The day before I flew to LA last month an airplane went down in the Hudson River as I was working at our NJ Skateshop in Hoboken, NJ. I ran over and watched the rescue efforts. I wanted to vomit. I hate flying and it made me want to cancel my LA trip. Now I’ve been told that I’ll be going to Australia next month with Tony Hawk and no sooner do I get this fantastic news do I learn a plane out of Newark, NJ’s airport crashed into a home in Buffalo, NY, killing everyone. Now I’m rethinking this next trip.
The only solace I take is that Airplane! was on HBO last night and I take it as a sign. Everything worked out for Ted Striker in Airplane. But not over Macho Grande. “No, I don’t think I’ll ever be over Macho Grande.”
I hope you enjoy the cinematic, comedic juggernaut Airplane! as much as I. Because I just spent the past 6 hours researching it and I’d be real pissed if I cooked you this amazing steak just to learn you’re a vegan.
Here’s some things I learned today:
—As the film's creators explain in the DVD commentary for Airplane!, they discovered Zero Hour! when they were taping late-night commercials to spoof. They then bought the rights to it. Airplane! lifts its major characters and most of its story line from Zero Hour! Many of the best known straight lines of Airplane! are repeated verbatim, for example, "Can you face some unpleasant facts?" and "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking." The "wrong week" line becomes a running gag — as the emergency escalates, so does the potency of the drug ("Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking/smoking/amphetamines/sniffin' glue.")
—The plane (model and real) used throughout the movie was a TWA Boeing 707 model operating as a fictional airline in the movie called Trans American Airlines; the plane taking off with "The End" credit is not a 707 (which has four engines), but a Boeing 727 tri-jet. The ambient noise of the plane is not a jet but a piston engine; it was taken from the soundtrack of Zero Hour!, making it the longest running gag in the movie.
—Captain Oveur asking Joey "Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?" is a reference to the movie Midnight Express.
—Even though the budget was about USD$3.5 million, it earned more than $80 million at the box office and another $40 million in rentals.
—Several members of the cast in minor roles went on to better known roles. Gregory Itzin, who appears as one of the religious zealots, played President Charles Logan in the Fox series 24. David Leisure, who played one of the Hare Krishna, went on to fame as Joe Isuzu before appearing as Charlie Dietz in the sitcom Empty Nest.
—In the video game Call of duty 4 there is a bonus mission on an airplane after the game has been beaten; during which, one of the characters says "surely you can't be serious", to which the other replies "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley"; a famous line from the movie Airplane!
The Cast…where are they now?
Best known as a hall of fame, record setting 6-time NBA MVP basketball player, I prefer to remember Kareem Abdul Jabbar as Roger Murdock the co-pilot of the doomed airplane. Wikipedia says: since retiring from basketball, he has been known as a successful coach, author and a sometimes actor. All of that pales in comparison to this scene right here:
Holy shit! Lloyd Bridges has been dead over ten years? No one told me. I feel bad that I didn’t feel bad when he died. Well, now that I’m aware of it March 10, 1998 will be a day that will live in infamy. I tip my hat to you, Llyod. Yes you made over 150 movies but only Airplane mattered to me. You did a fantastic job talking Ted Striker down from the sky and saving all those people’s lives while also battling your own personal demons. When you spoke it was as if you were talking directly to me and these following lines have become the mantra by which I live my life:
Oh, Elaine, so sexy in your long, lanky Olive Oil frame. We all know your awkwardness is what spawned the Seinfeld character of the same name. What have you been doing with yourself?
Hopefully you make some sort of comeback because I would really love to see more of these legs:
Ted Striker had to be the inspiration for Captain Chesley Sullenberger safely landing the US Airways plane in the Hudson River. I can’t think of anything else that would allow Sulley to pull it off.
Did you know Rob was just in a movie last year called Superhero Movie? Me neither.
Nor did I know he has been doing superhero cartoon voice overs as Iron Man for the past 10 years.
I’m rather bummed because I went looking for Hays a few years ago and back then he had his own website which seems to be gone now. But back then it had all sorts of family photos and an email address directly to him. I meant to email him but I never got around to it. I was a bit nervous because he has that drinking problem.
Where the hell has Leslie Nielsen been? He was killing it for a while with his Naked Gun movies (Mmmmm, Pricilla Presley.) and then he just disappeared.
Wikipedia credits Airplane as the start of his comedic, roles: His deadpan delivery as a doctor in 1980's Airplane! marked a turning point in Nielsen's career, one that would make him, in the words of movie critic Roger Ebert, "the Olivier of spoofs."
It says he also appeared in Superhero Movie with Hays. Maybe I should see it. Then again, I can just watch this for hours:
Hey, at least Peter Graves isn’t dead. That’s a good thing. And it says he’s been married to same woman since 1950. Wow! That means when he was at the height of his fame from Mission Impossible back in the late 60s/early 70s he never got any of that actor-pussy. How sad. Maybe that’s why he was so hot on little Joey.
Seems little Joey’s career began and ended with Airplane. Wikipedia offers some lackluster acting credits after getting hit on by Peter Graves: Ross went on to co-star in the Academy-nominated drama Testament as well as roles on Love Boat, CHiPs, Little House on the Prairie, Hart to Hart, T.J. Hooker and many more. Ross has also been on MTV's Jackass on the segment named "Big Wheel Craze" alongside Dave England.
Ross is also the father of two children and lives in Southern California with his wife. He plays basketball daily and likes to "get as funky as possible for a white boy" in another career as a record producer, recording works for Virgin, Capitol and Polygram. As a remixer he has worked for Beth Orton, Beck, The Dust Brothers, The Prodigy, Fantastic Plastic Machine and many others.
DEAD. Shit. McCroskey is dead. Kramer is dead. It’s no wonder that plane just crashed in Buffalo. There’s no one left in the tower to help these pilots out. Stack died May 14th, 2003. Whose next? It better not be Stephen Stucker; he’s my favorite.
Stephen Stucker as Controller Johnny
FUCK ME! NOOOOOOOOOO! Stephen Stucker is fucking dead too. And a long time dead. He’s been dead longer than any other cast member. He died April 13th, 1986. I don’t want to make any judgment calls based on his flamboyant personality but I bet he died of AIDs. (Hold on, let me check.)
Oh. Bummer. I feel awful. I was right. AIDs: “Stucker was one of the first actors to announce he was suffering from HIV. He died from AIDS-related complications on April 13, 1986 at the age of 38. He was buried in Chapel of the Pines Crematory.”
You know what? AIDs can suck my dick. I’ve never really been down for AIDs nor have I really gotten too bummed about anybody that died of AIDs but this one hurts. I know I’m 23 years late with my grief but goddamn! Why Stephen Stucker? Not cool, AIDs. Not cool at all.
Here’s to you, Stevie. I hope there’s a sale at the Penny’s in Heaven.
These guys didn’t even have names in the movies, they were just first and second jive dude and yet, I don’t think the movie would have stood on its own without them. I learned online that they started a website back in 2006 called TheJiveDudes.com but as of press time it no longer exists. In case you were unaware these two thespians wrote their own dialogue for the film and for their translator, Barbara Billingsley.
I have to be honest. I’m pretty bummed out about Stephen Stucker. What kind of God allows Jive Dudes one and two to live and not Stephen Stucker? No offense to the Jive Dudes…but come on. Norman Alexander Gibbs doesn’t even exist on Wikipedia and the only Al White on there is an astronaut. And right now the only ass-tronaut I care about is Stucker. (I have a feeling the remainder of these character write-ups are going to crash and burn from here on out.)
How great is it that the mother from Leave it to Beaver was cast as the lady who can translate jive? And would you believe even though she was born in 1915 somehow she’s still alive? Yeah, Stephen Stucker dies at 38 but the Beav’s mom somehow survives to be over 200? Life is real fair.
If anything is going to get my mind off Stephen Stucker it’s going to be hottie Lorna Patterson. Lorna does it for me. When I was younger the comedic head on my shoulders memorized Airplane to try and learn comic timing but the head in my pants watched for that scene where the boobs in the t-shirt were starting to shimmy and shake and for Lorna Patterson.
So if she’s dead I will lose my mind. (Nope, alive. Just checked.) Supposedly she’s still a stage actress but hasn’t really done anything since she was the lead in the TV show Private Benjamin.
I found this recent photo of her from 2005 looking like a 50s housewife. I go for that look so, if given the opportunity, I would still like to assume crash positions with her.
The entire movie is quotable (as you can tell from the above clips) but here are just a few imdb.com chose as notable:
Rumack: You'd better tell the Captain we've got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.
Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?
Rumack: It's a big building with patients, but that's not important right now.
Rex Kramer: Striker, listen, and you listen close: flying a plane is no different than riding a bicycle, just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes
[as the plane prepares to take off]
Hanging Lady: Nervous?
Ted Striker: Yes.
Hanging Lady: First time?
Ted Striker: No, I've been nervous lots of times.
Rex Kramer: [talking to Steve McCroskey] Our only hope is to build this man up. We gotta give him all the confidence we can.
Rex Kramer: Striker, have you ever flown a multi-engine plane before?
Ted Striker: No, never.
Rex Kramer: Shit. It's a God damn waste of time. There's no way he can land this plane.
Rex Kramer: Do you know what it's like to fall in the mud and get kicked... in the head... with an iron boot? Of course you don't, no one does. It never happens. It's a dumb question... skip it.