Friday, August 25, 2017

Show Notes for HMOTD 044: Nice Teeth And Good Hair

1:50 "He's playing Solid Gold, that's crazy." An interesting way to put Johnny's roots-of-rock-and-roll playlist, but in the increasingly regimented radio formats at the dawn of the '80s, this was an established station format. "Solid Gold" or "Oldies" stations got their start in the early '70s as late Silents and early Boomers started entering early middle age and DJs like Johnny would mix in classics from the '50s and first half of the '60s. It's the American Graffiti/Happy Days nostalgia phenomenon again. In Boston, we had WROR, which has a fascinating history involving both this Solid Gold format and an early form of playlist automation in 1966 with a DJ using a "robot" voice to hype the computer-programmed Top 40!

[Rob: We tend to think of Johnny as a "Sixties" character, but Norris is right that Johnny's musical taste is not rooted in the "High Sixties" (which we could delineate as, roughly, 1966-1974) but, really, in the "Long Fifties" (let's say, 1950-1965).]

2:38 Norris Breeze: The actor who plays Norris Breeze, David Clennon, has another one of those great "That Guy" careers. We had to cut a bit on Clennon from this episode for time, but we both celebrated his role as Palmer in John Carpenter's The Thing as well as went into a long digression about the show thirtysomething and how much it baffled both of us back in the late '80s (Clennon played the evil ad exec). Also, Clennon's IMDB biography says he's a committed political activist who turned down roles on shows like 24 because of their politics. You go, Dave.

[Rob: The Thing is one of my all-time, top-ten, desert island movies, and Clennon has at least two of the movie's great moments: first, reacting to the spectacle of Norris' head growing legs and eyestalks to escape MacReady's flamethrower, and second, the jump scare in the blood-test scene. I guess it's really a petri dish of his blood that gets the latter moment, but still.]

6:18 Wine: You can tell I edited this episode because I included gratutious clips from both Red Dwarf and classic Doctor Who, but Lister's rant about wine-drinkers just begged to be used here.

7:03 That hotel room: Yeah, I admit, this was also pretty self-indulgent on my part, but goddamn, that hotel room (and the art on the walls) was pure VAPOR. Compare the angular modern grey hotel room with the cover of vaporwave albums like Initiation Tape: Isle of Avalon Edition or that abstract cloud-filled art on the wall with any PrismCorp Virtual Enterprises release.

10:20 "Andy gets everybody to act the opposite of what they are." I really should've used a clip from Seinfeld here.

12:13 Phyllis: That episode is "The First Date" from 1975. Blink in the first couple of minutes and you'll miss Loni; she looks near-unrecognizable!

14:20 Dunning-Kruger Effect: Boy, we have covered a lot of business history in this here podcast, haven't we? Conflict management, two episodes touching on labor unions, the Peter Principle, Rolodexes, and now the Dunning-Kruger Effect and sexual harassment in the same episode.

17:06 Stoned Bailey: What else can we say? Next to Sex Hair Bailey, Stoned Bailey might be my favorite development of Season 4. You get the feeling that Hugh Wilson et al. were gaining more confidence in Jan Smithers's ability to carry a scene comedically by this point in the series, maybe? The "When?" line-read is a killer.

19:00 The old Nestle's jingle: In my googling for the old '50s Nestle's Quik commercials (more on those in the next entry), I re-discovered a commercial from the '80s that repurposed the Nestle's jingle and combined it with some sweet aspirational '80s soft-focus Maxfield Parrish-iana. Naturally, I had to slow that shit down by 20% and slap an even softer-focus filter on it.

19:55 Farfel, Jimmy Nelson, and Danny O'Day: Okay, hang on to your hats, Gen-Xers and younger, because I'm about to enter the wild and woolly world of 1950s ventriloquism. As far as creepy puppets and puppeteers we've got: Senor Wences, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and finally Jimmy Nelson, Danny O'Day (his humanoid ventriloquial figure) and yes, Farfel the Dog. The story of how Farfel got his characteristic mouth-snap at the end of "chooooooc'laaaate" is kind of cute, but yeah, I'm with Rob. All these '50s ventriloquial figures are creepy as hell. But here's a couple of the old Nestle's commercials for you: the boxing one I sampled in this episode and one where Jimmy, Danny, and Farfel join the Space Race.

Zippy the Pinhead's creator Bill Griffith pretty much swam in this kind of Boomer-era kitsch, but the dog that Rob remembers is actually based on the giant dog head outside the Doggie Diner restaurant chain in the Bay Area. Griffith did explicitly mention Farfel at least once, though.

A few other links to help put ventriloquism to bed: this classic Mr. Show sketch (yeah, yeah, I know), and two bits from Mystery Science Theater 3000, a show that owes a lot of its DNA to Boomer-era ventriloquism: Tom Servo and Crow take a ventriloquism quiz at the beginning of 318 Fugitive Alien 2, and Tom Servo gets a new disturbing head at the beginning of 610 The Violent Years.

21:38 "I'm not saying that she and Johnny never burned one." Eh, not much to say about this comment, other than I do very much want to read Rob's Johnny-and-Bailey-get-high-and-order-pizza fanfic.

22:30 "I think you should know that Venus Flytrap is armed." Yeah, this kind of left a bad taste in my mouth when I got to it in the episode, because again, I literally did not see the racial angle until Norris Breeze spelled it out.

25:28 Office Space, the Bobs: When capitalism collapses and we all embrace our inevitable future of Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism, artifacts like Office Space will be carefully preserved as the prescient political warnings they should have been viewed as in the first place.

31:00 "Just how big is the TARDIS?" Finally, a real excuse to get a classic Doctor Who clip into the podcast. From the first episode of "The Masque of Mandragora" serial, a classic example of Robert Holmes/Tom Baker-era Doctor Who. The Doctor goes to late medieval Italy to stop an evil living energy helix bent on creating a cult to rule the Earth... yeah, you could say this is Extremely My Shit.

But yes, the secondary TARDIS control room! It's a beauty and it lasted through probably the best period of Doctor Who for my money: Season 14, from start to finish is probably the best Doctor Who ever was or would be.

33:25 Neo-Victorian fashion: I tried forever to find a good article online that explained the early-'80s tendency towards flounces, puffy shirts, and the like, but couldn't. Some fashionistas note the New Romantic movement that was breaking big into the mainstream in '81, '82, led by the club kids at Blitz and the post-punk era of Vivienne Westwood, but that's a bit too swashbuckle-y. Here's a piece on the rise of the prairie dress in the late '70s and early '80s, but again, that's a bit too homespun. I guess I have the whole "fern bars investing in Tiffany-style lamps" thing... I may need to write this early-'80s neo-Victoriana up for We Are The Mutants.

35:05 Dingy 1970s sitcoms: You can hear us talk the grungy sets of '70s sitcoms in the first 10 minutes of HMOTD 032, but you should really listen to the whole episode, it's definitely one of my favorites.

37:06 The Love Boat theme: Undeniably catchy, the subject of send-ups pretty much ever since The Love Boat debuted, and all anchored (ha, a pun) by the silky-smooth vocal chops of Jack Jones. It might be a perfect TV theme song.

40:52 Cincinnati Opera: I really shouldn't have harshed on the Cincinnati cultural scene; not only do I discover that Cincinnati has one of the oldest civic operas in the U.S., but the nearby Kentucky Symphony Orchestra is ending its summer season this Labor Day weekend with... yes, a concert featuring music from WKRP! I wish I could go.

42:18 "I mean, all you've got is Hirsch." I hope we faked out at least a few of you into thinking we weren't going to talk about Hirsch this episode. But yeah, this repartee is nothing new; I googled "butler and dowager" and found some similar schtick from the 1800s... there's also this dark take on the trope, Dinner For One, where a butler gets progressively more drunk as he impersonates all of the dowager's now-dead friends. This play has become an inexplicable New Year's tradition on German television, of all places, proving once again that you can never account for the Teutonic sense of humor.

44:53 Ian Wolfe: We discussed Ian Wolfe's tenure as Wizard Traquil on Rob's favorite limited-run, early-'80s, D&D-inspired, mid-season replacement Wizards and Warriors in HMOTD 036, and originally discussed it way back in our Season 2 premiere, so now Rob's managed to squeeze Wizards and Warriors in during each of the last three seasons of the podcast. Well done, Rob. :)

In all seriousness, Ian Wolfe worked right up until his 93rd year, playing the old forger in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy! And take a look at this career!

48:18 "The Story of Everest": My Mr. Show stanning has gotten kind of out of hand lately, but this might be one of the show's finest achievements in terms of pure hostility towards the audience. The people in the live studio audience had to sit there as they re-set the thimble wall each of the more than half-dozen times Jay Johnston took a tumble into it.

49:15 Sexual harassment: This capsule history on Wikipedia was quite illuminating. I note with interest, speaking of conflict resolution, that the author of the 1973 MIT report on sexual harassment, Mary Rowe, has been professor of Negotation and Conflict Management at MIT's Sloan School since 1985.

53:03 "Until you can name it... you can't get at it." Sometimes I think this is at the root of all so-called "political incorrectness." If our linguistic tools to combat injustice are taken away or mocked or belittled as an "overreaction," all of a sudden, as Rob so expertly puts it, we don't have the "technology" to fix the problem. It's theft, basically, a re-colonizing force meant to steal something of value from the oppressed. A fantastic observation from Rob here.

53:18 Microaggressions: The term "microaggressions" has actually been around since earlier than "sexual harassment"! It was introduced by Harvard's Chester Pierce, an African-American professor at Harvard Medical School (seriously, check that link; what a fascinating life and career) who tracked the physical and medical implications of suppressed anger. And Mary Rowe again helped bring this term into the parlance of business literature and conflict resolution.

55:33 Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings: The hearings were incredibly omnipresent in the fall of 1991. CNN had really come into its own as a 24-hour news channel given the recent Gulf War. I had just turned 16 years old and at the time, I felt profoundly angry and uncomfortable with the ramifications of Hill's testimony. You can imagine what the reaction of the student body of an all-boys Catholic high school was to these revelations. Between these hearings and the aforementioned Gulf War, 1991 was the beginning of a political awakening for me in a lot of ways. Pop culture at the time had its fun with the ordeal as well (at the expense of those white male Senators, thank goodness, though that is a tough needle to thread, even in '91).

[Rob: I had the honor and pleasure of meeting Anita Hill a few years ago when we brought her to Western to talk about her book, Reimagining Equality. Not much to say about that other than how smart, generous, and passionate about equality and the law she was--and that pretty much every woman in the audience over the age of 45 came up afterward to tell her what an impact the Thomas hearings had had on them and their lives.]

1:08:04 Colleen Camp/They All Laughed: Okay, hold onto your hats, because I delved deep into IMDB to try to find out the reason for this odd scene and cameo from Colleen Camp. In the IMDB entry for "Love, Exciting and New," the "Trivia" section states: "The incongruous cameo by Colleen Camp as herself may be explained by the fact that Camp and Richard Sanders both appeared in the movie Valley Girl (1983) around the same time." But around the same time isn't exactly the same time, and Valley Girl, given its subject matter, wouldn't have begun filming until at earliest the summer of '82, well after WKRP had finished taping. I don't think this theory holds water, ultimately, but I present it in the spirit of completeness. (Also, I can't find any proof one way or the other if there's any familial relation between Colleen Camp and two-time WKRP guest Hamilton Camp, as suggested on Facebook by Leah Biel, but it's doubtful considering Hamilton was born in the UK and Colleen comes from California.)

1:11:40 Dorothy Stratten: Wanted to pass along a couple of links to help expand on the Dorothy Stratten story: first, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Village Voice piece (RIP to the print edition of the Village Voice, by the way) that told Stratten's story first, and the recent You Must Remember This episode on Stratten. I highly recommend checking both out.

1:13:00 EPK: The electronic press kit as an artifact is an invention of the Entertainment Tonight era (which we're just entering here in 1981) but the term itself wasn't coined until the CD-ROM/early web era of the mid-'90s.

1:15:08 Fleetwood Mac: Was I too harsh on competent drummer, wacky face puller, and noted Star Trek: The Next Generation guest star Mick Fleetwood? I mean, The Visitor shows he was dipping his toe into so-called "world music" probably earlier than everyone except maybe Talking Heads. One thing I will not apologize for is my devotion to Mirage; read this Pitchfork review of the recent reissue to see why I love it so much.

1 comment:

  1. Miles Drentell was one of my favorite thirtysomething characters. I always loved the way his character spoke in all these zen koans but ultimately just seemed to be jerking everyone around.
    When the thirtysomething producers brought his character (also played by Clennon) back in one of their follow-up series Once and Again, it was an interesting meta TV moment to me. Is there a Zwick/Herskovitz-iverse?