Slandered as a deviant and provocateur in some circles and worshipped as a cult figure in others, the work of director Ed Wood left a legacy of infamy. Although best-known for his abysmally applauded oeuvre, Plan 9 From Outer Space, which earned Wood the Golden Turkey Award for Worst Film Director, it was Wood’s idiosyncratic behavior of directing in drag, shoestring hustle and entourage of misfits—including his friendship with vampiric icon, Bela Lugosi—that has most fascinated fans and critics alike.
Characterized by his love of angora and kooky affability—eccentricities celebrated in Tim Burton’s film homage—Wood’s fetishistic proclivities soon gave way to the sleazy underbelly of pornographic pulp novels. Authoring such titles as Black Lace Drag and Orgy of the Dead, Wood countered his depraved plots by inter-splicing them with what a press release describes as “lengthy philosophical, sociological and psychological discourse.” Often writing under numerous pseudonyms and issuing erratic re-publications, the obscurity and sensationalism of Wood’s novels have both captured and eluded the attention of dedicated antiquarian collectors.
Now, curators, Michael Daley and Johan Kugelberg of NYC’s Boo-Hooray art gallery have amassed the most extensive collection of Ed Wood pulp novels known, debuting as the upcoming exhibition, Ed Wood’s Sleaze Paperbacks. Evolving from a core collection acquired from the science-fiction editor, Robert Legault, Kugelberg explains how Legault unveiled the mystique behind Wood’s evasive trail of aliases, “In the pre-Internet days when information was scarce he ‘discovered’ a couple of Ed Wood Jr. novels issued under pseudonyms by noticing similarities with other titles that were published under Wood’s name.”
Although the pseudonym debacle provided a “bibliographical mess that came out of the fly-by-night climate of sixties sleaze-smut publishing,” says Kugelberg, the significance of the collection impressed Cornell University, who purchased its entirety for their rare library. “The man is the art, and his strange personal narrative—World War II hero, transvestite, horror movie director, sleaze author—is endlessly fascinating,” surmises Kugelberg.
Ed Wood’s Sleaze Paperback opens at Boo-Hooray gallery with a reception, Wednesday, 2 November from 6:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. The show will run through 4 December 2011. 250 copies of the collection’s deluxe catalogue will be available.
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