Friday, December 08, 2006


Ok. We've crossed many new threshholds here in the FSMOMYOTD the past few weeks. The Warriors brought movies that we've all actually seen & liked. Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park brought television movies, as well as a grown man wearing cat make-up. Now, we enter yet again uncharted territory. Another TV movie. But this one . . . this is special. It stars a man who started on TV. Then a campy, classic horror/proto-slasher flick. Then, into iconic roles in not one but two iconic movies that came out a mere six or seven months apart. And then, he returned nearly two decades later, for yet another iconic role in another iconic film.

This is the type of career for which the FSMOMYOTD was invented. This man, this icon, this Ba-ba-ba-ba-Barbarino, this wacked out scientologist who was a wacked-out scientologist when Tom Cruise was still playing teenagers in Taps and The Outsiders, this Vincent Vega/Tony Manero/Danny Zuko was the star of a movie destined one day to be The Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day. That's right folks, Englewood, New Jersey's own John Joseph Travolta was . . .

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble

That's right, John Travolta played a kid who couldn't dance, fight, shoot heroin, score chicks, or jump around on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, because he had no functioning immune system and therefore spent all his time in a gigantic . . . well, plastic bubble. Let's just make it very clear right up front: this was a deeply silly movie. Why?

Mostly because the "boy" was played by a 22 year-old. Secondly, because as anyone who saw the movie knows, Travolta went through the entire film with that goofy, "innocent" face you see in the picture above. And, because the scene where he ventured out for the first time -- outside his plastic bubble -- while wearing that space suit, well it may have been the first time in my life that I learned to laugh at a scene where I wasn't supposed to laugh.

I knew nothing at 8 or 9 years old of irony. Of unintentional comedy. Of cheese. All I knew is that John Travolta (Vinny Barbarino to me), walking like the robot from Lost in Space, with that goofy smile on his face, as he ventured out for his big "date," was fall-down funny.

As with seemingly every movie I do here on Fridays, it was 1976. Welcome Back, Kotter was, or had been, one of the biggest shows on TV. I owned a t-shirt featuring a smiling, white-boy fro'd Gabe Kaplan, alongside the faces of The Sweathogs: Juan Epstein, Arnold Horshack, Freddie Washington, and none-other than Vinny Barbarino. I don't recall if they were captioned, or simply free-floating, but the t-shirt included many of that show's famous & (apparently) funny catch-phrases: Hi there; I'm a Puerto-Rican Jew (did they really put that on a kid's t-shirt?); Oooo, oooooo, ooooo, Mistah Kottah; Up Your Nose With a Rubber Hose; and of course Barbarino's own, What? I, all my friends, and an embarrassing number of adults felt this was somehow funny. Unsolicited advice: don't ever go back to revisit your favorite sitcoms from your youth. I'm warning you. You could retroactively destroy every shred of good memories from your childhood. Just don't do it.

1976. As I mentioned in a FSMOMYOTD entry a few months ago for Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, the pre-cable world of the Sunday Night Movie was a big deal. And I remember a little stretch in 4th grade when they seemed to be doing the sick and/or dead kids movies (DMCL didn't feature kids, but sort of qualifies, as any who've seen it know). One of those movies was Something For Joey, which should've been called Joey's Song. It was the based-on-a-true story about Joey Cappelletti, the leukemia-afflicted little brother of 1973 Heisman Trophy winner, and Los Angeles Ram, John Cappelletti.

(And yes, I am old enough to remember John's career, as well as a team called the Los Angeles Rams. Hell, I'm apparently old enough to remember a time when white running backs won the Heisman Trophy.)

So, it was into this storm of Sunday night death and disease that The Boy in the Plastic Bubble leapt. Depression on a Sunday night. But not as depressing as that last paragraph, above in parentheses, makes me feel. And not as depressed as something I'm gonna get to in a second. Sorry. You'll see.

Let's get to The Cast:

Robert Reed, better known as Mike Brady, played Travolta's father. Reed, like his fictional son in this film eventually died from a condition where one's immune system ceases to function properly.

(And, no, I'm not going to make some lame joke about that; just pointing it out, ya know?)

And it gets even worse. Playing Travolta's mother was Diana Hyland, who played Joan Bradford, Tom Bradford's first wife on Eight Is Enough, before her character died, and Bradford remarried with Betty Buckley's "Abbey." Buckley was the "mom" we all remember for the duration of that show. But Hyland's character died because Hyland died tragically of breast cancer at the age of 41. But not before she embarked on an affair with Travolta, who was 17 years younger than her, and played her son in today's movie.

And yikes, enough of that. Ugh. Back to the frivolity. I don't think anyone else in this movie is dead, and I'm gonna get right to the juicy morsels here, because . . . well, why the hell not?

Among the names in the credits, you can't help but notice Buzz Aldrin. That's right, Buzz Aldrin, the fellow who just seven years earlier was the second man to walk on the moon. Who served as the model for MTV's "Moonman." Who later had a fantastic appearence as a guest on Da' Ali G Show, in which he handled himself really well, coming across as a nice, funny, gentle guy. But his start on television? That's right:

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. And who did Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin play in this masterpiece. Who else but Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin. Now we know why Travolta got into space aliens and flying.

Ralph Bellamy played the doctor (yeah, I know he's dead, but he was old when he died, so it doesn't count). Bellamy's career goes back all the way to the 30's, when he often played the sap who lost out to the slick, smooth talker in screwball comedies. Most famously, Bellamy lost Rosalind Russell to Cary Grant in the great His Girl Friday.

Of course, far more importantly to this crowd, Bellamy played alongside Don Ameche as Randolph, one of the two Duke Brothers in Trading Places, a movie that just gets better and better as the years go on. And, in a move that forever cements his place in my "Damn, That's Cool" category, he and Ameche briefly reprised those roles for a very amusing cameo in 1988's Coming To America, a not terribly funny movie that nonetheless includes about three of the funniest scenes you'll ever see.

(But Bellamy was also in Disorderlies, which qualifies for this week's, "That's Not A Career Highlight" moment, so maybe it balances out.)

But you guys all know all of this anyway, so let's get back to more obscure members of the cast, shall we?

Anne Ramsey. That's right. Momma, from Throw Momma From The Train. I'm not in any way certain who she could've played in this heart-warming TV movie. The mean neighbor who barked mean things at Travolta when he made his spacewalk? Arrggg, get off my lawn, bubble boy! Owwwwwen, get that astronaut freak off my lawn. I'm not sure. And you know what, she's dead too. Hmmmm. Onto a happier entry.

Kelly Ward. Followed Travolta from the plastic bubble right into full-fledged membership in Hollywood's least-frightening gang, The Thunderbirds. That's right, he played Putzie, in Grease. (I think Putzie was the blonde one, and Sonny was the dark-haired one who sang "Didja' get very far?" in "Summer Nights." I'm not positive though, so if any of the usual crew of Johnnies-on-the-spot can gimme a little help here, I need to know this.)

Hilda Haynes played "Nurse Rachel." Hilda Haynes? Nurse Rachel? Hmmm, I thought it was a television movie. I don't remember the scene where his parents got him a "special" 16th birthday present.

John Megna has some intruguing entries on his IMDB page, including a role in Cannonball Run II, and an uncredited appearence in The Godfather: Part II as "Young Hyman Roth." But, he's yet another from this haunted movie who died young, so I simply can't investigate. Sheesh, why'd I choose this flick?

Vernee Watson-Johnson, whose IMBD page tells me she "testified on behalf of the defense in Michael's Jackson's trial." She's still alive, I'm happy to report, but clearly she too was touched by tragedy, so . . .

To end on an up note, P.J. Soles. Oh yes, you know her. Bill Murray's super-duper cute girlfriend in Stripes. Think spatula & ice-cream scoop. Yeah, that. (Quick, without looking it up, anyone know who played Harold Ramis' girl?) P.J. was also in Carrie, along with Travolta. She was in Rock n' Roll High School and she was in Halloween. She was even in Breaking Away, which starred her ex-husband Dennis Quaid and Jackie Earle Haley. In other words, fellas, your very adolescence would've been demonstrably different if not for the presence of Ms. Soles.

(I'm not saying it couldn't have been better, or worse, or whatever. But it would've been different.)

And, just so you don't think I've left behind the depressing digressions of a few paragraphs back, let me say that P.J. Soles is now . . . 56 years-old. No, I can't handle it either.

Next week's entry will be more light-hearted. I promise.


Blogger Otto Man said...

Harold Ramis's girl was ... Debra Winger?

And I want to know what the three hysterical scenes from Coming to America were. I'm guessing the barbershop scene, and ... uh, little help?

10:22 AM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

Dammit, I got it wrong. I always get those two confused.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

Nice post. Two things:

(1) I would say that Travolta did THREE big movies early on: SNF, Grease and Urban Cowboy; and

(2) I actually think Coming to America is the Murphy movie that gets better and better with time. I thought Trading Places was a pleasant movie when it cam out; I think it's pleasant now. I've liked Coming to America more than Trading Places for a long time.


10:30 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...


I'm gonna wait a while to reveal the answer. Although I suspect Ed could come by, Google in hand, and spoil it for everyone.


I agree with you that Urban Cowboy was a big role. But, especially with the benefit of 25 year's time, we know that it's nowhere near the iconic movie that SNF and Grease are. Even if the latter falls more-and-more into "cult" status over time.

Although those stupid mechanical bulls were big for a while, weren't they? For all the shit the 70's catch, the 80's were the real idiotic decade: mechanical bulls, suspenders for men & gigantic shoulders for women, Flock of Seagulls & the related haircuts.

Parachute pants & oversized Benetton sweaters? Oh my.

Coming to America may be a "better" movie, but except for those three scenes, I don't find it that funny. Though I guess I have to admit darryl's hair supplies laughs throughout the movie without pause.

Oh, and OM, the scenes I thought of, in ascending order of humor:

1. The Meet The Girls At The Bar scene. Something about Arsenio, with that giant chin, dressed up as a woman cracks me up every time.

2. Sexual Chocolate's Performance of that Whitney Houston song @ the churhc event.

He good, he good!

3. And, of course, the Barbershop. That's one of the best ever. If his mama call him Clay, Imma' call him Clay.

11:05 AM  
Blogger DED said...

Excellent movie choice. I remember this one, sort of. Fits in perfectly with the category. The committee did well.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

Truth be told I don't find either of Trading Places and Coming to America to be that funny.

I think I'd just rather watch Coming to America. In fact, it's one of those movies that'll "freeze" the clicker. Over the years I've watched it about a zillion times.

There are two Eddie Murphy movies that come to mind in the "lough out loud" department: The Nutty Professor and Bowfinger.

Most people don't even have one, so that's pretty good when added to all the other stuff, but that's about it in the LOL Dept.


11:28 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

The barbershop scene doesn't make you laugh out loud?

Seen it too many times?

11:46 AM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Oooooh, oooooh, Mr. Kottah, I know the answer to the "Stripes" question. It's Sean Young. And she would later become known as a bit of a wacko.

And I highly recommend the version of "Stripes" that came out on DVD about a year ago. I don't know if it's called a director's cut, or not, but you get to see a whole lot of P.J.'s sole, if you catch my meaning.

And while on Travolta, don't forget, that he's probably starred in two of the worst movies ever made. One has a title I can't remember without cheating and going to IMDB, but his costar was Lily Tomlin and they were lovers. The other is "Two of A Kind," with Olivia Newton-John. And while we're on Olivia Newton-John, you've really got to make...


11:54 AM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

I love all the scenes you mentioned, especially the Barbershop one. But it isn't "lol" funny to me.

However, I'll often refer/incorporate into my sense of humor Coming to America scenes; I pretty much never do that for Nutty Professor or Bowfinger scenes.

In that sense, Coming to America is -- at least to me -- less forgettable than most movies, including Trading Places (IMHO).


11:54 AM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

And let me state that, as a native Houstonian -- a real rarity -- I really hate "Urban Cowboy."

11:57 AM  
Blogger George said...

Mike, if you ever get to bad films of the '80s, you might want to turn to Deadly Friend, in which Kristy Swanson becomes a vengeful if sexy zombie-bot...and does in Anne Ramsey by throwing a basketball at her head. Really hard.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

I remember "Bowfinger," good, underrated movie. It's also the movie that ensures that Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin will never work with Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Kelly Preston, Katie Holmes, or any other Hollywood Scientologist.

Here's some good "Bowfinger" trivia. Heather Graham's character is based on Anne Heche, who'd dumped Steve Martin for Ellen Degeneres when Anne was going through her lesbian phase.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Marked Hoosier said...

So is next week going to be a choice that is seasonal?

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...


Wasn't Travolta also in . . . Battleship Earth it was called? The scientology flick? Maybe it was called The Passion of the L. Ron?

I didn't see it, but isn't that also considered among the worst ever.

And of course . . . Sean Young, wacko woman extraordinaire (sp?). And this non-drector's cut Director's Cut sounds intriguing. Although I'm afraid to go back to Stripes for the same reason I'm afraid to go back to beloved sit-coms of days gone by.


That sounds insane. Vengeful-but-sexy zonbie-bots are filled with so much potential. But with Momma also on the scene, it could make the leap.

I'm not ready to move to the 70s yet, at least not with so many unplumbed gems left from the 70s.

And as for the 90s, haven't seen Bowfinger or Nutty Professor, and have no good reason why as to the latter.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Marked Hoosier said...

So is next week going to be a choice that is seasonal?

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

is next week going to be a choice that is seasonal?

I hadn't really given it much choice. The Committee usually meets late on Thursday. Maybe in two weeks we'll get a Christmas-themed flick. If those damn libruls haven't yet destroyed it with their war on the Sacred Day.

Only "seasonal" day I'm aware of next week is my 39th birthday. Maybe I'll dig into the bag of tricks and write about one of the hundreds of movies about me.

I assure you of this, though: That Channukkah movie that Sandler made (Eight Crazy Nights?) ain't showing up here, and not just because I never know when Channukkah starts. The goyische calendar at my desk at work says that it's on the 16th.

But as any of my fellow boychiks (or girlchicks) knows, that's not quite a sufficient answer.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Mike, you are correct. Travolta has starred in 3 of the worst movies ever made. But, "Battlefield Earth" does have some enjoyment value to it. It's one of those movies that is so bad you can't stop laughing.

"Stripes" still holds up. Just as "Animal House" still holds up. "Caddyshack," however, fits into your 70s sitcom category (except for the scenes with Bill Murray).

And I recommend "Bowfinger." It really makes fun, and exposes the stupidity, of Scientology, though not in as heavy-handed a way as the infamous "South Park" episode that had Tom Cruise trapped in the closet with John Travolta.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

So Caddyshack doesn't hold up, and Stripes does. Hmmmm, that's surprising.

I figured the Rodney-Ted Knight scenes alone would be timeless.

12:50 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Well, instead of a movie, how about one of those Rankin-Bass claymation things, like "Rudolph" or "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." I love those things.

But what's it matter, I'll be on vacation next Friday -- out of town and nowhere near a computer -- so I won't be enjoying this little feature.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I'll be on vacation next Friday -- out of town and nowhere near a computer

{Soundtrack plays needle scratching record}

Although, interesting idea on the Rankin-Bass tip. Next week is my birthday, Rudolph usually played around the time of my birthday, I loved Rudolph.


Hermey doesn't like to make toys . . .

1:49 PM  
Blogger Marked Hoosier said...

Sorry for that double post... earlier blogger kept hanging whenever I wanted to post comments.

It makes it look like I really wanted an answer, didn't it?

5:31 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

First, bite me (that's for the google jab). I knew it was Sean Young w/o cheating.
Battleship Earth has to be, hands down, one of the worst movies of all time.
Travolta has another (though we could go all day and night on these) -
Face Off with Nic Cage. Where the two of them, who have nowhere near similar body types, switch faces. It starts with Cage being the bad guy, and travolta being the good guy. They switch faces, so now the bad guy has the good guys face, and the good guy having cage's face.
Oh, my head hurts.

And Mike, goyische calendars show the first "full day" of jewish holidays. They start the night before.

The South Park "Trapped in a Closet" episode is one of the funniest ever.
Bowfinger I saw once or twice, do not recall much.

As for Coming to America, who played the "Soul Glo" guy, who was the boyfriend of the girl Eddie's character loved?

Nice weekend all.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Wasn't Eric LaSalle -- who would go on to "ER" -- the Soul Glo guy? And whatever happened to him, anyway? I think that Clooney guy left "ER" and went on to do some movies, but I don't know what happened to LaSalle.

That "South Park" was one of the funniest those guys ever did -- especially calling in R. Kelly to get Cruise and Travlota out of the closet. But my favorite "South Park" still has to be "The Passion of the Jew."

I'm about to lose all credibility here -- like I ever had any -- but I liked "Face Off."

As for "Battleship Earth," the best thing I can say about that movie, besides it's very funny (and it's dramatic sci-fi, so it's not supposed to be funny), is that the book seems like a literary masterpiece in comparison.

6:58 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Marked, I screwed you by posting a few seconds after you did. If comments are separated, it actually looks like someone posted twice.

I assume responsibility.

And the same for insulting Ed. Ed, congrats. I knew we'd eventually cross the "bite me" boundary in the ball-busting arena, and you're the man who did it.

I never saw Face Off but seems most people I know liked it.

And I think you're right about Jewish Holidays on calendars. Which means next Friday's the first night of Chanukah (the holiday that's fun to spell differently every time! The joys of holidays in translation). But I'm telling you, that Sandler film's not going.

7:20 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

You got it John Royal. I have no idea where LaSalle went. He directed a couple of indy's I think. Quiet ever since.

That Clooney guy has done OK I guess.

Man, I paid $ to see FaceOff. I watch it on cable now, since I laugh. But I hated that I paid like $8 to see it back then. I walked out slackjawed.

The passion of the jew was also classic SP. So many over the years. I loved how they ended an episode about Afghanistan with Osama chasing Cartman like in a Road Runner Coyote cartoon (they even used better artt work). All the sight gags (anvils falling etc), it was great.

I will never forget the first episode and the immortal lines:
Eric Cartman - "Mom, kitty's being a dildo"
Eric's Mom - "Well I know one kitty who will be sleeping with Mommy tonight."
Cartman - "Huh?"

Just shocked the crap out of me at the time. Still funny all these years later.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Mike - I could have sworn I wrote bite me previously. I meant it in jest of course. The dig at me was deserved, after my cheating last week.

Even as much as I like Sandler, I refuse to watch 8 crazy nights. I saw like 5 minutes, and it was awful.

One of my favorite Christmas movies is Scrooged with Bill Murray. Bill plays Frank Cross, a high powered TV Exec (the Scrooge character).
In one scene, there is a sign in his office that says
"Cross - A Thing you nail people too".
That's some sick stuff right there, and I laughed my ass off the first time I saw it.
Of course, on regular cable or broadcast TV, you don't see the sign (they blur it out).

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Haven't seen The Passion of the Jew. I saw Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo, but not this one.

Not a big Mr. Hankie fan. But I love the Southpark Episode I saw last month with some Chinese guy manning the gates of the town, fighting the "Damn Mongolians," while the elderly of South Park kill everyone with their bad driving.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

No need to defend "bite me." It's the sharp, left jab of ball-busting/shit talking. Can't knock anyone out with it, but a useful, effective tool.

I saw Scrooged when it came out. I liked it. No reason I haven't seen it in all these years. I'd watch it if it came on table tonight.

I think Marked Hoosier used it for on of his blogposts recently.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

have a good weekend Mike.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Here's another SP line from the first year. Ike's been kidnapped by aliens. Kyle looks up at him in the spaceship and says:

"Ike, do your impression of David Carusso's career?"

At which point Ike dives out of the spaceship and we hear the noise of a bomb falling to the earth.

And then there's the episode during the height of the Bennifer business where Cartman's hand is J-Lo and he's having to sleep with Ben Affleck.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

I have to say that Stripes, Caddyshack, and Trading Places have all withstood the test of time. TP was just on yesterday, and I still laughed my ass off. ("Do you know who you messin' with? In cell block D, on the third floor?!?!")

Don't get me started on Face/Off. I'd been a huge John Woo fan for years, and when he finally came to the US to do Hollywood action flicks, I thought it would be phenomenal. Face/Off and Broken Arrow crushed my expectations. In slow motion.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Funny you mention the jail scene, OM. Cause I was laughing to myself about those same two dudes lingering around after Reggie busted up his own party.

It was a stone groove, man.

Yeah, fine, just get out of my house.

(Apologies for bad paraphrasing.)

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of JAckie Earle Haley... Check out the new trailer for Little Children - freaky!


7:16 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Jackei plays Ronald James McGorvey, huh?

8:20 PM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

"Who's been putting their coals out on my muthafucking floor? And coasters, people! Damn!"

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

And coasters, people!

Yes! Coleman's reaction was great too: I believe they were having fun, sir.

Fun my ass, buncha freeloaders.

Again, apologies for paraphrasing.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you forgot Glynnis O'Connor.


7:39 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I didn't "forget" her.

I fully admit to knowing absolutely nothing about her, or her career.

Believe me, DB, I wanna fill these posts in with as much tangential info as I can, but I came up empty with her.

Is there something I should know?

8:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I don't know much about her or her career, but she was his love interest in this movie. Didn't she wind up riding a horse with him or something?
I thought of her the same way you liked that chick from "Escape From Witch Mountain". Only Glynnis was a helluva lot sexier than that one. Not that she hurt my eyes or anything. But you know.
Damn. What a waste case. If I'd only done my homework back then, instead of staying up to watch all those movies of the week, not to mention, Mannix, I'd be a lot better off now. I coulda been a contenda.
Reckon thats why I wound up a Bush supporter? All those wasted hours in front of the idiot box?

Happy Channukah. And Shabbat Shalom.


7:28 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Yeah, she was a good looking gal, that's for sure. Just don't know anything else about her.

Chappy Chanukkah to you as well. I forgot tonight (or was it last night) is the start. My forgetting notwithstanding, I always liked Chanukkah, and not only for the gifts.

It's good to have a holiday that's light on the religion and actually celebrates some ass-kicking, rather than the usual woe & doom. Same with Purim, which is like a very un-Jewish holiday in many respects: celebrate a big win, plus it's mandated that you get fucked up.

As to Shabbos, Are you shomer shabbot? Jeez, an observant Bush supporter here could alter the universe. Spontaneous destruction type of thing.

We'd better be careful!

9:06 AM  

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