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Conrad Brooks, the actor whose résumé of rotten movies includes Plan 9 From Outer Space and five other collaborations with cult writer-director Ed Wood, has died. He was 86.
Brooks died Wednesday after a series of health problems at Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, family spokesman Edward Hopf told The Hollywood Reporter.
A native of Baltimore, Brooks first met Wood in 1948 while on a trip to Hollywood with his brothers. He then played four characters in the cross-dressing/transsexual docudrama Glen or Glenda (1953), which marked Wood’s directorial debut.
The pair went on to work together in Jail Bait (1954), Bride of the Monster (1955), Night of the Ghouls (1959), Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959) — which took mere days to make and was perhaps Wood’s “masterpiece” — and The Sinister Urge (1960).
Brooks, who played Patrolman Jamie in Plan 9, had a brief scene as a bartender in Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic Ed Wood and was portrayed in the film by actor Brett Hinckley. Martin Landau, of course, won an Academy Award for playing Bela Lugosi in that film.
Brooks first met the real-life monster-movie legend on Glen or Glenda, he recalled in a 2015 interview with the Baltimore Post-Examiner. “I was just a young kid in my early 20s … and he was very sociable,” he said. “I was his stand-in as well. So I not only worked as an actor in that picture, I was beside him all the time.
“I catered to Bela throughout the movie. He smoked a cigar between scenes, so I would hold the cigar for him when he was filming and occasionally get him some water to drink. I was his assistant.”
Brooks became a writer-director himself, beginning in 1960 with his nine-minute film Mystery in Shadows, in which the actors only appeared by way of their shadows.
After relocating to West Virginia, Brooks wrote, directed and/or produced the straight-to-video Jan-Gel and Gypsy Vampire trilogies and co-starred with his late wife, Ruthie, in the feature Grandparents From Outer Space (1996).
He ended up with nearly 100 acting credits, according to IMDb — titles include A Polish Vampire in Burbank (1983), I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (1998), Max Hell Frog Warrior (2002) and Invasion of the Reptoids (2011) — and traveled the country talking about Wood at conventions.
As the time of his death, Brooks was working on a memoir, I Was a Cop in Ed Wood’s Plan 9, with co-author Alan Doshna, who said the book is set to be released next year by Bear Manor Media.
Survivors include his daughter Constance, grandchildren Geneva and Garrett, brother Ted and sister Irene.
In his chat with the Baltimore Post-Examiner, Brooks said he became very close to Wood. “I took care of his bills, I mean, he didn’t have much money,” he said. “You can’t expect to make a low-budget film and make a ton of money. It don’t work that way.
“There were times when he couldn’t pay his rent and was evicted; I had to help him out with rent money and cigarettes and booze. I’d come to see him and he’d be shaking like a rabbit and say, ‘Connie — have you got some extra money?’ I couldn’t say no to the guy. He was like part of the family.
“He had it rough, but he enjoyed it. For a guy that didn’t have any real background in pictures, you know, he came out of the Marines and went to Hollywood and hoped to strike it rich. He did a few plays that weren’t successful at all, but the movies he did — people will remember those.”
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