|Monday, October 15, 2001|
Hitchcock’s blondes, Gilligan’s Lovey, and the red eyes of Bocephus
By Locke Peterseim, Britannica.com
Special to ABC Sports Online
Puns about squid ink? Welcome back, Dennis -- God is, indeed, in the details…
The set-up: Al Michaels asked Miller for his predictions for the evening’s game.
The quip: “It’s Thanksgiving Day in Canada, so maybe the Lions’ll play well.”
The read: Canadian Thanksgiving, like so many other things we share with our Neighbors North, is similar to American Thanksgiving, but different. Before we go accusing Canada of ripping off our holiday and in return giving us William Shatner and Celine Dion, it should be noted that technically the Canadians had it first. In 1578 an English explorer named Martin Frobisher smacked into Newfoundland and promptly busted out the party glasses, the celebration of landfall becoming the historical basis for the Canadian Thanksgiving.
Like the American version, the Canadian Thanksgiving started as a one-off deal, held from time to time to commemorate special events: the end of the Seven’s Year War in 1763, the recovery of Edward, Prince of Wales from an illness in 1872, the invention of the Bloody Caesar. (Made with vodka and Clamato. Go ahead and go throw up, if you need to. We’ll wait.)
However, Canada did follow America’s lead in declaring Thanksgiving an annual fall holiday. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a yearly tradition in 1863 (as part of his “Hey, look over here at the scrumptious turkey” gambit to distract folks from the Civil War), and Canada followed suit in 1879, eventually settling on the second Monday in October as the annual date.
|North American carnivores of all races gather for some Canadian football.|
The set-up: After finishing last season with some difficulties due to a concussion, Rams quarterback Kurt Warner is off to a great start this year.
The quip: “It’s no secret that Warner is an ardent, practicing Christian. I’m sure he remembers some long afternoons when the Lions beat up on the Christians. Tonight it could be payback time.”
The read: In the first centuries after Jesus’ crucifixion, his followers were usually treated with bemused distaste by the Romans and let be. However, after the massive A.D. 64 fire that wiped out much of Rome, rumors spread that the emperor Nero had set the fire himself so he could rebuild the city according to his own architectural plans. Though it’s doubtful Nero had anything to do with the pyrotechnics, he needed a scapegoat to squelch the talk, and who better to pin it on in the court of public opinion than those weird cultists who met in the city’s catacombs, refused to worship the Roman gods, and wouldn’t serve in the army?
Before that, Christians had not been officially recognized by Rome as separate from Jews, but now Nero, to the delight of a bloodthirsty populace, was burning and crucifying them, letting gladiators hack them apart, and, yes, feeding them to wild animals in the city’s arenas. His victims included the apostle Peter, whose martyrdom would cement his sainthood and his position as the “first pope.”
After Nero, Christianity was made a capital crime and rumors spread of Christians eating babies (due to the whole “body and blood” communion ritual) and indulging in incestuous relationships (because they often called each other “brother” and “sister”). Still, the death penalty for Christianity was only sporadically enforced, with most emperors employing a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward the budding religion.
The set-up: Head referee Tom White, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain Master of Suspense, stepped up to explain a penalty.
The quip: “Referee Alfred Hitchcock.”
The read: The iconic British film director had been making thrillers in America for 16 years when CBS began broadcasting “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” a weekly television anthology show, in 1955. For the next 10 years, it was Hitchcock’s appearance at the start and finish of each telecast that cemented his image as a pop culture’s rotund Imp of the Perverse, gleefully dishing out thrills and chills each week.
Though Hitchcock would go on to create such big-screen masterpieces as “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho,” and “The Birds,” the cinematic auteur would be forever linked to his television persona. This included the ironically jaunty theme music (Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette”), the outline profile of his ample girth (drawn by Hitchcock himself for a Christmas card), and the haughty “Good evening,” that launched his wry introductions (written by James Allardice and delivered by Hitch in an arch exaggeration of his real accent).
Hitchcock was known for his obsessive crushes on the young blondes in his films, such as Tippi Hedren (“The Birds”), mom of Melanie Griffith, but we refuse to believe there’s any truth to the rumors that when referee Tom White goes under the replay challenge hood he’s actually watching a hidden camera trained on Melissa Stark.
The set-up: Melissa Stark expounded on Rams defense coordinator Lovie Smith’s offensive achievements while playing high school ball in the mid-’70s.
The quip: “I go way back with Lovie, when he was married to Jim Backus.”
The read: During their “Gilligan’s Island” ordeal, Thurston called her “Lovey.” Some sources insist Mrs. Howell’s “real” name was Eunice Wentworth Howell, but others say this misconception was spread by the “Mr. and Mrs. ??” episode, in which an erroneous radio message is heard by the castaways, suggesting that the Howells are not really married, and mentions in passing that Mrs. Howell’s maiden name is Eunice Wentworth. But since the radio broadcast turns out to be about a different Mr. and Mrs. Howell, this “revelation” is in fact false.
“Lovey,” or whatever the hell her name was, was played by Natalie Schafer. Jim Backus, of course, portrayed Thurston Howell III, a name and persona he adapted from his earlier radio character “Hubert Updyke III.” Though Howell is the character most people associate with Backus, we prefer to remember him as the voice of Mr. Magoo and as James Dean’s emasculated father in “Rebel Without a Cause.” (But then, we also chose to remember Bob Denver as “Junior” from “Far Out Space Nuts.”) And here’s one to impress the folks at the water cooler: One of Backus’ grade school teachers in Cleveland was Margaret Hamilton, who would later portray the Wicked Witch of the West in the film version of “The Wizard of Oz.”
|"Another damned day on the island, Lovey." "Yes, quite."|
The set-up: Stark described Lions wide receiver Johnnie Morton’s strict diet and workout regime.
The quip: “How do you like a guy named Morton who won’t eat salt?”
The read: In 1911 Joy Morton, son of Arbor Day founder J. Sterling Morton, revolutionized the salt industry by adding magnesium carbonate, an anti-caking agent, to his company’s product, which allowed it to flow smoothly in damp weather. That year Morton launched its first ad campaign, featuring a small girl with an umbrella and the slogan, “When it rains it pours.”
In the ’50s Morton’s company branched out, acquiring various chemical and pharmaceutical companies, and in 1982 Morton merged with the Thiokol Corporation to form Morton Thiokol. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because in addition to making most of the world’s automobile airbags, Morton Thiokol also developed the propulsion systems for the space shuttle. The company came under heavy fire when it was revealed that some of Thiokol’s engineers warned higher-ups at their company and at NASA against launching on the chilly morning of January 28, 1986, because the O-rings used in the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters became vulnerable in cold weather.
This point was demonstrated shortly after the Challenger disaster by Richard Feynman. Frustrated by bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, the outspoken physicist dramatically dunked a piece of O-ring material into freezing water during a hearing, showing how quickly it became brittle.
The set-up: In addition to being shut out, the Lions were also plagued by penalties.
The quip: “Well, God is in the details, and Mornhinweg’s got to tighten up the little things before he can look at the big picture.”
The read: “God is in the details” has been attributed to everyone from Gustave Flaubert and Friedrich Nietzsche to Albert Einstein (who gets all the good quotes). Throw in Winston Churchill and you’d have a royal flush of famous quote-droppers.
It may well simply be an old saying, but in the last half of the 20th century it was most often attributed to Mies van der Rohe, the famous architect who made the statement in a 1959 New York Herald Tribune article. One of the leaders of the International Style of architecture, van der Rohe believed “less is more,” as evidenced by the plain, rectangular “box” buildings with steel frames and flat glass surfaces that signify the movement.
Later van der Rohe also tried to take credit for the phrases, “Zeus is in the washroom,” “The Buddha is on line two,” and “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah.”
The set-up: As the Lions fumbled, recovered, and then fumbled again in the same play, Michaels joshed that the crowd was heard chanting, "Let's go Red Wings!" “I see a squid on the field,” responded Dan Fouts, in reference to the Detroit tradition of fans throwing octopi (not squid) on the ice at Joe Louis Arena during NHL playoffs. This in turn led Miller to comment, “Sometimes the Rams receivers look like they have eight arms.” But Al Michaels pointed out that it is octopi that have eight arms, while squid have ten.
The quip: “So octopi are envious of squid. But the squid get all the ink.”
The read: Actually both squid and octopi produce ink, as do most cephalopods, including cuttlefish. Squirted from a sac when the squid is startled, the ink is a defensive response: its color and scent are designed to befuddle predators and cover the squid’s swift escape. Held together with mucus, most ink is brown-violet, although some glows in the dark.
Early Roman and Asian scholars used squid and cuttlefish ink for writing, and from the Renaissance through the 1800s artists used it to create a popular dyestuff called “sepia” (from the Latin name for cuttlefish) and used it for drawing and watercolors. Hence the name “sepia” for the brownish olive color we see in old photographs and 64-piece Crayon boxes.
Squid ink tastes sweet, while octopi ink is bitter -- just in case you run out of Clamato and are looking for another invertebrate mixer for your vodka.
|Octopi on ice -- a Detroit delicacy.|
The set-up: In order to get viewers pumped up for next week’s rip-roaring Washington-Dallas game, the camera showed two creepy battery-powered Redskins and Cowboys dolls, singing and dancing to “Are You Ready for Some Football?”
The quip: “I haven’t seen Hank Williams Jr.’s eyes that clear in years.”
The read: The son of Hank Sr. and father of Hank III, some days it seems Hank Jr. is hanging around simply to prove the old maxim that talent skips a generation. To be fair, Junior’s had a rough go of it in his career. His father drank himself to death when Junior was three, but not before tagging his son with the nickname "Bocephus.” Senior swiped this name from the dummy of a Grand Ole Opry ventriloquist, not from Alexander the Great’s noble steed, Bucephalus.
Randall Hank Williams Jr. began his singing career at age eight copying the style of his late father, but as an adult moved out from senior’s honky tonk shadow toward country rock. Unfortunately, while Hank Jr. was trying to distinguish himself musically from Hank Sr., he was following his father’s drinking-and-drugging habits a bit too closely. Junior survived a suicide attempt in 1974, only to fall off the side of a mountain, literally, in 1975, busting up his face and skull and forcing him to learn to speak and sing all over again. Two years later, sporting dark sunglasses and a beard to cover the scars, Hank Williams Jr. reemerged into the public eye as a country outlaw singer and created such party hits as “All My Rowdy Friends” and, in 1989, the Monday Night Football opening song.
Locke Peterseim is a senior editor at Britannica.com.
Research assistant: Dave Ihlenfeld
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