803: The Mole People
by Wyn Hilty
Hey, the Earth from Shannon Lucid’s point of view.
Retired astronaut Shannon Lucid went into space five times, including a long stay on the Mir space station in 1996. From 2002-2003 she served as NASA’s chief scientist (she holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry).
Bingo is a game played with a small card, on which are printed numbers in a grid arrangement; an announcer calls off numbers, and if a player has that number on his card, he covers it with a small marker. When he has covered a whole row vertically, horizontally or diagonally, he calls out “Bingo!” The game has traditionally been the domain of little old ladies, who routinely play several cards at a time. It is based on a carnival game from the ‘20s called Beano, which itself was a variation of Lotto, a French game dating to the 18th century.
It’s just a jump to the left.
An imitation of the pompous narrator from the cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, explaining how to do the “Time Warp.” Sample lyrics: “It’s just a jump to the left/And then a step to the right/With your hands on your hips/You bring your knees in tight …”
Can you sign my drop sheet?
When a college student decides not to take a class he or she had enrolled in—maybe because the professor turned out to be a stiff—there is a bit of paperwork involved: a “drop sheet,” which the professor has to sign.
This thing, with the thing, and the ...
An impression of one of comic actor Jerry Lewis’s best-known shticks: lapsing into the voice and mannerisms of a spastic, awkward, semi-moronic man-child who can never seem to string a sentence together.
“Chopsticks” (original title “The Celebrated Chop Waltz”) is an extremely simple waltz for piano written by Euphemia Allen in 1877. Crudely banged out using two fingers, it is famous for being the one song that people who don’t know how to play the piano can play.
[Sung.] “Korobeiniki.” Hey!
The 19th-century Russian folk song “Korobeiniki” (now popularly known as “The Tetris Song” thanks to its use in that video game) is the usual tune that accompanies any performance of the Ukrainian folk dance commonly called the “Cossack Dance.” You’ve seen it in films and cartoons: in an impressive display of leg strength, a line of burly Russian men squat down and kick their legs out and back with their arms folded across their chest. At the end of each verse, they shout “Hey!” in unison. Korobeiniki were a type of peddlers who sold their wares from trays; the song tells of a doomed love affair between a peddler and a peasant girl.
Interesting bit of trivia: this fanciful word for a doohickey first appeared in print in 1750.
It’s a fabulous, funny freakout.
Possibly a riff on the “underground” comic series “The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers,” created by Gilbert Shelton. First published in 1968 and continuing in various forms until 1997, the series both celebrated and parodied the counterculture of the late 1960s, and all the recreational drug use that implied.
The really nutty professor.
The Nutty Professor is a 1963 film starring Jerry Lewis as a nerdy professor who invents a potion that transforms him into a suave ladies’ man. A remake starring Eddie Murphy was released in 1996.
Oh, those are the people who make that nice Mexican sauce.
Mole sauce (pronounced “MO-lay”) is a thick, gravy-like sauce that is a tradition in Mexican cuisine. Though there are many variations from different regions of Mexico, most American palates are used to mole poblano sauce (from Puebla), which is dark in color, with a mild spiciness that is offset by chocolate, sugar, and cinnamon.
Mount Pinatubo erupted yesterday, spewing movie credits all over the southern hemisphere.
Mount Pinatubo is an active volcano located in the Philippines. In 1991, for the first time in 600 years, it erupted, killing more than 800 people and leaving 100,000 homeless. It is considered probably the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.
[Credit: Alan Napier.] And Alfred the butler!
Alfred Pennyworth was the butler to Bruce Wayne in the Batman comic books; he was fully aware of Wayne’s alter ego and assisted him in fighting crime. In the campy TV series, which aired from 1966-1968, the part of Alfred was played by Alan Napier (1903-1988), who plays the high priest Elinu in The Mole People.
“Written by …” William Faulkner? F. Scott Fitzger ...? Oh.
William Faulkner (1897-1962) was a Nobel Prize-winning novelist (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying) who also wrote screenplays for Hollywood. F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) was a novelist known for his portrait of the Jazz Age in such books as The Great Gatsby; Fitzgerald also worked as a screenwriter for a time.
A man, a plan, a canal: Laszlo Gorog.
“A man, a plan, a canal: Panama” is a famous palindrome (a word or phrase that reads the same backwards and forwards), as is Gorog's last name. “Panama” was first published by Leigh Mercer in 1948.
[Sung.] And up from the ground comes a union film crew.
A paraphrase of a line from the theme song to the TV sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971): “And up through the ground came a-bubblin’ crude.”
[Credit: Sound Thomas N. Thompson.] Oh, sound and welfare reform by the governor of Wisconsin.
Tommy G. Thompson was the Republican governor of Wisconsin for 14 years, leaving in 2001 to become secretary of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush. In 1996 Thompson pushed through a welfare-reform program that required welfare recipients to work.
Veni, vidi, vici Virgil Vogel.
“Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered” in Latin) is how Julius Caesar laconically reported to Rome that he had won a military victory over the king of Pontus in 47 B.C.E.
Virgil Vogel: Vestal Virgin.
In ancient Rome, the Vestal Virgins were the six priestesses who served the hearth goddess Vesta. They were chosen to serve their 30-year terms while they were still young girls; afterward, they could marry if they wished, although few of them did.
How brown is my valley.
How Green Was My Valley is a book by Richard Llewellyn about a valley in Wales ruined by the coal-mining industry; it was made into a film in 1941.
Members of Cheap Trick plan their next move.
Cheap Trick is a rock band that achieved its height of popularity in the late 1970s with albums like Cheap Trick at Budokan and Dream Police, although they later enjoyed a comeback in the late 1990s.
You know, this was Francis the Talking Mule’s first film.
Francis the Talking Mule was a forerunner of the more famous Mister Ed. He appeared in a string of movies in the 1950s; the first, Francis the Talking Mule, was released in 1950.
Peace on Earth is all it said.
A line from the 1969 anti-war song “One Tin Soldier,” written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. Originally recorded in 1969 by Canadian group The Original Caste, a version by American rock group Coven titled “One Tin Soldier (The Legend of Billy Jack),” from the 1971 film Billy Jack, became a hit that year, and again when it was re-released in 1973. The relevant lyrics: “Now they stood before the treasure/On the mountain dark and red/Turned the stone and looked beneath it/Peace on Earth, was all it said.”
No matter where I serve my guests, they seem to like my kitchen best.
This phrase appears on plaques, trivets, needlepoint samplers, etc., generally popping up in cutesy homes that favor country crafts and potpourri. It first appeared in print in 1952.
“One of the oldest human records.” Older than Frampton Comes Alive!.
Frampton Comes Alive! is a double live album by British rock guitarist Peter Frampton. Released in 1976, it topped the charts for 10 weeks, became the best-selling album of that year, and is one of the best-selling live albums of all time.
“It also referred to a king of the dynasty, one called Sharu or Charo.” Cuchi-cuchi.
This is a reference to the catch phrase of flamenco guitarist María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza de Rasten, who goes by the stage name of Charo.
“Earthquake!” In Sensurround!
Sensurround was a gimmick, like Cinerama and Smell-o-Vision, designed to lure audiences into theaters. It was used to hype the 1975 film Earthquake by promising to use high-decibel sound to literally shake the audience; unfortunately, the effect bled over into neighboring theaters and disturbed their patrons, which discouraged any repeat performances.
Earthquake! Shut up already! Dang!
A riff on the song “Housequake,” by the artist formerly known as, then known once again as, Prince, from his 1987 album Sign o’ the Times. Sample lyrics: “Shut up already, damn!/Tell me who in this house know about the quake?/(We do)/I mean really, really/If you know how to rock say 'yeah' (yeah).”
Nice! They’re making Lipton sun tea.
Sun tea is a method of producing iced tea in which the sun provides the heat for brewing. The tea company Lipton produced large glass containers designed specifically for making sun tea. More recently this practice has been discouraged, as it can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria in the tea. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Sam Spade, archaeologist.
Sam Spade was the harder-than-hardboiled protagonist of the Dashiell Hammett detective novel The Maltese Falcon; he was played by Humphrey Bogart in the classic 1941 film.
It’s either an offering to the gods or it’s a gravy boat.
A gravy boat, also known as a sauce boat, is a kind of vaguely boat-shaped pitcher, used to serve gravy or sauces.
Quick, get the tiny Zig-Zags! –Wooo!
Zig-Zag is a French brand of cigarette rolling paper. In popular culture it is often associated with marijuana use. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Hello from Bass Lake.
Between them, Minnesota and Wisconsin boast multiple towns and lakes named Bass Lake. Then there are the ones in California and North Carolina. Seems to be a popular name, for some reason.
They let Billy draw the runes this week.
The comic strip “Family Circus,” created by Bil Keane, periodically published cartoons that looked as if they were drawn by a small child, claiming that they were drawn by “Billy,” the seven-year-old son in the strip.
Oh, and my 8-tracks.
Officially known as Stereo 8, 8-tracks were cassettes of magnetic tape in an infinite loop first sold in 1964. They were among the first portable music media.
“The top of the mountain.” Made it, Ma!
“Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” is a famous line from the extra-noir 1949 gangster film White Heat, starring James Cagney.
Free government cheese!
In 1981, the federal government launched the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) to distribute food to the needy. At the time, due to a huge subsidy program run by the USDA, the government had massive warehouses filled with surplus food—particularly cheese—so that’s what needy families got. The surplus food stores were largely gone by 1988, but TEFAP continued to purchase food and distribute it to the poor. The term “government cheese” has become synonymous with welfare handouts.
“Gentlemen.” Start your hats.
“Gentlemen, start your engines” is the traditional announcement made at the beginning of auto races.
“Do you think we can make it?” If we eat each other’s flesh.
A reference to either the 1846 Donner Party incident, or the 1972 Andes plane crash involving a rugby team, both situations wherein a group of people stranded on snowy mountain terrain resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.
Then we snowboard down Everest.
The Man Who Skied Down Everest is a 1975 documentary about Japanese skier Yuichiro Miura, who, armed with a parachute, skied down the Lhotse Face of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, in 1970. In 2003 Miura, at the age of 70, became the oldest person ever to reach the summit; in 2008 he repeated his feat at the age of 75 and did it again in 2013 at the age of 80, setting another world record on his third ascent.
They’ve been to Sam’s Club of Asia.
Sam’s Club is a members-only chain of warehouse stores that sell great whacking boxes of things at relatively modest prices.
Do we have to take all of his stupid Uriah Heep albums?
Uriah Heep was a popular British prog-metal band in the 1970s; although they are obscure in the U.S. and Britain today, they remain popular in Eastern Europe and South America. The band’s name is taken from a character in the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield.
Nice culottes, Boolar.
Culottes are a type of trousers, usually tight-fitting and ending just below the knee, that were fashionable apparel for upper-class men from the late Middle Ages through the early 19th century.
Denny’s is a budget chain of restaurants found across the length and breadth of this fair land. They were originally called Danny’s Coffee Shops; they changed their name in 1959 to avoid being confused with a Los Angeles chain, Coffee Dan’s.
Will Steger leads another pointless expedition.
Explorer Will Steger has led multiple polar expeditions, including the first confirmed dogsled trip to the North Pole and the first dogsled crossing of Antarctica.
Watch—they’ll get crushed by a giant dog chasing a Frisbee.
Coors Light ran a series of TV ads in the 1990s that showed giant people—and sometimes a giant dog—playing various sports among the Rocky Mountains.
“Because it’s there”—what kind of an answer is that?
In 1923, British mountain climber George Mallory (1886-1924) was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain (which at that time had not yet been conquered). His famous reply: “Because it’s there.” Unfortunately Mallory died during his attempt the following year; the mountain’s summit was not reached until 1953.
They’re going to find the frozen body of the lonely goatherd.
A reference to the song “The Lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music. Sample lyrics: “High on a hill was a lonely goatherd/Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo/Loud was the voice of the lonely goatherd/Lay ee odl lay ee odl-oo.”
Are they at high-altitude baking level yet?
The lower air pressure found at higher altitudes can wreak havoc with cooking—in particular, cakes and breads tend not to rise, so bakers in the mountains must alter their recipes to compensate. Most cake mixes, for example, have separate directions for high-altitude baking. Generally you don’t need to worry about it until you hit about 3,000 feet above sea level.
[Whispered.] They’re approaching the seventh green now …
An imitation of a typical announcer covering a televised golf game. Though the announcers are sealed up in a production truck miles away, they still tend to speak very softly, as if they were actually among the spectators where the match is taking place, where golf etiquette dictates that everyone keep quiet in order to avoid distracting the players during a crucial shot.
Let’s move over to our AccuWeather radar forecast.
AccuWeather is a provider of meteorological information to local news stations. It was founded in 1962 by a grad student in meteorology. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Nepal, public and private; Tibet, public and private; Bhutan ...
An imitation of school closing announcements made over the radio during inclement weather. Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan are all countries in the Himalayan mountain region, between China and India. (Thanks to Bill Stiteler for this reference.)
Let’s just play nine, it’s not that bad out.
In the game of golf, a standard course has eighteen holes. However, if players are pressed for time or the weather looks bad, playing only half the course is an option.
Um, no fear?
No Fear is a clothing company, associated with extreme sports, that manufactures a wide range of clothing with said slogan emblazoned on it; it first became popular in 1995.
At least in Times Square you got SexWorld.
Back before Times Square got all prettified and Disneyfied and made safe for Midwestern tourist families, it was largely known for a wide array of sleaze: hookers, massage parlors, adult bookstores, porn theaters, etc., etc. That said, “SexWorld” is actually an adult store in Minneapolis.
I just know somehow Balki’s responsible for this.
Wacky immigrant Balki Bartokomous was one of the main characters on the television sitcom Perfect Strangers, which aired from 1986-1993; he was played by Bronson Pinchot.
Mike, I don’t love you anymore because the mountains are crumbling.
A reference to the Led Zeppelin song “Thank You”: “If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you/When mountains crumble to the sea/There will still be you and me …”
I guess there’s a Mervyn’s up there.
Mervyn’s was a discount department store chain; it went under in 2008.
Kwai Chang Caine’s last journey.
Kwai Chang Caine, as played by David Carradine, was the young Shaolin monk who traveled the American West, helping people with their personal problems and kicking booty, in the TV series Kung Fu, which aired from 1972-1975.
You know, should anything happen to me, I suggest you pan-broil me, with chanterelles and wood ears, I’ll be delicious.
See above note on survival cannibalism. Chanterelles and wood ears are types of edible mushrooms.
[Rapped.] It ain’t no shocker, I love my BluBlockers!
An imitation of Venice Beach rapper Dr. Geek in the infomercials for BluBlocker sunglasses, which ran during the 1990s. The BluBlocker company claimed that blue light, as well as UV, is responsible for eye damage. Removing the blue portion of the spectrum gave their sunglasses a deep yellow-orange tint. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Jack Nicholson’s house.
Jack Nicholson is an actor who has appeared in dozens of films since he got his start in B-movies in the 1960s. His better-known movies include Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Shining. As detailed in numerous tell-all memoirs and Hollywood legends in general, Nicholson’s house—starting with his first apartment when he arrived in Los Angeles—was allegedly ground zero for days-long, drug-fueled sex parties during the 1970s and '80s on a scale that made the Playboy Mansion look like a Baptist retreat.
Look—there’s a Sox Appeal and a Kinko’s, too!
Sox Appeal is a chain of mall stores based in Minneapolis that sell nothing but socks. Kinko’s (now FedEx Office) is a national chain of printing/copying stores.
Gee, the Sherpas really outdid themselves with this base camp.
The Sherpas are a Nepalese ethnic group who have won fame as expert mountain climbers in the Himalayas. Sir Edmund Hillary and a Sherpa named Tenzing Norgay were the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, and Sherpas regularly help guide expeditions up that mountain.
At least she came packed in Styrofoam.
Styrofoam is a brand of plastic foam frequently used as a packing material; it is manufactured by Dow Chemical. Researchers found in 2015 that mealworms can live on a diet of nothing but Styrofoam.
He’s walking on RyKrisp.
RyKrisps were lightly salted, baked rye crackers manufactured in Minneapolis; they were phased out in 2015.
Courtney Love is down there.
Courtney Love is a musician and a founding member of the L.A. alt.-rock band Hole. She was married to Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain until his death in 1994.
“We gotta get down.” We gotta get funky.
A riff on the 1978 song “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose,” written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff and performed by American R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass; it was the B-side of his number one R&B single “Close the Door.” Sample lyrics: “Come on get up, get down, get funky, get loose/Get up, get down, get funky, get loose/Whatcha come out here for?/Do you want to party? Do you want to dance?”
I should have worn my Zubaz for this.
Zubaz are a brand of weightlifting shorts. Introduced in 1991, they quickly became popular for their bright colors and flashy designs.
They must have had really stupid focus groups back then.
A focus group is a group of supposedly average people randomly assembled by advertisers, marketers, filmmakers, or political campaign consultants, who are asked their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and attitudes toward whatever they are presented with—a product, movie, TV show, presidential candidate, you name it. The group is asked various questions, which they are free to discuss among themselves. Focus groups are widely criticized, especially in Hollywood, given that there is the potential for the researchers to influence opinions and cherry-pick the data. The spectacular failure of New Coke in the 1980s is a prime example of focus group data gone wrong—New Coke tested well in focus groups but bombed in the marketplace.
You know, I think I would rather watch Dave Crosby eat a McRib sandwich than watch this scene.
David Crosby (1941-2023) was a founding member of Crosby, Stills & Nash and one of the most influential folk-rock musicians of the 20th century. Crosby was fairly heavyset most of his adult life. The McRib sandwich is a boneless pork sandwich introduced by McDonald’s in 1981.
Ah. Bozo in his later years.
Bozo was a children's show franchise that aired in various television markets from 1949 to 2001; it featured a white-faced clown with a bald head and fringe of red hair. Many different actors played the clown, but the most famous was Chicago’s Bob Bell. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
So this guy, uh, Joseph Gershenson, Music Supervisor, had a pretty easy time of it here, huh?
Gershenson worked in film for nearly 50 years, starting in the silent era, when he conducted orchestras in movie theaters. He earned two Oscar nods; neither was for this film. (They were for Thoroughly Modern Millie and The Glenn Miller Story.)
Forgot his Primatene Mist.
Primatene Mist is an over-the-counter asthma treatment manufactured by Wyeth. Because the product contains chlorofluorocarbons, it was banned in the U.S. after 2011.
This shot was featured in the film Visions of Light.
Visions of Light is an award-winning 1993 documentary on the history of cinematography.
Oh man, my dance belt. Ahh!
Dance belts aren’t actually belts. They’re support garments for the genitals.
I’ll put the funny cat poster here …
The original “Hang in There, Baby” cat poster came out in 1971 and featured photographer Victor Baldwin’s Siamese kitten Sassy.
Boy, the Fonz didn’t age very well, did he?
Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, as played by Henry Winkler, was the leather-clad greaser on the TV show Happy Days, which aired from 1974-1984. The Fonz was at first allowed to wear his iconic leather jacket only while on or near his bike (network executives were worried it made him look like a thug), so producers kept him on the bike constantly, even indoors.
Barney Clark, spelunker.
Barney Clark (1921-1983), a dentist from Seattle, was the world's first artificial heart recipient. He lived (unhappily) for 112 days, attached to a 400-pound compressor. (Thanks to Randy J. for this reference.)
Man, Ward got back!
See note on Ward Cleaver, above. “Baby Got Back” is a 1992 song by rap artist Sir Mix-a-Lot. In this ode to amply proportioned posteriors, Sir Mix-a-Lot states his preference for women with a Rubenesque figure. (Thanks to Erik Topp for pointing out the Sir Mix-a-Lot reference.)
Michael Nesmith (1942-2021) was one of The Monkees, the 1960s musical group that had their own TV show from 1966-1968. His signature look on the series was a green wool cap with a pompom. Fun Fact: Nesmith auditioned to play Fonzie on Happy Days, but producers decided he was too tall. Fellow Monkee Micky Dolenz was rejected for the same reason.
Filmed in Wedgievision.
Wedgies are a time-honored playground torment, consisting of grabbing the waistband of the victim’s underwear (visible above their pants) and yanking sharply upwards, forcing the underwear into the victim’s butt crack. “Wedgievision” is meant to evoke such 1950s cinema gimmicks as Vistavision, Smell-O-Vision, and HypnoVista.
Live from the Pantages Theatre!
The famous Pantages Theatre is an Art Deco theater in Hollywood, located at the corner of Hollywood & Vine. It was built in 1930 and originally showed movies and held live vaudeville shows. The riff follows a drum roll, which is probably a reference to the fact that from 1950-1960, the Pantages hosted the Academy Awards ceremony—including the first televised ceremony in 1953. This could also be a reference to the Pantages Theater in downtown Minneapolis.
I’ll bring the dry-vac!
A dry-vac, or its even more versatile counterpart, a wet/dry-vac, is a powerful vacuum cleaner used in workshops and basements.
This is why the Cleavers stopped at two children.
See note on Leave It to Beaver, above. Ward Cleaver’s wife was named June; the part was played by Barbara Billingsley. Their children were Wallace “Wally” Cleaver (Tony Dow) and Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver (Jerry Mathers). On the 1980s sequel series The New Leave It to Beaver, Wally and Beaver each have two children of their own.
You’re going to have to clean that rope with Lysol when you're done.
Lysol is a brand of household cleaners and disinfectants. Starting in the 1920s, Lysol disinfectant ran ads urging women to use it as a douche for feminine hygiene (a euphemism for birth control). Five women died and nearly 200 were poisoned because they failed to dilute it enough.
Hey, hoser, better fix the peg, eh.
The Canadian slang term “hoser,” roughly meaning “loser,” was popularized by Bob and Doug McKenzie (played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas) on the “Great White North” segments of SCTV, which ran on Canadian and U.S. television between 1976 and 1984.
Shurfine is a generic brand of grocery products distributed nationally by Topco Associates. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
[Sung.] But we’ve got high hopes ...
The song “High Hopes,” written by Jimmy Van Heusen (music) and Sammy Cahn (lyrics) for the 1959 Frank Sinatra movie A Hole in the Head, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and became one of Sinatra’s signature tunes. A version with slightly altered lyrics became the theme song for John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign. Actual lyrics: “But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes/He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes …”
You want it when?!
“You want it when?!” is the caption to a cartoon of a group of people laughing hysterically; it has been posted in countless workplaces over the years. The cartoon appears to be the work of Henry Syverson, who drew regularly for the Saturday Evening Post.
“There’s another tunnel.” It leads to France.
Known as the Chunnel, the tunnel crossing the English Channel between Great Britain and France is the longest undersea tunnel in the world. The Chunnel project took years to build and cost billions of dollars, but was finally opened for passenger and freight traffic in 1994. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Hey, I got the Amontillado!
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) wrote a short story in 1846 called “The Cask of Amontillado,” in which the narrator, Montresor, lures his friend Fortunato into his cellar with the promise of a “pipe of Amontillado”—a cask of fine dry sherry—and walls him up alive as revenge for unspecified insults.
It’s Baby Jessica! She’s digging her own way out!
Jessica McClure, or “Baby Jessica,” as she was dubbed by the media, was 18 months old when she fell into a well near her home in Midland, Texas, on October 14, 1987. Rescuers worked frantically for three days before they were able to pull her out, a story that was covered relentlessly around the world.
I have to stop Christmas from coming, but how?
A paraphrase of a line from How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, a classic children’s tale by Dr. Seuss. Actual line: “I must stop Christmas from coming! But how?”
I have the vapors, we’ll have to call off the cotillion.
The “vapors” was a catchall malady of women in Victorian Britain and the pre-Civil War Deep South. It could cover anything from depression to menstrual distress, lightheadedness, fainting, or even just a state of general ill-health, which was considered an almost desirable sign of femininity. A cotillion is a formal dance held during the debutante season to present the debs to society. Sometimes cotillions are also held for younger children, to teach them social skills.
The Hardy Boys, and their load.
Joe and Frank Hardy, a.k.a. the Hardy Boys, are the teenage heroes of a series of children’s mysteries. They were created by Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930), a writer of children’s fiction who also created Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Bobbsey Twins. The books were actually written by several different authors using the pseudonym Franklin Dixon.
A Robert Motherwell painting.
Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) was an American painter who was one of the founders of the Abstract Expressionism movement. He liked to paint big black blobs on a plain background.
Sounds like they're coming to the Hekawi village.
The Hekawi were the local Indian tribe led by Chief Wild Eagle (Frank de Kova) on the TV sitcom F Troop, which aired from 1965-1967. (Thanks to John Ames for this reference.)
[Sung.] The Indian boy ...
A line from the theme song for the cartoon Adventures of Pow Wow, which aired in 1949. Sample lyrics: "Pow Wow, the Indian boy/Loved all the animals and the woods ..." The theme song was a variation on the so-called “warpath” music Hollywood used for Native Americans, likely derived from music used by Great Plains and Southwest tribes. The so-called “warpath” music was first performed in the 1910s for Buffalo Bill’s circus and was later adapted for Hollywood. (Thanks to Ronald Byrd for this reference.)
There is a place for fun in our lives.
“There’s a place for fun in your life” was a mid-1990s slogan for The Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota. (Thanks to Nick Karels for this reference.)
Wayne only used the phrase in two films—McClintock and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
“It’s an exact duplicate of the head we found on the plateau.” Pilgrim.
To be fair, he said “pilgrim” over 20 times in Liberty Valance, so that’s a lot.
“The city must have been built on ...” Rock and roll.
A reference to the song “We Built This City” by Starship, née Jefferson Starship, née Jefferson Airplane. Sample lyrics: “Ma Coley plays the mamba, listen to the radio, don't you remember/We built this city, we built this city on rock and roll …”
An imitation of comedian and actor Dana Carvey’s parody of political commentator John McLaughlin, in his role as the firebrand moderator of The McLaughlin Group, a weekly roundtable political discussion TV show famous for battles between staunch conservatives trying to shout each other down. The McLaughlin Group debuted in 1982 and continues to this day in syndication; Carvey’s parody was a recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975-present) during Carvey’s tenure there (1986-1993).
“Strong enough to support the city until an earthquake came along.” But made for a woman.
“Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman” is the longtime advertising slogan of Secret deodorant.
It’s the equivalent of your Skokie or your Downers Grove.
Skokie and Downers Grove are both suburbs of Chicago, Illinois: Skokie to the north, and Downers Grove to the west.
"They ran away from a flood right into an earthquake." Shut up already, damn!
See above note on Prince song “Housequake.”
His head is shaped like a DustBuster.
The DustBuster is a handheld cordless vacuum cleaner made by Black & Decker. It was first marketed unsuccessfully to men as the Spot Vac. When women kept borrowing them, the company relaunched it as the DustBuster and sold millions.
The Load in Repose.
Nude in Repose is an oil painting by French post-impressionist painter Henri Lebasque, who was most active in Paris in the early 1900s. (Thanks to Jennifer Swift for this reference.)
You might want to tell Lizabeth you’re coming.
On the TV series Sanford and Son, which aired from 1972-1977, when Fred Sanford (played by Redd Foxx) wanted to manipulate his son, he would fake a heart attack and call out to his dead wife, “It’s the big one! I’m comin’, Lizabeth!”
The 1976 horror movie Carrie, starring Sissy Spacek and based on Stephen King’s 1974 novel, features a classic jump-scare ending. (Spoiler Alert) In a dream sequence, a girl is placing flowers on the ground where Carrie’s house imploded and presumably buried her. Suddenly a hand reaches up out of the ground and grabs the girl. Carrie was remade in 2013, this time starring Chloe Grace Moretz. (Thanks to Tucker Bowen for this reference.)
A Starbucks employee was killed today in an avalanche of Guatemalan Antigua.
Starbucks is a Seattle, Washington-based chain of coffee shops that was founded in 1971; as of 2003, it boasted more than 6,200 locations worldwide. Guatemalan Antigua is just one of the many varieties of coffee offered by Starbucks. The company roasts more than 500 million pounds of coffee beans every year.
The mole people have Jheri curls.
Jheri curls are named after beauty products manufacturer and hairstylist Jheri Redding. It was a curly, “wet look” style that peaked in popularity in the 1980s; it was worn largely by Black people.
Venus de Nothingo.
The Venus de Milo is one of the most famous statues in the world. It is a depiction in marble of the Greek goddess Aphrodite; it was carved around 120 B.C.E. by an unknown sculptor and discovered in 1820 on Milos, an island in the Aegean. It currently resides in the Louvre in Paris.
[Sung.] I ain’t got nobody ...
A line from the song of the same name; Louis Prima paired it with “Just a Gigolo” in 1957, and the combination became a signature tune for him. Sample lyrics: “Well I ain't got nobody/Nobody cares for me/That's why I'm so sad and lonesome/Won't somebody come and take a chance with me.”
[Sung.] After the lovin’ ...
A line from the song “After the Lovin’” by Englebert Humperdinck, a top ten hit for him in 1977. Sample lyrics: “And I know that my song/Isn't sayin' anything new/Oh, but after the lovin'/I'm still in love with you.”
June, no, not tonight, honey.
See note on the Cleavers, above. Like other married TV couples of the 1960s, Ward and June Cleaver slept in prim, sexless twin beds.
They’re turning him into Jerzy Kosinski!
Jerzy Kosinski (1933-1991) was a Polish-American writer whose satirical novels include Steps and Being There. Plagued by ill health and accusations of plagiarism, he committed suicide in 1991 by ingesting drugs and alcohol and then wrapping a plastic bag around his head.
Well, that is a nasty sand trap. He’ll have to get some quick loft on this shot.
Golf courses are scattered with various “hazards” that make the ball much more difficult to hit, compared to the grass that makes up the rest of the course. “Water hazards” are essentially small lakes, and “bunkers,” also called sand traps, are shallow pits filled with sand. One theory on the origin of golf course sand traps holds that they evolved from sheep bedding down behind sand dunes near early courses, which dug out natural hollows over time.
You slept with Madonna!
Madonna is an American rock musician known for her frequent “reinventions” of herself and her uninhibited sexuality. She has cultivated an image as a confident, sex-positive woman. Her 1992 book Sex, for instance, featured nude photos of herself, other celebrities, and models.
”We were brought in, there has to be a way out.” Pilgrim.
See note on John Wayne, above. Mole People star John Agar appeared in six films with John Wayne, including Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.
Would you say I’m “dangerously thin”?
“Dangerously thin” was a constant criticism of mid-1990s supermodels like Kate Moss, who personified “heroin chic.”
The old guy was originally cast in Desperado; then Antonio Banderas got it.
Desperado is a 1995 action film starring Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas as a mariachi musician turned outlaw. It was Banderas’s first film with director Robert Rodriguez; the two have worked together several more times since then.
Oh, you never would believe where those Keebler cookies come from.
A reference to an old advertising jingle for Keebler cookies, dating back to 1967. The complete lyrics: “Man, you never would believe where those Keebler cookies come from/They're baked by little guys in a hollow tree/And what do you think makes those cookies so uncommon?/They're baked in magic ovens and there's no factory. Hey!”
Santa will see you now.
Santa Claus is the mythical figure who delivers toys to children at Christmas; the origin of the legend is thought to lie in stories about St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian saint. (“Sinterklaas” is the Dutch name for St. Nick.)
You’ll make excellent fudge stripers.
Fudge Stripes, shortbread cookies covered with stripes of fudge, are a variety of cookie in Keebler’s Fudge Shoppe line. See previous note on Keebler. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
It’s gotta be humiliating to be tortured by a Smurf.
The tiny blue Smurfs were originally Belgian comic book characters in the ‘50s; they became a hugely popular fad in the ‘70s and ‘80s as collectible figurines.
Hey, Sneezy, you ever have rooms open up?
Sneezy was one of the seven dwarfs in the Walt Disney animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). (The others were Dopey, Sleepy, Grumpy, Happy, Bashful, and Doc.) He was voiced by Billy Gilbert.
You guys know Data?
Lieutenant Commander Data, played by Brent Spiner, was the pale-skinned android crew member on Star Trek: The Next Generation, which aired from 1987-1994. He has had several songs written in his honor, including “The Positronic Pimp” and “The Sexy Data Tango.”
It’s an In-N-Out Burger.
In-N-Out Burger is a California-based chain of fast-food restaurants that inspires an almost cult-like devotion in its many fans.
They did a good job redeveloping the River Styx waterfront.
In Greek mythology, the River Styx was one of the rivers of the underworld. According to legend, its waters were poisonous and would eat through any container except one made from a horse’s hoof.
[Sung.] Pow Wow the Indian boy ...
See note on The Adventures of Pow Wow, above.
No one must tell Mr. Wayne about our little soiree.
See note on Alfred Pennyworth, above.
Just do it.
“Just do it” is an advertising slogan for Nike athletic shoes. It was first introduced in 1988 and has proved phenomenally successful. The slogan was inspired by the last words of executed killer Gary Gilmore: “Let’s do it.”
[Sung.] Ooo-ga-sha-ga ... –I can’t stop this feeling ...
A rendition of the “jungle native” chant from song “Hooked on a Feeling.” The chant was originally added to the existing song by Jonathan King. Sample lyrics: “I can't stop this feeling/Deep inside of me/Girl, you just don't realize/What you do to me.” (Thanks to reader Blake Maddux for this reference.)
That’s Alfred the Butler, right?
See note on Alfred Pennyworth, above. Before appearing on Batman, Alan Napier was a classically trained actor who starred in feature film versions of Macbeth and Julius Caesar.
He’s modeled his hair after the Dickeyville Grotto.
The Dickeyville Grotto in Dickeyville, Wisconsin, was built by Father Mathias Wernerus between 1925 and 1931. It is a folk art construction consisting of caves, alcoves, statues, and fountains, with nearly every square inch covered in costume jewelry, found objects, shells, and so forth.
The world’s most foppish Klansman.
The Ku Klux Klan has been a couple of secret organizations over the years; the first was founded just after the Civil War as a vigilante group designed to retain white supremacy in the South by intimidating newly freed black slaves. It had disappeared within twenty years. But in 1915 the group was revived, inspired by the film The Birth of a Nation, which portrayed the original KKK as a noble band striving to protect civilization from depraved Blacks. The official uniform of Klansmen was a set of white robes and a pointed white mask, used to conceal the identities of the members. The organization peaked at a membership of about 4 million in the 1920s but had once again died out by the end of World War II. There was another brief resurgence of the Klan in the 1960s in response to the civil rights movement; today its membership is probably only a few thousand, and it has fragmented into several small and competing groups.
It’s a race of albino Patti LaBelles.
Patti LaBelle’s career as a singer has ranged from girl groups to acclaimed solo work; she is one of the diva queens of contemporary music, best known for her early 1970s disco hit “Lady Marmalade” (you know, the one that goes “Voulez-vous couchez avec moi, ce soir …”).
“There is only heaven, where we lived a long time ago, until we were expelled for our sins amidst thunder and fire.” Baptists.
Baptists are a group of Christian churches and denominations that put a great emphasis on the rite of baptism. They are known as a plain-living and stoic sect, and often oppose such activities as going to movies and dancing. Old joke: Why don’t Baptists make love standing up? They’re afraid someone might see them and think they were dancing.
Or accept workfare.
Workfare is an alternative to social welfare that emphasizes seeking direct employment, training, and work experience programs that lead to employment, or unpaid or low-paid work that is deemed a benefit to society. In the 1990s Democratic President Bill Clinton worked with the Republican-controlled Congress to pass a welfare-reform bill that emphasized workfare.
“You will die in the fires of Ishtar.” Hey, that movie wasn’t that bad.
Ishtar was a notorious Hollywood flop, a 1987 road movie about two lounge singers (played by Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty) who get mixed up in a CIA plot. It cost $51 million and only took in $14 million at the box office.
[Sung.] Who will buy this wonderful feeling ...
A line from the song “Who Will Buy” from the 1960 musical Oliver!, based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Sample lyrics: “Who will buy this wonderful feeling?/I’m so high I swear I could fly/Me, oh my! I don’t want to lose it/So what am I to do/To keep the sky so blue?” (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Linc. Julie. Load.
Linc Hayes and Julie Barnes (played by Clarence Williams III and Peggy Lipton, respectively) were two of the hip young police narks in the TV series The Mod Squad, which aired from 1968-1973. (The third was Pete Cochran, played by Michael Cole.) The opening title sequence of the show featured the principal characters running breathlessly through a narrow, dark, rain-soaked alleyway.
It’s a pride of Dr. Smiths.
A group of female lions, their mates, and their offspring is known as a pride. Dr. Zachary Smith, as played by Jonathan Harris, was the mincing stowaway/saboteur on the campy science fiction TV series Lost in Space (CBS, 1965-1968). The show centered on the Robinson family, whose spaceship had become lost in uncharted quadrants of the galaxy, and their stowaway, Dr. Smith. Originally cast as a villain, Dr. Smith soon became a sympathetic character and comic relief in the series, with most of the conflicts resulting from his harebrained schemes gone awry.
The Swiss Army is always undone by book dumpings and pantsings.
Switzerland, despite its famed neutrality, maintains an army for self-defense (the origin of the fabled Swiss Army knife). Its soldiers are drawn from the general population—every able-bodied male is liable for service until the age of 42.
Data is down!
See note on Data, above. Data was unaffected by disease, the vacuum of space, and other human frailties, but he was vulnerable to computer viruses, energy overloads, and the fatal remote “off switch.”
“We made them doubt their world is the only world; their answers the only answers.” Thank you, Hannah Arendt.
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was a German-American political scientist and philosopher who coined the phrase “the banality of evil” in what is her best-known work, Eichmann in Jerusalem. She wrote extensively on violence and totalitarianism.
Mmm, another Keebler. You don’t even need to age these guys.
The Keebler elves are an assortment of tiny characters who supposedly bake all of Keebler’s cookies in a hollow tree (see above note). There have been many over the years, including Flo the accountant, Roger the jeweler, and Buckets the fudge guy.
Three weird sisters.
The three weird sisters predict Macbeth’s rise and eventual fall in the Shakespeare play Macbeth. “Weird” derives from the Old English “wyrd,” or “fate.”
Disney’s Dominatrix World.
Walt Disney (1901-1966) was an animator, producer, and theme-park impresario, including Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In the sexual subculture of bondage, discipline, and sadomasochism (BDSM), a dominatrix is a woman who assumes a dominant role.
Crack that whip!
A line from the song “Whip It” by Devo. Sample lyrics: “Crack that whip/Give the past the slip/Step on a crack/Break your momma's back.”
Ah, Kathy Lee Gifford’s garment workers.
Kathie Lee Gifford is a TV show host best known for her lengthy run on Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee, which she co-hosted from 1985-2000. Among her many commercial enterprises was a clothing line bearing her name and sold through Walmart stores. In 1996, a human rights group reported that South American sweatshop labor was being used to manufacture her clothing. Gifford first responded by saying she wasn’t involved in manufacturing decisions, and then became active in promoting federal investigations and legislation addressing sweatshop labor abuses.
My shitake, mine!
Shitakes are an intensely flavored, quite pricy variety of mushroom used in gourmet cooking. You can buy them fresh or dried.
Eduard Shevardnadze hits the wall.
Eduard Shevardnadze (1928-2014) was the foreign minister of the Soviet Union from 1985-1990 and again briefly in 1991. He aided Mikhail Gorbachev in his program to bring greater freedoms to the USSR but resigned abruptly in 1990 in protest over the influence of old-style Communist hard-liners on Gorbachev’s policies.
Contents of load may have shifted during death.
A riff on the standard warning flight attendants give upon landing.
Dear Lord, please take this, our brother, into thy loving … –[Muffled.] I’m not dead! –Shh. –How verily, one of thy children … –[Muffled.] I’m okay … –Sweep him into thy tender … –[Muffled.] Please! –Forever and ever, amen.
In a famous scene in the 1975 comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a man trying to dump an elderly relative on a cart full of plague victims is repeatedly interrupted by his relative’s claims that he is not, in fact, dead.
Is the first stage of grief pure, unbridled joy?
Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed the five stages of grief in 1969: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.
Scenic design by El Greco.
El Greco (1541-1614) was a Spanish painter who was far ahead of his time; his expressionistic paintings gained new renown in the 20th century.
It was the Monster Mash.
“Monster Mash” was a smash hit novelty song in 1962 by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers. Pickett went on to release a few more singles but never again attained the popularity of his first outing.
Three Emo Philips.
Emo Philips is a standup comedian from the wacked-out Andy Kaufman school of comedy. The All Music Guide describes his routine as "a bit like listening to an extraterrestrial doing shtick, and just about as funny in spots."
And here’s Kitty Carlisle with the soup dish.
Kitty Carlisle (1910-2007) was an actress who appeared in a few movies during the 1930s and 1940s, but she was best known for her regular appearances as a panelist on To Tell the Truth, a game show in which the celebrity panel must decide which of three contestants is associated with a story.
Your Auntie Mame privileges are revoked for a month.
Auntie Mame is a 1956 play and a 1958 movie based on the 1955 Patrick Dennis novel of the same name. Both starred Rosalind Russell as Mame Dennis, the eccentric aunt of a young orphan.
David Soul's favorite movie.
David Soul (1943-2024) played Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson on the TV series Starsky and Hutch (1975-1979). He was also a singer who had a number-one hit in the 1970s: “Don’t Give Up On Us, Baby.” Plagued by alcoholism and a violent temper, Soul was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery in 1982, after assaulting his third wife in their Bel Air home. He completed a two-year alcohol and anger-management program.
Mach 1, like a Mustang?
The Mustang is an iconic American sports car that was introduced by the Ford Motor Company in 1965 and has been in continuous production ever since. The Mach 1 is a “performance” (read: faster) version of the Mustang that was introduced as an option package with the 1969 model year, retired in 1978, re-introduced for 2003-2004, and is slated to return in 2018.
Ah, sir, there’s a little problem with the Visa card.
Visa Inc. is a financial services company mostly known for its credit cards. It began in 1958 as a Bank of America pilot program and decided on the name Visa in 1976 as a familiar term in many languages. In later years, the name became a “backronym” for “Visa International Service Association.”
And a special intention for Agnes Pinecratz, who’s having surgery this week.
In the Catholic Church, special intention involves holding a Mass or saying prayers for a specific purpose. The priest speaks a special intention prayer, and the congregants respond with “Lord, hear our prayer.”
Okay, you were the Kool-Aid, and you were the banjo, right?
Kool-Aid is a flavored drink mix that has been popular with kids for decades. Invented by Nebraskan Edwin Perkins in 1927, seven flavors were initially available: cherry, grape, lemon-lime, orange, raspberry, root beer, and strawberry. In 1953, the brand was sold to General Foods. In the 1960s, the giant pitcher-shaped mascot Kool-Aid Man was introduced, who would exclaim, “Oh yeah!” after crashing through a wall. The name became associated with a bad bit of business in 1978 when 918 cultists committed suicide (or were forced to) in Jonestown, Guyana. The phrase “drank the Kool-Aid” has come to mean a person has bought into a line of foolish thinking or dogma, when in fact the victims drank poison mixed with Kool-Aid competitor Flavor Aid.
“Scram” in Pig Latin. Pig Latin is a “language game” in which English words are reconstructed according to a simple set of rules. Those rules are fairly easy to learn, but to the uninitiated, Pig Latin sounds like a foreign language, which is kind of the idea. The current version dates back to at least 1919.
Have you never been mellow?
“Have You Never Been Mellow” is a song from Olivia Newton-John’s 1975 album of the same name. Written and produced by John Farrar, it became Newton-John's second number-one hit in the U.S. Sample lyrics: “Have you never been mellow?/Have you never tried to find a comfort from inside you?/Have you never been happy just to hear your song?”
Except once in a Moody Blues song.
Several Moody Blues songs have lyrics about emerging from darkness into the light, including “One Step into the Light” and “Lost in a Lost World.” The Moody Blues were a British rock band founded in 1964, known for such hits as “Tuesday Afternoon” and “Nights in White Satin.” They began as a straightforward blues/R&B group, then abruptly switched to a lush orchestral/rock sound with fantasy themes, laying the groundwork for what became known as progressive rock, or “prog rock.”
[Sung.] Some folks like the summertime ...
This is a line from the song “Footprints in the Snow,” a signature song for bluegrass musician Bill Monroe. Sample lyrics: “Well, some folks like the summertime/When they can walk about/Strollin’ through the meadow green/Well, it’s pleasant, there’s no doubt.”
“Beautiful cities.” Quad Cities.
The Quad Cities are a group of four cities clustered along I-80 in the Midwest: Moline, Illinois; Rock Island, Illinois; Davenport, Iowa; and Bettendorf, Iowa.
And I’ve heard ooh heaven is a place on earth.
A riff on the Belinda Carlisle song “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” her most popular tune; it hit #1 in 1987. Sample lyrics: “Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth?/Ooh heaven is a place on earth.”
Suddenly Susan is on.
Suddenly Susan was a television sitcom that aired from 1996-2000. It starred Brooke Shields as a young woman starting a career as a magazine editor after leaving her fiancé at the altar.
[Sung.] A bubblin’ crude ...
See note on The Beverly Hillbillies, above. “The Ballad of Jed Clampett” was sung by country-western star Jerry Scoggins; the instrumentals were provided by the bluegrass duo Flatt and Scruggs.
You here for the sous chef position?
In a professional kitchen, the sous chef (French for “under-chef”) is the second in command under the executive chef, and usually the next in line for that position.
They killed Fozzie Bear!
Fozzie Bear was one of the Muppets on The Muppet Show, which aired from 1976-1981. Fozzie (performed by Frank Oz) was a sweet-tempered, not-terribly-good standup comedian who usually got booed off the stage.
Mark VII. Mark VII. Mark VII Productions. Mark VII Productions.
Mark VII Limited was a television production company founded by Jack Webb, star of Dragnet. In addition to Dragnet, Mark VII produced Emergency! and Adam 12, among other shows. Its video logo showed an arm wielding a hammer to stamp the Mark VII logo into stone.
And pick me up a Frappuccino, too.
Frappuccinos are a line of cold drinks served by Starbucks (see above note), consisting of ice blended with coffee and other flavors. It was actually developed at a Massachusetts coffeehouse chain, The Coffee Connection, which Starbucks bought in 1994.
Kristen McMenamy looking wonderful in a Vivienne Westwood ...
Vivienne Westwood is a British fashion designer who dressed the Sex Pistols, among others. Kristen McMenamy is a fashion model who in the 1990s cultivated a pale, androgynous look.
That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Stanley.
A reference to the old Laurel and Hardy comedy team, which made a string of movies during the 1920s and ’30s. Oliver Hardy’s childish, bossy, fussy character was wont to say the above line to reprove the gentle, incompetent Stan Laurel.
Harold Lloyd is behind you.
Harold Lloyd (1893-1971) was a bespectacled film comedian of the 1920s and one of the most popular actors in the silent-movie era. Lloyd was known for physical comedy featuring an array of life-threatening stunts, which he performed himself. The most famous of these was the clock sequence in Safety Last (1923), in which he hung from the arms of a clock on a building several stories above the ground.
Not everyone can wear a snood.
A snood is a hood-like piece of headgear that holds a woman’s hair in either a cloth bag or a loosely knitted or crocheted yarn bag. The snood has been popular at various points in history, including the medieval era, the Victorian period, and the 1940s.
The mole people need Cesar Chavez.
Cesar Chavez (1927-1993) was a labor organizer who worked to better the lives of migrant farm workers. In 1962 he founded the National Farm Workers Association, and three years later he launched a five-year strike by grape pickers that led to a nationwide boycott on grapes. A number of other successful labor actions followed.
Make them long, beautiful Maybelline lashes.
Maybelline is a brand of moderately priced cosmetics—including mascara—sold in groceries and drugstores worldwide. The company was named after the founder’s sister, Mabel.
Cassius, Antony, where’s the Ides of March dinner?
Julius Caesar (c. 100 B.C.E.-44 B.C.E.) was a Roman general and dictator. On March 15, 44 B.C.E. (also known as the Ides of March), he was stabbed to death by a group of conspirators led by Cassius. Marc Antony was not involved in the plot; he instead succeeded Caesar as ruler of the Roman Empire.
Oh, the pain …
An imitation of Dr. Zachary Smith on Lost in Space (see above note). Dr. Smith’s relentless cowardice resulted in frequent emotional breakdowns, wherein he would either hide behind other characters and howl “We’re doomed!” or confess his shortcomings and whimper, “Oh, the shame, the pain …”
[Sung.] I’d rather be in some dark hollow where the sun don’t ever shine ...
A line from the traditional bluegrass standard “Dark Hollow.” Though originally written and recorded by Bill Browning, the Grateful Dead version became far more popular. Sample lyrics: “I’d rather be in some dark hollow where the sun don’t ever shine/Than to be at home alone and knowin’ that you’re gone …”
[Sung.] Guitar riff from “Lazy.”
Tom is singing the main guitar riff from the song “Lazy” by British rock band Deep Purple. The song appears on their 1972 album Machine Head; at over seven minutes it’s the longest track on the album, and it became a concert warhorse for the band, with live versions stretching out much longer. Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore would sometimes use that same riff in other songs while performing with his solo band Rainbow. (Thanks to Uisce Preston for this reference.)
“They’re so right.” [Sung.] You win … that’s okay …
A riff on lyrics from the pop song “Alright, Okay, You Win,” written by Mayme Watts and Sidney Wyche and first recorded by singer Peggy Lee in 1958, becoming one of her signature songs. Sample lyrics: “Well alright, okay, you win/I’m in love with you/Well alright, okay, you win/Baby, what can I do?/Anything you say, I’ll do/As long as it’s me and you.”
“Our gods are always angry and give orders.” Oh, she’s Catholic.
“Catholic” refers to the practices and doctrines of the many Catholic churches, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Catholic Church.
“The king wishes to see you at once.” He can’t remember a line from Carousel.
Carousel is a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical about a carnival barker who attempts a robbery to support his pregnant girlfriend. It opened on Broadway in 1945 and was adapted for film in 1956 and for television in 1967. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Thanks for the bucket of cold water, Clorox face.
Clorox is a brand of household bleach manufactured by the Clorox Co. The Clorox Co. was originally called the Electro-Alkaline Co. when it was founded in 1913.
What’s new in the hollow tree, you freaks?
See note on Keebler elves, above.
Oh, Pilate’s favorite! What I wouldn’t give to be spat upon!
In Monty Python’s 1979 movie Life of Brian, the Roman jailor spits in Brian’s face before locking him up. Brian’s cellmate regards this as preferential treatment and calls him a “proper little jailor’s pet” before lamenting, “Ohhh! What wouldn’t I give to be spat at in the face! I sometimes hang awake at night dreaming of being spat at in the face.” (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Just pretend it’s Adam Sandler.
Adam Sandler is a comedian and actor who has enjoyed amazing success with a series of fairly lowbrow, feel-good movies, including The Wedding Singer (1998) and Mr. Deeds (2002). He got his start on Saturday Night Live, where he appeared from 1991-1995.
That’s for Billy Madison!
Billy Madison is a 1995 movie starring Adam Sandler as the son of a very wealthy man, who, in order to inherit, must repeat grades 1-12.
They make the French army look stalwart.
Jokes about the cowardice of the French army are legion; most date back to the World War II era, when France surrendered to Nazi Germany in 1940.
Come on, plenty of D cell for everybody.
The first D cell batteries were introduced in 1898. During World War II the Navy decided to call them Type C batteries, confusing everyone.
Agar is the John Brown of the mole people.
John Brown (1800-1859) was an abolitionist who in 1859 staged a raid on a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in hopes of inciting a slave rebellion. The attempt failed, and Brown was convicted of treason and hanged, becoming an instant martyr for the anti-slavery movement.
They’re wearing the Green Giant’s protective cup on their backs.
The Minnesota Valley Canning Co. began using the Green Giant mascot in 1928; they later renamed their company after the ad figure. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
They’re really Jell-O mold men.
Jell-O is a sweetened gelatin dessert made by Kraft Foods. In the 1950s, Tupperware molds in various shapes to make your Jell-O look fancy became popular.
Excuse me, my story’s on.
In this context, “story” refers to TV soap operas. Soap operas originated on radio in the 1930s and made the jump to TV in the late 1940s; the name comes from the many soap and detergent commercials aired during the early years, since they were on during the day, when housewives were their main audience. “Story” seems to be used predominantly in Black communities; its origin is unclear, although one theory traces it to TV networks’ habit in the 1950s of referring to soap operas as “continuing stories”—as in, “Tune in tomorrow for the continuing story of ...”
[Sung.] Northwest Orient …
This is the jingle for Northwest Orient Airlines, as heard in a series of ads in the 1970s and ‘80s until it dropped “Orient” from its name in 1986.
Cindy Lou Who! No!
Cindy Lou Who, “who was no more than two,” is a character from the classic 1966 TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas, based on the book by Dr. Seuss. Cindy almost foils the Grinch’s plans when she wanders sleepily out of bed while he’s stripping her home of everything festive.
No, think of math, Knoblauch’s batting .383 …
Chuck Knoblauch played second base for the Minnesota Twins from 1991-1997. His career batting average was .289.
And away we go ...
An imitation of comedian Jackie Gleason’s catchphrase from his variety show, The Jackie Gleason Show, which aired, in various incarnations, between 1952 and 1970. He became best known to later generations for playing Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners.
The Linda Hunt modern dance troupe.
Linda Hunt is a diminutive actress who won an Oscar for her portrayal of male photographer Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously (1983). She has appeared in more than 30 films and TV shows.
Thank you, Bjork.
Bjork is an Icelandic musician and actress, known for her eclectic soprano voice and her outrageous fashion sense.
This is the Jerry Garcia guitar solo of liturgical dance.
Jerry Garcia (1942-1995) was the singer, songwriter, and lead guitarist for the Grateful Dead. At the band’s live performances, Garcia was known for his meandering, interminable guitar solos. Liturgical dance is dance as a form of worship during a religious ceremony.
She has a Romanian gymnast look.
Romanian Olympic gymnasts had a hot streak from the 1970s to the 1990s, with Nadia Comaneci doing the best: in 1976, Comaneci became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of ten; in fact, she received seven perfect scores, ultimately winning three gold medals and one bronze.
Now her head starts spraying water and kids run through it.
Willy Water Bug is a sprinkler-like lawn toy first made by Wham-O in the 1970s.
Amateur Night of the gods!
Chariots of the Gods? is a book written by Erich Von Daniken, in which he postulated that the pyramids of ancient Egypt were built with extraterrestrial assistance. It has inspired many works of fiction, including the original Battlestar Galactica.
Ah, Helen Mirren volunteers to go first.
Helen Mirren is a respected British actress who first came to international fame for her portrayal of police detective Jane Tennison in the Prime Suspect series on the BBC. She has played three different English queens, including both Elizabeths.
Appetizers for the gods.
See previous note on Chariots of the Gods?
Calgon, take me away.
“Calgon, take me away” is a longtime advertising slogan for Calgon scented bath products, which include bubble bath, body lotions, and more.
Lily, don’t go in there.
On the 1960s sitcom The Munsters, Lily was the vampiric housewife played by Yvonne De Carlo.
Looks like Al Lewis in a long wig.
Al Lewis (1910-2006) is an actor who is best known for his portrayal of Grandpa Munster on the TV show The Munsters, which aired from 1964 to 1966.
The death of Shirley Manson.
Shirley Manson is the lead singer for the band Garbage.
[Sung.] Stupid girl ...
“Stupid Girl” is a 1996 hit song by the band Garbage (see previous note).
Now, we baked some sacrifices earlier…
On TV cooking shows, the host will often demonstrate how to prepare a dish and then haul out another version baked earlier to show what it looks like once it's finished.
Oh boy, I’m glad it’s Friday, I’m already sipping my first margarita, I tell ya.
A margarita is an alcoholic cocktail consisting of tequila mixed with orange liqueur and lime juice. It can be served on the rocks or blended with ice, usually in a glass rimmed with salt.
Now we apply the holy Solarcaine.
Solarcaine is a brand name for lidocaine, a local anesthetic; it is sold OTC to relieve the pain of sunburn.
I wanted so badly for George Hamilton to like me ...
Actor and Dancing with the Stars contestant George Hamilton's ultra-tanned complexion has resembled chestnut-brown leather for decades. He was unsurprisingly treated for skin cancer in 2011. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Don’t interrupt my bridge club again.
Bridge is a card game played with four people. There are about 3 million regular bridge players in the US. In the ‘40s, about 44 percent of American households had at least one bridge player.
Their chef is Stanley Owsley.
Owsley Stanley (Augustus Owsley Stanley III, 1935-2011) was a legendary figure in the late 1960s counterculture, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area. As an “underground chemist,” he was the first person to manufacture large quantities of extremely pure and potent LSD. Stanley estimated he made more than a million doses of LSD between 1965 and 1967, when the drug was not yet illegal. He was also closely associated with the rock band The Grateful Dead, designing and building their massive and distortion-free sound system, the “Wall of Sound,” which was the largest and most powerful concert sound system of its time.
A flashlight! Now all we need is a tent, some s'mores, and some ... outside.
S'mores are a traditional campfire treat consisting of a toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate (ideally Hershey’s) sandwiched between two squares of graham crackers. Recipes for s’mores appeared as early as the 1920s, although they were not called “s’mores” until the ‘30s.
[Sung.] Diamonds, daisies, mole men, that girl.
A parody of a line from the theme song to That Girl, a television series that aired from 1966-1971. It starred Marlo Thomas as Ann Marie, an aspiring actress struggling to make it in New York City. Sample lyrics: “Diamonds, daisies, snowflakes/That Girl/Chestnuts, rainbows, springtime/Is That Girl/She's tinsel on a tree/She's everything that every girl should be!”
[Chanted.] I left my wife and forty-nine kids on the verge of starvation with only one hamburger left, left, a left right left.
This is one version of an old army marching song, or jody call; there are a number of variations.
Zola Budd is a South African middle-distance and long-distance runner known for training and racing barefoot. She competed in the 1984 and 1992 Olympics and won the World Cross Country Championships twice. (Thanks to Silent Hunter for this reference.)
Grace called in sick and I’m really in the weeds here.
“In the weeds” is restaurant-speak for being very busy and falling behind on orders and customer service.
She’s stumbled into the Hormel meat-packing plant.
Hormel Foods is a company that manufactures a number of products, including deli meats, hot dogs, canned chili, and more. The main Hormel meatpacking facility is located in Austin, Minnesota, near its southern border with Iowa.
Union! Union! Union!
The 1979 film Norma Rae starred Sally Field as a young woman trying to unionize her textile mill. It was based on the real-life struggles of union organizer Crystal Lee Sutton.
No, please, no, I need my Bain de Soleil!
Bain de Soleil is a brand of sunscreen; the name is French for “sun bathing.”
Out you two pixies go ...
From the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide: “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.”)
Pismo Beach, and all the clams you can eat.
In the 1957 Merrie Melodies cartoon “Ali Baba Bunny,” Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck pop out of the ground, thinking they have tunneled to Pismo Beach, California, and looking forward to “all the clams we can eat.” Pismo Beach is a small city on the central coast of California; in the 1950s the city announced it was the “Clam Capital of the World” and began holding a yearly clam festival. The festival still exists, but the motto is defunct; unfortunately, the actual population of Pismo clams has been decimated by over-harvesting and the protected sea otter.
Oh, Mr. Drysdale!
An impression of Jane Hathaway (Nancy Kulp), assistant to greedy banker Mr. Milburn Drysdale on The Beverly Hillbillies.
This is for all those years of Whac-a-Mole!
Whac-a-Mole is an arcade game in which small plastic moles pop up out of holes in the game board in a random pattern, and the player attempts to hit them with a mallet before they disappear again. Aaron Fechter, inventor of Whac-a-Mole, also created the animatronic band for ShowBiz Pizza Place (later Chuck E. Cheese).
The Gore-Tex seal of approval.
This is a reference to the notched-arrow logo of W.L. Gore and Associates, makers of Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex is a breathable, waterproof fabric for use in clothing and medical applications. (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
Are you there, God? It’s me, Margaret.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a 1970 children’s book by Judy Blume, about a young girl dealing with her spiritual doubts and her burgeoning adolescence.
“Sunlight.” With the power of lemon.
Sunlight Hand Dishwashing Liquid boasts that it has “the grease-cutting power of real lemon juice.” Also diethanolamine, sodium xylene sulfonate, and dodecylbenzene sulfonic acid.
Oh movie, I’m not a praying man, but if you can hear me, please kill John Agar.
In the classic 1946 movie It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (James Stewart) beseeches God, “Dear Father in heaven, I’m not a praying man, but if you’re up there and you can hear me…show me the way, show me the way.” (Thanks to Emily C. for this reference.)
I was in the top three-quarters of my class at Cardinal Stritch.
Cardinal Stritch University is a Catholic university in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a total enrollment of about 6,800. It was originally a women’s college, going fully coed in 1970.
[Sung.] Pow Wow the Indian…
See note on The Adventures of Pow Wow, above.
I’ve been thinking: now that we have two children, it’s time to marry June.
See note on Leave It to Beaver, above. Ward and June Cleaver were held up as the improbably ideal American marriage; Beaumont and Billingsley had two divorces and four spouses between them (two of Billingsley’s husbands died).
[Sung.] There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow ...
A line from the song “Oh What a Beautiful Morning,” from the musical Oklahoma! Sample lyrics: “There's a bright golden haze on the meadow/The corn is as high as an elephant's eye/An' it looks like it's climbin' clear up to the sky.”
Note from the Sherpas: “Got tired of waiting, took your freeze-dried ice cream.”
Freeze-dried ice cream is a real product, sold primarily to campers and survivalists—so pretty much the only time anyone has ever eaten it was when they were camping, or got hungry waiting for the apocalypse. It was developed for NASA but only went to space once, aboard Apollo 7. The astronauts hated it.
Who is this Eddie Bauer?
Eddie Bauer, founder of the outdoor clothing store chain that bears his name, was born on Orcas Island and grew up exploring the Pacific Northwest before starting his company.
I forgot my Lancôme and my journal!
Lancôme Paris is a cosmetics company that sells a full line of beauty products: skin care, makeup, perfumes, etc. The company's name was taken from the ruins of a castle, Le Chateau de Lancosme.
An imitation of Ricky Ricardo objecting to one of Lucy’s hair-brained schemes on I Love Lucy. I Love Lucy, which aired from 1951-1957, became the blueprint for American sitcoms, and, thanks to endless syndication, an iconic TV memory for generations of viewers. In a typical episode, Lucy Ricardo (played by Lucille Ball) and Ethel Mertz (played by Vivian Vance) would get themselves hopelessly entangled in some harebrained scheme to satisfy Lucy’s lust for fame and show biz.
Be with us next time when they discover the pocket gopher people.
Pocket gophers are rodents found in North and Central America. The “pockets” are their large cheek pouches, which can be turned inside out and are used for hauling food back to their underground burrows.
Later, when Marlon Brando hops on his treadmill ...
Marlon Brando (1924-2004) was an actor who in his heyday was one of the best-looking men in Hollywood, starring in such films as On the Waterfront and A Streetcar Named Desire. As he got older, however, he began to put on the pounds and became the frequent butt of jokes for his increasing girth.
Don’t go chasing waterfalls!
A line from TLC’s 1995 song “Waterfalls,” which became the group's second number-one hit. Sample lyrics: “Don't go chasing waterfalls/Please stick to the rivers/And the lakes that you're used to/I know that you're gonna have it/Your way or nothing at all/But I think you're moving too fast.” (Thanks to Erik Topp for this reference.)
[Sung.] … the Indian boy …
See note on The Adventures of Pow Wow, above.