Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Rabbit Trail of Geekery

I will now demonstrate how to seamlessly segue from Neatorama to Star Trek to M*A*S*H to puppeteering to Cake Wrecks. BECAUSE I CAN.

Ready? Here goes.

First, some cool Trek trivia I found on Neatorama today:

James Doohan (aka Scotty on Star Trek) was shot by a German machine gunner six times during the Allied invasion of Normandy. (!!) A shot to his chest was stopped by a metal cigarette case. (!!!) Another shot to his right hand caused him to lose his middle finger, which meant that stand-ins (hand-ins?) were used during the filming of both the show and the movies.

[Read more at 5 Sci-Fi Actors Who Were War Heroes)]

Do a Google image search to see all the other creative ways Scotty kept his hand hidden.

Not only is this fascinating, but my respect for Doohan just went up a thousand-fold. (Sadly, he passed away in 2005.) It also reminds me of M.A.S.H. (another favorite), because Gary Burghoff (aka Radar) also has a deformed hand - although his is a birth defect. They tried to conceal Burghoff's hand on camera as well - ever notice he's always carrying a clipboard?- but you can still spot it from time to time if you look closely.

[In case you missed it, that was my first segue. See how I'm all smooth and natural-like? Eh? And the segue wasn't bad, either. HEYO!]

I first learned about Burghoff's hand back in middle school, when I was part of a puppet troupe called Kids on the Block. Each of our puppet characters had a certain disability or disease, and we toured elementary schools teaching kids about diversity and tolerance and such. My puppet was named Valerie, and she had spina bifida:

She had metal crutches and leg braces, which made her sooo heavy - plus I was/am so short that I had to stand on an egg crate to perform. Even so, I loved it. I even earned a pin - which I still have to this day - for memorizing and performing in the most sketches of anyone in our troupe. And did I really just brag about that? YES I DID.

ANYWAY, [Segue imminent. Repeat: segue imminent.] as part of our training we watched a video of Burghoff talking about his hand and M.A.S.H. and what it was like growing up with a disability. So now he and KOTB are both permanently linked in my mind.

[Ok, believe it or not, I'm about to wrap this all up with one final, brilliant segue into Cake Wrecks. Prepare to be amazed. Or, better yet, don't; I really don't need that kind of pressure.]

So, on the last stop of our book tour a few weeks ago, John and I were wandering the La Jolla Art Festival before the show. It was a pretty small festival, so we were slow-motion strolling, trying to kill time. As we moseyed down the row, guess who I saw at one of the booths?

No, not Gary Burghoff. C'mon, keep up.

It was Valerie, my old puppet! There she was, leg braces and all, sipping a beer and talking smack with the macrame seller.

Hah, ok, now I'm just messing with you.

The puppet *was* there, though, in a Kids on the Block booth, because - get this - the organization is still going today! (Just to be clear, it's a nation-wide thing; this wasn't the exact same puppet I used.) I spent about five minutes amusing John and frightening the booth attendant with my squees of amazement and gibbered tales of standing on egg crates.

And so, in conclusion, this is pretty cool:

Sorry, I used up all my segue juice.

But hey, cool phone, right? You plug your iPhone into it, and then use the handset to talk on. It's silly as all get-out, I suppose, but it's also cool and artsy and steampunked, so that makes it alright.

(John also pointed out that if I let him get the new iPhone then he could give me his old iPhone and then I could use this. To which I responded, "This costs $450," and the conversation abruptly ended. Still nifty, though.)

You can see more phone styles (including a nice sleek black one) at Freeland Studio's Etsy store.


  1. Wow I never knew that Gary has a birth defect or that James lost his middle finger. Hmm and my hubby is a huge Star Trek fan. I wonder if he even knows this lol.

  2. I knew James Doohan had lost a finger (one of those tidbits you randomly learn at some dinner party) but I had no idea how. To be shot six times? Holy bad aim!

    Also, I loved Sir Alec Guinness's quote at the end of the article. Made my day.

  3. Whoa, nice segues there!
    Love the steampunk phone..or is that sPhone? :P
    Saw Ace of Cakes the other day where they made the Avenue Q cake, loved it!!

  4. Cool, cool, cool... and Holy Cow!?!? $400 and something for an old phone to plug your new phone into so it will function like the old ones???

    *jaw hit floor [insert cha=ching sound here]*

    I think it's past my bedtime! :)

  5. Way back around 99' when my hubby and I were in college. He worked as a maintenance guy at a Holiday Inn for some extra money. With doing regular tinkering stuff, he ran the shuttle.

    There was going to be a wedding at the hotel and the bride's grandpa needed to be picked up. Jeff headed to the tiny airport. Can you guess who it was? Scotty! James Doohan in the flesh! His daughter had been talking to Jeff a bit after they arrived at the hotel and ended up inviting us both to the wedding the next day. Jeff and I couldn't make it due to work, but come on! How cool is it to go to Scotty's granddaughter's wedding?!?

    This has been just one out of many times that Jeff's rubbed elbows with the famous.

  6. A segue between Trek and M.A.S.H. makes total sense to me. When I was a kid and just getting into both of those (albeit it was TNG, not the original series) M.A.S.H. was on right after our local news and then TNG. I taped them every night to watch the next day after school. I had a dog named Radar and a cat named Deanna so apparently Geekery really does start young. :) I didn't know about Scotty or Radar. Very cool tidbits. And a cool phone that's not a phone. :D

  7. Ha ha, I love you and your artful (or not) segues. You had me at "M*A*S*H."

  8. Yes, KOTB is alive and well. I've been performing with them for 6 years. Our troop is sponsored by the local school district and we go to different schools every week as well as walk the crowd and entertain at things such as Autism walks, etc. It's always nice to know another alumni! :)

  9. My son has the same congenital defect as Burghoff. We already had great respect for him as an actor. Now he's one of our favorite people in general. :)

  10. Just when I think you couldn't get more awesome, you mention M*A*S*H as another favorite.

    Loved that quote from Alec Guinness. We just watched the first Star Wars again last night, and even if it makes NO SENSE for Obi Wan to be that old by the time Luke finds him, I'm always glad Guinness played him.

  11. I still remember from kindergarten or first grade being brought into the gym to listen to a puppet talk to us about Cerebral Palsy. Over two decades later I now learn there was a whole gang of puppets out there!

  12. I bow to your geek-cred. And I TOTALLY remember seeing KOTB in elementary school!

  13. Ack! Kids on the Block came to my elementary school every year! I loved it.

    Also, MASH is my favorite show of all time. I met Alan Alda once. Best.Day.EVER!

  14. OK, now you left us hanging and we have to know -- did you get the puppet or not? You have a photo of it, but the photo looks more like an online sales picture.

    My husband and I do puppeteering and we own our own puppets. They're simple half body ones from One Way Street but Jason and Emily are very cool. I've made puppets before as well, even though I estimated that there was 10 hours of labor in each one. The furry band looked great though, and our children's church puppet team still uses them today even though they are almost 20 years old.

  15. john (the hubby of Jen)July 21, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    Hi Vanessa!

    Actually, the booth wasn't selling the puppets. They were promoting the organization and the only puppet they actually had there was Jen's puppet.

    puppet puppet puppet puppet puppet

    So, no. We do not currently own the puppet. Puppet.


  16. Did I miss the Cake Wrecks segue somehow?

  17. OMG! I did the Kids on the block when I was in middle school! I've never heard of other people doing it, but it's nice to know that you did and after reading the comments that it's still being preformed in schools!

  18. Oh, cool! I was part of a puppet troupe when I was younger too. We went around to nursing homes 'n at for the old people. Granted, it was a religious service, but it really made me smile to see how the elderly enjoyed our shows~ We even had a few of them tell us that they prefered us youngin's to the preacher that came in. XD

  19. I swear Jen, you're really in my head sometimes. I was just talking to someone about Gary Burghoff's hand YESTERDAY. M*A*S*H, one of the best shows ever made.

  20. that's so neat that you had a puppet with spina bifida. one of my old friends from years ago had that as well. all of us girls loved to play with her crutches and scoot around in her wheel chair when she came over to play.

  21. There are a couple of Kids on the Block puppets at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. I remember seeing one that was in a wheelchair and another wearing a helmet.
    There's also a bunch of other cool stuff there too--TONS of muppets, and they're working on an entire wing of nothing but Jim Henson's work. There's also puppets from Labyrinth, Fraggle Rock, and they have Big Bird!! Definitely worth the trip if you have the chance to go.

  22. Jen I don't even know you but I love you!! I feel we are friends. No, I am not some creepy stalker. I just follow your blogs and rarely make comments. Okay that sounds like a stalker. But I'm not. I just pretend we are friends...okay I am not making this any better. Me likey your blogs!!

  23. I didn't know about Doohan or Burghoff . . . wow . . . I've seen every episode of both shows so many times I can recite dialogue. I guess I'm not very observant. Next time I watch a Radar-era episode of M*A*S*H*, I will be looking a little more closely at that clipboard. It says a lot about his talent that he was cast in the movie and the show. They would never have let him in the army with a handicap like that, especially during the time of the Korean War.

  24. I did the Google search. I came across a pic. of Scotty that actually shows his right hand. Coincidentally, from my favorite TOS ep.! Trouble with Tribbles! http://bit.ly/btEptf

  25. My daughter has a form of dwarfism, and the KoTB puppets used to make appearances at Little People of America conferences when she was young. The last time I remember them being out to any LPA events has to have been 15 years ago, so I thought they were defunct. Good to know they are still around. They had great messages for kids and adults alike.

    I met Jim Doohan at his ex-wife's house, and at said ex's wedding reception when she married my dad. I never noticed the missing finger, though I know I shook his hand. Go figure.

  26. KOTB came to my elementary school also!

    Can I say I LOVE YOU for saying "all get out" -- I am made fun of all the time for saying that!

    just another way that I am adorkable! :)

  27. Did Kids on the Block put out a series of books? Because I think there was a series called that at my library, and all the kids had various disabilities: one girl had diabetes (she was also Greek, which I remember for some reason), another had epilepsy, another had asthma, one boy was blind...oh, and one had cerebal palsy. Those are the ones I remember.

    I can't seem to find those books in print anywhere. But they were GREAT. They had pages in the back with info about the specific disabilities. Good reading.

  28. Why are the steampunk retrophones $450 when all of the non-steampunk retrophones are less than $200?? Not that I'd pay that much either, but still...

  29. Item 1: I never knew about James Doohan's finger or Radar's hand! I'll have to watch for both now.

    Item 2: I'm pretty sure that I've had exactly the same conversation with my husband that you and John had at the end

    Item final: Your seques rock.

    Girls Are Geeks

  30. I learned about James Doohan's missing finger when I went to a Star Trek exhibition at a museum near home. :D

    They had some of the real sets from the show! 8D It was so cool. We had pictures taken of ourselves standing on the transporters from TNG. ^___^

    Oh, and we sat in the chairs of the TOS bridge set. :D That was our family Christmas card. ^____^

  31. Silent film actors Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd both had missing fingers (or parts of fingers) too. Buster Keaton was missing the end of his right index finger because it was caught in a clothes wringer when he was a little kid. Harold Lloyd's accident was considerably more serous. He was holding a prop bomb, and when it went off it proved to be not so... uh prop-ish. It took off his thumb and index finger, and for the rest of his film career he wore a glove with prosthetic fingers to hide it. Lloyd was the one who first did a scene where the guy hangs from the face of a huge clock above a city street, and Keaton was cited by Jackie Chan as being a major infuence on his comedy style. Coolness!

  32. I remember that they occasionally used prosthetic, finger extensions for Radar's hand. Most of the time his hand was just enough out of frame not to notice, or was holding something, or some sort of Hollywood trickery.

  33. I am clearly puzzled. I didn't catch a segue to Cake Wrecks or the quote by Sir Alec Guinness. Please point out both for me, as I obviously am oblivious tonight.

  34. Actually, I did know that James Doohan was missing a finger... because his handprints are at Disney's Hollywood Studios! :)

  35. psst...it's LA, not LO Jolla. ;)

    After a picture of James I was all set for a picture of Gary and then there wasn't one!

    And about puppets: I was Avenue Q in Sandy Eggo 2 weeks ago and it was AWESOME!! =)

  36. Story and thought: A good friend's mom worked for Mr. Doohan and his wife when my friend was young. She and her brothers often ended up at the Doohan home when there was a day off from school. Invariably the kind Mr. Doohan would take them all for ice cream and let them ask him about his hand. She said he was always excpetionally kind and generous.

    Regarding KOTB: I have to giggle thinking they may now have an autistic puppet. My son has autism and it makes me laugh to think there's some puppet out there who's continually ignoring you or lining up it's toys.

  37. WOW. KOTB can when I was in elementary school. I am an elementary school teacher and they came earlier this year to perform to for the students. Neat.

  38. Okay, so I love M*A*S*H. Love.
    I have every season on DVD, which doesn't matter, because I know every episode. Sometimes I recite the dialogue.
    I didn't think it was possible to give me trivia I did not know about.
    I had no idea about Radar's hand. The stupid part is I scanned two episodes yesterday to confirm this fact (season 2: Radar's Report and L.I.P. Local Indegenous Personnel). You can totally see it in both episodes.
    How did I miss this?

  39. OMG! I remember the Kids on the Block. They came to our school and I distinctly remember the blind puppet with the braille watch.

  40. Neat. I'm disappointed that the phone itself isn't all steampunked out.

  41. Jen,
    I am 1st time long time of both of your blogs and I think you are awesome. The tone of your posts with all of their self-assured confidence--I really admire you for that. Thanks for always brightening my day with your wit.

    p.s.-If anyone is keeping score the posts in the category "nothing to see here" are the best EVER!

  42. My parents are M*A*S*H fans, so I knew the part about Gary's hand. Still, it's cool to know that OTHER people know!

    (Yeah, my whole growing-up has been M*A*S*H quotes and reruns. My parents served as missionaries in Africa for the first two years of my life, and that show was the only American thing they had to stay sane.)


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