Online Edition: Fall 1999

Killer in Drag
Death of a Transvestite

Ed Wood

Four Walls Eight Windows ($9.95 each)

by Kelly Everding

Ed Wood has inspired an avid following--he even has a religion named after him, Woodism--and the reason may lie in his intense desire to weave fantastic tales. Four Walls Eight Windows has committed to reissuing the notorious director's pulp fiction, stories otherwise doomed to extinction or the dark closets of collectors. These reissues open up a whole new side of "the worst filmmaker of all time," a man intent on telling his story one way or another, despite his lack of taste or talent. But he did have talent, which is evident and enjoyable in these books that will appeal to the noir enthusiast and the retro wannabe alike.

Wood's titillating prose transports one back to a time when men wore hats and women's breasts torpedoed from their torsos. But there's a twist to Wood's noir sensibilities--or maybe a sashay. His hero isn't your average killer for hire and this story isn't your average tale of death and mayhem. Glen Marker is a man of many secrets: a cold-blooded killer, yet a man with a heart of gold. But what's his game? As he awaits the electric chair, Glen promises to weave a fantastic story that defies convention, that goes against the norm. As he says bitterly between drags on a cigarette, "Stock answers seem to be a format for all things in this world."

Glen doesn't play by the rules--not by the cop's rules, and not by society's either. He likes to wear women's clothing, but don't think this in any way interferes with his love life. Killer in Drag and Death of a Transvestite follow the harrowing life of Glen, a.k.a. Glenda Satin, as he/she escapes across country with the cops and the very thugs who hired him in pursuit. Wood's empathy with Glen/Glenda is not a secret: Wood wore women's clothing too, but he was all man. Glen/Glenda is a hero trapped in a conservative culture that rewards repression and punishes true feeling. Glen dressed up as Glenda is more himself, more empowered; as Glen, he has a more difficult time repressing Glenda's musical voice, her poise, her panache. He is, in short, more in drag as Glen than as Glenda.

Ed Wood may have published as many as seventy-five books in his lifetime--many of which he adapted into spectacularly unsuccessful films. But his drive and determination to entertain and to unlock the hidden sexuality, the duality, in every person rivals that of Reich or Freud. One needn't be a full-fledged Woodist to listen.

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Fall 1999 Table of Contents