113: Black Scorpion
by Trey Yeatts
Hey, it’s Krakatoa, east of Java. Fentonville, east of Muncie.
Krakatoa, East of Java is a 1969 film about the catastrophic eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883. Unfortunately for the makers of the film, Krakatoa is in fact located west of the island of Java. Muncie is a city in east central Indiana, and a town named Bentonville (not “Fentonville”) is, in fact, southeast of it.
Wow, is that a crackhouse or what? –Cops is filmed on location. Everything you see is true.
Cops is a long-running reality TV show about real police officers in real situations; it first aired in 1989. The announcer for the show says during the opening theme, “Cops is filmed on location with the men and women of law enforcement. All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.”
Yellowstone, 1988. Fire lays waste to over seven hundred thousand acres of pristine virgin pines. Only one man can fight these flames: Red Adair. –Fred Astaire?
Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. It was established in 1872 by President Ulysses S. Grant, becoming the world’s first national park, an idea that was widely copied in the years to come. In 1988, Yellowstone experienced the largest wildfire in the park’s history with nearly 800,000 acres involved—36 percent of the park. Red Adair (1915-2004) was an American oil well firefighter made famous when he was portrayed by John Wayne in the 1968 film Hellfighters. Fred Astaire (1899-1987) was a famed actor and dancer who appeared in films such as The Gay Divorcee (1934) and Flying Down to Rio (1933), often with Ginger Rogers (1911-1995).
Hey, it’s Universal Studios.
Universal Studios was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle and is one of the oldest studios still in operation. Universal’s backlot has been damaged by fires eight times since its creation. The first was in 1932; the one in 2008 was the costliest, causing an estimated $50 million in damage.
Let’s make s’mores later. –Okay. –You bring the ‘kraut? –No, I left them in the Volvo.
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.” Volvo (Latin for “I roll”) is a Swedish automotive manufacturer established in 1927. Their vehicles are well regarded for their safety.
Edmund Fitzgerald? This must be his wreck. –Edward. –Ah.
The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was a freighter that sank in Lake Superior in 1975, taking all 29 crewmembers with her. The event was immortalized in the 1976 Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
[Imitating Bing Crosby.] Now, Junior, we’re just looking for a place to picnic here. I know Gary’s buried around here someplace. Look around for that shallow grave.
Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby (1903-1977) was a singer and actor best known for hits like “White Christmas” and a series of “Road” films with Bob Hope. Gary Crosby (1933-1985) was Bing’s oldest son who, six years after his father’s death, published the autobiographical Going My Own Way (1983), which detailed his mother’s alcoholism and father’s emotional and physical abuse. Two of Gary’s brothers, Lindsay and Dennis, confirmed the account; they both killed themselves several years later.
Hey, why does he need a pipe? Why doesn’t he just suck in some air? –Feel the pumice power work on your lungs.
Lava soap is a heavy-duty hand cleaner originally developed by the Waltke Company in 1893. Currently, it’s manufactured by WD-40. Lava contains ground pumice to act as an abrasive in cleaning the skin, and brags that it is “specially formulated with pumice power.”
Looks like it’s from the old M*A*S*H set.
M*A*S*H was originally a 1968 novel by Richard Hooker that became an acclaimed 1970 film by Robert Altman. This then became the hugely successful TV series that ran from 1972 to 1983—three times longer than the Korean War itself, which lasted from 1950-1953. The series was followed by a spinoff series (Trapper John, M.D.) and a sequel series (AfterMASH). On the show, a signpost laden with arrows pointing the way to various cities thousands of miles away was prominent and was based on similar signposts in real military camps throughout history.
Wait, that’s my motorman’s helper.
Motorman’s helper is the name given to a receptacle used by long-distance drivers to, um, relieve themselves in case an actual rest stop can’t be found.
Meanwhile, on a pole somewhere.
The phrase, “Meanwhile, back at _____,” originated with cards inserted in silent films of the early 20th century. In westerns, this was often “Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...” Once audio became a common component, the phrase was still used by narrators in films and radio and television shows.
[Sung.] Two bottles of beer in the Jeep, two bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around ...
A paraphrased 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. Jeep is the oldest brand of SUV, first produced by Willys-Overland during World War II (now the brand is a division of Chrysler). Thanks to their wartime ubiquity, Jeep became a genericized trademark for just about any kind of small, no-frills utility vehicle.
We don’t need a Jeep.
See previous note.
Wow, it’s a car. That looked like a cool Ford. –Yeah, it’s a ‘55 Ford. With a little work, it could be cherry. We chop it, drop it, add some Thrush pipes. It’ll be great.
Ford Motor Company is one of the world’s oldest automakers, founded in 1903 by Henry Ford. Thrush is a maker of automotive parts, primarily mufflers. They’ve been in business since 1966.
Hey, look back here. There’s a key light.
In moviemaking photography (cinematography), the key light is the primary light used to illuminate the scene.
At least we know they’re an advanced civilization. They’ve got Vicks VapoRub. –Yeah, now you’re supposed to pick it up with your forearms and leave the monastery forever. Walk into rice paper.
Vicks is a line of over-the-counter cold and flu products, including Vicks VapoRub, Vicks Nyquil, and Vicks Formula 44, first created in 1890. This is also a likely reference to the 1972-1975 ABC series Kung Fu, which starred David Carradine (1936-2009) as the half-Chinese Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin monk searching the Old West for his half-brother. There is a scene in the pilot episode in which Caine’s master challenges him to walk a length of rice paper without tearing it, to train his footsteps to be silent.
The Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull. –The wild-eyed beast. –The grass eater.
Schlitz Malt Liquor was introduced by the Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company in 1963. It’s well known thanks to the image of a large blue bull (named Prince) on its cans, as well as commercials in the 1980s and ‘90s with a live bull (named Zane) breaking into homes to party, one presumes.
What’s behind this tree? It’s a dead cop! –That’s right, Bob, it’s a 1953 seniora policia, complete with a .38 snubnose revolver, dilated pupils, and rigor mortis. You, too, will sleep silently in seniora policia. –From Spiegel catalog, Chicago, Illinois, 60609.
An imitation of game show announcers, most likely addressing The Price Is Right host Bob Barker. Spiegel is a catalog company that was started by German immigrant Joseph Spiegel in 1865. During the 1970s, they provided many prizes for game shows, and the announcer would plug the prizes by saying, “Spiegel. Chicago, 60609.”
I told him not to eat the worm.
A reference to the myth that worms are sometimes found at the bottom of tequila bottles. In fact, it is a wholly different alcoholic drink, mezcal, that is frequently sold with the larval worm of an agave moth in the bottle. Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, while mezcal is made from the maguey plant.
The San Lorenzo Milling Around Festival! –Hey, G.I. Joe, number one! –Hey, mister, my sister boobly-oobly! –Chocolate? Eh?
“G.I. Joe” is a slang name for U.S. soldiers around the world, predating the famous toy lines created by Hasbro and dating back to World War II. (“G.I.” means “Government Issue,” not “General Infantry.”) The sexual taunting could be a reference to any number of Vietnam-era films that depict prostitutes trying to solicit soldiers, but the phrase “boobly-oobly” specifically appears in the 1987 film Swimming to Cambodia, which features actor and storyteller Spalding Gray detailing his experience filming the movie The Killing Fields; “boobly-oobly” was a service available in Bangkok massage parlors that consisted of a facial massage administered by the woman’s breasts.
[Imitating Bing Crosby.] Sorry about that, Gary. You’ve got to remember to duck, boy.
See above note on Bing Crosby.
What’s that, muchachos? Death trap? Dead Rock Canyon?
A paraphrased exaggeration of “dialogue” between Lassie the Collie and any one of several human characters from the 1947-1950 radio series, the long-running television series (1954-1973), two sequel series, an animated series, and eleven films. All of which, by the way, can be traced back to the 1940 novel Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight.
You know, Gary talked to me that way once. Once.
Probably a reference to the 1984 comedy gangster film Johnny Dangerously, which starred Michael Keaton in the title role as a charming mobster and Joe Piscopo as his psychotic sidekick, Danny Vermin. Danny had a running gag uttering lines like, “You shouldn’t hang me on a hook. My father hung me on a hook once. Once.”
Amen to that, Sluggo. I mean Father Sluggo. Padré.
Possibly a reference to the character Sluggo Smith in the long-running comic strip “Nancy.” The diminutive, shaven-headed boy was introduced in 1938. It could also refer to the clay antagonist of the Saturday Night Live character Mr. Bill. “Mr. Bill” was originally a short film submitted by New Orleans DJ Walter Williams in 1976 when the show asked for home movies. The sketch proved wildly popular, and the characters returned more than twenty times; Williams was hired as a full-time writer for SNL from 1978-1980.
It’s the Cisco Kid!
“The Cisco Kid” was created by O. Henry in the 1907 short story “The Caballero’s Way.” In this tale, he is an outlaw who kills and robs along the Texas-Mexico border. However, when the character was adapted for other media, he became a hero. The first of twenty-seven films was released in 1914; the last in 1950. In 1942, a radio series began that ran for more than 600 episodes before its end in 1956. A television series—the first to be produced in color—ran from 1950-1956. Comic strips and comic books were published off and on between 1944 and 1967. In 1972, the band War released a popular song titled “The Cisco Kid.” The character hasn’t done much of anything since the western genre petered out except for a 1994 TV movie starring Jimmy Smits as the title character and Cheech Marin as his sidekick, Pancho.
Hey, it’s Dale Evans, and I thought she was stuffed. –Mounted.
Dale Evans (1912-2001) was an actress, singer, and the third (and last) wife of singing western star Roy Rogers (1911-1998). She co-starred with Rogers in more than two dozen films and in NBC’s 1951-1957 The Roy Rogers Show (a 1960s version of the show didn’t last very long). In 1953, she published a book titled Angel Unaware, which was about their daughter Robin, who died before the age of two from complications related to Down’s Syndrome. Her openness and advocacy changed public attitudes toward the mentally disabled. Roy Rogers’ famous horse, Trigger, is frequently thought to have been stuffed after his death in 1965. In fact, a plaster likeness was made and his preserved hide was stretched over it. In taxidermy, this is known as “mounting.” Trigger was on display in the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum, first in Victorville, California, and later in Branson, Missouri, until it closed in 2009. Dale’s horse was named Buttermilk; he was also mounted and displayed at the museum after his death.
That’s the same place where they filmed Robot Monster.
Robot Monster is a 1953 science fiction film often regarded as one of the worst films ever made, featuring, as it does, a man in a gorilla suit with a skull mask wearing some sort of diving helmet while destroying the world with a bubble machine. It was featured in Show 107.
What do you know? A couple of rocks piled on top of other rocks. That’s kinda fishy. Dig down a little bit. What? “Thou shalt not ki--.” What? “Thou shalt not ki--.” Huh. Better take that back. It’ll make the saddle heavier, but ... Look at this. It says, “Thou shalt not ki--.” What do you make of that? –I guess we’re not supposed to “ki.”
A reference to the tale of Moses and the Ten Commandments as depicted in the Bible (or Torah). After descending Mount Sinai with a pair of stone tablets (with the commandments inscribed upon them), Moses became angered at the decadence of his people and smashed the tablets. He then went back up the hill to get another copy. “Thou shalt not kill” is one of the commandments listed in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 (the sixth, specifically). Here’s a bit of trivia: what is popularly referred to as the “Ten Commandments” isn’t called that in the Bible at all. Instead, a set of rituals in Exodus 34 is called “The Ten Commandments,” and it includes things like “celebrate the Festival of Weeks” and “do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” Biblical scholars distinguish between the two as the Ethical Decalogue (Moses’ Commandments) and the Ritual Decalogue (the goat cooking instructions).
The weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed.
A couple of lines from “The Ballad of Gilligan’s Isle,” the theme song of Gilligan’s Island, the 1964-1967 CBS sitcom. It was written by Sherwood Schwartz and George Wyle. The first season version was performed by The Wellingtons; later seasons were sung by The Eligibles.
Are those foam hats? I told you to wear mouse ears.
Presumably a reference to the mouse-ear hats originally worn by the Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club, which first aired in 1955. The hats were designed by Disney artist Roy Williams, who also played “Big Roy,” the adult Mouseketeer on the show. They are sold at the Disney theme parks, with space for the child’s name to be embroidered on the back, and now come in a dazzling array of varieties and colors other than basic black.
Isn’t that the guy from The Eurythmics?
The Eurythmics were a 1980s British pop/New Wave duo consisting of Annie Lennox and David Stewart. Their biggest hits included “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” and “Here Comes the Rain Again.”
Then bring some Shinola, and we’ll compare it to the last stuff I gave you.
Shinola was a brand of wax shoe polish sold in the first half of the 20th century. The expression “He doesn’t know shit from Shinola” became popular in the World War II era, used to denote a hopelessly clueless individual.
Hey, it’s The Big Valley, and there’s Barbara Stanwyck.
The Big Valley was a television series that aired from 1965 to 1969. It starred veteran actress Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990) as the head of a ranch in 1870s California.
There goes the surrey with the fringe on top.
A paraphrase of the song “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” from the 1943 musical Oklahoma!, written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein. Sample lyrics: “Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry/When I take you out in the surrey/When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!”
Don’t forget the Alamo! No, wait, we can do better. Davy Crockett is a dork! No. Remember the ... oh, forget it.
The Alamo is an old mission in San Antonio, Texas, that was the site of a famous battle during the Texas War for Independence in 1836. The Texans lost and were slaughtered, and the phrase “Remember the Alamo!” became a rallying cry for the war. The Alamo is now located in downtown San Antonio and is a major tourist site. David “Davy” Crockett (1786-1836) was a politician and soldier who represented Tennessee in the House of Representatives for three terms before he was defeated for re-election in 1834. He then moved to Texas and fought against Mexico in the Texas Revolution. He was killed at the Alamo. In the 1950s, actor Fess Parker famously played a larger-than-life version of Crockett on a Disney TV show, leading to an outbreak of coonskin caps on the heads of boys across the country.
Meanwhile, back at Naperville, Illinois.
See above note on “Meanwhile …” Naperville is a smallish city (just shy of 150,000) located in the outer southwestern suburbs of Chicago.
Looks like she lives at the Gallo Winery.
Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery was founded in California in 1933. Their advertising efforts over the years have made them a household name.
Meanwhile, in the shower ...
See above note on “Meanwhile …”
All right, everybody, thank you, but Oklahoma!’s been cast already.
Oklahoma! is a 1943 Broadway musical based on a 1931 play by Lynn Riggs, Green Grow the Lilacs. The 1955 film version of the musical won two Academy Awards and was nominated for two more.
Meanwhile, back at the dog.
See above note on “Meanwhile …”
Jerry Mathers as the beaveiro.
Jerry Mathers is an American actor best known for his role in the TV series Leave It to Beaver (1957–1963) and the sequel series The New Leave It to Beaver (1984-1989).
What are they talking about, Joel? –Uhhh, sexual healing?
“Sexual Healing” is a 1982 hit single from soul and R&B singer Marvin Gaye (1939-1984).
Let me put my new Leonard Nimoy album on. He sings “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”
Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015) was an actor best known for his portrayal of the half-Vulcan science officer of the USS Enterprise in the 1966-1969 NBC series Star Trek, the 1972-1973 animated series, and seven feature films. In 1968, Nimoy released an album titled Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy, containing the song “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.” Written by Charles Randolph Grean, it tells the story of the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins and his adventure across Middle-earth to find the dwarven treasure guarded by the dragon Smaug. All of this is based, of course, on J.R.R. Tolkein’s 1937 novel The Hobbit. In 1967, Nimoy appeared in a music video for the song, of sorts, on a variety series called Malibu U. This video was rediscovered in the early 2000s and enjoyed a healthy viral life; Nimoy sang snatches of the song in a 2013 Audi commercial.
Huh. Looks like a decoupage Hummel. I like it. Looks like the Wisconsin Dells.
M.I. Hummel is a company producing collectible figurines based on the drawings of Sister M.I. Hummel, a Bavarian nun. They first became popular after World War II and have been produced for more than sixty years. Wisconsin Dells is a city in south central Wisconsin, popular as a Midwestern tourist destination. Often known as just “The Dells,” the place became divided in 1908 into the Upper and Lower Dells when Kilbourn Dam was constructed on the Wisconsin River. The Dells is home to numerous waterparks, go carts, miniature golf courses, regular golf courses, and a host of other icons of wholesome family fun. “Ever been to The Dells? Let’s ride the ducks” came in at #7 in The Fifty Most Obscure References in The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, referring to The Dells as “that paradise of water playlands, that miniature golf hot-bed…”
You are bold and assertive and you get along well with Libras.
Horoscopes are listings of fortunes and predictions based upon the reader’s birth date; they are often printed in newspapers. Using the Zodiac (a collection of twelve constellations that align along the path of the sun across the sky), readers use their birth date to decide which sign applies to them—one of which is Libra, the scales. In 2011, people who actually based their lives on this malarkey were thrown into a tizzy when astronomers said there were actually thirteen constellations in the Zodiac, the “newest” being Ophiuchus (the serpent bearer), even though that constellation had been officially included since 1930. Astrologers leapt to “debunk” their claim, and horoscope fans went back to basing their life decisions on the position of celestial objects millions of light-years distant.
See above note on the Cisco Kid.
[Muffled phone voice.] I’m a lineman for the county, and I drive the main road?
A paraphrasing of lyrics from the 1968 song “Wichita Lineman,” written by Jimmy Webb and performed by Glen Campbell.
[Imitating.] And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the star of our show, The Roaches.
An imitation of former entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan (1901-1974), host of The Ed Sullivan Show, which aired from 1948 to 1971 (though it was titled Toast of the Town until 1955).
Works every time.
“It works every time” is the longtime slogan for Colt 45 malt liquor.
Hi, Crusty. –Hi, Ladyfish.
A reference to the 1964 live action/animated film The Incredible Mr. Limpet. Don Knotts stars as the titular character, a bookkeeper who falls into the ocean and somehow is transformed into a cartoon fish. With glasses. Anyway, he befriends a hermit crab named Crusty (voiced by Paul Frees) and the cleverly named Ladyfish (voiced by Elizabeth MacRae). Limpet’s adventures under the sea include fighting Nazi submarines. I’m not kidding.
No, what’s on first.
A reference to a vaudeville wordplay routine titled “Who’s on First?” derived from an earlier one titled “Who’s the Boss?” The baseball-referencing version first appeared in the 1930s and was made famous by Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The comedy team first performed it for a national audience in 1938 and copyrighted it in 1944. In the bit, a ballplayer named Who mans first base; one named What mans second.
Once you’ve tasted lineman, you’ll never go back. Bet you can’t eat just one.
A possible reference to the sexually and racially charged saying, “Once you go black, you never go back.” “Betcha can’t eat just one” is an advertising slogan used by Lays potato chips beginning in 1963.
Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! We turn the floor of the Sonora Desert into a giant blood pit. It’s machine meets arachnid in one-on-one action. Gogo the Gorilla and all-time powerful meister, Big Scorp.
An imitation of many monster truck, tractor pull, etc. commercials that seemed to be all over the television in the 1980s and ‘90s. In 1979, a children's album came out titled The Gogo the Blue Gorilla Show, about a blue gorilla and his friends who love to play the funky rock & roll. There was never an actual show; it appears to have been one of those high-concept albums the 1970s adored so. The songs were written by Michael Olmstead and Peter Derge, and the titles (“March of the Munchie Men,” “The Funky Skunk”) give off a certain cannibinoid vibe. In 1992 the Palo Alto Children's Theatre mounted a musical adaptation of it that was also written by Olmstead and Derge.
I got into a film with Jim Belushi.
Jim Belushi is an actor and comedian. He is the younger brother of the late John Belushi (1949-1982). Jim appeared on Saturday Night Live from 1983-1985 and in an array of lamentable ‘80s movies, such as Red Heat, K-9, Real Men, and Jumpin’ Jack Flash.
Come back, Rin Tin Tin.
Rin Tin Tin was a German shepherd who was rescued by American soldier Lee Duncan in World War I after a bombing raid destroyed his kennel. He became a Hollywood star during the silent-film era, acting in 26 movies before his death in 1932. Two of his descendants starred in the TV series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, which ran from 1954-1959. His bloodline continues to this day; many of his descendants are trained as service dogs for special needs children.
Juanito? Who’s going to save a kid named after a snack cracker?
I couldn’t find a cracker called “Juanito”; perhaps they were simply riffing off the similarity to “Dorito,” the brand of tortilla chips manufactured by Frito-Lay.
Mrs. Butterworth, help!
Mrs. Butterworth’s is a brand of syrup that comes in a distinctive woman-shaped bottle. Ads featuring an animated version of the bottle first appeared in 1961. It is manufactured by Pinnacle Foods.
[Imitating Bing Crosby.] C’mon, everybody. It’s just a big bug. Ain’t you ever seen a big bug before? Whoa! Gary, get outta my way.
See above note on Bing Crosby.
It’s Crazy Dave! We’re slashing and dashing prices! All giant scorpions get in free! Free hot dogs and balloons for the kids! Come on down and visit me in coke jail! I’m in coke prison! Get me out, get me out! C’mon on down to Crazy Dave’s, this Sunday.
Derived from the 1970s New York retailer “Crazy” Eddie Antar, who owned an electronics store in Brooklyn. In 1972, copying the shtick of early-TV pitchman Earl “Madman” Muntz, radio DJ Jerry Carroll first appeared in a commercial displaying a frenetic, screaming style as “Crazy Eddie,” later emulated in various parodies and in local commercials around the country. These ads catapulted the brand into stardom and he eventually had 43 stores. In 1987, however, Antar’s company was under investigation for massive fraud and he fled to Israel in 1990; his company had collapsed the year before under the weight of family infighting, securities fraud, ongoing SEC investigations, and a massive debt load. He was arrested near Tel Aviv in 1992, sentenced to eight years in prison (although he served only about two) and paid more than $1 billion in fines.
I saw that in Potemkin once. –It’s the Oaxaca Steps sequence.
Battleship Potemkin is a 1925 Russian silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein, widely regarded as one of the best and most influential films ever made. It is, in fact, a propaganda piece dramatizing a 1905 mutiny against tsarist superiors. The most famous scene in the movie—the Odessa Steps sequence, which shows a massacre of civilians by the tsar’s soldiers—did not happen in real life. The scene has been endlessly duplicated, homaged, etc., ever since. Oaxaca is a Mexican city and state.
Well, just rope and grow and brand ’em, don’t try to understand them.
A paraphrased line from the 1958 country song “Rawhide,” which was used as the theme song for Rawhide, a TV western featuring a young Clint Eastwood that aired from 1959 to 1966. (Many people today better know the song from its appearance in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers.) The song was written by Ned Washington and Dimitri Tiomkin and originally recorded by Frankie Laine. Actual lyrics: “Don’t try to understand ’em/Just rope, throw and brand ’em/Soon we’ll be livin’ high and wide ...” (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Flint, Michigan. On a clear day, you can see the GM plant on the outskirts of town. And look, there’s Michael Moore.
A reference to the 1989 Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me, which focused on the closure of auto plants in Flint, Michigan, and their negative impact on the community. General Motors was founded in 1908 by William Durant and Charles Mott to manage the Buick brand. Over the following years, GM acquired the Cadillac and Oldsmobile brands, too. Chevrolet and Pontiac were established later. Michael Moore is a controversial left-wing filmmaker and the director of other documentaries such as Fahrenheit 9/11. Also probably a reference to the musical On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, which opened on Broadway in 1965 and was made into a film starring Barbra Streisand in 1970.
[Imitating George C Scott.] I’m telling you, Brad, I’m going to get to Messina before Monty!
A reference to the 1970 Academy Award-winning film Patton, about World War II General George S. Patton (1885-1945). The imitation is of actor George C. Scott (1927-1999), who sounded nothing like the nasal Patton. Scott won an Oscar for the role but famously refused it; he told the Academy he simply didn’t want to compete with other actors, but grumbled elsewhere that the Oscars were a “goddamn meat parade.” “Brad” refers to General Omar Bradley (played by Karl Malden in the film), who was Patton’s second-in-command and later superior officer. “Monty” refers to British General Bernard Montgomery, whose plan to capture Sicily was selected over Patton’s. Messina is a port city in Sicily that was the final destination of both the American and British forces during the invasion. In the film, Patton defies orders and races to beat Montgomery and capture Messina first; eventually his actions lead Bradley to relieve him of his command and he is sidelined during the D-Day invasion.
M*A*S*H 4077, the best care anywhere.
Mobile Army Surgical Hospital 4077 was the M*A*S*H unit’s designation on the aforementioned show (see above note).
It’s Sidney Freedman.
Major Sidney Freedman is a character on M*A*S*H, played by Allan Arbus. He is a psychiatrist who made occasional appearances in the series; he first appeared in the second season of the show, in the episode “Radar’s Report” (although in that episode he was named “Milton Freedman”).
Hawkeye, I didn’t recognize you in civvies.
Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (played by Donald Sutherland in the film and Alan Alda in the series) was the main character in M*A*S*H.
[Imitating Bing Crosby.] Yeah, yeah. We know you’re Superboy. Too bad you can’t act. Hey, can I call you “Gary”?
Superboy is the name of several superhero characters in the DC Comics universe. Most frequently, Superboy refers to a younger version of Superman, although other versions have included Superboys from alternate dimensions and even clones. The original was simply stories about a young Clark Kent growing up in Smallville, and the earliest comics were written by Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel (story) and Joe Shuster (art), with his first appearance in 1945. Superboy has appeared in various comics ever since, and he was the subject of an animated series (1966-1969) and a live-action series (1988-1992). Arguably, the long-running series Smallville (2001-2011) was about Superboy, though Clark Kent was never called that on the show.
Yeah, that’s what Shane said.
Shane is a 1953 Western starring Alan Ladd as a retired gunfighter who unwillingly gets drawn into a range war.
[Quiet golf announcer voice.] Here they are on the fourteenth fairway. Boy, I wish they’d keep those horses away from the green. –You’re playing a Top-Flite 5, aren’t you? I usually use range balls out here in the rough. –[Announcer voice.] They’re playing the volcano hole. Next is the windmill, and that’s really tough. –He’s gonna use an iron on this one. Little hard to believe, but he’s been having trouble with his drivers and his woods. Looks like he’s going for a tough par.
Though not as common today, it was once typical for golf announcers to speak quietly so as not to disturb the players. On the golf course, the fairway is the portion of a hole from the tee box (where the ball is first hit) to the putting green (where the hole is). Top-Flite is a brand of golf equipment manufactured by Spalding until 2003, when Callaway Golf Company acquired it. Miniature golf started in the late 19th century as a lawn game and gradually evolved into the form we know today, with small windmills, water hazards, underground tubes, and all the other hoopla that has made the game a perennial favorite with children. Par is the preset number of strokes (or hits) allocated to each player for a hole for the purposes of scoring. If, for example, a hole has a par of 3 and a player gets the ball into the hole after four strokes, his score is +1.
Wow, it is tough. He’s got to forecaddie that hole.
A forecaddie is a type of caddie available at some, though not all, golf courses. While regular caddies help golfers organize and carry around their golf clubs, a forecaddie, or “forward” caddie, will run ahead on the course before the player takes his/her swing and see where the ball lands, thus reducing the odds that the ball will be lost. Usually the whole group of players uses one forecaddie who keeps track of all the balls.
No actors were abused in the making of this motion picture.
A paraphrase of the famous credit line “No animals were harmed in the making of this film.” The American Humane Association holds a copyright on that phrase. The practice of the AHA evaluating films for their treatment of animals dates back to the 1939 film Jesse James, wherein a horse was blindfolded and ridden off a cliff to its death. For real. The ensuing outrage and massive protests led to an agreement with the movie industry to allow the AHA to oversee animal treatment on film sets, which up until then had been largely unregulated.
Hey, they moved the pin.
In golf, “pin” is another name for the flag that is placed in the hole to mark its position on the course.
I think it cuts down and to the right. We should be able to bogey it.
In golf scoring, a “bogey” means the score for a particular hole was one stroke over the par. In the late 1800s and into the 1900s in England, “Colonel Bogey” was an imaginary opponent for the purposes of scoring who always got par. Just before World War I, or so the story goes, there was a British military officer, nicknamed “Colonel Bogey” after the already-extant golfing term, who prefaced his golf drive not by yelling “Fore!” but instead by whistling loudly a simple two-note phrase. This led to the “Colonel Bogey March,” which we Americans probably know better as the theme from The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957).
Got my snowmobile here. Snowcat, really a beauty.
Snowcat is the name given to any large snow vehicle, usually truck-sized with an enclosed cabin, that rides atop the snow on treads. The name comes from the Tucker Sno-cat Corporation and was trademarked by them in 1946. Over the next few decades, the term “snowcat” evolved into a genericized description.
Yeah, wear that checkerboard bib overall and hold that big hamburger like that, okay?
Bob’s Big Boy is a California-based chain of diners started in 1936 by Bob Wian. The chain’s mascot is a chubby boy with a thick head of hair and spit curl wearing red and white checkered overalls while holding aloft a large burger. Wian modeled the mascot on a six-year-old regular customer, Richard Woodruff.
[French accent.] And so we enter the cage knowing the Earth’s fiercest creatures await us below. Zsa Zsa.
An imitation of Jacques Cousteau (1910-1997), a French ocean explorer and the inventor of the Aqualung, which helped him in his extensive underwater expeditions. He wrote a number of popular books about the ocean and also wrote and produced films on the same topic. Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016) was a socialite and actress, but she wasn’t as well known for her acting as her sister, Eva (1917-1995), the star of the popular sitcom Green Acres. In 1989, she got into a legal kerfuffle when she slapped a Beverly Hills police officer after having been pulled over. She was found guilty and sentenced to 72 hours in jail and 120 hours of community service. She was married nine times.
[French accent.] Lower and lower we go, past the matte paintings.
In filmmaking, matte paintings are backgrounds that are created as a kind of special effect, sometimes at the same time the actors are being filmed and sometimes as a post-production effect. For most of the last century of filmmaking, they were hand painted on glass, which was placed in front of the camera while an unpainted section framed the actors. More recently, matte paintings have been produced after filming on computers.
[French accent.] I believe I suffer from the bends or nitrogen narcosis.
The bends is the slang term for decompression sickness. This occurs when someone (usually a diver) shifts between differing pressures too quickly. This causes gas bubbles to form throughout the body. The symptoms include joint and bone pains (“bends”), unusual skin colorations and sensations, breathing difficulties, neurological trauma, and so on. It can cause embolisms and death. Nitrogen narcosis is a condition divers experience if they breathe nitrogen at a pressure three times greater than atmospheric levels. It is like an intoxication, and the deeper the diver descends, the more intense the condition becomes. Afflicted divers have been known to tear off their masks at extreme depths because they thought they could breathe like fish.
Uh, I think we’re going to need a lot bigger boat, you guys.
A paraphrase of the 35th most famous line in cinema history, according to the American Film Institute. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat” was said by Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) to Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) after he first spotted the great white shark in the 1975 classic Jaws.
Look over there. It says “Arne Saknussemm.”
Arne Saknussemm is the name of a medieval Icelandic explorer in the 1864 Jules Verne novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth. Saknussemm left behind coded texts that led the novel’s heroes to the center of the Earth, where they also find notes and directions from Saknussemm written on the walls of caves and on rocks. In Show 516, Alien From L.A., Kathy Ireland’s explorer father is named “Arnold Saknussemm” in an homage to Verne’s character.
[French accent.] Deeper and deeper we went, until our little thread was all the way down, you know.
See above note on Jacques Cousteau.
[French accent.] At this depth, the sea feels immensely cold and lifeless, but it is teeming with life. Here we see a sea anemone. Its seemingly fragile structure adapted to the massive pressures. At this depth, the sea pressure could crush a man’s head like a pimple.
See above note on Jacques Cousteau.
Is this Dune?
A reference to the mighty sandworms that appeared in Frank Herbert’s novel series Dune and in David Lynch’s 1984 film Dune. Revered and called “Shai-Hulud” and “the Maker” by the native Fremen of the planet Arrakis, the giant worms (sometimes longer than 400 meters) are part of the life cycle that produces the all-important spice melange of the series and are ridden by the Fremen for both travel and warfare.
[French accent.] Here we see one of the beautiful creatures of the sea floor. Though it appears vicious to the eye of the [something], you can see the creature’s lure, which is a lump of flesh in front of the ink sack.
See above note on Jacques Cousteau.
This is the winner of the Uniroyal Pioneer Trophy. Now, this float is called “Little Inchworm,” and it’s made entirely out of [something] flowers and shellfish. Kathie Lee?
Uniroyal was a producer of tires. It was originally known as the United States Rubber Company when it was founded in 1892. The name was changed to Uniroyal in 1961, and in 1990, the company was bought by the French company Michelin. Kathie Lee Gifford is a TV show host best known for her lengthy run on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, which she co-hosted from 1985-2000. This exchange is most likely a reference to the Tournament of Roses Parade held in Pasadena, California, since 1890 (in which all floats must be made of flowers). It is televised with usually insipid commentary by morning news anchors and talk show hosts. There are multiple awards given out every year for the best floats; although it no longer exists, back in the 1970s and ‘80s it appears one of the awards was called the Pioneers Trophy.
Damn these Sprint lines!
Now known as Sprint Nextel, the telecommunications corporation Sprint began in 1899 as the Brown Telephone Company. They went through several monikers, mergers, and bankruptcies before becoming a national household name in the 1980s thanks to their long-running “pin drop” commercials.
And, boy, does it catch fish! Call Babe Winkelman.
Babe Winkelman is a Minnesota-based professional fisherman and TV host. He produced a fishing program locally beginning in the mid-’70s, and in 1985, his show Babe Winkelman’s Good Fishing became nationally syndicated.
Stay down, Sabu.
Sabu Dastagir (1924-1963) was an Indian actor who was often credited only as Sabu. He became well known for various film roles in the 1940s, including The Thief of Baghdad, Jungle Book, and Arabian Nights. He died of a heart attack at the age of 39.
[Sung.] The ants go marching one by one, hurrah. Hurrah. The ants go marching one by one, the humans stop to shoot a gun.
Based on the Civil War-era song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” which was written by bandleader Patrick Gilmore, “The Ants Go Marching” is a popular kids’ song. This riff is a paraphrase.
Better call Orkin. Or throw the boy at ‘em.
Orkin is a pest-control service founded by Latvian immigrant Otto Orkin. In 1901, Orkin began selling rodent poison door-to-door. In 1912, he opened his first office in Richmond, Virginia, as “Otto the Rat Man.” As of 2012 it had more than 400 offices and 58 franchises around the country, although it had also been the target of lawsuits and investigations over allegations of questionable advertising and shoddy practices.
Even if they catch that thing, they’re going to need a lemon the size of a Volvo to eat it.
See above note on Volvo.
Becky? Injun Joe? Huck?
These are characters in Mark Twain’s 1876 novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Becky Thatcher is a girl who takes a liking to Tom but is disgusted when she finds out he was previously “engaged” to another girl. Injun Joe is a half-Indian man whom the boys see kill another man and who plots to kill the kind Widow Douglas. Huckleberry Finn is Tom’s best friend, who got his own well-regarded novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in 1884.
He’s got a foreign object! Wally Karbo, I can’t believe what I’m seeing here.
An imitation of commentary provided during televised professional wrestling matches. Wally Karbo (1915-1993) was a professional wrestling promoter in Minnesota and co-founder of the American Wrestling Association in 1960. The picture to the left shows him refereeing a Minnesota Mud Match c. 1950, long before his AWA days. He was also the host of the Saturday morning AWA show, All-Star Wrestling, until 1985.
“Grody” is a slang term meaning “gross,” like a form of the word “grotesque.” It first appeared in the 1960s.
Wilford Brimley is a portly, grandfatherly actor who appeared in a notable series of commercials for Quaker Oatmeal in addition to such films as Cocoon and The Natural.
Great, it’s a wood tick. He’s going to get Lyme disease now. –Quick, get a lit cigarette.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by tick bites. It is named after Lyme, Connecticut, where many cases were identified in the 1970s. Symptoms include fever, fatigue, depression, and rashes. If left untreated, the bacteria may affect the heart and nervous system. Using a lit cigarette or match is a common means of getting a tick to disengage itself from the skin.
Let’s get some Deep Woods Off! and finish ‘em off.
Off! is an insect repellent made by SC Johnson and first sold in 1957. Deep Woods Off! is one of several product variants.
I know you’re a bendy doll in this scene.
Bendy dolls are a simple craft doll made by bending pipe cleaners or wire into a rough approximation of a human form and then wrapping them with embroidery floss or yarn to create the body. The dolls can be left plain or gussied up with sewn and embellished clothing, wooden or painted faces, hair, or whatever else the crafter wishes.
Get me, I’m a bendy doll.
See previous note.
[Imitating.] By this time, my lungs were aching for air.
A favorite line of MST3K, referencing Sea Hunt, a syndicated action-adventure show that aired from 1958 to 1961. It starred Lloyd Bridges as scuba diver Mike Nelson (weird coinky-dink) and followed his undersea adventures. In many episodes, his scuba tank’s air hoses would be cut either accidentally or by sinister purpose.
Darn, darn, darn.
An imitation of an angered Herman Munster, the Frankenstein’s monster-like father figure played by Fred Gwynne on the 1964-1966 CBS sitcom The Munsters.
Grab a Mountain Dew and try that. It’s a blast.
Mountain Dew is a sweet, citrus-flavored, highly caffeinated soft drink introduced in 1948 and bought by PepsiCo in 1964.
They’re great. Remember the Corn Palace last year? Oh, I left the lens cap on.
A reference to the world-famous (all right, Midwest-famous) Corn Palace, located in Mitchell, South Dakota. The Corn Palace, which was built in 1892 to lure settlers to the area, is a Moorish-style castle, complete with onion domes; the exterior of the palace is decorated with murals made from dried corn kernels and other grains, which are redesigned yearly by local artists. The building is a triumph of earnest Midwestern kitsch.
So there was a hook on the door handle. Scary.
This is the end of a famous campfire tale wherein a hook-handed man terrorizes teens making out in cars.
They did play a cruise ship once with Eartha Kitt. But other than that ...
Eartha Kitt (1927-2008) was an actress and singer. Her most famous acting role came in the third season of the TV series Batman as Catwoman, and her biggest musical hit was 1953’s “Santa Baby.”
It’s a city of eight million people. You better talk to the chamber of commerce.
A chamber of commerce is a local organization of businesses whose purpose is to encourage the growth of commerce in the area. The first chamber of commerce was founded in 1599 in Marseilles, France; the oldest American chamber is New York City’s, founded in 1768. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a national business group that lobbies Congress and advocates for business-friendly legislation.
Meanwhile, at Hawaii Five-O.
See above note on “Meanwhile …” Hawaii Five-O was a television show about the exploits of a group of police detectives in Hawaii. The series starred Jack Lord and ran from 1968-1980. Why “Five-O?” Because Hawaii is the fiftieth state. This show also spawned the famous warning “Five-oh!”, meaning “police are coming.”
Noriega? Daniel Ortega? Tio Sancho?
General Manuel Noriega is a former military dictator of Panama, where he ruled from 1983 to 1989. In 1989, he essentially stole the election and tried to restrict the U.S. military’s freedom of movement in the country (related to treaties governing the protection of the Canal). Those actions, along with his role in the international drug trade, led then-President George H.W. Bush to send the United States military after him in December 1989, an action dubbed “Operation Just Cause.” The U.S. invasion was met with international criticism; the United Nations voted 75-20 to condemn it as a violation of international law. Noriega fled the capital and took sanctuary in the Vatican embassy. Thus began “Operation Nifty Package,” as Navy SEALs surrounded the embassy and played The Clash and Guns ‘n’ Roses at deafening volumes at all hours. After ten days, the Papal Nuncio (the Vatican’s name for their ambassador) encouraged Noriega to leave, and the U.S. arrested him as a prisoner of war. In 1992, Noriega was tried and convicted in Miami on eight counts of drug trafficking, money laundering, racketeering, and so on, and sentenced to 30 years in prison. In 2007, he was released, and three years later he was extradited to France and convicted on money laundering charges there; the following year France finally sent him to Panama, which had been clamoring for his head for some time, to answer for crimes committed during his reign. Panama subsequently imprisoned him for another 20-year term, which he is currently serving. Daniel Ortega is a Nicaraguan revolutionary and politician. He was part of the Sandinistas that overthrew the government and a member of the Junta that rebuilt the nation. The Reagan-era Iran-Contra scandal funded the rebel Contra force in an attempt to topple the Sandinista government; the Reagan administration opposed the Sandinistas because they were socialists, which to 1980s conservatives equaled communism. The funding came through covert sales of arms to Iran, since Congress had outlawed funding of the Contras for purposes of overthrowing the government. Ortega was president of the nation from 1985 to 1990 and became president again in 2007. Tio Sancho was a brand of Mexican food sold in the U.S. for most of the 1980s: microwavable nachos, taco kits and shells, etc.
What are you, Gabe Kaplan here? What’s with the story? Get on with it. Is this a Bob Newhart bit?
Gabe Kaplan is an actor best known for his role as Gabe Kotter in the TV sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979). He is also a highly successful professional poker player. Bob Newhart is a comedian and actor. In the 1960s, he had a series of best-selling comedy albums, including The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. In the 1970s, the sitcom The Bob Newhart Show aired on CBS for six seasons. In the ‘80s, Newhart aired for eight seasons on CBS, too. An attempt to rule the ‘90s with another long-running sitcom on CBS didn’t fare as well, as Bob barely lasted a season and a half.
It’s Benito Mussolini.
Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) was the prime minister of Italy beginning in 1922 and became established as its fascist dictator from 1930 until 1943. Along with Germany and Japan, Mussolini led Italy as an Axis power into World War II (1939-1945). When various defeats and the invasion of Italy caused Mussolini to lose favor, he was removed from power and arrested. In 1945, he attempted to escape to Switzerland, but he and other fascists were captured and shot by people loyal to the new Italian government. Mussolini’s and the other bodies were hung upside down from meathooks in Milan, where they were stoned and abused by onlookers.
Look, it’s the Kahlúa factory.
Kahlúa is a coffee-flavored rum liqueur first produced in Mexico in 1936. It is used in several cocktails, including Mudslides, White Russians, and Black Russians.
On the Isle of Langerhans.
The islets of Langerhans are the parts of the pancreas that produce insulin and other hormones. They are named after German anatomist Paul Langerhans, who first identified them in 1869.
[Imitating Dr. Strangelove.] Where we could live so that the animals could be bred and slaughtered!
A paraphrasing of a famous line in the 1964 Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), a former Nazi scientist, is outlining a plan for the survival of the human race after a nuclear holocaust and suggests digging great shafts into the Earth where mankind would live: “Greenhouses could maintain plant life. Animals could be bred and slaughtered!”
[Imitating Dr. Strangelove.] Which is slightly swollen due to the pressure of the naughty bits.
See previous note.
Here on the seventh green, by the dogleg.
In golf, a “dogleg” is the bend in a fairway.
Hey, it’s Walt Disney and friends! –And Adolphe Menjou.
Walt Disney (1901-1966) was an animator and entrepreneur who rose to fame with his eponymous corporation and the many thousands of hours of entertainment that it churned out, as well as the theme parks that dot the globe. Contrary to urban legend, Disney was cremated after his death, not cryogenically frozen. Adolphe Menjou (1890-1963) was an actor who appeared in films such as A Star Is Born, Paths of Glory, and The Front Page. He courted the ire of many in Hollywood when he “named names” of possible communists during the McCarthy era.
He’s got the pi sign on his head.
Pi, or π, is a mathematical constant defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It is an irrational number, meaning that a precise measurement of it would be nigh infinite. Here are the first 100 digits: 3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510 58209 74944 59230 78164 06286 20899 86280 34825 34211 70679.
Meanwhile, at the Stork Club …
See above note on “Meanwhile ...” The Stork Club was a famous New York nightspot that was open from 1929 to 1965. It was founded by ex-bootlegger Sherman Billingsley, and the club occasionally ran afoul of Prohibition agents until the Twenty-First Amendment passed in 1933, making alcohol legal again. As the premier club in New York City, celebrities were present almost every night, but Milton Berle, Jackie Gleason, and Humphrey Bogart were among the celebrities banned from the establishment for their poor behavior.
“Cigarette?” –Yes, it is.
A running gag on the short-lived 1982 absurdist comedy TV series Police Squad! : whenever Leslie Nielsen, who played Detective Frank Drebin, offered someone a cigarette, they would reply, “Yes, it is,” or "Yes, I know." The show only lasted six episodes, but it found later success in the series of Naked Gun movies.
How ‘bout the IHOP?
The International House of Pancakes, better known as IHOP, is a nationwide chain of restaurants specializing in breakfasts. The first restaurant was opened in Toluca Lake, California, in 1958.
What are you, on Dr. Seuss time all of a sudden?
Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) was a prolific author and artist best known for his forty-four children’s books, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Horton Hears a Who, and The Cat in the Hat.
Look at me, I’m a Rubik’s Cube all of a sudden. Whoa.
The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik. It was a fad toy during the 1980s, consisting of a cube with different colored sides that rotated; the object was to get all the colors to match once you had scrambled the cube up. In 1983, there was even a short-lived animated series, Rubik, the Amazing Cube, which aired Saturday mornings on ABC. Rubik was a magician’s tool that could fly and had magical powers, but only if the colors all matched up. Naturally, every episode featured Rubik getting scrambled, and one of the characters had to solve the puzzle.
Meanwhile, at the toboggan room at the IHOP.
See above note on “Meanwhile …” and previous note on the IHOP.
Putting pesos on the tracks to see if they flatten.
When a train hits a penny (or a peso), the penny will definitely get flattened. That’s why the pennies get put there in the first place, of course—people (usually teenagers) hoping for a cool souvenir. Unfortunately, the pennies aren’t the only things that get flattened: a number of people have been killed by trains while pursuing this pastime.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
This is a line from the children’s story “The Little Engine That Could.” The original author is unclear, but the first known version of the tale in print came in 1906 as part of a sermon by the Rev. Charles Wing. The most popular version was written by the owner of the publishing company Platt & Munk, Arnold Munk, under the pen name of Watty Piper, and published in 1930.
Hey, get me, I’m messing up time tables. Whoa.
See above note on It’s a Wonderful Life.
He’s gonna play chicken with the train.
Chicken is the name given to the game wherein two people, often in cars, propel themselves toward each another at high speed to see who will alter their course to avoid a collision: whoever swerves first loses the game. Sometimes the game can be one-sided; in other words, a person can play against an unwitting opponent (such as a train).
We at Amtrak would like to apologize for any inconvenience. This rarely happens.
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation is more colloquially known as Amtrak (from “America” and “track”), a government-owned passenger rail service. It was created in 1971 by President Richard Nixon and Congress after the high-profile end of several railroad companies, when passenger rail travel seemed ready to end as well. Nixon promised surviving rail companies that Amtrak wouldn’t last more than a few years, but obviously that didn’t pan out. Today, with a ridership of over 30 million annually, Amtrak is breaking records, but the U.S. still lags far behind in mass rail transit compared to other developed nations. And, like the U.S. Postal Service, Amtrak is operating at a loss every year and survives thanks to subsidies and deficit spending.
He ordered a stinger.
A stinger is a cocktail made by mixing brandy with crème de menthe. There are variants: using green crème de menthe gives you a green hornet, while substituting vodka for the brandy gets you a vodka stinger. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
It's like a scorpion battle royal happening.
A battle royal is a pro wrestling match in which somewhere between four and sixty wrestlers have at one another until there's only one man left standing. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Do you know the way to Monterey?
A paraphrase of the 1968 song “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Dionne Warwick.
But first, perhaps you’d like to up your pledge from the fifty dollar to the hundred dollar level.
A reference to the pledge drives frequently held by Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio stations. Various “levels” of contributions could net the donor different types of swag, including, say, tote bags or a CD of Tuvan throat singing.
Don’t ask Groucho.
Groucho Marx (1890-1977) was an American comedian known for his rapier wit, glasses, cigar, and heavily painted eyebrows and moustache. He was considered the leader of the Marx Brothers, with whom he appeared in thirteen films. He later hosted the radio and television game show You Bet Your Life (1947-1961).
Hey, it’s the Disney Channel.
Disney Channel is a cable network that launched in 1983. It carried family programming and movies and was a premium cable channel for years, meaning consumers had to pay extra to get it. This added a bit of cachet to the network. By the end of the decade, the premium was gone but their family programming blocks (including a revived Mickey Mouse Club) remained.
Hey, Panama, 1990. What do you know?
See above note on Noriega.
Is it bigger than a breadbox?
The question “Is it bigger than a breadbox?” entered popular parlance via Steve Allen on his prime-time TV game show What’s My Line?, which ran from 1950-1967; it is still frequently used in the game Twenty Questions.
France, 1940. The Germans cross easily through the French battalions and Paris falls. Millions run before the threat of the giant Nazi scorpion. Wait a second. This isn’t Paris. It’s not ‘41 (sic). I’m not Lowell Thomas!
A reference to the Second World War and the surrender of Paris in 1940. Lowell Thomas (1892-1981) was a broadcaster known for essentially creating the travelogue. He was selected by President Woodrow Wilson to record an account of World War I (not WWII). His most famous broadcasts and footage were made in the Middle East as he followed T.E. Lawrence, a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia. After the war, he produced radio and television commentaries for both NBC and CBS until his retirement in 1976.
A reference to a scene in the 1979 comedy The In-Laws, in which CIA agent Peter Falk tries to teach mild-mannered dentist Alan Arkin how to dodge a hail of bullets.
[Imitating.] Fly, monkeys! Fly!
An imitation of the Wicked Witch of the West (played by Margaret Hamilton) in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, as she sent forth her legion of flying monkeys after Dorothy and her traveling companions.
Meanwhile, in ancient Greece, the same war raged on.
See above note on “Meanwhile …”
In the Vatican, Noriega cries, “I need more beef!” Nuns load truck after truck of tasty beef in an attempt to quell the hunger of the papal pal.
See above note on Noriega.
Sorta like a surreal version of the Chuck Wagon commercials. Yah! Yah!
Purina Chuck Wagon was a brand of dog food popularized by a series of commercials in the 1970s and ‘80s featuring a tiny frontier-era chuck wagon driving through the house being chased by the dog. Believe it or not, Purina released a promotional video game titled “Chase the Chuck Wagon” for the Atari 2600 in 1983.
Our fabulous arsenal is assembled. Tanks, firepower, snowplows, Chevys ... huh?
Chevy is the short name for automaker Chevrolet. It was founded in 1911 and bought by General Motors in 1917.
Wow, Dan Witkowski really puts on a halftime show. When do the Elvis impersonators come out?
The Super Bowl XXIII (1989) halftime show was “Be-Bop Bamboozled in 3-D.” (Coca-Cola had distributed 3-D glasses at retailers prior to the game’s airing on TV.) It featured Elvis Presto, an Elvis-impersonating magician played by 33-year-old former Solid Gold dancer Alex Cole, along with hundreds of dancers. While music blared, Presto attempted several tricks, including a card-guessing game with the audience that didn’t pan out. Oddly, none of the music played was by Presley. To give you an idea of how reviled this act was, in his introduction, commentator Bob Costas said in a deadpan tone, “This is the single proudest moment of my life,” as his crew laughed loudly in the background. Dan Witkowski is the Minnesota-based promoter who put the thing together.
Queequeg, I feel the presence of the great white! Watch for her to surface!
Queequeg is a harpooner on Captain Ahab’s ship Pequod in the 1851 Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick. He is the son of the chief of a cannibal tribe from an island in the South Seas, and is the best friend of the novel’s narrator, Ishmael.
Hit him right above the silk scarf. –[Imitating.] You beautiful SOB, I read your book!
See above note on Patton. “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!” is a famous line from the film.
I’ll be Pavlov, watch. Ding, ding, ding, ding.
Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) was a Russian scientist who is best known for his psychological experiments involving conditioning. In his most famous test of “conditional reflex,” he sought to explain why his dogs salivated at the mere suggestion of food. He rang bells, blew whistles, performed electroshock, etc., along with the serving of food in order to stimulate salivation. He also performed many experimental surgeries on his dogs that we might consider inhumane today. Oh, and he also conducted many of these same experiments (bell ringing, electroshock, surgeries) on children.
Nice move, but I can’t help but wonder if there was some contact with the ground there and that would nullify the play. –Let’s roll back the instant replay here. Yep, there it is. Definitely contact with the ground.
A reference to American football, touchdown scoring rules, and the concept of instant replay.
[Imitating Julia Child.] Now how do you boys like yours done? I like mine crispy on the outside.
Julia Child (1912-2004) was a television chef noted for bringing concepts of French cooking to the American public. Her book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was a bestseller, and she had several long-running television cooking shows, including The French Chef (1963-1973).
While Jim subdues the angry scorpion, I’ll mix up the roux for a tasty gravy.
On the long-running nature show Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (1963-1988; revived 2002), former host Marlin Perkins had a tendency to do mundane tasks while his assistant, Jim Fowler, was off doing something dangerous. A “roux” is a thickening agent, usually flour and butter, used in the making of sauces and gravy.
[Imitating Julia Child.] Now while your scorpions are being cooked, you could fix up a nice salad that can be done when you’re ready to serve.
See previous note on Julia Child.
You touch him. I’m not going to touch him.
A reference to an old TV ad for Life cereal, which ran from 1972-1984, making it one of the longest-lived commercials ever. In the ad, two boys are arguing over which of them has to try a new cereal first. (“I’m not going to try it. You try it!”) Suddenly, inspiration strikes: they’ll get their younger brother, Mikey, to try it.
[Imitating Justin Wilson.] Whoo, little on-yun, cayenne pepper. Whoo, good stock, I gar-on-tee.
An imitation of Justin Wilson (1914-2001), a Cajun chef and comedian who once appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. He sold millions of cookbooks and hosted the long-running PBS show Louisiana Cookin’.
Fresh from his Broadway stint as Lenin ...
Broadway is a street in New York City, famous for being the home to much of the nation’s premier theater productions. Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was a Russian communist who led 1917’s “October Revolution,” overthrowing the tsars and establishing the Soviet socialist state.
‘Twas beauty that killed the beast.
A paraphrase of the final line in the film King Kong (1933 and 2005 versions): “It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”