. Sure, his relationship with his brother, William, was marred by jealousy of the latter towards the former. And it's been suggested (albeit not without controversy) that Ed's cloying mother, Lillian, may be to blame for Ed's later cross-dressing. But at least little Eddie never had to worry about where his next meal was coming from or where he was going to sleep.
After Wood moved to Los Angeles in 1947 to pursue show business, his life became -- and would remain -- peripatetic. He worked in a variety of capacities in Hollywood over the course of 30 years, including actor, director, writer, producer, and even stuntman, but never won respect or acclaim in any of them. He worked in film, theater, and television, but none of these made him rich or famous (at least while he was alive). He established a few long-term working relationships with people like publisher Bernie Bloom and producer-director Stephen C. Apostolof over the years, too, but these didn't bring him anything like financial stability or security. If there is one fact upon which all observers can agree, it's that Eddie never had any money to his name. That can be a problem when the rent comes due. Eddie's downward spiral can be seen in the increasingly sad places he and his wife Kathy called home in Los Angeles.
Bob Blackburn kindly forwarded me a list of addresses supplied by Kathy Wood in a probate deposition. Circa 1954, she and Eddie lived on the 4000 block of Kingswell in Los Angeles, then on Mariposa in Hollywood, then at Lenai Apartments near Warner Bros. at the intersection of Warner Blvd. and Riverside Dr. In the 1960s, they used Ed's G.I. bill money to buy a little house at 6136 Bonner Street in North Hollywood. "Kathy always says that the biggest disappointment in their lives was when they lost [that] house," Bob reports. They closed out the decade at 11250 Tierra in North Hollywood. In the 1970s, they lived at 5217 Strom Ave. in North Hollywood, then finally moved into a grungy apartment at 6383 Yucca in Los Angeles, from which they were ultimately evicted. Along the way, when temporarily homeless, they had to move in with actors Ed knew, including Duke Moore and Peter Coe.
Ed Wood spent the last three decades of his life desperately looking for a home, both literally in Los Angeles County and figuratively within the motion picture industry. The dependable life he'd known on the East Coast was never to be replicated out West. Judging by his movies, "home" was always on Eddie's mind. But he approached this admittedly broad topic in a variety of ways. To simplify matters somewhat, I've divided my findings into a few major categories, starting with the one I consider most important.