621: The Beast of Yucca Flats
by Chris Baumgartner
Why do I conk my hair?
A conk was a hairstyle popular with Black men from the 1920s to the 1960s. It was achieved by applying a chemical relaxer to the hair, allowing an afro to be slicked back like Duke Ellington’s or done up in a pompadour like Little Richard’s. The name comes from congolene, a hair straightening gel; before commercial products became available, people used home recipes, such as a mixture of potatoes, eggs, and lye.
Maybe it’s my crack habit?
Crack cocaine, or simply crack, is a form of cocaine that can be smoked. It is highly addictive and delivers a brief but intense high, followed immediately by an intense craving for more of the drug. Its widespread use in poor neighborhoods in major U.S. cities in the 1980s was called the “crack epidemic.”
“I don’t get it.” Ah, the appeal of Adam Sandler.
Adam Sandler is a comedian and actor who enjoyed amazing success with a series of lowbrow, feel-good movies, including The Wedding Singer (1998) and Mr. Deeds (2002), and a handful of more dramatic films such as Punch-Drunk Love (2002), which didn’t perform as well at the box office but got better reviews from the critics. He got his start on Saturday Night Live, where he appeared from 1991-1995. He now owns his own production company, Happy Madison Productions.
Even having a huge Mallomar doesn’t help.
Mallomar is the American version of a chocolate-covered marshmallow tea cake, a confection that’s popular in many cultures around the world. It’s basically a graham-cracker base with a dollop of marshmallow on top, covered in a thin layer of chocolate. They were introduced in the United States in 1913 by Nabisco, the same year as the larger, but similar, Moon Pie.
He was the best president we ever had.
The Franklin half-dollar, seen in this short, was only issued for 15 years, from 1948 to 1963. It was replaced by the Kennedy half-dollar in 1964, issued in memory of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Benjamin Franklin remains on the $100 bill, however.
Why must I be a young Christopher Walken?
Christopher Walken is an Academy Award-winning actor known for his roles in such films as The Deer Hunter (1978), The Dead Zone (1983), Pulp Fiction (1994), and many more.
There’s no place like a bank. There’s no place like a bank.
A paraphrase of the classic line “There’s no place like home,” from the 1939 MGM movie The Wizard of Oz.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) was a portly British director, best known for his groundbreaking suspense films and his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (CBS/NBC, 1955-1965). The show opened with his shadow walking behind a screen to mesh with a line-drawing caricature of his silhouette, while Charles Gounod’s distinctive “Funeral March for a Marionette” played.
Can you borrow me a dollar?
In Minnesota, where MST3K was filmed, it is a distinctive regional dialect to say “borrow me a dollar” rather than “lend/loan me a dollar.”
Tom Bosley’s come to haunt him.
Tom Bosley (1927-2010) played Howard Cunningham, the portly, congenial patriarch of the Cunningham family in the TV sitcom Happy Days (ABC, 1974-1984).
Could you have your slave press my suit?
Benjamin Franklin owned two slaves. However, later in life he became an abolitionist. One of his slaves ran away, and even after the man was found Franklin made no moves to claim him, allowing him to remain free. The other man and his wife were freed in Franklin’s will, and Franklin also required his daughter and son-in-law to free their slave if they wanted to claim their inheritance. In 1787 he became the president of an abolitionist society and campaigned against slavery. However, there is a difference between freeing your slaves after your death, when you can no longer benefit from their labor, and freeing them during your lifetime, because you believe slavery to be morally wrong. In the end, Franklin’s record on slavery was decidedly mixed.
Will our mystery guest enter and sign in please!
On the TV game show What’s My Line? (CBS/syndication, 1950-1975), the final round was always reserved for a “mystery guest,” a celebrity of some type who was introduced with this line, entering and signing their name on a chalkboard as the panelists wore blindfolds.
“Suppose you look in this mirror and see what it tells you.” God, I’m fat.
Anorexia nervosa (usually just called anorexia) is an eating disorder characterized by an urgent desire to be thin, causing sufferers to lose so much weight that their health is affected, sometimes to the point of starving themselves to death. One of the classic signs of anorexia is the person perceiving themselves as overweight even when they are alarmingly thin.
I’m Kate Moss.
Kate Moss is a British fashion model who rose to fame in the mid-1990s with ads for Calvin Klein that emphasized her whisper-thin body and emaciated face, giving rise to the “waif look,” also called “heroin chic.”
Irish author James Joyce (1882-1941) is considered one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. His best-known works include Ulysses (1922), which interprets Homer’s Odyssey in different literary styles, Finnegans Wake (1939), and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). He was known to enjoy the occasional pint of Guinness.
Here’s your sherry.
Sherry is a fortified wine—meaning extra alcohol, usually in the form of brandy, is added—with origins in the Andalusia region of Spain.
“You buy whenever the mood strikes you.” Furs, cars, trips to Vegas.
Vegas is short for Las Vegas, the neon-lit mecca of casinos and resorts in the heart of the Nevada desert.
“You’d like to be an architect someday.” Forget it, soda jerk.
A soda jerk was the title of the employee who operated the soda counter in drugstores in the early 20th century. Partly a pun on “soda clerk,” and partly a reference to the jerky motion used in operating the soda dispenser, the soda jerk made ice cream floats and on-the-spot sodas, by mixing flavored syrups with carbonated water.
Ow, my gout.
Gout is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation and redness in the feet, usually at the joint of the base of the big toe. Since it occurs more commonly in men who are overweight due to eating a diet rich in meat and high in alcohol consumption, gout was historically called the “disease of kings” or “rich man’s disease.”
You talkin’ to me?
An iconic line of dialogue from Martin Scorsese’s 1976 film Taxi Driver, in which the increasingly unstable lead character Travis Bickle (played by Robert De Niro) holds a disturbing conversation with his own reflection in a mirror. The line has become a catchphrase; Roger Ebert called it “the truest line in the film.” And it goes a little something … like this:
“You talkin’ to me?
You talkin’ to me?
You talkin’ to me?
Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to?
You talkin’ to me?
Well I’m the only one here.
Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”
The Great Gatsby is a 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The title character, Jay Gatsby, is a wealthy, aging hipster of his era, who learns too late that partying your life away is not where it’s at. Gatsby’s car, a Rolls-Royce convertible, is the centerpiece of the tragedy that ends the book.
“He keeps a record of each expenditure.” Bob is anal.
The term “anal-retentive” (often just “anal”) derives from Freudian analysis—the anal stage is one of the stages of childhood development, and, the theory goes, if a child is too harshly toilet trained, they may develop fixations around their bodily functions. This will spill over into their everyday life, leading them to develop a compulsive need to control everything around them. In casual usage, an “anal” person pays so much obsessive attention to detail and orderliness that it’s a problem for them and a nuisance to others.
“Bob had a goal.” And two assists.
An assist is a statistic in many sports, such as hockey and soccer, generally referring to when one player makes a move that leads directly to another player scoring.
“He remembered one important rule.” Stuffing instead of potatoes.
“Stuffing instead of potatoes” was the slogan for a long-running advertising campaign for Stove Top Stuffing Mix, a brand of boxed stuffing mixes introduced by General Foods in 1972, which spent a lot of dollars in the 1970s and ‘80s trying to persuade people to replace the usual side dish of potatoes with stuffing. The brand is now owned by Kraft Heinz.
Have illegitimate children.
Benjamin Franklin acknowledged his illegitimate son William Franklin around 1730, and, with his common-law wife Deborah Read Franklin, took in the lad to be raised in his household; the identity of William’s mother is unknown. The younger Franklin remained loyal to the British, became the last colonial governor of New Jersey, from 1763 to 1776, and lived in exile in Britain after the war. The father and son never reconciled.
But it was too late. William filed Chapter 11.
Chapter 11 is a chapter of the United States Bankruptcy Code that applies to businesses, and saying that a company has “filed for Chapter 11” has become another way of saying it is going bankrupt. Individuals who wish to file for bankruptcy do so under Chapter 13.
Helter Skelter, very nice.
After two nights of bloody murders at the homes of actress Sharon Tate and grocer Leno LaBianca in the summer of 1969 (the infamous Manson murders), the words “Healter [sic] Skelter” were found written in blood on the refrigerator in the LaBianca home. “Helter Skelter” is a song by the Beatles, on the so-called White Album, released the previous year. Crazed cult leader Charles Manson believed he heard in its lyrics a prediction of a coming race war (in fact, it’s about an amusement park slide), and used the phrase in his apocalyptic preachings to his LSD-infused followers. Four of those followers, and Manson himself, were convicted of the murders in 1971.
“That’s important, to keep a budget flexible.” Like Gumby.
Animator Art Clokey created Gumby, the green, lopsided claymation figure, and his horse, Pokey, in 1955. Originally created for Howdy Doody, Gumby, Pokey, and friends then appeared on original episodes of The Gumby Show on television from 1957 to 1968. A Gumby short, “Robot Rumpus,” aired as part of Show 912, The Screaming Skull.
“Take that budget of yours, Dad.” And shove it.
“Take This Job and Shove It” is a fairly self-explanatory country song written by David Allan Coe and recorded by Johnny Paycheck (b. Donald Eugene Lytle) in 1977. The song went to number one on the country charts and inspired a 1981 comedy movie of the same name, which featured both Coe and Paycheck in minor parts.
“Thanks a lot, Mr. Franklin.” For making us laugh about love again.
“Thank you Neil Simon for making us laugh at falling in love … again” was an advertising tagline for the 1977 film The Goodbye Girl; Neil Simon, known for romantic comedies like Barefoot in the Park and Come Blow Your Horn, wrote the screenplay.
Benjamin Franklin was tried in the 8th Circuit Court on stalking charges. In a minute, the results of that trial.
A riff on the dialogue that appeared near the end of every episode of the crime drama Dragnet, which ran on radio and TV in various incarnations from 1949 to 2003. The narrator used it to tease the show’s finale, in which justice was invariably served, just prior to the last commercial break. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, often shorthanded as the 8th Circuit Court, is a federal appeals court that covers multiple states in the Midwest, including Minnesota.
Ahh! I’m having a freakout up to ten years later!
This refers to a supposed LSD flashback. The drug is fully metabolized before or shortly after it takes effect, so it is a myth to say it remains in your system, mysteriously stored in fat cells. What is not a myth is hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD), a form of mental disorder that affects a small number of LSD users. They report seeing trippy stuff days, weeks, and even years after taking the drug.
“Rich in its heritage of art and culture.” With wah-wah pedals playing constantly.
The wah-wah pedal, or wah pedal, is an electronic effects box for musicians, primarily guitarists. It has a foot pedal controlling a filter that gives a kind of talking effect to single notes, or the funky “wakka-chukka” sound if the strings are muted and strummed. It was invented in 1966 by Brad Plunkett, an engineer at the Thomas Organ Company.
Who’s the cat who would risk his life for a fellow man? Shaft! Yeah. Can you dig it?
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.”
Circle Pines is really thriving.
According to writer Mary Jo Pehl in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, “Circle Pines [Minnesota] is Everytown, USA. ... When I was growing up in Circle Pines, it was a small town and had Lee and Iris’s Bar and Grill, ... the Down Under On/Off Sale, ... two rival gas stations, no stoplights, and the weekly newspaper called The Circulating Pines. ... The sign still reads—as it did all my twenty-some years there—POPULATION: 4,731.”
A Quinn Martin production.
Quinn Martin (1922-1987) was a prolific television producer in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s; his series included The Untouchables and The Fugitive. For 21 years, he always had at least one prime-time show on network TV, and at times as many as four at once. The phrase “A Quinn Martin production” was usually intoned by the announcer immediately after the title of the show.
Feel the glory of the Royal Scam.
Paraphrased lyrics from the title track to Steely Dan’s 1976 album The Royal Scam. The song is about the disillusionment of Puerto Rican immigrants arriving in St. John, Canada, and subsequently New York City. Sample lyrics: “And they wandered in from the city/Of St. John without a dime … /See the glory of the royal scam.”
“The capitol building in San Juan, where the Senate and the House of Representatives form the legislature.” Newt Gingrich is the head of that too.
Around the time this episode first aired (January 21, 1995), Newt Gingrich, a U.S. congressman from Georgia, was at the peak of his career. Gingrich became speaker of the House of Representatives in January 1995, having wrested control of the House away from the Democrats after 40 years. He was also made Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1995. Four years later, after a dismal Republican performance at the polls, he stepped down as speaker and announced his retirement after 20 years in the House; he later took an unsuccessful run at the White House.
Latka Gravas goes to class. –[Imitating.] T’ank you veddy much.
The TV sitcom Taxi (ABC, 1978-1982) featured eccentric New York City taxicab drivers, including an immigrant, Latka Gravas, played by comedian Andy Kaufman from 1978-1983, missing only the final season. Kaufman used his “Foreign Man” character from his standup act to play Latka; “T’ank you veddy much,” spoken in a thick yet indeterminable accent, was the Foreign Man’s main catchphrase. Kaufman died young of lung cancer in 1984 at the age of 35.
It’s Room dos-dos-dos.
Room 222 was a TV series about a Black history teacher (played by Lloyd Haynes) in a racially diverse Los Angeles high school. It ran from 1969-1974.
[Imitating.] That nose wheel feels mushy.
Show 614, San Francisco International, featured a lengthy discussion about a mushy airplane nose wheel. The film featured David Hartman, imitated here, as pilot Ross Edward.
Fun times at Guantanamo.
Gitmo, as the U.S. Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is often called, has been located in Cuba since at least 1903. Despite Cuba’s strong opposition to the base’s presence since the 1959 revolution, the United States has maintained its foothold in the country. Since 2002, Gitmo has hosted a highly controversial detention center for alleged unlawful combatants captured during the “war on terror.” Evidence of abuse, including possible torture, has been made public, yet no president seems willing or able to close the prison.
[Sung.] Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme …
“Scarborough Fair” is a traditional English ballad dating back to at least the 18th century, about a series of tasks set for a girl in the northern English town of Scarborough, if she hopes to win back her former lover. An adaptation by American folk duo Simon & Garfunkel appeared on their 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme; it became a hit single in 1968 after it appeared in the film The Graduate. Sample lyrics: “Are you going to Scarborough Fair/Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme/Remember me to one who lives there/She once was a true love of mine.”
“Ponce de Leon, who sailed with Columbus and established the first permanent settlement on the island.” Oh, thanks a lot, Ponce.
“Ponce,” in addition to being a proper Spanish name, is also a bit of insulting British slang, meaning a man who is a touch effeminate, or possibly a tad pretentious and snobbish.
Valerie Harper look-alike contests are held.
Actress Valerie Harper (1939-2019) was best known for playing Rhoda Morgenstern on the 1970s sitcoms The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) and its spinoff Rhoda (1974-1978).
Here, Up with People get down.
Up with People is a nonprofit international education organization that tours the world with “casts” of college-age members who engage in performing arts and community service. There are more than 20,000 Up with People alumni in 79 countries.
[Sung.] Don’t break my heart, my achy breaky heart.
“Achy Breaky Heart” is a country song written by Don Von Tress that became a huge hit for Billy Ray Cyrus in 1992. It became both Cyrus’ signature song and a favorite among line dancers everywhere during the 1990s. Sample lyrics: “But don’t tell my heart/My achy breaky heart/I just don’t think he’d understand/And if you tell my heart/My achy breaky heart/He might blow up and kill this man.”
Thanks for coming out tonight and supporting live folk dancing. We have another show coming up, so ...
Paraphrased from a familiar line delivered at comedy clubs: “Thanks for coming out and supporting live comedy.” Several MST3K cast members did standup.
Here, Gilligan plays a set.
Clad in a red shirt and white hat, Bob Denver played Gilligan, the dimwitted and accident-prone first mate of the S.S. Minnow, on the TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island (CBS, 1964-1967). The show was about a group of people stranded on a deserted island who tried to escape using bamboo and coconut-based electronics. In the years after the show was cancelled, it became more popular in syndication, leading to two animated series, three reunion TV movies, and a short-lived musical.
“There’s nonstop excitement both night and day.” In Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
Along with Las Vegas, Nevada, New Jersey’s Atlantic City is a well-known mecca for nightlife and legal gambling.
The music of John Philip Salsa.
John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) was an American composer known for his military band marches. “The Liberty Bell” became famous as the theme to Monty Python’s Flying Circus (although it is also frequently played at presidential inaugurations), and “The Stars and Stripes Forever” was named the national march of the United States in 1987.
“The largest crop is sugar cane, which has been cultivated here for centuries.” So you can sugar frost your damn corn flakes, filthy American pigs.
Corn flakes is a popular type of breakfast cereal, invented in the late 1800s by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a staunch Seventh Day Adventist. The cereal was part of a diet plan featuring only bland vegetarian foods, on the belief that sweet, spicy, or flavorful foods led to “passions” and masturbation. His brother Will founded a company to manufacture the cereal, and Kellogg’s was born. Sugar Frosted Flakes (now just called Frosted Flakes), which Kellogg would have frowned on, was not introduced by Kellogg’s until 1952.
When Judy Garland died, it destroyed Puerto Rico’s economy.
Judy Garland (1922-1969) was an actress, singer, and dancer, best remembered for her rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. She also had severe mental health problems, such as depression, alcoholism, and substance abuse. Her drug problems started in her teens, when MGM put her on amphetamines to control her weight; by the time of her death she was also taking Valium, Ritalin, and Thorazine, among other prescription drugs. She died young (at 47) from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.
Then Kiss came to town.
Kiss is a heavy metal band popular in the 1970s known for their bizarre costumes and elaborate black-and-white face paint. Their over-the-top stage show included smoke, flames (sometimes breathed by the band), and an explosive finale where they pretended to blow up their amplifiers. In the 1980s they began performing without the costumes and makeup, although a wildly successful reunion tour in the mid-‘90s brought back the excess of their original ‘70s look.
[Wakka-chukka guitar sounds.]
The “wakka-chukka” guitar sound (see above note on wah-wah pedals) was a staple of groovy 1970s songs, especially themes and incidental music for TV shows and films. The 1971 Isaac Hayes song “Theme from Shaft” is a fine example of the style, which has become a self-contained punchline for any reference to blaxploitation films or porn from the era.
[Union Carbide sign.] And billions poisoned.
The Union Carbide Corporation (owned by the Dow Chemical Company) is a majority stakeholder in Union Carbide India Ltd., which in 1984 was responsible for a leak of methyl isocyanate gas, which is incredibly toxic to humans, at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India. Death toll estimates vary from 2,259 to more than 16,000, with more than half a million injured. The company paid $470 million to settle claims from the disaster.
Another fun friend.
Around the time this episode originally aired (1995), Texaco was in the news for an environmental disaster it had caused in the Amazon rainforest. It had operated in Ecuador for nearly three decades, from 1964 until 1992, developing the Lago Agrio oil field. Over this period, it dumped nearly 20 billion gallons of contaminated water, at one point depositing 4 million gallons per day, polluting 2 million acres of rainforest. In 1993, local residents, who were experiencing high levels of cancer, lung disease, and skin problems, organized and filed a class action lawsuit against Texaco and its parent company Chevron. After the case was moved to an Ecuadorian court at Chevron’s insistence, the court found in favor of the plaintiffs; Chevron then refused to abide by the verdict, claiming the court was illegitimate and biased. In 2016 an arbitration court in The Hague agreed.
Comes complete with a Peter Frampton album.
Peter Frampton is a Grammy Award-winning British rock guitarist and singer-songwriter best known for his massively popular 1976 double live album Frampton Comes Alive!; “Show Me the Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do” were two hit songs from that album. Frampton has made liberal use of a wah-wah pedal (see above note)—Gig-FX makes his signature pedal, the Peter Frampton MegaWah—and talk box effects.
Can you dig it, can you dig it, can you dig it, can you dig it?
Probably riffing on the 1969 hit song “Grazing in the Grass” by the American group The Friends of Distinction. Their tune was a vocal version of an instrumental song by the same name, composed by Philemon Hou and recorded by South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, which itself was a number one hit in 1968. The chorus of the vocal version, with lyrics written by singer Harry Elston, has the rapid-fire lyrics “I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it/We can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it/Oh, let’s dig it/Can you dig it, baby?”
[Loud clock ticking.] I’m Mike Wallace. I’m Morley Safer. I’m Ed Bradley.
The CBS weekly news magazine TV show 60 Minutes (1968-present) begins with a shot of a loudly ticking stopwatch while its hosts give a brief synopsis of the show ahead and introduce themselves in rapid succession. For many years, these included Mike Wallace (1918-2012; appeared 1968-2008), Morley Safer (1931-2016; appeared 1970-2016), and Ed Bradley (1941-2006; appeared 1976-2006).
Odds are, she’s eating ramen noodles tonight.
Ramen noodles are one of the most popular fast foods in Japan, where they are served up in innumerable noodle shops as well as dispensed from vending machines and sports arena concession stands. Instant ramen noodles—which package precooked, dehydrated noodles with spices and dried veggies—are also a staple in Japan, as well as among budget-minded consumers (such as college students) in the West.
[Sung.] Woke up, got out of bed. Dragged a comb across my head.
Paraphrased lyrics from the song “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles, from their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. To wit: An alarm clock rings, and Paul McCartney sings, “Woke up, fell out of bed/Dragged a comb across my head/Found my way downstairs and drank a cup/And looking up I noticed I was late.”
The Ramones were an early New York punk band with a frequently changing lineup, with everyone going by the pseudonym “Ramone.” Founding members included Dee Dee Ramone (Douglas Colvin), Joey Ramone (Jeffrey Hyman), Tommy Ramone (Thomas Erdelyi), and Johnny Ramone (John Cummings); subsequent members included C.J., Marky, Richie, and Elvis Ramone. Joey was the lead singer on songs such as “Blitzkrieg Bop.”
The Cindy Williams murders.
Cindy Williams (1947-2023) was an American actress who landed memorable parts early in her career in director George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973) and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), but is best known for playing Shirley Feeney in the sitcom Laverne & Shirley (ABC, 1976-1983). She sported a kicky short bob.
[Titles: “Presents.”] Scarlett.
Probably a reference to a six-hour TV miniseries that aired on CBS a couple of months before this episode debuted. Scarlett is a 1991 novel by Alexandra Ripley, a largely panned sequel to the 1936 classic novel Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The miniseries, which starred Timothy Dalton and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer as Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara, did moderately well in the ratings, but nowhere near what the network had anticipated.
Ah, Abbott and Costello meet The Beast of Yucca Flats.
Bud Abbott (1895-1974) and Lou Costello (1906-1959) were a comedy team from the 1930s through the 1950s. They got their start in vaudeville and made the leap to radio, TV, and film: seven of their movie titles were Abbott and Costello Meet … the Mummy, the Invisible Man, Frankenstein, etc. They were known for snappy routines like their world-famous “Who’s on First?” Off-screen, the pair loathed each other.
You think Coleman Francis had a casting couch?
The casting couch, a show-business cliché, originated on Broadway around the turn of the 20th century with a couple of theatrical producers known as the Shubert brothers. Lee Shubert, the elder of the two, set aside two rooms: a beautifully furnished bedroom, which he used for leading ladies and up-and-coming stars, and a second room with a shabby couch, on which he “entertained” aspiring chorus girls. Sadly, the casting couch traveled to Hollywood; regardless of the existence of an actual couch, powerful predators like Harvey Weinstein continued to extort actresses a century later.
So the beast pilots in in his own Piper cub.
The Piper Cub is a two-seater light airplane manufactured by Piper Aircraft between 1938 and 1947. Piper Cubs were used in World War II as reconnaissance planes; after the war, its low cost put it within reach of the general public. Modernized versions are manufactured today by two American companies, and the plane remains popular among bush pilots and nostalgic aviation enthusiasts.
Huh. I figured Tor Johnson would play the butler.
Hulking, bald wrestler-turned-actor Tor Johnson (b. Karl Erik Tore Johansson; 1902-1971) is best known as one of director Ed Wood’s regulars, especially for his role as Inspector Clay in Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). Besides The Beast of Yucca Flats, he is known to MSTies for his roles in Show 320, The Unearthly, and Show 423, Bride of the Monster (another Ed Wood masterpiece).
Coleman Francis actually had a staff for this movie. I can’t believe it.
The work of cult filmmaker/actor Coleman Francis (1919-1973) can also be seen in Show 609, The Skydivers, and Show 619, Red Zone Cuba, which form a trilogy of sorts with The Beast of Yucca Flats—with all the light aircraft, skydiving, coffee, cigarettes, and casual gunfire that implies.
[Sung.] Never be your beast of Yucca Flats.
“Beast of Burden” is a song by The Rolling Stones, appearing on their 1978 album Some Girls. Sample lyrics: “I’ll never be your beast of burden/I’ve walked for miles my feet are hurting/All I want is for you to make love to me.”
[Fanfare.] Masterpiece Theatre presents …
Masterpiece Theatre (now simply Masterpiece) is an American anthology series airing on PBS (1971-present) that was hosted for 21 years by Alistair Cooke. (Later hosts have included Russell Baker, Alan Cumming, Gillian Anderson, and David Tennant.) It screens imported British comedy and drama; past shows include I, Claudius, The Jewel in the Crown, and Downton Abbey. Its theme is the fanfare from Jean-Joseph Mouret’s “Rondeau,” in his first Suite of Symphonies.
“A-bomb testing grounds.” Avon testing grounds? –Rabbits with little shaved butts.
Safety testing cosmetics on animals is a controversial topic. In the 1980s, it was a particularly lively controversy, with multiple companies targeted for boycotts by animal rights activists, including Avon, Mary Kay, and Estee Lauder.
Midge Jenkins pulls up. Destination: Yucca Flats Superette.
A Superette is another term for a convenience store or mini-mart.
[Imitating Hank Kimball.] Here’s the airport, Mr. Khrushchev—well, not really an airport, more of a field, landing strip; well, not a strip …
In the TV sitcom Green Acres (CBS, 1965-1971), Hank Kimball (played by Alvy Moore) was the earnest but scatterbrained county agricultural agent in the tiny farming community of Hooterville, and everything he said spiraled into a feedback loop of qualifiers and corrections until he completely lost track of what he was saying. Nikita Khrushchev was the head of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union from 1953-1964. He is considered less brutal than his predecessor (mass murderer Joseph Stalin), and he managed to slightly improve relations with the West, but several of the worst confrontations of the Cold War (e.g., the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the 1961 Berlin Crisis, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis) took place during his premiership.
Marlon Brando arrives for the Larry King interview.
Actor Marlon Brando (1924-2004) was a recluse who almost never gave interviews. But as a result of an overlooked clause in his contract with Random House for his book Songs My Mother Taught Me, he was forced to give one. He chose CNN’s Larry King (1933-2021), and in 1994 sat for an hour-long talk that went wildly off the rails, culminating in Brando kissing King full on the mouth. This is probably also a reference to the infamous story of Brando arriving in the Philippines, where he was due to play tough-as-nails Army Special Forces Colonel Walter Kurtz in the Vietnam War film Apocalypse Now (1979). The actor showed up grossly overweight and completely unfamiliar with the script. Director Francis Ford Coppola ran with it, shaving Brando bald and filming him in deep shadow. In 2014, Brando biographer Susan L. Mizruchi debunked the story, claiming that Brando was well prepared for his role and helped shape the film with his script ideas.
“These men are also behind the Iron Curtain.” Pay no attention to them.
“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” is a line from the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz.
Oh, it’s a divining gun.
A divining rod or dousing rod is a forked stick that is used to detect water beneath the ground. This ability has been rigorously and repeatedly debunked.
Daddy, what’s Vietnam?
In mid-1980s TV commercials for the Time-Life book series “The Vietnam Experience,” an apple-cheeked lad asks this question while visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Ooh, he’s got a high albedo.
Albedo refers to a ratio of light reflection, such as the light from the sun reflecting off the earth. High albedo would be reflective things like snow, while low albedo would be light-absorbing things like plants or water.
Anthony Cardoza (1930-2015) was an American B-movie producer and actor. With more than a dozen films to his “credit,” he is known to MSTies for his collaboration with director Coleman Francis on the trilogy of Red Zone Cuba (Show 619), The Skydivers (Show 609), and The Beast of Yucca Flats, and for Show 209, Hellcats.
Ah, and what would a Coleman Francis movie be without the Coleman Francis mountain?
See above note on Coleman Francis. Francis all too frequently filmed in locations around Yucca Mountain in Nevada, currently the proposed home of a controversial nuclear waste repository.
This does have all the earmarks of a KGB operation.
The KGB—initials for the Russian phrase Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti, which translates to Committee for State Security in English—was the Soviet Union’s far-reaching security agency, operating from 1954 until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Much cloak-and-dagger, Spy vs. Spy activity was involved.
[Imitating.] It’s the KGB, Mr. Benny.
The gravelly voiced Rochester, played by Eddie Anderson (1905-1977), was Jack Benny’s valet and chauffeur on both the radio and TV versions of The Jack Benny Program. Anderson was the first Black performer to have a regular role on a national radio show, and his popularity eventually rivaled that of Benny himself. See previous note on KGB.
He’s either a ruthless agent, or he’s Schemer from Shining Time Station.
Horace Schemer runs the arcade in the fictional Shining Time Station (1989-1993), a children’s show that aired on PBS. Played by Brian O’Conner, Schemer was fond of leisure suits and practical jokes. Shining Time Station also aired segments from the British show Thomas & Friends (a.k.a. Thomas the Tank Engine) as part of the show.
[Sign: Yucca Flats.] A Star City.
The Minnesota Star City Program was a government-led initiative to make the state more business-friendly by educating cities in economic development. If certain conditions were met, they could advertise themselves as a “Star City” and hopefully attract businesses to invest there.
He’s trying things in this movie he later perfected in Red Zone Cuba.
A reference to the Coleman Francis masterpiece Show 619, Red Zone Cuba.
Stay live, whatever occur Tor find.
A paraphrase of an oft-quoted line from the 1992 film The Last of the Mohicans, spoken by Daniel Day-Lewis: “You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you!”
Better call the Kremlin.
In Russia, “kremlin” is a generic term for the fortified central government complex found in most cities, but to people in the West, the Kremlin is the primary government complex found in Moscow, as well as a shorthand for the government of the USSR and, later, the Russian Federation (much as the White House is used for the U.S. government). The site of the Moscow Kremlin has been occupied by a ruling castle since the 100s B.C.E. It served as the home of the tsars during Russia’s imperial era before the Communist Revolution and as the seat of the Soviet government in the early 20th century.
[Sung.] On desert, horse no name. Dah-dah-dah-dah-dah …
A Tor Johnson interpretation of the 1972 hit song “A Horse with No Name,” by the folk rock band America. Songwriter Dewey Bunnell has said the imagery came from his childhood experiences in the Arizona and New Mexico deserts, but some U.S. radio stations banned the song because of the widespread belief that the “horse” in the song referred to heroin. Sample lyrics: “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name/It felt good to be out of the rain/In the desert you can remember your name/’Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.”
Tor was a Navy SEAL so he can handle this.
Navy SEALs (the acronym stands for SEa-Air-Land) are the elite military unit of the U.S. Navy. They trace their origin back to Navy frogmen in World War II (1939-1945).
No, no, no—Mrs. Khrushchev has wandered off again.
See above note on Nikita Khrushchev. He was married twice; his first wife, Yefrosinia, died from typhus in the chaos of the civil war that followed the Bolshevik revolution (1917-1922). In 1922 he met Nina Petrovna Kukharchuk, who became his common-law wife; the two stayed together until his death in 1971. She died in 1984 at the age of 84.
So, you hear that new Yakov Smirnoff album?
Yakov Smirnoff (b. Yakov Naumovich Pokhis) is a Ukrainian-born comedian whose heavily accented standup act was popular in the waning years of the Cold War in the 1980s. Smirnoff frequently appeared on the NBC sitcom Night Court before starring in the short-lived syndicated show What a Country! (1986-1987), named after one of his trademark phrases. In 1993 he began performing at his own theater in Branson, Missouri, where he stayed until late 2015, returning for another run in 2018. Smirnoff earned a PhD in psychology and global scholarship at Pepperdine University in 2019, and has taught college courses such as “The Business of Laughter” and “Happily Ever Laughter.”
“Yucca Flats … the A-bomb …” And thou.
Riffing on an often-quoted line of verse from Omar Khayyam (1048-1143), often called the “astronomer-poet of Persia.” Translations vary, but one of the best known is titled Quatrain XII from the 1889 edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam by Edward FitzGerald:
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
You know, Tor is much like the Thomson’s gazelle, you know, running, leaping to elude his predators.
The Thomson’s gazelle, named after Scottish explorer Joseph Thomson, can reach speeds of about 55 mph. It is ranked as the fifth fastest land animal, beaten out only by the cheetah (not coincidentally its main predator), the pronghorn, and fellow antelopes the springbok and the wildebeest.
Lunchables are a line of premade lunches, featuring Kraft-Oscar Meyer products paired with a drink and dessert. They are filled with salt and fat, so kids love them, but ready-made, so lazy parents love them too. Dietitians hate them.
You dare question the great Oz?
A paraphrase of some of the bombastic rhetoric delivered by The Great and Powerful Oz in the 1939 MGM musical film classic The Wizard of Oz. Actual dialogue: “Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz?! You ungrateful creatures!” The confrontation and dialogue are punctuated by regular thundering booms and explosions, for extra drama.
See Bonnie and Clyde’s death car.
Bonnie Parker (1910-1934) and Clyde Barrow (1909-1934) were American outlaws who gained notoriety during the “Public Enemy” era of the Great Depression, as they and their gang roamed the United States in their V8 Ford robbing gas stations and banks and murdering people. They evaded capture many times by shooting their way out, but their end came on May 23, 1934, in Bienville Parish, Louisiana, when six lawmen ambushed their car on a rural road. All six emptied their automatic rifles at the car, then their shotguns, and finally their pistols. Altogether more than 100 bullets hit the car, which became an immediate popular attraction, drawing crowds at carnivals, flea markets, and state fairs for the next 30 years (as did a half-dozen fakes) as “Bonnie and Clyde’s death car.” The car now resides in a casino in Primm, Nevada, along with the shirt Clyde was wearing when he was killed.
It was a dark and boring night.
“It was a dark and stormy night” is the opening line to the 1830 novel Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. It has become known as the epitome of hackneyed writing, to the extent that a Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest, sponsored by the English department at San Jose State University, is held annually to choose the worst opening sentence to an (imaginary) novel.
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967) was an American poet, essayist, and novelist who lived in Chicago for much of his life and wrote many poems about that city.
I never said that, it’s so funny you’d think I would say that, I never said that.
Riffing on one of Martin Short’s characters from his single season (1984-1985) on NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Nathan Thurm was an uptight, chain-smoking, shady lawyer who was deeply paranoid and in denial about his paranoia, saying things like, “I’m not being defensive, you’re the one who’s being defensive. It’s so funny that you would think I’m being defensive …”
I wonder if I look like Laura Dern. Naah. Well … Naah.
Laura Dern is an actress (the daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd) who has appeared in such films as Wild at Heart (1990), Jurassic Park (1993), and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017).
Kenneth Branagh’s, Mary Shelley’s, Bram Stoker’s, Wes Craven’s, Tim Burton’s Beast of Yucca Flats, a Francis Ford Coppola film.
Generally, these are directors and writers who are so famous that their works are often preceded by their names to distinguish them like vanity license plates, and sometimes in combination. Such as the 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, or the 1994 horror film Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, directed by Kenneth Branagh. There have also been films called Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994) and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and the later Corpse Bride (2005), which were advertised with “Tim Burton’s” slapped on top of the title.
He always did want a great pair of L’eggs.
L’eggs are a brand of nylon pantyhose that were introduced by Hanes in 1969 and initially sold inside white, egg-shaped plastic containers. Their slogan was “Nothing beats a great pair of L’eggs.” In 1991, over concerns about wasteful plastic packaging, Hanes discontinued the eggs and went with regular cardboard boxes.
You can see why Georgia O’Keeffe loved this part of the country.
Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was a highly respected American painter known for her sensuous paintings of flowers, rocks, skulls, and landscapes. She lived in New Mexico for most of her career, and many of her paintings have a strongly Southwestern flavor.
Must get home to watch 5 Mrs. Buchanans.
A 17-episode flop, the sitcom The 5 Mrs. Buchanans (CBS, 1994-1995) was about four very different women who each marry a Buchanan brother, but share a loathing of their mother-in-law, the fifth Mrs. Buchanan.
I’m Cherokee Jack.
Cherokee Jack (also played by George Prince, here playing the man who reports the murder) was an odd character from Red Zone Cuba (Show 619). “I’m Cherokee Jack” was his introductory line, and became a running gag on the show.
He leaves to the strains of the Cherokee Jack theme.
See previous note.
The Bartók music really makes the scene.
Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was a Hungarian classical composer known particularly for his use of folk songs in his music.
Finder of lost loves.
Finder of Lost Loves was a TV series that aired for one season, 1984-1985. It starred Tony Franciosa as a private eye specializing in reuniting people with their old flames.
Oh, it’s Westworld.
Westworld is a 1973 lowish-budget sci-fi film about an Old West-themed amusement park featuring lifelike robots that interact with the guests. It was written and directed by Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park). Yul Brynner plays an unstoppable murderous gunslinger, wearing the same outfit he wore in The Magnificent Seven (1960). Classic. In 2016 HBO rebooted the franchise with a well-received series starring Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins, among many others.
Okay, car, draw!
A flat “Draw” was Yul Brynner’s challenge to his opponents in Westworld (see previous note).
What the hell, it’s got a Nash front and a VW back.
Nash Motors Company was an American carmaker that operated independently from 1916 to 1937 and then continued production until 1957 under different names. Nash brought in some interesting features, such as interior heating and ventilation, and seat belts. The Volkswagen (or VW) Beetle was originally produced in Germany in 1937, in answer to a demand by Nazi dictator and failed painter Adolf Hitler for a “people’s car.” The cars were small, round, inexpensive vehicles aimed at the mass market. They did not catch on in the United States until 1959 and have since become an icon of 1960s culture. They were favored by the (often broke) counterculture of that decade because they were inexpensive to buy, cheap to maintain, and lasted practically forever.
Hey, a little bit of melted leftover Kit Kat bar.
The Kit Kat bar is a candy bar manufactured by Hershey’s in the U.S. and by Nestle everywhere else, consisting of two wafer-like cookies covered in a thin coating of chocolate. It was first produced in the U.K. in the 1930s.
“A man choked to death. A woman’s purse. And footprints on the wasteland.” His limericks aren’t very good.
A limerick is a verse consisting of five lines with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA, dating back to the 18th century and popularized in the 19th century by poet Edward Lear. They are generally humorous and often quite raunchy. Here’s a clean one:
There was an old fellow named Green,
Who grew so abnormally lean,
And flat, and compressed,
That his back touched his chest,
And sideways he couldn’t be seen.
It’s assumed the name comes from the city or county of Limerick in Ireland, but the connection remains obscure.
Watch out for snakes.
An oft-repeated riff that was first heard, totally out of the blue and from an off-camera voice, in Show 506, Eegah! It became one of their most popular catchphrases, and the theme of the 2017 MST3K Live! Watch Out for Snakes! Tour.
[Sung.] Hosanna superstar.
Chorus lines from the song “This Jesus Must Die/Hosanna” from the 1970 Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The opening lyrics to the song: “Gentlemen, you know why we are here/We’ve not much time and quite a problem here/Hosanna Superstar/Hosanna Superstar/Hosanna Superstar/Hosanna Superstar.”
Maybe these people have some crullers.
Crullers are a kind of donut, usually rectangular and often twisted. A French cruller is a lighter, round doughnut made from choux pastry. The name comes from the Dutch krullen, which means “to curl.”
She’s wearing her wonder nighty.
The Wonderbra is a push-up bra introduced to the U.S. in 1994, although it had been available in Canada since the 1960s; it quickly became one of the best-selling bra lines of all time.
Affordable tract housing.
Tract housing is associated with Levittown, a planned community in New York state built after World War II for veterans and their growing families. Only white residents were allowed. Nearly identical houses and lots were sold at discounted prices because materials and assembly methods were standardized. The original, un-landscaped clone houses had a sterile, dehumanizing look.
That place probably has an assumable mortgage.
An assumable mortgage is one in which a new homebuyer can take over an existing mortgage, paying for any equity in the house in cash. FHA and VA loans (such as the ones made to Levittown buyers) are generally assumable.
July 12th. Tor establishes base camp at the foot of Mt. Shasta.
Probably referring to documentaries about the climbing of Mt. Everest, which outlined the technical details of how it was done, introducing the public to terms like “base camp.” There are two base camps on Mt. Everest used by climbers: one in Nepal at about 17,600 feet, and one in China at about 17,000 feet. Climbers usually make it to base camp and stay for a few days to get used to the altitude before making their push for the top. Mt. Shasta, in the southern Cascade range of California, is a presumably active volcano (the last eruption appears to have been about 200 years ago) with an elevation of 14,000 feet. It is a popular climb, but unlike Everest (which stands at 29,000 feet) does not require a base camp.
I’ll carry over threshold. [Sung.] Dah dah dah, dah dah dah.
This is the “Bridal Chorus” from Richard Wagner’s 1850 opera Lohengrin, also sometimes referred to as “Here Comes the Bride.” The original version has lyrics, in German, which translate as: “Faithfully guided, draw near/To where the blessing of love shall preserve you!/Triumphant courage, the reward of love/Joins you in faith as the happiest of couples!” There is also a tradition of the groom carrying his new bride over the threshold of their home as they enter it for the first time, the explanation for which varies from cute (it’s for good luck) to horrible (it’s to show she’s going unwillingly, like a rape victim).
Geez, a phrenologist would have a field day with Tor’s skull.
Phrenology was a pseudoscience popularized in the early 19th century by German physician Franz Joseph Gall, among others, who believed that by analyzing the bumps on the human skull, one could determine the qualities of a person’s character. The discipline lent itself readily to racism, sexism, classism, and multiple other -isms. Diagnosis: Quackery. Thankfully it had mostly died out by the latter half of the 19th century and today exists largely in the form of quaint “phrenology heads,” porcelain busts designed to aid phrenologists in their diagnoses.
[Sung.] Tor want to make it with you.
“Make It with You” is a song written by David Gates that was a number-one hit for his band Bread in 1970. Sample lyrics: “Baby you know that dreams they’re for those who sleep/Life is for us to keep/And if I chose the one I’d like to help me through/I’d like to make it with you.”
Ah ha. Night on Butt Mountain.
Night on Bald Mountain is a series of orchestral pieces meant to evoke a witches’ Sabbath, written in 1867 by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. In 1886, Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov published his arrangement of the work, and it is this version that became famous, even entering the pop culture lexicon after it was used in the 1940 Disney animated feature Fantasia.
Ricola is a Swiss-made brand of herbal cough drops. Their commercials feature guys in traditional Swiss attire standing in the majestic Swiss Alps and playing a few notes on a giant alpine horn, accompanied by a yodeled “Riiii-colaaa!”
[Sung.] Hills alive, sound of music …
A Tor Johnson spin on lyrics from the song “The Sound of Music,” from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical of the same name, and its 1965 film adaptation. Actual lyrics: “The hills are alive with the sound of music/With songs they have sung for a thousand years …”
Father McKenzie, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there.
Paraphrased lyrics from the 1966 song “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles. It can be heard on their album Revolver, and is featured in the 1968 animated movie Yellow Submarine. The verse in question: “Father McKenzie/Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear/No one comes near/Look at him working/Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there/What does he care?”
Yeah, I think I left a bag of crullers up here last month.
See above note on crullers.
This is one tough par five.
In the game of golf, “par” is the preassigned number of strokes it should take for a player to get the ball from one hole to the next. So on a par five, the player hopes to get the ball in the next hole with (for example) one drive, two strokes on the fairway, and two putts on the green. If you can do it with fewer strokes, then you’re “under par,” and that’s a good thing.
“Jim and Joe pick their way upward to the mouth of the cave.” To fetch a pail of water.
From the traditional English nursery rhyme “Jack and Jill”: “Jack and Jill went up the hill/To fetch a pail of water/Jack fell down and broke his crown/And Jill came tumbling after.” The earliest known printed version dates back to around 1765.
They haven’t gotten very far with the Crazy Horse monument.
The Crazy Horse Memorial is a monument that has been under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota since 1948. Crazy Horse himself was an Oglala Lakota warrior who waged war on the U.S. government in the 1870s and was involved in the Battle of Little Big Horn. The monument, a 560-foot-high statue of Crazy Horse seated on a horse, is being carved out of the face of a mountain; progress has been slow, although the face has been completed. The monument has been controversial; Crazy Horse never wanted to be photographed, and many claim that the idea of leveling a mountain to create an image of him is against his ideals and spirit. Others contend those claims disrespect the value of the memorial and the awareness it can raise.
[Imitating.] Hello, Mr. Johnson, heh-hellew Tor? You at home?
An imitation of Flash Bazbo—Space Explorer, a recurring character on The National Lampoon Radio Hour, a weekly show that ran on about 600 radio stations in 1974. Christopher Guest voiced Flash Bazbo; the show also featured early work by John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and many others.
I think this is the single hardest item on the scavenger hunt.
A scavenger hunt is a game in which contestants are given an identical list of objects to find; the first one back with everything on the list wins. Society columnist Elsa Maxwell is credited with inventing it back in the 1930s, when it became a popular party game.
Did the beast get mentioned in Winchell?
Something like the Matt Drudge of his time (and wearing a similar hat), Walter Winchell (1897-1972) was a newspaper gossip columnist who got into radio broadcasting early on. He delivered a popular mix of gossip and news in a unique, fast-paced style with a tapping telegraph in the background. You can hear his voice as the narrator of the television series The Untouchables (ABC, 1959-1963).
Meanwhile, in the bustling downtown district, or the Loop as they call it …
The phrase “Meanwhile, back at _____,” originated with cards inserted in silent films of the early 20th century. In westerns, this was often “Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...” Once audio became a common component, the phrase was still used by narrators in films and radio and television shows. The Loop is the downtown business district of Chicago, Illinois. It refers to the city’s elevated train system, which makes a loop around the area for easy access.
Boys who swordfight in the desert sand.
A fairly typical activity among rambunctious little boys playing outside: taking a pee simultaneously and having an imaginary “swordfight” with the urine streams.
Check the oil, Lassie.
Lassie is a hyper intelligent collie dog who starred in an eponymous TV series, which aired from 1954-1974, as well as a series of movies. These include MST3K Show 510, The Painted Hills.
Hail to the gold monkey.
Possibly a reference to the TV adventure program Tales of the Gold Monkey (ABC, 1982-1983). Featuring lots of exotic locations, airplanes, and cliffhangers, it was rushed onto the air following the success of the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The show was fairly successful, but not enough to justify the high production costs.
Humphrey was the name of Kevin Murphy’s dog, a fluffy cocker spaniel who has since gone to live on that great farm in the sky. Humphrey played a “werewolf” in the final host segment of Show 904, Werewolf, and appeared cradled in the arms of each MST3K writer in their author photos for The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide.
Pigs begin writing on the side of the barn.
In George Orwell’s 1948 allegorical novella Animal Farm, the pigs who overthrow the farmer paint the Seven Commandments of Animalism on the side of the barn, including “All animals are equal.” By the end, when the pigs have been thoroughly corrupted by power, they replace the seven commandments with just one, the famous phrase “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
We’re going to the ear wax museum.
A wax museum is an exhibition of lifelike wax figures, usually of famous people such as actors, musicians, world leaders, and sports figures. Sometimes there is a separate exhibit known as the “chamber of horrors,” which features serial killers and such. Wax museums first emerged during the 18th century; Madame Tussauds museum, probably the most famous, was founded in London in 1835 and still exists today, with multiple locations around the world. The Hollywood Wax Museum in California (founded 1965) is also an enduring tourist attraction.
You shouldn’t have killed that pig.
In the 1954 novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding, a group of British schoolboys are stranded on a tropical island. Their attempt to govern themselves quickly descends into savagery. One group of boys kills a pig for food, mounts its head on a stick, and offers the head as a sacrifice to the beast that supposedly haunts the island; the pig head becomes the titular “Lord of the Flies.”
“To reach the top, a man needs an airplane.” Or a big pogo stick.
The pogo stick, a short, pole-like device with a spring in the shaft that allows the user to jump in a standing position, was invented by Germans Max Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall in 1920. Pogo sticks have been marketed as both toys and exercise equipment.
The beast put a hundred down and bought an old Studebaker.
Studebaker is a defunct automaker out of South Bend, Indiana. They produced cars, including some early electric models, from around 1902 until 1966.
Yucca Flats Frontier Days is every August, by the way. The Yucca Flats Jaycees are very active.
Multiple cities in the U.S. hold Frontier Days events—Cheyenne, Wyoming; Round Rock, Texas; and Willits, California, among others. Frontier Days generally include rodeos, barbecues, parades, arts and crafts fairs, etc. Jaycees, or JCs, is short for the United States Junior Chamber, a civic organization for people between the ages of 18 and 40, which focuses on leadership training, community service, business development, and management skills.
“But the killer is not on the plateau.” The killer’s in Memphis marrying his 12-year-old cousin.
“The Killer” is the nickname of rockabilly piano phenom Jerry Lee Lewis (1935-2022). In 1957, Lewis, then 22, married his 13-year-old cousin-once-removed, Myra Brown, an act that wrecked his career. It was his third marriage; the ceremony had to be repeated the following year because he had not yet been divorced from his second wife at the time.
Jaworski, Ron Jaworski. Played quarterback for the Eagles.
Ron Jaworski is a former NFL quarterback who indeed played for the Philadelphia Eagles (from 1977-1986). He went on to become an NFL analyst for ESPN from 2006-2017, and now owns and manages golf courses.
Plus, Coleman has lots of skydiving footage.
A reference to Show 609, The Skydivers.
Hey! How’d they get in Cuba?
A reference to Show 619, Red Zone Cuba.
[Imitating Popeye.] Let me put my little star on here.
Popeye the Sailor is a character created by E.C. Segar in 1929 for the “Thimble Theatre” comic strip, which had already been running for ten years at that point. He soon became the main focus of the comic, which was renamed “Popeye” in the 1970s. In 1933, Popeye became an animated character as well, thanks to the artistry of Fleischer Studios and the voice work of Billy Costello and (mainly) Jack Mercer. Popeye’s under-his-breath mutterings were ad-libbed by Mercer beginning in 1935, and many people have speculated that some of them would have been censored if they’d been easier to understand.
A series of children’s graphic novels by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, writing under the pen name Hergé, is collectively called The Adventures of Tintin. First appearing in 1929, Tintin is a young reporter who gets into wild adventures of all sorts.
The bestIest gun in the West.
Possibly a riff on The Shakiest Gun in the West, a 1968 comic western movie starring Don Knotts as a dentist who unwittingly becomes a gunfighter.
[Sung.] Those mediocre men in their flying machines. –They kinda go uppity-uppity up.
Riffing on the title song to the 1965 movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, which is about a 1910 air race from London to Paris. Actual lyrics: “Those magnificent men in their flying machines/They go up tiddly up up/They go down tiddly down down/They enchant all the ladies and steal all the scenes/With their up tiddly up up/And their down tiddly down down.”
Thank God for the Steadicam, huh?
Steadicam is a brand of stabilizing camera mount that is basically worn by the operator and mechanically counters their movements. This allows for smooth shots even if the operator is running or climbing over surfaces. It was invented in 1975 by cameraman Garrett Brown, who used the rig while filming Return of the Jedi. Brown walked through a California redwood forest shooting at an extremely slow rate and used the sped-up footage for the speeder bike chase on the moon of Endor.
I love an Old Gold man.
Old Gold are a brand of cigarettes by Lorillard Tobacco, which is now owned by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Its slogan from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s was “Not a cough in a carload.” They are still made today.
The dingoes took my baby!
The 1988 Meryl Streep film A Cry in the Dark is based on a true story about an Australian mother, Lindy Chamberlain, who in 1980 claimed wild dingoes stole her infant girl from their family’s tent while camping. Few believed her at the time, and she was convicted of murder. But in 1986 the baby’s jacket was found near a dingo’s lair, and Chamberlain was set free. “A dingo took my baby!” was reportedly what Chamberlain cried to her husband, and the phrase was popularized during the trial and by the Streep film.
[Sung.] I feel pretty, oh so pretty.
The song “I Feel Pretty” is from the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story and its 1961 film adaptation. Sample lyrics: “I feel pretty/Oh so pretty/I feel pretty and witty and bright/And I pity/Any girl who isn’t me tonight.”
Ron and Clint Howard in True West.
True West is a 1980 play by noted modern playwright Sam Shepard. It is about the sibling rivalry between two brothers who reunite after a long separation. The 1982 off-Broadway production starred two then-relatively unknown actors, Gary Sinise and John Malkovich. Brothers Ron and Clint Howard both got their start as child stars: Ron on The Andy Griffith Show, (CBS, 1960-1968) and Clint on Gentle Ben (CBS, 1967-1969).
Geez, the first McDonald’s Playlands weren’t that good.
Some early 1970s McDonald’s restaurants had an area called Playland, full of playground equipment themed to look like the chain’s cartoon mascots: Ronald McDonald, Mayor McCheese, and the rest of the gang. These play areas evolved into McDonald’s current PlayPlaces, featuring interesting modern playgrounds with elaborate climbing structures.
[Sung.] There’s a bright golden haze on the …
A snippet from the song “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’,” from the 1943 Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical Oklahoma! and its 1955 film adaptation. Some more lyrics: “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow/The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye/An’ it looks like its climbin’ clear up to the sky/Oh what a beautiful mornin’/Oh what a beautiful day/I’ve got a beautiful feelin’/Everything’s going my way.”
[Sung.] Hosanna superstar. –Stop that. –Sorry.
See above note on Jesus Christ Superstar.
It’s Nickelodeon’s Waiting for Godot.
Waiting for Godot is a famous play by Samuel Beckett, first performed in 1953. It is known as a play about nothing, since Godot never actually shows up, and the play is about two men, Vladimir and Estragon, discussing a variety of subjects while waiting in vain for him to appear. Nickelodeon is a children’s-oriented cable network run by the media conglomerate Viacom.
Well, on the good side, this is time away from Mrs. Potato Head.
Mr. Potato Head is a classic children’s toy first introduced in 1952 by Hasbro; it has been in continuous production ever since. Mrs. Potato Head was introduced the following year. The first toy to be advertised on television, it has enjoyed a big comeback since being featured as a character in the Toy Story film franchise. It originally consisted of plastic parts that were meant to be stuck in an actual potato or other vegetable; after complaints about rotted vegetables and dangerously sharp pointy bits, it was reinvented with a plastic potato-shaped body in 1964.
Disappointing turnout for REO Speedwagon at Alpine Valley.
REO Speedwagon is an American rock band that enjoyed major success in the late 1970s through the mid-80s, with such hits as “Keep on Loving You” and “Take It On the Run.” Alpine Valley Music Theatre is a large, outdoor concert venue in rural East Troy, Wisconsin, that draws audiences from cities such as Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago. It was a great place to see The Grateful Dead, and it’s also where Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter accident.
Why, it’s Verne Gagne.
Verne Gagne (1926-2015) was a well-known professional wrestler and wrestling promoter who has been inducted into several wrestling halls of fame. He had a very long career, including owning one of the large wrestling companies, the American Wrestling Association, which was based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Looks like a lawn jockey.
A lawn jockey is a small statue of a man in horse-racing gear, often holding a lantern. They were meant to be placed in front of homes for use as hitching posts. Traditionally, the figure portrayed a cartoonishly exaggerated Black man, and many people consider them racist for this reason. Later lawn jockeys used a more nondescript, generally Caucasian figure. They are, overall, problematic.
[Sung.] One singular sensation a-dee-da-dee-da-dee-dah …
A bit of lyric from the song “One,” which appears in the 1975 Marvin Hamlisch/Edward Kleban musical A Chorus Line. Some more: “One singular sensation every little step she takes/One thrilling combination every move that she makes/One smile and suddenly nobody else will do/You know you’ll never be lonely with you-know-who.”
Hey, they opened up the new Prange Way.
Prange Way was a chain of discount department stores in the upper Midwest, with locations in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota. Established in 1911, the last stores closed in 1995.
Vacationing at the Most Dangerous Game Dude Ranch.
The Most Dangerous Game is a 1932 film, based on a 1924 short story by Richard Connell; the movie starred Joel McCrea and Fay Wray as shipwrecked passengers on a mysterious island whose owner hunts humans for sport. A later adaptation was 1961’s Bloodlust, which became MST3K Show 607.
Is that a Piper or a Beechcraft?
Piper Aircraft and Beechcraft are both small airplane manufacturers. Piper makes single-engine planes popular with private owners and air taxi companies. Beechcraft focuses on building business jets and specialized planes for the military.
This guy’s a terrible shot; no wonder we lost Korea.
The Korean War, which was fought between North Korea (supported by China and the Soviet Union), and South Korea (supported by the U.N., but mostly the United States), lasted from 1950 to 1953. The war ended with the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, which created a demilitarized zone between the two countries. No actual peace treaty was signed, so technically North and South Korea are still at war.
[Imitating.] Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee, oh, owie.
Possibly an imitation of Pee-wee Herman, a character created by comedian Paul Reubens. A hyperactive man-child in a too-tight grey suit and a red bowtie, Pee-wee began as a somewhat adult-oriented stage act in The Groundlings improv comedy troupe in Los Angeles; the show was filmed for a very popular 1981 HBO special. Reubens then toned down the adult humor and brought Pee-wee to the big screen with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in 1985, with Tim Burton directing. The movie was a hit, leading to an Emmy Award-winning children’s television series, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which ran on CBS from 1986-1990. Another feature film, Big Top Pee-wee, was released in 1988. Reubens later performed other roles in various movies and TV shows, but continued with the Pee-wee character, including in 2016 for the Netflix movie Pee-wee’s Big Holiday.
What do they got, a spider monkey holding the camera?
Spider monkeys, native to Central American forests, have really long, thin arms and legs (hence the name). There are seven species of spider monkeys; all are endangered, some critically.
Ah, bit of a ripoff? –Coleman steals from only the best.
The shot here is framed almost identically to a famous scene in the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest, in which Cary Grant is chased through a field by a low-flying crop duster.
[Imitating.] Ow, that is hard on the crotch, I must say …
Possibly an imitation of Ed Grimley, a character created by Martin Short during his time with The Second City improv troupe. Grimley followed Short to SCTV in 1982 and his mid-1980s stint on Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975-present). He also got a short-lived animated series, The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley (NBC, 1988), with Short providing the voice. Grimley is a hyperactive man-child similar to Pee-wee Herman (see previous note), with excessively high-waisted pants and an extreme cowlick. “I must say …” was one of his catchphrases.
“Shoot first, ask questions later.” Ask Christian Slater?
Christian Slater is an American actor best known for his roles in the movies Heathers (1988) and True Romance (1993). More recently he received wide critical acclaim for his performance in the TV show Mr. Robot (USA, 2015-2019), earning a Golden Globe Award in 2016 and nominations the following two years.
Great Waffle House down there.
Waffle House is a chain of breakfast restaurants founded in 1955. The vast majority of its more than 2,100 locations are in the South. The restaurants are famous for staying open no matter what, so in 2011 the Federal Emergency Management Agency began using the Waffle House Index as a quick-and-dirty method of determining how bad the situation on the ground was during a disaster: if the Waffle House is open, you’re in pretty good shape. If it’s closed, you know you’re in trouble. Throw everything you’ve got at it.
[Sung.] Everything’s going my … Well, I’d better get back.
See above note on “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.”
He’s headed for Caesars Palace.
A reference to “the Fan Man,” James Miller. In 1993, Miller used a fan-powered paraglider to illegally fly into the Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe heavyweight boxing match at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He crash-landed in the ring during the seventh round, and was severely beaten by security. Fan Man made three similar appearances, including an incident the following year when he landed on top of Buckingham Palace and mooned the police. Facing financial problems and suffering from ill health, Miller committed suicide in 2002.
This is not my beautiful gulch.
Riffing on lyrics from the 1981 Talking Heads song “Once in a Lifetime.” Sample lyrics: “And you may tell yourself, ‘This is not my beautiful house’/And you may tell yourself, ‘This is not my beautiful wife.’”
I thought they said June 5th!
D-Day, the World War II Allied invasion of France, took place on June 6th, 1944. As part of the invasion, the U.S. military dropped more than 13,000 paratroopers behind enemy lines. They were badly scattered on landing and had difficulty holding off the German forces, but eventually succeeded.
The Shootist with John Wayne.
The Shootist is a 1976 Western starring John Wayne as a gunfighter with terminal cancer looking for a way to go out with dignity. It was Wayne’s last film; he died—of stomach cancer—three years later.
“Jim Archer. Ex-paratrooper. Trained to hunt down his man and destroy him.” And your State Farm representative.
State Farm is a large, comprehensive insurance company based in Bloomington, Illinois.
He wakes with a taste for heroin.
The latex (a white, milky substance) of the opium poppy can be processed in a number of ways, yielding pharmaceutical-grade morphine or heroin, or the much cruder black tar heroin. Heroin is considered one of the most addictive substances known to man.
[Sung.] Hosanna superstar. –I told you once already. –Sorry.
See above note on Jesus Christ Superstar.
[Sung.] Hosanna …
See above note on Jesus Christ Superstar.
“The hunter and the hunted.” This fall on ABC.
The American Broadcasting Company began as a radio network in 1943, and branched into television in 1948. In 1996 it was acquired by The Walt Disney Company.
[Imitating.] Just as Jim closes in for the kill, so does Mutual of Omaha close in for the kill.
An imitation of host Marlin Perkins (1905-1986) from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, one of the earliest nature shows on television. It originally aired on NBC from 1963 to 1971 and went on to find even greater success in syndication, running until 1988. It was revived in 2002 on the cable channel Animal Planet, still sponsored by the insurance company Mutual of Omaha. During its height, Perkins was one of the most recognizable faces on TV. Ripe for parody was Perkins’ tendency to remain safely in a jeep or boat while younger co-host Jim Fowler was out aggressively engaging with dangerous wild animals, not to mention his sometimes surreal attempts to draw comparisons between the wildlife action on the screen and the viewers’ insurance needs.
She was in a Bergman film, where she played “Low Self-Esteem.”
Ingmar Bergman (1918-2007) was a Swedish writer/director/producer/actor who is one of the most highly respected filmmakers of the 20th century. His films include The Seventh Seal (1957), Persona (1966), and Cries & Whispers (1972). His movies are often short on dialogue but long on metaphysics.
[Imitating.] Harcourt Fenton Mudd, you dirty rotten lazy thing-thing-thing.
Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd (played by Roger Carmel) was a boorish space pirate and swindler on the original Star Trek television series (NBC, 1966-1969). In the episode “I, Mudd,” he is enjoying life as the “ruler” of a planet populated by comely androids, except for one constructed to look like his wife Stella, who nags him mercilessly until told to shut up. The above riff is a paraphrase of Stella’s dialogue:
Stella: “Harcourt Fenton Mudd, what have you been up to? Nothing good, I’m sure. Well, let me tell you, you lazy, good-for-nothing …”
Mudd: “Shut up.”
Stella: “Nothing-thing-thing …”
As part of his punishment for crimes against the crew of the Enterprise, they hand him over to 500 replicas of Stella, and turn off the “shut up” function. Carmel had already played the role in a previous episode, “Mudd’s Women.” Rainn Wilson played a younger Harry Mudd in the web series Star Trek: Discovery (CBS All Access, 2017-present).
Bob Matthias is Chet Baker in The Jesse Owens Story.
Odd juxtaposition of Bob Mathias, who was an Olympic decathlon champion and congressman, the great jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, and legendary Olympic track star Jesse Owens. The Jesse Owens Story was a 1984 made-for-TV movie about Owens that starred Dorian Harewood in the title role; Harewood has also appeared on 7th Heaven and I’ll Fly Away, among many other TV shows and films, and done quite a bit of voiceover work for video games.
“Man’s inhumanity to man.” Or beast’s in-hu-beastity to beast.
The first documented use of the phrase “Man’s inhumanity to man” is a 1784 poem by Robert Burns titled “Man Was Made to Mourn: A Dirge”: “Man’s inhumanity to man/Makes countless thousands mourn!” Burns may have “borrowed” the concept from German philosopher Samuel von Pufendorf who, in 1673, wrote “More inhumanity has been done by man himself than any other of nature’s causes.”
The fifth-grade production of Of Mice And Men.
Of Mice and Men is a 1937 short novel by John Steinbeck about two drifters (George and Lennie), one of whom is very strong but a bit slow in the head (Lennie), who get jobs working on a ranch in California. Steinbeck adapted it for the stage the same year it was published, and a version that played on Broadway (with Broderick Crawford as Lennie) was critically and popularly acclaimed.
Heidi, the mature years.
Heidi is a children’s book by Swiss author Johanna Spyri, first published in 1881, that tells the story of a young girl sent to live with her crotchety grandfather in his home in the Swiss Alps. She learns to love her new home, and he learns to love her, before they are cruelly torn apart and Heidi is sent back to languish in the big city. Fortunately everything turns out happily in the end.
Those Donner Party people seemed very nice.
The Donner Party was a group of about 80 settlers who, led by George and Jacob Donner, tried to make it to California during the winter of 1846-1847. They got trapped in a remote Sierra Nevada pass by a winter storm; half of them died before they could be rescued, and the survivors resorted to cannibalism to keep themselves alive.
Well, I’ll permit myself one Chiclet now.
Chiclets is a type of candy-coated gum made by Mondolez International. It was first introduced in 1900. The name comes from the Mexican Spanish word “chicle,” which is a natural gum collected from sapodilla trees. Under the candy coating, Chiclets are still made from chicle.
So Francis promised you back-end too?
In the movie business, “back-end” means an agreement that someone—a writer or actor, usually—will be paid a percentage of the net profits of the film, after all the other costs of making the movie have been subtracted. While back-end deals have occasionally become goldmines, it’s more often a way for unscrupulous or budget-strapped filmmakers to get a movie made without actually paying salaries; “profit” figures can notoriously be manipulated, so that even hugely successful films can claim they didn’t make money. Much rarer, and potentially more lucrative, are “front-end” deals, where someone gets a percentage of the gross profits, before the production costs have been subtracted.
Remarkably, the boys stumble across the source of the Nile.
Exploring the interior of Africa was very big business for British scientists in the 19th century. One of the key questions Britain’s Royal Geographical Society wanted to answer was where the source of the Nile River was. In 1858, Richard Burton (pictured here) and John Speke set out to find it. They didn’t get along, suffered horribly, and Burton got extremely sick with malaria, so Speke was alone when he stumbled on an enormous lake, which he dubbed Lake Victoria, and promptly concluded it was the source of the Nile. Which pissed off Burton no end—partly because it was just a guess, and partly because Speke had gone ahead without Burton, and partly because when Speke got back to Britain without the ailing Burton, he told everyone about it despite having promised not to. Speke went back the following year and confirmed to his satisfaction that Lake Victoria was in fact the source; Burton was so angry at this point that he challenged Speke to a debate at the Society. However, Speke died the day before the debate was to be held in a shooting “accident.” There were rumors Burton had killed him; it’s more likely Speke killed himself. They took their science seriously back then. Incidentally, it’s since been confirmed that Lake Victoria is in fact the source of the Nile, so Speke was right.
The concept of Wham! is born.
Wham! was a 1980s pop duo from England that featured singer/keyboardist George Michael and guitarist Andrew Ridgeley. Considered a big player in the “Second British Invasion,” in which ‘80s bands rode high on the popularity given them by music videos on MTV, Wham! had major hits with songs like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Careless Whisper.”
[Wolf howl.] The young Ed McMahon.
Ed McMahon (1923-2009) was a comedian and TV personality, best remembered as the announcer and sidekick on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (NBC, 1962-1992), where his signature catchphrase was a wolf-like “Hi-yo!” In later years, he hosted the original Star Search from 1983 to 1995, and was a pitchman for Colonial Penn life insurance and American Family Publishers, among others.
I must pose for my Dust Bowl portrait.
The Dust Bowl was the result of a massive drought that happened during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Large-scale dust storms caused widespread destruction of farms in the Great Plains states. This is probably a reference to a famous 1936 photograph by Dorothea Lange, one of the iconic images of the Great Depression, called Migrant Mother, that shows an exhausted, dirty woman, her hand to her face, with her two tired children burying their faces against her shoulders. (The woman was Florence Owens Thompson, and was actually a migrant farm worker from California, who had left Oklahoma before the Dust Bowl began.)
Back in ‘54, there were many gentlemen callers I had.
A reference to a scene in the 1944 Tennessee Williams play The Glass Menagerie, in which Tom and Laura’s mother Amanda begins telling a story she has clearly told many, many times before: “One Sunday afternoon in Blue Mountain—your mother received—seventeen! gentlemen callers!”
I swallowed a bug.
In an infamous outtake from the 1979 film Apocalypse Now, while solemnly declaiming one of his big speeches, Marlon Brando stops, grimaces horribly, and says, “I swallowed a bug.”
They must have dropped a bowl of Cream of Wheat on his head and it hardened.
Cream of Wheat is a dehydrated wheat farina porridge that was first sold in 1893. The brand is owned by B&G Foods. It looks vaguely similar to grainy mashed potatoes when cooked.
Is that yellow tigertail?
A yellow-tipped tigertail (Choristhemis flavoterminata) is a type of dragonfly native to Australia. They have a long, thin brown or gray body ending in a bright yellow tip.
[Sung.] High on hill live lonely goat herd, lay lay loo …
A Tor Johnson spin on the yodel-icious song “The Lonely Goatherd,” another tune from the Broadway musical/film The Sound of Music (see above note). Actual lyrics: “High on a hill was a lonely goatherd/Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo/Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd/Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo.”
Tor is all the Brothers Johnson rolled into one.
The Brothers Johnson were an American funk and R&B duo consisting of real-life brothers George and Louis Johnson. Their best years were 1975 to 1982, with hit singles including “I’ll Be Good to You” and “Stomp!”; after their split in 1982 they reunited occasionally until Louis’s death in 2015. Sadly, it appears their original master recordings were lost in the Universal Studios fire of 2008.
They never should have let Tor improv.
Improvisational theater, often shortened to “improv,” is a kind of theater, usually comedy, that is performed unscripted, with scenarios made up by the performers or suggested by audience members. Many well-known comedians and actors have started out in improv, including Tina Fey, Ryan Reynolds, Aziz Ansari, and Keegan Michael Key.
To the moon, Alice!
A catchphrase on the 1950s television sitcom The Honeymooners, which starred Jackie Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden and Audrey Meadows (who replaced Pert Kelton) as his long-suffering wife, Alice. Ralph frequently threatened Alice by making a fist and saying, “Bang, zoom, straight to the moon!”
Tor could have been contender, instead bum which am.
The Tor Johnson version of a famous monologue delivered by Marlon Brando in the 1954 movie On the Waterfront. Brando plays ex-boxer Terry Malloy, who ended his career by throwing a fight for a mobster. “I coulda had class,” he laments. “I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
Would it hurt the Atomic Energy Commission to stop by once in a while to say hello?
The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was the original U.S. government organization charged with regulating nuclear power and materials after World War II. By the 1960s, people were beginning to criticize it for not enforcing its own regulations, and in 1974 it was dismantled. Its responsibilities were split between two new agencies, the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). In 1977 ERDA was folded into the new cabinet-level Department of Energy, but the NRC still exists. At the time Beast of Yucca Flats was filmed (1961), the AEC would presumably have been the regulatory body dealing with defecting radioactive Soviet scientists.
Is it a beast or my meshuggener grampa?
Meshuga is Yiddish for “crazy.” Meshuggener is the noun form, meaning “a crazy person.” So technically what you should say here is “Is it a beast or my meshuga grampa?”
If Hank is gone seven years, I’m free to marry again.
The requirements to declare a legal presumption of death, or death in absentia, without any physical evidence of the person’s death, such as a corpse, vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. If someone is missing because, say, they were in a plane that crashed, they may be declared dead quite quickly. Otherwise they have to have been missing without a trace for a certain amount of time. In most states this is seven years, although in New York it’s three, and in Minnesota and Georgia it’s four.
“With Hank and some helpful neighbors …” They raise a barn.
Barn raising—that is, everyone getting together and building a barn for one member of a community—had to be a communal activity, as it required considerably more labor than farmers and their immediate family could easily manage. It was expected that you would return the favor for all of your neighbors when the time came. Amish and Mennonite communities still participate in barn raisings.
I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. Francis.
Riffing on a famous line of dialogue that concludes the classic 1950 film noir Sunset Boulevard. The deeply delusional ex-silent film star and newly minted murderer Nora Desmond (played by Gloria Swanson) is allowed to believe that the newsreel cameras filling her home are movie cameras, filming her great comeback. Believing her butler (played by the legendary silent-era director and actor Erich von Stroheim) is the great director Cecil B. DeMille, she declares, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
And the Tastee-Freez staff is brought in to help.
Tastee-Freez is a small franchise of soft serve ice-cream stores restaurants. They also sell burgers and fries and the like. They have been around since 1950, when two guys invented an improved soft serve freezer and established the first location in Keithsburg, Illinois. Tastee-Freez staff generally dress in blue, however, not white; they may have been thinking of the Good Humor Man, who traditionally wore an all-white uniform.
Found a Playboy up here once. Keep your eyes open.
Founded in 1953 by Hugh Hefner, Playboy is a “men’s magazine” that celebrates the aspects of a “playboy” lifestyle: cocktails, gadgets, cars, and naked women with large breasts. It has also published some of the most respected fiction and journalism in the country. So many men of a certain generation reported that their first glimpse of porn came after finding a “stack of Playboys hidden in the woods” that some joked it was a Playboy marketing strategy. Then, of course, the Internet came along, piping fresh, hot pornography right into the comfort of our homes; the magazine finally ceased publication in spring 2020 and went entirely digital.
The bush is trying to get their attention. –Moses is lost in the Sinai.
Early in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, Moses is living in Egypt in slavery with the rest of the Jewish people. In Exodus 3:2-3, he spots an unusual sight: “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed./And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.” Once the Jews escape from Egypt, Moses leads them through the Sinai Desert, searching for the homeland God has promised them. (It takes them 40 years, and Moses dies before ever getting to enter the Promised Land.)
I had a vision I was chased through the desert by Boog Powell.
John “Boog” Powell was a professional baseball player, a great first baseman and outfielder, playing for the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, and Los Angeles Dodgers from 1961-1977. The four-time All Star stands 6’4” and was also a solid slugger, logging many seasons with more than 30 home runs.
[Sung.] We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’, from the Mississippi to …
The song “The Battle of New Orleans” was written by Jimmy Driftwood (b. James Corbitt Morris) and became a number-one hit in 1959 for singer Johnny Horton. Sample lyrics: “We fired our guns and the British kept a-comin’/There wasn’t nigh as many as there was a while ago/We fired once more and they begin to runnin’/On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”
Tonight: The Whales of August.
The Whales of August was a 1987 movie, based on the David Berry play by the same name, featuring several elderly Hollywood stars (Bette Davis, Lillian Gish, Anne Sothern, and Vincent Price). The film was a drama about growing old.
McCloud, you shot Penn Jillette.
McCloud (NBC, 1970-1977) was a TV series starring Dennis Weaver as a rural lawman who joins the NYPD. McCloud wore a cowboy hat, boots, and a sheepskin coat. Penn Jillette is a magician and comedian who works with his silent partner Teller. Jillette did all-too-frequent interstitial promos for MST3K on Comedy Central. Although he’s still a large-framed guy, Jillette has lost a great deal of weight—more than 100 pounds—since this episode was written.
Tor is posing for a Rubens painting.
Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) was a Flemish painter of very large women—from whence comes the adjective “Rubenesque.”
George Balanchine (1904-1983) was a dance choreographer from Russia. He defected in 1924 and began a legendary career that helped marry the traditional ballet with modern dance. He founded the School of American Ballet in New York and the New York City Ballet, and was among the most respected and influential choreographers of his time.
Tor’s just mad because someone ripped the fruit loop off his shirt.
The fruit loop (also known as a locker loop) is a loop of fabric sewn on the back of some men’s dress shirts, below the yoke. The Gant company began adding loops to its button-down shirts in the 1960s to aid its upper-class customers in hanging their shirts up in their lockers while they exercised, keeping them wrinkle-free. The loops became a kind of status symbol, and other manufacturers soon imitated Gant. They also assumed symbolic importance. Some men would take the loops off their shirts to show that they were in a relationship, while girls would sometimes sneak up and rip the loop off the shirt of a boy they liked.
Tor is a field chiropractor.
Chiropractors are not licensed by the American Medical Association, and can’t prescribe medication. However, they are allowed to treat people who are in pain by manually adjusting their spines, and performing other types of massage therapy.
I see the belly of the great white one.
A reference to the classic 1851 novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville. The story is about a sea captain’s obsession with finding and killing a giant white whale that took off his leg. It was made into a 1956 film with Gregory Peck as Captain Ahab.
They’re gonna split him open and crawl inside to stay warm.
In the 1981 Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo rescues a nearly frozen and delirious Luke Skywalker on the ice planet of Hoth. Han slices open his tauntaun riding mount (which has already died) so its carcass can keep Luke warm while he builds a shelter.
They’re gonna find a whole baby deer inside him.
Possibly a reference to sport fishing. Tiger sharks, in particular, are the trash pandas of the sea, and are notorious for eating bizarre collections of crap: tires, license plates, chicken coops (complete with chickens), etc.
The Velveteen Rabbit.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a famous illustrated children’s book by Margery Williams, first published in 1922. The plot is about a neglected stuffed rabbit toy that desperately wants to become real.
Tell me about that last shot of the rabbits, George?
A reference to the characters Lennie Small and his friend George Milton in Of Mice and Men, a 1937 short novel by John Steinbeck. Lennie is a hulking simpleton with a love for soft things (including rabbits), but he doesn’t know his own strength. Throughout the book, George keeps his friend calm and on track by repeatedly telling him about the farm they’re going to live on someday, with Lennie particularly fixated on the rabbits they’re going to keep there.
Woob … woob …. woob.
A slowed-down imitation of one of the classic vocalizations made by Curly of The Three Stooges: he would often let out with a rapid “Woob woob woob woob!” while spinning around on the ground. Born Jerome Lester “Jerry” Horwitz (1903-1952), Curly Howard was an American vaudeville performer and comic actor, performing throughout the 1930s and ‘40s on stage and in many short films, along with his older brothers, Moe Howard and Shemp Howard, and actor Larry Fine. His career ended when he suffered a stroke in 1946. Many consider Curly the best known and most imitated of The Three Stooges.
You look like my little Ninotchka.
Ninotchka was a 1939 movie featuring Hollywood legend Greta Garbo. She played the title role, a Soviet agent who tries to apprehend some jewel thieves in Paris, but ends up falling in love. It received four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress. Specifically, this may be a reference to the terrible, terrible hat Garbo wore in the film, a tall, tubular monstrosity that made her look like a cinder cone volcano.
And now the bunny eats Tor, and becomes the Night of the Lepus.
Night of the Lepus is a 1972 “horror” film about giant bunnies menacing a group of folks in the Southwest. Noteworthy mainly for its cast, which included Psycho’s Janet Leigh and DeForest “Bones McCoy” Kelley of Star Trek fame. Rifftrax took on Night of the Lepus in 2014.