Author Spotlight: Carolyn Crane

Look! We’ve got Carolyn Crane here today! Another author who gets to go to Nawlins! How jealous are we? Very! Luckily, Ms. Crane is here and bribing y’all with a prize today, so we can beat that green eyed monster back. Some. 😉 Also, her post is adorable. Kinda like she is. (And Carolyn Crane also introduced me to See’s vanilla suckers. She extolled the virtues of the chocolate one… but I fell for the vanilla. Nom.)

Oh nooooooo! Mister Bill! Some of my fave pop culture references are getting too old to use in books and blog pooooosts!

The other day I was talking to my husband and I told him a certain character in a book I was reading was way too much of a Gilligan. He totally got it. Because of course we both grew up watching Gilligan’s Island, and almost every week, Gilligan would use the special antenna of the radio they needed to get off the island as a fishing lure.  Or invite cannibals to dinner at their huts or something.

But when you’re a genre author in your 40s like me, you have to think twice about the references you use. Most of them ever only worked in North America anyway, but now the ones that once worked in North America have grown too obscure. I think it’s safe to say that half my audience did NOT watch Gilligan’s island.


I’ve quizzed my grade school nieces and nephews on these things. They know who the Brady Bunch is, but not the Beverly Hillbillies. No more cleverly calling a pool a see-ment pond! And describing a man to look like Mr. French, a favorite sly reference of mine? Forget about it!! Ditto for Doctor Bombay.

Here are some pop culture references that were once great but now may be too obscure in books and even blog posts like this, because there are now too few people who will get it. And some of these are borderline, and some seem to still be going strong.

Sample usage: “I hate this character. She is such a Gilligan!
Backstory: Doofusy character from Gilligan’s Island who annoyingly messes everything up.
Thoughts: In my mind, calling somebody a Gilligan is no longer meaningful to too many people for a book or even a blog post. Out! *sob* This means “three hour tour” is also out.

Sample usage: “He’s such a Rambo.”
Backstory: The movie with Sly Stallone, of course.
Thoughts You can still totally call somebody a Rambo…I think. Right? I’d feel confident readers would get this.

Sample usage: This used to be a personal fave of mine, often in conjunction with jobs, where Frank Burns types were the bane of my existence. “Joan is the Frank Burns of the Embers breakfast shift!”
Backstory: I think we’ve all worked with a Frank Burns or two—the rule-following tattletale from M*A*S*H.
Thoughts: Too obscure. Maybe still okay in conversation.

Sample usage: “Who does he think he is, the Fonz?”
Derivation: The Fonz was the greaser on the show Happy Days.
Thoughts: I think this is very borderline, possibly out. Maybe commenters can weigh in.

After school special:
Usage: “The last half of the book is like an after school special!”
Backstory: I think most people know what these are – edifying shows about the evils of drugs or cults that ran when you got home from school in the 1980s. This was before kids had things like schedules.
Thoughts: Open for debate. I will continue to use this term in analogies, and I would feel comfortable using it in a book.

Don’t drink the Koolaid:
Usage: I saw this recently quoted all around online in reference to self publishing. Somebody said something like, “Don’t be so quick the self-publishing Kool-aid.”
Backstory: When Jim Jones made his cult followers drink poisoned Kool-aid and kill themselves.
Thoughts: This term is still going strong even though, as a cult reference, it dates back earlier than the Koresh thing. Still meaningful to people. I’d use it in a book or a post.

Usage: I always liked this. I said it the other day when I dropped something.
Backstory: It’s from an old Saturday Night Live skit—these aliens always said it when something went wrong.
Thoughts: SOOO out.

Usage: Something to say when you drop something, or accidentally hit your friend’s hand with a hammer, etc.
Backstory: Another from Saturday Night Live – Mister Bill was this claymation character who always got squished, and the voice over would say Oh nooooo! Mister Bill!
Thoughts: I think this is way too obscure. But it was funny in the 1980’s!!

Usage: Things to say when everything is going wrong
Backstory: Both of these are from TV ads that ran in North America incessantly in the 70’s and 80’s. Culligan is plumbing, Calgon is bath salts.
Thoughts: I was shocked to see somebody relatively young use ‘Calgon take me away!’ I would’ve thought it borderline. ‘Hey Culligan man’ is gone, though.

Sample usage:   A funny, snotty thing to say to your pal when she messes up and gets caught at something, or is contemplating misbehavior.
Backstory: The song from the Baretta, a cop show. Awesome!
Thoughts: I’ll still use this in conversation or blog posts,  I would even feel fine to have certain characters say this in a book under the right circumstances. Because it stands on its own – you don’t have to  know it’s from the Baretta song to get it, but knowing makes it that much cooler.

Usage: Commentary and analogies. Self explanatory.
Backstory: The original Star Trek!
Thoughts: These phrases are still totally meaningful! Yay! Not only do they have the Trek resonance, but they stank on their own. However, Tribbles, Live Long & Prosper, and Prime directive are borderline as references. I would still use them in blog posts and conversation though, and let characters who are Trekkies use them. I kind of feel like Star Trek lingo is a protected class.

Sample usage: When something is dropped or broken, or somebody has something really high tech going on their person. “Wow, check out your new Bluetooth ear thingy. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him! We have the technology!”
Backstory: Opening of Six Million Dollar Man.
Thoughts: Questionable. Probably no longer meaningful to too many people, and it just doesn’t stand on its own. I think it would sound weird if you never watched the show. That probably won’t stop me from using it in certain conversations, but I feel I have to retire it from blogs and books. Ditto for “I can’t hold her! She’s breaking up! She’s breaking up!”

Sample usage:  Sarcastic or tongue-in-cheek retort. Q: “Are you babysitting the neighbor’s kids again?” A: “Aaaaand loving it.”
Backstory: Maxwell Smart from Get Smart always said it. His boss might say something like, “But Max, you’ll be in constant peril every second!” And Max would say “Aaaaand loving it.”
Thoughts: This is one of those references you can still use, and even if people don’t get where it’s from, it still makes sense.

Usage:  Insult
Backstory: The character Barbarino from Welcome Back Kotter always said it.
Thoughts: I don’t think people know what this is anymore. Even in its day, it was nonsense. But, in a certain strange mood, I’d still be willing to use it. Not in a book, though.

Ah, my misspent youth! So, do you agree with my assessments? Are all of these terms totally alien to you, or do you know and use them? Or do you mourn their passing into disuse? Are there other terms you wish you could still use? Do tell!!!!

And thanks to lovely Limecello for having me over on the blog today!

Bio: Carolyn Crane is the author of the urban fantasy/romance trilogy THE DISILLUSIONISTS, as well as assorted novellas and the upcoming Parnormal spy romance series, MR. REAL (late 2012). She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two cats.

Ms. Crane is giving away a copy of Devil’s Luck today! It’s a standalone ebook (well, novella) to her Disillusionists world. So tell us – what’re your thoughts?

0 thoughts on “Author Spotlight: Carolyn Crane

  1. smartmouthtexan

    Laughed my butt off at my dad the other day when he was fixing my six year olds bike chain. He looked down and said we can rebuild it, we have the technology. My kid just looked at him like he was crazy…

    Thanks for reminding me I’m not the only one who still remembers the classics.

    ” live long and prosper”


  2. Brian

    I Just came across this blog and had to make a comment. I’m from the same generation and I loved reading it. It brought back so many memories. I also have to correct one thing. You mentioned that “Hey Culligan Man” is gone, but it is very much alive. Culligan still uses the slogan today and has just recently introduced a new Culligan Man to go along with the Slogan! 😉

  3. Bella @BeguileThySorrow

    Hi Carolyn, what funny timing, I just tweeted with ya bout black olives and sauerkraut lol! I agree that Star Trek is such a classic that I can’t imagine any of it’s references dying out. Most of the rest were not references I knew but I have a coworker who likes to say “Calgon take me away” at random moments when she’s tired so I know that one:D I think there are a lot of references that are heard and maybe people have a fuzzy idea it has to do with certain stuff but in the end it’s not what they’d say themselves. Like when I hear people say “dont drink the koolaid” I know they mean dont buy into what someone is trying to sell you just because a lot of other people are. But did I know the history of it being from the cult? no, but I get the idea:) Other references Im just plain not gonna get though. Like “rubber hose nose” one and “meps” or Mr Bill. Even with explanation they dont make sense lol

  4. JoAnne

    I so agree that the younger generation just doesn’t get it when certain people, shows, gadgets are mentioned in conversation, a book etc. Working with many people that could be my son/daughter or even grandson/granddaughter opens my eyes to that. Especially when I find out their parents are so much younger than me for the most part – gasp. I knew every one of the references made above.
    What really brought it home to me many years ago was when my son and nieces and nephews thought songs we grew up with were just jingles to ads and commercials and didn’t realize they were real songs that we grew up listening to.
    Thanks for the memories – it was an enjoyable post.

  5. Patti Williams

    I guess I am getting old(er) now because I get or use all the references. My husband is 50 and having some hip joint problems. We were talking about his upcoming appointment with the orthepidic doctor and I was trying to cheer him up with the 6 Million Dollar Man speech. Our 18 yr old rolled his eyes at us and walked away. I am sure there is some benefit to bionic hips. And no matter how much I am harassed, I will continue to refer to my sister pool as the see-ment pond.

  6. Liz

    Loved the post! A lot of these take me back! I do get all of these references and I’m in my mid-30s, so it’s my own misspent youth as well, watching reruns. I remember watching Star Trek with my dad in the 80s and saying “oh it’s a new one” and he just laughed and said it was new about twenty years earlier. 🙂

    Not too long ago I saw a picture with a cassette tape and a pencil, and the caption was that kids nowadays wouldn’t get the connection between the two. Makes me feel old!

    I read a book a few weeks back that took place in the 80s and I loved the flashback. Leg warmers, teased bangs, the works. Thanks to Netflix I think a lot of the old TV shows are making a comeback to the next generation. My daughter watches Full House and even Flipper.

    I miss “cool beans”, frankly. And “Don’t Be Ridiculous” from Perfect Strangers, Alf’s “I Kill Me”, and Diffrent Strokes “Whatchu Talkin’ ‘Bout Willis?” (Now, I’ve seen that recently, but I know that it’s not necessarily understood). Fun trip down memory lane. Thanks for the morning laugh!

  7. jovialvampyre

    What a great post! As my kids were growing up they watched wrestling and whenever we went somewhere it was “Where to Stephanie? HA HA HA” in reference to when McMann’s daughter was supposedly kidnapped by a wrestler. W+I still find myself saying it now and then to hubs ;).

  8. Mary Kirkland (@scarymary66)

    I recognized all of those, but I’ve said a few of those things in front of my daughter and she totally doesn’t get them. My husband does and thinks it’s funny how our daughter will roll her eyes and mumble ‘old people’ under her breath as I say something ‘old’.

  9. Carolyn Crane

    Hey!! I’m so excited I’m not alone in these references! Haha. Oh, thanks so much for all these great comments, and the additions of some good ones! What fun to read this feedback! May the force be with you!

  10. Jeffe Kennedy (@jeffekennedy)

    You should have said that Barbarino was played by the svelte young John Travolta. His charisma is what made that line.

    This puts me in mind of a conversation I had recently with Laura Bickle. I said some book cover looked too much like Indian maiden mall art for my taste. She had no idea what I was talking about. Turns out this fixture of Western kitsch is unique to the region. Of course, as my Ohio friend pointed out, I don’t see many paintings of Amish butter churns here.

    I’m sure there’s a take-home message here somewhere…

  11. annananner

    This is funny! I’m in my 40’s and still hear Mr. Bill in my head. LOL Having children I’ve learned I can’t say “You sound like a broken record” or “Pop in the video.” People get Scooby Doo references but Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf is dated. Then, there are books with Three Company Moments where a character has a Big Misunderstanding after eavesdropping. Good times!

    Ah, well. I dig you. We’ll always have Star Trek. :o)

  12. Amanda Bonilla

    It’s so sad, I know all of these references and I know that my teen would know NONE of them. I was just talking to a friend of mine yesterday about a book I’m reading and told her that it read like the MC was a 60 year old woman rather than the 25 she was supposed to be. Coincidence that the author is probably around 60? I pay very close attention to what my kids are into and fill my brain full of pop culture fodder. It’s important to stay current for sure, but damn it, that Six Million Dollar Man reference is priceless! 😉

  13. Marg

    Some of these references are so clear to me, but others not so (like Colgan and the other one). I can’t imagine ‘make it so’ and ‘beam me up Scotty’ ever losing relevance but I asked my 13 year old and he had no clue.

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  15. Nicola O.

    Ha, great post! I would be happy to read about a character who uses them all! In fact, that might be kind of a funny character running gag, one who uses all kinds of dated pop references and half the people don’t get them. Of course, it’s possible that you might want a larger demographic than just me. I get that.

    I have an old blog post somewhere where I talked about that one Gilligan’s Island episode with the marooned Japanese WW2 soldier who captured everyone in bamboo cages, and everyone had a different memory, featuring themselves as the hero, of how the rescue was effected. Remember that one? An excellent example of meta-media on the topic of point of view and narrator reliability. Like the “Turn of the Screw” and Robert Coover, all mashed together and served with MaryAnn’s coconut cream pie.

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