613: The Sinister Urge
by Wyn Hilty
Were these sold door-to-door?
For 60 years, Encyclopedia Britannica was marketed primarily through door-to-door sales. In 1996, citing the increased popularity of electronic reference works, the company laid off its entire sales force and concentrated on selling its CD-ROM version; in 2012 it announced it would no longer publish a printed edition, instead offering subscriptions to its online version.
Here’s the ‘shrooms, Billy.
“’Shrooms’” is stoner slang for psychedelic mushrooms.
“Back in bed this morning.” Now a giant cockroach.
In “The Metamorphosis,” a story by Franz Kafka, the main character awakens one morning in bed to find that overnight he has transformed into a giant cockroach.
[Shrieked.] Psycho theme.
An imitation of the shrill orchestral piece that plays during the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho; the music was composed by Bernard Herrmann.
Use a Brillo Pad and Comet.
Brillo Pads are a type of scouring pad made from steel wool permeated with soap. They were introduced in 1913 by the Brillo Manufacturing Company. Comet is a soap powder first introduced in 1956; it is manufactured by Procter & Gamble.
Why couldn’t they have had Mamie Van Doren star in this thing?
Mamie Van Doren was the blond, famously curvaceous star of a series of B-movies during the 1950s and 1960s. She appeared in two MST3K episodes: Show 112, Untamed Youth, and Show 601, Girls Town.
He’s becoming Howard Hughes!
Howard Hughes (1905-1976) was a reclusive, eccentric, and very wealthy manufacturer, aviator, and film producer. In 1950 he went into complete seclusion, where his various eccentricities became legend. He was deathly afraid of germs, using Kleenexes to handle objects and refusing to shake hands. Hughes died in his private plane while he was en route to a hospital in 1976. (Thanks to a couple of readers for correcting the cause of death.)
Comb your Darrin Stephens haircut.
Darrin Stephens was the nebbishy husband on the TV sitcom Bewitched, which aired from 1964-1972. The part was played first by Dick York; when York left the series due to health problems, Dick Sargent took over the role.
Eh-heh! Eh-heh! Mad dog!
A line from the 1985 film Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, in which the eternally goofing-off Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens, 1952-2023) brushes his teeth, and with a foamy mouthful of toothpaste yells at the mirror "Mad dog! Arrr!" (Thanks to Nick Reed for this reference.)
An imitation of Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, a character on the TV sitcom Happy Days, which aired from 1974-1984. Played by Henry Winkler, Fonzie became known for his trademark thumbs-up, accompanied by the above catchphrase.
Stigmata is a term used to describe wounds or marks on a person’s body that correspond with the wounds suffered by Jesus during the crucifixion. Many people claiming stigmata have been exposed as frauds, and the general consensus among the medical and psychiatric community is that people claiming stigmata are suffering some form of mental illness.
Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was a Roman Catholic nun and the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, an order dedicated to helping the poor, particularly in India. She began working with the poor in Calcutta in 1928. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; in 2003, six years after her death, she was beatified (the first step toward awarding her sainthood).
[Sung.] Take the ribbon from my hair …
A paraphrase of a line from “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” a 1970 song by Kris Kristofferson which has been recorded by Elvis and Willie Nelson, among others. Actual lyrics: “Take the ribbon from your hair, shake it loose and let it fall/Layin’ soft upon my skin, like the shadows on the wall …”
She’s getting ready for her date with Jerry Seinfeld.
In 1993, comedian and TV sitcom star Jerry Seinfeld made tabloid headlines when news broke of his relationship with a young woman named Shoshanna Lonstein. She was 18; he was 39. The couple stayed together until 1997; two years later Seinfeld married Jessica Sklar, with whom he has since had two children.
“That’s as bad as Don was.” Don Was, the producer?
Don Was is a well-known musician who founded the band Was (Not Was) in the 1980s. Since then he has built a respected career as a producer, working for such musicians as Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Iggy Pop, and the Rolling Stones. He won a Grammy for producing in 1995.
Oh, why can’t a woman be more like a man?
A reference to the song of the same name from the musical My Fair Lady. Sample lyrics: “Why can't a woman be more like a man?/Men are so honest, so thoroughly square/Eternally noble, historically fair/Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat/Why can't a woman be like that?”
Good night, Neely O’Hara.
Neely O’Hara is a character in the Jacqueline Susann novel Valley of the Dolls (1966). An aspiring actress, she makes it big in Hollywood only to find herself addicted to prescription drugs; she winds up committed to a sanitarium. In the 1967 film version of the book, the part was played by Patty Duke.
“Before you put on your dress …” Caress.
“Before you dress, Caress” is an advertising slogan for Caress moisturizing soap.
Tail ’n Mane really works.
Mane ’n Tail is a shampoo line originally developed for horses, but it has won a devoted following among two-legged mammals as well. It is manufactured by Straight Arrow.
Tenk you tenk you tenk you.
An imitation of bandleader Lawrence Welk (1903-1992), whose TV variety series, The Lawrence Welk Show, opened with the sound of a champagne cork popping, graphics of bubbles floating around, and the theme song “Bubbles in Wine.” The Lawrence Welk Show has been on the air since 1951—starting with four years on Los Angeles local TV, then almost 30 years on ABC, another decade in syndication, with re-runs still being shown on PBS.
The scantily clad prey.
The Naked Prey is a 1966 film about a group of hunters on safari in Africa who run afoul of a local tribe. The survivor finds himself the huntee rather than the hunter, as a group of tribesmen chase him down.
The Maidenform woman. You’ll never know where she’ll turn up.
“The Maidenform woman. You never know where she’ll turn up” was the tagline for a series of advertisements for Maidenform bras that ran during the 1970s. The campaign was phenomenally successful, boosting sales by as much as 200 percent. The ads continued to run until the mid-1980s.
And Rosie Ruiz takes the lead in the Boston Marathon.
In 1980, a woman named Rosie Ruiz (1953-2019) won the Boston Marathon, finishing in just over two and a half hours—the third-fastest time recorded for a woman runner. Almost immediately, her victory began to collapse, as no one remembered seeing her during the race and numerous photographs taken during the marathon failed to turn up any sightings. It turned out that Ruiz had simply jumped into the race half a mile from the finish line. Race officials awarded the prize instead to the second-place finisher, Jacqueline Gareau. To qualify for the Boston Marathon, she also cheated on the New York Marathon the previous year, riding the subway to near the finish line, then identifying herself as an injured runner and being marked down as having finished the race.
Looks like a pump, feels like a pump. Let me tell you.
Easy Spirit is a brand of women’s shoes. In 1989, the company ran a TV commercial bragging that their shoes “looks like a pump, but feels like a sneaker!”
She must be one of Senator Packwood’s aides.
Oregon Senator Robert Packwood served in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1995. He resigned his office in 1995 after the Senate Select Committee on Ethics recommended his expulsion due to a series of explosive sexual harassment charges, in which more than two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct ranging from kissing to forceful groping.
And she’s into the pits for a new slip, she’s got the Junior Johnson pit crew helping her out …
Junior Johnson is a highly respected stock car racer who competed during the 1950s and 1960s. After he retired in 1966, he had a successful career as a team owner, racking up nearly 140 victories.
Courtney Love is a musician and a founding member of the L.A. alt.-rock band Hole. She was married to Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain until his death in 1994.
This fall on ABC: Get Courtney Love.
See previous note on Courtney Love. Get Christie Love was a short-lived (1974-1975) TV series about a sexy Black undercover cop named Christie Love (played by Teresa Graves).
Quickly, into the TARDIS.
On the long-running cult BBC series Dr. Who, the Doctor’s time machine was the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space). It was disguised as a London police box. (Thanks to Alonzo Mosley for the police box reference.)
You’re not dealing with AT&T.
“You’re not dealing with AT&T” is an old advertising slogan for the telecommunications company.
“Operator! Operator!” Get me Sylvia’s mother!
A reference to the song “Sylvia’s Mother” by Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show. Sample lyrics: “Sylvia's mother says Sylvia's busy, too busy to come to the phone/Sylvia's mother says Sylvia's tryin' to start a new life of her own/Sylvia's mother says Sylvia's happy so why don't you leave her alone/And the operator says forty cents more for the next three minutes.”
Richard Diamond, operator.
Richard Diamond, the “singing gumshoe,” was originally the star of a radio series, Richard Diamond, Private Detective; the part was played by Dick Powell. When the series made the jump to television (where it aired from 1957-1960), the part was taken over by David “The Fugitive” Janssen.
An imitation of American character actor Frank Nelson’s (1911-1986) famous catchphrase. Nelson got his start in radio, first gaining fame on The Jack Benny Program, usually playing a long-suffering and deeply sarcastic sales clerk. He carried that persona—and his “Eee-yeeessss?” catchphrase—onto television, appearing in sitcoms ranging from I Love Lucy in the 1950s to Sanford & Son in the 1970s.
No, Jesus isn’t on the line.
A reference to the song "Operator" by Manhattan Transfer. Sample lyrics: "Operator/Information/Please give me Jesus on the line." (Thanks to J.T. Hollen for this reference.)
Let’s see here—spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch.
“Spectacles, testicles, wallet, and watch” is a mnemonic for remembering how to make the Catholic sign of the cross. It was popularized by the 1990 movie Nuns on the Run, although at least one online source pins it to a Jewish joke dating back to the 1960s.
Yep, Windsong. I’d know it anywhere.
Windsong is a women’s perfume manufactured by Prince Matchabelli. It was particularly popular during the 1970s.
Oh, man, Scavullo’s tough to work with!
Francesco Scavullo (1921-2004) was a fashion photographer known for his cover shots for Cosmopolitan magazine.(Thanks to J.T. Hollen for this reference.)
It’s Bizarre with John Byner!
Bizarre was a television show that aired on Canadian TV from 1980-1985. It was hosted by John Byner. (The series later aired in the United States on Showtime.) Probably the best-known skits on the show were those featuring Super Dave Osborne (played by the late comedian Bob Einstein), who later went on to make numerous appearances on Late Night with David Letterman.
Behind the scenes at Easyrider magazine. Not that I’d know.
Easyriders magazine is a motorcycle magazine that, in addition to motorcycles and busty babes, features “true tales of the road.”
This is Edward R. Murrow person to person with Irving Klaw.
Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965) was a legendary radio and television broadcast newsman who had a profound influence on broadcast journalism. In 1953 Murrow began hosting a TV show called Person to Person, which featured Murrow interviewing celebrities one on one. The show ran until 1961. Irving Klaw (1910-1966) was one of the early impresarios of sleaze, running a mail-order business selling nudie pics; his most famous model was a young brunette named Bettie Page.
Pulido’s ready to go in the bullpen.
Juan Carlos Pulido is a professional baseball player. He played with the Minnesota Twins as a relief pitcher in 1994, but an arm injury the following year sent him back into the minors. He finally made it back to the Twins’ lineup in 2003 and 2004.
I don’t like the direction the New Yorker’s taking under Tina Brown.
Tina Brown is a writer and editor. From 1984-1992, she was the editor in chief of Vanity Fair magazine; during her tenure, she more than quadrupled circulation. In 1992 she accepted an offer to become editor-in-chief of the sophisticated, artsy New Yorker magazine, which had been suffering declining circulation figures. Many longtime New Yorker readers protested the appointment, grousing that she would turn the publication into a slick, glossy, commercial affair along the lines of Vanity Fair. Their fears largely proved unfounded, and Brown gave a substantial boost to the magazine’s circulation before leaving in 1998.
Charley Weaver, pornographer.
Charley Weaver was a character created by comedian Cliff Arquette (1905-1974), a rumpled old man in a disreputable hat and round spectacles who would read a letter from his mother, back in his hometown of Mount Idy. Weaver appeared frequently on the Tonight Show with Jack Paar, and later with Johnny Carson. He was also a regular on The Hollywood Squares.
A riff on the theme song from the early ‘60s American adaptation of the Japanese manga/animated TV series Gigantor. The song, written by Louis C. Singer and Eugene Raskin, was later covered by American punk group The Dickies, who had a minor hit with it in England in 1982.
This is the hottest Petticoat Junction ever!
Petticoat Junction was a TV sitcom about life at a hotel near the small town of Hooterville, the same town that factors into the CBS sitcoms The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres. Petticoat Junction aired from 1963 to 1967.
Girls of the East Bloc.
Playboy magazine—back when it was an analog softcore porn provider—regularly ran photo layouts with titles such as “Girls of the Pac 12” or “Girls of the Olive Garden,” featuring nude pictures of young females who attend certain colleges or work for a particular business. During the Cold War, the Eastern Bloc was the term for the Soviet Union and its satellite states in Eastern Europe (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, etc.).
They call this the triple Eve Arden.
Eve Arden (1908-1990) was an actress best known for her title role in the TV series Our Miss Brooks, which aired from 1952-1956.
Ed Wood looks great in pantyhose!
Ed Wood (1924-1978), widely acknowledged to be the worst motion picture director of all time, was also a cross-dresser, with a particular fetish for angora sweaters. In fact, he claimed to have worn ladies’ undergarments under his uniform while serving in the armed forces during World War II (1939-1945). He focused on the subject of cross-dressing in his first film, Glen or Glenda (1953), a film in which he also starred in the title role.
Ah, it’s Erich von Stroheim’s Greed.
Erich von Stroheim (1885-1957) was an actor and director who hit his peak of fame in the silent-film era of the 1920s and ‘30s. As an actor, he specialized in villainous womanizer roles. As a director, he is best remembered for his 1925 epic Greed, which is considered by some critics one of the best films ever made. Unfortunately, its initial cut clocked in at four hours, and the studio only released it in a butchered two-hour version. A restored version, using still photographs from the production, was released in 1999.
Oh, he’s tallying up last night’s Scattergories scores.
Scattergories is a game by Milton Bradley, in which players have to match categories using words that begin with the same letter.
Is life so dear or peace so sweet … there. Done.
A line from Patrick “Give me liberty or give me death” Henry’s speech to the Virginia Convention in 1775. The full quotation: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!”
The Rainy Day Fun Book of Codpieces.
A riff on The Simpsons Rainy Day Fun Book, a 1991 collection of puzzles, games, jokes, and other activities written and edited by Matt Groening, creator of the long-running animated TV series The Simpsons.
It’s Jet Jaguar. –Hey, it is! How would you know?
A reference to Show 212, Godzilla vs. Megalon, which of course dates from the Joel era, before Mike arrived on the SOL.
Hey, it’s Hymie!
Hymie was the robotic secret agent in Get Smart, a TV sitcom spoofing spy movies that starred Don Adams as bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart. It ran from 1965-1970. Hymie was played by Dick Gautier.
Isn’t that Theresa Russell?
Theresa Russell is a blond actress who has appeared in such films as The Last Tycoon (1976) and Black Widow (1987).
“Gloria.” [Sung.] You’re always on the run now …
A line from the song “Gloria,” by Laura Branigan. Sample lyrics: “Gloria, you're always on the run now/Running after someone, you gotta get him somehow/I think you've got to slow down before you start to blow it/I think you're headed for a breakdown, so be careful not to show it.”
I’m going down to Moby Dick’s. It’s ladies’ night.
Moby Dick’s was a legendary dive in Minneapolis, located on the notorious “Block E,” known for offbeat galleries, alternative clubs, and so forth. The entire block was razed in the 1980s; it is currently a parking lot.
They’re working for King Features Syndicate?
King Features Syndicate is a publishing syndicate that distributes comic strips, columns, puzzles, and other features to newspapers. Its features include “Beetle Bailey,” “Family Circus,” and columnists such as Heloise and Dan Rather.
Those are probably smutty Hummels up on the wall.
The Goebel company produces collectible figurines based on the drawings of Sister M.I. Hummel, a Bavarian nun. They first became popular after World War II and have been produced for more than sixty years.
Teens come running for the good taste of porn.
Probably a reference to an old series of Ovaltine commercials. (Thanks to J.T. Hollen for this reference.)
Mary McCarthy’s The Group.
The Group is a 1963 novel by writer and theater critic Mary McCarthy. Loosely based on her own experiences at Vassar, the famed women’s college, the book follows a group of eight Vassar graduates through the subsequent decades after their graduation. It was made into a movie starring Candice Bergen in 1966.
[Sung.] Won’t you take me to Shantytown?
A reference to the song “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. Sample lyrics: “Won't you take me to Funkytown/Won't you take me to Funkytown [repeat ad infinitum].”
Hey, it’s Joe Keyes! Joe Keyes here.
Joe Keyes is an LA-by-way-of-Minneapolis standup comedian. He has appeared on a number of TV shows, including Seinfeld and The Drew Carey Show.
I’m not gonna pay a lot for this muffler!
“I’m not gonna pay a lot for this muffler” is an old advertising slogan for Meineke Discount Mufflers.
Bob Dylan to save the day!
Bob Dylan is the folk singer’s folk singer, a counterculture icon who got his start in the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Famous songs include “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
Fonzie, ace of spies.
Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, as played by Henry Winkler, was the leather-clad greaser on the TV show Happy Days, which aired from 1974-1984. Reilly, Ace of Spies was a 1983 TV miniseries starring Sam Neill as a superspy.
Mandy Patinkin, dress casual.
Mandy Patinkin is an actor and singer known for his roles in films such as The Princess Bride and musicals such as Sunday in the Park with George.
[Sung.] Well all right. (Uh-huh.) Okay. (Oh yeah.) You win. (Mm-hmm.) I’m in love with you. Well all right …
A riff on lyrics from the pop song “Alright, Okay, You Win,” written by Mayme Watts and Sidney Wyche, and first recorded by American singer Peggy Lee in 1958, becoming one of her signature songs. Sample lyrics: “Well alright, okay, you win/I’m in love with you/Well alright, okay, you win/Baby, what can I do?/Anything you say, I’ll do/As long as it’s me and you.” (Thanks to Alonzo Mosley for this reference.)
Hey, the Four Seasons are watching.
The Four Seasons were a doo-wop group during the 1960s, fronted by Frankie Valli. Hits included “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man.”
And Ann Miller looks on.
Ann Miller (1923-2004) was a dancer and actress who appeared in more than 40 movies and stage shows, including Easter Parade and Kiss Me Kate.
They’re trying to re-create the Burt Lancaster/Deborah Kerr thing, aren’t they?
From Here to Eternity is a 1953 film starring Lancaster as an army sergeant who falls in love with his captain’s wife (Kerr). The scene in which the couple makes out in the surf on a beach has become iconic, endlessly imitated and parodied.
Breaks just like a little … what? Hmmm.
A line from the song “Just Like a Woman” by Bob Dylan (see above note). Sample lyrics: “She takes just like a woman, yes, she does/She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does/And she aches just like a woman/But she breaks just like a little girl.”
This looks like a job for Zimmerman! Whoo!
“This looks like a job for Superman!” is a catch phrase from the old Superman radio show, as voiced by Clayton “Bud” Collyer. The phrase was also used in the Max Fleischer theatrical cartoons of the 1940s, for which Collyer also supplied the voices. It was in the Fleischer cartoons, too, that Clark Kent became known for changing into his super suit in a phone booth. Also yet another Dylan reference, since his real name was Robert Allen Zimmerman. (Thanks to Alonzo Mosley for pointing out the Dylan reference.)
Kids finally cleared out, Life photographer’s gone, I can use the phone now.
In 1959, photographer Joe Munroe took a famous picture for Life magazine of twenty-one students from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California, crammed into a standard-size phone booth. Phone booth cramming was a short-lived fad in the late 1950s, which started in South Africa and quickly spread to England and parts beyond.
Go east! The dam has broken!
Probably a reference to the James Thurber short story “The Day the Dam Broke,” in which the residents of Columbus, Ohio, get caught up in an episode of mass hysteria and stampede, believing that the dam outside the city has burst and they are about to be swept away and drowned.
Mark Morris choreographed.
Mark Morris is a dancer and choreographer who founded the Mark Morris Dance Company in 1980. He has created numerous works for top ballet companies and has also choreographed a number of operas.
Calgon, take me away!
“Calgon, take me away” is a longtime advertising slogan for Calgon scented bath products, which include bubble bath, body lotions, and more.
Pegasus is a creature from Greek mythology, a white stallion with wings. In the myths, Pegasus was created from the blood of the Gorgon Medusa when the hero Perseus beheaded her. He later served as a mount for the hero Bellerophon, who used his help to defeat the Chimera. Bellerophon later died trying to ride Pegasus to reach the top of Mount Olympus, where the gods lived. Despite what Disney movies would have you believe, Pegasus never hung out with Hercules.
Ah. Reduce, reuse, recycle.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle,” also known as the three R’s, is one of the central slogans of the environmental movement.
“Oh, Randy.” You’re a fine girl.
A reference to the song “Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. Sample lyrics: “The sailor said ‘Brandy, you're a fine girl’ (you're a fine girl)/’What a good wife you would be’ (such a fine girl)/’But my life, my love and my lady is the sea …’”
Oh, hi, Batwoman.
A reference to Show 515, The Wild, Wild World of Batwoman.
“Clausen again?” I love their pickles!
Claussen is a brand of pickles produced by Kraft Foods. They boast that their pickles are never cooked and always kept cold so they have a “crisp crunch.”
She’s Stephanie Hodge-ish. And I do mean “ish.”
Stephanie Hodge is a standup comedian and actress who was a regular on the TV series Nurses (1991-1994) and Unhappily Ever After (1995-1999).
Hey, Shari Belafonte Harper.
Shari Belafonte Harper (now just Shari Belafonte since her divorce from husband Robert Harper in 1988) is an actress and the daughter of singer Harry Belafonte. She is best known for her starring role on the TV series Hotel (1983-1988).
Paul Newman is Shari Belafonte Harper.
See previous note. Paul Newman (1925-2008) was one of the most highly regarded leading men of 20th-century film. He appeared in such classic films as The Hustler (1961) and Cool Hand Luke (1967), as well as the 1966 crime drama Harper, the posters for which proclaimed “Paul Newman is Harper.”
It’s the Gil Evans malt shop.
Gil Evans (1912-1988) was a jazz pianist and bandleader who worked with many of the major figures in jazz, including Charlie Parker and Count Basie.
Wallace Shawn is a writer and actor who has appeared in such films as My Dinner with Andre (1981) and The Princess Bride (1987).
A young Benazir Bhutto robs the malt shop.
Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007) was a Pakistani politician who in 1988 became the first woman to lead a Muslim nation. Her father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had been the leader of Pakistan from 1971-1977. Bhutto, who was educated at Oxford University in England, was prime minister of Pakistan from 1988-1990. From 1993-1996 she again led the government, although both of her terms were plagued by charges of malfeasance and corruption. In 2007 she was assassinated while vying for the post for the third time.
Bela Lugosi’s brother Shemp Lugosi.
Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) was a Hungarian actor best known for his portrayal of Count Dracula in the stage production and later in the 1931 film version of the play. Toward the end of his life he began working with director Ed Wood, and as a consequence appeared in several MST episodes, including Show 423, Bride of the Monster. Shemp Howard (1895-1955), along with his brothers Curly and Moe, was an off-again, on-again member of the comedy trio the Three Stooges. Shemp was a Stooge until 1930, when Curly replaced him; he returned in 1946 after Curly had a stroke and remained with the group until his death nine years later.
“They just brought Clausen in.” You have to keep him refrigerated, you know.
See note on Claussen pickles, above.
Let’s watch Ghost Dad again.
Ghost Dad is a poorly regarded 1990 film starring comedian Bill Cosby as a man in a coma who finds he has become a ghost.
Or Forrest Hump.
Forrest Gump is a 1994 movie starring Tom Hanks as a man with less-than-average intelligence who happens to be present at many of the great moments in recent history.
Yeah, Cathy’s trying on a bathing suit and saying, “Aaack!”
“Cathy” was a comic strip by Cathy Guisewite about a young woman who is perpetually overweight and eternally frazzled. It ran from 1976-2010.
I’ve got to see if my agent came through with that Larry Tate audition. Yes, Stephens. No, Stephens.
Larry Tate was a character on the television series Bewitched, which aired from 1964-1972. The role was played by actor David White (1916-1990). Tate was the neurotic boss of Darrin Stephens, who was played at various points by Dick York and Dick Sargent.
This one’s called A Few Nude Men.
A Few Good Men is a 1992 film about a young military lawyer (played by Tom Cruise) who tries to prove that Marines charged with killing another soldier were acting under the orders of their commander (Jack Nicholson).
I’m still big—it’s the dinkies that got small.
“I am big—it’s the pictures that got small” is a line from the 1950 film Sunset Boulevard.
“I look at this slush and try to remember …” The time in September.
A reference to the Tom Jones song “Try to Remember.” Sample lyrics: “Try to remember the kind of September/When life was slow and oh so mellow/Try to remember the kind of September/When grass was green and grain so yellow.”
“I made good movies.” Like Bikini Carwash.
The Bikini Carwash Company is a 1992 flick about a topless car wash. It starred nobody of consequence.
Waack, waack, waack, waack.
An imitation of the Penguin on the campy TV series Batman (1966-1968); the part was played by Burgess Meredith.
Ah, Ticketmaster, the early years.
Ticketmaster is a giant ticket broker, which has signed exclusive agreements with most major venues across the United States. Artists who decline to use Ticketmaster for their concerts are banned from using any venue affiliated with the company. Many fans regard the company as greedy and ruthless, objecting to “service fees” that can range as high as $30 per ticket. The alt.-rock band Pearl Jam took on Ticketmaster in 1995, refusing to play at venues controlled by the company, but the rebellion eventually fizzled out.
I’ve got shots of monks on fire.
During the Vietnam War, some Buddhist monks committed ritual suicide by setting themselves on fire in a public place to protest the South Vietnamese government’s suppression of their religion. Life magazine published several photos of such self-immolations.
Glamour Shots is a chain of photography studios that offers makeovers prior to a customer’s photo session. Originally popular with women, the studios have now branched out to appeal to men and families as well.
Wal-Mart is the largest chain of retail stores in the United States. The first store was opened in 1962 by Sam Walton, offering discount merchandise at low prices. Walton opened many of his stores in small towns, where they often drove local merchants out of business by undercutting their prices. By the time of Walton’s death in 1992, there were more than 1,700 Wal-Mart stores.
And Traci Lords and Mary Tyler Moores.
Traci Lords was a porn star in the 1980s, infamous for having been underage at the time she made her films. She appeared in Penthouse at the age of fifteen and starred in her first porn movie at the age of sixteen. Before her true age was discovered in 1987 (she had used a fake ID to get work in the adult industry), she had made more than a hundred films. Her agents, producers and distributors were prosecuted for trafficking in child porn, and her tapes were yanked off shelves in adult video stores nationwide. Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017) was an actress best known for her eponymous TV series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which aired from 1970-1977. She also appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961-1966.
“She was great in the school play.” Slammer Girls.
Slammer Girls is a 1987 film, a comedy of the “bimbos in cages” genre: women in prison, usually forced to wear skimpy lingerie and take lots of showers.
That train doesn’t go to Hollywood! It goes to Mount Prospect!
Mount Prospect is a village in Illinois about twenty miles northwest of Chicago. It has a population of about 50,000.
How many times did you play Ado Annie?
Ado Annie is one of the supporting characters in the musical Oklahoma!; she is the girl who “can’t say no.”
Fine. I’ll call Zanuck. I'll get you a three-picture deal.
Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979) was a movie producer and director who was one of the founders of the movie studio Twentieth-Century Fox.
On location with Regarding Heinie.
Regarding Heinie is apparently a porn movie. It is, of course, a takeoff on the mainstream film Regarding Henry (1991).
Why, it’s Big Ethel!
“Big” Ethel Muggs is a character in the Archie comic book series. First introduced in 1962, Ethel is a boy-crazy student at Riverdale High with a particular obsession with Jughead. Despite her nickname, Ethel is thin and gangly with short black hair and buck teeth; the “Big” was a reference to her height, not her weight. It was dropped in the 1990s.
Fred Olen Ray Sr.
Fred Olen Ray is a producer of Grade-Z movies, such as The Bikini Escort Company and 13 Erotic Ghosts. He has also performed as a professional wrestler under the name Fabulous Freddie Valentine. (Thanks to J.T. Hollen for this reference.)
Like father, like son. Think about it, won’t you?
A frequently heard MST3K riff that references a 1967 anti-smoking TV public service announcement. In the spot, a small boy mimics his father as they do everyday activities, and an announcer repeats “Like father, like son ...” When the father lights a cigarette, the son watches him intently, then picks up the pack of cigarettes as the announcer says, “Like father, like son? Think about it.”
And thus Merchant Ivory is born.
Merchant Ivory Productions is a movie studio known for high-class films often based on classic novels, particularly by E.M. Forster (A Room with a View, Howard’s End) and Henry James (The Bostonians, The Golden Bowl).
You’ll move in with Warren Beatty.
Warren Beatty is an actor, a Hollywood leading man who for many years had a notorious eye for the ladies. In 1992, however, he married actress Annette Bening, and has apprently become a devoted family man.
Ah, The Crow’s Nest.
The Crow’s Nest was an MST3K fanzine that was published for several years during the show’s Comedy Central run. There was also a fan-operated website called The Crow’s Nest that offered an episode guide and links to other MST sites—it is now a dead link, and not to be confused with a Scottish poetry and arts blog also called Crows Nest.
“Did you get that dress?” In Mr. Wood’s size?
See note on Ed Wood, above.
On the Dinah Shore Chevy Show?
Dinah Shore (1916-1994) was a singer and the host of the Dinah Shore Chevy Show, a musical variety show that aired from 1956-1963. Its theme song, “See the USA/In your Chevrolet …” has become iconic.
I memorized that thing from Hame-let.
Hamlet is a play by William Shakespeare, written sometime around 1600. The title character is the Prince of Denmark, who discovers that his uncle, who has since married his widowed mother, murdered his father the king. He spends the rest of the play deciding what to do about it.
They’re casting for With Six You Get Eggroll.
With Six You Get Eggroll is a 1968 film starring Doris Day as a widow whose desire to remarry meets with fierce resistance from her children.
Okay, you’re George Washington.
George Washington (1732-1799) was the first president of the United States. After serving as the commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, he was unanimously elected president. He served two terms and then stepped down, retiring to his home at Mount Vernon until his death three years later. (Janet Miller points out that the girl's pose in this scene bears a strong resemblance to Washington's stance in the Emanuel Leutze painting Washington Crossing the Delaware.)
The Queen Mother could heat up a room more than this!
Queen Mother is the title given to a former queen whose offspring currently holds the throne. The Queen Mother in question here is Queen Elizabeth, wife of English King George VI and mother of Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen Mother died in 2002 at the ripe old age of 101.
The Columbia Pictures logo.
The logo of Columbia Pictures is of a woman dressed in flowing robes and holding aloft a torch. The logo was first used in 1924 and has been repeatedly updated throughout the years.
I am Diana.
Diana was the Roman goddess of the hunt (in Greek mythology she was known as Artemis). She was also the patron goddess of virgins, seen as chaste and pure and vengeful against any man who attempted to alter that state.
Live from the Pantages Theater in beautiful …
The Pantages Theatre is an Art Deco theater in Hollywood, located at the corner of Hollywood & Vine. It was built in 1930 and originally showed movies and held live vaudeville shows. Starting in 1977 it closed down the movie side of its business and became a live theater venue, hosting music shows and stage shows. Well-known performances have included Les Miserables, Wicked, and The Lion King. The riff follows a drum roll, which is probably a reference to the fact that from 1950-1960, the Pantages hosted the Academy Awards ceremony—including the first televised ceremony in 1953.
Meanwhile, Bobby Rydell goes undercover.
Bobby Rydell (1942-2022) was a teen idol in the 1960s; hits included “Wild One” and “Volare.”
Okay, Mister Ed, I know you’re here somewhere.
Mister Ed was a sitcom about a talking horse that aired from 1961-1966. The horse was played by a palomino named Bamboo Harvester; his voice was provided by Allan Lane.
[Sung.] Gotta dance!
A line from the song “Broadway Rhythm Ballet” from the musical Singin’ in the Rain. Sample lyrics: “A million lights, they flicker there/A million hearts beat quicker there/No skies are gray on that great white way/That's the Broadway Melody!/Gotta dance gotta dance gotta dance!”
A reference to Show 506, Eegah!
He’s looking for love in all the wrong places.
A reference to the 1980 song “Lookin’ for Love” by Johnny Lee. Sample lyrics: “I was looking for love in all the wrong places/Looking for love in too many faces/Searching your eyes, looking for traces/Of what I'm dreaming of …” (Thanks to superdeeduper51 for correcting the singer in this annotation.)
Where’d she hide that Frusen Glädjé? Is it under there? No …
Frusen Glädjé was a brand of ice cream that attempted to cash in on the “gourmet” ice cream boom of the 1980s, led by its chief competitor, Haagen Dazs. The latter survived and thrived in the marketplace; sadly, Frusen Glädjé is no more.
Boggle is a word game in which players attempt to construct words from letters that have been randomly placed in a grid. It is manufactured by Parker Brothers.
This smut was placed here by the Gideons.
Gideons International is a Christian organization that places Bibles in hotel rooms, hospitals, prisons, and schools. It was founded in 1899 by three businessmen and began placing Bibles in 1908.
Boy, Kenny Rogers sure can take a picture.
Kenny Rogers (1938-2020) was a successful country music artist with roughly 60 albums to his credit.
He’s got split-top butter-top hair.
Split-top and butter-top are two kinds of bread manufactured in the United States. Butter-top bread has had butter drizzled down the top; split-top bread is a rectangular loaf that has been split down the middle, giving the bread that characteristic mounded top.
[Hummed.] Batman theme.
This is the theme to the campy TV series Batman, which aired from 1966-1968. In the series, scene transitions often used a graphic of a spinning Batrman logo.
Say the secret word and get killed by a psycho.
An imitation of comedian Groucho Marx in his role as the host of the TV and radio game show You Bet Your Life, which aired from 1947-1960 on all three major radio networks at one time or another, and from 1950 to 1961 on NBC-TV (so it was on TV and radio simultaneously for ten years). Each episode had a “secret word,” and if a contestant unwittingly said the word, a small duck would drop down from the ceiling with a hundred-dollar bill in its beak as a reward.
Pepper, I’m putting you on the case.
A reference to the TV show Police Woman, which starred Angie Dickinson as police detective Suzanne “Pepper” Anderson. The series ran from 1974-1978.
KC Masterpiece sauce.
KC Masterpiece sauce is a barbecue sauce available in grocery stores around the country; it is based on the sauce served at the KC Masterpiece restaurant in Kansas City.
Let’s take you back to the Village, ’63. Ed Wood sessions. Ed Wood dresses up as Marian McPartland and brings down the house.
Greenwich Village is a residential area located on the southern part of the island of Manhattan. It was originally founded by Dutch settlers in the 17th century and was gradually absorbed by the city of New York as it expanded. It is known for its artists, its rebels, and its bohemian lifestyle. Marian McPartland is a jazz pianist and the host of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz on National Public Radio.
Another Charlie Sheen fantasy session.
Charlie Sheen is an actor, the son of Martin Sheen. In 1993, he achieved some notoriety when his name appeared prominently on the client list of “Hollywood madam” Heidi Fleiss during her trial on pandering charges; it was revealed that Sheen had used her services more than two dozen times.
Michael Medved panned Lickity Lovelies. Read it yourself.
Michael Medved was a film critic for CNN and later for the New York Post. He was known for railing against the sex and violence he saw pervading Hollywood. Currently Medved is a syndicated radio talk-show host. I could not find a porn movie called Lickity Lovelies, but there were a couple titled Lickity Split and one called Lickety Pink.
Ford to city: drop dead.
“Ford to City: Drop Dead” was the famous headline on the October 30, 1975, issue of the New York Daily News. The accompanying story reported on then-President Ford’s decision not to use the federal purse strings to bail NYC out of its financial crisis. Some observers think the headline may have cost Ford New York state in the 1976 election—and thus the White House.
Slim Whitman (1923-2013) was a folk singer popular in the 1950s; songs include “Indian Love Call” and “Singing Hills.”
There’s a gay character in “For Better For Worse”!
“For Better or For Worse” was a syndicated comic strip written by Lynn Johnston. In 1993, a character named Lawrence Poirier, the best friend of the family son Michael, came out as gay, creating a minor uproar. The strip offered an alternative story line to newspapers who did not want to carry the gay strips, and about 100 accepted. Three years later Lawrence’s boyfriend joined the strip, and this time the negative reaction was more muted. The strip ran in its original form from 1979-2008, although some newspapers still carry it in "reruns."
We’re screaming mad at Dirk!
The Rug Doctor is a brand of carpet steam-cleaning machines available for rent at retail stores. Its longtime advertising slogan is “Steaming mad at dirt!”
“Don’t worry.” Be trampy.
“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is a 1988 hit song by Bobby McFerrin. Sample lyrics: “Here is a little song I wrote/You might want to sing it note for note/Don't worry be happy/In every life we have some trouble/When you worry you make it double/Don't worry, be happy …”
Ah, Euell Gibbons in his element, huh?
Euell Gibbons (1911-1975) was an environmentalist and dietary guru in the 1960s and 1970s. He advocated a diet heavy in natural, wholesome foods—fruits, nuts, whole grains, and so forth. He also did a series of commercials for Grape-Nuts cereal.
Norman? Are you out here?
An imitation of “Mother” from the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho (1960).
Janet Reno, look out!
Janet Reno was the attorney general of the United States under President Bill Clinton, the first woman to hold that post. She was the subject of controversy for her handling of several crises, specifically the storming of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, which killed 80 people, including children; and the bitter custody battle over the young Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez.
[Sung.] At Beneficial … at Beneficial …
The beginning of an old advertising jingle for the Beneficial Finance Company: “At Beneficial (honk, honk) you’re good for more.”
Hey, it’s Aristotle Onassis.
Aristotle Onassis (1906-1975) was a Greek shipping magnate, mostly in ocean tankers and freighters, but also by air (he founded Olympic Airways). He had a long-term affair with opera singer Maria Callas. In 1968 he married Jackie Kennedy (1929-1994), the widow of slain President John F. Kennedy. The two were married until Onassis’s death in 1975.
Mannix! Ow! Mannix! Mannix! Ow! Mannix!
Mannix was a television series starring Mike Connors (1925-2017) as Joe Mannix, a private eye in Los Angeles who indulged in frequent car chases, shootouts, and fistfights. It aired from 1967-1975. Mike Connors (under the name “Touch Connors”) appeared in Show 503, Swamp Diamonds.
Harry, keep the change.
A line from the song “Taxi” by Harry Chapin. Sample lyrics: “And she said we must get together/But I knew it'd never be arranged/And she handed me twenty dollars/For a two-fifty fare, she said/’Harry, keep the change.’”
Nowadays these folks would have legitimate jobs for the USA Network.
The USA Network is a basic cable network that shows wrestling, second-run shows and some original programming. For a time it was known for somewhat racy fare, including La Femme Nikita and Silk Stalkings, although in later years it became more respectable thanks to its breakout series Monk. It was founded in 1980.
I hope she’s not dressed in Saran Wrap again. [Whispered.] Leftovers.
Saran is a thin, transparent polymer best known for its usage in Saran Wrap, the clingy, clear film used to cover foodstuffs. It was invented in 1933 and originally used as a spray to weatherproof fighter planes. Saran Wrap came along in 1949.
Daddy-O? Dick Contino?
A reference to Show 307, Daddy-O.
Ah, she’s dressed as the Blue Earth Sugar Beet Queen.
Blue Earth County is a county in south-central Minnesota. Population: about 55,000. I was unable to pin down a Sugar Beet Queen there, but it is reminiscent of the titles given to small-town beauty queens. I've found references to past Sugar Beet Queens in Yolo County in California, in Grant County in Kansas, in Michigan, and in Idaho. The love of sugar beets (and queens) clearly ran deep and wide in this country.
You know, she still looks better than Lucille Ball in Mame.
Mame is a 1974 movie musical about a young boy sent to live with his eccentric aunt, played by Lucille Ball. (The role had been originated by Angela Lansbury on Broadway and by Rosalind Russell in an earlier film version.) It is generally agreed that Ball was horribly miscast in the role.
“There is …” a house. In New Orleans. Called the rising sun.
A line from the folk song “The House of the Rising Sun,” recorded by many artists but made most famous by the British rock group The Animals. Sample lyrics: “There is a house in New Orleans/They call the Rising Sun/It's been the ruin of many a poor girl/And me, O God, for one.”
I’m so lucky. I just met a girl just like Mom.
"I Want a Girl (Just Like the Girl)" is a song from 1911, written by Harry Von Tilzer and William Dillon. The chorus goes: "I want a girl/Just like the girl who married dear old Dad/She was a pearl/And the only girl that Daddy ever had ..." (Thanks to Glenn Holland for this reference.)
Names good. Tor like names.
An imitation of Tor Johnson (1903-1971), an ex-wrestler and a staple of Ed Wood films. Tor appeared in several MST3K episodes, including Show 320, The Unearthly.
Just like Ironside!
Ironside was a TV show that aired from 1967-1975. It starred Raymond Burr as a wheelchair-bound detective fighting crime on the streets of San Francisco.
Oh, this is the L&M moment.
Probably a reference to the brand of cigarettes produced by Philip Morris.
An imitation of perennial straight man Ed McMahon (1923-2009), who played opposite host Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show for thirty years.
The princess and the piece.
A riff on The Princess and the Pea, a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen first published in 1835. Likely an expansion of a folk tale Andersen heard as a child, it’s the story of a young woman who is proved to be a princess because she can feel a pea placed under twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds. The story was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1959 starring Carol Burnett, titled Once Upon a Mattress.
They’re in the Lab Man Boy Love Association.
The North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) is a group dedicated to legalizing sexual relations between men and underage boys. They are universally reviled by everyone but themselves.
Johnny, let’s show her who she’s shot!
Apparently a reference to the TV game show Let’s Make a Deal, when host Monty Hall would reveal the hidden prize and let the contestant know whether they made a good deal or blew it.
Would our mystery stiff enter and sign in please?
On the TV game show What’s My Line?, which aired from 1950-1967, the final round was always reserved for a “mystery guest,” who was a celebrity of some stripe, and who would enter and sign their name on a chalkboard (unseen by the contestants).
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. During the investigation and subsequent trial of his friend John Henry Carpenter for his murder (Carpenter was acquitted), it came to light that Crane was an enthusiastic amateur pornographer: Carpenter had helped him make videos of himself having sex with many, many women. The murder remains officially unsolved.
“You know, Randy?” What a good wife you would be.
A reference to the song “Brandy” by Looking Glass. Sample lyrics: “The sailor said ‘Brandy, you're a fine girl’ (you're a fine girl)/’What a good wife you would be’ (such a fine girl)/’But my life, my love and my lady is the sea …’”
Think the Dodgers are gonna do anything this year?
The Dodgers are Los Angeles’s professional baseball team.