703: Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell
by Chris Baumgartner
Where's the umlaut?
Heavy metal rock bands often favor logos in fonts that look like swords or other cutlery, like the title of this movie; they also like to use umlauts, often incorrectly, just because they look cool. Spinal Tap, the heavy metal band in the classic mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, placed their umlaut over the n.
[Name on screen: Carla Herd.] Carla Herd a Who.
Horton Hears a Who! is a 1954 children’s book by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Carla Sands, née Carla Herd, left acting to become a chiropractor, and in 2016 was named ambassador to Norway by Donald Trump.
Thom Thristopher, th, th, th, th, th.
Thom Christopher is remembered for his role as Hawk in the sci-fi series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, which aired, ironically, before Deathstalker. He had a long-running role on One Life to Live in the 1990s and periodically since then.
Oh, I have a feeling we’re making a run for the border in this movie.
“Make a run for the border” was a highly successful advertising slogan for the Taco Bell fast food chain in the late 1980s and early ‘90s.
These two? Merchant Ivory of Mexico.
Merchant Ivory Productions is a movie studio known for high-class films often based on classic novels, particularly by E.M. Forster (A Room with a View, Howard’s End) and Henry James (The Bostonians, The Golden Bowl).
“Alfonso Corona.” Hey, can we jam a lime wedge in his mouth?
Corona beer is often served with a lime wedge on the rim.
Yes, it’s Renaissance Festivals of the Old West.
Renaissance Festivals (or Fairs) are an entertainment phenomenon that began in Southern California in the 1960s and spread first to the rest of California and then the nation. Generally they feature a number of vendors selling leather mugs, swords, jewelry, and so forth; singers, dancers, and comedians performing; a “court” complete with king, queen, and courtiers; and rides and games for both children and adults. As proved in the scathing host segments in this episode, and previous digs in Show 303, Pod People, and Show 402, The Giant Gila Monster, the MST3K gang has an intense dislike of Renaissance Festivals. Specifically, Kevin Murphy had this to say in the Sci-Fi Channel episode guide for this show: “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.”
Looks like they were making a Men Without Hats video while they were shooting this movie.
Men Without Hats was a Canadian 1980s New Wave group, known for their 1983 hit “The Safety Dance.” The music video for the song looked as if it had been filmed at a Ren Fest, featuring Morris dancers, dwarf minstrels, and gorgeous girls in low-cut peasant dresses.
Ah yes, the New Brighton Lumberjack Days.
New Brighton is a small suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lumberjack Days are a civic celebration with tree harvesting as a theme. There are usually various log chopping competitions. The Lumberjack Days festival is actually held in Stillwater, Minnesota; New Brighton is home to the undoubtedly just-as-fabulous Stockyard Days.
Blaze was the name assumed by bodybuilder Sha-ri Pendleton when she appeared on American Gladiators, a TV game show that involved contestants competing against the show’s athletes. The show ran from 1989-1996; Blaze appeared from 1990-1992. One of their games was the Joust, in which opponents tried to knock each other off a high balance beam using a large padded staff that resembled a giant Q-tip.
The giant Q-tip wars, I’ve heard about these.
Q-tips is a brand of cotton-tipped swab used to clean the wax from your ears. The brand name is owned by Unilever, a British/Dutch conglomerate.
So Michael McDonald is fighting the guy from Loverboy?
Michael McDonald was the lead singer for the Doobie Brothers in their late period, from 1976-1982. When the group disbanded, he launched a successful solo career. The guy from the 1980s band Loverboy (“Working for the Weekend”) would be their lead singer, Mike Reno.
Leon Russell is a bearded songwriting legend and keyboard player who penned numerous hits that were often made more famous by others, including “A Song For You,” “Delta Lady,” and “This Masquerade.”
Find the lady, find the lady, come on.
This is a reference to the common street betting scam three card monte, also known as find the lady. The scam focuses on three playing cards, two aces and one Queen. The con man appears to mix them randomly face down, when in reality he knows exactly where he places the cards and uses that knowledge to cheat the players in various ways.
Come on, sing “Delta Lady,” wheew!
See previous note on Leon Russell.
A Power Rangers coin, everyone.
The kids show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers had its own lore as to where the team got their superpowers. This included a series of golden power coins made by the ninja master Ninjor, each emblazoned with a dinosaur.
And the Raiders have elected to receive … [echo]
In NFL football, a coin is tossed to determine who gets the initial possession of the ball, whether the team will kick or receive, and which end of the field they will defend.
Manly, yes, but I like it, too.
In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Irish Spring soap ran a series of ads featuring an extremely Irish gent (in a turtleneck sweater and tweed flat cap) with a penchant for slicing up bars of the stuff with a pocketknife, the better to show off its two layers of deodorant. His companion, a very Irish lassie, would generally remark on its fine fresh scent: “That’s why I use it, too.” In one often-parodied ad, however, the selling point was Irish Spring’s manly scent, to which the lassie responded, “Manly, yes, but I like it, too.”
Will the people from Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman please clear the set?
Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman was a TV series starring Jane Seymour as a female doctor in a frontier town; it ran from 1993-1998.
I don’t care!
An imitation of the uber-annoying, tiny-panted child Johnny from Show 306, Time of the Apes.
Yeah, I know Merlin personally.
Merlin was the magician in the English legends of King Arthur. He is generally portrayed as an adviser to Arthur. He was done in by his student and lover Nimue, who imprisoned him forever in a tree.
“Thinking I was the end of your quest?” As we know it, and I feel fine.
A line from the song “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” by the rock band R.E.M.
Elizabeth Taylor threw this at me.
In 1969, actor Richard Burton bought his actress wife Elizabeth Taylor a giant diamond (69-plus carats) for $1.1 million, at the time the most expensive in the world. Taylor sold the diamond in 1979, following her divorce from Burton; she used the proceeds to build a hospital in Botswana.
I’ll throw in a “Frodo Lives!” bumper sticker.
Frodo Baggins is the hobbit protagonist in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy of novels, as well as a character mentioned in Tolkien’s posthumous works The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. In the 1960s and ‘70s, “Frodo Lives” was a popular counterculture slogan, appearing in graffiti, on buttons, and, yes, on bumper stickers. The books were becoming increasingly popular among the hippie crowd following the belated release of a paperback edition in the mid-1960s. (The trilogy was not all that widely read or well-regarded for decades after it was published.)
“Fah.” A note to follow “so.”
This is a line from the song “Do-Re-Mi,” from The Sound of Music.
In the 1989 movie version of Batman, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, many of the TV ads featured a scene where The Joker asked “Who are you?”, to which Keaton replied huskily, “I’m Batman.”
Ah, the Michigan Militia.
The Michigan Militia is a political and paramilitary group that began in the 1990s as a response to the federal agents’ aggressive handling of the Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents. After militia groups fell into disrepute following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the organization fell into decline and was largely defunct by 2000. However, following President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the militia, along with many other anti-government groups, surged back to life.
Get a tennis racquet!
A reference to the 1988 comedy movie The Great Outdoors, in which Dan Aykroyd and John Candy go to battle with a rogue bat in a cabin using tennis racquets. And a fishing net. And a broom. And a wastebasket. And a flyswatter.
[Sung.] Taking it to the streets …
This is from the Doobie Brothers song “Takin’ It to the Streets,” voiced by bearded lead singer Michael McDonald.
Save the turkey drumsticks.
See above note on Renaissance Festivals.
It’s the annual running of the Ren Festers.
Every year in Pamplona, Spain, between July 7 and 14, the “running of the bulls” is held, in which people and bulls run a marked-off course through the town. Deaths are relatively rare (16 people in the past century), but injuries are not—200 to 300 per year, most of them minor. Also see above note on Renaissance Festivals.
Whoo hoo, sorry boss, I got weak ankles.
An imitation of Mister Ed, the titular talking horse on the TV sitcom that ran from 1961 to 1966; it enjoyed another bout of popularity on cable thanks to Nick at Night and TV Land from the late 1980s through 2006. Ed's distinctive voice was provided by former Western star Allan Lane (1909-1973), who went uncredited for the length of the series.
[Sung.] Yeah you.
This is yet another line from the Doobie Brothers song “Takin’ It to the Streets,” voiced by Michael McDonald.
Someone grab the gate receipts.
See above note on Renaissance Festivals.
Carrot Top, no!
Carrot Top (real name Scott Thompson) is a prop comic known for his wild, curly, clown-red hair, and for a series of AT&T television commercials. Since 2005 he’s had a headlining show at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.
It’s very Kitaro-ish, this music.
Kitaro is a Japanese composer known for his New Age synthesizer pieces.
Does this mean the Alpine horn demonstration is postponed?
See above note on Renaissance Festivals.
Twenty-three skidoo, rah rah.
This refers to a fashion craze of the Roaring Twenties known as the raccoon coat. The cheap, full-length fur coats became trendy on college campuses and at their football games. Twenty-three skidoo is a slang term from that period meaning “let’s beat it”; its origin is unclear.
He’s Dick Button all of a sudden.
Dick Button was a famous Olympic gold medal winner in figure skating in 1948 and 1952. In the 1948 Olympics, he became the first skater to complete a double axel jump in competition, as well as the youngest man to win the gold in figure skating; in 1952, he was the first to land a triple jump of any kind. His original spinning move was known as the Button Camel. He is a popular color man for the sport on TV.
He forgot his Espadrilles.
Espadrilles are a flat casual shoe that originated in 14th-century Western Europe; traditionally they’re made with a canvas top and esparto rope soles. Sometimes the word is applied generally to all manner of sneakers and casual shoes.
Wow, she runs like Natrone Means.
Natrone Means was an NFL football running back during the 1990s. He played with the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars. He retired in 2000 and began coaching college football in 2005.
Oh, sorry, 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.”
T-minus four seconds to an emotion?
In the days of the “Space Race” between the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia), NASA rocket launches were televised and eagerly watched. In the countdown to a launch, viewers were treated to the technical chatter of mission controllers, who referred to “T” (which stood for “time” or, sometimes, “test”), and “minus” followed by the hours, minutes, or seconds remaining before a launch. After the first couple of successful moon landings, popular interest in the space program plummeted so much that TV networks largely stopped carrying launches. This may have been partly due to the astronauts themselves, who, being engineers rather than poets, tended to describe the breathtaking views of Earth from space and the lunar landscape with words like “faaantastic” or the ever-popular “Super. Just super.”
Branson is a city in southwestern Missouri. Starting in the 1930s, the city began consciously to position itself as a tourist attraction; it is now considered the “family-friendly Las Vegas” because of its many attractions, which are located along a neon-lighted “strip.” It is particularly known for its musical acts, which consist largely of country and bluegrass. Featured acts include Moe Bandy, Mel Tillis, and the Osmonds.
Or Fridley. I can’t remember.
The small town of Fridley, Minnesota, is a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul.
I ask you, Morton Kondracke.
Morton Kondracke is an American political journalist, columnist, and pundit, best known for appearing on The McLaughlin Group (1982-1998). John McLaughlin, the host of the program, made a habit of directing his questions this way, although this is probably a reference to a series of parody sketches of the show that ran on Saturday Night Live (1975-present).
These are both mineral ores. Pitchblende, now known as uraninite, is a radioactive, uranium-rich ore, and bauxite is the source mineral for aluminum.
Oh no, this is a sequel to something.
This is the second sequel to the original Deathstalker movie, which was released in 1983. There were four movies in the series; the last, Deathstalker IV: Match of Titans, was released in 1991.
“Is that all you’re after?” [Sung.] Then let’s keep dancing.
This is from a Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller song made famous by Peggy Lee in 1969, called “Is That All There Is?”
Andy Travis, hero.
WKRP in Cincinnati was a TV sitcom that aired from 1978-1982, about life at the titular radio station. The part of program director Andy Travis was played by Gary Sandy.
I haven't got any syphilis that I know of.
Syphilis is a common sexually transmitted disease. It is curable by penicillin, but was a major killer before modern medicine developed antibiotics. Its symptoms in untreated sufferers can be horrendous, including widespread rashes and sores, disfiguring tumors, and dementia.
Well, I’m boxing the clown tonight.
“Boxing the clown” is one of many, many euphemisms for male masturbation.
A little Drakkar Noir.
Drakkar Noir is a men’s fragrance line by Guy Laroche. It was big in the 1980s and ‘90s.
Please, sir, may I have a blanket?
This is a paraphrase of a line from the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, in which Oliver, an orphan, asks for another helping of gruel and finds himself thrown out of the orphanage. The actual line: “Please, sir, I want some more.”
Get the soundtrack by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer was a popular progressive rock band in the 1970s with hits like “Lucky Man” and “From the Beginning.”
I’ve got to call Rampart.
Rampart General Hospital was the base of operations for a group of doctors and paramedics in the NBC medical action drama Emergency! It ran from 1972-1979. Rampart is a district of Los Angeles.
I can patch it to get you to Sheboygan, but you’re going to have to have it looked at.
Sheboygan is a medium-sized town in central Wisconsin, known for their incredible cheddar cheese.
Rub it under your armpits and you won’t smell.
The main ingredient in antiperspirants is known as aluminum zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly. It is a crystal that is normally ground to a powder, but whole crystals are sometimes sold at health food stores as a natural deodorant.
Mary Lou Retton could act better than her.
The 4’9” gymnast Mary Lou Retton won a gold medal in gymnastics in 1984. She has a couple of minor TV credits to her name, including an appearance on Baywatch in which she played herself. She was the first female athlete to appear on a Wheaties box.
Robert Foxworth is a popular TV actor, probably best known for his bearded leading role on Falcon Crest. He also appeared in the film Damian: Omen II (1978).
Sounds like the bird has a lavalier mic that he runs through a grunge box before he puts it through to the preamp.
The small lavalier microphone is hung or clipped around the speaker’s neck. It is less cumbersome than a hand-held mic. A grunge box is a distortion pedal used mostly by rock guitars.
Fifty seven oracles and nothing on.
A riff on the 1992 Bruce Springsteen song “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).” Sample lyrics: “Man came by to hook up my cable TV/We settled in for the night my baby and me/We switched 'round and 'round till half-past dawn/There was fifty-seven channels and nothin' on.”
Let’s check with our personal Ted Neeley first.
Ted Neeley is best known for portraying Jesus in the movie version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar. "Personal Jesus" is a 1989 hit song by Depeche Mode.
It’s Troxartas, Sunday at the Metrodome.
An imitation of the over-the-top commercials for Monster Truck Rallies that take place at large venues like the Minneapolis Metrodome. Truckasaurus appears in an episode of The Simpsons (“Bart the Daredevil,” 1990). It is based on the real-life Robosaurus, a semi-trailer truck that transforms into a forty-foot robotic dinosaur.
Why does he have Björn Borg trussed up to the wall?
Björn Borg was a Swedish tennis champion. In 1976 he became the youngest man ever to win Wimbledon (a record that stood for nine years), and famously retired at the shockingly early age of 26.
Sir Douglas Brackman rules their kingdom.
The courtroom drama show L.A. Law was popular during the time this episode aired. Balding actor Alan Rachins played senior partner Douglas Brackman, an impatient, officious attorney who was always focused on the bottom line.
You can’t be too rich or too bald.
Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor (1896-1986), is frequently credited with saying “You can never be too rich or too thin.” She also said “Never explain, never complain.”
She’s from Dubuque.
Dubuque is a city in Iowa, located on the Mississippi River where Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois meet.
Here come the brides.
Here Come the Brides was a TV show that aired from 1968-1970. It focused on the adventures of three brothers in the Pacific Northwest in the 1870s, who, in an effort to save their sawmill, bring out 100 women as prospective brides for their loggers. The series launched the careers of Bobby Sherman and David Soul, who played two of the brothers.
She’s like a pretty Nancy Kerrigan.
Nancy Kerrigan is an American figure skater. About a month before the 1994 Olympic Games were to start, Kerrigan’s knee was injured during an attack, and fellow figure skater Tonya Harding was implicated in the assault. The rivalry between the two skaters was a tabloid’s dream, and for months the “showdown in Lillehammer” was touted as being the battle of the century. As it turned out, Kerrigan came in second and Harding placed eighth. Harding ultimately pleaded guilty to conspiring to hinder police prosecution of the attackers; her husband, bodyguard, and two other men went to prison, while Harding received probation and was banned from skating for life.
And the Denver Pyle convention is disrupted.
Denver Pyle (1920-1997) was a character actor who appeared in more than a hundred films and television shows. He is perhaps best known for his role as Uncle Jesse on the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard, which aired from 1979-1985.
Will Geer and James Coburn are the Odd Couple.
Will Geer (1902-1978) played Zeb “Grandpa” Walton on The Waltons, a wholesome TV drama that aired from 1972-1981. James Coburn (1928-2002) was a gangly action hero in films such as The Magnificent Seven and In Like Flint. The Odd Couple is a play by Neil Simon about a pair of New York City roommates, one a clean freak, the other a slob. It premiered on Broadway in 1965; the play was followed by a 1968 film adaptation and a TV sitcom that aired on ABC from 1970 to 1975. The film starred Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, respectively, while the TV series starred Tony Randall and Jack Klugman.
Huzzah, my invisi-blanket!
“Huzzah” is an olde English exclamation, similar to “hurray,” that has been around since Shakespeare’s time.
This guy paved the way for Ike Turner.
Ike Turner (1931-2007), along with his then-wife, Tina, performed a popular R&B act in the 1960s and early 1970s. In 1976 Tina filed for divorce; she went on to have a successful solo career. In 1986, Tina claimed in her autobiography that Ike had abused her during their marriage. Turner denied it, but later admitted to slapping her and punching her to the ground, but never “beating” her. Ike died from acute cocaine toxicity in 2007.
I gotta go work on my Charger, man.
The Dodge Charger is a car built by Chrysler; several different models have carried the name since the original two-door version rolled off the assembly line in 1966.
“I didn’t tell.” Aunt Rhody?
This refers to the traditional American folk song “Go Tell Aunt Rhody.” Lyrics: “Go tell Aunt Rhody, the old gray goose is dead.”
“Long ago.” [Sung.] And oh so far away.
The pop group The Carpenters covered a Delaney & Bonnie song called “Superstar” in 1971, and it became their biggest hit. “Long ago, and oh so far away/I fell in love with you before the second show …”
Excuse me, I’ve got to get to my Ladyhawke audition.
Ladyhawke was a 1985 movie about lovers who were put under a magical spell. The man became a wolf at night and the woman a hawk by day, so they could never see each other as humans. It starred Rutger Hauer and Michelle Pfeiffer, plus a horribly miscast Matthew Broderick as the young scamp who helps them set things right.
Hard to look menacing when you’re dressed like Maude.
Maude was a sitcom starring Bea Arthur that aired from 1972-1978. Maude was a very liberal middle-aged New York suburban woman who dressed in flamboyant, long-sleeved dresses. It was a spinoff of All in the Family.
Lodac? Are you talking to the toilet again?
A reference to Basil Rathbone's nattily dressed character from Show 607, The Magic Sword. (Thanks to Athena Huff-Sandstrom for this reference.)
Your sitz bath is ready, sir.
A sitz bath is where you submerge just your pelvis into a warm bath. It is used to treat inflammations in your nether regions such as hemorrhoids, boils, or postpartum perineal damage.
Why, you cleaned down here. What did you do with my Popular Mechanics?
Popular Mechanics is a magazine devoted to cars, gadgets, boats, technology, and other subjects beloved to home tinkerers’ hearts. It was first published in 1902.
Mother Teresa, what are you up to, you scamp?
Mother Teresa (1910-1997) was a Roman Catholic nun and the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, an order dedicated to helping the poor, particularly in India. She began working with the poor in Calcutta in 1928. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; in 2003, six years after her death, she was beatified (the first step toward awarding her sainthood).
Whoa, jeez, I thought I was Neil Diamond for a second there.
Neil Diamond is a famous pop singer. He had a long string of hits in the 1970s and early ‘80s, including “Sweet Caroline” and “America.”
“The world is almost in my grasp.” Or at least the Quad Cities.
The Quad Cities are four closely spaced towns on the Mississippi River: Davenport and Bettendorf are in Iowa, and Moline and Rock Island are just across the river in Illinois.
The young Bill Clinton.
William Jefferson Clinton was the forty-second president of the United States. While his terms in office were marked by unprecedented prosperity, they were also dogged by scandal, culminating in his impeachment by the House of Representatives over the Monica Lewinsky affair.
Bigfoot is a legendary apelike creature. Sightings have been reported in the Himalayas, Northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and elsewhere. One famous piece of film shot in Northern California purports to have actually captured proof of the creature, but skepticism remains widespread.
[Sung.] Shoot that poison arrow through my heart.
These are lyrics from the 1980s pop hit “Poison Arrow” by the English New Wave group ABC.
But we appreciate ladies’ night at Blainbrook Bowl.
The Blainbrook Entertainment Center is a hall, bar, arcade, and bowling alley in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Witchiepoo was the screechy-voiced witch on the far-out kids show H.R. Pufnstuf. She was played by actress Billie Hayes.
Elayne Boosler looks on.
Elayne Boosler is a popular stand-up comedian. She starred in a string of cable specials featuring her act; her first, in 1986, was the first one-hour comedy special featuring a female comedian on cable.
Amongst our weaponry are …
A line in the comedy sketch “The Spanish Inquisition,” from Monty Python’s Flying Circus. “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are surprise …” etc.
The anniversary diamond. [Sung.] Do-do-do-do, do-do-do-do.
Since the mid-1990s, the diamond cartel De Beers has used a now-familiar classical jingle taken from the first movement of the Palladio suite composed by Karl Jenkins. Their slogan is “A Diamond Is Forever.”
Thank you very much.
Tom is imitating Elvis Presley (1935-1977), the King of Rock and Roll. Elvis was one of the most popular musicians from the 1950s until his death in the late 1970s. He was a teen idol, helped usher in the era of rock and roll, became a movie star, created an enormous and opulent home at Graceland in Memphis, developed problems with drug abuse, and finally died of a heart attack at the age of 42. “Thank you very much” was a phrase Elvis frequently used, usually at the end of a song while applause thundered. He often said it very quickly with the words all tumbled together. This, of course, led to it being used in impressions of him for decades.
Do you have any Mrs. Dash?
Mrs. Dash is a brand of seasoning blends manufactured by Alberto Culver, marketed as an alternative to table salt.
This is the scene they always show in That’s Entertainment!
That’s Entertainment! was a 1974 film from MGM, a film of clips from their old musicals assembled to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. The film was a hit, and renewed interest in MGM’s older musicals, which the studio just happened to have packaged ready for TV syndication.
An imitation of commercials for the men’s cologne Brut Actif Blue, made by Fabergé and introduced in 1994, which featured an intensely French announcer and lots of buff models running around.
[Sung.] The knights of the Round Table ... oh.
In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the knights of Camelot are a campy musical bunch who sing and dance, which Arthur’s knights find so off-putting that they avoid the castle completely. Sample lyrics: "We’re knights of the Round Table/We dance whene’er we’re able/We do routines and chorus scenes/With footwork impeccable ..."
He made a saddle out of Grover.
Grover the Sesame Street Muppet (voice supplied by Frank Oz) dates back at least to 1967. He is a kindly, blue, furry monster who speaks without using contractions.
Are there Nina B’s? Or Ross stores out there?
Nina B was a Minneapolis clothing store owned by Salkin & Linoff, which at its peak in the 1980s had some 400 stores under various names; however, the company overextended and went under in 1990. I assume Ross refers to the Ross Dress for Less chain of discount clothing stores.
By Prince Matchabelli.
Prince Georges Matchabelli (1885-1935) was a member of the Georgian royal family who fled to the United States after the communist revolution and founded a perfume company. Their perfumes were known for their characteristic crown-shaped bottles with a cross on top. The successful company changed hands a number of times, and still exists as part of Parfums de Coeur.
I’ll mail you back your Foreigner tape.
Foreigner was a very popular hard rock band from the late 1970s through the late ‘80s. They had hits like “I Want to Know What Love Is,” “Juke Box Hero,” and “Double Vision.”
Haven’t I seen her dancing by the pool with Spuds MacKenzie?
Spuds MacKenzie was an English bull terrier dog used to market Bud Light beer in the late 1980s. He was billed as “the original party dog,” and was usually surrounded by models and wearing shades. Spuds was actually a female dog named Honey Tree Evil Eye, who died in 1993.
Ram it, lady.
A possible riff on one of the more popular urban myths of the 1960s, particularly in Southern California. The story goes that on an episode of the children’s TV program Bozo’s Circus (or possibly Bozo’s Big Top; both were on the air at the time, depending on the market), a child let fly with a swear word. When Bozo chided “That’s a Bozo No-no,” the child allegedly replied, “Aw, cram it, clown.” Urban legend investigative website Snopes.com is undecided on this one. While it has many of the earmarks of a fake—differing versions of what city the incident took place in and what was actually said—this did involve children in the heyday of unpredictable live television, and the show was syndicated in multiple cities, so it’s possible it actually happened.
Wow, it’s like Nick and Nora Charles.
Nick and Nora Charles were fictional detectives who appeared in Dashiell Hammett’s mystery novel The Thin Man. Hollywood made a series of Thin Man movies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as the witty, fast-quipping couple.
I’m going to get back to my Super Weight Gain 2000.
Joe Weider is a line of fitness products, including powdered protein shake mixes designed to help you gain weight; the best-known among these is the Mega Mass 4,000, which boasts of 4,000 calories per serving—nearly twice the daily caloric intake of the average person.
“I’m on my way to marry a very important man.” Edgar Bronfman.
This could be a reference to Edgar Bronfman, Jr., who was the head of Seagrams and, later, Warners Music—or, more likely, to his father, Edgar Bronfman, Sr. (1929-2013), who was head of Seagrams before him and was famously married five times to four women (he married his third wife twice), the last in 1994.
This guy peaked in the Middle Ages.
The Middle Ages is a period of European history that lasted roughly from the fifth to the 15th century B.C.E., between the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Renaissance.
“Just because a man’s a little …” Teapot?
“The Teapot Song” is a widely known children’s song written in 1939. “I’m a little teapot, short and stout, this is my handle, this is my spout.”
He’s got all the charm of your David Soul.
David Soul played Detective Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson on the TV series Starsky & Hutch (1975-1979). He is also a singer who had a number-one hit in 1977: “Don’t Give Up On Us.” Plagued by alcoholism and a violent temper, Soul was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery in 1982, after assaulting his third wife in their Bel Air home. He completed a two-year alcohol and anger-management program.
Hey dude, get some towels and put them under the door, the R.A.’s coming.
R.A. stands for Resident Assistant. In college dorms, civility is maintained by these volunteer students who pay no rent, but must enforce the rules. A wet towel helps control the reeking stench of marijuana.
Uh-oh, the wall-vac backed up.
Some houses are constructed with a central vacuum system, in which outlets in each room are connected to a central vacuum motor. There are also commercial wall-mounted vacuums, but the reference is probably to the former.
The fog cruises in on little cat feet.
This is a paraphrase of a line from a poem by Carl Sandburg called “Fog”:
“The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.”
Do your Mr. Burns for us again.
Charles Montgomery Burns is the greedy millionaire owner of the nuclear power plant on the TV show The Simpsons. The voice is supplied by Harry Shearer.
Ever since he got back from the Crusades, he’s been weird.
The Crusades were a series of military expeditions organized by Catholic Europe between 1095 and 1291 C.E. against the Muslim states that were then in control of the “holy” city of Jerusalem. They were partly a response to the large numbers of sons of the nobility who had little to do besides despoiling the peasants they were supposed to protect, and partly an assertion of the temporal power of the pope in a time when the Church and the secular monarchs of Europe were battling for control of society.
Oh no, we didn’t get the radon test done.
Radon is a radioactive gas that is a carcinogen (that is, it causes cancer) in humans. It is estimated to cause about 21,000 deaths a year in the United States from lung cancer. It is typically a problem in homes that feature basements, although radon has also been found in drinking water and can also be detected in homes without basements.
Oh, Santa’s been here, oh.
Santa Claus is the mythical figure who delivers toys to children at Christmas; the origin of the legend is thought to lie in stories about St. Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian saint. (“Sinterklaas” is the Dutch name for St. Nick.)
It wasn’t a good idea to build on an ancient burial mound.
The notion of a house or building being constructed on an ancient burial site, thus leading to all manner of haunted unpleasantness, is a pretty standard plot device, and has been used in such films as The Shining (1980) and Poltergeist (1982).
And a couple of folderals.
A paraphrase of the song “The Merry Old Land of Oz” from the 1939 movie musical The Wizard of Oz. Actual lyrics: “Ha ha ha/Ho ho ho/And a couple of tra la las/That’s how we laugh the day away/In the merry old land of Oz.”
He was able to wash and go with Pert Plus.
Pert Plus is a brand of shampoo plus conditioner that is manufactured by Procter & Gamble. It comes in a number of different varieties: Light, Medium, Deep, Dandruff Control, etc. "Wash & go with Pert" is an old ad slogan for the brand.
A guy who told her “Brandy, you’re a fine girl what a good wife you would be, but my life, my love, and my lady is the sea” gave it to her.
A line from the 1972 song “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. Sample lyrics: “The sailor said ‘Brandy, you’re a fine girl’ (you’re a fine girl)/‘What a good wife you would be’ (such a fine girl)/‘But my life, my love and my lady is the sea …’”
Look, there’s a port on a Western bay, and it serves a hundred ships a day.
This is the opening line from “Brandy” (see previous note).
Ever listen to that one Striker album?
Striker was a mid-’70s hard rock band from Seattle that indeed only released one album, the self-titled Striker in 1978.
Come on, wake up, try a little Jimmy Dean pure pork sausage.
The successful country singer Jimmy Dean (1928-2010) started a breakfast sausage company in 1969. It was a success, and was acquired in 1984 by Sara Lee. Dean complained in 2004 that Sara Lee had forced him out because of his age. He passed away in 2010. Try the Hot for biscuits and gravy—it is perfect.
Hey, you didn’t douse it, stir it, and douse it again.
This is a time-worn phrase taught to campers about how to prevent wildfires. When putting out a campfire, you are supposed to douse it with water, stir it, then douse the area again, until it is completely cooled.
Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007) was a popular operatic tenor and a man of ample size who is considered one of the finest tenors of the 20th century, and certainly the most commercially successful. He toured widely in concerts, made numerous television appearances, and gave one notoriously bad dramatic film performance (Yes, Giorgio, 1982).
Knock it off. When Trox done fixing his IROC, he’s coming over and kick your ass.
The Chevy IROC-Z, introduced in 1985, was a hugely popular model of Camaro that featured an upgraded suspension, better shocks, a lowered ride height, the famous “wonder bar” frame brace, and custom tires. For non-fans, it was a heavy, underpowered wallower with bad handling that was all about the plastic body parts and fog lamps. IROC stood for International Race of Champions.
This will get him kicked out of the Three Tenors.
Luciano Pavarotti (see previous note) was one of the Three Tenors—popular opera singers who toured and performed together. The other two were Plácido Domingo and José Carreras.
Ava Gardner (1922-1990) was considered one of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses in the 1940s and ‘50s. She starred in The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952), The Night of the Iguana (1964), and Earthquake (1974), among others. She was also well known for her brief marriages to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, and Frank Sinatra.
Ix-nay on the olestation-may.
This line is in pig Latin, a made-up jargon created by moving the first consonant to the end of the word and adding an -ay on the end. The real line would be “nix on the molestation.”
Clint Howard in the Bruce Springsteen story.
Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, was also a child star and actor. He appeared in the TV series Gentle Ben and in his brother’s films, such as Apollo 13 (1995). Bruce Springsteen (a.k.a. The Boss), is a rock & roll singer/songwriter. He had hits such as “Born in the U.S.A.” and “Born to Run.”
Please, we have tubes in our ears.
Tubes can be inserted into the eardrum to relieve pressure and dry out the inner ear after numerous infections. While they are in, no water is supposed to get in there, so kids with tubes in their ears have to wear earplugs while swimming.
And his Gutenberg Bible stops the arrow.
The Gutenberg Bible is famous for being the first major book printed on a movable type printing press. They are massive tomes (about 16 by 12 inches and nearly 1,300 pages long, split into two volumes) created around 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The 1994 movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a cult classic about three drag queens who trek across the Australian Outback in a bus. It starred Matrix villain Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce (Memento), and Terence “General Zod” Stamp.
Could you paint my van?
The popular Chevy cargo vans of the 1970s were frequently custom painted, often with elaborate murals.
My name is Prince and I am funky.
Prince was one of the seminal musical talents of the 1980s; in particular, his albums 1999, Purple Rain, and Sign o’ the Times were phenomenally successful, being driven by lavish music videos and movies. He is based in Minneapolis.
Saddle up Wildfire.
A riff on the 1975 song “Wildfire,” written by Michael Murphy and Larry Cansler and performed by Murphy, who later went by the name Michael Martin Murphy. The song was chosen by the Western Writers of America as one of the Top 100 Western Songs of All Time, coming in at number 15. Sample lyrics: “Oh, they say she died one winter/When there came a killing frost/And the pony she named Wildfire/Busted down its stall/In a blizzard he was lost.”
This is from a classic 1970s TV commercial for Prince spaghetti (“Wednesday is Prince spaghetti day!”). An Italian-American mother is calling for her son, who runs wildly home in order to eat store-bought noodles.
Why does she live at the primate house at the Milwaukee Zoo?
The Apes of Africa exhibit at the Milwaukee Zoo opened in 1992 at a cost of $10.7 million; it houses Western lowland gorillas and bonobos in a naturalistic setting.
I’m moving back to Downers Grove with Mom.
Downers Grove is a small, middle-class suburb of Chicago, Illinois.
This movie’s like playing Doom when there’s no monsters or opponents.
Doom is a famous videogame by Id Software, widely considered one of the most important videogames in history. It was launched as shareware in 1993 and is estimated to have had 10 million installations. It is a very fast 3-D first-person shooter—it is, in fact, the game that epitomized the first-person shooter genre, the one on which all others are based. It was also controversial for its extreme blood and violence. Sequels continue today on all the major platforms.
The wine cellars of Ernest and Julio Deathstalker.
Ernest and Julio Gallo were two brothers who founded the E&J Gallo Winery in 1933, following the repeal of Prohibition. Their marketing strategies and television advertising ensured them a place as California’s chief exporter of wine and established Sonoma County as a world-renowned region for wine growing.
Truck’s artist. Good. I was thinking maybe the cover of Mars Hotel on my van.
See note on Chevy vans, above. The psychedelic artwork on the album cover for the Grateful Dead’s Mars Hotel album showed a run-down flophouse in San Francisco in a futuristic landscape. The album featured their popular song “U.S. Blues” and came out in 1974.
Friday’s welcomes the D. Stalker party.
TGI Fridays is a middle-class bar and restaurant chain that serves such things as potato skins, burgers, steaks, pasta, and mammoth desserts.
And a little doobage, if you got it.
“Doobage” is a slang term for marijuana, specifically a marijuana cigarette.
[Sung.] Oh-wee-oh, wee-yo-oh.
This is what the Wicked Witch of the West’s guards chant as they march into the castle in the movie The Wizard of Oz; it is known as the “Winkie Chant.” Over the years people have claimed to hear all kinds of lyrics in it, but the composers simply meant it to be a cadence chant, to keep them marching in time.
Can the balloon juice, Stalker.
Balloon juice is slang dating back to the early part of the 20th century that means nonsense talk; the phrase is derived from the “hot air” that fills the balloon.
Harvey’s Bristol Cream?
Harvey’s Bristol Cream is a type of Spanish sherry made in England. Sherry is a fortified wine, which means that strong alcohol (in this case, brandy) is blended in, giving it an extra kick.
There is a 1940s R&B song called “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee” by Stick McGhee. It was covered by artists such as Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis.
Is my Aunt Minnie in there?
During the famous stateroom scene in the Marx Brothers' 1935 film A Night at the Opera, a girl comes in and asks, "Is my Aunt Minnie in here?" To which Groucho responds, “If she isn’t in here, you can probably find someone just as good.” (Thanks to Starviking for this reference.)
Katarina Witt is a beautiful Olympic figure skater and model from East Germany. She won gold medals in 1984 and 1988.
[Mumbles.] Keep her from finding Nissius.
Possibly a reference to the languid, mumbling speech pattern of Dean Martin (1917-1995), a singer and actor who was considered the epitome of 1950s cool; his persona as a hard-drinking playboy persisted throughout his film career in the 1960s and 1970s.
Answer unclear, ask again later.
Mattel’s Magic 8 Ball is a toy resembling a large black billiard ball. A random phrase appears when the ball is shaken and turned over, such as Yes or No. Some are ambiguous, such as “Reply hazy, try again.”
Wow, he’s Hasselhoffing it, big time.
David Hasselhoff is a handsome actor known best for his roles in such action-oriented series as Knight Rider (1982-1986) and Baywatch (1989-2001). On the latter series, he spent a great deal of time on the beach in a swimsuit, and since he was thirty-seven when the series began, he was mocked for the amount of heroic gut-sucking his role required.
Real Sex 58.
Real Sex (1992-2009) was a TV series that aired on HBO, and thus could be more explicit than network TV. It was a documentary-style look at different sexual practices. All very softcore.
“The third stone.” Milburn?
Milburn Stone (1904-1980) was an actor who was best known for playing Dr. Galen “Doc” Adams on TV’s Gunsmoke (1955-1975).
Just using a little Tarn-X here.
Tarn-X is a liquid tarnish remover, but it’s so much more! It was one of the most widely advertised products on TV during the 1970s and ‘80s. The miracle transformation of taking a tarnished coin and dipping it in Tarn-X, making it instantly like new, was run over and over.
Der Weisse Engel!
This is more a reference to the film Marathon Man than to the real-life Nazi ghoul Josef Mengele. Lawrence Olivier plays Dr. Christian Szell, a Nazi doctor based on Mengele, who has been living as a fugitive in South America. He has to return to New York to retrieve the diamonds he’d stolen during the war, where he is recognized by a Jewish concentration camp survivor, who calls out, “Der Weisse Engel!” (“The White Angel”—Mengele’s nickname at Auschwitz).
They’re on QVC.
QVC stands for Quality, Value, Convenience. It is a TV channel that sells merchandise 24 hours a day. It runs in many countries, each with their own hosts. It is a major retailer with $7.8 billion in sales. It is based out of Pennsylvania.
Can this marriage be saved?
“Can This Marriage Be Saved?” was a regular feature in the Ladies’ Home Journal. It was created more than fifty years ago by Paul Popenoe, the founder of marriage counseling in the United States. The basic format: a husband and wife come to the magazine with a knotty marital problem, and the marriage counselor helps them work through it.
I will now read every “Crankshaft” ever published.
The comic strip “Crankshaft,” by Tom Batiuk, is about a misanthropic bus driver. The strip is a spinoff of Batiuk’s other comic, “Funky Winkerbean.”
Uh, you had the Earl Grey?
Earl Grey tea is a kind of black tea mixed with the oil extracted from bergamot orange rinds. It is loaded with caffeine and has a mild flavor.
Was he George S. Kaufman?
George S. Kaufman (1889-1961) was an American playwright and drama critic whose works include You Can’t Take It With You and The Man Who Came to Dinner. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama twice.
Sounds like a howler monkey.
Howler monkeys are native to South and Central America. They are generally considered the loudest land animals; their calls can be heard for miles, even in dense rainforest.
[Curly Howard sounds.]
An imitation of Curly Howard of the Three Stooges.
Ah, our red herring is back.
A red herring is a literary plot device, the thing that is supposed to distract you from the real problem, so you can be caught unawares by the author.
[Imitating.] Ah, room to room transport. Very difficult, Captain.
An imitation of George Takei as Mr. Sulu on the original series of Star Trek (1966-1969). On that show, using the transporter to move people within the ship was considered risky, as Mr. Scott and Mr. Spock pointed out to Captain Kirk in the episode “Day of the Dove.”
From Denver? Man this is great. Hey, we did Superstar together.
The play Jesus Christ Superstar is a popular rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It is performed widely in amateur productions, probably due to a low royalty fee.
Makes me talk like James Doohan.
James Doohan (1920-2005) is remembered for his role as Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on the original Star Trek sci-fi TV series and in the follow-up films. Although the actor was born in Vancouver to Irish immigrants, he affected a thick Scottish accent for the role.
I should be playing canasta with Saruman.
Saruman is a character in the fantasy trilogy The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. Saruman is a wizard who is corrupted by the power of the One Ring and its master, Sauron. Canasta is a card game that uses two prepared decks and involves the usual rummy meld-making to discard everything you have. It is played for points.
Oh, I like The Simpsons, I suppose.
The Simpsons is a popular cartoon show that has aired for more than twenty-five years on Fox, since 1989. It was created by cartoonist Matt Groening, and lampoons working-class America, along with everything else.
[Sung.] This little light of mine … Sing, guys! I'm gonna let it shine ... [All.] I’m gonna let it shine/This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
The Christian song “This Little Light of Mine” was written around 1920 by Harry Dixon Loes.
Dee Snider had less hair than this woman.
Dee Snider was the lead singer for the heavy metal band Twisted Sister (their farewell tour was in 2016). He has a curly mane of long blond hair and wears makeup. In 1985 Snider spoke eloquently before Congress against the Parents Music Resource Center, a group led by then-Senator Al Gore’s wife, Tipper, which pressed to label music as offensive to children. Snider and his allies failed, and many critically acclaimed recording artists were blacklisted from retailers like Walmart simply because they contained a PMRC warning label.
Waylon Jennings (1937-2002) was an American country singer, songwriter, musician, producer, and promoter. A former radio DJ and sometime actor, Jennings was a key member of the “outlaw movement,” a subgenre of country music that rejected the more polished Nashville sound and included such other artists as Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., and Merle Haggard. His hits include “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” and “Theme from The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys).”
You’re Alvy Singer. Hey, it’s Alvy Singer.
This is a scene from the 1977 Woody Allen movie Annie Hall. Woody (Alvy) is confronted by some streetwise New York fans who embarrass him.
Thank you, Cheech.
See previous reference to Annie Hall. Alvy says in exasperation, “I’m dealing with two guys named Cheech!”
Thank you, Don Novello.
Don Novello was a comedy writer for the early seasons of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. He also appeared on “Weekend Update” as Father Guido Sarducci, an irreverent gag on Catholicism.
Linda Lavin, the daughter of an opera singer, went to Broadway to become a star. She is most famous for her TV role as Alice Hyatt in the sitcom Alice, which ran from 1976-1985. Lavin returned to the theater immediately after. She won a Tony Award in 1987 for Broadway Bound.
Pilate? –Pontius Pilate?
Pontius Pilate was the Prefect of Judea for ten years under the Roman Emperor Tiberius. He is famous for authorizing the death of Jesus of Nazareth by public crucifixion (according to the Bible) in 33 C.E.
Van Morrison is an Irish singer/songwriter who emerged out of the psychedelic era. His music has a timeless quality and is very recognizable. Among his popular hits were “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Moondance,” and “Bright Side of the Road.”
“I never understood …” Mark Cohn.
Marc Cohn is a musician who is best known for his 1991 hit “Walking in Memphis.” Sample lyrics: “Then I’m walking in Memphis/Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale/Walking in Memphis/But do I really feel the way I feel …”
She’s got Merle Haggard sideburns.
Merle Haggard (1937-2016) was a legendary country and western singer/songwriter, known for such songs as “Mama Tried” and “Okie from Muskogee.”
Report damage immediately to UPS.
United Parcel Service, or UPS, is a package delivery service founded in 1907; today it is a multibillion-dollar corporation.
“You’d fall in love with any man who’d give you a hot meal and perfumed bathwater.” Prince would.
See note on Prince, above.
When serving the Greek dish saganaki (flaming cheese), the waiter pours retsina all over the top of the cheese and lights it, crying, “Opa!” The owner of the Parthenon restaurant in Chicago, Christos Liakouras, claims credit for inventing the tradition.
You know, patchouli oil should take care of the pot smell.
The reek of patchouli oil fragrance is associated with Deadheads (devout fans of the rock group the Grateful Dead). A smelly, unwashed hippie can cover a variety of odors with a dab of it. It comes from the flower of the same name. I still have a bottle.
The blackened catfish got out of control.
Blackening is a method of cooking fish or other meats that was popularized by celebrity Cajun chef Paul Prudhomme. It involves coating the meat in butter, dredging it through a dry mixture of herbs and spices, and then pan frying it on an extremely hot cast iron skillet. The technique produces a black crust on the meat and a lot of smoke in the kitchen.
Gotta start the smoke, stir the sauce, all the time watching the helicopter.
In a famous scene in the 1990 Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas, the protagonist, Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), is frantically and simultaneously cooking a large family meal, negotiating drug and gun deals, hiding evidence, and monitoring what he believes are police surveillance helicopters, all while ingesting huge quantities of cocaine. At the time, it appears the helicopters are a figment of his drug-fueled paranoia, but (spoiler alert) it turns out he really was under surveillance.
I can’t find the skating rink.
See above note on Katarina Witt.
That bra flattens and separates.
The Playtex Cross Your Heart bra lifts and separates one’s breasts, or so the TV ads used to say.
Can I grab my Teen Beat out of there?
Teen Beat was a magazine for teen girls. It started in 1967 and ran through 2007. It would feature heartthrobs of the day on the cover and behind-the-scenes stories about them. It was published by the same company that publishes cute-boy mag Tiger Beat.
It takes more muscles to be dead than to be alive.
“It takes more muscles to frown than to smile” is the expression. As far as the facts? There seems to be no agreement on exactly which of the 53 facial muscles are used to frown or smile, so there's no way to make an empirical determination. (Although one facial surgeon argues that if you only count “major” muscles, it takes twelve to smile and eleven to frown, so grouches can take heart.)
Is that a Rubbermaid garbage can?
Rubbermaid is a popular brand of plastic containers, including garbage cans. They were founded in Ohio in 1933.
“Music!” I take Music for fifty.
On the TV game show Jeopardy!, contestants choose from different trivia categories and varying amounts of money; the greater the amount of money, the harder the question. Sample categories include Science, Geography, History, Sports, and more esoteric ones like Word Origins, Stupid Answers, and Before & After.
[Sung.] The legend lives on … great lake they called Gitche Gumee …
Tom is singing the song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot. The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an ore freighter, the longest ship that operated in the Great Lakes. On November 10, 1975, “Big Fitz” encountered extreme weather conditions, broke apart, and sank in Lake Superior, killing all twenty-nine crew members.
Hey Saruman, hand check.
See above note on Saruman.
“The first stone …” Should cost two months’ salary.
In the 1930s the De Beers diamond empire launched a marketing campaign suggesting that a man should spend the equivalent of one month’s salary on an engagement ring (they later upgraded the amount to two months’ salary). Their famous slogan appeared in countless TV and print ads during the 1990s: “How else can two months’ salary last forever?” However, they met with considerable consumer resistance to the notion, along with a barrage of bad publicity related to their sale of “blood diamonds,” and they have largely dropped the tag line, returning to their more successful “Diamonds are forever.”
Lamer than Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The 1981 George Lucas/Steven Spielberg movie Raiders of the Lost Ark showed an army of well-disciplined Nazis (evil, but well-disciplined) running around looking for religious artifacts and being foiled by a guy with a bullwhip and a screeching woman in an evening gown. This would qualify as lame—some might say ludicrous.
They are on the Rio Bravo set.
Rio Bravo was a Western film from 1959 that starred the diverse combo of John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Ricky Nelson.
All right, bottle rockets.
Bottle rockets are a type of firework, a very small skyrocket that is attached to a long, thin stick. The stick can be poked into the ground, or, as the name implies, an empty bottle. Illegal in many U.S. states and all of Canada, bottle rockets are nonetheless cheap and easy to get.
It’s kinda like Waterworld, when the Smokers attacked the thing, only this holds together better.
“Fishtar” and “Kevin’s Gate” were nicknames for Waterworld (1995), a dismal $175 million turkey that starred Kevin Costner in a future vision of Earth (after all the ice had melted) where anything that floated was a kingdom. It was nominated for 4 Razzie awards: Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Director, and Worst Supporting Actor (won by Dennis Hopper). In the film, the Smokers are pirates. They attack a floating town held together with luck and chewing gum, looking to kidnap a woman who supposedly has a map tattooed on her back showing the way to the mythical Dryland. (No, it didn't make sense in the film either.)
We really need to find Barabbas; could you help us find Barabbas?
According to the Bible, Barabbas was the criminal whom the crowd chose to be spared crucifixion when given a choice to free Barabbas or Jesus.
It’s the Judean People’s Front, or the People’s Front of Judea.
In the 1981 movie Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Brian (Graham Chapman) attempts to get to know the hot Judith (Sue Jones-Davies) by joining her sect, the People’s Front of Judea—not to be confused with splinter group the Judean People's Front. Or the Judean Popular People's Front. Or The Popular Front. (He's over there.)
Jeffrey Tambor is Saint Joan.
Jeffrey Tambor played Hank Kingsley, Larry’s narcissistic sidekick on The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998). Saint Joan is a play by George Bernard Shaw about St. Joan of Arc, who had been recently canonized when he wrote it in 1923. For those who don’t remember, Joan of Arc is considered a French national heroine, who was captured in battle, tried for heresy, and burned at the stake by the English.
Get to the choppers!
At the end of the Vietnam War, as the North Vietnamese army neared Saigon, the Americans and their allies began to evacuate by the thousands. Most of the evacuation was done by helicopters, with the evacuees being taken to aircraft carriers in the South China Sea. The final evacuation from the U.S. embassy was a frantic scramble from the rooftop, with Marines holding off the crowds with mace until the ambassador could board a helicopter. Less than four hours after the last Americans left, the North Vietnamese raised their flag over the Presidential Palace in Saigon, ending the war.
Lovely pas de deux.
This is a ballet move. In a pas de deux, the man (typically not the focus) becomes the hidden leg of the leaping ballerina to give the impression of extra loft.
It’s Rudolf’s nose.
Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a classic children’s Christmas special, based on a 1939 story by Robert L. May. It was created by Rankin/Bass in stop-motion animation. In the story, Rudolf has a red nose and is ashamed of it, but he learns to be proud of his special attribute when given the chance to lead Santa’s sleigh on Christmas.
The alternate ending to Ice Pirates.
Ice Pirates was a cult hit 1984 sci-fi comedy movie. It stared Robert Urich and a B-list of stars like Ron Perlman, Anjelica Huston, and Mary Crosby.
This? This is not acting. It’s running and jumping and fighting and humping.
A paraphrase of a line from the 1982 film My Favorite Year: “That’s not acting! That’s kissing and jumping and drinking and humping!”
There can be only one or two.
The line “There can be only one” is from the 1986 film Highlander; its meaning is that only one of the Immortals can survive (although somehow other Immortals always managed to keep popping up in time for the sequels).
The new pope is Arrgh.
Traditionally, when the college of cardinals meets to elect a new pope to head the Catholic Church, they burn the ballots in a stove in the Sistine Chapel. Black smoke issuing from the chimney indicates that no new pope has been chosen; white smoke means one has. Even non-Catholics became familiar with this tradition in 2005, when the college met to elect John Paul II’s successor, and again in 2013 when Pope Francis was chosen.
Oh, Popeye! Oh, I’ve got an arrow ... Popeye! [Mutters.]
Bluto was Popeye’s arch-nemesis and his chief rival for the hand of the strangely rubbery Olive Oyl in the series of short cartoons. He first appeared in the cartoons in 1932, but for a time, thanks to some copyright confusion over who owned the rights to the Bluto name, he was called Brutus.
Sampo ... sampo.
Sampo plays a major part in Show 422, The Day the Earth Froze. Sampo is a magical good luck charm of great cultural significance to the Finnish people. It appears in the epic poem Kalevala.
What? Are you fighting Liberace?
Liberace (1919-1987) was a flamboyant, piano-playing entertainer who enjoyed his greatest success in the 1950s, when he had his own television series. His trademark was the elaborate candelabrum perched on top of his piano. He had a lisping, affected manner of speech.
Let me begin the beguine.
“Begin the Beguine” is a famous Cole Porter song written in 1935 in Paris. It uses unusual Caribbean rhythms. The Beguine is a slow dance, similar to the rumba, that was popular at the time.
[Sung.] Once you have found him, never let him go.
A paraphrased line from the song “Some Enchanted Evening,” which appears in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.
No! Get off my Infinity towers.
Infinity is a brand of loudspeakers. A “tower” speaker is a tall, all-in-one set of tweeters and woofers that provide a uniform sound field.
Fight choreography by Moe Howard.
Moe Howard (1897-1975) was the leader of the comedy trio The Three Stooges. Moe was always surly and mean to the other two, beating them frequently.
[Sung.] Conquistador, your stallion stands.
This is a line from the 1967 Procol Harum song “Conquistador”: “Conquistador, your stallion stands in need of company/And like some angel’s haloed brow you reek of purity.”
I’m Mr. B Natural.
Mr. B Natural was a character in the disturbing film short of the same name. S/he was played by Betty Luster and can be seen in Show 319, War of the Colossal Beast.
Hair Club For Men, the final conflict.
Hair Club For Men is a company dedicated to baldness cures; it offers everything from bald-friendly shampoos to hair transplants. Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981) was the third in the series of Omen movies about the Antichrist. In this one, Damian had grown up, turned into Sam Neill, and was trying to kill the reborn Christ child.
[Sung.] Altogether fighting tight to tight.
The great songwriter Irving Berlin wrote “Cheek to Cheek” for the 1935 Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie Top Hat. “When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.”
Watch, this is my Robert Plant impression.
Robert Plant was the lead singer for Led Zeppelin, a wildly influential rock band known for such hits as “Stairway to Heaven” and “Dazed and Confused.” After the band split up in 1980, Plant enjoyed a successful solo career.
Oh, they’re ruining Andy Capp’s pigeon cages.
Andy Capp is the eponymous star of the long-running comic strip by Reg Smythe, which first appeared in Britain in 1957 and was then syndicated worldwide. He is, as the Toonopedia says, “lazy, belligerent, unskilled at any socially acceptable occupation, and usually drunk.” His hobby is pigeon racing. He occasionally sells one when he is short of cash.
[Sung.] Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man.
“Ace is the place with the helpful hardware man” is an old advertising jingle for the Ace Hardware chain of stores.
They’re playing the chord from “A Day in the Life.”
“A Day in the Life,” the final song from the Beatles’ 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, famously ends with a very long, sustained chord. The E-major chord was played simultaneously on three pianos and a harmonium, and was allowed to linger for 42 seconds, with the microphone levels increased to prolong the recording, so much so that fans who listen closely (as Beatles fans are inclined to do) can hear the air conditioning in the studio, papers rustling, and a chair squeaking.
He looks like Sam the American Eagle.
Sam the Eagle was a regular Muppet on The Muppet Show. He was usually stuffily voicing his concern about some moral issue. His voice was supplied by Frank Oz.
The original Tron movie was made by Disney in 1982, which was the peak of the arcade video game phenomenon. It was a dark fantasy about what life inside a computer would be like.
Kyoto, Japan. Present day.
Kyoto is a city in the central part of Honshu, the largest of Japan’s islands. It has a population of about 1.5 million. Kyoto used to be the imperial capital of Japan until the emperor moved the court to Tokyo in the mid-19th century; as a result, the city has a rich architectural and artistic heritage.
[Sung.] She came from somewhere back in here long ago …
From the Doobie Brothers song “What a Fool Believes,” sung by Michael McDonald.
Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown” is the famous final line from Roman Polanski’s 1974 film Chinatown.
Boy, that Freeze and Shine sure goes up fast.
Paul Mitchell makes the popular brand of hairspray called Freeze and Shine Super Spray.
Well, I have to say, she was all righta.
Ore-Ida is a maker of frozen French fries and other potato products. The company was founded in 1952 by brothers Nephi & Golden Grigg and named after their home base in Oregon, near the border of Idaho, where their processing facility was located. For years, the company’s advertising slogan was “When It Says Ore-Ida, It’s All Righta.”
Why is Gabby Sabatini in back?
Gabriela Sabatini was an attractive tennis star from Argentina. She played at her peak in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. She later launched a line of perfumes.
[Sung.] The Wonderful World of Color.
This was the theme song to the TV show Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961-1969). It showed Disney movies, tours of Disneyland, and some serial dramas.
Hey, Gandalf, it’s like 98 out. Geez.
Gandalf is the powerful wizard in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, written by J.R.R. Tolkien. He is depicted as cloaked and having a long gray beard.
He’s leaving! Our long national nightmare is over!
Following his swearing-in, President Gerald Ford said, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” He was alluding to the period following the Watergate scandal and cover-up, which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and Ford’s elevation to the presidency.
Oh, man, I’ve got to write Radagast, he’ll never believe this.
Radagast the Brown was a wizard in Tolkien’s Middle Earth who appears in The Lord of the Rings and is mentioned in The Hobbit. He was a friend of Gandalf’s and was a devoted lover of nature.
[Sung.] Chisum, John Chisum.
Chisum was a John Wayne movie from 1970. It was based on a historical event known as the Lincoln County War of 1878. Wayne played honest cattle baron John Chisum alongside historical figures Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
Getting all Keith Emerson-y on us.
Keith Emerson is the Emerson in Emerson, Lake & Palmer (see above note).
[Sung.] You can dance if you want to, you can leave your friends behind/Your friends don’t …
Lyrics from “Safety Dance,” by the Canadian band Men Without Hats. “You can dance if you want to, you can leave your friends behind/Cause your friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance/Well they’re no friends of mine.”
All the underpaid Mexicans. –Yes, your NAFTA dollars at work.
NAFTA stands for North American Free Trade Agreement, a free-trade deal signed in 1992 that aimed to gradually eliminate tariffs and other trade barriers between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. It was inspired by the success of free trade agreements within the European Community, although it was fiercely opposed by some in the United States who feared it would send jobs south of the border into Mexico, where labor is considerably cheaper.
This doesn’t get annoying at all, does it? Isn’t this side two of Terrapin Station?
Terrapin Station is a 1977 album by the Grateful Dead. The majority of side two of the album (kids, albums used to be printed on vinyl discs, with two sides of approximately 20 minutes each) consisted of the “Terrapin Suite,” marking a departure into a more produced, progressive-rock style for the Dead, which didn’t sit well with many of their more roots-oriented fans.