812: The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies
by Sheba Sullivan
Passaic, New Jersey: where America’s day begins!
Passaic, New Jersey, is a small city north of Newark on the Passaic River, with a population just under 70,000. Its name is derived from the Lenape word pahsayèk, possibly meaning “valley” or “peace.” The U.S. territory of Guam, an island in the western Pacific Ocean, is located on the other side of the International Date Line, which means that it is one day ahead of the rest of the country—hence its slogan, "Guam: where America's day begins."
It’s flapper recruiting.
Being a flapper was a social and fashion fad adopted by young women during the Roaring Twenties, probably best embodied on film by either Louise Brooks or the original 1920s It Girl, Clara Bow. They wore their hair short, aspired to a boyish figure in contrast to the corseted styles of the previous decades, smoked and drank, were sexually unrestrained, and were among the earliest jazz enthusiasts. Flappers’ deliberate flouting of social conventions presaged the coming sexual revolution later in the century. The stereotypical flapper costume was a straight, loose, sleeveless dress, often ending above the knee, and high heels, topped off with a cloche hat.
Garth Hudson’s playing behind the curtain.
Garth Hudson is the keyboardist for The Band, and is also a respected session musician, playing with John Hammond Jr., Neko Case, and Bob Dylan.
Ah, Red Buttons.
Red Buttons (1919-2006) was an old-style vaudeville comedian who got his start working the Borscht Belt. In the mid-1960s he played a Max Smart-type secret agent on the short-lived TV sitcom The Double Life of Henry Phyfe (1966), clad in a suit and tie and a fedora.
Ooh, and Joan Collins is checked into the boards.
Joan Collins is an actress who is best known for her role as Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan on the prime-time TV soap opera Dynasty, which aired from 1981-1989. She has been married five times, and her name has been linked romantically with a number of other celebrities, including Dennis Hopper and Warren Beatty. “Checked into the boards” is a hockey reference: an illegal move in which one player slams into another (checking), causing him to smash into the side of the hockey rink (the boards).
Oh, a wise guy, eh?
An imitation of Moe Howard (1897-1975), founding member of the Three Stooges, a comedy trio that appeared in nearly 200 shorts from the 1930s into the 1950s. Moe was the “boss Stooge,” constantly rebuking his hapless fellows and beating the hell out of them in allegedly hilarious ways.
Ortega taco shells are made from people!
“Listen to me, Hatcher! You’ve gotta tell ‘em! Soylent green is people!” is Charlton Heston's famous line from the closing moments of the 1973 film Soylent Green. The world of Soylent Green is a dystopian 2022 where the Earth is overcrowded and polluted. The Soylent Corporation issues food rations to the planet’s billions of citizens in various forms, including Soylents Red and Yellow. Charlton Heston played a police detective who investigates a murder that leads him to the secret behind their newest variety, Soylent Green. Ortega is a Mexican food company founded in California around the turn of the century by Emilio Ortega; in addition to taco shells, it makes seasonings, salsas, canned chiles and beans, and dips. It is owned by B&G Foods.
Shiatsu is a Japanese form of massage therapy, consisting of applying firm pressure at various points on the body, which supposedly restores physical and spiritual balance. It is derived from an earlier form of Chinese bodywork called tui na, which arrived in Japan in the 8th century C.E.
Elizabeth Taylor’s Poison.
Actress Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) has launched several perfumes under her name, including Passion and White Diamonds, but Poison is a brand of perfume introduced by Christian Dior in 1985.
It’s Flavorite vitriol.
Flavorite is a line of grocery products manufactured by Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based SuperValu Inc.
The Shroud of David Schwimmer.
The Shroud of Turin has for centuries been an object of veneration in the Roman Catholic Church. Purported to be the winding cloth of Jesus Christ, the length of cloth bore a faint image of a man with the marks of nails through the wrists, whip marks on the back, and lacerations around the head, as if from a crown of thorns. Numerous tests over the years meant to determine its authenticity proved inconclusive, but carbon dating in 1988 finally showed that the Shroud dated only to about the 13th or 14th century C.E. The Catholic Church has not taken an official position on the Shroud's authenticity. David Schwimmer is a gangly, nebbishy actor best known for playing Ross Geller on the sitcom Friends (1994-2004).
Hey. Hooker’s a good son!
A variation on one of the writers’ favorite phrases (“Hooker’s a good cop!”), this is a reference to the 1980s cop show T.J. Hooker (1982-1986), starring William “Captain Kirk” Shatner.
Face is the result of slash-and-burn shaving.
Slash-and-burn agriculture is a traditional method of land-clearing. While it was historically tenable when humans cohabitated in small groups that lived by subsistence farming, it is now an environmentally unsustainable technique that accounts for much of the destruction of South American tropical rainforests.
He's turning into a brisket.
Brisket is a cut of beef that comes from the lower chest of cattle. Generally a tough cut of meat, brisket is usually slow cooked to tenderize it, and slow cooking with wood smoke is a popular method. Corned beef and pastrami are usually made with brisket.
It’s a portrait of Bob Dole’s inner child.
Bob Dole was a U.S. senator from 1968-1996. He won the Republican nomination for president in 1996 after two previously unsuccessful attempts and retired from the Senate to devote himself to the campaign. However, he was defeated by incumbent Bill Clinton in the general election. The concept of “healing your wounded inner child” was big in the early ‘90s, popularized by psychologist John Bradshaw.
Come hear Libby Quinn play the organ with her feet.
Quinn only composed for this film and a 1964 short called Goof on the Loose, also directed by Ray Dennis Steckler.
[Sung.] If it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s in the credits, credits, credits you won’t like it, like it, like it …
This is a parody of a 1970s-era advertising jingle for Libby’s, a canned goods company. The gist: “If it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s on the label, label, label you will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table.”
He’s turning into a seed sculpture from the state fair.
The Minnesota State Fair has a yearly “crop art” competition, in which participants enter pictures, sculptures, and other artworks made from seeds.
The music’s gonna break into “Chest Fever” any minute.
“Chest Fever” is an instrument-heavy 1968 song by The Band. It begins with a “Toccata and Fugue”-esque organ solo.
[Hummed.] “Chest Fever.”
And here’s a rendition of “Chest Fever” for your enjoyment.
Tom Petty in the morning.
Tom Petty (1950-2017) was the musician and songwriter behind Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, an American rock band formed in 1976; their hits include “American Girl,” “The Waiting,” and “Free Fallin’.” Petty had some hit singles as a solo artist (though many members of the Heartbreakers were involved), and he played with the Traveling Wilburys and Mudcrutch. As an actor, he had a couple of small dramatic roles in films, but was best known for his appearances in the animated series The Simpsons and King of the Hill.
Ah. Ray Dennis Steckler. That explains a lot.
Ray Dennis Steckler (1938-2009), the director and star—no, the auteur—of The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies, spent the early part of his career working on B-movies with quirky, evasive titles like Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1966). From the 1970s until his death, he moved into soft-core pornography; their titles were more straightforward (Perverted Passion, Sex Rink).
In the fine tradition of Arch Hall, Jr.
Arch Hall Jr. is the wonky-headed star of Show 506, Eegah! (watch out for snakes!). Hall’s father, Arch Hall Sr., bankrolled and directed him in a series of low, low, low budget films in an effort to turn him into a guitar-playing, sex-appeal-exuding heartthrob, an endeavor hamstrung by Hall’s lack of talent and chipmunky looks. Incidentally, Ray Dennis Steckler makes a cameo appearance in Eegah!, as the guy who gets pushed into the pool by Richard Kiel. He also directed (and co-starred in) another Arch Hall vehicle, Wild Guitar (1962).
Ross Perot’s Commedia dell’arte.
Ross Perot: businessman, philanthropist, multibillionaire, POW advocate, twice-unsuccessful presidential candidate, founder of the Reform Party, and paranoiac. Until 1992 Perot was largely known as a successful Texas businessman, having founded data-processing giant Electronic Data Systems. That year he ran as an independent candidate for president against incumbent George H.W. Bush and Democratic candidate Bill Clinton. The campaign was marked by bizarre incidents—at one point Perot dropped out of the race because he claimed his rivals planned to embarrass his daughter by pasting her head on photos of someone else’s naked body—and voters’ initial enthusiasm quickly waned. He won 19 percent of the vote in the 1992 election, but in 1996 he received a scant 8 percent. Commedia dell’arte is an influential type of pantomime theater that materialized in 16th-century Italy. Performers, either masked or heavily made-up and costumed, played the same stock characters while only the plays and plots changed. Traditionally, the drama centered on a gaggle of young lovers (innamorati) opposed by semi-comic elder father figures (vecchi); the male servants or clowns (zanni) would caper around them and either add to the confusion or solve everything. There were also small but vital roles like the serving maid (soubrette, or la servetta), and the soldier (Il Capitano, and later, Scaramouche).
Hayward, Wisconsin’s Devil Worshipping Days.
Hayward, of “giant fiberglass muskie” fame, is a lake town of approximately 2,300 souls, located in northwestern Wisconsin. Future MST3K alumni Jim Mallon and Kevin J. Murphy worked on the movie Blood Hook (1987), which was filmed there.
Cinematography by Zapruder.
In 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, a local clothing manufacturer named Abraham Zapruder brought his home movie camera to film the motorcade procession. His is the only film record of the assassination and was extensively used by the Warren Commission in its investigation of the president’s death.
Here, she portrays an ice auger.
An ice auger is a kind of big drill used to create holes in frozen lakes for the purpose of doing a little ice fishing. Oh ya, real good there.
No one’s ever attempted an interpretive dance of Mein Kampf before.
Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) is a book written by Adolf Hitler while he was imprisoned for the Munich Putsch and published, in two volumes, in 1925 and 1926. Part autobiography, part ideological soapbox, it was a populist success that introduced the world to his racial theories and future plans.
Whoa! I saw the little sizzler there, Hank. Better get more tape.
Little Sizzlers is a brand of pork sausage made by Hormel and first sold in 1961.
I think Corky St. Clair choreographed this.
Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest) is the lisping, histrionic, implicitly gay play director in Guest’s 1997 mockumentary Waiting for Guffman.
I think the teamsters in the audience are getting a little restless.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is an influential labor union for truckers in the United States and Canada, founded in 1903. The term “teamster” originated as a nickname for wagon handlers, who had to manage teams of draft animals during America’s 19th-century westward expansion.
Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dull.
Michael Flatley is a noted Irish-American dancer, choreographer, and television presenter who choreographed the original production of the immensely popular Irish-influenced Riverdance show in 1994. After disputes over creative control, he quit and cobbled together his own show, Lord of the Dance, in 1996.
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing: Stomp!
Stomp is a percussive performance troupe from England that uses everyday objects, such as brooms and garbage cans, in its music/drum/dance pieces. It has toured extensively since it was founded in 1991 and has appeared in commercials for Heineken and Target.
Thank you, Sissy and Cissy.
An impression of Lawrence Welk. Dancers Cissy King and Bobby Burgess, usually referred to as "Bobby and Cissy," were both regulars on the TV variety series The Lawrence Welk Show (1955-1982). They were dancing partners for several years.
Andrei Gromyko looks on.
Andrei Gromyko (1909-1989) was a preeminent Soviet politician during the Cold War era. In 1946 he was made ambassador to the newly formed United Nations, where he wielded the Soviet veto power with such frequency and vigor that he became known as “Mr. Nyet.” From 1957 to 1985 he held the influential post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and in 1985 he was appointed the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet by Mikhail Gorbachev. In 1988 he was eased out of the position by Gorbachev, and he retired from politics to write his memoirs and kick the bucket, in that order.
[Sung.] I thought you were Dale.
From the MST3K Info site's FAQ: “Back in the 1970s, there was a series of commercials for Ivory dishwashing liquid, in which mothers were mistaken for their daughters—because the mom used Ivory and so her hands were young-looking. At around the same time, there was also a commercial for Grape Nuts, in which a teenage boy mistakes teenage girl Dale's mother for Dale and utters the deathless line: ‘I thought you were Dale!’ Best Brains only vaguely remembered these two commercials, and apparently mixed them up in their minds. There were apparently never any Ivory Liquid commercials in which a character said, ‘I thought you were Dale!’ And the Grape Nuts commercial in which that line was spoken had nothing to do with hands. So basically they goofed. But the writers thought they were making a reference to the Ivory Liquid commercials.”
Let’s hear it for Hank and Larry! Yay!
Hank (Laurence Luckinbill) and Larry (Keith Prentice) are the names of a feuding gay couple in the 1968 Broadway play (and 1970 movie) The Boys in the Band.
And now: funny man Hermann Göring!
Hermann Göring (1893-1946) was a high-ranking official of Nazi Germany and head of the Luftwaffe (the German air force) from 1935 to the closing days of World War II. His stature rose and fell during the war; shortly after the fall of France, Hitler lauded Göring and promoted him to Reichsmarschall, the highest rank attainable in the German military. By 1942, in the face of increasing military losses, his power had dwindled. In the final days in Berlin, he attempted to take over Hitler’s duties on the basis of a 1941 decree drawn up by Hitler in which he had designated Göring his successor. Hitler, who was still alive, flew into a rage and dismissed Göring from all positions. After the war, he was sentenced to death for his crimes at the Nuremberg Trials, and he committed suicide by potassium cyanide rather than be hanged.
Renée Richards is Wendy Carlos in Glen or Glenda.
Renée Richards is an American tennis player, doctor, and author. She was born Richard Raskind in 1934 and played tennis as a teenager and at Yale; she underwent gender reassignment surgery in 1975 and changed her name to Renee Richards. In 1976, she was barred from playing in the U.S. Open women’s singles, and the following year she sued the organization and was ruled eligible as a female player. She played professionally until 1981, ranking as high as 20th worldwide. Wendy Carlos is an American trans woman composer and electronic musician; she is best known for pioneering the Moog synthesizer and writing the scores for A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980). Glen or Glenda (1953) is bad-movie director Ed Wood Jr.’s tribute to angora and, to a lesser degree, cross-dressing, transvestism, and transsexualism. It is a legendarily silly exploitation movie that starred Bela Lugosi as a cryptic, addle-pated narrator, Wood as the titular Glen/Glenda, Wood’s then-girlfriend Dolores Fuller as Glen/Glenda’s girlfriend, and Wood’s usual bevy of bad actors pretending to be scientists and cops.
What? I just puked up my Fancy Feast.
Fancy Feast cat food, introduced in 1982, was one of the first “gourmet” cat foods; ads showed it served in a crystal goblet to a snooty white Persian.
Bill W., theatrical manager.
William Griffith Wilson (1895-1971), usually abbreviated to “Bill W.” according to his organization’s tradition of anonymity, was a co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous after he achieved sobriety in his own life. He was a spiritual man who spent most of his life trying to find new methods of curing and preventing alcoholism, experimenting with alternative medicine, LSD, and niacin therapy.
Backstage with Nana Mouskouri.
Nana Mouskouri is an internationally renowned Greek classical and jazz singer. Famous for her thick glasses, she has recorded albums in multiple languages.
Wait a minute. That’s the director, Ray Dennis Steckler! –It is.
See note on Ray Dennis Steckler, above. Other films Steckler acted in (usually under a stage name): Wild Ones on Wheels, The Thrill Killers, and Body Fever. He also directed the latter two.
Goofus and Gallant: the movie.
“Goofus & Gallant” is a cartoon featured in Highlights since 1948 and created by Garry Cleveland Myers and Anni Matsick. Children are taught social lessons by emulating the good example provided by Gallant and avoiding the shenanigans of Goofus.
Xanadu: stately home of Charles Whitman.
This phrase (and variations thereof) was one of the writers’ favorites. It is a reference to the 1941 film Citizen Kane, directed by, produced by, and starring Orson Welles as media tycoon Charles Foster Kane. Xanadu is the name of Kane’s palatial home in the film, inspired by William Randolph Hearst's Hearst Castle (although Oheka Castle in Huntington, New York, was used for exterior shots). Charles Whitman (1941-1966) was a student at the University of Texas in Austin when, on the morning of August 1, 1966, he killed his wife and his mother, went to the bell tower on campus, and opened fire with a high-powered rifle. About two hours later, police shot and killed him. Altogether, Whitman murdered 16 people and wounded 31 more. An autopsy revealed that Whitman had a brain tumor, but it is uncertain how much that contributed to his actions.
The storage lockers of Dr. Caligari.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a 1920 silent film about a traveling fair with a strange hypnotist and his murderous sidekick, Cesare, who can predict the future. It is filmed in a highly stylized manner, with long, strange shadows jumping out at you everywhere.
We’ll return to In Cold Blood Goes to California!
In Cold Blood (1966) is a “nonfiction novel” by Truman Capote about the real-life murder of a Kansas farm family by Richard Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, two ex-convicts who believed their house contained a small fortune hidden in a safe. It was made into a film starring Robert Blake in 1967.
If you lived here, you’d be depressed by now.
“If you lived here, you’d be home by now” is a familiar advertising slogan for apartment complexes on banners and billboards, usually put up facing freeways so that tired commuters could ponder the message as they sat in a traffic jam on their way home.
“No.” There weren’t any spiders in it.
In the 1950s-era “Spiders in the Beehive” urban legend, a woman or teenage girl who obsessively maintains her bouffant hairdo discovers that she’s also maintained an ideal nursery for thousands of spider eggs, which hatch and inflict fates of varying ghastliness on her.
Look, they have a photo of Mother Maybelle Carter.
“Mother” Maybelle Carter (1909-1978) was an American country musician who played banjo, guitar, and autoharp for the Carter Family country-folk group from the 1920s to the 1940s. She later toured with her own daughters as Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters.
She’s a Q-Tip.
Cotton swabs were invented in the 1920s by Leo Gerstenzang, who put bits of cotton on toothpicks and called them “Baby Gays.” The product was bought and (thankfully) rebranded “Q-Tips,” with the “Q” standing for “quality.” Today, Unilever owns the brand, while the name “Q-Tip” has itself become a brand eponym for any kind of cotton swab.
Ed Grimley was a comic character created by Martin Short for the TV series SCTV and used later on Saturday Night Live. Grimley, a thin, nerdy guy with a spike of lacquered hair sticking straight up from his skull, was famous for the catch phrase “Completely mental, I must say.” He was also known for doing a psychotic little dance. Grimley got his own animated series in 1988: The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley. It lasted 13 episodes.
I’m so upset I might binge on a Saltine.
Saltines are a brand of cracker made by Nabisco. They are also known as soda crackers because they are leavened with baking soda. Nabisco lost its trademark for “Saltines” in the US in 1907 when it became a brand eponym for all similar crackers. It’s still TM in Australia, though.
[Imitating.] I’m standing next to Ethel Kennedy, I must say.
See previous note on Ed Grimley. Ethel Kennedy is the widow of Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1968 while campaigning for president. She contributed eleven children to the Kennedy clan, including Joseph Kennedy II, who became a U.S. congressman, and Rory Kennedy Bailey, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker.
Whoa, wrong turn. I think they’re in the Gobi Desert now.
The Gobi Desert is the fifth-largest desert in the world, occupying roughly 500,000 square miles (1,300,000 square kilometers) of southern Mongolia and northern China. Most of the region is either arid desert or rocky steppes. “Gobi” means “waterless place” in Mongolian, and thanks to human depredation, it is one of the most rapidly expanding areas of desertification in the world.
Outtakes from the Manson Family Christmas!
On the nights of August 8-9, 1969, Los Angeles was rocked by a string of seven horrific murders, among them a young actress named Sharon Tate, who at the time was eight months pregnant by her husband, director Roman Polanski. The murders were committed by members of the “Manson Family,” a counterculture group living on the Spahn Ranch and led by the charismatic Charles Manson, apparently because they were hoping to start a race war. Ultimately, five members of the “family” were convicted of the crimes, including Manson. They were sentenced to death, but the following year the sentences were commuted to life in prison. Susan Atkins died in 2009, Manson in 2017 at age 83; the others are still behind bars.
He’s not a natural pole dancer, is he?
Pole dancing combines dancing and acrobatics, using a vertical pole mounted on a stage or platform, usually extending from the floor to the ceiling. Traditionally associated with strip clubs, pole dancing has become a bit more mainstream in recent years as a form of exercise.
Our main character: the roller coaster. –It’s a story of a roller coaster and its love for the Wild Mouse.
The Wild Mouse is a type of roller coaster manufactured by Reverchon. It is easily assembled and disassembled, and was therefore popular among traveling carnivals and fairs in the 1960s.
If Six Flags Over Texas had designed the “L.”
Six Flags is a chain of amusement parks that includes Six Flags over Texas, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Six Flags Great America, among many others. It is named after the six national flags that have flown over Texas over the years: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the Confederacy, and the US. The “L” is the rail system serving Chicago, Illinois. One of Chicago’s most distinctive features, it is so called because large portions of the rail are elevated off the ground. The Loop, which is the central section of the “L” that runs around downtown Chicago, opened in 1897. Currently, each of the lines is named after its color on the directory map (the Purple Line, the Green Line, etc.).
Oh, hi, Reride. [What’s Happening!! theme.]
Freddy “Rerun” Stubbs (Fred Berry) was a character on the sitcom What’s Happening!! (1976-1979). His nickname derived from the fact that he had to “rerun” school every year in summer school. The theme song was composed by the ever-dependable Henry Mancini.
I drink but I don’t inhale.
In a 1992 television interview, presidential hopeful Bill Clinton spoke about his experience with marijuana when in the United Kingdom, a scandal that threatened his campaign. His (oft-ridiculed) defense: “I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and didn't like it. I didn't inhale and I didn’t try it again." The wobbliness of his defense—that he had used it but technically hadn’t—played into the image his critics were constructing of a waffler and an equivocator, which continued to dog him throughout his two terms in office.
Ah, the third Gumbel brother!
Bryant Gumbel is a journalist of color best known for co-hosting NBC’s The Today Show for fifteen years. His older brother, Greg, is an NFL sportscaster for CBS. They have two sisters, Rhonda and Renne.
Bring out the Nazis!
The National Socialist German Workers’ Party, popularly known as the Nazi Party, was the fascist political party run by Adolf Hitler. In Germany, it is called the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or NSDAP.
George C. Scott as George M. Cohan.
George C. Scott (1927-1999) was an intense actor best known for playing General Buck Turgidson in Dr. Strangelove (1964) and the title role in Patton (1970). George M. Cohan (1878-1942) was a Broadway and vaudeville legend who wrote popular tunes like “Over There,” “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and wrote or appeared in musical comedies like Forty-five Minutes from Broadway (1906), The Man Who Owns Broadway (1909), and Broadway Jones (1912). The 1942 film Yankee Doodle Dandy, starring James Cagney as Cohan and Richard Whorf as Cohan’s creative partner Sam Harris, was made during his final year.
Please! The Führer is out there tonight!
Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) was a painter, amateur architect, and leader of Nazi Germany during World War II (1939-1945). Führer is a German word meaning “leader”; it was appropriated by Hitler as one of his personal titles and used as a substitute for the office of president when it was dissolved.
The radio and TV series Father Knows Best (1949-1954 on NBC radio; 1954-1960 on NBC and CBS television) starred Robert Young as all-American dad Jim Anderson -- his youngest daughter Kathy (played by Lauren Chapin) was nicknamed “Kitten.” (Thanks to Kevin McLaughlin for this reference.)
The Batusi is a campy ‘60s-style dance invented by the Batman TV series (1966-1968). It is performed by making v-signs with both hands, then bringing them across the face one at a time, horizontally and with the palms towards the face, while vaguely wobbling around the dance floor.
Next up: Sam Harris!
Sam Harris is a gay American singer and recording artist who has also had success in television and musical theater (The Producers, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Tommy Tune’s 1994 revival of Grease). His first big break was as a competitor on Star Search in 1984, singing “Over the Rainbow.”
The wrestling team of Lunt and Fontanne!
Alfred Lunt (1892-1977) and Lynn Fontanne (1887-1983) were a Broadway acting couple from the 1920s onwards. Married in real life, they were almost inseparable on stage and screen. They both won Emmys for their roles in the 1965 television movie The Magnificent Yankee.
Oh, work your magic, Boone’s Farm.
Boone’s Farm is a brand of bottom-shelf wine cooler/malt liquor made by the E. & J. Gallo Winery.
A magazine about the Jetsons’ dog.
Astro was the futuristic nuclear family’s talking dog (similar to Scooby-Doo, and in fact voiced by the same actor) in the Hanna-Barbera cartoon series The Jetsons (1962-1963).
This is a hijack! I’m taking this roller coaster to Cuba.
After Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba in 1958, the United States cut off diplomatic relations with the communist country in 1961 and banned travel to the island. Starting shortly thereafter, the U.S. saw a wave of airplane hijackings by people trying to get to Cuba. Some of the hijackers were Cuban exiles who wanted to return to the country; some were leftist activists who were hoping to find their spiritual home in the communist land. The hijackings were so common that flight plans for Havana were standard equipment for aircraft in this era. They peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s; of 111 hijacking attempts between 1968 and 1972, 90 were to Cuba.
[Sung.] Go, Cyclon Racer, go!
A paraphrase of the theme song to the Japanese animated show Speed Racer. The actual lyrics: “Go Speed Racer/Go Speed Racer/Go Speed Racer go.” It was performed by an uncredited Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass.
Holly Golightly goes to the state fair.
Holly Golightly is the devil-may-care heroine of the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s; she was played by Audrey Hepburn. One of her famous outfits from the movie included an enormous mushroom-cap-shaped hat, presumably supplied by Givenchy.
The Crips, the Bloods, and Mike.
The Crips and the Bloods are two major Los Angeles-based African-American gangs best known for decades of violence towards each other, beginning in the 1970s. Each gang is traditionally identified by wearing blue or red, respectively.
Answer unclear. Come back later.
The kind of answer given by those perennially kitschy doodads, Magic 8 Balls. The closest actual responses given by the Magic 8 Ball are “Reply hazy, try again” and “Ask again later.”
Hello, Polonius? Are you there?
Polonius is the garrulous counselor to the king, father to Ophelia and Laertes, who winds up getting punctured behind an arras in the William Shakespeare play Hamlet.
We take Visa, MasterCard, and dead rats.
Visa Inc. is a major multinational financial services company that provides credit and debit card facilities. It began in 1958 as a Bank of America pilot program and took the name Visa in 1976. MasterCard Inc. is, likewise, a major multinational financial services company that provides credit and debit card facilities. It was known as Master Charge when it was founded in 1966. Visa is based in California, and MasterCard is based in New York.
Eydie “Budget” Gormé.
Eydie Gormé (1928-2013) was an American singer and entertainer who often performed with her husband, Steve Lawrence, before retiring in 2009. Her biggest hit was 1963’s “Blame It on the Bossa Nova.” Budget Gourmet was a line of frozen dinners originally made by Kraft Foods; it was sold to Heinz in the mid-1990s and is currently marketed by Michelina’s under the name Zap’ems Gourmet.
She’s subletting Dr. Carlo Lombardi’s place.
A callback to the villainous mesmerist from Show 808, The She Creature, Dr. Carlo Lombardi (Chester Morris), and his sad little auditorium.
You will be twirled by a thin, gay Nazi.
See note on the Nazi Party, above. Nazis hated homosexuals as well as Jews; gays found within the party were murdered.
Hey, hey, hey! We got a dine-and-dash!
The dine-and-dash is a not particularly devious method of stealing food from a restaurant: the customer eats their order and then evades paying for the service and meal by leaving quickly while the waiter is otherwise occupied. Other terms for the practice: dine and ditch, chew and screw, eat it and beat it, doing a runner, and beating the check.
Phil Niekro was a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves from 1964-1983, starting with them when they were still the Milwaukee Braves; he was known as “Knucksie” for his ability with knuckleballs.
I’m gonna swipe all her Clinique.
Clinique is a brand of cosmetics and skin-care products manufactured by Estee Lauder. They launched the Clinique cosmetic line along with a dermatologist after reading an article written by the doctor in Vogue.
This will go with Ortega’s Chanel outfit.
Chanel is the fashion house empire founded in 1909 by the French haute couturist and style maven Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971). Most famous for its “little black dress,” the company also sells accessories, cosmetics, bags, and fragrances (including the iconic Chanel No. 5).
Ah, she’s a member of the vodka-of-the-month club.
The Book of the Month Club was founded in 1926; judges, appointed for life, met for lunch and brandy to choose the monthly selection. At its peak it had more than a million subscribers.
And I’d like to super-size it.
Super-sizing was a fast-food service technique pioneered by McDonald’s in the 1990s. Tellers would ask customers, after ordering, if they would like to super-size their order, and often they would acquiesce. In other businesses and contexts, this is called up-selling. Super-sizing was phased out in 2004, as public perception of the practice grew increasingly negative along with America’s soaring obesity rates.
He looks like Nosferatu.
Count Orlok (Max Schreck) was the twisted, animalistic “nosferatu” in the 1922 German Expressionist film Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (“Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror”), directed by F.W. Murnau. Like the later Dracula (1931), it was based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula (1897), but they lacked the film rights, so a new vampire antagonist was conceived; one very different from Bela Lugosi’s much-parodied Dracula, but almost as iconic. Schreck’s bat-like bloodsucker was particularly influential on Werner Herzog’s remake, Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) and the television miniseries Salem’s Lot (1979). The word “nosferatu” itself, used in Bram Stoker’s novel synonymously with “vampire” or “undead,” is of shaky etymology: Stoker was introduced to the word by 19th-century travel writers and folklorists who claimed (spuriously, it seems) that it was a Romanian word they had encountered.
Let me get my condom out of the way, here. It’s a Magnum, you know. Heh-heh.
Magnum is a brand of condom, manufactured by Trojan to be 20 percent larger than its regular condom. It was introduced in 1989.
You will have a big house, and *pfttt*, there’s the swimming pool! Ha-ha.
Probably a reference to “New Kid on the Block,” a 1992 episode of the animated sitcom The Simpsons. Bart Simpson and his new girl-next-door crush, Laura Powers, are sharing their knowledge of pranks with each other (including the “wet willie” and the “hertz donut”), when she offers to read his palm. She prophesies, “Oh man, you’re gonna be rich! There’s your mansion. There’s the tennis court. There’s the swimming pool!” and spits on his open palm.
I’m getting a C:\ prompt, hold on.
The C:\ prompt (cmnd.exe) is a feature of Windows operating systems that allows the knowledgeable user to directly place commands.
“What the crystal sees …” The crystal gets.
A reference to the song “Whatever Lola Wants” from the musical Damn Yankees.
This offer expires in six months. Future not valid in Utah and Alaska.
Various states are excluded from TV offers. Before the 1990s, Nebraska was often out of luck: the Strategic Air Command was located there, so it was a good place for call centers, and in-state contests were verboten.
You’ve got mail.
“You’ve got mail!” is the sound bite used by America Online to inform its users of new email; voiceover professional El Edwards supplied the voice. The phrase became so well known that it was used as the title of a 1998 film starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
She’d better get ready; Nancy Reagan has an appointment.
Nancy Reagan is the widow of President Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) and was First Lady from 1981 to 1989. Following an assassination attempt on Reagan in March 1981, the First Lady became extremely protective of her husband and turned to an astrologer, Joan Quigley. Quigley gave Nancy advice on what days were “good,” “bad,” and “neutral” when it came to the president’s safety and potential success. The First Lady, in turn, provided color-coded schedules for the president’s staff. The astrologer’s influence on the president’s schedule became a subject of controversy after it was revealed in 1988.
The wacky immigrant Balki Bartokomous was one of the main characters on the television sitcom Perfect Strangers, which aired from 1986-1993; he was played by Bronson Pinchot.
See the dumpy woman with a Dr. Seuss hat on!
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! and Horton Hears a Who. The most famous Dr. Seuss hat is, of course, the red-and-white-striped top hat sported by the Cat in the Hat.
Shots ring out, but the people of Bosnia bravely go on with their peep shows!
The Bosnian War was a violent ethnic conflict fought in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. The conflict was a microcosm of the Yugoslav Wars (1991-1995) that took place in southern Europe and the Balkans after the breakup of Yugoslavia. A brief summary: when Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence in the Yugoslav breakup, Bosnia’s Serb population attempted to establish their own independent state, the Republic of Srpska. Serbian military forces invaded, hoping to secure Serb territory, and began a campaign of wartime atrocities, including mass rape and ethnic cleansing. The majority population of Bosniaks, who are Muslim, fought back and broke into factions. The conflict was also confused by designs of secession by Bosnia’s Catholic Croat population (Herzeg-Bosnia) to unite with Croatia, which had also established a military foothold. The war ended with more than 100,000 people dead and several million displaced.
Yeah, I’m drunk. So what?
A phrasing that probably owes itself to Delirious, Eddie Murphy’s famously salty 1983 stand-up comedy special, in which he imitates his drunk father saying this repeatedly.
Carmelita, singing the songs of Leonard Cohen.
Leonard Cohen is a Canadian singer/songwriter known for such hits as “Bird on a Wire.” A number of other artists have also recorded his songs, including Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, and Joe Cocker.
Australopithecus africanus is an early ancestor of modern humans that lived 2 million-3 million years ago in southern Africa.
This whole movie has an oily t-zone.
“T-zone” is a hot buzzword in the world of cosmetics and skin care—it’s a T-shaped area across the forehead and down the bridge of the nose that is notoriously oily and difficult to deal with, cosmetics and skin-care–wise.
Let’s go. Masterpiece Theatre is on.
Masterpiece Theatre (now simply Masterpiece) is an American anthology series on PBS (1971-present) that was hosted for many years by Alistair Cooke. It screens imported British comedy and drama; past shows include I, Claudius; The Jewel in the Crown; and Downton Abbey.
Phoebe Cates, on sale today!
Phoebe Cates is a brunette American actress and former model best known for her roles in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), the Gremlins movies (1984 and 1990), the television miniseries Lace (1984), and to a lesser extent, Drop Dead Fred (1991).
Suddenly a giant girl snaps her tether and kills a coolie!
A reference to King Kong’s disastrous debut performance in the classic giant ape movie King Kong (1933). The wording itself is probably taken from George Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant” (1936), in which an elephant in musth breaks its chains and kills a man, referred to by the narrator several times as a “coolie.” (In its original sense, “coolie” was an Asian word for an indentured servant or slave who worked at hard manual labor; in modern times it is considered a highly offensive term.) Also a callback: in the short Here Comes the Circus from Show 422, The Day the Earth Froze, Joel exclaims, “A rogue elephant snaps its tether and kills a coolie!”
Sabrina, the octogenarian witch.
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1996-2003) was a TV sitcom, based on a comic series published by Archie comics, about a teenage witch (played by Melissa Joan Hart), her witch aunts Hilda and Zelda, and a talking cat puppet (a transmogrified warlock) named Salem. There was also an earlier animated series that aired from 1970-1974.
And the young Gloria Steinem stalks off.
Gloria Steinem, a journalist who founded the magazine Ms., was one of the leaders of the feminist movement in the 1970s. An attractive, articulate woman, Steinem was a media darling, to the extent that some other feminist leaders felt they were being denied a voice at a time when the feminist movement was a collection of quite disparate groups and attitudes.
I still curse Yalta.
In February 1945, at the Yalta Conference held by Allied forces in the Crimea, the “Big Three” (Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin) met to discuss, among other topics, plans for the post-war layout of Europe (including Yugoslavia).
Squiggy. Jackie O. Morrissey.
Leonard “Lenny” Kosnowski and Andrew “Squiggy” Squiggman were characters on the television sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which aired from 1976-1983. They were played by Michael McKean and David L. Lander, respectively. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994), popularly known as Jackie O, was the wife of President John F. Kennedy. After his assassination in 1963, she married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, a longtime family friend, in 1968. Morrissey was the lead singer for British post-punk band The Smiths. After that band broke up, he went on to have a very successful solo career.
[Sung.] Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum …
A line from the traditional Christmas carol “Little Drummer Boy,” which was written by Katherine Kennicott Davis, an American music teacher and composer, in 1941. Sample lyrics: “Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum/A newborn King to see, pa rum pum pum pum/Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum …”
[Sung.] Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum …
See previous note.
[Sung.] All is calm, all is bright …
“Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”) is a popular Christmas carol, written and arranged by an Austrian priest and an Austrian schoolteacher respectively, in 1818. It was first translated into English from the original German in 1859 by an Episcopal priest. Sample lyrics: “Silent night/Holy night/All is calm/All is bright/Round yon Virgin Mother and Child/Holy infant so tender and mild/Sleep in heavenly peace/Sleep in heavenly peace.”
The Feliz Navidad dancers!
“Feliz Navidad” is a 1970 Spanish/English Christmas song by José Feliciano. It is a popular Christmas classic in the Spanish-speaking world and North America. Sample lyrics: “Feliz Navidad/Feliz Navidad/Feliz Navidad/Prospero año y felicidad/I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas/I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas/I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas/From the bottom of my heart.”
The girls’ costumes were designed by long-time NFL referee Jerry Arkbreit!
Jerry Markbreit (not Arkbreit) was an NFL referee from 1977-1998. When you add his college football years, Markbreit was a football official for 43 seasons. NFL referee uniforms are striped black-and-white.
[Sung.] Holy night …
See previous note on “Silent Night.”
Hair-trigger precision. They’re like the Blue Angels of dancing. –Yeah, one wrong move and they all crash.
The Blue Angels are the official flight demonstration squadron of the United States Navy. Since 1946, the squadron has lost twenty-six pilots in the course of duty, either in training accidents or aerial displays.
There’s something Laverne & Shirley-esque about this.
Laverne & Shirley was a TV sitcom that aired from 1976-1983; it starred Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams as roommates who worked together in a brewery in Milwaukee.
Ray Dennis Steckler may have had some issues with women.
See note on Ray Dennis Steckler, above. Steckler’s later adult films included French Throat, Sex Rink, and the magnificently titled Lust Vegas Joyride.
[Sung.] Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah …
See note on “Silent Night,” above.
Riverdance: the strip show!
Riverdance is a touring show that bases its choreography on traditional Irish stepdancing. It was first performed at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, Ireland. See also note on Michael Flatley, above.
Ah, halftime at the Orange Bowl: never fails to disappoint.
The Orange Bowl (officially, to acknowledge the current corporate sponsor, the Capital One Orange Bowl) is an annual college football game played in Miami, Florida, since 1935. Past halftime shows have included Ashlee Simpson’s notorious 2005 debacle.
The act did go over well at San Quentin.
San Quentin State Prison is a famous men’s prison in northern California; the state’s death row inmates are held here. In 1969, after the success of his Folsom State Prison concerts, Johnny Cash performed a live concert for the inmates. The recording of the concert was later released as an album, At San Quentin.
You know, oddly enough, Andrea Dworkin choreographed this.
Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005) was a radical feminist known for her fierce crusade against pornography, which she argued encouraged violence against women. She claimed that depictions of heterosexual intercourse in Western culture had created a climate in which sex itself was used to subjugate women, an argument that has often been oversimplified as “All heterosexual intercourse is rape.”
That Bebe Neuwirth, she is so multitalented.
Beatrice “Bebe” Neuwirth is an American character actress best known for playing Dr. Lilith Sternin, Frasier Crane’s robotic wife/ex-wife on Cheers (1982-1993) and Frasier (1993-2004).
So, how is this a tribute to Madeleine Albright?
Madeleine Albright is a politician and diplomat who held the position of U.S. Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001; prior to that, she was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1993 to 1997.
Without this, there could have been no Prince.
Minneapolis musician Prince (1958-2016) was one of the seminal musical talents of the 1980s; in particular, his albums 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign o’ the Times were phenomenally successful.
Égoïste (“Selfish”) is a men’s eau de toilette fragrance made by Chanel. In a diverting 1990 ad for the fragrance, an entire building of incensed French women rushed to their balconies in synchrony to yell “Égoïste!” at the unseen philanderer living in the center apartment.
The American slang phrase “23 skidoo” means “Let’s get out of here!” The origin of the phrase is unclear, but it dates back to at least the turn of the 20th century.
Fatburger, as usual.
Fatburger is a chain of fast food restaurants. It has been immortalized in song by a number of rappers, including Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, and Ice Cube.
Ladies and gentlemen: Lesley Bore.
Lesley Gore (1946-2015) was an American singer best known for her 1960s pop hits “It’s My Party,” “You Don’t Own Me,” “She’s a Fool,” and “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.”
This is one of the most popular acts at the Apollo.
The Apollo Theater is a performing-arts venue in New York City that has served as a showcase for emerging black and Latino performers. Its Amateur Nights, which have been held since 1934, launched the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, and Michael Jackson, among others.
She’s singing into a Lady Remington.
Lady Remington is an electric razor made by the Remington personal care company since the 1960s.
One of The Mommies in The Rose.
The Mommies (Marilyn Kentz and Caryl Kristensen) are a Californian stand-up comedy duo. From 1993 to 1995 they starred in their very own sitcom, The Mommies. The Rose is a 1979 film starring Bette Midler as a 1960s-era rock star, a story loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin.
This is the show where the Hell’s Angels beat up a lot of people.
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.
It’s the Möbius strip of music: it leads nowhere and comes from nowhere.
A Möbius strip is a surface with only one side and one edge. It is named after its discoverer, A.F. Möbius (1790-1868). You can make your own: take a long strip of paper, twist one end 180 degrees, and glue the two ends together. Then put your finger on the outer side of the strip at any point and trace along its length. When you return to your starting point, you will find that your finger is now on the inner side of the strip—without ever having left the paper!
The song stylings of Helen Crump!
The Andy Griffith Show was a television sitcom that aired from 1960-1968. It starred Andy Griffith as a widowed sheriff in a small town. Andy’s love interest was schoolteacher Helen Crump (played by Aneta Corsaut). In 1968 the two married and left the show, which changed its name to Mayberry R.F.D. and ran for three more years.
So Ray Dennis Steckler just filmed an open-stage night and made it half his movie?
See note on Ray Dennis Steckler, above. Incredibly Strange Etc. was filmed at The Pike, a seaside amusement complex in Long Beach, California, that featured cabarets, theaters, and dance halls to amuse locals and visiting sailors. It was founded in 1902 and demolished in 1979.
The only reason she got this gig is because she’s shacking up with Lawrence Welk.
Bandleader Lawrence Welk (1903-1992) hosted The Lawrence Welk Show from 1955 to 1982 (and countless repeats on PBS). His light, melodic style was known as “champagne music.”
She could use a couple of Supremes, or a Pip, or something.
The Supremes were a musical trio in the 1960s that recorded such hits as “Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love.” The three members were Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, and lead singer Diana Ross. Gladys Knight and the Pips was one of the most popular R&B groups of the 1960s and 1970s. The Pips, consisting of Merald “Bubba” Knight, William Guest, and Edward Patten, were the backup singers on such songs as “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”
I dedicate this song to Sylvia Plath.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was an American poet and novelist whose works generally dealt with themes of alienation, destruction, and death. Her most famous work was the semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar (1963), the story of a suicidal young woman’s mental breakdown. Plath suffered from severe depression and was hospitalized during college. She killed herself in 1963.
Paging Mr. Herman. Paging Mr. Pee-wee Herman.
A line from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. At the end of the film, Pee-wee’s tribulations are adapted into a movie within the movie proper. Pee-wee himself gets a cameo as a hotel porter with this line, but he is comically overdubbed by somebody with a deep, croaky voice.
Joel Grey, ladies and gentlemen.
Joel Grey is a singer and actor who has appeared in numerous films and stage musicals. He is best known for playing the Master of Ceremonies in both the stage and film versions of Cabaret.
Isn’t that the guy Danny Bonaduce beat up?
Danny Bonaduce played Danny Partridge in the TV series The Partridge Family, which aired from 1970-1974. In 1991 he was arrested for assaulting a transvestite prostitute whom Bonaduce had mistaken for a woman. He was sentenced to probation.
You know, Noam Chomsky should start picking better warm-up acts.
Noam Chomsky is a distinguished American philosopher, linguist, ethicist, grammarian, and political lecturer. A self-appellated “anarcho-syndicalist,” he holds a dissenting opinion on virtually every facet of contemporary capitalism and America’s domestic and foreign policies.
Uncle Stripper wants you.
Uncle Sam is a national personification of the United States, invented during the War of 1812. There are several whimsical accounts of the name’s origin, but most likely it was simply intended as a playful alternate interpretation of the abbreviation “U.S.” A famous World War I recruitment poster, created by artist J.M. Flagg, featured the character sternly pointing out at the reader, captioned “I WANT YOU FOR U.S. ARMY” and spurring them on to the nearest recruitment station. It was based on an earlier poster used in Britain that depicted the then-War Secretary, Lord Kitchener.
Does the guy on the right have mouse ears on?
A small felt cap with plastic Mickey Mouse ears attached has been a standard souvenir item at Disney theme parks since their openings.
Poor Emmett Kelly didn’t age well, did he?
Emmett Kelly (1898-1979) was a clown; his persona of “Weary Willie,” the tramp clown, was famous around the world from his work in a variety of circuses, but especially the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, which he performed in for 14 seasons. Kelly also appeared briefly (in which he did nothing but eat, but he was eating in clown makeup, so it was hilarious) in the short Here Comes the Circus that ran with Show 422, The Day the Earth Froze.
Selling Girl Scout cookies. Interested?
The Girl Scouts is an organization for girls that raises much of its funding through annual sales of cookies. The sales have been held since 1937. In 2015 Girl Scouts sold nearly 200 million boxes of cookies, which provide about 60 percent of the funding for local troops.
She has the sensuality of Tyne Daly.
Tyne Daly is an American actress best known as Detective Mary Beth Lacey in Cagney & Lacey (1981-1988), Rose in the 1989 Broadway revival of Gypsy, and Maxine Gray in Judging Amy (1999-2005).
He looks like one of those Easter Island statues.
Easter Island is a small island in the south Pacific. It was inhabited by Polynesian settlers for hundreds of years, but sometime in the 16th century the civilization underwent a drastic decline due to deforestation and overpopulation on the tiny island. However, they left behind a significant cultural achievement in the numerous moai, or large stone statues, that crowd the island’s coastline. Nearly 900 statues have been recorded, and hundreds of incomplete ones litter the quarry where they were originally carved. Today the island is home to about 3,000 inhabitants.
[Sung.] Take me out to the … take me out to the … take me out to the … –Ball game, Mike. –Ball game.
“Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is a Tin Pan Alley baseball tune written in 1908 by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer. Part of the chorus: “Take me out to the ball game/Take me out with the crowd/Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack/I don't care if I never get back.”
Recorded on Edison’s cylinder.
Phonograph cylinders were the first commercially available recording medium. A tin foil cylinder was first invented in 1877 by Thomas Edison; the material was changed to wax when tin proved inadequate and impractical. They were the format of choice until the 1910s, when they were overtaken by disc-shaped gramophone records. They were gradually phased out by 1929. Some phonograph cylinders could also have their contents wiped clean and recorded over with new material by the user, a feature that wasn’t possible with records.
Oh, Carmelita shares a place with Jaco Pastorius.
Jaco Pastorius (1951-1987) was an American bass guitarist. His innovative style of playing was offset by his extreme behavioral problems, stemming from his bipolar disorder, alcohol dependency, and drug abuse. In 1987, he was hospitalized after a drunken clash with a club bouncer and died of his injuries.
“Carmelita?” Jump a little lighter.
A paraphrase of lines from “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” a 1973 song by Bruce Springsteen. The full chorus: “Rosalita/Jump a little lighter/Senorita/Come sit by my fire/I just want to be your lover/Ain't no liar/Rosalita/You're my stone desire.”
He has a cab forward face.
Cab forward trains and trucks have the driver’s compartment positioned at the very front of the vehicle, with no hood or engine compartment projecting out in front.
Would you like to buy a Hammond organ?
Hammond organs are electric organs invented to provide cheap, low-scale organs for churches that couldn’t afford full-scale pipe organs. They were quickly adopted by jazz musicians.
[Hummed.] James Bond theme.
James Bond is the British superspy character created by author Ian Fleming and seen in more than two dozen films. In each of the “official” films made by Eon Productions, the “James Bond Theme” is present (beginning with 1962’s Dr. No), most often in the so-called “Gunbarrel Sequence” that opened nearly all the movies. It was written by Monty Norman and arranged in eleven films by composer John Barry. In fact, Norman successfully sued the Times of London for asserting that Barry and not Norman had in fact composed the theme.
[Imitating.] Dreezle drazzle drozzle drome.
Mr. Wizard, in the cartoon Tooter Turtle, used this incantation to magically rescue Tooter from an adventure in time. It also appears in the Replacements song “Hold My Life.”
You will look like you’re doing open stage at the Improv!
The Improv is a chain of comedy clubs, currently operating 22 establishments across the United States. It was founded in 1963 in New York.
A dimension not of sight or sound, but of crap.
Rod Serling’s introduction to the TV series The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) varied from season to season, but it always contained a reference to an uncanny dimension. For example, episodes in the second and third seasons began, “You’re traveling through another dimension: a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind.”
I think Liz Taylor’s surgery has made her evil.
Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) was an Academy Award-winning actress best known for her violet eyes and her many marriages. Her most acclaimed roles are, frankly, too numerous to list. In 1997, four months before this episode originally aired, Taylor had an operation to remove a benign brain tumor.
Eva Gabor reads Allen Ginsberg.
Eva Gabor (1919-1995) was a Hungarian-American actress and socialite; she was the youngest of the three Gabor sisters. She starred as Lisa Douglas in the sitcom Green Acres (1965-1971). Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) was a poet and the founding father of the Beat movement, whose angst he expressed in works like “Howl.”
He won’t sleep if you keep hitting the Steadicam against his head.
Steadicam is a brand of operator-attached camera mount sold by Tiffen. It was invented in 1975 by cameraman Garrett Brown.
Wigs by Abbie Hoffman, of Hollywood.
Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989) was a far-left political activist and career protestor associated with the Yippies (which he co-founded), the Weather Underground, and the White Panthers. One of the organizers of the anti-war protests (a “Festival of Life”) at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, he was arrested as part of the Chicago Seven and tried for conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intent of starting a riot. In 1970, he and four of the others were sentenced to five years in prison. All of their convictions were overturned in 1972. Hoffman also wrote Steal This Book (1971), the original hippie revolutionary’s survival guide. Also a reference to Frederick’s of Hollywood, the famous chain of lingerie stores. The founder of Frederick’s of Hollywood, Frederick Mellinger, brought back the bikini from France, which got a customer arrested on Venice Beach.
I think what she’s trying to say is “Sleeeeeeep!”
A reference to Bela Lugosi’s hypnotic character in Show 423, Bride of the Monster, though the first use of this riff was in Show 302, Gamera.
Pay no attention to the woman behind the mole!
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” is a line from the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz.
You will be Nicolas Cage!
Nicolas Cage (b. Nicolas Kim Coppola) is an American comic book nerd and actor known for many leading roles across a range of genres, although he is probably best identified with Hollywood attempts to sell a skinny, balding neurotic as an action hero in movies like The Rock (1996), Con Air (1997), and Face/Off (1997). Onscreen and off-, Cage is also known for indulging in his eccentricities (although apparently not Chihuahua-napping), to the extent that he has degenerated into something of a self-parody. Financial troubles in recent years have led to a multitude of terrible films.
Soundtrack by the Edgar Winter group.
Edgar Winter is an albino blues/jazz/experimental musician. He has frequently performed with his older brother, musician Johnny Winter. His best-known song is “Frankenstein,” which hit number one in 1973.
Bob Dylan makes an unscheduled appearance.
Bob Dylan is the folk singer’s folk singer, a counterculture icon who got his start in the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Famous songs include “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
[Bob Dylan warbling noises.]
While Dylan is almost universally respected as a musician, he has never been known for his crisp articulation.
“I don’t have to do this for a living, you know.” I’m the Emir of Kuwait.
The Emir is Kuwait’s head of state, a position that has been held by a member of the House of Al-Sabah since 1752.
And Jaye P. Morgan gives him the gong.
Jaye P. Morgan was a popular singer during the 1950s, but her true claim to fame came as a panelist on The Gong Show in the 1970s.
The next Livingston Taylor.
Livingston Taylor is an American easy-listening singer-guitarist. He is the younger brother of musician James Taylor.
He later founded Rage Against the Machine.
Rage Against the Machine is a politically outspoken hard rock/rap metal group, formed in Los Angeles in 1991. Between 2000 and 2006 the group was disbanded, when lead vocalist Zack de la Rocha exited the scene in favor of a solo career. They reunited in 2007 at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and continued to perform live until 2011.
[Sung.] Living on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine …
A line from “Truckin’,” a 1970 blues-rock song by the Grateful Dead. Lyrics, in further detail: “What in the world ever became of sweet Jane?/She lost her sparkle, you know she isn't the same/Livin' on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine/All a friend can say is ‘Ain't it a shame?’”
He single-handedly killed the folk revival.
During the folk revival period of modern music history, which spanned the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, American artists like Pete Seeger, Phil Ochs, Harry Belafonte, Dave Van Ronk, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, and the Kingston Trio returned to the foundations of English-language pop music, re-popularizing it for decades to come. They, in turn, were influenced by older folk singers like Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie.
[Sung.] Emancipate yourself from mental slavery.
A line from “Redemption Song,” an atypically somber acoustic song by Bob Marley & the Wailers. Further lyrics: “Won't you help to sing/These songs of freedom?/'Cause all I ever have/Redemption songs/Redemption songs/Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery/None but ourselves can free our minds.”
Benazir Bhutto sits in on triangle.
Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) was a Pakistani politician who in 1988 became the first woman elected to lead a Muslim nation. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been the leader of Pakistan from 1971-1977. Bhutto, who was educated at Oxford University in England, became prime minister of Pakistan from 1988-1990. From 1993-1996 she again led the government, although both of her terms were plagued by charges of malfeasance and corruption. In 2007 she was assassinated while vying for the post for the third time.
[Sung.] London calling, yes, I was there, too …
A line from the song “London Calling” by The Clash. Exact lyrics: “London calling, yeah, I was there too/An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!”
[Sung.] I really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree …
A line from “The Joker,” a 1973 stoner anthem by the Steve Miller Band. This line, and some of the song’s other lyrics, were taken from the 1954 song “Lovey Dovey” by the Clovers. Other lines, including the infamous “pompatus/pompetous,” come from the 1954 Medallions song “The Letter,” though they used “puppetutes of love” rather than “pompatus.” More lyrics: “You're the cutest thing that I ever did see/I really love your peaches/Want to shake your tree/Lovey dovey lovey dovey lovey dovey all the time/Ooh wee baby/I sure show you a good time.”
“That fight you had with the manager still getting you down?” Harassed by creditors?
This phrase is reminiscent of the ads for bankruptcy attorneys that ran nonstop on TV during the 1980s, in which a narrator would ask in a soothing, concerned baritone, “Divorced? Harassed by creditors?” Then turn to Craven, Lickspittle, & Unctuous for help.
[Sung.] My anaconda don’t want none, ‘less you got buns, hon …
A line from “Baby Got Back,” the 1992 song by rap artist Sir Mix-a-Lot. In this ode to amply proportioned posteriors, Sir Mix-a-Lot states his preference for women with a Rubenesque figure.
When he was on Sullivan they only shot him from his ankles down.
The Ed Sullivan Show was a variety program that aired from 1948 to 1971. Hosted by Ed Sullivan (1901-1974), its focus was on showcasing many forms of talent. Many of them were off-the-wall, but some of the greatest acts in music—such as the Beatles—got their start on the program. When Elvis Presley appeared on the show, his energy and sexually suggestive moves shocked the audience; for his third and final appearance, he was shot only from the waist up to spare Ed’s viewers the sight of his swiveling hips.
[Sung.] Legalize it …
The first use of the pro-marijuana slogan “Legalize it” seems to be reggae musician Peter Tosh’s 1975 solo album and title track “Legalize It,” although it may predate the album. Peter Tosh (1944-1987) was a Jamaican musician and songwriter; he was a core member of Bob Marley & the Wailers.
“Our main attraction, the very talented Miss …” Jane Pittman.
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman is a 1971 novel by Ernest J. Gaines. The titular character recaps her century-long life as an African-American woman in the Deep South. In 1974 it was adapted as a made-for-TV movie starring Cicely Tyson on CBS.
Tab Hunter and Yvonne De Carlo.
Tab Hunter (1931-2018) was an actor and was a singer and teen idol in the 1950s. He had a 1957 number-one hit with the song “Young Love,” hosted an eponymous short-lived sitcom (1960-1961), and starred in more than 40 films, including San Francisco International, which became Show 614. Yvonne De Carlo (1922-2007) was an American actress best known today for playing Lily Munster in The Munsters (1964-1966). De Carlo mostly worked as a television regular, but earlier in her career she’d snagged major roles in films like Criss Cross (1949), The Ten Commandments (1956), Band of Angels (1957), Timbuktu (1959), and McLintock! (1963).
Sieg heil, sieg heil, sieg heil.
“Sieg heil” (“Hail victory”) was one of the compulsory greetings of Nazi Germany, usually performed at a rally or in conjunction with the Nazi salute. Possibly a specific reference to a scene in the film Breaking Glass (1980), when the titular band’s anarchic lyrics irritate neo-Nazi patrons of a pub into chanting “Sieg heil! Sieg heil!” and attempting to start a riot.
You weigh about the same as Albert Speer.
Albert Speer (1905-1981) was a German architect and Nazi Party member who perfectly churned out the imperialistic spectacles that Hitler envisioned for the Third Reich. This, and his grandiose plans to remodel Berlin, helped him rise through the ranks to become Minister of Armaments and War Production in 1942, a role that included the duty of organizing conscripted labor and forced resettlement. Along with Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach, Grand Admiral/President Karl Dönitz, and a few other politically weak or out-of-favor officials, Speer was one of the few captured members of the upper Nazi hierarchy to escape execution at the Nuremberg Trials, primarily because of his acknowledgment of what he had been responsible for and the actions he had taken in the closing days of the war to undermine Hitler’s scorched earth policies. After serving 20 years in prison, he spent the rest of his life writing books on his past and being awfully contrite about the whole thing.
The death of Heidi Fleiss.
Heidi Fleiss, a.k.a. the Hollywood Madam, was arrested in 1993 for running a prostitution ring in Los Angeles; she was convicted in 1997 and served 21 months in prison. Her case attracted enormous media attention because her customers allegedly included many actors and other Hollywood figures, although the only celebrity client “outed” was actor Charlie Sheen.
Fred Flintstone’s dinosaur!
On the animated TV series The Flintstones (1960-1966), Dino was a small purple dinosaur pet of the modern Stone Age family, most likely supposed to be a sort of Apatosaurus.
Aagh! Shouldn’t have had those Jeno’s pizza rolls before bed!
Pizza rolls are a kind of cheese-sauce-and-pastry junk food sold under the name Totino’s and manufactured by General Mills. Before 1993 they were sold under the aegis of Jeno’s, a brand of freezer pizzas manufactured by Pillsbury.
Just one more question, ma’am …
Los Angeles Police Detective Lieutenant Frank Columbo, played by Peter Falk in a long-running crime TV series and numerous TV movies that aired from 1968 to 2003, was famous for turning back while leaving to say, “Just one more thing …”
See, you’ve gotta tell her every day that you love her.
Although the voice used here sounds more like an imitation of Jimmy Durante, the song “Tell Her (You Love Her Each Day)” was a hit for Frank Sinatra in 1965 that became one of his standards. Sample lyrics: “Tell her you love her each day/You’ll make her happy that way/A simple ‘I love you’ means more than money/And with a kiss or two her life is sunny …”
Man. Pee-wee’s Playhouse goes bad.
Pee-wee’s Playhouse was a children’s television series that ran from 1986-1990. It starred comedian Paul Reubens in his child-adult persona of Pee-wee Herman. The show was wildly popular and critically acclaimed, but it came to a premature end following Reubens’ arrest in 1991 for indecent exposure in an adult theater.
[Sung.] The zombies are in town, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo!
A take on the "Jet Song" from West Side Story. Sample lyrics: "Here come the Jets/Like a bat out of hell/Someone gets in our way/Someone don't feel so well!" (Thanks to Laura Morgan for this reference.)
Come back, little Jerry.
The 1952 film Come Back, Little Sheba featured actress Terry Moore as a naive tenant who unwittingly tears apart her landlord’s marriage.
From the song “Wipe Out” by the Surfaris. The voice on the song belongs to the band’s manager, Dale Smallin.
Now, see, this is what happens when you admit too many women to the Citadel.
The Citadel is the state military college of South Carolina. In 1995, it admitted its first female day student, Shannon Faulkner, who had been accepted by the college on her qualifications without inquiries into her gender. After revoking their offer, a legal wrangle ensued, which ended with a court order that forced the college to accept Faulkner’s enrollment and attendance. Faulkner had to abandon the college after only a few days because of institutionalized harassment and threats, but the way was paved for future female cadets. Currently about 8 percent of cadets at the school are women.
“Jerry!” What do you want, Mrs. Lady Person?
An imitation of Jerry Lewis (1926-2017), a comedian, actor, director and producer who got his start in the 1940s alongside Dean Martin in the Martin and Lewis comedy team. He made an enormously popular series of slapstick comedies in the 1950s and 1960s, including The Bellboy (1960) and The Nutty Professor (1963). He later became associated with the Muscular Dystrophy Association's Labor Day Telethon, which he hosted for 44 years.
An imitation of Bela Lugosi in the title role of the 1931 horror classic Dracula.
The Miss America pageant got weird during the ‘60s.
Miss America is an annual scholarship pageant, started in 1921 as a beauty contest (though they’ve attempted to distance themselves somewhat from that by adding interviews and talent segments). Currently, contestants from each of the fifty states (plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are judged on the personal interview, talent, swimsuit, evening wear, and onstage question.
Our state fair is a great state fair.
A line from the title song of the 1945 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical State Fair. Lyrics: “Our state fair is a great state fair/Don’t miss it/Don’t even be late/It’s dollars to doughnuts that our state fair/Is the best state fair in our state.”
Sandi Patty’s greatest inspirational hits.
Sandra Faye Patty, who performs as Sandi Patty, is a Christian gospel singer. She reached the height of her popularity during the 1980s and early 1990s before an infidelity scandal in 1992 temporarily derailed her career.
Wow, they’re re-creating Woody Allen’s parking dream.
In Bananas (1971), Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) tells his therapist about a dream in which he is crucified on a cross and being ferried around the streets by some black monks. As they prepare to back into a parking space, a second team of monks-and-martyr steal the space and an argument breaks out. It plunges into comedy violence when the monks turn their scourges on each other.
JoAnne Akalaitis directs The Odd Couple.
JoAnne Akalaitis is an American stage director, writer, and actor known for extravagant modernist productions of the classics. The Odd Couple is a 1965 play by Neil Simon about two poker buddies, one messy and one neat, whose friendship is put to the test when the neat freak’s marriage breaks down and he moves in with the slob. A well-received film version was made in 1968 starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, which in turn was the basis for a 1970s sitcom version starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.
So, Dave’s not here, or …?
A famous bit from stoner duo Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong’s debut album Cheech and Chong (1971). The track was titled “Dave,” and it was essentially a pot-infused version of “Who’s on First?,” featuring Dave (voiced by Marin) trying to get the guy voiced by Chong to let him into his own apartment, though Chong’s character couldn’t be convinced that the man on the other side was actually Dave.
Starring Juliet Prowse!
Juliet Prowse (1936-1996) was a dancer and actress, born in India and raised in South Africa, who got her start in the 1960 film Can-Can.
You know, this is what I dreamed when I took Sudafed and NyQuil together once.
Sudafed is an over-the-counter decongestant manufactured by Pfizer Inc. NyQuil is an over-the-counter cold medicine that contains a chemical called dextromethorphan, or DXM, which some people (mainly teenagers) use to get high.
“Help.” I need somebody! “Help.” Not just anybody. “Help.” You know I need someone.
Lines from the opening of “Help!”, released in 1965 by The Beatles. More lyrics: “Help me if you can, I’m feeling down/And I do appreciate you being ’round/Help me get my feet back on the ground/Won’t you please, please help me?”
Where’s Elisabeth Shue?
Elisabeth Shue is an American actress who has appeared in films like The Karate Kid (1984), Adventures in Babysitting (1987), Cocktail (1988), Back to the Future II (1989) and III (1990), Soapdish (1991), Twenty Bucks (1993), and the focus of this riff, Leaving Las Vegas (1995), with Nicolas Cage as her alcohol-soaked co-star. She was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this last role.
Ah. Look familiar, Mike? Morning after the UW Stout Spring Fling?
The University of Wisconsin-Stout is a polytechnic university located in Menomonie, Wisconsin. It was founded in 1891 as the Stout Manual Training School. Wisconsin universities seem prone to throwing post-winter bashes: Spring Flings, May Fetes, even Dormsylvania.
In a series of commercials for Right Guard deodorant that ran in the 1970s, an everyman opens his bathroom cabinet and finds a deranged neighbor (played by Chuck McCann) on the other side, who cheerily greets him with “Hi, guy!” The neighbor explains that they have to share the cabinet and enquires about the Right Guard stocked there. Eventually the first man makes a face like a colicky baby and plaintively calls out to “Mona!” to his wife off-screen.
Morning in South Beloit. –The pigeons are a little less diseased.
A parody of “Morning Again in America,” a political ad for the 1984 presidential re-election campaign of Ronald Reagan. Opening with a breezy, soothing narrator saying, “It’s morning again in America,” the commercial pitched that America’s economic upturn of the early 1980s was due to Reagan’s presidency. The ad continued: “Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly 2,000 families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder, and stronger, and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?” South Beloit, Illinois, is a small city close to Rockford, near the Wisconsin border, with a population of about 7,600 as of 2016. It was originally named Turtle after a local Native American tribe.
I accidentally ate a No-Pest Strip. What should I do?
No-Pest Strips are pest-control strips used to kill a wide variety of common pesky insects: flies, roaches, ants, and so forth. They are coated with DDVP (2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate), which can kill you if you eat it, inhale it, or even spill it on your skin. Proceed with caution.
At long last, movie, have you no sense of decency?
Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) was an infamous red-baiting demagogue from Wisconsin, who rose briefly to power as a U.S. senator during the 1950s at the height of the Red Scare, when people in America were worried about communists hiding under every bed. McCarthy shot to national fame in 1950 when he claimed to have a list of known communists working in the State Department. He never showed anyone the list, and the number of people on it varied with every telling, but it was enough to start a witch hunt. In 1953, McCarthy gained a Senate committee chairmanship, and used its powers of subpoena to harass anyone he deemed to be a suspected communist. In late 1953 and 1954, McCarthy turned his attention to the army. During a heated exchange with the army’s chief legal counsel, Joseph Welch, McCarthy accused a lawyer who worked in Welch’s office of being a communist. Welch famously retorted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” Most historians agree this was the moment that brought McCarthy down, that exposed him for the petty, nasty little man that he was. McCarthy was censured by the Senate shortly thereafter and served the remainder of his term a mere shadow of the posturing peacock he had been; he drank himself to death a few years later.
[Impression of the Penguin.]
An imitation of Burgess Meredith as the villainous Penguin on the campy TV series Batman, which aired from 1966-1968.
Ted Danson is an actor who is best known for playing bar owner Sam Malone on the long-running TV sitcom Cheers; he also played the title role on the television series Becker (1998-2004).
Did you guys hear phaser shots?
The phaser energy weapons used by the protagonists on Star Trek could be set either to stun or to kill. The sound effect for the phaser shots was created by playing an electric guitar backwards and adding some harp sounds.
You’re totally mental, I must say.
See note on Ed Grimley, above.
Later, in Rome …
Rome (in Italian, Roma) is the capital city of Italy, more than 2,500 years old, with a current population of nearly 2.7 million. Vatican City is also located within its walls.
The slightly “L.”
See note on the “L,” above.
This was digitally recorded, then erased, then re-recorded on a Dictaphone.
Dictaphone is a brand of dictation machine, first sold by the Columbia Graphophone Company in 1907.
[Sung.] Night train to Mundo Fine …
A callback to the glorious movie theme in Show 619, Red Zone Cuba, “Night Train to Mundo Fine,” as sung by John Carradine in the throes of a death rattle. Sample lyrics: “Night train to Mundo Fine/Night train to the end/Running hard and running fast/To meet my future and away from my past/Taking that gamble that cannot last/Night train to the end.”
But Rice-A-Roni shipments continued through the crisis.
Rice-A-Roni and Pasta-Roni are a brand of pre-prepared rice and pasta mixtures sold by PepsiCo. “The San Francisco Treat!” is a trademarked slogan for the product. Rice-A-Roni was originally based on a recipe for rice pilaf, taught to the company’s founders by a survivor of the Armenian genocide who lived with them in San Francisco.
I didn’t know Edison wrote and recorded his own folk songs.
Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) was an American inventor and businessman who is credited with inventing (or at least developing upon what others had already invented and then claiming intellectual property rights) the phonograph/gramophone, the stock ticker, the light bulb, the motion picture camera, the fluoroscope, and many hundreds more. Although he was a pioneer in early recorded music, played on tinfoil around a grooved cylinder, he himself could not enjoy the results; he was largely deaf, probably due to a bout of scarlet fever in childhood. (Thanks to John Ames for the information on Edison's hearing.)
You know, they used to put the microphone in a Saltine box across the room.
See note on Saltines, above.
This is Herbie the misfit elf.
In the 1964 Rankin-Bass Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Hermey (not Herbie) the Misfit Elf (Paul Soles), one of Santa’s elves, dreams of being a dentist rather than a toymaker.
A well-known catchphrase from the stupefyingly vile Jim Carrey movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994).
Suddenly it’s the Town Without Pity.
Town Without Pity is a 1961 film drama starring Kirk Douglas as a military lawyer assigned to defend four American soldiers charged with raping a young German girl.
I’m a zombie. This is my story.
Probably a paraphrasing of the original introduction to the television series Dragnet (1951-1959, 1967-1970), spoken by Jack Webb in the role of Sergeant Joe Friday.
See note on “Paging Mr. Herman,” above. In the “fictionalized” version of Pee-wee’s adventures in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, James Brolin stars as “P.W. Herman.”
I think this is a can-can’t.
The can-can is an energetic stage dance easily identified by the layers of thick skirts and high kicks. Today famously associated with music hall acts and cabaret shows of the late 19th and early 20th century, it emerged in the 1830s in the Parisian working-class and artistic hubs of Montmartre and Montparnasse.
“… you get your Schick out of shape!” Well, then, try Gillette!
See previous note on Schick. Gillette is a competing brand of safety razors and shaving products sold by Procter & Gamble. Globally, Schick is second to Gillette in sales.
Get your Schick out of shape!
See note on Schick, above.
Julie Eisenhower like you’ve never seen her!
Author Julie Nixon Eisenhower is the youngest daughter of 37th President Richard Nixon and the wife of David Eisenhower, grandson of 34th President Dwight Eisenhower.
She’s the hardest working dental hygienist in show biz.
The Godfather of Soul, James Brown (1933-2006), was also known as the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business.
First blade lifts, the second one cuts, you get your Schick out of shape!
See note on Schick, above. Also a paraphrase of the slogan for Norelco razors: “The first blade lifts the hair and the second blade cuts.”
Gower Champion is in the corner, trembling.
Gower Champion (1919-1980) was a Tony Award–winning American choreographer of Broadway successes like Bye Bye Birdie (1960), Hello, Dolly! (1964), I Do! I Do! (1966), and 42nd Street (1980). Earlier in his career, he worked on and featured in glossy film musicals like Show Boat (1951), Give a Girl a Break (1953), and Jupiter’s Darling (1955).
Brought to you by Schick.
See note on Schick, above.
Gosh. You know, I advise other people to get their Schick out of shape, but my Schick is nowhere near out of shape.
See note on Schick, above.
Prancer murdered. Dancer held for questioning.
Prancer and Dancer are traditionally two of Santa’s reindeer, first mentioned in the 1823 poem “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore.
“Yoo-hoo?” Can I get a Yoo-hoo?
Yoo-hoo is a chocolate-flavored drink popular among the kiddie set, invented in the 1920s as a substitute for chocolate milk that wouldn’t go bad in hot weather.
I know nothing!
An imitation of John Banner (co-star of Show 417, Crash of the Moons) as inept German Sergeant Hans Schultz in Hogan’s Heroes.
[Sung.] Gillette, the best a man can get!
This is an advertising jingle for Gillette disposable razors. It was composed by songwriter Jake Holmes. See note on Gillette, above.
Hey, Miles Davis, turn around!
Miles Davis (1926-1991) was a jazz trumpeter who played a seminal role in jazz movements in the 1950s and 1960s and is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century. In his later years, he sometimes played with his back to the audience, saying this made it easier for him to give cues to his band and comparing his role to that of an orchestra conductor.
Her scatting puts Ella Fitzgerald’s to shame.
Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) was a legendary American jazz singer, known most popularly for her many contributions to the jazz standard and her songbook album interpretations of the songs of Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Rodgers & Hart, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, and others, many of them produced in collaboration with their original artists. She is also generally considered to be one of the greatest scat singers in jazz, alongside Mel Tormé and Cab Calloway.
Ooh! It's like Rue Gretzky.
Probably a mashup of actress Rue McClanahan (1934-2010), best known as the man-hungry southern belle Blanche Devereaux on the TV sitcom The Golden Girls (1985-1992), and famed hockey player Wayne Gretzky, who had a legendary 20-year career starting with the Edmonton Oilers, whom he led to four Stanley Cup victories; he is considered possibly the greatest hockey player of all time. (Thanks to notmanos for this reference.)
Ladies and gentlemen: the Glenn Close experience!
Glenn Close is an American actress who has starred in movies like The World According to Garp (1982),The Big Chill (1983), The Natural (1984), Fatal Attraction (1987), Dangerous Liaisons (1988), Reversal of Fortune (1990), and more. Also a riff on the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which was the name of Hendrix’s band, the group behind such seminal rock albums as Are You Experienced (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968).
[Sung.] Centrum Silver is what you need, come on, ka-blink blonk blunk.
Centrum is a multivitamin brand currently owned by Pfizer; Centrum Silver is designed for people over 50.
“Choo-choo!” What, is she singing the Thomas the Tank Engine theme?
Thomas the Tank Engine is an anthropomorphized train created by W.V. Audry in his Railway Series of children’s books; the books were later turned into the successful kid’s TV show Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends. He first appeared in print in 1946; the first episode of the TV series aired in Britain in 1984. The original theme doesn’t seem to have an official title, but it does include choo-choo sound effects.
Why’d you cancel Battlestar Galactica?
The original Battlestar Galactica TV series ran from 1978-1979 and spawned a few spin-offs. It featured Star Wars-style spaceship models and very simplistic plots. It starred Lorne “Bonanza” Greene as the captain of a ship searching for the legendary planet Earth. The villains were a chrome-armored bunch called the Cylons, who had a sweeping red light for an eye. In the wake of the series’ cancellation, Eddie Seidel Jr., a fifteen-year-old fan in St. Paul, Minnesota, committed suicide by jumping to his death off a bridge. A 1979 article on the tragedy, which off-handedly reported that he was caught inhaling gasoline when he was eleven, made it pretty clear that Seidel’s problems ran much deeper than being unable to handle the loss of his favorite TV show.
“Got Milk?” is an ad campaign run by American dairy farmers and processors starting in 1993, considered one of the most influential of all time.
We could go to Donnie Brasco.
Donnie Brasco is a 1997 film starring Johnny Depp as an FBI agent who infiltrates the mob.
Could I borrow a cup of Dippity-Do?
Dippity-Do hair gel was introduced in the 1960s. It came in two colors—green for regular strength and pink for extra strength.
Well, gee, Wally. I …
A reference to the television series Leave It to Beaver. The two children in the Cleaver family were Wallace “Wally” Cleaver (Tony Dow) and Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver (Jerry Mathers). Among the many oft-repeated lines in the show that became catchphrases, “Gee, Wally …” was how Beaver usually began explaining his latest misadventure to his older brother, Wally.
I just have to swing by Prague first.
Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic, with a total metropolitan population of 2.2 million.
This is Beethoven’s worst symphony.
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer, pianist, and pivotal figure in the musical development of the Western canon. Among his many compositions, he wrote familiar and popular pieces like the Moonlight Sonata, Für Elise, Piano Concerto No. 5 (The Emperor Concerto), Piano Sonata No. 8 (Sonata Pathétique), and Minuet in G Major. He wrote nine symphonies in all, starting with his Symphony No. 1 in C major (1801) and finishing up with Symphony No. 9 in D minor (1824).
Oh, it’s Ernest Borgnine.
Ernest Borgnine (1917-2012) was an American film and TV actor, perhaps best known for his role as Quinton McHale in the 1960s series McHale’s Navy. He won an Oscar for his title role in the 1955 movie Marty.
[Sung.] I send me … I know …
Paraphrases of lyrics from “You Send Me,” a 1957 soul staple by Sam Cooke. The lyrics: “Darling, you send me/I know you send me/Darling, you send me/Honest, you do/Honest, you do/Honest, you do.”
Aunt Jemima: because we have so many reasons to celebrate.
Aunt Jemima is a brand of cake/pancake mixes, flour, and syrups of non-specific flavor made by the Quaker Oats Company. The company’s longtime mascot, a racially condescending “mammy”-type caricature originating in 19th-century minstrel shows, was wisely given a makeover in the late 1960s. Aunt Jemima syrups were sold in bottles shaped like the mascot. And as for “because we have so many reasons to celebrate”: ??
Catwoman, at home.
Catwoman is a DC Comics villain and occasional romantic foil for Batman. Her real name is Selina Kyle (usually), and she is most often depicted as carrying a whip while wearing skintight leather or vinyl suits in the commission of thefts. In the 1960s TV series, she was played by Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt. In the 1966 film based on the series, she was played by Lee Meriwether. In 1992’s Batman Returns, she was played by Michelle Pfeiffer, in 2012's The Dark Knight Rises, she was played by Anne Hathaway, and in the popular 1990s animated series, she was voiced by Adrienne Barbeau.
This is elaborate preparation for Car Talk.
Car Talk is a long-running NPR call-in program hosted by mechanic brothers Tom and Ray Magliozzi. The show’s focus is car troubleshooting, maintenance, and repair. It was first broadcast in 1977. In 2012 the brothers announced they were retiring, but that the show would continue broadcasting in reruns. Tom died in 2014 from complications from Alzheimer's.
See note on Pee-wee Herman, above. Paul Reubens co-wrote and starred in another film, 2016’s Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, when he was 63.
I brought cheddar Combos.
Combos are hollowed-out pretzels containing various flavors of soft fillings. Varieties include Cheddar Cheese, Buffalo Blue Cheese, and Pepperoni Pizza.
[Hummed.] Tonight Show theme.
This is the theme played on the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson would come onstage, entering through the heavy curtains that hung at the back of the stage.
Ma’am, that was the Sprite I had sittin’ over there.
Sprite is a lemon-lime–flavored soft drink manufactured by Coca-Cola. It was originally marketed in Germany under the name Fanta Klare Zitrone.
“Dead man walking” was once used to identify a death-row prisoner. The phrase was used as the title of a book by Sister Helen Prejean, an anti-death penalty activist; the book has since been turned into a play, a movie, and an opera.
Neil Young is attacking!
Neil Young is an influential singer/songwriter. For a time in the early 1970s he played with the band Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and he has frequently recorded with the California garage-rock band Crazy Horse. Although commercial success has sometimes eluded him, he has amassed a devoted cult following.
Boy. You know, you give your kid a cute little zombie for Easter, and then it grows up like this.
Probably a reference to urban legends that tell of baby alligators given as presents to kids by irresponsible adults, which are inevitably abandoned or flushed down the toilet to begin a new life in your local sewage system once they grow too large to handle. The legend is native to New York City and was probably inspired by a 1935 incident, when a group of boys found and killed an alligator trying to escape from a Harlem sewer; the animal’s origin is uncertain, but at the time it was speculated that it escaped from a ship while being transported, swam to shore, and found its way into the sewer system. Direct all further questions to the movie Alligator (1980), which includes a scene of Henry Silva chasing the titular beastie down an alley and getting munched for his troubles.
A reference to Barbara Hale’s braying screams in Show 810, The Giant Spider Invasion.
Hey, it’s Clint Howard!
Clint Howard, brother of actor/director Ron Howard, is an actor who has appeared in such films as Apollo 13 (1995) and Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997).
Hey, Big Head Todd. And the Monster!
Big Head Todd and the Monsters is a Colorado-based soft-rock band, best known for the 1993 song “Bittersweet.”
Hi, everybody, I’m Dennis James!
Dennis James (1917-1997) was an announcer and game show host for decades on such shows as Original Amateur Hour and Name That Tune. He was also a frequent telethon host.
The Clones of Funkenstein! –Psychefunkapus!
The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein is a 1976 album by funk band Parliament. Psychefunkapus was, from 1986 to 1992, a San Francisco psychedelic funk-rock group.
[Sung.] I’m gonna tell you all a story ‘bout a Harper Valley widow wife …
A paraphrase of the opening line from the Jeannie C. Riley song “Harper Valley PTA.” The exact line: “I wanna tell you all a story ‘bout a Harper Valley widow wife.”
It’s the Kid ‘n Play dancers.
Kid ‘n Play were a rap duo in the late 1980s. Besides rap, they starred in several House Party movies in the 1990s. Christopher “Kid” Reid had a notoriously huge high-top fade hairstyle.
Oh, they turned Leech Woman into a musical.
A reference to Show 802, The Leech Woman. It was a very out-of-touch movie, even for its time (1960); it painted a condescending portrait of African culture that was all huts and boar masks.
A command performance for Jesse Helms!
Jesse Helms (1921-2008) was an ultraconservative senator from North Carolina who was immensely influential on U.S. foreign policy. First elected to the Senate in 1972, he tried to get an abortion ban into the Constitution, fought to institute school prayer, filibustered the Voting Rights Act, railed against homosexuals, and once tried to make Carol Moseley Braun, the first female African-American senator, cry by singing “Dixie.” (He failed.) In 2001 he announced he would not seek re-election the following year. He died seven years later of vascular dementia.
Laurence Welk reaches out to the black audience.
See note on Lawrence Welk, above. While Welk appealed mainly to a whitebread, middle-aged, Midwestern audience, he was also the first variety-show host to hire a black performer as a regular: tap dancer Arthur Duncan.
[Sung.] Buried with my donkey. He’s my favorite honky …
A line from “King Tut,” a 1978 comic song written and performed by comedian Steve Martin, backed by members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (calling themselves the Toot Uncommons). Extended lyrics: “Now, if I’d known/They’d line up just to see him (Funky Tut!)/I’d trade in all my money/And bought me a museum (King Tut!)/Buried with a donkey (Funky Tut!)/He’s my favorite honky/Born in Arizona/Moved to Babylonia (King Tut!).”
The Indigo Girls try to find the stage.
The Indigo Girls are a folk rock duo, one of the staples of the Lilith Fair in the 1990s.
Is this Confuse-A-Cat?
“Confuse-A-Cat” is a sketch from the Monty Python episode “Man’s Crisis of Identity in the Latter Half of the 20th Century.” In the sketch, an efficiently run paramilitary organization called Confuse-A-Cat Ltd. remedies a housecat of its listlessness by staging a wordless, surreal outdoor show.
Beach Boys waiting outside.
The Beach Boys are a surf-rock group formed in 1961 and continuing to tour—although with only a fraction of their original membership—into the 21st century. The original band consisted of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson; Mike Love; and Alan Jardine.
Brian Boitano is an American champion figure skater. In 1988 he won both the gold medal at the Olympics and the world figure skating championship, turning pro shortly thereafter; over the following years he won five consecutive world championships.
Oh no, cops!
An imitation of the recurring character Snake on the TV series The Simpsons; his first appearance was in the season 2 episode “The War of the Simpsons.” He is voiced by Hank Azaria.
Comedian Jackie Mason has had tremendous success on Broadway with a string of one-man shows. He has also appeared in TV shows and movies, including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Jerk.
Jerry Lewis is Steve Prefontaine.
See note on Jerry Lewis, above. Steve Prefontaine (1951-1975) was a middle-long distance runner who won nearly every race he competed in; in the racing world, he is still considered the benchmark against which other runners are measured. He died in a car accident at the age of 24.
Whoa! From here to eternity! Lady! Whoa-whoo!
Another imitation of Jerry Lewis (see note on Jerry Lewis, above) and a line from the song “From Here to Eternity” by Frank Sinatra. Sample lyrics: “You vowed your love/From here to eternity/A love so true/It never would die ...” Sinatra was also part of the supporting cast in the 1953 film From Here to Eternity.
I wish I were liquid metal, man.
The phrase “liquid metal” was made famous by the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The killer android in that movie, played by Robert Patrick, was made of liquid metal and could re-form itself after nearly any injury, making it almost unstoppable. Patrick’s Terminator spent most of the movie disguised as a motorcycle cop.
Whoa, Dean! I, whoa, sorry. On the beach! Whoa-whoo.
See note on Jerry Lewis, above. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were a phenomenally successful comedy team during the 1950s, starring in a string of movies that included Sailor Beware and Living It Up. On the Beach is a 1957 novel by Nevil Shute that was made into a film starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner in 1959. It tells the story of a small group of Australian survivors in the months following World War III as they face the prospect of a horrible, lingering death from radiation poisoning.
[Hummed.] “Yakety Sax.”
“Yakety Sax” is a 1963 saxophone piece written by James Q. Rich and recorded by Boots Randolph. It was famously used as a chase theme, from 1969 onwards, by the sketch comedy series The Benny Hill Show.
Madison: The Boy Who Should Be in a Plastic Bubble.
The Boy in the Plastic Bubble is a 1976 made-for-TV movie about a teen who suffers from an inactive immune system, requiring him to be hermetically sealed to prevent any kind of germs or other pathogens from infecting him. It was sort of based on a true story. John Travolta starred as the immunodeficient boy. In 2010, MST3K vets Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett released a downloadable RiffTrax for this film.
Whoa, you did it! You finally did it! Damn you all to hell, whoa-whoo!
See note on Jerry Lewis, above. This is a paraphrase of Charlton Heston's final lines on the beach from Planet of the Apes. Actual lines: “Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was … We finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
Is there any chance a pelican will drop a turtle on his head?
Aeschylus was a Greek playwright in the sixth to fifth centuries B.C.E., known for his Oresteia trilogy. According to legend, he was killed when an eagle, mistaking his bald head for a rock, dropped a turtle on him in an attempt to crack open its shell.
[Sung.] Sail away …
A reference to a Beck’s beer ad from 1996, which showed ships sailing and suns setting and people enjoying good, wholesome beer, all to the strains of “Sail Away” by German rocker Hans Hartz; it was his biggest hit, mainly due to its use in the ad.
[Sung.] Jerry the zombie on the rocks, say yes …
“Say Yes” is a jingle for Martini & Rossi vermouth from the early 1970s; it was performed by Burt Bacharach.
You know, there are better ways to clean your skin with pumice.
Possibly a reference to Lava brand hand soap, which contains ground pumice and is used to clean grease, paint, tar, etc from the skin. The brand is owned by the WD-40 Company. (Thanks to Kevin McLaughlin for this reference.)
The Kennedy touch football game gets out of hand.
The Kennedy family is one of the richest and most powerful in the nation. Founded by Joseph Kennedy Sr., the dynasty would grow to include President John F. Kennedy, attorney general and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, and longtime Senator Ted Kennedy. At get-togethers at the Kennedy compound, the family were known for holding rough-and-tumble touch football games. Jackie broke her ankle in one such game.
If he doesn’t feel fresh by now, it’s never gonna happen.
"Mom, do you ever feel, you know, not so fresh?" was the opening line to a classic commercial for Massengill douches, spoken, for some reason, by a young woman on a boat.
The names of two distinct beaches in Los Angeles, California, are “Muscle Beach.” The older of the two is in Santa Monica and the other is part of Venice Beach. Both are named for the proliferation of bodybuilding exhibitions and gyms in these areas. Jack LaLanne trained in Santa Monica; Arnold Schwarzenegger trained in Venice.
Are they trying to run around the English Channel?
The English Channel is a body of water separating England and France, narrowest (at 21 miles) at the Strait of Dover (French: Strait of Calais), between Kent and Nord-Pas-de-Calais. There have been innumerable attempts to cross the Channel, many of them verging on novelty. Matthew Webb was the first to swim it unaided, in 1875. The Monty Python character Ron Obvious, who attempted to be the first man to jump the Channel, is probably closest in spirit.
Seeing as how this is a .44 Magnum …
This is a paraphrase of the famous line from the 1971 film Dirty Harry, starring Clint Eastwood. The full line: “I know what you’re thinking: Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
Madison is still back there, trying to put on his Totes.
Totes are a brand of rubber overshoes. The company started making them in Cincinnati in 1924, along with umbrellas, gloves, and other rain gear.
Go ‘ome! Go ‘ome!
On The Tracey Ullman Show (1987-1990), host Ullman would bring the evening to a close with vigorous gesturing and the parting words “Go home!”
Maybe he’s actually a selkie. –No, I think he’s a mucus-ie.
Selkies are a mythical creature native to nations of the North Sea, although they also share a resemblance to some Inuit and Native American legends. According to the tales, they are a race of seals that come to land and shed their skins, becoming human. If their skins are stolen or lost during their time on land, they are trapped in their human form. There was a resurgence of interest in selkie mythology after the release of the film The Secret of Roan Inish (1994), which centers on two children who may have selkie ancestry.
Now, I don’t know if I ever told you this, Mike, but my life, my love, and my lady is the sea.
A reference to the song “Brandy” by Looking Glass. Sample lyrics: “The sailor said ‘Brandy, you’re a fine girl’ (you’re a fine girl)/’What a good wife you would be’ (such a fine girl)/’But my life, my love and my lady is the sea …’”
Crackle mourns the death of Pop.
Snap, Crackle, and Pop are the long-time advertising imps for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal, designed by Vernon Grant in 1933.
Now, now, Brandy: she was a fine girl. What a good wife she would be. But, as I’ve previously stated, my life, my love, and my lady … –Is ... is the … –The sea … –The sea.
See previous note on “Brandy.” After the song’s release in 1972, the number of newborn girls named “Brandy” increased from a rank of 353rd to 82nd.
Marina Oswald looks on.
Marina Oswald is the Russian-born widow of Lee Harvey Oswald, assassin of President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963).
I’m going to Las Vegas to drink myself to death.
See notes on Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue, above. “I came here to drink myself to death” is what Ben Sanderson (Cage) intends for himself in Leaving Las Vegas.
Surge is a caffeinated citrus drink introduced by Coca-Cola in an effort to compete with Pepsi’s Mountain Dew. It was originally marketed in Norway as Urge.
I’ll suck the bullet out!
A reference to the 1982 film noir comedy Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, starring Steve Martin.
Oh, I thought it was Hollywood, Republic of Chad!
The Republic of Chad, also known simply as Chad, is a country in central Africa, just south of Libya. It was colonized by France but gained independence in 1960. The country has long been wracked by internal turmoil: a lengthy civil war beginning in 1965, followed by internal squabbling among the victors. Starting in 2003, the Darfur crisis in Sudan to the east has resulted in hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding the country, causing even more problems. Not a happy place.
[Sung.] Ooh, baby, baby …
An imitation of the chorus from the 1965 Smokey Robinson and the Miracles hit “Ooo Baby Baby”; Linda Ronstadt had a hit version in 1978.