108: The Slime People
by Trey Yeatts
I wish the scientists would install one of those oil things. –Oil and water things? –Yeah.
Given Joel and the bots grooving to the music, it’s possible that they’re referring to the psychedelic light displays popular at rock concerts in the 1960s and early ‘70s. These so-called liquid light shows were generated by mixing differently colored oils with water or alcohol and then projecting the interaction on a screen behind the performers. Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience are just a few of the groups associated with such displays.
[Sung.] Somethin’ new is comin’ to town and George the milkman is bringin’ it ‘round.
A line from a late 1970s commercial for Kellogg’s Graham Cracko’s, a graham cracker-flavored cereal.
Now if I remember right, Cody’s about to collide with the evil Good Humor Man's ice cream car of death.
Good Humor is a brand of ice cream treats first marketed in 1920. The “Good Humor Man” became an American institution, as kids across America lined up during the summers to buy ice cream from the white-clad men who drove the trucks with the tinkling bells.
Betcha an hour of KP they jump.
KP is military shorthand for “Kitchen Police” or “Kitchen Patrol.” This is a duty often assigned to junior military personnel and to soldiers who have committed some minor infraction.
Oh, great. That was on my MasterCard.
MasterCard is a credit card company established in 1966. It was originally known as Master Charge and has always had the overlapping double-circle logo.
This one’s called the Baby Boy.
A reference to the two nuclear bombs developed as the culmination of the Allies’ Manhattan Project during World War II. The devices were nicknamed Little Boy (dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945) and Fat Man (dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945).
The Cessna Skyhawk is usually your best choice for bombardiering missions.
The Cessna 172 Skyhawk is a very common single-engine propeller plane and, in fact, is the most produced airplane ever. It was first made in 1955 and, because of that, cannot be the plane seen in this short (which was made in 1952). It could be a Piper J-3 Cub, which was produced from 1938 to 1947.
Krakatoa. East of Java. –Bentonville. East of Muncie.
Krakatoa, East of Java is a 1969 film about the catastrophic eruption of the volcano Krakatoa in 1883. Unfortunately for the makers of the film, Krakatoa is in fact located west of the island of Java. Muncie is a city in Indiana, and a town named Bentonville is, in fact, southeast of it.
Hey, you ho-daddies! Surf's up!
In surfer lingo, a “ho-daddy” is slang for a surfing enthusiast.
It’s a bridge under troubled water.
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” was a 1970 hit song for the singer/songwriter duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
Local high school grabs corn crown. Blue Earth to build beet palace.
Blue Earth, Minnesota, is the home of the famed Jolly Green Giant statue, a 55-foot behemoth that looms over I-90. Also a reference to the world-famous (all right, Midwest-famous) Corn Palace, located in Mitchell, South Dakota. The Corn Palace, which was built in 1892 to lure settlers to the area, is a Moorish-style castle, complete with onion domes; the exterior of the palace is decorated with murals made from dried corn kernels and other grains, which are redesigned yearly by local artists. The building is a triumph of earnest Midwestern kitsch.
Oh, Al’s Café. They do a really nice job there, eh. Blue-plate special that’ll make your pelt stand on end.
“Blue-plate special” is a term that dates back to the late 1890s and a small chain of restaurants called Harvey House. The term entered the public consciousness in the 1920s as more restaurants offered low-priced meals (most often on blue plates) and advertised them as such. Once it was mentioned in newspapers, in films, and on TV, the phrase remained with us, though the likelihood of finding an actual blue-plate special at a restaurant today is incredibly small.
Right in the kidney beans. –Right in the creamed corn. –Right in the liver and onions. –Right in the Salisbury steak.
A staple of school lunchrooms everywhere, Salisbury steak is made from minced beef formed into the shape of a steak, served with gravy or brown sauce. It was invented in the late 19th century by Dr. J.H. Salisbury as part of a low-carb diet.
Oh, I’m stuffed. That’s the best progressive dinner I’ve ever had. Martha’s Jell-O mold was out of this world.
A “progressive dinner” (a.k.a. “round-robin dinner” or “safari supper”) is a kind of potluck event in which participants eat a different course (or courses) of an extensive meal at the homes of different hosts, traveling to the next home once a course has been completed. Jell-O is a sweetened gelatin dessert made by Kraft Foods. The powdered gelatin that serves as a base for the product was first developed in 1845 by Peter Cooper. In the 1880s, the patent was sold to a New York carpenter who replicated the powder but added flavors to it. The first flavors available were lemon, orange, raspberry, and strawberry. The Jell-O name was bestowed upon it in 1897.
The bunny trail.
A reference to the Easter song “Here Comes Peter Cottontail,” written in 1950 by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins and sung in an immensely popular recording by Gene Autry. Lyrics: “Here comes Peter Cottontail/Hopping down the bunny trail/Hippity hoppity/Easter’s on its way.”
Meanwhile, back at the Cody Institute for Naughty Little Bunnies.
The phrase “Meanwhile, back at _____” originated with cards inserted in silent films of the early 20th century. In westerns, this was often “Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...” Once talkies were introduced, the phrase was still used by narrators in films and radio and television shows. Most recently, it was used in the various Superfriends animated series of the late 1970s. Narrator Ted Knight would say, “Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Justice ...” or “Meanwhile, at the Legion of Doom ...”
Meanwhile, in the hills of death.
See previous note.
Traffic on outbound 72 is heavy going into Spaghetti Junction and ... wait a minute, there’s some little tiny ants on the cross town. Oh, those are cars.
Interstate 72 is a highway that stretches from Hannibal, Missouri, in the west to Champaign, Illinois, in the east. “Spaghetti Junction,” like “Mixing Bowl,” is a colloquialism given to any complex interchange of highways and on-/off-ramps.
Serpentine! –Serpentine! –Back and forth. Back and forth.
A reference to a scene in the 1979 comedy The In-Laws starring Alan Arkin and Peter Falk, in which CIA agent Falk tries to teach Arkin, a dentist, how to dodge incoming fire.
Montana looks long, he’s got a man open, oh, pass, pass interference!
Retired four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Joe Montana played with the San Francisco 49ers from 1979 to 1992 and with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993 to 1994.
Sorta looks like I Dream of Jeannie lettering. –Right.
I Dream of Jeannie is an NBC sitcom that aired from 1965 to 1970, starring Barbara Eden as the titular genie and Larry Hagman as the astronaut who found her bottle prison on a beach after splashdown. The typeface used for The Slime People does appear to match the end credits typeface in the show’s later seasons. In case you’re curious, you can download it as a font named Studio.
I notice that during the most troublesome times in my life, Lord, there were only one set of footprints.
A paraphrasing of lines from the popular Christian poem “Footprints,” written in the late 1800s. Dozens of people claim to have written it, with one suggested source being famed pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, whose 1880 sermon “The Education of the Sons of God” told a tale not unlike the poem. In the mid-20th century, several people obtained copyrights for the work, as proof of originality is not needed to get a copyright.
Play it, Jackson.
“Jackson” is hipster slang, meaning “man” or “dude,” dating back to the hepcat days of the 1910s and 1920s.
Hey, Boyce and Hart. I wonder if they did the music.
The songwriting team of Tommy Boyce (1939-1994) and Bobby Hart wrote many hits in the 1960s, including “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” for Paul Revere & The Raiders and “Come a Little Bit Closer” for Jay and the Americans. They had a long-term collaboration with The Monkees. They wrote hits for the band including “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Valleri,” and the theme for the TV show, and later the pair toured with Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones.
I think this is also the lettering from The Bionic Woman. –Boring bold. –Well, they had the technology.
The Bionic Woman is a late-’70s action series spinoff of The Six Million Dollar Man starring Lindsay Wagner as Jaime Sommers, a tennis pro who has cybernetic body parts installed after a skydiving accident. The show was remade, briefly, in 2007. The phrase “We can rebuild him; we have the technology” comes from the opening credit sequence of The Six Million Dollar Man. The typeface used in the show’s credits, while similar to the font used in The Slime People and I Dream of Jeannie, is, in fact, a different font called Carleton.
Airport ‘77: The Other Guy’s Story.
Airport ‘77 is the second in the series of airplane disaster films of the 1970s. Released in 1977 (surprise!), it stars Jack Lemmon, Jimmy Stewart, Christopher Lee, and Olivia de Havilland. The plot deals with the hijacking and robbery of a privately owned Boeing 747, which accidentally crashes in the Bermuda Triangle. The plane then defies physics and engineering by sinking intact to the ocean floor. After that, there is tension as divers try to rescue the passengers.
Penny, this is Sky King.
Sky King was a long-running radio program that began in 1946, airing until 1954, as well as a TV series that lasted from 1951 until 1959. The series revolved around Arizona rancher Schuyler “Sky” King and his adventures finding lost hikers, spies, bank robbers, etc., using his plane, the Songbird. He was assisted by his niece, Penny, and sometimes his nephew, Clipper.
Piper Cub. Figurehead of an empire.
See above note on the Cessna Skyhawk.
It takes two to tango.
The common phrase “It takes two to tango” originated in the 1952 song “Takes Two to Tango”; a hit version was released that year by Pearl Bailey. Since then, it has evolved into a kind of proverb, meaning that something requires more than one person to achieve; sometimes the connotation is negative, as in “It takes two people to have an argument.” The tango itself is a style of music and dance that originated in Argentina and Uruguay in the late 1800s. It is known for its sensuality.
Oooh, it’s the grandaddy all right, dude. Really gnarly fog happenin’.
Given Joel’s excessively stoner voice, it’s possible that he’s referring to a particular strain of marijuana named “Grandaddy Purple,” renowned for its potency.
LAX just isn’t the same anymore. Well, not since Braniff moved out.
“LAX” is the official identifier code for Los Angeles International Airport. Braniff International Airways was an airline that operated primarily in the western and midwestern parts of the United States. It was founded in 1928 and went bankrupt in 1982.
He’s pulling into a Texaco station. –You can trust your plane to the guys who are inane.
Texaco is a brand of service stations that began in 1901 (the name being a holdover acronym for “The TEXAs COmpany”). The stations became particularly famous in the 1930s and ‘40s on radio and in the ‘40s and ‘50s on TV for the Texaco Star Theater, featuring many celebrities of the day. “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star” is an advertising slogan that debuted in 1961 for Texaco service stations (Texaco’s logo is a white star in a red circle). Texaco was bought by Chevron in 2001, and Texaco stations have been disappearing ever since.
Mr. Goodwrench is the former name for General Motors’ auto repair division, called GM Goodwrench since 1996. The brand began in 1977 and was phased out of U.S. GM operations in 2011. GM Goodwrench is still used in some foreign markets.
Goober? Chico? Man?
“Goober” Pyle (played by George Lindsey) was a character on The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), Mayberry R.F.D. (1968-1971), and Hee Haw (1969-1992). He was Gomer Pyle’s cousin and became the comic relief once Gomer (Jim Nabors) got his own show in 1965. Goober appeared on Hee Haw for about a decade after Mayberry R.F.D.’s cancellation. Chico and the Man is an NBC sitcom that lasted from 1974 until 1978. It was conceived as a vehicle for upcoming comedian Freddie Prinze (1954-1977), who played Chico Rodriguez, a Latino man working for “The Man,” racist-with-a-heart Ed Brown (played by Jack Albertson; 1907-1981). It was the first American television series set in a Hispanic neighborhood. Prinze committed suicide in 1977, but the show attempted to go on without him, limply, for another season before it was cancelled.
Don't get discouraged.
The Chico and the Man (see above note) theme song was written and performed by Jose Feliciano, who also guest starred in the series. Sample lyrics: “Chico, don't get discouraged/The Man he ain't so hard to understand/Chico, if you try now/I know that you can lend a helping hand.”
Oh, God. It’s the Watts district.
Watts is a city district in Los Angeles well known for its racial strife. In 1965, riots gripped the area after the arrest of a young Black man for DWI (just outside Watts, actually); rumors started that he had been brutalized by police, and the resentments of the Black residents finally boiled over. In the 1970s and ‘80s, violence exploded until a four-year peace process with gang leaders led to an agreement in 1992. By the beginning of the 21st century, many Blacks had left the district, succeeded by Latinos.
An imitation of Señor Wences (real name Wenceslao Moreno; 1896-1999), a Spanish ventriloquist who made frequent appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. He was known for his comic banter with a hand puppet named Johnny and a puppet hidden in a box who went by the name of Pedro.
Could you stop at a Walmart? I need some Tums.
Walmart is the largest chain of retail stores in the United States. The first store was opened in 1962 by Sam Walton as Walton’s Five and Dime in Bentonville, Arkansas, offering discount merchandise at low prices. Walton opened many of his stores in small towns, where they often drove local merchants out of business by undercutting their prices. By the time of Walton’s death in 1992, there were more than 1,700 Walmart stores. As of 2018, there were 11,718 locations around the world. Tums is a calcium carbonate antacid produced by GlaxoSmithKline. They were first produced by Norcliff Thayer (a now-defunct pharmaceutical company) in 1928.
“The Slime People.” 1964. Robert Hutton, director. A Golan-Globus Production.
This film was actually released in 1963. Robert Hutton (playing Tom Gregory; 1920-1994) played 90 roles in both television and film. The Slime People was his one and only directorial effort. Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were Israeli cousins who bought the financially unstable Cannon Films production company for only $500,000 in 1979. For the next decade, they produced dozens of action films, including Death Wish sequels, Chuck Norris films, and Breakin’ (along with the classic sequel Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo). Expensive but unsuccessful productions like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and Masters of the Universe (along with an abortive attempt at a Spider-Man film) drained the company of funds. The cousins were bought out in 1990; Cannon relaunched that year and then folded in 1993. Joseph F. Robertson Productions was actually the company behind The Slime People.
Oh, good. Maybe there’ll be a Chilly Willy or Droopy cartoon. –It’s Droopy.
Chilly Willy is a mittens-and-stocking-cap-wearing penguin cartoon character that first appeared in 1953. Fifty theatrical shorts were produced by the Walter Lantz studio before 1972. Droopy is a basset hound with drooping jowls and a slow, deadpan delivery that appeared in twenty-four theatrical shorts released by MGM between 1943 and 1958. The character appeared frequently in other productions and in the occasional reboot attempt for many years after.
How did he get there? He was just in the other place. –An old Orson Welles gag.
A likely reference to Orson Welles’ (1915-1985) famous “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel. Welles hosted a CBS radio drama series titled Mercury Theatre on the Air, and on October 30, 1938, Welles began the show by saying the year was 1939 and proceeded to read the introduction from the novel. A series of news bulletins interrupted an orchestral performance to report on strange goings on in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. Joel incorrectly seems to recall that Welles appeared in studio and then, inexplicably, on the scene of the nascent invasion of Martians. In fact, Welles played only the narrator and an astronomer, both of whom spoke near the beginning and the end of the show. Different actors voiced the roles of the studio anchor and on-scene reporter. Because of the newness of the medium, the use of sound effects, the uninterrupted format of the show, and, apparently, the gullibility of the listeners, mild panic ensued. This despite the obvious fictional introduction, the mentions of the program’s fictitious nature in the middle, and Welles’ recap of what happened after the invasion, just before he gave another disclaimer and said, essentially, “Happy Halloween,” all within a one-hour show. Welles was an actor and director who gave us the game-changing Citizen Kane in 1941, along with other classics like The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil. In his later years, he ballooned to nearly 400 pounds and shilled cheap wine and frozen peas.
They’re talking into a Pez dispenser.
Pez is a hard candy that comes in a variety of plastic dispensers, many with cartoon characters on them. It is manufactured by Pez Candy Inc. The candy itself was created in Austria in 1927; the dispensers were first made in 1945; heads were first placed on those dispensers in 1955.
Here, have Pez. Grape. It’ll make you feel better.
See previous note.
It’s the all-Vince network. –All Vince; all the time.
Numerous talk radio stations use the slogan “All talk, all the time,” including WEBJ in Alabama. Media critic Howard Kurtz used it as the subtitle of his book Hot Air, about TV and radio talk shows.
If it’s yellow, let it mellow.
“If it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down” is a phrase sometimes seen on “humorous” bathroom signs and samplers in the early 1970s. A likely outgrowth of the late ‘60s environmental movement, this was a way to communicate the desire to conserve water by not flushing one’s waste products willy-nilly.
The slime creatures took Malibu.
Malibu is a wealthy beach community north of Los Angeles, home to many movie stars and brush fires.
Zsa Zsa is guilty!
Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016) was a socialite and actress, but she wasn’t as well known for her acting as her sister Eva (1919-1995) (Green Acres). In 1989, she got into a legal kerfuffle when she slapped a Beverly Hills police officer after having been pulled over. She was found guilty and sentenced to 72 hours in jail and 120 hours of community service. She was married nine times.
Elvis has left the building.
Elvis Presley (1935-1977), the King of Rock and Roll, was one of the most popular musicians from the 1950s until his death in the late 1970s. He was a teen idol in the late 1950s, helped usher in the era of rock and roll, became a movie star, created an enormous and opulent home at Graceland in Memphis, developed problems with drug abuse, and finally died of a heart attack at the age of 42. The phrase “Elvis has left the building” was first used by promoter Horace Logan in 1956 after a concert in an effort to make the concertgoers remain in their seats to see the rest of the musical acts and not try to rush the backstage areas or Presley’s vehicles outside.
It’s Roger Ebert. –Look, Gene. I thought it was shoddy and manipulative. A shameless tearjerker, I give it a thumbs down. –I liked it, Roger. I thought that dancing was uplifting.
Roger Ebert (1942-2013) and Gene Siskel (1946-1999) were some of the best known film critics in the nation. The Chicago pair from opposing newspapers hosted the PBS series Sneak Previews from 1975 to 1982, At the Movies from 1982 to 1986, and Siskel & Ebert At the Movies from 1986 to 1999. The whole “thumbs up/thumbs down” shtick was made famous by the pair. Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize in 1975, the first film critic to do so. Siskel was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died from surgical complications in 1999. Ebert battled various cancers, including thyroid and salivary gland cancers, from the early 2000s until his death in 2013. He lost most of his jaw, along with the abilities to eat, drink, or speak normally, but he continued to review movies.
Guys, it’s just me, your old friend Joe. I have a staph infection and eczema, but, hey, c’mon guys. Let me come with you. I’m not gonna kiss you, you know.
A Staphylococcus infection is very common, mostly as food poisoning caused by improper storage. Eczema is a common skin disorder characterized by rashes, inflammation, and other topical nastiness.
Fabiano Anthony Forte was a teen idol in the 1950s and ‘60s. He appeared frequently on American Bandstand, had eleven Billboard hit singles, and had an acting career spanning thirty films, including the World War II classic The Longest Day. He was also the object of Laverne and Shirley’s affections on, well, their show.
[Imitating Ed Norton.] Well, it’s a broken water main, all right, Ralphie-boy. Like the film?
An imitation of sewer worker Ed Norton, as played by Art Carney. The character appeared in a series of sketches titled “The Honeymooners” on the DuMont Network’s Cavalcade of Stars and then on CBS’s The Jackie Gleason Show from 1952 to 1955. Then The Honeymooners debuted as a half-hour sitcom on CBS in 1955, lasting only one season. The show continued off and on as sketches on other shows and in TV specials until 1978. Ralph Kramden was played by Jackie Gleason and often called “Ralphie-boy” by Ed.
Oh, great. Now they’re in Schlachthof-fünf!
“Schlachthof-fünf” is what the building where the American POWs are held is actually called in Kurt Vonnegut’s famous 1969 novel about the firebombing of Dresden in World War II; the English translation is “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which serves as the title of the book. (Thanks to Makkai for this reference.)
Oh, it’s Tom Waits on a bender.
Tom Waits is a goateed, gravelly voiced singer-songwriter of the jazz/blues persuasion who has also appeared in many films in bit parts.
Must be that new Hi-C Ecto-Cooler.
Hi-C is a fruit-flavored drink first made by Niles Foster in 1946. The first flavor was orange, and dozens more have followed over the years. It is currently produced by Minute Maid, which is a division of Coca-Cola. Ecto-Cooler, besides being utterly awesome, was a green-colored, citrus-flavored drink produced by Hi-C beginning in 1987 as a tie-in to the animated series The Real Ghostbusters (based on the 1984 movie Ghostbusters). The flavor, which outlived the series by more than fifteen years, was renamed Shoutin’ Orange Tangergreen and then Crazy Citrus Cooler before it was discontinued in 2007.
[Imitating Ed Norton.] That water main’s gonna cost you five hundred bucks.
See above note on The Honeymooners.
Hey, it’s Michael J. Pollard. –Which one? –That guy.
Michael J. Pollard (born Michael J. Pollack Jr., 1939-2019) was an American actor whose best-known role is that of C.W. Moss in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde. With his nerdy, almost elfin appearance, he played more than 100 character parts in films and TV shows. Deep trivia: Canadian actor Michael J. Fox’s actual middle name is Andrew; to avoid having his name sound like “a fox” or the Canadian “eh?”, he changed it to Michael J. Fox in a tribute to Michael J. Pollard.
It’s Bobcat Goldthwait. –So much for Police Academy 8.
Robert “Bobcat” Goldthwait is a comedian and actor known for his twitchy persona and rough, occasionally screechy voice. His first major acting role was as Zed McGlunk, a street punk, in Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985). In Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986), he was a cadet at the titular academy. In Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol (1987), he was a full-fledged officer. The character also appeared in the Police Academy animated series, which ran from 1988 to 1989. Why they thought kids should watch this stuff, I’ll never know; the movies were fairly raunchy and definitely aimed at an adult audience. The last film made was 1994’s Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow, though plans for an eighth movie surfaced in 2007. As of 2017, it was still in development.
Yes, but our Nielsen rating won’t be very high.
The Nielsen Company is an advertising research firm that tracks the numbers of viewers or listeners to specific media and then sells that data to advertisers. Those advertisers then decide on what shows they should spend their commercial dollars. Started in 1923, they sold engineering performance surveys and later developed ways of tracking food and drug sales. In 1936, Nielsen bought and deployed the Audimeter, measuring radio listenership. In 1950, they turned their attention toward the relatively new television and later used the so-called “people meter” device to track which family members were watching which shows. In the early 21st century, they naturally turned their attentions toward the Internet. Their audience measurements have become known as ratings and are firmly ensconced in pop culture, as they are regularly referenced on television shows.
Professor, sing the theme song ... and yes. This is Slimewitness News with anchorperson Ernie Kovacs.
Ernie Kovacs (1919-1962) was a television comedian whose groundbreaking style influenced the creators of shows like Saturday Night Live, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Sesame Street, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, and many more. In the late 1940s, he hosted the nation’s first early morning TV show, Three to Get Ready, in Philadelphia. In the ‘50s, Kovacs presented a slew of TV and radio series and specials. He was at the height of his popularity when he died in a car accident while trying to light one of his trademark cigars.
“If you have any information about this wall, please contact us immediately.” Or Pink Floyd.
Pink Floyd is a British rock band known for such concept albums as Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and The Wall (1979). The tour for The Wall became well known for the use of a large false wall that was built during the performance and dismantled at the end of the show. In 1982, the band released a surrealistic musical and partially animated film titled Pink Floyd The Wall.
I’d like to sing a medley of the King’s greatest hits.
See above note on Elvis Presley.
I hate these pledge drives.
Public radio and television stations hold (biannually or sometimes more often) week-long on-air pleas for funding, provided by having the audience call in and pledge to give some amount of money. Since these stations are usually commercial free, these drives annoy many regular viewers and listeners.
“Cal, did you actually see the wall?” –No, I saw them on the Dark Side of the Moon tour.
See previous note on Pink Floyd.
“Cal can take us to where he first saw the wall.” –Berlin?
After World War II, the four primary allied nations (the U.S., Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union) divided Germany and its capital city, Berlin, into quadrants. The three western quadrants were unified and became known as West Germany. The USSR’s portion became East Germany. As Cold War tensions continued to mount throughout the 1950s, East and West Germany became further isolated. Unfortunately, Berlin was located fully inside East Germany, and the three Western powers’ sections of the city became islands in a sea of Soviet influence. In 1961, after years of citizens fleeing the oppressive Soviet-influenced East German regime, the East Germans erected the Berlin Wall to contain their citizens. For the next twenty-odd years, some 5,000 people were able to successfully defect to the West despite the Wall, while between 100 and 200 people were killed in their attempts. In 1987, as freedom swelled in Eastern European nations, President Ronald Reagan urged the Soviet general secretary, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” In 1989, Hungary and Czechoslovakia dismantled border stations and East Germans flooded out. The government cracked down, followed by widespread protests and strikes. On November 9, the East German government relented and opened its borders. That evening, tens of thousands of people descended on the Wall and began tearing it apart with hammers and cables. In 1990, East and West Germany reunified, and the last pieces of the Wall were removed in 1991.
You know, just Elvis and oh, Jerry Lee.
See above note on Elvis Presley. Jerry Lee Lewis (1935-2022) was a musician known for such late 1950s hits as “Great Balls of Fire,” and also for having married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Myra Gale Brown, in 1957, a scandal that almost ruined his career.
Can you field strip an M16?
The M16 rifle is an automatic military weapon first manufactured by Colt and first issued in 1963. Thanks to a proliferation of nightly news on the Vietnam War and films and movies about the military throughout the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, the rifle has become well known to the general public. “Field strip” is a phrase that means to dismantle a weapon for cleaning or other maintenance without the use of tools.
Hey, Mikey. She likes it.
A reference to an old TV ad for Life cereal, which ran from 1972-1984, making it one of the longest-lived commercials ever. In the ad, two boys are arguing over which of them has to try a new cereal first. Suddenly, inspiration strikes: they’ll get their younger brother, Mikey, to try it. “He hates everything!” Except Life cereal, evidently: “He likes it! Hey, Mikey!” The role of Mikey was played by John Gilchrist, who appeared in more than 250 commercials over his career; the older brothers were played by his actual siblings. Gilchrist now works as an advertising executive.
A Marine that says “Gee whiz.” What’s he gonna do, storm the Cunningham house?
The Cunningham family was the primary household featured on the ABC sitcom Happy Days (1974-1984). They were parents Howard (Tom Bosley) and Marion (Marion Ross) and the kids Richie (Ron Howard) and Joanie (Erin Moran). Eldest child Charles (Gavan O’Herlihy and Randolph Roberts) disappeared after the first season (it was explained that he had “gone to college,” but he was never seen again or even mentioned after the second season).
C'mon, everybody. Get up. You're making union scale, what do you want? Wake up.
"Union scale" refers to the minimum wage paid to actors for a day's work. In the early 1960s, that was just under $200.
Excuse me, Mr. Melman? Uhhh, Mr. Letterman’s looking for you.
Larry “Bud” Melman was the offbeat name given to actor Calvert DeForest (1921-2007) when he appeared on NBC’s Late Night with David Letterman. He appeared on the very first episode in 1982 in a prologue warning viewers they were about to see something unsettling. David Letterman began as a local TV weatherman and later a stand-up comedian before he got the job hosting an NBC morning program called The David Letterman Show. Though it was a critical and award-winning success, ratings were low, and NBC moved him to Late Night in 1982. That lasted until the well-publicized departure of Johnny Carson from The Tonight Show, when Letterman was passed over in favor of Jay Leno. CBS lured him away, and Late Show with David Letterman began in 1993. NBC claimed intellectual property rights over much of Letterman’s shtick, including the character name “Larry ‘Bud’ Melman.” In his appearances on Late Show, DeForest was credited under his real name.
“The Twist” is a song written and released by Hank Ballard in 1959. It shot to fame the following year when it was covered by Chubby Checker, inspiring the eponymous dance craze. The dance was performed by bending the knees and rotating the lower half of the body on the balls of one’s feet while holding the arms and most of the upper body still. It was one of the first dance crazes of the 1960s and was publicly denounced as too provocative.
[Sung.] Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall ...
A portion of the song “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” a popular English folk song sung in declining numerical order as each bottle is taken down and passed around. It is based on the 19th-century song “Ten Green Bottles.” A French scholar supposedly discovered poetry manuscripts dating to the 14th century containing a more primitive version of the lyrics.
Sure, Mr. Hefner.
Hugh Hefner(1926-2017) was the founder of Playboy magazine and one of the last bastions of the 1960s bachelor lifestyle.
One of the oldest running gags on the show. According to Trace Beaulieu, Crow simplified the entire animal kingdom into either “doggies” or “kitties,” though most of the time he just said “kitty.” This dates back to the earliest of the KTMA episodes.
Obviously, he didn’t see the movie Them!
Them! is really a surprisingly good B-movie from 1954, about giant radioactive ants trashing Los Angeles.
Run along, Pan.
Pan was the god of shepherds and nature in Greek mythology, as well as a notorious fornicator who in one comic tale taught mankind how to masturbate. He had the horns, legs, and ears of a goat.
Well, here we are at the Shriners picnic.
The Shriners are a fraternal organization known for their circuses, good works, and silly-looking fezzes.
Hey, Joel, are they in the Smoky Mountains? –No. –On top of ol’ Smoky? –No. –Smack him, Joel. –No, I wouldn’t do that. –Yeah, you would.
The Great Smoky Mountains are part of the Appalachian Mountain range in the eastern United States, primarily in North Carolina and Tennessee. “On Top of Old Smoky” is a folk song that dates back to the 1800s and likely is about a mountain in the Ozarks (which one is unknown). The Weavers recorded a version in 1951 that became a hit. A parody was recorded in 1963 by Tom Glazer titled “On Top of Spaghetti” that has since become a children’s classic. Regarding Joel not smacking Crow for the pun, Tom’s right. In the previous episode (Show 107, Robot Monster), Servo got smacked for a V8 pun, though it’s possible Joel was re-enacting a V8 commercial.
It’s the Thing, from the Fantastic Four! –No, it’s Arte Johnson.
Ben Grimm (a.k.a. The Thing) is a character in Marvel Comics’ long-running series Fantastic Four. Grimm, Dr. Reed Richards, and siblings Sue and Johnny Storm are flying in a spacecraft when it is bombarded by cosmic rays, giving each of them superpowers. Richards becomes incredibly stretchy, Sue has the power to create force fields and make herself invisible, Johnny can “ignite” himself to become “The Human Torch” (and he can fly), while Grimm is permanently deformed, having the appearance of a bulky orange rock monster with super strength. The Fantastic Four first appeared in 1961, created by comic gods Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Comedian Arte Johnson frequently performed on the TV sketch comedy show Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-1973). He is best remembered for appearing as a German soldier to inform the audience that the preceding sketch was “Very interesting, but stupid!”
I love the smell of napalm in the morning. Smells like ... slime.
A paraphrase of the famous line from the 1979 film Apocalypse Now: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. Smells like ... victory.”
An imitation of the “Necktie Killer” in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1972 film Frenzy.
This is Curt Gowdy this week on The American Sportsman, hunting for slime people with DeForest Kelley.
Curt Gowdy (1919-2006) was a longtime sports broadcaster who started with ABC but achieved most of his fame while working for NBC (he was the announcer on duty during the infamous “Heidi Bowl” game in 1968, in which the network broke away from the game before the end to begin its scheduled airing of the movie Heidi, causing fans to miss the last-minute winning touchdowns by the Oakland Raiders). Beginning in 1965, he hosted the long-running series The American Sportsman on ABC. Each episode featured Gowdy chatting with celebrities while hunting or fishing. DeForest Kelley (1920-1999) was an actor best known for his role as the USS Enterprise’s chief medical officer, Dr. Leonard H. McCoy, on the 1960s TV series Star Trek, its early ‘70s animated sequel series, and the first six Star Trek feature films (and the pilot episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation). Before he became McCoy, Kelley often acted in TV and movie westerns, usually as a heavy. (Oddly enough, he was a cousin of the aforementioned Calvert DeForest.)
Real scary being chased by a giant crawdad. [Cajun accent.] On-yon, cayenne pepper, ooh wee, slime people!
An imitation of Justin Wilson (1914-2001), a Cajun chef and comedian who once appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. He sold millions of cookbooks and hosted the PBS show Louisiana Cookin’ for thirty years.
Let’s get out of here, Scooby!
An imitation of Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, the scruffy, cowardly, and eternally hungry human companion of anthropomorphic Great Dane Scooby-Doo in the Scooby-Doo franchise of animated TV series, direct-to-video movies, and feature films, beginning in 1969 with Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! on CBS. Originally voiced by radio host Casey Kasem, the role has been voiced by several others, including Matthew Lillard, who portrayed Shaggy in two Scooby-Doo live-action feature films.
They’re on their way to a George Romero film festival.
George Romero (1940-2017) was a writer and director best known for creating the now-popular genre of zombie films. His films include 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, 1985’s Day of the Dead, 2005’s Land of the Dead, 2008’s Diary of the Dead, and 2009’s Survival of the Dead. He’s done non-zombie stuff too.
Anyway, it’s a good thing they’re in a butcher shop. In case somebody gets a black eye, they’ll have a steak there they can put it on.
An old wives’ tale (and one perpetrated in old cartoons, TV shows, and movies) would have you believe that putting a raw steak on your black eye can help it heal more quickly. If it ever worked at all, it helped only because the steak was cold and the cold (like an ice pack) reduced swelling. If nothing else, this myth is a dangerous one because harmful bacteria from the raw steak could get into your eye, a cut, etc.
Oh, man. You got glass in the kielbasa.
Kielbasa, also known as Polish sausage, is a type of sausage frequently flavored with garlic and smoked. It is made from either pork or a mixture of beef and pork.
Oh, Fabian gets off a good one.
See above note on Fabian.
He asked me! He asked me!
A likely reference to the ending of a Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch (“Cosmetic Surgery”), wherein Mr. Raymond Luxury-Yacht (pronounced “Throat Warbler Mangrove” and played by Graham Chapman) sees a plastic surgeon (played by John Cleese) about his enormous nose. Once the doctor removes the plastic nose, he asks Luxury-Yacht if he’d like to go on a camping holiday with him and Luxury-Yacht joyfully exclaims, “He asked me! He asked me!”
Hey, c’mon. It’s not the end of the world, you gloomy Guses. –But it is.
Sure, you know what “gloomy Gus” means, but do you know whence it came? Gloomy Gus was a character in a comic strip by funny page pioneer Frederick Burr Opper. It first appeared in print in 1904, and contemporary to the strip, USC football coach Elmer Henderson was nicknamed “Gloomy Gus” because he bad-mouthed the team’s prospects before every game. Oddly enough, he has USC’s best career percentage: 45-7-0.
I hope she asks me to the Sadie Hawkins dance.
Traditionally, a Sadie Hawkins dance is a dance where the women invite the men instead of the other way around. It originated with the “L’il Abner” comic strip, in which a character named Sadie Hawkins was introduced in 1937. In the comic, “Sadie Hawkins Day” was a November holiday on which the unmarried women chased the bachelors and got to marry anyone they caught. Sadie Hawkins dances were popular during the 1940s and ‘50s and have endured to the present day.
If he starts singing “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” I’m gonna lose it.
The song “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’” is from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma!, which first opened in 1943. Sample lyrics: “Oh, what a beautiful mornin'/Oh, what a beautiful day/I've got a beautiful feelin'/Everything's goin' my way.”
Kids, do not play on, in, or around Dumpsters.
Dumpster is a brand name in America for a “mobile garbage bin,” those large metal trash containers that require massive trucks to lift off the ground and empty the contents. Dumpsters were sold by Dempster Brothers (hence the name) in 1936, and they developed the mechanical system for emptying them (called the Dempster Dumpmaster). These days, “Dumpster” is used worldwide as a brand eponym for all such garbage containers. The phrase “Do not play on, in, or around” is often seen on warning signs placed on Dumpsters and other garbage containers.
Um, Dumpster. –[Garbled, muffled voice.] Dumpster!
See previous note.
I ran away like a yellow belly.
The association of the phrase “yellow-bellied” with cowardice is not an easy one to trace. “Belly” is easy enough—“belly” is the location of one’s guts, and “guts” means bravery. The “yellow” part is harder. What little consensus I could find points to the medieval belief in the four bodily humors: blood, phlegm, black bile, and yellow bile. If a person was believed to have too much yellow bile (or “choler”), that person had a bad temper. The disease cholera was named after this, and other beliefs about “choler” followed over the years. It ain’t much, but that’s history for you. Stuff gets lost sometimes.
Would you like a copy of our Watchtower?
The Watchtower (full name: The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom) is the official magazine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, an apocalyptic Christian sect known for proselytizing door to door and for their rejection of blood transfusions and birthday parties. Its first issue was printed in 1879, and with a print run of 42 million copies per month, it’s the most widely circulated magazine in the world.
You will believe a Marine can drive.
“You’ll believe a man can fly” was the advertising slogan for the 1978 film Superman: The Movie, based on the movie’s revolutionary special effects.
Discarded Kleenex, antihistamines, Neo-Synephrine. Keep looking.
See above note on Kleenex. Neo-Synephrine is a brand name of nasal decongestant medicated sprays first introduced by Bayer in 1940.
A slime field outside of L.A. and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, are a thousand miles apart. But they both mean one thing to these guys, and that’s cold Milwaukee beer. –Slime Lite. –Slimeken.
Old Milwaukee is a beer produced by the Pabst Brewing Company. It was originally made by the once-revered Schlitz Brewing Company. Their ads showed male models in outdoor work clothing pairing the cheap beer with regional luxury foods while a narrator rambled on with something like the above speech. “Slime Lite” could reference almost any light beer, while “Slimeken” is a reference to Heineken, a Dutch beer first produced in 1873. It is one of the most popular imported beers in the United States.
He’ll never make Slime’s Man of the Year.
Time magazine is a weekly periodical that began publication in 1923. In 1927, Time editors began the tradition of selecting the “Man of the Year”: the person (or people) who had the most influence on events during the year, subject, of course, to the editors’ whims. Charles Lindbergh was the first (because the editors felt stupid for not having him on the cover after his historic trans-Atlantic flight). FDR was chosen three times, Adolf Hitler in 1938, Joseph Stalin in 1939 and 1942, Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, etc. On occasion, groups were chosen, such as “The American Fighting Man” in 1950, Baby Boomers in 1966, and American Women in 1975. Things got weird on occasion, too: “The Computer” was chosen in 1982, “The Endangered Earth” in 1988, and “You” in 2006 (with a reflective surface so you would see yourself on the cover). “Man of the Year” became “Person of the Year” in 1989.
Bonnie, I’m sorry about the whole Dumpster slime thing.
See above note on Dumpsters.
It’s the Play-Doh Fun Factory.
Play-Doh is a soft, non-toxic modeling clay marketed by Hasbro. It comes in various colors and has a wide range of accessories to help you make food, bugs, body parts, and so forth. It was first made in Cleveland as a wallpaper cleaner in the 1930s. It wasn’t sold as a children’s product until the mid-’50s. Their popular Play-Doh Fun Factory, which squishes and extrudes the stuff in various shapes, was first sold in 1960.
Tip O’Neill. Seventy-nine cents a pound. –Francis Bacon. Three for a dollar. –Lancelot Links. Two forty-nine a pound.
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. Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was an English philosopher and scientist credited with developing the scientific method. He died pursuing one of his scientific ideas: using the cold to preserve meat. He caught pneumonia after gathering snow to stuff birds. Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp was a Saturday morning, live-action program that aired on ABC from 1970 to 1972. It featured chimpanzees with dubbed voices in a Get Smart-esque spy comedy. Lancelot Link (played by Tongo and voiced by Dayton Allen) was portrayed with a variation on Humphrey Bogart’s delivery. Link’s partner was Mata Hairi (played by Debbie and voiced by Joan Gerber).
What is this, the Bataan Death March? –I think it’s a Bataan Death Watch.
The Bataan Death March was a forced march of American and Filipino prisoners of war during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in World War II. Of the 70,000 prisoners who set out on the march from the Bataan Peninsula to a POW camp, only 54,000 arrived; the rest died on the way or escaped into the jungle. After the war, the Japanese commander in the Philippines was executed for his role in the march.
Looks like one long, boring commercial for London Fog raincoats.
London Fog is a maker of coats, trench coats, raincoats, and other clothing. It was founded in 1923 in Baltimore, Maryland. The name comes from the so-called “London Fog” prevalent in the 1800s. Not purely fog, it was actually a thick smog caused by the many thousands of chimneys using coal for home heating and the burgeoning industrial sector. It persisted until the 1950s, until in December 1952, a particularly bad bout led to 4,000 deaths from respiratory tract infections. The Clean Air Act of 1956 banned the use of coal for domestic purposes, and the problem cleared up.
Look, the Three Spooges. –All right, Porcupine, you go that way. Spinach-head, you head over to the right there.
The Three Stooges was a slapstick comedy trio that performed for five decades in the 20th century. They got their start in a vaudeville act called Ted Healy and His Stooges. The first lineup was Moe Howard (Moses Horwitz; 1897-1975), Shemp Howard (Samuel Horwitz; 1895-1955), and Larry Fine (Louis Feinberg; 1902-1975). Comedian Healy became angered that the Stooges were becoming more popular than him and Shemp left, leading Curly Howard (Jerome Horwitz; 1903-1952) to join in 1932. The Stooges finally left Healy in 1934 and began their famous run of 190 shorts and five films for Columbia Pictures. After Curly suffered a stroke in 1950, Shemp rejoined the group. When Shemp died in 1955, he was replaced by Joe Besser (1907-1988) for the final 16 shorts. After Columbia closed their shorts division, the Stooges were out of a job, but reruns on television were making them more popular than ever. Columbia commissioned films beginning in 1959, but Besser left the group. Comic Joe DeRita (1909-1993) replaced Besser for the films and was called “Curly-Joe.” This last incarnation also produced live-action sketches for their 1965-1966 animated television series, The New Three Stooges. A live-action travelogue TV series was planned for the early ‘70s, but Larry suffered a major stroke. Moe attempted to revive the group for the next few years until his own death. “Porcupine” was an oft-used term of derision for Larry. “Spinach-head” wasn’t used in any Stooges short, though Moe called a bearded man “spinach-chin” once.
I saw this on Star Trek once.
Star Trek is one of the most influential science fiction universes ever created, dealing with the crew of the USS Enterprise as it explored the galaxy. It was an NBC television series from 1966 to 1969. It later spawned several sequel (and a prequel) series: The Animated Series (1973-1974), The Next Generation (1987-1994), Deep Space Nine (1993-1999), Voyager (1995-2001), and Enterprise (2001-2005). It also led to a feature film franchise that encompasses 13 movies as of 2018.
No, I don’t want to sing “The Happy Wanderer” song again.
“The Happy Wanderer” (“Der fröhliche Wanderer”) is a German song written in the mid-1940s by Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller. The song became very popular in the 1950s and ‘60s thanks to broadcasts on the BBC and a touring choir made up of war orphans. MST3K fans would recognize it thanks to the frequent riffs using its chorus (“Fol-de-ree, fol-de-rah, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha, etc.”) in later episodes, usually when characters are walking across mountains.
Better one, better two.
This is a phrase often uttered by optometrists while a patient is using a phoropter. That’s the giant apparatus one sits behind, peering through goggles as the doctor tries different lenses out to see if they improve one’s vision.
Now that the fog has lifted, those slime people are about as scary as Teddy Ruxpin.
Teddy Ruxpin is a children’s toy resembling a teddy bear first sold in 1985. It included a tape cassette deck in its back. Special cassettes were sold with books so children could read along with Ruxpin, and the encoded cassettes made the bear’s eyes and mouth move. While the bears sold briskly, many thought the things were just plain creepy. Two unsuccessful attempts were made to relaunch the brand in 1998 and 2005.
Oh, but that a man might ... oh!
A portion of a line from William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Act V, Scene 1: “Oh, that a man might know/The end of this day’s business ere it come!”
And now, it’s Bonnie time. Time to head to the best girl you can find.
Miller Brewing Company has produced several varieties of beer since 1855. Beginning in the 1970s, Miller’s began marketing to “the working man,” essentially saying, after a hard day’s work, you’ve earned a break, so “it’s Miller time.” Actual slogans: “Now, it’s Miller time. Time to head to the best tasting beer you can find.”
A horse. A horse. My kingdom for a ... argh!
A portion of a line from Shakespeare’s Richard III, Act V, Scene 4: “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
It’s the Jets.
Probably a reference to the street gang from the musical West Side Story. Of course, it could be a reference to the football team from New York. Or the band from the Elton John song “Benny and the Jets.” A positive embarrassment of riches.
They’re dropping turkeys!
A reference to one of television’s most memorable moments from the CBS sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982). In the first season episode “Turkeys Away,” the station holds a Thanksgiving promotion wherein live turkeys are dropped from a helicopter over a shopping center. The turkeys, being flightless avians, plummet to their doom, consumers run in terror, and newsman Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) narrates the scene, Hindenburg-style. Later, WKRP general manager Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump) says, “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
Well, Cal. You’ve been really worthless. A coward and a tower of Jell-O. Thanks for your help.
This insult appears to date back to 1948, to playwright George S. Kaufman and a game of gin rummy he played with his writing partner Moss Hart against two other players. Kaufman was winning; Hart was losing. When asked how he was doing, Kaufman replied, “Terribly. I have a partner who is a tower of Jell-O.” The 1982 film My Favorite Year borrowed the line: “Sy Benson: a tower of Jell-O,” and it has been used as an insult against numerous public figures since then. See above note on Jell-O.
The love Jeep.
Jeep is the oldest brand of SUV, first produced by Willys-Overland during World War II (now the brand is a division of Chrysler). Thanks to their wartime ubiquity, Jeep became a genericized trademark for just about any kind of small, no-frills vehicle. The Love Boat was a TV romantic comedy that ran from 1977-1986 on ABC, about a cruise ship on which a succession of washed-up guest stars found love every week.
Hey, Cal, there’s a bottle of Jack under the seat.
Jack Daniel’s (sometimes abbreviated as just “Jack” or “JD”) is a brand of Tennessee whiskey first produced by Jasper “Jack” Daniel in 1875.