106: The Crawling Hand
by Trey Yeatts
This is like Love, American Style.
On the TV series Love, American Style, which aired from 1969-1974, there would be anywhere up to four short vignettes about love starring various celebrity guests. The opening credits featured fireworks.
Hey, Alan Hale. Isn’t that the Skipper? –Yeah. –[Imitating.] Little buddy!
Alan Hale Jr. (1921-1990), who also played the sheriff in Show 810, The Giant Spider Invasion, played the Skipper in the CBS sitcom Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967).
Joel, did they do these titles on a typewriter? –No, that’s the Helvetica Constellation we’re looking at. –Oh. Stellar.
Helvetica is a typeface (that’s like a font, kids) that was created in 1957 by Swiss designers Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann. The name is the Latin word for “Swiss.”
Is Artie Shaw in this? –No, I don’t think so. –Just off camera.
Artie Shaw (1910-2004) was a jazz clarinetist and composer. As a bandleader in the swing era, he had hits with his versions of “Begin the Beguine” and “Stardust.”
It’s Kirk Douglas.
Kirk Douglas is a tough-guy actor known for his cleft chin and his roles in such classics as Paths of Glory (1957) and Spartacus (1960).
Too many years at the Strasberg School.
Lee Strasberg (1901-1982) is considered the father of method acting. He was the director of the Actors Studio until 1969, when he founded the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York City.
Isn’t that Nick from The Big Valley? –Yeah.
The Big Valley was a television series that aired on ABC from 1965 to 1969. It starred veteran actress Barbara Stanwyck as the head of a ranch in 1870s California. Peter Breck, who plays Steve in this film and also appeared in Show 415, The Beatniks, played Stanwyck’s son, Nick Barkley, on the show.
And sixty-two bottles of beer on the wall.
A portion of the song “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” a popular English folk song sung in declining numerical order as each bottle is taken down and passed around. It is based on the 19th-century song “Ten Green Bottles.” A French scholar supposedly discovered poetry manuscripts dating to the 14th century containing a more primitive version of the lyrics.
“No hope for Captain Lockhart.” –Isn’t that a David Bowie song?
Likely a reference to singer-songwriter-glam rock pioneer David Bowie’s 1969 hit single “Space Oddity.” It is best known for the lyrics referring to the failed mission of fictional astronaut Major Tom. As a result, the song is often colloquially referred to as “Ground Control to Major Tom.”
Yeah, his breath could stop a Titan missile.
“Titan” is the name given to a group of rockets used by the United States military from 1959 to 2005. Titans launched satellites, interplanetary probes, and all of the Gemini program’s space capsules, while many hundreds of Titans with nuclear warheads sat in their silos, unlaunched, throughout the Cold War.
Hairstyles by Gordon of Gotham.
A reference to the slicked-back hair sported by Police Commissioner James Gordon (played by Neil Hamilton) in the ABC Batman series from the late 1960s.
“There are only four men left who could handle the lunar rocket.” –The Beatles? –And her.
The Beatles were, arguably, the most influential popular music group of all time. The members were Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. Stuart Sutcliffe left the group in 1961, and Pete Best was fired by John, Paul, and George in 1962 before being replaced by Ringo. They were active from 1960 to 1970 and had twenty number-one singles in the U.S. and seventeen in the U.K. To this day, they are, by far, the best-selling group in popular music.
Yeah, soon we’ll have to move off this corner of Formica.
Formica is a brand of heat-resistant plastic laminate developed by two Westinghouse engineers in 1912. They were trying to create an artificial replacement for the mineral mica, used in electrical insulation. Thus, this material was created “for mica.”
Max Headroom’s dad.
Max Headroom was a computer-animated character featured on British and American television in the mid-1980s. The twitchy A.I. started out as a VJ for a music video show on British TV and later appeared in a TV movie, a short-lived series, and several commercials for New Coke (“Catch the wave!”). He was voiced and acted by Matt Frewer in heavy prosthetic makeup.
And the music goes ‘round and ‘round and comes out here.
A line from the popular 1936 jazz song “The Music Goes Round and Round” by Tommy Dorsey. Another popular version was recorded in 1961 by Ella Fitzgerald.
Hey, it’s a Spirograph.
Spirograph is a toy first marketed in 1966, consisting of plastic disks with holes in them, which could be used to draw interesting spiral designs.
Look, it’s Tammy Faye Bakker. –Looks more like Robert Smith from The Cure. –Looks like he needs the cure.
Tammy Faye LaValley Bakker Messner (1942-2007) was the wife of televangelist Jim Bakker and is best remembered for her absurdly heavy makeup and subsequent smeared crying jags. Jim and Tammy founded the PTL Club and hosted a television show of that name for more than a decade until 1987, when it was revealed that the organization had paid nearly $300,000 of donated money to hush up former church secretary Jessica Hahn, who claimed Bakker had drugged and raped her. Tammy divorced Jim in 1992 while he was serving time for fraud. Robert Smith is the persistently made-up lead singer of the English rock group The Cure, which is credited with creating the “goth rock” genre. The group was founded in 1976 and still produces albums and tours to this day.
He’s taking acting lessons from William Shatner.
Actor William Shatner played Captain James Tiberius Kirk on the TV series Star Trek (1966-1969), on Star Trek: The Animated Series (1972-1973), and in the series of movies based on the show. He also appeared in T.J. Hooker, Rescue 911, Boston Legal, and $#*! My Dad Says.
This is Major Tom ... to ... ground control.
See above note on “Space Oddity.”
Looks like the Dow’s up about three points.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a stock market index created by Wall Street Journal editor Charles Dow in 1896. The Dow tracks thirty large companies’ stock activities every day to give an indicator on how the stock market is performing.
And then the tape ran out. But we’ve got it on CD, too.
CD, or compact disc, is a polycarbonate disc with binary data burned onto it and sandwiched between plastic discs and a reflective disc designed to reflect the laser that reads the data. They were designed in the late 1970s by Sony as a smaller-scale spinoff of Laserdisc video technology. In 1982, the first CD sold in stores was Billy Joel’s album 52nd Street. At the time, the discs cost $30 or more each and the players were $900. By 2007, more than 200 billion CDs had been made, but their decline was in full swing as downloadable music files took hold.
He asked me! He asked me!
A line from a Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch (“Cosmetic Surgery”), wherein Mr. Raymond Luxury-Yacht (pronounced “Throat Warbler Mangrove” and played by Graham Chapman) sees a plastic surgeon (played by John Cleese) about his enormous nose. Once the doctor removes the (false plastic) nose, he asks Luxury-Yacht if he’d like to go on a camping holiday with him, and Luxury-Yacht exults, “He asked me! He asked me!”
What a grouch. Just like Footloose.
Footloose is a 1984 film starring Kevin Bacon as a big-city teen who moves to a small town where dancing is banned, thanks to the machinations of the city council and a conservative preacher (played by John Lithgow). Naturally, by the end of the film, all of the stodgy adults see the error of their ways and the teens get funky to Kenny Loggins music in a very skilled manner (despite them never having been able to dance before). The story was based on a real-life situation in Elmore City, Oklahoma, in 1980, when the local high schoolers wanted to have a prom.
Looks like Bub from My Three Sons.
Michael Francis “Bub” O'Casey was a character on the 1960-1972 sitcom My Three Sons, about a widower who lived with his three sons, along with their elderly caretaker. He was played by William Frawley (1887-1966), who also played Fred Mertz on the classic sitcom I Love Lucy (1951-1957).
What? You mean My Three Sons?
See previous note.
Sure, you know what “Gloomy Gus” means, but do you know whence it came? Gloomy Gus was a character in the comic strip “Happy Hooligan” by funny page pioneer Frederick Burr Opper. It first appeared in print in 1904; contemporary to the strip, USC football coach Elmer Henderson (1889-1965) was nicknamed “Gloomy Gus” because he badmouthed the team’s prospects before every game. Oddly enough, he holds USC’s best career percentage: 45-7-0.
That’s not milk. That’s pancake batter she’s drinking. –Pancake batter? You’re soaking in it.
In 1898, B.J. Johnson made a soap out of palm and olive oils. It was named Palmolive and soon became the world’s best-selling soap. In recent decades, Palmolive dish soap entered the pop consciousness thanks to Madge and her series of “You’re soaking in it” commercials, which aired from 1966-1992. Palmolive is made by Colgate-Palmolive Company.
Get over it. –Yeah, take a lesson from these teeners. Twist your troubles away.
“The Twist” is a song written and released by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters in 1959. It shot to fame the following year when it was covered by Chubby Checker, inspiring the eponymous dance craze. The dance was performed by bending the knees and rotating the lower half of the body on the balls of one’s feet while holding the arms and most of the upper body still. It was one of the first dance crazes of the 1960s and was publicly denounced as too provocative.
Let’s twist again like we did last summer, Joel.
Minus “Joel,” this is a lyric from Chubby Checker’s 1961 follow-up to “The Twist,” titled “Let’s Twist Again.” In case you’re wondering, Chubby Checker recorded more than thirty songs with the word “twist” in the title, not counting 1988’s “The Twist (Yo, Twist!)” with the Fat Boys.
It’s Ed Begley Sr.
Ed Begley Sr. (1901-1970) won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Sweet Bird of Youth (1962). He also starred in 12 Angry Men and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. His son is Ed Begley Jr., an actor who has appeared in more than a hundred TV shows and movies, including his well-known turn on the TV show St. Elsewhere.
He looks like a cross between Jerry Mathers and James Dean. –A Beaver Without a Cause.
Jerry Mathers is an American actor best known for his role in the TV series Leave It to Beaver (1957-1963) and its late 1980s sequel series, The New Leave It to Beaver. James Dean (1931-1955) was an actor who had lead roles in only three films—Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, and Giant—before his untimely death in an auto accident. He’s the only actor to ever be nominated posthumously for two Academy Awards.
Hey, is this From Here to Eternity? –Nah, it just seems like an eternity.
From Here to Eternity is a 1953 film starring Burt Lancaster as an army sergeant who falls in love with his captain’s wife (Deborah Kerr). The iconic scene in which the couple makes out in the surf on a beach has been endlessly imitated and parodied.
The biking, then the marathon.
A reference to the modern Olympic event, the triathlon, which is swimming, followed by biking and then a foot race. It began in 1920s France.
It’s Harriet Nelson’s evil twin.
Harriet Nelson (1909-1994) was a singer and actress; her most famous role was as one of the title characters of the hit TV show The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966), on which she co-starred with her real-life husband, Ozzie, and their sons Ricky and David.
Star light, star bright. First hand I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might ...
A paraphrasing of lines from the 19th-century nursery rhyme “Star Light, Star Bright.”
If you want to catch a human hand, you’ve gotta think like a human hand.
The well-known phrase “If you want to catch a thief, you have to think like a thief” is a variant on a much older English proverb, “Set a thief to catch a thief,” which dates back at least to the mid-17th century, where it appears in Thomas Fuller’s Church History of Britain. In either wording the meaning is the same: a thief will know all the tricks of the trade, and will be able to figure out what a fellow thief would try. Alfred Hitchcock used the proverb for the title of his 1955 film To Catch a Thief.
That’s giant! That hand’s unbelievably huge. –It’s called ”foreshortening,” Joel.
A reference to Show 105, The Corpse Vanishes.
Perhaps you’re familiar with his glue.
Elmer’s glue is a brand of adhesive used by schoolchildren everywhere. The name Elmer comes from its “spokesbull,” who introduced the brand in the late 1940s and was supposedly the husband of Borden’s “spokescow,” Elsie.
William Christopher Handy (1873-1958) was a musician often named as the “Father of the Blues.” Among his most famous works: “Memphis Blues,” “Yellow Dog Blues,” and “St. Louis Blues.”
Hey, she’s wearing a drool pad. –And she’s putting on Dr. Spock’s housecoat. –Doctor or mister? –Mister. –Doctor Mister? –Mr. Mister. –Mister Misty-meanor. –That’s what you get when you rob a Dairy Queen, right? –Mmm-hmm.
Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903-1998) was a pediatrician who revolutionized parental empowerment in 1946 with the release of his book Baby and Child Care. He became controversial in the 1960s with his protests against the Vietnam War and his involvement in various leftist causes. Mr. Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) was the executive officer of the USS Enterprise on the 1960s television show Star Trek. He reprised the character in the aforementioned animated series, two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and seven feature films. Mr. Mister was a pop group in the 1980s that had several hit singles, including “Broken Wings,” “Kyrie,” and “Is It Love.” Mr. Misty was the name of Dairy Queen’s line of flavored ice slush drinks, first sold in 1961. Later on, the line was renamed Misty Slush and finally Arctic Rush.
Cujo? –Hey, boy. –C’mon, this isn’t funny. –Guys? Guys?
Cujo is the rabid St. Bernard who terrorizes a woman and her son in the 1981 Stephen King novel of the same name. The book was made into a film starring Dee Wallace in 1983.
A chocolate mess.
A reference to a 1970s commercial for M&M candies wherein a mother finds that her young son has been eating chocolate. I say “eating,” but it appears as though he completely missed his mouth.
I recognize him. He used to be with Def Leppard.
Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen lost his left arm after a car accident in 1984. Despite the amputation, Allen is still with the group, using a specially designed drum kit. The English rock group itself has been around since 1977 and had a few popular hits in the 1980s, including “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and “Hysteria.”
Jackson! Get away from that ectoplasm.
Ectoplasm was a phenomenon of the spiritualism movement during the late 19th century—it was a filmy substance that psychic mediums purportedly produced when they were in trances and in contact with the spirit world. Samples of ectoplasm that were tested invariably turned out to be mundane—strips of gauze, chewed-up paper, and the like.
Ooh. Someone better call Madge, the Palmolive case worker.
See above note.
Good night, sweet troll. –She needs about a hundred and fifty hours of beauty sleep.
“Good night, sweet prince/And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” is a line from Act V, Scene 2 of Hamlet, by William Shakespeare; it is said by Horatio to the recently deceased Prince Hamlet.
Hey, what’s that stuff? –It’s the nighttime coughing, aching, sneezing, stuffy head, fever, so-you’re-being-chased-by-a-human-hand medicine.
A reference to the famous slogan for the over-the-counter cold relief medicine NyQuil. The phrase “The nighttime, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, best-sleep-you-ever-got-with-a-cold medicine” was the most frequently used, though portions were sometimes altered to suit the commercial. NyQuil was first sold in 1966 and is currently produced by Procter & Gamble.
I can’t believe she’s gonna do this scene one more time. They used to call her One-Take Sally, now look...
Actress Arline Judge, who plays Mrs. Hotchkiss in The Crawling Hand, was nicknamed One-Take Sally during her long career in B-movies.
Oh, I’ve seen this. This is when she does her Judy Garland impression.
Judy Garland (1922-1969) was a singer, dancer, and actress best known for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939). She struggled with an addiction to sleeping pills and barbiturates throughout most of her career; her premature death at the age of 47 was due to an accidental overdose of barbiturates.
No, I think she’s doing Mrs. Captain Kirk.
James Tiberius Kirk was the captain of the USS Enterprise in the aforementioned Star Trek TV series, animated series, and first six feature films before being unceremoniously killed diving for a remote control in the seventh. He was played by the aforementioned William Shatner.
She’s a victim of a Hotchkiss disease.
Hodgkin’s disease, now called Hodgkin’s lymphoma, is a type of cancer that originates in the white blood cells. It is named after British physician Thomas Hodgkin, who first documented the ailment in 1832. There is also a Hotchkiss Arms Company, which made a variety of firearms starting in the early 19th century.
And now, a really big hand for a little lady. Mrs. Hotchkiss. Right here on our very floor.
An imitation of TV pioneer and entertainment impresario Ed Sullivan (1901-1974), host of The Ed Sullivan Show, a vaudeville-like showcase that was must-see TV from 1948 to 1971 (though it was titled Toast of the Town until 1955). A former entertainment columnist, never a performer himself, Sullivan was notably lacking in charisma and stage presence, and along with poor posture (“What the hell is wrong with his neck?” was a common question), he had a retinue of stilted and hackneyed phrases he used to promote or introduce acts. Among them: “Right here, on our very own stage …”
If he’s not there, I’ll talk to the Skipper.
See above note on Alan Hale Jr.
[Sung.] Shaving, shaving ...
A paraphrasing of the children’s song “Sailing, Sailing,” written by James Frederick Swift in 1880.
You know, this Book of Lists has everything. Lookit here, “What to do when a rogue hand kills your landlady.” Mmm. Roddy McDowall, Milton Berle, huh?
The Book of Lists is a series of books containing nothing but list after list on seemingly random topics, such as 18 famous brains and what they weighed, or 15 famous events that happened in the bathtub. The first one was published in 1977, compiled by David Wallechinsky, his father Irving Wallace, and his sister Amy Wallace. Roddy McDowall (1928-1998) appeared in Show 706, Laserblast, and is best known for his roles in the Planet of the Apes film series, Cleopatra, and Fright Night. Milton Berle (1908-2002) was an actor and comedian who hosted the Texaco Star Theater in the early days of television. His rampant popularity earned him the nickname “Mr. Television.” Both McDowall and Berle were rumored to be ... um, rather well-endowed.
Skipper! Where’s the little body, little buddy?
See above note.
Or the sound of one hand clapping?
The phrase “Two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand?” is a Zen Buddhist kōan dating back to the 18th century and written by Hakuin Ekaku. It’s supposed to inspire deep thought, but since I can make one hand clap, I know the sound it makes.
I got a couple of hammocks and sailor’s hat I’d like you to wear.
See above note.
Prince is pretty small.
Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson, 1958-2016) was a Minneapolis musician who was one of the seminal musical talents of the 1980s; in particular, his albums 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign o’ the Times were phenomenally successful. Most estimates of Prince’s height peg it at about 5’2”.
Coconut cream pie. Just doesn’t figure.
Coconut (and banana) cream pies were favorite desserts somehow whipped up by Mary Ann on the aforementioned Gilligan’s Island.
Now, to catch a hand, you’ve got to think like a hand. I’ll lay out some Press-On Nails. Yeah, that would work. Maybe some lotion, Lubriderm? Yeah. I know! Some Isotoner gloves! That would work great.
See above note on catching thieves. Lee Press-on Nails—artificial fingernails with an adhesive backing—were advertised constantly with low-budget TV commercials during the 1980s. While similar products are still available, Lee Press-On Nails, and their maker, Lee Pharmaceuticals, are no more. See above note on Lubriderm. Isotoner gloves were first manufactured in 1910 by the Aris Glove Company and are currently made by Totes-Isotoner.
A contraction of the popular phrase “Keep on truckin’.” It first appeared in the 1930s song “Trucking My Blues Away” and became popular again in the 1970s, thanks in large part to songs of that name by Eddie Kendricks, Dave Dudley, and others. In 1968 cartoonist R. Crumb created an image of a casually slouching man stepping out, with the phrase above him. The image became wildly popular, appearing without his permission on shirts, posters, and more. He took many of the biggest violators to court, but was never able to claim all of the money he was due.
First word, sounds like ... smoke!
A reference to the guessing game Charades. A person acting out a word, title, person, etc., is not allowed to speak and therefore performs various hand gestures to get people to guess the first word, second word, etc., giving clues about what it may sound like, and so on.
Play-Doh face, Play-Doh face.
Play-Doh is a soft, non-toxic modeling clay marketed by Hasbro. It comes in various colors and has a wide range of accessories to help you make food, bugs, body parts, and so forth. It was first made in Cleveland as a wallpaper cleaner in the 1930s. It wasn’t sold as a children’s product until the mid-1950s.
Did he just give him a wet willie? –I think he did. With his own saliva. Pretty tricky.
A “wet willie” or “wet willy” is a prank played on an unsuspecting person in which the perpetrator licks his or her finger and then inserts it in the victim’s ear.
You spent a hard day loading bodies and you got one more than you bargained for. It’s Miller time.
Miller Brewing Company has produced several varieties of beer since 1855. Beginning in the 1970s, Miller’s began marketing to “the working man,” essentially saying, after a hard day’s work, you’ve earned a break, so “it’s Miller time.”
This was no suicide, this was murder.
A typical line spoken by super-sleuth Sherlock Holmes, in any of many, many stories about the fictional private detective written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which continue to be adapted and re-imagined for the big and small screen to this day.
Now we can go work on those O-rings.
O-rings are small, circular gaskets used as seals. In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, killing all seven crew members aboard. The cause was ultimately determined to be a failure in an O-ring in one of the rocket boosters, which had been weakened by the cold weather.
Got to think. Must think. Must find hand. Must comb hair. Must get Vitalis, rub into scalp. Get rid of flaking.
Vitalis is a line of men’s hair care products: hair spray, tonic, etc. In the 1940s and 1950s, the tonic was especially popular for slicking the hair back in a socially conservative fashion.
See above note.
Out by the lagoon.
Yet another Gilligan’s Island reference.
A hard day’s night.
A reference to the 1964 Beatles’ film A Hard Day’s Night.
A Skipperism, if you will, from Gilligan’s Island, predating Homer and The Simpsons by more than twenty years.
He’s a rebel without a hand.
See above note on Rebel Without a Cause.
Good morning, Mr. Phelps.
A line spoken at the beginning of most episodes of the CBS series Mission: Impossible by a tape-recorded voice to Jim Phelps, played by Peter Graves. The tape would give the details of that episode’s mission before saying, “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.” It would usually smoke and fizzle shortly thereafter.
I would now like to sing “Cathy’s Clown.”
“Cathy’s Clown” is a song written and released by The Everly Brothers in 1960. It was their biggest hit, selling eight million copies.
I have touched the unclean thing.
A likely reference to a particular phrase used in the King James Version of the Bible, particularly in the book of Leviticus. “Unclean things” included the bodies of dead cows and bugs, as well as semen (no, really). Touching an “unclean thing” could mean that you too would be considered unclean; it could even lead to exile.
Dogs can fly. –Cold fusion is impossible.
“Cold fusion” is the name given to nuclear energy production at or near room temperature. In March 1989, scientists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons claimed to have discovered how to achieve this and the media latched on, thinking that abundant and cheap energy was right around the corner. By the end of the year, though, these claims were debunked. Essentially, the scientists just screwed up.
Doing his Pete Townshend impression. There it is. People try to put us down!
Pete Townshend is a rock guitarist best known for his work with The Who, although he has also had a very successful solo career. The Who were famous for smashing their instruments and, in some cases, blowing them up. The practice began in 1964 when Townshend accidentally broke his guitar by banging it against the low ceiling of the club and turned it into part of the act. “People try to put us down” is a line from their seminal 1965 hit “My Generation.”
It’s the Close ‘N Play Phonograph. –Drop it. –Stops. –Close it. –Shatter. –Step on it. –Smashes.
A reference to a 1972 commercial for the Kenner Close ‘N Play Phonograph, a cheap music player produced for children. (A phonograph was an audio media player that used a needle riding in the miniscule groove of a vinyl disc to produce music.) If you opened it, it stopped; if you closed it, it played.
It’s Timothy Hutton. –No, looks more like Adam Ant to me. –Um, maybe.
Timothy Hutton is an actor best known for his Oscar-winning role in 1980’s Ordinary People. Adam Ant (born Stuart Goddard) is an English New Wave artist who had a mainstream hit in the U.S. with “Goody Two Shoes.” At the dawn of the MTV era, Ant became famous for his flamboyant hair, stylized (and ragged) British military uniforms, and frequently heavy makeup.
It’s from a place called “Uncharted Desert Isle.” –Dear Skipper. Why haven’t you sent help? Signed, The Castaways.
Still more references to Gilligan’s Island. “Uncharted desert isle” is how the island was referred to in the theme song.
“Lockhart.” –June’s boy?
June Lockhart is an actress best remembered for playing two TV moms: Ruth Martin on CBS’s Lassie, from 1958 to 1964, and Dr. Maureen Robinson on CBS’s Lost in Space, from 1965 to 1968.
“Washington.” –George? Grover?
George Washington (1732-1799) was the first president of the United States and, before that, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War. Grover Washington Jr. (1943-1999) was an American jazz saxophonist credited as a founder of the “smooth jazz” genre.
“Great Caesar’s ghost.” –Julius? Augustus?
The exclamation “Great Caesar’s ghost!’ is likely very old, possibly deriving from the phantom’s appearance in William Shakespeare’s 1599 tragedy Julius Caesar. It became popularized in the mid-1910s when a comic strip by A. E. Hayward titled “Great Caesar’s Ghost! And Great Caesar’s Goat!” was published. The phrase persists today thanks to Perry White, editor of the Daily Planet, who constantly belted it out on the 1950s TV show Adventures of Superman. White was played by John Hamilton, and several of his catchphrases (such as “Don’t call me chief!”) later found their way into DC Comics. Julius Caesar (100 B.C.E.-44 B.C.E.) was a general and later dictator of Rome. After he was assassinated by a group of senators hoping to restore democratic rule, his adopted heir Octavius helped take control and eventually became Augustus Caesar, the first emperor of the new Roman Empire.
Damn Mary Ann.
Mary Ann Summers is a character on “that show,” played by Dawn Wells. Maker of pies, wearer of plaid shirts and short shorts.
Clearasil! Clearasil! Oxy! Oxy!
Clearasil is an over-the-counter acne treatment first sold in 1950 and heavily marketed on teen television shows like American Bandstand. Oxy is another line of acne treatments, first made in the 1970s. It’s produced by the Mentholatum Company.
Oh yeah? Well, we know Buzz Aldrin!
Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin is a retired engineer and United States Air Force pilot. He was the Lunar Module pilot on Apollo 11 and the second person to walk on the Moon.
[Imitating.] Norman, get away from the window, Norman.
An imitation of Norman Bates’s “mother” from the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho. Spoiler alert: Norman (the late Anthony Perkins) is Norman’s mom—or, rather, she’s been dead for a long time and Norman likes to play dress up.
Rapunzel, Rapunzel. Let down your hand. –I think they’re going to do a scene from Cyrano.
A paraphrase of the famous line from the fairy tale “Rapunzel,” first published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. Their tale was adapted from the 1698 French story “Persinette,” written by Mademoiselle de La Force. Cyrano de Bergerac is an 1897 play written by Edmond Rostand about a brave, witty French nobleman trying to woo the lovely Roxane, despite his distractingly huge nose. It has been adapted many times over the years, most often titled simply Cyrano. One of the most famous scenes in the play has Cyrano feeding lines to the handsome but dim-witted Christian to help him woo Roxane on her balcony.
Let’s see, something sheer. How about that pink chiffon number? No, wait. You’re using that. What about that taffeta, that tea length, you know, the one I wore to the IGY convention? The night I went home with Yuri Gagarin? You remember.
IGY refers to the International Geophysical Year, an international scientific exchange that lasted during 1957 and 1958 and involved both the United States and the Soviet Union. The launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite, was part of this event. Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968) was a Soviet pilot and cosmonaut, forever to be remembered as the first human to travel in outer space and orbit Earth, on April 12, 1961.
Think he’s been watching James Dean movies, you guys? –Nah.
See above note on James Dean.
It’s a DustBuster.
The DustBuster is a handheld cordless vacuum cleaner made by Black & Decker and first introduced in 1979. It has become so ubiquitous that “DustBuster” has almost become a brand eponym for any handheld vac.
Hey, come back. Is that really a DustBuster?
See previous note.
These guys are the greatest comedy team since Willie Aames and Scott Baio.
Willie Aames is an actor best known for his roles in Eight Is Enough and Charles in Charge. In the mid-1980s, he became a born-again Christian and has starred in several direct-to-video films as the superhero Bibleman. Scott Baio starred with Aames in the aforementioned Charles in Charge from 1984 to 1990. He also starred as Chachi on Happy Days and the spinoff Joanie Loves Chachi.
“Doc, what man do you happen to know walks on the ceiling?” –Lionel Richie?
Lionel Richie is a singer-songwriter who was a member of the Commodores and had a big solo career in the 1980s. One of his biggest hits was 1986’s “Dancing on the Ceiling,” the video for which featured a rotating set whereupon Richie and dozens of extras danced.
Hey, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
A common proverb, popularized by the Disney movie Bambi (1942); the rabbit Thumper says, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”
It’s an Elvis zombie! [Imitating.] Thank you. Thank you very much. –Priscilla, make me a banana sandwich. –Check out those classic Elvis karate moves there. –Like from Blue Hawaii. –Yeah. –Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the kitchen. –[Imitating.] Good night, everybody.
Elvis Presley (1935-1977), the King of Rock and Roll, was one of the most popular musicians from the 1950s until his death in the late 1970s. He was a teen idol in the late 1950s, helped usher in the era of rock and roll, became a movie star, created an enormous and opulent home at Graceland in Memphis, developed problems with drug abuse, and finally died of a heart attack at the age of 42. Priscilla Presley was Elvis’s wife, whom he met when she was just 14. They married when she was 21 and divorced six years later. One of Presley’s trademark affectations was a desire for a fried banana and peanut butter sandwich, often called an “Elvis.” It is often forgotten that bacon slices are another key ingredient. The sandwich is prepared on slices of toasted bread, smeared with peanut butter (and sometimes honey), and then padded with banana slices and bacon. Then the whole thing is cooked in a frying pan. Presley studied karate over the years and often used its moves onstage, especially in the 1970s. Blue Hawaii is a 1961 musical film starring Elvis and co-starring Angela Lansbury(!). The phrase “Elvis has left the building” was first used by promoter Horace Logan in 1956 after a concert in an effort to make the concertgoers remain in their seats to see the rest of the musical acts rather than try to rush the backstage areas or Presley’s vehicles outside.
The guy in the rhinestones.
Many of Elvis’s stage outfits in the 1970s featured elaborate rhinestone designs.
If he sings “Maria,” I’m gonna lose it, you guys. –Nah, he won’t sing it. He’s not even sporting a dance belt. Or dancing a sport belt.
“Maria” is a song from the 1957 musical West Side Story. Given the snappy rumbles from the film, it’s not surprising that the guys might be wearing dance belts, which aren’t actually belts, but are instead support garments for the genitals.
[Sung.] Murder’s the word, wuh-wuh-wuh-word. Murder’s the word, wuh-wuh-wuh-word. Murder’s the word, murder's the word. We got a new dance and it goes like this. Murder’s the word, wuh-wuh-wuh-word. Well, you shake Bub up at the end of your hand. Murder’s the word. –It goes like this. The kid knows Hotchkiss.
A corruption of the 1963 song “The Bird’s the Word,” written and released by the doo-wop group The Rivingtons as a follow-up to their 1962 hit, “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow.” In 1963, the Minnesota group The Trashmen stole these two songs (yeah, I said it), mashed them up, and released “Surfin’ Bird.” Unfortunately, this is the version known by most. Needless to say, lawyers were called, and The Trashmen were forced to include The Rivingtons as writers on their version.
Yeah, but your dad was in Gilligan’s Island.
See above note.
Hey, that looks like Roland Gift from the Fine Young Cannibals. –[An absurdist imitation.] Hi. I’m Roland Gift of the Fine Young Cannibals. You drive me crazy.
Roland Gift is a British actor and singer best known for fronting the Fine Young Cannibals, a popular 1980s group that had two major hits in 1989 with “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Good Thing.” They got their name from the 1960 film All the Fine Young Cannibals.
Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, the list goes on.
See above note on Pete Townshend. John Entwistle (1944-2002) was the bassist for the aforementioned rock group The Who.
He looks like Bob Crane. [Imitating Colonel Klink.] Hogan!
Actor Bob Crane (1928-1978) played Colonel Robert Hogan on the CBS sitcom Hogan’s Heroes (1965-1971). The imitation is of Colonel Wilhelm Klink, the inept commander of the German prison camp on the show, played by Werner Klemperer (1920-2000).
Hey, it’s Sid Vicious. –That was rotten, Johnny. –And she’s Nancy. That looks a lot like the Chelsea Hotel.
Sid Vicious (1957-1979) was an English punk musician and member of the influential group the Sex Pistols. He was engaged in a mutually self-destructive relationship with Nancy Spungen (1958-1978). Vicious found her dead body in their shared apartment at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City, killed by a single stab wound, courtesy of a knife owned by Vicious. Police believed he was guilty of the crime, but he died of an overdose before sufficient cause was gathered for his arrest. Johnny Rotten was the Sex Pistols’ lead singer. Born John Lydon, he was given the nickname “rotten” thanks to his lack of oral hygiene.
He’s the least successful strangler in the movies. He runs around the countryside giving people Dutch rubs.
A Dutch rub is a variant of the perennial schoolyard torture maneuver, the noogie. Whereas a noogie is performed by rubbing the knuckles on the head with a closed fist, a Dutch rub is open-handed and performed pretty much anywhere on the victim’s body, rubbing vigorously until the friction becomes unpleasant.
Then I’m gonna whack you with my sailor hat.
Another Skipperism from “The Show That Shall Not Be Named,” performed whenever Gilligan frustrated the Skipper. In other words, twice an act in every episode.
1313 Mockingbird Lane. This is the place, all right.
1313 Mockingbird Lane was the street address for the Munster family mansion in the 1964-1966 CBS sitcom The Munsters.
Not Paul, but an incredible simulation.
“An Incredible Simulation” is the tagline from Beatlemania, a stage show that features four cast members impersonating the Beatles and playing their most famous songs.
[Imitating Roland Gift.] You drive me crazy.
See above note on Roland Gift.
Hey, little hand. Where are you, buddy? There’s a dust bunny. That’s no good. There’s a latex hand. I found my Carmex. There’s some sand in it, though.
Carmex is a brand of lip balm first produced by Alfred Woelbing in a suburb of Milwaukee in the early 1930s. From the beginning, Carmex was sold in its ubiquitous little yellow-capped jars.
“Paul?” –George? John? Ringo? Who am I kidding? They’ll never get back together again.
See above note on The Beatles. After John Lennon was murdered in 1980, a full reunion was obviously impossible; however, for the 1995 documentary series The Beatles Anthology (and the three albums released in conjunction with it), the remaining three Beatles recorded two new songs using vocals taped by John Lennon before his death. “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” both became hits.
One Adam-12, see the appendage. Corner of Druckster and Main. Be advised. He is arm and dangerous.
While an imitation of police scanner chatter, it is also a reference to the police drama Adam-12, a sister show to Dragnet. The show provided Americans with their first realistic glimpse at police procedures and jargon. “One Adam-12” was how the police dispatcher opened her bulletins on the show, which ran from 1968 to 1975. The part was played by Shaaron Claridge, who worked as an actual dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Traveling in the woodie. –Taking the world by storm.
See above note on woodies. In the late ‘80s, Minneapolis glam-metal band Slave Raider enjoyed a certain cult popularity in the twin-cities; their 1986 debut album was titled Take the World by Storm.
[Sung.] The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout. Then came the rain and washed the spider out.
“Itsy Bitsy Spider” (a.k.a. “Eency Weency Spider,” “Ipsy Dipsy Spider,” etc.) is a children’s nursery rhyme and song that was first published in the early 20th century.
The Crawling Hand. You will believe a hand can crawl.
A paraphrasing of the tag line to the 1978 film Superman: The Movie: “You’ll believe a man can fly.”
That’s the Australian crawl, I believe.
The common “front crawl” swimming stroke is also known as the Australian crawl. Subtle variations on the stroke are known as the American crawl or the Trudgen stroke. Any of these can be used in freestyle swimming competitions.
You will believe Alan Hale can act. –No.
See previous note on Superman: The Movie and above note on Gilligan's Island.
This is all sort of a hand jive, isn’t it? –Yep. –I was born to hand jive.
Hand jive is a type of dance involving rapid, precise hand and arm movements that is associated with R&B music of the mid-1950s. It was popularized by Johnny Otis’s 1958 song “Willie and the Hand Jive,” which was later covered by Eric Clapton and The Grateful Dead. It was further popularized by the song “Born to Hand Jive” in the Broadway musical and feature film Grease.
What, have you been stranded on a desert isle?
You know the drill.
Sal Mineo impersonators?
Sal Mineo (1939-1976) was an actor best remembered for having starred opposite James Dean in the aforementioned Rebel Without a Cause.
They’re living hand to mouth. –Not a lot of meat on a hand, but if you cook it right, it’s good eatin’. –I prefer buffalo astronaut arms myself. –Who doesn’t?
A reference to buffalo wings, an unbreaded, fried chicken wing coated with a spicy sauce. They were created in Buffalo, New York, in 1964.
This was no boating accident.
A paraphrased line from the 1975 film Jaws, spoken by Richard Dreyfuss’s character, Dr. Matt Hooper: “This was no boat accident!”
Unless the weather starts getting rough. –Well, I’m on my way for a three-hour tour.
Still more references to the theme song of “The Show That Shall Not Be Named.”
Or the rich taste of s’mores.
S’mores are a favorite campfire snack, consisting of a toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate (ideally Hershey’s) sandwiched between two halves of a graham cracker. Its origin is unclear, but recipes have appeared as early as 1927. The origin of the name is a bit more obvious: a contraction of “some more.”
Oh, no. Not these two guys. –They couldn’t even work for Domino’s Pizza delivery.
Domino’s Pizza is a chain of pizza delivery stores located nationwide, founded in 1960. Beginning in 1973, they offered the “30-Minute Guarantee,” stating that the pizza would arrive at the specified address within a half-hour or the pizza was free. By the mid-1980s, this was reduced to $3 off. In 1993, after settling two multimillion-dollar lawsuits related to accidents caused by speeding Domino’s drivers, the guarantee was dropped.
Next time, use Federal Express. Or hand delivery.
FedEx is a package delivery service that specializes in overnight deliveries. It was founded in 1971 as the Federal Express Corporation. “Federal Express” was officially contracted to “FedEx” as the company’s name in 2000.