203: Jungle Goddess
by Sean Marten & Trey Yeatts
It looks like a Ding Dong with legs.
Ding Dong is a brand of chocolate snack cake approximately the size and shape of a hockey puck, with cream filling injected into its center and a thin layer of chocolate glaze coating the outside. They were introduced in 1967 by Hostess Brands.
Ford Bee-bee! Ford Bee-bee!
Ford Beebe (1888-1978) was a writer and director of many B-movies and serials, including several in the “Flash Gordon” and “Buck Rogers” series.
Sheila MacRae! Art Carney! Good night, everybody!
At the conclusion of The Jackie Gleason Show—which ran in one form or another from 1952 to 1970 and is considered one of the pioneering programs in American television—host Jackie Gleason (1916-1987) would appear onstage in a smoking jacket or robe and bellow the names of key members of the ensemble cast, to thunderous applause. Among those cast members: British actress, author, and singer Sheila MacRae, who played Alice Kramden from 1966 to 1970, and American actor Arthur “Art” Carney (1918-2003), who played Ed Norton.
[Imitating Bela Lugosi.] That’s what I looked like before my shave. Now, let’s meet the cast.
Loads of Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) imitations going on. The Hungarian actor most famously played Dracula in the 1927 Broadway play and 1931 Universal film bearing that name. He also starred in several of director Ed Wood’s low-budget flicks, including the atrocious Plan 9 From Outer Space, which was his last film. Lugosi died shortly after filming started, and for most of the shots he is doubled by a chiropractor with a cape held over his face.
Cindy. She’s not half bad, if you know what I mean. Kinda looks like Madonna.
Madonna is a pop singer and cultural icon, a woman whose provocative lifestyle and skill at manipulating the media have often overshadowed her music. She first rose to fame in the early 1980s with such hits as “Lucky Star” and “Material Girl.” Before long she had reinvented herself as a torchy platinum blonde, the first of many such transformations in her career. Other personas have included hippie, jock, and children’s book author. She has sold more than 300 million records, making her the best-selling female recording artist in history.
Then it’s Johnny and Ray. Johnny is the talkative one. Ray looks like Madonna.
See previous note.
I forget who did what here. I say shoot the picture; let God sort it out.
A paraphrase of the line “Kill them all and let God sort them out,” frequently uttered by, shall we say, the more jingoistic among us, particularly when a new military campaign is undertaken. Believe it or not, the phrase dates back to 1209. It is attributed to Catholic papal legate and inquisitor Arnaud Amalric (d. 1225). He attempted to convert a rogue group of Christians living in southern France, and when persuasion failed, he initiated a crusade against them (the Albigensian Crusade). When one of the soldiers asked him how to distinguish “their” Christians from “our” Christians, Amalric reportedly responded, in Latin, “Kill them all. For the Lord knoweth them that are His.” The soldiers enthusiastically went on to slaughter almost 20,000 men, women, and children and burned the city of Béziers, according to Amalric’s report to the pope.
Oh, the menacing power—that would be ConEdison, I’m guessing.
ConEdison (Consolidated Edison, Inc.) is one of the largest energy companies in the United States, holding approximately $40 billion in assets and doing around $13 billion of business each year. Primarily serving the Eastern Seaboard, ConEdison provides electricity, gas, and steam to New York City and Westchester County, New York. ConEdison’s 93,000 miles of underground cable could wrap the Earth 3.6 times.
Maybe I shaved him too close. The ultimate test of the Helsinki Formula.
Helsinki Formula was a brand of “scalp health” products, including shampoos, cleansers, and baldness aversion creams. Promoted by infomercials starring actor Robert Vaughn, the product line was the subject of numerous lawsuits and investigations in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. The company ultimately went out of business in 1995, after having made $100 million peddling its “baldness cure,” and two years later the FTC settled claims against the owner through bankruptcy court.
Hey, I just invented the Post-it note.
Post-it notes are small pieces of notepaper with a slightly sticky substance along one edge, allowing them to stick to paper or other surfaces but still be easily removed. They were introduced by 3M in 1980, although the adhesive that makes them possible was invented back in 1968.
Wasn’t he one of the Smith Brothers? –Either Trade or Mark, I’m not sure.
Smith Brothers Cough Drops are a brand of cough drops first introduced in 1866 by Andrew and William Smith. Still popular today—more for its Americana-nostalgia appeal than for any genuine therapeutic value—the product still displays its original artwork featuring the stoic and deeply bearded Smith brothers. On that old-timey label, the word “Trademark” is in all caps and split, with each half under one of the brothers—so it kind of looks like their names are “Trade” and “Mark.” (Thanks to Lynn Knott and John Rivett for the Trade/Mark reference.)
I knew him, Horatio.
A famous passage from William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet (Act V, Scene 1) is often misquoted as, “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well.” In fact, Hamlet, who is speaking to his friend Horatio as he gazes on the skull of his former court jester in a graveyard, says, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.”
I’m the god! I’m the god!
A line from a 1962 episode of the anthology series The Twilight Zone, titled “The Little People.” Two astronauts find a planet inhabited by teeny-tiny beings, and one of the men forces the population to worship him and build idols in his image.
I’m going to give him such a pinch, oooooh!
Joe Besser (1907-1988) was a comedian who is remembered principally for two roles: the bratty character Oswald on the old Abbott and Costello Show, and his brief stint as a member of the Three Stooges comedy team in the 1950s. His two signature lines as Oswald were “I’ll harm you!” and “I’m going to give him such a pinch!”, which he also used in his Three Stooges shorts.
What’s behind the panel, Johnny?
John Leonard “Johnny” Olson (1910-1985) was one of the great American radio and television announcers. Although he was also the announcer of The Jackie Gleason Show throughout most of the 1960s, Olson is best known for his work on many radio and TV game shows, such as What’s My Line? and To Tell The Truth. He is best remembered for The Price Is Right, and his call for contestants to “Come on down!”—a catchphrase that continues to be used to this day.
Oil can … oil can ...
In the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, based on the 1900 L. Frank Baum children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, “oil can” are the first tentative and barely audible words spoken to Dorothy by the Tin Man, a.k.a. The Tin Woodsman. He is asking her to oil his joints, which have rusted solid, so that he can speak and move. (Tin, of course, does not rust, but it is possible he was made of tin-plated steel or iron, as many children’s toys were at the time the book was written, which would.)
Well, they could give them a plastic hassle, man, that’s what.
Possibly a reference to the 1968 psychedelic drama Psych-Out. An oracle named Dave (played by Dean Stockwell) has the immortal line, “It’s all just one big plastic hassle.”
I’m Milton, your brand-new son.
In the first episode of the ABC animated series Milton the Monster (1965-1968), when Milton (a Frankenstein-type monster) comes to life, this is what he tells Professor Montgomery Weirdo, his creator.
Oh, what’s the big deal? It’s a big metal Richard Kiel.
At 7’1.5” tall in his prime, actor Richard Kiel (1939-2014) was best known for his portrayal of the steel-toothed thug Jaws in the James Bond films The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). Kiel was also the eponymous star of Show 506, Eegah!
Gomer Pyle reporting for duty, Sergeant Carter. Shazam!
A spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. was a television sitcom that ran on CBS from 1964 to 1969. The show followed the exploits of naïve but good-hearted Mayberry, North Carolina, gas station attendant Gomer Pyle, played by Jim Nabors, who has enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, much to the chagrin of his short-tempered Gunnery Sergeant Vince Carter (played by Frank Sutton). “Shazam” was one of many down-home folksy catchphrases Gomer frequently exclaimed.
Now, how much would you pay for an all-purpose monster like this? Wait, there’s more!
A collection of tropes from various television commercials for products such as the Veg-O-Matic by Ronco. The phrase, “But wait, there’s more,” was used as far back as the 1960s in an ad featuring Ronco founder Ron Popeil.
He’s programmed to do Norm Abram’s job. Fix this in a jiffy.
Norm Abram is a carpenter and television personality who has appeared on the PBS home improvement show This Old House since 1979 and has always been called “master carpenter.” Abram got his own show, The New Yankee Workshop, in 1989, which ran until 2009.
Domino’s is the second largest pizza chain in the United States (behind Pizza Hut) and has more than 10,000 outlets in 70 countries. In the 1970s and ’80s, Domino’s offered a guarantee: your pizza would be delivered within 30 minutes or it would be free. The offer was dropped in 1993 after several lawsuits were filed over people killed or injured in car accidents involving Domino’s delivery drivers. However, the “30 Minutes or Free Guarantee” remains in effect in countries like Colombia, Malaysia, and Singapore, where pizza is fast and life is cheap.
“You’re not going to tell them about the new element you discovered, are you?” You mean Upsidaisium?
A reference to a 36-segment story arc on the animated series Rocky and His Friends that ran from 1960 to 1961. In it, Bullwinkle’s uncle operates a mine in a floating mountain that produces Upsidaisium: a fictional mineral that allows for antigravity applications. Funnily enough, it sounds like “unobtanium,” a theoretical material that has been pondered wistfully by aerospace engineers since the 1950s; it refers to a substance that would be perfect for their needs and solve all their engineering problems, were it not for the fact that it does not exist. The term has occasionally made its way into science fiction, most recently 2009’s Avatar, wherein floating mountains figured prominently.
“I have accomplished what they told me was impossible.” A funny Gallagher routine?
Gallagher, full name Leo Anthony Gallagher, is a “prop” comic best known for smashing watermelons onstage with a sledgehammer. In Joel Hodgson’s early days as a prop comic, Gallagher was rude and dismissive to Joel backstage, leading to years of insulting riffs about Gallagher on MST3K.
“I’ll wait in there.” In the soundproof booth.
Soundproof (or isolation) booths are devices used in some game shows so that one or more contestants can’t see or hear what other contestants are doing. They have been used in programs such as Twenty One, The $64,000 Question, The $64,000 Challenge, Double Dare, Family Feud, and more. Interesting side note: both Twenty One and The $64,000 Question became embroiled in the quiz show rigging scandals of the late 1950s.
“Knock-knock-knock.” Land Shark.
A reference to a series of sketches on Saturday Night Live in the 1975-1976 season. Parodies of the then-recent film Jaws, the segments began with the familiar John Williams theme, followed by a doorbell ring. The lady of the apartment would go to the door and ask who was there. The person on the other side would mumble things like “Candygram,” “Pizza delivery,” and so on, until the door was opened. That’s when Chevy Chase in a foam shark suit would lean inside and “eat” the resident. On occasion, the shark would admit that it was, indeed, a land shark.
“Were there a way to induce a state of suspended animation that couldn’t be told from death …” Play a Kenny G album?
Kenny G (b. Kenneth Bruce Gorelick) is an adult contemporary and jazz saxophonist, whose breakthrough success in the mid-1980s made him the biggest-selling instrumental musician of the modern era. Kenny G is also the target of harsh criticism from other musicians, who deride him as a minimally talented hack and a showboat, who cleverly markets his “cheap tricks” to a musically unsophisticated audience. Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, in particular, threatened to wrap a guitar around his head should they ever meet backstage, after Kenny G released a single featuring Kenny’s saxophone playing mixed with a classic recording of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” In response, singer-songwriter Richard Thompson wrote a song titled “I Agree With Pat Metheny,” which he occasionally performs in concert.
[Imitating Bela Lugosi.] This is this.
Possibly a reference to a line from the 1978 film The Deer Hunter.
[Imitating Bela Lugosi.] Now, tree, we’ve never met before, have we? Good.
A phrase often said in magical acts when an audience member is pulled onstage to participate in an illusion.
Sea-Monkeys? Looks like Sea-Monkeys.
“Sea-Monkeys” are in fact brine shrimp, a tiny crustacean that can undergo cryptobiosis—a kind of suspended animation wherein an organism can live indefinitely in the absence of water or oxygen, then return to an animated state once environmental conditions have been restored. Following the success of Ant Farms in the 1950s, Harold von Braunhut introduced a mail-order product called “Instant Life” in 1957. In 1962 he changed the name to “Sea-Monkeys” and heavily advertised them in comic books, marketing them as pets similar to tropical fish. Many children were disappointed when their new “Sea-Monkeys,” which were illustrated as little humanoid animals, turned out to be nearly microscopic shrimp.
Schaper always leaves you laughing. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.
Schaper Toys was founded in 1949 in Minnesota and is best remembered for selling the children’s game Cootie. Their television commercials in the mid-1970s ended with an animated cootie saying, “Cootie always leaves you laughing!”
Great. You just invented stop animation. Get Ray Harryhausen on the phone.
Stop-motion animation is the process by which figures (often clay or plasticine) are manipulated in small increments, with the progress being photographed at each step. When played back at the usual twenty-four frames per second, it appears to be in motion. Ray Harryhausen is widely regarded as the master of this animation. He studied under Willis O’Brien (who animated 1933’s King Kong) and created such classics as Jason and the Argonauts, The Valley of Gwangi, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.
[Imitating Bela Lugosi.] God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change …
The Serenity Prayer is the common name for a prayer written in the 1940s by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. It has been embraced by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. Its most commonly recited form is: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
The power of the Dark One.
A reference to Show 110, Robot Holocaust.
It’s an electronic dance belt, hmmm.
Dance belts aren’t actually belts. They’re support garments for the genitals.
“L’Chaim” is Hebrew for “to life,” and it is usually said as a toast.
And I’ll give the name of my colleagues to Senator McCarthy.
Senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) was a Republican U.S. senator from Wisconsin infamous for his usually groundless claims and investigations into suspected Communist activities in the government (capital “c” communists, meaning official party members). In 1950, he made the first of many speeches wherein he claimed to have lists of people within the government who were in collusion with the Soviet Union; he never showed anyone this “list,” and the numbers of people on it varied wildly, but his charges garnered immense media attention. In 1953, he was made chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which he used as his personal anti-Communism instrument. As his crusade carried on, he accused specific people of being Communists, many of whom had their lives ruined and at least one of whom committed suicide. Authors he accused of being Communists had their books removed from libraries and burned. Two events in 1954 led to McCarthy’s undoing. First, journalist Edward R. Murrow featured a series of clips of McCarthy speaking on the news program See It Now. Murrow unraveled many of McCarthy’s claims in two episodes, and the senator himself came on the show weeks later, where he accused Murrow of colluding with Soviets. The second influential incident in 1954 came during a televised series of hearings investigating suspected Communists in the Army. During a heated exchange with the army’s chief legal counsel, Joseph Welch, McCarthy accused a young lawyer who worked in Welch’s office of being a Communist. Welch famously retorted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” Most historians agree this was the moment that brought McCarthy down, that exposed him for the petty, nasty little man that he was. McCarthy was censured by the Senate shortly thereafter and served the remainder of his term a mere shadow of the posturing peacock he had been; he drank himself to death a few years later. Later intel releases from Russia show that, of the hundreds of people McCarthy accused, only nine had any dealings with the Soviet Union.
I never should have filled up on that four-alarm chili. Excuse me.
The spiciness of chili is often expressed using the parlance of firefighters. Multiple-alarm fires mean a fire is so involved and dangerous that more resources are being committed.
“You have failed, Monk.” What do you mean? I wrote “Straight, No Chaser” and “’Round Midnight.”
Thelonious Sphere Monk (1917-1982) was a pianist and composer who is widely considered to be one of the most creative and innovative stylists in jazz music. His percussive, dissonant, and at times wildly improvisational approach to the keyboard has proved to be highly influential, if rarely imitated successfully. Though he wrote only about 70 songs, he’s the second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, who wrote more than 1,000 songs. Among Monk’s compositions are “Straight, No Chaser” and “’Round Midnight.”
I’ll go call Roy Cohn.
Roy Cohn (1927-1986) was a lawyer who served as an aide to Senator McCarthy during his Communist witch hunts (see above note). Cohn, who was most probably gay (he died of AIDS in 1986, although he insisted it was liver cancer), was rumored to be involved with another young man who worked for McCarthy, David Schine. When Schine was drafted into the Army in 1953, Cohn’s incessant demands that his friend receive special treatment launched a feud between McCarthy and the Army that would culminate in the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings mentioned above. Cohn went into private law practice in New York City after the hearings but was disbarred shortly before his death for unethical conduct.
Say, that’s a pretty good Patrick Swayze.
Patrick Wayne Swayze (1952-2009) was an American actor known for his tough-guy and romantic leading roles in such films as Point Break (1991), Road House (1989), Dirty Dancing (1987), and Ghost (1990). Road House was allegedly Crow T. Robot’s favorite film, inspiring Crow to write the Christmas carol “It’s a Patrick Swayze Christmas,” performed on Show 321, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Swayze died of pancreatic cancer in 2009.
Then I’ll go to Victoria’s Secret.
Victoria’s Secret is a retail chain specializing in women’s lingerie and beauty products. It was founded in 1977 by Roy Raymond as a place for men to buy lingerie without feeling intimidated or uncomfortable. Its fashion shows and catalogs, featuring top fashion models in extremely revealing attire, are both admired and derided as widely available soft-core pornography.
“There’s nothing I cannot do.” If I had you.
A paraphrase of the 1928 jazz standard “If I Had You,” written by Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly, and Ted Shapiro. It has been recorded by such artists as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole. A sample verse: “I could be a king, dear, uncrowned/Humble or poor, rich or renowned/There is nothing I couldn't do/If I had you.”
Now will our mystery guest sign in, please?
The TV game show What’s My Line? ran on CBS from 1950 to 1967, the longest-running game show in prime-time U.S. network television. A daily syndicated version ran from 1968 to 1975. A panel of celebrities would question contestants in order to guess their occupation, each round beginning with the contestant being asked to “enter, and sign in, please.” The final round of each episode involved another celebrity—a “mystery guest”—as a contestant, and the panelists were blindfolded and tasked with guessing the mystery guest’s identity, not their occupation.
If you guys don’t mind, I got a Michelin Man reading in an hour.
The Michelin Man is an advertising figure for Michelin tires; designed in 1898, he is intended to look as if he is made out of a stack of tires. His given name is Bibendum, which first appeared in 1908. Want to know why he’s white? Before 1912, rubber tires were beige or grey-white. Modern tires are black because carbon is added to the rubber to strengthen them.
I am Iron Man.
The spoken word introduction to the 1970 song “Iron Man” by the British heavy metal group Black Sabbath. Though the song is often assumed to be about the Marvel comics superhero Iron Man, it is not. Originally titled “Iron Bloke,” the song’s lyrics tell the story of a man who travels into the future, sees the apocalypse, and upon returning to the present is transformed into an iron man. Nonetheless, the 2008 Marvel film Iron Man used the song over its ending credits.
“No one will ever find it.” Unless they’re from the Student Loan Association.
There is no organization with that particular title, but there is a Student Loan Marketing Association, commonly known as Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae manages more than $180 billion in debt for more than 10 million borrowers. When the time comes to repay a student loan, Sallie Mae has a reputation for being very difficult to avoid—sometimes even after death.
Now, turn your head and clank.
The phrase “turn your head and cough” comes from the act of examining men for hernias. The doctor will place his fingers above the testicles, say that to the patient, and if a hernia is there, the doctor will feel the bulging of intestines through the tear in the abdominal muscle. (The patient is asked to turn his head so he won’t cough on the doctor, natch.)
He should be in Better Dungeons and Gardens.
Better Homes and Gardens magazine, which focuses on cooking, gardening, crafts, decorating, and entertaining, is the fourth best-selling magazine in the United States. It was started in 1922 by former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Edwin Meredith.
[Imitating Bela Lugosi.] My private stock. Glenfiddich. Thirty years old.
Glenfiddich—which means “Valley of the Deer” in Gaelic—is a brand of single-malt scotch whisky distilled by William Grant & Sons in Dufftown, Scotland. Clever marketing and packaging has made Glenfiddich the world’s best-selling single malt scotch, accounting for about 35 percent of single malt sales worldwide. It is bottled at many ages, ranging from 12 years old to a very limited quantity of 64-year-old scotch.
[Imitating Bela Lugosi.] Quick, get Vick’s on the phone. I’ve just invented the Vaporizer.
Vicks is a line of over-the-counter cold and flu products manufactured by Procter & Gamble, including Vicks VapoRub, Vicks Nyquil, and Vicks Formula 44, first created in 1890. Vaporizer is the name for their line of humidifiers. Some of their products are designed to be placed near the vent of the Vaporizer so the evaporating medicine can be carried into the air.
“... has discovered something very important. –I’m sure he has. –Highly dangerous, too.” Seal-A-Meal? –Didi Seven? –Snackmaster?
Seal-A-Meal is the current brand name of a vacuum-sealing home food appliance manufactured by the Rival Company (Jarden Corporation), but this is probably a reference to an earlier, now-defunct product by the same name, which was manufactured by the Dazey Products Company. Didi Seven is a stain remover invented by German businessman Walter Willmann in 1963 and named for a childhood friend (and his lucky number). The cleaner in a cute little tube became enormously popular in the late 1980s thanks to a barrage of commercials and then-novel infomercials. Snackmaster is a brand of home food dehydrator manufactured by the Nesco American Harvest Company.
“Your husband smokes a popular brand.” Colombian, heh, heh, heh …
The South American country of Colombia is better known for its production of cocaine, but particularly in the 1970s, it was a well-known grower and exporter of high-grade marijuana.
And a light-blue Warner bra.
Warner’s is an American brand of brassieres and other intimate apparel founded in the 19th century by Dr. Lucien Warner, a 19th-century physician who designed less restrictive, more comfortable corsets for women.
Hey, it’s Gladys Kravitz.
Gladys Kravitz is a character on the ABC sitcom Bewitched (1964-1972). The role was originally played by Alice Pearce until Pearce’s death in 1966; Sandra Gould then took over the part. Mrs. Kravitz was the perpetually nosy neighbor across the street, who would frequently witness Samantha Stevens performing magic, but could never prove what she’d seen and was therefore never believed.
Hey, you guys going to that Dead concert? You hear Pigpen died? –Ahh! –If Pigpen died, then I don’t want to live either.
The Grateful Dead was an American rock band that emerged from the San Francisco music scene of the late 1960s and went on to become one of the most successful and enduring bands from that era, due in large part to their incessant touring and their devoted following of fiercely dedicated fans: the Deadheads. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (1945-1973) was a founding member and the band’s original keyboardist, harmonica player, and frequent vocalist. Pigpen died on March 8, 1973, from complications of acute alcoholism.
What a long strange trip it’s been.
A line from one of The Grateful Dead’s best known songs, “Truckin’,” released in 1970. Sample lyrics: “Sometimes the light’s all shining on me/Other times I can barely see/Lately it occurs to me/What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
I’m dead now. Don’t hitchhike. Please. Don’t hitchhike.
A reference to actor Yul Brynner (1920-1985), best known for roles in The King and I, The Ten Commandments, and The Magnificent Seven. He was a well-known smoker (having started at the age of 12), and after being diagnosed with lung cancer, he appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America and said he wished he could make an anti-smoking commercial. After he died, a portion of that interview became a PSA for the American Cancer Society that included the lines, “Now that I’m gone, I tell you, don’t smoke. Whatever you do, just don’t smoke.”
Get Miss Daisy out of there.
A reference to the 1987 play and 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy. In the Academy Award-winning film, Jessica Tandy plays Daisy Werthan, a stubborn Jewish Southern widow, and Morgan Freeman plays Hoke Colburn, the illiterate African-American who chauffeurs her. Tandy won the Best Actress Oscar, and Freeman was nominated for Best Actor; the film won Best Picture.
Hi, I’m Speedy, the Alka-Seltzer.
“Speedy” was a cartoon character introduced in 1951 to promote Alka-Seltzer tablets, an over-the-counter remedy for indigestion, headache, heartburn, and minor aches and pains. Alka-Seltzer became famous over the years for its many memorable advertising campaigns, but “Speedy” was one of its first.
It’s Koo-Koo the Bird Girl.
In the 1932 Tod Browning horror film Freaks, which used actual circus sideshow performers to portray its main characters, one of the title freaks was Koo-Koo the Bird Girl, a tiny, bald woman with a beak-like nose, clad in a feathery costume. Her creepy dance atop the table during the wedding feast is unforgettable if you’ve ever seen the film. Koo-Koo’s real name was Minnie Woolsey, and it is believed she suffered from Virchow-Seckel syndrome, a congenital disorder colloquially known as bird-headed dwarfism. In addition to the characteristics listed above, Minnie was mildly mentally retarded, toothless, and mostly blind. She was born in 1880; her date of death is unknown.
“I must know …” If Pigpen is still alive.
See above note on the Grateful Dead.
I like me so much I bought the company.
Victor Kiam (1926-2001) was an American businessman and entrepreneur who made his first fortune as president & CEO of Remington Products, which he bought after his wife gave him an electric shaver made by the company. In a series of television commercials during the 1980s, he made famous the catchphrase, “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company.”
Raid is a brand of household insecticide products first produced by SC Johnson in 1956. In a long-running television ad campaign, animated insects would attempt to hide or flee, only to be set upon by a giant can of Raid. Before their gruesome deaths, the bugs would cry out, “Uh-oh! Raid!”
You know, if you bite one of those, it’ll spark in the dark.
If you look very closely, in a very dark room, as someone quickly crunches a Wint-O-Green Life Saver candy with their teeth, you may see some faint blue sparks being emitted. This is due to a process called triboluminescence, which occurs when something is crushed or torn, the something in this case being the hard crystalline sugar that Life Savers contain. Wint-O-Green Life-Savers are particularly bright because the methyl salicylate that is the source of the wintergreen flavor also fluoresces blue, making the sparks from the sugar even brighter. Another example of triboluminescence is the spark you get when you tear the piece of tape off the end of a roll of photographic film (at least in the days when people still used film). Some Band-Aid wrappers and Breathe Right wrappers also glow bluish-green when unwrapped swiftly.
Well, the pilot’s bombed.
With “bombed” being a euphemism for “drunk,” it brings to mind an incident in which three pilots for Northwest Airlines were arrested after flying a Boeing 727 with 91 passengers aboard from Fargo, North Dakota, to Minneapolis, Minnesota, early on the morning of March 8, 1990. The pilots had been seen drinking heavily the night before and were still legally intoxicated at the time of the flight, although they made the hour-long trip without incident. All three were fired by the airline, had their licenses revoked by the FAA, and served time in federal prison. All three eventually returned to the commercial airline industry, either as pilots or instructors or both. One of them wrote a book about the whole thing (Flying Drunk by Joseph Balzer).
Oh, Captain Spaulding.
Captain Jeffrey T. Spaulding (the “T” stands for “Edgar”) is the character played by Groucho Marx (1890-1977) in the Marx Brothers’ 1928 stage play and 1930 film Animal Crackers. Captain Spaulding was supposedly a courageous explorer, but stories of his adventures always revealed cowardice. A famous Captain Spaulding line: “One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.” Rock musician and alleged actor Rob Zombie used the name Captain Spaulding for a character that appeared in both his 2003 film House of 1000 Corpses and in its 2005 sequel, The Devil’s Rejects.
Charlie Sheen. Navy SEALs.
Charlie Sheen is an actor, the son of fellow actor Martin Sheen, who starred in 1986’s Platoon, 1987’s Wall Street, and his own epic meltdown in 2011. He has had a long history of drug and alcohol problems. He also starred in the 1990 action film Navy SEALs, which was about an elite squad of soldiers tasked with stopping Middle Eastern terrorists.
Hey, Bumbles bounce!
A reference to the 1964 Rankin/Bass Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Gold prospector Yukon Cornelius (voiced by Larry D. Mann) calls the Abominable Snow Monster “Bumble,” and when asked how the pair survived a fall over a cliff’s edge, responds, “Bumbles bounce!”
[Reading credits.] Robert L. Lippert.
Robert L. Lippert (1909-1976) was a producer of many films, including Show 520, Radar Secret Service; he also directed Show 611, Last of the Wild Horses.
Armida … Is that Spanish? Spanish-Amerasian?
Armida Vendrell (1911-1989) was a tiny (4-foot-10) singer and dancer who worked the vaudeville circuit as a child with her father, a stage magician, before going to Hollywood. She was born in Mexico.
Fred Colby, the cheeseman.
Fred Coby (1916-1970) was a character actor who primarily worked in television; he did a lot of westerns. Colby cheese is similar to cheddar, although softer and milder, and was developed in the 1870s by Joseph Steinwand in Colby, Wisconsin.
Zack Williams is Sammy in Chief Zabu.
A recurring reference, generally given as “Zack Norman is Sammy in Chief Zabu.” According to the Amazing Colossal Episode Guide’s list of the Fifty Most Obscure References, this is a reference to a "long-running ad in Variety. It ran forever: Don’t know if Chief Zabu ever made it past the stage where you talk about it over liver dumpling soup at Jerry’s Deli, but you might remember Zack from Romancing the Stone or his role as the woman-slapping thug in the despicable Henry Jaglom film Sitting Ducks.” In fact, Chief Zabu—the story of a New York real estate tycoon whose dreams of political power lead him to attempt a takeover of a Polynesian island—was written, produced, and directed by Zack Norman, under the pseudonym Howard Zuker. Production began in 1986, and although the film was given an R rating in 1988, it was never completed or released. The ads, however, ran continuously in Variety between 1985 and 1988. In late 2016, in light of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the movie was taken off the shelf and given a limited release in Los Angeles and a screening at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
I’ll have the Carl Burger.
Possibly a reference to Carl’s Jr., a hamburger chain founded in 1941. When you include locations of its sister chain, Hardee’s, it’s the fifth-largest fast food chain in the country. Carl Berger (1901-1983) was a prolific cinematographer who worked on films and TV, including Bring ‘Em Back Alive and Sky King.
Original song: “There’s No One in My Heart But Me,” by Dr. Christiaan Barnard.
Dr. Christiaan Neethling Barnard (1922-2001) was a South African heart surgeon who in 1967 performed the first successful human heart transplant operation. The surgery required a team of thirty people and took nine hours. Though the patient, a grocer named Louis Washkansky, only survived another 18 days, it was a medical breakthrough that instantly made Dr. Barnard an international celebrity. He continued to perform transplants and achieved greater success with later patients.
That’s Rum Collins’s smarter brother.
Rum Collins is a cocktail consisting of light rum, lime juice, sugar, and soda water. It is similar to the better known Tom Collins, but replaces the gin in that drink with rum. Also a reference to the uneven but amusing 1975 film The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, which was directed by and starred Gene Wilder as the hapless Sigerson Holmes, a detective striving to break out from under the shadow of his successful older brother Sherlock; the film also starred Marty Feldman, Madeleine Kahn, Dom DeLuise, and Leo McKern.
Mars, extending us a welcome!
A callback to Show 201, Rocketship X-M.
Hey, look, a Shriner. I don’t remember the name, but the fez is familiar.
Shriners International (formerly known as The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine) is a fraternal organization with 200 chapters, or temples, worldwide. The organization is known both for its children’s hospitals and for the snazzy red fezzes sported by members.
Donner, party of three, please.
The Donner Party was a group of about 80 settlers who, led by George and Jacob Donner, tried to make it to California in 1846. They got trapped in a pass in the Sierra Nevadas by a winter storm; almost half of them died before they could be rescued, including George and Jacob, and the survivors resorted to cannibalism to keep themselves alive. The pass where they were trapped is now named Donner Pass.
[Imitating Popeye.] So, I was saying to Brubeck the other day ...
An imitation of Popeye the Sailor Man, a character created by E. C. Segar in 1929 for the “Thimble Theatre” comic strip, which had already been running for ten years. He soon became the main focus of the comic. Beginning in 1933, Popeye became an animated character, thanks to the artistry of Fleischer Studios and the voice work of Billy Costello and Jack Mercer. The riff itself may be referencing Dave Brubeck (1920-2012), a renowned jazz pianist who recorded highly influential works in the 1950s and 1960s and continued to perform through the end of the 20th century.
Saigon. I’m still in Saigon.
A paraphrasing of the opening lines of voiceover spoken by Martin Sheen in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. The actual line is: “Saigon … shit. I’m still only in Saigon.”
Freebird! Whoo! Whipping Post!
“Freebird” (or “Free Bird”) is one of the best known and most requested songs by the American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, featured on their 1973 debut album Pronounced Lynyrd Skynyrd. “Whipping Post” is a song by The Allman Brothers Band; the studio version appears on their 1969 debut album The Allman Brothers Band, and it soon became one of their best-loved live warhorses; the final side of the band’s 1971 live album At Fillmore East consists solely of an epic 23-minute performance of the song. Beginning in the very early 1970s, audiences would yell out requests for “Whipping Post” at concerts by any artist, regardless of genre. This dubious pop culture joke continued with “Freebird” a few years later, which has since overshadowed its predecessor.
“Have a drink. We haven’t got time.” We don’t fly Northwest.
See above note on Northwest Airlines. Northwest Airlines was a major airline headquartered in Eagan, Minnesota; it was founded in 1926 and folded into Delta Airlines in 2008.
[Reading newspaper.] Hmm, look here. Two more pilots arrested. Famous tennis star becomes woman. Hmm, neat. And a completely ordained minister.
See above note on Northwest Airlines. Renée Richards (born Richard Raskind) is a former professional tennis player who underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1975. She was not allowed to enter the 1976 U.S. Open, based on a so-called “women-born-women” policy, and sued for her right to compete. The New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor in 1977, a decision that is considered a landmark for transgender rights. However, Richards never became an ordained minister.
There’s a man on the wing of the plane! –Ahhh!
In the 1963 Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” William Shatner played an air passenger who repeatedly saw a creature on the wing of the aircraft, attempting to sabotage the plane. This famous episode was later adapted for the 1983 big-screen Twilight Zone film, with John Lithgow taking Shatner’s role.
What’s a five-letter word for rum and Diet Pepsi?
Another Northwest Airlines drunken pilot reference (see above note). Court testimony stated the captain of that flight had consumed about fifteen rum and Diet Cokes over eight hours, fell down upon leaving the lounge where he had been served, and was in the cockpit of a Boeing 727 aircraft ten hours later.
I think we just flew through a dissolve.
In filmmaking, a dissolve is a video transition that occurs when one scene fades out as another fades in, creating a gradual segue.
Wow, say! These View-Masters really bring nature to life! Look at that!
Introduced in 1939 by a company named Sawyer’s, View-Master is a device that views stereoscopic images, giving a perception of 3D. The images are stored on round paper discs, with fourteen frames that combine to show seven stereoscopic scenes. Originally marketed to adults as a means to view picturesque tourist attractions, View-Master became a popular children’s toy in the late 1960s, and vintage View-Master viewers and discs remain collector’s items. They’re made today by Fisher-Price.
A joke from the 1933 Marx Brothers film Duck Soup, from the scene where Chico and Harpo are on trial for treason. Chico turns the cross-examination back on the prosecutor, saying, “Now I aska you one. What has a trunk but no key, weighs 2,000 pounds, and lives in a circus?” The prosecutor snaps, “That’s irrelevant!”, and Chico beams, “Irrelephant? Hey, that’sa the answer! There’s a whole lot of irrelephants in the circus.”
Hey, a petting zoo. –Now we’re at the Dells.
Wisconsin Dells is a city in south central Wisconsin, popular as a Midwestern tourist destination. Often known as just “The Dells,” the place became divided in 1908 into the Upper and Lower Dells when Kilbourn Dam was constructed on the Wisconsin River. The Dells is home to numerous waterparks, go carts, miniature golf courses, regular golf courses, and a host of other icons of wholesome family fun. “Ever been to The Dells? Let’s ride the ducks” came in at #7 in The Fifty Most Obscure References in The Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, referring to The Dells as “that paradise of water playlands, that miniature golf hot-bed…”
Did ancient astronauts land here millions of years ago?
A reference to the theory that intelligent extraterrestrial beings visited Earth in prehistory and may have influenced human culture, technology, and religion. The term “ancient astronauts” was coined by author Erich Von Daniken in his popular tome Chariots of the Gods?, in which he postulated that the pyramids of ancient Egypt and other ancient landmarks were built with extraterrestrial assistance.
Well, they had to land. The rubber band’s unwound.
A reference to balsa wood toy airplanes, which are propelled by rubber band–powered propellers.
Go ahead, Bob. You’re the Boy Scout.
The Boy Scouts of America, part of the international Scout Movement, is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States. Since its founding in 1910, BSA has trained more than 110 million members in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance through outdoor activities.
Look, a tiger! –What, in Africa?
A paraphrased line from a scene in the 1983 film Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, wherein a British soldier has clearly had his leg eaten off by a wild animal. (Tigers, in case you didn’t know, are not native to Africa; they were once found all over Asia, from Turkey to China to Russia to India, although habitat destruction and poaching have drastically reduced their population and their range.)
Look, don’t step in the macumba, huh?
Macumba is an African word (Bantu, specifically) that means “magic,” and is sometimes used to refer to a specific central African deity. This riff, however, is probably referring to an old joke that goes like this: An American evangelist visits a remote African village with an interpreter. The villagers gather curiously around him and he begins preaching, the interpreter translating as he goes. After a while, the villagers begin yelling, “Macumba! Macumba!” and the preacher kicks into high gear, all fire and brimstone. They yell “Macumba! Macumba!” even louder. The preacher is ecstatic, shouting, “Macumba! Halleluia!” until he’s exhausted. As he’s walking back to the Jeep afterwards, the villagers following him with much joyful singing and dancing, the interpreter grabs him by the arm and, pointing at the ground, says, “Oops, watch it—don’t step in the macumba there.” (Thanks to David Newberry for the joke.)
“North by northeast, right?” That was a good movie.
North by Northwest is a 1959 Alfred Hitchcock thriller that starred Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint. It was nominated for three Academy Awards but lost them all to Ben-Hur. Its most iconic scene features Grant being chased in a field by a crop duster.
Springtime. When a young man’s fancies lightly turn to thoughts of … elephants.
A paraphrased line from the 1835 Alfred Tennyson poem “Locksley Hall”: “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Hi, I’m Satan. Enjoy the film.
A reference to the biblical myth of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve’s “original sin.” In the book of Genesis, a talking serpent persuades Eve to eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, leading to their expulsion from paradise. While the serpent has traditionally been regarded as a personification of Satan, the snake is never explicitly named as such in Genesis. Satan (a.k.a. the Devil) is the personification of evil, primarily featuring in Christian and Islamic traditions. He is most often described as a “fallen angel” of God, though his initial job seems to have been as a prosecutor of sorts, sent to test men’s faith.
Pretty nosy, kitty cat.
A paraphrased line from the 1974 film Chinatown: “You’re a very nosy fellow, kitty cat.”
Looks like they all just got out of the shower. –Yeah, and they’re all on a snipe hunt. –Who’s got the bag?
The snipe hunt is a type of practical joke in which a group of people take an unsuspecting victim out to the woods at night to hunt for snipe. The victim is handed a bag and told that the others will drive the snipe in his direction so that he can catch them in the bag. Then those who are in on the joke leave and wait for the victim to catch on.
Now, I can’t find your ball anywhere. What are you playing, a Slazenger 5? I think this hole breaks to the left.
A reference to the sport of golf. Slazenger is a British manufacturer of sporting goods, including golf balls, founded in 1881.
Sorry. Sorry, everyone! Now, please, let’s not bicker over who shot who—the important thing is that we realize that we made a mistake.
A rather faithful adaptation of a bit of dialogue from the 1975 comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, from the scene in which Sir Lancelot perpetrates a massacre at a wedding.
[Humming music from Gilligan’s Island.] Hey, Ginger and Mary Ann!
Gilligan’s Island was a CBS sitcom that aired from 1964 to 1967 about a group of people stranded on an island after their boat wrecked during a storm. The premise was stretched beyond credulity in a 1974-1977 Filmation animated series, three reunion films (including the improbable The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island), and the 1982 animated series Gilligan’s Planet, set in space. Ginger Grant, played by Tina Louise in the show and other actresses in the subsequent series and films, was a movie star who, for some reason, packed hundreds of outfits for her three-hour boat trip. Mary Ann Summers, played by Dawn Wells, was a country girl who always managed to scrounge together the ingredients for pies.
Stink? Think? What is this, a Dr. Seuss book here? Think!
Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) was a prolific author and artist best known for his forty-four children’s books, including How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs & Ham, Horton Hears a Who, and The Cat in the Hat.
Sam! Where’s Quincy?
Quincy, M.E. is a television series starring Jack Klugman as Dr. R. Quincy (his first name was never given), a Los Angeles coroner who investigates suspicious deaths. It ran from 1976-1983 on NBC. Sam Fujiyama, played by Robert Ito, was Quincy’s long-suffering lab assistant.
Second word. Is it a film? Sounds like … uh …
A reference to the game Charades. The person who is acting out a word, title, person, etc., is not allowed to speak, and therefore performs various hand gestures to get people to guess the first word, what it may sound like, the second word, and so on.
I didn’t say Simon says. Okay, Simon says.
Simon Says is an old kids’ game in which the “simon” tells the other children to do things—hop on one foot, touch their nose—prefacing each command with the words “Simon says.” If the simon omits those words when giving an order, anyone who performs the requested action is “out.” The earliest known version dates back to the Roman Empire and was called “Cicero dicit fac hoc,” meaning, “Cicero says do this.” The name “Simon” likely entered into it after some court intrigue in the 1260s once King Henry III of England had been captured by Simon de Montfort, an English earl who led a brief rebellion and actually ruled the country for a year.
“Miss Vanderhorn, I presume?” Oh, funny.
Dr. David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a Scottish doctor, missionary, and explorer. After having lost contact with the outside world for several years while exploring Africa, he was located in Tanzania in 1871 by Welsh journalist Henry Morton Stanley, who greeted Livingstone—the only other white man for hundreds of miles—with the now famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
And now, ladies and gentlemen, the Tropicana extends a warm Las Vegas welcome to Mr. Gene Krupa!
Tropicana Las Vegas is a 1,658-room hotel and 50,000-square-foot casino on the Las Vegas Strip. It opened in 1957; its history has often been marred by links to organized crime. Gene Krupa (1909-1973) was an American jazz drummer whose high-energy style has been often imitated but rarely duplicated. He played with musicians such as Eddie Condon and Benny Goodman, and he played with fellow drummer Buddy Rich on a number of occasions, including a famous “drum battle” at Carnegie Hall in 1952.
Quincy want to … oh, never mind.
See above note on Quincy, M.E.
Here, have this, I gotta go with Henry Silva here.
Henry Silva is an actor known for playing villains in films, including The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Sharky’s Machine (1981), and Dick Tracy (1990).
Spread out, Samboo. Three’s a crowd.
Possibly a reference to the 1899 children’s book The Story of Little Black Sambo, written by Helen Bannerman, about an Indian boy who outwits some hungry tigers. The innocent story, however, gave way to controversy within a few decades due to the illustrations (which showed a very dark-skinned boy with stereotypically exaggerated African features) and the propagation of the word “sambo” as a racial slur. Later versions of the book published with different illustrations (and, sometimes, a different title and name for the main character) have been less controversial.
Meanwhile, at stately Wayne Manor.
The phrase “Meanwhile, back at _____” originated with cards inserted in silent films of the early 20th century. In westerns, this was often “Meanwhile, back at the ranch ...” Once audio became a common component, the phrase was still used by narrators in films and radio and television programs. “Stately Wayne Manor” is the phrase used to describe the residence of millionaire Bruce Wayne (a.k.a. Batman) on the Batman TV show (1966-1968). The announcer with the characteristic voice was also the show’s producer, William Dozier. The Pasadena, California, mansion used for the show’s exterior is located at 380 San Rafael Drive.
Those Morning Zoo guys just grate on me.
A mainstay of Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR) or Top 40 stations, the Morning Zoo format for morning radio shows is characterized by two or three excruciatingly upbeat and “wacky” hosts who engage in stunt “call in” segments, on-air games, and regular contests. It is unclear which station started the trend; some credit Dallas station KZEW in the mid-1970s, while others claim it originated in Australia before migrating to the U.S.
Oh, it sounds like a lot of kooky fun, we’ll put on a show, and once the V-2 turns you into guava jelly, I’ll still be alive.
The V-2 rocket was used by Nazi Germany during World War II as a long-range ballistic missile to attack targets in Belgium, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in Europe. The “V” stood for “Vergeltungswaffe,” translating into English as “reprisal weapon.” Germany launched more than 3,000 V-2s between September 1944 and March 1945, killing an estimated 7,200 people (12,000 forced laborers were also killed during production and testing). In the final days of the war, scientists who worked on the V-2 (including Wernher von Braun) surrendered to the United States rather than fall into Soviet hands. The U.S. and the Soviets raced to capture as much of the technology as they could. For the better part of a decade, the U.S. tested V-2s with the help of von Braun; this led to the development of the Redstone rocket, which carried the first two Mercury astronauts into space.
Averell Harriman? –It’s Adolphe Menjou. –Yeah, I think so. –Boris Karloff?
William Averell Harriman (1891-1986) was a Democratic politician, businessman, and diplomat. He served as Secretary of Commerce under President Harry S. Truman, was the 48th governor of New York, and served in a number of diplomatic posts under Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson. Adolphe Jean Menjou (1890-1963) was an American actor who worked in both silent movies and talkies. (His father was French, accounting for his name, but he was born in Pennsylvania.) In 1931 he was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Front Page. Boris Karloff (born William Henry Pratt; 1887-1969) was an English actor best known for his roles in horror films such as Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). He also provided the voice of the Grinch and narrated the classic 1966 animated television special How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
It’s a mobile home. Filled with La-Z-Boys.
A mobile home is a prefabricated house that is built in a factory and then transported to the home site, usually by tractor-trailer. Despite their name, mobile homes are usually permanently left in place, although it is possible to move them. La-Z-Boy is an American furniture manufacturer founded in 1927 and best known for their line of upholstered recliners.
We’re on our way!
Another callback to Show 201, Rocketship X-M.
Hey, what is this, the airplane of Dr. Caligari?
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) is a silent horror film that is considered both an influential example of German expressionist filmmaking and one of the finest horror movies of that era. It is noteworthy for its highly stylized sets, which used canvas backdrops with twisted, deformed buildings and jagged shadows painted on them to increase the sense of nightmarish unreality.
That oughta hold ‘em.
A reference to a very old urban legend about a children’s radio host (usually attributed to one Uncle Don Carney, who broadcasted from 1928-1947) who once signed off a show by saying, “There, that ought to hold the little bastards.” In fact, the tale goes back to the 1930s, has been attributed to numerous radio figures on numerous dates (a reliable tell of an urban legend), and no recording or any other proof exists. The story was being debunked in articles about Uncle Don as early as 1935, yet it persisted, in part thanks to a re-creation of the event, promoted as authentic, that was released on an album of radio and TV “bloopers” in the 1950s. Carney denied it from the beginning, but it haunted him for the rest of his long career. The Simpsons made reference to the legend in the episode “Krusty Gets Kancelled.”
God save the queen.
“God Save the Queen” (or “God Save the King,” depending on who’s sitting on the throne) is the royal and national anthem of the United Kingdom and its dependencies. Its composition is uncertain and is generally given as “17th or 18th century.” The tune serves as the basis for the American patriotic song “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” (a.k.a. “America”).
Meanwhile, in yet another plane.
See above note on “Meanwhile …”
Airport is a 1970 disaster film based on the 1968 Arthur Hailey novel of the same name. Though most critics panned it, Airport was a box office success (the second-highest grossing film of the year) and is credited with launching the disaster movie genre popular in the 1970s and beyond. There were three sequels: Airport 1975, Airport ’77, and The Concorde … Airport ‘79.
Thanks to my Halston, I still looked fabulous.
Roy Halston Frowick (1932-1990) was an American clothing designer. His long, flowing dresses were popular in dance clubs during the mid-1970s disco boom. He also designed the uniforms for the U.S. Olympic team in 1976, as well as uniforms for the Girl Scouts, NYPD, and Avis.
I met neat people, like Roddy McDowall, and you know, it’s really true, what he’s saying.
Roddy McDowall (1928-1998) started as a child actor in movies like My Friend Flicka and Lassie Come Home, and then achieved his greatest fame playing various apes in the Planet of the Apes films, most famously as Dr. Cornelius. Like Milton Berle and Liam Neeson, he was rumored to be ... um, well-endowed.
Hey, toots, it’s me, Satan. Catch ya later, ya know?
“Toots” is an early 20th-century term of affection, usually meaning “sweetheart.” It derived from the slang word “tootsie,” meaning “foot.” See above note on Satan.
Suddenly, there I was, in front of a rear projection screen. You know how I hate those.
Rear projection is both a filmmaking technique (largely abandoned with the advent of digital technology) of projecting a previously filmed background behind actors in the foreground, and a type of large-screen television display that has been effectively replaced by flat-screen plasma and LCD TVs.
Upsy-daisy—or ups-a-daisy, oopsy-daisy, or hoops-a-daisy, among many other variants—dates back to the early 17th-century United Kingdom. “Whoops-a-daisy” is a 20th-century American variant. From it we get our more common terms “whoops” and “oops.”
Rhubarb, rhubarb. –Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.
Along with “rutabaga,” “watermelon,” and “peas and carrots,” “rhubarb” is one of those words that background extras are often told to mutter among themselves as a way to simulate conversation in television shows and films.
Would it be crass of me to say the natives are restless?
The phrase “The natives are restless” comes from the 1932 film The Island of Lost Souls, which was itself based on the 1896 H.G. Wells novel The Island of Dr. Moreau.
“What’s the snake for?” Nastassja Kinski.
Nastassja Kinski is a German-born actress known for such roles as the title character in the 1979 romance film Tess, for which she won a Golden Globe, and Harry Dean Stanton’s estranged wife Jane in Paris, Texas. A 1981 photograph by Richard Avedon portraying a nude Kinski draped by a large Burmese python became a popular poster.
Tommy Tune. And Merce Cunningham.
Thomas James “Tommy” Tune is a nine-time Tony Award-winning dancer, singer, choreographer, actor, producer, and director known for his theater work. He also won the National Medal of Arts in 2003. Mercier “Merce” Philip Cunningham (1919-2009) was an American dancer and choreographer. He founded his own dance company, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, in 1953, which he led until his death; he trained many dancers who went on to form their own companies, and he left his stamp on American modern dance over his 70-year career.
Now … 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. They were first sold in 1933. The name itself comes from “calcium gone.”
Ah, good. My Clams Casino. Charge it to the room.
Named after the Little Casino in Narragansett, Rhode Island, where it was developed in 1917, Clams Casino is an appetizer consisting of clams baked with breadcrumbs and bacon and served on the half shell. It is a common menu item in New England Italian restaurants.
Hey, there’s an Inuit pole out here. Different strokes, y’know?
The Inuit—also known as Eskimos—are the indigenous peoples of the Arctic regions of Canada, Greenland, Russia, and the United States. Totem poles are large sculptures—the tallest is 173 feet high—carved from trees by the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest of North America, including the Haida, Sitka, and Tlingit tribes. The Inuit do not carve totem poles.
“Hello.” [Imitating.] Hello. –Hello, Shirl.
A reference to the TV sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which ran from 1976-1983, and the two “wacky neighbor” characters, Leonard Kosnowski (Michael McKean) and Andrew Squiggman (David Lander). “Hello” is an imitation of Squiggy as he and Lenny barged into the girls’ apartment. “Hello, Shirl” is an imitation of Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall) as she greeted her roommate, Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams).
“I assure you that the natives here are not cannibals.” The Scottish call it haggis.
A traditional dish of Scotland, haggis is a kind of savory pudding consisting of the heart, liver, and lungs of a sheep, minced with onion, oatmeal, spices, and suet, poured into the sheep’s stomach, and boiled for several hours. It is traditionally served with a “dram” (large glass) of Scotch whisky, for obvious reasons.
Ah, no. White devil just having a Kent.
Kent is a brand of cigarette, one of the first brands of filtered cigarettes to arrive on the marketplace following the publication of a 1952 Reader’s Digest article titled “Cancer by the Carton.” It was one of the first widely read pieces on the medical research that had linked smoking with lung cancer, and cigarette sales fell as a result. The tobacco industry began marketing filtered cigarettes as a more “healthful” alternative due to the health scare caused by the article.
Sure. You got money, G.I. Joe?
“G.I. Joe” is a slang name for American soldiers around the world, predating the famous toy lines created by Hasbro. (“G.I.” stands for “Government Issue,” not “General Infantry.”) The mention of money here implies a prostitute’s solicitation, a common scene in Vietnam War films.
Get me. Sentenced to death and I’m still makin’ time. Yeah, I’m pretty cool.
A paraphrasing of a line from the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life, spoken by Sheldon Leonard as Nick the bartender: “Get me! I’m givin’ out wings!”
[Sung.] Don’t nobody move ...
Trace Beaulieu himself confirms that “Don’t nobody move” was a recurring catchphrase on The Ernie Kovacs Show from the early days of television. The program ran on all four major networks (including the defunct DuMont Network) at one time or another between 1952 and 1962, in various incarnations – prime-time, daytime, talk show, as well as comedy/variety – all grounded by pioneering American comedian Ernie Kovacs (1919-1962). (Thanks to Lynn Knott for the investigative legwork.)
Or take the magic trolley. Or click my heels together.
“Magic trolley” is likely a reference to the small, red “Neighborhood Trolley” depicted on the PBS children’s show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001). Host Fred Rogers would bring the trolley into his living room on a track, and after some “conversation,” it would be dispatched into the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe.” In the classic 1900 L. Frank Baum children’s story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and in the famous 1939 film adaptation, heroine Dorothy Gale was magically allowed to return home to Kansas by clicking her silver (or ruby) slippered heels together three times.
And so, Leona Helmsley’s empire was built.
Leona Helmsley (1920-2007), dubbed the “Queen of Mean” during the 1980s, was a real-estate agent turned hotel impresario. She was married to hotel magnate Harry Helmsley and took over the operation of his Helmsley Palace hotel on Madison Avenue in Manhattan. She became notorious for treating her employees badly and was eventually convicted of income tax evasion, for which she served 18 months in federal prison.
Saps all your power if you’re a visitor from a foreign planet.
A reference to kryptonite, the mythical radioactive ore from Krypton, the home planet of comic, television, and movie superhero Superman, which is his only natural weakness. The word “kryptonite” has come to be another word for “Achilles’ heel”—the one vulnerability of an otherwise indomitable hero. It’s usually depicted as green, but there are more than a dozen other colors and variations, all having different effects on Superman. This is the first of many Superman references in this episode, given that George Reeves (1914-1959), eponymous star of the television series Adventures of Superman (1952-1958), plays Mike Patton in Jungle Goddess.
“Provided we get out of here alive, Mike.” Muaaah, muaa, muaa, muaaaaaaaaahhhhhh.
Sometimes referred to as “sad trombone,” “loser horns,” or, more technically, “chromatic descending ‘wah,’” this sound effect dates back to early 1900s vaudeville. It was carried over into radio and then television.
“Don’t worry, Gretta.” I’m the Man of Steel. Stop bullets. The whole nine yards.
“The Man of Steel” is but one nickname for Superman, the fictional character born as Kal-El on the planet Krypton. The super-powered being with the alter ego Clark Kent was created in 1932 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, with his first appearance in Action Comics #1 in 1938. Superman has appeared in many radio and cinematic serials, animated shorts, live-action and animated TV series, and films. The mid-20th-century idiom “the whole nine yards” (meaning “the whole thing”) has a heavily disputed origin, with theories ranging from the length of ammunition belts in World War II to the amount of fabric used to make a top-quality suit.
Yeah, Kitten, why the long face?
Possible reference to the radio and TV series Father Knows Best (1949-1954 on radio; 1954-1960 on television). Star Robert Young played all-American dad Jim Anderson, who was always trying to draw out his children so he could address their middle-class suburban problems. His youngest daughter Kathy (portrayed by Lauren Chapin) was nicknamed “Kitten.”
“Wassamatta?” or “Wassamatta you?” is an Italian-American twist on the question “What’s the matter?” “Wossamotta U,” as emblazoned on a sweatshirt, was the proud alma mater of Bullwinkle the Moose in the animated television series The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (1959-1964).
Should I get out the anatomically correct doll?
Anatomically correct dolls are dolls that display the sexual characteristics of human anatomy, for educational purposes or as an aid in interviewing children who may have been sexually abused.
“Oh, no. Wanama dumb.” Do do do do do. Wanama dumb, do do do do.
A paraphrase of the song “Mahna Mahna,” written by Piero Umiliani for the Italian film Sweden: Heaven and Hell. The song became known in the English-speaking world when it was performed by the Muppets on Sesame Street and The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969. In 1976, it was performed by the Muppets again on the premiere episode of The Muppet Show. The Muppet Show soundtrack album hit number one in 1977 largely due to the song’s popularity.
“Are you daffy?” No, I’m Porky, you’re Daffy, remember?
Porky Pig is a Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes character who first appeared in 1935’s I Haven’t Got a Hat. He was initially voiced and given his trademark stutter by Joe Dougherty until Mel Blanc took up the role in 1937. Daffy Duck (also voiced by Blanc until his death in 1989) first appeared in the 1937 short Porky’s Duck Hunt. Daffy was, initially, very screwball in his antics, but he evolved over the next decade or so to become an angry foil for Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and other characters. Porky and Daffy frequently appeared together, sometimes as hunter and prey and sometimes as uncomfortable domestic partners.
[Imitating.] Yeah, see? Yeah!
Edward G. Robinson (born Emanuel Goldenberg, 1893-1973) was an actor who earned his chops playing gangsters and other tough guys during the 1930s and ‘40s. He had a particularly distinctive nasal and staccato speaking style. Some of his greatest classics include Little Caesar, Double Indemnity, Key Largo, and The Ten Commandments.
Man of Steel, huh? Phone this into Perry White. –Visitor from another plan ... Hey! Far beyond mortal man …
See above notes on Superman. Perry White is the editor in chief of The Daily Planet, the fictional Metropolis newspaper where Clark Kent (Superman) works as a reporter. He has been played by Pierre Watkin, John Hamilton, Jackson Beck, Jackie Cooper, Lane Smith, George Dzundza, and others.
Ah, all this Pier 1 crap. Hey, look! Native collapsing furniture.
Pier 1 Imports is a retail chain based in Fort Worth, Texas, specializing in imported furniture and home décor. Their products, while relatively inexpensive, are not noted for their durability. It was founded in 1962.
I will kill you! I will kill him.
An infamous line from the 1984 David Lynch film Dune, which was based on Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name. It was uttered very melodramatically by Sting, who played the wild-eyed na-Baron Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen. It became a favorite of the writers.
Faster than a speeding, yeah, right … more powerful than a … wimp …
More claims of Superman’s power that date back to the introductions from the 1940s radio serials and theatrical animated shorts. The routine goes thusly: “Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.”
[Imitating.] C’mon, Junior, let’s get off this picture. Besides, I wanna get home and shoot holes in Gary.
Harry Lillis “Bing” Crosby (1903-1977) was a singer and actor best known for hits like “White Christmas” and a series of films with Bob Hope. His laid-back style was highly influential, most notably on the careers of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Perry Como. At his peak, around 1948, polls showed him to be “the most admired man alive”—more so than baseball great Jackie Robinson and Pope Pius XII. Gary Crosby (1933-1985) was Bing’s oldest son, who, in 1983, published Going My Own Way, which detailed his father’s alcoholism and abuse of his family. Two of Gary’s siblings, Lindsay and Dennis, confirmed the account before they killed themselves several years later, although Phillip denied the charges and called Crosby a “great father.”
Skipper! Little buddy! Skipper! Little buddy!
In his role as Skipper on the television series Gilligan’s Island (1964-1967), Alan Hale Jr. referred to Gilligan (Bob Denver) as “little buddy.” When lost or frightened in the jungle, they would often call out to each other.
Skipper! Little Buddy! Skipperrrrrrr!
See previous note.
“Snuggie” here does not refer to the popular sleeved blankets, but is an alternate term for a “wedgie,” the pulling of one’s underwear up and well into one’s crack as a cruel practical joke.
Don’t you ever call me Galahad again. Ever.
In Arthurian legend, Sir Galahad is one of the Knights of the Round Table, son of Lancelot and the only one pure enough to find the Holy Grail, in the late medieval versions of those tales. Some scholars believe Sir Galahad was meant to stand for Jesus Christ, since he was a late addition to the legend and was encumbered with a lot of religious symbolism.
Meanwhile, in an equally racist Tarzan movie across the way …
Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and first published in magazine form in 1912, then in book form in 1914, Tarzan of the Apes is the story of an orphaned British child raised by apes in the African jungle. Burroughs eventually wrote 25 sequels. The concept became so popular, and references to it so pervasive, that it is nearly impossible to account for every adaptation of the Tarzan legend. Many of the Tarzan movies, as well as the 1966-1968 NBC television series, contain what would today be considered racist stereotypes of indigenous African peoples.
Hey, you ho-daddy, surf’s up …
In surfer lingo, a “ho-daddy” is slang for a surfing enthusiast.
Cool leopard. I wonder if it’s deaf.
Def Leppard is an enduring British heavy metal rock band founded in 1977. Their greatest popularity came from the early 1980s through the 1990s; their 1987 album Hysteria sold 20 million copies, and altogether they have sold more than 100 million albums throughout the world. They continue to tour, while band members also devote attention to various side projects.
I haven’t seen a Porta-Potty in ten miles.
Porta-Potty is one of many brand names of plastic portable enclosures used as a temporary toilet for large gatherings, such as festivals and concerts, and on construction sites. “Porta-Potty,” along with “Porta-John,” has become a brand eponym for such portable toilets.
And there, on the handle, was a spear.
A reference to the classic campfire legend “The Hook,” about a couple making out in a car when they hear there is an escaped homicidal lunatic with a hook for one hand lurking somewhere about. Nervous, the girl insists that they leave, and the boy, disgruntled, peels out of lover’s lane. And when they get home … there … dangling from the door handle, is … a hook!
Hey, where in the hell is the MGM lot?
MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) is one of many large entertainment corporations that continue to film and produce movies and television shows on huge soundstages and studio facilities—known as “lots”—located in the greater Los Angeles, California, area. It was founded in 1924 by Marcus Loew and famously features a roaring lion as its “production card” (that short intro before the movie starts).
You think you got problems, I’m opening for Siegfried and Roy.
Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn are German-born entertainers known for their Las Vegas magic show featuring white tigers. In 2003, Horn was mauled and critically injured by one of their tigers. In 2009, after more than five years’ hiatus due to Horn’s injuries, they staged a final performance and retired.
I hate Mondays.
A possible reference to the 1979 song “I Don’t Like Mondays,” written by Bob Geldof and performed by the Boomtown Rats. Geldof wrote the song after reading news reports of a 16-year-old girl who opened fire on a San Diego schoolyard, killing two adults and injuring eight students and a police officer. When asked why she had done it, the girl replied: “I don’t like Mondays; this livens up the day.” Also a possible reference to Garfield, the fat orange cat created by Jim Davis that has appeared in newspapers since 1978. His hatred of Mondays is one of several recurring themes in the strip.
Do you think Mellencamp is a dumb name? Really?
John Mellencamp is an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, painter, producer, film actor, and director. His populist rock songs celebrating the tenacity of American blue-collar workers enjoyed particular success during the 1980s into the mid-1990s. Over the course of his career, his stage name evolved from “Johnny Cougar” to “John Cougar” to “John Cougar Mellencamp” to, ultimately, “John Mellencamp”—where it remains to this day.
And there, on the handle, was a hook. –Ooooh. –No, really.
See above note on “The Hook.”
Oh, don’t pretend you haven’t worn any, Reeves.
See above note on George Reeves.
He’s your boyfriend. You’re the one who invited Der Weisse Engel.
“Der Weisse Engel” is German for “The White Angel,” which was the nickname given to Dr. Josef Mengele (1911-1979), a German physician known for human experimentation at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp. The inmates called him the White Angel for the white doctor’s coat he wore as he stood on the train platform to inspect arriving prisoners. Mengele singled out children, twins, and dwarves for his research. He studied eye color by injecting chemicals into eyeballs, conducted forced sterilizations, practiced shock therapy in the extreme, autopsied twins simultaneously, and vivisected pregnant women. Unfortunately, Mengele evaded capture after the war and lived out his days in secret in South America. In the 1976 film Marathon Man, the evil Nazi war criminal/dentist Dr. Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier), who was based on Mengele, is also referred to as “der Weisse Engel.”
He’s really a good man. ‘Cause tomorrow is another day.
A paraphrased line from the classic film Gone With the Wind (1939). “Tomorrow is another day!” is the last line of the film, spoken by Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) as she vows to rebuild her life and win Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) back.
So every time I ate a burger an acre of this stuff disappears? I don’t get it.
Rainforest deforestation in the Amazon is an ecological disaster on many levels, occurring for many reasons. Oil and gas companies cut down the trees to get at the natural resources underneath the ground; timber companies are eager to sell the valuable mahogany; farmers clear-cut the land to grow crops. And thanks to the world’s appetite for beef, cattle farmers cut down the forests so their animals can graze on the land; unfortunately, grasses do not grow very well there, so the cattle have to move on soon, causing more tree loss. One (questionably accurate) statistic that is frequently cited online is that for every hamburger patty you eat, 55 square feet of rainforest have been destroyed, which is what this riff is referring to. Regardless of the validity of that particular claim, since 1970 about 230,000 square miles of Amazon rainforest have been destroyed, contributing to global warming, messing with the water cycle, causing thousands of species of plants and animals to go extinct, eroding the soil and increasing the risk of landslides, and generally wreaking havoc.
This could have been on pay-per-view.
Pay-per-view is a system whereby home entertainment—such as sporting events or feature films—can be purchased ahead of time and are then broadcast to everyone who paid for it at the same time; this is different from video-on-demand, in which people pay for a film and can watch it at any time.
Y’know, I’d really like to get ahold of that Gary Larson guy once and for all.
“The Far Side” is a comic created by Gary Larson that ran in nearly two thousand newspapers at its peak. It was characterized by surrealistic humor, anthropomorphized characters (often cows), heavyset women with horn-rimmed glasses and beehive hairdos, cavemen, scientists, and many other staples. It lasted from 1980 to 1995.
Hey, wait for us! They wouldn’t take our Visa!
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 took 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.” In the mid-1980s, Visa ran a series of advertisements touting the fact that many establishments in travel destinations around the world would not accept American Express credit cards, but would take Visa.
Oh, my ankle. It’s all hot and it hurts and stuff.
A reference to a commercial for the antiseptic/anesthetic first-aid spray Bactine. It is produced by Bayer and was first sold in 1950.
Hey, where’s Ted Bessell?
Ted Bessell (1935-1996) was considered a child prodigy when he performed a piano recital at Carnegie Hall at age 12, but he is largely remembered today as a television actor for his role as long-suffering boyfriend Donald Hollinger in the popular TV sitcom That Girl (1966-1971). Later attempts on Me and the Chimp and Hail to the Chief proved less than stellar. He had more success with directing work for The Tracy Ullman Show; he shared an Emmy Award as one of its producers when it won for Best Variety Show in 1989. Bessell died of an aortic aneurysm in 1996 while preparing to direct a big-screen version of Bewitched; the film was ultimately directed by Nora Ephron.
Oh, great. He killed a coconut. –In cold milk.
In Cold Blood (1966) is a “nonfiction novel” by Truman Capote about the actual 1959 murders of a Kansas farm family. It was made into a film starring Robert Blake in 1967.
Bungle in the jungle.
“Bungle in the Jungle” is a song by the British prog-rock band Jethro Tull, from their 1974 album War Child.
Here whitey, whitey, whitey! –Here, Caucasian … –Here’s a great idea: sprinkle the trail with Cheez Whiz, Velveeta, white bread. White devil can’t resist.
Cheez Whiz and Velveeta are both processed cheese-like products that have a remarkably long shelf life. Both are produced by Kraft. Cheez Whiz was first sold in 1952. Velveeta was first made in 1918 by the Monroe Cheese Company; Kraft bought the rights to it in 1927.
Continuity! Script girl!
In filmmaking, the script supervisor (or continuity supervisor) ensures that there is uniformity within each scene and from scene to scene throughout the picture. This person also logs progress on the screenplay. In the early days of the industry, until the early 1940s, the position was generally held by women, which is where the term “script girl” comes from, but by the 1950s the job was pretty evenly balanced between men and women.
I invade Poland, und, Goebbels. –Sieg heil! –Where are you? Mein buddies?
A reference to the September 1939 invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, an event most consider to be the opening salvo in World War II. In Germany, this was reported as a defensive action after Polish forces attacked a German radio station. In fact, the “Polish” soldiers were Germans in disguise and the whole attack was staged purely as a propaganda exercise. Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) was the Third Reich’s propaganda minister and as such controlled the German media. He ordered the burning of thousands of books and organized attacks (both verbal and physical) on Jews throughout Germany; his efforts are recognized as being key in allowing the Holocaust to move forward, as well as in preparing the German people for years of warfare. “Sieg heil” is German for “hail victory” and was often said by Germans as they saluted Hitler or other Nazi leaders. It was frequently chanted at the enormous rallies the Nazi Party staged.
We are on our way! –Mars!
Still another callback to Show 201, Rocketship X-M.
“Bingo,” meaning “correct,” derives from the 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.
Let’s get out of here, Scooby!
Scooby-Doo is the name of the anthropomorphic Great Dane that first appeared in the animated television series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, which aired from 1969 to 1972. He was voiced by Don Messick. The show spawned several other series, television movies, videos, and even live-action films.
Hail, Dorothy! The wicked witch doctor is dead!
A paraphrased version of the line, “Hail Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead!” from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
“Alfalfa. Wheat.” –Stymie. Spanky.
References to characters from the Our Gang theatrical shorts (later syndicated asThe Little Rascals), which ran from 1922 to 1944 and featured a revolving stable of child actors. Alfalfa appeared from 1935 to 1940 and was a popular character, thanks to his love for Darla, his horrible singing voice, and his exaggerated, pomaded cowlick. He was played by Carl Switzer (1927-1959), who later appeared in a number of TV shows and films, including a bit part in It’s a Wonderful Life. Buckwheat appeared from 1934 to 1944 and is remembered for his wild hair, occasional bugged-out eyes, and odd speech inflections. He was played by Billie Thomas (1931-1980). In the early 1980s, the character was revived in the public consciousness thanks to a series of sketches on Saturday Night Live with Eddie Murphy as an adult Buckwheat. Stymie was in the cast from 1930 to 1935 and is easily recognized as the precocious African-American boy with a bowler hat. He was played by Matthew Beard (1925-1981). Spanky, a bit chubby and usually wearing a beanie, was the de facto leader of the group and appeared in more shorts than any other character during his tenure (1931-1942). George McFarland (1928-1993), who played him, said the name came from early 20th-century slang for “smart,” and had nothing to do with corporal punishment.