912: The Screaming Skull
by Wyn Hilty
“But on this day, something unexpected happened.” Gumby was nude! –The nice thing about Gumby is that you can use him as window caulk. “Look out the window, Mother.” Pokey left a big surprise in your begonias.
Gumby was created by Art Clokey, who also gave us Davey and Goliath. An early example of stop-motion clay animation, Gumby and his horse-like sidekick Pokey were seen in 233 episodes of TV’s The Gumby Show, which ran in one form or another between 1955 and 2002, as well as a feature-length film and various other media. Gumby attained solidly iconic pop culture status, which naturally led to many parodies, most famously Eddie Murphy’s (“I’m Gumby, damn it!”) on NBC’s Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s.
Hey, don’t! That’s Wallace and Gromit’s yard.
Wallace and Gromit are a man and dog claymation team created by animator Nick Park of Aardman Animations. The short films The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave and the full-length feature The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, all starring the pair, won Academy Awards for animation.
Habitat Against Humanity.
Habitat For Humanity is a nonprofit Christian volunteer organization dedicated to building affordable housing for needy families. Former president Jimmy Carter has been involved with the group for many years.
[Sung.] Sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older ...
This is a line from the traditional song “Sixteen Tons,” which has been recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford, Merle Travis, and others. The full lyrics: “You load sixteen tons, what do you get?/Another day older and deeper in debt/Saint Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go/I owe my soul to the company store.”
Clay figures go home.
A riff on “Yankee go home!”, an anti-imperialist slogan dating to the World War II era (1939-1945), chanted by protesters worried by the way the United States kept eyeing their countries and licking its chops: like the Philippines, for example.
Damn. I need more pig’s blood.
Likely a reference to the Manson family murders, though it appears the writers got the medium and the message mixed up. In the various murders committed by the followers of Charles Manson in the summer of 1969, messages involving pigs (e.g., "Death to Pigs") were written in the human victims’ blood on the walls and doors of crime scenes.
Well, you use one of those older Philips analog chips in your robot, you’re gonna get this.
Philips Semiconductors is an industry giant that produces both analog and digital chips for use in televisions.
I’m gonna set you on Don Knotts strength.
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 on the 1970s TV sitcom Three’s Company and for his bumbling deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show; he also appeared in a string of comedy movies.
I wonder why the Gumbys never had any other children.
Actually, they did. The syndicated series in 1988 gave Gumby a sister named Minga.
Gotta move this body back upstate.
In the opening scene of the 1990 Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas, the main characters kill a man and decide to bury his body in “a place upstate.” Later, they discover a developer is planning to build condos in that location and have to dig up and move the body to prevent its discovery.
Son, I’ll need a can of Play-Doh to replace my butt.
Play-Doh is a soft, non-toxic modeling clay marketed by Hasbro. It comes in various colors and has a wide range of accessories to help you make food, bugs, body parts, and so forth.
CNN is the 24-hour cable news network founded by Ted Turner in 1980. For a while there, actor James Earl Jones did the station IDs in his trademark booming voice. (Thanks to Luke for pointing out the Jones reference.)
“Liquid metal” is a phrase made famous by the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The killer android in that movie, played by Robert Patrick, was made of liquid metal and could re-form itself after nearly any injury, making it almost unstoppable.
When did Gumby get a Class F license?
Driver’s licenses are sorted into various classes denoting which vehicles the driver is allowed to operate. The classes seem to vary from state to state; for example, West Virginia’s Class F license is for motorcycles, while South Carolina’s is for “non-commercial combination vehicles that exceed 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.”
Davey and Goliath are moving in next door—there goes the neighborhood.
Davey and Goliath was a claymation TV series that aired from 1962 to 1977. It was developed by Art Clokey, creator of Gumby, for the Lutheran Church as a Christian show for children.
Now I’m ready for years of powerful Adlerian therapy, Mike.
Adlerian therapy was founded by psychologist Dr. Alfred Adler (1870-1937). It is a humanistic model that emphasizes family background and positive social interaction.
This is worse than Seven!
Seven (or Se7en, as it is sometimes spelled) is a grim 1995 film directed by David Fincher and starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. It tells the story of a serial killer who is offing people in ways reminiscent of the seven deadly sins (hence the title).
Looks like a dead person won the Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby is an annual horse race run on the first Saturday in May on the Churchill Downs racetrack in Louisville, Kentucky. It was founded in 1875.
Al Lewis’s one-man show.
Al Lewis (1910-2006) was an actor who is best known for his portrayal of Grandpa Munster on the TV show The Munsters, which aired from 1964 to 1966.
Brek-ek-ek-ex, Ko-ax, Ko-ax.
A reference to the frog chorus from ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes' famous work The Frogs. (Several readers identified this reference, but Thomas Lakeman got there first.)
You guys might be tempted to make a “Smoke on the Water” joke here, but I urge you to refrain, please.
“Smoke on the Water” is a song by the band Deep Purple. Sample lyrics: “Frank Zappa and the Mothers/Were at the best place around/But some stupid with a flare gun/Burned the place to the ground/Smoke on the water, fire in the sky.”
[Sung.] My Sharona ...
“My Sharona” is a song by the Knack; it has also been recorded by Veruca Salt and Nirvana. Sample lyrics: “Ooh my little pretty one, pretty one/When you gonna give me some time sharona.”
[Sung.] Mazo-ola corn goo-oodness.
This is taken from a jingle for Mazola corn oil; the writers were very fond of it.
I knew an Alex Kristy McNichol one time. Thank you very much! Good night.
Kristy McNichol is an actress whose career peaked in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in such films as Little Darlings (1980) and The Pirate Movie (1982). She later appeared as a regular on the TV series Empty Nest.
Yes, shocking horror rides in style in your 1953 Mercedes.
This does not appear to be taken from a specific ad slogan but rather reminiscent of old-style car ads. Mercedes-Benz is a German car manufacturer known for luxury cars; it produced a number of models in the 1950s.
Numerous readers have suggested that this is a reference to Davenport, Iowa, one of the Quad Cities. I remain skeptical, but I admit I haven’t come up with a better answer.
Help us! NBC is after us! Hide us!
A peacock has been the symbol of the television network NBC since the 1950s, when NBC began broadcasting in color (color; peacock’s tail—get it?).
No black-soled shoes, please.
Black-soled shoes have traditionally been prohibited in gymnasiums with wood floors because they tend to leave unsightly black marks all over the floor.
Eric Clapton is an extremely influential guitarist/singer/songwriter. He first played in a number of bands, including the Yardbirds, Cream, and Derek and the Dominos, before launching his extraordinarily successful solo career. In 1992 Clapton scored a major hit with his acoustic album Unplugged, featuring the song “Tears in Heaven,” written after the death of his young son.
“Poor Mickey.” He’s so fine he blows my mind, poor Mickey.
A paraphrase of a line from the song “Hey Mickey,” performed by Toni Basil. The actual lyrics: “Oh Mickey you’re so fine/You’re so fine you blow my mind/Hey Mickey (Hey hey)/Hey Mickey (Hey hey).” (Thanks to Chris Kee for correcting the singer.)
Van Gogh’s How-dee!
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) is considered one of the greatest painters of all time, although he failed to sell any of his paintings during his lifetime. (His paintings now sell for tens of millions of dollars at auction.) Van Gogh suffered all his life from bouts with mental illness, including one famous incident in which he cut off part of his own ear with a razor, and he spent a year in a sanatorium. In 1890 van Gogh killed himself in despair over his financial failures and his illness. “How-dee!” was the signature entrance line of Minnie Pearl, a character created by actress Sarah Colley (1912-1996), who performed at the Grand Ole Opry from 1940 until 1991 and appeared on the television show Hee Haw (CBS/syndication, 1969-1992) from 1969 until 1991. Besides “How-dee!”, her other trademark was a Sunday-goin’-to-meeting hat with a price tag still hanging on it ($1.98). She retired from performing in 1991 after suffering a stroke.
Exit, stage left.
“Exit, stage left” (or sometimes “stage right”) was the departing catchphrase of Snagglepuss, a slender, nattily dressed lion on the animated children’s TV series The Yogi Bear Show (syndicated, 1961-1962). He had another catchphrase as well: “Heavens to Murgatroid!” Snagglepuss was voiced by Daws Butler, doing an imitation of Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Butler also supplied the voices for Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, and Huckleberry Hound, among others.
And I'm Zoroastrian, and my husband doesn't even know it.
Zoroastrianism is the ancient religion of Iran, predating the rise of Islam in that country. It was founded in the 6th century B.C.E. by a prophet named Zoroaster. Zoroastrians believed in many lesser gods ruled over by one supreme god and in a constant struggle between good and evil, in which man must choose sides of his own free will.
Dave Pirner searches for his ball.
Minneapolis native Dave Pirner is the lead singer for the band Soul Asylum. (Thanks to Blake Maddux for this reference.)
I could read Paul Reiser’s autobiography over and over again.
Paul Reiser is an actor, comedian, and writer who is probably best known for his work on the TV series Mad About You, which he created and co-starred in alongside Helen Hunt.
“What are you reading?” Avoiding the Old Goat by Ann Landers.
Ann Landers (b. 1918 as Esther Pauline Friedman; d. 2002) wrote a newspaper advice column starting in 1955 and lasting until her death in 2002. The column is still published, written now by Amy Dickinson. Landers's twin sister, Pauline Esther, also wrote an advice column as “Dear Abby.”
Now let me tell you about Norman Schwarzkopf’s book.
Norman Schwarzkopf (1934-2012) was a U.S. Army general who commanded Operation Desert Storm during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. He retired from active service later that year. His autobiography was titled It Doesn’t Take a Hero.
Are they skeet shooting on the Lido deck?
The Lido deck is a standard designation on cruise ships. Judging from various online tours (having never taken a cruise myself), it is generally an open-air deck toward the top of the ship containing swimming pools, restaurants, bars, shops, etc.
Oh, he’s down there on the teeter-totter again.
A teeter-totter, also called a seesaw, is a children’s playground toy consisting of a long plank balanced on a central stand; when a child sits at either end of the board, they can rock up and down until they get bored with it.
A reference to the Microsoft computer operating system Windows 98, which was released in 1998 and succeeded by Windows ME in 2000.
Turned out to be Deney Terrio.
Deney Terrio was a dancer and host of the TV series Dance Fever from 1979 to 1985. He won fame as the man who taught John Travolta his disco moves for the film Saturday Night Fever.
It’s the Irene Ryan monument!
Irene Ryan (1902-1973) was an actress best known for her role as Daisy May Moses (a.k.a. Granny) on the TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, which aired from 1962 to 1971.
C.S. Lewis funhouse!
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was a British scholar, novelist, and theologian, and a prominent advocate of Christianity. His most famous theological work was probably The Screwtape Letters, an epistolary novel about two devils, Screwtape and Wormwood, who discuss ways to tempt Christians. But he is best known for the Chronicles of Narnia, a series of allegorical children’s books set in the mythical land of Narnia.
Pinched Lady at Giverny.
Giverny in northern France was the location of French Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s home and gardens. In the last thirty years of his life, as his eyesight was failing, he produced a series of approximately 250 paintings depicting the gardens and ponds on the estate, titled Water Lilies. (Thanks to @stejormur for this reference.)
She’s wearing a Manssiere.
In the 1995 episode of the TV series Seinfeld titled "The Doorman," Kramer (played by Michael Richards) invents a bra for men, which he dubs the Bro, or the Manssiere.
Well, I’d better get those lemons out and start rubbing them on my body.
The 1980 film Atlantic City starred Susan Sarandon as a young woman who works at the seafood buffet at a casino and Burt Lancaster as an aging ex-mobster. In one scene, Lancaster watches through a window as a topless Sarandon rubs lemons on her hands and arms to remove the smell of seafood.
Mickey. CNN. Atlanta.
See note on CNN, above.
Mary Tyler Moore!
Mary Tyler Moore (1936-2017) was an actress best known for her eponymous TV series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which aired from 1970 to 1977. She also appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961 to 1966.
[Sung.] Smile, though your heart is breaking ...
A paraphrase of the song “Smile,” which has been recorded by Nat King Cole and Michael Jackson. Sample lyrics: “Smile, though your heart is aching/Smile, even though it’s breaking/When there are clouds in the sky/You’ll get by ...”
Oh, great. Ebola!
The Ebola virus causes a disease in primates and humans that involves a high fever, a rash, and severe hemorrhaging; mortality rates range from 50 to 90 percent. There was a major outbreak of the disease in Zaire in 1995 that killed hundreds of people; a larger outbreak in West Africa in 2015 killed more than 11,000.
I’ve got to get to the Bactine!
Bactine is a combination antiseptic and anesthetic manufactured by Bayer Corporation.
My bout with Holyfield was tougher than I thought.
Evander Holyfield is a professional boxer; he is the only boxer apart from Muhammad Ali to win the heavyweight championship three times. He faced off against Mike Tyson in a 1997 match in which Tyson was disqualified after the third round for biting Holyfield’s ear.
Something’s staying crunchy, even in milk!
“Stays crunchy, even in milk” was an advertising slogan for Cap’n Crunch cereal.
An imitation of Flash Bazbo–Space Explorer, a recurring character on The National Lampoon Radio Hour, a weekly show which ran on about 600 radio stations in 1974. Christopher Guest voiced Flash Bazbo; the show also featured early work by John Belushi, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and many others.
I’m gonna go put on my turtleneck peignoir.
A peignoir is a long sheer or chiffon outer garment for women, often worn as a dressing gown or bathrobe.
She’s got the aurora borealis in her living room there.
The aurora borealis is a mix of cosmic rays, solar wind, and plasma that lights up the sky in extremely northern latitudes, hence their other name: “Northern Lights.”
Alas, poor Yorick. She threw him well!
A paraphrase of the classic line from Hamlet, which is frequently misquoted as “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well.” The actual dialogue is: “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio.”
I'm guessing Donna Reed’s still in there waiting like an idiot ...
Donna Reed (1921-1986) was an actress who personified the wholesome 1950s woman. She acted in numerous movies, including It’s a Wonderful Life and The Man Who Knew Too Much, and had her own TV series, The Donna Reed Show, which aired from 1958 to 1966.
Please let it be Fabio!
Fabio is a male model known for his flowing blond locks and muscular physique. He became famous posing for a series of romance novel covers and went on to appear in movies and TV shows, usually playing himself.
I didn’t expect the Cutco guy to come at 2 a.m.!
The Cutco Cutlery Corporation sells knives directly to consumers on a “personal appointment” basis; they are the Fuller Brush salesmen of the late 20th century.
Gandalf’s outside, scratching things on the door ...
Gandalf is the powerful wizard in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, written by J.R.R. Tolkien. At the beginning of The Hobbit, Gandalf scratches a sign on the front door of Bilbo Baggins’s home to indicate to the dwarves coming after him that this is where they are to meet up—much to Bilbo’s dismay.
I think this is what Pat Nixon’s life was like.
Pat Nixon (1912-1993) was the wife of disgraced President Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 after the Watergate scandal. During her tenure as First Lady, she took up volunteerism as her personal cause, much as fellow Republican First Lady Nancy Reagan would embrace the “Just Say No” campaign against drugs.
Hey, do me a favor, open the door, let him in.
A reference to the song "Let 'Em In" by Paul McCartney and Wings. Sample lyrics: "Someone's knockin' at the door/Somebody's ringin' the bell/Do me a favor/Open the door and let 'em in." (Thanks to Keeton Anderson for this reference.)
Martin Luther’s nailing each thesis individually.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German priest and scholar who launched the Protestant Reformation, a reaction against the perceived corruption of the Catholic Church. According to tradition, Luther drew up a document called the Ninety-Five Theses, which laid out many of the central precepts of Protestantism, and nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. More recent scholars have called this story into question, however, suggesting that Luther merely circulated the theses among his acquaintances.
Have you barked at the moon lately, honey?
May be a reference to the Ozzy Osbourne song “Bark at the Moon,” from the album of the same name.
“He’s very comforting.” Yeah, Mr. Snow, and then Mr. Horse, and then Mr. Mary Jane ...
“Snow” is a slang term for cocaine, “horse” is slang for heroin, and “mary jane” is slang for marijuana.
So I’ve hired Richard Crenna.
Richard Crenna (1926-2003) was an actor who appeared in roughly every movie ever, when he wasn’t appearing in TV series. A small sampling: Our Miss Brooks, Wait Until Dark, Marooned, Body Heat, and the Rambo films.
Look, I’ve got Bingo.
Bingo is a game played with a small card on which are printed numbers in a grid arrangement; an announcer calls off numbers, and if a player has that number on his card, he covers it with a small marker. When he has covered a whole row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, he calls out “Bingo!” The game has traditionally been the domain of little old ladies, who routinely play several cards at a time.
St. Francis boxing pose.
St. Francis of Assisi (c. 1181-1226) modeled his life after Jesus, embracing a life of poverty and charity. His charismatic style attracted many followers, who formed the Franciscan order in 1210. Francis was canonized two years after his death.
He’s having his own three-legged race!
The three-legged race is a classic picnic game in which two people stand side by side, tie their adjacent legs together, and race other pairs for a short distance.
“Not me, not me!” And Ida Know.
Ida Know and Not Me are the insidious ghosts responsible for much of the mayhem in the “Family Circus” comic strip.
I’m gonna go back and work for Leona Helmsley.
Leona Helmsley (1920-2007) was the second wife of real-estate magnate Harry Helmsley, who owned about $5 billion worth of property in his heyday, including the Empire State Building. Leona ran Helmsley Enterprises, a chain of luxury hotels, and was dubbed the “Queen of Mean” for her arrogant and unfeeling treatment of her employees. In 1988 Leona was tried for and convicted of tax evasion and spent some time in prison.
“Jenny ...” ... I’ve got your number.
A line from the song “Jenny (867-5309)” by Tommy Tutone. Sample lyrics: “Jenny I’ve got your number/I need to make you mine/Jenny don’t change your number/Eight six seven five three oh nine.”
Chair made by Gateway Computers.
Gateway Computers is a company founded by Ted Waitt in 1985 on his family’s cattle farm in Iowa. The company, which manufacture made-to-order PCs, was well-known in the 1990s for shipping its products in black-and-white boxes that resembled cows. It was acquired by Acer in 2007.
Hi, I’m Hedda Hopper.
Hedda Hopper (1890-1966) was a well-known gossip columnist and actress. She was known for her enormous collection of hats and her long-running feud with fellow gossipeer Louella Parsons.
“Go on, Jenny.” Throw the M-80.
An M-80 is a powerful firework that has been banned in the United States since 1966. It is a small, tube-shaped firecracker that contains about 3,000 milligrams of pyrotechnic explosive (the legal limit in the U.S. is 50 milligrams).
If you imagine it’s a LeRoy Neiman, the scene plays a lot better.
LeRoy Neiman (1921-2012) was an American painter known for his colorful and energetic portrayals of athletes and sporting events.
Please, don’t do this! Hang me in a Comfort Inn!
Comfort Inn is a chain of “budget luxury” hotels owned by Choice Hotels, which also runs the Sleep Inn and Econo Lodge chains.
Pepe Le Pew walked by!
Pepe Le Pew is the love-starved French skunk featured in many a Warner Brothers animated short. Created by Michael Maltese in 1945, Pepe was perfected over the years and made famous by director Chuck Jones. A typical Pepe Le Pew cartoon has a hapless black and white cat somehow getting a white stripe painted/dyed down her back, and then being mistaken for a skunk by the amorous Pepe, who proceeds to woo her in a most vigorous and insistent manner. When Pepe was created, he was seen as a parody of the “French lover” stereotype (and in fact was based on the character Pepe Le Moke, played with panache by Charles Boyer in the 1938 film Algiers). Today, with increased societal awareness of and decreased tolerance for the problems of sexual harassment and date rape (as in the #MeToo Twitter campaign of 2017), his hijinks seem a lot less amusing.
“It’s just me!” Brought some Cool Ranch flavored hosts!
Cool Ranch Doritos are a flavored corn chip manufactured by Frito Lay. They are now called “Cooler Ranch” Doritos. The host, also known as sacramental bread, altar bread, or communion bread, is a small, thin wafer, meant to represent the body of Christ, that is used in the Christian ritual of communion.
Dogs Playing Poker, yes.
Dogs Playing Poker is one in a series of paintings by artist C.M. Coolidge; it is allegedly one of the best-selling series of prints of all time. Coolidge painted many pictures of dogs engaged in human activities: watching baseball, dancing, repairing cars ...
I married Hec Ramsey.
Hec Ramsey was a TV series that aired from 1972 to 1974. It starred Richard Boone (1917-1981) as an aging, turn-of-the-century detective.
“When Jenny was put away in that hospital ...” ... I’d steal her Jell-O.
Jell-O is a sweetened gelatin dessert made by Kraft Foods. The powdered gelatin that serves as a base for the product was first developed in 1845 by Peter Cooper. In 1897, a New York carpenter added colors and flavors to it. The first flavors available were lemon, orange, raspberry, and strawberry; his wife came up with the Jell-O name.
“He’s very kind.” For a sky pilot, anyway.
The slang term “sky pilot” has, since the 19th century, generally meant a religious preacher or member of the clergy. Later in the 20th century, it came to mean a military chaplain—like in the 1968 Eric Burdon and the Animals song “Sky Pilot.” The term has also been used to describe a member of the clergy who preaches passive acceptance of the political and social status quo. (Thanks to Kurt E. Steidl for this reference.)
He’s doing Juan Epstein.
Juan Epstein was one of the students on the TV series Welcome Back, Kotter, which aired from 1975 to 1979. The part was played by actor Robert Hegyes (1951-2012), who went on to play detective Manny Esposito on the TV series Cagney & Lacey.
Clothes from the Fred Rogers collection.
Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was the longtime and much-beloved host of the PBS children’s show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired from 1966 to 2001.
From now on, I’m gonna keep my skull at EZ Stor-It.
A reference to the many companies that offer self-storage units for people who own way too much stuff. I found companies called EZ Stor and EZ-To-Stor-It, but not one specifically called EZ Stor-It.
This is where Evian bottles all its water.
Evian is a bottled mineral water from France; it became a symbol of yuppiedom during the 1980s.
Hey, Moe! Don’t hit me, Moe! –Come on, porcupine!
Moe Howard (1897-1975) was the founding member of the Three Stooges, a comedy trio that appeared in nearly 200 short films. Moe was the “boss Stooge,” constantly rebuking his hapless fellows and beating the hell out of them in allegedly hilarious ways.
Man, this is almost as bad as when I gardened for Jackson Browne.
Jackson Browne is a singer-songwriter who hit the height of his popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His biggest single was probably “Running on Empty,” from the 1977 album of the same name. In addition to his own performing, he wrote successful songs for other artists, including Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles.
It’s Mr. McFeely’s music! –Busy day, busy day.
Mr. McFeely was the mailman on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (see above note). He was played by actor David Newell.
Now it’s music by the mutants from beneath the planet of the apes.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes was a film released in 1970 starring James Franciscus. It was the second movie in the Planet of the Apes series, after the original starring Charlton Heston.
William S. Burroughs!
William Burroughs (1914-1997) was a writer of experimental novels, of which the most famous is Naked Lunch. Along with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, he became one of the seminal voices of the Beat generation in the 1950s.
Well, I’ll go hunting for nightcrawlers. That always makes me feel better.
Nightcrawlers is another name for common earthworms, popular as bait for fishing. After a heavy rain, they tend to come up from underground to avoid drowning in the water that fills their tunnels.
If Ed Wood had directed Rules of the Game.
Rules of the Game (or La Règle du Jeu, in the original French) is a 1939 film directed by Jean Renoir. It is a gentle satire of the French upper class, set during a house party at an immense country mansion, and is widely considered among the best movies ever made. Ed Wood Jr. (1924-1978) was a legendarily bad film director; several of his movies were made into MST3K episodes, including Show 613, The Sinister Urge, and Show 423, Bride of the Monster.
We left you a bowl of kibbles.
Kibbles ’n Bits is a brand of dog food manufactured by Heinz Pet Products.
Hermione Gingold? What are you doing here?
Hermione Gingold (1897-1987) was a British stage and screen actress who earned her laurels in London and on Broadway, acting in everything from Shakespeare to musicals. She also appeared in several movie musicals, including Gigi (1958) and The Music Man (1962).
She moves like Gale Sayers, man.
Gale Sayers was a professional football player. He had an exceptional debut in 1965 as a rookie with the Chicago Bears and quickly developed a reputation for his bobbing, weaving style on the field. But his knees paid the price, and Sayers retired after four surgeries and four and a half seasons. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
Kiri Te Kanawa’s drunk again.
Kiri Te Kanawa is a renowned soprano opera singer from New Zealand. She became an international star during the 1970s with a string of highly praised performances in various operas, including several by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In 1981, she sang at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Di before a television audience of 600 million people.
Ohhh, Popeye ...
An imitation of Olive Oyl, the skinny and perpetually endangered girlfriend of Popeye in the series of short cartoons by the same name.
Cathy’s trying on another bathing suit. –Aack!
Cathy is the perpetually overweight, frazzled star of Cathy Guisewite’s comic strip by the same name. One of the strip’s running gags is to have Cathy try on bathing suits in a fitting room and go into hysterics at the sight of herself.
Oh, great, she’s playing her Yoko Ono albums.
Yoko Ono is a Japanese conceptual artist known for her atonal and highly experimental music. She is also known, perhaps unfairly, as the woman who broke up the Beatles, due to her influence on her husband, John Lennon, with whom she released a number of albums.
So this movie is kind of a combination of “Tell-Tale Heart,” Blithe Spirit, and, uh, well, a piece of lint, I guess.
“The Tell-Tale Heart” is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) about a man who murders his wealthy benefactor and hides the dismembered body under the floorboards; when the police arrive, summoned by a neighbor who heard the old man’s final scream, the murderer thinks that he can still hear the dead man’s heart beating under the floor, and ultimately confesses. Blithe Spirit is a comic play (and later a movie) by Noel Coward (1899-1973), about a man who is haunted by the ghost of his dead wife.
Friends are visiting from Hell.
A riff on the line “Friends are here from Europe,” immortalized in a TV commercial featuring Rula Lenska. Lenska is a Polish-born British actress who became famous in the U.S. in the late 1970s and early 1980s for not being famous, but being presented as if she were. A series of commercials for Alberto VO5 hair products began with her saying “I’m Rula Lenska …” in the classic celebrity endorsement style, as if everyone naturally knew who she was. However, she was virtually unknown to American audiences at the time. Parodies quickly followed: a sketch aired on Saturday Night Live with Jane Curtin portraying Lenska, and “Who the hell is Rula Lenska?” became a running gag on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The “friends are here from Europe” line was also parodied by the character Jambi in the 1981 HBO special The Pee-wee Herman Show, which became the blueprint for the children’s TV series Pee-wee’s Playhouse (CBS, 1986-1990).
[Sung.] Fruma Sarah, Fruma Sarah!
A reference to the musical number “Tevye’s Dream,” from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. In it, Tevye tells his wife of a terrible dream he had, in which he was visited by the dead wife of the older man Tevye has promised his daughter to; the wife, whose name is Fruma Sarah, threatens harm to the daughter if the marriage takes place.
[Sung.] Everyone knows it’s Slink Skull.
A paraphrase of the jingle “Everyone knows it’s Slinky,” from an advertising campaign for the classic children’s toy. Sample lyrics: “What walks down stairs, alone or in pairs/And makes a slinkity sound?/A spring, a spring, a marvelous thing/Everyone knows it’s Slinky.”
Ah, the Tibetan Freedom Concert’s starting.
The Tibetan Freedom Concert is actually a series of concerts held all over the world and featuring a variety of socially conscious musicians to raise money to help the country of Tibet win independence from China.In 1998, at a Washington, D.C., concert, several fans were unfortunately struck by lightning during a storm (they survived). (Thanks to Ted Duffy for the lightning reference.)
Bugs Bunny sneaking-up music!
Bugs Bunny is the star of the long-running series of animated shorts by Warner Brothers. He was created in the 1930s by a team of animators including Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery and voiced by longtime WB voice artist Mel Blanc. He is one of the most popular and enduring animated characters of all time, rivaled only by Mickey Mouse.
It’s like a scary Benny Hill sketch.
Benny Hill (1924/25-1992) was a chubby English comedian whose skit comedy show (unimaginatively dubbed The Benny Hill Show) reigned on British television for 20 years, beginning in 1969. The series was characterized by risque humor of the burlesque-show variety, high-speed chases, and lots of curvaceous women in skimpy bikinis.
Now, see, that’s a real Deadhead!
Deadheads are fans of the Grateful Dead. When the Grateful Dead was still touring, true Deadheads would follow the band from city to city to attend show after show. Their faithfulness made the band rich despite its lack of radio hits.
Mono. You’ll never know when it’s going to strike.
Mononucleosis is an infectious disease transmitted through saliva (hence its nickname, the “kissing disease.” The most common symptoms are lethargy, a sore throat, a loss of appetite, and an enlarged spleen. The disease usually resolves itself in one to two weeks.
Hmm. I should have married that nice Mr. Von Bulow.
In December 1980, heiress Sunny von Bulow slipped into a coma. Her husband, Claus von Bulow (1926-2019), was accused of trying to murder her by injecting her with a lethal dose of insulin. He was found guilty in 1982, but had the conviction reversed on appeal and was ultimately acquitted in a second trial in 1985. Sunny finally died in 2008, 28 years after she went into a coma. The von Bulows’ story was told in the 1990 film Reversal of Fortune.
You missed evensong.
Evensong, in the Episcopal Church, is the traditional evening prayer of thanksgiving; it is called “vespers” in the Roman Catholic Church.
I was going to do the dance of the seven veils, but I only have four.
A reference to Salome, who in the Bible is the daughter of Herod, ruler of Galilee. Salome is infamous for demanding the head of John the Baptist in exchange for dancing in front of Herod. In the Richard Strauss opera Salome, first produced in 1905, the dance Salome performs is called the Dance of the Seven Veils, although it is not called such in the Gospels.
I want to be the next White Rock girl.
White Rock is a beverage company that makes various flavors of soda. Its logo depicts a girl with white wings kneeling on a rock, gazing at her reflection in a pond.
This is your colon on pork. Any questions?
A variation on the famous anti-drug TV ad of the late 1980s. Produced by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the ad showed two eggs sizzling in a frying pan, with the slogan: “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?”
The only end, my friend. –Yeah, yeah, and the children are all insane ...
A paraphrase of two lines from the Doors song “The End.” Sample lyrics: “This is the end, beautiful friend/This is the end, my only friend.”