Culture Cheat Sheet: YouTube

Impress Your Friends on the Internet with These 7 Amazing Oregon Moments

From the exploding whale to Ramblin’ Rod, here are moments that made this place—as seen on YouTube.

By Kelly Clarke, Zach Dundas, Eden Dawn, and Margaret Seiler November 14, 2016

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Image: Amy Martin

The Exploding Whale

Forget St. Helens. The greatest Cascadian blast of all time took place in November 1970, when the Oregon State Highway Division decided to dynamite a 45-foot, eight-ton rotting sperm whale carcass that was stinking up the beach near Florence, Oregon. And nothing tops the video: the camera’s slow pan across the hulking corpse; newscaster Paul Linnman interviewing a blasé engineer on how much dynamite ought to “disintegrate” the mammal; senior citizens setting up lawn chairs like it’s the Fourth of July. And, then, it happens: A whale frickin’ explodes. Cheers swell. And, with a clunk, clump, THUMP—the horror begins. At this point, clear your day, because you will watch it again. And again. It just never. Stops. Being funny. —Kelly Clarke

The Naked Television Host

For 11 years local “artist” Jim Spagg took free speech to a new ... level by hosting a call-in cable-access show that featured snippets of him dancing fully nude with similarly undressed guests. Spagg’s reign came to an end in 2003 when he infamously defecated live on camera, though the official reason given for his departure from our small screens was “copyright infringement.” —Eden Dawn

The Ultimate Salesman

Few peddlers had the audacity (or style) of Portland’s Tom Peterson. The appliance and furniture pitchman—always in a sport coat, wide striped tie, and iconic flat top haircut—took over television sets in the 1980s with constant commercials offering deep discounts and some serious merch, from free Tom Peterson haircuts to talking alarm clocks with his face on them. Never one to go a moment without a Kanye-esque self-reference, his spots ended with the oft imitated but never replicated, “Now that’s Tom Peterson’s!” —ED

All Smiles for Ramblin’ Rod

For generations of Portland kids, the greatest coup imaginable was perching on a set of rickety bleachers inside the KPTV studio, hooting and clapping for a grown man dressed in a cardigan with hundreds of buttons pinned to it, who was standing in a fake tugboat. That man was “Ramblin’ Rod” Anders, who hosted the beloved (and highly rated) local morning kids’ TV program The Ramblin’ Rod Show from 1964 to 1997. Anders interviewed the kids and introduced cartoons, but the most anticipated segment was the show’s Smile Contest, which crowned a few coveted winners from the 30 or so kids on set each day: the camera slowly panning across each frozen grimace like a police lineup of gap-toothed cuteness. (Want more on Ramblin' Rod? Read on.) —KC 

Skating on Thin Ice

Lillehammer’s Winter Olympics, 1994: After a mysterious delay, a flushed Tonya Harding finally begins her program, but whiffs her first jump and is soon in tears. The product of David Douglas High and the Lloyd Center ice rink explains to the judges that she has a broken lace, and they give her a later slot. Back home, her estranged husband and some of his known associates were facing charges in the clubbing attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan, and Harding’s life was about to devolve into a mess of who knew what, and when. Watching her try to keep it together—and watching her take a few draws from her asthma inhaler and then land that opening triple lutz on the second try—is a reminder of what powerhouses skaters were before the sport entered its springy-teenager era. —Margaret Seiler

Billy Rancher Goes Boom (Chuck)

The footage: black and white. The music: a buoyant ska/New Wave/rockabilly confection, orchestrated by a sneering, whip-skinny blond front man. The kids of Portland’s music underground circa 1982 are going off to Billy Rancher and the Unreal Gods and their joyously nonsensical signature anthem “Boom Chuck.” Cancer would cut Billy down in 1986, leaving the Unreal Gods to fade into the netherworld of half-remembered almost-stars. But this clip proves that for a jumpy hot second early in the Reagan era, Billy Rancher was the local king of stage and scene. —ZD

Providence Park Earns Its Name

It was 14 minutes in October 2015 that made some heathen Portlanders believe in God, specifically a deity that prizes our soccer team over Kansas City’s. What other explanation could there be for that save? That ball hitting the post? That double bounce along the goal line? Still tied after five rounds of penalty kicks, the Timbers’ knockout playoff match against Sporting KC continued until the rival goalkeepers faced off against one another. The Timbers’ Adam Kwarasey came out on top. In the stands: tears, palpitations, biting on scarves. Watch it, and feel your own heart race. —MS

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