...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

November 15, 2006

Petula Clark Fest: The Pop Culture References

I want to draw your attention now to three pop culture references to Petula Clark's 1964 monster hit, "Downtown."

The first is found in one of the best Seinfeld episodes ever, "The Bottle Deposit." That's the one where Kramer and Newman concoct a scheme to redeem bottle deposits in Michigan for a profit, by using Newman's postal truck. This episode also involves a set of JFK's golf clubs and Brad Garrett as the crazy Saab mechanic.

The George subplot in that episode has George trying to figure out cryptic instructions from his boss at the Yankees. George, for some reason, doesn't want Mr. Wilhelm to know that he has no idea what this project is that he is supposed to be working on. We pick up the action here:

(George has his head down on his desk. Wilhelm walks jauntily along the corridor and enters the office.)


(George snaps awake.)

WILHELM: ...did you go down to payroll?

GEORGE: (standing) Yes, payroll. Yes I did. Very productive. Payroll... paid off.

WILHELM: (pleased) Well then, I guess you'll be heading downtown then, huh?

GEORGE: Oh, yeah. Downtown. Definitely.

WILHELM: Well, I'm very interested to see how this thing turns out.

GEORGE: (to himself) Yeah, you said it. (to Wilhelm) Uh, excuse me, Mr. Wilhelm. Uh, do you really think... Well, is this downtown trip really necessary, you know, for the project?

WILHELM: Oh no, you've got to go downtown, George. It's all downtown. Just like the song says.

GEORGE: The song?

WILHELM: There's your answer. Downtown.

(Wilhelm leaves.)

GEORGE: (thoughtful) Downtown.

Now we move to Monk's Diner, as Jerry and George try to decipher what Mr. Wilhelm meant.
JERRY: The song Downtown? You mean the Petula Clark song?


JERRY: You sure he didn't just mention it because you happened to be going downtown?

GEORGE: I think he was trying to tell me something, like it had some sort of a meaning.

JERRY: Okay, so how does it go?

GEORGE: 'When you're alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go...'

JERRY: '... downtown.'

GEORGE: 'Maybe you know some little places to go, where they never close...'

JERRY: '...downtown.'

GEORGE: Wait a second. 'Little places to go, where they never close.' What's a little place that never closes?

JERRY: Seven-eleven?

GEORGE: 'Just listen to the music of the traffic, in the city. Linger on the sidewalk, where the neon lights are pretty.' Where the neon lights are pretty. The Broadway area?

JERRY: No, that's midtown.

GEORGE: 'The lights are much brighter there. You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares, just go...'

JERRY: '...down town.'

GEORGE: 'Things'll be great, when you're...'

JERRY: '...downtown.'

GEORGE: I got nothing, Jerry. Nothing.

JERRY: Well, 'don't hang around and let your troubles surround you. There are movie shows...'

GEORGE: You think I should come clean? What d'you think, you think I should confess?

JERRY: How can you lose?

I love that scene.

The next pop culture reference is from just a few weeks ago. The opening scene of this season's Lost. It's interesting watching it again, because you can see subtle clues that Juliet is really the disgruntled employee in the whole "Other" hierarchy. I have no idea why they picked that particular song for the opening. Apparently their original choice was a Talking Heads song, but they couldn't get permission to use it, so they went with "Downtown" instead.

The third pop culture reference is the most obscure. It's from the 1993 art film Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould, about the eccentric Canadian classical pianist. According to Wiki, Gould apparently thought that Petula Clark was "the best female vocalist of his generation" and he "published several essays praising her talent and achievements."

I've never seen 32 Films, have you? I went through my art film phase years ago, I don't know if I could sit through it anymore.

Posted by annika, Nov. 15, 2006 | TrackBack (0)
Rubric: Arts



Have you noticed? No one gives a rat's ass about Petula Clark.

Posted by: shelly on Nov. 17, 2006

heh now, some of us like the old gal. Check this out, I was watching The Quiller Memorandum last night on TCM, and Downtown was playing in the background in the bowling alley scene. Very Kewl.

Posted by: Casca on Nov. 18, 2006