The Untouchables is a 1987 film directed by Brian de Palma and starring Kevin Costner as federal agent Eliot Ness, facing off against gangster Al Capone (played by Robert De Niro) in 1920s Chicago. The film is based on an old TV series of the same name, which aired from 1959-1963.
The defiant temps.
The Defiant Ones is a 1958 film starring Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier as two escaped convicts who, chained to each other, must learn to work together to evade capture. Both Curtis and Poitier were nominated for Best Actor Oscars for their work in the film.
I know, I know—I look like the bulldog in the Warner Brothers cartoon.
There were several bulldog characters that appeared in the Warner Brothers animated shorts. Marc Antony, a fierce but softhearted watchdog who adopts a tiny kitten, first appeared in 1952’s “Feed the Kitty.” Granny, Tweety’s owner in the Tweety and Sylvester cartoon series, owned a bulldog named Hector. There was also another bulldog who sometimes appeared in Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, Butch J. Bulldog.
Good morning, Mr. Phelps.
Jim Phelps was the character played by Peter Graves (who provides the narration for the film seen at the beginning of Attack of the Eye Creatures) on the TV series Mission: Impossible, which aired from 1966-1973. “Good morning, Mr. Phelps” was the greeting used on the tape-recorded messages that gave the team its instructions for each mission.
Attack of the the Eye Creatures? Did Mel Tillis write these titles or what?
Mel Tillis is a country music singer and actor who has been performing for almost 40 years. His hit songs include “Coca Cola Cowboy” and “Good Woman Blues.” He has also had a problem with stuttering since he was three years old; his backup group is dubbed the Stutterettes.
It’s a Dockers commercial.
Dockers is a line of casual khaki slacks—largely for men, although there is a women’s line as well—manufactured by Levi’s.
Ethan Allen! Wow, he must be old!
Ethan Allen (1738-1789), perhaps most familiar to contemporary society as an upscale furniture retailer, was actually a soldier during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). He was the leader of the Green Mountain Boys, a small, unofficial militia from Vermont that captured the British fort of Ticonderoga early in the war.
Uh, Tommy Houston, we have a problem …
"Houston, we've had a problem here" is how astronaut John Swigert Jr. reported the life-threatening technical problems on the Apollo 13 moon mission; the phrase became famous after the release of the film Apollo 13 in 1995. (Thanks to "James O'blivion" for his correction of my chronology.)
Jonathan Ledford Seagull?
Jonathan Livingston Seagull is a slender 1970 novel/allegory by Richard Bach, about a seagull who dreams of achieving “perfect speed.”
So, tell me, why do you want to be a prep cook at Denny’s?
Denny’s is a budget chain of restaurants found across the length and breadth of this fair land.
I’m your sponge, sir.
Probably a reference to a line in the 1958 movie Auntie Mame, starring Rosalind Russell: “I’m your sponge.”
I’ll get the snacks. Like Combos?
Combos are hollowed-out pretzels containing various flavors of soft fillings. Varieties include Cheddar Cheese, Nacho Cheese, and Pepperoni Pizza.
Prepared by elves? What, in a hollow tree?
The Keebler elves are an assortment of tiny characters who supposedly bake all of Keebler’s cookies in a hollow tree. They are headed by a harassed fellow named Ernie.
I’m Peter Graves, for A&E Biography.
Actor Peter Graves (see above) was the host of the documentary show Biography on the A&E cable channel from 1987-1994.
From a bagelwich?
A bagelwich is exactly what you’d think it was: a sandwich made using two halves of a bagel rather than two slices of bread.
Should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.
A paraphrase of the statement that ended the tape-recorded instructions on Mission: Impossible every week (see above note). The actual line: “As usual, if any of your IM team is killed or captured, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”
“Oh, lieutenant …” Nice pants.
Dockers (see above) has used the tagline “Nice pants” on its commercials for years, as men and women alike are overwhelmed by the slacks’ majesty.
“Take off.” To the Great White North.
A line from the song “Take Off” on the album Great White North by Canadian comedy team Bob & Doug McKenzie (a.k.a. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas). Sample lyrics: “Take off! To the Great White North!/Take off! It's a beauty way to go/Take off! To the Great White North!”
Bedspring World! The Land-o-Nod mattress factory.
Land-O-Nod was a Minnesota company that manufactured and sold mattresses and bedsprings; they had a chain of stores in the 1980s. According to reader Matt Pekarek, a Twin Cities native, you bought your mattress in one part of the store and your boxspring in another.
Sandy Baron and Robert Wuhl are back!
Sandy Baron (1937-2001) was an actor who appeared in roughly twenty movies between 1966 and 1998, including The Out-of-Towners (1970) and Sid and Nancy (1986). Robert Wuhl is an actor and writer who has appeared in such films as Bull Durham (1988) and Batman (1989).
Oh, you know, Pontiacs are really funny if you look at them in the right way.
The Pontiac is a line of cars produced by GM. The first Pontiacs were introduced in 1920; the line continued to be produced into the twenty-first century.
He’s Charles Nelson Reilly’s understudy.
Charles Nelson Reilly (1931-2007) was an actor known to a generation of children as Hoodoo on the TV series H.R. Pufnstuf. He was also a regular for many years on the game show The Match Game.
Oh, it’s the all-Kennedy channel.
The Kennedy clan is the closest thing America has to royalty. The patriarch, Joseph Kennedy (1888-1969), was a financier and ambassador who groomed his sons for political office. John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) became president in 1961 but was assassinated not quite three years later. Robert Kennedy (1925-1968), who had served under his older brother as attorney general, was assassinated in 1968 during his own try at the presidency. Teddy Kennedy has served in the U.S. Senate for more than 40 years and made a couple of unsuccessful bids for president. Besides their political involvement, the Kennedy men are known for their womanizing: John had a notorious affair with Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe, among many others; Robert was also rumored to have been involved with Monroe; and Teddy’s political career was almost destroyed when a young woman who was not his wife drowned in a car accident in which Teddy was the driver.
“Somehow I have the feeling …” That Gaussian equations are flawed due to their strictly Euclidean view of the universe.
Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) was a German mathematician, considered one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. At the time, geometry was based on the system set forth in about 300 B.C. by the Greek mathematician Euclid. However, many of Euclid’s rules rested on principles that were simply assumed to be true, and mathematicians were growing increasingly dissatisfied with the system. Gauss was apparently one of them, but he never explicitly articulated his doubts, and as a result his reliance on Euclidean principles is considered a failing in his otherwise impressive body of work.
I borrowed a camcorder from Rob Lowe.
Rob Lowe is an actor, one of the young group of stars known as the Brat Pack, who rose to fame in a series of films in the 1980s. Lowe was also active in politics, campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988. However, that year a videotape surfaced of Lowe having sex with two girls during the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. As it turned out, one of the girls seen on the tape was only 16, and her mother filed charges. Lowe agreed to do 20 hours of community service. He also received treatment for alcoholism, and his career rebounded after a brief hiatus.
Oh, a wiseguy, eh?
An imitation of Moe Howard (1897-1975), founding member of the Three Stooges, a comedy trio that appeared in nearly 200 short films. Moe was the “boss Stooge,” constantly rebuking his hapless fellows and beating the hell out of them in allegedly hilarious ways.
Again with the finger!
Probably a reference to a line in The Sunshine Boys, a play by Neil Simon that was made into a 1975 film starring Walter Matthau and George Burns as two feuding vaudevillians. The actual line: “The finger! You’re starting again with the finger!”
And now Red in the silent spot. Red’s a perverted serviceman with lots of time …
A reference to The Red Skelton Show, a TV sketch comedy series that aired from 1951-1971. The “Silent Spot” was a regular feature on the show, a brief skit without words that showcased Skelton’s skill at pantomime in a variety of roles.
Jeez, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is not as sick as this.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a 1986 film about self-professed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. The film is shot in a flat, semi-documentary style that makes the scenes of graphic violence when Lucas and his sidekick are committing their murders virtually unwatchable.
“Oh, Harold …” Oh, Maude, Maude.
Harold and Maude is a dark little 1971 film comedy about a young man obsessed with death (Bud Cort) who meets and falls in love with a lively old woman (Ruth Gordon) at a funeral. Cort and Gordon both received Golden Globe nominations for their work in the film.
Did they get Charlie Chaplin to write the music?
Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) is widely considered one of the greatest comedians of all time. He made his mark in the silent film era, in his persona as the Little Tramp. He appeared in numerous short films before starring in a string of feature films. He made some “talkies” after sound was introduced, but it is his silent comedy routines that earned him immortality.
It’s Larry, Darryl, and Darryl.
Larry, Darryl, and Darryl were the three brothers who were neighbors of Bob Newhart on the television series Newhart (1982-1990). They were played by William Sanderson, Tony Papenfuss, and John Voldstad, respectively.
Wonderful, wonderful, thank you, boys.
An imitation of bandleader Lawrence Welk (1903-1992), whose TV variety series, The Lawrence Welk Show, aired from 1955-1982.
"Could you tell me how to get to ..." Polly Holliday's house?
Polly Holliday is an actress best known for playing the acerbic waitress Flo on the TV sitcom Alice and later on its short-lived spinoff series, Flo.
“Let’s go home. I’m bushed.” I’m Quayled.
Dan Quayle was vice president of the United States from 1989-1993, under President George H.W. Bush.
Wet Head and Dry Look. They’re cops.
A reference to the competing schools of men’s hairstyles: wet look vs. dry look. Wet look would be the pomaded, shiny, slicked-back look popular on 1950s sitcoms, while the dry look is the more natural, blow-dried, hairsprayed look favored by 1980s yuppies.
The Onion Field.
The Onion Field is a 1974 book by crime novelist Joseph Wambaugh. It tells the true story of two Los Angeles policemen who were murdered by robbers in 1963. The book was made into a movie starring James Woods in 1979.
Chip Douglas, you come in here this instant!
Chip Douglas was the youngest of the sons on the TV sitcom My Three Sons, which aired from 1960-1972. The part was played by Stanley Livingston.
It’s a Cowsill!
The Cowsills were a band that formed in the early 1960s: Bill, Bob, Barry, and John (and, later, siblings Susan and Paul and mom Barbara). They were quite popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s; the TV show The Partridge Family was based on them. Their most famous song was probably “The Rain, the Park and Other Things.”
Oh, well, it’s the end of the world as we know it, I feel fine.
A line from the song “End of the World” by the rock band R.E.M.
Turn it off! Turn it off!
A line from the 1979 film Hardcore, starring George C. Scott as an American businessman who discovers that his daughter has been acting in porn films. The line is spoken by Scott while watching one of his daughter’s artistic efforts.
You know what, you are one sick mammajamma.
“Mammajamma” is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “a bitch nobody likes,” but it seems to be used popularly in the same way as “son of a bitch”: “one bad mammajamma,” “one vicious mammajamma,” and so forth.
It’s like he walked right out of a J. Crew catalog.
J. Crew is a retail and catalog purveyor of upscale casual clothing for both men and women. It was founded in 1983 as a catalog venture and expanded to retail in 1989. Today there are nearly 200 J. Crew stores.
[Sung.] Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down, never gonna …
A paraphrase of the chorus from the song “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. Actual lyrics: “Never gonna give you up/Never gonna let you go …” (repeat forever). (Thanks to Dale Hicks for this reference.)
Oh, so bright, heh …
Probably an imitation of character actor Dwight Frye (1899-1943) as Renfield, the creepy, bug-eating dogsbody of Dracula in the 1931 film version of Bram Stoker’s classic horror tale.
He looks like Roy Cohn.
Roy Cohn (1927-1986) was a lawyer who served as an aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) during the latter’s widely publicized and feared witch-hunts against alleged Communists in the government. Cohn was rumored to be involved with another young man who worked for McCarthy, David Schine. When Schine was drafted into the Army, Cohn’s demands that his friend receive special treatment launched a feud between McCarthy and the Army that would culminate in the Army-McCarthy hearings and McCarthy’s abrupt downfall. Cohn went into private law practice in New York City but was eventually disbarred for unethical conduct. He died of AIDS in 1986.
Huh—Mariah Carey’s running through the woods.
Mariah Carey is a soprano pop singer who hit it big in the early 1990s with hits like “Emotions” and “Hero.”
We now return to Macon County Line.
Macon County Line is a 1974 film starring a bunch of young actors you’ve never heard of as brothers whose car breaks down in Macon County and find themselves hunted by the law.
I’m going to get me a piece of bottom land.
"I'm gonna get us a piece of bottom land" is a line from the 1941 film Sergeant York. (Thanks to Seth Hershman for this reference.)
Jesse Helms in retirement.
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 whistling “Dixie” at her in an elevator. (He failed.) In 2001 he announced he would not seek re-election the following year. He died seven years later of vascular dementia.
[Sung.] I can’t seem to get the stink out/The Windsong stays in my car …
A take on an old commercial jingle for Windsong perfume. Actual lyrics: “I can’t seem to forget you/Your Windsong stays on my mind …”
Run! There’s a Snaptite model in the woods!
A reference to the Snaptite line of model cars.
What are you, Jamie Lee Curtis?
Jamie Lee Curtis is an actress who got her start playing the babysitter being stalked by a madman in the horror flick Halloween (1978).
[Sung.] Little red Chevette …
A paraphrase of the song “Little Red Corvette” by Prince.
Ron Howard pops the clutch and tells the world to eat his dust.
The line "Ron Howard pops the clutch and tells the world to eat my dust!" is from a movie trailer for the 1976 film Eat My Dust. (Thanks to Chris Kee for this reference.)
[Sung.] Ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more …
A line from the Bob Dylan song “Maggie’s Farm.” Sample lyrics: “I got a head full of ideas/That are drivin' me insane/It's a shame the way she makes me scrub the floor/I ain't gonna work on Maggie's farm no more.”
Calling Susan Faludi! Calling Susan Faludi!
Susan Faludi is a feminist writer and the author of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, a 1992 book that warned of a growing rejection of feminist principles in American society.
Travis Bickle had a better room than this.
Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro, is the eponymous antihero of the 1976 film Taxi Driver: a bitter, mentally unstable Vietnam vet.
“I’m not trying to give you a pitch, but get this.” Term insurance.
Term insurance is insurance that is good only for a limited period of time; term life insurance is popular with young parents, since by the time the coverage expires (usually in twenty years), their children will be grown and able to provide for themselves.
“It’s big and round and glows sort of funny like.” Oh, that’s the Big Boy sign.
Bob’s Big Boy is a California-based chain of diners; the round neon “Bob’s” sign on the restaurant in Burbank was designated a historic landmark in 1993.
It’s Punch and Goofy!
Punch & Judy is a classic children’s puppet show that tells the story of a lovable rascal named Punch who throws his baby out the window, murders his wife when she calls him on it, and knocks off all representatives of the law who attempt to bring him to justice. Goofy is a character from the old Walt Disney animated short cartoons, a friend of Mickey Mouse; he first appeared in 1932.
“I’ll handle it myself.” Stanley, get me a hammer.
An imitation of Oliver Hardy (1892-1957), half of the comedy team Laurel & Hardy, which made a string of movies during the 1920s and ’30s. Hardy, a stout man, played a childish, bossy, fussy character opposite Stan Laurel’s thin, gentle incompetent.
It looks like the cover of Better Homes and Gardens.
Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine that focuses on home and family: decorating, gardening, cooking, etc. It is published by the Meredith Corp.
Pyle, get in here!
An imitation of Frank Sutton (1923-1974), who played the long-suffering Sgt. Vince Carter on the TV series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., which ran from 1964-1970.
Phil Silvers (1911-1985) was a stage and screen comedian probably best remembered for his portrayal of the conniving Sergeant Ernie Bilko on The Phil Silvers Show, which aired from 1955-1959.
Richard Deacon (1921-1984) was an actor who appeared in a long list of films and TV shows, including The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mister Ed, and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Joe Garagiola was a professional baseball player who played for the Cardinals, the Pirates, the Cubs, and the Giants during his career (1946-1954). After his retirement he went on to become a well-known sports broadcaster.
Wallace Shawn is a writer and actor who has appeared in such films as My Dinner with Andre (1981) and The Princess Bride (1987).
Fred Clark (1914-1968) was a character actor who appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, but he is probably best remembered for his recurring role as Dr. Roy Clyburn on the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971).
Uh, what was the middle part again?
Probably a reference to a line in the 1988 movie A Fish Called Wanda, spoken by the profoundly dim Otto West (Kevin Kline).
Phil Silvers, Richard Deacon, Jack E. Leonard, Joe Garagiola, Wallace Shawn, and Fred Clark, ladies and gentlemen.
See previous notes on Silvers, Deacon, Garagiola, Shawn, and Clark. Jack E. Leonard was an “insult” comedian, predating Don Rickles. He also acted in a handful of films, most notably the Jerry Lewis comedy The Disorderly Orderly.
Dear Abby, I’m an elderly woman who doesn’t …
“Dear Abby” is an advice column syndicated in newspapers everywhere. It is written by “Abigail Van Buren,” whose real name is Jeanne Phillips. Phillips took over the column from her mother, Pauline Phillips. Readers write in with problems, and Abby dispenses comfortably bourgeois solutions.
We now join Ernest Hemingway at his home in Ketchum, Idaho.
Ernest “Papa” Hemingway (1899-1961) was a man’s man’s author who wrote intensely muscular stories and novels about war, bullfighting, fishing, and other testosterone-laden activities. In 1961, depressed and anxious after a series of electroshock treatments, he killed himself with a shotgun at his Idaho house.
[Sung.] Leader of the pack …
From the song “The Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las. Sample lyrics: “Is she really going out with him?/Well, there she is, let’s ask her/Betty, is that Jimmy’s ring you’re wearing?”
Eww, beluga caviar!
Caviar is the roe (eggs) of female sturgeons. There are three varieties of sturgeon that produce caviar; of them, beluga is generally considered the finest. (The other two are osetra and sevruga.)
I think we killed the Michelin Man!
The Michelin Man is an advertising figure for Michelin tires; designed in 1898, he is intended to look as if he is made out of a stack of tires.
It’s dead, Jim.
A reference to Leonard “Bones” McCoy, the doctor on the original Star Trek series, which aired from 1966-1969. Along with “I’m a doctor, not a [fill in the blank],” “He’s dead, Jim” is the catchphrase McCoy is best known for. He said it in only two episodes—“The Enemy Within” and “The Devil in the Dark,” although variants (such as “You’re dead, Jim”) appeared in three others. The “Jim” in question is Captain James T. Kirk.
Calgon, take me away.
“Calgon, take me away” is a longtime advertising slogan for Calgon scented bath products, which include bubble bath, body lotions, and more.
Hand jive. Hand jive. Doing the hand jive.
A reference to the song “Willie and the Hand Jive,” which has been recorded by Eric Clapton and Johnny Otis. Sample lyrics: “Grandma gave baby sister a dime/Said, ‘Do that hand jive one more time’/Hand jive, hand jive, hand jive/Do that crazy jive.” The phrase “hand jive” refers to a form of “dancing” done only with the hands and arms; it caught on among teens in the 1950s, who performed it while seated in movie theaters or diners, often to the strains of the Otis tune.
You’re soaking in it.
“You’re soaking in it” was the slogan in a series of commercials for Palmolive dish soap that aired from 1966 to 1992, in which maternal beautician Madge the manicurist (played by Jan Minor) informs her shocked clients that they’re soaking their hands in Palmolive liquid soap.
Madge, you’re gross!
See previous note.
I’ll be back.
A line from the 1984 film The Terminator, uttered by Arnold Schwarzenegger in his role as the killer android from the future. The line became one of Schwarzenegger’s most famous catchphrases.
We now return to The Eyes of Laura Mars.
The Eyes of Laura Mars is a 1978 film starring Faye Dunaway as a young woman who finds herself seeing through the eyes of a serial killer as he commits his crimes.
Sessions presents John Denver!
Sessions was a music publisher that advertised its compilations on television. John Denver (1943-1997) was a country-folk singer and environmentalist who had his biggest hits in the 1970s.
[Sung.] Country roads, take me home …
“A line from the song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver (see previous note). Sample lyrics: “Country roads, take me home/To the place I belong/West Virginia, mountain momma/Take me home ...”
Oh, let’s go to the Tobe Hooper place.
Tobe Hooper is a writer and director whose best-known work is the horror flick The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974); his other films include Poltergeist and Lifeforce.
E. Gein. Nice place.
Ed Gein (1906-1984) was a notorious Wisconsin serial killer. In 1957 police discovered the headless body of a local shopkeeper hanging in the kitchen of Gein’s farmhouse outside Plainfield, Wisconsin. They searched the house and found belts, lampshades, bowls, and other items fashioned from body parts. Gein confessed to the murders of only two women, although he was suspected in four other cases; most of his “trophies” had been obtained by exhuming recently buried corpses from the local graveyard. Gein was committed to a psychiatric hospital and remained there until he died.
Well, let’s try the last house on the left here.
The Last House on the Left is a 1972 film by horror-meister Wes Craven (of Nightmare on Elm Street fame), about two teenage girls who are raped and murdered by a gang of psychopaths, and the vengeance wreaked on the gang by one of the girls’ parents.
Andy? Opie? Floyd?
All characters from The Andy Griffith Show, which ran from 1960-1968: Andy Taylor (played by Griffith) was the sheriff of the small town of Mayberry; Opie Taylor (Ron Howard) was his young son; and Floyd Lawson (Howard McNear) was the town barber.
Can we leave you a Watchtower?
The Watchtower is the official magazine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, an apocalyptic Christian sect known for proselytizing door to door.
“They say this place is haunted.” And they say that falling in love is wonderful.
A reference to the song “They Say It’s Wonderful” from the musical Annie Get Your Gun. Sample lyrics: “They say that falling in love is wonderful/It's wonderful, so they say/And with a moon up above it's wonderful/It's wonderful, so they tell me.”
Herman, someone’s at the door!
Probably a reference to The Munsters, a TV sitcom that aired from 1964-1966. The clan patriarch, Herman Munster (played by Fred Gwynne), was forever opening the door and scaring off Marilyn’s dates with his grotesque appearance.
It looks like the Hooterville Hotel.
Hooterville is the name of the small rural town that was the setting for the TV sitcom Green Acres, which aired from 1965-1971, as well as for the sitcom Petticoat Junction (1963-1970). The hotel in town was called the Shady Rest Hotel, run by the Bradley family: Uncle Joe, Kate, and Kate’s three numptious daughters.
Is he a dream? Or a dud?
Mystery Date was an old board game by Milton Bradley, a favorite at girls’ slumber parties. Players opened a small plastic door to find out if their date was a “dream” or a “dud.”
Fibber McGee and murder.
Fibber McGee and Molly was an old radio show that aired from 1935-1959. They were played by real-life couple Jim and Marian Jordan. A longtime running gag on the show was Fibber opening the door to his hall closet, followed by a cacophony as the overstuffed contents came cascading out.
Doctor Treves, would you like to see my cathedral?
In the 1980 film The Elephant Man, the title character builds a model of a cathedral out of cardboard; Dr. Treves (played by Anthony Hopkins) was his physician. (Thanks to Andrew Gill for this reference.)
Look: John Gacy’s makeup book, the Speck-Whitman letters …
Three notorious mass murderers: John Wayne Gacy (1942-1994) was a successful businessman who lived in an affluent Chicago suburb. He was well known locally for dressing up as a clown and visiting children’s hospitals. In 1978 police discovered the bodies of 28 young men buried in the crawl space under Gacy’s house; for several years Gacy had been methodically kidnapping, torturing, and murdering them. He ultimately confessed to the murders of 33 people and was executed in 1994. Richard Speck (1941-1991) was convicted in 1967 of murdering eight student nurses in a townhouse on the south side of Chicago. He died in prison in 1991 of an apparent heart attack. 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 an hour and a half 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.
Eddie Haskell was Beaver’s trouble-making friend on the TV series Leave It to Beaver, which ran from 1957-1963. Eddie was a bully to younger children but always acted like a nice, wholesome young man in front of their parents. The part was played by Ken Osmond.
“My name is Kenyon, Stan Kenyon.” Stan Kenton, wow!
Stan Kenton (1911-1979) was a bandleader from 1941 until his death almost four decades later. In various incarnations, his band played big-band jazz, producing a number of notable jazz musicians who had successful careers on their own.
Tenspeed and Brown Shoe.
Tenspeed and Brown Shoe was a short-lived 1980 television series starring Jeff Goldblum and Ben Vereen as an accountant and a con man, respectively, who team up to found a detective agency.
Lithium is a drug used to treat manic-depressive disorder.
That’s it—hit him with a People’s Choice Award.
The People’s Choice Awards are an entertainment industry award whose recipients are selected by a Gallup poll of the general public. The award is a piece of crystal shaped like a flame.
“Sufferin’ succotash” is the catchphrase of Tweety Bird’s arch-nemesis, Sylvester Pussycat, in the series of animated cartoons by Warner Brothers. The phrase made its first appearance in 1945.
Ed Asner, in a role that will surprise you.
Ed Asner is an actor best known for his portrayal of crusty journalist Lou Grant, first on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) and later on the eponymous spinoff Lou Grant (1977-1982).
“I know it sounds crazy.” But I’m Punky Brewster.
Punky Brewster was a TV series about a spunky young orphan and her dog that aired from 1980-1984. The role was played by Soleil Moon Frye.
“Stan Kenyon.” Stan Kenton, wow!
See note on Stan Kenton, above.
James A. Michener’s Adventures in …
James Michener (1907-1997) was an American author known for his massive novels, including Hawaii and Texas. In the late 1950s, Michener created a TV show called Adventures in Paradise (1959-62), starring Gardner McKay as a guy on a boat who helps people with their personal problems.
Okay, put me through to Dub Taylor, Will Geer, and Strother Martin.
Dub Taylor (1907-1994) was a character actor known for playing grizzled old coots in Westerns, such as his recurring role as Houston on TV’s Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983). Will Geer (1902-1978) played Zeb “Grandpa” Walton on The Waltons, a wholesome TV drama that aired from 1972-1981. Strother Martin (1919-1980) was a character actor who appeared in dozens of films, including many Westerns (True Grit, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance).
Still trying to air that Windsong out of my car.
See note on Windsong, above.
She’s gonna have fun fun fun till her daddy takes that away.
A reference to the Beach Boys song “Fun Fun Fun.” Sample lyrics: “Seems she forgot all about the library/Like she told her old man now/And with the radio blasting/Goes cruising just as fast as she can now/And she’ll have fun fun fun till her daddy takes the T-bird away …”
Plumps when you cook it.
“They plump when you cook ‘em” is an old advertising slogan for Ballpark Franks. The scientific mechanism behind the plumping appears to be the water in the hot dog turning to steam.
Okay, Jed, let’s take it from the top.
Jed Clampett (played by Buddy Ebsen) was the family patriarch on The Beverly Hillbillies, a TV sitcom that aired from 1962-1971.
Smucker’s. It has to taste good.
A paraphrase of the longtime advertising slogan for Smucker’s brand jams and jellies: “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.” It has been in use since the 1950s.
A Quinn Martin production.
Quinn Martin (1922-1987) was a prolific television producer in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s; his series included The Untouchables and The Fugitive. For 21 years, he always had at least one series running on network TV, and at times as many as four at once. The phrase “A Quinn Martin production” was flashed onscreen in all of Martin’s shows.
He’s wearing Hammer pants—check it out.
Hammer pants (named after rap star MC Hammer, who popularized the look) were wide-legged pants, often in garish colors or sparkly fabrics, that were briefly a fashion craze at the beginning of the 1990s.
[Sung.] “U Can’t Touch This.”
This is the tune to “U Can’t Touch This,” MC Hammer’s biggest hit (see previous note).
I wonder what made him so cranky? –Oh, he’s in group therapy with Pa Joad, Grandpa Walton, Ma and Pa Kettle …
Pa Joad is the patriarch of the poor farm family searching for a better life in the John Steinbeck novel The Grapes of Wrath. See note on Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton, above. Ma and Pa Kettle (played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride, respectively) were the stars of a series of film comedies in the 1940s and 1950s. (Thanks to Randy J. for the Joad reference.)
I heard my Bouncing Betty go off.
A Bouncing Betty is a type of land mine, used during the Vietnam War, that when triggered was hurled a few feet into the air before exploding.
On Emergency 911, an eye creature is down.
An imitation of actor William Shatner , who hosted the TV show Rescue 911 from 1989-1996. The show featured “dramatic reenactments” of actual emergencies taken from 911 tapes.
[Sung.] Rough boys, under the street …
A paraphrase of the song “Rough Boys” by The Who. Actual lyrics: “Tough boys/Running the streets/Come a little closer/Rough toys/Under the sheets/Nobody knows her …”
Hey, it’s John-Boy, back from college!
The Waltons was a classic family TV drama that aired from 1972 to 1981. John-Boy Walton, played by Richard Thomas, started college in the second season of the show.
[Sung.] Teenage wasteland … they’re all wasted …
A line from the song “Baba O’Riley” by The Who.
Steve. Earl. Ed. Linc. Julie. Spock …
Steve, Earl, and Ed are a mystery. Linc Hayes and Julie Barnes (played by Clarence Williams III and Peggy Lipton, respectively) were two of the hip young police narks in the TV series The Mod Squad, which aired from 1968-1973. Mr. Spock was the Vulcan science officer aboard the starship Enterprise on the original Star Trek TV series (1966-1969); the part was played by Leonard Nimoy.
There was another gunman behind the fence!
A reference to a popular conspiracy theory about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, which postulates that at least one of the shots came not from Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas Book Depository but from a second, unidentified gunman on what has become known as the “grassy knoll,” a small hill with a fence at the top, behind which the gunman—who some claim was a man dressed as a police officer—crouched with his rifle.
Oh, you are wrong, pomade breath.
An imitation of Art Fern, an unctuous character created by Johnny Carson during his tenure as host of the Tonight Show.
And now Red in the silent spot. Red sports a sweater dress, and …
See note on Red Skelton, above.
[Sung.] Come meet the new boss/Same as the old boss …
A reference to the Who song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”: “Meet the new boss/Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss/Same as the old boss …”
Now the dogs can’t control me!
David Berkowitz, better known as the serial killer Son of Sam, killed six people and shot several others in New York in 1976 and 1977. When he was apprehended, he told police that he had been ordered to commit the murders by a neighbor, with the messages relayed to him by the neighbor’s “demonic” dog, a black Labrador named Harvey.
Ignatius P. Reilly had better hygiene than this guy.
From the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide: “An incorrect reference to the book A Confederacy of Dunces. The character’s name is actually Ignatius J. Reilly. We accept full responsibility for the error.”
All right, you dig the flippin’ hole. We gotta take care of that problem upstate.
A reference to the 1990 Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas; in the opening scene, the main characters kill a man and decide to bury his body in “a place upstate.” Later, they discover a developer is planning to build condos in that location and have to dig up and move the body to prevent its discovery.
Fiddle Faddle is a snack similar to Cracker Jacks: caramel or toffee-covered popcorn mixed with peanuts.
Oh, shiatsu—it’s really good for him.
Shiatsu is an Asian form of physical therapy consisting of a massage that applies firm pressure at various points on the body, which supposedly restores physical and spiritual balance.
[Sung.] Earl Holliman!
Earl Holliman is an actor who has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows. The MST writers seemed particularly taken with his work on the series Police Woman (1974-1978), on which he played Lieutenant Bill Crowley. Joel is singing to the tune of "Ed Sullivan" from the musical Bye Bye Birdie. (Thanks to Andy MacKenzie for the "Ed Sullivan" reference.)
Hey, Mel Torme wants his dewlap back.
Mel Torme (1925-1999), a.k.a. the “Velvet Fog,” was one of the twentieth century’s most respected jazz vocalists, with a smooth, resonant voice. He was also a prolific composer, writing more than 300 songs during his career.
“Not photographers.” Unless it’s Mapplethorpe.
Robert Mapplethorpe (1946-1989) was an American photographer known for his homoerotic photographs of nude men. In 1990, a planned retrospective of his work at a Washington, D.C, museum was canceled after conservatives kicked up a ruckus over the “pornographic” content of some of the photos. Because the exhibit was to have been partly funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, it launched a debate over whether the government should be involved in funding art that some taxpayers might find offensive. That same year, the curator of a museum in Cincinnati, Ohio, was arrested on obscenity charges over the exhibit; he was later acquitted.
[Sung.] Gimme dat gimme dat gimme gimme gimme dat, gimme dat ding.
A reference to the Pipkins song "Gimme Dat Ding." (Thanks to Terry Brennan for this reference.)
Sessions presents Leo Sayer!
See note on Sessions, above. Leo Sayer is a British musician who had a string of mainstream pop hits in the 1970s.
[Sung.] When I need love …
A line from the Leo Sayer song “When I Need You.” Sample lyrics: “When I need love/I hold out my hands and I touch love/I never knew there was so much love/Keeping me warm night and day.”
Neil Sedaka is a doo-wop musician who had his greatest success in the early 1960s, releasing a dozen pop hits in the space of four years. His career nosedived after 1963, but he enjoyed a brief resurgence in the mid-1970s.
[Sung.] There was a time when strangers were welcome here …
A line from the Neil Sedaka song “Immigrant.” Sample lyrics: “There was a time when strangers were welcome here/Music would play, they tell me the days were sweet and clear …”
It’s kind of Miller’s Crossing time.
Miller’s Crossing is a 1990 film, a black comedy about a war between rival gangsters in the 1930s.
[Sung.] I sing whenever I sing whenever I sing …
A reference to Show 402, The Giant Gila Monster.
[Sung.] Love is a many splendored … huh?
A line from the song “Love Is a Many Splendored Thing” by Jerry Vale. Sample lyrics: “Love is a many splendored thing/It's the April rose, that only grows/In the early spring …”
“These shoes weren’t meant for plowed fields.” They were made for walking.
A reference to Nancy Sinatra’s classic 1960s anthem “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” Sample lyrics: “These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do/One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”
Well, now, Andy, I gotta take Thelma Lou up to Mount Pilot …
An imitation of Don Knotts as Barney Fife, the hapless deputy on The Andy Griffith Show, which aired from 1960 to 1968. Thelma Lou (played by Betty Lynn) was Barney’s love interest. Mount Pilot was a city near Mayberry where the characters would go when they wanted some excitement.
Wait a minute—that’s not an ambulance! It’s a Country Squire!
The Ford Country Squire was the quintessential suburban station wagon, first introduced in 1950.
This is my puppet Pepe.
In the 1979 film The In-Laws, the crazed General Garcia (Richard Libertini) refers to his hand as "Pepe," his most trusted advisor. (Thanks to Ronald Byrd for this reference.)
Oh, a high-energy prop cop!
A “high-energy prop comic,” like Gallagher or Carrot Top, is a comedian whose act consists of frenetic behavior, rapid-fire jokes, and the deployment of various props (watermelons, sledgehammers, etc.).
When in Rome …
The full phrase is “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Its origin appears to be some advice St. Ambrose (339-397) once gave to St. Augustine (354-430): "When I am at Milan, I do as they do at Milan; but when I go to Rome, I do as Rome does."
Yes, I worked for Benny Hill for many years.
A reference to Jackie Wright (1905-1989), the little old man who frequently got smacked on the head on The Benny Hill Show, where he was a regular from 1969-1985.
William Burroughs as a young man.
William Burroughs (1914-1997) was a writer of experimental novels, of which the most famous is Naked Lunch. He became one of the seminal voices of the Beat generation in the ‘50s.
“What can you expect with all these bad books being written nowadays?” The Great Gatsby, Ulysses …
The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) that is considered the seminal novel of the Jazz Age; some have called it the Great American Novel. Ulysses is a 1922 novel by James Joyce (1882-1941), a lengthy stream-of-consciousness narrative loosely based on the ancient Greek epic The Odyssey.
Something is wrong on Saturn 3.
This was the tagline for the 1980 film Saturn 3, which starred Farrah Fawcett as a hot blonde fighting off Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keitel, and a killer robot on a remote asteroid orbiting Saturn.
Old Blue Eyes is back!
Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back was the title of crooner Frank Sinatra's 1973 TV comeback special.
[Sung.] The summer wind/Came blowin’ in/Across that kookoo sea …
A paraphrase of a line from the Frank Sinatra song “Summer Wind.” Actual lyrics: “The summer wind came blowin’ in from across the sea/It lingered there, so warm and fair, to walk with me …” Sinatra was known for inserting random phrases when he performed his songs, such as “With the kookoo wind in your hair” or “Stick around, Jack.”
“Killing a man?” For snoring too loud?
A reference to an old Time-Life commercial that ran during the 1970s to advertise their series of Old West books. The voiceover in the ad talked about a man who was “so mean he once shot a man just for snoring.” The man in question was John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895), a Texas outlaw who killed at least 21 men between 1868 and 1877, when he was sent to prison. He was pardoned in 1894 and shot in the back of the head by an El Paso policeman the following year. In Hardin’s autobiography, published posthumously, he bragged about having killed a man in his hotel room in Abilene, shooting twice through the wall to get the man to stop snoring.
Julie Nixon Eisenhower is the daughter of disgraced President Richard M. Nixon. She married David Eisenhower, the grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in 1968 and worked for both of her father’s successful campaigns for the White House.
“These people are crazy!” Their prices are so low!
Probably a reference to Crazy Eddie, a chain of retail electronics stores in New Jersey, whose prices, as spokesman Jerry Carroll maniacally declared in commercial after commercial, were so low, “they’re insane!”
[Sung.] Shooby dooby doo …
A reference to Frank Sinatra, who was not particularly noted for the originality of his scatting; “shooby dooby doo” was a pretty typical example.
I’m reporting now from Grovers Mill, New Jersey …
The infamous radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds” aired on CBS’s Mercury Theatre on October 30, 1938. Mercury founder Orson Welles (1915-1985) structured the story of an alien invasion, based on a novel by H.G. Wells, as if it were an actual incident being reported over the radio, complete with “bulletins” breaking in on musical programs. (Grovers Mill, New Jersey, was the purported landing site of the alien spacecraft.) Unfortunately, people who tuned in after the show’s introduction took it for an actual news broadcast and panicked, expecting to see the Martian death machines looming into view at any moment.
It’s a Simon game!
Simon is a children’s game by Hasbro consisting of a small round console that flashes sequences of lights and sounds, which the player has to duplicate. The sequences get longer and faster as the game progresses.
“His name is Carl …” Sagan.
Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an astronomer and the author of several books on popular science. He was also the host of the popular PBS science program Cosmos in 1980.
Oh, they’re the Drifters.
The Drifters, in various incarnations, were a soul/gospel group in the 1950s. Their hits included “There Goes My Baby” and “This Magic Moment.”
What is this, Bonfire of the Vanities all of a sudden?
The Bonfire of the Vanities is a 1990 novel by Tom Wolfe about an affluent Wall Street broker who becomes the center of a media circus after he and his mistress hit a young black man with their car, putting him into a coma. One of the central plot points involves discovering which of them was actually driving the car that night.
Here, give me that, sergeant—I’m going to do my Rudy Vallee. [Sung.] I’m just a vagabond lover …
Rudy Vallee (1901-1986) was a popular crooner in the 1930s and 1940s, hosting several radio variety shows. He also acted in a number of films, appeared on Broadway, and toured into the 1980s. The lyrics above are from his signature song, “I’m Just a Vagabond Lover.”
[Sung.] Mission: Impossible theme.
This is the theme to the TV show Mission: Impossible (see above note).
There is a great disturbance in the force.
A paraphrase of a line from the 1977 sci-fi epic Star Wars, spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness): “I felt a great disturbance in the force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”
Not exactly Alcatraz, is it?
Alcatraz is a notorious prison located on an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Between 1934 and 1963, it acted as a federal prison for the country’s most dangerous criminals: mobster Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly, and others. There has never been a successful escape from the prison; several inmates made it off the island but are presumed to have died in the dangerous currents of the bay. In 1963 the prison was closed due to its logistical difficulties; the island is now open to the public.
[Sung.] The blue-blooded girls …
A line from the song “It Was a Very Good Year” by Frank Sinatra (see above). Sample lyrics: “When I was thirty-five/It was a very good year/It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls/Of independent means/We’d ride in limousines …”
Shemp Howard (1895-1955), along with his brothers Curly and Moe, was an off-again, on-again member of the comedy trio the Three Stooges. Shemp was a Stooge until 1930, when Curly replaced him; he returned in 1946 after Curly had a stroke and remained with the group until his death nine years later.
[Sung.] Candy … it would be just dandy … if my Candy…
A paraphrase of a line from the Frank Sinatra song “Candy.” Actual lyrics: “Candy, it's gonna be just dandy, the day I take my Candy/And make her mine, all mine.”
[Sung.] That chick gets too hungry for …
A paraphrase of a line from “The Lady Is a Tramp” by Frank Sinatra. Actual lyrics: “She gets too hungry for dinner at eight/She likes the theater and never comes late/She never bothers with people she'd hate/That's why the lady is a tramp …”
Snap on, snap off, the snapper!
“Clap on, clap off, the Clapper!” is an advertising slogan for one of those “as-seen-on-TV”-type products: a gizmo that plugs into an outlet and turns two appliances—lamps, TVs, etc.—on and off in response to clapping.
“Raid!” is the word screamed by the hapless animated bugs on a series of commercials for the household insecticide, just before they’re sent to that big garbage can in the sky.
[Sung.] My name is Mr. Bubble, and you can watch me pop …
Mr. Bubble is a brand of bubble bath. This sounds like an advertising jingle, but I was unable to confirm it.
Lenny and Squiggy join the Navy.
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.
Looks like they’re watching Monty Python.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a British sketch comedy show that aired from 1969-1974, had a fair number of skits that involved limp, unrealistic-looking dummies falling out of windows or off cliffs. Examples include the encyclopedia salesman sketch, from the episode “Man's Crisis of Identity in the Latter Half of the Twentieth Century,” and the “falling from building” skit from the episode “The Naked Ant.”
Man, it’s like No Exit with bad jokes.
No Exit is a 1946 play by French existentialist playwright/philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980). It is about three people stuck in a small room together, who gradually reveal each other’s hypocrisies and lay bare their true identities; the play coined the phrase “Hell is other people.”
Got a booger on my finger and I can’t get it off.
A paraphrase of a line from the classic field-trip song “The Booger Song.” Sample lyrics: “Got a booger on my finger and it’s stuck like glue/Got a booger on my finger and I don’t know what to do/Tried flicking, tried shaking, but it won’t come loose/Got a booger on my finger and it’s stuck like glue.”
Introducing the Garden Weasel. –Cultivates to a uniform three-inch depth. Like an extra hand in the garden. Really cuts through the weeds.
The Garden Weasel is a gardening tool that has been advertised on television for years (it was introduced in 1976). It is a cultivator designed to break up soil and root up weeds, preparing the ground for planting.
[Sung.] I’m Hand Christian Andersen …
A paraphrase of a line from the song “I’m Hans Christian Andersen,” as performed by Danny Kaye (1913-1987) in the 1952 musical Hans Christian Andersen. Actual lyrics: “I’m Hans Christian Andersen/I’ve many a tale to tell/And though I’m a cobbler/I’d say I tell them rather well.”
I’m not going in the carpal tunnel.
The carpal tunnel is an open space in the wrist surrounded by the wrist bones and a ligament. A number of tendons and the median nerve travel through this tunnel. When overused, these tendons can swell and put pressure on the median nerve, creating a numb, tingling sensation in the hand; this is known as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Two words: Compound W. Well, actually it’s one word and a letter, but you know what I mean.
Compound W is an over-the-counter wart remover whose main ingredient is salicylic acid.
Let your fingers do the walking through the …
“Let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages” is an old advertising slogan for the AT&T telephone directory.
Do I look like Earl Holliman?
See note on Earl Holliman, above.
I was just thinking how much you look like Earl Holliman.
See note on Earl Holliman, above.
Michael Jackson’s back there.
Michael Jackson is a singer and dancer who began his career as a child, performing with his brothers as the Jackson 5 in the 1960s and 1970s. He became super-ultra-mega huge as a solo pop singer in the 1980s, with hits such as “Beat It” and “Thriller.” Much was made of his eccentricities, including his fashion style of wearing only one sequined glove, his pet chimp, and his habit of sleeping in an oxygen tent to revitalize himself. In later years his eccentricities began to appear darker: his fondness for children exploded into scandal when several of his young friends accused the singer of molesting them, and his constant surgical modifications began to take on an air of the grotesque.
Can you drop me off at the corner of Franklin and Blaisdell?
Franklin and Blaisdell are streets in Minneapolis. And yes, they do intersect. (Thanks to Bill Stiteler for this reference.)
Malcolm McDowell is an actor whose most memorable role is as the psychopathic Alexander de Large in 1971’s A Clockwork Orange. He has since appeared in more than 100 films and TV shows.
In O Yucky Man.
O Lucky Man! is a 1973 musical starring Malcolm McDowell (see previous note) as a young coffee salesman in Europe. The film is apparently a metaphor for capitalism, or something.
“What’s so funny?” About peace, love, and understanding?
A reference to the song “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” originally recorded by Nick Lowe. It has since been covered by more than a dozen bands, including the Wallflowers and Hootie & the Blowfish. Sample lyrics: “Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?/And each time I feel like this inside/There's one thing I wanna know:/What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?”
Linc. Julie. Sammy. Spock.
See above note on Linc, Julie, and Spock. Sammy is unknown.
A Muppet news flash.
The phrase “And now, a Muppet news flash” is from The Muppet Show, a puppet variety show created by Jim Henson; it aired from 1976-1981.
That’s our serial killer!
Probably a reference to That’s My Mama, a sitcom about a barber in Washington, DC, who continually had to fend off his mother’s efforts to find him a wife. It ran for a year and a half, from September 1974 to December 1975.
[Sung.] Fuzzy dice and bongos, fuzzy dice …
A line from the song “The Uncle Meat Variations” by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Sample lyrics: “Fuzzy dice and bongos/Fuzzy dice/I got ’em/At the Pep Boys ... at the boyyyyyyyyyys …”
David Lynch only aspires to make something this creepy.
David Lynch is a bizarre filmmaker who has directed such offbeat classics as Eraserhead (1977), Blue Velvet (1986) and the TV series Twin Peaks (1990-1991).
So your car pops ludes and flies to Denver for peanut butter and banana sandwiches?
Elvis Presley (1935-1977), the King of Rock and Roll, was one of the most popular musicians from the 1950s until his death in the late 1970s. He had notorious problems with drug abuse, which probably contributed to his death from a heart attack at the age of 42. He was addicted to a number of prescription drugs, including Quaaludes (or “ludes” for short), a sedative that ceased manufacture in the 1980s due to widespread abuse. There was a famous incident when Elvis and a group of friends hopped aboard his private jet in Memphis, flew to Denver, were greeted at the airport by a butler carrying a tray of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and flew straight back to Memphis after devouring them.
Killdozer is a 1974 TV movie about a construction crew building an airstrip during World War II who uncover an ancient evil spirit, which promptly takes control of their heavy equipment and begins to wreak havoc.
Bilko, what are you up to?
See note on Phil Silvers, above.
Uh, could you unpack that for me, please?
In deconstructionism, a field of literary theory that believes in peeling apart a text to discover its hidden layers of meaning, “unpack” is used to mean “analyze” or “deconstruct.”
[Sung.] Be all that I can be …
“Be all that you can be” was the longtime jingle of the U.S. Army, enjoying tremendous success for many years. (Advertising Age ranked it as the second most effective jingle of the 20th century, coming in just below McDonald’s “You deserve a break today.”) However, the Army retired it in 2001, adopting instead the new slogan “An army of one.”
Yeah, that’s the ticket.
An imitation of Tommy “The Liar” Flanagan, a character created by comedian Jon Lovitz during his tenure on Saturday Night Live from 1985-1990.
[Hummed.] “America the Beautiful.”
“America the Beautiful” was originally a poem written by a woman named Katherine Bates and first published in 1895. It was instantly popular, and after it was set to music by Samuel Ward, a movement sprang up to make it the new national anthem; however, it was beaten out by “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1931.
Tic Tac, sir?
Tic Tacs are a brand of breath mints that come in a variety of flavors, including spearmint, orange, and cinnamon.
When Neil Simon writes a horror film.
Neil Simon is a prolific playwright and screenwriter, one of the most popular Broadway authors in America. His more famous works include The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park, and Plaza Suite.
I love you, Mr. Johnson, and I want to have your baby.
Possibly a reference to a line in the BBC series Black Adder III, starring Rowan Atkinson: “I love you, Dr. Johnson, and I want to have your baby.”
Stick it to the man!
The origin of this phrase appears to date back to the 1972 blaxploitation movie Super Fly, whose tagline was “He’s got a plan to stick it to the man.”
We’re Highway Helpers, sir. Need a hand there? Get it? Hand?
Highway Helpers is a program created in 1987 in Minneapolis to help ease traffic congestion by quickly removing or repairing stalled vehicles: five to seven trucks patrol the highways during the daylight hours, looking for accidents or responding to stalled cars or roadway debris that has been called in.
One Adam-12, see the hand.
“One Adam-12” was how the police dispatcher opened her bulletins on the TV cop show Adam-12, which ran from 1968-1975. The part was played by Shaaron Claridge, who worked as an actual dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department.
[Sung.] Gon’ to see Miss Eliza. Goin’ to Mississippi …
Probably a line from the traditional blues ballad “Goin’ to Mississippi,” but I was unable to confirm the lyrics.
Hey, that eye creature’s got a slim jim.
A slim jim is a traditional tool of car thieves, consisting of a thin piece of metal that, when inserted between the window and the car door, can be used to unlock the door.
Keep an eye out for the cops. An eye! Because …
An imitation of “Crying Comedian” Rip Taylor, a comedian whom Joel and the bots parody at length in one of their host segments. Taylor is known for his wacky costumes, props, and extensive use of confetti. He was the host of the painfully cruel TV game show The $1.98 Beauty Show, which aired from 1978-1980.
The funny thing is the window’s down and the door’s unlocked on the other side because they’re eye creatures, you know! That’s what makes it fun!
See previous note.
God, I’m beat. –I can barely keep my eyes open!
See previous note on Rip Taylor.
Oh, no, not those meddling kids again.
A reference to the TV cartoon show Scooby Doo, which introduced the phrase “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids” into pop culture.
Because I have eyes in the back of my head! It’s funny!
See previous note on Rip Taylor.
Horowitz’s hand’s on tour.
Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989) was an internationally acclaimed concert pianist. Born in Russia, he became an American citizen in 1944. He was renowned for his flawless technique and enormous repertoire.
[Sung.] I’ve got Sammy Davis eyes. I’ve got a million of ‘em! Literally!
See previous note on Rip Taylor. Sammy Davis Jr. (1925-1990) was a singer and entertainer who also appeared in a number of movies. He was a member of the Rat Pack along with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop. He lost an eye in a car accident when he was a young man. The line is a reference to the song “Bette Davis Eyes,” which in turn is a reference to Bette Davis (1908-1989), an Oscar-winning actress known for her dark, deep-set eyes.
“This darn car.” That Darn Car, starring Hayley Mills!
That Darn Cat! is a 1965 film starring regular Disney actress Hayley Mills as the owner of a cat that helps foil a bank robbery and kidnapping.
Poof! Hello, Siegfried! –Hello, Roy! Hello!
Siegfried and Roy are a perennial Las Vegas draw, performing their magic show with their famous white tigers and lions seven nights a week. In 2003 their show was put on hiatus when Roy was badly mauled by one of their tigers.
The president’s polyp.
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), who was president of the United States from 1981-1989, had several polyps removed from his colon: one in 1984, one in 1985, and two more in 1987. In 1985, he also underwent surgery to remove a more dangerous tumor, which resulted in the removal of about two feet of his colon.
They’ve gotta soak their contacts or they’ll be up all night! ‘Cause they’ve got so many eyes!
See previous note on Rip Taylor.
You need Dramamine to watch this movie.
Dramamine is an over-the-counter anti-nausea medicine used to combat motion sickness. It is manufactured by Pfizer.
[Sung.] It’s now or never …
A line from the Elvis Presley song “It’s Now or Never.” Sample lyrics: “It's now or never, come hold me tight/Kiss me my darling, be mine tonight/Tomorrow will be too late …”
Richard and Mary Kimble—fugitive family.
The Fugitive was a TV series that aired from 1963-1967. It starred David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble, a man unjustly convicted of murdering his wife (who was named Helen, not Mary) and forced to flee capture by the police while striving to prove his innocence and hunt down the real killer—the mysterious “one-armed man.”
Chuck Woolery has hosted a number of game shows during his career but is probably best known for Love Connection, a Dating Game-type show, which he hosted from 1983-1994.
Dracula! –No, no, Gertrude Stein.
Dracula is the villainous vampire of the Bram Stoker novel by the same name. Stoker based the character loosely on Vlad the Impaler, a fifteenth-century Wallachian prince who was notorious for his cruelty. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an author in the first half of the twentieth century; her home in Paris, which she shared with her companion Alice B. Toklas, hosted salons attended by many of the leading artists and intellectuals of the day, including Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway.
That’s My Eggsac will be back!
See note on That’s My Mama, above.
Okay, you wanted a Whipper Burger and a shake and some fries?
A Whipper Burger is an astoundingly unhealthy offering from Hawkins House of Burgers in Los Angeles, consisting of pastrami, two quarter-pound beef patties, cheese, and sausage on a bun. (Thanks to Andy MacKenzie for this reference.)
If you build it, they will come.
A line from Field of Dreams, a 1989 movie starring Kevin Costner as a Midwestern farmer who hears a mysterious voice instructing him to build a baseball diamond in his field.
We are candy-coated peanuts, popcorn, and a prize.
Cracker Jacks are a snack consisting of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts. They were introduced in 1896. In 1912 the manufacturer started offering a prize—usually a small plastic toy, stickers, or another inexpensive toy—in 1912.
Hey, it looks like Yule Gibbons’ funeral procession. Because of the woods.
Yule Gibbons was an environmentalist and dietary guru in the 1960s and 1970s. He advocated a diet heavy in natural, wholesome foods—fruits, nuts, whole grains, and so forth. He also did a series of commercials for Grape-Nuts cereal.
Corgi Cars. They’re bigger. They’re better.
Corgi Cars are a brand of die-cast model cars produced by a company in Britain. They were introduced in 1956 and have sold millions of models since then. Two of the most famous, now highly sought after by collectors, are the James Bond Aston Martin and the Batmobile.
Freddy Fender! Don’t hit!
Freddy Fender (1937-2006) was a Hispanic guitarist who started out singing Spanish pop in the 1950s, moved to a wider audience by performing in English in the 1970s, and later played in the band Texas Tornados.
No, no, no, no, no. Don’t pass out on me now.
A line from the 1971 Clint Eastwood masterpiece Dirty Harry. (Thanks to Andy MacKenzie for this reference.)
This makes Mannequin 2 look like a masterpiece.
Mannequin 2: On the Move is a 1991 follow-up to the deeply pointless Mannequin, which starred Andrew McCarthy as a department store worker who falls in love with a mannequin (Kim Cattrall). The sequel stars William Ragsdale as a department store worker who falls in love with a mannequin (Kristy Swanson).
Well, he blowed up lame. –Blowed up real lame.
“He blowed up good. He blowed up real good” is a catchphrase from the running “Farm Film Report” segment on the Canadian sketch comedy show SCTV. Hosts Big Jim McBob and Billy Saul Hurok (John Candy and Joe Flaherty, respectively) would invite a celebrity guest onto the show, ask them a couple of questions, and then blow them up “real good.”
Hello, Roy! –Hello, Siegfried!
See note on Siegfried and Roy, above.
His complexion cleared up! A giant Stri-Dex pad.
Stri-Dex is a brand of over-the-counter acne treatment medication that comes in various forms, including pre-soaked pads. It has been manufactured since 1959.
[Sung.] Old Man Bailey …
A paraphrase of the song “Old Man River” from the musical Showboat. Actual lyrics: “Old man river, dat old man river/He must know somethin’ but he don’t say nothin’/Dat ole man river, he just keeps rollin’ along.”
Wherever there’s a guy smooching a cop, I’ll be there.
A paraphrase of Tom Joad's famous line from the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath: "Wherever there's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there." (Thanks to Andy MacKenzie for this reference.)
Suddenly it’s a French film. French!
See note on Rip Taylor, above.
Be fruitful and multiply. After you’re married.
“Be fruitful and multiply” is from Genesis 1:27 in the Bible. The full quotation: "And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the Earth."