112: Untamed Youth
by Trey Yeatts
At least it’s a Warner Brothers picture.
Warner Brothers is one of the largest film studios in Hollywood. It was founded by four brothers (Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack Warner) in 1903 when they opened a theater in New Castle, Pennsylvania; they began producing their own films by World War I.
Sounds like it’s going to be one of those teensploitation things.
Teensploitation is a genre of filmmaking that exploits teen feelings of angst and rebellion with plots involving sex, drugs, music, and crime. It started in the 1950s with films like High School Confidential (1958) and Teenage Devil Dolls (1955) and continued through the 1970s (the Roger Corman classic Rock ‘n’ Roll High School ). It usually makes for good films, as far as Mystery Science Theater 3000 is concerned, anyway.
I hope there’s a cartoon first.
For much of cinematic history, comedic short films (frequently animation) preceded the feature presentations at movie theaters. For Warner Brothers’ films, these shorts were very often Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, starring Bugs Bunny and the gang.
It’s like he’s playing football against Claude Rains University.
Claude Rains (1889-1967) was an English actor best known for the title role in 1933’s The Invisible Man. He also appeared in Lawrence of Arabia and Casablanca.
I’m not sure, but I think the word “daddy-o” is in this film about a million times.
Other than being the name of a future episode of MST3K (Show 307), “daddy-o” is a bit of beatnik slang from the 1950s, equivalent to “dude.”
It’s like the Stephen King book Children of the Dirt.
Stephen King is a horror novelist known for works like The Shining, Salem’s Lot, Christine, and The Stand. “Children of the Corn” is a 1977 short story by King about a small Nebraska town taken over and terrorized by a cult of children who worship “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” In 1984, it was made into a movie starring Linda Hamilton. That original film was followed by more than a half-dozen sequels.
Don’t ever play chicken with cop cars. You’ll never win.
Chicken is the name given to the game wherein two people, often in cars, race toward each other to see who will lose their nerve first and swerve to avoid a collision. Sometimes, the game can be one-sided: i.e., a person can play against an unwitting opponent (such as a train).
Works every time.
“It works every time” was the longtime slogan for Colt 45 malt liquor, used primarily in ads from the 1980s featuring actor Billy Dee Williams.
Is that the primordial soup? –Hey, there’s a girl in my soup. –Don’t worry. She won’t eat much.
“Primordial soup” is the colloquial name for the theory that the early oceans on Earth (and by early, I mean four billion years ago) contained vast amounts of simple chemicals and compounds. When electrified by lightning or simply excited by sunlight, these chemicals would group and form amino acids, the simplest building blocks of life. The theory was first proposed by Russian biologist Alexander Oparin in 1924. The remainder of the riff is a reference to an old joke about a diner complaining to a waiter about a fly in his bowl of soup. There's a Girl in My Soup was also the title of a 1970 rom-com starring Goldie Hawn and Peter Sellers.
It’s the Maytag repairman. He does look lonely.
Founded in 1893 by Frederick Maytag, Maytag is a manufacturer of appliances. The Maytag repairman (nicknamed “Ol’ Lonely”) debuted in advertisements beginning in 1967, played by Jesse White. The repairman was always bored and lonely because his services as a repairman weren’t needed (since Maytag appliances never broke). In 1989, WKRP actor Gordon Jump assumed the role until 2003. Hardy Rawls took over in 2003 (along with a younger sidekick, played by Mark Devine). Since 2007, the role has been played by Clay Earl Jackson.
Meanwhile, at Mount Vernon ...
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, radio, and television shows. Mount Vernon is the name of George Washington’s plantation, located near Alexandria, Virginia.
Just for snoring too loud.
A possible reference to an old Time-Life commercial that ran during the 1970s to advertise their series of Old West books. The voiceover in the ad talked about a man who was “so mean he once shot a man just for snoring.” The man in question was John Wesley Hardin (1853-1895), a Texas outlaw who killed at least 21 men between 1868 and 1877, when he was sent to prison. He was pardoned in 1894 and shot in the back of the head by an El Paso policeman the following year. In Hardin’s autobiography, published posthumously, he bragged about having killed a man in his hotel room in Abilene, shooting twice through the wall to get the man to stop snoring.
Her name was Peanut.
Ventriloquist/comedian Jeff Dunham has a creepy purple puppet named Peanut, whom he often introduces by saying, “He’s a woozle, and his name is Peanut.” The writers found this fascinating, pointing out in the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide that the phrasing makes it sound as though you're supposed to know what a woozle is.
Green Acres was a TV sitcom that ran from 1965 to 1971. It starred Eva Gabor (1919-1995) as Lisa Douglas, the socialite wife of attorney Oliver Wendell Douglas, played by Eddie Albert (1906-2005), who tries to adapt to life in the rural town of Hooterville.
Looks like Tom Waits’s hometown.
Tom Waits is a goateed, gravelly voiced singer-songwriter of the jazz/blues persuasion who has also appeared in many bit parts in films.
Somewhere out there is the Ark of the Covenant.
The Ark of the Covenant, according to Judeo-Christian tradition, was the ornate chest that carried the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, Moses’ original scrolls, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s rod. The fate of the Ark is unknown, but over the past few thousand years, theories have ranged from South Africa to Ireland. In 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Ark was located in the ancient Egyptian city of Tanis and could melt the face off a Nazi.
Oh, I hope it’s not the Von Trapp family. I hate them.
The Trapp Family Choir (or Trapp Family Singers) was an Austrian group of singers made up of a widower, his seven children, and Maria, a tutor who later became their stepmother. They escaped Austria during the Anschluss, the 1938 annexation of their country by Nazi Germany. Their story became the 1959 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music and the famed 1965 film of the same name.
Hey, it’s the body snatcher pod wagon.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a science fiction film released in 1956 that serves as a Cold War allegory. It was based on a 1955 novel called The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. Other film adaptations were released in 1978, 1993, and 2007. When the aliens invaded, they created duplicates of people, which emerged from large pods.
Lou Gossett Jr. will be out here to chat with you a little later.
Lou Gossett Jr. is an actor best known for his roles in films such as An Officer and a Gentleman, Jaws 3-D, and Enemy Mine, as well as the acclaimed miniseries Roots.
The original cast of The Dirty Dozen.
The Dirty Dozen is a 1967 movie about a group of Army convicts trained to kill German officers during World War II.
Cubby. –Gregor. –Annette. –Hoppy. –Mabel. –Mabel. –And Mabel.
Cubby O’Brien and Annette Funicello were Mouseketeers on the original version of the TV show The Mickey Mouse Club, which aired from 1955-1959.
And if you land on Free Parking, you get it back, which is great.
In the Parker Brothers game Monopoly, one of the board spaces is labeled Free Parking, meaning no rent can be earned there and no property built. While not a part of the official rules, many people play a variation wherein all taxes (and sometimes fees or fines) collected during the gameplay are placed in the center of the board and then disbursed to whoever lands on Free Parking.
Works every time.
See above note on Colt 45.
“... spend the rest of your time in the county klink.” –[Imitating.] Hogan!
An imitation of Colonel Wilhelm Klink, the inept commander of the German prison camp on the CBS sitcom Hogan’s Heroes (1965-1971); the part was played by Werner Klemperer (1920-2000).
Hey, look! It’s Greg Brady!
On the ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), Greg Brady was oldest of the male children; he was played by Barry Williams.
Hey, it’s Blond Lemon Jefferson.
Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929) was a blues singer and guitarist called “Father of the Texas Blues.” He was popular in his day and very influential on later blues artists, including B.B. King and Robert Johnson.
Anyone want a snow cone? I can go to the galley. –No thanks.
Snow cone is the generic name given to treats of shaved ice coated with flavored syrup.
Ixnay on the umpbay and rindgay (sic)!
An example of pig Latin. A word game dating back to the 18th century, it works by taking the initial consonants or consonant cluster of a word, moving it to the end of the word, and adding “ay” to it. So, “umpbay” above is “bump.” (“Grind” should have been rendered as “indgray,” not “rindgay.”) “Nix” is a slang term meaning “stop” or “cut.” It derives from the German word nicht, meaning “nothing.”
Tell him, Greg! –This is really going to make the reunion show hard. Greg’s back from Sweden and he looks way different.
There were two Brady Bunch TV reunion specials broadcast during the 1980s. The first, The Brady Girls Get Married (1981), was filmed as a 90-minute movie but was aired over three weeks as three half-hour shows. The plot revolved around the family reuniting for Jan and Marcia’s double wedding; Greg, as was seen during the movie, had become a doctor. A Very Brady Christmas aired in 1988; Greg is now married, and various hijinks interfere with the Bradys’ plans for a family Christmas. During the middle part of the 20th century, Sweden was the only nation in the world where gender reassignment surgeries were legally performed and where surgeons were properly trained to carry them out.
Cat fight! –Trollop fight!
“Trollop” is a word often used to indicate a woman of poor moral character. It comes from the word “troll,” which originally meant “to wander.”
Hey, it’s Lenny and Squiggy school.
A reference to the two “wacky neighbor” characters on the TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which ran from 1976-1983: Leonard “Lenny” Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew “Squiggy” Squigman (David Lander).
Greg, buddy. It’s me, Tom Servo!
See above note on Greg Brady.
Well, you missed the big Cossack number.
Cossacks are an ethnic group native to the present-day Ukraine and southern Russia. They date back to the 14th century and are mostly known in modern times for their traditionalist ways, their prowess with horses, and their involvement in the Russian Civil War in the early 20th century.
“I say ‘uncle.’” I say aunt. I say wow.
“Say uncle” is a demand for submission, usually by schoolyard bullies who have pinned one’s arms behind one’s back. The earliest published example of the phrase dates to the late 1800s in the form of a joke.
“You’re halfway back to the pokey right now.” –What about the Gumby?
Animator Art Clokey created Gumby, the green, lopsided claymation figure, and his horse, Pokey, in 1956. Gumby, Pokey, and friends aired original episodes on television for 12 years, from 1956 to 1968. A Gumby short, “Robot Rumpus,” aired as part of Show 912, The Screaming Skull.
Dopey, Sneezy, Grumpy ... did I get ‘em all? –You missed a few, but that’s okay.
These are three of Disney’s names for Snow White’s seven diminutive companions in the 1937 animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The other four not mentioned are Bashful, Happy, Sleepy, and Doc.
It’s Evel Knievel.
Robert Craig “Evel” Knievel (1938-2007) was a flamboyant daredevil famous in the 1970s for his spangled white leather jumpsuits and for jumping his motorcycle over various things (mountain lions, Mack trucks, buses)—and, occasionally, for not jumping over things, such as Idaho’s Snake River Canyon, in which he nearly drowned. Although his 35 broken bones over the course of his career earned him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, he ultimately died peacefully in bed at the age of 69.
That’s Gladys? –[Jersey accent.] But I was just going to the store.
A likely reference to Gladys Kravitz, the nosy neighbor on the ABC sitcom Bewitched, which aired from 1964 to 1972. Gladys was played originally by Alice Pearce and later by Sandra Gould after Pearce's death from ovarian cancer.
Nature’s rich bounty! Corn. Soybeans. Sorghum. SPACOM. Mining, agriculture, and untamed youth, forging an untamed land, eating their weight in cotton. –Men naked from the waist up, watching Days of Our Lives, day after day. This is their story. The valiant few who dared to be different. Who dared to dream.
Sorghum is a little known yet vitally important crop. It is a kind of grass that produces grains used to make sweeteners, alcoholic beverages, and biofuels. Because it is very resistant to heat and drought conditions, it is grown widely in Africa. “SPACOM” is a reference to Show 109, Project Moonbase, and the military organization known as Space Command. Days of Our Lives is a daytime soap opera that has been on the air since 1965. It follows the lives and loves of the residents of the fictional town of Salem and, most famously, features an hourglass in the opening sequence.
Hey, he’s got a car payphone.
Before there were cell phones, kids, payphones were coin-operated telephones in public places. The first one was invented in 1889 by William Gray and installed at a Hartford, Connecticut, bank.
That’s the deal. I get the labor, you push me around in a wheelbarrow dressed as one of The Honeymooners. It’s your choice, pal. –Where will we get the wheelbarrow?
“The Honeymooners” began as a series of sketches by comedian Jackie Gleason on the DuMont Network’s Cavalcade of Stars and then on CBS’s The Jackie Gleason Show from 1951 to 1955. Then The Honeymooners debuted as a half-hour sitcom on CBS in 1955, lasting only one season. The show continued off and on as sketches on other shows and in specials until 1978. It is considered one of the classic TV sitcoms, despite its unconventional broadcast history.
It’s Tears for Fears. Or Indiana Bones. –I think they look like the Pet Shop Boys.
Tears for Fears is an English New Wave band that was formed in 1981. They had some of the biggest hits of the ‘80s with 1984’s “Shout,” 1985’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” and 1989’s “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” Henry “Indiana” Jones Jr. is a world-hopping archaeologist character played by Harrison Ford and created by George Lucas in a series of four films directed by Steven Spielberg, beginning with the aforementioned Raiders of the Lost Ark. The character also appeared in the television series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, where he was played as a young boy by Corey Carrier, a late-teen/twentysomething by Sean Patrick Flanery, and an old codger by George Hall. The Pet Shop Boys were a synth-pop duo who hit it big in the mid-1980s with songs like “West End Girls.” The band consisted of keyboarder Chris Lowe and singer Neil Tennant.
Yeah, do you have Nautilus or free weights?
Nautilus is a brand of exercise machine known for its variable resistance feature, first sold by inventor Arthur Jones in the 1960s.
Body by Bob Denver.
The waiflike Bob Denver (1935-2005) played Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island.
They sure aren’t going to make a singer out of him.
That’s funny, because Bong here is played by Eddie Cochran (1938-1960). He was an early rock and roll star with hits such as “C’mon Everybody” and “Summertime Blues.” He died at the age of 21 in a car crash while touring Britain.
Elvis has left the cotton field.
Elvis Presley (1935-1977), the King of Rock and Roll, was one of the most popular musicians from the 1950s until his death in the late 1970s. He was a teen idol in the late 1950s, helped usher in the era of rock and roll, became a movie star, created an enormous and opulent home at Graceland in Memphis, developed problems with drug abuse, and finally died of a heart attack at the age of 42. The phrase “Elvis has left the building” was first used by promoter Horace Logan in 1956 after a concert in an effort to make the concertgoers remain in their seats to see the rest of the musical acts and not try to rush the backstage areas or Presley’s vehicles outside.
Hey, get me. I’m Santy Claus.
Santa Claus is a fairly recent synthesis of various Christmas traditions of a being who delivers gifts the night before Christmas. Claus is based primarily on the Dutch gift-bringer Sinterklaas, who was in turn derived from the 4th-century historical figure Saint Nicholas of Myra. (Sinterklaas, rather than elves, has "Black Pete" to assist him, which leads to the [unfortunate, to American eyes] tradition of dressing up in blackface.) In the 1770s, the name “Santa Claus” was first published as an Americanized version of Sinterklaas. The commonly known attributes of Santa Claus’s legend (his North Pole residence, elven helpers, reindeer-powered sleigh, etc.) became widespread after the 1821 publication of Clement Clarke Moore’s “poem “Old Santeclaus” and the 1823 publication of ”A Visit from St. Nicholas” (a.k.a. “The Night Before Christmas,” also probably written by Moore). The famous image of Santa Claus as a jolly and chubby man with a full white beard and red clothing with white trim comes from the mid-1800s art of famed cartoonist Thomas Nast. Nast’s illustrations later influenced depictions of Sinterklaas and England’s Father Christmas. The variation “Santy Claus” has frequently appeared in comedy entertainment as characters with thick Brooklyn (or other New York accents) mispronounce the name. The riff itself is a paraphrase of a line from the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life, spoken by Sheldon Leonard as Nick the bartender: “Get me! I’m givin’ out wings!”
Look, way in the back. It’s Eli Whitney.
Eli Whitney (1765-1825) was an American inventor best known for developing the cotton gin (short for “engine”), a device that removed seeds from cotton and dramatically reduced the amount of labor the harvesting process required.
Gilligan! –Skipper! –Mary Ann. Ginger.
Gilligan’s Island was a CBS sitcom that aired from 1964 to 1967 about a group of people stranded on an island after their boat wrecked during a storm. The premise was stretched beyond credulity in a 1974 to 1977 Filmation animated series, three reunion films (including the improbable The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island), and a 1982 to 1983 animated series Gilligan’s Planet, set in space. Gilligan, played by Bob Denver, was the S.S. Minnow’s first mate. Skipper (real name: Jonas Grumby), played by Alan Hale Jr., was the captain, natch. Mary Ann Summers, played by Dawn Wells, was a country girl who always managed to scrounge together the ingredients for pies. Ginger Grant, played by Tina Louise in the show and other actresses in the subsequent series and films, was a movie star who, for some reason, packed hundreds of outfits for her three-hour boat trip.
It’s sorta like Up With People in prison.
Up With People was an extremely upbeat and wholesome touring musical act founded in 1965. Money woes forced it to close its doors in 2000, but it reopened four years later and continues to perform, although on a smaller scale.
Yipes. Interestingly enough, this scene was included in the film Scared Straight!
Scared Straight! is a 1978 documentary that showed teen delinquents in a prison, being lectured by convicts on how rough life is on the inside. The film was broadcast uncensored and marked the first time the f-bomb was knowingly uttered on national networks. Several follow-ups were produced in 1980, 1987, and 1999. Scared Straight! won an Oscar for Best Documentary, and many states started their own “scared straight” programs so that convicts could scream at troubled teens, but many criminologists and psychologists have criticized the films, saying such experiences don’t help the children involved and may, in fact, harm them.
Hey, it looks like he’s driving the Swamp from M*A*S*H.
M*A*S*H was originally a 1968 novel by Richard Hooker that became an acclaimed 1970 film by Robert Altman. This then became the hugely successful TV series that ran from 1972 to 1983—three times longer than the Korean War itself (1950-1953). The series was followed by a spinoff series (Trapper John, M.D.) and a sequel series (AfterMASH). “The Swamp” was the nickname for the large canvas tent that served as the home for Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John, and others in the show.
Poppies made her sleep.
A paraphrased line and reference to the scene in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz wherein Dorothy and her friends are overcome by a field of poppies and fall asleep.
Wait, that’s my motorman’s helper.
Motorman’s helper is the name given to a receptacle used by long-distance drivers to, um, relieve themselves when a rest stop can’t be found.
I’m a barber. They used to be doctors.
He’s not wrong. During the Middle Ages in Europe, barbers, indeed, served as medical personnel, performing dentistry, bloodletting, the applying of leeches, giving of enemas, and more. In fact, the red stripe on a traditional barber’s pole originally advertised their bloodletting service.
Hey, it’s The Donna Reed Show.
The Donna Reed Show is a sitcom that aired on ABC from 1958 to 1966. It starred Donna Reed as Donna Stone, dealing with the typical problems of an upper-middle-class white housewife in the ‘50s. The show often featured improbable cameos from celebrities and sports stars like Willie Mays and Lassie. Shelley Fabares, who played teenage daughter Mary, performed “Johnny Angel” on the program in 1962, and it became a number one hit.
He looks like Dick Tracy. In another twenty years, he’ll look like Boss Hogg.
Dick Tracy is a fictional police detective created by comic strip artist Chester Gould in 1931. Tracy is square-jawed, morally upright, and clad in a yellow trenchcoat and hat. He frequently uses various gadgets, including his famed “2-way wrist radio,” which was introduced in 1946. He often faces a wide array of deformed criminals with colorful names, like Flattop Jones, The Mole, B.B. Eyes, Pruneface, and so on. The character was featured in a long-running radio series, several live-action film serials, a live-action TV series, two animated series, and five feature films (including Warren Beatty’s 1990 version). The comic strip still runs today, though Gould retired from it in 1977; a string of artists and writers have handled the strip since then. Jefferson Davis Hogg (a.k.a. Boss Hogg) was the bumbling yet scheming, corpulent commissioner of Hazzard County on the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985). The character was played by Sorrell Booke (1930-1994), who, before Dukes, was a character actor on many popular TV shows.
And you can’t play with my Tinkertoys, either.
The Tinkertoy Construction Set is a popular children’s toy made completely of wood and allowing the child to build virtually anything. Characterized by colored dowels of varying sizes and hubs with multiple ports, the sets were first made in 1914 in Illinois by Charles Pajeau and Robert Pettit.
Jolly Green Giant does.
The Jolly Green Giant is the mascot for the Green Giant Company, a producer of frozen and canned vegetables now owned by General Mills. Founded as the Minnesota Valley Canning Company in 1903, the “Green Giant” name was used to describe their line of peas, and the drawing of a giant was first used in advertising in 1928. A 55-foot-tall statue of the Green Giant stands in the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota.
Boardwalk, Park Place ... think of it. And I’m using the shoe.
In the Parker Brothers game Monopoly, the two most expensive properties on the board are Boardwalk and Park Place. If you land on Boardwalk that has a hotel built on it, whooo, you owe $2,000. The player tokens in the game include an old racecar, battleship, thimble, dog, and shoe, among others.
You using Denorex, honey?
Denorex is a brand of anti-dandruff shampoo, currently made by Ultimark Products.
But she’s asked you to call her Squeaky now. –She was muttering something about Ford and dry clicking a toy gun.
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme is a now-freed felon sentenced to life in prison for attempting to assassinate President Gerald Ford in 1975. She was a member of the Manson Family cult who, oddly enough, appeared on The Lawrence Welk Show and at the White House as a child dancer in the late 1950s. (She acquired her nickname at the Spahn Ranch, the Manson Family’s hideout; Fromme was put in charge of keeping the elderly owner, George Spahn, happy and complacent, and she was soon dubbed “Squeaky” after the noises she made when Spahn ran his fingers up her thighs.) While in Sacramento, Ford was meeting and greeting folks when Fromme pointed her semi-automatic pistol at his abdomen and pulled the trigger repeatedly. No bullet was in the firing chamber. (Pulling the trigger without actually firing a round is called “dry clicking.”) Seventeen days after Fromme’s attempt, Sara Jane Moore managed to fire a round while 40 feet away from the president, wounding a bystander. Fromme was released from prison on parole in 2009; Moore had been released two years earlier, and Ford had died of natural causes the year before that, in 2006.
Wait a minute, this is a bag of rayon.
Rayon is a manufactured fiber first produced in 1880s France as an alternative to silk. It is made by extracting cellulose from wood pulp.
A reference to the lab assistant often seen in mad scientist films. The archetypical Igor, complete with hump and frequent utterances of “Yes, master,” was actually named Fritz and appeared in 1931’s Frankenstein (played by Dwight Frye). In the next two sequels, the assistant was named Ygor and played by Bela Lugosi, though he wasn’t hunchbacked. An Igor also appeared in the 1955 classic House of Wax (portrayed by a young Charles Bronson). In 1974’s Young Frankenstein, Marty Feldman played Igor (pronounced “Eye-gore”), whose hunch tended to wander about from one side of his back to the other.
On the ABC sitcom McHale's Navy, which aired from 1962-1966, Fuji Kobiaji (played by Yoshio Yoda) was a young Japanese POW who acted as the crew's houseboy in exchange for being given a home and being kept hidden from their martinet of a commanding officer. (Thanks to Basil for this reference.)
Anyone not behaving spends the night in a box step.
The box step is a common ballroom dance frequently used in waltzes. It’s named the box step because the dancers’ feet trace a square on the floor.
We’re going to a party in the county jail.
A paraphrase of a line from Elvis Presley’s 1957 hit single “Jailhouse Rock.”
Ask me about my extra chromosome. –Hey, I gotta girl! I gotta girl! –How’d you find out I was a geek? Oh well. –Jerry Lewis. Geeky guy. Denture wearer.
“Extra chromosome” refers to a significant problem with fetal development that often leads to birth defects or miscarriages. Jerry Lewis (born Jerome Levitch) is a comedian who rose to fame thanks to his partnership with Dean Martin in the 1940s and ‘50s and then in a lengthy string of zany films. From 1952 to 2010, Lewis worked diligently to raise funds for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Advertisements for Polident denture adhesive in the 1980s often featured actors, including Martha Raye, who was introduced by both the narrator and a graphic as “Martha Raye, actress and denture wearer.”
Hey, everybody. Get me. I’m doing the Abe Lincoln.
Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was the 16th president of the United States, who guided the nation through the Civil War (1861-1865) and was assassinated shortly after its end by disgruntled Southerner John Wilkes Booth. See above note on “Get me.”
Gregory Peck. This week on Solid Gold.
Gregory Peck (1916-2003) was an actor who appeared in such films as To Kill a Mockingbird, Cape Fear, and Roman Holiday. In the 1982 miniseries The Blue and the Gray, Peck portrayed Abraham Lincoln. Solid Gold was a syndicated TV series that ran from 1980 to 1988. It usually featured snippets from the Top 10 hits of the week, played while a bevy of dancers performed; it also sometimes had musicians as live guests.
It’s Vic Tayback! Oh, Mel.
Vic Tayback (1930-1990) was an actor who was best known for playing diner owner Melvin “Mel” Sharples on the TV sitcom Alice (1976-1985). But he also appeared in more than 50 TV series and movies as well as making guest appearances on nearly 100 TV shows.
If only beatniks had just stuck with pumpkin pie.
Beatniks were a negative stereotype of the 1950s beat counterculture, as portrayed in Show 415, The Beatniks; the word was coined in 1958 by newspaper columnist Herb Caen.
Nice percussion section. –Listen to that hi-hat.
The hi-hat is a pair of mounted cymbals that clap together when a pedal is depressed. It’s used by percussionists and is part of the standard modern drum kit.
Sixteen weeks on Star Search.
Star Search was a syndicated TV talent show hosted by Ed McMahon, in which aspiring celebrities competed for their shot at the big time. Contestants often went on to actual show-biz careers, including Dennis Miller, Britney Spears, Rosie O’Donnell, and LeAnn Rimes. It ran from 1983 to 1995.
Hugh Hefner is the founder of Playboy magazine and one of the last bastions of the 1960s bachelor lifestyle.
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was emperor of France and a military leader. Though of Italian descent, he led French invasions of Italy and Egypt before he returned to Paris after other French armies suffered defeats and seized power in a coup. He developed many civil and legal reforms (including the Napoleonic Code) that have influenced democracies and other governments ever since. In 1804, he declared himself emperor of France and led invasions throughout Europe, reaching a peak in 1811 that included present-day France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, parts of Austria, Hungary, and others. In 1814, the unified forces of France’s opponents defeated Napoleon’s armies, and the emperor was exiled to the island of Elba. In 1815, he escaped Elba and rallied 200,000 soldiers to his flag. His second reign lasted one hundred days and came to an end after the Battle of Waterloo. He was then exiled to the island of Saint Helena, where he died six years later of stomach cancer. Despite conventional wisdom, Napoleon was not short: he was five feet, seven inches tall, which was average for his time.
Maybe it’s Aida.
Aida is an 1871 opera by Giuseppe Verdi and Antonio Ghislanzoni about the titular Ethiopian princess enslaved in Egypt and her affair with one of the pharaoh’s commanders.
Sauron’s dark army?
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel The Hobbit (where he was called “the Necromancer”) and the 1954-1955 The Lord of the Rings series, Sauron is the lead antagonist: an angel-like Maiar and underling of the exiled Vala (a.k.a. “god”) Melkor. In ancient days (as seen in Tolkien’s 1977 book The Silmarillion), he was known as “Lieutenant of Morgoth,” “Lord of the Werewolves,” and “Gorthaur the Cruel,” and thousands of years before the events of LotR, he took on the enticing form of Annatar, Lord of Gifts, that he might teach the Elves the means of making rings of power, which later ensnared nine kings of men and corrupted seven Dwarf lords (the three Elven rings were crafted without his aid). He then forged the One Ring in the volcano Mount Doom by pouring forth much of his own power and was able to dominate the lesser rings and their users. Sauron aided in the destruction of the island of Númenor (home of Aragorn’s ancestors) and was later rendered ethereal via the removal of the One Ring in a great battle that united men and Elves against him. Despite being bodiless, the evil of Sauron persisted for millennia, and he rallied hundreds of thousands of orcs (goblin-like creatures), trolls, fearsome beasts, and corrupted men from the East and South of Middle Earth to his banner in the War of the Ring. When the One Ring was cast into the fiery chasm whence it came, Sauron’s spirit dissipated permanently, his fortress was destroyed, and his armies turned nigh mindless without his foul guidance. (I’m a dork; the only thing I had to look up for this entry was the accent over the “u” in “Númenor.”)
You see, I’m a method actor.
“Method acting” is the term given to performers who immerse themselves in their roles rather than simply recite lines and imitate emotions. The fathers of the process are regarded as Constantin Stanislavski and Lee Strasberg, while actors who employ this technique include Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and Robert De Niro (pre-Analyze This).
You push me around in a wheelbarrow dressed as a Spartan.
Sparta was an ancient Greek city-state, the chief rival to Athens during Classical Greek times. It was known for its emphasis on military prowess to the exclusion of all else, and Spartans were renowned as stoic, fierce warriors. The Greek historian Thucydides reported that when a Spartan went to war, his mother or his wife would present him with his shield and say, “With this, or upon this”—in other words, “If you don't come back a winner, you'd better be a corpse.” The legendary battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. saw a tiny band of 300 Spartans hold out for three days against the mammoth Persian army before finally being overrun and slaughtered.
What are you, Hans Brinker all of a sudden? You want ‘em or not?
Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates is an 1865 novel by Mary Mapes Dodge about a Dutch teenager who wants to enter an ice skating competition, but his father is sick and the family can’t afford better skates. Working low-paying jobs and being sneered at by his neighbors, Hans offers to pay for a doctor using the money he saved up, but the doc drills a hole in his dad’s head for free (look up “trepanning”). So Hans gets the steel skates, his sister (Gretel) wins the girl’s race, but Hans lets another down-on-his-luck boy win. Hans goes to medical school later on, and his sister marries and lives happily ever after. The novel popularized the fictional tale of the little Dutch boy who saves the town by putting his finger in a leaky dike (no, not that kind).
Yeah, he’s right over there working on it. [Beatnik Lincoln voice.] Gettin’ rid of slavery, yeah, really groovy, man.
A reference to the Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order issued by President Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, during the American Civil War. At the time of its issuance, few slaves were freed immediately (as the slave states were in rebellion and Lincoln’s authority was not recognized there)—roughly 50,000 of the 4 million slaves in the U.S. at the time. Its impact was primarily felt internationally, as other nations moved to support the Union once the abolition of slavery was made a primary goal of the conflict. Also, once the slaves in the South learned of the Proclamation, it boosted their morale and gave them hope that they would one day be free. After the war, the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution made slavery illegal everywhere in the country as of December 1865.
Wow, some boys just have bikes. –It’s reaper man. –Watch modern technology rip through this field of gals. It’s reaper madness.
“Reefer Man” is a song by Cab Calloway about a man who enjoys his marijuana cigarettes; Calloway performed it in the 1933 film International House. Reefer Madness is a cult film originally financed by a church group in 1936 as a propaganda morality tale warning of the horrors of marijuana (which apparently include hallucinations, rape, homicidal rage, and permanent insanity, if the film is to be believed). However, before its release, exploitation film maven Dwain Esper got his hands on it and re-cut it to create a cinema masterpiece of exploitation, schlock, and over-the-top theatricality. The result became a cult hit during the 1970s, particularly among the counterculture, which took a certain pleasure in watching a film about the dangers of pot while stoned.
Hey, it’s Mogen David. And don’t call me creep. You want a spritzer?
Mogen David is a brand of cheap fortified wine, most famous for MD 20/20 (often called “Mad Dog,” though the “MD” obviously stands for “Mogen David”), which was named for the 20-ounce bottles it was served in and the 20 percent alcohol by volume content (neither is now true). “Mogen David” is the Yiddish phrase used to describe the shield of Israel (a.k.a. the “Star of David”).
Oh, it’s the Purina test kitchens.
Ralston Purina is a manufacturer of pet food that dates back to 1894, when it was called Purina Mills. Their logo features a red-and-white checkerboard design. In 2001 it merged with Nestlé and was renamed the Nestlé Purina PetCare Company.
Meanwhile, at stately Wayne Manor ...
“Stately Wayne Manor” is the phrase that was often used by narrator William Dozier in the 1966-1968 ABC television series Batman to describe the mansion home of billionaire Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman).
She shoulda died at Cheers, then everyone woulda known her name.
Cheers is a sitcom that aired on NBC from 1982 to 1993 centered on the titular bar in Boston owned by washed-up baseball star Sam Malone. This riff is also a reference to the show’s Emmy-winning theme song, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” written by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo and performed by Portnoy.
It’s not slop. It’s Science Diet and it’s very expensive, young man.
Science Diet is a brand of specialized pet food produced today by Colgate-Palmolive. It was created in the 1960s by veterinarian Mark Morris for a seeing-eye dog with kidney disease.
Wait, so you’re my grandma, my sister, my mom ... did you marry Bill Wyman?
Bill Wyman is a bass guitarist best known for playing with the Rolling Stones from 1962 to 1992. The marrying part ... this gets complicated. In 1989, Wyman married 18-year-old Mandy Smith after dating her for five years (yes, since she was 13). In 1991, Wyman separated from Smith. In 1993, Wyman’s son married his stepmother’s mother (he was 31, she was 46). Funny thing is, that part happened after this episode was recorded, so the riff seems rather prophetic, huh?
You’re learning. Keep it up, Auntie Em.
Auntie Em (Emily Gale) is the orphaned Dorothy’s caretaker in L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz novels and the films based upon them.
They look like an evolution chart.
A reference to the so-called “Evolution of Man” charts that have appeared in classrooms and scientific journals over the past century, showing an ape-like ancestor on the far left and modern man on the far right with varying species of hominids in apparent mid-stride in between.
[Imitating Don Knotts.] Yeah? Anything I can help you with in here, ma’am? Out to Mount Pilot? Okay, I’ll go get my one bullet.
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 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. On The Andy Griffith Show (he was a regular on the show from 1960-1965, with guest appearances after that), his bumbling led the sheriff to prohibit Fife from keeping his weapon loaded and instead allowed him to carry one bullet with him, usually in his shirt pocket. Mount Pilot is a fictional town near the show’s setting of Mayberry, North Carolina, likely based on Pilot Mountain, North Carolina. Mayberry itself was based primarily on Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, North Carolina.
Hey, Greg Brady’s leading the group.
See above note on Greg Brady.
Mmmmm. Tastes like Juicy Fruit. And pizza.
Juicy Fruit is a brand of fruit-flavored chewing gum manufactured by Wrigley and first produced in 1893.
And then I’m gonna replant the whole forest, Ben.
Possibly a reference to Gentle Ben, a children’s novel written by Walt Morey and published in 1965. It inspired the 1967-1969 CBS series of the same name that starred Clint Howard (Ron Howard’s brother) as a boy named Mark who has adventures with a large black bear named Ben (played by Bruno the Bear).
Maybe that dog food is good for ‘em. She’s really got a shiny coat. –It’s the HiPro glow.
Purina HiPro dog food was a brand popular in the 1970s and ‘80s.
She’s the one who caused all that trouble at Attica.
Attica Correctional Institute is a prison in western New York state; in 1971, it was the site of the deadliest prison riot in American history. Almost half of the prison’s 2,200 inmates rioted and took 33 staff members hostage. The standoff went on for four days before state police stormed the prison. Thirty-nine people died, including ten prison workers. The aftermath of the riot was equally brutal: all the hostages who were killed died in the hail of gunfire when the police raided the prison, but rumors spread that the inmates had deliberately murdered them; enraged guards stripped the prisoners naked and forced them to run gantlets in the mud while being severely beaten. In actuality, a number of the hostages reported that their lives were probably saved by a small group of Muslim inmates, who risked their lives to protect the hostages against some of the more militant rioters.
She uses more peroxide in her hair than an entire M*A*S*H unit.
See note on M*A*S*H, above. In several episodes of the TV series, the nurses’ use of hydrogen peroxide to bleach their hair was a plot point.
We sold her into slavery for some magic beans. Why?
Magic beans is a plot device used in the story of “Jack and the Beanstalk.” The boy, Jack, is sent by his poor mother to sell their cow, but an old man offers him magic beans for the cow, and Jack accepts. His mother is enraged, but the beans grow overnight into a huge beanstalk that stretches into the clouds. Jack climbs it, finds some amazing treasures, and kills the giant (or ogre) who lives up there. The tale began as an oral tradition brought to England by the Vikings and was first published in 1807 by Benjamin Tabart.
[Sung.] I know a wiener man, he owns a hot dog stand ...
“The Wiener Man” is a campfire song popular with scout-aged children.
Hey, this guy’s great. It’s Greg Brady again.
See above note on Greg Brady.
You think I look good? I do. –Yeah, you could make a good whiskey decanter. –It’s ‘cause of my BVDs.
BVD is a brand of men’s underwear, first produced in 1876. Trivia note: “BVD” stands for “Bradley, Voorhees & Day.”
Here comes Sheriff Taylor.
A reference to Andy Griffith’s character in The Andy Griffith Show (see above note).
Okay, tell me something and be honest. Do I really look like Colonel Tom Parker?
“Colonel” Tom Parker (1909-1997) was Elvis Presley’s long-time manager. A Dutch citizen by birth (born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk), he was given an honorary rank in the Louisiana State Militia in 1948 for helping with Governor Jimmie Davis’s election campaign.
Filmed in America’s Tractor Pavilion. Scenic Shawano, Wisconsin. –That’s a really tall tractor.
I was unable to find anything called “America’s Tractor Pavilion,” but it has a county fair flavor to it. Shawano, Wisconsin, is a small city with a population of only 9,305 in the 2010 Census.
I’m so sorry. He’s from Barcelona.
Manuel, played by Andrew Sachs, is the waiter in the Torquay, England, hotel Fawlty Towers in the classic BBC sitcom of the same name (1975 & 1979). He’s from Barcelona and frequently misunderstands the commands of Basil Fawlty, played by John Cleese. Basil often tries to explain away Manuel’s behavior with that line.
Who’s the greaser behind the manure spreader? He looks like James Dean. –Looks more like Jimmy Dean. Rebel without a sausage.
James Dean (1931-1955) was an actor who had lead roles in only three films—Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, and Giant—before his untimely death in an auto accident when someone crossed the center line into his lane while he was driving a Porsche 550 Spyder. He’s the only actor to ever be nominated posthumously for two Academy Awards (for East of Eden and Giant). Jimmy Dean (1928-2010) was a country singer (1961’s “Big Bad John”), actor (the 1971 James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever), and creator of Jimmy Dean Foods in 1969, which is famous for its breakfast sausage.
César, César, César.
Likely a reference to César Chávez (1927-1993), a Mexican-American civil rights and labor leader best known for his efforts on behalf of migrant workers and the founding of the United Farm Workers union.
Let’s get out of here, Scooby!
An imitation of Shaggy, a scruffy, goateed character on the Scooby-Doo animated TV series, which first aired in 1969. He was voiced by Casey Kasem, the well-known syndicated DJ.
Joan Collins is an actress who is best known for her role as Alexis Morell Carrington Colby Dexter Rowan on the TV prime-time soap opera Dynasty (1981-1989) and as Captain James T. Kirk’s ill-fated love Edith Keeler on the classic 1967 episode of Star Trek “The City on the Edge of Forever” (sniff).
“He’s not her lover.” He’s a fighter.
A reference to the saying, “I’m a lover, not a fighter,” popularized during the Vietnam War as draft-eligible youth protested being sent overseas. Before that, it was the title of a 1964 song by Louisiana musician J. D. Miller and covered by British group The Kinks and country singer Skeeter Davis.
Mr. Maytag man.
See above note on the Maytag repairman.
Humma-humma. –Rutabaga. –Hey, hey.
Along with “rhubarb, “watermelon,” and “peas and carrots,” “rutabaga” is one of those words that background extras are often told to mutter among themselves as a way to simulate conversation in television shows and films.
If I wasn’t sure Greg Brady was a guy I’d ... –Snap out of it.
See above note on Greg Brady.
Cast from a Tobe Hooper film.
Tobe Hooper is a director known for the classic 1974 gore-fest The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and its 1986 sequel, the 1979 Salem’s Lot miniseries, and 1982’s Poltergeist.
Little punk hit me with a Nerf ball!
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.
C’mon, Officer Krupke.
Officer Krupke is a character in the 1957 Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents Broadway musical West Side Story. One of the songs is titled, “Gee, Officer Krupke.” In the 1961 film adaptation, the role was played by William Bramley, who also played the part on Broadway.
What do you want, Aunt Bee?
In The Andy Griffith Show (see above note), Beatrice “Bee” Taylor (played by Frances Bavier) was Sheriff Andy Taylor’s aunt and caretaker to Opie.
And so, Manuel Noriega quickly seizes the opportunity to make his escape. –That oughta hold him. –Right in the nuncio.
General Manuel Noriega is a former military dictator of Panama, where he ruled from 1983 to 1989. In 1989, he essentially stole the election and tried to restrict the U.S. military’s freedom of movement in the country (related to treaties governing the protection of the Canal). Those actions, along with his role in the international drug trade, led President George H. W. Bush to send the United States military after him in December 1989, an action dubbed “Operation Just Cause.” The U.S. invasion was met with international criticism; the United Nations voted 75-20 to condemn it as a violation of international law. Noriega fled the capital and took sanctuary in the Vatican embassy (in the Catholic Church, an ambassador is called “nuncio”). Thus began “Operation Nifty Package,” as Navy SEALs surrounded the embassy and played The Clash and Guns ‘n’ Roses at deafening volumes at all hours. After ten days, the Papal Nuncio encouraged Noriega to leave, and the U.S. arrested him as a prisoner of war. In 1992, Noriega was tried and convicted in Miami on eight counts of drug trafficking, money laundering, racketeering, and so on, and sentenced to 30 years in prison. In 2007, he was released, and three years later was extradited to France and convicted on money laundering charges there; the following year France finally sent him to Panama, which had been clamoring for his head for some time, to answer for crimes committed during his reign. He is now serving 20 years in prison there.
Wait a minute. These are stills from Yards of Leather.
Yards of Leather is the name of a bondage-centric pornographic film apparently invented by Best Brains, because I can’t find a real movie (porn or otherwise) by that name.
‘Cause I just got a reading for Murder, She Wrote.
Murder, She Wrote is a long-running mystery series that aired from 1984 to 1996 on CBS, and was followed by a spinoff series (The Law & Harry McGraw) and four TV movies. It starred Angela Lansbury as widowed mystery writer Jessica Fletcher, who always managed to solve killings by and of Hollywood guest stars in her sleepy yet blood-drenched Maine town of Cabot Cove. I did some math for fun, and I think you’ll like the results. According to the show, Cabot Cove has a population of 3,560 people. With 22 episodes per season and assuming one murder per episode (though many featured multiple slayings), that gives Cabot Cove a murder rate of 618 per 100,000 people. By comparison, 2014’s murder capital, St. Louis, had a rate of 49.93 per 100,000—which means Jessica’s cosy little town has a murder rate more than twelve times higher than the most dangerous city in America. The most dangerous city in the world, San Pedro Sula in Honduras, only boasts a rate of 171.2. I’d move.
And Scarecrow, and the rest of you.
A reference to the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, which starred Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow.
This is what deputies do? –I think so. Although they’re usually parked at a Mister Donut doing it.
Mister Donut is a chain of coffee and doughnut shops founded in Boston in 1955 by Harry Winouker. He had just ended a partnership with his brother-in-law, Bill Rosenberg, who founded Dunkin Donuts. Mister Donut had hundreds of locations in the U.S. and Canada before it was bought by Minneapolis company International Multifoods in 1970. In 1990, it was absorbed by Dunkin Donuts. Today, the Mister Donuts brand is alive and well outside the U.S.: more than 1,300 locations dot Japan’s landscape, along with several other Asian and Central American countries.
Hey, MTV. Mexican Television.
MTV, or Music Television, launched as a cable channel in 1981, playing a continuous stream of music videos produced by record labels to hype their albums. It grew into an industry behemoth, one that could make or break an artist, and made physical appearance and visual style increasingly important components of the music biz. In 2010, MTV dropped “Music Television” from their logo along with any pretense that their airing of reality shows had something to do with music.
David Byrne’s new band.
David Byrne was the lead singer for the band Talking Heads, which was popular during the 1980s with hits like “Road to Nowhere.” In 1989, he released a solo album called Rei Momo, which featured music in the Latino, West Indian, Cuban, and other “world beat” styles.
Mamie made it! Auntie Mamie!
Auntie Mame is a 1955 novel by Patrick Dennis about an orphaned boy raised by his wacky aunt. In 1957, it was turned into a Broadway play starring Rosalind Russell in the title role, and in 1958 a film adaptation was released with Russell reprising her role. In 1966, Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur starred in a musical version on Broadway, titled Mame; Lucille Ball played Mame in the 1974 film version.
She’s got neat underwear in this one. –Nice diapers. They’re Huggies, all right.
Huggies is a brand of disposable diaper made by Kimberly-Clark. They were test marketed in 1968 but not sold until 1978.
This must be the theme song of the Cousteau Society. [Imitation.] And so we leave the cave of the giant barracuda. –[Imitation.] As we end the film, we are reminded of the tiny friends of Mamie Van Doren. How’s that? –Great. –Close? –Do Gregory Peck. –That was my Chinese gangster impression.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-1997) was a French ocean explorer and the inventor of the Aqua-Lung, which helped him in his extensive underwater expeditions. He wrote a number of popular books about the ocean and also wrote and produced films on the same topic. In 1973, he founded The Cousteau Society for the Protection of Ocean Life. Cousteau’s most famed research vessel was the RV Calypso, which he used from 1950 until 1996, when it was sunk after being hit by a barge near Singapore. It was later raised and is still in the process of being restored.
So that’s what the Tijuana Brass is doing.
Tijuana Brass was the name of famed trumpeter Herb Alpert’s backing band for much of the 1960s. Their Latin-flavored singles frequently went to the top of the charts. Some of their biggest hits include “A Taste of Honey,” “Spanish Flea,” “Tijuana Taxi,” “The Lonely Bull,” and more.
Calypso is a genre of island music that is believed to have started in Trinidad and Tobago. In the United States, it became hugely popular in the mid- to late 1950s, with Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” (1956) being the most prominent example. Thus the genre’s last-minute inclusion in this film with such an apparent rip-off.
I feel like I’m in the Tiki Room. –I wish I were. –You’ve got the profile for it. –Thank you.
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room is an attraction at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Disneyland’s opened in 1963, when Hawaiian and Pacific Islander-inspired themes were popular; Walt Disney World’s followed when that park opened in 1971.
Your pants are on fire.
The phrase “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” is a paraphrasing of lines from an 1810 poem called “The Liar” written by William Blake: “Deceiver, dissembler –Your trousers are alight.” In 1965, it became the basis for a hit single called “Liar, Liar” by the rock group The Castaways.