805: The Thing That Couldn't Die
by Chris Baumgartner
The Big Valley!
The Big Valley was a television series that aired from 1965 to 1969. It starred veteran actress Barbara Stanwyck as the head of a ranch in 1870s California.
The Strom Thurmond story.
Retired Senator Strom Thurmond (1902-2003) died at the age of 100. He served in the Senate from 1954 to 2003; in 1948 he ran for president on a strict segregationist, anti-civil-rights platform, and he only got cuddlier after that. Reportedly in his last few years in office he became rather frail, and some questioned before his retirement whether he was still fully capable of carrying out his duties to the people of South Carolina. He died six months after leaving office.
Plug it in, Joe.
A line from the movie This Island Earth, which Mike and the bots riffed in Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie; Joe is hunky scientist Cal’s wormy sidekick in the film. A lot of the incidental music in The Thing That Couldn’t Die appears to have been borrowed from This Island Earth’s soundtrack, which was uncredited but features work by Henry Mancini, Hans Salter, and Herman Stein. Both movies were Universal-International releases.
They beamed onto the planet O.K. Corral.
The infamous gunfight at O.K. Corral, which took place on October 26, 1881, involved a dispute between Deputy Wyatt Earp and his brothers, and the patriarch of a suspected criminal family, Ike Clanton. It happened in Tombstone, Arizona. Clanton’s brother Billy and two of their associates were killed; Earp and two others were wounded but survived. In the Star Trek episode “Spectre of the Gun,” the members of the Enterprise crew are forced to re-enact the gunfight on an alien planet.
Well, looks like someone’s mama let ’em grow up to become a cowboy. Let them play guitars and drive them old trucks, didn’t let them be doctors and lawyers and such. Shame, really.
“Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” is a country music song written by Ed and Patsy Bruce in 1976. It was covered by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson on their 1978 album Waylon & Willie, and was No. 1 on the country charts for four weeks.
Maybe there’ll be line dancing. –I hope not.
Line dancing is an old form of dance from when physical contact with a dance partner was forbidden. All line dancers perform the same steps at the same time standing in long lines without touching each other. Line dancing became wildly popular in the 1990s with such country hits as Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart.”
Look, in back, it’s L.A., they’re like a block from the Comedy Store. –Van Nuys.
The Comedy Store is the most famous comedy club in Los Angeles. It is located on the Sunset Strip, in Hollywood. Van Nuys is an area of Los Angeles, located in the San Fernando Valley.
The Big Valley.
See above note.
Joe dropped a needle, and now he’s off eating a Mallo Cup.
See note on This Island Earth, above. In movies, TV, and radio, the phrase “needle drop” indicates that a piece of prerecorded music is being used, as opposed to an originally composed music. Mallo Cups are candy cups with a marshmallow center surrounded by chocolate and coconut; they are manufactured by Boyer Candies.
Squeaky, we gotta leave, come on.
Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, a former member of the Manson Family, spent 34 years in prison following her failed assassination attempt on President Gerald Ford. She once escaped from custody in 1987 but was recaptured. She was paroled in 2009.
“Don’t you feel anything here either, Jessica?” [Hummed.] Tune to “Jessica.”
“Jessica” is an instrumental song by The Allman Brothers that was a major hit for the band in 1976.
This is an early version of The Milagro Beanfield War.
The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) is a film about an unscrupulous developer who attempts to displace a group of poor Hispanic farmers in the Southwest. It was directed by Robert Redford.
Why can’t I just bend spoons with my mind like everyone else?
During the 1970s, parapsychologist Uri Geller boasted of having the ability to bend spoons with his mind, among other psychic abilities. In 1973, however, he failed epically on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson after Carson, a trained stage magician, selected the spoons himself to preclude any trickery. The failure severely damaged his reputation.
Sonny Corleone, dude.
Santino “Sonny” Corleone is a character in Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel The Godfather and its 1972 film adaptation; he is killed by a rival Mafia in a bloody, vendetta-style execution. “Dude” is a visitor to a dude ranch, the setting for this experiment: a working ranch where city folk can vacation and live cowboy style for a while. Western folk referred to Eastern tourists as “dudes,” derived from the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
[Sung.] Here comes the bride, she’s out of her frigging mind …
The music is Richard Wagner’s “Bridal Chorus,” from the opera Lohengrin, also known in the English-speaking world as “Here Comes the Bride.” There are numerous versions of the lyrics in English (some more profane than others); one of the more common is: “Here comes the bride/All dressed in white/Sweetly, serenely in the soft glowing light.”
You’re my favorite sister-daughter.
In a major plot point in the 1974 film Chinatown, Faye Dunaway’s teenage sister is revealed to also be her daughter, thanks to some incestuous goings-on with her father.
[Sung.] Gonna see Miss Eliza, going to Mississippi …
This is a line from Woody Allen’s 1969 comedy film Take the Money and Run. After a failed bank heist, frail, meek Woody is put on a prison chain gang with a group of giant convicts, who sing this chant-like song while breaking rocks with sledgehammers.
Gidget, have you lain with the Horned One again?
Gidget is a 1959 movie about a young girl who discovers the joys of love and surfing with a fella named Moondoggie; actress Sandra Dee played the title role. Two more films followed with different actresses in the Gidget role. Sally Field took over for the 1965-1966 ABC TV series of the same name. A couple of TV movies and a 1980s revival followed. All were adaptations of the 1957 novel Gidget, The Little Girl with Big Ideas, which screenwriter Frederick Kohner based on his teenage daughter, Kathy. Kohner wrote seven sequels, two of them based on the films. The name itself is a mashup of “girl” and “midget.”
Looks like Carmine from Laverne and Shirley.
Carmine Ragusa, a.k.a. “The Big Ragu,” was the Italian singer with a crush on Shirley on the TV sitcom Laverne and Shirley, which aired from 1976-1983. The part was played by Eddie Mekka.
[Imitating.] Her butt is under a big W.
A reference to the 1963 film It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In the movie, the last words of a dying convict (played by Jimmy Durante, imitated by Bill here) spark a mad race for the $350,000 he has hidden “under a big W.”
Hey, a Kan-don’t-sky.
Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) was a Russian-born painter and one of the leading lights of the abstract art movement of the early 20th century.
“Okie” refers to a person from Oklahoma; it dates from the beginning of the 20th century, but it began to be used as a pejorative during the Great Depression, when many Oklahoman migrants fled the poverty of the Dust Bowl. Beatniks were a negative stereotype of the 1950s beat counterculture, as portrayed in Show 415, The Beatniks; the word was coined in 1958 by newspaper columnist Herb Caen.
There’s something Arch Hall Jr. about her.
Arch Hall Jr. is the wonky-headed star of Show 506, Eegah! (watch out for snakes). Hall’s father, Arch Hall Sr., bankrolled and directed him in a series of low, low, low budget films in an effort to turn him into a guitar-playing, sex-appeal-exuding heartthrob, an endeavor hamstrung by Hall’s lack of talent and chipmunky looks.
“Jessica …” Ever since we pulled you out of that well …
Jessica McClure, or “Baby Jessica,” as she was dubbed by the media, was eighteen 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.
[Sung.] Girl, you’ll be a woman soon …
A line from the song “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” by Neil Diamond. Sample lyrics: “Girl, you'll be a woman soon/Please come take my hand/Girl, you'll be a woman soon/Soon you'll need a man.”
Oh no, she’s getting squishy.
A reference to the short “Young Man’s Fancy,” shown at the beginning of Show 610, The Violent Years.
Trade rat is an obsolete term for pack rat. Pack rats (Neotoma cinerea) are rodents that hoard food and other objects in their nests.
There’s a car, several stereos, a HealthRider …
HealthRider is a brand of exercise equipment manufactured by Icon Fitness: treadmills, stationary bikes, etc.
John Cameron Trade Rat.
John Cameron Swayze (1906-1995) was the guy who said “It takes a licking, and keeps on ticking” for Timex wristwatches in a series of commercials that ran for more than two decades. He was a reporter and an NBC TV newsman before he switched to pitchman.
“And it looks medieval.” On yo ass.
“You hear me talkin’, hillbilly boy? I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. I’m gonna get medieval on yo ass” is a famous line delivered by actor Ving Rhames, as Marsellus Wallace, in the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction.
“I think we owe Jessica an apology.” [Hummed.] Tune to “Jessica.”
See above note.
Jessica, may I scare you to death?
The 1971 horror film Let’s Scare Jessica to Death starred Zohra Lampert as a woman recently released from a mental institution who moves to an old farmhouse in Connecticut. Various nightmarish things begin happening, but it is unclear whether something supernatural is out to get her or whether she is simply relapsing into insanity.
Decorated like a Keg and Kettle in there.
Possibly a reference to the tiny Keg and Kettle in Lone Rock, Wisconsin.
Okay. I gotta go watch Barney.
Barney the Dinosaur is a costumed character on the Barney and Friends children’s TV show. He is big, soft, purple, and he loves you. He was voiced originally and most often by Bob West.
So Catholicism is a placebo.
A riff on a famous quotation from German economist and philosopher Karl Marx: “Die Religion ... ist das Opium des Volkes,” usually translated as “Religion is the opiate of the masses.” Catholicism is an umbrella term to describe the doctrines of many Catholic churches, including the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Catholic Church. A placebo is a nonactive “medication,” basically a sugar pill, that is given to some patients in a medical study to compare against the results from patients who received an actual, active medication. Thanks to the power of suggestion, patients have often reported getting better when given placebos, a phenomenon known as the placebo effect.
He’s hoping it’s gonna be a lewd ranch.
See note on dude ranches, above.
Last week he gave me a Makita drill, what’s he trying to say?
Makita is a Japanese corporation that manufactures power tools such as power drills and power screwdrivers, woodworking tools, and the like.
[Sung.] Gonna see Miss Eliza, gonna go to Mississippi …
See above note.
The grandma of the Baskervilles.
The Hound of the Baskervilles is a mystery novel featuring private detective Sherlock Holmes. It was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1901. The setting was the foggy moors of Dartmoor, in the U.K.
Maybe there’s rabbits in it, George.
John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was a Nobel Prize-winning author known for his works about rural laborers. Of Mice and Men (1937) is the story of itinerant laborers George and Lennie (who is mentally slow and dreams only of tending rabbits), who inadvertently get caught up in a murder and become the targets of a lynch mob.
“If you valuest thy immortal soul …” Then you’re too close.
“If you can read this, you’re too close” is a classic anti-tailgating bumper sticker.
Oh, wait, Ludwig Von Drake.
Man of a thousand voices, Paul Frees (1920-1986) was the voice of Walt Disney’s cartoon duck Ludwig Von Drake. Von Drake would appear on Disney’s weekly TV show and sing and gush about his brilliance and expertise in every subject—except brain surgery, which he only did “svell.”
An International Coffees moment.
A 1980s TV commercial for flavored instant coffee from General Foods International featured two chatting women waxing nostalgic about “that restaurant in Paris,” and the waiter (“Jean-Luc!”) while sipping instant coffee from expensive china cups.
Gordon of Gloucester?
Gorton’s of Gloucester has been selling frozen ocean harvested fish since 1849. Their products are either battered or seasoned, and include the popular “fish sticks.”
What if they Ziplocked the evil?
Ziploc is a brand of resealable plastic food storage bags. The brand is owned by Johnson and Johnson.
Put it in there with the Ark of the Covenant.
The 1981 blockbuster movie Raiders of the Lost Ark centered on the hunt for the Ark of the Covenant, the chest containing the stone tablets Moses carried down from Mt. Sinai, which was supposed to be a source of supernatural power. Spoiler alert: The movie ends with the magical relic being crated up and stored in an immense government warehouse full of identical crates.
Aunt Flavor Flav?
Flavor Flav (born William Jonathan Drayton Jr.) is a rap star who rose to fame with the group Public Enemy. His signature look is a large broken clock that he wears as a necklace. Flavor Flav is a true survivor, having recovered from substance abuse and prison to revive a solo music career and star in not one but two reality TV shows. In 2011 he opened his own restaurant in Clinton, Iowa.
Well, I’m gonna read my favorite Shakespeare play, May-sure for May-sure.
The Immortal Bard’s play Measure for Measure is set in Vienna, where the local Duke takes it upon himself to arrest people for fornication and put them to death. A sticky triangle develops, but all ends happily.
Why don’t we swing by the Fleet Farm and pick up Ferlinghetti?
Mills Fleet Farm stores of the upper Midwest have thirty-one large retail stores that sell supplies for farms, horses, pets, hunting, and a diversified list of other equipment. Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021) was a poet from the beat generation, a painter, and a liberal activist. He co-founded the City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, the famed bookstore/publishing house in San Francisco.
[Sung.] Poor Jud is dead …
A line from the Rodgers and Hammerstein song “Pore Jud Is Daid” from the musical Oklahoma! Sample lyrics: “Pore Jud is daid/Pore Jud Fry is daid/All gather round his cawfin now and cry …”
Yum, nothing like smoking a Slim Jim.
Slim Jims are a brand of tubular beef jerky snack marketed primarily to teens and manufactured by ConAgra Foods.
If Mike Connors and David Janssen had a baby, we’d be in trouble.
Mike Connors (1925-2017) was an actor best known for his title role on the TV series Mannix, in which he played a private eye in Los Angeles who indulged in frequent car chases, shootouts, and fistfights. The show aired from 1967-1975. David Janssen (1931-1980) played Dr. Richard Kimble, a man unjustly convicted of murdering his wife, in The Fugitive, a TV series that aired from 1963-1967.
[Sung.] There’s a thick yellow stain on my back brace …
Sung to the tune of the song “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma! Actual lyrics: “There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow/The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye/And it looks like it’s climbin’ clear up to the sky …”
Old timer Billy Slater’s doing three years’ community service.
Old timer Billy Slater can be seen in the short “Junior Rodeo Daredevils” in Show 407, The Killer Shrews.
[Sung.] People will say we’re in love …
Another song from Oklahoma!
I could just fly across the English Channel in this.
Possibly a reference to Harriet Quimby (1875-1912), who in 1912 became the first woman to fly a plane across the English Channel, a feat she accomplished dressed to the nines in a purple satin hooded flying suit of her own design. Sadly, Quimby died three months later when her plane suddenly pitched forward during a routine flight; she and her passenger were both thrown from their seats and fell to their deaths.
I love it when she dresses like Billy Burke.
Billy Burke (1884-1970) was the actress who played Glinda, the Good Witch of the South in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. Burke wore a diaphanous, fairy-like gown.
Sandy Dennis in Butterfield 8.
Sandy Dennis (1937-1992) was a Broadway stage actress who made the transition to television and films; in 1966 she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Butterfield 8 was a 1960 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor as a sexpot model/call girl in Manhattan.
I thought you were Dale.
From the MST3K Info site: “Back in the 1970s, there was a series of commercials for Ivory dishwashing liquid, in which mothers were mistaken for their daughters—because the mom used Ivory and so her hands were young-looking. At around the same time, there was also a commercial for Grape Nuts, in which a teenage boy mistakes teenage girl Dale's mother for Dale and utters the deathless line: ‘I thought you were Dale!’ Best Brains only vaguely remembered these two commercials, and apparently mixed them up in their minds. There were apparently never any Ivory Liquid commercials in which a character said, ‘I thought you were Dale!’ And the Grape Nuts commercial in which that line was spoken had nothing to do with hands. So basically they goofed. But the writers thought they were making a reference to the Ivory Liquid commercials.”
I could do that, but it would be wrong.
A paraphrase of a famous misquote of President Richard Nixon, as the Watergate scandal was unfolding in the early 1970s. While discussing raising a million dollars in hush money for the Watergate burglars, Nixon supposedly said, “We could do that, but it would be wrong.” In fact, transcripts of tape recordings of the conversation show that Nixon aide John Dean was telling Nixon that he (Nixon) shouldn’t be involved, and Nixon said, “No, it’s wrong, that’s for sure.” So he didn’t say it would be wrong to raise the money or pay the men, he just said it would be wrong for him to be involved in the planning. One of the Watergate organizers, E. Howard Hunt, was paid $75,000 12 hours later, a key piece of evidence in the conspiracy charges made against Nixon's crew.
She’s got her Nancy Kulp commemorative plates up on the wall.
Nancy Kulp (1921-1991) played the prim banker’s secretary Miss Jane Hathaway on the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971), a performance for which she won an Emmy in 1967. In 1984 she ran unsuccessfully for a Pennsylvania congressional seat. Her former co-star Buddy Ebsen campaigned against her, calling her “too liberal” in an ad supporting her opponent.
Oh, E.G. Marshall, you are a bold one.
Actors E.G. Marshall (1914-1998), David Hartman, and John Saxon comprised The New Doctors (1969-1973) as part of the NBC drama series The Bold Ones.
[Sings.] There’s a bright golden haze on the … shhhh.
See above note.
Oh, Merv, Merv …
Merv Griffin (1925-2007) was first a successful singer with his 1950 hit “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.” He hosted a TV talk show for many years, but it was his work as the producer of the mega-hit game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! that made him one of the richest men in show business.
Lakers tickets, on the floor, man!
The Lakers are a professional basketball team based in Los Angeles. Floor tickets for a Lakers game cost thousands of dollars apiece, assuming you can even get them.
It’s jammed with Lady Schicks, nude pictures of George Gobel, Tic Tacs with fuzz on them. And other stuff.
Lady Schick was an electric razor marketed to women in the 1950s; Jacob Schick had pioneered the electric razor earlier in the century. George Gobel (1919-1991) was a comic actor who had his own comedy TV show, The George Gobel Show, from 1954-1960. Tic Tacs are a brand of breath mints that come in a variety of flavors, including spearmint, orange, and cinnamon.
From the Jean Stapleton collection of lingerie.
Jean Stapleton (1923-2013) played the mature, frumpy, and overwrought housewife Edith Bunker on the TV sitcom All in the Family (1971-1979).
Oh, the Haley’s M-O is starting to kick in.
Haley’s M-O is a brand of milk of magnesia that is enhanced with mineral oil for hemorrhoid sufferers (hence the “M-O”) and is taken for an overnight laxative. It is manufactured by Phillips.
A Singer straight stitch, do you know how valuable those are?
The Singer Corporation is one of the world’s major manufacturers of sewing machines, which it has been producing since 1851. Many of its models made in the first half of the 20th century were “straight stitch”—that is, they only stitched in a straight line, without any of the fancy zigzag or other decorative stitches that more modern machines offer. They were, however, cheap and durable; many still work today.
Let’s see, where was I? Oh, yes. Will Geer, oh …
Will Geer (1902-1978) had a long, distinguished acting career on Broadway, films, and television. His last role, however, is the one best remembered: that of Grandpa Walton, on the TV show The Waltons (1972-1978). He was considered a radical in his day and refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, causing him to be blacklisted; he did not work in Hollywood again until 1962.
Turns out David Copperfield’s in there. –Please, no.
David Copperfield is a well-known magician and illusionist who has starred in a series of television specials since the 1970s. Among his more famous stunts: making the Statue of Liberty disappear and walking through the Great Wall of China.
He’s not a very good Civil War reenactor, is he?
Civil War reenactors are hobbyists who endeavor to re-create battles and other events from the American Civil War (1861-1865). Time magazine estimated there are about fifty thousand reenactors in the country. In 1998, a reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg on the original battlefield drew fifteen thousand participants.
I’m gonna penny him in.
A reference to a prank wherein the prankster jams as many pennies as possible between the door and the door jamb, above and below the handle, putting so much pressure on the handle mechanism that it becomes physically impossible for the person inside to open the door. A popular prank in college dorms, where the big, heavy doors tend to work well for this trick.
Her nightgown is comfort rated to 20 below.
A comfort rating is a measurement given to sleeping bags to denote how warm they are; a sleeping bag comfort rated to 20 below would indicate that the user would stay comfy down to that temperature, assuming they were also wearing long underwear and using a sleeping pad.
A dramatization of the Lutheran attitude toward sex.
Lutheranism is a branch of Protestant Christianity that follows the teachings of 16th-century reformer Martin Luther. Early Lutherans frowned on dancing and other secular, depraved activities; modern Lutherans are considerably more relaxed. Old joke: Why don’t Lutherans make love standing up? They’re afraid someone might see them and think they were dancing.
[Sung.] There’s a dark oily film on my headband …
See above note.
I’m having impure thoughts about Pat Boone. –Can you do that?
In the 1950s Pat Boone was an incredibly successful singer whose gimmick was remaking ethnic R&B songs into light, smooth, syrupy pop songs. He acted in movies, had his own TV show, and became a deeply religious Christian. His daughter is singer Debbie Boone.
Sam Shepard is Chuck Yeager in 'night, Mother.
Tough-guy actor Sam Shepard played test pilot Chuck Yeager in the 1983 movie The Right Stuff. ‘night, Mother is a 1986 film starring Sissy Spacek as a woman who tells her mother she has decided to commit suicide.
Is there something “Vicki from the Love Boat-esque” about her?
Jill Whelan played Vicki Stubing, daughter of Captain Merrill Stubing (Gavin MacLeod), on the TV show The Love Boat (1977-1986). She later served as the spokesperson for First Lady Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No anti-drug awareness program.
But I’m alive with pleasure, ma’am!
Made by the Lorillard Tobacco Company and introduced in 1957, in the 1970s Newport cigarettes deftly skirted health and addiction issues with advertising showing active young people hiking, camping, etc., with the slogan “Alive with pleasure. After all, if smoking isn’t a pleasure, why bother?” Deep trivia: In 2013, courts awarded $35 million to the family of a Boston woman in a lawsuit that claimed free Newport cigarettes were handed out to children in low-income, mostly black neighborhoods; the woman, who died of lung cancer, claimed she got free cigarettes from the age of 9 and began smoking at 13.
It’s a matryoshka chest, there’s thirty more in there.
Matryoshka dolls are one of the most popular Russian souvenirs, consisting of a series of progressively smaller dolls, each “nesting” inside the next.
Sir Francis Drake’s tackle box. There’s a bunch of Bass Orenos and Dardevles in there.
Bass Orenos and Dardevles are brands of fishing lures. These two are some of the most common mass-produced lures, along with the Rapala, the Mister Twister, and the Lazy Ike.
Bring me the head of Edward Mulhare.
Actor Edward Mulhare (1923-1997) played the ghost of an old sea captain, Daniel Gregg, in the TV series The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1968-1970).
[Sung.] There’s a black greasy smudge on my pillow …
See above note.
I have a new friend, and his name is Tommy and he’s going to take me to the big place.
In Episode 424, Manos, The Hands of Fate, little Debbie says she found the demonic dog “in the big place.”
Oh, Mike Douglas!
Mike Douglas (1920-2006) is best known as the host of his own TV talk show from 1961 to 1982. He got his start as a singer with the Kay Kyser big band. He had an easy-going Midwestern style.
Is this dagger see before me?
“Is this a dagger which I see before me/The handle toward my hand?” is a line from the William Shakespeare play Macbeth (Act II, Scene 1). Macbeth has decided to kill the king, but is wracked with guilt over the prospect.
Why did you do that, you bubble-headed boobie?
An imitation of Dr. Zachary Smith, the mincing, villainous stowaway/saboteur on the TV series Lost in Space, which aired from 1965-1968. The part was played by Jonathan Harris (1914-2002).
Yeah, I’m getting it. Drink Ovaltine.
Ovaltine is a fortified malt and chocolate beverage invented in Switzerland in 1904 as a sports recovery drink for skiers. It is now marketed primarily to children. In the era of radio serials like Captain Midnight, Ovaltine gave out secret decoder badges to children that they could use to decode messages transmitted during the shows; in the 1983 movie A Christmas Story, the message is “Drink Ovaltine.”
Earl Anthony’s got a 7-10 split he’s going to have to pick up here.
Lefty-bowler Earl Anthony (1938-2001) is probably the best known professional bowler. He was PBA Bowler of the Year six times and the first bowler to earn $1 million in his career.
Aunt Coolio’s going to flip when she sees this.
Rap artist Coolio (born Artis Ivey, Jr.) is a successful performing artist with a string of hits including “Gangsta’s Paradise” (1995).
And Aunt Scapula just got that from Furniture Barn.
Furniture Barn probably refers to the St. Paul, Minnesota, furniture store.
“Jessica! Jessica! Jessica!” [Hummed.] Tune to “Jessica.”
See above note.
Oh no, not the Sockarooni Sauce!
Sockarooni Sauce is one of the line of spaghetti sauces put out by actor Paul Newman; the line is called Newman’s Own.
“It’s only the branches scraping against the house.” This is no time for your damn haikus.
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.
[Sung.] Werewolves of London.
“Werewolves of London” appears on the 1978 album Excitable Boy by the late rocker Warren Zevon (1947-2003).
She’s got Burgess Meredith’s number on her speed dial.
Oliver Burgess Meredith (1907-1997) was a notable American actor. His best-known roles were as Mickey “Mick” Goldmill, Rocky Balboa’s trainer in the series of Rocky movies starring Sylvester Stallone, and the Penguin on the campy TV series Batman (1966-1968).
Brought to you by Andersen Windows.
Andersen is a manufacturer of doors and windows based in Bayport, Minnesota.
“Hello?” Culligan Man!
Culligan Man is a marketing icon of Culligan International. Culligan introduced the first commercial water softener and filter in 1921. It is sold through a dealer network. Well-based water supplies are typically very hard, which reduces the lather effect of soaps and creates soap scum and mineral clogs in boilers. The Culligan process softens the water.
Cowboy’s doing his Amy Carter impersonation.
Amy Carter is the daughter of former President Jimmy Carter. During her college years, Amy was twice arrested during protests, once in 1986 during a protest against CIA recruitment, and once the following year during an anti-apartheid protest.
He brought FDR with him.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) served as president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945, shepherding the country out of the Great Depression and through most of World War II.
Doing barium shooters.
A “barium swallow” is used as an x-ray contrast medium for medical imaging purposes. Barium is radioactive, and the patient receives a continuous dose until the body eliminates the metal salt. Shooters are shots of alcohol that are combined with other ingredients, as in “oyster shooters.”
911 is a joke.
"911 Is a Joke" is a 1990 song by Public Enemy, from their album Fear of a Black Planet.
You know a single, long-stem stick says so much. –Yes indeed.
This is a play on the ad slogan “A single long-stem rose says so much,” which was used to market fresh-cut roses.
I finished all the number 3’s.
This refers to paint-by-number kits. A typical kit includes a blank canvas with light outlines of shapes, each of which is assigned a number. By applying the paint with the same number, a crude reproduction of the original painting is possible. It is designed for students with little or no painting experience. Paint-by-number kits were extremely popular during the 1950s.
So she’s kind of a Ouija broad. –Oh, man.
The Ouija board is a novelty game in which participants pretend to contact spirits and communicate by spelling words using a pushed planchette. The modern board design was patented as a toy in 1920. The design was sold to Parker Brothers in 1966, and it is still in production.
Gideon is a biblical figure, a judge of the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible, and a saint according to the Roman Catholic Church.
She’s going to divine herself right over to the Wal-Mart.
Wal-Mart is the largest chain of retail stores in the United States. The first store was opened in 1962 by Sam Walton, offering discount merchandise at low prices. Walton opened many of his stores in small towns, where they often drove local merchants out of business by undercutting their prices. By the time of Walton's death in 1992, there were more than 1,700 Wal-Mart stores.
On a clear night, she can pick up Radio Marti.
Radio Marti is a government-funded radio and television service based out of Miami that beams transmissions at the island nation of Cuba. It was established in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan to allow Cuban residents to get outside information otherwise restricted by the Castro government.
It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.
This was the tagline from a popular 1970s advertising campaign for Chiffon Margarine. It was spoken by a woman (representing “Mother Nature”) and followed by a thunderclap. Mother Nature was not happy about being fooled into confusing margarine for butter.
It’s so bright, they must live next door to a Circle K.
Circle K is a chain of convenience stores with more than 3,300 locations.
Claude Akins waits patiently.
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. He can be seen in Show 322, Master Ninja I.
See above note.
Wouldn’t it be funny if she found Divine? –No.
Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead, 1945-1988) was a cross-dressing actor who appeared in a number of filmmaker John Waters’ movies, including Pink Flamingos and Polyester.
Did she drink like a quart of Robitussin before she came out to divine?
Robitussin is an over-the-counter cough syrup manufactured by Whitehall-Robins.
Whoa, it’s raining Vaseline.
Vaseline is a brand of petroleum jelly; the company also manufactures a line of skin care products, including moisturizers and bath beads.
[Sung.] Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to death we go …
“Heigh-Ho” is a song from the animated Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Actual lyrics: “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go …”
When a leather mug salesman dies.
In the MST3K lexicon, references to leather mugs (for drinking a hearty tankard of ale) are synonymous with Renaissance festivals. As proved in the scathing host segments in Show 703, Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell, the MST3K gang has an intense dislike of Ren fests. Specifically, Kevin Murphy had this to say in the Sci-Fi Channel episode guide for Deathstalker: “As you might guess if you've watched more than one episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, many of us involved in the writing of the show hate Renaissance festivals to the point that we have wished dire harm on their participants and patrons, written letters to wit, received court orders enjoining us from stalking around them, been incarcerated for lighting fires in the bazaar and hurling flaming dream-catchers at horrified festers.”
So they’re conquistadors? Leprechauns?
Conquistadors (Spanish for “conquerors”) were soldiers of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, who opened trade routes and colonized the Americas, Africa, and Asia in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, and, between slaughtering the natives and spreading disease, caused the deaths of untold millions of native peoples. A leprechaun is a mythical figure in Irish folklore, who usually takes the form of a tiny old man in a green suit who makes mischief and stores gold coins in a pot at the end of a rainbow.
In the mid-1980s through the 1990s, stereo audio was phased into broadcast and cable programming. Shows that featured stereo would often proclaim “In Stereo” in their opening credits, or “In Stereo…Where Available” (the source of MST3K’s “Turn Down Your Lights…Where Applicable” graphic at the beginning of episodes in Seasons 2 and 3). This was 20 years after TV shows proudly announced they were “In Color,” and 30 years before they began announcing they were “In HD.”
“Your evil deeds.” And they’re done dirt cheap.
“Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” was a hit song for the heavy metal band AC/DC in 1976, and appears on the album of the same name.
Justice Jackie Coogan.
Jackie Coogan (1914-1984) was a famous child actor in the early film industry, but he is best remembered for playing Uncle Fester on the eclectic TV sitcom The Addams Family (1964-1966).
Robert Bork’s on a tear here.
Robert Bork (1927-2012) was a legal scholar and the former attorney general of the United States. In 1987 he was nominated by then-President Ronald Reagan to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. He was attacked by civil rights and abortion rights organizations as a hard-right extremist, and the Senate ultimately voted to reject his nomination; the vacancy was eventually filled by Anthony Kennedy.
[Sung.] Forever and ever …
Part of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah.
Faith and begorrah.
“Faith 'n begorrah” is an Irish expression, which means roughly “By God,” but without the blasphemy.
Now we pack it in dry ice and send it FedEx.
FedEx (formerly Federal Express) is a package delivery service that specializes in overnight deliveries.
“Now we bury it where no one will ever find it.” Under Larry Wilcox’s career.
Larry Wilcox is an actor best known for playing Officer Jon Baker in the TV series CHiPs, which aired from 1977-1983.
[Sung mournfully.] Frosted Lucky Charms, they’re magically delicious.
This is the ad jingle for Lucky Charms breakfast cereal, made by Minnesota-based General Mills. It launched in 1964, and uses a surreal cartoon mascot named Lucky the Leprechaun.
I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie. And I was the star of that movie.
This is a line from the 1970 song “Spill the Wine” by Eric Burdon and War.
I never know where I’ll turn up in my Maidenform bra.
The 1960s advertising campaign for Maidenform brassieres used the slogan “The Maidenform Woman. You Never Know Where She’ll Turn Up,” and featured a statuesque woman dressed only in a bra and panties appearing in odd public situations. The campaign was phenomenally successful, boosting sales by as much as 200 percent. The ads continued to run until the mid-1980s.
So she’s a narcoleptic somnambulist.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive drowsiness and, occasionally, sudden bouts of sleep at often inappropriate times. It seems to be caused by variations in a specific set of genes. Somnambulism (sleepwalking) affects mostly children, and involves the sleeping person walking or running with eyes open and glassy while still in the sleep cycle.
They’re filming Psycho on the soundstage next door.
The shrieking violin sound is forever identified as the music from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror film Psycho. It was composed by the renowned film composer Bernard Herrmann (1911-1975).
One Adam Rich, one Adam Roarke.
Adam Rich was a child star known for his role as Nicholas Bradford on the TV series Eight Is Enough, which aired from 1977-1981. Adam Roarke (1937-1996) was an actor who starred in a number of biker movies in the 1960s and ’70s, including Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974). “One Adam-12” was how the police dispatcher opened her bulletins on the TV cop show Adam-12, which ran from 1968-1975. The part was played by Shaaron Claridge, who worked as an actual dispatcher for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Caligula (12 C.E.-41 C.E.) was a notoriously unstable and cruel Roman emperor who was assassinated by his own guards; they replaced him on the throne with his saner uncle, Claudius.
I think the hillbillies liked my reading of “Howl.”
“Howl” is a famous beat generation poem penned by Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) in 1955. It was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books (see above note). Ferlinghetti was arrested and charged with printing obscenity. He was acquitted, but the trial gave the poem widespread publicity. “Howl” is considered one of the great works of American literature, and it became a kind of sacred text for members of the so-called “Beat Generation.” A little taste: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night …”
Also starring Suzanne Pleshette.
Suzanne Pleshette (1937-2008) was an actress who appeared in more than fifty movies and television shows, including The Birds (1963) and Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971).
I’ll put on a big stack of Melissa Etheridge, k.d. lang, and Jill Sobule albums.
All three are openly gay musicians. Perhaps the least known is Jill Sobule, who had a 1995 hit with “I Kissed a Girl.” (It's a different song from Katy Perry's 2008 smash hit.)
Have you ever seen The Children’s Hour?
The Children’s Hour is a play by Lillian Hellman (1905-1984) set at a girls’ school, where a mischief-making student accuses two of her teachers of being lesbians. It was made into a film starring Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in 1961.
Do you like Amanda Bearse? Boy, I sure do. Come on.
Amanda Bearse is an actress best known for her role as neighbor Marcy D’Arcy on the TV sitcom Married … with Children (1987-1997). She is openly gay.
Agnes DeMille cops.
Agnes de Mille (1905-1993) was an American dancer and choreographer whose most famous work is her choreography for the Broadway musical Oklahoma! (1943).
Jake and Tab LaMotta.
Professional boxer Jake LaMotta is a former world middleweight champion boxer, whose nickname was "The Raging Bull.” Tab Hunter (1931-2018) was a singer and teen idol in the 1950s. He had a 1957 No. 1 hit with the song “Young Love,” hosted an eponymous but short-lived sitcom (1960-1961), and starred in more than forty films, including San Francisco International, which became Show 614.
Uh, Emily? I need to, um, um, um …
An imitation of comedian Bob Newhart, whose low-key, stammering delivery sold millions of records and led to two hit TV shows, The Bob Newhart Show (which co-starred Suzanne Pleshette as his wife, Emily), and Newhart.
Bob Dole, ma’am. Where’s the outrage?
Longtime U.S. Senator Bob Dole was the 1996 Republican candidate for president, ultimately losing to President Bill Clinton. During his campaign, his slogan “Where’s the outrage?” was meant to remind voters of the behavior of Clinton, who was often mired in scandals.
Say, honey, can I borrow your hot rollers tonight?
Hot rollers are a hair-styling device that involves hair curlers being heated individually and retaining the heat while styling hair.
I’ve got a lot more going for me than Hank. Hardware Hank.
Hardware Hank is a large chain of hardware stores located in the upper central U.S., including Minneapolis. Their slogan is, “You’ve got a lot more going for you with Hank.”
This is a line from the famous 1955 rock song “Tutti Frutti,” by Little Richard.
He’s commanding everybody to Wang Chung tonight.
Wang Chung were a New Wave pop group in the mid-1980s. Their 1986 hit “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” contains the line “Everybody Wang Chung tonight.”
Must drive head to convenience store … for smokes … and Dove Bar.
Dove Bars are a brand of ice cream bars manufactured by Mars Inc. They were created in 1956 by a Greek immigrant from Chicago, Leo Stefanos.
Um, uh, Emily? Where are you going?
See note on Bob Newhart, above.
Peter O’Toole as Marie Antoinette.
Peter O’Toole (1932-2013) is an Irish actor best known for his lead role in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. Marie Antoinette was the daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor and Empress, and the queen of France from 1774-1793 through her marriage to Louis XVI of France. She was beheaded along with her husband during the French Revolution.
Don’t place-kick me again. It’s not funny.
In rugby and American football, a place-kick involves the ball being held in a stationary position, usually on the ground, and then kicked by a player, usually after a running start.
Another domestic on Walton’s Mountain.
In police shop-talk, a “domestic” means a domestic disturbance call, usually an alcohol-fueled spat between a couple. Walton’s Mountain was the fictional home of the Walton family on the TV show The Waltons (1972-1981). It is based on the real-life home of show creator Earl Hamner, and is located in the Piedmont Region of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
[Sung.] Theme from The Waltons.
See previous note.
When Jet. Jet all way.
“Jet Song” is the theme song of the Jets street gang, from the musical West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein. Actual lyrics: “When you’re a Jet/You’re a Jet all the way/From your first cigarette/Till your last dying day …”
Ricky Nelson to the rescue.
Ricky Nelson (1940-1985) was the son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson. The Nelsons had a popular TV show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966), making Ricky a teen idol. He began a career in music that would be remarkably influential despite his silver spoon childhood. His 1972 hit “Garden Party” was his last one. He died in a plane crash in 1985.
Regret, have, one, life, give, country.
A reference to the last words of American Revolutionary War soldier Nathan Hale (1755-1776): “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
“Wasn’t in the cabin?” Neil Diamond.
Neil Diamond is a hugely successful pop singer and songwriter. His long list of hits includes “Sweet Caroline,” “Song Sung Blue,” and “Crackling Rosie.”
I better call Mitch and see how the little Brenner girl is doing. Suzanne Pleshette from The Birds.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller The Birds centers on a mysterious and lethal series of bird attacks in a small California town involving the Brenner family (including the hero, Mitch, played by Rod Taylor) and interloper Tippi Hedren. Suzanne Pleshette plays Annie, the town schoolteacher.
I’m going to put on a skit for you, just pretend we’re at Carnegie Hall.
Carnegie Hall is a prestigious performing arts center in Manhattan. It was home to the New York Philharmonic for many years, and has hosted everything from classical music to the Beatles.
Shh. Big boys don’t cry. Big boys don’t cry.
The whispered verse “Big boys don’t cry” is from the 1975 hit song “I’m Not in Love” by the British group 10cc. The voice is the secretary who was working at the recording studio. The song was very unusual for the time, and was prepared using long taped vocal loops.
He’s sold seven thousand paintings to Best Westerns across the nation.
Best Western is a network of independently owned hotels. It began as a referral service between hotels in 1946, and now boasts 4,000 hotels world wide.
I’ll just send her my ear. Yeah.
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) is considered one of the greatest painters of all time, although he failed to sell any of this paintings during his lifetime. (His paintings now sell for tens of millions of dollars at auction.) Van Gogh suffered all his life from bouts with mental illness, including one famous incident in which he cut off part of his own ear with a razor and gave it to a prostitute at a local brothel, and he spent a year in a sanitarium. In 1890 van Gogh killed himself in despair over his financial failures and his illness.
Battle of the Network boobs.
Battle of the Network Stars was an annual television special that ran from 1976-1984. It featured teams of actors competing in various events.
“Jessica!” I thought you were scared to death?
See above note on Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.
Polly Bergen in Giant.
Polly Bergen (1930-2014) was an actress who hosted her own comedy/variety show from 1957-1958 and appeared in a number of films, most famously as Gregory Peck’s wife in the original Cape Fear. Giant is a 1956 film about a Texas ranching family. Adapted from a 1952 novel by Edna Ferber, the film stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean, but does not feature Polly Bergen.
Honey, it’s an intervention.
In the context of addiction or other forms of self-harm, an intervention is when a group of concerned family and friends confront someone, give testimonials about their behavior, and try to compel them to follow a program of recovery.
I’m going back to the convent. It didn’t work out with the Von Trapps.
In the 1965 movie musical The Sound of Music, a novice named Maria (played by Julie Andrews) is sent out of the convent because she missed prayer services to go sing in the hills. She becomes a governess to the Von Trapp family.
“Linda’s driving me to the bus stop.” By William Inge.
Bus Stop is a 1955 play by William Inge (1913-1973). The play is about a group of bus passengers trapped in a diner by a sudden snowstorm and the relationships that develop among them during their enforced four-hour stay. It was made into a movie starring Marilyn Monroe in 1956.
Isn’t it a Denver amulet?
A Denver omelet is a popular breakfast item generally involving chopped bell peppers and onions, along with bacon, ham, cheese, etc.
You have the Carol Lynley built-in depressed look.
Carol Lynley’s (born Carol Ann Jones, 1942-2019) depressed pout can be seen in her performance in the 1972 thriller The Poseidon Adventure. She played the singer in the band who sang “The Morning After” and moped along with the survivors while enduring a constant barrage of “Put on a happy face” comments by Red Buttons.
I’m Ziebarting my hair.
Kurt Ziebart (1920-2011) invented a rustproofing method that could be applied to cars after they were purchased. Ziebart International became a very popular franchise company until the widespread use of galvanized plating made cars less susceptible to rust. Ziebart survived the change in the market by changing to a detailing and auto services company.
I got you a cake from Supermom’s.
Probably a reference to the Supermom’s Bakery in Saint Paul Park, Minnesota.
You know the head must have read that “Get Girls Through Hypnotism” ad in Penthouse.
Probably a reference to the Ross Jeffries Speed Seduction system, which was advertised in Playboy, Penthouse, and other men’s magazines starting in the early 1990s and which promised to get women between the sheets—and fast!—using “neurolinguistic programming” and covert hypnosis.
You’ll get my gun when you can pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.
“I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands” is a gun rights slogan popularized by the National Rifle Association (NRA), beginning in the 1970s. It seems to have originated with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, based in Bellevue, Washington.
Booze. It really satisfies.
“Snickers really satisfies” was an advertising slogan for Snickers candy bars during the 1980s and early 1990s.
The J. Crew divining dress. For weekends.
J. Crew is a retail and catalog purveyor of upscale casual clothing for both men and women. It was founded in 1983 as a catalog venture and expanded to retail in 1989. Today there are nearly 200 J. Crew stores.
Mister Ed broke out!
Mister Ed was a sitcom about a talking horse that aired from 1961-1966. The horse was played by a palomino named Bamboo Harvester; his voice was provided by Allan Lane.
I found the This Island Earth music!
See note on This Island Earth, above.
Get cracking, Aunt Flavorite!
Flavorite is a line of grocery products manufactured by Eden Prairie, Minnesota-based SuperValu Inc. SuperValu operates a number of grocery chains, including Cub Foods, Albertsons, and Jewel.
Remember when she was on the Actors Studio show? She was great.
Inside the Actors Studio is a TV show on the Bravo cable network that interviews actors about their craft in front of an audience of drama students; the show is hosted by James Lipton.
No, really, if I hadn’t left my truss in my room I’d be down here with you fellas.
In this context, a truss is a medical appliance, an arrangement of belts and pads that provide support for an area of the body (usually the groin) afflicted with a hernia.
Now you’re Tracey Gold.
Tracey Gold played Carol Seaver on the TV show Growing Pains (1984-1992) and fought a well-publicized battle with anorexia (and a particularly painful one, given all the fat jokes directed at her during the show’s run).
The Big Valley!
See above note.
Horror Incorporated was a horror movie show without a host that aired in Minneapolis on KSTP-TV in the 1970s. The credit sequence featured a shot of a slowly opening coffin.
Possible reference to one of the best known routines by stoner-comedians Cheech and Chong -- “Dave”. Basically:
Chong: "Who is it?"
Cheech: "Its Dave man! Will you open up, I got the stuff with me!"
Cheech: "Dave man, open up!"
Cheech: "Yeah Dave, come on, man, open up I think the cops saw me!"
Chong: "Dave's not here!" (Thanks to Craig Davis for this reference.)
Yeah, I’ve been drinking, I’ve had a couple of Captain Morgan’s, so what?
Captain Morgan is a brand of rum. The original Captain, Sir Henry Morgan, was a Welsh pirate who was successful enough to be named lieutenant governor of Jamaica by the British crown. He owned huge sugar plantations on the island as well.
Sarah Coventry, no!
Sarah Coventry was an American jewelry company that sold its products at women’s home parties from 1950 to 1984. The brand name was sold to a Canadian company, which uses it to sell jewelry via the QVC network.
Take over the world, right. He can’t even take over a colonial rambler.
In the parlance of real estate, an American colonial building or house is designed to reflect the architectural style of the colonial period of the United States, and a “rambler” is another name for a ranch-style house, which are typically long, one-story dwellings with simple designs and minimal exterior decorations.
Brought to you by the Breast Council. –Buy breasts where you work or bank.
During World War II, the War Finance committee created the War Advertising Council, which aggressively advertised the sale of government debt war bond issues to the general public. The ad campaign used popular contemporary art, celebrities, and ads run at movie theaters. The effort generated $185 billion in bond sales.