Shaun Cassidy

LORELAI: Yeah, I never leave home without all the essentials: mirror, makeup, picture of Shaun Cassidy.

Shaun Cassidy (born 1958), singer, actor, writer, and producer. He is the son of Oscar-winning actress Shirley Jones and Tony Award-winning actor Jack Cassidy, the half-brother of David Cassidy from The Partridge Family, and the brother of actor Patrick Cassidy.

While still in high school, he signed a record contract and forged a career as a teen pop idol. His biggest hit was “Da Doo Ron Ron”, which went to #1 in 1977. At the same time, he starred in The Hardy Boys Mysteries on television, and had a role on General Hospital.

During the 1980s and 1990s he concentrated on stage acting, performing on Broadway and in the West End. He wrote his first television pilot in 1995 while appearing in Blood Brothers on Broadway alongside David Cassidy, and has gone on to have a successful career as a screenwriter and TV producer.

Lorelai implies she had a crush on Shaun Cassidy when she was a little girl, although also, a bit oddly, that her make-up routine dates to the same period, when she would have been aged 8 to 12. This actually makes more sense for someone Amy Sherman-Palladino’s age, as she would have been around 14 at the end of Cassidy’s pop star career.

It sometimes feels as if the Palladinos forget that the small age gap between them and their fictional character Lorelai would still make a difference in the childhood years, and they can’t just give Lorelai all Amy’s childhood memories.

High Fidelity

JESS: There’s a record store you should check out. It’s run by this insane freak who’s like a walking encyclopedia for every punk and garage-band record ever made. Catalog numbers . . . it’s crazy. The place is right out of High Fidelity.

High Fidelity, 2000 romantic comedy-drama film directed by Stephen Frears, based on the 1995 British novel of the same name by Nick Hornby, with the film’s action moved from London to Chicago, but otherwise faithful to the book.

The film stars John Cusack as a music-lover named Rob with little understanding of women who owns a record store called Championship Vinyl. He and his employees Dick and Barry (played by Todd Louiso and Jack Black), armed with an encyclopedic knowledge of music, compile “Top 5” lists for every occasion, and openly mock their customers’ tastes. Eventually, Rob is able to produce a mixtape to please his girlfriend, Laura (played by Iben Hjejle).

High Fidelity was a commercial and critical success, receiving praise for its witty dialogue, strong performances and solid soundtrack. It’s been voted one of the best romantic comedies, and one of the greatest films of all time. It was made into a 2020 television series.

It’s interesting that Jess compares the record store he is taking Rory to with one out of a romantic comedy – especially one where a smart but emotionally obtuse young man learns to express his feelings.

EDIT: Thank you to High Fidelity fan Alisa for supplying the correct name of the actress playing Laura.

Sting, Screech

LORELAI: Hey, try to seat us next to a celebrity on the Concorde, like Sting or Screech or someone.

Gordon Sumner, known as Sting (born 1951) [pictured], English musician, singer, songwriter, and actor. He was the frontman, songwriter, and bassist for new wave rock band The Police from 1977 to 1984. He launched a solo career in 1985, and incorporates elements of rock, jazz, reggae, classical, new age and world music in his compositions. He has won 17 Grammy Awards, 3 Brit Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, received the Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement, and been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. As a member of The Police, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. One of the world’s best-selling musical artists, he is regarded as one of its greatest living songwriters, and one of the great musical stars of the twentieth century.

Samuel “Screech” Powers, a character from Saved by the Bell, previously discussed. Portrayed by Dustin Diamond (1977-2021), Screech was a geeky high academic achiever who lacked common sense and social skills.

Central Park and Washington Square Park

JESS: Just hanging out . . . in the park, mostly.

RORY: Central Park?

JESS: Washington Square Park.

Central Park, a 843 acre park in Upper Manhattan, New York, the fifth-largest park in the city. Opened in 1858, it is the most visited park in the US, and the most filmed location in the world.

Washington Square Park [pictured], a 10 acre park in the Greenwich Village district of Lower Manhattan, New York. One of the best known of the city’s public parks, it is a cultural icon and popular meeting place. It is notable for its arch, modelled after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and its fountain. The ground was first made into a park in 1849.

Jess says that Washington Square Park is “cooler” than Central Park. Apart from its location in fashionable Greenwich Village, it has a history of street performers, and protests and demonstrations. It has been a focal point for students, artists, musicians, and writers in the Beat, folk, and hippie movements. Robert Louis Stevenson once met Mark Twain here. Buddy Holly spent time here helping guitarists with their technique, and Barack Obama held a rally here. It’s a popular spot for filming, and Amy Sherman-Palladino’s show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has filmed scenes here.

Washington Square Park, with its Beatnik and counter-cultural heritage, seems like the perfect place for Jess to hang out. I’m not sure if this is meant to suggest that he and Liz live in this area (if so, only with the kind of magical rent control that appears in TV shows like Friends!).

Jess obviously isn’t attending school, because he went back to New York right near the end of semester and its too late to start at a new school. This is breaking the law, but I guess he’s fallen through the cracks in the system as nobody knows where he really lives.

Jessica Hahn

LORELAI: Instead, I got pregnant. I didn’t finish high school, I didn’t marry your father and I ended up in a career that apparently Jessica Hahn would think was beneath her.

Jessica Hahn (born 1959), model and actress. She accused televangelist Jim Bakker of rape while employed as a church secretary. After the 1987 scandal, Hahn posed nude for Playboy, appeared in several television shows, including Married … with Children, and was a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show on radio in the 1980s through to the 2000s.

“Hey, is Jackson in the house?”

LORELAI: Hey, is Jackson in the house? Let me hear you say “unh”.

JACKSON: Unh.

“Jerome is in the house” is a catchphrase from the sitcom Martin (1992-1997), starring comedian Martin Lawrence in the title role as a free-spirited radio DJ in Detroit, and also as a host of supporting characters, including his own mother Edna, an annoying neighbourhood child named Roscoe, and a stereotypical white surfer-redneck named Bob (performed in whiteface with a blond wig).

Jerome was another of Lawrence’s characters, a loudmouth, once-flashy, now aging pimp who runs an illegal casino and sports a gold tooth. His signature spiel and personal theme song was, “Ooh, I say, Jerome is in the house … I say, watch your mouth!”. The catchphrase “in the house” quickly became highly popular.

Martin won numerous awards and was one of the highest-rated shows on the Fox Network at the time. It went into syndication, and is still on cable television and streaming services.

“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”

[Jackson moans]

LORELAI: Now say, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”.

A reference to a 1970 Alka-Seltzer commercial, shown on television. It shows a newly-wed couple (played by Alice Playten and Terry Kiser) in the bedroom where the wife has served her husband a giant dumpling. The husband says, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!”, which becomes the commercial’s tagline. He quickly and secretly takes some Alka-Seltzer antacids so his wife won’t know how indigestible her cooking is.

The commercial was created by Howie Cohen, who was inspired by a real life incident where he ate everything he was given at a photo shoot out of politeness. When he said to his wife, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”, she replied, “There’s your next Alka-Seltzer commercial”.

The commercial won a CLIO Award, and its tagline quickly became a popular catchphrase.

One of Terry Kiser’s acting roles was playing comedian Vic Hitler in the television series Hill Street Blues. Vic was known as “Vic the Narcoleptic Comic”, which seems a bit similar to Jackson being “Narcoleptic Nate”. Lorelai nicknamed Dean “Narcolepsy Boy” after he fell asleep with Rory at Miss Patty’s, so it seems like an insult she likes to dish out.

Michael Landon

LANE: [runs up behind them] Hey, wait, stop!

LORELAI: Oh look, it’s Michael Landon.

Michael Landon, born Eugene Orowitz (1936-1991), actor and filmmaker best known for his roles in the television series Bonanza (1959-1973), Little House on the Prairie (1974-1982), and Highway to Heaven (1984-1989).

Michael Landon made an autobiographical television film in 1976, called The Loneliest Runner. The story is about a teenage boy named John Curtis, based on Landon himself, who still wets his bed. His mother publicises his problem by hanging the stained sheets from his bedroom window for all to see.

Every day, John runs home from school to take the sheets down before his friends see them. He starts running with the junior track team to channel his anger and forget the shame and hurt of his dysfunctional family life. Ten years later, he is a gold-medal winning Olympic champion, who credits his mother for his athletic success. Landon plays the adult Curtis himself.

Like John Curtis, Michael Landon wet the bed until he was 14, and his mother Peggy hung the sheets out to shame him. He had Olympic ambitions as a javelin-thrower, but a shoulder injury ended his athletic career, which propelled him into acting.

His unauthorised 19991 biography by Aileen Joyce, Michael Landon: His Triumph and Tragedy, relates that the bedwetting was brought on by the stress of having a suicidal mother. As a child, Michael Landon had to save his mother from drowning herself during a beach vacation.

Woman Who Won the Lottery

LORELAI: I don’t know, didn’t they feed lead to our jumping frog or something?

RORY: Oh yeah, right after they stoned the woman who won the lottery.

Rory references the 1948 short story, “The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson. Set on a beautiful summer day in an idyllic New England village (based on Jackson’s own home of Bennington, Vermont), the story tells of an annual ritual known as “the lottery”, an old tradition carried into modern times, and seemingly practised to ensure a good harvest.

People draw slips of paper from a box, and a wife and mother named Tessie Hutchinson eventually “wins” by drawing the marked piece of paper. The entire village begins stoning her to death as she screams of the injustice of the lottery – an injustice that only bothers her when she is the scapegoat marked for death.

The story was first published on June 26 in The New Yorker, and proved so unsettling at the time that The New Yorker received a torrent of letters, the most mail they ever received about a story. Jackson herself received about 300 letters about the story that summer, much of it abusive or hate mail. (Some asked where they could go to watch the “the lottery” take place!).

Since then, “The Lottery” has been analysed in every possible literary and sociological way, its careful construction and symbolism noted, and its themes linked with everything from mob mentality, the military draft, and the death penalty. It is one of the most famous stories in American literature, often reprinted in anthologies and textbooks, and has been adapted for radio, television, film, graphic novel, and even (to Shirley Jackson’s bafflement) a ballet.

Apart from being a short story often read for high school English classes, this seems like a story Rory would enjoy. She has a taste for dark and “gloomy” themes, and is a fan of American Gothic. Like Tessie, Rory is from an idyllic New England town, and has been singled out for special treatment – but in her case, it’s to be loved and glorified by the town.

The story reminds us that even the most charming small towns have a dark side, and that includes Stars Hollow. Rory is no doubt thinking of Jess, vilified and forced to leave because of a minor car accident. (The name Jess even sounds a bit like Tessie).

Tonto

RORY: My feet are sore.

LORELAI: Hey, Tonto, when did you become older than me?

Tonto is the Native American companion of The Lone Ranger, crime-fighting fictional characters from the American Old West created by George W. Trendle and Francis “Fran” Striker. They first made their appearance in 1933 on The Lone Ranger radio show, but proved so popular they appeared in several other media – perhaps most memorably in The Lone Ranger television series (1949-1957), with Jay Silverheels in the role of Tonto [pictured].

The portrayal of Tonto is often seen as degrading to Native Americans, as Tonto spoke in pidgin English. From the 1980s onward, Tonto was articulate in English, and tended to be witty, outspoken, and sarcastic toward The Lone Ranger.

Lorelai addresses Rory as her loyal sidekick, like Tonto. In the radio series, Tonto was actually quite elderly, and it was only when they moved into films that he began to be portrayed as a handsome young warrior.