K16: City on Fire
by Trey Yeatts
Barry Newman is an award-winning actor best known for his roles as Kowalski in Vanishing Point and the title character in the mid-1970s NBC legal drama Petrocelli. He also had roles in more than twenty made-for-TV movies.
Susan Clark. That’s when Webster was just a baby, they filmed this. He was just three inches long. –He was three inches long? He must have been about twelve.
Susan Clark is an actress who played the adoptive mother of the diminutive Webster in the 1980s sitcom of the same name. Webster was played by Emmanuel Lewis, who is only 4’3”.
Shelley Winters. –She’s playing that building. –Very convincingly, I might add. –That’s just her skirt. –Such a big glass ... area.
Shelley Winters (1920-2006) was a hefty actress who appeared in such films as The Diary of Anne Frank (for which she won an Oscar) and The Poseidon Adventure. She often said that her late-life weight gain was intentional so that she could get more roles, as there weren’t as many overweight actresses in Hollywood.
James Franciscus as a monk.
James Franciscus (1934-1991) was an actor who appeared in several TV series, including Naked City (1958-63), The Investigators (1961), and Mr. Novak (1963-1965). Franciscan monks are members of an order in the Roman Catholic Church founded by Saint Francis of Assisi.
Ava Gardner (1922-1990) was considered one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses in the 1940s and ‘50s. She starred in The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), The Night of the Iguana (1964), and Earthquake (1974), among others. She was also well known for her marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra.
Sandy Howard. Ron Howard’s sister.
Sandy Howard (1927-2008) was a male producer who got his start on Howdy Doody and went on to produce Captain Kangaroo and A Man Called Horse. Ron Howard, as an actor, is best known for his roles in The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) and Happy Days (1974-1980). He has directed more than twenty films since the late 1970s (including Splash and Apollo 13) and has been involved in dozens more as a producer. He has a brother, Clint, who is also an actor, but no sisters.
The McCauley brothers. Nary a better force in the world of music than the McCauley brothers.
Matthew and William McCauley are composers who have provided mostly television scores for series such as Cagney & Lacey, Andromeda, and The Adventures of Sinbad.
Sports Illustrated has been publishing an annual edition of their magazine known as the “Swimsuit Issue” since 1964. Each one features dozens of photos of models posing in swimwear in various exotic locales.
They have a singing telegram business.
Singing telegrams are a method of bringing messages to the recipients by having the deliveryperson perform it in song. Western Union began offering them in 1933 when they delivered a fan’s birthday greeting to singer Rudy Vallee. Western Union suspended its singing telegram service in 1974, though a few smaller services may continue the niche practice.
Someone really marked up the Formica.
Formica is a brand of heat-resistant plastic laminate developed by two Westinghouse engineers in 1912. They were trying to create an artificial replacement for the mineral mica, used in electrical insulation. Thus, this material was created “for mica.” It is often used for kitchen and bathroom countertops.
Detergent? You’re soaking in it.
“You’re soaking in it” was the slogan in a series of commercials for Palmolive dish soap that aired from 1966 to 1992, in which maternal beautician Madge the manicurist (played by Jan Minor) informs her shocked clients that they’re soaking their hands in Palmolive liquid soap.
Shamrock Shake is a green, mint-flavored dessert drink offered at McDonald’s restaurants in March to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. They were first sold in 1970.
He gets more done by nine o’clock than most of us do all day.
A paraphrase of a line in a series of U.S. Army recruitment ads that aired in the early 1980s. The original line was, “We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day.”
Morning, Dr. Whitman. Morning. Good morning. –Morning. –Dr. Denton, report to surgery. Dr. Denton. –Good morning. –Report to pajama ward, Dr. Denton. –Morning. –Dr. Seuss to the drawing room. –Good morning.
Dr. Denton’s was a brand eponym for sleeper pajamas for much of the 20th century. They were manufactured by Michigan Central Woolen Company in 1865 and designed by Whitney Denton (not an actual doctor—they added “Dr.” to the name to imply an educated endorsement). Once the product took off, the company changed its name to Dr. Denton Sleeping Garment Mills. That company no longer exists, but the product name has changed hands several times. Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) was a prolific author and artist best known for his forty-four children’s books, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs & Ham, Horton Hears a Who, and The Cat in the Hat.
Gowns by Miss Piggy of Hollywood.
Miss Piggy is a diva Muppet character with a penchant for karate chops and the occasional French phrase. She first appeared in a 1974 Herb Alpert television special and was a major character in the syndicated series The Muppet Show (1976-1981). She later starred in several Muppets films. Frank Oz was the voice and primary puppeteer of Miss Piggy until 2002, when Eric Jacobson took over the role.
He regained his sight.
James Franciscus played the titular character, a blind insurance investigator, in the ABC crime drama Longstreet (1971-1972).
Can you tell she’s computer animated? Maggie Headroom.
Max Headroom was a computer-animated character featured on British and American television in the mid-1980s. The twitchy A.I. appeared in a TV movie, a short-lived series, and several commercials for New Coke (“Catch the wave!”). He was voiced and acted by Matt Frewer. Despite appearances, he was not actually computer-generated—Frewer wore latex prosthetics and a fiberglass suit.
Colonel Muammar Gadhafi action figure.
Muammar Gadhafi has been the leader of the north African nation of Libya since he staged a coup in 1969. Because of Gadhafi’s support for Palestine, revolutionary Iran, and terrorism, Libya found itself on the receiving end of international sanctions and bombing by the U.S. in 1986. Relations were not improved by Gadhafi’s harboring of suspects in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. In 2003, Gadhafi began a campaign of rapprochement with the West, even paying millions of dollars to the families of those killed in the Pan Am bombing.
Thank you, and don’t call me Shirley.
A paraphrase of a famous line from the 1980 film Airplane!, which co-starred Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010).
Thank you, Vampira.
Maila Nurmi (1922-2008) was an actress who, in 1954, became the nation’s first “horror host” on Los Angeles television station KABC as the pale-skinned Vampira. In a macabre setting, Nurmi would introduce schlocky B- to Z-grade horror films whilst spinning a web of punny graveyard humor. Her show was cancelled in 1955, but she retained rights to the character and appeared in her friend Ed Wood’s film Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959). In 1981, television producers asked for her help in reviving Vampira for a syndicated version of her show, but after months of consultation, she found that actress Cassandra Peterson had been hired as the host and the character renamed Elvira. Nurmi sued, saying the new character had illegally co-opted her likeness. She lost.
“Who’s Mr. Clark?” –The candy bar guy.
Clark Bars are a type of milk chocolate and peanut butter candy bar first sold as far back as 1886. They are manufactured by Necco.
Nothing keeps green slimy goop better than a Thermos.
Thermos is a genericized trademark referring to a vacuum flask canister that protects the desired temperature of the product contained therein. Invented in 1892 by Scottish physicist James Dewar, the product was first sold in 1904 by German company Thermos GmbH. In 1963, the U.S. declared that the name Thermos was synonymous with these types of containers, essentially nullifying the trademark.
Tip O’Neill! –Mikhail Gorbachev. –Or Yoda.
Tip O’Neill (1912-1994) was a Democratic politician who served in the House of Representatives for thirty-four years. From 1977-1987, he was the Speaker of the House and emerged in the 1980s as a vocal critic of the Reagan administration’s policies. Mikhail Gorbachev was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991. His term was marked by a desire for more openness (“glasnost”), which led to greater freedom for the Soviet people. A kind of “tug of war” erupted between Soviet traditionalists and reformists with Gorbachev caught in the middle. There was a failed coup by hardliners in 1991, which was followed shortly thereafter by the dissolution of the USSR. Yoda is the diminutive Jedi master who lives in the swamps of Dagobah and trains Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Force in the series of Star Wars films; the character first appeared in the 1980 film The Empire Strikes Back. In the first trilogy, Yoda was a puppet designed and operated by Frank Oz, who also supplied the voice. For the final two films of the second trilogy, Yoda was a computer-generated character.
[Sung.] I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.
This is from the song “I Feel Pretty” from the 1957 musical West Side Story. Sample lyrics: “I feel pretty/Oh so pretty/I feel pretty and witty and bright/And I pity/Any girl who isn’t me tonight.”
She’s nothing without Alex Karras. –But then, so’s Alex Karras. –Dick Butkus is nothing without Merlin Olsen. –And he’s nothing without his flowers.
Alex Karras (1935-2012) was a footballer-turned-actor. He played for the Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1970. In films, Karras played Mongo in 1974’s Blazing Saddles, the sheriff in 1982’s Porky’s, and Squash, the homosexual bodyguard, in 1982’s Victor/Victoria. On TV, he’s best known for starring alongside his wife, Susan Clark, in the sitcom Webster (1983-1989). Dick Butkus is also an actor and former pro football player. He played for the Chicago Bears from 1965 to 1973. As an actor, he has appeared in The Longest Yard, Necessary Roughness, Any Given Sunday, and Johnny Dangerously, among others. He also played himself in the acclaimed 1971 TV movie Brian’s Song. Merlin Olsen (1940-2010) was an NFL football player for the Los Angeles Rams and later became a football commentator. He appeared in Little House on the Prairie, Father Murphy, and Aaron’s Way. He and Butkus were spokesmen for FTD (Florist’s Transworld Delivery) for many years.
You know, she read for this part. It’s actually a Bea Arthur part.
Bea Arthur (1922-2009) was an actress who became famous in the 1970s for her portrayal of the acid Maude Findlay on the TV series All in the Family and later in her own spinoff, Maude. She also appeared on the TV series The Golden Girls in the 1990s.
Stouffer, there’s an opening in the boil-in-a-bag category.
Probably a reference to the old line of Banquet Cookin’ Bag frozen foods, which were “boil in the bag” entrees like turkey, salisbury steak, and even (shudder) enchiladas—just boil and serve!
Stouffer? –Isn’t he heir to the pizza empire?
Stouffer’s is a producer of frozen foods, most often Italian dishes. The Stouffer family offered meals from their Ohio coffee shop in 1922 and later opened restaurants. In the 1940s, customers began to request frozen versions for home consumption and they complied. In 1954, demand for their meals reached such heights they opened a processing facility. The company was bought a few times over the years; Nestlé owns the brand today.
Doug Kershaw is a Cajun musician, best known for his skills with a fiddle.
I had a better offer to change my name to Chun King.
Chun King is a line of Chinese foods created by Minnesotan Jeno Paulucci in 1947. Paulucci named the brand Chun King because it sounded like a Chinese city to him. Paulucci also created the popular Michelina’s line of Italian foods.
[Imitating Louis Armstrong.] And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!
A line from the Louie Armstrong classic “What a Wonderful World.” Sample lyrics: “I see trees of green/Red roses too/I see ‘em bloom/For me and for you/And I think to myself/What a wonderful world.”
That’s Eddie from Courtship of Eddie’s Father. –Brandon Cruz? –Yeah.
The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1969-1972) was a sitcom about a widower struggling to raise his young son alone. Eddie was played by Brandon Cruz (not the kid onscreen), who also starred in The Bad News Bears (1976) and became a punk singer in the 1980s. In 2001, he was chosen to be the lead vocalist for a Dead Kennedys reunion tour.
Bad luck. Three on a match.
“Three on a match is bad luck” is an old military superstition that you should never light three cigarettes off one match, with the theory being that with the first cigarette the enemy would see the light, with the second the enemy could aim, and whichever unlucky soul lit the third cigarette would be shot dead. Apparently the superstition was around during the 19th century, but it was widely spread and reinforced after World War I by a shrewd match manufacturer, who reasoned that if people believed it was unlucky to light multiple cigarettes off one match, they would use a lot more matches.
It’ll make you feel good, feel good, feel good.
A reference to an early 1980s anti-drug public service announcement that featured a girl in a sketchy stairwell taunting another child by waving a joint in his face while saying in a heavily processed voice, “It’ll make you feel good,” with lots of echoes.
Mickey! –Oh no! –I can’t believe it! –They burned Mickey Mouse. Oh well. There’s one in Florida.
Mickey Mouse is a cartoon character created in 1928 by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks for the short film Plane Crazy. (Trivia: Plane Crazy and The Gallopin’ Gaucho were silent animated shorts featuring Mickey, but the more famous Steamboat Willie was released first because it had a synchronized soundtrack.) The mouse’s high-pitched voice and round ears have become iconic, and Mickey has been considered a symbol of the Disney company for decades. The “one in Florida” likely refers to Walt Disney World, located near Orlando.
I’m not gonna try it.
A line from the famed Life cereal commercial seen from 1974 to 1986 featuring Mikey, the kid who hates everything.
A chain letter?
In the days before electronic messaging, chain letters were unsolicited letters sent to people in hopes that the recipient would make copies and send them to several others. Very often, these letters promised some sort of get-rich-quick plan (a pyramid scheme, in other words) or simply fantabulous luck. Naturally, a pox would be wished upon those who simply tossed the letter. Chain letters have, alas, survived the transition to computers (for example, the famous “Bill Gates will pay you for forwarding this email” chain). The U.S. Postal Service would like to point out that any chain letter that requests or promises monetary rewards is considered a form of gambling and is emphatically illegal.
[Hummed.] George of the Jungle theme.
This is the theme song to George of the Jungle, an animated TV series that ran from 1967-1970. Sample lyrics: “George, George, George of the Jungle/Strong as he can be/(Ahhhhhhhh)/Watch out for that tree.”
Uncle Dick’s trapped in Old Rock Canyon! Hurry. –What is it fella? –[Barking.] –Dad? –[Barking.] –Trapped? Under a rock? –[Barking.] –Down in Dead Rock Canyon?
An exaggerated (but not much) imitation of “dialogue” between Lassie the Collie and any one of several human characters from the 1947-1950 radio series, the long-running television series (1954-1973), two sequel series, an animated series, and eleven films. All of which, by the way, can be traced back to the 1940 novel Lassie Come-Home by Eric Knight.
Auntie Em! Auntie Em!
A reference to a line from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, spoken by Dorothy (Judy Garland).
I’m Servo. Now that I’m dead, don’t smoke.
A reference to actor Yul Brynner (1920-1985), best known for roles in The King and I, The Ten Commandments, and The Magnificent Seven. He was a well-known smoker (having started at the age of 12), and after being diagnosed with lung cancer, he appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America and said he wished he could make an anti-smoking commercial. After he died, a portion of that interview became a PSA for the American Cancer Society that included the lines, “Now that I’m gone, I tell you, don’t smoke. Whatever you do, just don’t smoke.”
Oh great. We’ve got the Keystone Kops putting out the fire.
The Keystone Kops were a group of wildly incompetent policemen who starred in a series of short silent films for Mack Sennett’s Keystone Film Co. between 1912 and 1917. Their films include Hoffmeyer’s Legacy and The Bangville Police.
Get some Captain Ken’s Baked Beans for a real firehouse banquet. –Smokehouse flavor.
Captain Ken’s Foods was founded in 1967 by retired Minnesota firefighter Ken Freiberg. His specialty was oven-baked beans when he cooked in the firehouse for his men; now his company also provides chili and other foods throughout the Midwest and beyond.
Thank you, Vampira.
See above note.
Jack LaLanne (1914-2011) was a fitness guru and motivational speaker who hosted the longest-running exercise program on television from 1951 to 1985 (The Jack LaLanne Show). He also created the Juice Tiger, an electric juicing machine that was recalled in the mid-’90s due to several incidents that led to lacerations about the face, hands, and chest, and even a permanent eye injury.
He dressed like John Denver. –Better than Bob Denver. –I understand Bob Denver was up for the part as he’s up for every single part.
John Denver (1943-1997) was a country-folk singer and environmentalist who had his biggest hits in the 1970s. Bob Denver (1935-2005) played beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on CBS’s The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963) as well as the title role in the TV series Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967).
Didn’t anyone ever tell him about stop, drop, and roll?
Stop, drop, and roll is a fire safety technique whereby people who find themselves on fire are urged to stop running, drop to the ground, and roll around until the flames are out.
That’s the last time we play Talking Heads in this house.
Talking Heads was a New Wave musical group fronted by David Byrne from 1974-1991. Their hits included “Take Me to the River,” “Once in a Lifetime,” and, oh yeah, “Burning Down the House.”
You sunk my battleship!
Battleship is a popular game manufactured by Milton Bradley. It was invented by Clifford Von Wickler in the early 1900s, but he failed to patent the idea. In 1931, Milton Bradley distributed “Broadsides,” which was the same thing, and in 1967, it produced the now-famous version of the game. Two cases (one red, one blue) contained plastic grids in which plastic ships were placed. Hits were scored with red pegs, misses with white pegs. In 1977, Electronic Battleship was released, which included an on-board computer that scored hits and misses. In 1989, this was followed by Electronic Talking Battleship. In almost all advertisements for the game, someone fires a shot and a player shouts, “You sank my battleship!”
There’s a house on fire and they’re playing Risk.
Risk is a war-strategy board game manufactured by Parker Brothers. It was invented in the 1950s by French movie director Albert Lamorisse, which helps explain its Napoleonic style.
[Sung.] “Ring of Fire.”
“Ring of Fire” is a song written by June Carter and Merle Kilgore in 1963 to help her deal with her feelings over falling in love with Johnny Cash. The song was recorded and released by June’s sister Anita. That version didn’t catch on, and Cash released his now-famous cover several months later.
They’re turning him into a Transformer.
Transformers are toys produced by Hasbro that were licensed from a Japanese toy line called Diaclone in 1984. Marvel Comics was licensed to produce a mythology and storyline for the vehicle-to-robot figures. They divided the toys into two groups: the cars, called Autobots, and the planes, called Decepticons. Comics were published and a popular animated TV series (and animated movie) followed. After their success in the 1980s, the brand diminished, though a few other animated series were produced and more toy lines were sold. Transformers rose to prominence again in 2007 with a live action film, followed by two more in subsequent years.
I hope there’ll be a kinder, gentler movie when we come back.
In his 1988 nomination acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention, then-Vice President George H. W. Bush said he wanted the prosperous people of America to commit acts of kindness and that cynicism should not prevail. He said, “I want a kinder and gentler nation.” The phrase was used and parodied for years.
I love her. I gotta have her!
A paraphrase of lines from the 1983 ZZ Top hit “Legs.” The actual lines: “Oh, I want her, shit, I got to have her/The girl is all right.”
[Sung.] It’s raining gas. Hallelujah, it’s raining gas.
An altered line from the 1982 Weather Girls song “It’s Raining Men.” Sample lyrics: “It’s raining men! Hallelujah!/It’s raining men! Amen!/I’m gonna go out to run and let myself get/Absolutely soaking wet!” The song was written in 1979 by Paul Jabara and Paul Shaffer (yes, that Paul Shaffer).
That’s just oil and those are popcorn bins. He’s gonna make the world’s largest salute to Orville Redenbacher. –Wouldn’t you if you could? –Yeah.
Orville Redenbacher (1907-1995) was an agricultural scientist who helped create a new hybrid popcorn, which he then marketed under his own name.
I was at a party once where Orville and his nephew, Gary, got into a real fistfight. Real wicked. –Blew the top right off ... his father. –Did he pop him one? –Well, Gary’s always kissing up to him and he just blew. –He invented microwave cheese corn, you know. –Speaking of cheese ...
Gary Redenbacher was, in fact, Orville’s grandson, and he appeared in many commercials with his grandfather in the late 1970s and ‘80s.
Only Cecil B. DeMille has seen a fire of this size.
Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959) was a flamboyant Hollywood director known for epic films such as Cleopatra (1934), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), and The Ten Commandments (1956). He became a celebrity in his own right, appearing in various films and on TV as himself. He was immortalized in Billy Wilder’s 1950 film Sunset Boulevard, when washed-up star Norma Desmond (played by Gloria Swanson) loses her grip on reality and says at the end of the film, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
I bet Smokey’s gonna make another fatal mistake where he throws his butt.
Smokey the Bear is the longtime spokescreature for the U.S. Forest Service. He was created in 1944 to preach the message of fire prevention, with the slogan “Only you can prevent wildfires.”
It’s the rest of the city that has crispy critter potential.
Crispy Critters was originally a breakfast cereal during the 1960s. The cereal failed, but the name survived as firefighter slang for a burned body.
Stop, drop and roll!
See above note.
Good. No. Now roll. –Well, he got the “stop” part. –Don’t just stop. –He got the stop and the drop. –Stop, drop, and buy the farm.
See above note.
The guys in the Sterno refinery are driving out for the day.
Sterno Canned Heat is a container of jellied and denatured alcohol usually used for keeping buffet dishes warm or in camping. First manufactured around 1900 by S. Sternau & Co. in New York (thus the name), the brand has become a brand eponym for all canned alcohol heaters. Methanol is added to the alcohol in order to render it toxic and undrinkable, but that hasn’t always stopped some people.
Neat little hibachi.
Hibachi is the name given to small rectangular charcoal grills in America. In their native Japan, hibachi can be used for cooking or even just heating and have been produced in various shapes, sizes, and styles. Some may incorrectly call large metal griddles in Japanese steakhouses hibachi cooking, but this is properly called “Teppanyaki,” meaning “iron plate.” “Hibachi” means “fire bowl,” and they’ve been in use for more than a thousand years.
That’s pretty much a towering inferno.
The 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno, directed by Irwin Allen, was about a huge skyscraper (138 floors) that caught fire. It starred Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Fred Astaire, and dozens more well-known actors.
Boy, think of the marshmallow manufacturers. They’re gonna clean up. –They lost their city but they got to eat their weight in s’mores.
S’mores are a favorite campfire snack, consisting of a toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate (ideally Hershey’s) sandwiched between two halves of a graham cracker. Its origin is unclear, but recipes have appeared as early as 1927. The origin of the name is a bit more obvious: a contraction of “some more.”
The kook’s gonna do something. He’s gonna go over and kick Leslie Nielsen.
Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010) was a actor known for dramatic roles for most of his career, including the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet and the 1972 disaster film The Poseidon Adventure. His supporting turn in 1980’s Airplane! relaunched his career as a comedic actor whose deadpan delivery provided much of the laughs. He went on to star in the TV series Police Squad! and three feature film sequels, as well as many other less-well-received comedies.
Remain calm. All is well.
A line from the 1978 film Animal House, spoken by Kevin Bacon’s character near the end when Delta House has caused chaos during the homecoming parade.
Start barking out orders. –[Bark.] Timmy’s in trouble? [Bark.] He’s in the canyon? [Bark.] There’s a river of gasoline headed toward him? [Bark, whimper.] That’ll be the end of that pain.
See above note.
That’s where they got the idea for The Towering Inferno.
See above note.
Let’s get out of here. –No. It’s Henry Fonda, one of America’s finest actors speaking, and you’re walking out on his best monologue. Show some respect for the first man of theater.
Henry Fonda (1905-1982) was an award-winning actor known for his roles in The Grapes of Wrath, The Caine Mutiny, In Harm’s Way, and On Golden Pond. His two blood-related children, Peter and Jane, are actors themselves.
Creature from the gross lagoon.
A paraphrase of the title of a classic monster movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954).
Looks like the backlot at Universal caught on fire.
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 has suffered eight major fires since 1932, including a huge one in 2008 that caused an estimated $50 million in damage. At the time it was reported that some archival TV and film stored in vaults had been destroyed, but the worst had been averted. In 2019 it was revealed that, in fact, a heartbreaking collection of music recordings had been lost in the 2008 fire, including irreplaceable master tapes of works by such artists as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Buddy Holly, Ray Charles, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, the Eagles, and many, many more.
WD-40 is a brand of penetrating oil spray developed in 1953 to prevent corrosion, stop squeaking hinges, and remove rust, among other common household uses. It is manufactured by the WD-40 Company and is so named because the current formula was the fortieth attempt at a Water Displacement product.
Who’s gonna argue with Shelly Winters? –Ernest Borgnine.
Ernest Borgnine is an American film and TV actor, perhaps best known for his role as Quinton McHale in the 1960s series McHale’s Navy. He won an Oscar for his title role in the 1955 movie Marty. Borgnine and Winters co-starred in the 1972 disaster film The Poseidon Adventure.
His future’s so bright he’s gotta wear asbestos.
A paraphrasing of a line from the 1986 Timbuk3 hit “The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades.”
I’ve heard of nitro-burning funny cars but never ... –Funny nitro cars. –Or nitro burning a funny car.
Funny Cars is a class of drag racing vehicle superficially resembling standard production vehicles, though they are, in fact, souped-up racers that can reach speeds of 300 mph in a one-thousand-foot race.
Gives new meaning to Hot Wheels.
Hot Wheels is a line of miniature die-cast cars introduced in 1968 by Mattel. They are perennial favorites of little boys.
Stratego is a strategy board game first produced in America by Milton Bradley in 1961, modeled after a traditional Chinese game called Jungle and a French game called L’attaque. It is not unlike chess, in that your object is to capture your opponent’s piece (in this case, a flag); however, in Stratego, the ranks of your opponent’s pieces are hidden to you and only revealed when you attack.
Have any Life Savers?
Life Savers is a brand of candy first made in 1912 by Ohioan Clarence Crane to provide a treat that could withstand heat better than chocolate. The first available flavor was peppermint, and a wide variety of flavors and variations (including gummy) have been produced since then. Despite urban legend, the candy was not designed with a hole in the center to save the life of choking children. Instead, they were designed to resemble lifebuoys, the rings hung along the railings of sea vessels so they can be thrown to people who fall overboard.
Cause I’m just going to be a kielbasa. –A big one. She’d be a good Thuringer sausage. –Smokehouse flavor. Someone suggested we use artificial flavors in our Shelly Winters and we said no. We smoke her to perfection.
Thuringer sausage is a type of smoked sausage, similar to summer sausage.
Nurse! Look at the stone I passed. It looks like Mount Rushmore.
Mount Rushmore is a mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota that features the gigantic heads of four presidents, each about sixty feet high, carved out of the granite of the mountain: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Work on the memorial began in 1927 and was finished in 1941 under sculptor Gutzon Borglum.
The biggest disaster in United States history and you’re televising it! –Second biggest. –What’s the first? –I don’t know. It was in the trailer. –I hear it was the opening of the tomb. –Or the making of Ishtar.
In terms of death toll, the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history would be the 1900 Galveston hurricane, which killed between 6,000 and 12,000 people. As for accidents, the burst dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania (1889), killed 2,209 people. “Opening of the tomb” may refer to the then-recent opening of Al Capone’s vault by Geraldo Rivera on national TV in 1986. The two-hour special featured an incredibly hyped opening of a vault underneath the Lexington Hotel in Chicago, reputedly containing a wide variety of the late crime boss’s secrets, loot, bodies, whatever. They found dust and some empty bottles. Ishtar was a notorious Hollywood flop, a 1987 road movie about two lounge singers (played by Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty) who get mixed up in a CIA plot. It cost $55 million and only took in $12.7 million at the box office.
Drano. –I’ve got a plumber on my back. –Take the plunge!
Drano is a drain cleaning product first produced in 1923 and manufactured today by S.C. Johnson & Son. “Take the plunge” is the advertising slogan for Nestea.
She’d make a good camerawoman. Anchorwoman. –She’d make a good boat anchor. –Jabba the Anchorperson.
Jabba the Hutt is a character from the Star Wars trilogy of films by George Lucas. A large, sluglike creature, Jabba was a kingpin of crime with a hefty grudge against one Han Solo.
Hey, that’s Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto. –They’re in a cameo, I bet. –Rampart, how do you read? I don’t know, Johnny. I never got past third grade.
Johnny Gage (Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe) are two characters from the 1972-1979 NBC medical action drama Emergency! Rampart General Hospital was their base of operations.
And get everybody to sing “Kumbayah.”
“Kumbayah” is an American Black spiritual that dates back to the 1930s. Thanks to a folk revival in the 1960s, “Kumbayah” is often parodied and used for comedic effect in films and shows featuring campfires or other “feel-good” gatherings.
And get my daughter, Jane, in here to do her aerobics. Peter? We need the Easy Rider. –Bring your Captain America thing. –And Bucky, put a bunch of heroin in your gas tank and drive on through. Who do you want more in a crisis situation than Dennis Hopper? –[Imitating.] Wanna know what fear is, man? –Take a load off, Henry.
Jane Fonda is an actress known for her roles in Barbarella (1968) and Coming Home (1978) and more than twenty fitness videos beginning in 1982. Peter Fonda (1940-2019) was an actor best known for playing Wyatt in 1969’s counterculture classic Easy Rider (which he also co-produced). Wyatt wore a leather jacket festooned with an American flag and red, white, and blue stripes. His helmet had stars and stripes, too, thus inspiring his nickname, “Captain America.” "Bucky" is a reference to Captain America's original sidekick in the comic books, Bucky Barnes. In the film, the lead characters sell cocaine and then conceal the proceeds in their gas tank. Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) was an actor known for his hippie ways and appearances in Apocalypse Now (1979) and Blue Velvet (1986). Hopper directed Easy Rider and co-starred as Billy. “The Weight” by the group The Band was released in 1968 and was used in Easy Rider. Sample lyrics: “Take a load off, Annie/Take a load for free/Take a load off, Annie/And you put the load right on me.”
That guy’s pretty much beef jerky, anyway. Slim Jim.
Beef jerky is a type of marinated and then dried meat snack. This method of preserving food has been around for many thousands of years. Slim Jims are a brand of beef snack marketed primarily to teens and manufactured by ConAgra Foods. They were first produced in Philadelphia in 1928 by Adolph Levis. The jars he kept them in featured a caricature of an elegant man with a top hat and cane that Levis dubbed “Slim Jim.”
Diana, do you remember this voice?
This Is Your Life was a TV series that ran from 1952-1961 (and then again in 1971-72 and some specials in the late 1980s), in which each week an unsuspecting celebrity would be lured to the studio and faced with people from his (or her) past, who would talk about his life. Each time someone’s third grade teacher or whatever would be introduced, the host, Ralph Edwards, would say, “Do you remember this voice?” and then the mystery person would say something like, “I changed your diapers.” The celebrity would then be surprised to be re-introduced to someone they hadn’t thought about in thirty years.
I guess that shows how expensive fire is these days. –There’s no match for fire. That deserved some Barney Rubble laughter. [Imitating laughter.] Okay, Fred!
Barney Rubble was Fred Flintstone’s best buddy on the animated TV series The Flintstones, which aired from 1960-1966. Voiced by Mel Blanc, Barney was based on the character of Ed Norton (played by Art Carney) from The Honeymooners.
I said Bud Light. –Oh, stop the comedy. Turn it off!
A reference to a 1980s advertisement for Bud Light, the light beer made by Anheuser-Busch.
He was a kamikaze.
Kamikaze (usually translated as “divine wind”) was the suicidal tactic used by Japanese military pilots of crashing their planes into Allied naval vessels during World War II.
Patricia Neal for Maxwell House. –Throw Patricia from the train.
Patricia Neal (1926-2010) was an actress best known for her roles in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and Hud (1963), for which she won an Oscar. In the 1970s, Neal appeared in commercials for both Maxim Freeze-Dried Coffee and Maxwell House coffee. Throw Momma From the Train was a 1987 dark comedy film starring Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito.
Catch the wave!
A slogan used in the mid-’80s for Coca-Cola (once the re-formulated Coca-Cola failed and Coca-Cola Classic was introduced). Also, possibly a reference to the 1963 Beach Boys song “Catch a Wave,” which may have inspired the next riff ...
[Sung.] Everybody’s gone surfin’ ...
A line from the 1962 Beach Boys song “Surfin’ USA,” written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love.
“Flame on!” is the catchphrase of Marvel Comics character Johnny Storm, a.k.a. The Human Torch. A member of the Fantastic Four, Storm has the power of pyrokinesis and flight, and he usually says this when he “ignites” himself. The character was created by comics gods Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1961.
All we have here is a bunch of empty plastic eggs. There’s no hose to be found. I think there’s some looting going on. –That was a pretty lame one. –Thank you very much. At least it took a long time.
Pantyhose brand L’eggs was famously sold in plastic egg-shaped containers starting in 1969. In 1991 the company phased out the containers in favor of cardboard boxes, citing the higher transportation and packing costs associated with the oddly shaped eggs.
Notice how there’s no laugh track during this sequence?
A reference to the operating room scenes in the long-running television series M*A*S*H. Laugh tracks were used throughout every episode except in surgery sequences, although the jokes usually continued unabated.
Did he just remove a Slinky from him? –Tapeworm.
Slinky is a loose spring sold as a toy due to its tendency to perform tricks, such as walking down stairs, alone or in pairs. It was invented in the early 1940s by naval engineer Richard James and produced by his company until 1998, when his widow sold the company to Poof Products.
Hose, hose, hose, hose.
“Hose” here is said to the tune of a collection of notes played on a ballpark organ in the ramp-up toward the famous fanfare “Charge!”, written by Tommy Walker at the University of Southern California in 1946.
It’s another Dick Van Dyke tip: if your hand fuses to the doorknob, leave the area. Leave your hand, if necessary.
Dick Van Dyke is an actor and comedian who has starred in The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), Diagnosis: Murder (1993-2001), and Mary Poppins (1964). In the 1970s, Van Dyke hosted a long-running series of fire safety public service announcements.
That was a Pinto.
The Ford Pinto (produced from 1971 to 1980) is widely considered to be one of the worst cars ever made. At the top of the list of reasons was the poorly protected gas tank, which was prone to rupturing on rear impact. According to media investigations and court cases at the time, Ford executives were aware of the gas tank issues and made a deliberate decision that it would be cheaper to pay off lawsuits from resulting deaths than to fix the design flaw. In some media reports, 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 two million Pintos were produced, 27 deaths is no worse than other car models in the 1970s.
Starts bold; finishes clean. What air was, what air is.
“Starts bold, finishes clean, refreshes completely” is a line from 1970s and ‘80s Michelob Dry commercials. I assume "What air was, what air is" is another beer reference, but I was unable to track it down. Anyone?
[Sung.] London Bridge is falling down. Falling down, ... –Falling down, my fair burn victim.
“London Bridge Is Falling Down” is an English nursery rhyme, first published in 1744 but existing in oral tradition for many years before that. The most common version of the first verse is: “London Bridge is falling down/Falling down, falling down/London Bridge is falling down/My fair lady.”
[Imitating “Dueling Banjos.”] Dueling dorks. –No, Deliverance. Get it? It’s a joke.
Deliverance is a 1972 movie about a group of friends on a canoe trip who are stalked by the spooky locals. “Dueling Banjos” is the name of the banjo song used in the film; it has come to personify creepy hillbillies.
Why don’t they concentrate that water on some of these fires? –Maybe they couldn’t get better disaster relief aid. Burn it all down and build a new mall. A megamall. One that’ll put the Ghermezian brothers to shame.
The Ghermezian family are Canadian entrepreneurs who have built many shopping malls in North America. Their most famous mall (but not the biggest) is the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. Construction began in 1989, and it was opened in 1992.
They’ll always have Tara, though. –Frankly, Hodgie ... Tomorrow’s another ... disaster.
A collection of paraphrased lines from the classics Casablanca (1942) and Gone With The Wind (1939). “We’ll always have Paris” was a line from Casablanca spoken near the end of the film by Humphrey Bogart’s character to Ingrid Bergman’s. Tara was the name of the O’Hara family plantation in Gone With the Wind. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” were Rhett Butler’s (played by Clark Gable) final words to Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) near the end of the film. “Tomorrow is another day!” was the last line of the film, spoken by Scarlett as she vowed to rebuild her life and get Rhett back.
Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Fire beneath you, it’s gonna burn your feet-a.
“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor’s warning” is an old weather proverb that, amazingly enough, has some truth to it. When the sky is particularly reddish at sunset, that means there’s a lot of dust and particles in the air toward the west, which means the weather there is calm and stable—ergo, it will be nice tomorrow. When the sky is a deep red at sunrise, it means there’s a lot of water in the atmosphere—i.e., there’s a storm a-coming.
Where’s Captain Ken when you need him? –He’s makin’ S’mores.
See above note.
I think we have a Pinewood Derby winner here.
The Pinewood Derby is a small car racing event held by Cub Scout troops around the nation. The participants are given an official kit, which includes a block of pine wood, four wheels, and four nails. The finished vehicle is then raced. The first Pinewood Derby was held in 1953, organized by Don Murphy.
Webster?! Where’s Webster?
See above note.
It’s Jason, I think.
Jason Voorhees is the central character in the Friday the 13th series of films. The supernatural mass murderer is best known for wearing a hockey mask, though it wasn’t used until the third film.
See above note.
Barry Newman was Edwin Newman’s dumber brother. –Randy Newman, too. –Alfred E. Neuman.
Edwin Newman (1919-2010) was a journalist and broadcaster best known for his work with NBC News from 1949 until his retirement in 1984. Randy Newman is a singer-songwriter who had hits with “Short People” (see next note) and “I Love L.A.” Beginning in the 1990s, he found renewed fame as a film composer, especially with Pixar’s animated films. Alfred E. Neuman is the jug-eared, befreckled, red-headed mascot with a missing front tooth who has graced the cover of nearly all of Mad Magazine’s 500 issues since 1954. His catchphrase is, “What, me worry?”
[Sung.] Short robots got, no reason ...
A paraphrase of Randy Newman’s 1977 hit single “Short People.” It was a song about the stupidity of prejudice sung from the perspective of a person prejudiced against short people. Many people, though, didn’t get this and raised a ruckus among short people’s rights groups and even some death threats. In fact, in 1978 the Maryland state legislature considered a bill that would have made it illegal to play the song on the radio (it didn’t pass). Newman has since grown to dislike the song.
Those are two of the men she’s loved. Out of ninety. –She’s got a thing for Barry? –Now they’re friends. –Now they’re under the blanket. –An old flame. –A Pop-Tart. –Fresh out of the toaster.
Pop-Tarts are a brand of ready-made pastries that you heat in the toaster. They are manufactured by Kellogg’s. They were created when, in 1963, Post unveiled their pre-made pastries called Country Squares. Post wasn’t ready to mass-produce theirs, but Kellogg’s managed to develop and crank out Pop-Tarts just six months later in 1964.
C’mon, you’re fighting a fire. It’s not a Pepsi commercial, guys. You’re not getting a Miller after this.
Pepsi is a major brand of cola, the chief competitor to Coca-Cola. It was first made in 1898 in North Carolina by pharmacist Caleb Bradham and sold as “Brad’s Drink.” Miller Brewing Company produces several varieties of beer and has since 1855. Beginning in the 1970s, Miller’s advertisements became directed toward “the working man,” essentially saying, after a hard day’s work, you’ve earned a break, so “it’s Miller time.”
It’s the opening of M*A*S*H. –[Imitating theme.] You’re right. –Choppers. –Attention all personnel, all medical ... um. Whatever. I’ve left my mouth. Thank you.
The television series M*A*S*H, which aired from 1972-1983, opened every episode with shots of Army medical choppers flying to the facility while the morose theme, “Suicide Is Painless,” played. Servo then attempts to imitate the ubiquitous P.A. announcer, telling the medical staff that choppers are landing.
Our neighbor. –A guy named Stover. –Mr. Rogers.
Fred Rogers (1928-2003) was the longtime host of the PBS children’s show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired from 1966 to 2001.
Cec Linder. Ho-ho!
Cec Linder (1921-1992) was an actor best known in the U.K. for his appearances on various popular TV series of the 1950s and ‘60s. He also played CIA Agent Felix Leiter in the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger.
Attendant Franks. The guy who scared all the wienies, Doug Smith. Attendant Franks.
Doug Smith is an actor not known for much. He was in this movie and he did some voiceover work, too, for foreign films.
There’s Ellen Burstyn. Resurrection.
Ellen Burstyn is an award-winning actress best known for roles in The Exorcist (1973), Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1973), and Requiem for a Dream (2000). Resurrection is a 1980 film starring Burstyn as a woman who survived a car accident and discovered that she had gained the power to heal people.