Friday, July 28, 2017

Show Notes for HMOTD 042: From Porn To Corn

2:45 "Ah, Greeta." "Dieter." Whoever got to record the German-language clips for this putative West German 3D porn movie must have had a blast. I'm no German language expert, but it doesn't sound super authentic, right down to pronouncing "Greta" in a way that it rhymes with "Dieter."

3:55 "The old-school red-blue 3D glasses." I remember them well! And their history goes back a long way, all the way to the 1850s! Or, if you believe Alan Moore, to Margaret Cavendish's Blazing World.

5:20 Herb and Les's friendship: We've talked about Herb and Les's weird friendship before; it was definitely more prominent in Season 1 when they were the Suit Axis aligned against the Dungarees in episodes like "Turkeys Away" and of course "The Contest Nobody Could Win."

7:25 Fragile masculinity: For the definitive take on Herb and his fears about his masculinity, check out HMOTD 021: Huggable Herb, which has, over time, become one of my favorite episodes of the podcast.

8:25 "Isn't that how Houdini died?" Snopes takes on the story and deems it a "legend" but in any event history does tell us Houdini died of acute peritonitis brought on by appendicitis which worsened by... not heeding the warning of his wife to get the hospital sooner, which fits this episode so perfectly anyway!

10:15 "You're just... whipped!" I don't think Google ngramming "pussywhipped" would produce much useful data, given the term's likeliness not to be in printed media, but here's the episode capsule of the SNL episode with the "P-Whipped" sketch from December 1990. Check out this murderer's row of classic sketches: Tom Hanks joins the Five-Timers Club, Carl Sagan's Global Warming Christmas Special, Sabra Shopping Network, and musical guest Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians! Those are some intense high school feels for yours truly there.

14:35 "Whooee, that's good bacon!" I giggle every time I hear that misplaced cart with the Porkers' Paradise ad.

15:30 The porn theater: We went into a lot of the topics in this portion of the episode in our Monday Post, so check that out. Keep in mind that many of the links in the section of Show Notes below may be considered NSFW depending on your particular place of W.

16:30 "Porno chic": Here's the 1973 New York Times article that introduced the concept of couples going to the porn theater together. In an era rocked by extreme cinematic experiences like The Exorcist and the opening up of the movies to outlaw cinema (remember, Midnight Cowboy had won Oscars with a brand-spanking-new X-rating from the new MPAA just a few years before), the idea of hip couples going communally to porn theaters for a good time didn't seem so outrageous! Good to see that the Times has been doing trendy urbanite thinkpieces for going on four-and-a-half decades now, by the way. Also, please don't judge my deep knowledge of the titles of early '70s artsy porn; we all contain multitudes, and I'm just as God made me.

18:10 Auto Focus: Greg Kinnear is, I feel, definitely the weak link in a strong cast, and it does suffer from the prototypical Scorsese/Schrader rise-and-tragic-fall plot structure.

18:50 "You talked about the Pee-wee Herman arrest on Netflakes!" Rob appeared with our friends Dylan Clark-Moore and Caroline Diezyn on the Netflakes Podcast to talk about the Netflix original film Pee-wee's Big Holiday and I highly recommend checking it out as soon as you've finished listening to this HMOTD episode. It's fantastic not just for Rob explaining the impact of Pee-wee's '80s output but also covering Pee-wee's (and Paul Reubens's) deeply and classically queer aesthetic.

Here's a Rolling Stone article from 1991 on the theater arrest and its aftermath. Reubens also got into trouble with the law in 2001 over his collection of vintage queer erotic art, which was seized by the LA city attorney because it was deemed to include obscene images of children. This article in the Village Voice takes a look at the "physique" and "photography" magazines of the '50s and '60s, their appeal to a gay man of Reubens's age, and why Reubens got into trouble over his collection.

22:18 "This is the point in Boogie Nights where everything's going to videotape..." Boogie Nights more or less perfectly tracks to the WKRP era, by the way: 1977-1984, and covers many of the same issues we've discussed: "mom-and-pop" operations facing off against big money, the enervating hangover of the '70s turning into a faster-paced '80s, and so on.

23:21 "I've seen better." What, I wasn't going to include the bit near the end of Bachelor Party where Tom Hanks has a climactic fistfight with Tawny Kitaen's rich evil boyfriend in a 3D theater?

24:00 The early-'80s 3D fad: 1983 was PEAK '80s 3D. Aside from that reference in Bachelor Party (1984), in 1983 there were Jaws 3-D, Amityville 3-D, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and the immortal Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn.

25:00 The guy in Mallrats who couldn't see the sailboat: I, too, am stereographically impaired, so I always identified with Ethan Suplee in Mallrats.

25:30 William Castle: The King of B-Movie Gimmicks! By 1975, those gimmicks were definitely looking a little long in the tooth, though... a million-dollar life insurance policy for a cockroach?

25:45 IMAX: IMAX debuted at the 1970 Osaka World's Fair, and the first permanent IMAX theater was indeed in Toronto at Ontario Place the following year.

27:37 The Combat Zone in Boston: A fairly detailed Wikipedia entry about the part of town that, as a child, it was clear I was Never, Ever to Go To, and a piece from a web exhibit on gay life in Boston that talks about the drag queen par excellence of Boston in the postwar period, Sylvia Sidney (!!!). (In case anyone's forgotten, Sylvia Sidney was the old-time Hollywood star who played Mama Carlson in the pilot episode of WKRP.) The story of how Boston's Sylvia got her drag name is amazing.

28:10 "Even Cincinnati had its own vice district": [Rob: Here's a short piece in Cincinnati Magazine about Cincinnati's dedicated vice district, which had its heyday between the 1880s and the First World War. And here's a story about the Cincinnati police's attempt to ban prostitutes on bicycles--complete with high-speed velocipede chase.]

30:00 "It's so much a Kate Beaton cartoon!" Specifically, this wonderful one.

33:10 Times Square: Here are some comparison shots between Times Square in the early '80s and in 2016.

36:22 Times Square Red, Times Square Blue: Here is Samuel R. Delany's memoir of gay Times Square in the '80s.

37:30 Mom and Pop Porn Theaters: Another classic Mr. Show sketch. I tried to pick the least lewd bits of the sketch, but they also fit well in our discussions of urban renewal in the person of Tom Kenny's "Mr. Tink" and the fall of old-timey porn in "one of those X-rated CD-ROMs."

39:05 We Got It Made: Correction, Bonnie Urseth was not the maid but one of the bachelors' girlfriends, Beth.

44:03 Earl "Madman" Muntz: Look upon his works, ye mighty, and despair. And here's a clip from the Madman Muntz documentary.

51:50 "Come on, Gil!" Gil Gunderson is one of the few late-season Simpsons introductions that I unabashedly love. [Rob: Does Season 9 still count as "late-season" Simpsons?] I've sure by this point he's married Selma, been revealed as alien, and was in Homer's '00s EDM band when he was a teenager or something.

53:05 "Here's our Big Guy!" God, I still lose my shit at "Yes! I'll sit here because it's my chair." Richard Sanders is the underrated MVP of "Who's On First?"

57:25 Mickey Morton: Here's his IMDB. And I feel appropriately chastened by the dozens of you who were like, "Mike hasn't heard about Legends of the Superheroes?" It was a chance for Adam West and Burt Ward to reprise their roles in 1979 as Batman and Robin along with a bunch of actors from the Batman '66 series and DC heroes who'd never appeared on screen before in a combination comedy live action special and, wait for it... celebrity roast (!!!) hosted by Ed McMahon (!!!!!). It's the kind of cultural blind spot I get for being born in 1975, because you know this thing never got re-broadcast.

1:00:25 "I'm Andy Travis, this is my brother Randy, and this is ol' Venus of course." Very Larry, Darryl, Darryl of Howard Hesseman here.

[Rob: Eagle-eared Friend Of The Podcast Leah Biel points out that Andy's brother would be named Randy Travis, as in country music legend Randy Travis. This doesn't seem to be an intentional joke: the singer Randy Travis was born Randy Traywick and adopted the stage name Randy Travis... right around 1981! Is it possible he was inspired by Andy Travis? Seems a funny coincidence, like a musical act named Rob Newhart or Ralex P. Keaton...]

1:05:30 "A Mile In My Shoes": Remember, the defendant in the case that Herb is on jury duty for was thought to be Italian, which made everyone think he must be guilty.

1:06:55 The Sopranos: I actually confused two episodes of The Sopranos that are both universally deemed the worst in the show's run: "Christopher" from the fourth season about the crew's interactions with the Columbus Day controversy and Indian casinos, and "Johnny Cakes" from Season 6, where Patsy and Burt try to shake down a Starbucks-like chain coffee shop.

1:08:22 Twitter account of Italians angry over food: It's actually "italians mad at food" at @ItalianComments on Twitter, and speaking as an Italian-American who eats Sunday gravy and other bastardized American versions of Italian cuisine, I find it endlessly hilarious.

[Rob: Is it OK if I find it hilarious too, or is it an in-group only thing? I also love Scottish Twitter for what it's worth.]

1:15:15 Jersey Shore: Speaking of minstrelsy... but I'm sad to say, I actually love Jersey Shore. It's the only dumb "reality" show I ever got into because yeah, I grew up around guys like Pauly and Vinny and The Situation. It feels like coming home.

1:18:40 E.F. Hutton: Here's the classic form of the E.F. Hutton commercial, and here's the story of their rise and fall.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

HMOTD 042: From Porn To Corn

Rob and Mike delicately tiptoe through the porn theaters of yesteryear in "Straight From The Heart," and rejoice at our possibly final "zany" WKRP episode, "Who's On First?"
(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, July 24, 2017

"All purveyors of obscenity will be exposed for what they really are."

This week's HMOTD episode covers the Herb Tarlek brush-with-mortality tale "Straight From The Heart," and WKRP's second bite at the zany mistaken identity sitcom plot apple, "Who's On First?" Both episodes are solid, with "Who's On First?" providing a lot of laughs. But we spend a lot of time talking about the setting of "Straight From The Heart"'s final act, Herb's final sanctuary as he hides from the reality of impending heart tests at the hospital: a 3D porn theater.

Rob and I are well-equipped to talk about all the myriad ways in which neoliberal, corporate consolidation in the early '80s hit the mom and pop businesses of America, be they funeral homes, wrestling circuits, or indeed radio stations. But we maybe don't provide the same righteous oomph defending America's down-home purveyors of smut.

We have talked local Cincinnati porn magnate Larry Flynt and his taking on the titans of the print porn industry in HMOTD 024, but in this episode we go deep into porn theaters: their brief flirtation with respectability during the Deep Throat early '70s, their slow decline back into sleaze as depicted in media like Taxi Driver, and their eventual purge from the centers of major cities in the sanitized 1990s. In the midst of our standard HMOTD tale about corporate consolidation wiping out small businesses, we discuss their value (and other businesses like dirty bookstores) to marginalized communities like urban gay men. We also touch on perhaps our generation's first encounter with the concept of the porn theater, the arrest of Paul Reubens a.k.a. Pee-wee Herman.

Given that most of these theaters were operated or extorted by organized crime, our brief discussion of depictions of Italian-Americans in media during "Who's On First" can be considered a nice unintentional coda to our porn theater discussion. But mostly it's just funny to hear us stumble, hem and haw as we try to understand the appeal of the sticky-floored XXX theaters of yore. Be sure to join us in a couple of days for a look at WKRP's entrance into the world of vice when HMOTD 042 drops!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Show Notes for HMOTD 041: Spraying For Lizards

0:29 "There is, indeed, power in a union." Kick off our union-focused episode with a couple of modern alternate takes using the title of Joe Hill's classic labor anthem: Billy Bragg and the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle.

1:39 "Don't worry! I can be 'cool,' as you say." I've been noticing in Season 4 that Gordon Jump is just continuing to (still!) surprise and delight me with his line reads and facial expressions. This little sequence is a particular favorite; that little "as you say" just feels so Simpsons-y, like something Principal Skinner or indeed Mr. Burns might say.

5:18 "Mr. Carlson says that he's planning on giving everybody a raise." Excellent observation here by Rob.

11:00 "Unions are as American as apple pie." I regret we didn't talk about agrarian populism on the podcast with respect to Les and his distrust of unions. I wonder how Les would feel about Bailey quoting, say, someone like William Jennings Bryan. The failure of the Populists provides a lot of lessons for today; their shift to expressly racist and nativist rhetoric in the aftermath of the failure of the Democratic/Populist fusion movement of the late 1890s was perhaps inevitable. One has to believe a fusion of rural white (and black) Populists and urban immigrant Socialists would have been a tough ticket to beat in 1896 or 1900. But maybe Rob's a better person to talk about this, given his Gilded Age bona fides.

[Rob: No, I think you've got it. How much we should / should not romanticize the original Populists has been one of the ur-questions for United States historians, with no consensus and every historiographical generation flipping one way or the other.]

13:28 "Look for the union label!" This is the commercial Rob used for the podcast. It's from 1981, the year of this WKRP episode, and as Rob says, the campaign began in 1975, the year I was born. I pretty much wept when I heard it used in the podcast, and I wept again when I finally saw the commercial itself. Of course I love TV commercials from this period, and I love when labor unapologetically uses emotion and patriotism to appeal to the vast middle's better nature, so this is pretty much Mike-bait. I'm a total mark for this stuff.

And this is a great little media culture tidbit (thanks to @Oda_CM on Twitter for this fun fact):

(They've of course done a YouTube commercial compilation for the ads that appeared during the Star Wars Holiday Special. Of course. The ILGWU commercial appears at 2:45.)

[Rob: That is outstanding! I considered using that version of the song but went with the peppier 1981 remix. I had no idea it was from the Holiday Special.]

14:20 The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: America's great urban industrial tragedy. The Wikipedia page is very good; lots of primary sources way down at the bottom of the page. Reading the Italian and Jewish names of the victims (and realizing that many of the women in my own Italian family were factory workers 70 or 80 years ago) makes me realize again that there was a time that non-WASP ethnic immigrants were at the center of left-wing agitation in this country. And I sigh once more.

17:35 "The NPCs of WKRP": I did love how Johnny lampshades this. Here's a few images of the "...and the rest" at the station.

22:10 The International Sisterhood of Blonde Receptionists: Someone really needs to mock up that INWO card. The UFOs were always my conspiracy of choice. Schwa forever!

23:22 Reagan and the air traffic controllers: Some detail on that. Also going on in 1981 were a Major League Baseball strike (many thanks to listener Hank Wellman on Facebook for reminding us; we will be making mention of the strike later this season on the podcast) and in '82 an NFL strike, both of which would scuttle large parts of their respective seasons.

28:28 "Yeah, but Satan is awesome!" Our extended Eden/serpent metaphor for labor organizing: I was also especially proud of spinning this out into larger themes of Western capitalist patriarchy. It is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

29:29 Mike's struggle session. As I may have suggested, I don't really beat myself up too much about my past as a stooge. If anything, it gives me an insider's view as to how capitalism actively works to alienate us from solidarity and our own power as workers. But I am an effete cultural critic, and when the tankies take over I absolutely expect to be either publicly shamed and crowned with a dunce cap, or indeed, sent off on a boat somewhere.

Rob's later comments about wanting a wide tent for unions is something I absolutely agree with. White collar unions, especially in IT, would solve a lot of our social problems right now.

[Rob: The Ken we mention briefly here is of course the brilliant and awesome game designer, writer, podcaster, alternate historian Kenneth Hite, of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, Pelgrane Press, and many other cool things.]

34:38 "God's up in his country club with his polo shirt on." I thought this was a pretty clever d├ętournement of "God's in his heaven..." but did you notice my Mr. Show reference there? "All TV must be NICE! For the NICE people!"

36:07 "It's just like his fantasy sequence in the 'Daydreams' episode!" I have a theory that the daydreams in "Daydreams" were all somehow prophetic of what would happen to the characters in Season 4, like the "Restless" episode of Buffy. I'll try to bring this crackpot theory back over the course of this season.

38:15 "The workplace sitcom is ideological body armor for capitalism." YES. This is extremely my shit.

40:15 "Johnny's into Pat Benatar." He wasn't the only one. The boys at Ridgemont High were, and so, oddly, was my dad. I can remember my mom teasing him back in the '80s for his little crush. Sure, she was a pre-Madonna sex symbol in late '70s/early '80s America, but goddamn her discography is full of solid jams and really interesting cover choices! The Beatles' "Helter Skelter"?? "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush???

41:45 Tattoo You: What a mishmash; I had no idea it was basically an odds and ends compilation.

[Rob: I misspoke when I said "Start Me Up" was just the same two chords as "Brown Sugar." "Start Me Up" is just the same two chords as the opening lick to "Brown Sugar." "Brown Sugar" has a verse-chorus structure, a bridge, horns and piano, Muscle Shoals production, a sweet alternate version with Eric Clapton on slide guitar, and a dank stew of messed-up lyrics that a dozen earnest podcasts couldn't de-problematize. "Start Me Up" is basically just that riff, over and over and over again. Which is why the clip following our discussion is "Brown Sugar," not "Start Me Up." Don't @ me, fellow Dad-rockers. :)]

49:24 Bailey in Johnny's t-shirt: Here's your fanservice, folks. Also, does it seem like Frank Bonner flubs his line here, perhaps confronted with the raw sex appeal of Jan Smithers in mom jeans?

51:30 "It's Early Cute, but I like it." Yeah, I fell in love with all the little set decoration choices they made in this scene (see below). And here's some info on the Sea Shepherd.

54:00 Black Death Malt Liquor T-Shirt: [Rob: You too can have your very own! But I must warn you, after ordering mine, I don't just get WKRP- and malt liquor-themed spam from Etsy (including Colt '45 mirrors, just as Mike surmised), I also get Black Death-themed spam, as in, the actual Black Death, the 14th-century pandemic: Plague Doctor crow masks and the like. Hipsters, amiright?]

58:37 "You remember, uh, a couple of years ago?" Clever clip use by Rob here to introduce this discussion. Continuity is so important! You can go back to our Monday Post to see what we had to say about this, but it's very interesting to see them mining past continuity in this episode as well, between Johnny and Bailey and this little interchange between Johnny and Herb at the episode's outset.

1:05:47 Sam Anderson: Sam Anderson is so great in all his WKRP appearances. I still have a soft spot for Immigration Agent Anderson, but Rex is pretty great. I kind of wish he would've been a returning occasional guest throughout the last bit of Season 4. I think he would've fit perfectly in the cast; an unctuous DJ is the missing character on the staff. Rowr. *pours Perrier*

You can also go back to our Monday Post to see our four-quadrant Sam Anderson political compass.

[Rob: Full kudos to Mike both for the idea (demented) and the execution (perfect) of the Sam Anderson political compass. I also like all the left-wing slang he rattles off here: "tankies," "Ancoms" ... not bad for a former crypto-fascist puppet of the managerial elite.]

1:10:00 "Please check out my episode of Netflakes on Room 237!" Seriously! Please check it out! :)

1:10:42 Lazarus Lizards: I appreciate that this explanation appeared in the advice column of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Any Cincinnati natives have any experience with the local Lazarus Lizard?

Kudzu was officially declared an invasive weed in the 1970s but was introduced with the best of intentions back at America's centennial in 1876, part of an exchange with Meiji Japan. I remember being obsessed with the 3-2-1 Contact episode that discussed kudzu as a kid. The last word in killer, or Africanized, bees is definitely the breathless In Search Of... episode about them from 1977.

1:15:15 Alternative 3 and the Ian Thomas Band's "Pilot": Definitely a special thrill when I discovered all this stuff about Ian Thomas's love of Alternative 3 the night we recorded this episode. Alternative 3 was a mockumentary intended to be broadcast (or "transmitted" as the Brits would say) on April 1 as an episode of a fictional East Anglia TV series called Science Report. In it, it was theorized that a recent British "brain drain" of engineers and scientists was due to this secret program to evacuate the Earth due to impending climate collapse. (This idea of an alternate society being constructed by abducted earthlings on another planet is of course an old idea, being at the center of Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan from 1959, and one that's gained purchase in the rise of the anthropocene and the theorizing over a "plutocratic exit strategy.")

It's no surprise that Ian "Tranquility Base" Thomas would dig this idea, and he's talked about it on his discussion forums and in this video! Amazing. Here's the link to the Ian Thomas Band's doubleshot on SCTV, with short cameos from the McKenzie Brothers and I think Johnny LaRue? Love that jazz flute, man.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

HMOTD 041: Spraying For Lizards

Mike confesses to being a management stooge while Rob borrows Johnny's Black Death t-shirt, as Mike & Rob discuss the WKRP In Cincinnati episodes "The Union" and "Rumors."
(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, July 10, 2017

"Continuity is so important."

So in our season premiere podcast episode, Rob and I discussed the fact that Season 4 of WKRP in Cincinnati has quite a bit of continuity and even an overall plot arc! In this week's podcast, we go a little deeper into that topic, with a look at the third and fourth episodes of Season 4, "The Union" and "Rumors."

In "The Union" we get a look at what WKRP's success has meant for its employees. Non-management are all asked to weigh in on joining a labor union and their responses to the proposal (as well as the Big Guy's and Andy's as management) provide a glimpse at what the station's new success means to the characters. And in "Rumors," we get a final chapter to the ongoing "will they/won't they" saga of Johnny and Bailey.

In last Friday's Show Notes, we linked to friend of the podcast Tommy Krasker's incisive essay on what makes Season 4 of WKRP so special (please note: lots of spoilers for future Season 4 episodes if you've never watched the show before). Tommy talks about the maturity of the writing, the deepening of the characters' personalities, and a little bit about this de facto story arc. He also discusses the trend in Season 3 that we identified where the plotlines often are, well, a real bummer.

Season-long and even series-long story arcs are de rigueur in the New Golden Age of Television. For many series, this kind of continuity is now their bread and butter. But back in 1978-1982, this wasn't nearly as common, especially on sitcoms. It is a little strange to realize that maybe one of the reasons why WKRP has stuck with Rob and me over all these decades is because the show was often working in an idiom (the weekly sitcom) that seemed to strain at the expansiveness of the creators' and actors' ambitions. We've talked about it before in terms of the worldbuilding and background that Wilson et al. spent so much time constructing. It's doubly strange to think that this unwavering dedication to character and immersion is a meta-reflection of the overall plot arc of Season 4: that all of a sudden, WKRP the station is running like a finely-tuned machine, despite the incompetence and various zany schemes of both staff and management.

And of course all of this is made all the more sad by the fact that WKRP the show was canceled right as it was hitting this confident stride. Our old friend Michael Kassel in his America's Favorite Radio Station gets his chapter title about the fourth season from a Hugh Wilson quote: "I'm exhausted," as Wilson discusses CBS's continuous scuttling of WKRP's attempt to find a regular home, a dedicated audience, and most importantly, ratings.

Again embracing the meta- that we've embraced all throughout the podcast, it's a bummer that we'll also be ending our podcast just as we feel like we're hitting a stride and becoming a hit. All of you who asked us, "Is the podcast really going to end?" on Facebook in the past few weeks, well, the answer is yes. We will be ending the podcast with HMOTD 052 in December. But like WKRP, we're going to try our best to go out on a high note.

Oh, one more thing: in honor of our Season 1 Law vs. Chaos/Dungaree vs. Suit alignment chart, a new alignment chart that's more in keeping with what the kids today are into. More when the new episode drops Wednesday!