Sunday, August 17, 2008
A trivial mind at work
My friend Eddie from the Chicken Fat blog ran a very funny picture from the 1950s. It's by Mad Magazine artist Will Elder, and a veritable Who's Who of Who Was Who in the mid-1950s.
I think I'm pretty good at Trivial Pursuit, since I can remember the most trivial stuff and yet forget the important things...but there are a couple of folks even I can't identify in this drawing. Still, for the ones I can, I've put numbers. You go through and see how many you know. I'll tell you who they are if you don't know, but go ahead...I'll wait for you to finish.
You click on the pictures to make them full-size.
Hmmm, dummm-de-dah-dah...oh, hello. Back so soon? Couldn't get 'em all, could you? OK, in the words of Bing Crosby, "Junior, I'll elucidate."
1. Lone Ranger and Silver. Silver is so smart he can sit in a theater chair!
2. Prince Albert in a can, as in the old joke: A kid calls a store and says, "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" "Yes, we do." "Well, then, let him out!"
3. Santa Claus. You knew that one, didn't you? And you're being good this year, aren't you?
4. 5. 6. Rice Krispies' own Snap, Crackle, Pop.
7. 8. The Smith Brothers of cough drop fame. Here the joke is they're sucking on their competitor's drops.
9. Donald Duck as the drop-down duck from You Bet Your Life, the quiz show starring Groucho. The duck would drop down with the secret word. If the contestant said the word he got a hundred dollars. In this case the word is Lollabridgida, as in Gina, the sexy Italian star.
10. 11. Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin. At that time the most famous comedy team in the country, with their movies being number one box office.
12. Julius LaRosa. See #24.
13. Groucho Marx. See #9.
14. Milton Berle. "Uncle Miltie." The first cross-dresser to become a big star. Also known for stealing jokes from other comedians, and for making really cornball jokes. He called them "lappy," as in, "You have to lay the joke in the audience's lap."
15. Ralph Edwards, host of This Is Your Life. The folks who were brought up on stage and had their lives recounted were supposedly not told ahead of time. I never believed you could get a celebrity in the audience of that show and fool him. I'm sure there was chicanery afoot with this program and anyone who believed the celebrity was actually surprised, well...do you know the word gullible?
16. General Douglas MacArthur. Famous during World War II, "I shall return," was fired by then-President Harry Truman, #25, during the Korean War.
17. The Quaker from Quaker Oats.
18. Edward R. Murrow, host of See It Now. His on-screen smoking was his trademark, along with his famous radio voice.
19. Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of England.
20. Roy Cohn, counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, #27. Cohn, who set himself up as a moral paragon, succumbed to AIDS in the 1980s, and became a character in the play, Angels in America.
21. Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday from the TV show, Dragnet.
22. Aunt Jemima. That makes two characters well-known in my household in the 1950s. My father worked for Quaker Oats as a salesman; Aunt Jemima was a product made by the Quaker Oats Company.
23. Jackie Gleason. Along with Sid Caesar, Bob Hope, Milton Berle and Groucho, probably the most recognizable comedian in the country. Here he's seen as his pathetic character, The Poor Soul.
24. Arthur Godfrey. He was host of several television programs during the early 1950s, very popular host, although without any discernible talent of his own except for stroking a ukelele. He was often seen with radio headphones. The joke here refers to #12, Julie LaRosa, who Godfrey fired on the air. It was very controversial at the time, but I remember Godfrey kept his popularity and LaRosa spun into obscurity.
25. President Harry S. Truman, who played the piano, looking at a musical piece with the most famous television pianist of the day, Liberace, #26.
27. Senator Joseph McCarthy. One of the most notorious figures of the early 1950s, whose presence on the House Un-American Activities Committee, his questioning and his famous charge of "Communists in the State Department," for which the numbers changed every time he mentioned it, kept him in the public eye. He was eventually brought down, but not before having his name become a synonym for accusation and innuendo.
28. Abraham Lincoln.
29. Bing Crosby, checking his dollar bill to see if it is indeed the same person as the one sitting next to him. The joke, carried out by comedian Bob Hope, #31, in many forms, was that Crosby was filthy rich. Which, of course, he was.
30. Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.
31. Bob Hope, see #29.
32. Dr. Fredric Wertham, M.D. This is an inside joke by artist Will Elder. Wertham was a critic of horror and crime comic books, then popular. He wrote a book called Seduction of the Innocent which brought about an industry Comics Code, lampooned on the back cover of the horror comic he's reading. Mad was published by William M. Gaines, whose popular horror comic book line, including Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror, and Haunt of Fear, were targets of Wertham's.
33. Marilyn. What else need I say?
The unidentifables in the picture would be the person drawing stars on General MacArthur's arm, and the person sitting to the left of Jackie Gleason.