Friday, December 30, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 035: Communists Are Unreliable


0:07 "...and now it's time for the comedy stylings of Homer Simpson!" We referenced this bit once before in the episode about the Riverfront disaster, but the podcast, thanks to the sweeping effect of current events and the bummer last bit of WKRP Season 3, has definitely had a "getting beaten to a pulp by Mr. Burns's hired goons" feeling lately.

1:50 Pulp clich├ęs: You don't really need to go much further than pulpcovers.com to get a good sampling of the kind of stuff we're talking about here. I would love it if someone came up with the pulp cover we discuss here for "Secrets of Dayton Heights," by the way.

2:18 "America? Who was that lady I saw you with last night..." Echoing Les's "Loose Lips Sink Ships!" bit from "I Am Woman" a couple of weeks ago and Les's general Walter Winchell-like tendencies. The bit about Communism's "broad shoulders" seducing the farmboy always makes me chuckle.

3:06 Secretary of Agriculture-designate John Block: We never got a chance to go into John Block! Well, what I'd wanted to say was that Block was yet another Reagan appointee who used his position in government to help business conglomerates get filthy rich. Small farmers were being foreclosed upon at record rates in the 1980s (this was the FarmAid era, remember) and huge agro-corporations snatched them up.

8:15 Sam Anderson: Yes, we will see Sam Anderson again in Season 4; I'm trying not to spoil myself for which episode so I can try to spot his chameleonic presence. Also, I like that this bit happens at 8:15 in the podcast.

9:33 "People don't remember that the Secret Service is part of the Treasury Department!" It's true, or at least it was prior to 2003. Lampshaded perfectly in the episode.

10:40 "Les has the exact same origin as Cigarette-Smoking Man." "Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man" is a bit of a silly episode in the final analysis, but it's still one of my favorite X-Files eps. Especially satisfying was finding out the subplot with Cancer Man wanting to be a pulp writer was based on the real-life pulp fiction career of E. Howard Hunt, who was also suspected of being a JFK assassin.

11:52 "Les quotes Hal Holbrook." The double reference had to have been intentional. Hal Holbrook first did Mark Twain in the mid-'50s; it started off as a university class project! How neat.

18:20 "The guy hitting on Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot": Joe E. Brown, an old vaudeville and circus hand, played Osgood Fielding III.

19:25 Cincinnati Redlegs: It's true, it's true, the Reds called themselves the Redlegs from 1953 to 1958.

22:33 et subseq. The Manchurian Candidate: Boy, Rob really likes this movie! Honestly, though, it's pretty much perfect for the purposes of this episode. And it features possibly the most evil "evil mom" character in film history.

[Rob: I do indeed! Brain-washing, assassination, Janet Leigh, Momism, the Yellow Peril, the Communist threat and the anti-Communist threat blurred into one, Janet Leigh, Frank Sinatra, all the creepy JFK synchronicities, Janet Leigh... it is the essential Cold War movie. We could do this podcast for another ten years and I would not run out of relevant Manchurian Candidate clips. But on the eve of 2017, this bit seemed particularly relevant: the right-wing demagogue / Russian-patsy giving a rousing speech ("worked on here and in Russia for over eight years") to, quote, "rally a nation of television viewers into hysteria ... to sweep us into the White House with powers that will make martial law seem like anarchy." No puppet, no puppet: you're the puppet.]

24:40 The timing of Harvey leaving Les and Les's mom: My only theory about this is that the crime of stealing secrets at the Pentagon happened after Harvey left young Les. So in my imaginary story, my headcanon, if you will, Les was born in 1940, something happened to expose Harvey as a Communist then, he left the family, and as the Pentagon was finished in 1943, Harvey worked there sometime after leaving the family, and his past was exposed again as he was caught up in the 1950s Red Scare investigations. Convoluted, sure, but WKRP is not unfamiliar with convoluted retcons.

29:10 Elia Kazan: Sure, the Elia Kazan tale is complicated and full of personal grudges and political equivocation, but again, Kazan was part of the late '30s theatre scene that produced some of our greatest actors, directors, and writers, many of whom were dedicated socialists or Communists and paid the price 15 years later.

31:25 Lavender Scare/homosexuality and Communism/homosexuality and espionage: This Wikipedia entry is a good starting point. The Cambridge Five, of course, featured gay spies Guy Burgess and Anthony Blunt, and sublimated homosexual desire is a major plot point in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

36:46 The first Red Scare: The chaos of the U.S.'s involvement in World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and a generation-old fear of the boogeyman "anarchism" and of labor activism contributed to the virulent and kneejerk Red Scare of the later part of the 1910s. Emma Goldman was indeed deported to Russia, and Socialist elected officials were stripped of their offices.

37:50 "They were waiting for the Joe Welch moment..." I recall reading at least a couple of thinkpieces during the election that expressly referenced the famous "Have you no sense of decency, sir" moment of the Army-McCarthy hearings. And let's give Joe Welch credit for standing up to McCarthy on television, certainly! But McCarthy lost his support, became a pariah, got censured, and died of hepatitis all in under three years. And it was almost entirely his own fault.

[Rob: Yeah, if all it took to expose the man behind the curtain in 2016 was staring straight into the camera and getting earnest for a moment, well, we wouldn't be where we are, would we?]

39:35 "Exhuming McCarthy" Excellent editing work by Rob to not only close out our Red Scare discussion with R.E.M.'s excellent track off 1987's overtly political LP Document, but also remind us that the bridge between "Secrets of Dayton Heights" and "Out To Lunch" is Joseph McCarthy's alcoholism.

[Rob: Thanks, Mike. And I assume most people of a certain age know this, but just in case, that is of course the actual Joe Welch moment sampled in the R.E.M. song.]

41:05 Drunk work: I've referenced this a couple of times on the podcast, but in the commentary track of the Mr. Show DVDs, the cast praises Paul F. Tompkins's "drunk work" in the "Talking Junkie" sketch (starting at about 1:18). I concur; I've always thought of this as a quintessential drunk bit and Paul F. Tompkins's love of old-timey drinking is well-attested.

47:50 "They make it look real good." I mean, okay, in the first season of Mad Men there's that episode where Don feeds Roger all the oysters and booze in revenge for his hitting on Betty, and he makes him walk up the stairs and puke in front of the client, but overall, when you think drinking on Mad Men... hell, even the throwing up is sometimes glamorous and heartfelt!

48:36 "Bright Future In Sales": More power pop from Fountains of Wayne!

50:43 Helen Hunt in Desperate Lives: Desperate Lives was a 1982 CBS TV movie where you learned not to take PCP, not even once. And man, when the Keyboard Cat meme hit, I was rolling. The later addition of Hall & Oates (with special guest Keyboard Cat) only added to the hilarity.

53:10 Atlantic article on alcoholism on TV. A fascinating read!

53:52 Christopher Cross: Yes, yes, Mike "Mr. Yacht Rock" Grasso got the title of the song wrong! It's actually "Arthur's Theme (Best You Can Do)," and yes, it won a goddamned OSCAR. Which led to one of the funniest chyrons in the entire Yacht Rock web series.

54:38 My Favorite Year: Is Peter O'Toole as a very thinly-disguised Errol Flynn one of the best double-drunks in all of cinema history (a drunk playing a drunk)? It's up there.

54:56 Tom Hanks as Uncle Ned: Man, the reaction to our Uncle Ned bit on Twitter was phenomenal! Apparently Generation X was collectively scarred by watching Alex P. Keaton get launched across a room by a DT'ing Tom Hanks. HE SPOKE IN FRONT OF THE WORLD BANK!

59:25 "Daddy, what's liquor?" So I made reference to the infamous and baffling "Daddy, what's Vietnam?" Time-Life commercial, which you can find here. Featuring Martin "Shit, I'm still only in Saigon" Sheen! Also, two of the best Kids in the Hall sketches having to do with drunks: Daddy drank! and Girl Drink Drunk!

1:01:20 "Why did we have Prohibition?" I know, I know, it's Ken Burns, but Prohibition was a pretty good look at the strains of political activism that led to the 18th Amendment.

1:01:55 The August Civic Holiday: Look at all these different local holidays! It's like "Wild Card: The Holiday!" I feel like Canada has been holding out on me; this makes you guys 43% more adorable!

[Rob: I actually misspoke: while, as Mike reveals, people have apparently been making cracks about lazy Catholics and "Saint Monday" for centuries, the Canadian nickname for the holiday in August is "Saint Civique," making it specifically a crack about French Catholics. And blandly named Canadian holidays.]

1:02:23 St. Monday, Decameron: So the reference to Italians having too many holidays is in The Decameron, Seventh Day, Second Story, where the ribald wife who's having an affair does not expect her husband home because both husband and wife forgot it was the saint's feast of the obscure St. Galeone/Eucalion.

1:03:30 Irish Sweepstakes/drinking: Sorry to get so personal with the alcohol stuff, but you grow up Irish, and this kind of thing is in your blood. I was indeed tee-total for quite a long time (NOT straight edge, by the way, as much as I wanted to be). The Irish Sweepstakes, though, that I can talk about freely. Before there were state lotteries in Massachusetts, you could play the ponies or the greyhounds, play the numbers or bet football with your friendly neighborhood bookmaker, or buy Irish Sweepstakes tickets.

1:08:46 The Finnish door-opening video: Watch it for yourself. I don't know whether this video has any real mind-erasing properties, so watch at your own risk. I'll let Rob post a picture of his dad from the late '70s so we can see any possible resemblances:

[Rob: We're through the looking glass here, people!]
1:10:13 Danny Devito on Taxi: You guys have seen my dad in Charles Manson mode, but by 1979 or so, he definitely looked more like Louie DePalma.

1:14:00 TV Guide article on the writer's room: Here's the great Jaime Weinman with a blockquote from the 1983 TV Guide article.

1:17:30 Carly Simon album covers: The cover of 1975's Playing Possum definitely shocked me. Very provocative indeed, to use the words of David St. Hubbins.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

HMOTD 035: Communists Are Unreliable


Mike and Rob uncover Les Nessman's hidden past in "Secrets of Dayton Heights" and have a few drinks with Herb Tarlek in "Out To Lunch."

(Full show notes appear at Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser two days after each episode is released. All audio clips are the properties of their owners/creators and appear in this work of comment and critique under fair use provisions of copyright law.)

Check out this episode!

Monday, December 26, 2016

"However... I'm not lecturing."


Two more episodes of WKRP this week from the downer back half of Season 3: "Secrets of Dayton Heights," about Les's unsettling discovery of his own paternity and his biological father's connections to the International Communist Conspiracy, and "Out To Lunch," about Herb's struggles with drinking on the job. Fun!

During our discussion of "Out To Lunch" in this week's podcast, we talk a little about WKRP's now-familiar liminal place in between two eras of pop culture: in this episode, between the "drunks are funny" and "alcoholism is serious business" eras. Our discussion leads us to talk about the 1980s era of "Just Say No," of cautionary tales about drugs and alcohol on TV, and of fearful raging alcoholics like Alex P. Keaton's horrible Uncle Ned.

So to celebrate this era, and to raise a glass/bong to the late Gen-Xers who were raised to fear every single recreational substance, here's a collection of PSAs from the 1980s about drugs and alcohol.






And to finish us up... play us out, Keyboard Cat!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Show Notes For HMOTD 034: The Lady From Chicago


2:00 "...hear me roar!" Can we call Helen Reddy's 1971 "I Am Woman" the pop culture equivalent for women to James Brown's 1968 "Say It Loud – I'm Black And I'm Proud" for African-Americans? Reddy's song was released in 1971 but it wasn't until it was used over the closing credits of a blink-and-you'll-miss-it 1972 comedy film Stand Up And Be Counted and re-released as a single that it entered the popular imagination. By winter of 1972, it was a #1 hit and an anthem for the women's lib/feminist movement in America. So by 1981, its somewhat square aesthetic is automatically associated with a certain brand of feminist activism from the previous decade, and it can be used as the title to a sitcom episode with no explanation on its context... and maybe a tiny bit of implicit commentary on Bailey's brand of activism being outdated?

3:05 "Pseu...donymous?" Hey, I'm not going to pull a Les on the air if I can avoid it. How many times have you said "pseudonymous" out loud, hmm?

[Rob: My mnemonic here is "Pseudonymous Bosch," one of my daughter's favorite authors.]

7:45 Victim-blaming: The point about blaming Jennifer being awfully close to blaming Joan is an excellent one by Rob. In speaking from Jennifer's perspective, I may have given the impression that I thought Joan's abuse was Jennifer's fault, and nothing could be further from the truth.

8:35 Battered women's center: From my own personal childhood memories of TV and movies, the 1980s is when awareness of the issue that was then called "battered women," and what is now more sensitively called "domestic violence," began to rise. The Burning Bed, a 1984 TV movie dramatization of the Francine Hughes case starring Farrah Fawcett-Majors, was a signal event in television history and a huge ratings bonanza for NBC. It raised awareness, but was also slightly sensational and exploitative, which seems to be par for the course for these kind of issue TV movies in the '80s.

9:20 The first half of the episode: It really is unfortunate that this episode takes the left turn it does, because otherwise I'd say this episode sits in a mid-to-top tier in WKRP as far as comedic content is concerned, probably because of how "modern" the editing feels (which we talk about at about 14:15 and onwards).

11:58 "The fact that it's Herb's idea..." I really wish we'd explored further the idea of advice shows being exploitative, and specifically exploitative socially and economically. It gets me thinking of the vogue for "talk shows" on TV, the line that Phil Donahue started in the 1970s that expanded into Oprah, Sally, Geraldo, Maury, and yes, former Mayor Jerry Springer in the '80s and beyond. What began as a way for the public to meet with people and confront issues they might not ordinarily encounter, ended as sensationalist schlock which, most of the time, expressly exploited the working class and pushed controversy and staged conflict as a way to get ratings. There's another '70s/'80s hinge argument to be made here, I think.

13:00 et subseq."You want me to need you." Ugh. So bad, so creepy. It really sucks to hear the Big Guy so oblivious to Jennifer's emotional needs. But, as we talk about throughout this episode of the podcast in both episodes of WKRP, while it's not entirely unexpected given Arthur's character and the state of male emotional intelligence at this point in history (and yes, probably still), it still sucks to hear the decent, kind Big Guy be so presumptuous when it comes to women's roles and agency in both Jennifer and Bailey.

17:22 Emotional labor: It won't take much for you to search the web for thinkpieces on this concept of emotional labor. This Guardian piece is pretty good, as it explores the greater sociological impact of women being "naturally" associated with emotional labor, which is really at the root of the whole problem, given patriarchal society's belief that such "natural" tendencies are not worthy of financial renumeration.

[Rob: And here's a piece making my point about women in academia doing all the "service" work. This is certainly true where I work, though I have always tried to do my share of the metaphorical dishes. The "administration" post (clever euphemism) I just stepped down from was in fact about 75% emotional labor.]

19:50 "I forget which episode." It was when we covered "Most Improved Station," the last time the station needed a good dose of emotional labor. Who solved the problem in that episode? Jennifer, of course, by expressly and explicitly making the station feel like a "family."

22:08 "Men's rights," Elliot Rodger, and men emotionally supporting men: This piece and this piece were both just so important for me in understanding why we as men can't constantly go to women for emotional support, especially when it comes to when women are hurting terribly. If you're a guy, and you want to be helpful to women in navigating these issues and taking some of that burden away? Read that article. And share it. And talk to your guy friends about your feelings. I know it's hard. I know I haven't done what I committed to do 3 years ago. It's a constant struggle.

25:25 Finding some laughter: We talked about the downbeat trajectory of Season 3 WKRP in our Monday Post.

30:40 Miss Lonelyhearts: There really is nothing new under the sun, is there? The social and economic dislocation people were feeling in the late '20s/early '30s is actually super reminiscent of the '70s/'80s... and the mid-'10s, now that I think about it. And of course I was reminded by the debut of Season 2 of the TV adaptation of The Man In The High Castle that Miss Lonelyhearts plays a role in Philip K. Dick's 1963 novel.

31:35 Ann Landers and Dear Abby: Original Ann Landers Ruth Crowley gave way, Arlene Allen-style, to Eppie Lederer in 1955. Eppie's twin sister Pauline Phillips took on the moniker Dear Abby in 1956. Interestingly, the sisters were first-generation Jewish-Americans who grew up in the likely very white Sioux City, Iowa in the '10s and '20s.

Also, we didn't get into advice radio and TV show hosts like Dr. Ruth, Dr. Laura, Dr. Drew and Dr. Phil in this episode, which was probably a tiny bit of a misstep on our part. Suffice to say that the plot of "Ask Jennifer" exposes the benefits and faults of trusting people in media for advice pretty well on its own.

35:57 Talk Radio: Man, how many edgy shock jocks in the '90s used this bit from the Talk Radio trailer? I also watched Talk Radio in college, and it had a profound effect on me. It's a fantastic movie, Eric Bogosian's signal achievement, and it's more pertinent than ever today. "WKRP. Now why don't they make more of 'em?"

40:44 "I have big business for LUNCH... We need a plan, we need to ORGANIZE." No comment here. I just wanted to see those words in bold type.

42:45 How the team gets onboard: Our discussion of fraternal organizations, the third space, and social capital is in one of our finest episodes, HMOTD 007: Nowhere Band.

44:40 Scollay Square: There is no greater representative of Dirty Old Boston than the final years of Scollay Square before the construction of the Central Artery and City Hall Plaza, two projects that cut the very beating heart from old-time Boston.

45:15 "What's in an Old Fashioned?" Tragically, I forgot that an Old Fashioned is whiskey, Angostura bitters, sugar, and water, with an orange peel and a cherry. Simple, classic, over a hundred years old and already "old fashioned" then.

46:40 "The intelligent man always fights for the lost cause..." Jotting #30 from e.e. cummings.

48:33 Tanner '88: Probably due a rewatch and reassessment. Sometimes I think Robert Altman's most underrated period of creativity was the 1980s. Secret Honor, Tanner '88, the hidden gem of Streamers and the weirdo alternate-universe '80s teen comedy O.C. and Stiggs. Er, we'll leave out Popeye.

50:39 "...and of course Jennifer can have whatever she wants." Hah, Gordon Jump just sort of sneaks this in. Beautiful.

55:45 Losing activist fervor from the '60s to the '80s: I'll just mention two things here that we've mentioned before: our hippie-to-yuppie conversation from HMOTD 014: We Don't Know Any Chad, and this delightful and somewhat sad article from Howard Hesseman's Head of the Class years about his newfound yuppie-dom in the '80s. "I’ve become the person I used to make a meager living satirizing." Ouch.

57:25 Bailey's monologue: My heart breaks. Just listen to it. And I'm somewhat a fan of Brutalism!

59:42 "The Big Guy is showing his patriarchal ass in this pair of episodes." Surely, the best turn of phrase I have ever coined during this podcast.

1:07:37 "Save the Union Terminal": First of all, here's Jerry Springer's immortal 1973 single, "Save the Union Terminal." It'll catch right in your brain. And here's a quick-hit piece on Jerry Springer's activist efforts.

Here's the site for the Cincinnati Museum Center, which is undergoing more restoration right now as part of the ongoing Union Terminal building work. If you'd like to contribute, you can help Save the Hall of Justice!

And speaking of the Hall of Justice, the reason why the Superfriends' HQ was inside the Union Terminal? Is the same reason why the Bradys went to Kings Island... the long 1970s tentacles of the Taft family and Taft Broadcasting. Who were bought out in 1999 by? Clear Channel/iHeart Media, who we discussed in HMOTD 025. Wow.

1:13:00: "...the wild and woolly real estate market of 1980s Manhattan." If you have 3 hours to spare, please watch Adam Curtis's new film HyperNormalisation, which features the New York City of the Hinge Years as crucial to understanding how finance has us all in its grip in 2016. You should also watch his All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace if you liked our discussions of Cold War technocracy, the counter-culture, and places like Esalen.

1:14:04 "I went to the public library to try to make sense of all the madness. The place was boarded up!" Again, no comment necessary. I still remember the original timeline, too, Doc.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

HMOTD 034: The Lady From Chicago


Rob & Mike try to deal with recent events by seeking advice in "Ask Jennifer" and getting politically active with Bailey in "I Am Woman."
(Full show notes appear at Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser two days after each episode is released. All audio clips are the properties of their owners/creators and appear in this work of comment and critique under fair use provisions of copyright law.)

Check out this episode!

Monday, December 12, 2016

United we stand, divided we fall! Loose lips sink ships! Diamonds are a girl's best friend!


We've been talking all season about what a weird, oddball animal Season 3 of WKRP is. But it's in this back third of the season (right around Disc 3 of the Shout! Factory DVD, if you're keeping score at home) where WKRP goes from odd to... kinda dark.

The upcoming weeks of Hold My Order will cover such fun-filled topics as spousal abuse, alcoholism, the Red Scare, censorship, and the paranoia one feels after being the victim of a robbery. Fun! The final third of WKRP's third season, in the words of creator and show-runner Hugh Wilson, was a victim of its own success, driving Wilson and the writers' room into darker and darker corners of life.

It's also probably in keeping with the odd synchronicities between WKRP, the world in 1978-1982, our podcast, and our lives here in 2015-2017 that just as WKRP takes a darker turn in the aftermath of an election, so does Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser.

Let's be blunt; things are Very Not Good right now. It's not 1981, no matter the similarities. Things feel desperate. Scary. Unhinged. No matter what our heartfelt pleas in the immediate aftermath of the election, nothing has changed and nothing likely will change. We're heading into a political universe the likes of which the United States has never seen before. Where do we turn in times like this? How do we fix this trainwreck?

The answer lies within ourselves, of course.

The one bright spot I had in those couple of weeks post-election was watching the WKRP episode "I Am Woman," and seeing the lady from Chicago herself, Bailey Quarters, fight like hell for the future of the Flimm Building. Her activism has long been a part of her character, and in this episode, it becomes way more than just a character note.

The ups and downs of Bailey's campaign to Save the Filmm in "I Am Woman" of course echo the ups and downs of real-life activism, and we talk about those in great detail in Wednesday's episode. But more importantly, the relatively low stakes and light mood of a sitcom character fighting for a fictional historical building were enough to give me a little bit of a boost.

You know, we know that times are hard and scary. We can't promise that this run of downer episodes won't be a bit of a bummer. I suppose at the very least, they'll certainly give us a lot to talk about from the History-Nerd perspective. But in the coming weeks and months, one thing I'm going to try to keep in mind is the image of Bailey drunkenly rallying the troops in the face of an impossible task. I'm going to build bridges, and set goals, and most importantly, agitate. I'm going to be at my best. I'm going to try my hardest to Be Like Bailey.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Show Notes for HMOTD 033: Gotta Dance!


1:00 et subseq.: Words/phrases Rob uses to describe “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide” during this episode:Sui generis,” “lollapalooza, “Crazytown.”

1:25 Welcome Jeff Wikstrom: Here’s a link to HMOTD 010: Rock Throw, WV, which, as Rob mentions, was a very strong episode of the podcast about two weak episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati. We also cover a few of the very same issues: race in America for one, as well as musical genres drenched in ignominy (country music in the case of HMOTD 010, and disco here).

3:13 Xanadu: This is another piece of music (and, honestly, of filmmaking) that was just huge and simply omnipresent when I was 5 years old. My cousins and other relatives who were teenage girls in 1979 and 1980 worshipped the holy trinity of Travolta/Newton-John films: Saturday Night Fever, Grease, and Xanadu. All three soundtracks were in heavy rotation when we’d visit their houses, and posters of all three were everywhere. But for the rockists in the audience, let’s not neglect to note the presence of Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra in Xanadu (not to mention Gene Kelly, Cliff Richard, and San Francisco weirdo-rock outfit The Tubes). Xanadu the movie definitely exists on that very late-’70s Axis of Camp that contains The Apple and Can’t Stop The Music, among others.

3:50 et subseq.: Words/phrases Jeff uses to describe “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide” during this episode: “Uncanny,” “Lynchian,” “Howard Hesseman’s Crazyman Theatre.” [Jeff: Also “borderline surreal,” though really I think only the climactic Jennifer scene could be called that without hyperbole.]

5:19 “These are the EIGHTIES!” Positively chilling.

5:41 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Okay, confession time: I have never read Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. No excuse, of course, it’s in the public domain. I know we’re all familiar with fantastic Victorian literature around these parts, and modern reinterpretations of same, but I also need to confess that I’d never read Bram Stoker’s Dracula before Ken Hite’s fantastic RPG supplement Dracula Unredacted for his Dracula Dossier setting for vampire-espionage game Night’s Black Agents. So I’m not new to modern reinterpretations of treasured classics of Weird Literature, is all I’m saying.

7:10: “He’s like an old guy who time-traveled from the 1920s, but also likes Rescue Rangers.” Last episode’s guest host Mandy Leetch meant this with all respect and love for you, Jeff. But it is a very… specific characterization. And hey, it led to good podcast content!

[Jeff: I like things besides Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers! I like Star Trek! And Lois Lane! And They Might Be Giants!]

8:15 “We’re still waiting for that check, Shout! Factory.” Aw, we’re just joshing, we love you guys too much, we don’t need a check.

9:45 Mary Frann: Here’s another confession: I have probably watched far more episodes of Newhart than The Bob Newhart Show. There was just something watching about Newhart as a kid in the 1980s; its humor felt a little gentler and dryer than a lot of the other first-run sitcoms out there at the time. Until it became the literal Larry, Darryl and Darryl Show, anyway; fun IMDB trivia, by the way: our friend Tracey Walter from Repo Man and “The Contest Nobody Could Win” was originally going to play Larry; virtual doppelganger William Sanderson ended up with the role. Obviously a lot of the gentleness and warmth I mentioned is down to Bob Newhart’s sensibilities, but he was helped immensely by the performances of both Tom Poston and Mary Frann. Mary Frann sadly passed away back in 1998.

[Rob: Jaime Weinman apparently disagrees with Mike about Mary Frann’s “gentleness and warmth”; in his write-up of “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide” he says: “the late Mary Frann, who had previously appeared as an attractive woman who turns out to be an evil bitch on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, here returns to the MTM lot to play an attractive woman who turns out to be an evil bitch. In case you're wondering why she always seemed miscast as the loving wife on Newhart.”]

10:15 “It’s because she’s the devil.” Again, stunned I didn’t get all the Faust references in this episode. So, the idea of redheaded women being witches or agents of the devil goes back to the Middle Ages (fittingly, considering all the Arthuriana in this episode) but is also tied up in all kinds of real persecution, including anti-Semitism during the Spanish Inquisition (which ties in with the belief that Judas Iscariot was a redhead) and, of course, modern anti-”ginga” prejudice. Me, I go with Tom Robbins’s assertion that redheads are either funny or dangerous, neither of which is a sign of a pact with the devil necessarily.

[Rob: I want to make a quip about Lucille Ball’s investigation by HUAC during the Red Scare (red head, witch hunt, get it?), but I can’t quite get there from here…]

10:55 Citizen Kane reference tally: Jeff’s been on twice, and I could have sworn he’s made Citizen Kane references in each episode, but upon relistening to HMOTD 010 I find this is just a confabulation. Maybe I’m just conflating this with every Orson Welles conversation I’ve ever had with Jeff. FYI, Jeff is the guy who made Orson Welles the (literal) Big Bad of one of my most memorable role-playing experiences, his surreal Trollbabe game called AIRPORTATION, where we all played expat Americans abroad when America just vanished off the face of the Earth. The tagline was: “Somewhere in the Twentieth Century: America sunk. The Soviets are taking over. Magic is real, and all Americans were magi. You're the last Americans.” In the game, Orson Welles was (again, weirdly fittingly for this episode) a Galactus figure who wanted to consume all wprld culture. And Walt Disney (also obviously evil) had a moonbase. Anyway, there’s not much left of AIRPORTATION on the web, but here’s Rob’s character writeup, which I still think is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing Rob’s ever done.

[Edit: Jeff was kind enough to resurrect his old AIRPORTATION writings and put them up on his blog. "America has disappeared." Unbearably poignant to re-read in 2016.]

12:40 The construction of Rip Tide: My theory about Johnny’s id using the bits from all of the music industry folks he’d run into over the course of the ‘70s didn’t go over well, and I can understand that. I said on Twitter the day the episode dropped that I didn’t “embrace the mystery,” that I didn’t find the episode as Weird as Rob and Jeff, which is weird in and of itself given my Nowhere Band-style hauntological shenanigans.

13:27 Rip Tide’s hair dye: As funny as the hair dye is in and of itself (I’m smiling just thinking about it), I feel like it definitely puts a point on an unspoken dimension of Johnny’s masquerade as Rip Tide, and something we didn’t talk in the episode (other than the Dick Clark reference): how old Johnny is and the idea that maybe Rip Tide is also a product of a possible Johnny Fever midlife crisis?

17:20 “A lot of people are going to suffer.” The fact that Johnny finally commits to Gotta Dance! because the cast and crew will be out of a job is an inspiring bit of solidarity (keep this in mind, though, as we discuss “I Am Woman” in two weeks)! Johnny’s moral center is stable, but he’s always tempted by the easy way out, as Rob mentions in connection to “Goodbye Johnny” and “Most Improved Station.” Here we get an entire hour of Johnny doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, and then being confused about how he ended up doing the wrong thing in the first place. Comparisons to the other JC’s forty days in the desert/the last bit of The Last Temptation of Christ will have to wait until Season 4’s “Jennifer and Johnny’s Charity.”

17:58 Avis, We Try Harder: The story of the Hertz vs. Avis rental car ad wars is actually super interesting.

19:14 “He is Sailor Ned.” Finally we’ve gotten to hear the confirmation that Venus was also a local kid’s show host! I’ve had some interesting discussions on the “franchised” shows of the UHF era, Bozo the Clown and Romper Room, on Facebook where everyone who grew up in different cities has different memories and everyone is throwing around the Mandela Effect.

[Rob: One bit that got cut for time was some reminiscing about the kiddie show hosts of our youth: Jeff and Mike’s Captain Bob, my Commander Tom. I was floored when Mike told us that Bozo the Clown was a franchise rather than a person; this led to a little riff about the bloody aftermath of the Bozo Wars.]

19:35 et subseq. The Silver Surfer/Galactus/Darkseid: Some slight errata on Norrin Radd: in the original storyline, the Silver Surfer saved his home planet Zenn-La by agreeing to wield the power cosmic in Galactus’s service. Later stories made the face of Zenn-La’s survival a bit more confused.

But let’s talk about the iconography of the Silver Surfer and him as a literal herald of the counterculture 1960s! First of all, shit, he’s a surfer. Surfing hit the mainstream of American culture in the 1960s, between the Beach Boys, Endless Summer, and of course, Hawaiian and tiki culture as we’ve talked about before. Of course, Jack Kirby’s increasingly idiosyncratic “cosmic” style found its origins in Marvel books like Fantastic Four, and the eventual New Gods work (there’s your Darkseid connection). The Silver Surfer became a symbol for the 1960s counterculture, a young man with a secret sensitive heart drafted into a destructive war and taken far away from his home.

The Silver Surfer was also personally tempted by the literal Mephisto of the Marvel Universe to return to Zenn-La after earning his release from Galactus’s service. So, really, Faustian bargains all around.

Also, I like how this segment ended up devolving into me being the devil on Jeff’s shoulder and Rob being the angel when it comes to Jeff’s theorizing. And then Jeff flips it around with the devilish statement, “You invited me on knowing who I am.” Heh.

[Jeff: I am pretty sure, listening to it, that I cribbed much of this description of Darkseid from the relevant episode of Journey Into Misery about him. Or maybe that should be Him with a capital H? Also, I admit I assumed this whole bit was going to end up on the cutting room floor.]

[Mike: Never, Jeff. This was good stuff. And thank you for choosing an image from the 1985 Ambush Bug limited series.]

24:44 A. Merritt [Jeff: I suppose this is as good a place as any to point to the existence of Appendix N, part of the Tome Show network. It’s a podcast I co-host about a particular subset of 20th-century fantasy fiction. Merritt is all but forgotten nowadays, but back in his heyday he was as well-regarded as ERB, REH, or HPL. His fiction often had at its core a male protagonist conflicted between a virtuous female love interest and another, darker woman, prone to flip between sympathetic and antihero and usually influenced by an older and male wicked-vizier type. See the Moon Pool or Dwellers in the Mirage for typical examples.]

25:20 Seeking Bailey’s approval: Jeff’s thesis on Rip Tide being Johnny’s side that desperately wants to be liked is incredibly interesting. Of course, as we’ve said, he does end up turning off everyone as a result, but I think what it says about Johnny is that his normal persona is just too… boring to make an impact. I mean, aside from when Johnny’s on the air, he’s low-key, snarky, and quite possibly blunted on some form of chemical depressants. Rip is up, peppy, not snarky but unctuous and of course, possibly tweaked on some form of chemical stimulants.

26:15 et subseq. Arthuriana: Something I don’t talk a lot about on the podcast is how I was trained as a medievalist (four years of undergrad and one disastrous year of Master’s work). I was attracted to medieval literature for precisely the kind of stuff Jeff calls out in his excellent five-part series, Arthur Dies at the End. The surreality, the explicitly allegorical and psychological landscapes, the sheer wingnuttery of it all to modern eyes. Growing up Catholic, I knew all the touchstones of medieval Christian literature and culture, but in the re-telling they were all so… weirdly mutated from the catechism I knew… it was fascinating.

[Jeff: For all your comedic-retelling-of-medieval-romances needs, visit scenic jeffwik.com! You can also buy the ebook or print version on Amazon but it’s not necessary. The specific story of Sir Percival that I cited in this podcast is in Malory’s Book XIV, which I titled “Twist Ending,” but for what it’s worth the best story in Arthur Dies at the End for my money is the one where Sir Bors deals with the analogous challenge without restorting to mutilation. Read it in Book XV, “Sir Bors is Pretty Okay!”]

30:20 “Yeah, but you would be working alone.” Hilarious. The Big Guy saying “all eight of us” made me of course think of the famous Monty Python mountaineering sketch.

37:08 Grant Morrison’s Batman R.I.P. [Rob: If you hadn’t already guessed, my impatience with Mike & Jeff’s Galactus conversation had nothing to do with being too cool for comics. It’s just that I’ve always been a DC guy. (Don’t @ me about the movies. Someday they’ll make a good Superman movie; that’ll be my “Cubs win the World Series.”)]

37:35 Sympathy for the Devil cover: [Rob: This unfortunate piece of audio is, Youtube tells me, by the Slovenian avant-garde group Laibach, either from 1988 or 1992. I just asked the internet for a disco version of “Sympathy for the Devil” and this came up. I know Mike was tickled by the idea of me playing disco DJ as I edited this episode. The truth is, I really didn’t mind! Xanadu, Disco Inferno, and Le Freak are all solid, solid songs, which I’ve had stuck in my head all week. But this? This is kind of garbage.

The ironic thing is that, what with the insistent percussion, the repetitive melody, and the woo woos, the Stones’ original version of “Sympathy for the Devil” is halfway to being a disco song already. (Again, don’t @ me.)]

39:19 “How’s Bailey? How’s Bailey?” Are y’all excited for the new season of Twin Peaks?

40:25 Taxi, Andy Kaufman: Latka Gravas has his own Wikipedia page, so you can see all his alter egos in one place. Also, I want to link again to last episode’s guest host Mandy Leetch’s examination of Andy Kaufman’s psychology. It’s a really eye-opening piece of writing.

[Edit: Late-breaking edit to include this positively surreal video from The Merv Griffin Show from 1982 with a) Andy Kaufman as special guest, b) Orson Himself as guest host, c) the very recently and dearly departed Ron Glass as befuddled guest on the couch and apparently d) Ben Stein and Ashford & Simpson as the other guests not seen in this video. Thanks to Jesse Walker on Twitter for linking this. It has haunted my last 24 hours. Esteemed Kaufman scholar Mandy Leetch, however, thinks differently.]

42:35 “Droid synthemusic”: I will go out on a limb and say the pat ending of “Dr. Fever and Mr. Tide” is a little annoying. At the same time, I can see why it went over really well with the crowd and with rock and roll fans. Also, it would be a crime not to show you a gif of the kid nodding sagely; it really is perfectly cheesy. I note with interest that Johnny has shed his deviish red for angelic sparkling white in this final scene. This episode is like the Divine Comedy in miniature!

46:40 Disco Demolition Night: Hopefully you’ve had a chance to read our Monday Post. Here’s the ESPN piece on the event reported by Jeremy Schaap. In 1978, Steve Dahl moved from WDAI which had gone disco (and how weird is Dahl’s confession to dragging a needle across the record, exactly what Johnny did in “Pilot Part 1” to destroy the old Beautiful Music WKRP?) to WLUP where he had an early example of the “morning zoo” format and incessantly railed against the disco that had displaced him and taken his job. Economic anxiety again. And for all Dahl’s macho militaristic posturing in this period, it heartens me somewhat to see that in 1979 he had a decided physical resemblance to diminutive warbly songsmith Paul Williams.

51:10 How offensive a word "sucks" was. Like many other possibly problematic phrasings (“lame” and “dumb,” for starters), “sucks” gradually lost its obvious prejudicial meaning through use by populations with little to no knowledge of the original sexual meaning. Of course I can’t help but think of Milhouse’s mom here.

52:40 Chic and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Chic are still on the ballot this year. Hollywood Steve Huey of the Beyond Yacht Rock podcast made an excellent case for Chic on their recent 2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ballot episode.

53:40 Sasha Frere-Jones: There were a lot of butthurt white hipsters when this article came out almost a decade ago (Christ), but I will point out something that Frere-Jones underplayed, which is that when it comes specifically to Arcade Fire, keyboardist, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist R├ęgine Chassagne is of Haitian origin and there are definite “world music” influences throughout Arcade Fire’s corpus. But then Arcade Fire does absolute classist horseshit like this, and I hate them all over again.

55:28 Tony Manero, macho, and political liberation: Anyone see this fantastic Chilean movie called Tony Manero, about a middle aged man in Pinochet’s Chile finding hope in the liberatory promise of disco music?

56:15 Elijah Wald: [Rob: Here’s the book I mention: How the Beatles Destroyed Rock & Roll. As I say, that title is intentionally provocative and a bit misleading. The book is primarily a history of American popular music before the Beatles, but one that refuses to segregate disposable teenybopper music from the stuff that’s retroactively been declared “serious” or “important.”]

I really enjoyed Wald’s book on The Dozens (now titled Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Mama: The Dozens, Snaps, and the Deep Roots of Rap). Definitely check it out. And here’s a link to that story on Rolling Stones and race and the (sadly behind a paywall) Slate series on rock and race. [Rob: The guy writing that Slate series has a book out, which also looks good.]

1:03:13 Soul Train: The opening credits to this particular episode are from January 1977, a little before my time, but I definitely did watch Soul Train on rare occasions in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. In Boston I remember it being on in the early afternoon on Saturdays, and I’d usually be over at my grandparents' on those days, eating lots of pasta and chicken cutlets but mostly generally left alone with the giant console TV from the 1960s, watching Saturday morning cartoons, candlepin bowling, and yes, sometimes even Soul Train before we left East Boston. We’ve linked to this before, but please check out the Soul Train documentary VH1 showed a few years ago; it’s on YouTube. It’s an essential piece of American cultural history.

1:04:45: Gotta Dance: I have been told by my wife Jenny Anckorn (wife and podcast partner, sure) that it was criminal of the three of us not to mention the obvious Gene Kelly/Singin' in the Rain reference inherent in the title of the show Gotta Dance!

[Edit: More listener feedback, here in the form of a letter from a concerned listener who is in NO WAY my wife Jenny Anckorn.]

1:05:02 Dance Fever, Solid Gold: Now Dance Fever and Solid Gold, those were appointment television. If the early afternoons belonged to Don Cornelius, Saturday nights belonged to the dual syndicated titans of Marilyn McCoo and Deney Terrio! I’ve found two gems on YouTube from this era: this compilation of early ‘80s Solid Gold segments that gives you a really, really good sense of what the show was all about, and a 1979 episode of Dance Fever, which, wow. I said on my Facebook when I found this, “It pains me that you millennials do not remember a time when a celebrity dog could be a guest judge on an amateur disco competition TV show. Nor watch Deney Terrio do amateur stage magic to M's ‘Pop Muzik.’ It PAINS me.” Still does.

Also, minor erratum: the MTV dance show from the early ‘90s was Club MTV.

1:07:00 Transformers were too cool: Jeff and I had a brief pre-show conversation about the class identity implications of playing with Transformers, Gobots, and M.A.S.K. that was dead fascinating to me, a bit of which slipped out here near the end of the podcast. Jeff needs to be more than an occasional podcast guest. Make your own podcast, Jeff, soon. For all of us.

[Jeff: It’s harder to do than it looks! I envy and admire y’all’s ability to make stuff happen, podcast-wise.  Also, I technically do have my own podcast, vide supra Appendix N, but I don’t have anywhere near the level of ownership of it that my co-host does. I’m basically a guest there, too; I just show up and insert a few witty remarks.  Also also, there’s a bit in this podcast at about this point where I mention the X-Men seemingly apropros of nothing; that’s a reference to an earlier and excised bit of conversation wherein I identified specifically Transformers, MTV, and the X-Men as brands and media properties I didn’t think were ‘for’ loser-nerds like me.  Things worked out for young Jeff, though! Nowadays I can read all the X-Men comics I want.]

1:07:55 Deadhead cool kids/New Jack Swing cool kids: Hey, Rob’s high school isn’t the only example of basketball-playing Deadheads; there’s always the legendary Bill Walton. Also, sorry if my Degrassi jibe was a bridge too far, Rob. At least I didn’t say “Wheels, Ontario.” As far as the cool kids on my Catholic high school are concerned, this was smack dab in the New Jack Swing era, and that was the stuff they loved. Meanwhile, I was growing my mullet and evolving from G’n’R and Metallica in junior high, through R.E.M. and Neil Young my freshman and sophomore year, to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and the rest starting in ‘91.

1:09:00 “All that new stuff sucks.” Finally, an excuse for The Kids in the Hall Doors sketch!

1:11:45 “I should listen to, uh, The Whole Shebang.” [Jeff: That was a private message for Mike! Also, if my dog hadn’t suddenly appeared, I’d have added a comment that if you were willing to let me back an unprecedented third time, I’d love to discuss the third and fourth episodes of the fourth season. Not that I’m hinting. I mean, hints are subtle.]