911: Devil Fish
by Wyn Hilty
Hey, Bebe Rebozo’s home movies.
Bebe Rebozo (1912-1998) was a Florida banker who was a close friend of disgraced President Richard M. Nixon for forty years. Rebozo was never a policy adviser to Nixon, but Nixon frequently visited him and played golf with him. It was at Rebozo’s house in Key Biscayne that Nixon was first informed of the Watergate break-in, and Rebozo was with Nixon the night he decided to resign the presidency. Rebozo continued to defend his friend against criticism even after Nixon resigned.
Yes, dear. Yes, dear. I’m doing it, dear. Yes, dear.
An imitation of Monty Python alum John Cleese, in his role as long-suffering and henpecked husband Basil Fawlty in the classic British sitcom Fawlty Towers (BBC2, 1975-1979).
2000 Flushes: The Movie.
2000 Flushes is a brand of automatic toilet bowl cleaner manufactured by WD-40 Co.
Something vague this way comes.
“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” is a line from the William Shakespeare play Macbeth, spoken by one of the weird sisters in Act IV, Scene I. Sci-fi author Ray Bradbury wrote a novel in 1962 called Something Wicked This Way Comes; the phrase has also been used as the title of several albums and songs.
It’s Gertrude Stein!
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an author in the first half of the 20th century; her home in Paris, which she shared with her companion Alice B. Toklas, hosted salons in the 1920s attended by many of the leading artists and intellectuals of the day, including Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.
Aaah! Save the Metamucil!
Metamucil is a bulk fiber laxative that comes in powdered form; when mixed with water or juice, it acts to relieve constipation.
Mrs. Kilroy was here.
“Kilroy was here” is a graffiti slogan, accompanied by a drawing of a man peeking over the edge of a wall; it was popularized by U.S. servicemen during World War II. The drawing appears to be based on a cartoon created by British artist George Chatterton.
[Sung.] This is the dawning of the age of seaquarium …
A paraphrase of the song “Aquarius” from the musical Hair. Sample lyrics: “When the moon is in the Seventh House/And Jupiter aligns with Mars/Then peace will guide the planets/And love will steer the stars/This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius …”
Peter Frampton is a British musician who became famous in the mid-1970s with hits such as “Do You Feel Like We Do” and “Show Me the Way.” He is particularly well-known for his use of the talkbox, a device that applies speech sounds to music, particularly guitar music.
Man, the Staten Island ferry is way off course.
The Staten Island ferry is a ferry service that runs between Staten Island and the southern tip of Manhattan. It is a commuter route, although its spectacular views of Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty have made it a popular tourist attraction as well.
Hey, temp workers!
Dolphin Temporary Services, now called Dolphin Group Companies, is a temp agency based in Minneapolis-St. Paul; it was founded in 1969.
Devil Fish: the story of Aleister Crappie.
Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was an occultist in the early 20th century who founded a mystical/religious tradition known as Thelema. In his lifetime he was dubbed “The Wickedest Man in the World,” apparently much to his amusement.
So, Mike, turtles excrete wax, and you humans put it in cans and just rub it all over your cars? Good, that’s good. Just keep doing that.
Turtle Wax is a line of car-care products, including waxes, polishes, and protectants.
[Sung.] Don’t say things you’re gonna regret ...
A paraphrase of a line from the Alan Parsons Project song “Eye in the Sky.” Actual lyrics: “Don’t say words you’re gonna regret/Don’t let the fire rush to your head/I’ve heard the accusation before/And I ain’t gonna take any more...” (Thanks to Andrew for this reference.)
Oh, what a great job. I’m glad I wussed out of Vietnam.
During the Vietnam War, young men who wanted to avoid being drafted into combat had a number of alternatives besides going to jail or fleeing to Canada. Many avoided it by getting student deferments, which fueled the perception that upper-crust men (who could afford to go to college) were evading service at the expense of lower-income men. Another popular method was enlisting in the Coast Guard or the National Guard.
Oh, great Coast Guard.
A Coast Guard is a paramilitary organization that provides security to a country’s coastlines and waterways, separate from the navy. They can range from a fully armed military force to a volunteer organization that performs search-and-rescue operations; the U.S. Coast Guard falls somewhere in the middle.
[Sung.] Too much time on my hands …
A line from the Styx song “Too Much Time on My Hands.” Sample lyrics: “Too much time on my hands, it’s ticking away with my sanity/I’ve got too much time on my hands, it’s hard to believe such a calamity/I’ve got too much time on my hands and it’s ticking away from me/Too much time on my hands …”
I’ve located a Gary Wright song.
Gary Wright is a musician best known for his use of the synthesizer in songs like his 1976 smash hit “Dream Weaver.”
Ahh, transport me, Marc Cohn.
Marc Cohn is a musician who is best known for his 1991 hit “Walking in Memphis.” Sample lyrics: “Then I’m walking in Memphis/Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale/Walking in Memphis/But do I really feel the way I feel …”
I feel like I actually am walking in Memphis!
See previous note.
They hanged Bobo!
Professor Bobo is of course the ape henchman played by Kevin Murphy on the later seasons of MST3K.
He’s listening to “Awaken the Beer Drinker Within.”
A reference to the Tony Robbins book Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny.
The Runaway Bunny is a classic children’s book written by Margaret Wise Brown, who also wrote Goodnight Moon. It was first published in 1942.
“A voice full of hate.” Oh, Bob Dornan.
Bob Dornan was an ultraconservative congressman from SoCal known for his offensive statements, name-calling, and threats. From the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide: “[Dornan] enjoys a reputation for combining the political skills of Senator Joe McCarthy, Benito Mussolini, and Satan.” He starred in Show 612, The Starfighters.
“Maybe it was too high or too low a frequency.” Kenneth.
“What’s the Frequency, Kenneth” is a 1994 song by the band R.E.M. It was based on a bizarre incident in 1986 when newscaster Dan Rather was assaulted by a mentally disturbed man who kept repeating “Kenneth, what is the frequency?” during the attack. It turned out the man believed the news media was beaming signals into his mind and thought if he could find out the frequency they were using, he would be able to block the signals.
Yeah, Peter Allen.
Peter Allen (1944-1992) was a songwriter and cabaret performer popular during the 1970s and 1980s. He was briefly married to singer Liza Minnelli and wrote hit songs for performers like Melissa Manchester and Olivia Newton-John.
Man, Abyss 2 isn’t very good.
The Abyss is a 1989 film about the crew of an underwater drilling rig who find themselves in contact with alien intelligence. It starred Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.
Is that Fab or Rob?
Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus were the front men for the infamous German pop music group Milli Vanilli, whose 1990 Grammy Award for best new artist was taken away after it was discovered the duo did not actually perform the songs on their best-selling album, Girl You Know It’s True. Post-scandal, the duo went on to record an album under the name Fab & Rob, on which they used their own voices; it was not particularly successful.
You colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf is a “choreopoem” by playwright Ntozake Shange, in which seven women dressed in contrasting colors recite poetry revolving around the struggles of black women. It was first produced in 1975.
I’m listening to Shonen Knife.
Shonen Knife is an all-female Japanese pop-punk trio that was quite influential on alternative rock bands such as Nirvana and Sonic Youth; the band opened for Nirvana on several occasions in 1993.
Because you dress like Robin Williams.
Robin Williams (1951-2014) was an actor and comedian who got his start on the TV series Mork & Mindy and later appeared in a variety of movies both serious and comic. He was known for wearing wildly colored shirts.
The Del Rubio sisters.
The Del Rubio sisters (Eadie, Elena, and Milly) were a musical variety act that performed for more than sixty years, until Eadie’s death in 1996. They became famous as a kitschy act in the 1980s and were particularly noted for their acoustic-guitar cover of Devo’s “Whip It.”
I’m thinking of becoming Daryl Hannah.
Daryl Hannah is a tall, slender, blond actress known for her work in such films as Splash (1984) and Roxanne (1987).
Tiny Medical Center starring tiny Chad Everett.
Medical Center was a TV drama set in a hospital in Los Angeles, starring Chad Everett as a young, brilliant surgeon. It aired from 1969-1976.
Hey, that’s Rip Torn in drag.
Rip Torn is a respected actor who has appeared in many a movie and Broadway play. His films include Payday (1973) and Cross Creek (1983), for which he was nominated for an Oscar. He also played talk-show producer Artie on The Larry Sanders Show.
Gotta finish this bomb for Pakistan by Saturday.
The Islamic country of Pakistan began its nuclear weapons program in 1972. Two years later, Pakistan’s mortal enemy India tested its own nuclear weapons, which raised the stakes for Pakistan considerably. Headed by the controversial Dr. A.Q. Khan, the program was producing enriched uranium by the 1980s, and in 1998 Pakistan successfully tested its own nuclear weapon.
Not Larry Storch, I don’t think.
Larry Storch is an actor and voiceover artist best known for playing Corporal Randolph Agarn on the TV series F Troop and for supplying voices to innumerable cartoon series.
Dyan Cannon’s watching us.
Dyan Cannon is a blond actress who appeared in a string of movies in the 1970s, including Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice and Heaven Can Wait; she was also briefly married to actor Cary Grant. Her career underwent a resurgence in the late 1990s with parts in Ally McBeal and 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag.
"Stella gets to you, doesn't she?" Yes, she's a very attractive radio.
Stella radios were a wholesale brand owned by Philips Electronics; they were first manufactured in 1951. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Wakka-chukka wakka-chukka …
An imitation of funk songs from the 1970s that frequently turned up on the soundtracks of porn movies and blaxploitation films.
It’s my daily Victoria’s Secret delivery.
Victoria’s Secret is a retail chain of lingerie stores. It was founded in 1979 and now boasts more than 900 locations across the country. It became well-known in the 1990s for its employment of a string of supermodels in its catalogs, including Tyra Banks, Naomi Campbell, and Heidi Klum.
Probably a reference to Elliott Carlin (Jack Riley), the selfish patient from The Bob Newhart Show; Newhart’s name on the show was Dr. Robert Hartley.
See previous note.
It’s a militant group of tube amp lovers.
Tube amplifiers use vacuum tubes to boost the power of a signal, as in a radio or home stereo. Some audiophiles think they give a better sound than solid-state amps.
Kick! Punch! It’s all in the mind!
A reference to the 1996 video game PaRappa the Rapper; in the first level of the game, the player is taught how to fight to the tune of a rap that goes, “Kick! Punch! It’s all in the mind/If you wanna test me, I’m sure you’ll find/The things I’ll teach ya is sure to beat ya/But nevertheless you’ll get a lesson from teacher.”
You bastard, Lou Reed!
Lou Reed (1942-2013) was one of the founding members of the Velvet Underground. After leaving the group, he pursued a varied and successful solo career.
[Sung.] Over here, over here …
A reference to the George M. Cohan song “Over There,” one of the biggest hits of the World War I era. Sample lyrics: “Over there, over there/Send the word, send the word over there/That the Yanks are coming/The Yanks are coming/The drums rum-tumming/Ev'rywhere.”
Oh, hey, Mr. Food, the fishing guy.
Mr. Food, a.k.a. Art Ginsburg, was a TV chef who appeared on dozens of local television stations across the country in syndicated 90-second “vignettes.”
Sounds like they’re in search of the mysterious underwater Yanni caves.
Yanni is a new age keyboardist known for his floating compositions and his drooping mustache.
I just ate Harvey Mackay.
Harvey Mackay is a best-selling business author whose most famous work is Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.
A human! We’ve got to clear the oceans!
In the 1975 film Jaws, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) tries to persuade the local bigwigs to close the beaches after a swimmer is killed by a shark.
Hey, Rob Reiner!
Rob Reiner is an actor and director who got his start playing Michael “Meathead” Stivic on the TV sitcom All in the Family (1971-1979), but who later became more famous as a director, with such films as This Is Spinal Tap (1984) and The Princess Bride (1987).
Good thing Yoko’s there.
Yoko Ono is a Japanese conceptual artist known for her atonal and highly experimental music. She is also known, perhaps unfairly, as the woman who broke up the Beatles, due to her influence on her husband, John Lennon, with whom she released a number of albums.
I can’t believe I directed North!
North is a 1994 film directed by Rob Reiner (see previous note). It starred Elijah Wood as a young boy who sets out around the world to find a new set of parents after being neglected by the ones he has. It was roundly panned by the critics.
“I get nothing. Nothing!” No respect!
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield (1921-2004) was best known for the line “I don’t get no respect,” around which he built entire monologues.
This is a traditional tune known as the “Sailor’s Hornpipe,” although modern folks are probably more familiar with it as the theme song to the Popeye cartoons.
Kraftwerk is a German electronica band founded in 1970, which was most popular in the late 1970s. The band had no radio hits, but it was quite successful touring live.
Man, Jet Skis are getting huge.
A Jet Ski is a personal watercraft made by Kawasaki, but the name is often attached to any similar machine. Because they are loud and fast, and because they spew engine exhaust, the use of Jet Skis is often banned or heavily regulated on public lakes and waterways.
I think it’s that thing that comes out of the Wizard of Id’s cauldron.
“The Wizard of Id” is a daily comic strip written by Brant Parker and Johnny Hart, about a group of people in a medieval kingdom. It first appeared in 1964. The titular wizard is frequently seen tending to a steaming cauldron, in which lives an evil spirit, which takes the form of a cloud.
[Sung.] Slow ride …
A line from the song “Slow Ride” by Foghat. Sample lyrics: “Slow ride, take it easy/Slow ride, take it easy/Slow down, go down, got to get your lovin' one more time/Hold me, roll me, slow ridin' woman you're so fine …”
Well, we’ve got three hours before it gets here. Wanna play Risk?
Risk is a war-strategy board game manufactured by Parker Brothers. It was invented in the 1950s by French movie director Albert Lamorisse.
[Sung.] I dream of Jeanie …
A line from the song “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” written in 1854 by Stephen Foster. The “Jeanie” of the title was his wife, Jane, who left him a few years later. Sample lyrics: “I dream of Jeanie with the light brown hair/Borne, like a vapor, on the summer air/I see her tripping where the bright streams play/Happy as the daisies that dance on her way.”
Davey Johnstone is a rock guitarist best known as a member of Elton John’s band, although he has also recorded with other artists and even released a solo album.
Dolphins win the Super Bowl! Yayyy!
A reference to the riff “Packers won the Super Bowl! Yaaayyy!” from Show 810, The Giant Spider Invasion, which went on to become an MST3K catchphrase. The Miami Dolphins are a professional football team who first played the Super Bowl in 1971, losing to the Dallas Cowboys. The following year, however, the team enjoyed the only perfect season to date, winning every regular-season game, every playoff game, and the Super Bowl. In 1973 they won the Super Bowl again.
Good morning, Mr. European.
Jim Phelps (played by Peter Graves) was the lead character on the TV series Mission: Impossible, which aired from 1966-1973. “Good morning, Mr. Phelps” was the greeting used on the tape-recorded messages that gave the team its instructions for each mission.
The sound of William Conrad’s heart.
William Conrad (1920-2004) was a portly actor known for his roles in such TV series as Cannon (1971-1976) and Jake and the Fatman (1987-1992).
Intel steady at thirty-five.
Intel is a company that makes computer chips. In the early ‘90s Intel was a penny stock. In 1997 it was worth about $20; between 1998 and 2000 it shot up to about $75.
His broadcast day is over. [Tone.]
Back in the pre-satellite, pre-cable, pre-500 channels Dark Ages of television, local TV stations would actually go off the air sometime after midnight, and not resume broadcasting until around sunrise. The sign-off involved an announcement identifying the station’s frequency, licensing, ownership, and address, followed by, “We now conclude our broadcast day,” or words to that effect. This was sometimes accompanied by a montage of landscapes or patriotic images and a rendition of the national anthem. Then the station would either shut off its transmitter completely, leaving a dead channel, or, more commonly, would continue to broadcast a still test pattern of some kind, accompanied by an audio tone.
Behind the scenes at MTV Unplugged.
MTV Unplugged is a show on the cable TV network MTV that features various artists performing acoustic versions of their songs. Guest artists have included Paul McCartney, 10,000 Maniacs, and Mariah Carey. It first aired in 1989.
Okay, what is it now? 10, 10, 10, 10, 321, 10 …
10-10-321 is a pay-per-minute long-distance phone service known for its ubiquitous TV ads during the 1990s.
Meanwhile, in the world today …
Variations of this phrase originated with title cards in silent films. In westerns, this was often “Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...”
Joan Baez fan, hello?
Joan Baez is a folk singer known for her commitment to various social causes, including the antiwar movement during the Vietnam era and the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. In the ‘60s she had the long, straight hair that was stylish at the time. Well-known songs include “Diamonds and Rust” and “Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
Thanks, Kotter’s wife.
Welcome Back, Kotter was a TV series that aired from 1975 to 1979. It starred Gabe Kaplan as a teacher in a Brooklyn high school. Kotter’s wife was named Julie; the part was played by Marcia Strassman.
Hey, what’s a guy gotta do to get an Oreo cookie Blizzard around here?
The Blizzard is a popular menu item at Dairy Queen restaurants, consisting of soft-serve ice cream with bits of various things mixed into it: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, M&M’s, and, yes, Oreos. They were introduced in 1985.
I must call Steve McGarrett.
Steve McGarrett was the main character on the TV series Hawaii Five-O, which aired from 1968-1980. He was the head of an elite squad within the Hawaiian state police. The part was played by Jack Lord (1920-1999).
Personal trainer to Paul Reubens.
Paul Reubens is a comedian known for his child-adult persona of Pee-wee Herman. He starred in two movies and ultimately got his own show, a children’s television series that ran from 1986-1990. The show was wildly popular and critically acclaimed, but it came to a premature end following Reubens’s arrest in 1991 for indecent exposure in an adult theater. Reubens has since continued acting under his own name.
They’re deploying sea dreidels.
The dreidel is a four-sided top used to celebrate Hanukkah; it is derived from the teetotum, which was used for gambling in medieval Europe.
Now, the rabbit comes out of the thing, does something … eh, okay there, good enough.
This is a mnemonic device, or memory trick, used to teach people how to tie a bowline knot. Picturing the end of the rope as a rabbit, one rhyming variation goes like this: “Up through the rabbit hole, round the big tree; down through the rabbit hole and off goes he.”
[Hushed.] The sixteenth is a water hole, surrounded by water on all sides.
An imitation of a golf announcer. In golf, a water hole is any hole in which a water hazard comes into play.
Oh, that Allen Funt turns up everywhere.
Allen Funt (1914-1999) was the producer and host of the television series Candid Camera, which aired in various incarnations between 1948 and 1967. The basic premise of the show was to place unsuspecting people in embarrassing and bizarre situations and then film the wacky results. At the end of the ordeal, Funt would pop up with the cheery catchphrase “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!” On a revived version of the show that aired in 1998, Funt’s son Peter acted as host.
They’re gonna see a dolphin robbing a 7-Eleven.
7-Eleven is a chain of convenience stores that are notorious for being robbed. The company web site even has a special page devoted to its robbery-prevention program.
Wouldn't it be great if we were devil fishing, and they had beer? Really watery American beer!
TV ads in the 1990s for Keystone Light beer posed questions to the audience with the phrasing, “Wouldn’t it/that be great if ____ and they served beer?”
Hey, we’re winning the Whitbread Cup.
The Whitbread Round the World Race (since renamed the Volvo Ocean Race) is a yachting competition held every three years since 1973. The route starts in England, heads south around the tip of Africa, and then eventually rounds Cape Horn in South America and heads back up through the Atlantic to England. The race covers about 30,000 miles and has claimed more than a few lives.
Sounds like a new Thomas Dolby song.
Thomas Dolby is an odd pop musician best known for his 1982 hit “She Blinded Me with Science.”
Why couldn’t I have been Wendell Corey?
Wendell Corey (1914-1968) was an actor who appeared as a supporting character in a string of films in the 1940s and 1950s, including Rear Window (1957) and The Big Knife (1955). He also acted in some lesser films, such as Show 104, Women of the Prehistoric Planet, and Show 815, Agent for H.A.R.M. (Thanks to Christian Blaß for pointing out Corey's MST3K appearances.)
Let’s see now—here’s the church, here’s the steeple … Oh, damn, I’ve got to practice.
“Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people” is an old childhood rhyme accompanied by appropriate hand movements.
Let’s just see what the Calista Flockhart site has to say about the shark.
Calista Flockhart is a whisper-thin actress best known for playing the title character on the quirky TV comedy Ally McBeal, which aired from 1997-2002.
Thanks a lot, Stephen Hawking.
Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s foremost theoretical physicists. His book A Brief History of Time was an extremely successful work on science for laypeople. He suffers from ALS, which has confined him to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. After a tracheotomy in 1985 destroyed his voice, he began using an electronic voice synthesizer to speak.
[Sung.] Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon …
A line from the song “Karma Chameleon” by Culture Club. Sample lyrics: “Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon/You come and go, you come and go/Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dream/Red gold and green, red gold and green.”
The opening credits of the TV series Gentle Ben, a 1960s show about a game warden's son and his pet bear, showed Ben and his buddies speeding across the Florida Everglades in an airboat. (Thanks to Kevin McLaughlin for this reference.)
Well, let’s head over to Pogo’s place.
“Pogo” was a satirical comic strip about a group of creatures living in the Okefenokee Swamp; the title character was an opossum. The strip, created by Walt Kelly, ran from 1948-1975 and has been collected in a series of books.
They’re having mambo lessons on the Lido deck.
The mambo is a type of dance and music that emerged from Cuba in the early 20th century. A mishmash of cultures, the music itself derives from African folk tunes, and the dance moves are a combination of English, French, and Spanish styles. In Great Britain, a lido is a swimming pool and the surrounding facilities, or the part of a beach where swimming and sunbathing are allowed. On a cruise ship, the lido deck is where you’ll find the swimming pool, water slides, jacuzzis, and the like.
Didn’t she star in The Nightmare Before Christmas?
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 stop-animation film about the king of Halloween, an animated skeleton named Jack Skellington.
I got the Amiga working.
Amigas were an early form of personal computer, introduced in 1985 by Commodore. The Amiga was originally designed as a video game system, meant to compete with the Atari, but by its release it had become a general-use computer. Commodore went bankrupt in 1994, and PCs quickly surpassed Amigas in popularity, but the system still has its fans.
Look at that guy there, grabbing at his own Evinrude … oh, wait.
An Evinrude is a brand of outboard motors. (Reader Marissa Wilk points out that another popular brand of outboard motor is ... Johnson. Heh.)
Blake Edwards’ Point 10.
The 1979 film 10, directed by Blake Edwards (1922-2010), is about a middle-aged man’s obsession with a sexy young thing (played by Bo Derek, frolicking on the beach).
Look at him, just hanging his Evinrude right out in the … no, it doesn’t work, does it?
See previous note on Evinrude.
Now it’s 10 as rewritten by Terrence McNally.
Terrence McNally is an American playwright. Many of his works, including Kiss of the Spider Woman, Love! Valour! Compassion!, and Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune, have homoerotic themes; McNally himself was involved with fellow playwright Edward Albee for several years and married his partner of ten years, Broadway producer and civil rights attorney Tom Kirdahy, in 2010.
Look, he’s built like G.I. Joe! He even has shoulder sockets so you can pose him!
G.I. Joe is an action figure made by Hasbro, possibly the original action figure. It was introduced in 1964 as a poseable 12-inch toy aimed at boys and was wildly successful for about ten years, when production ceased in 1976. Hasbro reintroduced the line in 1982 as 3 3/4-inch action figures (the same size as Star Wars action figures), and has been tinkering with them on and off ever since.
As seen on TV.
The pronouncement “As Seen on TV” is put on the packaging of products that have been advertised heavily on television—usually via low-rent, late-night infomercials. For many years, most “as seen on TV” ads used a bright blue background when listing the price, phone number, and other details.
So you simply played the Jaws theme backwards.
See note on the Jaws theme, above.
“There’s something on the screen!” It’s flying toasters!
One of the earliest screen savers (moving patterns designed to prevent screen burn-in, in the early days of phosphor computer screens) was created in 1989 by Jack Eastman: a design of cute little flapping winged toasters whizzing across the screen. It was quickly followed by a host of imitators, including flying toilets, flying cows, etc.
Sandra Bullock and Charles Haid look on.
Sandra Bullock is a Hollywood leading lady who got her big break in the 1994 action flick Speed. Since then she has appeared in about 30 films, including Miss Congeniality (2000) and Gravity (2013). Charles Haid is an actor who is best known for playing Officer Andy Renko on the TV series Hill Street Blues (1981-1987).
Was this guy dubbed by J. Peterman?
John Peterman is a businessman who founded J. Peterman, a catalog company (selling clothing and furniture) known for its folksy “stories” about its wares. The TV sitcom Seinfeld had a character based on Peterman, played by John O’Hurley. The company went bankrupt in 1999 after a too-rapid expansion, but has since revitalized under the guidance of its founder (O’Hurley was one of the investors, incidentally).
I’m going to read him something from Joan Didion!
Joan Didion is a writer known for her portrayal of the California scene in the 1960s and 1970s, often writing about paranoiacs and other fringe thinkers, including Charles Manson. Published works include The White Album (1979) and The Year of Magical Thinking (2005).
Slowly I acted, step by step …
A take on an old vaudeville routine that has been used by many comedians. Abbott and Costello used it in a 1944 film called Lost in a Harem; the Three Stooges did a version the same year in their Gents Without Cents; and a third version appeared in an I Love Lucy episode. The original author appears to be a vaudeville comedian named Joey Faye (1909-1997).
Are those Easy Spirit pumps?
Easy Spirit is a brand of women’s shoes. In 1989, the company began to run TV commercials bragging that their shoe “looks like a pump, but feels like a sneaker!”
Bob Elliott and Ray Goulding were a longtime team of radio comedians, performing together as Bob & Ray for more than forty years. A typical routine would consist of a mock interview, conducted with absolute deadpan seriousness even as the exchange grew more and more ludicrous. Elliott is the father of comedian Chris Elliott, with whom he often performed after Goulding’s death in 1990.
You know, that door’s not even red and I want to paint it black? What’s wrong with me?
A reference to the Rolling Stones song “Paint It Black.” Sample lyrics: “I see a red door and I want it painted black/No colors anymore I want them to turn black/I see the girls walk by dressed in their summer clothes/I have to turn my head until my darkness goes.”
“Its underwater speed is more than thirty knots.” Are those Don Knotts?
Don Knotts (1924-2006) was a comedian who played a wide variety of roles over the course of his lengthy career. He is perhaps best known for his role as landlord Ralph Furley on the 1970s TV sitcom Three’s Company and for his bumbling deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show; he also appeared in a string of movies for Disney.
Oh, hey, it’s a hoochie coochie fish.
The hoochie coochie was a type of belly dancing popular in the late 19th century; the term was immortalized in the Muddy Waters song “Hoochie Coochie Man.”
An Orson Welles toilet float!
Orson Welles (1915-1985) was an actor, a writer, and a director who is considered one of the most phenomenally talented performers of the 20th century. He appeared in more than 100 films and television shows and directed nearly 40 others, including Citizen Kane, which is generally considered one of the ten best films of all time. In his later years he grew quite corpulent.
I’m winded. I ran all the way from GNC.
GNC is a chain of nutritional supplement stores, including vitamins, herbs, and sports drinks. It was founded in Pittsburgh in 1935, in the form of a little health-food store called Lackzoom. Today it operates more than 8,000 locations.
Bob filled the pool with Zima.
Zima is a clear alcoholic beverage—basically unhopped beer with various flavors mixed in, including lemon-lime, orange, and black cherry. It was introduced by Coors in 1994 during the clear beverage craze and caught on among young women, although it has become the butt of many a pop-culture joke. It is no longer made in the United States but is still available in Japan.
An inflated Kris Kristofferson.
Kris Kristofferson is a bearded country musician whose hits include “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night.”
An imitation of Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, a character on the TV sitcom Happy Days, which aired from 1974-1984. Played by Henry Winkler, Fonzie became known for his trademark thumbs-up, accompanied by the above catchphrase.
Why is she wearing a giant tube of Easy Cheese?
Easy Cheese is a processed cheese product that comes in a spray can. Introduced as Snack Mate in 1965 by Nabisco, Easy Cheese is now made by Kraft Foods.
Glasses from the Brett Somers collection.
Brett Somers (1924-2007) was a comedic actress whose husky voice and huge round glasses made her a fixture on the TV game show Match Game from 1973-1981, when the show went off the air. She also made a number of TV appearances, including a recurring role on The Odd Couple as Oscar’s ex-wife Blanche, playing opposite real-life husband Jack Klugman.
Should I call 911?
The first (ceremonial) 911 call was made in Haleyville, Alabama, by state Speaker of the House of Representatives Rankin Fite in 1968.
I’m Devil Fish for Polident.
Polident is a leading brand of denture cleaner manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. Starting in the late 1990s, Florence “Carol Brady” Henderson (1934-2016) was the spokesperson for denture cleaner Polident, although Henderson herself does not wear dentures.
Say I look like Micky Dolenz.
Micky Dolenz is an actor and musician best known as the drummer and lead vocalist for the Monkees.
An Almodóvar film.
Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is a 1990 movie directed by Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar. It stars Victoria Abril as an actress who is kidnapped by a former mental patient (played by Antonio Banderas).
A shame to be killed by calamari.
Calamari is fried squid, a popular appetizer dish around the world with origins in the Mediterranean.
Still, a better-edited movie than Batman & Robin.
Batman & Robin is a 1997 film, the fourth in the Batman franchise begun by Tim Burton and continued by Joel Schumacher. It is widely reviled as one of the worst movies ever made. Mike Nelson’s comment (in Mike Nelson’s Movie Megacheese): “Batman & Robin is not the worst movie ever. No, indeed. It’s the worst thing ever. Yes, it’s the single worst thing that we as human beings have ever produced in recorded history.”
Ed Wood’s octopus scene was a lot more convincing than this.
A reference to Show 423, Bride of the Monster, in which Bela Lugosi wrestles with a rubber octopus, a prop director Ed Wood reportedly stole from Republic Pictures. The scene is lovingly re-created in the 1994 Tim Burton film Ed Wood; Martin Landau’s portrayal of Bela Lugosi in that film earned him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award.
“Janet!” Oh, sorry, I forgot, I’m nasty. Ms. Jackson!
A reference to the 1986 song “Nasty” by Janet Jackson. Sample lyrics: “My last name is control/No my first name ain’t baby/It’s Janet/Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.”
Ivan Lendl and Richard Marx!
Ivan Lendl was one of the dominant professional tennis players in the 1980s, for several years ranked number one in the world. Before retiring in 1994, he had racked up nearly a hundred singles titles, including eight Grand Slam titles, and earned a then-record $21 million in prize money. Richard Marx is a singer who was popular in the late 1980s/early 1990s with songs such as “Right Here Waiting” and “Hazard.”
[Sung.] What’s going on? I say yayyy-yayy-yayy-yayy-yayy …
A line from the 1992 song “What’s Up” by 4 Non Blondes, and an imitation of lead singer Linda Perry. Sample lyrics: “And so I wake in the morning and I step outside/And I take a deep breath and I get real high/And I scream from the top of my lungs/What's goin' on/And I say/Hey hey hey hey/I say hey, what's going on?”
Let’s see if I can get Aldo Nova in better here.
Aldo Nova is a Canadian hard-rock musician popular in the early 1980s with songs like “Fantasy.” In later years he switched to producing, working with a then-unknown Canadian singer named Celine Dion.
“Sheriff, I’ve just discovered something terrifying.” Carol Channing nude.
Carol Channing is an actress best known for her role as Dolly Gallagher Levi in the Jerry Herman musical Hello, Dolly!
[Hummed.] Theme from Jaws.
See note on Jaws theme, above.
I love creating buddy lists.
On AOL, a buddy list was a window that showed all of your family/coworkers/friends/etc. who were also signed on to the service at the time.
Sea kiwwer? Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh.
An imitation of the lisping Elmer Fudd, the hapless hunter in the old Looney Tunes animated shorts, who was usually engaged in tracking that “wascawwy wabbit,” Bugs Bunny. His voice was supplied first by Arthur Q. Bryan and later by Mel Blanc.
We’ve got to take out these Hoppity Hops!
A Hoppity Hop is a large rubber ball with a handle on the top, designed for kids to sit on and bounce. It was a popular toy during the 1970s and 1980s and is still sold today.
It’s Louie Anderson.
Louie Anderson is a portly standup comedian and actor who had a very successful animated show in the 1990s called Life with Louie. He has also appeared in a number of movies and other television shows; from 1999-2002 he hosted the revival of the TV game show Family Feud.
[Sung.] C’est moi, c’est moi …
A line from Sir Lancelot's song “C’est Moi,” from the musical Camelot. Sample lyrics: “C'est moi! C'est moi, I'm forced to admit/'Tis I, I humbly reply/That mortal who/These marvels can do/C'est moi, c'est moi, 'tis I.”
Man, I just wanted to play FreeCell.
FreeCell is a variant of solitaire that became popular in the computer world after Microsoft included it in its Windows operating system package. In the game, you deal the cards into eight columns, with the goal being to move all the cards onto four “foundation” piles by suit.
I will seek my revenge, but first I’m gonna snag me a Charleston Chew.
The Charleston Chew is a candy bar manufactured by Tootsie Roll Industries. They were introduced in 1922 and named after a dance popular at the time. Currently they are available in three flavors—chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.
Yeah, I’m gonna go to the stacks and leaf through old Life magazines.
Life was a magazine published by Time Inc. It was originally a humor publication from 1883 until Time bought it in 1936, when it changed its emphasis to photojournalism. From 1936 to 1972, the weekly magazine was very popular and quite influential. Among many others, it published work by celebrated photographers Margaret Bourke-White and Alfred Eisenstaedt. (The famous shot of a sailor kissing a woman on the street in celebration of the end of WWII was taken by Eisenstaedt for Life.) It has been published intermittently since it ceased weekly publication in 1972.
[Hummed.] Theme from Jaws.
See note on Jaws, above.
Please. Francisco Franco died quicker.
Francisco Franco (1892-1975) was the fascist leader of Spain during World War II. Although he maintained friendly relations with Adolf Hitler’s Germany, Spain officially remained neutral until the tide turned against the Axis, at which point he announced his support for the Allies. Franco remained dictator of Spain for the next thirty years until his death in 1975. For weeks, Franco lingered on the edge of death; the announcement of his imminent demise in newspapers and on TV newscasts became a bit of a joke. After he finally passed away in November, Saturday Night Live began a running gag, announcing periodically on its news segments, “Generalissimo Franco is still dead!”
Can this marriage be saved?
“Can This Marriage Be Saved?” was a regular feature in the Ladies’ Home Journal. It was co-created more than fifty years ago by Paul Popenoe, the founder of marriage counseling in the United States. The basic format: a husband and wife come to the magazine with a knotty marital problem, and the marriage counselor helps them work through it. In 2014 the magazine announced it was ending regular monthly publication, but the column survives online at the Divine Caroline website.
It’s Richard Jewell.
On July 26, 1996, a security guard at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, noticed a suspicious backpack near a sound tower during a concert. The guard, a man named Richard Jewell, alerted police and helped try to evacuate the area. When the bomb inside the backpack went off, one person died and more than a hundred others were injured. Days later, the FBI leaked information that it considered Jewell a suspect. Jewell was hounded by law enforcement and reporters for nearly three months before he was cleared of suspicion; he later sued and settled with a number of media organizations. In May 2003, white supremacist Eric Rudolph was arrested and charged with the bombing; two years later he pleaded guilty to an assortment of charges and was given four consecutive life sentences.
“Fire.” [Sung.] Da da da …
The tune is from the song “Fire” by the band The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.
[Sung.] Get your flamethrowers out, grab a stick of Juicy Fruit …
A paraphrase of an old jingle for Juicy Fruit gum that ran during the 1980s. Actual lyrics: “Get your skis shined up/Grab a stick of Juicy Fruit/The taste is gonna move ya/Move you up/Move you out/The taste is gonna move ya when you pop it in your mouth …”
Farrah Fawcett Minor.
Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009) was a slender blond actress best known for playing Jill Munroe on Charlie’s Angels; an iconic poster of her posing in a swimsuit graced many a teenage boy’s bedroom during the 1970s. From 1973-1982 she was married to Lee “Six Million Dollar Man” Majors; during that period she went by the name Farrah Fawcett-Majors.
The ox-fish incident.
The Ox-Bow Incident is a 1940 novel by Walter Van Tilburg Clark (and three years later a film starring Henry Fonda). Set in 1885, it focuses on the lynching of three innocent men in the American West.
“Goofus & Gallant” is a cartoon created by Garry Cleveland Myers and Anni Matsick that has been featured in the children’s magazine Highlights since 1948. Children are taught social lessons by emulating the good example provided by Gallant and avoiding the shenanigans of Goofus.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissue, usually caused by plaque on the teeth. While gingivitis is not destructive in and of itself, it can lead to periodontitis, which is. Brush your teeth, and don’t forget to floss.
If I don’t come back, adopt a single currency, eat snails, and don’t shave your armpits.
Throughout the ‘90s, European nations began formalizing a central government (the European Union) and, more controversially, adopting a common currency (the Euro).
Hey, Grits Gresham. Anyway …
Grits Gresham (1922-2008) hosted The American Sportsman TV show and wrote for decades for Sports Afield magazine.
As seen on TV.
See above note.
It’s Don Evinrude and Sonny Crockett. Oh, I did it again, didn’t I? –Yeah. It’s just not firing.
See note on Evinrude, above. James “Sonny” Crockett was one of the two main characters, along with Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs, on the TV series Miami Vice, which aired from 1984-1989. The part was played by Don Johnson.
Deploy the Country Time pink lemonade.
Country Time lemonade is a drink mix manufactured by Kraft Foods. The lemonade mix was introduced in 1976; the pink version followed a year later.
I bet they hired every nature-hating psycho in Dade County.
Miami-Dade County, formerly known as Dade County, is a county in southeastern Florida; Miami is its biggest city. Voters changed Dade County to Miami-Dade County in 1997 because the city of Miami had grown in importance and because namesake Francis Dade, an Indian fighter who was born in Virginia and got himself killed by Seminole Indians in central Florida, had absolutely nothing to do with the area.
As seen on TV.
See above note.
What a fun, festive way to have a fish boil!
The fish boil is the Great Lakes region’s answer to the clambake. Supposedly brought to the area by Scandinavian settlers, a fish boil features fish, potatoes, and onions boiled together in a large pot, preferably outdoors over a wood fire.
As seen on TV.
Call now! Operators are standing by.
Well, this is Florida. Maybe some fresh Cubans will do.
Since the Cuban revolution in 1959, hundreds of thousands of Cubans have fled to the US, many aboard small boats. 1.2 million of them now live in greater Miami.
Arthur “Harpo” Marx (1888-1964) was the second oldest of the brothers in the classic comedy team the Marx Brothers, who were popular on stage and screen for thirty years. Dressed in a reddish curly wig and a trenchcoat, Harpo never spoke on film (his brother Groucho claimed he just couldn’t think of anything to say), relying on his brilliant flair for physical comedy to generate the laughs. (Thanks to Christian Blaß for correcting Harpo's wig color.)
“We ain’t seen nothing yet.” B-B-B-Baby, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Over.
A reference to the song “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Sample lyrics: “And said, You ain't seen nothin' yet/B-B-B-Baby, you just ain't seen n-n-n-nothin' yet/Here's something that you're never gonna forget/B-B-B-Baby, you just ain't seen n-n-n-nothin' yet/And you're thinkin' you ain't been around, that's right …”
[Hummed.] “Dueling Banjos.”
This is “Dueling Banjos,” the famous banjo theme music from the 1972 movie Deliverance, about a group of friends on a canoe trip who are stalked by the spooky locals; it has come to personify creepy hillbillies. It was composed in 1955 by Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith under the title “Feudin' Banjos.”
Barry Switzer crosses the Delaware.
Barry Switzer was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 1994-1997, leading the team to a Super Bowl victory in his second season. Before his tenure with the Cowboys, he was the longtime head coach at the University of Oklahoma. “Crosses the Delaware” is a reference to George Washington leading an army over the Delaware River on Christmas night, 1776; the subsequent battles drove the British army out of New Jersey and boosted the sagging hopes of the revolutionaries. The crossing was immortalized in a famous 1851 painting by Emanuel Leutze.
You know, I don’t need Neil Young around anyhow.
A reference to the Lynyrd Skynyrd song “Sweet Home Alabama.” The relevant lyrics: “Well I heard mister Young sing about her/Well, I heard ole Neil put her down/Well, I hope Neil Young will remember/A Southern man don't need him around anyhow.” The band was referring to the Neil Young song “Southern Man,” which dealt with racism in the South; Skynyrd wrote their song as a rebuttal.
My heart will go on!
The theme song to the stupendously successful 1997 movie Titanic was “My Heart Will Go On,” sung by Celine Dion. Sample lyrics: “Near, far, wherever you are/I believe that the heart does go on/Once more you open the door/And you're here in my heart/And my heart will go on and on …”
[Sung.] Southern man gonna eat your head …
A paraphrase of the song “Southern Man” by Neil Young. Sample lyrics: “Southern man better keep your head/Don't forget what your good book said/Southern change gonna come at last/Now your crosses are burning fast/Southern man …”
So, I guess we find out what the South is gonna do again: get eaten by a huge fish.
“The South's Gonna Do It” is a song by the Charlie Daniels Band. Sample lyrics: “Well you can be proud, hear now/Be proud you're a rebel/Cause the South's gonna do it again and again.” (Thanks to Mike “Gundam Guyver” Gulick for this reference.)
Well, this should take care of every living thing in the Everglades.
Everglades National Park is a wilderness preserve in southern Florida, encompassing everything from prairies and pine forests to swamps. It is home to numerous endangered species, including panthers, storks, and crocodiles.
And the cry of “Opa!” rings out.
When serving the Greek dish saganaki (flaming cheese), the waiter pours retsina all over the top of the cheese and lights it, crying, “Opa!” The owner of the Parthenon restaurant in Chicago, Christos Liakouras, claims credit for inventing the tradition.
Wow, someone threw a match on the Cuyahoga River.
The Cuyahoga is a river in Ohio. Due to severe pollution (including oil and other industrial runoff), the river was plagued by recurring fires during the 20th century. In 1969, such a fire attracted national attention and ultimately led to the passage of the Clean Water Act and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. Today, conditions on the river have improved, but it remains dangerously polluted.
[Hummed.] “Oh! Susanna.”
The tune to the 1847 Stephen Foster song “Oh! Susanna.” Sample lyrics: “I come from Alabama/With my banjo on my knee/I'm going to Louisiana/My true love for to see.”
Once you start seeing motorcycles, Mike …
“Start Seeing Motorcycles” is the slogan of a public awareness campaign that seeks to reduce motorcycle fatalities by urging motorcyclists to make themselves more visible on the road, and urging drivers to be more aware of motorcyclists.