818: Devil Doll
by Sheba Sullivan
Ah, look at that. Mephistopheles goes uptown.
Mephisto, or Mephistopheles, is the name of the devil character in the medieval legends of Faust.
Screwtape, take the next left, will ya?
Screwtape and Wormwood are the central characters in C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters. Lewis, a devout Christian, wrote the novel as a series of letters from the devil Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, containing advice on the best ways to tempt Christians.
The Red Devil paint mascot is doing all right for himself.
Red Devil Inc. is a home hardware and chemical company that uses a stock image of the devil as its logo. According to the company web site, the name is derived from a blacksmith’s exclamatory term for sparks: “little red devils.”
Am I a mod or a rocker?
A paraphrase of a line from the 1964 Beatles film A Hard Day's Night. The Mods (short for Modernist) were a prominent subculture in the 1960s and 1970s U.K. They were associated with jazz and soul music; capricious, dandified fashions; and stimulant drug use. Their contemporaries and opponents were the Rockers; they were characterised by their love for motorbikes, leather, and anti-conformism. Clashes between them inspired a moral panic in the media of the time. By the way, Ringo’s answer to the question “Are you a mod or a rocker?” was “Ah, no, I’m a mocker.”
We’ve arrived at the Knucklehead Smiff residence, sir.
Knucklehead Smiff and Jerry Mahoney were the two dummies used by ventriloquist and comedian Paul Winchell in the children’s TV show The Winchell-Mahoney Time (1965-1968).
Um, why is he carrying Al Pacino?
The actor Al Pacino stands roughly 5’6” tall. Pacino was teased on the set of The Godfather because of his height (or lack thereof).
Say “hello” to the nice poster of us. Go on.
Directing the dummy to “say hello to the audience” is one of the conventional openings of a ventriloquy routine.
Well, we took the pipe again.
“Take the pipe” is a colloquialism meaning either to commit suicide (“take the gas pipe”) or, more generally, to die. So in show business, this would essentially mean “We died out there.”
Stupid Topo Gigio was stepping all over our lines, the bastard.
Topo Gigio is an Italian-Spanish mouse character with an international cult following. Although it expanded in several mediums, it is best known in puppet form. Like Paul Winchell (see above), Topo Gigio was a frequent guest on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Mary Elizabeth “Tipper” Gore is the estranged wife of former Senator and Vice President Al Gore. Her prominent public role as Second Lady, oblique nickname, slight frumpiness in comparison to Hillary Clinton, and perceived support for “nanny state” initiatives all contributed to making her an easy punchline in the late 1990s.
“You’ll never win. You’ll always lose.” You’re Harold Stassen.
Harold Stassen (1907-2001) was governor of Minnesota from 1939-1943; he resigned in 1943 to serve in the Navy during World War II. After the war, he became best-known as a perennial also-ran for the Republican presidential nomination, seeking it twelve times between 1944 and 2000; he came closest in 1948 but lost the nomination to Thomas Dewey, who ultimately lost the election to Harry Truman.
George Stephanopoulos has really sunk low. –Mmm-hmmm.
George Stephanopoulos is a former political advisor and current political correspondent with an approximate height of 5’6”. He contributed to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and was a member of Clinton’s first-term administration. He later became a prominent commentator and analyst on ABC.
Well, I guess, maybe, you might want to… sleeeeep! –Here we go.
A callback to Bela Lugosi in Show 423, Bride of the Monster.
Leave Robert Denby alone! –It’s him.
William Sylvester—who plays Mark English, the nominal hero of Devil Doll—previously starred as Driscoll in Show 814, Riding with Death. In the second half of that episode, he is chastised by a colleague for his distrust of the elusive Robert Denby.
“Make a note so I won’t forget to be available for Mr. Heller at ten-thirty tomorrow.” Make sure he wears his pink tights.
Heller in Pink Tights was a George Cukor-directed 1960 Technicolor western starring Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn.
I wonder if Paul and Linda got that pot yet.
In 1980, British musician Paul McCartney was arrested at Tokyo International Airport for possession of marijuana. His wife, Linda, and the other members of his band Wings were questioned but not detained. Nine days later he was deported and his eleven-date concert tour had to be cancelled.
Barbara Bush, Jeremy Irons, and Linda Ronstadt!
Barbara Bush, the wife and mother, respectively, of former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, was First Lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993. She is also known for her literacy-supporting philanthropy. Jeremy Irons is a classically trained English actor best known for his roles in dramas and thrillers, as well as on the stage. Linda Ronstadt is an American pop singer who hit her peak of popularity during the 1970s with such hits as “When Will I Be Loved” and “It’s So Easy.”
A Scotch egg! Oh, no, it’s his face.
Scotch eggs are a quintessential snack of English cuisine. Hard-boiled eggs are covered with sausage and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried.
“You told me that in China, you once saw a man executed in the street.” The Manchurian ventriloquist.
The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 thriller starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, and Angela Lansbury. A platoon of POWs are returned to America from Manchuria after capture in the Korean War, and it transpires that one of them has been brainwashed into becoming a trigger-word assassin. The soldier’s mother and stepfather, communist agents masquerading as right-wing McCarthyists, control his behavior using a queen of diamonds playing card.
The Vulcan shoulder-meld!
The mind-meld was a telepathic ability of the Vulcans on the TV series Star Trek (1966-1969). By touching the subject's face, they could share emotions, memories, and thoughts between them.
When does Mr. Lifto come out?
The Amazing Mr. Lifto was a performer with the Jim Rose Circus sideshow; the touring act became famous for their appearances at the Lollapalooza music festivals in the 1990s. The Amazing Mr. Lifto’s act consisted of dangling and lifting weights from his body piercings.
You will enjoy Dame Edna!
Edna Everage is a satirical character created and portrayed by Australian comedian Barry Humphries. Originally conceived as a slightly chichi suburban housewife, the character became more outlandish and garish as she grew in popularity. Humphries has been portraying the character on and off since the 1950s.
When is he gonna smash watermelons?
Gallagher, full name Leo Anthony Gallagher (1946-2022), was a “prop” comic best known for smashing watermelons onstage with a sledgehammer. In Joel Hodgson’s early days as a prop comic, Gallagher was rude and dismissive to Joel backstage, leading to years of insulting riffs about Gallagher on MST3K.
All right, yeah. –More! –Whoo! Free Bird!
“Freebird” (or “Free Bird”) is one of the best known and most requested songs by the rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, featured on their 1973 debut album Pronounced Lynyrd Skynyrd. Beginning in the very early ‘70s, audiences would yell out requests for the Allman Brothers song “Whipping Post” at concerts of any artist, regardless of genre. This dubious pop culture joke continued with “Freebird” a few years later and has since overshadowed its predecessor.
Now, you’re Morley Safer.
Morley Safer has been a correspondent on the television news program 60 Minutes since 1970; he has won twelve Emmies for his work on that show.
[Sung.] You and I travel to the beat of a different drum …
“Different Drum” is a 1966 song originally performed by the Greenfriar Boys. In 1967 it became the first hit for Linda Ronstadt (then a member of the Stone Poneys) when she covered it. See above note.
Man, these Prince’s Trust concerts always suck.
The Prince’s Trust is a U.K.-based charitable organization founded by Charles, the Prince of Wales. It offers business training programs, education, and grants to disadvantaged youth and the unemployed. Since 1982 it has run regular concerts and galas as a fund-raising activity.
I guarantee it.
The Men’s Wearhouse is a chain of menswear stores founded in the 1970s by George Zimmer, whose trademark in countless commercials during the 1980s and 1990s was the phrase “You’re going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”
But first: Warren Christopher!
Warren Christopher (1925-2011) was an American lawyer, politician, and public servant who had a very distinguished career. He served as deputy Attorney General during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, Deputy Secretary of State during Jimmy Carter’s, and Secretary of State during Bill Clinton’s. As Secretary of State, he was involved in many foreign policy victories for the United States.
[Sung.] Let’s go out to the lobby, let’s go out to the lobby …
“Let’s All Go to the Lobby” is a 1953 animated musical short that played as a trailer in cinemas. Using dancing, singing snack items, it appealed to audiences to visit the concession stand.
I command you to shake that money maker!
“Shake Your Moneymaker” is a 1961 blues song by Elmore James; it is also the title of a 1990 album by the Black Crowes.
She’s dancing with a Spitting Image puppet!
Spitting Image (1984-1996) was a British satirical puppet sketch comedy show that enjoyed extreme commercial popularity. It is particularly remembered for skewering both contemporary politics and the British royal family, and for its inimitably grotesque puppets.
He’s using his incredible powers to make her do a modest twist!
The twist was an early modern dance craze that peaked in popularity in the early 1960s; it is a relatively restrained dance that keeps the body mostly in one position except for minimal grinding of the feet and legs and twisting of the torso and arms.
The guitar stylings of Mel Bay!
Mel Bay (1913-1997) was a musician whose company, Mel Bay Publications, produces music instruction books. His Modern Guitar Method series has sold more than 20 million copies. Although widely used, Bay's tunes are regarded as dated and a bit cornball—which is typical of music aimed at those new to an instrument. (Thanks to Alex Wilkerson for pointing out Bay's cheesiness.)
I’ve seen Baptists who can dance better than this.
Baptists are a group of Christian churches and denominations that put a great emphasis on the rite of baptism. They are known as a plain-living and stoic people, and often oppose such activities as going to movies and dancing. Old joke: Why don’t Baptists make love standing up? They’re afraid someone might see them and think they were dancing.
Arthur C. Clarke!
Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) was a major science fiction writer and futurist theorist of the 20th century. Clarke is best known for co-writing the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey (which was based on Clarke’s unpublished short story “The Sentinel”). Clarke also worked on the novelization of the film and continued the franchise in sequels.
The Minwax Company is a woodwork protection and finishing product manufacturer. Founded in 1904, it is currently a subsidiary under parent company Sherwin-Williams.
“A dummy drinking wine?” Spo-Dee-o-Dee?
“Drinkin’ Wine, Spo-Dee-o-Dee” is a 1946 blues ode to libations composed and sung by Granville “Stick” McGhee. “Spo-Dee-o-Dee,” a scatted substitute for a very radio-unfriendly word (twelve letters, starts with “m”), would inspire the nickname “spodi” for alcoholic punch.
“I want some wine! Why shouldn’t I have some wine?” All I want is my fair share! All I want is what’s coming to me!
“All I want is what I - I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” is Sally’s justification for her materialistic letter to Santa Claus in the 1965 animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas. The series was infamous for using actual children’s voices for the characters, something that (along with the animation) gave the whole thing a stilted and self-conscious feel.
You are looking, live, at the footlights.
Sportswriter and announcer Brent Musburger adopted “You are looking live at …” as a catchphrase during his years on CBS Sports’ football program The NFL Today.
“Walk to the footlight.” Like an Egyptian.
“Walk Like an Egyptian” was a hit for pop rock group The Bangles in 1986. Sample lyrics: “Foreign types with their hookah pipes sing/Way-oh-way-oh-way-ooo-way-ooo/Walk like an Egyptian.”
[Imitating.] De plane! De plane!
Hervé Villechaize (1943-1993) was an undersized actor who became famous for the line “De plane! De plane!” on the TV show Fantasy Island, which he appeared on from 1978-1983. He became depressed and worked very little after leaving the series, ultimately killing himself in 1993.
You like me. You really like me.
In her Academy Awards acceptance speech for winning the 1984 Best Actress award for the film Places in the Heart, Sally Field sentimentally told the crowd, “The first time [her first award, for 1979’s Norma Rae] I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!” Her emotional way of expressing this thought has been endlessly mocked and parodied.
And you wanted to see Dylan at Albert Hall.
Bob Dylan is the folk singer’s folk singer, a counterculture icon who got his start in the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Famous songs include “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’.” In 1966 the singer-songwriter famously “went electric” and performed this way for the first time at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall; a bootleg recording of this concert was mistakenly circulated as “The ‘Royal Albert Hall’ Concert.” It was during this concert that he was famously besieged and heckled by the audience, who called him their “Judas.” In 1998 Dylan released the official recording for the benefit of rock & roll posterity.
Yeah, Vorelli. I think we should do Greater Tuna together.
Greater Tuna is a longtime political satire theater show that has been running for more than twenty years; its two-man cast satirizes life in an ultraconservative Texas town.
“C’mon, please.” Love me now.
Possibly a reference to the Eddie Peregrina song “Please Love Me Now.”
“He’s too good.”–Denby.
See above note about Show 814, Riding with Death.
She’s already had a torrid affair with Jerry Mahoney.
See above note about Knucklehead Smiff, Paul Winchell, and Jerry Mahoney.
Debbie Harry, in better days.
Deborah “Debbie” Harry is the lead singer for the band Blondie, known for such 1980s hits as “Heart of Glass.”
And I said to my parents, [sung] “Is that all there is?”
A reference to Peggy Lee (1920-2002) and her 1969 hit “Is That All There Is?” Peggy Lee was a singer known for her “soft and cool” singing style. She also appeared in several movies. An excerpt from the first verse: “I stood there shivering in my pajamas/And watched the whole world go up in flames/And when it was all over I said to myself/‘Is that all there is to a fire?’”
Roy Clark: cross-dresser.
Roy Clark is a country-western singer and musician; he was one of the hosts of the country-themed variety program Hee Haw (1969-1992).
“A wine.” Man-O-Manischewitz.
“Man-O-Manischewitz: what a wine!” was an advertising slogan for the kosher food distributer Manischewitz Company’s line of Passover wines.
This is actually Blood of the Virgin wine spritzer.
The wine spritzer is a popular light cocktail made from white wine and carbonated water in varying proportions.
“Your fee …” “Will be nothing.” Just a bag of Puppet Chow.
The “____ chow” line of pet food (which numbers Puppy Chow amongst its products) is manufactured by the Nestlé Purina PetCare Company.
“It’s rather sweet.” Oops, sorry. I gave you the Surge.
Surge is a caffeinated citrus drink introduced by Coca-Cola in an effort to compete with Pepsi’s Mountain Dew.
Hey, look. Rudy Vallée is the waiter. [Sung.] I’m just a vagabond lover …
Rudy Vallée (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.”
Fever for the flavor of Pringles: actual footage.
Pringles are a brand of potato chips developed by Procter & Gamble in 1967 and now owned by Kellogg’s. Unlike other chips, which involve slices of actual potatoes and come in bags, Pringles are machine-made: compressed potato residue and wheat starch chips sold neatly stacked in cylindrical cardboard tubes. Have you got the fever for the flavor of Pringles?” was a 1980s Pringles advertising slogan.
“Nothing. Daydreaming, I suppose.” About this great Are You Being Served? I saw last night.
Are You Being Served? (1972-1985) was a popular British sitcom set in the clothing department of a high-end London department store.
And then I let the damn tusker have it with my Weatherby …
Weatherby Inc. (est. 1945) is an American gun and ammunition manufacturer that earned its fortune and reputation from the production of high-quality hunting rifles.
Hugo’s got a John Agar smile.
John Agar (1921-2002) was an actor who appeared in a stunning number of terrible B movies in the 1950s and 1960s. He has featured in several MST3K episodes, including Shows 801, Revenge of the Creature, and 803, The Mole People.
Heh. Hugo doin’ a Jack Benny take.
Jack Benny (1894-1974) was an American vaudevillian, radio and television comedian, movie actor, and quite good violinist, though playing the violin wincingly bad was part of his shtick. His weekly radio show, The Jack Benny Program, was one of the most popular of the radio era, and ran from 1932 to 1955. Benny was a master of the “slow burn”: the gradual sliding scale of emotions on a person’s face as they went from neutral to extreme anger or disgust. The style and structure of The Jack Benny Program are considered a kind of early blueprint for the modern sitcom.
“No! But I do want to eeeeaaaaat!” “Very well, then.” Eat my shorts.
“Eat my shorts” is one of several of Bart Simpson’s catchphrases on the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons; Bart’s voice actor, Nancy Cartwright, claims credit for supplying the original ad-lib.
But I took a Zantac.
Zantac is an acid reducer used to relieve the symptoms of heartburn. It is available in both prescription and nonprescription forms.
[Sung.] Smile, though your heart is breaking …
Charlie Chaplin’s tune “Smile,” used in the 1931 film Modern Times, had these lyrics added to it in 1954, written by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. It has been recorded by various artists, perhaps most popularly by Nat King Cole and Michael Jackson.
The Margaret Dumont Society expresses its appreciation.
Margaret Dumont (1882-1965) was an American vaudeville and film actress who played the foil, usually as a prim matriarch, in the Marx Brothers’ series of comedy films in the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s.
“I’ve got to have a look at that dummy.” Fred Sanford’s son? –Dummy! –Hey, dummy.
Fred Sanford was the irascible father on the TV series Sanford and Son, which aired from 1972-1977. The role was played by Redd Foxx. He would often berate his son Lamont (Demond Wilson) and call him a “big dummy.”
It’s mic-ed like an Altman film.
Robert Altman (1925-2006) was an American director known particularly for MASH (1970), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), and Nashville (1975). His naturalistic approach to films carried over to their dialogue. Characters in Altman films (especially his earlier fare) often trail off, overtalk one another, pause awkwardly, and mumble their lines.
I tell ya, you only rent ham.
A reference to a famous Archie Bunker line from the TV sitcom All in the Family: “You can’t really buy beer, you can only rent it.”
So she won’t let me play with her new Hot Wheels, huh?
Hot Wheels is another line of miniature die-cast cars, these introduced in 1968 by Mattel.
What a complexion … let me guess, you use Murphy’s Oil Soap, right?
Murphy Oil Soap is a household cleaning product designed for use on wooden surfaces. It is manufactured by the Colgate-Palmolive Company.
“Gute nacht, schoene kleine Maria.” Ah, German. The language of love.
This is a label usually applied to the French tongue.
[Sung.] Take the ribbon from my hair …
These are lyrics from the 1970 Kris Kristofferson country song “Help Me Make it Through the Night.” The song has also been recorded by Gladys Knight & the Pips, Johnny Cash, Sammi Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bryan Ferry, and even Elvis Presley. A sampling of the lyrics: “Take the ribbon from my hair/Shake it loose and let it fall/Laying soft upon my skin/Like the shadows on the wall …”
Even if a client brings in his vent figure, we’ll have a suit to fit him. I guarantee it.
See note on Men’s Wearhouse, above. “Vent” is short for ventriloquist; a “vent figure” is another term for a ventriloquist’s dummy.
You could park a Humvee in his chin dimple.
The Humvee (HMMWV: High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) is a 4WD motor vehicle used in the U.S. military since the 1970s, when it superseded the functions of modified light civilian trucks. Replicas of the vehicle are a popular choice in civilian personal transport.
She has Hasidic wallpaper.
The six-pointed Star (or Shield) of David is a symbol used to represent Judaism, including the Hasidic school, a branch of Orthodox Ashkenazi Judaism. The symbol is most prominently seen today on the national flag of Israel.
I paid too much for my muffler!
In the 1980s, the Meineke Discount Mufflers chain ran a series of commercials that used the catchphrase, “I’m not gonna pay a lot for this muffler!”
Sounds like the aliens still haven’t got in touch with Jodie Foster. –Boom.
In 1997 actress Jodie Foster starred in Contact, a film about SETI’s attempts to reach and contact alien civilizations from the star Vega (Alpha Lyrae).
You know, Kubrick saw this scene and said, “We’ve found our Heywood Floyd.”
William Sylvester, as previously noted, played the supporting character Dr. Heywood Floyd in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick (1928-1999) was an American film director who was acclaimed by critics and feared by actors for his attention to detail and perfectionistic approach to filmmaking. Almost all of his major projects have historic notability. A brief list of some of his films: The Killing (1956), Paths of Glory (1956), Spartacus (1960), Lolita (1962), Dr. Strangelove: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), The Shining (1980), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and his final movie, Eyes Wide Shut (1999).
Cartoon camel was right—these are cool.
Joe Camel (or Old Joe) was a notorious advertising mascot for Camel cigarettes from 1987 to 1997. The company was accused of using the slickly dressed cartoon to attract children to the product. During the time R.J. Reynolds ran the Joe Camel ad campaign, one lawsuit claimed, its share of the teenage smoking market went from $6 million a year to more than $400 million a year. It was sued but settled out of court; as part of the settlement it agreed to stop using the mascot.
“He came to your room? The dummy?” “That’s right.” Fred Sanford’s son? –Again? –Dummy.
See note on Sanford & Son, above.
“He’s as real as …” That face on Mars.
The “face” on Mars is a geological formation in the Cydonia region of the planet. An image of the formation was taken in 1976 by NASA; an optical illusion resulted in it bearing an eerie resemblance to a human face. The face has been a popular subject for science fiction and paranormal theorists in the decades since. Another similarly famous piece of the Martian landscape is the Galle crater, which resembles a smiling cartoon face. However, later fly-bys produced higher-resolution pictures that showed the “face” was a mere optical illusion—and led to immediate accusations of conspiracies and cover-ups.
I’m gonna get Caller ID.
Caller ID is a telephone service that displays the name and number of the source of a call while the phone is ringing. Most modern phones come with the Caller ID feature built in, but when this episode aired it was still a new technology that required a stand-alone device to be connected to the phone.
Yes, Miss Havisham just moved out.
Miss Havisham is a character in the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations. Miss Havisham is a bitter and reclusive old woman, clad in the decaying remains of a wedding dress, which she has worn ever since she was jilted on her wedding day years earlier. As her revenge, she has raised a girl named Estella to be a plague on men: beautiful, cold, and heartless, Estella breaks the hero Pip’s heart. The mansion that Miss Havisham secludes herself in is described as a squalid, dark shell of her former wealth and social prosperity.
Martin Scorsese is Mr. French, in The Exorcist.
Martin Scorsese is a bushy-browed director noted especially for his brutal, violent films about life on America’s mean streets. His most famous works include Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), and Goodfellas (1990). Mr. French (played by Sebastian Cabot) was the valet who helped his bachelor employer care for three orphans on the TV show Family Affair, which aired from 1966 to 1971. In the 1973 horror film The Exorcist, Fathers Merrin and Karras drop in on Regan MacNeil in her room multiple times to exorcise the demon from her body.
“Yes. Yes.” My favorite band is Yes.
Yes is a popular progressive rock group from England that was founded in 1968. It has a reputation for being experimental yet still commercially successful.
“Marianne, darling.” I’ve also contacted Buffy and Jody.
Jody and Buffy were two of the children on the TV show Family Affair, which aired from 1966 to 1971. (The third child was named Cissy.) The show starred Brian Keith as Bill Davis, a carefree swinging bachelor who suddenly found himself in custody of three orphans, whom he cared for with the assistance of his supercilious valet, Mr. French (see previous note).
“He’s calling me, Mark! Please, make him stop!” “Who?” Bart Simpson! He keeps calling me!
Bart Simpson (see above note) is one of the members of the Simpson family in the animated sitcom that bears their name. For the first few seasons, a trademark joke of Bart’s was to prank-call Moe Syzlak, the local tavern-keeper, with transparently false names like “Seymour Butz,” “Mike Rotch,” “Anita Bath,” or “Bea O’Problem”; Moe would fail to see the homophone until he had announced the name out loud to his patrons. These jokes were considered hard to write and were more or less retired after the fourth season. The running gag was inspired by a popular series of 1970s recorded prank calls that were made to Louis “Red” Deutsch, a bar owner in Jersey City, whose response would inevitably be threats and profanity.
Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Ron Leibman, for Grecian Formula Beard and Moustache.
Ron Leibman is an actor who has appeared in such movies as Slaughterhouse-Five, Norma Rae, and Zorro, the Gay Blade. Grecian Formula is a hair dye for men that promises to gradually get rid of gray hair over a period of weeks—thus presumably making it less obvious that you dye your hair. It is manufactured by Combe Inc.
“Maybe even better: the police!” Even better: I’ll tell Liz Smith that you wear a false beard!
Liz Smith (1923-2017) was an American journalist and gossip columnist, known as the Grand Dame of Dish. Her syndicated gossip column ran in various newspapers from 1976 through 2006.
“Come.” Let’s play Magic: The Gathering.
Magic: The Gathering is a popular fantasy-themed trading card game that has been distributed by Wizards of the Coast since 1993.
I see a bad moon rising.
This is a line from the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival blues-rock song “Bad Moon Rising.” Sample lyrics: “I see a bad moon rising/I see trouble on the way/I see earthquakes and lightning/I see bad times today/Don’t go around tonight/Cause it’s bound to take your life/There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
Alice, baby, you’re the greatest!
“Alice/Baby, you’re the greatest!” was a catchphrase of Jackie Gleason’s character Ralph Kramden on the TV sitcom The Honeymooners (1955-1956).
I accept your mumbley-peg challenge, Vorelli.
Mumbley-peg (also mumblety-peg, mumblepeg, mumble-the-peg, and various other names) is a schoolyard game played with knives. Details vary, but generally two players compete to see who can best perform certain risky knife tricks; the first to back out is deemed the loser and must pull a peg from the ground using only their teeth.
I call it Still Life with Shelley Winters.
Shelley Winters (1920-2006) was a hefty actress who appeared in such films as The Diary of Anne Frank (for which she won an Oscar) and The Poseidon Adventure.
No one has ever escaped from the pet carrier!
An impression of the “No one has ever escaped from Stalag Thirteen!” mantra of Colonel Wilhelm Klink, the inept commander of the German prison camp in the television series Hogan’s Heroes, which aired from 1965-1971. The part was played by Werner Klemperer (1920-2000).
You know, the worst thing is, he won’t buy me a Gameboy.
Entertainment company Nintendo’s second foray into handheld consoles (after the Game & Watch) was the Gameboy in 1989. It was a phenomenal success and was followed by more advanced models such as the DS.
You know, she’s sleeping with Vorelli, Edgar Bergen, and Sam Giancana.
Edgar Bergen (1903-1978) was the ventriloquist sidekick of dummy Charlie McCarthy. Bergen had a radio show that featured many characters, including Mortimer Snerd. But Charlie, attired in formalwear that extended to a cape, top hat, and monocle, was always the most popular. Salvatore “Sam” Giancana (1908-1975) was a Mafioso; from 1957 to 1966 he was the head of the Chicago Outfit, a powerful branch of the American mafia. He was also something of a ladies’ man; rumor has it that for a time he shared a mistress with that other notorious ladies’ man of the 1960s, President John F. Kennedy. He was murdered by an unknown assassin in 1975, shortly after becoming a witness for the FBI.
Dead puppet walkin’.
“Dead man walking” is a phrase used to describe a death-row prisoner on his way to his execution. The phrase was used as the title of a book by Sister Helen Prejean, an anti-death penalty activist; the book has since been turned into a play, a movie, and an opera.
He looks like Alfalfa E. Neuman.
Alfred E. Neuman is the jug-eared, befreckled, red-headed mascot with a missing front tooth who has graced the cover of nearly all of Mad Magazine’s 500 issues since 1954. His catchphrase is, “What, me worry?” Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (1927-1959) is one of the best-remembered members of the Hal Roach series of Our Gang short films; he wore a suit, with a part in his hair that was complemented by a comedy cowlick. Like many of the Our Gang children, his professional and personal success didn’t last, and he was shot to death at the age of 32 by an acquaintance over a fifty-dollar debt.
Mortimer Snerd in: Fatal Attraction.
Mortimer Snerd was a ventriloquist’s dummy, the slow-witted friend of wisecracking Charlie McCarthy (see previous note). In the 1987 film Fatal Attraction, in which a married man is stalked by the woman he had a one night stand with, Glenn Close breaks into Michael Douglas’s house and kills their pet rabbit, cooking it on the stove.
Oh, Peggy Fleming, no.
Peggy Fleming is a former American figure skating champion. She competed and won in the 1968 Winter Olympics and World Figure Skating Championships and is currently a sports commentator.
I’m out of Liquid Paper.
Liquid Paper is a popular brand of correction fluid currently produced by Newell Rubbermaid. The product was invented in 1951 by Bette Nesmith Graham, mother of The Monkees member Michael Nesmith.
Later, on the set of Dark Shadows.
Dark Shadows (1966-1971) is a camp gothic soap opera with a large cult following. Collinwood Mansion, the manor home of the cast, was also shown (albeit very dimly) in the opening credits sequence. The mansion as shown used several different sets; the exterior was Carey Mansion, in Rhode Island.
She’s in pon farr.
Pon farr is a mating ailment, similar to rutting or musth, of the Vulcans in Star Trek (1966-1969). Every seven years, male and female Vulcans go into heat, become violent and irrational, and must copulate with a partner or face death.
John Grisham film?
John Grisham is a lawyer and novelist known for his best-selling legal thrillers, many of which have been turned into movies. His works include The Firm, The Pelican Brief, and The Client. Though immensely popular, his books are not generally held in high critical esteem.
Hey-hey! A Julie Kavner doll!
Julie Kavner is an American actor and comedian best known for voicing Marge Simpson and her sisters on the long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons. Prior to that, she was best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern’s sister Brenda on Rhoda (1974-1978), a spinoff from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She also appeared in several Woody Allen films, including Deconstructing Harry (1997) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).
Hi! This okay for a funeral? –Rhea Perlman.
Rhea Perlman is an American actor best known for playing the pugnacious Carla Tortelli in the sitcom Cheers. She has been married to Danny DeVito since 1982; they have often had on-screen roles together as a married couple.
“Ah, Grace.” That’s what I’m not living in a state of.
The state of grace is a Christian theological term referring to being in the favor of God due to having confessed and expurgated one’s sins, making salvation imminent.
I gotta go. I’m a welder by day.
Flashdance is a 1983 movie that starred Jennifer Beals as a steelworker with dreams of becoming a dancer.
Ah, the puppet cashes in his frequent flyer miles.
Frequent flyer programs are a loyalty card scheme offered by various airlines and their partnered businesses. Points are awarded to a customer for certain items or flights; once a set amount is reached, the customer is eligible for rewards (usually a free flight). Frequent flyer programs were introduced in the late 1970s.
And Northwest stops to pick up more surly flight attendants.
Northwest Airlines was a passenger airline that merged with Delta in 2008. Their hub was the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, so the MST3K gang would have pretty much had to deal with them if they did any traveling. At the time this episode was written, Northwest had a good on-time record, but appallingly bad customer service, which might explain the writers' ire.
Sieg heil! Oh, oh, wait. That’s over, isn’t it?
“Sieg heil” (“Hail victory”) was one of the compulsory greetings of Nazi Germany, usually performed at a rally or in conjunction with the Nazi salute.
Bunch of braunschweiger.
Braunschweiger (or braunschweig) is a kind of German smoked liverwurst made from pork. Most recipes seem to call for small amounts of bacon in the ingredients.
He joined the Time-Life dummy-of-the-month club.
Time-Life is a book and music marketing company founded in 1961; for decades it specialized in series of books (called libraries) that were shipped monthly to subscribers. Sample libraries included The Old West, The Library of Photography, and The Good Cook. Some customers complained about deceptive advertising practices by the company. Its book division closed in 2003; the company now focuses on music, videos, and entertainment, such as cruises.
Does this bug you? I’m not touching you.
“Does this bug you? I’m not touching you” is an often-heard MST3K catchphrase with possible origins in something U2 lead singer Bono said in the 1988 concert film Rattle and Hum: “Am I bugging you? I don’t mean to bug ya.” Or it's just a reference to the timeless sibling torment of almost, but not quite, touching, tickling, or punching another sibling, and when a complaint is made, saying "What? I'm not touching you!"
Ohhh. Trails, man.
People who have taken LSD sometimes experience visual distortions known as “tracers,” where moving objects leave a “trail” behind them similar to the after-image you see when you stare at a bright light.
Am I Arthur Treacher? I forget.
Arthur Treacher (1894-1975) was an English comedic actor and dancer who began his career in several Shirley Temple films. He typically played minor or supporting roles in films like Magnificent Obsession (1935), Remember Last Night? (1935), National Velvet (1944), and Mary Poppins (1964). In his later years he migrated to television and became known for his roles as stuffy Englishmen in sitcoms like The Beverly Hillbillies. Arthur Treacher’s is a fast-food chain of fish and chips restaurants, similar to Long John Silver’s. The chain is named after the actor, and he served as its spokesman in the early days, although it is unclear whether he had any financial stake in the restaurants.
Mmm, Pall Malls.
Pall Malls were one of the first “premium” brands of cigarettes, debuting early in the 20th century. Between 1960 and 1966 they were the top-selling brand in the country.
Now, we have a Hugo in the oven already. Let’s see how that’s doing.
A riff on something you’d typically hear on a TV cooking show. Since it obviously would take too long to wait for the dish to cook after assembling it, the host usually demonstrates how to prepare a dish, and a previously cooked version of the dish is already waiting to be brought out of the oven.
It’s aliens again.
See note on Contact, above.
And snuff cabaret is born.
Snuff films, an urban legend, are purportedly movies in which one or more persons are actually killed on film. The legend dates back to a film called Snuff, released in 1976, which tacked an ending of an actress supposedly being killed onto a 1971 horror film called Slaughter; producer Allan Shackleton attempted to arouse interest in the cheaply made film by implying that the deaths in it were real. The legal system forced Shackleton to add a disclaimer to the film stating that no one had been harmed during the making of the movie, but by that point, the legend had taken on a life of its own. Even today, anti-pornography crusaders cite snuff films as the ultimate example of male oppression and exploitation of women, despite zero evidence for their existence.
Hugo: the other white meat.
“Pork: the other white meat” was a successful 1987 advertising slogan employed by the National Pork Board to encourage consumers to think of pork’s nutrition in similar terms to that of the (arbitrarily determined) “white” meats like fish or chicken.
Ladies and gentlemen: Siegfried and Gein!
Siegfried Fischbacher (1939-2021) and Roy Horn (1944-2020) were German-born entertainers known for their illusions and Las Vegas show featuring white tigers. In 2003, Horn was critically injured by one of their tigers during a show. In 2009, after more than five years hiatus, they staged a final performance and retired. 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. Several movie killers have been based more or less on Gein: Norman Bates in Psycho, Leatherface and clan in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.
“I was a cleaner at the time. I was not even on the stage when it happened.” I vas in Austria.
“I was in Austria during the war” is a kind of comic cliché excuse that Germans are depicted saying when they wish to pretend ignorance of the events and consequences of World War II. The origin of the phrase in popular culture is uncertain, or at least to my search engine.
Well, heil … see you later.
See note on “Sieg heil,” above.
E.M. Forster’s Room with a Wig.
Edward Morgan (E.M.) Forster (1879-1970) was an English author from the Edwardian “class-division school” of novelist. His best known works are A Room with a View (1908), Howards End (1910), and A Passage to India (1924), all of which were adapted for film, to critical acclaim, during the 1980s and ’90s. A Room with a View is about a group of English tourists in Italy, with the anchor of the novel being the love story between George Emerson and Lucy Honeychurch. Class differences between families and social responsibility are the major obstacles confronting the pairing. In 1985, a successful film adaptation starring Julian Sands and Helena Bonham Carter was made by Merchant-Ivory Productions.
It’s Chrissie Hynde.
Chrissie Hynde is a singer, songwriter, musician, and face of the rock band The Pretenders.
Well, this skunk cabbage is coming up good. Crab grass couldn’t look better. The stinking-corpse flower looks beautiful.
The eastern and western skunk cabbages are arum plants that grow in North America. Both varieties have a powerful stench, though they look radically different from each other. Crab grass (genus Digitaria, various species) is a quick-growing plant that has earned its moniker from the distinctive spider or crab shape it seems to grow into; it is a pest in most gardens. There are two plants usually called the “corpse flower”: Amorphophallus titanium, another arum plant, and various species in the Rafflesia genus. They both have extremely potent odors and have set records for the girth of their flowers. Both come from Southeast Asia.
Hey, I’m bored! Got any games? Parcheesi, Monopoly, or …?
Parcheesi is an American version of the Indian board game Pachisi, which was first created about 500 B.C.E. The goal is to get all four of one’s pieces from the start position around the board to the center. Monopoly is a board game published by the Parker Brothers, probably the most popular game of its type in the world. Players move their pieces around the board, “buying” and “selling” property until one player establishes a monopoly and bankrupts the other players. Besides the property cards, there are two other kinds of cards in the game: Chance and Community Chest. It originated as a game called The Landlord’s Game in 1904 by Elizabeth Magie, who intended it to satirize the negative traits of land monopolies.
First Robert Denby, and now you!
See note on Show 814, Riding with Death, above.
Look up there: he flies Aunt Bee airlines. –We’re going to be flying at a cruising altitude of thirty thousand feet. You may experience some turbulence, ooh, windy …
An imitation of Aunt Bee, from The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) and Mayberry R.F.D. (1968-1971). She was portrayed by Frances Bavier.
Hey, Vorelli. I had this corner all feng shui-ed.
Feng shui is a superstitious practice (or aesthetic philosophy, depending on your point of view) that expounds that the proper order of an environment is necessary to create the ideal flow of qi, or life energy. It is a Chinese art that coheres a great deal with the philosophy of Taoism.
[Sung.] It’s quarter to three. There’s no one in the place but you and rummy me …
A reference to the lyrics of “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).” The song is from the 1943 musical The Sky’s the Limit. The best known version of the ballad is Frank Sinatra’s. Sample lyrics: “I could tell you a lot/But you got to be true to your code/Just make it one for my baby/And one more for the road.”
“The same again.” Make it a Samuel Stockbottom double-wheat cranberry lambic. Thanks.
Since 1990, the Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic has been a fruit beer distributed under the Samuel Adams label by the Boston Beer Company. It is only available during the winter season.
Hey, could you flip on Monday Night Cricket, please?
Monday Night Football is a sports program that broadcasts National Football League games along with running commentary and entertainment.
“Deep,” Purple. “deep,” Cleaning. “sleep.” It was!
Deep Purple is a British hard rock band that was founded in 1968 and scored its biggest hit with 1972’s “Smoke on the Water.” The original group disbanded in the mid-1980s, but various incarnations continued to release albums into the next decade.
Do you, Chatty Cathy, take Hugo to be your lawfully wedded doll: to pledge and behold, to finish and to endust? –Oh, Mike.
Chatty Cathy was a pull-string doll produced by the company Mattel between 1959 and 1965. Cathy was one of the first “talking” dolls available. Pledge, Behold, Finish, and Endust are all brands of furniture polish. (Thanks to Paul Castaldi for pointing out the Pledge joke.)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Puppets, hello?
PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is an animal rights group that stages protests, airs commercials, and files lawsuits on behalf of animals everywhere. It opposes eating animals, wearing leather, experimenting on animals, and many, many other animal-related activities.
There was a famously horrible prison riot at Attica prison in New York in 1971, but the chant is a reference to the 1975 movie Dog Day Afternoon, starring Al Pacino. In the film, Sonny (Pacino) tries to rile up a mob to help him escape from a police cordon around the bank he is robbing by reminding them of the riot.
Looks like Burgess Meredith all of a sudden.
Oliver Burgess Meredith (1907-1997) was a notable American actor. His best-known roles were as Mickey “Mick” Goldmill, Rocky Balboa’s trainer in the series of Rocky movies starring Sylvester Stallone, and the Penguin on the campy TV series Batman (1966-1968).
[Sung.] Memories, like the corners of my mind. Misty, golden …
Lyrics derived from the Barbra Streisand song “The Way We Were.” This was the title song of the 1973 film The Way We Were, which starred Robert Redford and Barbra herself. Sample lyrics: “Memories/Like the corners of my mind/Misty water-colored memories/Of the way we were/Scattered pictures/Of the smiles we left behind …”
Is he being Martinized? –No, I think it’s the Shroud of Vorelli.
Martinizing Dry Cleaning is the largest dry-cleaning franchise in the United States. Henry Martin, the chemist who founded the company, pioneered the concept of one-hour dry cleaning. The Shroud of Turin has for centuries been an object of veneration in the Roman Catholic Church. Purported to be the winding cloth of Jesus Christ, the length of cloth bore a faint image of a man with the marks of nails through the wrists, whip marks on the back, and lacerations around the head, as if from a crown of thorns. Numerous tests over the years meant to determine its authenticity proved inconclusive, but carbon dating in 1988 finally showed that the Shroud dated only to about the 13th or 14th century C.E. The Catholic Church has not taken an official position on the Shroud's authenticity.
I bet Beanie Babies don’t get this kind of power.
Beanie Babies (produced by Ty, Inc. since 1993) were a cynical stuffed toy collectable of the 1990s whose popularity reached fad proportions quickly. The babies were a variety of animals that had been stuffed with bean pellets instead of the usual substance; hence their name.
So, uh … really ironic, huh? –Yeah. Don’tcha think?
A spoken-word rendition of a recurring phrase in Canadian-American singer Alanis Morissette’s 1996 song “Ironic.” It is frequently lambasted for containing very few actual examples of situational irony. The relevant lyrics: “It’s like ten thousand spoons/When all you need is a knife/It’s like meeting the man of my dreams/And then meeting his beautiful wife/Isn’t it ironic/Don’t you think?”
Hugo the dummy was arraigned in superior court, county of Los Angeles. In a moment, the results of that trial.
“In a moment, the results of that trial” was the tagline on the TV series Dragnet, just before the final commercial break and the wrap-up, telling us what sentence the baddies received so we could end the episode on a nice glow of civic confidence.