322: Master Ninja I
by Wyn Hilty
Master Ninja I? A wandering ninja I …
“A Wand'ring Minstrel I” is a song from the 1885 Gilbert & Sullivan operetta The Mikado. Sample lyrics: “A wand'ring minstrel I/A thing of shreds and patches/Of ballads, songs and snatches/And dreamy lullaby!”
Look, he’s black and blue from all that fighting. –Bluer than I remember.
The origin of this phrase is unknown, but it appears in various forms in different episodes, including Show 516, Alien from L.A.
You see, he learned too late that man is a feeling creature …
A reference to Show 311, It Conquered the World.
Okay, Elvis, we know you’re in there.
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 trained in karate (and was awarded many more belts than he likely earned) and he was known for making vaguely karate-like moves during his performances.
What, did Lee Harvey Oswald shoot this footage?
Lee Harvey Oswald (1939-1963) was the young man who in November 1963 shot and killed President John F. Kennedy with a sniper rifle in Dallas, Texas (unless you think he didn’t, but I’d have to be crazy to get into that here).
Hey! Sho Kosugi! Is that the kind of thing you have with rice and a little nori wrapper … it’s, ah, food. Chinese food.
From the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide: “The other writers were quite excited by the presence of Sho Kosugi. I could never divine which Japanese guy was supposed to be Sho Kosugi—in fact I remain unconvinced he was in the show at all. Why is he often unmentioned in the credits? Yet I can’t shake the notion there’s something special about Sho Kosugi, whoever he is.” Kosugi is actually a well-known Japanese martial artist/actor who has starred in such films as Enter the Ninja (1981). Nori is dried edible seaweed that is widely used in Japanese cuisine, especially sushi.
Mmm … ax. Max!
An imitation of a popular segment from the PBS children’s show The Electric Company, which aired from 1971-1977. It was intended to teach kids spelling and phonics.
Demi Moore is an actress, a member of the Brat Pack in the 1980s who later became known largely for her willingness to pop her top in such films as Disclosure (1994) and Striptease (1996). She was married to action star Bruce Willis for thirteen years; the couple had three children together.
From the ACEG: “For this whole show we referred to Clu Gulager as ‘Clu Gallagher.’ We never noticed how wrong we were until Show 614 three years later. You can’t blame us for the mistake. What sorta weird-ass name is ‘Gulager’?”
“Stick around. This should be fun.” Not with Claude Akins in it.
Claude Akins (1918-1994) was a burly character actor who tended to play villains, gunfighters, sheriffs, and cops. He appeared in more than 100 TV shows and films over his long career.
Oh, we’re in Deadwood, South Dakota!
Deadwood, South Dakota, is an old 1800s town now known largely for being a gambling haven. It is very close to the town of Sturgis, where every year thousands of bikers descend for the annual Sturgis Rally; a fair number of them drop some change in Deadwood while they’re there.
A reference to Show 202, The Sidehackers.
I tawt I taw a Gwade B actor! I did! I did! It’s Wee Van Cweef!
An imitation of Tweety Bird from the old Warner Brothers animated shorts. Making his first appearance in 1942, Tweety was a lisping canary who was perennially in danger of being eaten by his arch-nemesis Sylvester Pussycat, with whom he first tangled in 1947. His famous catchphrase was “I tawt I taw a puddy-tat!”
He dresses like Sheila E.
Sheila E. (real name Sheila Escovedo) is a musician and actress who began as a drummer in Minneapolis rocker Prince’s band and later branched out into her own solo career.
I do like the John Cage soundtrack.
John Cage (1912-1992) was a minimalist composer in the 20th century. He was known for his avant-garde compositions, including one called “4’33”," which consisted of four minutes and thirty-three seconds of uninterrupted silence.
Oh, cripes, it’s those turtles! They moved next door! Now I’ll never get any sleep.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began life as a spoof comic book created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The comic developed a cult following that led to wider fame as multiple animated TV series and live-action movies.
Benihana is a chain of Japanese restaurants founded in 1964, in which the chef prepares the food at the table, with much flamboyant chopping and brandishing of knives.
Tonight on Bravo, Martha Graham’s new dance company.
Bravo is a basic-cable channel formerly known for its arts programming and films; now it is known more for reality shows like The Real Housewives of _________. It first began broadcasting in 1980. Martha Graham (1894-1991) was a dancer and choreographer who founded her own dance company in 1926. The Martha Graham Dance Company still performs; there is also a school of dance with a troupe of student performers. She is considered one of the most influential dancers of the 20th century.
So I called Allstate immediately.
Allstate is an insurance company that offers auto, home, and life insurance, among other products and services.
Meanwhile, in the movie 1941 …
1941 is a 1979 comedy directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as Californians preparing for a Japanese invasion in the wake of Pearl Harbor during World War II.
Look, I’m getting on that plane, and where I’m going, I can’t be with me, or …
A reference to a couple of Humphrey Bogart’s lines from the end of Casablanca (1942): “You’re getting on that plane with Victor where you belong” and “Where I’m going, you can’t follow.”
Oh, those IUDs are dangerous.
The IUD, or intra-uterine device, is a form of birth control that consists of implanting a device inside the uterus. In the early 1970s, twelve women died of miscarriage-related causes; all had been implanted with a particular brand of IUD called the Dalkon Shield. Its maker quickly pulled the Dalkon Shield from the market, but the damage had been done, and use of IUDs plummeted by two-thirds over the next ten years. It is now increasing in popularity: as of 2010 it was chosen by 5.6 percent of contraceptive users—still low, but up from 0.8% in 1995.
[Sung.] Gave a girl a ride in my wagon … I love that song.
A line from the song “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns. Sample lyrics: “I gave a girl a ride in my wagon/She crawled in and took control/She was tired as her mind was draggin’/I said get some sleep--we’ll get on down the road.”
Demi Moore?! I’ve dreamed of her running out of the woods into my Chevy van!
See note on Demi Moore, above.
Whoa, that’s Demi Moore! Whoa!
See note on Demi Moore, above.
Whoa, you’re a mess. Were you at Prince’s house?
Minneapolis musician Prince (1958-2016) was one of the seminal musical talents of the 1980s. This is probably a reference to a claim by singer Sinead O’Connor that she once got into a fight with Prince and had to flee his house after an argument over her song “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which Prince had written. She said, “He got quite violent. I had to escape out of his house at five in the morning. He packed a bigger punch than mine.”
Special guest appearance by the car from Stranded in Space. –A Fury III. –And what a Fury it is.
A reference to Show 305: Stranded in Space. The Plymouth Fury was a popular model of car during the 1960s and 1970s.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Gerbil.
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is a 1986 film about self-professed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. The film is shot in a flat, semi-documentary style that makes the scenes of graphic violence when Lucas and his sidekick are committing their murders virtually unwatchable.
Filmed in Mendocino County, Illinois.
Mendocino County is a county in California, located about 100 miles north of San Francisco. It is known for its wineries.
I hope Stephen J. Cannell is in that car.
Stephen J. Cannell (1941-2010) was one of the most successful TV writers and producers of the 20th century. His hit shows include The Rockford Files, The A-Team, and Hunter, among many others.
“Do not pass go, Max. Go directly to jail, Max.” Do not collect two hundred dollars.
In the classic board game Monopoly, one of the cards the players can draw reads: “Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.”
Only you can prevent … car explosions.
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.”
He looks like one of Henson’s rats.
Jim Henson (1936-1990) was a puppeteer and the creator of the Muppets, the half-puppet, half-marionette creatures who appeared on the TV shows Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. One of his popular characters was Rizzo the Rat.
Oh, let Dennis Miller do Dennis Miller, Demi.
Dennis Miller is an acerbic actor and comedian who has appeared on numerous TV series, including Saturday Night Live, and in a number of films such as The Net and Disclosure (in which Demi Moore also starred). He has also hosted several talk shows.
Hey, how’s Bruce these days?
Demi Moore was married to actor Bruce Willis for thirteen years (see above note).
Joel Hodgson tells us for this one, “It’s possible that was just word play.” There was a conservative Democratic politician from California named Alister McAlister (1930-2010), who served in the state legislature from 1970-1986. And there is a renowned Australian builder of harpsicords by the name of Alastair McAllister.
He looks about as much like a ninja as Irene Ryan. In fact, it is Irene Ryan.
Irene Ryan (1902-1973) was an actress best known for her role as Daisy May Moses (a.k.a. Granny) on the TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies, which aired from 1962 to 1971.
Hey, isn’t that the guy from Blazing Saddles?
Blazing Saddles is a 1974 Mel Brooks comedy/Western about the West’s first Black sheriff. Burton Gilliam played Lyle in the movie and Deputy Landen here.
“At one time, a Singapore Sling would have been the only answer.” Now I want a Peanut Buster Parfait.
The Peanut Buster Parfait is a sundae served by the Dairy Queen chain of restaurants, consisting of soft-serve ice cream, peanuts, and fudge sauce.
Do you take Happenings coupons?
Happenings is an annual coupon book sold in Minneapolis containing discounts for various area businesses.
It’s Over the Top!
Over the Top is a 1987 movie starring Sylvester Stallone as a champion arm wrestler trying to reconnect with his estranged son.
I’ll just die if they find my Tiger Balm.
Tiger Balm is a topical analgesic used to relieve minor muscle pains.
Out you pixies go!
From the ACEG: “Sheldon Leonard from It’s a Wonderful Life.” (The actual line: “That’s it, out you two pixies go, out the door or through the window.”)
When pinball was introduced in 1930, the machines did not include the “flippers” at the bottom that the player could use to keep the balls from rolling off the board. Instead, the players just watched the balls roll down. However, it wasn’t long before some enterprising pinball fan discovered the fine art of “tilting,” or slamming the machine from side to side to alter the ball's course. In 1933, the first machine designed to halt this practice was introduced, which set off an alarm bell when the machine was tilted too far. Tilting thus became a matter of finesse—shifting the machine just enough to affect the ball but not so far that it set off the alarm.
Oh, that’s a chiropodist.
Chiropodists, a.k.a. podiatrists, are medical professionals who concentrate on problems involving the feet: corns, bunions, and so forth. The term “chiropodist” is largely used in Great Britain; Americans tend to prefer “podiatrist.”
It’s Claude Akins, and he’s got his ape mask. Oh, no, that’s just Claude.
See note on Claude Akins, above. Akins played General Aldo in the 1973 film Battle for the Planet of the Apes.
“Buy yourself LaGuardia.” Eh, Koch would be cheaper.
Fiorello La Guardia (1882-1947) served as mayor of New York City from 1933-1945. LaGuardia Airport in NYC, one of the numerous building projects he spearheaded, is named after him. Ed Koch (1924-2013) was the three-time mayor of New York City, from 1978-1989.
Oh, Tom Selleck.
Tom Selleck is a mustachioed actor who is best known for playing the title role in the TV detective series Magnum, P.I., which ran from 1980-1988.
A William Daniels wanna-be.
William Daniels is an actor who is best known for two roles: the fussy, uptight Dr. Mark Craig on the TV series St. Elsewhere (1982-1988), and the voice of the intelligent car K.I.T.T. on Knight Rider (1982-1986).
An imitation of William Daniels as K.I.T.T. (see previous note).
Oh, he’s gonna stab him in the throat like Godfather III.
The Godfather Part III is a 1990 film by Francis Ford Coppola, the third installment in his highly regarded series of films about a Mafia family (although it is generally considered the weakest of the three). In one scene, Don Licio Lucchesi, played by Enzo Robutti, is killed by being stabbed in the throat with the earpiece of his own sunglasses.
Mister Christensen, hoist the mainsail!
Fletcher Christian (1764-c. 1790) was a sailor on the H.M.S. Bounty and the leader of the notorious mutiny against Captain William Bligh, the commander of the ship. Christian and 25 other sailors took command of the Bounty and established an unsuccessful colony on Pitcairn Island. Several films about the mutineers have been released over the years. (NOTE: Reader Brian Dermody points out that this line is from a Monty Python skit.)
Someone’s broken ape law.
“You’ve broken ape law” is a line from the 1968 film Planet of the Apes; it was a favorite catchphrase among the writers.
“Take him to the PQ.” And get him a Dilly Bar.
“DQ” is a common abbreviation for the fast-food chain Dairy Queen. A Dilly Bar is a blob of soft-serve ice cream coated in chocolate and served on a stick. It was first offered in 1955 and is still sold in Dairy Queens everywhere.
A man’s got to know his limitations, Clint.
“A man’s got to know his limitations” is a line from the 1973 film Magnum Force, starring Clint Eastwood. Lee Van Cleef co-starred with Eastwood in the 1966 spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Uh, he’s the ugly. –No, he’s the bad.
See previous note on The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Lee Van Cleef played Sentenza, a.k.a. Angel Eyes, a.k.a. the Bad. Clint Eastwood was the Good, and Eli Wallach was the Ugly.
Wow, he got paid to kiss Demi Moore. –Most people have.
See note on Demi Moore, above.
This is the classic exclamation uttered by Homer Simpson on the animated TV series The Simpsons, which first aired in 1989. Actor Dan Castellaneta, who supplies the voice of the character, has said he borrowed the phrase from a comedian named James Finlayson, who appeared in a number of Laurel & Hardy shorts. In 2001 the expression made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, thus becoming enshrined in the English language.
“What other reason could there be?” WorldPerks card? Frequent flier miles?
The WorldPerks card was the credit card for Minneapolis-based Northwest Airlines’ frequent flyer program. Users earned frequent flyer miles for every dollar they charged on the card. Northwest merged with Delta airlines in 2008, which offers the Delta Skymiles credit card.
“The way you moved! The way you felt!” The way you sing off key!
A line from the song “They Can’t Take That Away from Me” by George and Ira Gershwin. Sample lyrics: “The way your smile just beams/The way you sing off key/The way you haunt my dreams/No they can’t take that away from me.”
“What, you don’t think I got emotions? –Too many of them!” You’re practically Leo Buscaglia.
Leo Buscaglia (1924-1998) was a college professor who taught a class on love, in addition to writing several books on relationships. He was from the warm-‘n’-fuzzy school of self-help gurus, with lines like “I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things ... I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind.”
And I’m gonna learn the true meaning of Christmas.
The earliest reference I could find to this phrase was in How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The full line: “And then the true meaning of Christmas came through, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches plus two.”
Go to bed, old man!
From the ACEG: “Another hopelessly insular reference, this is an homage to comedian Dana Gould. It is directly from his act.”
This dialogue was lifted from Then Came Bronson.
Then Came Bronson was a TV series that ran from 1969-1970. It starred Michael Parks as a young man traveling through America searching for personal meaning. According to the ACEG, “Frank Conniff loved it.”
Say hi to Dick.
Dick Van Patten (1928-2015) was a veteran actor best known for playing the father on the TV series Eight Is Enough, which aired from 1977-1981. He is the half-brother of Timothy Van Patten.
When Mummenschanz goes bad.
Mummenschanz is a Swiss mime troupe that plays with unusual forms and masks in an entirely silent performance. The group’s show ran for three years on Broadway; it was founded in 1972.
Here’s Katharine Hepburn gassing up her plane.
In her later life, actress Katharine Hepburn suffered from something called “essential tremors,” which meant that her head and hands shook constantly and a quaver affected her voice. (Thanks to Brian Dermody for this reference.)
“Guess nobody wants us, Henry.” This is the dark night of our souls.
Dark Night of the Soul is a 16th-century work written by St. John of the Cross, a Carmelite monk. It addresses the soul’s feeling of abandonment and despair and follows it through to an ecstatic union with God. It is one of the great mystical works of the Christian tradition.
Is that Mrs. O’Leary’s barn?
According to tradition, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was started when a cow owned by one Cate O’Leary kicked over a kerosene lantern in her barn. The fire eventually consumed some 18,000 buildings and killed at least two or three hundred people. In recent years the cow’s culpability has been called into question; regardless, Chicago in the late 19th century was a disaster waiting to happen, and almost any spark could have resulted in a catastrophic fire.
Looks like Edie Sedgwick fell asleep again.
Edie Sedgwick (1943-1971) was an actress who appeared in a number of artist Andy Warhol’s experimental films. She lived at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, where she once created a stir by setting her room on fire.
He’s playing Monopoly.
Monopoly is a classic board game produced by Parker Brothers, in which the goal is to acquire real estate and drive your opponents into bankruptcy. It was first marketed in 1935.
TV’s Tony Danza!
Tony Danza is an actor who has appeared on such TV series as Taxi (1978-1983), Who’s the Boss? (1984-1992), and the short-lived Tony Danza Show (1997).
“You’re dealing with real people here.” With Skip Stephenson?
Skip Stephenson (1940-1992) was the host of the TV series Real People from 1979-1984.
See note on Homer Simpson, above.
Way to stick it to The Man!
The origin of this phrase appears to date back to the 1972 blaxploitation movie Super Fly, whose tagline was “He’s got a plan to stick it to The Man.”
Don’t worry—just a Van Patten, ladies and gentlemen. All part of the act. It’s okay.
See note on Dick Van Patten, above. Other members of the Van Patten acting family include Joyce Van Patten and Vince Van Patten.
Clubber Lang? These are fictional characters you’re talking about!
Clubber Lang was Sylvester Stallone’s boxing nemesis in the 1982 film Rocky III. The part was played by Mr. T.
What, now he’s a Wallenda? Yep, he is!
The Flying Wallendas are an acrobatic troupe famous for forming a pyramid on the high wire. They started with a three-man pyramid and gradually worked their way up to seven men. However, their daring led to several deaths: in 1962, two died and one was paralyzed when the pyramid collapsed; another man was killed the following year; a fourth in 1972; and founder Karl Wallenda died in 1978 when he fell from a high wire stretched between two buildings. Members of the Wallenda family are still performing.
David Carradine (1936-2009), son of fellow actor John Carradine, was in numerous films, including Death Race 2000 (1975). However, he is best known for playing itinerant martial artist Kwai Chang Caine in the TV series Kung Fu, which aired from 1972-1975.
It’s a Woozle, and his name is Peanut.
From the ACEG: “Refers to ventriloquist Jeff Dunham and his weird vent figure named Peanut. The phrasing of his introduction makes it sound as though we’re supposed to know what a Woozle is.”
Oh, it’s Queen Latifah! Of course!
Queen Latifah is one of the most successful female rap artists of the 20th century. She has also acted in a number of films, including Jungle Fever (1991), and hosted her own talk show, The Queen Latifah Show, which ran from 1999-2001 and again from 2013-2015.
All of a sudden it’s a Barnaby Jones wrap-up now.
Barnaby Jones was a TV series that aired from 1973-1980. It starred The Beverly Hillbillies’ Buddy Ebsen (1908-2003) as an elderly private eye.
He is one spooky mammajamma.
“Mammajamma” is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “a bitch nobody likes,” but it seems to be used popularly in the same way as “son of a bitch”: “one bad mammajamma,” “one vicious mammajamma,” and so forth.
I was working the day watch out of Illinois, USA.
An imitation of Jack Webb, who played Sergeant Joe Friday on the TV cop show Dragnet (1951-1959).
[Sung.] You can throw your star/At the man who drives the car … Whoo!
“You can trust your car to the man who wears the star” is an old advertising slogan for Texaco service stations. Texaco’s logo in the 1960s was a white star inside a red circle, and service station attendants wore uniforms (with hats) that bore the logo. Texaco's logo has changed over the years, and nobody in a uniform runs out to service your car when you pull in to buy gas anymore.
[Sung.] Wonder Woman … Lyle Waggoner …
The comic book heroine Wonder Woman, with her magic lasso that made people tell the truth, got her chance on the small screen in a 1970s TV series starring Lynda Carter in the title role. Actor Lyle Waggoner played Wonder Woman’s romantic interest, Major Steve Trevor.
Um, phrase that in the form of a question?
A reference to the TV game show Jeopardy!, in which the contestants are supposed to frame their answers “in the form of a question”; the show has been on the air in various incarnations since 1964.
“Who are they?” The new Monkees.
The Monkees were a 1960s musical group that had their own TV show from 1966-1968. In 1987 a remake was attempted with four new young musicians; it was rapidly cancelled.
“My friend behind you, you know, the one dressed in black, with the samurai sword?” Louise Nevelson?
Louise Nevelson (1899-1988) was a Russian-born American sculptor known for her jagged, abstract works in metal and wood. Most of her works are monochromatic, many of them in black.
Next, on a very special Trapper John.
Trapper John was a TV series that ran from 1979-1986. The standard establishing shot for the show was the hospital: a pair of tall buildings that bear a remarkable resemblance to the buildings shown here.
Clu Gallagher is … that character I can’t think of.
See note about Clu Gulager, above.
Jacks master. –In color.
Jacks, also known as knucklebones or fivestones, is a game similar to dice that goes as far back as ancient Greece; there are references to it in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Originally using bones from the ankle of a sheep, modern versions use ten plastic or metal playing pieces with six points extending from a common base. There are multiple variations of the game, all basically involving throwing and picking up the playing pieces in a prescribed manner. In the early to mid-1960s, during the transition from black-and-white to color television programming, many shows proudly proclaimed “In Color!” at the end of their opening title sequence.
Cover your shame.
The origin of this phrase appears to be from the Koran, the holy text of Islam: “O you children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you.”
Ron Cey—ninja Dodger.
Ron Cey was the longtime third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers, from 1971-1982. He also played briefly for the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland A’s.
Hey, you don’t suppose that guy was supposed to be that guy? And Queen Latifah? –No way!
See note on Queen Latifah, above.
And he was that guy? Unbelievable! He was in every scene in the movie! He was Demi Moore! He was that jerk! He was … –Crow. Crow. Easy. Easy.
See note on Demi Moore, above.
I’ll just grab the seven iron.
The seven iron is a golf club with a narrow, lofted metal head that is used for hitting high shots to the green.
Clarence, the cross-eyed ninja.
Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion is a 1965 family film about a lion that is unable to hunt because of his crossed eyes; he is adopted by the daughter of a veterinarian.
He who removest this sword from its sheath shall be the rightwise born king of England.
A reference to the legend of King Arthur, in which the sword Excalibur is magically embedded in a stone set on top of an anvil. All the knights in the realm, told that he who can remove the sword from the stone is the rightful king of England, give it a shot, but no one succeeds but the unprepossessing boy Arthur. In Sir Thomas Malory’s 15th-century version of the legend, Le Morte d’Arthur, the relevant text reads: “Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all England.”
The ninja creeps in on little cat feet.
A paraphrase of a line from “Fog,” a poem by Carl Sandburg (1878-1967). The complete poem:
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
He’s wearing a Joe Namath netted slingshot brief on his face.
Joe Namath was a football quarterback who played for the New York Jets. He once did an infamous commercial for Hanes pantyhose, but I was unable to turn up any reference to Joe Namath brand briefs. I should point out that Tom Servo’s underwear collection contains “one pair of Joe Namath netted slingshot briefs.”
Yeah, meanwhile Timothy’s having a Nam flashback.
Many veterans of the Vietnam War (1955-1975) suffer from what has now been termed post-traumatic stress disorder, which can take the form of vivid flashbacks, sometimes accompanied by intense feelings of panic. The flashbacks can seem absolutely real and involve such sensory experiences as smells, sounds, and sights.
And over here on the thirtieth floor of the Ernest and Julio Gallo wine cellar …
Ernest and Julio Gallo were two brothers who founded the E&J Gallo Winery in Modesto, California, in 1933. They became known for producing inexpensive, non-vintage wines, although they later began producing premium wines as California wines became more highly prized among connoisseurs.
His office looks like a Chi-Chi’s.
Chi-Chi’s is a chain of inexpensive Mexican restaurants. The first location opened in Minneapolis in 1976. All the Chi-Chi's restaurants in the U.S. closed in 2004, but there are still some overseas locations in China, Kuwait, and a few other countries.
“Otherwise your grandstand play last night wouldn’t mean a thing.” Cause it ain’t got no swing.
A paraphrase of a line from the Ella Fitzgerald song “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” Actual lyrics: “It makes no difference/If it's sweet or hot/Just give that rhythm/Everything you've got/It don't mean a thing, if it ain't got that swing.”
Oh, it’s a ventriloquist pistol. –Yeah—say hello to the folks, Remington.
The Remington Arms Company, founded by Eliphalet Remington (1793-1861) in the early 19th century, was one of the main suppliers of arms to the U.S. military from the Civil War through World War II.
Meanwhile, in the other incomprehensible plot, Queen Latifah takes refuge.
See note on Queen Latifah, above.
You didn’t pay for your leather mug!
Renaissance Festivals (or Faires) are an entertainment phenomenon that began in Southern California in the 1960s and spread first to the rest of California and then the nation. Generally they feature a number of vendors selling leather mugs, swords, jewelry, and so forth; singers, dancers, and comedians performing; a “court” complete with king, queen, and courtiers; and rides and games for both children and adults.
See previous note.
[Sung.] Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh …
A line from the song “Make ‘Em Laugh” from the 1952 romantic comedy musical film Singin’ in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. In the dance number for this song, Donald O'Connor performs some amazingly athletic, ninja-like backflips off of walls. Sample lyrics: “Make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh/Don’t you know everyone wants to laugh/My dad said, ‘Be an actor, my son/But be a comical one.’”
Nunchucks, Luke … Use the nunchucks … –Trust your feelings …
At the end of the 1977 film Star Wars, the disembodied voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi shows up to give Luke Skywalker a little unsolicited advice. The actual lines: “Use the Force, Luke … Let go, Luke … Luke, trust me …”
What, a Kirin? Uh, yeah, I could go for a Kirin!
Kirin is a Japanese beer that has been brewed for more than a century. The company also makes nonalcoholic beverages such as tea, coffee, and fruit juices.
“I’ll be waiting.” In all the old familiar places.
Riffing on the popular 1938 song “I’ll Be Seeing You,” written by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal. Billie Holiday, Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra all recorded hit versions in 1944; Billie Holiday’s version was the last piece of data sent by NASA to the Mars rover Opportunity before its batteries died in February of 2019. Sample lyrics: “I'll be seeing you/In all the old familiar places/That this heart of mine embraces/All day through.”
A line shouted by action movie hero McBain (voiced by Harry Shearer) in the animated TV series The Simpsons (Fox,1989-present) episode “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” Senator Mendoza is McBain's nemesis and voiced by Hank Azaria. The Simpsons were riffing on a scene in the 1982 movie Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan, where Captain Kirk (played by William Shatner) is filmed from above, shouting to the skies the name of his nemesis, Khan (Ricardo Montalbán).
Quinn Martin (1922-1987) was a prolific television producer in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s; his series included The Untouchables and The Fugitive. For 21 years, he always had at least one series running on network TV, and at times as many as four at once. All of his shows used the same structure, employing an epilogue with an off-screen narrator to explain the show the viewer had just watched.
“Symbol of my household.” Got it from Bob Vila.
Bob Vila was the bearded, genial host of the home-improvement TV series This Old House, from 1979-1989.
“You guys got your own set of rules. No one else can play, huh?” Yeah, and I’m always the banker, punk.
See note on Monopoly, above. In the game, one character plays the “banker,” in charge of doling out money to the other players and collecting fines.
And I end up with a has-been from White Shadow.
The White Shadow was a TV series that aired from 1978-1981. It was about a former professional basketball player who becomes a coach at an inner-city high school. Timothy Van Patten played Mario “Salami” Pettrino on the show.
Hey, here comes Betty Jo! Hi!
The TV sitcom Petticoat Junction (CBS, 1963-1970) features the three comely daughters of Shady Rest Hotel proprietor Kate Bradley: Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, and Betty Jo. Betty Jo’s eventual husband, Steve, arrived on the series in Season 4 when he crash landed his crop dusting plane near the Shady Rest because he was too busy ogling Betty Jo and her sisters as they swam in the water tower. Later, as their romance blossomed, he gave her flying lessons in the crop dusting plane, which looks exactly like the bi-plane in this scene. Aviation trivia: Betty Jo is also the nickname of an F-82B Twin Mustang that was the first airplane to fly nonstop from Hawaii to New York, in 1947. F-82s were used extensively in World War II and the Korean War. (Thanks to Fresh Step for the crop dusting reference.)
Let’s roll, folks! Say hi to the Brat Pack!
The Brat Pack was a group of young actors, including Demi Moore, who appeared in a number of teen movies made by John Hughes during the 1980s.
A frequent MST3K riff, “SLEEP!”—usually employed at any hint of hypnotism in the movie, or whenever someone is nodding off or just seems dazed—first appeared in Show 302, Gamera, and was driven home when Bela Lugosi uttered the line (repeatedly, while hypnotizing young damsels, naturally) in Show 423, Bride of the Monster. A possible origin: in the 1980s, supposed “World's Fastest Hypnotist” Marshall Sylver appeared on several TV shows, including Late Night with David Letterman (NBC, 1982-1993), where he would entrance people while barking “Sleep!” at them.
[Sung.] Stayin’ a guy, stayin’ a guy …
A paraphrase of the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” from the disco musical Saturday Night Fever (1977). Actual lyrics: “Whether you’re a brother or whether you’re a mother/You’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive/Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’/And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive …”
Jack Perkins (1933-2019) was a host on the cable channel A&E for many years. Mike Nelson parodied him in The Mystery Science Theater Hour. (Thanks to Randy J. for clarifying this reference.)
What happened to Demi Moore? This is getting weird.
See note on Demi Moore, above.
Mrs. Ironside. In color.
Ironside was a TV show that aired from 1967-1975. It starred Raymond Burr as a wheelchair-bound detective fighting crime on the streets of San Francisco. See also note on “In color!”, above.
It’s Alan Thicke!
Alan Thicke is an actor who appeared on the TV sitcom Growing Pains from 1985-1992. He has also acted as the host of a number of variety and game shows, including his own show, Thicke of the Night (1983-1984).
Hi, we’re here to buy everything. How much is that?
In the 1980s, the Japanese economy surged dramatically, and the newly affluent Japanese began buying American companies in record numbers; this was seen by some as a foreign takeover of the country. A kind of “Yellow Peril” mentality seized many Americans, who launched “Buy American” campaigns and made commercials showing Japanese cars being smashed with sledgehammers.
Fusion jazz is for all cultures.
Fusion jazz is a mélange of rock rhythms and jazz improvisation. Some famous fusion musicians include Chick Corea and the band Chicago.
Wakka-chukka wakka-chukka wakka-chukka …
An imitation of a wide variety of funk songs from the 1970s that frequently turned up on the soundtracks of porn movies and blaxploitation films; the theme from Shaft, written by Isaac Hayes, is a fairly iconic example. Also a possible nod to the 1972 album and song titled "Waka/Jawaka" by rock composer and friend of the show Frank Zappa. Tom Servo does an extensive riff on “wakka-chukka” in Show 512, Mitchell.
Candy-coated popcorn, peanuts, and a prize!
Cracker Jack is a snack consisting of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts. Introduced in 1896, some food historians consider Cracker Jack the first junk food. In 1912, with a new box proclaiming “Toy Surprise Inside”, the manufacturer started offering a prize in every box. Originally the prize was a small toy, such as a whistle or compass. In the late ‘90s concerns over choking hazards for small children led to the toys being replaced by stickers, paper puzzles, or temporary tattoos. In 2016, the “prize” became a QR code to download games onto mobile devices.
Looks like Clarence Thomas’s wife.
Clarence Thomas became a justice of the Supreme Court in 1991, after a contentious nomination process marred by accusations (brought by former employee Anita Hill) of sexual harassment. He has actually been married twice: to Kathy Ambush in 1971, and after their divorce, to Virginia Lamp in 1986.
Oh, Lee, don’t worry, she’s used to it—the Kennedys come here a lot.
The Kennedy family’s reputation has been marred by a number of sex scandals over the years. More specifically, in 1991, William Kennedy Smith, Senator Ted Kennedy’s nephew, was accused of raping a woman he met at a nightclub; he was ultimately acquitted.
“You were right to be afraid.” Be very afraid.
“Be afraid. Be very afraid” is the tagline for the 1986 horror flick The Fly, starring Jeff Goldblum as the scientist whose DNA merges with that of a fly.
Oh, it’s The Other Side of the Mountain.
The Other Side of the Mountain is a 1975 film about a talented teenage skier who is paralyzed from the shoulders down in a skiing accident.
Ah, you know, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were …
Fred Astaire (1899-1987) and Ginger Rogers (1911-1995) were one of moviedom’s most glamorous duos during the 1930s. The dancing/singing/acting team dazzled audiences during the grim years of the Depression in such films as Flying Down to Rio (1933) and Top Hat (1935).
“The decade’s answer to Isadora Duncan?” What, she wears scarves?
Isadora Duncan (1877-1927) was an American dancer who lived and performed mainly in Western Europe and the Soviet Union, becoming one of the founders of modern dance. She was killed in 1927 in Nice, France, when her long scarf became entangled in one of the wheels of the open sports car she was travelling in, breaking her neck.
We’d like to buy her wheelchair.
See note on the Japanese, above.
“There’s a little trouble …” In Big China.
Big Trouble in Little China is a 1986 film starring Kurt Russell as a truck driver who gets mixed up in mystic shenanigans in Chinatown.
"This was gonna be easy." At first.
According to Josh “J. Elvis” Weinstein, this is another one of those inside jokes that they included just because it made them laugh, not because it referenced anything in particular. The riff goes back to the KTMA days—the first use was in Show K4, Gamera vs. Barugon, when Crow says “Seemed like a nice guy…at first.” After that, if someone in the movie said “Seemed like a nice [guy/place/whatever]” the response was “At first!”
Hey, what is this, Dream On all of a sudden?
Dream On was a series that aired on HBO from 1990 to 1996. Ostensibly a comedy, it was largely an excuse to show a series of attractive guest stars having sex with star Brian Benben.
“Kelly did mention a small personality problem of yours.” Yeah, you hate Van Pattens.
See note on Van Pattens, above.
It’s the Battle of the Network Has-Beens!
Battle of the Network Stars was an annual television special that ran from 1976-1984. It featured teams of actors competing in various events.
Yeah, that's for all the Van Pattens you've kicked out of bars.
See note on Van Pattens, above.
Uh-oh, that’s seven years’ bad acting.
There is a long-lived superstition that to break a mirror brings seven years of bad luck. One way to avert the curse is to wait seven hours, pick up the pieces of the mirror, and bury them outside in the moonlight (the experts are mute on what you should do if you break a mirror first thing in the morning and have to wait longer than seven hours for the moon to show up).
I told you, eight is enough!
See note on Dick Van Patten, above.
“An ancient household, going back for centuries.” Knights of Columbus?
The Knights of Columbus is a fraternal Roman Catholic organization founded in Connecticut in 1882.
You an Iron Butterfly man?
Iron Butterfly is a heavy metal band founded in 1967; their best-known work is probably 1968’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
C’mon, man, that Jack Perkins guy really scares me.
See note on Jack Perkins, above.
Are you guys speaking in haiku all of a sudden? Whoa!
Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry with a very strict rhythmic structure: three lines, with the first line consisting of five syllables, the second of seven, and the third of five. It first evolved into its current form during the 17th century.
“So when’s the last time you saw Terry?” Terry-Thomas?
Terry-Thomas (1911-1990) was a British comedian who appeared in a string of movies during the 1950s, usually playing a high-class cad.
Hey, hey, that’s Nancy Kulp! Nancy Kulp just walked by!
Nancy Kulp (1921-1991) was an actress best known for playing the part of secretary Jane Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971).
[Imitating.] Mr. Drysdale ...
An imitation of Nancy Kulp as Miss Hathaway (see previous note).
Terry and the pilots!
From the ACEG: “A reference to ['Terry and the Pirates’], the comic book that was a radio show and eventually mutated into 'Steve Canyon.’ I don’t really understand it, frankly.”
Chevy Van—A Quinn Martin production.
“Chevy Van” is a 1974 song by Sammy Johns, which was featured in the 1976 film The Van. Unfortunately, the van in question was a Dodge. Quinn Martin (1922-1987) was a prolific television producer in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s; his series included The Untouchables and The Fugitive. For 21 years, he always had at least one series running on network TV, and at times as many as four at once. The phrase “A Quinn Martin production” was flashed onscreen in all of Martin’s shows. (Thanks to Randy J. for the “Chevy Van” reference.)
Quick—take a turn here on Stephen J. Cannell Boulevard!
See note on Stephen J. Cannell, above.
Flubber is the anti-gravity goop that makes it possible for Fred MacMurray to fly in the 1966 film The Absent-Minded Professor. The film was remade in 1997 with Robin Williams in the MacMurray part.
Paul Newman. Steve McQueen. Timothy Van Patten. The legends.
Paul Newman (1925-2008) was one of the most highly regarded leading men of 20th-century film. He appeared in such classic films as The Hustler (1961) and Cool Hand Luke (1967). Steve McQueen (1930-1980) was another leading man known for his tough-guy roles in such movies as The Magnificent Seven (1960) and Bullitt (1968).
Now turn here, on David Hasselhoff Boulevard.
David Hasselhoff is an actor known best for his roles in such action-oriented series as Knight Rider (1982-1986) and Baywatch (1989-2001).
You know what they’re doing—they’re just trying to keep away from the set of What’s Up, Doc?
What’s Up, Doc? is a 1972 film comedy starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, which includes a screwball-styled chase scene.
Oop—a backwards Rockford turn—or was that a Starsky?
The Rockford Files (1974-1980) was a TV series starring James Garner as private detective Jim Rockford. Starsky and Hutch (1975-1979) was a series about two tough cops who fought crime on the streets. Both shows featured numerous car chases; one frequently repeated maneuver on Rockford Files became known as a “Rockford”: a 180-degree turn, or J-turn, achieved by driving in reverse and then engaging the emergency brake to quickly spin the car.
Bob Costas is an award-winning sportscaster; he has appeared on NBC since 1980.
Oh, no, they’re being chased by David Sanborn!
David Sanborn is a jazz saxophonist who has played with most of the big-name musicians during the second half of the 20th century, in addition to having an extremely successful solo career.
Hey—if the van’s a-rockin’ … heh-heh.
“If the Van’s A-Rockin’, Don’t Bother A-Knockin’” was a popular bumper sticker slogan in the 1970’s heyday of customized vans being used as mobile love nests. In 1989, guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan released the song “The House is Rockin’”, in which he sings “Yeah the house is a rockin' don't bother knockin'/Yeah the house is a rockin' don't bother come on in…”
Calvin Klein jeans.
Calvin Klein is a fashion designer who, in addition to a highly successful line of denim wear, also markets perfumes, linens, underwear, and so on ad infinitum.
Where’s Demi Moore? This movie’s gone off in a whole different direction!
See note on Demi Moore, above.
Oh—he went to Outward Bound.
Outward Bound is a group that offers “wilderness adventures” for kids, teens, and adults, although students are their primary focus. They promise to teach teamwork, self-confidence, and self-reliance through a variety of activities, including rock climbing, kayaking, dog-sledding, and more. The organization was founded in 1962.
He’s a lineman for the county.
"Wichita Lineman" is a 1968 song by Jimmy Webb that was a top-ten hit for Glen Campbell. Sample lyrics: “I am a lineman for the county/And I drive the main road/Searchin’ in the sun for another overload …”
I wouldn’t touch this movie with a twelve-foot pole. –Or a fifty-foot pole. –Lech Walesa?
Lech Walesa is a Polish labor leader who from 1980-1990 formed the country’s first labor union under the communist government that then ran Poland. After the Soviet satellite states collapsed at the beginning of the 1990s, Walesa became president of the newly democratic Poland for five years (1990-1995).
Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat.
T.H.E. Cat, according to the ACEG, was a “late sixties crime drama that starred Robert Loggia. Kevin and Frank once spent well over an hour arguing about what the initials stood for. Seems kind of silly now.” The series aired from 1966-1967.
Let Hertz put youuuu in the …
“Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat” is an old advertising slogan for the Hertz rental car company. It has been in use since at least the early 1960s.
Silly String Ninja—in color.
Silly String is a novelty created by Robert P. Cox and Leonard A. Fish and patented in 1972. It is a non-toxic foam that comes in an aerosol can and sprays out in a “string” form when fired at an unsuspecting victim. It has come to be a popular Halloween tradition in some parts of the United States, so much so that the city of Los Angeles has banned it in Hollywood on Halloween. It also has a military application: it can detect, but not set off, trip wires to explosive devices. Silly String is now sold by Car-Freshner Corporation (makers of those scented cardboard pine trees), whose owner, Julius Samann, is often mistakenly cited as the product's inventor. See also note on “In color!”, above.
This is no place for a convertible!
This is a line from the 1963 film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, spoken by Phil Silvers.
Oh, no—a Montero!
The Montero is an SUV produced by Mitsubishi Motors. It was first sold in the United States in 1983.
Do you find me pleasing?
A reference to “The Cage,” the original pilot of Star Trek (the one with Captain Christopher Pike, that was later partially reused in the two-part episode “The Menagerie”). Pike is captured by aliens and caged with the beautiful Vina (played by Susan Oliver), who tells him she can be anything he wants her to be. Her actual line is “Let me please you.”
I squint, therefore I am.
This is a variation on French philosopher René Descartes’ famous statement “Cogito, ergo sum”—I think, therefore I am.
Sho Kosugi pops the clutch and tells Van Cleef to eat his dust!
“Ron Howard pops the clutch and tells the world Eat My Dust!” is a line from the movie trailer and poster for the 1976 film Eat My Dust!, a happily low-budget 1976 action movie that put star Ron Howard on the path to becoming a director. He made a deal with producer Roger Corman that if he starred in Eat My Dust!, he could direct another low-budget car-centric movie, Grand Theft Auto, the following year.
Damn! He knows Doug Henning!
Doug Henning (1947-2000) was a longhaired, mustachioed Canadian magician/illusionist/escape artist and Transcendental Meditation (TM) proponent who first gained fame in the 1970s with a successful Broadway show, The Magic Show; he then became a regular figure on American television in the mid-1970s with his World of Magic specials, with all the bell-bottoms and rainbows that implies. He retired from the stage in 1980 and died 20 years later at the age of 52, from liver cancer. Skeptic James Randi, a fellow magician and a friend of Henning’s, blamed his death on Henning’s devotion to TM, claiming that he had neglected standard medical treatment in favor of more “natural” cures.
See note on Homer Simpson, above.
Oh, I had the Buddha’s Delight—it was real reasonable here at the Golden Pagoda.
Buddha’s Delight (or Jai, to give it its more traditional name) is a vegetarian dish traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day. It contains dried black moss, ginkgo nuts, and about thirty other ingredients.
“We need a little more to bargain with.” We’ll send them Pink Lady and Jeff.
Pink Lady and Jeff was a notoriously terrible 1980 television series, widely considered one of the worst TV shows of all time. It starred comedian Jeff Altman and Japanese pop musical duo Keiko Masuda and Mitsuyo Nemoto, a.k.a. Pink Lady. Keiko and Mitsuyo spoke barely any English, and the humor frequently slid over the edge into racism, with lines like “You just like me for my sexy round eyes.”
[Sung.] We’re in this love together/The kind of love that …
“We’re in This Love Together” is a 1981 hit song by jazz singer Al Jarreau. Sample lyrics: “We’re in this love together/We got the kind that lasts forever/We’re in this love together/And like berries on the vine/It gets sweeter all the time.”
What is this, Ice Castles?
Ice Castles is a 1978 tearjerker about a blind ice skater, played by Lynn-Holly Johnson. (Thanks to reader Chris Kee for correcting the release date of this film.)
Oh, baby, baby, I love you so much, baby …
An imitation of Barry White (1944-2003), a soul singer known for his gigantic frame and deep, gravelly voice. Songs like “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” and “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” were huge hits in the 1970s. White died at the age of 58; he suffered from kidney failure and had had a stroke two months before his death.
Hey, he’s doing Barry White.
See previous note.
Hey—check out my AA medallion.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a self-help system for alcoholics that relies on a twelve-step program and the support of other alcoholics to help people quit drinking. It was founded in 1935 by a stockbroker and a surgeon. By the end of the 20th century, AA had about 2 million members, most of them in the United States and Canada. The group gives out medallions to mark milestones in its members’ struggle to maintain sobriety, a tradition begun in the early days of AA by Sister Ignatia Gavin.
Look what she’s wearing—she looks like she works at Arby’s.
Arby’s is a chain of fast-food restaurants known for its signature roast-beef sandwiches. The company was founded in 1964 and today has more than 3,000 locations worldwide.
Get up! Get up and walk! You’ve never given up on anything in your … well, actually, I haven’t known you that long.
A paraphrase of a line from the 1989 movie The Abyss, starring Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. The actual line, spoken by Harris as he’s trying to resuscitate the drowned Mastrantonio: “God damn it, you bitch! You never backed away from anything in your life! Now fight! Fight! Fiiiight!”
A very special Hallmark Hall of Fame.
Hallmark Hall of Fame is an anthology drama series that has aired sporadically on television since 1951. It specializes in deeply wholesome, classic dramas, with much tugging of heartstrings.
He knows you’re alone!
He Knows You’re Alone is a 1980 horror flick about a young bride-to-be being stalked by a serial killer.
Boy, that parquet floor must really stink. –Butter.
A play on the series of commercials in the 1970s for Parkay margarine, in which an animated tub of Parkay margarine gets in a running argument with a consumer over whether it tastes more like margarine or like butter.
I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.
A line from the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, which was made into the iconic 1951 film starring Marlon Brando as the brutish Stanley and Vivien Leigh as the faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois, who is driven into insanity by Stanley’s treatment of her. The line is spoken by Blanche at the end of the play.
He’s going for his ninja merit badge.
A number of children’s organizations, including the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts, award their members “merit badges” for learning how to perform certain tasks. Typical merit badges include archery, canoeing, wilderness survival, and so forth.
“I came to see your father.” About a horse.
The phrase “I need to see a man about a horse” is a euphemism for going to the bathroom that apparently first came into usage during the 1930s.
“John Peter McAllister.” John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt. –That’s my name, too.
A reference to the kids’ song “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.” Sample lyrics: “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt/His name is my name too/Whenever we go out/The people always shout/There goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt/Dah dah dah dah dah dah dah [repeat forever].”
Ah, here’s Jack Perkins.
See note on Jack Perkins, above.
Timothy Van Patten is … hard to kill.
Hard to Kill is a 1990 action film starring Steven Seagal as Mason Storm, a “play by his own rules” kind of cop. The advertising tagline for the movie was “Steven Seagal is Hard to Kill.”
A reference to Show 104, Women of the Prehistoric Planet.
Haggar action slacks.
Haggar is a clothing manufacturer known for its varying lines of men’s dress slacks, many of which feature a “comfort fit” elasticized waistband. The company was founded in 1926 by J.M. Haggar Sr.
That’s for the White Shadow! I hated that show!
See note on White Shadow, above.
And that’s for Eight Is Enough! Tell your dad!
See note on Dick Van Patten, above. I should correct a misconception here: Dick Van Patten is not Timothy Van Patten’s father; the two are in fact half-brothers. The writers’ mistake is understandable; Dick is 31 years older than Timothy.
The people under the stairs.
The People Under the Stairs is a 1991 horror flick by Wes Craven, in which a couple of juvenile delinquents break into the local “spooky” house to discover a terrible secret lurking under the staircase.
“What a pity your lessons had to end so abruptly.” Well, maybe he can take his ninja equivalency exam.
The high school equivalency exam, more commonly known as the GED, is a standardized test designed to allow people who never graduated from high school to earn their diplomas.
“Mr. Pattersen!” New Jersey?
Paterson is a city in New Jersey that was founded in 1831. It is known as “Silk City,” as for many years the town produced half the silk made in the United States (and was the site of severe labor unrest in 1913). Current population: about 147,000.
Daddy? There’s a boy outside. His name is Wang.
Riffing on the song “The Men in My Little Girl’s Life,” written by Mary Candy, Eddie Dean, and Gloria Shayne. A version recorded by singer and TV talk show host Mike Douglas became a Top 10 hit in 1966. Other artists who recorded the song include Tex Ritter and Telly Savalas (TV's Kojak). Sample lyrics: “Seems only yesterday, I heard my daughter say/’Daddy! There's a boy outside—his name is Rod/He wants to play in our back yard/Can he Daddy? Can he Daddy? Please—Daddy.’”
Hey, don’t pad your part, Desi. Come on.
A riff on the character’s resemblance to Desi Arnaz Jr., the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. At the age of 12, Desi Jr. was in the trio Dino, Desi & Billy, alongside Dean Martin’s son Dean Paul Martin and session musician Billy Hinsche, and later had some success as an actor, including playing his father in the 1992 movie The Mambo Kings.
“All you’ll see in their eyes is fear.” Because they know your father.
See note on Dick Van Patten, above.
“Is that what a real ninja would do?” I’m not a real ninja, but I play one on TV.
The line “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV” is from a 1986 television commercial for cough syrup. The line was spoken by actor Peter Bergman, who at the time played a doctor on the soap opera All My Children.
Hey, it’s Mrs. Ironside! –Tonight’s episode: Teahouse of the August Murder.
See note on Ironside, above. The Teahouse of the August Moon is a play by John Patrick, a comedy about an American in Japan after World War II. It was made into a film starring Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford in 1956.
Hop in. You’ll have to throw that baby seat in the back—my wife’s got the Cadillac.
Cadillac is a line of luxury cars made by GM.
Ninja auto mechanic—in color.
See note on “In color!”, above.
See note on The Absent-Minded Professor, above.
Now, how much would you pay for these patented Ginsu ninja grippers? Wait, there’s more!
Ginsu Knives is a brand of cutlery marketed in endless television commercials during the 1970s. They were marketed by PriMedia, which coined many of the catchphrases that would haunt TV commercials for decades: “But wait! There’s more!” and “Now how much would you pay …” being two of the most famous. (Ironically, the “Japanese” knives were actually manufactured in Ohio.)
Anwar Sadat—in color.
Anwar el-Sadat (1918-1981) was the president of Egypt from 1970 until he was assassinated by Muslim extremists who were angry about his attempts to make peace with Israel. See also note on “In color!”, above.
Hi, I’m Jim Rockford. I’m not in right now, but …
See note on The Rockford Files, above. In a running gag on the show, Rockford would come home to find assorted bizarre messages on his answering machine. Sample: “Mr. Rockford? This is the Thomas Crown School of Dance and Contemporary Etiquette. We aren’t going to call again. Now, you want these free lessons or what?”
"Charlie Patterson." Charlie Pattersen, Charlie Pattersen. Starring Pat Carroll.
Pat Carroll is an Emmy and Grammy award winning actress and voice-over artist, best known in her later years as the voice of the villainous Ursula in Disney’s 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid. In the late 1970s she won several theater awards for her performances in Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein, a one woman show about novelist Gertrude Stein written by playwright Marty Martin.
“Too much of a financial strain in these hard times.” Hey, blame it on Ronald Reagan.
Ronald Reagan (1911-2004) was president of the United States from 1981-1989 (The Master, a.k.a. Master Ninja, aired in 1984). Reagan faced widespread economic problems during his two terms in office, including a recession he inherited from his predecessor, Jimmy Carter, and a catastrophic stock market crash in 1987.
Meanwhile, in downtown Fargo …
Fargo is a city in North Dakota with a population of about 125,000.
Let’s see … oh, Beverly Sills.
Beverly Sills (1929-2007) was an American opera singer whose heyday as a performer came during the 1950s and 1960s, culminating in her triumphant 1975 debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. For ten years she was the director of the New York City Opera.
All right—Coltrane Live in Japan.
John Coltrane (1926-1967) was a jazz saxophonist who released dozens of albums over his short career. The writers are referring here to his 1966 album John Coltrane Live in Japan.
Smart hostages, foolish choices. Today on Oprah.
Smart Women/Foolish Choices is a popular 1991 self-help book by Dr. Connell Cowan and Dr. Melvyn Kinder, about women who have bad judgment about men. Oprah Winfrey hosted an eponymous syndicated talk show from 1986 to 2011 that made her one of the most influential women in the country; her show focused on issues central to women’s lives.
I wanna get physical … physical … [sobs].
A reference to the 1981 Olivia Newton-John song “Physical,” from the album of the same name. Sample lyrics: “Let’s get physical/Physical/I wanna get physical/Let’s get into physical/Let me hear your body talk …”
“Good night, Mr. Chan.” Wherever you are.
Vaudevillian, comedian, and singer Jimmy Durante (1893-1980) had three signature phrases: “Inka dinka doo” (also the title of one of his signature songs), “Stop da music!”, and the signoff from his radio show, which became a national catchphrase in the 1930s: “Goodnight, Mrs. Calabash," which he later changed to "Goodnight Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are.” For decades, Durante was coy about the meaning of the Calabash signoff, but in 1966 he finally revealed it was a tribute to his first wife, Jean; when she died in 1943, he added "wherever you are." “Mrs. Calabash” was his pet name for her, taken from a small town they had visited on a cross-country drive.
“There’s only one way.” My way or the highway.
A reference to the 1989 Patrick Swayze film Road House, and a perennial favorite among the writers.
Sure thing, Mr. H.
An imitation of Lionel Stander (1908-1994), who played the gravelly-voiced butler Max on the TV series Hart to Hart, which aired from 1979-1984.
“Take my hand.” I’m a stranger in paradise.
“Stranger in Paradise” is a song from the 1953 Broadway musical Kismet, written by Robert Wright and George Forrest; most of the melodies in that show were taken from music composed by Alexander Borodin. Artists who have recorded popular versions of the song include Tony Bennett, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr., and the Supremes. Sample lyrics: “Take my hand/I'm a stranger in paradise/All lost in a wonderland/A stranger in paradise.”
Witness, ladies and gentlemen. –The Witness sketch.
Witness is a 1985 film starring Harrison Ford as a cop who goes to live among the Amish in an effort to protect a small boy who is the witness to a crime.
That’s right, it’s the Circus of the Second-Rate Stars!
Circus of the Stars was an annual television special that ran from 1977 to 1991. It featured assorted actors performing traditional circus acts.
"Listen to my voice." SLEEP!
See above note.
"As I step back, you step forward." We come together 'cause opposites attract.
A line from the 1989 Paula Abdul song "Opposites Attract," written by Oliver Leiber. Sample lyrics: "I take two steps forward/I take two steps back/We come together ’cause opposites attract." (Thanks to Tony Myers for this reference.)
They’re up on the wire; half is flame … half is fire.
Misquoted lyrics from the 1972 song “Tight Rope” by Leon Russell, his first hit single. Actual lyrics: “I'm up on the tightwire/One side's ice and one is fire/It’s a circus game with you and me.”
That’s Melissa Sue Anderson, ladies and gentlemen! Give her a hand. Give her a round of applause. She’s done a great job.
Melissa Sue Anderson played the oldest sister Mary Ingalls on the TV series Little House on the Prairie (1974-1983).
If he falls, are we going to have to watch his life pass before his eyes? I don’t think I could take it. Dad’s first Eight Is Enough, callbacks, brother Vince’s first tennis lesson, visits from Aunt Joyce, the day he realized he was untalented enough to star in a prime-time action show …
See note on Dick Van Patten, above. Vince Van Patten, Dick’s son, started out as an actor but retired from showbiz to launch a professional tennis career. He did quite well, rising to forty-first in the world rankings of pro tennis players. He later returned to acting, landing parts on Baywatch and the soap opera The Young and the Restless. He is not Timothy’s brother, however; since Timothy and Dick are half-brothers, Vince is actually Timothy’s nephew. Joyce Van Patten, also an actress, is actually Dick Van Patten's sister, making her Timothy's half-sister, not aunt. (Thanks to Lynn Knott for the Joyce Van Patten reference.)
“They can go.” But not without these lovely parting gifts! Tell them about it, Johnny!
The phrase “lovely parting gifts” has been used on more than one TV game show, but it is most strongly associated with Jeopardy! The lovely parting gifts were generally the consolation prizes awarded to the losers on the show. “Johnny” probably refers to Johnny Olsen, a radio and television announcer whose career spanned four decades, best known for his announcing work on game shows such as Truth or Consequences, Match Game, and The Price Is Right.
A reference to Show 104, Women of the Prehistoric Planet.
Boy, Jackie Chan he’s not! He’s not even Charlie Chan! –He’s not even Charlie Callas! –He’s not even Maria Callas! –He’s not even Maria Conchita Alonso! –Would you guys stop it? –He’s not even Maria Conchita Banana!
Jackie Chan is a Hong Kong martial artist who has achieved worldwide fame in a series of action movies featuring death-defying stunts (Rumble in the Bronx and Supercop, among others). Charlie Chan was the fictional detective star of the series of mysteries by Earl Derr Biggers. Biggers published five books featuring Chan, a policeman in Honolulu. The books were later made into a long-running series of films. Charlie Callas (1927-2011) was an actor and comedian who appeared in The Snoop Sisters and High Anxiety, among many others. Maria Callas (1923-1977) was an operatic soprano who was one of the leading performers during the 1950s and 1960s. Maria Conchita Alonso is an actress who has appeared in such films as The Running Man. Miss Chiquita (not Maria Conchita Banana) has been the advertising mascot for Chiquita bananas for more than 50 years, first appearing in 1944.
[Sung.] Tumble out of bed and stumble to the kitchen/Pour myself a cup of ambition ...
A line from the Dolly Parton song “9 to 5,” the theme song to the 1980 movie of the same name. Sample lyrics: “Tumble outta bed and stumble to the kitchen/Pour myself a cup of ambition/Yawnin’, stretchin’, try to come to life/Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin’/Out on the streets the traffic starts jumpin’/And folks like me on the job from 9 to 5.”
Hey, what are they fighting over—the fryer exhaust at Arby’s?
See note on Arby’s, above.
You know, these Robert Bly weekends are getting more and more intense.
Poet Robert Bly’s (1926-2021) 1990 book Iron John spawned the men’s movement of the 1990s, in which men gathered for “workshops” to beat drums and explore their relationships with their fathers.
You know, last week I made a big mistake. I went to a Carol Bly weekend.
Carol Bly (1930-2007) was an author and lecturer from St. Paul, Minnesota, who offered weekend writing workshops in addition to teaching at various area colleges and universities. She was married to Iron John author Robert Bly (see above note).
I left my liver in San Francisco.
"I Left My Heart in San Francisco” is a 1953 song written by George Cory and Douglass Cross that became a hit tune for Tony Bennett in 1962, eventually becoming his signature song. Sample lyrics: “I left my heart/In San Francisco/High on the hill/It calls to me/To be where little cable cars/Climb halfway to the stars …”
So these are Morris dancers gone horribly wrong.
Morris dancing is a traditional form of folk dancing in England that is still practiced today. Morris dancers sometimes paint their faces and wear rag jackets and bells while performing. Its origins are unclear.
Niagara Falls. Slowly I turned—inch by inch, step by step …
This phrase comes from an old vaudeville routine that has been used by many comedians, including Abbott and Costello, the Three Stooges, and I Love Lucy. The author appears to be a vaudeville comedian named Joey Faye (1909-1997).
I just got done fightin’ Shazam.
Captain Marvel, often called Shazam, is a comic superhero originally published by Fawcett Comics starting in 1939, now part of the DC Comics universe. Captain Marvel is the alter-ego of teenager Billy Batson, who becomes a costumed adult with a fine catalog of superpowers when he utters the magic word “SHAZAM!” -- including making himself invisible, just like the Master in this scene. Captain Marvel was the top selling comic superhero in the 1940s, even selling more comic books than Superman.
Yeah, well, you fight like a Van Patten!
See note on Van Pattens, above.
The Scarecrow and Mrs. King—in color.
Scarecrow and Mrs. King was a TV series starring Bruce Boxleitner and Kate Jackson as a spy and a housewife who team up to solve crimes. It aired from 1983-1987. See also note on "In color," above.
[Sung.] Scarecrooow …
A line from the opening theme of The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, a 1963 TV movie spin on the Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn series of books by Russell Thorndike that was produced for the Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color TV series.
Saved by the bell.
The expression “saved by the bell” comes from the sport of boxing, when a boxer is barely still on his feet, but is given a respite when the bell rings signaling the end of the round. Many believe the expression (along with “dead ringer” and “graveyard shift”) came from Victorian era “safety coffins,” some of which featured an aboveground bell attached to a string in the coffin, to signal in case a person is buried alive, but this has been dismissed as a linguistic myth. There was also a TV sitcom titled Saved by the Bell, about high school teens and their personal problems. It ran from 1989-1993.
Oscar’s back, and he’s as wild than ever.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was a Victorian poet and playwright best known for his stage comedies Lady Windermere’s Fan and The Importance of Being Earnest, as well as for his legendary wit. Wilde was one of the central figures in the Aesthetic movement of the late nineteenth century, which emphasized the importance of beauty and art. Although he had a wife and children, he was accused of sodomy over his close friendship with Lord Alfred Douglas and sentenced to two years of hard labor. He died a few years after his release from prison in 1897.
You know, Prince stole everything from him.
See note on Prince, above.
Hey, you know they used to call me Three-Dollar-Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, as a matter of fact.
A reference to the idiom “queer as a three-dollar bill” and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878-1949), an actor and accomplished dancer best known for his work in the series of Shirley Temple films in the 1930s.
Hey, look, Pam Dawber’s impressed!
Pam Dawber is an actress best known for her role as Mindy on the TV sitcom Mork & Mindy (1978-1982). She also starred in a later, short-lived sitcom, My Sister Sam.
No, not the goose-step, no!
The goose-step is a style of marching that originated in seventeenth-century Prussia, in which each leg in turn is lifted very high and straight. It has been used by many countries’ armies, including Russia and North Korea, but it was made infamous by Germany’s Nazis in the years leading up to World War II (1939-1945).
Well, a box of Depends! Why, thank you! I didn't know it---huh.
Depend undergarments are a brand of adult incontinence products.
Next, on a very special Mrs. Ironside.
See note on Ironside, above.
Yeah, he was also in The Happy Hoofer Goes to Washington.
The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977) is the second film in the Happy Hooker trilogy. This one stars Joey Heatherton as world famous madam Xaviera Hollander, who introduces her special services to the nation’s capital. The series was only rated R; the movies were aiming more for camp value than for explicit sex.
[Sung.] You know darn well...when you cast your spell…doo doo doo doo doo...
“You Can Do Magic” is a song by Russ Ballard that was a Top 40 hit for folk-rock trio America in 1982. Sample lyrics: “You know darn well/When you cast your spell you will get your way/When you hypnotize with your eyes/A heart of stone can turn to clay …”
Oh, he’s dancing with Ziggy Stardust.
Ziggy Stardust was a stage persona created by musician David Bowie during his glam rock years. He was the protagonist in Bowie’s 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, it’s what Film Ventures International is famous for, like the Pink Panther and the James Bond credit sequences.
The Pink Panther movies starred comedian Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Sellers eventually starred in six Pink Panther movies; several others were made after Sellers’s death in 1980. The credit sequences for the movies featured a cartoon panther, while the credit sequences for the James Bond films generally featured the silhouettes of sexy women and guns curvetting through a psychedelic landscape--both of them generally began with a "looking through a camera iris" effect.