‘Blood Splatters Quickly’: 5 Life Lessons From the Infamous Ed Wood


Most people know of Edward Wood, Jr. from Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, the 1994 “comedy-drama” starring Johnny Depp. Or if you haven’t seen the film, you may know of him simply as the cross-dressing auteur responsible for what is widely considered the worst film ever made, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and other cinematic effronteries, like Jail Bait and Bride of the Monster. The Burton film does a decent job of detailing a certain period of Wood’s life, even if it leaves out some of the sordid bits. We already know that Ed Wood (more or less) invented the genius-hack archetype in cinema, but that’s only half the story. As it turns out, he spent much of his later life writing articles and stories for proto-pornographic magazines in Hollywood.

This month, OR books released Blood Splatters Quickly, a collection of Ed Wood’s fictions from this period. Now, these stories are nearly impossible to characterize, other than to say that, collectively, they traverse a broad thematic realm populated by ghosts, murderers, transvestites (like Ed), cowboy lesbians, and village drunks, among other personalities… too numerous to list. I suppose if I could give a name to this genre, although frankly these stories are sui generis, I’d call it Horropornonoir.

Included with the collection is a hard-boiled yet heartfelt introduction by family friend Bob Blackburn. It does an admirable job of condensing Ed Wood’s life and career into a taut, hilarious, and sad biography. As I was reading the introduction — and the rest of this insane, brilliant collection — it occurred to me that I was learning invaluable lessons from Ed Wood’s life. (I learned, for example, that, as the title suggests, blood really does splatter quickly.) So I decided to pool these life lessons together here…

Lesson 1: Dress the Part

From the introduction to Blood Splatters Quickly:

Ed had his own personal kinks. He was a known cross-dresser who went by the name of “Shirley,” and many of his short stories, articles, and books dealt with transvestism as well as fetishism. In fact, his very first film, I Changed My Sex, otherwise known as Glen or Glenda, dealt with this subject.
… in fact, Ed liked to dress as his alter-ego Shirley whenever he was working on his film &TV scripts as well as his pulp fiction.

Lesson 2: Lie About Your Age

From the Introduction:

When World War II began, Ed was seventeen. He lied about his age and joined the Marines, where he was stationed in the South Pacific… He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart.

Lesson 3: Never Mix Your Drinks

From the Introduction:

He cranked out a lot of articles, “pictorial” descriptions, and short fiction, primarily from 1970—1974. That is where the short stories in this compendium mainly come from. Ed would take a thermos of vodka to work with him and by the end of the day, he would be smashed.

From the story “Epitaph for the Village Drunk”:

There were large beer steins in their hands. Nobody ever heard about cocktail glasses and if they did they’d never mention such dainty pieces of finery which belonged with the women… and no women were allowed in Barnaby’s Bar.

Lesson 4: Don’t Fail Better. Fail Worse.

From the Introduction:

He wrote and produced a play based upon his military service called The Casual Company which starred himself. It was panned by the few critics who took the time to see it. He tried to get a Western TV show off the ground titled Crossroads of Laredo, which failed to arouse any interest. He directed a few television shows and produced generic commercials, which similarly failed to sell. Ed persuaded George Weiss, a low-budget producer, to let him make what was originally going to be an exploitation film about the recent sex change of Christine Jorgensen…starring…Bela Lugosi as the godlike “puppet master.” The film tanked at the box office. Bernie [Bloom] repeatedly fired, then re-hired Ed, until Ed just became too unreliable and was finally let go for good.”

Lesson Five: Go Out on Bottom (Not on Top)

From the Introduction:

On the morning of Sunday, December 10, 1978, one week after the eviction, Ed Wood died of a heart attack. Kathy told me how Ed’s eyes were open and he “looked as if he had seen the face of death itself.” Ed Wood was cremated and his remains were scattered off the coast. Only a few friends attended the memorial service and the wake for Ed shortly thereafter.

From the story “Final Curtain”:

I walk slowly to it and raise the lid. SLOWLY — EVER SO SLOWLY — — and lean it against the window sill. My casket waits… It is in that moment I know I am going to climb into this cushioned box and permit the lid to close over me — THE FINAL CURTAIN…FOREVER…forever…forever.