Friday, March 4, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 024: Wolfgang Does Not Speak For the Entire Cartel

REMINDER! Please send your questions for our Season 2 wrap-up episode before the weekend to!

Notes from Rob and Sean are marked as such; all other notes are Mike's.

2:40 Bill watching latch-key TV: Martin Starr, you can try to be the cooler-than-cool Satanist in Silicon Valley but I will always remember you as the rictus-cackling Bill Haverchuck watching afterschool TV. That is indeed Garry Shandling on Dinah Shore's show, by the way. I also can't argue with this blog entry that this might be, for a certain Gen-X demographic, the Greatest Scene in Television History. Also, my mistake: he wasn't eating cereal and milk, he was eating a grilled cheese, "Nickmann's" chocolate cake and milk (in a Darth Vader Burger King giveaway glass). Yow. Even I never attempted that combination after school.

[Rob: It is a great scene. Perhaps it doesn't have the same impact if you don't have a strong sense of who Bill is, but I find it sad and happy and moving and sweet. Helped a lot by The Who's "I'm One" (from Quadrophenia), just to tie things back to HMOTD 023.]

3:20 "Filthy Pictures," hour-long episode: I find that I've not been enjoying the hour-long WKRPs as much as the half-hours. I've made mention a few times on the podcast of how short a 1970s/80s sitcom feels today, and how quickly things have to get wrapped up, but I feel with "Filthy Pictures" and "For Love or Money" that sometimes the writers find themselves padding things a little bit. That being said, I wouldn't trade the Herb or Johnny/Bailey scenes in this episode for anything.

4:30 The Kiwanis: Is there a secret history to the Kiwanis? Well, I do like that no one can quite agree on whether the name comes from the Ojibwe phrase for "we fool around" or "we make ourselves known." On a "solemn Stonecutters ceremony" vs. "we're getting drunk and havin' ribs" level, that's just perfect. Also worth mentioning; the Kiwanis became a truly international organization with the foundation of the first Canadian chapter in? Hamilton, Ontario.

[Rob: Woo, shout out to the Hammer! Home to me, Sean, and The Hilarious House of Frightenstein!]

9:20 "I drive a Dodge, for gosh's sakes!" [Sean: The Big Guy also says he never tears the little tags off mattresses. Ah, mattress tags, one of the great comedy cliches of the era. This reminds me of the tornado episode which, I've long suspected, cemented the "mobile home" gag in our collective consciousness.]

11:15 Frolicking: In the words of the old IBM NFL commercials, "You make the call!" Andy, frolicking or not frolicking?

16:08 George Wyner: Boston native George Wyner! Yes, ADA Bernstein on Hill Street Blues, but I think folks of a certain age will always know him as Colonel Sandurz from Spaceballs.

17:32 The Story of the Goy's Teeth: You should really watch the entire Goy's Teeth scene from A Serious Man. As a Gentile who's a tad obsessed with gematria and Kabbalah (like many goyische occultists before me), the idea of getting a phone number from a series of Hebrew characters in a goy's mouth is pretty awesome—great RPG hook—and that's not even mentioning Uncle Arthur's Mentaculus.

20:10 The Big Guy seeing the photos: [Sean: It's interesting to note that, by the end, the only two WKRPers, apart from Jennifer, who see the pictures are Carlson and Johnny. Am I crazy that this makes me think of the quasi-mystical qualities (Fisher King, etc.) these two seem to share, as discussed in earlier shows? If we accept that Jennifer (or at least, her body) is in some ways like a goddess it seems oddly fitting that these two (who just a few episodes back were talking earnestly about God) are the only ones who, to borrow from Psalms, see the light of her countenance.]

[Mike: Yes, YES! Embrace the mystery of the Cincinnati Triangle, Sean.]

22:37 "Why don't we Watergate it?" Hesseman's delivery is fantastic in this scene. Also, let us remind everyone that the Watergate burglars were wearing suits.

25:15 Sneaking around a dark room, eyes light up: TVTropes calls it "By the Lights of Their Eyes."

[Sean: Note the different approaches to "dress in black for the mission" of the four characters:
  • Andy, black T and (spare) jeans
  • Venus, a snazzy ensemble complete with black gloves tucked into a matching jacket's epaulettes
  • Carlson, black cardigan
  • Johnny, no change, really]

26:43 "Well... maybe he'd like Herb." Another just perfectly poised line read, this time by Richard Sanders.

[Rob: Something we discussed a little: the Herb-tries-to-seduce-Gonzer scene is almost totally wordless. Which is probably what saves it from being a hideous trainwreck of homophobia today. But also, combine that wordless scene with the burglary scene, which is only words, no picture, and this episode is doing some interesting things with formal staging. Just sayin'.]

29:43 "Centerfold": Boston's own J. Geils Band! They were never bigger nationally than in the early '80s with "Freeze Frame" and "Centerfold," but earlier in the '70s Peter Wolf, J. Geils, Magic Dick and the boys were Boston's bar-rock mainstays. Peter Wolf started off as a DJ on WBCN, one of the most important FM album rock pioneers (we talked about them in our very first Show Notes!). Wolf was even big enough in the '70s to have dated Faye Dunaway, for God's sake! (A fact I was reminded of in the book on Network by Dave Itzkoff.) Another fun fact: Peter visited my uncle's pizza joint in Harvard Square at least a few times, frequently enough to take a Polaroid for Cafe Avventura's Wall of Fame.

[Rob: I've always thought "Centerfold" is an utterly inane, if diabolically catchy, song, but somehow it captures the hypocritical double-bind of the Madonna/whore complex more poignantly than it has any right to. In fact, I think when I first heard about the Madonna/whore complex, I immediately thought, "oh, sort of like 'Angel is a Centerfold'."]

31:00 Notes on Clothing: [Sean: Also, note the contrasts in Carlson's and Gonzer's clothing. "Suits vs. dungarees" has become "Suit vs. leisure suit."]

31:40 "Oh my God, it's Eric Estrada from CHiPs!" Arguably, 1980 was Peak Estrada; in November 1979 he made the top 10 of People's Sexiest Bachelors Alive list. As usual with peaks, you can expect the downfall shortly following. Estrada wanted more money from NBC in the fall of 1981, leading to his temporary replacement in the early part of the 1981 season; Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner played Officer Steve McLeish for seven episodes. CHiPs was canceled in 1983, after a Season 6 that featured Ponch and his new partner "helping a girl who believed that she was being targeted by UFOs and them racing against time to defuse a battery about to explode on an intelligent experimental police robot."

[Rob: I went looking for CHiPs clips to use in this episode and couldn't find anything especially good. I was surprised at how high and squeaky Estrada's voice was and how often they contrived to have him disco dance or perform (read: lip sync) disco numbers.]

33:45 Skyfall: Javier Bardem and Daniel Craig: undeniably hot. Honestly, this scene probably should've happened years ago. It's unrealistic to expect any secret agent to not have to honeypot for a member of the same gender; one of the bits I really liked about the creepy honeypot training montage in The Americans was the inclusion of all kinds of people who Philip would have to feign attraction for: men, the elderly, and so on.

[Rob: If you can bear to read nearly 100,000 words in ALL CAPS, I highly recommend Film Crit Hulk's mammoth and heroic engagement with the sexual politics of every single James Bond film in a bravura series of blog posts from 2014: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.]

35:20 Philippe and Ginger: [Sean: It's hard to watch this episode — in our modern era of sex tapes and revenge porn — and not be struck by how much harder it was to create and circulate nudity in 1980. You needed a photo studio, equipment and five-figure deals with nebulous European cartels!

Philippe/Johnny was right — $30,000 is a lot of money for such photos, circa 1980. Playmates of the Month reportedly get $25,000 today.

Also, 'Wolfgang and the cartel' could be a Falco album or a chapter from a Robert Ludlum novel.]

39:55 Marilyn Monroe and Playboy: The tale of the Playboy shots of Marilyn is really a foundation myth for Hugh Hefner's empire. I recommend David Halberstam's The Fifties for a detailed look at Hefner's rise. You can also check the Wikipedia page for Playboy, which is NSFW due to the Marilyn-on-red-drapes shots.

[Sean: Playboy circulation peaked at 7.1 million in November 1972 when one-quarter of all American college men were buying or subscribing to it every month. Today's circulation is about 800,000.

Magazine sales amounted to half of Playboy's $132M total revenue in 1970. The rest came from clubs, resorts, hotels etc. By 1975 circulation had dropped 20%, in '82 Playboy lost a reported $51M, by '88 the final Playboy club closed.]

43:45 The mainstreaming of porn: Occasionally I'll have reason to check out online scans of newspapers from the 1970s. And every time I do, I'm blown away by the ads for Rated-X movies right there in the Film section. In the post-home video and Internet ages, it seems ludicrous that people would go to a public theatre to watch porn, and especially couples, but it happened! I went looking for definitive reminiscences about this period, and the best I found was this long-form piece from Time in 2005 from the recently deceased film critic Richard Corliss.

44:23 The People vs. Larry Flynt: Thinking it may be time in the aftermath of Woody Harrelson's performance in True Detective Season 1 to revisit this film, which I didn't really think much of at the time of its release. Larry Flynt's a tough guy to deliver a sympathetic performance about, and then there's Courtney Love, who I didn't mind in Man on the Moon, but in this film, just didn't offer me anything sympathetic to grab onto.

We should also not forget that if anyone is the real-life Gonzer, it's Larry Flynt. He was the porn king of Ohio in the '70s! His obscenity/racketeering trial took place in Cincinnati! I seem to recall the boys from Devo waxing rhapsodic about the explicitness of his publications during that time (in Simon Reynolds's Rip It Up and Start Again, Mark Mothersbaugh says he wrote "Penetration in the Centerfold" as an ode to the first Hustler he saw). Wikipedia tellingly informs us that Flynt's publications "targeted working-class men." An interesting confluence of smut, the industrial Rust Belt, and the plight of the white working class.

[Sean: We talked during the podcast about the societal, cultural and market challenged girlie magazines faced (sometimes from each other) through the '70s. But things went from bad to worse in the '80s with the rise of the Reagan Republicans, the Moral Majority, et al.—who all crossed paths during Attorney General Edwin Meese's Commission on Pornography.

When, in its final report, the commission likened pornography to the Red Menace, it penned what must be one of the most Reaganite sentences ever:
"That the Communist Party is a lawful organization does not prevent most Americans from finding its tenets abhorrent, and the same holds true for a wide variety of sexually-oriented material."]
50:55 Bo Derek cover: Here's a link to the SFW Playboy cover, I'll let you go looking for the NSFW pics. Also, to recall an earlier Show Notes, watch the Cannon Films documentary Electric Boogaloo for the humorous but also kind of sad and creepy story of John and Bo Derek getting ripped off/nearly sued into bankruptcy by Golan-Globus.

52:32 Chas Tenenbaum: One of the most charming bits of The Royal Tenenbaums.

53:04 Sean's Dad: Nothing against the Moms out there; we've been effusive in our praise for them and their support. But it's obvious to me that Rob's amazement at Sean's dad's life echoes something that my circle of friends has always noticed; we all seem to have these dads with interesting skill sets gathered over years of multiple weird jobs. We've posited a League of Extraordinary Dads where our dads are a team of 500-point GURPS characters with this complete and thorough spread of skills.

56:42 Burt Reynolds vs. Philip Baker Hall: If you get a chance to find a copy of the very first DVD version of Boogie Nights, with the young Paul Thomas Anderson, get it; his director's commentary is embarrassingly dorky and enthusiastic. He talks about how he nicknamed this confrontational New Year's Eve 1979 party scene between Jack Horner (Reynolds) and Floyd Gondolli (Hall) "Godzilla vs. Mothra" because of the titanic clash of actors on display here.

59:10 Stroker Ace: Everything about Stroker Ace is kind of sad now. It was a huge bomb, nominated for multiple Razzies (of course, NOTHING was beating Pia Zadora's The Lonely Lady in '83, but Jim Nabors did win a consolation Worst Supporting Actor award). Burt and Loni, trying their best (and failing) to be Bogie and Bacall. The fact that Burt gave up the opportunity to be in Terms of Endearment is very Troy McClure. Wikipedia here bringing the profound pathos in the introductory text for Stroker Ace:
Burt Reynolds turned down the role of astronaut Garrett Breedlove in Terms of Endearment to do this film. The role went to Jack Nicholson, who went on to win an Academy Award. Reynolds said he made this decision because "I felt I owed Hal [Needham] more than I owed Jim [Brooks]" but that it was a turning point in his career from which he never recovered. "That's where I lost them," he says of his fans.
Man. I'll direct you back to the Monday Post we did on Burt if you want more sadness.

1:00:00 Loni in the Sky With Diamonds: On Wednesday, my college buddy Sam Wood (a famous artist for video games and RPGs, so you know his opinion on art matters) was listening to the podcast and shooting me IMs on Facebook. Here is an excerpt of that conversation. He's in white, I'm in blue.

If you really must see this piece of sanity-warping art, here's a New York Daily News article about Loni's 2014 auction. Scroll down to the slideshow at the bottom of the page. Yes, you did miss your chance to own it. I'm personally more enamored of the Madonna-and-child-esque painting on the right. Man. Hollywood people are WEIRD.

1:03:00 Zany schemes: [Sean: You know what else would have been funny? Especially in our proposed 90-minute episode? If the after-effects of each attempt on Gonzer and his studio had remained evident, but Gonzer for some reason remains oblivious that people are conspiring against him.

Think about it. He knows Carlson is mad at him, then his office is broken into (clumsily) but Gonzer never mentions it and the next time we see the studio, all's back in order. It would have been funnier if, when Herb arrived to seduce him, the window was taped over with cardboard and the floor still strewn with manila envelopes. Then, the next time, maybe we see Herb left his jacket behind. Then we see him nursing a hangover after drinking with Venus. Then...]


  1. Wow - Mike - you scooped me. After listening to this week's cast, I was going to humbly suggest that HMOTD introduce a new segment entitled something like "Our Cool Dads". I think the listeners would like to know more about Sean's Dad and previous guest host Lenore MacAdam would have plenty to share about her father's many cool careers and idiosyncrasies. Also, I'm sure there's much to share about the life and times of Messrs. Grasso and MacDougall. However, the suggestion of making GURPS characters out of HMOTD parents definitely kicks it up a notch. Well-played!

    1. I think this is definitely a generational thing! I just think people had more and varied jobs back in the day and had more room to switch things up and fill in and thus gain a new career.

      In my own friends' League, let's see. My father-in-law was an Antarctic explorer, one of my friends has a dad who's learned to pilot a bunch of different land vehicles (including locomotives), and another has a dad who was stationed at a certain air force base that shall remain nameless (but rhymes with Pairea Spiffty-one). My dad would have to be the Face Man of the group with his nat-18 Charisma.

    2. Wait, now we're dream- casting the A-Team using our fathers? Hmmm, well I vote Hannibal Smith, as a master of disguise, go to Sean's dad. Mr. D . was a private eye after all. Mike's Dad is Face. With all due respect to both men, I'm inclined to make our "Howling Mad" Murdock either Lenore's dad (tech expertise and mild lunacy) or my Dad (weak tech. skills but strong lunacy). Rob - where does Prof. Duncan fit in?

    3. Hee. Fun. Well, my Dad's a mad scientist, of course: His particular specialty is training and testing the high performance athlete. Lots of strapping electrodes to people and immersing them in tanks of fluid and pushing the body beyond the limits of human potential. Seriously. He worked with Lou Ferrigno once, which takes us into a whole different 80s action genre. But then he's also a woodsman - grew up on Wolf Lake, knows every animal and birdcall (unless he's faking, which is quite possible), how to track wild game, that sort of thing.