Ed Wood saves
Reverend Steve Galindo, founder of the Sacramento-based Church of Ed Wood, delivers the gospel at this weekend’s Edwoodstock
In the beginning, 11-year-old Steve Galindo convinced his parents to let him watch director Edward D. Wood Jr.’s Plan 9 From Outer Space on cable television. And, so, he saw the film’s peace-loving aliens destroyed by aggressive humans, and his heart was touched. And he saw the day turn into night and the night turn into day, often within a single scene. And he saw the sets shake without cause and the flying saucers suspended from strings and Bela Lugosi’s brief cameo. Galindo saw all this, and he saw that it was Wood.
“I thought Ed Wood’s movies were the greatest movies of all time,” Galindo said. “I’d heard he was the worst director of all time, but when I saw Plan 9, I just didn’t see it as that bad. I saw the darkness and the music and the strange dialogue, and it was all a beautiful thing to me. I grew up loving Ed Wood. He was like an invisible friend to me. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I had movies.”
The young Galindo continued to watch Wood’s films throughout his school years, and he attempted to interest his friends in the B-movie oeuvre of the 1950s filmmaker given the Golden Turkey Award for Worst Director of All Time. During his senior year in high school, Galindo threw a party at his family’s home with a live band, plenty of Jolt Cola, and a steady rotation of Wood films. He called it Edwoodstock. In the midst of the marathon movie-watching event, a friend remarked, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this in a theater?”
Galindo had no inkling that he would someday head an internationally recognized Ed Wood religion. He had no idea that a theater far from his native Phoenix would hold Edwoodstock under a gold-leafed ceiling. Nonetheless, Galindo looked back at his friend and said prophetically, “That’s my dream, and one day it will happen.”
“I’m still having trouble believing this is going to happen,” the Rev. Steve Galindo admitted in a recent interview. “I’ve been thinking about this since 1992.” The first public Edwoodstock is scheduled for Sunday, October 17, at the Crest Theatre. Although Jolt Cola likely will be absent, the event will follow the original format of mixing local bands (Flip the Switch, the Helper Monkeys and Sacramento) with clips from Wood’s films and a full-length screening of Bride of the Monster, emceed by Cinema Insomnia host Mr. Lobo. Galindo also hopes to screen the self-explanatory Reenactments of Ed Wood Scenes Featuring People from My Work—a short film project he’s currently producing in the break room of the corporate bookstore where he’s employed.
At first glance, Galindo’s unassuming nature, long hair and scruffy beard offer no clues that he heads a religion with 3,000 followers—the Church of Ed Wood. However, a closer look reveals the leanings of his faith. A T-shirt showing Johnny Depp as Ed Wood (from Tim Burton’s biopic) hangs from his thin frame. Galindo’s nails are panted a bright purple, and his wrist sports a handmade bracelet with the letters “WWEWD?” Hidden from view on his left shoulder is a tattoo of the Woodian cross—a hybrid of a Christian cross and a capital letter E—with the words “Ed Wood Saves” written on banners above and below it.
If these Woodian symbols seem to borrow from and react to Christian symbolism, it’s not entirely by accident. Galindo’s religious upbringing was one part lapsed Catholic and one part atheist. “My mom is the typical Mexican parent,” he said. “When someone loses a job, she’ll light a candle, but she doesn’t go to church. My dad doesn’t believe in God at all. I remember being lectured about ‘How can God exist when the Holocaust happened?’ when I was, like, 8. Then my parents enrolled me in Catholic school because I was skinny and had glasses and they thought I’d get beaten up at public school.” These conflicting religious values presented a confusing mix of dogma for Galindo. “I guess I was Catholic through high school,” he conceded, “but I wasn’t getting much out of it.”
Still looking for spiritual insight, Galindo began taking religious-studies courses at Arizona State University. In 1996, Galindo had to create a Web site for a final exam. “The only things I knew about were Ed Wood and religion,” he said. So, he made an Ed Wood religion.
The original “Ed Wood equals God” site, which Galindo considered a joke, contained a list of the ways Ed Wood was like Jesus Christ. “I just made up some stupid stuff,” Galindo admitted, “but I had a lot of time and I loved Ed Wood, so I just kept adding to it.”
The basic philosophy of Woodism is simple—be yourself and don’t let reality stand in your way. “Ed Wood was proud of who he was in a time in which it was incredibly rare for someone to be an alcoholic, transvestite filmmaker,” Galindo explained. “In this day and age, it’s hard enough to go out in the morning without doing your hair.
“Ed’s dream was to make motion pictures,” Galindo continued. “The reality was, he didn’t have money, he didn’t have special effects, he didn’t have connections, he didn’t have a great screenwriting ability, and he did not have any actors. The point is, he didn’t let the reality of the situation get in the way of his dream of being a filmmaker. He had a punk, libertarian quality in an era of Leave It to Beaver. He could go out, unshaven and wearing a dress, down a shot of Imperial whiskey, smoke a cigarette and say, ‘Let’s make a film!’”
As Galindo’s site expanded with his writing—the part-autobiographical, part-theological “Lessons of Wood”—e-mails began pouring in. People from all over the world wanted to be baptized into the Church of Ed Wood. They even began sending money, a practice Galindo immediately discouraged. “I don’t need money to practice my religion,” he said. “That’s what sets Woodism apart from all other religions.
“I fully realize that the majority of people who get baptized into Woodism think it’s a joke,” Galindo admitted, “but for every 10 people, there’s always one or two who got burned by other religions or just never felt they fit in anywhere else. People who were like, ‘I’ve found something good in this.’” As the site’s one-year anniversary grew nearer, Galindo got more and more letters from people who were once depressed, lonely or even suicidal. They had found some kind of solace in Ed Wood—a man who pursued his filmmaking goals long after society shunned his efforts.
It was then that Galindo knew the Church of Ed Wood was more than a novelty site. “When I created the Ed Wood religion, it was a joke. Eventually, I came to the realization that it was actually a good thing.” He changed the site’s address to edwood.org and began work on a still-unfinished bible. “I know it will take a while for people to realize I’m serious,” he said, “but I’ve got some time.”
In the eight years since its inception, the Church of Ed Wood has amassed 3,000 baptized followers and a handful of saints. Sacramento’s own Mr. Lobo, host of the B-movie show Cinema Insomnia and co-organizer of Edwoodstock, was anointed the church’s patron saint of horror hosts and insomniacs last year.
The reverend met the saint when Cinema Insomnia hosted a screening of Plan 9 From Outer Space at the Crest Theatre in 2003. Lobo ran across the Church’s Web site and invited Galindo to the event, sparking a professional relationship that continues to this day. Later that year, Galindo donned robes and blessed the audience when Lobo screened Ed Wood at the Sacramento Festival of Cinema. The event’s success convinced the two B-movie aficionados that Sacramento was the place to stage Edwoodstock.
Convincing Sid Heberger, the Crest Theatre manager, was another story. “It was not an easy sell,” Lobo admitted. “It was a difficult thing to go to Sid’s office and say, ‘The Church of Ed Wood and I would like to book your theater.’ It doesn’t immediately inspire confidence.”
Nonetheless, the show date was set, and now it’s all Wood. “It’s definitely something I’m proud to be a part of,” Lobo said. “I think it could be a yearly event.”
“I’m really happy to have stumbled upon Sacramento,” Galindo enthused, “because Woodism is successful here. At my old bookstore in Phoenix, it took me more than a year to admit, ‘Hey, I have a religion.’ When I transferred to Sacramento, it was only a few weeks before a co-worker came up to me and said, ‘I saw your Web site and I liked it.’ They realized it before I had the guts to actually tell them. Somehow I found this perfect place.”
“I don’t think it was an accident,” Lobo said with authority. “After all, Sacramento is the B-movie nexus of the galaxy.” Lobo launched into a complex theory involving Bob Wilkins’ Creature Features, the Trash Film Orgy, Cinema Insomnia, Monster News, Star Trek bands and other Sacramento-based B-movie celebrations. “No good movie has ever been made here, despite many attempts. Movies in Sacramento are all cursed,” he added. “So many people here love crap culture that even straight things that try to get made here end up being permutated by crap culture to a degree.”
In support of this theory, Galindo offered the current speculation that Ed Wood shot a part of Plan 9 From Outer Space in a now-demolished Sacramento cemetery.
“Plan 9 even has a Sacramento connection!” Woodian St. Lobo concluded. “Perhaps all bad movies have a Sacramento connection.” Clearly, Edwoodstock belongs nowhere else.