804: The Deadly Mantis
by Sean Marten
Hey, shhh. Listen. There’s a kind of hush. All over the world.
“There’s a Kind of Hush” is a pop song written by Les Reed and Geoff Stephens, which was a hit for Herman’s Hermits in 1967 and for the Carpenters in 1976. Sample lyrics: “There’s a kind of hush/All over the world tonight/All over the world/You can hear the sound of lovers in love.”
Next we’ll see Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion version.
R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was an American architect, designer, inventor, and futurist known for his interest in sustainable living. The word Dymaxion is a brand name that Buckminster Fuller used for several of his inventions, including the Dymaxion house and the Dymaxion car; it is a mashup of the words dynamic, maximum, and tension. The Dymaxion map, first published in 1954, was a projection of the continents onto an icosahedron, or a 20-sided polygon, which could then be unfolded into a flat surface. The map eschewed the cardinal directions (north/south etc.) and could be unfolded in multiple ways depending on which geographical features you wanted to emphasize.
The map you are about to see is true.
A little spin on the iconic opening narration of the TV police drama Dragnet (first aired on NBC, 1951-1959; there have been several revivals and remakes since then): “Ladies and gentlemen, the story you are about to see is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.” The narration was supplied by Hal Gibney.
Sox Appeal, level two.
Sox Appeal is a store devoted entirely to socks, located in the immense Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. As of 2020, it is located on level three.
When in the universe, be sure to visit the beautiful United States.
A variation on the typical tourist brochure or postcard sales pitch, such as, “When in lovely Wisconsin, be sure to visit the Dells and ride the ducks.”
It’s a magma flow of savings at Menards!
An imitation of white-haired, hyper-exuberant Ray Szmanda (1926-2018), who appeared in thousands of commercials during his 20-plus-year career as the pitchman for Menards, a chain of home-improvement stores based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
“For every action …” There is a Jackson.
Action Jackson is a 1988 action film about a Detroit police detective who plays by his own rules and the heroin-addict singer with a heart of gold who loves him. It stars Carl Weathers and Vanity; Craig T. Nelson rounds out the cast as the evil business owner who needs to be taken down.
In Paraguay, a woman shops. Connection?
A callback to Show 621, The Beast of Yucca Flats—specifically the narrator, who was prone to uttering non sequiturs that were almost Zen koans, like “Joe Dobson, caught in the wheels of progress”; “Man choked to death, a woman’s purse, and footprints on the wasteland”; and “Touch a button, things happen.”
Because of volcanic activity, a creature named Santa Claus crawled out of the ice.
Spoken in the style of badly dubbed Japanese news announcers from any number of Japanese kaiju movies. Santa Claus is a fairly recent synthesis of various Christmas traditions: a mythical man who delivers gifts the night before Christmas. In the 1770s, the name “Santa Claus” was first published as an Americanized version of the Dutch gift-bringer Sinterklaas. His current accoutrements (North Pole residence, elven helpers, reindeer-powered sleigh, etc.) became well-known after the 1821 publication of Clement Clarke Moore’s poem “Old Santeclaus” and the 1823 publication of ”A Visit from St. Nicholas” (aka “The Night Before Christmas,” also probably written by Moore). His image as a jolly, chubby man with a full white beard and red clothing with white trim comes from the mid-1800s art of famed cartoonist Thomas Nast.
[Sung.] National Geographic Special theme music.
This is the distinctive fanfare of the opening theme music for the National Geographic Special, a series of TV documentaries focusing on nature, foreign cultures, and other topics of interest. The music was composed by Elmer Bernstein in 1964. The specials were broadcast on all three major U.S. networks and PBS, and since 1997 they have found a home on the National Geographic channel (aka Nat Geo/Nat Geo TV), a basic cable offering co-owned by the National Geographic Society and Disney.
Here in the frosting mines of Canada, the slaves of Betty Crocker work ‘round the clock.
The brand name Betty Crocker was developed in 1921 by advertiser Bruce Barton and the Washburn Crosby Company, which later became General Mills. However, it was under the guiding hand of home economist Marjorie Husted that the character of Betty Crocker achieved her lasting fame; Husted wrote the scripts for Crocker’s radio cooking show and supplied the voice for the character for two decades. The brand has become a standard for cake mixes and other premade baked goods. The Betty Crocker product line also includes canned frostings and other cake and dessert decorating items.
The icebergs arrange themselves for a long winter nap.
A riff on the first line of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” also known as “The Night Before Christmas” or “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The actual lines:
“And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.”
The poem, first published anonymously in 1823, was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, who acknowledged authorship, but that has since been disputed, with some claiming it was actually written by Henry Livingston Jr. Regardless, the poem helped solidify the modern image of Santa Claus (see above note).
Summon Queequeg, it’s the Great White One.
Queequeg is a harpooner on Captain Ahab’s ship Pequod in the 1851 Herman Melville novel Moby-Dick. He is the son of the chief of a cannibal tribe from an island in the South Seas, and is the best friend of the novel’s narrator, Ishmael. The “Great White One” is the title character, a huge white whale who took Ahab’s leg in a previous encounter, and who the captain chases remorselessly and obsessively throughout the novel.
Starring Vanilla Ice, Ice Cube, Phoebe Snow, Ice T, Hank Snow …
Okay, here we go … Vanilla Ice (b. Robert Van Winkle) is an American rapper whose 1990 single “Ice Ice Baby” was the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts. Ice Cube (b. O’Shea Jackson) is an American rapper, actor, and film director who was praised by fellow rapper Snoop Dogg as “the greatest MC of all time.” Phoebe Snow (1950-2011) was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist best known for her 1975 hit song “Poetry Man.” Ice-T (b. Tracy Marrow) is an American rapper and actor, best known for his controversial 1992 track “Cop Killer” and for playing Detective Odafin Tutuola on the NBC police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Hank Snow (1914-1999) was a Canadian-American country music artist with a long list of number-one hits, including “I’m Moving On,” “Let Me Go, Lover,” and “Hello Love.”
For whiter whites, use Universal movies.
“For whiter whites” is a common advertising pitch for laundry detergents and additives. Universal Studios Inc., aka Universal Pictures, was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle and is one of the oldest studios still in operation. As a great producer of low-budget and B movies in the 1940s and ‘50s, the Universal library has provided a wealth of MST3K fodder.
[Name in credits.] Leon Leon? –He had the laziest, most unimaginative parents in the world.
Leon M. Leon (1903-1998) was a Hollywood sound technician who is credited as the inventor of the clapboard, which is used to synchronize the sound and picture at the beginning of each shot during filmmaking. Originally a prop and visual gag man in the silent movie era, he was one of the pioneers of the “talkies” era, also inventing various methods for getting microphones close to actors while keeping them hidden from the camera.
You know, behind the credits you can see the ant of Turin.
Purported to be the winding cloth of Jesus Christ, the Shroud of Turin bears a faint image of a man with the marks of nails through the wrists, whip marks on the back, and lacerations around the head, as if from a crown of thorns. Numerous tests over the years meant to determine its authenticity proved inconclusive, but carbon dating in 1988 finally showed that the Shroud dated only to about the 13th or 14th century CE. The Catholic Church has not taken an official position on its authenticity; in 2013 Pope Francis referred to it as an “icon of a man.”
[Name in credits: Juran.] [Imitating.] I distinctly heard him say “Jew-ran.”
A play on a bit of dialogue from Woody Allen’s Academy Award-winning 1977 film Annie Hall. Allen’s character in the film, Alvy Singer, is an uptight New York intellectual who perceives anti-Semitism everywhere. At one point he insists to his friend, “I distinctly heard it; he muttered under his breath … Jew.”
[Sung.] Radio Free Mantis.
Sung to the tune of the 1981 song “Radio Free Europe” by American rock band R.E.M. The actual Radio Free Europe is a U.S.-backed broadcasting service that provides news and information to Eastern European, Middle Eastern, and Central Asian countries “where the free flow of information is either banned by government authorities or not fully developed.” It was founded during the early days of the Cold War in Munich, Germany; its headquarters have since moved to Prague in the Czech Republic.
Purina Radar Chow.
Purina is a manufacturer of pet food. Their logo features a red-and-white checkerboard design.
Deep sea mosques.
A mosque is a place of worship for followers of the Muslim faith.
“… and several hundred miles beyond them are the offshore pickets …” And Wilson Pickett.
Wilson Pickett (1941-2006) was an American R&B and soul singer and songwriter, best known for such hits as “In the Midnight Hour,” “Mustang Sally,” and “Funky Broadway.”
Yes, in the glorious days before environmental impact statements.
Under U.S. environmental law, an environmental impact statement (EIS), which describes the positive and negative environmental effects of a proposed action (such as drilling or construction), is required before permission is granted to proceed.
More strip malls.
A strip mall (also called a shopping plaza, shopping center, or mini-mall) is an open-air shopping mall where the stores are arranged in a row, with a sidewalk in front and plenty of free parking. Come on down.
The Corn Palace is built.
A reference to the world-famous (all right, Midwest-famous) Corn Palace, located in Mitchell, South Dakota. Built in 1892 to lure settlers to the area, the Corn Palace is a Moorish-style castle, complete with onion domes; the exterior of the palace is decorated with murals made from dried corn kernels and other grains, which are redesigned yearly by local artists. The building is a triumph of earnest Midwestern kitsch.
The applause meter does not like this song.
Also known as a clap-o-meter or clapometer, an applause meter is a device that supposedly measures the volume of applause coming from an audience. It was used to measure the popularity of contestants (or songs) in competitions based on audience popularity. A regular feature in talent shows in the 1950s and ‘60s, an applause meter was a key element in the British television game show Opportunity Knocks.
Hey, there’s crappies twenty feet below the polar ice cap.
Crappies are a type of North American freshwater fish. They are a popular game fish, especially among the fine folks in the Midwestern United States who enjoy a little ice fishing in the wintertime.
[Sung.] “Flight of the Bumblebee.”
“Flight of the Bumblebee” is an orchestral interlude composed in 1899–1900 by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan. It was used as the theme music for the radio program, and later the television series, The Green Hornet (radio, 1936-1952; ABC-TV, 1966-1967) and has made many other appearances in popular culture, from Walt Disney to Quentin Tarantino. The piece is notable for its speed and complexity; American guitarist John Taylor set a world record in 2011 playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” at 600 beats per minute.
John Sununu goes for a haircut.
John Sununu was White House chief of staff in the George H.W. Bush administration, serving from 1989 until 1991, when he was forced to resign after controversy erupted over his use of government planes for personal business, including for a trip to his dentist.
Climbing without oxygen, Maria ascended to 20,000 feet.
At the end of the 1959 Broadway musical and 1965 film The Sound of Music, the von Trapp family, along with their newly minted stepmother and former governess Maria, escape from the Nazi occupation of Austria over the mountains into Switzerland. It was based on the real-life von Trapps, who later formed a musical group and toured as the Trapp Family Singers. Climbing very tall peaks without the aid of oxygen (particularly Mr. Everest) is considered a feat of strength that only the very top climbers can achieve. Above 12,000 feet, oxygen levels are 40 percent lower than at sea level. Above 26,000 feet, Everest climbers enter what is known as “the death zone,” where their cells begin to die from the lack of oxygen. Many people have died there.
[Imitating.] This is Norm Macdonald.
Norm Macdonald is a Canadian stand-up comic, writer, actor, and producer best known for his five seasons as a cast member of Saturday Night Live, three of which were spent as anchor of the Weekend Update faux-news segment.
“Put the old man on the horn, will ya, Pete?” Who, Dizzy Gillespie?
Dizzy Gillespie (1927-1993) was an American jazz trumpeter and one of the main developers of the bebop style of jazz in the 1940s and 1950s. He played with Cab Calloway’s band for a time, but for most of his career he played with various small bands that he organized. His trademark was a special trumpet with the bell bent back at a 45-degree angle, the result of an accident in which someone fell on his trumpet—Gillespie decided he liked the sound better that way.
Wow, he’s got a huge game of Battleship going there.
Battleship is a popular game manufactured by Milton Bradley. It was invented by Clifford Von Wickler in the early 1900s, but he failed to patent the idea. In 1931, Milton Bradley distributed a game called Broadsides. At this point, the game was paper-and-pencil based, featuring four 10x10 grids (two for each player). In 1967, the company produced the now-famous version of the game. Two cases (one red, one blue) held plastic grids in which plastic ships were placed. Hits were scored with red pegs, misses with white pegs. In 1977, they released Electronic Battleship, which included an on-board computer that scored the hits and misses. In 1989, this was followed by Electronic Talking Battleship. As further proof that Hollywood is out of ideas, a major motion picture loosely based on the game was released by Universal Pictures in 2012. It earned more than $300 million at the box office.
[Imitating.] I don’t know, sir.
See note on Norm Macdonald, above.
Oh no, they let Stan Laurel watch the hut.
Stan Laurel was half of the Laurel & Hardy comedy team that produced a string of classic shorts and feature films from the 1920s through the mid-1940s. The stout Oliver Hardy (1892-1957) played a childish, bossy, fussy character opposite Stan Laurel’s (1890-1965) thin, gentle (and accident-prone) incompetent. Possibly a reference to the 1923 short The Home Wrecker, in which Laurel builds a house so poorly that it falls over as soon as someone touches it.
Iceballs are now outlawed by the Geneva Convention.
Iceballs are snowballs made of slush and ice instead of light fluffy snow—getting hit by one can really hurt. Geneva is a city in the neutral country of Switzerland known for hosting meetings between world leaders and representatives. The Geneva Convention is not one document but a collection of four major treaties and other resolutions that dictate the actions of parties engaged in warfare, primarily relating to the humanitarian treatment of prisoners and wounded combatants. They were signed and ratified in 1949 by 194 countries.
It was the Comanches, sir.
The Comanche are a North American Plains Indian tribe who, in their prime, were effective hunter-gatherers with a formidable horse culture who ultimately became fierce warriors. Their territory stretched from northern Mexico up to parts of Kansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma.
It’s horrible. Just think of the kind of force it takes to destroy a Quonset hut.
A Quonset hut is a prefabricated, lightweight building made of corrugated metal in the shape of a tube sliced lengthwise down the middle. Named for the site where they were first built, Quonset Point in Rhode Island, Quonset huts were used extensively by the U.S. military during World War II.
Why a bassoon? I’ll never know.
A bassoon is a double-reeded woodwind instrument often used in orchestral and chamber music. It plays well in the bass and tenor registers, and its sound is often compared to that of a male baritone singing voice.
You know, maybe the Army shouldn’t have recruited Keith Moon.
Keith Moon (1946-1978) was the drummer for the rock band The Who. He was admired by peers and fans for his powerfully energetic drumming style and was notorious for his equally energetic lifestyle, which was not only self-destructive but just plain destructive, leaving countless trashed hotel rooms in his wake. There are so many stories of cars submerged in swimming pools and televisions hurled from windows that Moon’s name has become a kind of pop-culture shorthand for the deliberate destruction of property. He died young after accidentally overdosing on sedatives in 1978.
“What do ya got?” Rhythm!
The 1930 George and Ira Gershwin jazz standard “I Got Rhythm” contains the lyrics: “I got rhythm/I got music/I got my girl/Who could ask for anything more?” From the musical Girl Crazy, it was sung originally on Broadway by Ethel Merman, and has since been recorded by countless artists, from Bing Crosby to The Residents.
“Plane?” Or peanut.
M&Ms are a brand of small, candy-coated chocolates manufactured by Mars Inc. First sold in 1941, they originally came in just “plain”; “peanut” M&Ms were introduced in 1954. Multiple other varieties, including peanut butter, crispy, and pretzel, have since come on the market.
Well, this isn’t snow, it’s Bon Ami.
Bon Ami (French for “good friend”) is a brand of household cleaner products, some of which are in the form of white, fluffy powders.
Django Reinhardt was here.
Jean “Django” Reinhardt (1910-1953) was a highly influential jazz guitarist and composer, considered to be the innovator of the “Gypsy” or “hot club” jazz style. Due to injuries suffered in a fire, only the first two fingers of his left hand could move independently; the other two were paralyzed. Nonetheless, he developed an innovative and much-admired technique for playing the guitar despite those limitations.
Paid twelve million dollars for this radar and the fight’s over in three minutes.
Pay-per-view sporting events (especially boxing matches) offered by cable TV providers can be fairly expensive and can be over in a matter of minutes, leaving fans feeling cheated. (For example, the Mike Tyson/Peter McNeeley bout in 1995 lasted 89 seconds before McNeeley’s manager ran into the ring to save his fighter and forfeit the match.)
Did you check to see if I was Gig Young?
Gig Young (1913-1978) was an American actor. For most of his career he played supporting roles, winning a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award in 1969 for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? In his later years he suffered from alcoholism, and lost work because of it: he was originally cast as “The Waco Kid” in the 1974 Western satire Blazing Saddles but was fired on the first day of shooting when he began suffering alcohol withdrawal symptoms while the cameras rolled; Gene Wilder took over the part. He and his fifth wife were found shot to death in 1978, in an apparent murder-suicide.
It’s simply not jake.
“Everything’s jake” is a slang term, meaning everything is okay, fine, all right. It originated in the Jazz Age of the 1920s and remained popular through the 1930s and ‘40s.
Skillet scramble horn.
A skillet scramble or scrambler is a popular breakfast dish at restaurants, consisting of eggs scrambled with a variety of ingredients, such as cheese, potatoes, sausage, etc.
Hundreds of Bob Cranes scramble to the rescue.
Actor Bob Crane (1928-1978) played Colonel Robert Hogan on the TV sitcom Hogan’s Heroes (1965-1971). In 1978, he was beaten to death in Scottsdale, Arizona. His friend John Henry Carpenter was charged with his murder but was acquitted. The murder remains officially unsolved.
[Sung.] A double pleasure’s waitin’ for you … [Whistled.] Same tune.
A line from the advertising jingle for Doublemint gum, which has been used in their commercials since 1959. Sample lyrics: “A double pleasure’s waitin’ for you/A double pleasure from Doublemint gum/A double great feeling, making you realize/Doublemint’s the one for you.”
[Sung.] Cheesy music from The Starfighters.
The subject of Show 612, The Starfighters featured many lovingly extensive scenes of military fighter aircraft being refueled in flight, accompanied by “completely inappropriate music” (according to the MST3K Amazing Colossal Episode Guide). The film also featured a painfully bad attempt at acting by future California Republican congressman and presidential hopeful Bob Dornan.
Orthodontia, or orthodontics, is a specialty of dentistry focusing on helping teeth grow in straight. Treatments can vary from barely visible retainers to complicated sets of braces on the teeth connected to external headgear.
Men, commence tapping the Rockies.
“Tap the Rockies” is a longtime advertising slogan for Molson Coors, makers of Coors and Coors Light beer. They are one of the largest brewers in the United States, and their brewery in Golden, Colorado, is the single largest brewery facility in the world.
Man, I’m so baked right now. Dude. You oughta hear this Rush tape. Let’s pull over for some Mickey Cakes and Doritos, man.
Rush is a Canadian progressive rock band known for its impressive technical artistry, although some have criticized the band for being emotionally empty. It was formed in 1968, remained popular throughout the 1990s, came back from a hiatus in the early 2000s, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. Mickey Cakes were snack cakes produced by the American Bakeries Company, a Minneapolis bakery founded in 1902. They came in various flavors, including Banana Flips and Devil’s Delite. The company closed its St. Paul bakery in 1991 (it had already moved its company headquarters to Chicago) and was acquired by The Earthgrains Company eight years later. Doritos is a brand of seasoned tortilla chips, manufactured since 1964 by Frito-Lay, which has earned a special place in the hearts and tummies of marijuana users.
Hey, stop eating me, I’m still alive.
In 1972, a Uruguayan rugby team’s chartered plane crashed high in the snow-covered Andes Mountains. Before being rescued two months later, some of the survivors resorted to cannibalism. Their story led to a 1974 book: Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, and a 1993 film: Alive!
Hi, we’re here about the Reliant you had for sale.
Reliant was a British car manufacturer founded in 1935. Their most famous vehicle was the adorable Reliant Robin, which tooled around on three wheels (one in front, two in the rear). The company ceased production in 2002.
Yellow snow, sir, can I eat it?
“Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” is a 1974 song by Frank Zappa. Sample lyrics: “And she said/With a tear in her eye/’Watch out where the huskies go/And don’t you eat that yellow snow.’”
Frosty the Snowman’s partially melted body was found at the site, a victim of a pistol whipping. Hermey the Misfit Elf is wanted for questioning.
Frosty the Snowman is an animated television special about a magical snowman that comes to life but must get to the North Pole before he melts. First broadcast in 1969 on CBS, it is based on a popular song of the same name first recorded in 1950 by Gene Autry. Hermey the Misfit Elf is a character from the stop-motion animation TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which originally aired in 1964 on NBC. Hermey was considered a misfit because he (gasp!) wanted to become a dentist instead of a toymaker.
We’ve got to put an end to freebasing on our planes.
Ricky Nelson (Eric Winslow Nelson, 1940-1985) was an American singer-songwriter and actor, best known for starring alongside his parents, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, in the long-running TV sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (ABC, 1952-1966). He also co-starred with John Wayne and Dean Martin in the classic 1959 western film Rio Bravo. While on his way to a New Year’s Eve concert in 1985, Nelson died when his private plane crashed in Texas. Rumors spread that someone onboard was freebasing cocaine, causing a cabin fire that brought the plane down. The NTSB concluded the probable cause of the crash was a fire sparked by a faulty cabin heater. No evidence of drugs was ever found.
Hey, go-go boot material.
Go-go boots first appeared in 1964; they have low heels, so you can dance in them, and they are tall and tight, to flatter your legs. The boots remained popular throughout the rest of the 1960s and into the 1970s.
I think they must have significantly underbid the FAA to conduct this investigation.
An agency of the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the national aviation authority in the United States. It does not, however, investigate plane accidents. That is handled by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is fully independent from the FAA and the DOT.
It’s Flo-Jo’s fingernail.
Florence Griffith Joyner (a.k.a. Flo-Jo; 1959-1998) was a women’s track and field star. She set world records in the Olympics in the 1980s and became a media darling, with much attention paid to her long and immaculately manicured fingernails. Sadly, she died young from an epileptic seizure.
And Children’s Palace.
Hardly anyone remembers this chain of toy stores today, but it was once the second-largest in the U.S., and gave Toys ‘R’ Us a run for its money. The company was founded in 1962 as Child World, changing its moniker in 1975. Unfortunately, in 1990 the company began to founder financially and two years later they closed their doors for good.
A dime a minute.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, pay-per-minute telephone services flourished, offering everything from psychic readings or jokes to discounted long distance calling. These services were promoted endlessly on TV, emphasizing their low, low cost per minute (which of course added up fast).
But it’s a party line, so it’s always busy.
A party line telephone system involves multiple customers all sharing the same phone line. This was a common setup in rural areas during the first half of the 20th century, and later became a discount service that budget-minded phone customers could opt for. Party lines also became the lifeblood of small town gossips, since if you picked up your handset while another subscriber was on their phone, you could listen in on their conversation.
I got a callback for Carousel.
In theater, film, or other performing arts, a callback is a follow-up after an initial audition or casting call, in which directors can further screen candidates for a role. Carousel is a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that opened on Broadway in 1945; it was adapted for film in 1956 and for television in 1967. The plot centers on a carousel barker who gets drawn into a robbery in an attempt to provide for his pregnant lover, and his subsequent efforts to make amends for the crime.
Angela Lansbury’s hot.
Dame Angela Lansbury is a British actress and singer whose career in theater, television, and film spans eight decades and has earned many honors and awards, including five Tony Awards. She was, in fact, incredibly beautiful when she was young.
Jell-O is a sweetened gelatin dessert made by General Foods Corporation. The powdered gelatin that serves as a base for the product was first developed in 1845 by Peter Cooper. In the 1880s, New York carpenter Pearle Wait bought the patent, replicated the powder, and added flavors to it. The first flavors available were lemon, orange, raspberry, and strawberry. The Jell-O name was bestowed upon it in 1897.
In the TV sitcom The Lucy Show (CBS, 1962-1968), Lucille Ball played Lucy Carmichael, a widow with two children and a substantial trust fund, which was administered by fastidious banker Mr. Mooney (imitated here), played by Gale Gordon.
I’m going to show everyone my Dinky portraitures.
Maybe a reference to the old “Draw Tippy the Turtle” ads run by the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis. The school was a correspondence course (meaning they sent you materials and you studied at home) that taught the art of illustration and cartooning. It was founded in 1914 as the Federal School of Applied Cartooning, originally to train illustrators to work in the Bureau of Engraving. In addition to Tippy the Turtle, the ads featured many other animals. Although there was not a Dinky, there was a Winky the Deer and a Spunky the Donkey. Sadly, the school finally closed in 2018 after more than a century.
“I’ve done a feature.” [Gasps.] Miss Mesozoic.
In Playboy magazine, the nude model featured in a photo spread each month was dubbed the “Playmate of the Month,” and given the title “Miss January,” “Miss February,” and so on. The Mesozoic Era was the period in geologic time between 250 million years ago and 65 million years ago, during which dinosaurs were the dominant life form.
[Sung.] Circus music.
This appears to simply be called “Circus Calliope”; if it has another name I was unable to find it. It is the typical Wurlitzer organ or calliope music often played on carnival rides like carousels.
“General Ford?” General Tennessee Ernie Ford?
Born Ernest Jennings Ford, Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) was a country and western singer and television host. His best-known recording is “Sixteen Tons,” released in 1955.
Mrs. Bert Lahr.
Actor Bert Lahr (1895-1967) was best known for playing the Cowardly Lion in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. He was married twice; his first wife, Mercedes Delpino, had to be hospitalized long-term with mental health issues, and they divorced after ten years of marriage. He then married his second wife, Mildred Schroeder, and they stayed together until his death.
Well, gentlemen, it appears to be a giant Devil’s Food SnackWell.
Devil’s food cake is a classic chocolate cake recipe. It is richer and fluffier than traditional chocolate cake, due to the inclusion of cocoa powder and increased baking soda. Introduced in 1992, SnackWell’s is a brand originally sold under the Nabisco banner (and now owned by B&G Foods) that offers a variety of cookies, including “Devil’s Food Cookie Cakes.” These are somewhat oversized cookies in the form of a chocolate shell stuffed with devil’s food cake. SnackWell’s products were all originally fat-free, as low-fat diets were a craze during the 1990s; the devil’s food cookies now contain a small amount of fat. Lots of carbs, though.
It says Made in Taiwan here …
“Made in Taiwan” is generally considered an indicator in the U.S. that a product has been cheaply manufactured. The honor formerly went to “Made in Japan.”
Charles de Gaulle, museum guard.
Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970) was a French general who led the Free French Forces in World War II, founded the Fifth Republic in 1958, and then served as president of France from 1959 to 1969.
You know, somehow I don’t believe Paul Drake was ever this deep in thought.
The best-known role for William Hopper, who plays paleontologist Nedrick Jackson in The Deadly Mantis, was that of Paul Drake, the private investigator who worked for criminal defense attorney Perry Mason on the TV drama Perry Mason. The show aired from 1957-1966 on CBS.
He’s wearing David Byrne’s suit.
Scottish singer-songwriter and actor David Byrne was the lead singer for the popular American New Wave band Talking Heads, which was active from 1975 to 1991. On Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues tour—which was immortalized in the 1984 concert movie Stop Making Sense, directed by Jonathan Demme—Byrne performed in an extremely oversized light grey suit. The big suit also appeared in the video for the Talking Heads song “Life During Wartime,” which got a lot of play on MTV in the mid-‘80s. The suit became strongly associated with Byrne as a kind of trademark of his, although he wore it for only a short time. Byrne once mourned this fact in an interview, saying, “That will be the inscription on my tombstone: ‘Here lies the body of David Byrne. Why the big suit?’”
Oh, damn, another ten thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, geez.
A reference to lyrics in “A Day in the Life,” the final song on The Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. To wit: “I read the news today, oh boy/Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire/And though the holes were rather small/They had to count them all/Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.”
“Don’t you play games with me, Ned Jackson.” Not even our Strip Risk?
Strip poker is a variant of traditional poker, wherein players remove an article of clothing each time they lose a round. Risk is a war-strategy board game manufactured by Hasbro. It was invented in the 1950s by French movie director Albert Lamorisse, which may explain its Napoleonic style.
The budget Rosalind Russell.
Rosalind Russell (1907-1976) was an American film actress whose five-decade career included such pictures as His Girl Friday (1940) and Auntie Mame (1958). She was known for her comedic roles as well as for playing professional women such as reporters and psychiatrists—unusual for the era.
A large leprechaun?
A leprechaun is a mythical figure in Irish folklore, which usually takes the form of a small, bearded man who makes mischief and stores gold coins in a pot at the end of the rainbow. If captured, he will grant wishes. Before the 20th century leprechauns were most commonly shown dressed in red, not green.
Mrs. Beatrice Torgerson of Maple Plain has spurs like that.
Maple Plain, Minnesota, is a small town about 25 miles west of Minneapolis. Its population (as of 2020) is around 2,000.
[Sung.] I got spurs that jingle, jangle, jingle …
“(I’ve Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle” is a 1942 song written by Joseph Lilley and Frank Loesser. It was originally featured in the Fred MacMurray film The Forest Rangers, released that same year, where it was performed by Dick Thomas. It has since been recorded by many artists including Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and Glenn Miller, although the most famous version is the one released by Kay Kyser, which hit number one in 1942. Sample lyrics: “I got spurs that jingle jangle jingle/As I go riding merrily along/And they sing, ‘Oh ain’t you glad you’re single?’/And that song ain’t so very far from wrong.”
Stop laughing with your wife and get out here.
In the 1960 film The Savage Innocents, the Inuit Inuk (played by Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn) offers a missionary an opportunity to “laugh with” his wife. Yes, he means what you think he means. When the missionary refuses, Inuk, insulted, beats him to death. The movie has been praised for its nonjudgmental embrace of the Inuits’ culture, but it is not exactly wedded to detail, so it’s unclear whether this idiom is accurate. Incidentally, the 1967 Bob Dylan song “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)” was inspired by this film.
It’s the Mighty Quinn!
See previous note. Sample lyrics: “Everybody’s in despair, every girl and boy/But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here everybody’s gonna jump for joy/Oh come all without, come all within/You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn.”
Was there a sale on bowl haircuts?
A bowl cut, also known as a pot haircut, helmet haircut, or mushroom cut, is a hairstyle known for being cheap and easy—and therefore often inflicted on children—that looks as if a bowl was placed over someone’s head and all hair visible below the bowl was cut short or shaved. Think Moe from The Three Stooges.
Oh, Gamera! Oooh!
A riff on the typical dubbed exclamations of terrified citizens fleeing Gamera, the giant, fire-breathing turtle that starred in a series of Japanese monster movies. A “friend to all children,” Gamera would also occasionally destroy large tracts of Tokyo, presumably killing thousands, including, presumably, children. MST3K riffed on five Gamera movies, originally in the KTMA days (K04-K08), and then did revised versions of those same five films in Season 3 (302, 304, 308, 312, and 316).
[Sung.] Theme from Hawaii Five-O.
Hawaii Five-O was a television show about the exploits of a group of police detectives in Hawaii. Played over opening footage of breaking ocean waves filled with surfers and outrigger canoes, the show’s theme song (written by Morton Stevens and a hit single for the Ventures), is an iconic favorite for high school and college marching bands. The series starred Jack Lord and ran from 1968-1980 on CBS; a remake, starring Alex O’Loughlin in the Lord role, ran from 2010-2020. Why “Five-O”? Because Hawaii is the fiftieth state. Thanks to the show, “5-0” became a slang term for police.
Baywatch is a television series about lifeguards patrolling the beaches of Los Angeles County, California, that aired from 1989-2001, first on NBC and then in syndication. It starred David Hasselhoff as a veteran lifeguard who watches paternally over a string of younger, extremely good-looking lifeguards. In 2017 a feature film was released based on the show, starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. It did reasonably well at the box office but was savaged by critics.
[Sung.] If everybody had a kayak … across the Bering Straits …
A riff on the 1963 Beach Boys song “Surfin’ USA,” with lyrics by Brian Wilson. Sample lyrics: “If everybody had an ocean/Across the U.S.A./Then everybody’d be surfin’/Like Californ-I-A …” The song is set to the tune of “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry. The Beach Boys reportedly did the song as a tribute to Berry but neglected to get his permission, perhaps because Berry was at the time in prison for transporting a minor across state lines. After Berry threatened a lawsuit, the Boys forked over royalties and gave him a songwriting credit.
[Sung.] Traded in his Chevy for a kayak-ak-ak-ak-ak-ak-ak.
A riff on the 1977 Billy Joel song “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” Sample lyrics: “He works at Mister Cacciatores/Down on Sullivan Street/Across from the medical center/And he's tradin’ in his Chevy for/A Cadillac ack ack ack ack ack/You oughta know by now ...” “Chevy” is short for a Chevrolet automobile, which were first sold in 1911 and are now a division of General Motors. A kayak is a small, narrow boat that is propelled by one or two people using a double-sided paddle. They were developed by the Inuit thousands of years ago and used to hunt seal and other animals.
Everybody’s going to the store for chocolatey Cocoa Marsh.
Cocoa Marsh was a chocolate syrup used to make chocolate milk, similar to Hershey’s syrup. It was manufactured by the Taylor-Reed Corporation from the mid-1940s until the mid-1970s, running heavy advertising during kids’ shows in the New York City TV market. One series of ads used the slogan “Everybody’s going to the store for Cocoa Marsh” over stock footage of things like stampeding elephants, crashing airplanes, out-of-control crowds, etc.
Last one to the Gulf of Mexico buys lunch.
Humpback whales migrate annually from Arctic waters to tropical waters, including the Gulf of Mexico, in order to spawn their young.
It’s kinda bad timing, they were just about to toss grandma out onto the tundra.
Another famous scene in The Savage Innocents (see above note) is when Inuk’s mother-in-law insists that the family abandon her on the ice to be eaten by bears, as she is becoming old and too much of a burden on them. (The role was played by Anna May Wong, who was Hollywood’s first Chinese-American star when she was young and appearing in silent films.) Historically, it appears the Inuit did occasionally do this, but only in times of extreme societal stress, such as famines.
The “Teflon Mantis” was acquitted in downtown Manhattan today.
John Gotti (1940-2002) was an Italian-American mobster who became the boss of New York City’s Gambino crime family. He earned the nickname “The Teflon Don” after he was acquitted three times in high-profile trials for racketeering, murder, loansharking, and other serious crimes in the 1980s. (It was later discovered that Gotti and his co-defendants tampered with witnesses and tainted the jury pool.) In 1992 Gotti was finally convicted on federal charges of murder, loansharking, illegal gambling, bribery, obstruction of justice, and tax evasion. He died in prison ten years later.
Or we’ll have to declare martial law and shut down the papers again.
Martial law is the (supposedly) temporary imposition of military rule over an existing government in a country or a region of a country. One of the typical aspects of martial law is the suppression of a free press.
I sure wish Hildy Johnson was still working.
Hildy Johnson is a fictional character, a cocky, fast-talking star reporter for a big-city newspaper. Originally a male character in the 1928 Broadway comedy The Front Page, in the 1940 film adaptation His Girl Friday, the part was played by Rosalind Russell (see above note).
Bound copies of Varmint Masters Magazine … couple of Toblerone bars …
Varmint Masters was a bimonthly American magazine dedicated to hunting nontraditional game, such as coyotes, bobcats, foxes, etc. In 2002 the magazine changed its title to Predator Xtreme and refocused on hunting animals at the top of the food chain. Toblerone is a German brand of chocolate bar, known for its distinctive triangular shape.
Joel Grey in drag.
Joel Grey is an American singer and actor who has appeared in numerous films and stage musicals. He is best known for his role as the Master of Ceremonies in both the 1966 Broadway musical and the 1972 film version of Cabaret.
She’s like a manly Eve Arden.
Eve Arden (1908-1990) was an American actress who played high school English teacher Connie Brooks in the radio and TV series Our Miss Brooks. The series aired on radio from 1948-1957 and on television from 1952-1956, both on the CBS network; there was also a 1956 feature film. She was better known to a later generation as Principal McGee in Grease (1978) and Grease 2 (1982).
You know, she didn’t wanna have so many little planes, but her husband was a DC-10 who just couldn’t keep his wings off her.
The DC-10 is a three-engine widebody jet airliner that was manufactured by McDonnell Douglas between 1968 and 1988. It was replaced by the MD-11.
Oh, this is one of those planned curling communities.
Planned golf communities are housing developments built on or around golf courses and are a popular option for well-to-do retirees. Curling is a sport in which players slide stones across sheets of ice toward a target—similar to shuffleboard, only colder. It became an official sport of the Winter Olympic Games in 1998.
Corporal Donny Most.
Donny Most (or Don Most, as he’s now known) is an American actor best known for playing Ralph Malph on the TV sitcom Happy Days (ABC, 1974-1984). Ralph was defined by his twin obsessions: chasing girls and playing practical jokes.
[Imitating.] Come in, miss girly feminine female woman thing … dame …
Comedian/actor Jerry Lewis (1926-2017), who made a series of wildly successful films in the 1950s and ‘60s, had a shtick in which he became a fumbling, stuttering man-child in the presence of a “pretty lady.”
Clay Shaw throws another party.
Clay Shaw was a New Orleans businessman who, in 1967, was charged with conspiring to kill President John F. Kennedy by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. Garrison’s theory, which was frankly out to lunch, revolved around a party thrown by anti-Castro activist David Ferrie, at which his star witness, Perry Russo, had supposedly overheard Shaw, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Ferrie plotting the assassination. The jury was unconvinced, taking less than 90 minutes to acquit Shaw.
Don’t ask, don’t tell, but have a darn good time.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) was the official U.S. policy on gays serving in the military from 1993 to 2011. The policy barred openly gay or bisexual soldiers from serving, but if they remained quiet about their sexual orientation, the military could not investigate to discover if they were gay in order to throw them out. It was changed in 2011 by an act of Congress, with gay servicemembers allowed to serve openly.
[Sung.] Vogue all that you can vogue.
Vogue, or voguing, is a highly stylized dance style that in the 1980s evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene, an underground LGBT dance subculture. Voguing dancers strike poses as though they are modeling for a fashion shoot. It entered mainstream pop culture through Madonna’s 1990 song and video “Vogue,” which featured choreography by famed ballroom dancers Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza and Luis Xtravaganza Camacho. “Be All That You Can Be” was the U.S. Army’s recruiting slogan for more than twenty years, beginning in 1980. The creator of the slogan, advertising executive E.N.J. Carter, was awarded the Outstanding Civilian Service Award by the Department of the Army in 2003.
Oh, man, he’s Donny Mosting out of control.
See note on Donny Most, above.
Bob Crane looks on.
See note on Bob Crane, above.
Ice station Fargo.
Ice Station Zebra is a 1968 action film about a U.S. submarine trying to retrieve a downed Soviet satellite from the North Pole; it stars Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, and Jim Brown. Fargo, North Dakota, is the largest city in that state (with a population of about 125,000), the economic hub of that region, and home to North Dakota State University.
I will destroy Christmas this year. I will.
Possibly a reference to the 1957 children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss, and the classic 1966 animated TV special based on the book.
Oh little town of Deathlehem.
“Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” is a popular Christmas carol first published in 1865 and written by Phillips Brooks (1835-1893). A much ridiculed (by MST3K, anyway) technique for naming an episode of a mystery or detective TV show was to replace a word in a common phrase or title with “death” or “murder.”
He’s got curb feelers.
Curb feelers, a.k.a. curb finders, are springs or wires installed on a car, usually behind the front tire on the passenger side, which serve as “whiskers” to warn the driver when the car is too close to a curb or other obstruction. They were popular in the 1950s, especially with people who had whitewall tires on their cars and didn’t want them scuffed.
The best minds of my generation … destroyed by madness …
A reference to the opening line of the poem “Howl,” written by Allen Ginsberg in 1955 and published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti of San Francisco’s City Lights bookstore. For his troubles, Ferlinghetti was charged with printing obscenity. He was acquitted, but the trial gave the poem widespread publicity. “Howl” is now considered one of the great works of American literature, and became a kind of sacred text for members of the so-called “Beat Generation.” A little taste: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,/dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,/angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night …”
Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini … [Laughs.]
“The Sanctus” (Latin for “Holy”) is a hymn from Christian liturgy and part of the Order of Mass. It is sung or spoken as the final part of the prayer of consecration of bread and wine. In the Roman rite, the last two lines are “Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini/Hosanna in excelsis.”
Oh, not the Motel 6!
Motel 6 is a major chain of inexpensive, no-frills motels in the U.S. and Canada. The chain was founded in 1962 and originally charged $6 a night for rooms—hence the name.
But there was no room at the inn for the poor mantis on that wintry night.
A reference to the birth of Christ, as described in Luke 2:7 in the New Testament: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Is Dave there?
A reference to one of the best-known routines by stoner comedians Cheech and Chong: “Dave.” Basically:
Chong: “Who is it?”
Cheech: “It’s Dave, man! Will you open up, I got the stuff with me!”
Cheech: “Dave, man, open up!”
Cheech: “Yeah, Dave, come on, man, open up! I think the cops saw me!”
Chong: “Dave’s not here!”
I flit, I float, I fleet, I fly.
A paraphrase of Louisa singing “So Long, Farewell” in The Sound of Music (see above note). Actual lyrics: “I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly/The sun has gone to bed and so must I.”
Uh, sorry, just tryin’ to get a Heath bar.
A Heath bar is an American candy bar made of English toffee covered in milk chocolate. Originated in 1914 by L.S. Heath, the brand is now manufactured by Hershey and has become a popular add-in ingredient to ice cream, frozen yogurt, cookies, and other goodies.
A rodeo clown is a performer who participates in bull riding competitions, mostly to protect a rider who has been thrown by distracting the bull, often at great peril to themselves. Rodeo clowns, who prefer to be called “rodeo protection athletes,” also provide comic relief with classic clown slapstick routines mixed with parodies of cowboy culture.
Lift us up where we belong. Roger.
“Up Where We Belong” is a pop song written by Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Will Jennings. It was performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes for the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman. It became a number one hit on the Billboard charts and won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
Tom and Jerry, ma’am?
A Tom and Jerry is a traditional Christmas cocktail that is hugely popular in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It consists of eggnog mixed with brandy or rum, and is served hot in a mug or bowl, topped with grated nutmeg. Premade Tom and Jerry batter is available year-round and is prominently featured in supermarkets during the Christmas season.
Looks like Ralph Wade after a bender.
Ralph Wade is a legendary livestock auctioneer, who won the world championship in 1974 and the international championship in 1995.
Finish planning my route to Sturgis.
Sturgis is a small town in the Black Hills of South Dakota that hosts an annual biker rally every August. The event temporarily swells the town’s population from about 7,000 to more than half a million.
[Hummed.] “When Johnny Comes Marching Home.”
“When Johnny Comes Marching Home” is a Civil War-era song published in 1863 by Patrick Gilmore and set to the tune of an old Irish folk song. Sample lyrics: “When Johnny comes marching home again/Hurrah! Hurrah!/We’ll give him a hearty welcome then/Hurrah! Hurrah!/The men will cheer, the boys will shout/The ladies they will all turn out/And we’ll all feel gay/When Johnny comes marching home.”
Dead Reckoning, starring Humphrey Mantis.
Dead Reckoning is a 1947 film noir starring Humphrey Bogart as a war hero with a dark past.
Got my J. Crew shirt on. All is well.
Clothing company J. Crew started as a catalog retailer in 1983 and gradually expanded to retail stores. Its clothing emphasizes classic styles for men, women, and children. In 2020, the company filed for bankruptcy, a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Limey” is American slang for a British person. It originated in the early 19th century as a derogatory term for British sailors, due to the Royal Navy’s practice of serving lime juice with sailors’ daily rations to prevent scurvy.
Yeah, and a rabbit can go Mach 5.
The word “Mach” plus a number denotes the speed of an aircraft that is capable of breaking the sound barrier. Mach 1 = the speed of sound, Mach 2 = twice the speed of sound, etc. The Mach number is named after Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach (1838-1916), who died several decades before the sound barrier was officially broken, by American test pilot Chuck Yeager in 1947.
Shut up, Iris.
Originating with a line in Show 415, The Beatniks, “Shut up, Iris” is one of the most-used catchphrases in the MST3K lexicon.
Oh, that Bob Dornan.
See note on Bob Dornan, above. When, after nine terms in Congress, Dornan lost his 1996 re-election bid to Democrat Loretta Sanchez, he refused to acknowledge his defeat, instead insisting that voter fraud by illegal immigrants had cost him the election. A congressional investigation found a few illegal votes, but not enough to overturn the results. Dornan ran against Sanchez again two years later, and lost decisively.
He’s the very model of a modern Major General.
A reference to the song “A Modern Major General,” from the 1879 Gilbert & Sullivan operetta The Pirates of Penzance. Sample lyrics: “I am the very model of a modern major general/I’ve information vegetable, animal and mineral/I know the kings of England and I quote the fights historical/From Marathon to Waterloo in order categorical.”
“It’s a very real and present danger.” Starring Harrison Ford.
Clear and Present Danger is a 1994 action film starring Harrison Ford, based on the 1989 Tom Clancy novel of the same name. It was the third in a series of films starring Ford and based on Clancy novels, after The Hunt For Red October (1990) and Patriot Games (1992).
Jake LaMotta (1922-2017) was a professional boxer known for his long-running rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson and his volatile personal life, marred by domestic violence. The Martin Scorsese film Raging Bull (1980) starred Robert DeNiro as LaMotta.
Gingivitis is a major problem in America.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissue, usually caused by plaque on the teeth. While gingivitis is not destructive in itself, it can lead to periodontitis, which is. Brush your teeth, and don’t forget to floss.
Now for a word from Westinghouse.
Westinghouse Electric Corporation is an American manufacturing company founded in 1886, which makes everything from household appliances to nuclear power plants.
You can get this with your pledge of fifty dollars.
A reference to the pledge drives frequently held by PBS and NPR stations. Contributions can net the donor various swag, including, say, a lovely tote bag or a CD of Tuvan throat singing.
Separated at birth? You decide.
Spy was a satire magazine that was published monthly from 1986 to 1998. It lampooned politicians, celebrities (Donald Trump was a frequent target), and the media. One of its most popular features was “Separated at Birth?”, which first appeared in 1987 and paired pictures of a celebrity with a similar picture (another celebrity, an animal, an inanimate object, or a fictional character).
Now this from Edsel.
The Edsel was a line of cars introduced in 1958 by the Ford Motor Company, named for founder Henry Ford’s only child, his son Edsel Ford. The Edsel is considered a marketing disaster (Ford never explicitly showed the car in its ads) and a sales disaster, selling far fewer cars than anticipated and being taken off the market within a few years. Ford invested nearly $400 million in the Edsels and priced the basic models in the upper tier. Unfortunately, an economic recession hit in 1957 and few people could afford them. The name soon became a shorthand for failure.
Meanwhile, at the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
Now the site of the Palace Museum, the Imperial Palace (a.k.a. the Forbidden City) in the center of Beijing was home to China’s emperors and their many servants for more than 500 years.
Charles Whitman lends a hand.
Charles Whitman (1941-1966) was a student at the University of Texas in Austin when, on the morning of August 1, 1966, he killed his wife and his mother and then went to the top of the bell tower on campus armed with four high-powered rifles, three pistols, and 700 rounds of ammunition. He opened fire, murdering 16 people and wounding 31 more in about an hour and a half before being shot and killed by police. An autopsy revealed that Whitman had a brain tumor, but it is uncertain how much that contributed to his actions.
And radar is there.
Show 520, Radar Secret Service, was so worshipful of radar and its awesome communism-fighting properties that MST3K episodes have resonated with radar references ever since. Radar!
Ah, Pismo Beach, and all the clams I can eat.
In the 1957 Merrie Melodies cartoon “Ali Baba Bunny,” Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck pop out of the ground, thinking they have tunneled to Pismo Beach, California, and looking forward to “all the clams we can eat.” Pismo Beach is a small city on the central coast of California; in the 1950s the city announced it was the “Clam Capital of the World” and began holding a yearly clam festival. The festival still exists, but the motto is defunct; unfortunately, the actual population of Pismo clams has been decimated by over-harvesting and the protected sea otter.
The USS Walter Payton.
Walter Payton (1954-1999) was an American football running back who played thirteen seasons with the Chicago Bears. His jersey number was 34.
Calder and RadioShack collaborated.
Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was an artist best known for his colorful and elaborate mobiles. There was a famous Calder sculpture at the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis, called The Spinner, for a few years in the 1960s before it was moved to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, where it remains today. RadioShack is a chain of electronics stores based in Fort Worth, Texas. Founded in 1921, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2015. As of 2021, a few hundred retail locations remain.
Quick! Poopie suits on!
A callback to Show 612, The Starfighters, which had an abundance of fighter jet pilots in flight suits, a.k.a. poopie suits. Mike and the bots liked this term a lot. Its origin is uncertain.
All right, let’s invade the Falklands again.
The Falkland Islands are in the South Atlantic Ocean. A British Overseas Territory, they are also often claimed by Argentina, which invaded the islands in 1982, leading to the undeclared Falklands War. The war lasted two months and ended with Argentina’s surrender.
Ming the Merciless is the main villain in the Flash Gordon series of comics, movie, and television serials. The Ming dynasty was a period of Chinese history lasting from 1368 to 1644. Some historians regard it as one of the longest and stablest periods of government in the history of civilization.
You know, one of those things can hurl a Cadillac a mile.
The catapults on aircraft carriers, generally powered by steam or rocket fuel, are used to launch fixed-wing aircraft from the relatively short deck of the carrier. The first recorded catapult-assisted flight from a carrier deck was in 1912. It was not successful (although the pilot survived). Cadillac is a line of luxury cars made by GM. Now, has the military ever launched a car off an aircraft carrier? Of course they have. In 2015, the Navy tested their new electromagnetic launch system with railroad cars (the little hand-operated ones, not full-size freight cars). They got some lift, but we’re talking yards, not miles.
[Sung.] Jets! Oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh, oooh …
“Jet” is a 1974 song by Paul McCartney and Wings, from their album “Band on the Run.” Sample lyrics: “And Jet, I thought the Major/Was a lady suffragette/Jet! Ooooh ooooh/Jet! Ooooh ooooh ooooh ooooh.”
Everyone’s legs are sticking out.
A callback to MST3K: The Movie (1996), wherein it was observed that a fighter jet looked like the pilot’s legs were sticking out of the bottom of the plane.
I’m using my Sunbeam facial mister.
A facial sauna or facial steamer is a product that produces steam to moisturize the skin of your face and neck; they are manufactured by many different companies, but we were unable to locate one made by Sunbeam.
Dan Fouts, fighter pilot.
Dan Fouts played quarterback for the San Diego Chargers from 1973 to 1987. After he retired he became a color analyst for CBS sports.
Sky King. –Sky King. –Sky King. –And Sky King. Brought to you by Nabisco.
Sky King was a long-running radio program that began in 1946, and aired until 1954, as well as a TV series that lasted from 1951 until 1959 on ABC, NBC, and in syndication. The series revolved around Arizona rancher Schuyler “Sky” King and his adventures finding lost hikers, spies, bank robbers, etc., using his plane, the Songbird. He was assisted by his niece, Penny, and sometimes his nephew, Clipper. Cookie and snack maker Nabisco was a sponsor of the program, and there were various product tie-in promotions involving characters from the show.
And now? Morning Reflections.
Possibly a reference to those relaxation CDs, where the cover always had a scene of a sunset to mellow you out.
The final, desperate hours of the Dole campaign. –Where’s the outrage?
Bob Dole was a U.S. senator from 1968-1996. He won the Republican nomination for president in 1996 after two previously unsuccessful attempts. In a speech in Houston late in the race, Dole recited a string of Clinton administration scandals, ending with what would become a frustrated epitaph for his campaign: “Where’s the outrage?” Clinton went on to defeat Dole, 49 percent to 41 percent (independent Ross Perot won 8 percent of the vote).
“Richmond, Virginia?” No, Richmond in the United Arab Emirates. Wake up!
Richmond is the capital of and the fourth-largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The United Arab Emirates is a country in the Arabian Peninsula that borders Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Why don’t they look, Ned?
A callback to a classic line from the short Last Clear Chance from Show 520, Radar Secret Service. A railroad engineer at the site of a train vs. car accident ruefully asks, “Why don’t they look, Ralph? Why don’t they look?”
Touch of Evil II. This time it’s a bug.
Touch of Evil is a 1958 film written, directed by, and starring Orson Welles. A gritty black-and-white crime drama about the investigation of a double murder on the U.S.-Mexican border, it is considered a classic example of late film noir.
Looks like Scott Hamilton here.
Scott Hamilton is an American figure skater who took home the gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. After that he turned professional, touring with his own skating company for 15 years before retiring.
Possibly a take on Dr. Feelgood, which has a few different possible origins itself. The first and most obvious is Motley Crue’s 1989 album (and title song) Dr. Feelgood, about the band’s efforts to achieve sobriety. There have also been a couple of actual doctors awarded that nickname. One was JFK’s personal physician, Max Jacobsen, who relieved the president’s severe chronic back pain with “vitamin shots” that were laced with amphetamines and methamphetamine. Another was Elvis Presley’s doctor George Nichopolous, and we know how well Presley’s relationship with prescription drugs worked out.
I see there’s an Amanda Beardsley film festival.
Sampo of the MST3KInfo site suggests this is actually meant as a reference to Amanda Bearse, an actress who appeared on Married … with Children and who came out as a lesbian in 1993, when that was still very uncommon for actresses to do. The “Beardsley” might also be a play on the practice of gay people using people of the opposite sex as “beards.”
She has a temp job at Baskerville Castle.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the Sherlock Holmes series of detective stories. One of the few novel-length tales, it was first published in book form in 1902 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). In the book, Dr. Watson journeys to Baskerville Hall (not Castle) in fog-bound Dartmoor, to help protect its new owner from the demonic hound of the title.
She’s a waitress at the International House of Usher.
The International House of Pancakes, better known as IHOP, is a nationwide chain of restaurants specializing in breakfasts. The first restaurant opened in Toluca Lake, California, in 1958. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a short story, first published in 1839, by American author and poet Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). Like Hound of the Baskervilles, “House of Usher” plays heavily on the dramatic use of fog throughout the story.
[Sung.] Melody from “The Wiener Song.”
Oscar Meyer is an American manufacturer of lunchmeats and hot dogs. For many years their advertising jingle was a maddeningly unforgettable little ditty with these lyrics: “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Meyer wiener/That is what I’d truly like to be-e-eee/’Cause if I were an Oscar Meyer wiener/Everyone would be in love with me.” The song was written by Chicago ad man Richard Trentlage for a contest held by Oscar Meyer; it debuted in 1963 and went on to become the longest-running commercial jingle in history before it was retired in 2010. Then there’s the Wienermobile: a vehicle in the shape of a hot dog on a bun, used to promote Oscar Meyer wieners. The first Wienermobile was introduced in 1936, and they continue to roam the streets today.
Oh, the mantis has joined the Birmingham bus boycott.
In 1958, leading up to the “Birmingham campaign” for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama, there were plans for a boycott of city buses. Planning meetings were disrupted by police, and organizers were arrested. More widely known, and considered one of the key successes of the civil rights movement, was the Montgomery bus boycott, which lasted more than a year between 1955 and 1956, and led to a Supreme Court ruling declaring Alabama’s segregation laws unconstitutional.
Hopefully John Madden was on that bus.
Aside from his careers as a football player, Super Bowl-winning NFL coach, and color commentator for Monday Night Football, sports legend John Madden is also known for his fear of flying, which led to him traveling exclusively in a customized bus and prevented him from attending the Pro Bowls, which until 2010 were held in Hawaii. (Ironic trivia note: Madden’s wife is a pilot.)
“Attention. All military and civil defense personnel …” You cannot be turned down for this policy.
Various low-budget TV ads for life insurance often attempt to look and sound like a government public service announcement, beginning with “Attention. All current and former U.S. military personnel …” and include a promise that “You cannot be turned down …”
[Southern accent.] It’s a talkin’ motorcicle. Hey.
Possibly a reference to Show 501, Warrior of the Lost World, in which the mumbling anti-hero (“Paper Chase guy” Robert Ginty) traverses a post-apocalyptic world on a “supersonic speed cycle” named Einstein that does indeed talk. Annoyingly.
Probably a reference to the movie Independence Day (1996), which was also marketed under the title ID4. One of the most famous shots in the film showed an alien spaceship hovering over the White House before blowing it to smithereens.
Mr. Mantis goes to Washing-death.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is an iconic 1939 movie starring James Stewart and directed by Frank Capra, about a decent, average man who is elected senator and confronts the corruption of politics. See also above note about TV detective show titles.
Where’s the outrage?
See note on Bob Dole, above.
Uh, Andrew, can we use your Air Force base, please?
Andrews Air Force Base is a large Air Force facility in Maryland. In 2009 it merged with Naval Air Facility Washington, so now it is officially called Joint Base Andrews. It is home base for the 89th Airlift Wing, which maintains the aircraft for the president, vice president, and other top U.S. officials, including the two 747s that are designated Air Force One when the president is on board.
[Sung.] Highway to the … cheap stock footage.
“Danger Zone” is a 1986 song written by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock and performed by Kenny Loggins, which appeared on the soundtrack for the 1986 Tom Cruise movie Top Gun. The song hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and became closely associated with the movie. Sample lyrics: “Revvin’ up your engine/Listen to her howlin’ roar/Metal under tension/Beggin’ you to touch and go/Highway to the danger zone/Ride into the danger zone.” Later audiences may be more familiar with the song through the frequent references on the animated TV show Archer (2009-present).
He’ll hang up and listen.
On radio call-in talk shows, often a caller will ask a question and then say, “I’ll hang up and listen,” indicating they have no follow-up questions.
Bogey fever, over.
In maritime, aviation, and military brevity code, “bogey” means an unknown aircraft that has been spotted visually or on radar. “Boogie Fever,” by The Sylvers, was a number one hit song in 1975. Sample lyrics: “She’s got the boogie fever/She likes to boogie down/Boogie fever/I think it’s going around.”
[Sung.] “Peter Gunn.”
The ultra-cool theme music for the Peter Gunn TV show, about a sophisticated private investigator, was composed by Henry Mancini. The show ran from 1958-1961, but the theme song, which won an Emmy and two Grammys, became far more famous than the TV series it was created for; it has been covered by everyone from Duane Eddy to Art of Noise and has been on the Billboard charts multiple times.
Is this really all I can be?
See note on “Be all that you can be,” above.
This is Bernard Shaw, I’m under the table now.
In January 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, CNN reporter Bernard Shaw famously reported from his Baghdad hotel during a bombing raid by American forces. As the attack was happening, Shaw continued to broadcast while he and members of his crew took shelter under tables and other furniture.
“Dixie 3-5 Bravo.” I wish I was in Dixie 3-5 Bravo.
The song “Dixie,” also known as “I Wish I Was in Dixie” and “Dixie’s Land,” is an American folk song that is closely associated with minstrels in blackface and helped make “Dixie” a shorthand for the American South. The song’s origin has been disputed for decades, but most sources credit Daniel Decatur Emmett, who founded the first blackface minstrel troupe, with composing it, probably in 1859. There were many variants of the lyrics, but the chorus tended to be left intact: “Den I wish I was in Dixie/Hooray! Hooray!/In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand to lib [sic] and die in Dixie.”
I love you, Alice B. Toklas.
Alice B. Toklas (1877-1967) was the life partner of author Gertrude Stein; the two of them shared a home in Paris where they hosted salons in the 1920s attended by many of the leading artists and intellectuals of the day, including Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. Possibly also a reference to the 1968 film I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, a romantic comedy starring Peter Sellers as a straight-laced guy who falls in love with a hippie girl.
Keep watching the skies, Eleanor.
“Keep watching the skies” was the final line of dialogue in the 1951 science-fiction film The Thing from Another World, about a group of scientists in an Arctic research outpost who must defend themselves against a hostile extraterrestrial. Director John Carpenter took another run at the story (sticking closer to the original 1938 novella, Who Goes There?) with his 1982 horror film The Thing, starring Kurt Russell. “Eleanor” is probably a reference to Eleanor Roosevelt, (1884-1962) who was the wife of President Franklin Roosevelt and served as First Lady from 1933-1945.
Joanie and Potsie look on.
Joanie Cunningham, played by Erin Moran, and Warren “Potsie” Weber, played by Anson Williams, were characters from Happy Days, an American sitcom set in the 1950s that aired on ABC from 1974 to 1984. A spinoff series, Joanie Loves Chachi, starring Moran and Scott Baio, only lasted for two brief seasons (ABC, 1982-1984) and came in at #17 in the TV Guide Network’s 2010 list of the “25 Biggest TV Blunders.”
Ah, should we take down that big ape on the Empire State Building while we’re here?
King Kong (1933) is a classic film about a giant ape on an island in the South Pacific that is captured and brought to New York City. It was remade in 1976 and again in 2005. In the climactic final scene (spoiler alert!), King Kong climbs the Empire State Building and is shot down by military aircraft.
We accelerated to Mach 1, but the deer flies still outpaced us.
See note on Mach 5, above. Deer flies are a wasp-like fly that feed on blood (the females, anyway). Their bite stings and can cause an allergic reaction in humans, but mostly they feed on horses and other livestock. The fast flight claim, however, refers not to the deer fly, but the deer bot fly, which researchers in the 1920s claimed had been observed flying at the equivalent of 800 mph, or faster than the speed of sound. Later studies corrected this to about 25 mph.
A spin on Top Gun, an intensely macho 1986 film starring Tom Cruise as a top fighter pilot.
The June Taylor Fighter Planes.
June Taylor (1917-2004) was an American choreographer who worked on television shows from the 1940s to the 1960s. Her “June Taylor Dancers” were a regular feature on the old Jackie Gleason Show (DuMont/CBS, 1950-1957). Her signature style was a large group of tightly synchronized dancers, who created geometric patterns when seen from above.
Curse you, Red Baron!
In the comic strip “Peanuts,” by Charles M. Schulz (1922-2000), Charlie Brown’s pet beagle Snoopy often imagines himself a World War I flying ace, donning a helmet with goggles and “flying” his doghouse like a Sopwith Camel biplane against the Red Baron. When shot down, he shakes his fist at the sky and cries, “Curse you, Red Baron!”
“This is Beagle One-7.” Arf arf.
“Arf arf arf” is the noise the beagle Snoopy makes when he barks in the “Peanuts” comic strip (see previous note).
Banzai! I am the divine wind!
Kamikaze (usually translated as “divine wind”) was the suicidal tactic used by Japanese military pilots of crashing their planes into Allied naval vessels during World War II. “Banzai” was actually an Allied term for a style of attack used by the Japanese infantry that was also a form of suicide attack: throwing a wave of soldiers at the enemy when it was clear that the battle was lost. The word comes from the Japanese battle cry "Tennōheika Banzai,” which translates as “Long live His Majesty the Emperor.”
He’s got a nice La-Z-Boy.
La-Z-Boy is an American home furniture maker best known for their big, comfy recliners.
What color is that parachute?
What Color Is Your Parachute? is a career advice book by Richard Nelson Bolles that was originally published in 1970 and has been revised and reprinted every year since 1975. The title itself references a “golden parachute,” which is when a top executive gets a generous package of severance pay, stock options, etc., when they leave a company. Originally it meant an agreement that the executive would be compensated in the event of a merger or takeover, but lately it’s come to mean they get massive amounts of money regardless of why they’re leaving or how badly they screwed up.
[Sung.] I love New York in June, how ‘bout you?
A paraphrase of lyrics from the song “How About You” that was first heard in the 1941 movie Babes on Broadway, starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. One of the better-known versions is Frank Sinatra’s 1956 recording. Sample lyrics: “I like New York in June, how about you?/I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?/I love a fireside when a storm is due/I like potato chips, moonlight, and motor trips, how about you?”
Meanwhile, the city hoses down Pavarotti’s sheets.
Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007) was a popular operatic tenor and (as here) sometimes the butt of jokes over his weight. He is considered one of the finest tenors of the 20th century, and certainly the most commercially successful. He toured widely, made numerous television appearances, and gave one notoriously bad dramatic film performance (Yes, Giorgio,1982).
[Imitating.] Good night, Mrs. Calabash.
Vaudevillian, comedian, and singer Jimmy Durante (1893-1980) had three signature phrases: “Inka dinka doo” (also the title of one of his signature songs), “Stop da music!” (see note below), and the signoff from his radio show, which became a national catchphrase in the 1930s: “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” For decades, Durante was coy about the meaning of the last one, but in 1966 he finally revealed it was a tribute to his first wife, Jean, who had died in 1943. “Mrs. Calabash” was his pet name for her, taken from a small town they had visited on a cross-country drive.
Hey, maybe this guy’d volunteer to smear himself with peanut butter and stand on the Chrysler Building.
The Chrysler Building is an iconic, Art Deco skyscraper in New York City that, for nearly a year after it was completed in 1930, was the tallest building in the world (it was surpassed by the Empire State Building in 1931). Possibly a reference to a 1960s comedy routine by Bob Newhart, which involves an idea to “smear the Chrysler Building with bananas” to distract King Kong (see above note).
Mr. Winchell, please.
Walter Winchell (1897-1972) was an American journalist and broadcaster whose chatty gossip column was read avidly across the nation. He also appeared on a weekly radio news program from the 1930s through the 1950s. In his later years, he became an arch-conservative, supporting Senator Joe McCarthy’s communist witch hunt during the Red Scare of the 1950s. He also served as the narrator for the TV drama The Untouchables from 1959-1963. His sartorial trademark was a rumpled fedora.
[Imitating.] Stop the music, stop the music.
“Stop da music!” was a signature catchphrase of entertainer Jimmy Durante (see above note). In August 1955, Durante shouted “Stop da music!” in all seriousness, after fellow performer Carmen Miranda fell to one knee while dancing with him on The Jimmy Durante Show (NBC, 1954-1956). Miranda was able to continue performing, but collapsed and died of a heart attack in her hotel room after the show.
Hey, a Swiss Army panel truck.
The flag of Switzerland is a white cross on a red field, and the Swiss army uses the same symbol on their equipment, including their famous all-purpose knives.
Oh, they’re sending in Elizabeth Dole.
Elizabeth Dole, who is married to former senator and Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole, has served as a United States senator and worked in various capacities in the Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush the Elder administrations. Most importantly, she served as president of the American Red Cross from 1991 to 1999.
Hey, I think they got ice cream. –It’s ice cream! –Ice cream! –Fudgsicle … I want a Fudgsicle. –I want a Dreamsicle. Do you have any Dreamsicles?
Fudgsicle is a popular brand of frozen, chocolate-flavored ice milk served on a stick. It is one of the Popsicle brands. Dreamsicles appear to be no longer available, but they are virtually identical to Creamsicles, another Popsicle brand: a vanilla ice cream center covered with orange, blue raspberry, lime, cherry, or grape-flavored ice. The only difference between Dreams and Creams, as far as we could tell, is that Dreamsicles had ice milk instead of ice cream in the center.
Gimme a Bomb Pop. I scream, you scream.
The Bomb Pop, another ice cream truck staple, was first sold in 1955 and is made by Wells Dairy. It now comes in multiple varieties and flavors, but the original red-white-and-blue version was cherry, lime, and blue raspberry. The 1925 song “Ice Cream” by Johnson, Moll, and King contains the lyrics: “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!/Rah, rah, rah!/Tuesdays, Mondays, we all scream for Sundaes!/Siss! Boom! Bah!” That first line has become a kind of general purpose slogan for the joys of ice cream.
Hey, c’mon, I got tickets for the Meadowlands.
The Meadowlands Sports Complex is a huge sports, entertainment, and retail facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It contains a football stadium, a horse racing track, a shopping and entertainment mall, and a practice facility for the New York Giants.
Bishop Sheen. Mrs. La Guardia. Mr. Dewey.
An early adopter of preaching via radio and television, Fulton John Sheen (1895-1979) was bishop of the Archdiocese of New York from 1951 to 1966. Fiorello La Guardia (1882-1947) was mayor of New York City from 1934 to 1945; he was married twice, first to Thea Almerigotti, who died in 1921 at the age of 26, and then to Marie Fisher, who was his wife until his death in 1947. Thomas Dewey (1902-1971) was the governor of New York and a twice-failed Republican presidential candidate: in 1944 (against incumbent FDR), and in 1948 (against Harry Truman, the source of the famously inaccurate newspaper headline “Dewey Defeats Truman”).
“I don’t think we better wait much longer, sir.” Um … make it so?
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series and feature films, “Make it so” is what Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard, portrayed by Patrick Stewart, commonly says after issuing an order.
Joe’s got back!
A reference to “Baby Got Back,” a song by hip-hop artist Sir Mix-a-Lot; it hit number one on the Billboard charts in the summer of 1992. Sample lyrics: “I like big butts and I cannot lie/You other brothers can’t deny/That when a girl walks in with an itty-bitty waist/And a round thing in your face …”
[Imitating.] She’s wearing a good Republican cloth coat.
A reference to a line in Richard M. Nixon’s famous “Checkers speech,” delivered in 1952 when he was the Republican candidate for vice president (running with Dwight D. Eisenhower). Under attack for alleged financial improprieties, Nixon defended himself in a half-hour televised address, detailing his family’s modest means but also admitting they had received one gift they were keeping: their cocker spaniel, Checkers. While describing their lifestyle, Nixon said: “That's what we have and that’s what we owe. It isn’t very much, but Pat [his wife] and I have the satisfaction that every dime that we’ve got is honestly ours. I should say this—that Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat.” The speech did what it was intended to do, which was persuade Eisenhower to keep Nixon on the ticket, and the Republicans easily won the presidential election a few weeks later.
Meanwhile, at the men’s bathroom at Giants Stadium.
Giants Stadium was the football stadium at the Meadowlands Sports Complex (see above note) that acted as home base for the New York Giants until 2010, when it was torn down and replaced by the MetLife Stadium in the same location.
The Gorton’s fishermen go high tech.
Gorton’s of Gloucester makes a wide variety of frozen seafood products for retail sales and distribution to fast-food restaurants, including McDonald’s. The “Gorton’s fisherman,” a bearded seaman in a yellow slicker and hat clutching a ship’s wheel, has been their iconic (and much parodied, especially on the Late Show with David Letterman) symbol since 1978.
You have the right to an entomologist; if you’re found guilty you’ll be pinned to a giant piece of cardboard.
A parody of the so-called Miranda Rights recited to every criminal suspect by police upon their arrest to inform them of their constitutional rights. This recitation became standard after the 1966 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case Miranda v. Arizona and entered the public consciousness thanks to innumerable police dramas. In real life, however, the rights are generally read from a card, to ensure there is no variance in the wording that might enable the accused to get off on a technicality (hence the phrase “read him his rights”).
Kelsey, throw us the keys. –[Imitating.] Well, I don’t know …
Kelsey Grammer (imitated here) is a comic actor who played Dr. Frasier Crane on the TV show Cheers (NBC, 1982-1993) and later on the successful spinoff Frasier (NBC, 1993-2004). Grammer has reportedly had a history of problems with alcohol and drug addiction. In 1996 he flipped his car in an accident; shortly afterward, he checked himself into the Betty Ford Center for treatment.
You look like a big percolator, sir. –That’s enough, soldier. –[Sung.] Maxwell House jingle. –Stop it, soldier! –[Continues singing.] –Quiet!
In the 1950’s and ‘60s, Maxwell House Coffee ran a series of television ads featuring a coffee pot that played the Maxwell House jingle as it percolated.
This is a bug hunt, man, a bug hunt!
Bill Paxton’s character Hudson in the 1986 science-fiction action movie Aliens, directed by James Cameron, does say “Is this going to be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?” But he says it aboard the ship, sounding bored, when his macho persona is still firmly in place. The terrified tones here are more in keeping with Paxton’s later famous line “Game over, man, game over!”
He’s hired a fifty-foot Alan Dershowitz to defend him.
Alan Dershowitz is a Harvard professor and lawyer who became famous for several high-profile cases, including the O.J. Simpson trial, for which he was part of the defense. His role in defending Claus von Bülow was dramatized in the 1990 movie Reversal of Fortune. In later years he became known for his controversial political views, including defending President Donald Trump’s encouragement of the 2021 U.S. Capitol insurrection.
I think I see him! –Oh, that’s a giant potato beetle.
Leptinotarsa decemlineata, also known as the “Colorado potato beetle” or just “potato bug,” is a yellow and brown striped little guy that is a perennial problem for potato growers. They also like to nosh on eggplants and tomatoes.
The cast of Outbreak in The Untouchables.
Outbreak is a 1995 film about the worldwide effects of a virus, similar to ebola, that spreads from Zaire to a small California town via an infected lab animal, and from there to the rest of the country. The movie stars Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, and Donald Sutherland, often dressed in sporty hazmat suits. The Untouchables is a 1987 film directed by Brian De Palma and starring Kevin Costner as federal agent Eliot Ness, facing off against gangster Al Capone (played by Robert De Niro) in 1920s Chicago. The film is based on an old TV series of the same name, which aired from 1959-1963 on ABC.
Give me the Wheaties.
Wheaties is a General Mills cereal known for its association with athletes and sports. Marketed as “The Breakfast of Champions,” the wheat and bran flake mixture was first sold in 1924.
E.T. go home.
“E.T. phone home” (not “go home”) is the most famous line from the 1982 classic sci-fi film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg. The plot revolves around the friendship that develops between a young boy and a gentle alien stranded on earth, and the pair’s efforts to get E.T. back home.
Typical human. Bring a gun to a car fight.
A spin on a classic line of dialogue delivered by Sean Connery in the 1987 film The Untouchables (see previous note). The actual line: “Isn't that just like a [slur for Italians]? Brings a knife to a gun fight.”
[Sung.] I’m a mantis … I spell M … A … N … T …
A spin on the classic blues song “Mannish Boy,” written and first recorded by Muddy Waters in 1955. Sample lyrics: “But now I’m a man, way past 21/Want you to believe me, baby/I had lots of fun/ I’m a man/I spell M, A, child, N/That represents man.”
Gollum’s bigger than I thought.
Gollum is a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books. Gollum was once a Hobbit named Sméagol, but possession of the One Ring transformed him into a cave-dwelling, frog-like creature with an unnaturally long lifespan.
[Sung.] Sanford and Son theme.
Sanford and Son is an American sitcom that ran from 1972 to 1977 on ABC. Based on the British sitcom Steptoe and Son, it follows the exploits of widowed junk merchant Fred Sanford and his long-suffering son Lamont in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. The theme song, titled “The Streetbeater,” was composed by Quincy Jones.
For some reason, this brings the Serbs into the war.
The Yugoslav Wars were fought from 1991 to 2002 among the countries that arose after the former Soviet satellite country of Yugoslavia broke apart. These included Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia. The worst of these was the Bosnian War (1992-1995), in which ethnic Serbs carried out ethnic cleansing against Bosnians, massacring or forcibly relocating as many as 100,000 of them, a war crime that was later ruled to be genocide.
Hey, it smells like Vicks VapoRub.
Vicks is a line of over-the-counter cold and flu products, including Vicks VapoRub, Vicks Nyquil, and Vicks Formula 44, first created in 1890. VapoRub is a petroleum jelly-like salve with a strong menthol aroma that’s meant to be applied to the chest of a cold sufferer or put near the vent of a steam vaporizer. Most medical professionals agree its therapeutic value is mostly psychological.
[Sung.] Truckin’ … Ha-ha-ha! Get it?
“Truckin’” is a 1970 song by the jam-happy American rock band Grateful Dead. In 1997 it was recognized as a “national treasure” by the U.S. Library of Congress. Sample lyrics: “Truckin’/Got my chips cashed in/Keep truckin’/Like the doo-dah man/Together/More or less in line/Just keep truckin’ on.”
Now, Colonel, if we frag you, don’t take it personally.
“Fragging” is the act of soldiers assassinating their own commanding officer, usually because he is seen as incompetent or leading them into danger. The term comes from “fragmentation grenade” and originated during the Vietnam War.
I’m going down a long pest strip.
A pest strip, usually called a “no-pest strip,” is a piece of soft plastic that is infused with insecticide and used to control flies and mosquitoes.
[Sung.] I hear those gentle voices calling … big green bug …
A parody of the popular song “Old Black Joe,” published in 1860 by songwriter Stephen Foster, who also wrote “Camptown Races” and “Oh! Susanna.” Sample lyrics: “I’m coming, I’m coming/For my head is bending low/I hear those gentle voices calling ‘Old Black Joe.’”
Live fast, die really old.
The saying, “Live fast, die young, and have a good-looking corpse!” is often attributed to James Dean, Jim Morrison, or any other relatively young person who did, in fact, die young. It was spoken on film first by actor John Derek in the 1949 Humphrey Bogart movie Knock On Any Door. The film was based on the 1947 novel of the same name by Willard Motley.
Still, that was sadder than Terms of Endearment, you gotta …
Terms of Endearment is a 1983 American film starring Shirley MacLaine, Jack Nicholson, and Debra Winger. With a plot built around the protracted death of a pretty young woman, it has gained a reputation as the gold standard of modern “tearjerker” movies (and picked up five Academy Awards along the way).
[Sung.] There’s got to be a morning after …
“The Morning After” is the love theme from the disaster movie The Poseidon Adventure (1972); in the film’s credits, the song is titled “The Song from The Poseidon Adventure.” Written in one night by 20th Century Fox songwriters Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn, the song was performed by actress Carol Lynley in the movie (with a voice double, Renee Armand, actually doing the singing) and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Following the film’s success, a 1973 version by singer Maureen McGovern became a worldwide hit. Sample lyrics: “There’s got to be a morning after/If we can hold on through the night/We have a chance to find the sunshine/Let’s keep on looking for the light.”
Visitation will be from two to four in the Lincoln Tunnel.
The Lincoln Tunnel connects Manhattan Island to Weehawken, New Jersey, with a mile and a half stretch that runs under the Hudson River. The tunnel was built in three stages, with the first part opening in 1937 and the final stretch opening 20 years later.
Yeah, honey, I pretty much fragged him single-handed.
See above note on fragging.
Yeah, the Taliban militia is shocked by her conservatism.
The Taliban are a group of radical Islamists that began as freedom fighters in Afghanistan’s long war against the occupying Soviet Union during the 1980s. They came to power in 1996 and immediately instituted an extreme form of Sharia, or Islamic religious law. Floggings and public executions became common. Men were required to wear beards, and women were forbidden to work or go to school. The Taliban were ousted by a U.S. invasion in 2001 in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but they quickly regrouped and have been fighting the American-backed Afghani government and NATO forces as an insurgency movement ever since.
Could I get some ginger ale and saltines? I feel yucky.
Ginger ale is a ginger-flavored carbonated soft drink. A saltine, also known as a soda cracker, is a square, thin cracker made of white flour, baking soda, shortening, and yeast, with a little salt sprinkled on top. Because the carbonation in ginger ale tends to induce burping, and the starch in saltines tends to absorb excess stomach acid, the combination is a mom-approved home remedy for little kids with sad tummies. (Ginger really does reduce nausea, but most brands of ginger ale contain little if any actual ginger.)
You ever been to the Copa? I can get ya in, baby.
The Copacabana was a New York City nightclub that opened in 1940. Over the years, it featured many popular performers, including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, Groucho Marx, and more. In the ‘70s, unfortunately, it became a disco, and the likes of The Village People, Gloria Gaynor, and others performed there. It closed for three years in the late 1970s when the owner died. It reopened after that and has moved multiple times since then. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of its current Times Square location, but it planned to reopen elsewhere the following year. In 1947, the club was featured in the Groucho Marx/Carmen Miranda film Copacabana, and in 1978, it was immortalized in Barry Manilow’s song “Copacabana.”
My Brownie camera!
The Brownie was the name given to a series of inexpensive cameras—the first model, in 1900, cost $1 (equivalent to about $30 today)—manufactured by Eastman Kodak. Since they were both cheap and easy to use, Brownies became very popular and made it possible for people to take casual snapshots rather than a few stiff, formal, posed photographs, as was standard in the 19th century. The last Brownie was manufactured in 1986.
Well, couldn’t make it here, can’t make it anywhere, I guess.
A reference to lyrics from the song “Theme from New York, New York,” written for the 1977 Martin Scorsese film New York, New York, and popularized by Frank Sinatra’s 1979 version. Sample lyrics: “If I can make it there/I’ll make it anywhere/It’s up to you/New York, New York.”
And keep watching the ground.
See above note on “Keep watching the skies, Eleanor.”