Friday, April 24, 2015

Show notes for HMOTD 004: I Thought Turkeys Could Fly

Listen to HMOTD 004: I Thought Turkeys Could Fly.

0:00 Listen. Some will say we went too far in this episode, maybe even reached a little bit in our conclusions about the Big Guy and the occult underpinnings of WKRP. My model for this sort of pop culture overanalysis has always been this little throwaway line in Douglas Coupland's Microserfs, which I read at a very crucial time in my life. Protagonist Dan is relaxing in his Microsoft-geek house in Redmond with roommate "Bug Barbecue" and watching TV:
Bug is here in the living room watching "Casper the Friendly Ghost" cartoons on the VCR, "looking for subtext." I can't believe it, but I'm getting into it, too. ("Wait, Bug - rewind that back a few seconds - wasn't that a Masonic compass?")
I also know both Rob and I are heavily influenced if not outright indebted to the great Ken Hite and his own series of close readings of history for those with an occult/conspiratorial bent, Suppressed Transmission. We've both shamelessly ripped the Suppressed Transmission format off in past and in present, so to Ken, just a quick note of acknowledgement and thanks for the inspiration for all those Livejournal posts and for this episode of HMOTD and our ongoing Cincinnati Triangle segment. As we are not Avram Davidson, we are stealing Ken's bit.

The uncollected Suppressed Transmissions are diabolically hard to get hold of in this fallen age, but you can get a regular dosage of Hitean weirdness from Ken's excellent podcast Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff (with the also great but perhaps less demented Robin Laws) or from his bimonthly column, Ken Writes About Stuff. Again, we swear we're not ripping you guys off with this one Canadian, one American, two-man podcast format.

tl;dr version: We seek the Grail, what can I tell ya? *shrug*

02:40 "There's something cool about the confidence to wait until minute 17 to drop the joke on you." Let's just call that Meta Moment #1 for this podcast.

07:30 Richard Sanders even says "Get this, Johnny, can you get this, Johnny?" or an equivalent (I can't hear over the studio audience) in his turkey drop narration, a reference to Morrison desperately making sure his engineer Charlie Nehlsen is getting the sound.

08:38 Herbert Morrison's real voice was considerably deeper than what you hear in the famous broadcast of the Hindenburg disaster--his recorder was running slow. You can find corrected versions on YouTube; they actually sound less like Richard Sanders' pastiche.

09:15 If I may again take our occult weirdness close reading for a ride: the Pink Floyd track "Dogs" made me think on second viewing, after all our Fisher King silliness, of the Irish culture hero CĂș Chulainn, a.k.a. the Hound of Culann, who slayed the hound who was guarding the smith Culann's house and then offered to serve in the hound's place. Watch this later as we talk about Johnny.

09:37 What you're hearing here is the original version of this episode, with Pink Floyd's "Dogs." (Fair use! But don't tell Roger Waters.) On the Shout Factory DVD, a close soundalike has been used, and a bit of dialogue has been cut ("What's the name of that orchestra?" "Pink Floyd." "Ooh, is that Pink Floyd?"). But it's not bad.

11:11 A callback to episode 2, in which we took the band Detective's name in vain.

12:50 Skinny Bobby Harper's life is super interesting (I want my wake held at a Dave and Buster's: skeeball, beer, and mourning for all!), as is Jerry Blum's. And this oral history of "Turkeys Away" will do the best to de-bisociate all the versions of the turkey giveaway story.

15:30 ChickieNobs! Also, the venerable urban legend of "Animal 57." That is some kibo Usenet realness right there.

16:20 Rob, Sarah Palin thinks we're BOTH wimps. Also, how depressing is it that video from as recent as 2008 can look this blurry to 2015 eyes?

17:50 "It gets pretty strange after that." And that (at minute 17, mind you), is this podcast's Meta Moment #2.

19:00 So yeah. You do something outrageous or transgressive and you do it well, and it becomes legend. Luckily, there are Wikipedia pages for both "Chuckles Bites the Dust" and "The Contest." But not one for "Turkeys Away." I suspect history erasure thanks to the Turkey Working.

21:00 Not to go to the Wikipedia well one too many times, but the Fisher King legend is so multi-dimensional and has been told and retold so many times that we need a little bit of, well, encyclopedic-ness. Wikipedia does warn us that this article has multiple issues.

24:10 The three issues of Sandman I cite here are the ones with the Emperor Augustus, Emperor Norton, and Caliph Haroun. And, of course, here's Henry V in disguise.

28:00 He's history's greatest monster!! Transcript here. Can you imagine a President having the guts to say stuff like this today? "These wounds are still very deep. They have never been healed." Indeed, JC. Indeed.

30:00 Our source for all things ritualistic related to the turkey is Karen Davis's More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality.

30:45 Ben Franklin on the turkey (you'll need to click through the disclaimer). And this... this is one of those facts that creeps even ME out. This reference to the turkey being superior to the bald eagle was made on the occasion of a society presenting medals (medals on which the bird was apparently so badly sculpted that it resembled a turkey, which led to jokes and Franklin's timely defense of the humility of the turkey) to American allies in France after the Revolutionary War's conclusion. That society's name?

The Society of the Cincinnati. (Named of course for the Roman who wisely laid down his arms after he was needed by his nation.)

Sometimes... sometimes, this podcast.

33:00 Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, and turkey pardoning.

34:10 I can't be the only one whose blood ran cold hearing this jolly anecdote about a bleeding turkey from the Gipper. I immediately thought of this. And we're back to man-made chickens.

37:24 Southern Ontarians of the right vintage will recognize the great Vincent Price, on Hamilton, Ontario's own CHCH-TV's beloved, demented kiddie show Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Hammer kids, represent!

38:00 Our mentions of the "Turkey Working" is yes, more or less an explicit reference to Jack Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard, Aleister Crowley and the Babalon Working.

Thank you, Hugh Wilson.

39:13 "That doesn't make a lick of sense!" And that would be Meta Moment #3.

40:45 The story of Linda Ronstadt and Jerry Brown. Former AND current Governor of California, by the way.

43:19 We got the subtitle confused, but Rob's referring here to Michael Kassel's America's Favorite Radio Station, one of our go-to sources for WKRP history and trivia.

43:52 This curiously lukewarm introduction ("I guess it's good enough for me") comes from Jose Feliciano, on Burt Sugarman's The Midnight Special.

45:30 Linda Ronstadt and Philip K. Dick.

46:30 All credit to filmmaker and YouTube personality Anna Kay Akana and her, um, "BonerBookClub." Yes, Anna, PKD was indeed craaaaazy.

47:30 Cheesy late-night record compilation commercials seem to be a universal constant for people raised in the 70s or 80s. Not only do Rob and I (a Canadian and an American) remember these, but so does my British wife AND the creators of Blackadder, so apparently it was a Thing in the UK as well.

48:20 Linda Ronstadt, of course, owning Warren Zevon's "Poor Poor Pitiful Me."

50:00 "No way for a figurant to win. No possible voice or focus for the encaged figurant. Gately speculates briefly about the suicide statistics for bottom-rung actors."

52:40 *wink* *WINK*

52:58 That's Dave Thomas' rather unfortunate character "Lin Ye Tang" on SCTV's "Doorway to Hell." "I ruined this whole episode." And that's Meta Moment #4. Thanks, everybody!


  1. Great job as always guys! Sure, it's always possible you're over-reaching with the conspiracy stuff, but it's entertaining, educational and necessary to at least point out [PKD, Fisher King, etc.]. Have formed a habit of watching the two episodes after youse two "introduce" them to us, and am continually surprised by how my memories misled me: I had it in my head that the turkey punchline was delivered as the first thing the big guy said when he entered the station, but the writers did a stellar job of building it up and milking it for all it's worth. Also, the Pink Floyd discussion between Johnny and the big guy is not just comedy gold, it's titanium!
    Mr Carlson: Oooh, is that Pink Floyd? Do I hear dogs barking on that thing?
    Johnny: I do.

  2. Awesome work on the mythopoesis of the show, linking the Fisher King to Art Carlson to Johnny's grail-like coffee mug. And into the mix, Ben Franklin, Iran/Contra, Jesus and Jimmy Carter. Brilliant. I just have one quibble: the Celtic feast day is pronounced "Sah-win", Rob. But, Mike, the allusion to Cu Chulainn in your show notes warmed my Hibernophile heart. And two other things from your discussion of the other episode (let's call it the Most Forgettable WKRP Episode Ever), "Love returns" warmed my heart: 1) the fact that you both equally revile the uber-cheesy musical interlude vetween Linda as much as I do. Aberrant sweetly saccharine dreck. Puke! 2) the clip of the SCTV "Doorway to Hell" skit with Dave Thomas as Lin Ye Tang. Horribly racist though that character is, it has always been a favourite SCTV moment of mine.

  3. Flying pigs are a thing in Cincinnati (thanks to the Porkapolis association mentioned in a later episode). There are statues of flying pigs around town and the annual marathon in the city is called The Flying Pig.

    Cincinnati is indeed named after the Society of the Cincinnati (which is named after Cincinnatus). And Hamilton Count (the county Cincinnati is in) is named after prominent Society of Cincinnati member Alexander Hamilton. Cincinnati was originally named Losantiville (a hodge-podge of Greek and French and Latin that was supposed to meant "city opposite of the Licking River"). The Northwest Territory's first Governor was a member of the Society of the Cincinnati and promptly renamed the town when he took over.

    There is a statue of Cincinnatus in the city and its not the only statue of Roman legends there. In Eden Park, there is a statue of Romulus and Remus suckling at the Capitoline Wolf, as Cincinnati also is built on seven hills. These seven hills are: Mount Adams, Mount Auburn, Walnut Hills, Clifton, Price Hill, Fairmount, Mount Lookout, Fairview, College Hill, Delhi Hills, Vine Street Hill, Mount Washington, Mount Harrison, Mount Hope, Bold Face Hill, Mount Echo, Mount Healthy, and Mount Airy. Feel free to add those up.