211: First Spaceship on Venus
by Trey Yeatts
Oh, look! It’s in Total-Annihilation-Vision! –You know, it’s TotalVision. It used to be an Eighty-Percent-Vision.
TotalVision was a brand name for anamorphic widescreen filmmaking in East Germany. In 1952, 20th Century Fox created an anamorphic process called CinemaScope, but charged filmmakers a bundle to rent the lens. Other studios (and countries) quickly developed their own versions to avoid having to pay up: Vistarama, Cinepanoramic, Superfilmscope, Tohoscope, Mexiscope (guess which country that one was from), Cosmoscope, AtlasScope … the list goes on.
Ahh, NASA’s third birthday. –It’s Estes Park, Colorado, and that’s the Mars Snooper up there.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was first established in 1958, replacing the earlier National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Since the launch of Sputnik 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. Estes Industries is a Colorado company that makes model rocket parts and engines; it was coincidentally also founded in 1958. Mars Snooper was a line of rockets Estes produced from 1965 to 1974. Estes Industries’ Denver headquarters are about an hour and a half away from Estes Park, Colorado, a small resort town in the Rocky Mountains. Estes Park is home to the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, and was the location for the 1997 TV miniseries adaptation of that book.
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now.
A line from the song “Both Sides, Now,” written by Joni Mitchell. The song was released by Judy Collins in 1968, hitting the top ten and winning a Grammy for Best Folk Performance; it became one of Collins’ signature numbers. Mitchell also recorded the song twice, first in 1969 and again in 2000; the second version appeared on the soundtrack for the film Love Actually. Sample lyrics: “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now/From up and down and still somehow/It’s cloud’s illusions I recall/I really don’t know clouds at all.”
A sneeze. Billions and billions of snot particles.
A riff on astronomer and science-TV host Carl Sagan (1934-1996), and his much-parodied way of describing the vastness of the universe in terms of “billions and billions of stars …”
Oh, that’s how they make WondeRoast chicken.
WondeRoast is billed as “high temperature, high humidity, true rotisserie ovens” for roasting chicken. The Hopkins Food Equipment company (which changed its name to WondeRoast Inc. in 1975) was founded in 1954 in Hopkins, Minnesota, and many stores that carried WondeRoast chickens displayed this fact as a selling point.
Looks like a Gerry Anderson puppet.
Gerry Anderson (1929-2012) was a British producer and writer best known for his projects featuring marionette puppets, most often dubbed “Supermarionation.” Some of his most famous projects include the TV shows Thunderbirds (1965-1966) and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons (1967-1968); his non-puppet TV shows include UFO (1970-1971) and Space: 1999 (1975-1977).
Press rhubarb, press rhubarb.
Along with “rutabaga,” “watermelon,” and “peas and carrots,” “rhubarb” is one of those words that background extras are told to mutter among themselves to simulate conversation in television shows and films.
What do you think about Roseanne singing the national anthem?
Roseanne Barr is an Emmy and Golden Globe Award winning actress and comedian known for starring in an eponymous sitcom from 1988 to 1997, and its 2018 revival. In July 1990, she purposefully sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” quite poorly before the start of a San Diego Padres game, ending the performance by spitting and grabbing her crotch. Reaction was, shall we say, negative. The crowd erupted in boos, the media pounced, and even then-President George Bush the Elder weighed in, calling it “disgraceful.” Barr has left a trail of controversy behind her entire career. Her in-your-face 1990 marriage to fellow comic Tom Arnold (Arnold announced at their reception: “We’re America’s worst nightmare—white trash with money!”) and their contentious divorce became tabloid fodder. In 2018, as the revived Roseanne show was getting high ratings, Barr was abruptly fired and the show cancelled after she posted a tweet widely characterized as racist hate speech. The show returned—minus Barr—renamed The Conners.
Hey, it’s Vanilla Ice’s grandfather.
Vanilla Ice (b. Robert Van Winkle) is a musician and rapper famous for his 1990 hit “Ice Ice Baby,” the first hip-hop single to top the charts. After a few years of success, he attempted to break into acting and go “hardcore” with his music. Neither panned out. After taking a break from the biz and dealing with his drug issues, Van Winkle returned to the celebrity scene by playing metal and punk and appearing on several reality shows.
Look. It’s the most advanced Slurpee machine ever built.
Slurpee is the name of convenience store 7-Eleven’s brand of flavored ice drinks, first sold in 1967. The Slurpee was not created by the chain. Instead, 7-Eleven licensed slushy drinks from the ICEE Company and just changed the name. For real fun, check out the single 7-Eleven sold in 1967 titled “Dance the Slurp.”
Would you like some curly fries with your gyro?
Curly fries are French fried potatoes that are cut into spiral shapes before frying. A gyro is a Greek dish, a kind of conical sandwich consisting of rotisserie meat and chopped vegetables with a garlic/cucumber sauce, rolled in a flatbread, usually pita.
I thought this thing had Dolby.
Dolby Laboratories was founded in London in 1965 by American engineer Ray Dolby; the company moved stateside in 1976. Dolby has become synonymous with audio processing and entertainment, primarily because of the Dolby systems found in both movie and home theaters.
Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was a key figure in India’s independence movement in the mid-20th century and served as the country’s first prime minister after it won its independence from Britain. He commonly wore a hat known as a Gandhi cap, seen in the film here—a plain white hat with a pointed front and back. The Gandhi cap was named after Mahatma Gandhi and became a symbol of the independence movement; many supporters of that movement wore them. Nehru also famously wore an achkan jacket: a long, tailored jacket with a mandarin collar. A shorter version, which became popular in the West in the late 1960s thanks to its adoption by musical groups like The Beatles, was known as a Nehru jacket. Bond villains were particularly fond of the Nehru jacket for some reason: Dr. No, Ernst Blofeld, Karl Stromberg, and Kamal Khan all wore them in the films.
Well, good morning. It’s 8:15 and time for our Crazy Call. We’re gonna call Venus and pretend we’re Pluto.
An impression of “morning zoo radio,” a mainstay of Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) or Top 40 stations. The morning zoo format is characterized by two or three excruciatingly upbeat and “wacky” hosts who engage in stunt “call-in” segments, on-air games, and regular contests.
Ah, so that’s, uh, cheese tortellini and a couple of shrimp croissant.
Tortellini is a stuffed pasta shell, with cheese being a popular choice of filling. A croissant is a crescent-shaped, butter-heavy pastry often associated with France or Austria, though crescent-shaped breads date back to antiquity.
Uh, quit playing Pong. There’s a message coming in.
Pong was one of the first, if not the first, video games. 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.
Major Matt Mason here. We’re bendy and flexible.
Major Matt Mason was an astronaut action figure introduced in 1966 by Mattel. Because its release was coincident with the rise of the American space program, it proved very influential on children, including actor Tom Hanks, who has said he wants to play Mason in a film. There was a whole line of Matt Mason toys, including several astronauts (one of them African-American, nearly twenty years before the first actual black American astronaut), a moon base, assorted vehicles, and aliens for them to battle. When popular interest in the space program dropped dramatically after the first few moon landings, so did Mason’s popularity; he disappeared from toy store shelves by the mid-1970s, but later became a hot collector’s item, selling now for hundreds of dollars.
Vladimir Lenin (b. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, 1870-1924) was a Russian communist who led the 1917 “October Revolution,” overthrowing the czars and establishing the Soviet state. He was the leader of the Soviet Union until his death in 1924. His waxy corpse is still on display in a tomb in Moscow’s Red Square, at a current cost of about $200,000 per year.
He’s wearing a T-shirt. –He’s Mr. T.
Mr. T (b. Lawrence Tureaud) is an actor known for his distinctive mohawk and his role as B.A. Baracus on the TV series The A-Team (1983-1987). He also had his own Saturday morning cartoon series, Mister T (1983-1986). The role that brought him initial fame was in Rocky III (1982), where he played Rocky’s nemesis Clubber Lang; this is where his catchphrase “I pity the fool” came from.
Hi. This is the world. I’m not in right now, but ke— Never mind.
An imitation of a standard answering machine greeting. An answering machine? Oh, that was like a cassette tape deck hooked up to your phone that would record a message when someone called. It was kind of like voicemail, but with teased bangs and bigger eyeglass frames.
2 Live Crew.
2 Live Crew is a Florida-based rap group that formed in 1985 and gained national infamy thanks to the sexual nature of their songs, especially on the 1989 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be (their biggest hit: “Me So Horny”). The group (and record store owners) were bullied by Florida officials, egged on by the American Family Association, who wanted to take them to court for violating obscenity laws. In 1990, a record store owner was arrested for selling the album and the band was charged with obscenity for performing the album in concert. Two years later the band were acquitted; the store owner’s conviction was later overturned. Sales of the album weren’t harmed by the publicity, either. They were sued for sampling Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman,” but the Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that it was a parody and therefore legal. They didn’t win, however, when sued by Star Wars creator George Lucas. Front man Luther Campbell used the stage name “Luke Skyywalker” and named his record company after that. After Lucas won, Campbell went simply by “Luke,” and any 2 Live Crew merchandise that said “Luke Skyywalker” or had the Skyywalker logo became instant collector’s items.
Eb Dawson (played by Tom Lester) was the lazy farmhand on Green Acres, a TV sitcom about life in a small rural town that aired from 1965 to 1971.
[Imitating Rochester.] Bidi, bidi, bidi, bidi. Yes, Missa Benny.
The Jack Benny Program (on radio: 1932-1955; on TV: 1950-1965) starred comedian Jack Benny as a version of himself and Eddie Anderson as Rochester, who served as Benny’s valet and chauffeur. “Bidi, bidi, bidi” is an odd vocalization uttered by Twiki, a diminutive robot on the TV series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981). Twiki was played by little person Felix Silla (who also played Cousin Itt on The Addams Family), and his voice was supplied first by legendary voiceover artist Mel Blanc and later by Bob Elyea.
“Seven men ... and a woman.” And a little lady.
Three Men and a Baby is a 1987 comedy about three bachelor roommates (Ted Danson, Steve Guttenberg, and Tom Selleck) who find a baby on their doorstep, supposedly the product of one of their loins. It was directed by Leonard “Mr. Spock” Nimoy and based on a 1985 French film (Trois hommes et un couffin). In 1990, a poorly received sequel, Three Men and a Little Lady, was released. Since 2010, another sequel has been threatened, Three Men and a Bride, but nothing has thus far materialized.
Yeah, you used to be a Swedish man.
Possibly a reference to the Danish woman Lili Ilse Elvenes, a.k.a. Lili Elbe (b. Einar Magnus Andreas Wegener, 1882-1931), one of the first known people to undergo sex reassignment surgery, in 1930. Or possibly a reference to Christine Jorgenson (1926-1989), who despite her Scandinavian name was an American; born a man, she underwent sex reassignment surgery in Denmark in the 1950s.
Kinda grabs you by the popo, don’t it?
In the 1978 Cheech and Chong “stoner comedy” movie Up in Smoke, Tommy Chong, after providing some particularly potent marijuana, asks Cheech Marin, “Kinda grabs you by the boo-boo, don’t it?”
Now I’m gonna have you watch this movie called Mannequin. It stars Andrew McCarthy.
Mannequin is an Academy Award-nominated 1987 comedic fantasy starring Andrew McCarthy as a mannequin sculptor and Kim Cattrall as the ancient Egyptian woman whose spirit inhabits McCarthy’s greatest work. It’s a classic of modern filmmaking. I’m kidding; it’s horrible. But it really was nominated for an Oscar (Best Original Song, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” by Starship).
Oh, tell her you love her, ya big galoot.
Random trivia time! “Galoot” dates to the early 1800s and was used on English and American naval vessels as a term for “an inexperienced seaman.” (Stop giggling.) It made its way ashore and came to mean a “clumsy or stupid person.” Thanks to Yosemite Sam, the term survives today.
Oh, she’s gonna be watching My Demon Lover to put her to sleep.
My Demon Lover is a 1987 comedy-horror film about a street musician (Scott Valentine) who turns into a demon when he becomes sexually aroused.
Call your cable company for Intevision.
Throughout the 1980s (and into the ‘90s and ‘00s), as more and more cable channels were created, they began advertising on already established networks, imploring viewers who might be interested to call their local provider and ask about adding them to the lineup.
Mötley Crüe was a heavy metal band that formed in 1981 and was at the forefront of the 1980s’ so-called “hair bands” (named after their luxurious, leonine manes). Their biggest hits include “Dr. Feelgood,” “Home Sweet Home,” “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” and “Girls, Girls, Girls.”
M - I - C ... –See ya real soon. –K - E - Y ... –Why? Cause we’re an international task force.
The Mickey Mouse Club (original run 1955-1959, with reruns and various revivals continuing through 1996) was a TV series that closed each episode with club members reprising the show’s opening theme song, “The Mickey Mouse March,” in which the letters “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E” were sung as in the riff, with “C” followed by “See you real soon,” and “Y” followed by, “Because we like you.” The show has been revived several times: once in the 1970s, again in the 1990s (with Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, and Justin Timberlake all serving as Mouseketeers), and yet again in 2017.
You’re all invited back next week to this locality, to have a heaping helping of our hospitality.
The theme song from the popular sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)—“The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” sung by Jerry Scoggins and performed by bluegrass musicians Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs (of Foggy Mountain Boys fame)—ends with the lyrics: “You’re all invited back again to this locality/To have a heapin’ helpin’ of their hospitality.” Then, in spoken word: “Hillbilly, that is/Sit a spell, take your shoes off.”
Hey, it’s the Honeycomb Hideout! Kinda.
The Honeycomb Hideout was a kids’ clubhouse in 1970s and ‘80s TV commercials for Honeycomb breakfast cereal. The kids in the club would explain that Honeycomb is big, yeah, yeah, yeah; it’s not small, no, no, no. In the 1980s, kids could join the Honeycomb Hideout Club and receive badges, membership cards, and incentives to eat more sugary cereal to win prizes.
[Sung.] This is the day the teddy bears fly to Venus.
“Teddy Bears’ Picnic” is a popular children’s song written by Jimmy Kennedy in 1932 (though it used a tune written by John Walter Bratton in 1907). The song has enjoyed a rich life in popular culture, turning up in everything from a Doctor Who episode to the film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas to Grateful Dead concerts. Sample lyrics: “For every bear that ever there was will gather there for certain/Because today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic.”
Sit a spell. Take your shoes off.
See previous note on The Beverly Hillbillies.
Hey, it’s HAL. [Imitating.] I’m sorry, Dave …
A line from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Dave is astronaut David Bowman (played by Keir Dullea). The line was spoken by the artificially intelligent computer aboard the spacecraft Discovery One, HAL 9000 (Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer; voiced by Douglas Rain).
Hey, it’s a Jack Nicholson party.
Jack Nicholson is an actor who has appeared in dozens of films since he got his start in B-movies in the 1960s. His better-known movies include Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Shining, and As Good As It Gets. As detailed in numerous tell-all memoirs and Hollywood legend in general, Nicholson’s house—starting with his first apartment when he arrived in Hollywood—was allegedly ground zero for days-long, drug-fueled sex parties on a scale that made the Playboy Mansion look like a Baptist retreat. In the past couple of decades, Nicholson has become known for wearing sunglasses at public events, ranging from basketball games to the Oscars.
Light blooming ground flower then get away.
“Light and get away” are the standard instructions that appear on most fireworks. Ground bloom flowers are a type of firework that spin on the ground while emitting color-changing sparks.
“Feeling all right?” Not feeling too good ourselves.
“Feelin’ Alright?” is a 1968 song written by Dave Mason and first recorded by the English group Traffic. The most famous cover was recorded in 1969 by Joe Cocker (and slightly renamed as “Feeling Alright”), but other versions have been released by Grand Funk Railroad, Jackson 5, Gladys Knight & the Pips, and more. Sample lyrics: “You feelin’ alright?/I’m not feelin’ too good myself/Well, you feelin’ alright?/I’m not feelin’ too good myself, oh yeah.”
I love to laugh, long and loud and clear.
A fragment of the song “I Love to Laugh” from the 1964 Disney musical film Mary Poppins. It was performed by Uncle Albert (played by Ed Wynn), who would levitate when he laughed. Sample lyrics: “I love to laugh/Loud and long and clear/I love to laugh/It’s getting worse every year.”
Nice truss, buddy.
In this context, a truss is a medical appliance: an arrangement of belts and pads that provide support for an area of the body (usually the groin) afflicted with a hernia.
Wendy, Michael, John. We can fly!
Wendy, Michael, and John are the names of the three Darling children in the J.M. Barrie children’s classic Peter Pan. With a judicious application of fairy dust, Peter teaches them to fly and they take off for Neverland (“Second to the right, and straight on till morning”).
Blue moon, you saw me standing alone. –Without a dream in her heart. –Without a love of her own.
Paraphrased lyrics to the classic song “Blue Moon,” written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart in 1934. It was covered by Billie Holiday, Elvis Presley, and others before it was reinterpreted as a doo-wop song in 1961 by The Marcels. Actual lyrics: “Blue moon/You saw me standing alone/Without a dream in my heart/Without a love of my own.”
Isn’t he on Mork & Mindy?
Conrad Janis is a balding actor best known for playing Mindy McConnell’s father, Fred, on Mork & Mindy. He’s also an accomplished trombonist. Mork & Mindy was a sitcom that aired on ABC from 1978 to 1982. It starred Robin Williams as Mork, an alien from the planet Ork, and Pam Dawber as Mindy, his human friend/roommate and (later) love interest. The series emerged from an episode of Happy Days (wherein Mork tried to freeze Richie Cunningham and take him to Ork) and even guest-starred Fonzie from Happy Days and Laverne from Laverne & Shirley in the pilot.
Except Steve Allen.
Steve Allen (1921-2000) was a musician, comedian, and TV personality. He was the original host of The Tonight Show, from 1953 to 1957. In 1956, he started his run as host of the primetime variety show The Steve Allen Show, which aired first on NBC and ABC and then in syndication from 1956 to 1964. He composed thousands of songs, wrote dozens of books, and starred as bandleader Benny Goodman in a 1956 biopic.
Mmmm. French dressing. I love it.
French dressing is a type of salad dressing. In its simplest form, French dressing can be any blend of oil and vinegar, but American mass-produced French dressing tends to be sweetened and is red or orange in color, thanks to paprika, tomato paste, and other ingredients.
In the game of checkers, when one player’s piece reaches the opposite side of the board, it is “kinged”: one of their captured pieces is placed atop the first piece and the duo can now traverse the board in any direction (but still diagonally).
[Imitating.] Good evening, and welcome to Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980), being imitated here, was a portly British director, best known for his groundbreaking horror and thriller films (Psycho, Rear Window) and for his television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-1965), which he hosted.
Oooh. I’ll alert the media.
In the 1981 comedy film Arthur, Dudley Moore (playing the title character) announces that he’s going to take a bath, and his valet (Sir John Gielgud) responds, “I’ll alert the media.”
“If he only had a heart.” A brain. –A home. –Da noive.
A paraphrased line from the song “If I Only Had a Brain/Heart/Nerve” from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. Sample lyrics: “I’d be brave as a blizzard/I’d be gentle as a lizard/I’d be clever as a gizzard/If the Wizard is a Wizard who will serve/Then I’m sure to get a brain/A heart/A home/The nerve!”
Irwin Allen presents ...
Irwin Allen (1916-1991) was a producer and director known for such ‘70s disaster films as The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure (giving him the nickname “The Master of Disaster”) and ‘60s television shows like Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and The Time Tunnel.
Chock full o’Nuts.
Chock full o’Nuts is a brand of coffee. Store owner William Black owned several nut shops in New York City under that name, and when the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, he turned many of them into lunch counters that sold coffee and sandwiches. The coffee (which contains no nuts) began to be sold in grocery stores in 1953.
Pop-O-Matic pops the dice, pop the six and you move twice. Race your men around the track and try to send the others back. That’s Pop-O-Matic Trouble.
Paraphrased lines from commercials for Trouble, a game first made in 1965 by Irwin Toy (later Milton Bradley). Pop-O-Matic is a self-contained method for rolling the dice in several board games, including Trouble, Kimble, and Yipes! It features a clear plastic dome at the center of the board over a black metal (or plastic) panel that indents and springs back when the dome is depressed, causing the die (or dice) to tumble inside.
Just put a penny in the fuse box, baldie.
Putting pennies in a home’s electrical fuse box was a dangerous practice. People often did it to keep from having to replace fuses all the time, but fuses are designed to blow to keep your wiring from getting too hot. A copper penny will allow electricity to flow through it just like a fuse would, but it will never blow, which could lead to the home’s wiring system overheating and even catching on fire.
And now it’s time for The $64,000 Question!
Soundproof (or isolation) booths are devices used in some game shows so that one or more contestants can’t see or hear what other contestants are doing. They have been used in such programs as Twenty One, The $64,000 Question, The $64,000 Challenge, Double Dare, Family Feud, and more. The $64,000 Question was a game show that aired from 1955 to 1958. It was cancelled following the infamous quiz-rigging scandals of 1958, in which it turned out the shows had been fixing the contests to predetermine the winners.
You know, Bob doesn’t matte very well, does he?
In filmmaking, matte paintings are backgrounds that are created as a kind of special effect, sometimes at the same time the actors are being filmed and sometimes as a post-production effect. For most of the past century of filmmaking, they were hand painted on glass, which was placed in front of the camera while an unpainted section framed the actors. More recently, matte paintings have been produced on computers after filming.
That oughta hold ‘em.
A reference to a very old urban legend about a children’s radio host (usually one “Uncle Don” Carney, who broadcast from New York from 1928-1947) who once signed off a show by saying, “There, that ought to hold the little bastards.” In fact, the myth goes back to the early 1920s and no proof or any other attribution exists. Despite a lack of evidence, the legend persisted thanks to a book of “bloopers” and a re-creation of the event released on an album in the 1950s. The season 4 Simpsons episode “Krusty Gets Kancelled” referred to this legend, with the ventriloquist’s dummy Gabbo sparking controversy over his overheard comment “That oughta hold the little SOBs.”
Space. The final fr ... huh? –No. No. –No?
“Space, the final frontier” are the first words of the famous opening credit speech spoken by William Shatner on Star Trek (1966-1969) and Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-1974). An altered version was used in the opening credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994) and was also used in a number of the feature films.
You sunk my battleship.
Battleship is a popular game manufactured by Milton Bradley. French soldiers in World War I played a similar game, which they called L’Attaque. In the 1930s, Milton Bradley distributed a game called Broadsides. At this point, the game was paper-and-pencil-based, featuring four 10 X 10 grids (two for each player). On one grid, players laid out ships; the other grid was used for plotting attacks on the opponent. Attacks were launched by calling out grid coordinates (“B-4,” for example). “Hit” or “miss” would be the response. In 1967, Milton Bradley produced the now-famous version of the game, created by Ed Hutchins. Two cases (one red, one blue) contained plastic grids in which plastic ships were placed. Hits were scored with red pegs, misses with white. In 1977, Electronic Battleship was released, which included an onboard computer that scored hits and misses. In 1989, this was followed by Electronic Talking Battleship. Today there are several other variations.
How do you like my new Moog synthesizer?
“Moog synthesizer” is kind of a catchall term for an older-generation analog music synthesizer, originally designed and developed by Dr. Robert Moog in the mid-1960s. A synthesizer demonstration booth at the Monterey International Pop Festival caught the attention of musicians and producers in the summer of 1967. The Moog synthesizer rapidly became widely known, with its use on albums by Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Doors, The Byrds, and The Rolling Stones. The fundamentals established by the Moog synthesizer made modern electronic music possible, so you can either thank or blame Dr. Moog for that.
Wow, Steve always drinks my dressing at home. Well, it’s time to cut my hair and get into a pantsuit.
A series of commercials for Yuban coffee that aired in the 1960s and ‘70s dealt with insecure wives who didn’t understand why their husbands wanted a second cup of coffee at a neighbor’s house, but never at home.
[Sung.] Lite-Brite making things with light, out of sight, making things with Lite-Brite.
Invented by Hasbro in 1967, Lite-Brite is an art toy consisting of a light box covered by a matrix of holes that can be filled with colored plastic pegs: light shining through the pegs creates various designs. Lite-Brite is currently also offered as an iPad app. The jingle sung here is the original one used in ads for the product.
Hey, it’s a John Tesh song.
John Tesh started out as a TV sports commentator and co-host of the TV show Entertainment Tonight. He wound up the phenomenally successful New Age composer of such albums as A Romantic Christmas and Sax by the Fire.
Oh, he’s reading Dianetics.
Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health is a 1950 book written by L. Ron Hubbard, who would go on to found the religion of Scientology based on the book’s principles. According to the beliefs of Dianetics, negative memories (“engrams”) are stored in a hidden part of the brain and must be removed through Dianetic therapy, or “auditing,” which critics (and even some courts) have labeled a scam.
[Imitating.] Mr. Crusher, take us out of Worf.
An impression of Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-D, played by Patrick Stewart on the syndicated TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-1994). On the show, Wil Wheaton played Acting Ensign Wesley Crusher, who frequently piloted the ship. Worf is the name of the Klingon officer on the Enterprise (played by Michael Dorn). He was the security chief for most of the series before moving on to sister series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for four seasons; he also appeared in four feature films starring the Next Generation cast.
A gorilla in space? I don’t know. –Really. Yeah! It was really there! –We really saw one. It looked like Gino Vannelli. –Yeah, we did. It was terrible.
Gino Vannelli is a bounteously coiffed Canadian singer/songwriter whose hits include “People Gotta Move” (1974) and “I Just Wanna Stop” (1978). He has never been shy about showing a little chest hair.
Thank you, Sulu.
Hikaru Sulu was the helmsman on the original Star Trek television show (1966-1969), the Star Trek animated series (1973-1974), and the first six Star Trek feature films. He was played by George Takei. John Cho plays Sulu in the reboot of the Star Trek film series, beginning in 2009.
The air, the air is everywhere.
A line from the song “Air” in the 1967 hippie musical Hair, written by Galt MacDermot, James Rado, and Gerome Ragni. Sample lyrics: “Welcome, sulfur dioxide/Hello, carbon monoxide/The air, the air/Is everywhere.”
Action stations, figures sold separately. By Mego.
“Sold separately” is a phrase that has appeared in many toy commercials over the years. Mego Corporation is a toy company founded in the 1950s, but it became well-known in the 1970s thanks to their deals with several big-name brands to produce licensed action figures, including Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and, surprisingly, both DC and Marvel Comics characters. Their eight-inch figures for these brands are some of the most collectible toys of that period, now commanding hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
I’m in a Willy Wonka-mobile, sir. –I made this from a soft serve yogurt machine. I call it the “Fintoozler.”
Willy Wonka is the fantastical chocolatier from the 1964 Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and its 1972 sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. In 1970, a film producer looking for a way to finance a film adaptation of the first book came across Quaker Oats, which was looking for a means to launch a candy line. Yes, your beloved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was conceived as a big commercial. Gene Wilder starred as Wonka in the 1971 musical film. “Fintoozler” is a made-up, Dr. Seussian word the MST3K gang uses from time to time.
I’m getting the Ha! channel.
Ha! was a cable comedy network launched by Viacom in 1990. They competed with The Comedy Channel, the home of MST3K, which had launched the year before. In 1991, they merged and became CTV: The Comedy Network. To avoid legal action from a Canadian broadcaster with the same name, they changed their moniker a few months later to Comedy Central.
I knew I shouldn’t have switched from AT&T.
AT&T was founded in 1885 as the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. By 1939 AT&T had a near-total monopoly on phone service in the U.S.: it controlled 83 percent of telephones, 98 percent of long-distance wires, and 90 percent of phone manufacturing. In 1983, after the federal government had brought an antitrust suit against the company, AT&T split off its local telephone divisions into separate companies but continued to offer long-distance service. The breakup presaged the “telephone wars” of the 1980s and 1990s and loosed a barrage of advertising that had many consumers longing for the days of monopolies. AT&T ran a series of ads in the 1990s specifically trying to lure customers into switching back from other phone companies.
And traffic is heavy over I-94 outbound.
Interstate 94 is an east-west highway (all even-numbered interstates are east-west; odd numbers are north-south) that runs from Lake Huron, Michigan, in the east to Billings, Montana, in the west. Part of that stretch goes through Minneapolis.
And I can’t get up!
A reference to the (in)famous commercials for LifeCall, which produced small electronic devices to be worn by the elderly to notify medical services in case of a home accident. In an ad that first appeared in 1989, a woman named “Mrs. Fletcher” activated her necklace and said, “I’ve fallen ... and I can’t get up!” Three actresses have been credited with playing Mrs. Fletcher: Edith Fore, Dorothy McHugh, and Bea Marcus. The phrase was trademarked by LifeCall in the 1990s and was later appropriated by the similar service Life Alert. Both companies use the phrase on their websites.
Well, at least we have our Ewok suits to cheer us up.
Ewoks are the oft-maligned, diminutive teddy-bear folk that populated the forest moon of Endor in the 1983 film Return of the Jedi. In 1984, they got their own TV movie, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, followed by a Saturday morning animated series, Star Wars: Ewoks (1985-1986), and another TV movie, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, in 1985.
The papers wanna know whose shirts you wear!
A line from one of David Bowie’s signature songs, “Space Oddity” (1969). Sample lyrics: “This is Ground Control to Major Tom/You’ve really made the grade/And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear/Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare.”
We’ve secretly switched their planet with Folger’s crystals.
Folger's Crystals had a popular TV ad campaign in the 1970s and early 1980s involving real coffee at famous restaurants being covertly swapped for their instant brew. Amazingly, the people in the commercial could not tell the difference, or so they claimed with a camera pointed at their face.
Yeah, yeah. Queen to Queen pawn’s four. –We know.
An imitation of descriptive notation, a way of recording chess moves. “Knight to Queen’s bishop four,” for example, indicates moving one player’s knight to the fourth square in the file (or column) that is occupied by the opposing player’s bishop at the start of the game. “Queen’s bishop” is the bishop on the queen’s side of the board; “King’s bishop” sits on the other side. There is no square called “Queen’s pawn four,” however. Descriptive notation is now obsolete, having been abandoned in favor of algebraic notation (which looks like this: Qd4).
In TV ads from the early 1950s, Maxwell House touted its instant coffee’s key feature: “flavor buds,” which were “real coffee in a revolutionary new form.”
Bidi, bidi. Thanks for the permission, jerk.
See above note on Twiki.
Bidi, bidi, bidi. Beat cheeks.
See above note on Twiki.
It turns out he was flying a Pintocopter.
The Ford Pinto (produced from 1970 to 1980) is widely considered one of the worst cars ever made. At the top of the list of reasons for this was the poorly protected gas tank, which was prone to rupturing on rear impact. Some media reports claimed hundreds of people were killed in Pinto-related fires, but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that number is closer to 27. According to a legal researcher in 1991, given that 3 million Pintos were produced, 27 deaths is not any worse than other car models in the ‘70s. The real scandal with the Pinto, however, is that Ford executives knew about the increased risk of fire but declined to fix the design flaws in order to save money. The lawsuit that followed, Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company, awarded the plaintiffs $125 million in punitive damages (later reduced by a judge), the largest product liability case in history, and is considered a model of its kind.
Oh, boy. He’s fallen into a Super Ball test chamber.
Super Ball is a trademarked brand name owned by the Wham-O toy company. The ball is an incredibly bouncy synthetic rubber compound (named Zectron) invented by Norman Stingley in 1964. Inadvertently, the ball led to another American institution. In 1966, American Football League founder Lamar Hunt saw his kids playing with a Super Ball and jokingly began calling the AFL-NFL Championship Game “the Super Bowl.” The name stuck, and became official after a few years.
Schaper always leaves you laughing. Ah ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
Schaper Toys was founded in 1949 in Minnesota and is best remembered for the children’s game Cootie. Their television commercials in the mid-1970s ended with an animated cootie saying, “Schaper always leaves you laughing!”
Forty-two. Hut, hut. Hike. Go long.
In football, “hut” is often called by quarterbacks when initiating a play. It is believed that “hut” was woven into the game thanks to the word’s use as an accent in military marches and orders (for example, “Atten-hut!”). Before “hut” became the standard, “hip,” “hup,” or any number of other monosyllabic interjections were used. And before that, words like “hut” and “hip” were used to herd domesticated animals, like sheep. “Hike” is used to signal a snap, and was introduced to the game by legendary player and coach John Heisman (of the Heisman Trophy); prior to that a quarterback signaled a snap by scratching the center’s leg.
It’s Roger Ramjet and his American Eagles! Take your Proton Pills.
Roger Ramjet is an animated series from 1965 that featured the patriotic (but dim) pilot Roger Ramjet leading the American Eagle Squadron. He frequently found himself in a jam and had to take a PEP (Proton Energy Pill) to give him the strength and energy to fight on. Each pill lasted for twenty seconds and gave him the power of twenty atom bombs. I’m not making this up.
Plaster doggie doo? Rubber vomit? What is this? –Planet of Johnson Smith.
Johnson Smith Company is a mail-order novelty toy company that was established in 1914. They have famously advertised in many kids’ magazines and comics over the years and publish various catalogs, including Things You Never Knew Existed and The Lighter Side. Their inventory includes whoopee cushions, fake vomit, x-ray specs, joy buzzers, and other such delights.
Mommy, Daddy. I am home. –Oh, you wonderful, funderful, spunky little robot.
A possible reference to “Funderful, Wonderful Friends,” a 1990 song by Christa Larson (now Christa Collins). Larson was Disney’s first manufactured child star and recording artist and her tunes appeared in ads all over TV for months. She left show business after her mother/manager was killed by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street, although she has occasionally made appearances as an adult.
I am filled with life. Get to know me, friends.
A possible reference to a recurring bit Jon Lovitz did during his 1985-1990 tenure on Saturday Night Live: introducing himself by his own name, Lovitz would detail his glamorous and successful life, punctuated with the frequent command “Get to know me!”
Yeah, yeah. Here I come. Bidi, bidi, beats all. That’s the way these clowns order me around.
See above note on Twiki.
Would you like fries with that?
Since the 1970s, McDonald’s employees have been trained to ask customers this question when they place their order. It’s a technique known as “upselling,” and while it may be bad for your waistline, it has enabled the restaurant chain to sell 9 million pounds of fries every day around the world.
I think he meant “goofball.”
“Goofballs” is a slang term for barbiturates, which are depressant drugs that cause relaxation. Popular recreational barbiturates include Nembutal and Seconal. The earliest use of the term dates to 1939, but it was popular during the 1950s. The other usage of the term, meaning a silly or foolish person, dates to the 1940s.
And it’s teed up. Looks like a Slazenger 9. What a hell of a lie.
Slazenger is a British manufacturer of sporting goods, including golf balls, founded in 1881. In golf lingo, “lie” is where the ball comes to rest after having been hit.
Tonight, big sale at Bill Fiber Olds Town. We’ve got hot dogs for the kids and suckers. Speaking of suckers, look at this sucker over here. 1928 Porter. Hey, c’mon down.
Oldsmobile was an auto manufacturer founded by Ransom Olds in 1897. The brand was sold to General Motors in 1908. Due to shortfalls in sales and profitability, GM phased out the Oldsmobile brand, with the final vehicle being assembled in 2004. The “1928 Porter” is a reference to the short-lived and oft-maligned NBC sitcom My Mother the Car (1965-1966), starring Jerry Van Dyke as a man who bought a crappy car because it was somehow the reincarnated form of his late mother. The car in question was supposedly a 1928 Porter. The Porter Motor Company was an early-20th-century car maker, but their cars were steam-powered. The company didn’t last long, folding in 1901. The car used in the series was actually a conglomeration of various cars—mostly a 1924 Ford Model T with some Porter detailing.
Hey, how are the Sea-Monkeys coming?
“Sea-Monkeys” are in fact brine shrimp, a form of crustacean barely visible to the naked eye that can undergo cryptobiosis—a kind of suspended animation in which an organism can live indefinitely in the absence of water or oxygen and then return to an animated state once environmental conditions have been restored. Following the success of Milton Levine’s Ant Farms in the 1950s, rival Harold von Braunhut introduced a mail-order product called “Instant Life” in 1957. In 1962, he changed the name to “Sea-Monkeys” and heavily advertised them in comic books, marketing them as pets similar to tropical fish. Many children were disappointed when their new “Sea-Monkeys” turned out to be nearly microscopic brine shrimp instead of the happy humanoid creatures shown in the ads.
Can’t you get the station in any clearer? Don’t you have a converter box or some tinfoil to put on the antenna? –Rabbit ears might do it.
“Rabbit ears” is the colloquial phrase for the V-shaped VHF antennae common to television sets throughout the latter half of the 20th century. By extending and manipulating the antennae, viewers could pick up signals for channels two through thirteen. Frequently, stations on the fringe of the broadcast range could be snagged if metal objects came in contact with the antennae or if some hapless child was employed to stand there and hold them without moving. Wrapping aluminum foil around the antennae increased their surface area and thus boosted the signal. Rabbit ears went the way of the dodo in 2011 when the FCC required all broadcast television stations to convert to digital formats; people without a cable subscription now need a digital antenna, which is best installed outdoors.
Well, maybe there’s a bowl game on.
In North American college football, there are a series of post-season games called bowl games, named after the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California, site of some of the earliest post-season college football games in the 1920s. Among the bowl games are the Cotton Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Orange Bowl.
Weird figgahs. Strange figgahs.
A Groucho Marx line from the Marx Brothers’ classic 1930 comedy film Animal Crackers: “… hideous, stumbling footsteps creaking along the misty corridors of time ... and in those corridors I see figures ... strange figures ... weird figures: Steel 186, Anaconda 74, American Can 138.”
Santa Ana coming in.
The Santa Ana winds are strong, very dry winds that roll in from the desert to blast the Southern California and northern Baja California coast, usually in autumn and winter. Since they often accompany spells of dry, hot weather and can fan regional wildfires, they are also known as the “devil winds.”
Tee time, stardate 5239.5.
The “stardate” is a seemingly random measurement of time (and some would say space) in the Star Trek universe. It was first used in the original 1960s TV series as a way for Captain James T. Kirk to start his captain’s log entries. Stardates were usually consistent within an episode but jumped around a bit within the series as a whole. (For example, the season 3 episode “Elaan of Troyius” took place on stardate 4372.5, while the season 2 episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” took place on stardate 4523.3.) By the time Star Trek: The Next Generation rolled around in the 1980s, writers and producers had devised a formula to standardize it. For example, if the stardate is 42500.5, it breaks down like this: “4” is for the 24th century, “2” means this is a season 2 episode, “500” puts us around the middle of the season, and “.5” is a day counter.
“But then something went unexpectedly wrong.” Bush was elected.
George H.W. Bush (1924-2018) was the 41st president of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993. In 1988, then-Vice President Bush defeated then-Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis rather handily: 53 percent of the popular vote vs. Dukakis’ 45 percent; 426 electoral votes to Dukakis’ 111. Given that this episode aired in 1990, they could not be referring to George W. Bush (43rd president, 2001-2009), or the voting morass that accompanied his first election in 2000, which was resolved by the Supreme Court case Bush v. Gore.
“That’s very interesting.” But stupid.
Comedian Arte Johnson frequently performed on the TV sketch comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-1973). He is best remembered for appearing from behind a bush, dressed as a German soldier, to inform the audience that the preceding sketch was “Very interesting, but stupid!”
“Take this great, white sphere, to which all these power lines lead and whose function we don’t understand.” Please.
A reference to comedian Henny Youngman’s (1906-1998) most famous routine. Famed for his one-liners, Youngman’s best-remembered bit was “Take my wife, please!” His wife, Sadie, was often the subject of his jokes (despite his lifelong adoration of her), and the origin of the line dates to the 1930s, when Youngman asked a theater usher to escort his wife to their seats. He said, “Take my wife, please,” and the usher laughed, thinking it was a joke. A classic bit was born.
A planet of caviar. –A Super Ball world.
See above note on Super Balls.
Motorific Freeway and Super City sold separately. –G.I. Joe action car, G.I. Joe sold separately.
Motorific was a line of slot-car toys produced from 1964 until the early 1970s by the Ideal Toy Company. Various sets were produced, including Motorific Action Highway. Super City was another Ideal toy line, a construction set similar to Lego that was produced only in 1967. Highly regarded for its variety and attention to detail, Super City didn’t last long because it was deemed too complex for young children. 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-1970s. An early ‘80s relaunch of G.I. Joe saw renewed popularity for the smaller, redesigned figures and a long-running animated series.
Looks like they’re driving through polyunsaturates. –Looks like the town of Bedrock. –Oh, it’s still the Folger’s flavor crystals, I think. –It’s a place right outta history.
Polyunsaturated fats are found in foods such as nuts, seeds, fish, and olive oil. A little is helpful; a lot is not. Like most things in life. Bedrock is the hometown of the titular Flintstone family on the animated TV series The Flintstones, which aired from 1960 to 1966, as well as its myriad spinoff and sequel series. Two of the lines in the theme song are: “From the town of Bedrock/They’re a page right out of history.” See above note on Folger’s crystals.
Hey, it’s an interstellar Stuckey’s.
Stuckey’s is a chain of roadside restaurants/souvenir shops founded in 1937. At one time they 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 Midwest.
Hey, it’s Trump Casino.
Financial mogul, media gadfly, and 45th President of the United States Donald Trump began operating casinos in 1984, when he opened the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. More casinos (Trump’s Castle, the Trump Taj Mahal) followed, but the company filed for bankruptcy three times after mismanagement, the use of junk bonds, a recession, and a crushing debt load doomed his ventures. The Trump Plaza closed in 2014; the Taj Mahal closed in 2016; the Castle sold in 2011 and is now called the Golden Nugget Atlantic City.
Doesn’t Superman live here? –If he does, he’s got freezer burn.
The Fortress of Solitude is Superman’s home/getaway, first depicted in DC Comics back in 1942 as his headquarters, hidden in a mountain range outside Metropolis. By the 1950s, it had been moved to the Arctic, built into the side of a cliff. (As a matter of fact, the name “Fortress of Solitude” and its location in the Arctic were first used by the pulp hero Doc Savage in the 1930s.) The large crystalline version that most people envision when they hear the phrase comes from the 1978 film Superman: The Movie, in which it was created by a Kryptonian crystal. Later comics and TV shows have often used this crystalline structure as well.
Or Universal Studios’ backlot.
Universal Studios in Hollywood, like most film studios, has an adjoining lot with multiple permanent standing sets representing various cities, frontier towns, etc. The Universal backlot, in particular, has suffered eight major fires since 1932, including a huge one in 2008 that caused an estimated $50 million in damage.
It was one humdinger of a doozy, it was.
The word “humdinger,” meaning a remarkable or outstanding person or thing, has been in use since the late 19th century, but its origin remains unclear. It may simply be a mashup of two earlier slang terms with similar meanings, “hummer” and “dinger.” A “doozy,” also meaning a remarkable or outstanding person or thing, derives from “Duesy,” short for a Duesenberg automobile. The Duesenberg Motors Company, founded in 1913 in St. Paul, Minnesota, made race cars and luxury automobiles—so a really nice car, and eventually a really nice anything, came to be known as a “Duesy.” When the bottom dropped out of the luxury car market during the Great Depression, Duesenberg Motors folded.
She oughta stay on her lithium.
Lithium is a drug used to treat bipolar disorder. It is also sometimes used to treat other disorders, such as major depressive disorder and schizophrenia, when other medications have failed.
Hey, look! They got outer space dance belts on.
Dance belts aren’t actually belts. They’re support garments for the genitals.
Bidi, bidi, bidi, what’s in it for me-di?
See above note on Twiki.
Alexander Calder was here.
Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was an artist best known for his colorful and elaborate mobiles.
It’s from a book by Lewis Carroll.
Lewis Carroll was the pen name of British author, mathematician, and photographer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), most famous for his children’s books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass.
At least we know they like to disco.
Disco is a genre of music that arose in the early 1970s as a response to the domination of rock music. It was popular on the club scene and was among the first musical forms to embrace electronic and synthesized sounds. By the late ‘70s, anti-disco fervor reached a peak and many rock radio stations hosted disco record burnings. One such event, at which a crate of disco records was detonated at Comiskey Park in Chicago, drew more than 50,000 people and caused a near-riot. The genre went underground and survived, primarily by changing its name to “dance music.”
“There’s a shaft.” John Shaft? –That John Shaft’s one bad ... –Hey, shut your mouth. –I’m just talking about Shaft. –Don’t you dare.
An imitation of the famous theme to the 1971 blaxploitation movie Shaft, written by Isaac Hayes. Hayes won an Oscar for Best Original Song, the first African-American to win in that category (or, indeed, any non-acting category). Actual lyrics: “Who’s the black private dick/That’s a sex machine to all the chicks?/Shaft! … You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother–/Shut your mouth!/But I’m talkin’ about Shaft.”
It’s busted tiny time pill down there.
Contac is a brand of over-the-counter cold medicine made by GlaxoSmithKline. It is a time release combination of painkiller, decongestant, and antihistamine. TV ads for Contac in the 1970s touted how each capsule was filled with small, round granules of medication, which were dubbed “tiny time pills.” In 1986, however, a former stockbroker laced multiple packages of Contac with rat poison in a product-tampering scheme, in an attempt to depress the company’s share price so he could profit on the stock. (He failed; he did get 27 years in prison, however.) The capsules were pulled from stores and Contac was reintroduced several months later as a tamper-proof caplet.
Nice matte job.
See above note on matte paintings.
This planet’s got a saggy diaper that leaks.
A 1980s Pampers ad campaign expressed sympathy for any baby stuck in “a saggy diaper that leaks.”
Hey, where’s Steve McQueen when you need him?
Steve McQueen (1930-1980) was a tough-guy actor during the 1960s and 1970s, starring in action films like The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963), and Bullitt (1968).
Looks like the Maypo wants them.
Maypo is a brand of maple-flavored oatmeal cereal first sold in 1953. In the 1950s it ran a series of animated ads starring “Marky Maypo,” a young boy who uttered the famous catchphrase “I want my Maypo!” Sales shot up 78 percent. Later ads included celebrity endorsements, with stars like Mickey Mantle and Wilt Chamberlain expressing their longing for Maypo. The brand changed hands several times and is still made today.
Bidi, bidi, bidi. This is getting weird, Buck.
See above note on Twiki.
Looks like they’re up a creek without a paddle. Or a plunger.
The phrase “up shit creek,” meaning “Wow, we’re screwed,” dates to the U.S. Civil War, believe it or not. It appears in the 1868 annual report of the U.S. Secretary of War, in a dispatch from South Carolina: “Our men have put old Lincoln up shit creek.” The “without a paddle” flourish is more recent, dating only to about the mid-20th century.
Looks like a Karen Finley fountain.
Karen Finley is a performance artist who is (in)famous for her theatrical pieces and recordings that incorporate profanity, nudity, and graphic sexual descriptions. Her proposed funding by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1990 drew the ire of many conservative politicians and was vetoed by the NEA’s chairman. Her 1986 show “Yams Up My Granny’s Ass” led to a Village Voice article in which writer Pete Hamill claimed she sodomized herself with yams, but that was a fabrication; Hamill never actually went to the performance.
Well, that’s what they say. Melts in your mouth, not on your planet. The Mars bar.
“Melt in your mouth, not in your hand” is the longtime advertising slogan, introduced in 1954, for M&Ms chocolate candies, which had been around since 1941. Mars bars are a type of candy bar manufactured by Mars Inc. They were first sold in the U.K. in 1932, where they consist of caramel and nougat covered in milk chocolate, similar to the U.S. Milky Way candy bar. The American version of the Mars bar, which was discontinued in 2011, added almonds to the mix.
Brown 25. Building block of the future.
A reference to a spoof commercial that ran in the 1974 sketch comedy film The Groove Tube for the Uranus Corporation, advertising the versatile polymer Brown 25: “It has the strength of steel, the flexibility of rubber, and the nutritional value of beef stew.” Yes, it looks like poop.
I’d say Mrs. Butterworth’s gonna have a lot of explaining to do.
Mrs. Butterworth’s is a brand of syrup that comes in a distinctive woman-shaped bottle. Ads featuring an animated version of the bottle appeared in the 1970s. (Trivia nugget: One of the actresses who voiced Mrs. Butterworth was Mary Kay Bergman, who supplied many of the female voices on South Park, including Mrs. Cartman and Wendy Testaburger.) It is manufactured by Pinnacle Foods.
[Imitating.] With a name like Smucker’s, you really get the feeling for real preserves.
An imitation of brand pitchman Mason Adams and a paraphrase of the longtime slogan for Smucker’s jams and jellies: “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.” It has been in use since the 1950s.
Know what they need? Some Kaopectate.
Kaopectate is an anti-diarrhea, anti-nausea medication made by Chattem Inc. Its name derives from two of its original main ingredients: kaolinite (a kind of clay) and pectin. Kaolinite was dropped in the 1980s; it now uses the same main ingredient as Pepto-Bismol, although the Canadian formulation uses attapulgite, another kind of clay.
Ann-Margret must be around here somewhere.
Ann-Margret Olsson, better known as Ann-Margret, is a Swedish-born actress and singer famous for her long friendship (and before that, her brief romance) with Elvis Presley, with whom she starred in Viva Las Vegas (1964), and her roles in films such as Bye Bye Birdie (1963). She also starred in Show 615, Kitten with a Whip. In a famous hallucinatory scene in the 1975 rock opera Tommy, she wallows in gallons of soap bubbles, baked beans, and melted chocolate that spew from the broken screen of a TV set.
It’s the quicker picker-upper.
“The quicker picker-upper” was an ad slogan for Bounty paper towels in a long-running series of commercials starring actress Nancy Walker (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda).
Bidi, bidi, bidi. –Spunky! Come back. Come back, Spunky!
Beware the turd of Altair VII.
Altair is the 12th brightest star in our night sky, located in the constellation of Aquila. It has made appearances in various sci-fi works over the years; in the film Forbidden Planet (1956), the planet of the title is Altair IV (and the requisite hot babe is named Altaira). It also shows up a couple of times in Star Trek: in “Amok Time” the Enterprise has to divert from Altair VI to Vulcan so Spock can get laid, and in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Altair VI is mentioned in the Kobayashi Maru simulation.
Oh, there’s joy in Kookville.
A probable reference to the 1888 poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer and its famous final line: “But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.”
The magic toothbrush will save them. Go, Tuffy, go!
Tuffy Tooth was an advertising figure for Colgate toothpaste in the late 1960s. He appeared in such stirring adventures as the comic book Tuffy Tooth and the Cavity Fighters and the audio drama Tuffy Tooth and the Mystery of the Missing Smile. You can still find vintage pins and other advertising ephemera with Tuffy floating around on eBay.
If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and dial again. If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and call again.
This is the recorded message used by the phone company when you fail to complete a call. The voice belongs to actress/singer Jane Barbe, who also recorded such classics as “We’re sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed” and “The number you have reached has been changed. The new number is …” The messages were preceded by three tones, known as the special information tone, or SIT.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. If you build it, he will come.
A line from Field of Dreams, a 1989 movie starring Kevin Costner as an Iowa farmer who hears a mysterious voice instructing him to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield.
In the future, they drive AMC Pacers.
American Motors Corporation (AMC) was a carmaker founded in 1954 when the Nash-Kelvinator Corporation merged with the Hudson Motor Car Company. AMC was bought by Chrysler in 1987 and fully assimilated by 1990. The AMC Pacer was a compact car produced from 1975 to 1979. It was well-regarded by environmental types as the antithesis to the standard ocean liner sedans being cranked out by Detroit at the time. It was also called “The Flying Fishbowl,” thanks to an unusually expansive glass and window area, which led to crazy-high internal temperatures on sunny days. It was criticized for its low engine power, and that, coupled with the end of the ‘70s oil crisis, led to a rapid drop-off in sales and its demise.
Okay, who knows a song? C’mon, let’s have fun. –[Sung.] I know a ...
The opening words to “The Wiener Man,” a campfire song popular with scout-aged children. The lyrics have many variations, but the first two verses usually go something like this: “I know a wiener man/He owns a wiener stand/He sells most anything/From hot dogs on down/One day I’ll join his life/I’ll be his wiener wife/Hot dog! I love that wiener man!”
So they all look like Tina Turner, I guess.
Tina Turner, along with her husband Ike Turner, performed in a popular R&B act in the 1960s and early 1970s, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. In 1976, Tina left Ike, claiming that he had abused her; the couple legally divorced in 1978. She launched a stunningly successful solo career in the 1980s, with hits such as “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and “Better Be Good to Me.”
[Imitating.] Good night. May God bless.
Red Skelton (1913-1997) was a comedian and variety show host who, in later years on The Red Skelton Show (1951-1971), ended the show by looking into the camera and saying his trademark goodbye: “Good night and may God bless.”
They said, “Raid!”
Raid is a brand of household insecticide products first produced by SC Johnson in 1956. In a long-running television ad campaign, animated insects would attempt to hide or flee, only to be set upon by a giant can of Raid. Before their gruesome deaths, the bugs would cry out, “Uh-oh! Raid!” The hapless bugs were voiced by legendary voice artist Mel Blanc.
Bidi, bidi, bidi. I gotta go walkies. Bidi.
What the Sam Scratch ...
“Sam Scratch” is a colloquial curse, invoking the name of the devil. Sort of. “Sam” comes from either “Samael” (the angel of death in Jewish myth) or “Samhain” (a Celtic festival in which the border between our world and the world of the dead is supposedly permeable). “Scratch” comes from an early 1800s folk name for Satan, “Old Scratch,” which in turn goes back centuries to Europe and various Germanic and Norse words meaning “devil” or “goblin.”
Bidi, bidi, bidi. Taste my steel.
Twiki pops the clutch and tells the doc to eat his rust.
See above note on Twiki. “Doc” here likely refers to Dr. Theopolis, the computer-housed scientist Twiki often wore around his neck. Theopolis was usually voiced by Eric Server (Howard Flynn supplied his voice for the pilot episode). The good doctor disappeared for the second season of Buck Rogers, along with several other characters, as the producers significantly retooled the series. Eat My Dust! was a 1976 low-budget, tongue-in-cheek action movie produced by Roger Corman and starring Ron Howard. The tagline for the film: “Ron Howard pops the clutch and tells the world: Eat My Dust!” Howard agreed to star in the movie in exchange for the chance to star in and direct a subsequent film, Grand Theft Auto (1977). It was his directorial debut; he has since gone on to direct many high-profile and critically acclaimed films, including Cocoon (1985), Apollo 13 (1995), and A Beautiful Mind (2001), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director.
Uh, you rang?
Lurch was the name of the Frankenstein’s Monster-esque butler on the TV series The Addams Family, which aired from 1964 to 1966. Ted Cassidy played Lurch in the series, which was based on the macabre cartoons drawn by Charles Addams. “You rang?” was pretty much his only line of dialogue. The series was later made into a series of feature films, in which Carel Struycken played Lurch.
It’s Eric Roberts’ sex table.
Eric Roberts is an actor, the brother of actress Julia Roberts and father of actress Emma Roberts. In the 1983 film Star 80, about doomed Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten, he played Stratten’s husband (and eventual murderer) Paul Snider. One of Snider’s get-rich-quick schemes is a bondage bench, which he builds and fails to sell, and which ends up squatting ominously in a corner of their bedroom for the rest of the film.
Oh, great. Admit me to this hospital right away. This guy thinks he’s Isaac Asimov.
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) was a highly respected science-fiction novelist and science writer best known for his Foundation trilogy. Along with Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the “Big Three” of science fiction. Asimov, a wildly prolific writer (his career total was somewhere north of 500 books) wrote most of his autobiography, I, Asimov, from his hospital bed in 1990. Years after his death his wife revealed he was suffering from AIDS, which he had contracted from a blood transfusion.
Leg bone connected to the femur bone. I don’t remember.
A paraphrased line from the 19th-century spiritual “Dem Bones” (a.k.a. “Dry Bones” or “Dem Dry Bones”), written by James Weldon Johnson and based on a passage in the Bible, Ezekiel 37. There are multiple versions of the lyrics; one version goes like this: “Shin bone connected to the knee bone/Knee bone connected to the thigh bone/Thigh bone connected to the hip bone … Now hear the word of the Lord.”
I’m on my way!
A reference to Show 201, Rocketship X-M.
If you would like to leave a number, please call back. If you’d like to leave …
See above note on Jane Barbe.
If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and call again. If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and call again. –If you’d like to make a …
See above note on Jane Barbe.
[Sung.] Happy birthday ...
This song, which has become the standard for birthday parties, was written (albeit with different lyrics) in 1893 by two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill, under the title “Good Morning to All.” It was the most widely performed song of the 20th century. The “Happy Birthday” version was first printed in 1912. In 1988, things got weird when the company that owned the copyright was bought and the new owner decided to get tough with violators. That’s when wait staff at restaurants stopped singing it and it wasn’t as widely used in TV shows and movies—they would have to pay royalties. In 2016, however, a judge ruled the copyright claims to “Happy Birthday” invalid, thanks to a suit filed by a filmmaker working on a documentary about the song. The current rights holder was earning about $2 million in royalties per year at the time of the ruling. The song is now officially in the public domain.
Rocketing off the charts with that immortal hit, it’s “Bob’s Death.” Next, coming up, “Rocket Man.”
“Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long, Long Time)” is a 1972 song written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin; performed by John, it was a top ten hit in both the U.S. and Great Britain. If you’ve ever thought this song sounds similar to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (see above note) in both tone and topic, it might interest you to know that both were produced by the same guy, Gus Dudgeon. Several covers of “Rocket Man” became hits on their own, but the most legendary would have to be William Shatner’s semi-spoken-word rendition, performed at the 1978 Saturn Awards.
Boy, Estes has nothing on those guys.
See above note on Estes Industries.
Attention, Mr. and Mrs. North America and all the ships at sea. Gutless astronauts left friends on planet. Returning today.
A paraphrase of radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist Walter Winchell’s famed opening: “Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, from border to border and coast to coast, and all the ships at sea.” Winchell was one of the most famous journalists of the mid-20th century. Primarily a gossip columnist, he was often derided for the effect his kind of journalism had on the media and his audience, with a tendency to destroy people’s reputations—and careers. For example, he forced Josephine Baker out of the country for ten years (by getting her work visa denied) after she criticized the Stork Club’s policy of segregation and called Winchell out personally for not supporting her.
Godzilla! Godzi—! Oh, wrong movie. Sorry.
Godzilla is a Japanese kaiju (“strange beast”) that has appeared in more than thirty films since 1954. In Japanese, Godzilla’s name is “Gojira,” which comes from the words for gorilla (gorira) and whale (kujira). Typically in Godzilla films, the man in the monster suit crushes large models of buildings while citizens flee in terror.
The white zone is for landing for all astronauts making connecting flights. Please consult your flight.
An imitation of pre-9/11 airport announcements dictating who could park in certain areas outside the terminal. This was also parodied (and may have inspired the riff) in the 1980 comedy Airplane!
Aaaaaay! –A. A. A. AAAA. It’s the A-Team.
The A-Team was a TV series that aired from 1983 to 1987 on NBC. It starred George Peppard as the leader of a group of unjustly convicted Special Forces veterans who try to evade the MPs while helping people with their problems. Despite spectacularly violent gun battles, car crashes, and frequent explosions, no one ever seemed to get hurt. The series got the big-screen treatment, with Liam Neeson in the Peppard role, in 2010.
Hey, there’s an M-car filled with A-people. Ma. –Ma. –See? It’s a way to make words. Ma. –Neat!
While the car in question does have an “M” on it, this may also be a reference to BMW’s M division, which produces modified versions of its vehicles that are known as M-badged cars or simply M models. The M division originally stood for “motorsports,” and handled BMW’s racing program, and these BMW M models usually boast modified engines, suspensions, and transmissions, as well as snazzier trim.
Looks like “I Got Rhythm.”
“I Got Rhythm” is a 1930 jazz standard written by George and Ira Gershwin. Popular versions have been recorded by Ella Fitzgerald, Bing Crosby, Ethel Merman, Lena Horne, and many more.
Hey, it’s Devo.
Devo was a geek-rock proto-new-wave band, known for their bizarre costumes and stage antics, that hit their peak of popularity in the 1980s. Their biggest hit was 1980’s “Whip It.”
Maybe those guys read Nathaniel Hawthorne. –Could be.
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was an American novelist and short-story writer whose most famous work is The Scarlet Letter (1850).
We’re more popular than the Beatles!
The Beatles were, arguably, the most influential popular music group of all time. Its members were Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr (b. Richard Starkey). They were active from 1960 to 1970 and had twenty number-one singles in the U.S. and seventeen in the U.K. To this day, they are, by far, the best-selling musical act in the United States. In 1966, shortly before they were scheduled to tour America for the third and final time, Lennon was quoted in an interview as saying, “We’re more popular than Jesus now.” The comment drew little attention in Europe, but when it was reprinted in the U.S., conservative Christians went ballistic. Radio stations (particularly in the South) banned the group’s songs and organized record burnings. The Ku Klux Klan nailed a Beatles album to a wooden cross. The Memphis city council threatened to cancel their performance there. The whole experience was so unpleasant that Harrison considered leaving the band at the end of the tour. When Lennon was murdered in 1980, his killer, Mark David Chapman, a born-again Christian, cited the statement as one of his motivations for the crime.
My one piece of advice: do not have the Venusian pu-pu platter.
The pu-pu platter (sometimes “bo bo platter”) is an often-derided and misunderstood piece of Chinese cuisine. Typically it is a tray of various chicken, beef, and seafood bits served with a small hibachi grill for the diners to skewer and cook themselves.