The episode: “Space Travelers,” ep. 401
The riff: Inserted by Joel after a testy Gregory Peck asks a reporter “What’s your question?”
The explanation: They’re referring to the squirrely, big-foreheaded guy behind the reporter, who bears a resemblance to American mass murderer Richard Speck. A longtime troublemaker with a “born to raise hell” tattoo, he murdered eight young student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital on July 14, 1966. He later claimed to have no memory of the events, and served decades of sentence at Stateville Prison in Joliet, IL. He died in prison of a heart attack in 1991.
Novelty factor: When I first heard the name, it didn’t mean anything to me. However, reading about the grisly details of the case, I came to remember having read about this guy before. It’s an unusually grim riff from the MST3k gang.
The episode: “Are You Ready for Marriage?“, the short in front of “Racket Girls,” ep. 616
The riff: Said with a small degree of worry by Crow as a young man walks away from a home after his rather tepid date with a young woman.
The explanation: He appears to be implying that the guy is like Richard Loeb, a convicted killer who along with Nathan Leopold, killed 14-year-old Bobby Franks in 1924 Chicago. The pair were wealthy students and lovers who concocted the plan to abduct and hold the boy for ransom, but also both admitted later that they wanted to kill for the thrill of committing the “perfect crime.” Their efforts weren’t so perfect, however, as a pair of eyeglasses left at the scene of the body (WTF?) eventually led back to Leopold. The pair were convicted in a media circus trial. Loeb was killed in prison and Leopold was released in 1958.
Novelty factor: No way I could have known this one, but I found it more interesting than many of the riffs I’ve looked up. Some seriously dark territory here.
The episode: “Mitchell,” ep. 512
The riff: Observed disapprovingly by Crow as Mitchell blows away a thug in a park who breaks off conversation with him and sprints away. Yes, the scene is as weird as that makes it sound.
The explanation: Daryl Gates was the chief of the Los Angeles Police Department from 1978-1992. He was extremely hard-line in carrying out his duties, favoring swift action and not shying away from violence. His administration came under heavy national fire following the 1992 police beating of Rodney King and the ensuing race riots that resulted in more than 50 deaths, and he resigned shortly thereafter. The bots are making fun of this bloody streak, about as political as they ever get.
Novelty factor: I know about the riots of course, but I was too young at the time to really be following the name of Gates in the media.
The episode: “Teenage Crime Wave,” ep. 522
The riff: Inserted as an old man’s dialog by Mike as a gang of unruly teenage killers take over an elderly couple’s house as a place to lay low after committing CRIMES.
The explanation: The Symbionese Liberation Army was a small, left-wing radical/revolutionary group that was active in America for only a few years between 1973 and 1975. They made worldwide headlines for kidnapping media heiress Patty Hearst, who was subsequently brainwashed and renamed “Tanya,” and participated in a bank heist where she was subsequently captured. The group committed several murders and didn’t accomplish much as far as their ideology was concerned.
Novelty factor: This is the kind of small historical anecdote that we pretty much would have glossed over at my high school–I know the group for the Patty Hearst reference and that’s about it. I’d never done any further reading on them until now. I must say, I rather like the design of their symbol.
The episode: “Catalina Caper,” ep. 204
The riff: Said knowingly by Tom as one of the movie’s numberless blonde teens accuses his father of being up to some kind of illegal scheme.
The explanation: I’m pretty sure Tom is mistaken and is actually referring to a guy called Dave Del Dotto. Del Dotto was apparently a California real estate investor who became known to American television audiences in the 1980s and 1990s for his colorful, late-night infomercials where he promised get-rich-quick knowledge of the real estate market. His “cash flow system” was sold in books and videos, and was eventually determined to be a pile big of crap. He was sued by the Federal Trade Commission in 1995 for his deceptive claims and paid a fine of $200,000. However, he appears to have turned out successfully, as he now operates Del Dotto Vineyards in Nappa Valley.
Novelty factor: Apparently I wasn’t staying up late enough or watching the right channels to see Del Dotto in the 1990s, because this guy is a total mystery to me.
Sorry it’s small, but it’s the largest image of his book out there.
The episode: “Cave Dwellers,” ep. 301
The riff: Gawked by Crow as the name “Lisa Foster” appears in the film’s very strange, letterbox-style opening credits (complete with scenes from a different movie)
The explanation: Crow is simultaneously drawing parallels between the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981 by John Hinckley Jr. and the coincidence of there being the similarly named Donald Regan as the president’s Chief of Staff in his second term. Donald Regan also served as Secretary of the Treasury in Reagan’s first term, and was a major figure of the “Reaganomics” movement. As Hinckley shot Reagan in an attempt to capture the admiration of actress Jodie Foster, Crow offers to shoot the lower-ranking Secretary to capture the attention of Foster’s long-lost “sister,” Lisa.
Novelty factor: I’ve seen this episode often and always understood the assassination reference, unsurprisingly, but I will admit I didn’t know who Donald Regan actually was. I always assumed it was just someone in entertainment, not actually a member of the Reagan administration. Enjoy this demonization of him:
The episode: “Girls Town,” ep. 601
The riff: Inserted as dialogue by Servo after Mamie Van Doren’s character asks the mousy Serafina, “What are you in Girl’s Town for? I mean really.”
The explanation: First of all, Serafina’s big crush in the film, Jimmy, is played by singer Paul Anka. But the heart of the riff is the reference to the “Brink’s job,” aka the Great Brink’s Robbery of 1950. In a daring heist, a gang of 11 men planned for two years and successfully executed a robbery of the Brink’s building in Boston, getting away with around $2.5 million, which at the time made it the biggest robbery in U.S. history. Although all 11 men were eventually captured in the next five years, only a small fraction of the money was ever recovered, and it remains a mystery.
Novelty factor: I’d never heard of the robbery before, but it was interesting to read about. Brink’s I know, if only because they still are well-known today for their Brink’s Home Security systems.