109: Project Moonbase
by Trey Yeatts
[Reading names.] George Wallace in his pre-gubernatorial days. –Clayton Moore in his pre-Lone Ranger days. –And Dale Van Sickel. He never made a bad film! –But Noel Cravat did.
George D. Wallace (1917-2005), the actor playing Commando Cody, had a fifty-year run in films and television beginning in 1951; his defining part as Commando Cody began in 1952. George C. Wallace Jr. (1919-1998), on the other hand, was the governor of Alabama, serving four terms in the 1960s and ‘70s. At his first inauguration, he gave the infamous speech wherein he declared, “I say segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” In 1963, he physically attempted to block two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama. Wallace ran for president several times; in 1972, during his third run for the presidency, he was shot five times by a would-be assassin, paralyzing him from the waist down. In the late ‘70s, Wallace was supposedly “born again” and repented of his segregationist past, apologizing to civil rights leaders. Clayton Moore (1914-1999), who here plays gangster henchman Graber, was, in fact, best known for playing the Lone Ranger on the television series that ran from 1949-1957, for 169 episodes and two feature films. Joel is incorrect, however, in saying that this is before his Lone Ranger run—Project Moonbase was actually filmed while Moore was on hiatus from the show due to a salary dispute; he was replaced in the interim by John Hart. Dale Van Sickel (1907-1977) plays Alon in this short and was known as a character actor on many television series throughout the 1950s and ‘60s. Character actor Noel Cravat (1909-1960) plays Robal and worked mostly in film. (Thanks to Christopher Eckart for correcting Joel's chronology.)
Ronald Davidson, John Davidson’s smarter brother.
Ronald Davidson (1899-1965) was a writer for many Republic serials and films, including a later TV series titled Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe. John Davidson is a TV personality and singer who acted as the host or co-host of shows like That’s Incredible! and The New Hollywood Squares.
[Reading screen.] Commando Cody learns that Graber and Daly are on Clark Mountain. They go after them through Zagnut Valley.
Clark Bars are a type of milk chocolate and flaky peanut butter candy bar. Zagnut is similar, but with an outer coating of coconut rather than chocolate. Both were originally created by the Clark Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1886 by David L. Clark.
Montana looks left. He’s open. Fires away! And it’s incomplete! Oooh, that could’ve been his rotator cuff.
Retired four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Joe Montana played with the San Francisco 49ers from 1979 to 1992 and with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993 to 1994. He is considered one of football’s greatest quarterbacks.
Meanwhile, back at the Cody Institute for People Who Almost Die Every Week …
The phrase, “Meanwhile, back at _____,” originated with cards inserted in silent films of the early 20th century. In westerns, this was often “Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...” Once audio became a common component, the phrase was still used by narrators in films and radio and television shows. Most recently, it was used in the various Superfriends animated series of the late 1970s. Narrator Ted Knight would say, “Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice ...” or “Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom ...”
Meanwhile, back at the casino, the keno game raged on.
See previous note. Keno is a casino game not unlike ping pong ball-based lottery drawings. Twenty numbers are selected by the bettor and twenty balls are pulled from a “blower” machine.
Nobody touches my Snap-on tools.
The Snap-on tool company, founded in 1920, is famous for developing interchangeable parts for socket wrenches. It is based in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Cool. –It’s a little thing I made. I knew we’d use them sometime. [Joel holds up ““Biff, “Pow,” and “Oof” silhouettes.] Pretty neat, huh?
In the campy 1966-1968 ABC TV series Batman, fight scenes were often punctuated with cartoonish splashes of color and onomatopoetic words such as “Boff!”, “Pow!”, and “Zap!” This helped the producers avoid criticism for the show being too violent, as the words covered the screen and no punches or kicks were shown to connect.
It’s the vice squad. –It’s John Cleese, you bastard.
John Cleese was a founding member of the classic British comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He frequently became enraged and shouted, “You bastard!” in his sketches.
He’s not even hurt. He must be using Nerf tools or something. Not even a scratch.
Nerf is a brand of soft foam toys, made by Hasbro, designed for safe play indoors. The Nerf ball was introduced in 1970, and a whole range of Nerf toys became popular in the 1980s; they remain popular today.
[Sung.] Underoos are fun to wear and I can fly from here to there.
Underoos are a brand of children’s underwear produced by Fruit of the Loom and featuring various licensed designs ranging from Batman and Superman to the Dukes of Hazzard. They were first marketed in 1978. “Underoos are fun to wear” was part of the advertising jingle.
Domino’s Pizza is a chain of pizza delivery stores located nationwide, founded in 1960.
Does Cody normally travel with a full radio pack on? –It’s his Radio Flyer. –Flying ham outfit.
Radio Flyer is a toy company founded in 1917. In 1930, they began making the little wagons from which they would take their name (back then they were called Radio Steel & Manufacturing; the company wasn’t called Radio Flyer until 1987). The wagon was named that because of founder Antonio Pasin’s fascination with the inventions of wireless transmission and powered flight. “Ham radio” refers to amateur radio operators, licensed and assigned specific radio frequencies on which to transmit. They frequently communicate with other operators around the world and sometimes attempt to amass a collection of call signs. “Ham” came to be used as slang for these radio operators because of a pejorative against the amateurs used by professional radio and telegraph operators in the early 20th century. The pros would say that these amateurs were “hams” or “hamming it up” over the airwaves, and the name stuck.
Hey, UPS. Cody must be tracing a package or something.
United Parcel Service, or UPS, is a package delivery service founded in 1907; today it is a multibillion-dollar corporation.
Pull! Must have drifted left. Pull!
A reference to skeet shooting, the targeting sport wherein small clay discs are fired into the air. The shooter cues their launch by saying, “Pull!”
They got homicide doors on that thing.
Suicide doors is a colloquial term for doors that open in the opposite direction of most car doors. There is a variation known as homicide doors that slide back along the side of the car, but I don’t believe that’s what they were referencing here.
Oh, great. Double-oh Cody. Do you have a license to kill now, Mr. Cody?
A reference to Ian Fleming’s British spy character, James Bond. His numerical designation within MI6 was 007; the “00” meant he had been granted a license to kill.
Blast from the Chevy horn.
Chevy is the short name for automaker Chevrolet. It was founded in 1911 and bought by General Motors in 1918.
On May 17, in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles, Graber and his goon, Daly, were sentenced to three consecutive five-year sentences at the actor’s correctional facility in Chino. Daly went on to win the 1989 …
An imitation of the end of every episode of Dragnet (radio: 1949-1957; TV: 1951-1959, 1967-1970, 1989-1991, and 2003-2004). The criminals captured for that episode’s crimes would be shown in mugshot style while an announcer detailed the outcome of their court proceedings and punishments. “Chino” is a nickname for the California Institution for Men, a state prison located in Chino, California.
Why don’t they just turn the gun around? –‘Cause they’d shoot right through the back of the truck. –And it’s a rented truck. –Yeah, but it’s on Grabber’s [sic] card. –He stole that card. –But he’s a thief, he’s supposed to steal cards. –Yeah, but the card is the ace of clubs. –No, it’s the Player’s Club card. He rented the truck and got two free hotel nights at Resorts International, Atlantic City, with complimentary continental breakfast. –Atlantic City. Atlantic City?! Slowly I turn, step by step ... –Oh, stop it.
Players International (informally known as the Player’s Club) was a discount service for customers of gambling establishments founded in 1984; it offered savings on hotels, restaurants, and entertainment in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and other locations. After a time, the founders became more directly involved in gambling, operating riverboat casinos and more. The company was taken over by casino giant Harrah’s in 2000. Resorts Casino Hotel was the first legal casino established outside Nevada when it opened in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1978. “Atlantic City?! Slowly I turn ...” is a reference to a classic vaudeville sketch often called “Niagara Falls” or “Slowly I Turn.” It was used most famously in The Three Stooges’ 1944 short Gents Without Cents, and also in the Abbott & Costello film Lost in a Harem and an episode of I Love Lucy. The author appears to be a vaudeville comedian named Joey Faye (1909-1997).
Meanwhile, back at the Cody Institute for Deceptive Editing.
See above note on “Meanwhile ...”
Scarecrow, I think I’ll miss you most of all.
A line from 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, spoken by Dorothy (Judy Garland) to the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger) as she’s about to leave Oz.
Fire all the Jets. Get the Osmonds back on contract.
The Jets are a Minnesota-based pop group made up of the Wolfgramm family, who, like the Osmonds, are a Mormon household with abundant offspring. The original lineup consisted of the eight oldest children, forming in 1985 and getting their biggest hit that same year with the single "Crush on You." Most of the other nine children rotated in and out at some point, and the group is still active today. (Thanks to Makkai for this reference.) The Osmonds were a family singing group of Mormon brothers who hit it big in the 1970s with squeaky clean pop songs like “Sweet and Innocent” and “Puppy Love.” Donny Osmond, one of the two lead singers in the band, became a teen idol and a successful solo star with hits like “Go Away Little Girl” and “The Twelfth of Never”; their sister, Marie, who never performed with the band, had her own career, starting at thirteen with her No. 1 country hit “Paper Roses.” Donny and Marie went on to host a TV variety show from 1976 to 1979.
Take a left at L2. Dave’s van is parked out front.
“L2” is a reference to the astronomical physics term “Lagrangian Point” or “Lagrange Point,” after 18th-century mathematician Joseph Lagrange. This is a place within a solar system’s orbital mechanics wherein an object can position itself and remain relatively stationary in comparison to two larger objects (planets, moons, stars). There are five such places in each configuration, designated “L1,” “L2,” and so on. The Sun/Earth L1 and L2 points have already been used to station orbital observatories, such as the WMAP and the Herschel Space Observatory. “Dave’s van” is likely a reference to a famous bit from stoner duo Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong’s debut album Cheech & Chong (1971). The track was titled “Dave,” and it was essentially a pot-infused version of “Who’s on First?”, featuring Dave (voiced by Marin) trying to convince Chong to let him into his own apartment, though Chong’s character couldn’t be convinced that the man on the other side of the door was actually Dave.
Yahtzee is a popular dice game from Milton Bradley/Hasbro, in which players roll five dice to rack up points by making certain combinations of numbers. A Yahtzee is achieved when all five dice rolled come up the same number.
I’m getting really hungry. Everybody look for the Stuckey’s.
Stuckey’s is a chain of roadside restaurants/souvenir shops that at one time littered America’s highways. There aren’t as many of them now, but you can still buy their famous Pecan Logs at the occasional Stuckey’s, mostly in the south and southeast.
I see a thousand points of light. It looks like Cleveland.
President George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) said in his 1988 Republican National Convention nomination acceptance speech that community groups and organizations are “a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.” He used the phrase for the remainder of his campaign and into his presidency, including in his inaugural address. Speechwriter Peggy Noonan may have borrowed the phrase from Thomas Wolfe or from C.S. Lewis; the following passage appears in Lewis’s 1955 work The Magician’s Nephew: “One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out ...” Cleveland is the second-largest city in Ohio, located on the southern shore of Lake Erie. It is home to the Cleveland Browns, the Cuyahoga River Fire, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
We’re now approaching the moon. Please place your office chairs in the upright position. The temperature on the moon is a balmy seventy degrees. Enjoy your stay.
An imitation of the pre-landing monologue airline pilots or flight attendants give over the public address system on commercial airline flights.
Kinda looks like the Upper Dells. –Wisconsin’s a beautiful place to be.
Wisconsin Dells is a city in south central Wisconsin, popular as a Midwestern tourist destination. Often known as just “The Dells,” the place became divided in 1908 into the Upper and Lower Dells when Kilbourn Dam was constructed on the Wisconsin River. The Dells is home to numerous waterparks, go carts, miniature golf courses, regular golf courses, and a host of other icons of wholesome family fun.
It’s Don Knotts.
Don Knotts (1924-2006) was a comedian who played a wide variety of roles over the course of his lengthy career. He is perhaps best known for his role as bumbling deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show and as landlord Ralph Furley on the 1970s TV sitcom Three’s Company; he also appeared in a string of movies for Disney.
Oh, it’s that old Sea Hunt routine.
Sea Hunt was a syndicated action-adventure show that aired from 1958 to 1961. It starred Lloyd Bridges as freelance scuba diver Mike Nelson (weird). In many episodes, his scuba tank’s air hoses would be cut either by accident or with sinister purpose.
All right! I found my Nintendo! I’m gonna play Super Mario Bros. and everything! Oh, this is going to be so great. It’s heavy.
The Nintendo Entertainment System was a home video game console that debuted in 1985. It revitalized and revolutionized the home gaming industry after the gluttonous crash of 1983 (a.k.a. “The Atari Debacle”). The NES was followed in 1990 by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the Nintendo 64 (N64) in 1996, the Nintendo GameCube in 2001, and the Nintendo Wii in 2006. Nintendo also produced two portable gaming devices: the Gameboy (1989) and the DS (2004), two of the best-selling video game systems ever. Super Mario Bros. is the classic 1985 sequel to the comparatively dull 1983 video game Mario Bros. It featured plumber Mario (and his brother, Luigi) descending into the pipes of alternate universes to kill mushroom men, sentient turtles, and more while trying to rescue Princess Toadstool. It is one of the best-selling video games of all time, with more than 40 million units sold.
Case of Moosehead, no curfew. This is gonna be the best road trip ever.
Moosehead Lager is a beer produced by Moosehead Breweries since 1867, making it Canada’s oldest independent brew.
What those Duke boys didn’t know is that Boss Hogg had stolen the General Lee. –[Imitates horn playing “Dixie.”] –Yee-haw!
Several references to the CBS TV series The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985). Specifically, this is an imitation of narrator Waylon Jennings and his customary pre-commercial break narrations. Jefferson Davis Hogg (a.k.a. Boss Hogg) was the bumbling, scheming commissioner of Hazzard County. The character was played by Sorrell Booke (1930-1994), who, before Dukes, was a character actor on many popular TV shows. The Duke boys (cousins Bo and Luke Duke) drove the General Lee, an orange 1969 Dodge Charger with “01” painted on each door and a Confederate flag painted on the roof. Its horn played an abbreviated version of “Dixie,” the national anthem of the Confederate States of America, written by Daniel Decatur Emmett in the mid-1800s.
Oh, it’s the Das Boot thing all over again. –Das Moon Boot.
Das Boot is a 1981 film about the crew of a German U-boat during World War II. Moon Boots are a brand of Italian-made nylon snow boots, bearing the words “Moon Boot” in giant gaudy lettering. They come in lots of primary colors, which make them good for people who like to color-coordinate their winter garb. They run about $90 a pair.
By this time, my lungs were aching for air.
An imitation of Lloyd Bridges in the aforementioned Sea Hunt, likely right after his air hoses had been cut. This is the first use of the very popular phrase on the show, although, oddly, it was uttered here by Tom and not Crow.
Ooh, look! Helium. –[High voice.] Help me! Help me!
The end of the 1958 sci-fi film The Fly finds the scientist played by David Hedison merged with a fly’s body, trapped in a spider web with the spider bearing down on him, and screaming shrilly for help in a tiny voice.
Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) was a science fiction author who, along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, is considered one of sci-fi’s “Big Three.” He wrote for Astounding Science-Fiction magazine and later penned novels including Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress.
Jerome Pycha Jr., cousin of Jerome Elite. Kind of a typists’ joke.
Jerome Pycha Jr. (1903-1971) was a production designer and art director on dozens of B-movies in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. The witty wordplay has to do with the two predominant type sizes on electric typewriters. Pica was ten characters per inch; elite was twelve.
Miniatures by ... what do they need miniatures for? –They used a lot of Hummel figurines in the space sequences.
M.I. Hummel is a company producing 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.
Talmadge Farm remembers ...
An imitation of character actor Parker Fennelly (1891-1988), whose thick New England accent became famous during the 1970s in a series of television commercials for Pepperidge Farm cookies, pastries, frozen goods, and so forth. (He had actually appeared in Pepperidge Farm commercials as early as 1958, but his trademark “Pepperidge Farm remembers” did not become a household phrase until the ‘70s.)
In 1963, The Beatles first appear on Ed Sullivan.
Former entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan (1901-1974) was the host of The Ed Sullivan Show, which aired from 1948 to 1971 (though it was titled Toast of the Town until 1955). In 1964, The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr; active from 1960-1970) began a tour of the United States with an appearance on Sullivan’s highly rated show. The ratings that night went through the roof with roughly 73 million viewers (almost 40 percent of the U.S. population).
In 1977, hot pants became the height of fashion.
Also known as “short shorts,” hot pants are very short (two inches or less inseam) and very tight, emphasizing the butt and highlighting the thighs. They were introduced in the mid-1960s and had faded by the early ‘70s. A denim version experienced a brief revival in the late ‘70s thanks to the character of Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach) on the aforementioned The Dukes of Hazzard; they are still known as “Daisy Dukes.”
Inspector 12, he checked my underwear! –Hey, who hasn’t?
Commercials for Hanes underwear throughout the 1980s featured one of their garment inspectors, Inspector 12, as she harangued her fellow inspectors to ensure that their underwear was certified the best, hassling tough guys about the durability of Hanes underwear, and so on. Inspector 12 was played by Polly Rowles (1914-2001).
Hey, it’s Bob Newhart. –No, it’s Bob Hope. –It’s Toody and Muldoon. Ooh, ooh!
Bob Newhart is a comedian and actor. In the 1960s, he had a series of best-selling comedy albums, including The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart. In the 1970s, the sitcom The Bob Newhart Show aired on CBS for six seasons. In the ‘80s, Newhart aired for eight seasons on CBS. An attempt to rule the ‘90s with another sitcom on CBS didn’t fare as well, as Bob barely lasted a season and a half. Comedian Bob Hope (1903-2003) appeared in films with crooner Bing Crosby and in many television specials, often related to his service with the United Services Organization (USO), a tradition that began in World War II and continued through Korea, Vietnam, and the Persian Gulf Wars. The “Ooh, ooh!” is a reference to comedian Joe Ross (1914-1982), who starred in sitcoms such as The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where Are You? His shtick usually involved grunting “Ooh! Ooh!” before he called on someone or said what he was thinking. On Car 54 (1961-1963), Ross played Officer Gunther Toody; his partner was Officer Francis Muldoon (played by Fred Gwynne).
Anderson, Andy. Adams, Al. Ant, Adam.
Andy Anderson could reference the drummer for The Cure, a St. Louis Browns baseball player, a Montreal Canadiens hockey player, a record producer, and who knows how many other possibilities. I found an Al Adams who was a major bookie in New York City in the late 1800s, but that seems a tad obscure, even for these guys. Adam Ant (b. Stuart Goddard) is an English New Wave artist who had a mainstream hit in the U.S. with “Goody Two Shoes.” At the dawn of the MTV era, Ant became well known and recognized due to his flamboyant hair, stylized (and ragged) British military uniforms, and frequently heavy makeup.
Roundtree? Hey, that’s Shaft.
In the 1971 blaxploitation film Shaft and its sequels, the titular “black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks” was played by Richard Roundtree.
Send me some Grecian Formula.
Grecian Formula is a hair dye for men that promises to gradually get rid of gray hair over a period of weeks—thus presumably making it less obvious that you dye your hair. It is manufactured by Combe Inc.
They’ll never notice this bug the size of an Epilady.
Epilady is a brand of electric hair removers first introduced in 1986.
This is Colonel Mustard.
Colonel Mustard is a character in the detective mystery board game Clue, manufactured by Hasbro. It was first created in 1949 by Anthony Pratt in England, where it is still known as Cluedo.
He’s shooting a Doublemint ad.
Wrigley’s Doublemint gum has been running commercials featuring identical twins for decades, a play on the “double” theme. The gum itself has been produced since 1914.
Land shark double.
A reference to a series of sketches on Saturday Night Live in the 1975-1976 season. Parodies of the then-recent film Jaws, segments began with the familiar John Williams theme, followed by a doorbell ring. The lady of the apartment would go to the door and ask who was there. The person on the other side mumbled things like, “Candygram,” “Pizza delivery,” and so on, until the door was opened. That’s when Chevy Chase in a foam shark suit would lean inside and “eat” the resident. On occasion, the shark would admit that it was, indeed, a land shark.
Gorilla bellboy double.
In the early 1980s there was an ad for American Tourister luggage that showed a hotel guest entrusting her suitcase to a bellboy to take down to the lobby. As soon as the bellboy got to the stairs, he transformed into a gorilla, stepping on the suitcase, hurling it down flights of stairs, throwing it against walls, and generally banging the hell out of it. Once he reached the lobby, he turned back into a human—and naturally the luggage was unscathed. The woman retrieved her bag, smiled nicely, and tipped the bellboy a banana.
Now I’m gonna use his Epilady.
See above note.
Wow, look at all the neat stuff he’s got. Boy, great. Bet he got this at the Sharper Image. Hey, I’m keeping that.
Sharper Image was a chain of retail stores that sold high-end gadgetry and gift products; it was founded in 1977. In 2008 the company filed for Chapter 11 and closed down all its stores; the brand name still exists, however, and is used on products sold at stores like Best Buy and Bed Bath & Beyond.
Meanwhile, in Estes Park, Colorado.
See above note on “Meanwhile ...” Estes Park, Colorado, is a popular summer resort town. The Stanley Hotel is there; it served as inspiration for Stephen King’s novel The Shining.
I’ll be filling in for your rhesus monkey.
The rhesus macaque is a well-known and very prolific species of primate that lives in South Asia.
SPACOM. Woodfill and meat substitute. –We built this city of SPACOM. –Instead of rock & roll? –Yep.
A reference to the 1985 song “We Built This City” by Starship, née Jefferson Starship, née Jefferson Airplane. Sample lyrics: “Marconi plays the mamba, listen to the radio, don’t you remember/We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll …”
Look, it’s Dr. Bellows.
Dr. Alfred Bellows was a character on the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. He was played by Hayden Rorke (1910-1987), who plays General Greene in this film.
Your doughnut wrapper, sir. –Thank you, Private Pyle.
Gomer Pyle (played by Jim Nabors) was the bumbling gas station attendant, sometimes deputy, and later Marine who appeared on The Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
“Leave MacIntosh as co-pilot.” –He’s a good apple.
The McIntosh Red apple is a particular breed of apple discovered in 1811 by Canadian John McIntosh. He later cultivated it; from that single tree, it spread to become one of the most popular types of apple, even inspiring the name of one of Apple Computer’s most famous products, the Macintosh.
Send Polly Prattles to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is perfect for the prissy press prima donna with the pressed-aluminum party pants.
Pittsburgh is a highly developed city, the second largest in the state of Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1758 and named for English statesman William Pitt the Elder.
Beauty. –And the Beast.
“Beauty and the Beast” is a traditional fairy tale first published in France in 1740, dealing with a beautiful girl who befriends a horrific man-animal who was once a prince, cursed to look like a monster until a woman falls in love with him. It has inspired several film and stage productions, including the popular 1991 Disney animated film and a late ‘80s CBS TV series.
You’ve got your own room, the princess phone, the TV whenever you want it.
The princess phone was a compact telephone introduced by Bell Telephones in 1959. It was intended to be kept in the bedroom (to this end, it had a lighted dial that could be seen in the dark) and was marketed primarily to women in a range of attractive designer shades, including (of course) pink.
Spanking really is protocol in the upper echelons of NASA.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was first established in 1958, when it was called the National Advisory Committee for Space. Since the launch of Sputnik by the U.S.S.R. in that year, NASA has overseen every mission to space authorized by the federal government, including the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, and Space Shuttle missions, as well as dozens of unmanned probes sent to various other worlds and into deep space.
The Frisbee is a classic toy, a plastic disc that can fly for quite a distance when skimmed flat through the air. They were first made in 1938 after inventor Fred Morrison and his wife enjoyed playing catch with a cake pan on the beach. It is manufactured by Wham-O, and the name Frisbee has become a genericized trademark for all flying discs.
I want it to be first base.
A reference to the popular baseball metaphor for sexual relations. Although the specifics vary, generally “first base” refers to kissing (sometimes French kissing), “second base” is heavy petting, “third base” is manual or oral manipulation of the genitals, and a “home run” is actual sexual intercourse.
Well, all right, Miss Gloria Steinem. –That’s Ms. Gloria Steinem. –Oh, right. Yeah.
Gloria Steinem, a journalist who founded the magazine Ms., was one of the leaders of the feminist movement in the late 1960s and ‘70s. An attractive, articulate woman, Steinem was a media darling, to the extent that some other feminist leaders felt they were being denied a voice at a time when the feminist movement was a collection of quite disparate groups and attitudes. As for the Miss/Ms. thing, the honorific “Ms.” was used as early as the 1600s but fell out of favor, giving way to “Miss” and “Mrs.” to address unmarried and married women respectively. In 1901, a proposal to revive “Ms.” was published, saying there needed to be another title for women whose domestic status was unknown to the speaker. The concept lay dormant for a few decades more until 1961, when activist Sheila Michaels tried to single-handedly encourage its use among women who did not “belong” to men. Traction wasn’t fully gained until 1971, when Steinem’s magazine was created; official (meaning government) recognition of the term came the following year.
Sorry, but Canada’s dry.
Canada Dry is a brand of soft drink established by Ontarian pharmacist John McLaughlin in 1904 when he first made Canada Dry Pale Ginger Ale. The drink took off in America during Prohibition, when it was used to mask the foul taste of some bootleg alcohol. The brand was bought by Dr. Pepper Snapple in 2008.
Eh, Canada, take off, you hosers. –Uh, our subject today is space launches. So, we’re gonna have a takeoff. You get it? You know, it’s kinda like a rocket’s gonna take off and then they say “take off” on that bit. –Look at that takeoff. –Good day to you then.
An imitation of Canadian stereotypes and phrases. Also a likely reference to characters performed by comedians Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis on the sketch comedy program SCTV, which aired on Canadian television in the early 1980s. The network that aired the show, CBC, added two minutes to the airtime, asking that the show produce some exclusive Canadian content to distinguish it from episodes syndicated to the U.S. Thinking this was idiotic, Thomas and Moranis came up with Bob and Doug McKenzie, who sat before a giant map of Canada while drinking beers, cooking back bacon, calling each other “hoser,” and admonishing each other to “take off.” Though improvised and performed under duress, the sketches were popular, leading to a best-selling comedy album, a 1983 film (Strange Brew), and a 2009 animated series.
Make a run for the border.
A long-running advertising slogan for Taco Bell fast food restaurants.
Three. Thirteen. Nine. –Twenty-eight. Thirty-three. –A million-five. –Hut. –Don’t blow it. It’s your big chance.
A reference to the practice of football quarterbacks who call out certain codes, play numbers, player numbers, etc., before taking the ball in order to either change the planned play or to confuse their opponents.
Oh, Buddy Ebsen’s happy.
Buddy Ebsen (1908-2003) was a character actor best known for his two turns as an old codger: patriarch Jed Clampett on the TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971), and the title role in Barnaby Jones (1973-1980). He also was very nearly the Tin Man in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, but an allergic reaction to the aluminum powder in his makeup almost killed him.
Welcome to Wham-O World.
Wham-O is the toy maker of the aforementioned Frisbee, as well as the Hula Hoop, the Super Ball, Silly String, and many more. It was founded in 1948 by Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin. Their first product was a slingshot, and the company took its name from the sound of the slingshot’s pellet hitting a target.
Oh, this is the future when they sold the Dodgers back to Brooklyn.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were first established in Brooklyn, New York, in 1883, and they were known by various nicknames until “the Dodgers” took hold in 1932. In 1958, the team moved to L.A.
Don’t cross the split screen.
Split screen refers to the filmmaking visual effect of combining two or more shots of a scene to create a specific illusion. This was frequently used to create “identical twins” using only one actor. In the pre-digital days, this was sometimes accomplished by blocking off part of the frame so that only half the film was exposed in one take and then blocking the other side and redoing the scene. That method was risky, and later, optical printers would allow two different pieces of film to be combined to produce the illusion.
Art design by M.C. Escher.
M.C. Escher (1898-1972) was a renowned Dutch graphic artist known for his mind-bending works that appear to fold space upon itself and transcend logical expectations.
Look, they’re using View-Master technology.
The View-Master is a children’s toy that resembles a pair of binoculars; when the viewer inserts a special disc containing photographic images, they appear in 3D. It was created by a company called Sawyer’s in 1939; in 1966 Sawyer’s was bought by the General Aniline & Film Company (a.k.a. GAF). The rights have changed hands several times since then; currently the brand is owned by Fisher-Price.
Battery pack separating from Frisbee.
See above note on Frisbees.
Look, the Grand Tetons.
Often the butt of jokes, the Teton Range is a mountain range located in Wyoming. The largest peak is Grand Teton, at 13,770 feet; the Grand Teton National Park, which encompasses most of the Tetons, is named after it. The range was previously dubbed “Les Trois Tétons” by French explorers, meaning “The Three Breasts.” You may now giggle.
Indian ceremony at the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is a Wonder of the Natural World, located in Arizona and measuring nearly 300 miles long, eighteen miles wide at some points, and one mile deep.
Duracell away. The Coppertop shuttle. –Oi!
During World War II, Samuel Ruben and Philip Mallory invented mercury-based batteries, which lasted longer and were more durable than existing zinc batteries, making them useful in wartime. In 1964, the name “Duracell” was coined, meaning “durable cell.” The appearance of the batteries with their distinctive copper-colored tops led to the nickname “the coppertop battery,” which has been used extensively in their advertising campaigns. The “Oi!”, however, is a reference to a series of late ‘80s commercials for Energizer batteries starring former Australian footballer and actor Mark “Jacko” Jackson.
She always gets to look in the View-Master.
See above note on View-Masters.
Do zey play for ze Führer?
“Führer” is one of many titles given to Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), Reich Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945. In German, the word means “leader.”
The spy comes out of the hole, runs around the control panel, then goes back down in.
A paraphrased variant of a way to teach kids to tie their shoes. Most often, this includes something like, “The bunny goes ‘round the tree and jumps back into the hole again.”
I am not an animal!
A famous line from the 1980 fact-based drama The Elephant Man, wherein severely deformed John Merrick (played by John Hurt) is confronted by an angry mob and screams, “I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I ... am ... a ... man!”
While Breiteis relaxes in the chaise longue, Jim will attempt to subdue the enemy spy.
On the long-running nature show Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom (1963-1988; revived 2002), host Marlin Perkins had a tendency to handle the mundane tasks while his assistant, Jim Fowler, was off doing something dangerous.
That’s one small step for special effects, one giant leap for our imagination.
A paraphrase of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s first words as he walked on the moon on July 20, 1969: “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Care to tango?
The tango is a style of music and dance that originated in Argentina and Uruguay in the late 1800s. It is known for its sensuality.
Let’s start a life. You and me and the double makes three.
A paraphrase of the very old saying, “You and me and the baby makes three.”
Uh, this is us at the Grand Canyon. We got sore on those burros. This is Glacier National Park. Little Bobby turned his ankle. We had to go back down early. Uh, this is Space Mountain at Disney World, you know. Bobby lost his corn dog over on the Matterhorn. Am I boring you with this stuff? –No, not at all.
See above note on the Grand Canyon. Glacier National Park is located in Montana and extends north over the border into Canada, where their park is named Waterton Lakes National Park. (There is an unrelated Glacier National Park farther north in Canada.) Space Mountain is the name of the space-themed indoor roller coaster attractions at the five Magic Kingdom Disney theme parks. The first opened in Walt Disney World in 1975. Disney World is a family resort in Orlando, Florida, that opened for business in 1971 and includes Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. The Matterhorn is a steel roller coaster built on and inside an artificial mountain at Disneyland in Southern California; it opened in 1959 and underwent major refurbishment in 2012.
Meanwhile, back at Frisbee 4. –What’s a Frisbee for?
See above note on Frisbees.
We’re centrally located just off the Slauson Cutoff.
A reference to The Tonight Show host Johnny Carson’s popular character Art Fern. Performed in the style of sleazy afternoon movie hosts, Fern would promote some lame product, leer at the busty assistant (played first by Carol Wayne and later by Teresa Ganzel), and then try to direct people to the store using convoluted maps of the Los Angeles highway system. Usually, these maps would include forks in the road (illustrated with actual forks), and Carson would frequently say, “... and then you get to the Slauson Cutoff. Get out of your car, cut off your slauson, get back in your car ...”
And two doors down from the Subway sandwich shop.
Subway is a franchised chain of fast-food sandwich restaurants established in Connecticut in 1965. It is the largest single-brand restaurant chain in the world, with more than 30,000 locations in 98 countries.
Bet you a C-note we die.
“C-note” is a slang term for a $100 bill, deriving from the Roman numeral for 100, “C.”
Uh, this is the way the first Wallenda died.
The Flying Wallendas is the name of a group of high-wire circus performers that got their start in Germany when Karl Wallenda gathered his brother and two friends in 1922 to tour as a stunt troupe. In 1928, they lost their net but went ahead and performed without it. That stuck and became a major selling point for their act. It has also led to several deaths, including that of founder Karl, who fell to his death during a high-wire act in 1978. Karl’s sister-in-law, son-in-law, and nephew have also died in falling accidents. To this day, there are several branches of the Wallendas still touring.
Bill is sporting a light cotton jumper, pleated at the knees, and is carrying a set of rabbit ears. Notice the rich styling on his rabbit ears. Very futuristic. While the turncoat ... while the turncoat! ... thank you, enjoys a Spandex sport suit fashionable through work, play, or sabotage.
Spandex (also known as Lycra or elastane) was developed by DuPont’s Joseph Shivers in 1959. The name originates with the fiber’s elasticity: “Spandex” is an anagram of “expands.”
Hey, bub, I’ll give you a nickel if you scale that cliff. I’ll show you my sore toe.
A reference to a scene in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Tom is attempting to con his friends into whitewashing a fence so he doesn’t have to, and in order to sweeten the offer for one boy, he unwinds the bandage from his infected toe.
Their heads look like bell jars.
A bell jar is a (usually) large glass covering used in laboratories to create vacuums.
Night of a thousand stars.
“On This Night of a Thousand Stars” is a song from the 1976 Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Evita about Argentinian leader Eva Perón. Also, possibly a reference to a 1982 television special titled Night of 100 Stars, which was a variety program celebrating the centennial of the Actors’ Fund of America.
Now, at least, we’ll be able to get HBO.
HBO (Home Box Office) is a premium cable channel in more than 150 countries. Primarily known for showing movies, HBO has also begun making original series to great acclaim. The birthdate of HBO is considered to be November 8, 1972, which is when proprietor Charles Dolan’s “Green Channel” underwent a name change with Time Life financial backing and began broadcasting over microwave towers.
[Imitating.] By this time, my lungs were aching for air. –Isn’t that a line from Sea Hunt? –Yeah.
See above note on Sea Hunt—I guess they forgot that Tom made this joke earlier.
Get back to where you once belonged, Jojo.
A paraphrasing of lines from the 1969 Beatles hit song “Get Back.”
[Humming circus song.] In the center ring for your pleasure and excitement, the only aerial act on the moon! Come one, come all!
While most people know this as “that circus song,” the actual title is “Entrance of the Gladiators.” It was composed in 1897 as a military march by Czech composer Julius Fučík. Circuses began to use it after a small band version was arranged by Canadian composer Louie-Phillipe Laurendeau in 1910 under the title “Thunder and Blazes.”
It’s a G.I. Joe action set. Comes with moon man, space pod, and detachable ... retinas. –Head and legs sold separately. –By Blammo.
G.I. Joe is an action figure made by Hasbro, possibly the original action figure. It was introduced in 1964 as a poseable toy aimed at boys and was wildly successful for about ten years. The line faded away in the mid-’70s. An early ‘80s relaunch saw renewed popularity in the redesigned figures and a long-running animated series. “Blammo” is obviously a parody of Wham-O.
WMOON TV has canceled its broadcast day. We will resume programming at 7 a.m. And now, our national anthem.
An imitation of announcers often heard late at night on American TV stations in the past. Back in the days when American television stations stopped broadcasting late at night, test cards or test patterns appeared on screen (along with a steady tone) after the national anthem was played until the resumption of the broadcast day.
A Skipperism, if you will, from Gilligan’s Island, predating Homer’s annoyed grunt and The Simpsons by more than twenty years.
There’s a Howard Johnson’s at the interchange and we passed a Stuckey’s.
Howard Johnson is a chain of restaurants and hotels, instantly recognizable from highways across the nation thanks to their distinctive orange roofs. See above note on Stuckey’s.
He’s not Dr. Bellows, he’s Dr. Chuck Woolery.
See above note on Dr. Bellows. Chuck Woolery has hosted a number of game shows during his career but is probably best known for Love Connection, a Dating Game-type show he hosted from 1983-1994.
“Jiminy Christmas” and “Jiminy Cricket” were ways for people to take the Lord’s name in vain without actually doing so, a practice known as a "minced oath." The latter became a character’s name in the 1940 Disney film Pinocchio.
This looks like an early version of Pong.
Pong was one of the first video games and the first to reach mainstream success. It was essentially an electronic version of table tennis: each player had a “paddle” and they bounced a little “ball” between them. The arcade version appeared in 1972; the home version in 1975.
Look. It fell right over. –That’s no fun at all. No, fun at all. –Crashed is more like it.
A reference to the 1969 Firesign Theatre comedy album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All. In one of the sketches, a character falls after being stood on his head and someone says, “He’s no fun! He fell right over!” This would be repeated many more times on MST3K over the years.
The Wells Fargo racket is coming down the street.
This riff is a nod to the song “The Wells Fargo Wagon,” from the 1957 musical The Music Man. Lyrics: “O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street/Oh please let it be for me!”
He’s called for the breaking fast ball.
In baseball, as the pitcher is preparing to throw the ball, the catcher frequently suggests different types of pitches to him by gesturing with his fingers beneath his mitt. The pitcher will nod his approval before he actually throws the ball.
Hey, that looks like a V-2. –Yeah, he coulda had a V ... I’m sorry. –Thanks.
The V-2 long-range ballistic missile was used by Nazi Germany during the latter period of World War II to attack targets in Belgium, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in Europe. The “V” represented “Vergeltungswaffe,” translating into English as “retaliation weapon.” More than 3,000 V-2s were launched by Germany, killing an estimated 7,250 people (though 12,000 forced laborers were killed in the production and testing of it). In the final days of the war, scientists who worked on the V-2 (including Wernher von Braun) surrendered to the United States to ensure that they didn’t fall into Soviet hands. The U.S. raced to capture as much of the technology as they could and the USSR was able to procure some as well. For the better part of a decade, the U.S. tested V-2s with the help of von Braun, and this led to the development of the Redstone rocket, which carried the Mercury astronauts into space. Tom stops himself before referring to V8, a beverage made of blended vegetable juices. It was first produced in 1933 and is now manufactured by the Campbell Soup Company. “I could have had a V8” was a well-known advertising slogan in the 1980s, usually accompanied by a rueful hand slapped to the forehead.
It’s filled with cat food! This rocket was supposed to go to the Cat-Women of the Moon!
Cat-Women of the Moon was a 1953 sci-fi B-movie about the last (hot, female) survivors of a forgotten race of telepaths discovered on the moon, who plot to steal a spaceship from the men who find them and escape to Earth.
[Southern accent.] Let’s see what we got here. One .45 caliber handgun. Four clips of ammunition. One hundred dollar gold coin. Two packages of chewing gum. Two issued prophylactics. Shoot. A guy could have a pretty good time in Vegas with this stuff.
A paraphrased line from the 1964 Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Slim Pickens played Major T.J. “King” Kong, and as he prepared his crew for the world after they dropped their atomic payload, he read off the contents of their survival kit: “In them you’ll find: one .45 caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days’ concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; three pair of nylon stockings. Shoot, a fella could have a pretty good weekend in Vegas with all that stuff.”
They all say “occupant.”
A reference to the tendency of junk mail letters to be addressed to no one in particular.
Hey, it’s a giant Rubik’s Cube.
The Rubik’s Cube was invented in 1974 by Erno Rubik. It was a fad toy during the 1980s, consisting of a cube with different colored sides that rotated; the object was to get all the colors to match once you had scrambled the cube up. As of 2013, the world record for solving the cube stood at 5.55 seconds.
I love the smell of SPACOM in the morning. It smells like chicory.
A paraphrase of the famous line from the 1979 film Apocalypse Now: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like ... victory.”
Adam and Eve on a raft.
In diner lingo, when a waitress shouts to the chef, “Adam and Eve on a raft,” that means, “Two poached eggs on toast.” “Wreck ‘em” means the eggs should be scrambled.
Mmmm, Juicy Fruit.
A line from the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—the first words spoken by the supposedly mute Chief Bromden (Will Sampson). Juicy Fruit is a brand of fruit-flavored chewing gum manufactured by Wrigley and first produced in 1893.
It’s Dr. Ruth. [Imitating.] Hello, you’re on the air.
Dr. Ruth Westheimer is a German-born American sex therapist. She has hosted radio and television shows where she answered viewers’ questions about sex in frank terms, and this, combined with her grandmotherly appearance and wacky accent, turned her into a sensation in the 1980s.
[Imitating Dr. Ruth.] Very healthy, to be in a capsule together, with your friends.
See previous note.