|Saturday, December 29, 2001|
Oddjob, Jevon Kearse and the Devil Doll
By Locke Peterseim, Britannica.com
Special to ABC Sports Online
Hey kids! Big ups if you can figure out the unnamed actor who is connected to almost half this week's annotations!
The set-up: Miller wrapped up his opening remarks with an allusion to his earlier broadcasting career.
The quip: "It's nice to be back live on a Saturday night, doing TV with a guy named Michaels."
The read: In two years of doing this column, we've never annotated our esteemed utterer of quips, our raison d'ętre, the shark to our lamprey. So why start now?
But here are a few tidbits you may or may not have known: Miller was born in Pittsburgh (hence all the Steelers references), has a BA in journalism from Point Park College there, eschewed the fourth estate for the open mic, went on "Star Search" and lost to Sinbad, was scouted in LA by "Saturday Night Live" creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels, and took over the "Weekend Update" desk on "SNL" in 1985. (Perhaps one of the more enjoyable aspects of "SNL" reruns from those years -- shown daily on Comedy Central -- is playing "Spot Miller Stiffly Making His Way Through a Rare Appearance In a Non-'Update' Sketch.") Miller held the "Update" slot longer than anyone else in "SNL" history -- six seasons -- before leaving in '91 to host talk shows and eventually make "Bordello of Blood" with Corey Feldman.
The set-up: Due to some missing bulbs in one of the stadium's light arrays, the field did not have the usual even illumination.
The quip: "Look at all the shadows on the field. This place is lit like a Bergman film."
The read: Born to a strict Lutheran minister, Swedish filmmaker Ernst Ingmar Bergman is best-known for his late '50s films "Wild Strawberries" and "The Seventh Seal" (featuring Max von Sydow's chess match with Death) as well as his mid-'60s work "Persona" (starring his future professional and personal collaborator, Liv Ullmann). Bergman's films were often introspective explorations of the human condition, focusing on our struggles with morality, mortality, loneliness and despair. In the '60s they came to epitomize the collegiate notion of the "deep foreign film."
Inspired by Bergman's work, in 1978 Woody Allen released the downbeat family drama "Interiors," through which he hoped to bring European film sensibilities to American audiences. Instead it only led fans to tell him they liked his early, funny films better.
In 1988, Demi Moore starred in "The Seventh Seal," which was not a de facto remake of or sequel to "The Seventh Sign" but did feature Moore trying to prevent the Apocalypse by appearing nude and pregnant. (And somewhere a little flash bulb went off in Annie Leibovitz's head. ...)
And in 1983, Max von Sydow capitalized on the sterling reputation he had built over four decades of fine films by appearing as Brewmeister Smith in the Bob and Doug McKenzie epic "Strange Brew." Which is really nothing more than a cheap joke at von Sydow's expense, but, hey, cheap jokes and pointless pop-culture free association are what we're all about …
The set-up: Dan Fouts mentioned Miller's "Judy Carne" non sequitur from a few weeks back, to which Miller replied, "I've built my entire season around that Judy Carne reference." This prompted Al Michaels to note, "You forgot to bring in Peter Deuel."
The quip: "Ah, 'Alias Smith and Jones.' "
The read: Technically this is an Al Michaels quip and we can really give Miller only the assist. But it's such an odd bit of early '70s pop culture marginalia that we thought we'd take a moment for it.
Peter Deuel was the boyishly handsome TV star who first showed up alongside Sally Field in "Gidget" in 1965. He then did a brief, well-reviewed, little-watched series with Judy Carne called "On the Rooftop." (Note that Carne had just left her marriage to Burt Reynolds, and that Field would get involved with Reynolds in the late '70s, thanks to "Smokey and the Bandit.")
Deuel eventually ended up co-starring in "Alias Smith and Jones," a lighthearted 1970 made-for-TV Western romp that became a series the following year. Deuel, who by this time had changed his name to Duel, played Hannibal Heyes, a.k.a. Joshua Smith. But the series was part of a seven-year contract with Universal that Deuel/Duel had gotten himself locked into, and as the year went on he became increasingly despondent, seeing the show and the contract as an inescapable trap. Fueling his desperation with alcohol, on Dec. 31, 1971, Duel shot himself.
OK, we didn't say it was a happy bit of early '70s pop culture marginalia.
The set-up: As the camera showed a room full of NFL bobblehead dolls, Al Michaels mentioned Miller's upcoming holiday halftime segment.
The quip: "I spent a little time with the bobblehead dolls -- when they get together they're quite the freaks. Sort of like the midgets in 'Wizard of Oz.' "
The read: This one will no doubt raise some controversy among Munchkin fans, as the story of the Munchkins' debauched behavior during the filming of "The Wizard of Oz" has often been denied by the surviving performers.
In 1938, as MGM was preparing its Technicolor version of Frank Baum's book, the studio hired vaudeville impresario Leo Singer to round up more than 100 midgets and dwarfs (the term "little people" was not yet in vogue) to appear as the inhabitants of Munchkinland. He did, and during the production most of the performers were housed in the Culver Hotel in Culver City, Calif.
In the evenings, about a dozen of the 124 diminutive actors got a little drunk and disorderly, and over time the stories grew in the telling. The rumors really caught fire in the mid-'50s when "Oz" star Judy Garland appeared on the Jack Paar show and said of the Munchkins, by way of some massive, self-loathing projection, "They were little drunks… They got smashed every night."
The community of little people was not amused, and for decades the surviving Munchkins fought to set the record straight. They pointed out that it was only a few bad apples who ran amok in Culver City.
And while the bobblehead dolls also are much maligned, neither they nor the Munchkins can hold a candle to the "Trilogy of Terror" Devil Doll when he's all liquored up.
|All is happy in Oz.|
The set-up: As Oakland struggled to break the tie, head coach Jon Gruden was sporting his characteristic grim visage on the sidelines.
The quip: "You gotta watch out when Gruden starts givin' that Greta Van Susteren look…. The lips get real tight, Al, you get that 'Clutch Cargo' thing."
The read: Let's skip over lockjawed CNN talking lawyer-head Van Susteren and move on to the obscure half of the reference, "Clutch Cargo." The 1959 cartoon followed the adventures of the titular character -- a globe-hopping pilot -- his ward Spinner, their dog Paddlefoot, and the obligatory grizzled side-kick Swampy.
Despite this compelling dramatic set-up, "Clutch Cargo" remains rooted in pop culture memory only because of its super-weird style of "animation" -- the cartoon images rarely moved, but instead were made to "speak" by combining footage of moving human lips with cartoon faces.
The show was created by Clark Haas, who drew the newspaper strip "Buzz Sawyer." The animation technique was called "Syncro-Vox" and was invented by Edwin Gillette for use in "talking animal" commercials.
For those of us under 40, our "Clutch Cargo" awareness is mostly informed by Conan O'Brien's "Lips" routine, and by "Pulp Fiction," in which a brief snippet of "Clutch Cargo" is being viewed by young Butch while Christopher Walken explains how he smuggled a watch out of a North Vietnamese POW camp -- a whole different sort of "clutch cargo."
The set-up: Titans defensive end Jevon Kearse went in for a tackle on Rich Gannon, but when the Raiders' quarterback went into a slide, Kearse had to make a high-stepping leap over Gannon instead.
The quip: "Jevon Kearse looked like Nureyev going over the pile there."
The read: Ballet's first worldwide male star, Soviet-born Rudolf Nureyev followed in the artistic (and pointy) footsteps of Vaslav Nijinsky and, with his defection to the West in the early '60s, paved the way for subsequent superstar dancer-defectors such as Mikhail Baryshnikov and Alexander Godunov.
Always a rebellious figure, both on and off the stage, Nureyev's charisma and aggressive, daring style allowed him to bring ballet to a wider international audience, and his 1961 dramatic evasion of his Soviet keepers in the Paris airport added to his Romantic image. In the West, Nureyev never joined a major dance company, but roamed around, often working with the Royal Ballet of London and the Paris Opera Ballet.
Alas, we must admit that our appreciation and knowledge of ballet is pretty much limited to Alexander Godunov's kick-ass fight scene in "Die Hard." Sorry.
|Rudolf danced the stages of the world.|
The set-up: Gannon flicked the ball sidehand to Raiders running back Charlie Garner.
The quip: "Throwing that backhand, like Oddjob."
The read: In "Goldfinger," the greatest James Bond film of all time, Hawaii-born Harold Sakata played Auric Goldfinger's deadly bowler-tossing sidekick. A 1948 Olympic silver medalist in weightlifting, Sakata had gone on to a career on the professional wrestling circuit (often as the heel "Tosh Togo") before landing the role in 1964's "Goldfinger."
Oddjob set the standard for what would become the obligatory quirky-but-menacing henchperson role throughout the series. By the time we got to Grace Jones as May Day in "A View to a Kill," the concept had been pretty much run its course -- though we weren't entirely unmoved by Famke Janssen and the iron thighs of her character, Xenia Onatopp, in "Goldeneye."
Locke Peterseim is a senior editor at Britannica.com.
Research assistant: Dave Ihlenfeld.
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