Tuesday, July 22, 2014

With “It” Being Poofy Dude Hair

I never thought I’d have a halfway good reason for mentioning Bob Dylan in the same sentence as Jean-Ralphio from Parks and Recreation, but then again I’m wrong often enough that you’d think I’d know better by know.

Jean Ralphio from Parks and Recreation looks just like young Bob Dylan

On the left is Dylan as he appears on the cover of the album Highway 61 Revisited. On the right is Ben Schwartz as Jean-Ralphio, wearing a denim vest. I know the rest of the internet is all about how Jean-Ralphio looks like a young Leon Trotsky, and I’m not denying that. I’m just trying to link Jean-Ralphio to as many significant cultural figures as possible.

Who Wore It Better? — previously:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

They, Conversely, Hate Lucy

From IMDb trivia for the 1951 film The Magic Carpet:
Lucille Ball had often complained to Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn about the quality of the pictures she had been doing while under contract to the studio. At the time this picture was made, Ball was only obligated to Columbia for one more film, and Cohn had producer Sam Katzman, who turned out most of Columbia's low-budget “B” pictures, concoct this cheap Arabian Nights fantasy as a punishment to Ball for her constantly challenging him to give her better roles.
Yep, it was a spite film. Like a spite house, but instead a film. And in this scene from The Magic Carpet, Lucille Ball’s inexplicably red-haired, green-eyed Arabian princess character seems barely able to hide her boredom.



Bonus trivia: Lucille Ball was pregnant while she played the role specifically written to make her miserable.

Though I can’t imagine why you would, you can watch the entire film on YouTube for $2.99.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lesley Gore on Batman — or, It’s My Bat-Party and I’ll Be a Lesbian If I Want To

In the same way that The Simpsons made me vaguely aware of Eudora Welty years before I’d read her books, I first learned about Lesley Gore through The Simpsons. In that one episode where Marge goes on the lam Thelma & Louise-style, her friend Ruth accidentally plays Gore’s “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” when she means to put in the cassette of “Welcome to the Jungle.” The song stuck with me — as a kid, because I thought it was funny, and as I got older, I realized it’s relentlessly cheerful to the point that it’s probably compensating for some crippling emotional pain.


The despair. It overwhelms.

Anyway, when the golden age of music downloading struck during my freshman year of college, I downloaded this Lesley Gore song to satisfy some weird Simpsons completionist urge. It was only then that I realized that Gore was also the singer of that midcentury drama queen anthem, “It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want to).” But for my money, Gore’s best song is “California Nights,” a wistful little number doing various chaste things at the beach. Here, watch the video for it.


You may be wondering why Lesley Gore was dressed in a pink kitty cat costume. I know I was. It turns out this is actually a clip from the old Adam West Batman series, which Gore guested on for two episodes in order to debut “California Nights.” She played Pussycat, a Catwoman sidekick who turned to a life of crime when she felt her dreams of being a rock-and-roll singer would not come to pass. This was all news to me, and I thought I’d seen every episode of the old Batman series.


It doesn’t take long for Catwoman to explain her plan: Pussycat is to use her feline wiles to seduce Robin. I know, I know. Naming a seductress Pussycat is a little on the nose — on the genitals? — even for Batman, but the truly interesting bit here is how Batman mythos converge with Lesley Gore’s own life. You see, Gore revealed in 2005 that she had been in a relationship with a woman for decades. (And if she didn’t sing some variation of “It’s My Party and I’ll Come Out If I Want to,” then she really missed a great opportunity.) To me, Lesley Gore’s sexuality seems notable for two reasons.

For one, it allows for a much darker reading of “Sunshine, Rainbows and Lollipops” — “Downpours, Colorblindess and Medicated Cough Drops,” if you will. The lyrics explain that existence has become sunshine, lollipops and rainbows because the speaker is in love. Love, however, doesn’t necessarily result in happiness when you’re a closeted teen pop idol in 1963. I’d imagine that at some point Gore noticed the irony of standing onstage and literally singing the praises of love. (At some point, she probably also noticed the irony of Pussycat.)

Secondly, her brief stint as Pussycat, who only ever appeared on the TV show, foreshadows a sidekick Catwoman would eventually get in the comics twenty-four years later: Holly Robinson. She never wore anything as sidekick-y as Pussycat’s get-up, but Holly was Selina Kyle’s right-hand woman for years, and she actually became Catwoman herself when Selina retired in 2006. Holly eventually came out as a lesbian as well. That’s not to say that Holly’s sexuality has anything to do with Lesley Gore’s, but it just makes for a nice little parallel for these two sidekicks to Catwoman. DC Comics introduced Batwoman back in 1956 to help quell real-life rumors that Batman and Robin gay, so that’s why it was all the more symbolic that DC reintroduced Batwoman in 2006 as a lesbian character. In an inadvertent way, Holly as an openly lesbian Catwoman makes good on something that’s just under the surface at in a different Bat-time and a different Bat-place with a closeted woman playing Pussycat.

Circle achieved in full. Way to be, superhero lesbians.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Lawnmower Man

[Drew dials his phone.]

Guy who answers phone: Hello?

Drew: Hi. I just moved, and the person who lived here before gave me your number and said I should ask you to come mow my lawn.

Guy: Wait, what?

Drew: Okay, so I just moved into a new house. And the previous tenant left me your phone number and told me that I should call you if I want to get the front lawn mowed.

Guy: Oh, okay. Yeah, I guess I could do that.

Drew: Great. When can you come over?

Guy: I dunno. Today is pretty open. Do you want me to mow your lawn today?

Drew: Yes, please. That would be perfect.

Guy: Do you, like, have a lawnmower there?

Drew: No. Um, no, I assumed you would come with one.

Guy: Oh, I guess that makes sense. I think my dad has a lawnmower. If I can drive to Downey this morning, I could maybe come by in early afternoon. Are you in L.A.?

Drew: I am. But I’m wondering why you don’t have a mower already?

Guy: Hey, how much are you going to pay me?

Drew: Oh, I thought you would tell me what you charge — like, per month.

Guy: Oh, so this isn’t, like, a one-time thing.

Drew: No, it would be, like, twice a month, I guess. Like, regular lawn-mowing.

Guy: Dude! That’s awesome. But yeah, I’d guess I’d say… fifty dollars?

Drew: I was thinking more like twenty-five dollars.

Guy: That’s cool. That’s cool. Could you maybe pay me for the whole month today?

Drew: I… Hey, I’m sorry, but are you, like, a gardener? Like, is that your job?

Guy: I have worked outside a lot.

Drew: But you’re not a gardener.

Guy: No.

Drew: This is not Carlos?

Guy: I don’t know Carlos.

Drew: Okay, I’m sorry. I think I dialed a wrong number.

Guy: Do you still want me to come mow your lawn?

Drew: ... No.

Guy: Oh. Man. All right. Man.

Drew: Yeah, I’m sorry.

[Drew hangs up his phone.]

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Condominium!

FYI, for interest parties, this is exactly how I want the opening credits to look in the TV movie about my life, grainy picture and shaky V-hold and all.


The best part is when you feel like you’ve been watching them for long enough and the alphabetical list of guest stars is only at Mimi Maynard, and then the names start to not even seem like the could be real people. “Tiberius Thunderdogs?” “Joe-Ellen Schmurk?” “Turtlesby McPudding?” “Bimberly Howzitt?” “Krysh Krumple-Schott?” “People McNeeple”?

Also: “Is there not a single person of color in this entire condo complex?”

Also also: “And Hamburger Penis as Alexis.”

Monday, June 30, 2014

We Need to Talk About Kevin McCallister

On November 20, 1992, America got a second date with Kevin McCallister, a sly little scamp who thrilled audiences by wreaking sadistic violence upon home invasion robbers. Yes, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is fraught with psychosexual suggestion, but that’s another blog post. This post concerns one example of the tie-in merchandise 20th Century Fox tried to throw at the people who loved the first Home Alone: the talking Kevin pull-string toy.

Home Alone 2 talking Kevin doll
“my name is kevin mccallister, and i wasn’t given articulated hands.”
Yikes indeed.

Even in my younger, dumber days, I thought pull-string toys were strange. I mean, I was a Teddy Ruxpin kid. He at least moved his mouth. A blind person could tell that these toys weren’t actually talking. (Blind child asks, “Why does he sound like his drunk? And in a cave? Underwater? Why can he only say a handful of things?”) But I was only given this because at the time the Home Alone moves were released, I looked enough like Macaulay Culkin that it had become a running joke in my family, and this little miniature me seemed like a way to capitalize on that… somehow.

Furthermore, I can only guess that this toy resulted from some Tiger toy exec running out of all other ideas and suggesting off-the-cuff a pull-string doll that spouts little Kevin’s many catchphrases from the movie. Of course, those catchphrases didn’t happen. Come on: Just try and remember his lines from Home Alone 2. You can’t. No, don’t lie. You can’t. (Let me have this.) Regardless, the Kevin doll does speak five lines that are apparently from the movie — six, if you count his trademark screaming, and the Tiger toy execs sure did. I’ve made it possible that I can share them with you now.

“Enjoy.”



The catchprhases are, in order:

“You guys give up?”

“I’d rather kiss a toilet seat.”

“This is it. No turning back.”

“I’m down here, you morons,” even though it sounds like “I can’t hear you morons.”

[horrible demonic screaming]

“I’m up here! Come and get me!”

Like I said, they’re not exactly catchphrases. They’re just lines, really. Someone who hadn’t seen the movie might wonder why he’s constantly taunting people with his location, and even someone who had seen the movie might find “I’d rather kiss a toilet seat” strange, when it’s just randomly volunteered out of the context of a less desirable course of action. Like, “Oh, as a rule, you generally prefer kissing toilet seats? You’re one fucked-up kid, Kevin McCallister. No wonder your parents are trying to get rid of you.”

Home Alone 2 talking Kevin doll

He gives good face, though.

Other things I own for some reason:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Did The Dick Van Dyke Show Make a Semen Joke?

Without even hearing my argument, most people remotely familiar with The Dick Van Dyke Show would answer, “No, of course not, because it’s The Dick Van Dyke Show,” but here I go anyway.

You see, I have this problem with media from before I was born — and before censorship standards on mainstream entertainment got more lax. Sometimes I’ll hear or see something that seems sexually suggestive. Part of me wants to say that this piece of media — a song or a TV show or a movie or whatever — comes from a more innocent time when risque was rare. The other part of me counters that, no, the people who made this thing had the same plumbing as we do today and therefore would have understood the implications.

And in this one instance, I can’t decide which seems more likely.

A little context before the clip: In the episode “The Ballad of the Betty Lou,” Rob and his best friend, Jerry Helper, decided to go halvsies on a sailboat. The idea immediately is vetoed by their wives, Laura and Millie, on grounds that it will tear their friendship apart, but the men proceed with the plan anyway, to Laura and Millie’s dismay. In this scene, Rob and Jerry are talking themselves into why this is a good idea. And during that conversation, the following exchange happens.



Jerry corrects Rob’s nautical terminology: “No, no, Rob. I’ll be the captain and you’ll be the seaman.” Cue laughter. And then Laura and Millie shoot each other a knowing look.

If you assume that The Dick Van Dyke Show was an exceedingly wholesome series that had Rob and Laura sleeping in twin beds, you could interpret the exchange fairly innocently. Laura and Millie’s reaction is simply them already seeing that they were right: Differences in opinion over the boat will ultimately cause a fight between their husbands, just like they predicted.

The person arguing for the more risque reading of the scene, however, would point out that Jerry simply correcting Rob is not very funny, even though there’s a laugh cue immediately after Jerry pronounces the word “seaman.” What about that line should get a laugh other than the fact that “seaman” is pronounced exactly like “semen”? And Millie and Laura don’t just roll their eyes, “Here we go again”-style. In fact, Laura arches her eyebrow.


If actors and comedy writers in 1963 functioned more or less like they do today, I have to think that everyone involved would have realized how close they were coming to making a big, goopy cum joke. (I mean, someone at some point had to make a joke about the show’s name.) But then again, I wonder why a censor didn’t object to the line, if only to avoid the possibility that any puritanical-minded viewer would think that filth was invading primetime TV… unless back then such a joke was so unheard of than no one would have read smut into it, reproductive plumbing notwithstanding.

I’d ask the guy credited with writing the episode, Martin Ragaway, but he died in 1989. What do you think?

And while you ponder that, perhaps also have a think about the time Elizabeth Montgomery was on Password and the secret word ended up being “vibrator.”

EDIT: And if you want to see the joke in the context of the whole episode, here you go. The line comes around the 2:30 mark.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Andrew Wyeth in San Benito County

I realize the lameness in writing a post that essentially says, “Guys, I did a neat thing on Instagram! Go look at it!” But that’s essentially what I’m doing. Instagram may be a place for people to post photos of sandwiches and dogs who think they’re people, but occasionally you see something that’s not Insta-filtered within an inch of its life and not entirely ugly and not pointless. And this may be one of those.


It’s also a different angle on a house that I photographed immediately after receiving a new camera for Christmas in 2003 — and this is a standard camera that didn’t double as a phone, if that dates this story at all. That photo also skews a little Andrew Wyeth, but more Andrew Wyeth by way of The Ring, horse and all.


In fact, to this day, the original posting of the old photo still gets hits from people trying to find Moesko Island.

Photos of places, previously: