by Wyn Hilty
Hey! –It's a White Castle Hamburgers film.
White Castle is a chain of fast food burger restaurants founded in 1921, located mostly in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic U.S. Their classic burger is often called a “slider”: a small, square, thin beef patty on a square bun with a touch of onion and a dill slice. Its burgers are also available through vending machines and in the frozen food sections of grocery stores.
Bootsy Collins is a funk bassist and singer who backed up James Brown and played with Parliament/Funkadelic before launching a solo career in the 1970s. His most successful song was probably 1978’s “Bootzilla.”
That looks like the Harvard sculling team.
Sculling is the use of oars to move a boat in the water. Typically, in college sports, it's just called rowing, and Harvard University's team generally places near the top.
D is for damned, as in village of.
Village of the Damned is a 1960 horror flick about a small English village tormented by a group of mysterious, platinum-haired children. It was remade by John Carpenter in 1995.
Hey, Marsha, wanna go get a Bosco after the dance?
Bosco is a brand of chocolate-flavored syrup.
You vill dance with me, Eva!
A reference to German dictator Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), whose longtime mistress (and, right at the end, wife) was Eva Braun (1912-1945).
Hey, it’s the Republican National Convention.
The symbol of the Republican Party is an elephant (just as the symbol of the Democratic Party is a donkey). The association was first made by cartoonist Thomas Nash in 1874.
I want a Clark Bar.
“I want a Clark Bar” is the longtime advertising slogan for the candy bar, often spoken by a cartoon giraffe.
I is for Ike—he hides inside!
“Ike” was the nickname of President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969); his campaign slogan in 1952, in fact, was the famous (and successful) “I like Ike.”
Elvis has ordered an ice cream cone.
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.
And there’s Elvis now. –Eh, it looks like Charles Durning.
See previous note about Elvis. Charles Durning (1923-2012) was a hefty actor who appeared in such films as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Tootsie (1982), and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000).
And here comes Louie Anderson.
Louie Anderson is a portly standup comedian and actor who had his own very successful animated show in the 1990s called Life with Louie. He has also appeared in a number of movies and other television shows.
When you put your hand in a bunch of goo that a moment before was your best friend’s face, you’ll know what to do.
This is a famous line from the 1970 film Patton, spoken by George C. Scott in the title role.
Hey, there’s a Woozle and his name is Peanut.
From the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide: “Refers to ventriloquist Jeff Dunham and his weird vent figure named Peanut. The phrasing of his introduction makes it sound as though we’re supposed to know what a Woozle is.”
Hey, it’s David Duke atop that goose.
David Duke is a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a former Republican Louisiana State Representative. He was a candidate in the Republican presidential primaries in 1992 and in the Democratic presidential primaries in 1988. Over the years he has unsuccessfully campaigned to be elected state senator, U.S. senator, congressman, and governor of Louisiana. In 2002 he was sentenced to 15 months in prison on charges of mail and tax fraud. He remains an activist, writer, and punch line.
O is for one? Was there a writers' strike?
When the Writers Guild of America goes on strike, movies tend to be put on hold, but some TV shows will soldier on, often with a noticeable drop in quality. Writers' strikes have occurred in 1960 and 1981, with particularly long ones taking place in 1988 and 2007-2008.
P is for PETA, who’s boycotting this. And this, and this …
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is an animal-rights group that regularly protests things like wearing fur, eating chicken at fast food restaurants, using animals in films, and just about anything else that involves human-animal interaction.
Hey, that’s Tom and Roseanne!
Actor/comedians Tom Arnold and Roseanne Barr had a notoriously contentious marriage between 1990 and 1994, gleefully documented by the tabloids. At the time, the pair were cheerfully overweight (with Roseanne describing herself as “one happy fat woman”), but in the following decades, both have slimmed down considerably.
“Whose beak can hold more than his belly can.” P is for plagiarism from Ogden Nash.
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican!
is often attributed to comic poet Ogden Nash, but was written in 1910 by Dixon Lanier Merritt. Either way, the charge of plagiarism stands.
Hey, there’s Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
Jack Klugman (1922-2012) and Tony Randall (1920-2004) played the title characters on the TV series The Odd Couple, which ran from 1970-1975. (Klugman played the slob, Oscar, and Randall played the neat freak, Felix.)
Hey, Boo Radley!
Boo Radley is the reclusive neighbor who obsesses the children in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird. He emerges from his house at the very end to save the kids from a knife-wielding man bent on revenge.
Y is for Yanni, as far as I’m concerned.
Yanni is a new age keyboardist known for his floating compositions and his drooping mustache, and for having been in a relationship with Linda Evans for most of the ‘90s, something that was riffed on mercilessly in Show 512, Mitchell, which featured Evans..
Daddy-O. Must be Harry O’s father. –Or Wendy O’s dad, maybe.
Harry O was a television series that ran from 1974-1976. It starred David Janssen as world-weary private eye Harry Orwell. Wendy O. Williams was the lead singer for the band the Plasmatics. She also starred in a porn film and an exploitation flick called Reform School Girls. She killed herself in 1998.
Oh, I bet Firestone tires financed this.
Firestone has been making tires since 1900, at first for carriages and later for automobiles. The company was founded by Harvey Firestone. It was bought by Bridgestone in 1988 to create the Bridgestone Firestone conglomerate.
Oh, no, John Williams, before he heard Stravinsky.
John Williams is a renowned film composer who created, among many other works, the famous theme to Star Wars. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) was a Russian composer who created many of the classic works of modernism, including his Rite of Spring, which caused a near-riot when it premiered.
And introducing Morton Tubor as Mr. Potato Head.
Mr. Potato Head is a classic children’s toy first introduced in 1952. It is manufactured by Hasbro.
Elmer C. Rhoden Jr. I think we’ve all enjoyed Elmer and his fine glue products.
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.
[Name in credits: Lou Place.] Hey, you want to go over to Lou’s place? –[Imitating.] Oh, Lou ...
An imitation of Ted Baxter (played by Ted Knight), a newscaster on the classic CBS sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977), speaking to his boss, producer Lou Grant (played by Ed Asner). Lou’s Place was the name of a bar Mr. Grant opened in one of the episodes.
[Sung.] Ee-o-eleven ...
A reference to the song “Ee-O Eleven,” performed by Sammy Davis Jr. in the 1960 Rat Pack movie Ocean’s 11. The title comes from noisy casino gambling floors, where craps dealers pronounce the word “eleven” clearly, loudly, and distinctly to distinguish it from the similar-sounding "seven." Often they drag it out to “ee-yo-leven.”
I think this is Duel 2: The Trucker’s Story.
Duel is a 1971 made-for-TV movie about a man tormented by a faceless truck driver. It was directed by a then-unknown named Steven Spielberg.
Oh. Well, maybe this is the Jayne Mansfield story.
Jayne Mansfield was an actress who died in a car crash in 1967, when the car she was riding in plowed into the back of an insecticide truck.
Look out for the playground! Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett in The Love Bug!
The Love Bug is a 1968 film about a lovable Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie. It starred Dean Jones, veteran of many a wholesome Disney flick, and nightclub comedian Buddy Hackett. There is a deleted scene as a bonus track called “Playground” on the DVD.
All right, Broderick, out of the car.
Broderick Crawford (1911-1986) was an actor who appeared in more than 100 movies over his career, including classics like All the King’s Men (1949) and Born Yesterday (1950), but is best remembered for his starring role as California Highway Patrol Chief Dan Matthews in the ‘50s TV cop show Highway Patrol. While that show was in production, Crawford’s heavy drinking led to numerous drunk driving arrests, which caused the real California Highway Patrol no end of embarrassment.
Hey, Mr. Douglas.
Cap-wearing Eb Dawson, the farmhand on the TV sitcom Green Acres, often said “Hey, Mr. Douglas” in greeting to the main character, lawyer turned farmer Oliver Douglas. (Thanks to Les Clay for this reference.)
He said he doesn’t need no stinking badge.
A paraphrase of the famous line from the 1948 film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.”
Say, are those Chic jeans?
From reader Ken Diggs: “Chic jeans--pronounced 'chick' insted of 'sheek' as you might expect--was a popular women's jeans label in the ’80s. This brand was famous for having, like, 30 different sizes, and they advertised that there is a Chic jean to fit ANY woman. Nice lookin' jeans actually.”
[Sign reading "Rainbow Gardens."] Ooh, a water slide! –No, Crow, no. –I don’t think so.
Probably a reference to the long-gone Rainbow Falls Family Fun Park in Plover, Wisconsin. Opened in 1988, Rainbow Falls offered water slides, a wave pool, bumper boats, go-karts and miniature golf, and was a beloved local alternative to making the 70 mile drive to that other Wisconsin mecca of water parks: The Wisconsin Dells. Rainbow Falls was demolished in 2004.
Today’s youth! Hopped up on crack, crystal meth, formaldehyde, processed opium, tar heroin, and pomade.
Crack cocaine, or simply crack, is a form of cocaine that can be smoked. It is highly addictive and delivers a brief but strong high, followed immediately by an intense craving for more of the drug. Its widespread use in poor neighborhoods in major U.S. cities in the 1980s was called the “crack epidemic.” “Crystal meth” is an illicit form of methamphetamine hydrochloride, a powerful and highly addictive stimulant that became the scourge of rural America starting in the 1990s. Formaldehyde is an organic compound used in various chemical manufacturing processes, and became the foundation for modern embalming in the late 1800s. The drug PCP sometimes goes by the name "embalming fluid," leading to rumors that formaldehyde has recreational uses, but this is not true. If you want to give yourself various forms of cancer, though, go right ahead. The sap of the opium poppy can be processed in a number of ways, yielding pharmaceutical-grade morphine or heroin, or the much cruder tar heroin. Pomade is a hair-styling product: a greasy, waxy goo that, when slathered into your hair, gives it a wet, shiny look. Pomade does not dry out by itself; it takes several washings to get it out of your hair. How did gangsters in the 1920s and “greasers” in the 1950s get that special look? Pomade.
My mother’s a saint!
“My mother was a saint” is a line from Richard Nixon’s farewell address to his White House staff on August 9, 1974, shortly before he left office in disgrace.
Hey, Barney, give me a 30 count of 200 milligram Tagamet!
Tagamet HB 200 is an over-the-counter brand of heartburn medication.
[Imitating.] 'Scuse me, pardon me, coming through, pregnant lady. Oh, look, I’m spilling. I’m spilling. Look out.
An imitation of actor Ed Wynn, best known for supplying the voice of the Mad Hatter in Disney's 1951 animated feature Alice in Wonderland and for playing Uncle Albert in 1964's Mary Poppins.
Hey, check it out: it’s Los Lobos with Steve Allen on bass!
Los Lobos is a band out of East LA that combines traditional Mexican sounds with roots rock. Steve Allen (1921-2000) was the original host of the Tonight Show, appearing from 1953 to 1957; he was also an author, singer, pianist, and prolific composer.
Stick around—we got karaoke coming up next.
Karaoke is a Japanese sing-along interactive entertainment that maintains worldwide popularity in bars and at parties. A karaoke machine plays remixes of popular songs with the vocals removed, and the participant sings into a microphone that blends his or her voice with the music, often with the lyrics helpfully displayed on a video screen. Karaoke was first developed in the 1960s and started spreading internationally in the 1990s.
A line spoken by Steve Martin in his role as sadistic dentist Orin Scrivello in the 1986 musical film version of Little Shop of Horrors, who worshipped at a shrine to his mother, proclaiming, “Oh, Momma!”
Hey, it’s Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Green Jeans out clubbing.
Captain Kangaroo (played by Robert Keeshan) was the host and Mr. Green Jeans (played by Hugh Brannum) the sidekick on the long-running children’s show Captain Kangaroo, which aired from 1955-1984.
What is that, grease up there on the ceiling? –Well, grease is the word.
“Grease is the word” is a line from the song “Grease,” from the 1971 musical and the 1978 movie of the same name. Sample lyrics: “Grease is the word (it’s the word that you heard)/It’s got groove it’s got meaning/Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion/Grease is the way we are feeling …”
They’re taping “Rollercoaster” here.
A reference to the 1975 song “Love Rollercoaster” by the Ohio Players. In the song, there can be heard a high-pitched scream, and an urban legend arose that this was the actual death knell of a woman killed in studio. It was, in fact, keyboardist Billy Beck (who did not die either), but the rumors gave the song buzz and even boosted airplay and sales, so the band didn’t deny them until many years later. Sample lyrics: “Rollercoaster of love/Oh yeah it’s rollercoaster time/Lovin’ you is really wild/Oh it’s just a love rollercoaster/Step right up and get your tickets.”
You know, I don’t think this song is endorsed by the ADA.
The American Dental Association (ADA) is a professional organization for dentists.
You know, I think we talked over the only Dick Contino song in the movie?
Actor and musician Dick Contino (1930-2017) was actually an accordion virtuoso. Yes, those exist. He toured and performed before large crowds into the 21st century. Crime novelist James Ellroy, inspired by Daddy-O, wrote a 1994 novella titled Dick Contino’s Blues, which mixed crime fiction with a semi-biographical account of Contino’s early artistic struggles.
[Imitating.] Lurch like girl.
An imitation of Lurch, the Frankensteinish butler on the TV series The Addams Family, which aired from 1964-1966. The role was played by Ted Cassidy.
Supposed to be good for you.
A riff on the classic “Hey, Mikey!” TV commercial for Life cereal, which first aired in 1972 and ran for 12 years, becoming one of the longest-running commercials ever. The ad begins with two boys—who eventually persuade their younger brother Mikey to try Life cereal—staring down a bowl of the stuff and saying:
“Some cereal. It’s supposed to be good for you ...”
Die. Death. I’ll have a Coke.
Coca-Cola ("Coke") is a soft drink, the best-selling carbonated beverage in the world. It was invented in 1886 by John Pemberton as a non-alcoholic version of the then-popular coca wine in response to prohibition laws enacted by Atlanta and surrounding counties. Nonetheless, two key ingredients in the original formula were cocaine and caffeine; the name comes from cocaine and kola nuts (the caffeine source).
Some enchanted evening.
“Some Enchanted Evening” is a song from the 1949 Broadway musical South Pacific. Sample lyrics: “Some enchanted evening/You may see a stranger/You may see a stranger/Across a crowded room …”
Yeah, like six handfuls of pomade.
Pomade is a hairstyling product: a greasy, waxy goo that, when slathered in, gives hair a wet, shiny look. Pomade does not dry out by itself; it takes several washings to get it out of your hair. How did gangsters in the 1920s and “greasers” in the 1950s get that slicked-back look? Pomade.
I can get this kind of abuse at the Kennedy mansion.
In 1991, Ted Kennedy and his nephew William Kennedy Smith were caught up in allegations that Smith raped a woman at their Palm Beach estate. Smith was eventually acquitted of all charges.
You got me.
A reference to Show 204, Catalina Caper.
Oh, yeah? What about trig or calculus? FORTRAN or COBOL?
FORTRAN and COBOL are both early computer programming languages; FORTRAN was aimed more at engineers and other scientists, while COBOL was designed specifically for business applications.
“Where’s Sonny?” With Cher.
Sonny and Cher were a rock and roll duo in the 1960s and 1970s. They hit it big with “I Got You Babe” in 1965, and they also had a number of TV specials and series, including The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. Their collaboration ended in 1974 with their divorce.
Now, is that Brian Dennehy or Charles Durning?
Brian Dennehy (1938-2020) was a burly actor known for his appearances in such films as Silverado and The Belly of an Architect. See note on Charles Durning, above.
This is a job for Superteen!
Archie’s Super Teens is a tongue-in-cheek alternate universe in the Archie Comics world. The actual “Superteen” is Archie’s friend Betty Cooper, who first tapped into her superpowers by twisting her “magic ponytail” in 1965. Among other Super Teens: Archie became “Purpleheart the Powerful,” Jughead became “Captain Hero,” and a 1990 reboot introduced Veronica’s alter-ego: “Miss Vanity.” "This is a job for Superman!" was spoken by the DC Comics superhero as he transitioned from mild-mannered Clark Kent into the Man of Steel. The line was used in The Adventures of Superman radio series (1940-1951) and the classic Fleischer Studios & Famous Studios animated shorts of the early 1940s.
Hey, it’s Cannon!
Cannon was a TV series that aired from 1971-1976. It starred portly actor William Conrad as private detective Frank Cannon.
You can’t walk out on me—I’m Charles Foster Kane!
A paraphrase of a line from Citizen Kane (1941): “Don’t worry about me. I’m Charles Foster Kane!”
Now we see Tom McCahill test the ‘53 Ford Victoria. And it really performs.
From the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide: “Tom McCahill was the resident car critic for Mechanix Illustrated or Popular Mechanics, I forget which one. [Editor’s note: It was Mechanix Illustrated.] He was a big, bald, pipe-smoking Doughy Guy in the grand tradition, and he made weekend warriors and garage inventors seem noble, almost sublime. …As a critic, I don’t think he ever gave a bad review, and he never reviewed a foreign car. For Tom, the bigger the better was the word of the day, and I imagined him rolling around in a massive Ford Victoria or Chevy Biscayne, saying things like ‘Love the ride! Big feel, rides smooth! The little lady will love all the grocery space, and Dad will feel like Parnelli Jones with all those horses under the hood!’”
Hey, it’s the Sunday night NBC mystery movie. –[Whistled.] Theme from NBC Mystery Movie.
The NBC Mystery Movie was an umbrella title for a series of rotating TV shows that aired on Sunday nights from 1971 to 1977. The original shows were Columbo, McMillan & Wife, and McCloud; others were added later. The opening credits for the series showed the silhouette of a man in the distance with a flashlight, the beam of which would sweep across the screen, and featured a synthesizer score that sounded somewhat like a whistled melody. That opening was referenced and riffed so often on MST3K that Joel performed some behavioral modification on the bots in Show 404, Teenagers From Outer Space, wherein the bots would receive a “mild but memorable” electric shock if they mentioned the NBC Mystery Movie. Eventually an informal ban on future riffs was imposed, and happily ignored.
Vandals! –Stole the handle.
A riff on the 1965 Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues.” Sample lyrics: “Light yourself a candle/Don't wear sandals/Try to avoid the scandals/Don't wanna be a bum/You better chew gum/The pump don't work/'Cause the vandals took the handles.” (Thanks to Andrew Zembles for this reference.)
She looks like Marlene Dietrich all of a sudden.
Marlene Dietrich (1901-1991) was a German-born actress who first made it big playing a cabaret singer in Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930). She came to Hollywood, where her initial success was followed by a string of flops. She made a comeback playing Frenchy in the Jimmy Stewart Western Destry Rides Again (1939) and appeared in movies regularly through the 1940s.
John Frankenheimer directs Race for the Pizza.
John Frankenheimer (1930-2002) was a respected director whose films include the 1966 car race drama Grand Prix; his best-known film is probably The Manchurian Candidate (1962).
Paul Newman and Tom Cruise in The Color of Days of Thunder. The car? Christine Herbie.
Paul Newman (1925-2008) was an actor who co-starred in the film The Color of Money (1986) with Hollywood hunk Tom Cruise—it was a sequel to the 1961 film The Hustler, starring Newman and Jackie Gleason. Cruise, in turn, starred in the racing movie Days of Thunder (1990). Christine was a 1983 horror flick about a possessed car by that name. And Herbie was the name of the Love Bug (see above note).
Oh, it’s just like Ben-Hur.
Ben-Hur was a 1959 Hollywood epic starring Charlton Heston. One of the most famous scenes in the film is of a vicious chariot race.
I like mine Chicago style.
Chicago-style pizza is generally a thick, deep-dish-style pizza that nonetheless has a relatively thin crust. Sometimes served or delivered unsliced to prevent moisture from soaking into the crust for as long as possible, Chicago-style pizza is often cut into squares rather than wedges.
Wait a minute—how’d he get on that side of her? A Tyco change-up track?
Tyco is a brand of toy slot cars.
Gotham City, fourteen miles.
Gotham City is the fictional setting for the adventures of Batman. In the 1966-1968 ABC TV series, there was a road sign near where the Batmobile exited the Batcave. It read "Gotham City 14 miles."
An imitation of one of the myriad vocalizations performed by the comedy trio The Three Stooges in their 190 shorts, six films, and animated series. This one was most often used by Curly Howard (Jerome Horwitz).
Cutaway. –[Sung.] Cutaway… Cutaway… Cutaway chase game…cutaway!
In filmmaking or video production, a cutaway is when one scene is interrupted by inserting a view of something else, usually followed by a return to the original scene. This may also be riffing on the game Getaway, a sort of cross between a slot-car track and a board game, which was sold in the late 1960s through Sunray DX gas stations (now branded as Sunoco).
A stuffed pizza and Crazy Bread! –Pizza! Pizza!
Little Caesars is a pizza chain, the third largest in the U.S. behind Pizza Hut and Domino’s. They offer “stuffed crust” pizzas, touting “three feet of cheese (before cooking)”; Crazy Bread is their trademarked term for breadsticks covered in garlic butter sauce and Parmesan. Their slogan “Pizza! Pizza!”—spoken very quickly by their cartoon Caesar mascot in TV ads—was introduced in 1979 to sell their offer of two pizzas for the comparable price of one at a competitor.
Our pert little racer is wearing wool gabardine slacks and a kicky modified trench. She’s a real deuce coupe.
Probably a reference to the Beach Boys song “Little Deuce Coupe.” Sample lyrics: “She’s my little deuce coupe/You don’t know what I got.”
Danny Thomas (1912-1991) was a singer and actor best known for his lead role on the long-running series Make Room for Daddy, which aired from 1953-1965. Thomas is often credited with popularizing the spit take, a bit of comedy shtick in which a person taking a sip of a beverage reacts to seeing or hearing something by spitting out the beverage.
The things I can do with my Spirograph!
Spirograph is a drawing toy first sold by Kenner in 1965, consisting of plastic disks with holes in them, which could be used to draw interesting spiral designs. The advertising jingle for Spirograph in the 1970s was: “I don’t believe it/I just don’t believe it/The things I can do with my Spirograph.”
I’ve gotta get this car back to Billy Barty. Chili peppers burned my gut.
Billy Barty (1924-2000), who plays the imp in Show 806, The Undead, was a prolific actor who also crusaded for societal acceptance of little people. He founded Little People of America in 1957 to work toward that goal. He appeared in more than 80 films and TV series during his lengthy career. Show 202, Sidehackers, is the origin of the often repeated MST3K riff “Chili peppers burn my gut.” In fact, the dialogue from the movie goes: "Hey, Rommel. You like those chili peppers that Lois gets?" "Yeah, yeah, but they burn my gut."
“Like I said, anything goes.” Cole Porter.
Anything Goes is a musical written by composer Cole Porter.
Cops is filmed on location twenty years ago.
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.”
Hey, you’re facing the wrong way for the drive-in.
The first drive-in theater opened in 1915 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. At their peak in the early 1960s, there were around 4,000 drive-in theaters across the United States; however, a steep decline in popularity over the next couple of decades led to their near-extinction. Following a nostalgia-fueled revival starting in the early 1990s, the number of drive-ins now hovers around 300, and some places are starting to see “pop-up” drive-ins, featuring a mobile, inflatable screen and food-truck concession stands.
My name’s Phil and I’m an alcoholic. –Hi, Phil.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a self-help system for alcoholics that relies on a twelve-step program and the support of other alcoholics to help people quit drinking and stay sober. A key component to the program is regular attendance at AA meetings, where protocol dictates that speakers introduce themselves by first name only (hence the "anonymous" part of AA), followed by “I’m an alcoholic,” to which the rest of the group responds “Hi, [first name].”
Oh, this Walkman works really well.
The forefather of the iPod and other digital personal music players, the Walkman was introduced by Sony in 1979. The original Walkman was a portable stereo cassette player about the size of a Stephen King paperback. By allowing the user to take music of their choice virtually anywhere–listening privately, through lightweight headphones–the Walkman brought about a paradigm shift in the role music plays in people’s lives.
7:15. Gannon and I headed back downtown. Bunko.
Riffs on the crime drama Dragnet, which aired on the radio from 1949-1957 and on TV from 1951-1959. Both the radio and TV series featured Jack Webb as Lieutenant Joe Friday, who provided a steady stream of monotone narration. The TV series featured Friday’s partner, Officer Bill Gannon, played by Harry Morgan. “Bunko” is a slang term for confidence swindles; large city police forces would have a department devoted to bunko investigations.
Al Bundy was the reluctant patriarch on the TV series Married … with Children, which ran from 1987-1997. The part was played by Ed O’Neill.
Think MacArthur Park.
The 1968 song “MacArthur Park” was written by Jimmy Webb and first recorded by Irish actor and singer Richard Harris–it became a number-one single and won a Grammy Award. Donna Summer’s 1978 disco version also became a number-one hit. It is widely considered the stupidest song ever written. Sample lyrics: “MacArthur's Park is melting in the dark/All the sweet, green icing flowing down/Someone left the cake out in the rain/I don't think that I can take it/'Cause it took so long to bake it/And I'll never have that recipe again/Oh no!”
“Kid’s name was …” James Dean?
James Dean (1931-1955) was an iconic young film actor and teen heartthrob who made his reputation playing bad boys and delinquents, as in his archetypal role in Rebel Without a Cause (1955).He assured himself of film immortality by dying young in a car accident outside Paso Robles, California.
“… Leonard DiMarco.” Hey, I got a felt pen by that name! –De Marco? No.
In the 1970s, the Flair products line of pens used to include a felt pen named El Marko, complete with a Zorro-like masked figure for a mascot. The line was discontinued, and "Vintage El Marko felt pens" now show up as eBay collectibles.
So, you enjoy Adam-12?
Adam-12 was a TV cop show that ran from 1968-1975.
“I understand you worked for a carnival.” Yeah, I bit the heads off chickens.
In the early 20th century, some American traveling carnivals and circuses had what were called “geek shows” as part of their larger sideshow attraction. Geek shows featured an individual dressed in rags or a "primitive native" costume (often billed as something like “The Wild Man of Borneo”) who would behave and shout erratically, and, as a finale, chase and catch a chicken and appear to bite its head off. Many carnivals considered it a matter of pride to NOT have a geek act; geeks were often alcoholics or drug addicts who were paid in booze or drugs.
Hey, ya know, Phil, I know a wiener man, he owns a hot dog stand. You know, he gives me everything from wieners on down.
“The Wiener Man” is a campfire song popular with scout-aged children. Sample lyrics: “I know a wiener man/He owns a wiener stand/He sells most anything/From hot dogs on down!/One day I’ll join his life/I’ll be his wiener wife/Hot dog! I love that wiener man!”
“Where is that crazy chick?” Frances Farmer?
Frances Farmer (1913-1970) was a glamorous actress who appeared in a number of movies during the 1930s. However, she had a notorious temper, an abrasive personality, and a problem with alcohol. During the 1940s she was repeatedly hospitalized for mental illness, although in retrospect it is unclear just how mentally ill she was.
Left! Right! –Third base!
A reference to an old Abbott and Costello routine, titled “Who’s on First?”
Isn’t that where Darrin and Samantha live?
Darrin and Samantha Stephens were the mortal-and-witch couple on TV’s Bewitched, which ran from 1964-1972.
Thank you, Watson.
Dr. John Watson was the loyal sidekick and narrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
It’s a George Barris kustom car kit!
George Barris (1925-2015), known as the “King of the Kustomizers,” had run a “kustom” car shop in Los Angeles since the mid-1940s. In the late 1950s a company called Revell began manufacturing plastic model kits of Barris’s cars.
I hate Granny Smiths.
Granny Smiths are a tart variety of apple named after their discoverer, Maria Ann Smith. They are commonly used in pies and other baked dishes.
Ah, here’s Peggy Lee with the coffee. –You give me that! –She’s a tramp.
Peggy Lee (1920-2002) was a singer known for her “soft and cool” singing style. She also appeared in several movies. Lee wrote and performed the song “He’s a Tramp” from the 1955 Disney animated feature Lady and the Tramp, for which she also voiced several characters.
“That’s the trouble.” With tribbles?
“The Trouble with Tribbles” is an episode of the original Star Trek series, which aired from 1966-1969. In it, the Enterprise is overrun by small round balls of fluff called tribbles. It originally aired on December 29, 1967.
Hey, it’s Joe Cocker!
Joe Cocker (1944-2014) was a British soul singer who formed his Grease Band in 1966 and performed such hit songs as “Feelin’ Alright” and “Delta Lady.” Cocker reportedly spent most of the 1970s in an alcohol-induced stupor before scoring a comeback in 1983 with “Up Where We Belong,” a duet with Jennifer Warnes that was included on the soundtrack for the film An Officer and a Gentleman. Cocker continued to record and tour throughout the rest of the 1980s and the 1990s.
[Sung.] Do de-do, do de-do, do-do de-do-do …
An imitation of the theme used in the comedy shorts of Laurel & Hardy (Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy) in the 1920s and '30s. The song is known as "The Cuckoo Song" or "Dance of the Cuckoos," and was composed for the Hal Roach Studios' radio station by Marvin Hatley. Laurel heard it, liked it, and asked for it to be used as their theme song.
[Sung.] Dum, dum, dum, dum, dummm, dum-dum-dum-dum ...
This familiar foreboding musical cue dates back to the silent movie era and is called "Mysterioso Pizzicato," alternatively known as "Here Comes the Villain" and "The Villain's Theme." It was first compiled and published by J.B. Lampe in 1914 (although he probably didn't write it) and has been used in films, television, and cartoons for nearly a century.
This place must have a woodburning Nautilus.
Nautilus is a brand of exercise machine known for its variable resistance feature.
Yep, just as I thought: nitrogen-filled, triple-pane, double-glazed Andersen windows. This should be easy.
Andersen is a manufacturer of doors and windows. Normally, vinyl replacement windows such as those manufactured by Andersen are filled with air or nitrogen to help insulate the glass better.
Hey, it’s the Sunday mystery movie out there.
See above note.
That’s it—in you pixies come, through the window.
From the ACEG: “Sheldon Leonard from It’s a Wonderful Life.” (The actual line: “That’s it, out you two pixies go, out the door or through the window.”)
They came in through the backroom window, didn’t they? –Ah, protected by a silver spoon.
Riffs on the Beatles song “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” part of a medley on their 1969 album Abbey Road. It was written by Paul McCartney about a zealous Beatles fan who broke into his home—through the bathroom window. Sample lyrics: “She came in through the bathroom window/Protected by a silver spoon/But now she sucks her thumb and wanders/By the banks of her own lagoon.”
A teddy, a jock, a side of beef, Annette Funicello poster, Edgar Allan Poe poetry …
Actress Annette Funicello (1942-2013) got her start in the 1950s on the TV show The Mickey Mouse Club. She went on to star in a series of beach movies in the 1960s. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was an author and poet known for his macabre tales and poems such as “The Raven.”
Return to Papillon—hmmm.
Papillon is a 1973 film starring Steve McQueen as a prisoner bent on escape.
Hey, that’s from Catalina Caper!
A reference to Show 204, Catalina Caper.
This is great—we’re having an adventure, just like the Goonies!
The Goonies (1985) was a film about a group of kids who get drawn into a wild adventure after they discover a pirate treasure map.
Hey, his mother was a saint!
See note about Richard Nixon, above.
Hey, put on “Dude Looks Like a Lady.” I love that.
“Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” was a hit for the rock band Aerosmith in 1987. It appears on the album Permanent Vacation. Sample lyrics: “She had the body of a Venus/Lord, imagine my surprise/Dude looks like a lady/Dude looks like a lady.”
All right, I’ll have the pork rind malt, a lard omelet, and a Diet Coke, please.
Diet Coke is a carbonated beverage made by Coca-Cola and introduced in 1982, eventually almost replacing their other diet drink brand, Tab, entirely. Its sugar substitute is aspartame (brand named NutraSweet). After original Coke, Diet Coke is the second best-selling soda in the United States.
“Hey, Barney!” Google.
Barney Google was the eponymous star of a comic strip that first appeared in 1919. Eventually the name of the strip was changed to “Barney Google and Snuffy Smith,” and Barney appeared only rarely.
Wow, I’m my own Saturday night thing.
Possibly a riff on a line from the 1989 Patrick Swayze movie (and MST3K staff favorite) Road House, in which a bouncer tells a floozy “Oh yeah, you’re gonna be my regular Saturday night thing, baby.” (Thanks to Noah Kurland for this reference.)
Yep—Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Isaac Bashevis Singer (1904-1991) was a Jewish writer who wrote almost exclusively in Yiddish, although his works were better known in their English translations. He is known for such novels as The Family Moskat and The Slave, as well as for numerous short stories.
Oh, Beetle Bailey, what’s he up to now?
Beetle Bailey is the eponymous star of a comic strip that is syndicated to some 1,800 newspapers. He first appeared in 1950. Creator Mort Walker drew the strip until his death in 2018 at age 84, making it the longest-running strip produced by its original creator. It is now drawn by Walker’s granddaughter.
Toga, toga, toga, toga ...
A reference to the famous toga party scene in the 1979 comedy film Animal House.
You smell like Captain Kangaroo.
See note about Captain Kangaroo, above.
Come in, Jedediah. Pour yourself some Paul Masson.
Jedediah is a character in the classic 1941 movie Citizen Kane, co-written, produced, directed by and starring Orson Welles, who somewhat resembles Sydney in this movie. A substantially larger Welles did a series of TV commercials for California jug-wine producer Paul Masson Vineyards in the late 1970s.
“No, it's not. It's downright rude.” Downright upright.
A series of very ‘70s TV commercials for Harvey’s Bristol Cream liqueur featured feather-haired young women inviting themselves over to hunky guys’ apartments, explaining to the camera that as long as they arrive clutching a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, it’s not improper, it’s “downright upright.”
We’re meeting Peter Lawford for dinner.
Peter Lawford (1923-1984) was a member of the Rat Pack, a group of singers and actors in the 1960s who performed in Vegas, wore snappy clothes, gambled, drank, and womanized together, and when they had a spare moment, made movies like Ocean’s 11. The Pack consisted of Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop.
Why, it’s a tiny statue of St. Francis.
Possibly a reference to Italian friar St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226). In the Catholic faith, he is regarded as the patron saint of animals, the environment, merchants, Italy, and San Francisco. Or perhaps a reference to Spanish missionary St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552). He's the patron saint of missionaries and many, many cities, including Green Bay, Wisconsin (Woo! Packers!).
I learned that at Harvard Business School, you know. It’s true.
The Harvard Business School was founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University. It is one of the most prestigious business schools in the country.
The driver is either missing or he’s … remember that one?
Death Valley Days was a radio, and then a television anthology series, set in the Wild West, that ran from 1930 to 1975. Each episode was introduced by a host; from 1965 to 1966 that host was Ronald Reagan, his final work as a professional actor before entering politics. However, this recurring riff is actually a reference to a moment in the “Phantom Creeps” short in Show 205, Rocket Attack USA, when a character says, “The driver is gone or he’s hiding” in a very Ronald Reagan-like voice. Some fans came to believe that “The driver is either missing or he’s dead” was something that Ronald Reagan was actually known for saying. Not true. (Thanks to Satellite News for this reference.)
Hey, it’s the Honeymooners apartment.
A reference to the 1950s television sitcom The Honeymooners, which starred Jackie Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden and Audrey Meadows as his long-suffering wife Alice.
I think it’s the Pigeon sisters.
The Pigeon sisters are Oscar and Felix’s upstairs neighbors in The Odd Couple (ABC, 1970-1975). Cecily was played by Monica Evans and Gwendolyn was played by Carole Shelley; the two actresses appeared both in the movie and the TV show.
Hey, my Epilady!
Epilady is a brand of electric hair removers first introduced in 1986.
Oh, yes, Superman.
Superman is the quintessential comic-book hero. He first appeared in Action Comics in 1938. He has also been featured in cartoons, movies, radio shows, and even a Broadway musical.
Warren “Potsie” Weber was a character on the TV series Happy Days, which aired from 1974-1984. The part was played by Anson Williams.
Game over, man!
An iconic line whined by Bill Paxton in the 1986 marines-in-space sci-fi epic Aliens.
Otto von Cheesebiscuit.
Reader Jenny Grant points out that a bismarck is a kind of German doughnut named after the 19th-century German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and since a cheese biscuit is also a kind of pastry ... Sounds plausible to me.
Wow—these are the rowdiest group of youths since Altamont.
Altamont was a free concert held at the Altamont Raceway Park near San Francisco in December of 1969, featuring the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and others. Unfortunately, the concert organizers hired the Hell’s Angels to provide security and paid them in beer, and the concert quickly got out of hand. One young man was stabbed to death by the Angels, two others were run over, and one person drowned. Music critic Ralph Gleason wrote that if Woodstock was the flowering of the youth culture of the 1960s, Altamont was the end of it.
Hey, is that a Claes Oldenburg amoeba up on the wall?
Claes Oldenburg is a Pop Art sculptor known for his huge soft sculptures of everyday objects such as telephones, pencils, and lipstick.
Wow, she does look like Lou Reed from the Transformer album.
See note on Lou Reed, above.Transformer is an album from 1972, produced by David Bowie, that marked Reed’s excursion into glam rock. The cover features a high-contrast black-and-white photo of Reed with very dark shadows around his eyes.
Oh, there’s that Dudley Do-Right smile again.
Dudley Do-Right is a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, constantly battling his arch-nemesis, Snidely Whiplash. He made his first regular appearances in 1961 as part of The Bullwinkle Show, and eventually got a show of his own. In 1999 the character was adapted into a live-action movie starring Brendan Fraser.
Vic Damone is on the phone—he'd like his sound back.
Vic Damone (1928-2018) was an old-style crooner, a protege of Perry Como, who was popular from the late 1940s through the 1960s; he later enjoyed something of a revival on the Las Vegas circuit. (Thanks to Tim Cohen for this reference.)
Why couldn’t this guy be on the plane instead of Buddy Holly?
Buddy Holly was a rock and roll musician during the 1950s. He was tremendously influential on other artists, including the Beatles, but he was killed in a plane crash, along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, while on tour in 1959.
Looks like he has TMJ, too. –Or PB Max.
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, also known as the jaw bone. TMJ disorder occurs when pain is felt in the joint, making it difficult to talk, chew, or perform other normal activities. PB Max was a square-shaped candy bar involving peanut butter, oats, and a whole-grain cookie covered in chocolate. It was introduced by Mars in 1989 but then discontinued about four years later, despite strong sales. According to a former Mars executive, the product was pulled because the Mars family disliked peanut butter. Apparently that’s a British thing.
Hey, look, it’s Buster Keaton on guitar.
Buster Keaton (1895-1966) was a much-venerated star of silent films and is widely considered one of the best screen comedians of all time. He is known for such film classics as The General (1926) and Go West (1925).
Mr. Buddy Love!
Buddy Love is the suave, obnoxious ladies’ man persona that results when Jerry Lewis drinks his potion in The Nutty Professor (1963).
I don’t know if you know this, but that’s Lou Reed from Velvet Underground.
See note on Lou Reed, above.
Hey, a lamp! Oh, not really.
Probably a reference to the film A Christmas Story (1983), in which the father of the family acquires a lamp that looks like a woman’s leg.
She’s the barmaid in that honky tonk downstairs.
A line from the country song "Honky Tonk Downstairs," written by Dallas Frazier and recorded by George Strait in 1968; it has been covered by many others, including Poco in 1970. Sample lyrics: “My wife works all night long/For a man who's halfway gone/She's a barmaid in the honky tonk downstairs.”
Wow, she must have just read Codependent No More, I guess.
A reference to the book Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie.
Hey, it’s the Kronos Quartet.
The Kronos Quartet is a string quartet founded in 1973; it is based in San Francisco, California. The quartet is well-known for commissioning new pieces and has worked with many of the biggest names in modern music, such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich.
[Sung.] Smile, you’ve got a Blatz beer comin’, the hardiest, hardiest flavor in the land!
Blatz is a brand of beer brewed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Originally an independent brand, it is currently brewed by Miller. Though “Smile, you’ve got a Blatz beer coming” was a slogan used on posters and calendars, their ad jingle went: “I'm from Milwaukee and I ought to know/It's draft-brewed Blatz beer, wherever you go/Smoother and fresher, less filling that's clear/Blatz is Milwaukee's finest beer.”
Sheldon Leonard (1907-1997) was an actor who appeared in dozens of films and television shows—including It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), in which he played Nick the bartender. As a television producer, Leonard was instrumental in bringing such ‘60s shows as I Spy, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show to the screen.
Look at that setup. It looks like he’s going to beam up at any moment. –I wish he would.
The transporter is the matter-energy transfer device used in all iterations of Star Trek. In 1964, when creator Gene Roddenberry was writing the first pilot script, he was trying to come up with an economical means of getting crew planetside without having to show a giant spaceship landing. Someone brought up the teleporter device used in the 1964 sci-fi film The Fly, and Roddenberry leapt at the solution.
I think she’s voguing.
Voguing is a dance style that grew out of the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s, characterized by rigid body movements and fashion model-like poses. It went mainstream with Madonna’s 1990 song “Vogue” and the popular video that accompanied it.
A reference to Show 104, Women of the Prehistoric Planet.
Better one? Better two? Oh, boy.
In a standard vision test to determine an eyeglasses prescription, an optometrist will have the patient look through a series of lenses and answer questions about which provides clearer vision.
Hey, Bird lives, man.
Charlie “Yardbird” Parker (1920-1955) was a saxophonist and one of the founders of modern jazz. He remains one of the most respected jazz musicians of all time. His biography was titled Bird Lives.
It looks like he’s holding a bottle of Tabasco sauce.
Tabasco is a brand of hot pepper sauce.
“Now I have some good news for you.” John 3:16.
John 3:16 is a passage in the Bible that reads “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The Bible is sometimes referred to as the “Good News.”
Federal Express is a package delivery service that specializes in overnight deliveries.
And a Snoopy birthday card.
Snoopy is the beagle in the Charles Schultz comic strip “Peanuts.”
“Last call” is when a bartender announces the last opportunity to order drinks before the bar closes.
Remember, the car will turn into a pumpkin!
"Cinderella" (a.k.a. "The Little Glass Slipper") is a traditional fairy tale, but its most famous version is the one written by Charles Perrault in 1697. Perrault introduced the concept of the fairy godmother, the glass slippers, and the whole pumpkin-turning-into-a-carriage thing. At the stroke of midnight, the carriage would revert back to being an orange gourd.
Oh, those spit takes, I love ‘em.
A spit take is a comedy shtick where someone taking a sip of a beverage reacts to hearing or seeing something by spitting out the drink. Comedian and early TV star Danny Thomas is often credited with popularizing the spit take, and the Cinematic Titanic crew performed a spectacular synchronized quintuple spit take, in response to a character uttering the “n-word,” in the live DVD for the movie East Meets Watts.
Top of the world, ma!
A paraphrase of the classic line from the 1949 Jimmy Cagney film White Heat: “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”
You know I think this is the same plot as Mortal Thoughts. –Or Killdozer.
Mortal Thoughts is a 1991 film starring Demi Moore as a woman who goes to the police about the murder of her best friend’s husband. Killdozer is a 1974 TV movie about a construction crew building an airstrip during World War II who uncover an ancient evil spirit, which promptly takes control of their heavy equipment and begins to wreak havoc.
Okay, pull it over, Flintstone, with the courtesy of your two feet.
A reference to the car that Fred Flintstone “drives” using the power of his feet on the animated TV series The Flintstones, which aired from 1960-1966.
Hey, wait a minute—this is how Liz Taylor bought it in Butterfield 8.
Butterfield 8 is a 1960 film starring Elizabeth Taylor as a call girl who gets romantically involved with an unhappily married lawyer (played by Laurence Harvey). She dies in an automobile accident.
I’m coming, Liz!
See previous note. Also probably a reference to the TV series Sanford and Son, which aired from 1972-1977. When Fred Sanford (played by Redd Foxx) wanted to manipulate his son, he would fake a heart attack and call out to his dead wife, “It’s the big one! I’m comin’, Lizabeth!”
Watch out for that tree! [Hummed.] George of the Jungle Theme Song.
George of the Jungle is an animated TV series that ran from 1967-1970; it was produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott, the same guys who gave us The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Sample lyrics: “George, George, George of the Jungle/Strong as he can be/(Tarzan yell)/Watch out for that tree!”
Oh, Oscar, Oscar, Oscar.
An often-repeated line from the television series The Odd Couple (ABC, 1970-1975).
Siegfried and Roy?
Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn (1944-2020) were German-born former entertainers known for their illusions and Las Vegas show featuring white tigers. In 2003, Horn was critically injured by one of their tigers. In 2009, after more than five years on hiatus, they staged a final performance and retired.
He’s being mugged by a Mennonite!
Mennonites are a Protestant sect descended from the Anabaptists. Most of their members are located in Canada and the United States.
Phil has a problem. Down there.
A riff on old-time health and “educational” films, which tried to slow the spread of venereal disease by warning people away from premarital sex. Some were quite explicit (and gross), but many couched their message in vague references to poor saps who “weren’t careful” and now have “a problem ... down there.” One of the most infamous was the 1959 short film Innocent Party, which warned of the dangers of contracting syphilis from big-city hussies who wear tight knit shirts and go parking with high-school boys they don’t know, all to a cool, jazzy soundtrack. The film was used in school health classes into the 1980s.
Man, dig that crazy John Williams crew, baby.
See note on John Williams, above.
First floor. Hardware.
For many years, manually operated elevators in high-rise buildings required employees who manipulated the lever. In department stores, the operator would often announce to the elevator’s passengers what products and services were available on each floor.
Hey, could you lay off the music? I’m kind of nervous. Tell John Williams to keep it down.
See note on John Williams, above.
Hill Street Blues? Oh.
The opening of the credits for the TV series Hill Street Blues featured an overhead door opening and a cop car rolling out onto the street. The series aired from 1981-1987.
Fifth floor. Notions. Ready to wear. Charles Mingus. –Goodbye Porkpie Hat.
See above note. Charles Mingus (1922-1979) was a jazz composer and bandleader best known for his work on the bass. "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is a jazz standard composed by Mingus and first recorded in 1959; the song is an elegy for saxophonist Lester Young.
I invested it in an IRA!
An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) allows individuals to make annual contributions of pre-tax income, money that is not taxed until it is withdrawn after retirement.
John Lurie is a jazz musician who has performed with his band, the Lounge Lizards, for decades. He is also a painter and an actor, appearing in such films as Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law. (Thanks to Joel Boutiere for this reference.)
I won’t dance, don’t ask me.
“I Won’t Dance” is a jazz standard written by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein and Otto Harbach for the 1934 London musical Three Sisters. After Three Sisters flopped, a second set of lyrics was written by Dorothy Fields in 1935—this version is the best known and has been recorded by many artists, including Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Sample lyrics: “I won't dance, don't ask me/I won't dance, Madame, with you/My heart won't let my feet do things that you do.”
Pattycake, pattycake, baker’s man. Breaking your jaw as fast as we can.
“Pattycake” (or “Pat-a-Cake”) is one of the oldest-known English nursery rhymes, dating back to at least 1698. It usually goes:
Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man.
Bake me a cake as fast as you can
Roll it, pat it, mark it with a "B"
And put it in the oven for baby and me!
Rosebud was a sled.
In the movie Citizen Kane (see above note), the big mystery is the meaning of Charles Foster Kane’s last utterance: “Rosebud.” As it turns out, Rosebud was the name of the sled he loved as a boy.
That’s Eve Plumb!
Eve Plumb is an actress best known for her role as Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch, which aired from 1969-1974.
Hey, look—it’s Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits.
Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson; 1926-1962) was a model, actress and the embodiment of the phrase "blonde bombshell." The Misfits is a 1961 film about a hunt for wild horses; it stars Monroe and Clark Gable.
Oil can! Oil can!
In the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, based on the 1900 L. Frank Baum children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, “oil can” are the first tentative and barely audible words spoken to Dorothy by the Tin Man, a.k.a. The Tin Woodsman. He is asking her to oil his joints, which have rusted solid, so that he can speak and move. (Tin, of course, does not rust, but it is possible he was made of tin-plated steel or iron, as many children’s toys were at the time the book was written, which would.)
Amway is a multilevel direct marketing company that was founded in 1959. Over the decades, the group has been accused of being a pyramid scheme; many cases went to court around the world, but none proved successful, though in 2010 Amway settled a class action lawsuit in California, without admitting wrongdoing, for $56 million. In many media portrayals, Amway is depicted as being cultlike and their agents as annoying and fanatical.
What is he—Napoleon all of a sudden?
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was a French general and eventually emperor. In a famous portrait of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David, the emperor is shown with his hand tucked inside his jacket, a pose that has forever become associated with him.
You got any Aqua Velva?
Aqua Velva is a brand of aftershave.
Just heading out down to the freezer to get some Fudgsicles.
Fudgsicles are a brand of chocolate-flavored ice cream bars. The brand is owned by Unilever.
McCloud was a television series starring Dennis Weaver as a rural lawman who joins a big city police force. It ran from 1970-1977.
It’s Orson Welles!
Orson Welles (1915-1985) was an actor, a writer, and a director who is considered one of the most phenomenally talented performers of the 20th century. He appeared in more than 100 films and television shows and directed nearly 40 others, including Citizen Kane, which is generally considered one of the best films of all time. In his later years he grew quite corpulent and even did a series of commercials for Paul Masson wines (see next note).
We will sell no dope before its time.
“We will sell no wine before its time” was the slogan used in the series of commercials Orson Welles did for Paul Masson wines (see previous note).
In the fourth quatrain, Nostradamus predicted the end of this movie would result in bloodshed, the destruction of England, a cigar for me, and a couple of magic tricks on Carson.
Michel de Nostradame, better known as Nostradamus (1503-1566), was a physician and writer who left, after his death, several books of prophecies organized into 100 quatrains. Supposedly these quatrains predict the future with uncanny accuracy. In 1981 Orson Welles (see previous notes) narrated a cheesy film about Nostradamus called The Man Who Saw Tomorrow. During an appearance on The Merv Griffin Show, he dismissed the sage’s psychic abilities as so much hokum, saying, “One might as well make predictions based on random passages from the phone book.” Welles was also known for his magic tricks and performed his routines on several TV shows, including The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. (Thanks to Basil for the Orson Welles reference.)
Popeye was a series of short cartoons starring a diminutive sailor with a jones for spinach, his skinny girlfriend Olive Oyl, and his arch-nemesis, alternately called Brutus and Bluto (see below).
“An intelligent man like you, Sidney?” Greenstreet?
Sydney Greenstreet (1879-1954) was an actor who appeared in more than 20 films, most notably The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca.
Yeah, Bluto’s been talking about you.
Bluto was Popeye’s arch-nemesis and his chief rival for the hand of the strangely rubbery Olive Oyl in the series of short cartoons. He first appeared in the cartoons in 1932, but for a time, thanks to some copyright confusion over who owned the rights to the Bluto name, he was called Brutus.
If obsession is a crime, then declare me guilty.
A takeoff on a couple of pretentious Calvin Klein Obsession perfume commercials that ran during the late '80s and early '90s: “If Obsession is a sin, let me be guilty” and “Between love and madness lies ... Obsession.”
We’ve been through Lamaze together.
Lamaze is a method of controlling pain during childbirth, with the goal of achieving a more “natural” birth, as opposed to the heavily medicated births that were common in the first half of the 20th century. It emphasizes using patterns of breathing to keep pain manageable. It was developed by French obstetrician Dr. Fernand Lamaze in the 1940s.
“Bruce will accompany you.” On the piano.
A possible reference to pianist Bruce Hornsby, who had huge hits in 1987 with "Mandolin Rain" and "The Way It Is."
He’ll probably get those back in about an hour.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, eye care chain LensCrafters heavily advertised the fact that their labs were located in their stores, so they could promise "Glasses in about an hour."
Beaker was the hapless lab assistant on The Muppet Show, which aired from 1976-1981. He was voiced by Richard Hunt, who also supplied the voice for Miss Piggy, among many others.
This is what Zsa Zsa did to that cop.
In 1989, actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016) was pulled over by a Beverly Hills police officer. She slapped him when he tried to write her a ticket and was subsequently sentenced to community service.
Meanwhile, back at the Copa, Viv’s in a lot of trouble.
The Copacabana was a restaurant/nightclub in New York that drew crowds of celebrities both to its stage and to its audiences. Martin and Lewis performed there, as did Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Lucille Ball, Connie Francis, Nat King Cole—the list goes on and on. “Viv” is probably a reference to actress Vivian Vance, who played Lucy’s best friend Vivian Bagley on The Lucy Show, which ran from 1962-1968. (Vance also played Lucy’s best friend Ethel Mertz on the earlier I Love Lucy.) The two were constantly getting in trouble together.
Meanwhile, our hero stops at a Stuckey’s to get a salted nut roll.
Stuckey’s is a chain of roadside convenience stores/restaurants/souvenir shops founded in 1937 and famous for their Pecan Log Rolls. At one time there were more than 350 Stuckey’s along America’s highways, mostly in the South and Midwest. Following a decline in the ‘70s that left fewer than 75 outlets, a comeback beginning in the mid-‘80s brought the number back up to more than 115.
Hello, Broadway Danny Rose?
Broadway Danny Rose is a 1984 film starring Woody Allen as a not-very-successful talent agent.
Where have all the flowers gone?
“Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” is a 1955 folk song by Pete Seeger. Sample lyrics: “Where have all the flowers gone?/Long time passing/Where have all the flowers gone?/Long time ago/Where have all the flowers gone?/Girls have picked them every one/When will they ever learn?”
He shot the Keane!
Walter Keane (1915-2000) was famous in the 1960s as a painter, believed to be the creator of a widely reproduced series of paintings of waifish children with enormous eyes. It was later revealed the paintings had been done by his wife, Margaret. Their story is told in the 2014 film Big Eyes, directed by Tim Burton and starring Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams.
There must be a Minotaur somewhere in this labyrinth.
A reference to the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The Minotaur was a man with the head of the bull. He was conceived by Pasiphae, the queen of Crete, after she developed an unnatural passion for a white bull that was supposed to be sacrificed to Poseidon; when Pasiphae’s hubby decided to keep the bull instead, Poseidon cursed his wife. The famous inventor Daedalus created a massive labyrinth, or maze, to keep the monster shut up inside. Theseus, the Greek hero, eventually penetrated the labyrinth and killed the Minotaur.
Hey, it’s Charles Durning.
See note on Charles Durning, above.
Ooh, he shot Old Forester!
Old Forester is a brand of bourbon.
Oh, he’s got a spare—Pearle Vision had a two-for-one sale.
Pearle Vision is a nationwide chain of eyeglass stores that was founded in 1961 by Dr. Stanley Pearle.
Barbie at the spa.
Barbie is a fashion doll invented in 1959 by Ruth Handler. It is named after her daughter, Barbara.
Debbie Harry! Tough gig.
Debbie Harry is the lead singer for the band Blondie, known for such late ’70s hits as “Heart of Glass.”
Hey, Midasize! What are you, running an Evinrude under that hood?
A reference to an old commercial for the Midas chain of muffler shops, where passersby urge a man to “Midasize” his noisy car. An Evinrude is a brand of outboard motors.
“This buggy can take anything on the road.” Except Jack Kerouac.
Writer Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) was, along with William Burroughs, a leader of the Beat movement. His 1957 semi-autobiographical novel On the Road is a classic of Beat literature, dealing with a series of trips across the country by counterculture youths.
Wow. It’s the milkman. Reid Fleming, world’s toughest.
Reid Fleming, World’s Toughest Milkman is a comic book series created by David Boswell. Originally a newspaper comic strip, the first book collection was self-published by Boswell in 1980. Modeled after a bully Boswell knew as a boy, Fleming delivered his dairy goods with extreme prejudice.
Can’t touch this.
A reference to the 1990 song “U Can’t Touch This” by M.C. Hammer.
I think he’s one of the Dead Milkmen.
The Dead Milkmen were a punk band in the 1980s, popular on college radio stations and known for their skewering wit and sense of irony.
Other turn offs: guys who spit, fat butts, and sweat.
In Playboy magazine, and other skin mags of its ilk, photo layouts are accompanied by a “profile” of the model, including lists of her likes and dislikes (or "turn ons" and "turn offs").
Here in the wine cellars of Ernest and Julio Gallo …
Ernest and Julio Gallo were two brothers who founded the E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, California, in 1933. They became known for producing inexpensive, non-vintage wines, although they later began producing premium wines as California wines became more highly prized among connoisseurs. I believe this line is an old advertising slogan for Gallo.
Ooh, right in the Chablis!
Chablis is a varietal of white wine. True Chablis is made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes grown near the village of Chablis, in the Burgundy region of France, where the cool climate produces a wine with more acidity and lighter fruit notes than a typical Chardonnay. However, in the United States, mass-produced “Chablis” has become synonymous with “cheap white wine,” available in five-liter boxes at the supermarket. The box’s advice to “Serve Well Chilled” isn’t so much a suggestion as a warning.
I think they’re in an Etruscan tomb.
The Etruscan civilization flourished in ancient Italy in roughly the area of modern Tuscany between 768–264 B.C.E. They favored elaborate burial rituals and ceremonies, and left behind thousands of intricately decorated tombs—chambers carved out of solid rock and filled with treasures and heirlooms.
American crooner Frank Sinatra (1915-1998) is an entertainment legend, known for his commanding stage presence, memorable voice, and surprisingly hefty acting chops, as seen in such films as The Manchurian Candidate.
Well, it’s about time for your EPA test.
In many counties throughout the United States, vehicles must pass an emissions test before they can renew their registration. These tests are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, except for California, which has a separate Air Resources Board.
Oh, I love riding in the DeSoto.
DeSoto is a brand of cars manufactured by Chrysler. They were introduced as a middling-priced line in 1928 and stayed in production through the end of the 1950s.
Syd Field and the plot police!
Syd Field (1935-2013) was the “guru of all screenwriters,” according to CNN. He taught screenwriting at the University of Southern California and wrote several books on screenwriting that are used as standard texts by hundreds of schools. Amusingly, his actual screenwriting credits are few and far between (a handful of TV episodes, a short film), but his fingerprints are all over Hollywood to this day. Field taught the “three-act” structure, in which the plot is set up in the first half hour (the first act), the second act focuses on the main character’s struggle to achieve his/her goal, and the third act is the climactic struggle and aftermath, in which the protagonist either does or does not achieve the goal.(Thanks to Brian Dermody for this reference.)
Where’s Prez? –He’s gigging with Lady Day.
Lester “Prez” Young was a legendary jazz saxophonist known for his tenure with the Count Basie Orchestra as well as for his later solo work. Billie “Lady Day” Holiday (1915-1959) is considered one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, with her greatest fame coming between the 1930s and the 1950s. In 1940 and 1941 Young accompanied Holiday on a couple of studio sessions. (Thanks to S.S. for identifying the Lester Young reference.)