Friday, October 7, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 029: Dayton Can Be Nasty After Dark

0:00 Opening clip: The dialogue here just crackles, doesn't it? "Hotel Oceanview" is really a very visual episode, between Herb's reactions to Nikki (curling up in the fetal position on her bed) and the constant designer jean shenanigans, but you can even just listen to a portion like this here and get a sense of how funny it is.

1:40 Jaime Weinman: The great Jaime Weinman gives an excellent capsule of "Hotel Oceanview" here.

2:40 "Lynchian": David Foster Wallace endeavors to explain what makes things Lynchian here. I approve of his reference to Jeffrey Dahmer, apropos of this episode: "Ted Bundy wasn't particularly Lynchian, but good old Jeffrey Dahmer, with his victims' various anatomies neatly separated and stored in his fridge alongside his chocolate milk and Shedd Spread, was thoroughgoingly Lynchian."

4:50 Moss: Erratum! It's Moss Steiger, not Moss Sterner. I have shamed myself in front of all WKRP fandom. But Jaime Weinman will rescue you with this précis of all of Moss's "appearances" in WKRP canon.

5:10 "A little tight in the crotch, but nice..." There wasn't room for it in this jampacked episode, but if you've never heard President Lyndon Baines Johnson on the phone to Haggar Slacks looking for slacks that won't "cut me... like I'm riding a wire fence," well, make a point of spending 13 minutes with this recording. It's really something else. I'm not sure if the revelations about the Leader of the Free World's pocketknife or, er, "bunghole" are more shocking. The Greatest Generation was really concerned about having enough room in the crotch of their pants!

10:40 Herb Alpert's "Rise": Another smooth hit from 1979-1980; a #1, in fact, just like "Sailing." Check out this video; damn, Herb. You are smooth. He's definitely rocking that late-'70s SoCal tanned middle-aged impresario look I more normally associate with Robert Evans. And let's not ignore the fact that Herb Alpert was not only an artist with immense cultural reach but also a music industry player with enormous influence, as one of the founders of A&M Records (he's the "A," and that's his trumpet on the label). TV saw his influence too; Chuck Barris could not have had the success he did with The Dating Game without numerous Herb Alpert tracks as intro music. One could argue he was behind one of the arguably most famous album covers of all time, too: Whipped Cream and Other Delights, found in '70s rec rooms all across North America! And, of course, an obligatory link to Homer Simpson singing the infrequently-heard lyrics to "Spanish Flea" (originally performed by fellow exotica artist Julius Wechter).

12:00 PJ Torokvei: We linked to this last season, but please take the time to check out this piece about the final years of PJ Torokvei by her friend Stan Brooks.

14:50 Jodie Dallas and Soap: Billy Crystal's character Jodie has his own Wikipedia page, and you can trace the character's... very odd trajectory there. I find it doubly ironic that the creator of Soap was Susan Harris, who would go on in the '80s to create gay camp icons The Golden Girls. It's tricky to say whether Jodie was a step forward or backward for LGBTQ representation in popular media in the '70s. I have a feeling if Susan Harris had it to do all over again, she might do it slightly differently.

15:52 "Again with the football!": You know another pop culture intersection of trans women and football? The World According to GarpRoberta Muldoon, who was a football star for the Philadelphia Eagles, and played memorably by the Oscar-nominated John Lithgow in the movie version of the novel. There is definitely some... anxiety? Transgression? Being exercised by all these cis male writers in placing a trans woman (or gay cis male) in the midst of American society's most patriarchal and homosocial of sports.

17:50 All That Glitters: Check out a capsule of the short-lived All That Glitters here. The implications of a trans woman in a world where the female sex is dominant are really intriguing! Trans men in our universe have written and spoken about dealing with the unexpected results of societal male privilege, so I think it would be interesting to explore that issue in a gender-flipped universe like All That Glitters's. I am guessing that the show in 1977 didn't even have that kind of concern on its radar. The trans character in All That Glitters was played by future Sue Ellen Ewing Linda Gray, whom, in the original version of this episode, I misidentified as Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Silver Spoons actress Erin Gray. Oops. I'm just full of errata this episode.

21:27: "How about a... Bamboozle, Art?" Here's a recipe for a Rum Bamboozle, putatively Caribbean in origin but certainly part of postwar America's fascination with all things rum-soaked, exotic, and tropical. Also: that's a hell of a lot of rum. The name seems well-earned.

22:45 Mickey Finn: The good thing about the term "Mickey Finn" is that its provenance and etymology seems pretty solidly based in history. There was a historical Michael Finn in fin-de-siècle Chicago, and he did indeed go on trial for using knockout drops in his drinks to rob his customers. And all this did happen in the years after H.H. Holmes's infamous Murder Castle was revealed to the public. Chicago's pretty nasty after dark, indeed.

24:55 Larry Hankin: This piece is a tremendous look at the life of Larry Hankin, his time in Chicago with Viola Spolin, and his just deciding to up and leave Chicago and go to San Francisco and bring improv there. Definitely check it out. And his performance as Tom Pepper, the Guy Who Steals The Raisins, in the final episodes of season 4 of Seinfeld, is an absolute classic (1, 2)

30:28 Toccata and Fugue in D Minor: How did this stately (if menacing) piece of Bach get associated with horror and evil? It was used even before sound films to indicate creeping dread and horror; here's a page from David P. Neumeyer's Meaning and Interpretation of Music in Cinema which lets us know not only was it used in 1931 horror classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (it was also used in 1934's The Black Cat), but it was being used ironically as early as 1950! It appeared in Sunset Boulevard where it was used to lampshade... an early horror film! Fascinating secret history there.

31:00 The Golden Age of the American Serial Killer: When you Google the phrase "golden age of serial killers," you not only get put on a watchlist, but you find that this was, indeed, a Thing! The social and economic anxieties of the 1970s found release in the endless, countless tales in tabloids, quickie books, and even mainstream news outlets covering ordinary-appearing (almost always male) Americans whose secret hobby was... killing people. The apprehension of David Berkowitz in 1977, the dual arrests of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy in 1978, the ongoing Zodiac case in the Bay Area, and other earlier cases like Ed Gein and Ed Kemper had deeply penetrated into the popular imagination by 1980.

In the 1980s, the FBI took serial murder seriously enough to institute ViCAP, a technological solution to the issue of serial crime (rape and murder) and one which became the inspiration for a lot of late '80s/early '90s pop culture as the archetype of the "profiler" took off with works like Thomas Harris's Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs (which contains a plot hook, Clarice's recruitment to "quantify" Hannibal Lecter, based quite explicitly on ViCAP's mission) and Chris Carter's The X-Files (remember, "Spooky" Mulder was an "Oxford-educated psychologist who wrote a monograph on serial killers and the occult" and was "generally thought of as the best analyst in the violent crimes section" before he chased UFOs) and Millennium. Also, a favorite of mine from the late '80s/early '90s, Neil Gaiman "Cereal Convention" arc in The Sandman. For an edgy, angsty high schooler in the early '90s, being obsessed with all this stuff was a... "safe" way to explore the dark side of humanity. And then I watched Natural Born Killers in college and... it kind of made me sick. No joke.

(Rob's continuous nervous "uh huhs" in this segment as I expose my deep serial killer trivia knowledge is kind of awesome.)

[Rob: Ooh, I just got an idea for a terrifying movie about a yacht rock loving serial killer.]

35:30 Dr. Joyce Brothers: Regarding Dr. Joyce Brothers's ubiquity: now you get that "I brought my own mic!" joke from that episode of The Simpsons. And here is a link to the video we posted a few months ago on our Facebook Page on 1980s D&D Satanic panic, and here's a little something from Friends of the Podcast 2 Warps to Neptune, with official TSR consultant Dr. Joyce Brothers hawking "Fantasy Forest."

39:20 Designer Jeans: Three quick hits for this segment: this article on the history of the designer jean trend, a link to the book I mentioned about the sociological study of jeans-wearers in North London, and the Wikipedia entry for So Fine. You can see why I thought it was an Italian "rip-off" exploitation film from the poster and from the fact Ennio Morricone did the music. There was also a Mafia plotline in the film. So Weird, more like, am I right?

46:38 Christopher Cross: Listen, I don't mind being called "softsational," I don't even mind Rob's needling me with Jonathan Coulton (bleh) of all people, and his insanely catchy "Soft Rocked By Me." But I'm begging you, just bring up Christopher Cross's self-titled debut on Spotify sometime this weekend and see if it doesn't whisk you away to a relaxing, calm place. "Sailing" is a bona fide pop masterpiece, and Christopher Cross's other big single from his debut, "Ride Like the Wind," was parodied (quite lovingly, I'd argue) not only by SCTV but by Frank Zappa himself!

(Many thanks to the community of Yacht Rock fans on the internet for that Zappa link, and thanks as always to the guys who created Yacht Rock, who gave me a soapbox on their website from which to declaim on the optimistic and progressive political core of Yacht Rock, thematic parallels between "Sailing" and medieval troubadours' evocations of Cockaigne, and much else besides.)

1:01:45 "And reporting it all in a series of award-winning news specials." It's difficult to mine something good from the Les-in-blackface plotline, but there is at least one very oblique reference here I want to cover. Les's patronizing reference to wanting to "live among the Negro along the highways and byways" is, I think, a reference to an historic 1940s radio documentary titled "Freedom's People." It aired on NBC and was produced by the U.S. Office of Education under the direction of black academic and advocate for black education Dr. Ambrose Caliver. The series aired during World War II and was really meant as a propagandistic riposte to fascism by illustrating the story of African-Americans up to this point in American history. It contains an illustrious cast of interviewees and black American personalities of the time. To modern ears, of course, this itself is fraught with complications; we've talked about the WWII-era and postwar American tendency to elide the violence of white supremacy in an effort to look good in the international community, in contrast with both fascism and communism.

One more poignant piece of information about "Freedom's People"; of eight episodes, only two have survived.

1:02:10 Black Like Me: We cover Black Like Me pretty comprehensively in the episode, so there's not much more to say here, other than to say the fact that people of my generation probably know the book best from Eddie Murphy's classic White Like Me SNL bit.

1:05:00 Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael... [Rob: I wish I'd included a few more women in that little tear of mine: Sojourner Truth, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, Nell Painter... But hey, that was all off the top of my head.]

1:06:00 "Justice is what love looks like in public..." [Rob: This is of course the unmistakable Cornel West, sermonifying on the black prophetic tradition. Here's the speech, here's the book. West is a bit of a polarizing figure, but I saw him gave a talk at my university once and he completely won me over with the attention and care he lavished on each individual student. I guess some feel his schtick has become a schtick, but a little showmanship in the cause of social justice is no great vice.]

1:08:30 Bamboozled: Spike Lee touched the third rail of pop culture satire in this film: what blackface was, is, and how it survives today; in fact, he wanted to make so sure that people knew this was a satire that he begins the film with a dictionary definition of satire. [Rob: Wish I'd thought to make a Bamboozled / "you make a nice Bamboozle" callback here. "I dunno, Art, but I know one thing: it's got fruit in it."]

1:11:33 Love and Theft: [Rob: In his new afterword to the 20-year-anniversary edition of Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class, Eric Lott writes, "It is quickly becoming a truism of popular music studies that crossover bootlegging, as rich in result as it is unfair in credit, has always been American music's hallmark--less roots and remixes than masking and mimicry all the way down." Lott also talks about how appropriate it was for Bob Dylan to steal his title without attribution. There are undoubtedly people who think Lott was too easy on blackface, too optimistic about its subversive potential, too much about the love and not enough about the theft. But that's how academics rolled in the 1990s; we really wanted to see popular culture as a force for good.]

[Mike: Probably a good time to link to this series on Slate; most of it's behind a paywall but the intro piece and this Rolling Stones longform are really worth checking out.]

1:12:50 Racist cartoons: If you want to check out the history of racism in cartoons, you can Google "the Censored Eleven." But as Rob says, a lot of the blackface in cartoons is hidden, cloaked in signifiers we don't even recognize anymore. Not only Mickey Mouse but Felix the Cat, the now-forgotten Bosko, and even Bugs Bunny can be seen as echoes of happy-go-lucky, trickster figures from both minstrelsy and from African-American folklore, which themselves quite frequently intertwine. It's definitely a tough, tightly-woven set of cultural ties.

1:15:25 Jim Crow Museum: [Trigger warning: racist images] Speaking as a museum professional, this must be a really fucking tough place to work, but I respect Curator David Pilgrim's mission for the museum and his reasons for collecting racist artifacts tremendously. It must be hard, soul-draining work.

1:20:00 Post-credits Scene: When this episode went up on Wednesday, the final 29 seconds got cut off, depriving you all of a little post credits blooper. So if you downloaded the show on Wednesday before about 9 pm, download it again! :)

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