Mithril? Oh, wait, it’s Mitchell.
Mithril is the super-strong metal that Bilbo and Frodo’s vest is made from in J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings.
Oh, the Martha Mitchell story.
Martha Mitchell was the wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, a key figure in the Watergate scandal that took place on the watch of President Richard M. Nixon. She was known for sloshing down a few and calling reporters to make veiled hints of skullduggery during the period when the scandal was exploding. The Mitchells split up in 1973, and Martha died of cancer three years later.
Joe Don Baker is Martha Mitchell.
See previous note.
Bigfoot, a.k.a. the Sasquatch, is a legendary ape-like creature supposed to haunt the Pacific Northwest and western Canada. What is generally considered the best evidence for its existence—a blurry film taken in 1967—has been debunked as a hoax, but the debate rages on.
Who’s the puffy guy who’s a big blurry sex machine? –Mitchell! –That Mitchell is one fat … --Shut your mouth! –I’m just talking about Mitchell.
An imitation of the famous theme to the 1971 blaxploitation movie Shaft, written by Isaac Hayes. Actual lyrics: “Who's the black private dick/That's a sex machine to all the chicks?/Shaft! … You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother--/Shut your mouth!/But I'm talkin' about Shaft.”
Looks like Grendel.
Grendel is the monster that plagues the hall of Hrothgar, king of the Danes, in the epic Beowulf. The hero Beowulf eventually kills Grendel by ripping off his arm, and then kills Grendel’s mother when she comes to avenge the death of her son.
Hey, Linda Evans! That was her pre-Yanni days.
Actress Linda Evans was romantically linked with the New Age pianist Yanni for a number of years.
[Sung.] It was the third of September/A day I’ll always remember …
A line from the song “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” by the Temptations. Sample lyrics: ” It was the third of September/That day I'll always remember, yes I will/'Cause that was the day that my daddy died/I never got a chance to see him/Never heard nothing but bad things about him/Mama, I'm depending on you to tell me the truth.”
It looks like he’s doing a Nixon or something.
Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) was the 37th president of the United States, from 1969-1974. He resigned on August 9, 1974, rather than face almost certain impeachment by the House of Representatives over his role in the Watergate scandal. He was known for using the V for victory sign, in which the first and second fingers of the hand are raised in a “V” shape.
He looks like a middle-aged Chucky.
Chucky is the homicidal living doll in the series of Child’s Play horror flicks; the first came out in 1988.
He looks like the wrathful Buddha.
The wrathful Buddhas are deities of Tibetan Buddhism, consisting of eight dharampalas, or creatures with the rank of bodhisattva, who are charged with defending Buddhism against demons and others that would harm the faith. Although they look fierce, they are not evil, but rather personifications of the effort it takes to defeat evil. The wrathful Buddhas include Lha-mo, the only female deity, and Yama, the god of death.
He looks like the moon in A Trip to the Moon.
Le voyage dans le lune, or, to give it its English title, A Trip to the Moon, is a 1902 classic of early cinema, directed by George Melies and based on the novel by Jules Verne. There is a famous sequence in the film where a rocket gets stuck in the eye of the “man in the moon.”
Maybe he’s doing tai chi or something.
Tai chi chuan is a form of Chinese martial arts that uses a combination of slow movements and relaxed muscles to foster an appreciation of balance and presence in the body. Many people are familiar with the sight of groups of people performing tai chi in a park, as happens every morning across China and in many other parts of the world.
A reference to Show 506, Eegah!
A reference to Show 506, Eegah!
Watch out for snakes!
A reference to Show 506, Eegah!
We’ve hidden Mitchell somewhere in this picture. –Mitchell, will you stand up, please?
A reference to the “How Not to Be Seen” skit on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in which an increasingly crazed narrator purports to demonstrate how not to be seen while killing all of his hapless associates.
[Sung.] The lunatic is on the grass …
A line from the Pink Floyd song “Brain Damage.” Sample lyrics: “The lunatic is on the grass/The lunatic is on the grass/Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs/Got to keep the loonies on the path …”
Johnny Nash breaks into a suburban home.
Johnny Nash was a reggae musician who is best known for his 1972 chart-topper “I Can See Clearly Now.”
Hey, it’s one of the kids from Fame. –Which one? –Any of ‘em.
Fame was a 1980 movie about a group of aspiring performers at the New York High School for the Performing Arts. It was made into a TV series that aired from 1982-1987.
Johnny Mathis was a traditional male vocalist who appealed to the adult contemporary audience of the 1960s and 1970s. Although he charted very few singles, many of his albums did remarkably well, a dozen of them hitting gold or platinum status. He is known for his few chart toppers, among them “Chances Are” and “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late.”
[Sung.] It’s not for me to say …
A line from the Johnny Mathis song of the same name (see previous note). Sample lyrics: “It's not for me to say you love me/It's not for me to say you'll always care/Oh, but here for the moment I can hold you fast/And press your lips to mine/And dream that love will last.”
The Green Hornet.
The Green Hornet was a short-lived TV series that aired from 1966-1967. It starred Van Williams as newspaper publisher/superhero Britt Reid and a then-largely-unknown Bruce Lee as his valet, Kato.
Al Noga? –Nope. Still Johnny Mathis.
Al Noga was a Hawaiian football player who joined the Minnesota Vikings in 1988. See note on Johnny Mathis, above.
Doctor Detroit is a 1983 film starring Dan Aykroyd as a college professor who becomes a pimp.
With songs by Devo. Cutting Crew. And Haircut 100.
Devo was a geek-rock proto-new-wave band that hit its peak of popularity in the 1980s. It sang a couple of songs for the Doctor Detroit soundtrack (see previous note), including the movie’s theme song. Cutting Crew was an English pop group that formed in 1985. It is known chiefly for its smash hit “I Just Died in Your Arms.” Haircut 100 was a new wave band in the early 1980s that had a couple of hits in Britain before its lead singer decided to leave the group for a solo career. Neither Cutting Crew nor Haircut 100 actually appears on the Doctor Detroit soundtrack.
[Sung.] I say to myself, it’s wonderful …
A line from the Johnny Mathis song “Wonderful, Wonderful.” Sample lyrics: “I feel the glow of your unspoken love/I'm aware of the treasure that I own/And I say to myself, it's wonderful, wonderful/Oh, so wonderful my love!”
A picture of Mo Connolly?
Maureen Connolly, a.k.a. Little Mo Connolly, was a female tennis star who was the first woman to win the U.S., British, Australian, and French championships in the same year, 1953.
No, not the limited edition Star Trek collector’s plates!
Star Trek was a science fiction TV series that aired from 1966-1969. It has been the subject of any number of series of collector’s plates.
Hey, Lucas McCain lives here!
Lucas McCain was the star of the TV western The Rifleman, which aired from 1958-1963. The part was played by Chuck Connors.
Hey! Oh, a Goldstar.
Goldstar is a bargain brand of electronics. The company is now known as LG Electronics.
Wait a minute—I think maybe the Snoop Sisters are in there.
The Snoop Sisters was a 1972 TV movie starring Helen Hayes and Mildred Natwick as two mystery writers who find themselves trying to solve the real-life murder of a former Hollywood star.
I’m gonna get a series before Stuart Margolin.
Stuart Margolin is an actor best known for playing Angel Martin on The Rockford Files, which aired from 1974-1980.
Johnny Mathis? All right! Get my gun!
See note on Johnny Mathis, above.
Well, you know, it’s not often you see Johnny Mathis in the wild.
See note on Johnny Mathis, above.
Hey, a Gunderoo.
Underoos were a brand of children’s underwear produced by Fruit of the Loom and featuring various licensed designs ranging from Batman and Superman to the Dukes of Hazzard. They were first marketed in 1978.
Uh, hello, this is Carlton, your doorman?
A reference to the television show Rhoda, which aired from 1974-1978. Carlton was the doorman to Rhoda’s apartment building; he was voiced by veteran voiceover actor Lorenzo Music.
Cedar lattice—works every time.
“It works every time” is the longtime slogan for Colt 45 malt liquor.
[Sung.] Chances are … huh?
A line from the Johnny Mathis song “Chances Are.” Sample lyrics: “Chances are 'cause I wear a silly grin/The moment you come into view/Chances are you think that I'm in love with you.”
Sonny, are we, like, bait?
Probably a reference to suave undercover cop Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) on the TV series Miami Vice. (Thanks to Ronald Byrd for this reference.)
Meanwhile, on an Adam-12 episode not far away …
Adam-12 was a TV cop show that ran from 1968-1975.
Come on, Mr. Two Years from Eischied. Come on.
Eischied was a short-lived 1979 TV series that starred Mitchell himself, Mr. Joe Don Baker, as the chief of the NYPD.
“Party’s over.” [Sung.] Time to call it a day …
A line from the Nat King Cole song “The Party’s Over.” Sample lyrics: “The party’s over/It’s time to call it a day/They’ve burst your pretty balloon/And taken the moon away.”
“My secretary will give you their names and addresses.” And disavow any knowledge of their actions.
A paraphrase of the statement that ended the tape-recorded instructions on Mission: Impossible every week. The actual line: “As usual, if any of your IM team is killed or captured, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”
He’s talking to Commissioner Gordon.
On the campy 1960s TV series Batman, Commissioner Gordon had a special red phone on his desk that was a hotline to Batman.
Orson Bean. He’s a cop!
Orson Bean is an actor and game-show mainstay best-known for his longtime role as a panelist on To Tell the Truth.
They arrested Harlan Ellison! –Good.
How does one define Harlan Ellison? Short story author, of course; screenwriter, of course; notorious gadfly, definitely. This is a man who once mailed a publisher a dead gopher fourth class. Who once threatened a TV producer with a noose when his words were rewritten. Who has been married umpteen times and slept with hundreds of women over the decades (his defense: he’s a romantic). All of which is to say he’s a ferociously talented writer and (by reputation, anyway) a downright irritating human being.
He sounds and smells like William Conrad.
William Conrad is a portly actor known for his roles in such TV series as Cannon (1971-1976) and Jake and the Fatman (1987-1992).
[Sung.] Don’t be discouraged, the man don’t …
A line from the theme song to Chico and the Man, a TV series that aired from 1974-1978. Sample lyrics: “Chico, don't be discouraged/The man he ain't so hard to understand/Chico, if you try now/I know that you can lend a helping hand.”
Andy Capp is the eponymous star of the long-running comic strip, which first appeared in Britain in 1957 and was then syndicated worldwide. He is, as the Toonopedia says, “lazy, belligerent, unskilled at any socially acceptable occupation, and usually drunk.” He always wears a hat pulled down low over his eyes.
Boy, Flo’s really gonna be mad, I’m drunk again.
Flo is the wife of Andy Capp in the comic strip of the same name (see previous note).
But I’m not a salesman—I’m the chubby blue line.
The Thin Blue Line is a 1988 documentary that argued a man convicted of the murder of a Dallas police officer was railroaded by a corrupt justice system. The phrase “the thin blue line” refers to the police, who like to regard themselves as the line between society and anarchy.
He seems down. I’ll send him a pick-me-up bouquet.
Merlin Olsen, the former football player who plays Benton in Mitchell, has been the spokesperson for FTD Florists since 1983.
Somewhere, an Indian is crying.
Iron Eyes Cody (1904-1999) is remembered as the crying Indian in the 1970s PSA commercials about littering, but he was actually an Italian-American named Espera Oscar de Corti. He arrived in Hollywood calling himself Tony Cody in 1927 and claimed to be of Cherokee-Cree ancestry; throughout his career he made a living playing American Indians in Hollywood, and was active in Native American causes in his personal life. He married a Native American woman and adopted several Indian children. His true origins were revealed in 1996 by a New Orleans newspaper, but Cody went to his grave denying it.
I’m gonna call Lady Bird Johnson.
Lady Bird Johnson was the wife of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States. She acted as first lady from 1963-1969. (Reader Brian Dermody points out that Lady Bird Johnson also spearheaded the "Keep America Beautiful" campaign.)
Fluffernutter is a sandwich spread beloved by kids, a combination of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff.
I’m King Hussein.
King Hussein was the ruler of the small country of Jordan from 1952 until his death in 1999.
Good night, John-Boy.
The Waltons was a classic family TV drama that aired from 1972 to 1981. It starred Richard Thomas as John-Boy Walton. “Good night, John-Boy” was a catch phrase of the show.
Well, almost time for Silk Stalkings.
Silk Stalkings was a TV crime show that aired as part of “Crime Time After Prime Time” from 1990-1999.
Hi, Larry, I love your show.
A reference to Larry King, a perennial talk-show host on CNN who got his start on radio in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1985 CNN, then a fledgling cable network, began airing Larry King Live, a phone-in talk show featuring diplomats, heads of state, celebrities and other life forms. King’s trademark heavy glasses and suspenders have become familiar icons with the American public.
Loved you in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a 1974 film about the hijacking of a New York City subway car. It starred Walter Matthau and Martin Balsam.
Hey, you want the radio? King Biscuit Flour Hour’s on.
The King Biscuit Flour Hour is a syndicated radio show featuring live concert performances by and interviews with musicians like Bruce Springsteen. It is named after a radio show in the 1920s that was sponsored by King Biscuit Flour.
“What’s on the water?” Smoke.
“Smoke on the Water” is a song by the band Deep Purple. Sample lyrics: “Frank Zappa and the Mothers/Were at the best place around/But some stupid with a flare gun/Burned the place to the ground/Smoke on the water, fire in the sky.”
“Because that’s the way Mr. Gallano wants it.” Uh-huh, uh-huh.
A callback to the song “That’s the Way (I Like It)” by K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Sample lyrics: “Oh, that's the way, uh-huh uh-huh/I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh/That's the way, uh-huh uh-huh/I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh.”
Hey, look, an Applebee’s.
Applebee’s is a casual dining restaurant with more than 1,700 locations worldwide. It was founded in 1980.
You can’t handle the truth!
A line from the 1992 film A Few Good Men, spoken by Jack Nicholson. The entire exchange:
Colonel Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth.
Colonel Jessep: You can’t handle the truth!
This week’s practical joke. The victim: John Saxon.
TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes was a TV series that aired from 1984-1993. Its hosts Dick Clark and Ed McMahon would showcase bloopers from TV shows and play elaborate practical jokes on celebrities.
Do you know who did it? Have you figured it out yet?
A reference to the 1975-76 TV series The Adventures of Ellery Queen. At the end of each episode, Queen would look at the audience and ask, “Have you figured it out? Do you know who the murderer is?” and then reveal the solution to the mystery.
A line from the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, spoken by actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in his pre-gubernatorial days.
Reynolds Wrap: keeps freshness in, can’t keep Mitchell out.
A reference to an old advertising slogan for Reynolds Wrap, a brand of aluminum foil.
[Sung.] Oh, you’re a holiday …
A line from the song “Holiday” by the Bee-Gees. Sample lyrics: “Ooh you're a holiday, ev'ry day, such a holiday/Now it's my turn to say, and I say you're a holiday.”
Melmac? Why would he be collecting Melmac?
Melmac is a brand of plastic dinnerware created in the 1940s and used widely during the ‘40s and ‘50s. Its popularity had waned by the 1960s, in part because it scratched easily and was susceptible to staining. A great many people do in fact collect the stuff.
Keith Haring was here.
Keith Haring (1958-1990) was an artist known for active, colorful paintings of dancing little people drawn in simple, thick black lines; they were particularly popular with children. He derived a large part of his inspiration from the bold forms of street graffiti. Haring died of AIDS at the age of 31.
It means the victim was Jack Valenti!
Jack Valenti was the longtime (1966-2004) leader of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). It was during his tenure that the motion picture ratings familiar to all (G, PG, R) were put into place.
Why are they playing Nadia’s theme?
Nadia Comaneci is a Romanian gymnast who, in the 1976 Olympics, became the first gymnast to receive a 10—a perfect score. In fact, she received seven of them and won three gold medals. Her most famous routine was done to the theme song of the soap opera The Young and the Restless, which became known as "Nadia's Theme."
Or The Young and the Restless.
See previous note.
Detective Phil Fish was originally a character on the sitcom Barney Miller. The part was played by Abe Vigoda. In 1977 Fish left the series to star in his own spinoff, in which he and his wife adopt five relentlessly adorable foster kids. The series only survived for one season.
Hey, he looks like a guy from a Dave Berg cartoon.
Dave Berg (1920-2002) was a comic book illustrator best known for his work on Mad magazine, for which he wrote “The Lighter Side.” His art appeared in Mad for forty years.
Damn. It’s almost time for Bozo.
Bozo the Clown is a much-beloved children’s character first introduced as the star of a series of children’s books in the 1940s. He quickly got his own television show, and soon there were Bozo shows springing up in local markets across the country. Although there were many actors who portrayed Bozo, probably the most famous was Chicago’s Bob Bell.
Yeah, go for the gusto, Mitchell.
"Go for the gusto, or don't go at all" was a slogan for Schlitz beer back in the 1970s. (Thanks to Boyd Vincent for this reference.)
Bo Derek is an exceptionally beautiful leading lady known for her parts in such films as 10 (1979) and Bolero (1984). This is an in-joke of sorts, as Bo Derek’s husband John was previously married to Linda Evans; the two divorced in 1974, the year before Mitchell was released.
I’m selling Yanni tapes.
See note on Yanni, above.
Where’s John Derek? Should we set another place for him?
See note on Bo Derek, above.
Uncle Fester is a character on the television series The Addams Family, which aired from 1964-1966. The role was played by Jackie Coogan. In the feature films based on the TV show, Christopher Lloyd played Fester.
Oh, this is so embarrassing—he’s playing a Kitaro album.
Kitaro is a Japanese composer known for his New Age synthesizer pieces. See note on Yanni, above.
Uh, sorry about the porn. There’s a Kilgore Trout piece in there.
Kilgore Trout is a fictional writer created by sci-fi novelist Kurt Vonnegut. He appears in several of Vonnegut’s books, including Slaughterhouse Five and Breakfast of Champions.
I got these at Conoco. They got Dick Butkus on them.
Conoco is a chain of gas stations owned by ConocoPhillips. Dick Butkus was a linebacker for the Chicago Bears, considered by many the greatest linebacker ever to grace the sport of football.
[Sung.] It’s Bugsy Malone …
Bugsy Malone is a 1976 “gangster” movie in which all the mobsters are played by children. It starred Scott Baio and Jodie Foster and was scored by Paul Williams, including the title song. Sample lyrics: “He's a sinner/Candy-coated/For all his friends/He always seems to be alone/But they love him/Bugsy Malone.”
[Sung.] Mobsters laughing, really smiling/A man selling heroin …
A paraphrase of the song “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago. Actual lyrics: “Saturday in the park/I think it was the Fourth of July/People dancing, people laughing/A man selling ice cream …”
I’m not Rappaport.
I’m Not Rappaport is a 1986 play written by Herb Gardner. The play revolves around two old men in New York City and their strange but enduring friendship. The play was made into a movie starring Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis in 1996.
Hey, where’s Ruth Buzzi?
Ruth Buzzi is a comedian best known for her appearances on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, which aired from 1968-1973. One of her most famous roles was the little old lady Gladys, who made her appearance on a park bench.
“Now it’s your turn.” [Sung.] To be what-a you can be …
“Be all that you can be” was the longtime jingle of the U.S. Army, enjoying tremendous success for many years. The tune is from the Diana Ross song "It's My Turn." (Thanks to "Mike" for the Diana Ross reference.)
I’m almost Anthony Quinn.
Anthony Quinn was an actor who appeared in more than 200 films over his six-decade-long career. He won Oscars for his roles in Viva Zapata and Lust for Life, but he is better remembered for his title role in Zorba the Greek.
Was Merlin ever in the Dave Clark Five?
The Dave Clark Five was a rock band, part of the “British Invasion” of the 1960s. They had their biggest hits between 1964 and 1967, including “Glad All Over” and “Bits and Pieces.” The band broke up in 1970.
Who, Rosey Grier?
Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier was a football player during the 1950s and 1960s, playing for the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams. He also had a brief acting career after his retirement (most notoriously in The Thing with Two Heads).
This makes Driving Miss Daisy look like Bullitt.
Driving Miss Daisy is a 1989 film starring Jessica Tandy (1909-1994) as a cantankerous old woman and Morgan Freeman as her chauffeur. Bullitt is a 1968 action flick starring Steve McQueen as a San Francisco cop bent on avenging the death of a witness under his protection; it contains one of the most famous car chases ever filmed.
And today, 3M is a vibrant company. Combining innovation, effective risk management, and marketing. 3M.
3M is a worldwide corporation that bills itself as a “diversified technology company.” Products include Scotch tape and Buf-Pufs, among thousands of others. It is headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The only really exciting thing is that Vanishing Point is being filmed on the other side of the canyon.
Vanishing Point is a 1971 film about a man who works for a car delivery company who bets he can get a Dodge Challenger from Colorado to California in 15 hours. Sort of a Smokey and the Bandit for the early ‘70s, only with nude motorcyclists.
A reference to standup comedian and character actor Larry Miller, who has appeared in such films as Pretty Woman and L.A. Story.
Ah, the hot rod Ben Hur.
Ben-Hur was a 1959 Hollywood epic starring Charlton Heston. One of the most famous scenes in the film is of a vicious chariot race.
Yeah, as a matter of fact I do own the road.
“As a matter of fact, I do own the road” is an old line from a bumper sticker.
Hey, cut out that Rockford music. I’m Mitchell!
The Rockford Files (1974-1980) was a TV series starring James Garner as private detective Jim Rockford.
“Who’ve we got on our side?” Ghostbusters!
Ghostbusters is a 1984 film starring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis as ghost-fighting entrepreneurs. The movie’s theme song featured the repeated musical question “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!”
Earl Holliman (b. 1928) 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.
Ah, Daryl Gates on his day off.
Daryl F. Gates was the chief of the LAPD from 1978-1992. He was chief of police during the period of the notorious Rodney King beating by members of the LAPD and the rioting that followed their acquittal. Gates announced he was retiring shortly after the riots and a black police officer, Willie Williams, succeeded him in the post.
Oh, no, Mr. Trevino’s been hit again!
Lee Trevino is a professional golfer. In 1975 he was struck by lightning and seriously injured; however, he recovered and resumed his golf career.
Booker’s a good cop!
A variant of one of the writers’ favorite phrases, “Hooker’s a good cop!” The comment is a reference to the 1980s cop show T.J. Hooker, which aired from 1982-1986.
My dinner with Mitchell.
My Dinner with Andre is a 1981 film about two men (played by Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory) having dinner in a restaurant and exchanging brittle bon mots. The film is a favorite among the arty crowd and is frequently cited as the epitome of art-house fare.
It’s The Servant by Harold Pinter.
The Servant is a 1963 film written by British playwright Harold Pinter and starring Dirk Bogarde as an insidious servant who gradually takes control of his master’s life.
Jeez, those Jehovah’s Witnesses are getting tough!
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an apocalyptic Christian sect known for proselytizing door to door.
Sorry, bud, we thought you were Rockford.
See note on The Rockford Files, above.
Well, ol’ Mitchell sure got hisself hogtied and railroaded there.
Probably an imitation of the folksy narrator from the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, which ran from 1979 to 1985. The narrator, dubbed “The Balladeer,” was played by country-music artist Waylon Jennings, who also performed the show’s theme song, “Good Ol’ Boys.”
Mitchell, honey, do you have any New Age or something?
See note on Yanni, above.
Oh, he’s sleeping with Helen Keller.
Helen Keller (1880-1968) was a writer and educator who was deaf and blind. As a child she was left deaf, blind, and dumb after being afflicted with a disease, which may have been scarlet fever. She was unable to communicate with the outside world until a young woman named Anne Sullivan became her teacher and taught her to read with her fingers. She ultimately learned to speak and graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904. She became a champion for the cause of educating physically disabled students. Her story was told in the play The Miracle Worker, which was made into an award-winning movie in 1962.
Oh, how I long for The Burning Bed right now.
The Burning Bed is a 1984 made-for-TV movie starring Farrah Fawcett as a battered wife who kills her husband by setting him on fire while he’s sleeping. The movie was generally acknowledged as Fawcett’s breakthrough into serious acting.
A vase, or two faces?
This is a reference to a famous optical illusion, consisting of a black-and-white illustration. Depending on how you look at it, you can either see a white vase or two black faces in silhouette.
Oh, Yanni … I mean John … I mean Mitchell!
See notes on Yanni and John Derek, above.
Um, how about some BTO?
Bachman-Turner Overdrive, or BTO, is a Canadian rock band popular during the 1970s for such hits as “Takin’ Care of Business” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.”
And I still don’t have any Tic Tacs.
Tic Tacs are a brand of breath mint that was first marketed in 1969.
I wanted a Super Soaker.
The Super Soaker is a toy water gun made by Hasbro.
Merlin Olsen sent him that painting.
See note on Merlin Olsen, above.
Sirens was a TV drama about the lives of three policewomen in Pittsburgh. It aired from 1993-1995.
Nobody asked for a prostitute, we can take her right away ...
This appears to be a take on a line from the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers. (Thanks to Bill Stiteler for this reference.)
“Honk-honk.” [Sung.] At Beneficial, you’re good for more.
An old advertising jingle for the Beneficial Finance Company: “At Beneficial (honk, honk) you’re good for more.”
The declining years of Lee Majors.
Lee Majors is an actor best known for his lead roles in the TV series The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978) and The Fall Guy (1981-1986).
So, tell me, Merlin, do you know Roman Gabriel?
Roman Gabriel (b. 1940) was a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1970s. He retired in 1977.
[Sung.] Movin on up …
A line from the theme song to the TV sitcom The Jeffersons, which aired from 1975-1985. Sample lyrics: “Well we're movin on up/To the east side/To a deluxe apartment in the sky …”
“Weezy” was George Jefferson’s nickname for his wife Louise on the sitcom The Jeffersons (see previous note).
“This way.” To Wall Drug.
Wall Drug is a pharmacy/tourist trap in the tiny town of Wall, South Dakota. It employs some third of the town’s residents to tend to the free ice-water well, the bucking bronco, the fiberglass jackalope, the miniature Mount Rushmore, the animatic bears, and, as an afterthought, the pharmacy. For years it blanketed the nation’s highways with signs advising motorists of how far they were from Wall Drug, although most of the signs outside South Dakota no longer exist.
It’s a Shriners car!
The Shriners are a fraternal organization known for their circuses, good works, and silly-looking fezzes. They are also known for driving tiny little cars to gain attention for their cause.
She’s got a David Cassidy haircut.
Actor/musician David Cassidy played Keith Partridge on the TV series The Partridge Family, which ran from 1970 to 1974. Within a year of the show’s premiere, Cassidy had been on pretty much every teen magazine cover, had a number-one hit, and was officially ranked as a teen heartthrob.
She’s gonna write “REDRUM” on his windshield.
In Stephen King’s classic horror novel The Shining, the young psychic Danny continually sees visions of the word “redrum.” It isn’t until he sees the word reflected in a mirror that he realizes it is actually “murder.” The book was made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson in 1980.
Get me some flowers pronto, Merlin.
See note on Merlin Olsen, above.
So, are you ready to join Hair Club yet?
Hair Club For Men is a company dedicated to baldness cures; it offers everything from bald-friendly shampoos to hair transplants.
I usually take it with a Ding Dong in it, but I guess I’ll take it neat, that’s okay.
Ding Dongs are a chocolate-covered, cream-filled snack cake manufactured by Hostess. They were first introduced in 1970.
Booze is good food.
“Soup is good food” is an old advertising slogan for Campbell’s soups.
I’m turning Japanese.
A line from the song “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors. Sample lyrics: “I'm turning Japanese/I think I'm turning Japanese/I really think so …”
“I arrange a hundred-dollar company in your name.” You mean Orion?
The Orion Pictures Corporation was a movie production company founded in 1978. The company experienced severe financial difficulties during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and in 1992 it declared bankruptcy.
I’m Rosalind Russell.
Rosalind Russell (1907-1976) was a film actress known for her roles in such pictures as His Girl Friday and Auntie Mame.
Is that a Slim Jim? Can I have that? Are you done with that?
Slim Jims are a brand of beef jerky snack marketed primarily to teens and manufactured by ConAgra Foods.
Oh my goodness, I think B.J. Thomas is in his room!
Billy Joe Thomas is a country singer known for such 1960s and 1970s hits as “Hooked on a Feeling” and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.”
He’s gonna strip down to his underwear and watch McQ.
McQ is a 1974 film starring John Wayne as police officer Lon McQ, who discovers police corruption while investigating the death of his partner.
Adam Rich was a child star known for his role as Nicholas Bradford on the TV series Eight Is Enough, which aired from 1977-1981.
Tonight, on Crossfire.
Crossfire is a political-affairs show in which four panelists get together to discuss/argue about the issues of the day. It first aired in 1982.
The inspiration for Cop and a Half.
Cop and a Half is a 1982 film about an eight-year-old boy who is a witness to a crime but refuses to tell police what he knows until they make him a cop. Burt Reynolds starred as the kid-hating cop who is forced to team up with the boy to solve the crime.
Oh, Schlitz would listen to me right now, that’s for sure.
Schlitz is a brand of cheap beer.
[Sung.] Did you ever have to make up your mind …
A line from the song of the same name by the Lovin’ Spoonful. Sample lyrics: “Did you ever have to make up your mind/Pick up on one and leave the other behind/It's not often easy and not often kind/Did you ever have to make up your mind …”
The Loving Handful.
See previous note. The Lovin’ Spoonful were a folk-rock band popular during the late 1960s and early 1970s, with such hits as “Summer in the City” and the aforementioned “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind.”
He’s no Claude Akins, but what a butt!
Claude Akins (1918-1994) was a burly character actor who tended to play villains, gunfighters, sheriffs, and cops. He appeared in more than 100 TV shows and films over his long career, including Show 322, Master Ninja I.
[Sung.] Sweet Adeline …
“Sweet Adeline” is a mainstay among barbershop quartets. It was written by Richard Gerard and Henry Armstrong and first published in 1903. In the 1931 Marx Brothers movie Monkey Business, one scene features the quartet singing the song while hiding in barrels. Thanks to Justin Butela for the Marx Bros. reference.
[Sung.] My Adeline … sweet Adeline …
See previous note.
Take me to Wendy’s. I’m meeting Clara Peller.
Clara Peller was an elderly actress in the 1980s who starred in a famous series of advertisements for the fast food chain Wendy’s, in which she repeatedly asked, “Where’s the beef?”—a question that quickly became a catchphrase. Peller died in 1987.
Just keep driving, Hoke.
Hoke Colburn is the name of the chauffeur in the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy (see note above). The part was played by Morgan Freeman.
Oh, I just felt the balloon break!
Sometimes drug smugglers attempt to move their product by putting it in a balloon and then swallowing it. The practice is a risky one, since not infrequently the balloon breaks, causing all sorts of untoward physical consequences. The affliction even has a name: “body packer syndrome.”
Jeez, Scarface didn’t do that much at once.
Scarface is a 1983 film about a Cuban immigrant who takes control of a drug empire in Miami. It starred Al Pacino in the title role.
Quality is job one, yep.
“At Ford, quality is job one” is an old advertising slogan for the Ford Motor Company.
Oh, no, not the Catalina Caper!
A reference to Show 204, Catalina Caper.
Okay, you guys, I call no singing the Gilligan’s Island theme.
Gilligan’s Island was a TV sitcom that aired from 1964-1967. It starred Bob Denver in the title role. The theme song was justly famous. Sample lyrics: “Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale/A tale of a fateful trip/That started from this tropic port/Aboard this tiny ship.”
See note on Eischied, above.
The gods must be crazy! Look!
In the 1980 film The Gods Must Be Crazy, a man in the Kalahari desert finds a Coke bottle and decides to return it to God, whose possession he thinks it must be.
We are two wild and crazy guys!
A reference to the early years of Saturday Night Live, when Steve Martin and Dan Aykroyd would appear in a series of running skits as “two wild and crazy guys.”
Oh, this must be Dateline NBC.
In November 1992, the news program Dateline NBC aired a segment on a certain kind of General Motors trucks that supposedly had a tendency to blow up in side collisions—a tendency the news crew captured on tape. Unfortunately, it turned out that the producers had rigged the truck with small incendiaries to make sure it would explode on cue. Dateline NBC later apologized and settled a lawsuit GM had filed against the show.
Andy Kaufman was a comedian and actor remembered both for his bizarre acts, which included lounge singing and wrestling, and for his appearances as Latka on the TV series Taxi. He died young in 1984.
You’re so stupid.
An imitation of Andy Kaufman (see previous note).
Come back. You’re so stupid.
See previous note.
Thank you very much.
See previous note.
There went Bronson.
Then Came Bronson aired from 1969-1970; it starred Michael Parks as Jim Bronson, a young man traveling across America.
Huh? What’s that? What do you mean you don’t have any Schlitz on board?
See note on Schlitz, above.
We’ve got to close the beaches!
A reference to the 1975 horror movie Jaws, in which a series of shark attacks prompts the local police chief to repeatedly insist, “We have to close the beaches!” over the objections of the mayor.
From maritime polymers for boats to the fuel in this helicopter, 3M, building the future.
See note on 3M, above.
Hey, it’s the starship Enterprise in drydock.
The starship Enterprise was the spaceship in the TV series Star Trek, which aired from 1966-1969.
3M. Innovation. Research.
See note on 3M, above.
It's the miracle acrylic bubble that makes it possible.
According to reader Sampo, this is a line from an old 3M commercial.
Now this looks positively Baywatchian.
Baywatch is a television series about lifeguards on a resort beach that aired from 1989-2001. It starred David Hasselhoff as a veteran lifeguard who watches paternally over a string of younger, extremely good-looking lifeguards.
PT 109 is a 1963 dramatization of President John F. Kennedy’s experiences serving in the military during World War II. Beverly Hills 90210 was a prime time teen drama about a group of high schoolers in Beverly Hills; it ran from 1990-2000.
Yes, the future belongs to 3M.
See note on 3M, above.
Hey, is that Paul Hogan in the middle there?
Paul Hogan is an Australian actor best known for his portrayal of Crocodile Dundee in two mid-1980s movies.
Boatniks 2: The Final Conflict.
The Boatniks (1970) is a film comedy about three inept jewel thieves. Omen III: The Final Conflict is a 1981 horror flick starring Sam Neill as the Antichrist.
It’s turning into an episode of Riptide.
Riptide was a TV series about three Vietnam veterans turned private detectives. It aired from 1984-1986.
Jimmy Osmond, all grown up.
Jimmy Osmond was the youngest member of the Osmonds, the Mormon family singing group that hit it big in the 1970s.
On The People’s Court.
The People’s Court was a daytime TV show that featured grumpy retired jurist Judge Wapner deciding actual small-claims court cases. It aired from 1981-1993; a new version featuring former NYC mayor Ed Koch began airing in 1997.
Martin Balsam: the Dewar’s profile.
Dewar’s Scotch whisky runs an ad campaign called “Dewar’s Profiles,” in which they profile interesting, adventurous, glamorous people who just happen to drink Dewar’s Scotch.
And it’s all here, at 3M’s new facility in Mexico.
See note on 3M, above.
Think those are Schlitz cans?
See note on Schlitz, above.
Things’ll work out, Mr. Maxwell … Mr. Maxwell?
Robert Maxwell (1923-1991) was a British publishing tycoon. At one point he owned several book publishing companies, a string of British tabloids, the New York Daily News, and many more companies. However, by the 1990s he was in shaky financial circumstances and used $1.2 billion he secretly siphoned off from employee pension funds and other sources in an attempt to keep his empire from crumbling. On November 5, 1991, he disappeared off his yacht, and his body was recovered from the Atlantic some time later. The unofficial verdict was that Maxwell had committed suicide.
I dreamed I was Father Murphy.
Father Murphy was a short-lived TV series that aired from 1981-1983. It starred Merlin Olsen as John Michael Murphy, a man pretending to be a priest to help orphans.
These Circle Line tours are getting really brutal.
Circle Line is a maritime touring company that offers tours of New York City by water, including its famous sunset cruise.
Mannix! Extra large.
Mannix was a TV series starring Mike Connors as private detective Joe Mannix. It aired from 1967-1975.
And there, on his colon, was a hook.
A reference to the old urban legend about the couple necking in a car who get home to discover the dismembered hook of a crazed murderer hanging from their car door handle.
Well, let’s see—I see Van Morrison, I see Meat Loaf, and … Spock.
Van Morrison is an Irish singer/songwriter known for such tunes as “Brown Eyed Girl” and “Moondance.” Meat Loaf is a large singer/songwriter who peaked in the 1970s with such songs as “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” And Spock is the half-Vulcan, half-human second in command of the starship Enterprise on the TV series Star Trek, which aired from 1966-1969.
Either those curtains go or I do.
According to some sources, Victorian poet and playwright Oscar Wilde’s last words were “Either those curtains go or I do.” Other versions give conflicting accounts of his last words: “Either that wallpaper goes or I do,” or “I suppose I shall have to die beyond my means.” Similarly, the wording varies somewhat between sources, but Wilde was reported to have said, “I find it harder and harder every day to live up to my blue china.”
Dead Calm is a 1989 thriller starring Nicole Kidman and Sam Neill as a couple terrorized by a mass murderer (played by Billy Zane).
Mmm, boy, this sure is good booze! Captain Schlitz, I think your order’s up!
See note on Schlitz, above.
“Benton?” Harbor, Michigan.
Benton Harbor, Michigan, is a largely black community located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Population: about 11,000.
Da-dum. Da-dum. Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum …
This is the famous theme from the 1975 film Jaws, composed by John Williams.
You’ll never take me alive, coppers.
Opinion is divided on the origin of this famous phrase; most attribute it to James Cagney or Edward G. Robinson in one of their gangster roles, while one source credits it to Humphrey Bogart.
Let’s rip off the last scene from Key Largo, Mitchell!
Key Largo is an excellent 1948 film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall as people held prisoner by a gangster (Edward G. Robinson) during a hurricane. The final scene of Key Largo takes place on a boat between a silent Humphrey Bogart and a panicky Edward G. Robinson, and is in fact almost identical to the scene here in Mitchell, even to the point of the bad guy throwing out the money and one gun while concealing another.
I’ll never grow old, I’ll never die, and I’ll always eat oatmeal.
A reference to the 1985 movie Cocoon, which starred Don Ameche and Wilford Brimley as senior citizens who discover a kind of alien-powered fountain of youth. A secondary reference is to the series of Quaker Oats commercials Brimley did.
Mr. Roper? You home?
Stanley Roper was the suspicious landlord in the TV sitcom Three’s Company. The part was played by Norman Fell. In 1979 the Ropers got their own TV series, but it only lasted one season.
Yanni, you’re home!
See note on Yanni, above.
All right, John Tesh, I know you’re in here.
John Tesh started out as a TV sports commentator and co-host of the TV show Entertainment Tonight. He wound up the phenomenally successful New Age composer of such albums as Romantic Christmas and Sax by the Fire.
What, did you have Mickey Rourke over or something?
In the 1986 film 9 ½ Weeks, Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger have a famous sex scene in a kitchen in which they smear food all over each other’s bodies.
Where’s your Cheech and Chong album?
Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong were a comedy duo during the 1970s, most of whose humor revolved around getting stoned. They produced a number of albums, including Cheech & Chong’s Greatest Hit and Sleeping Beauty.
You got any Froot Loops?
Froot Loops is a brand of fruit-flavored cereal popular among kiddies. It is made by Kellogg’s.
[Sung.] Put ‘em on your feet/Give your dogs a treat/What a comfortable shoe …
This is an old advertising jingle for Hush Puppies brand shoes.
Oh, Hoyt, how could you?
Hoyt Axton was a country-western singer/songwriter whose best-known works were generally those covered by other bands, including “Joy to the World,” covered by Three Dog Night, which hit Number 1 on the charts.
You know, Joe Don Baker would be perfect for Elvis: The Dying Days.
Elvis Presley (1935-1977), the King of Rock and Roll, was one of the most popular musicians from the 1950s until his death in the late 1970s. He was a teen idol in the late 1950s, helped usher in the era of rock and roll, became a movie star, created an enormous and opulent home at Graceland in Memphis, developed problems with drug abuse, and finally died of a heart attack at the age of 42.