Marking Mr. and Mrs. Smart’s Golden Anniversary

Max and 99 cut the wedding cake - a cake we didn't see in "With Love and Twitches."

Max and 99 cut the wedding cake – a cake we didn’t see in “With Love and Twitches.”

Fifty years ago on Nov. 16, 1968, Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 said their vows in “With Love and Twitches.” NBC hoped the union would boost Get Smart’s ratings. Nuptials, though, would not be enough to save Get Smart. NBC canceled the show at the end of the fourth season. CBS would pick the series up for a final season, but we won’t get into that animal.
During its run, Get Smart netted seven Emmys – three of which were awarded to Don Adams. However, the show never made the top 10 in the Nielsen ratings. Get Smart ranked 12 in the 1965-66 season and 22 in the 1966-67 season. The final three seasons failed to crack the top 30. So, as Max said, it’s not how good you are – it’s where you stand in the ratings.
Weddings attract a lot of attention —  whether we want that or not. In that aspect, while the show’s ratings didn’t climb, the marriage of 86 and 99 still managed to garner a lot of publicity. There were news articles, a TV Guide cover and Don Adams and Barbara Feldon appeared in the Rose Parade wearing their wedding clothes.
It was a quick engagement. Aired during sweeps week, “With Love and Twitches” was the climax of season four’s wedding saga. Many of the episodes in this season were common tropes building up and then reacting to marriage.
These include:
• Snoopy Smart vs. the Red Baron – the “Meeting Mother” episode.
• Closely Watched Planes – the “Announce Your Engagement to Your Boss” episode.
• Diamonds are a Spy’s Best Friend – the “Engagement Ring” episode.
• The Worst Best Man – the “Best Man/Bachelor Party” episode.
• A Tale of Two Tails – the “Wedding Preparation” episode.
• The Return of the Ancient Mariner – “Best Man Part II.”
• The Laser Blazer – the “Husband with the Wandering Eye” episode.
• The Farkas Fracas – the “Invite the Boss Over for Supper” episode.
• Temporarily Out of Control – the “Ruined Honeymoon Part I.”
• Schwartz’s Island – the “Ruined Honeymoon Part II.”
Spy hi-jinks work their way into the plots and it is amusing, but this is where the criticism

What is the Smart bride wearing? The answer is floral head gear.

What is the Smart bride wearing? The answer is floral head gear.

comes in: The show had become sitcomy. Get Smart was less a parody dipping from the absurd and more a vanilla comedy.
In “With Love and Twitches” it’s a classic case of wedding day catastrophe. Hours before he is to be married, Max is duped into drinking Dr. Madre’s (Alan Oppenheimer) drug that contains a map to the Melnick Uranium Mines.
The map is to appear in the form of a rash on his chest. As if that’s not bad enough, he has to stand upright for the next 48 hours in order for it to work. Max asks to postpone the wedding but the Chief and 99 write off his story as a case of wedding day jitters.
Bad becomes worse when Kaos agents manage to hold Max, along with Madre, hostage in his own apartment. 99, in the meantime, is convinced she’s about to be jilted. Thankfully the arrival of his best man, Admiral Hargrade (William Schallert), gives Max a window to work out an escape plan.
The funniest scene is Max trying to put on his tux while standing in a moving  Citroen.  A close second is the pre-ceremony brawl pitting Control agents against Kaos agents which leaves Max and the Chief in tatters.
After all of this, we do not learn 99’s name —  nor does anyone else. The Admiral manages to snore at that precise and critical moment.

No Herbert, you don't get to join in on the brawl. Attending the Smart's wedding were Mace Neufeld and Dorothy Adams.

No Herbert, you don’t get to join in on the brawl. Attending the Smart’s wedding were Mace Neufeld and Dorothy Adams.

The episode has a few notable guest appearances: Don’s wife Dorothy plays 99’s Matron of Honor; Mace Neufeld, Don’s agent, plays her husband; Jay Lawrence, brother of Larry Storch and Don’s stand-up partner, appears as a Kaos agent; and Get Smart writer Arne Sultan is a wedding guest. Agent 99’s floral bridal helmet should have a credit of its own.
Cutting to the chase, is the episode any good? It does its job. It offers a wedding (which the powers that be thought viewers were waiting for) and a lot of silliness. Is it a powerhouse episode like Mr Big, 99 Looses Control or the Emmy winning Ship of Spies? Nope.
I love the romance between Max and 99 (see my previous blog entry), but I really think the show should have held off on having them tie the knot. Too soon, folks.

With Love and Twitches

An impossible episode and a love story

Max and 99's engagement photo.

Max and 99’s engagement photo.

With Maxwell Smart’s marriage proposal to Agent 99 hitting the 50 year mark, it’s worth a look back at “The Impossible Mission.”

Airing Sept. 21, 1968, “The Impossible Mission” served as the fourth season opener. This was the final season Get Smart would air on NBC. The network, hoping that an engagement and wedding would bump up the show’s ratings, had Max and 99 tie the knot during sweeps week. It wasn’t enough.

Despite Don Adams netting a third Emmy and the show winning its own Emmy, NBC canceled it. CBS would pick up the show for a fifth and final season.

There’s something of a love/hate relationship with this episode. Some fans loved the idea of Max finally confessing his love to 99. Others weren’t buying it. I find it to be one of my favorites, but I won’t deny that it has some problems.

Structurally this episode is clunky. Most Get Smart episodes are tight little units. All parts equal the whole. The Impossible Mission, however, is all over the place. It is something of a patchwork of three different parodies. Thankfully, it’s still very funny.

Parody Number One: Mission Impossible

Mission Impossible, which ran from 1966 to 1973, was a hot property and was ripe for

When messages don't self-destruct.

When messages don’t self-destruct.

being spoofed. If you judged this episode by title alone and assumed it was an MI parody, you would be wrong and perhaps disappointed. The episode’s tag starts off as a parody of MI’s tag. Like Jim Phelps, Max seeks out his taped instructions, which are supposed to self-destruct. In classic Get Smart fashion, however, they don’t.

Following the opening credits, the episode continues to mirror MI as Max goes through a file of photos and selects his “team.” His offerings for this mission are Larabee; Alfred E. Neuman; the Mona Lisa; Tiny Tim, which Max tears up; and 99, who Max would rather not have on the mission. 99 isn’t pleased to find herself in the reject pile.

99: You’re not taking me on this assignment, are you, Max?
Max: Eh… no, I’m not.
99: You can’t leave me out of this one, Max! This is the most important case that’s ever been given to Control, this could mean the end of the world.
Max: That’s exactly why I’m not letting you go on this mission. If it’s going to mean the end of the world, I want to make sure that you’re all right.

Thus ends any resemblance to Mission Impossible. A start to finish MI parody at some point in this series would have been fantastic, however, we were not going to get one. At least in season five we were offered a Martin Landau cameo.

Parody Number Two: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

Now we get to the plot of this episode: Max must prevent Kaos’ top agent, known as

The Tijuana Tin - not to be confused with the Tijuana Brass. The Kaos agent in the pink hat is Eddie Hice, Don Adams' stunt double.

The Tijuana Tin – not to be confused with the Tijuana Brass. The Kaos agent in the pink hat is Eddie Hice, Don Adams’ stunt double.

The Leader (played by Aron Kincaid), from transmitting Dr. Albert Hellman’s Theory of Hellmanivity out of the U.S. If the theory gets in the hands of Kaos’ headquarters in Europe, the human race will be faced with extinction through Hellmanitis. And the Chief doesn’t have to tell us what that is.

Much time is spent with Max and the Chief exchanging top secret information in a jet at 30,000 feet. The clunky Cone of Silence may have been less time consuming. At least TWA got some product placement.

After meeting with an informer (played by Jamie Farr) in a record shop and infiltrating pop brass band The Tijuana Tin, Max learns that the band’s leader, Herb Talbot, is The Leader. This came as bad news for Max as he owned all of the Tijuana Tin’s albums.
Would you believe this band is a parody of Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass? Well, it’s certainly not a parody of Glen Campbell. The TJB hit its peak in the late 60s at the same time Get Smart was on the air. Bill Dana, who we have to thank for The Voice and the Would You Believe routine, was one of Alpert’s early backers and wrote comic routines that were part of the band’s performances.

Parody Number Three: Charlie Chaplin

Once upon a time Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass did a Whipped Cream video with a

The old Chaplin routine in the spy show trick.

The old Chaplin routine in the spy show trick.

bunch of Charlie Chaplins. Alpert also worked out of the old Chaplin Studios.
That fun trivia, however, still doesn’t justify whatever was going on in this part of the episode.

Max and 99 attempt to evade The Leader and his sidekick (who was played by Adams’ stunt double Eddie Hice) by engaging in some sort of take-off on a Little Tramp/Keystone Cops routine — complete with the piano music. Unfortunately this bit doesn’t even rise to the level of camp. It’s possible this scene may have made sense as a direct parody of the TJB’s TV special, but 50 years down the line it’s kind of over-the-top. The only thing that helps it along is that Adams and Feldon are so darn cute.

The proposal

Max confesses his love to 99.

Max confesses his love to 99.

We know how this part works. Max and 99 are holed up in the back of the TV studio with no way out. Max says he’d marry 99 if they could get out. 99 hatches an escape plan.

Cue the wedding bells.

Now insert the sound of a needle ripping across a record.

I need to get something out of the way first before I talk about this scene and why I love it. There have been viewers who have pointed out that Max didn’t actually propose — 99 just interpreted the following exchange that way:

Max: 99, there’s something I have to tell you.
99: What is it, Max?
Max: Well, we’ve known each other for a long time and well, we’ve been through a lot of things together.
99: Go on, Max.
Max: Well, It’s just that I… well I have to tell you how I really feel about you. I wanted to tell you for a long, long time but I just… well I’ve never been able to find the right words. You see 99, it’s not easy to say… well, it’s not easy to say…
99: To say I love you, Max?
Max: Yes.
99: Well why don’t you let me say it for you: I love you, Max.
Max: No, no, 99, that’s not want I want to say, I wanted to say I love you 99.
99: I’m saying I love you too, Max.
Max: You do?
99: I always have.
….
Max: You know, 99, if we could get out of this trap I’d marry you.
99: You would?
Max: Of course I would.

Technically Max can’t be quoted as asking “Will you marry me?” Semantics. But even 99 had a few seconds of doubt and asked if he meant what he said. Max’s response was to produce the nearest ring he could find —  by tearing apart a microphone. Actions speak louder than words.

Aside from the nit picky detail mentioned above, some fans found the scene to be contrived and out of place. It’s as if someone said, “Quick, edit in that proposal.” Others did not feel it belonged in Get Smart. The thought was that Smart was too obtuse to be attracted to 99. Series creator Buck Henry didn’t like the idea either.

“I would have fought it like a tiger. What conceivable sex life could Max and 99 really have?” said Henry in a 2001 documentary, Inside TV Land: Get Smart. Henry left the series in season three.

Get Smart, though, was just as much a parody of romance as it was a parody of

Max has been hauling this photo around since episode four, "Our Man in Toyland."

Max has been hauling this photo around since episode four, “Our Man in Toyland.”

espionage. 86 and 99 would have their flirtations and go as far as to attempt to kiss — only to have those moments interrupted. This was followed by rounds of jealousy. Much of that came from 99, as displayed in Washington 4, Indians 3 and Too Many Chiefs.
But Max also had his turn at playing the green eyed monster — notably in Kisses for Kaos. He’s also not too thrilled she’s assigned to babysit playboy Antonio Carlos Carioca in “The Only Way to Die.” In “Double Agent” they were supposed to go on a date —  until the Chief assigned Max to become a derelict. In some episodes the two even held hands.

These patterns repeat themselves —  and then we get to the third season episode, “99 Loses Control.” 99 leaves Control and Max behind to marry a casino owner that would turn out to be a Kaos agent. Max follows after her — with a framed picture of the both of them in his suitcase. The photo in question, from the season one episode “Our Man in Toyland,” shows Max kissing 99 on the check.

It would appear that Mr. Smart kept his feelings close to the vest.

“He loved her, but he treated her like a guy – his partner,” said Don Adams in Inside TV Land: Get Smart.

The proposal scene alone is really a sweet one and I find it to be the best in the series. It’s all schmaltz, goo and warm fuzzies. It’s probably the single scene in the series that allowed Don Adams to give more depth to Maxwell Smart.

Throughout the series – even after 86 and 99 tied the knot – Adams kept the character walking down a narrow path of laughable buffoonery. Smart fell into the trope or archetype known as the “fool.” That characterization doesn’t vary until this scene. In a matter of a few lines the veil is dropped and we’re presented with a human – and a fairly sensitive one at that.

The Impossible Mission

Mr. Big: A comedy of continuity gaffes and laughs

Do you see what I see: Something is wrong with this image. Read the blog to find out what it is.

Do you see what I see: Something is wrong with this image. Read the blog to find out what it is.

Being that it’s the 53rd birthday for Get Smart, as the pilot episode “Mr. Big” aired Sept. 18, 1965, it’s time for a look at that episode. This is a bit different from what I’ve previously written on the pilot. Instead of an overview, it’s a glimpse of a few things we probably overlooked.

TV in the past didn’t offer the “extras” viewers are used to seeing today. Outtakes and behind the scenes footage wasn’t at everyone’s fingertips. Shows also weren’t produced with the notion that there would be repeat viewing and over-analysis. An airing of a TV episode was a one-shot deal – unless the show was blessed with syndication.

Of the bloopers included in the Get Smart Time Life DVD set (which have wormed their way to YouTube), most of them were from the later seasons. Don Adams had squirreled them away and his son in law, actor Jim Beaver, would later provide them for the DVDs.

As for the pilot episode, the only outtake floating around is footage of Don Adams being told by his agent, Mace Neufeld, that he was a father. His wife Dorothy had given birth to their daughter Stacey during the filming of the episode. The scene being filmed was from A Secret Agent’s Dilemma, or a Clear Case of Mind Over Mata Hari. The program aired Sept. 6, 1965 and was used as a preview of NBC’s fall lineup.

 

Detective work, a discerning eye and repeat viewing, however, has revealed what was changed as well as biffed in the Get Smart pilot. Now, this isn’t a criticism – it’s like finding Easter eggs. Here are a few (but not all) of the inconsistencies, goofs and changes in Mr. Big:

99’s hair

Agent 99's hair enters into this episode two times before it should.

Agent 99’s hair enters into this episode two times before it should.

This was one continuity error I noticed, probably from the first time I saw this episode. Would you believe the second time? It is glaring, but I always ignored it. One of the most iconic scenes in the pilot (and the series) is when Max and 99 are together in the novelty shop. The Inthermo is activated, Fang saves Max’s life and a Kaos agent gets zapped. 99’s reaction is to take off her chauffeur’s hat and shake out her hair. Max reacts to that by going for a kiss. Fang interrupts.

Obviously the idea was that 99’s hair was supposed to stay tucked up in the hat and Max was supposed to be too distracted to notice she was a female. The scene is both hilarious and absurd and is played with complete earnestness. It’s a fantastic parody of all those smoldering moments of classic film where the guy eyes the girl.

Unfortunately, there’s a booboo. We see 99’s bob sticking out of her hat twice before this scene. The first time, and the most noticeable, is when Max and 99 go out to the parking lot to talk to Zelinka. You can see 99’s hair as the camera shoots from above. The second time her hair appears is after they pull up to the novelty shop and get out of the limo. Most viewers probably didn’t notice this because they were watching Max struggle to get the door to the limo closed. It’s worth a mention 99 was written into the script as a blonde – even though brunette Barbara Feldon had always been eyed for the role of 99.

Wrong scenery

New York City looks a bit like southern California in this scene. This only lasts seconds. Blink and you'll miss it.

New York City looks a bit like southern California in this scene. This only lasts seconds. Blink and you’ll miss it.

This episode is first set in Washington, D.C. and then in New York City. We get some nice stock footage of the U.S. Capitol Building and later the Statue of Liberty. However, we also get the wrong vegetation for the East Coast. As Max and 99 are driving to the city, en route to the novelty shop, palm trees and mountains can be seen in the background.

The old boom mic appearance

More discerning viewers can catch a cameo appearance made by a boom mic. It shows up in the windshield of the limo when Max and 99 are listening to the Kaos radio broadcast. Again, this is not something that would have stuck out because our attention would have gone to 86 and 99.

Misplaced bullet holes

A case of now you them, now you don't. The bullet holes in the door on the left disappear AFTER Max shoots at the Kaos agent.

A case of now you see them, now you don’t. The bullet holes in the door on the left disappear AFTER Max shoots at the Kaos agent.

Like the boom mic, this is something you have to look for. During the melee on the garbage scow, Max gets his hands on a rifle and tries to take out Mr. Big and the Kaos frogmen. He fires away but ends up shooting into the wall and a door before the gun jams up. In the scene before the gunfire, we see a Kaos agent that needs obvious patching to his wet suit and a door full of bullet holes. In the next scene, after everyone dodges bullets and the smoke clears, the door is no longer damaged.

Cut Smart

The bottom of the Get Smart lunch box shows a scene that was intended for Mr. Big, but didn't make the cut. Max fights Kaos with cigarettes rather than the Inflato coat.

The bottom of the Get Smart lunch box shows a scene that was intended for Mr. Big, but didn’t make the cut. Max fights Kaos with cigarettes rather than the Inflato coat.

One scene that got cut/reworked was actually documented – but not in the way you would think. We have collectibles to thank for evidence of this.

On the bottom of the Get Smart lunchbox is a scene that looks like it came from the pilot. In it, we see a chauffeur-suited 99 tied up with Max and Professor Dante. There’s even a glimpse of Fang’s nose. Max is fending off two Kaos frogmen with a blast of smoke from a cigarette. Also, there is a Get Smart trading card that shows Max, 99 and Dante laughing hysterically in the same scene.

These two images came from a scene that was rewritten. In it, Max, 99 and Dante were

This Get Smart trading card shows a scene from Mr. Big that we didn't get to see. Here we see Max and 99 dealing with the effects of laughing gas. It may be worth noting that the person on the left is supposed to be Professor Dante, although he doesn't exactly look like actor Vito Scotti in this shot.

This Get Smart trading card shows a scene from Mr. Big that we didn’t get to see. Here we see Max and 99 dealing with the effects of laughing gas. It may be worth noting that the person on the left is supposed to be Professor Dante, although he doesn’t exactly look like actor Vito Scotti in this shot.

tied up below deck together. Max and Dante start talking but a Kaos agent interrupts and begins intimidating them. Max requests a final cigarette – one of his cigarettes. As the Kaos agent lights the cigarette, a stream of smoke explodes in his face. He starts to laugh and 99 points out that it’s laughing gas. Eventually the rest of the group is overcome with laughing gas. Max manages to summon Fang who rescues them by chewing apart the ropes. This was re-shot with Max’s weapon of choice being the Inflato coat. Only Max, 99 and Fang (who was tied rather than roaming freely) were below deck together – Dante was somewhere else. Ironically, at the beginning of the episode, Max doesn’t want to use the Inflato coat.

This sounded like a funny scene and I wonder why it got changed. The most logical reason is that it probably took too long and they needed to tighten things up.

Now, a theory for those of us that like to overthink things is that it might have conflicted with the characterization of Smart – he wasn’t supposed to be wise to the joke. The surreal idiocy the viewer sees in Mr. Big is Maxwell Smart’s unwavering reality. Mel Brooks pointed this out in Joey Green’s book, The Get Smart Handbook. “I would say the best thing about Maxwell Smart is that he was always wrong and always intense. He never played the joke. He never shared with the audience that he was aware that what he was doing was funny,” said Brooks.

Cone of Silence: When a 60s spy show drops into current events

The Cone of Silence in its inaugural use in 1965. It's still hanging around in 2018 - just check your Twitter feed.

The Cone of Silence in its inaugural use in 1965. It’s still hanging around in 2018 – just check your Twitter feed.

What have I found in the last few weeks when doing a simple internet search of Get Smart? Lots and lots of references to the Cone of Silence —  but not in the way I would expect.

It seems in the last year Get Smart has moved from the entertainment corner of cyberspace to the op ed/political realm. That’s a wild and woolly place to be. I should know since in real life I spend my days putting together opinion pages.

On April 16 the Government Accountability Office issued findings that the EPA violated

The old spy device in a sci fi magazine trick. This cartoon was in the December 2001 edition of Starlog.

The old spy device in a sci fi magazine trick. This cartoon was in the December 2001 edition of Starlog.

federal spending laws when it purchased a sound proof booth for Administrator Scott Pruitt to use for making private phone calls. The price tag on the booth came to the tune of $43,000. Federal law prohibits agencies from spending more than $5,000 on redecorating or remodeling offices. Oops.
With this story, the online commentary soon followed. Pruitt’s booth was quickly compared to the always malfunctioning Cone of Silence on Get Smart. References to the COS were quickly birthed on Facebook, Twitter, the op ed pages of major newspapers and even by a political cartoonist or two.
The comparisons are not going away. I started pulling together research for this blog installment more than a week ago. In that amount of time, the number of memes referencing Pruitt and the COS have proliferated.

There’s the standard meme of a GS screen grab with Max and the Chief under the device with some text referencing Pruitt. Then there are the more creative graphics with Pruitt under the COS himself, taking the place of the Chief. One meme even had Pruitt’s head Photoshopped onto Don Adams’ body and Donald Trump taking the place of Ed Platt. Blasphemy.

The Cone of Silence in action. The Chief sacrifices his desk in the name of security.

The Cone of Silence in action. The Chief sacrifices his desk in the name of security.

This isn’t the first time that Maxwell Smart has been shoved into recent current events and political commentary.

The March 31, 2017 front page of The New York Daily News prominently (like two thirds of the page) featured U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-California, edited onto a shoephone bearing Maxwell Smart. Nunes serves as chair of the House Intelligence Committee. And yes, this all had to do with his role in the Trump-Russia investigation.

As 99 would say, “Poor Max.”

London's Control HQ uses the Umbrella of Silence. Please refrain from smoking.

London’s Control HQ uses the Umbrella of Silence. Please refrain from smoking.

Previous administrations were not immune to COS references. In 2013 the New York Times reported on Barack Obama’s portable “Zone of Secrecy.” Basically a tent used while meeting with officials in other nations, it could keep conversations private. This drew all kinds of online comparisons to the Cone of Silence.

The COS dropped into the opinion pages back during George W. Bush’s administration. A couple editorial cartoonists featured “Dubya” under the cone with a reference to security leaks. Also, a 1995 Washington Post editorial referenced the COS in a column about President Bill Clinton’s problems with the CIA.

Would you believe someone even lifted a COS image from this website and used it in a March 22 Reddit forum?

One would wonder if and how often this sort of thing occurred during Get Smart’s run.

The term “cone of silence” isn’t just relegated to Get Smart lore. Prior to Get Smart, the term “Cone of Silence” appeared in a 1955 episode of Science Fiction Theatre titled “Barrier of Silence.” A cone of silence was also used in Dune, which was initially serialized in Analog from 1963 to 1965.

Cone of Silence is also a legal term that can be found in the ordinances of a governing body. It is defined as a directive that prohibits oral communication about a specified subject.

Now for something actually fun to talk about: The Cone of Silence’s role on Get Smart.

The cramped Closet of Silence gets some exercise when the COS is broken or on loan to the CIA.

The cramped Closet of Silence gets some exercise when the COS is broken or on loan to the CIA.

Out of 138 episodes the device itself (not counting “alternative cones”) appeared in nine episodes, which include:
Mr. Big (pilot)
Kaos in Control
My Nephew the Spy
Too Many Chiefs
Smart, the Assassin
I’m Only Human
The Whole Tooth And…
A Man Called Smart (Part 1)
A Tale of Two Tails

The routine is usually the same. The Chief or Max have an instance where they need to discuss sensitive information. Rule-oriented Max demands (it’s always a “demand”) the Cone of Silence. The device is begrudgingly lowered by the Chief or one of his administrative assistants. What follows is either the device malfunctioning and/or the Chief and 86 not hearing each other. The Chief has even gotten stuck in the thing and in one episode it destroyed his desk.

In the series, the COS is revealed to have been invented by a Professor Cone. It also costs an exorbitant sum to operate. In one episode, Control tries to combat budget cuts by loaning the device to the CIA.

The COS was actually a product of show creator Buck Henry’s wonderful imagination.

“I have always loved the Cone of Silence because I just loved the idea of this thing that was its own worst enemy,” Henry said in a 2002 Discovery Channel documentary, C.I.A.: Hollywood Spytek. “It was such a clearly dopey, funny, piece of equipment.”

The picture of absurdity - the Portable Cone of Silence.

The picture of absurdity – the Portable Cone of Silence.

There were a few opportunities for alternative cones.

The first was the ridiculous Portable Cone of Silence which was used in Hubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Max takes this with him while he and the Chief are on a mission in a concert hall. The Chief spends much of that time stuck in the thing. The Portable Cone of Silence was one of the accessories that came with the 2002 Sideshow Toys action figures. The toy version is just as annoying as the real version. Good luck assembling it.

The London branch of Control uses the Umbrella of Silence in That Old Gang of Mine. Unlike the American COS, this device can hold four people and everyone can hear each other. It its advisable, however, to refrain from smoking in it.

The Closet of Silence is used in two episodes, Maxwell Smart, Private Eye and Supersonic Boom. Also, the Control Secret Word File is used in lieu of the COS in A Tale of Two Tails.

The COS would eventually end up hanging above Max and 99’s bed in Get Smart Again. In that movie, Max’s demands for secrecy were met with two other impractical procedures: Hover Cover and The Hall of Hush. Also in the movies, The Nude Bomb and Get Smart (2008) had their own incarnations of the cone.

As for the whereabouts of the original COS… it seems to have faded into legend.

I saw what you did there: A Get Smart reference worked its way into the recent editorial page offerings.

I saw what you did there: A Get Smart reference worked its way into the recent editorial page offerings.

Unpacking nostalgia: Thoughts on vintage lunch boxes

The 1966 King-Seeley Get Smart lunch box.

The 1966 King-Seeley Get Smart lunch box.

Trent:  If you’ve got to hold on to something from the sixties, peace and love sure beats a Get Smart lunch box
Daria:  Especially if the lunch is still in it.
-from MTV’s Daria

Yes, I know there’s a page on my site devoted to lunch boxes, but I’m going to go there again. While I’m at it, I may as well recycle that quote from Daria.

I’m not sure what it is, but there’s just something about a vintage lunch box. They’re kind of like canvases of what comprised kid culture at any given time. Metal boxes featured popular cartoons, TV shows, movies and bands. Some topics ended up being pretty obscure – like the lunch box for the 1979 move Black Hole.

My school days were from the era of both metal and plastic lunch boxes. With both of

The top and bottom of the lunch box respectively. The Chief not looking at all like Ed Platt is probably the only discrepancy, but that's a trend among collectibles. Vito Scotti's character in "Mr. Big" makes a cameo in the bottom scene.

The top and bottom of the lunch box respectively. The Chief not looking at all like Ed Platt is probably the only discrepancy, but that’s a trend among collectibles. Vito Scotti’s character in “Mr. Big” makes a cameo in the bottom scene.

those varieties being durable and parents being fiscally conservative, some of us found ourselves stuck hauling a box to school years after its novelty wore off. You had better hope by the time you were in sixth grade that you still liked the box you picked out in kindergarten.

Today’s boxes are soft and insulated. Some come with useful compartments to separate the food. While they’re all about function, the aesthetics just are not there.

The Get Smart lunch box was a collectible I had yearned for early on. Made in 1966 by King-Seeley, Nick LoBianco is credited with designing the art on the box. In addition to his work on many a 1960s King-Seeley lunch box, LoBianco also designed the famed Monkees’ guitar logo in 1966. He was also a ghost artist for Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. LoBianco worked on a number of Peanuts books and was the artist that drew Snoopy for the Met Life commercials.

Among the Get Smart collectibles I’ve come across, this item has the best graphics. The front has a cute image of Max, 99 and Fang. The back has a close up of Max in the foreground. In the background he’s trying to rescue a tied up 99 from a bunch of guys that look like Blofeld. A box in good condition will reveal that LoBianco decided to give Don Adams freckles.

The bottom of the box and sides feature scenes from the pilot episode ”Mr. Big,” while the top has Max and the Chief under the Cone of Silence. The only point to split hairs over is that the Chief doesn’t look like the Chief.

The lunch box is partnered with a thermos that was made the same year. It features the art from the back of the box.

Pricing

The sides of the box include the closet scene from Mr. Big and a representation of the opening door sequence.

The sides of the box include the closet scene from Mr. Big and a representation of the opening door sequence.

So, how much is one of these worth? That depends.

Lunch box prices are generally gaged on the condition of the box, how rare it is and — as I’ve noticed — who is authoring the price guides. Here are some examples:

• Warman’s Lunch Boxes Field Guide gives a price of $725 for the box and $95 for the thermos.
• Toys & Prices lists a GS lunch box at $575 and the thermos at $95.
• Meanwhile, in legitimate pricing, www.greatestcollectibles.com has a handy chart on lunch box values, as well as information on grading and rarity. They give a mint GS box with a grade of 10 a price of $320. Mint by the way, means the box must have its original tags. Near mint, which is pristine but missing tags, is worth $255. They also give the Get Smart lunch box a rarity ranking of R5, which means there is a strong market of boxes with 500 to 1,000 them known to be in existence.

While I’m in no means any kind of appraiser, I have spent more than 20 years scoping out collectibles. Here’s what I’ve noticed:

• A near mint Get Smart lunch box will fetch around $200 on Ebay.
• One that’s been knocked around nets around $50.
• The price of a thermos runs the gamut. Depending on condition, they fetch anywhere from $75 to $15.

If you want one, shop around and keep your eyes peeled, but don’t over pay for a lunch box or thermos in poor condition. People will try to sell boxes in poor condition for far more than they are worth. Max and 99’s faces should not be rusted off (yes, I’ve seen this). There also should not be any large markings going across the front or back of the box (yes, I’ve seen this for sale to the tune of $200). No. Just no.

The graphics on the Get Smart thermos. This one has a replacement liner and lid.

The graphics on the Get Smart thermos. This one has a replacement liner and lid.

Original parts
How much a lunch box is worth is also determined by whether it has its original parts.

This is more of an issue with the thermos. Does your thermos rattle? Sorry about that. The glass liners were known to break so replacements were offered – and can still be tracked down. For the Get Smart thermos, the original stopper and cup were red. Replacements are usually a beige color.

In terms of the lunch box itself, the original handle is red. I’ve seen replacements that are white.

Then there is the matter of the thermos wire. In many cases, you won’t even find a box with the thermos wire as it was lost long already. Instead you’ll just see some mysterious empty slots. For some reason, the Get Smart boxes were made two different ways. In some boxes the wire was at the bottom of the box and in others it was on the side.

Get Smart lunch boxes appear to have been made in two ways as the slots for the thermos wire are in different spots.

Get Smart lunch boxes appear to have been made in two ways as the slots for the thermos wire are in different spots.

How to treat a box
Boxes should be treated with kid gloves!

The number one lunch box enemy is water! Do not take Mr. Lunch Box for a swim because he’ll rust!

The number two enemy is a damp environment that promotes rust. Basements, garages and tool sheds are not good places for metal boxes.

The number three enemy is direct sunlight due to the fact that the images on the box will fade. This can be a challenge with where you display it. It’s best to keep the box away from the old bay window’s line of fire not only to prevent fading, but also to keep it from rusting.

If you’re going to attempt to clean it – be careful. It seems everyone has come up with their own advice on how to do that from water and vinegar to car polish. I make no endorsements on those suggestions. I have found that Swiffer dusting cloths can pick up a lot of the dirt without causing any problems.

Fun facts
• Mickey Mouse was the first character to appear on a lunch kit in 1935. This was actually a small tin – not the type of box Baby Boomers and Gen Xers were used to.
• The first metal lunch box as we know it was 1949’s Hopalong Cassidy. Made by Aladdin, this was basically a metal box with a Hopalong Cassidy decal on it.
• The fond days of metal lunch boxes ended in 1987 when King-Seeley cut production on the last metal box, Rambo. Manufacturers had began shifting to plastic boxes starting in 1972.
• Allegedly, the production of metal boxes ended not because a metal Popples box (1986) couldn’t compete with a plastic Rainbow Brite box (1983), but because a group of mothers complained that the metal boxes were hazardous and pressed Florida state legislature for a ban such lunch boxes. The claim was that kids could hurt themselves by bonking each other on the head with the metal boxes. This ruling on metal lunch boxes, however is appearing to be more myth than reality as actual proof of such a law is yet to be found.

The back of the Get Smart lunch box is the same image on the thermos.

The back of the Get Smart lunch box is the same image on the thermos.

Color me bad: The Get Smart coloring books

Three of the four Get Smart coloring books from 1965 and 1966.

Three of the four Get Smart coloring books from 1965 and 1966.

Coloring is all the rage at the moment – adult coloring that is. In that vein, and since I’m a bit swamped with all kinds of work and chores, the time is due for an entry on the Get Smart coloring books.

A colored in Agent 99 in her chauffeur's outfit from the pilot episode.

A colored in Agent 99 in her chauffeur’s outfit from the pilot episode.

Now referring to these collectibles in the plural, while technically accurate, isn’t exactly correct. Produced by Saalfield Artcraft, there were four Get Smart coloring books with publishing dates of 1965 and 1966. They each had different covers, but the guts on the inside were the same.

There was the yellow one — and the red one that looked like the yellow one except it was die cut along the top corner. There was also the blue one that didn’t look like either of the first two, but there was another red one that looked like the blue one.

Are you confused? Good. The first yellow/red cover design is Max and Fang with the dog’s leash wrapped around him. The second blue/red cover design is a photo of Max and Fang tied to chairs.

Through some resourceful ebaying, I finally managed to score three of them. All have been colored in and that is typical when finding one of these.

The art was drawn by comic book artist Sam Burlockoff. Born in 1924, his comic book work spanned the 1940s into the 1950s, primarily as an inker. In addition to illustrating other Saalfield coloring books, he also did illustration work for encyclopedias. Among the syndicated comics he worked on in the 1960s were Flash Gordon and The Saint. Burlockoff passed away in 2007.

In terms of continuity, Max is drawn to look like Don Adams – a few of the pages are take-offs on Get Smart publicity photos. Agent 99 looks cute, yet she does not quite look like Barbara Feldon. The Chief is given a full head of hair and a mustache. He looks more like Chief Quimby from Inspector Gadget rather than Ed Platt.

As for Saalfield Artcraft, its parent, the Akron, Ohio-based Saalfield Publishing Company, was once one of the largest publishers children’s materials in the world. It began publishing children’s books in 1899. Under Saalfield Artcraft, it produced the likes of coloring books, paper dolls and puzzles. The company went defunct in 1976, however, Kent State purchased the company’s library and archives in 1977.

A peekaboo into the coloring books. We've got 99 doing a new hair color, a sweet fluorescent hot air balloon and Max and 99 chasing after some sort of flying saucer.

A peekaboo into the coloring books. We’ve got 99 doing a new hair color, a sweet fluorescent hot air balloon and Max and 99 chasing after some sort of flying saucer.

As I mentioned before, if you get your hands on one of these – or any vintage coloring book for that matter – don’t expect them to be mint. I’m a bit of a research nerd, so I actually find that aspect interesting. The colored pages are a like a time capsule of a kid’s day back in the 60s. Which pages did they color? What colors did they pick? Did they stay in the lines?

I noticed some patterns. The first couple pages were usually always colored – then the coloring would peter off with the exception of a few random pages in the middle and at the end. Not that I can blame those choices – the best illustrations, in my opinion, were on the first couple pages. In two of the coloring books I found that the previous owners had colored in the pages displaying the “Captured Kaos Weapons.” Hmmm….

Two different approaches to the Kaos weapons. One young artist went with realism while the other gave the guns a more colorful look.

Two different approaches to the Kaos weapons. One young artist went with realism while the other gave the guns a more colorful look.

The coloring habit has recently proved to not just be a past time for little ones. If you walk into a store — and, at this point, one of any kind — you will likely find a shelf of adult coloring books. Inside will be pages of intricate patterns and repetitive detail ranging from paisleys and flowers to mandalas and animals.

I own several and they are a fun and relaxing way to spend time. I also have a bit of a compulsive art habit and spend all kinds of spare time drawing my own illustrations. Periodically I post my art on Instagram – feel free to take peeky-boo there (@ahaverstick86). For fun, I did my own take on a couple of the Get Smart coloring pages by adding some… enhancements.

Well, the kids got to color, so I wanted a turn too.

Well, the kids got to color, so I wanted a turn too.