Nickelodeon Alumni Talk Slime, Drinking Games and Dirty-Minded Animators in "Slimed!"
Melissa Joan Hart, Geraldine Laybourne and others offer a behind-the-scenes look at the network that created the "tween."
Ever wonder what slime was made out of?
If the thought has crossed your mind, Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age is for you.
It's the inside story of the popular kids' channel and is full of fun anecdotes and interesting facts about the network (it coined the word "tween"), its cast and crew members, plus the aforementioned slime recipe.
For those who want the juicy details without the labor of reading, here are five great things from Slimed!:
You think your mom is overbearing …
Try dealing with stage moms. The mothers of Trevor Eyster (Salute Your Shorts) and Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains It All) were especially controlling. Michael Bower (Salute Your Shorts) said, “[Eyster’s] mother ran his life,” and Geoffrey Darby (president of production) said, “Melissa Joan Hart’s mom was difficult.”
In an effort to avoid nasty stage moms (and dads), parents were screened, unbeknownst to them, by kids already on shows while their kids went on auditions. “Even the best kid in the world would have been passed over if their parents had lamentably failed their part of the audition,” said Roger Price, one of the creators of You Can’t Do That on Television.
Once on a show, parents were kept out of the equation. Kids were not supposed to show scripts to their parents, and parents were not allowed on set. One diva parent even got her kid fired. So, again, you think your mom is overbearing?
Before Miley Cyrus, there was Melissa Joan Hart.
In October 1999, Hart graced the cover of Maxim. The response was mixed. For Hart, it was an opportunity to break away from her prepubescent image. To her credit, she was 23 years old at the time the cover came out — not exactly Clarissa or even Sabrina anymore.
Co-star Elizabeth Hess was disheartened by the idea that posing for Maxim was the best way to be seen as a woman, rather than a child actor. Actor Sean O’Neal (Clarissa) congratulated the move, calling it daring and essential to moving her out of a certain demographic. Joe O’Connor, who played her dad on Clarissa, says he understood the reality of trying to break out of the teen idol box, but believes Hart should have gone about it in a different way. As for Hart: “I think it was one of the best things for my career.”
Seems pretty safe to say she doesn’t regret it.
What the hell is in that green stuff?
Slime went through a sort of metamorphosis over the years. Its composition was constantly changing. Some of its ingredients (not all at once, mind you) included: gelatin, food coloring, oatmeal, shampoo, Cream of Wheat, water, cottage cheese, liquid dish soap, Jell-O, etc.
The recipe would change according to who was working props, and different cast and crew members had differing accounts of what exactly it was made with. “There were numerous incarnations,” said Alasdair Gillis (You Can’t Do That on Television).
Still, slime became iconic and representative of the Nickelodeon brand. Heck, just look at the title of this book and you’ll see how important it was and is to Nickelodeon.
For kids' programming, these animators are dirty.
“Animators are not saints. Go to any animation studio -- Disney or anyplace -- and they all have sacrilegious and nasty things up,” recalled Geraldine Laybourne, the network president from 1980 to 1996.
Case in point: Hanging in the stalls in the men’s room were S&M-themed drawings of a leather-, whip- and chain-bearing dominatrix version of Didi from Rugrats.
Artist and puppeteer Tim Lagasse talked about the inappropriate material that he would bring out at parties -- puppets beating each other up, puppets having sex and Big Bird swearing stand out as examples.
Frat brothers love Nickelodeon too.
Nickelodeon shows may have been aimed at tweens, but its popularity spread to college students. Its programs developed a sort of cult following for twenty-somethings looking to smoke weed and play drinking games.
“The Adventures of Pete & Pete had two fans: ten-year-old kids and college students who were stoned out of their mind, which is what I was,” said Rick Gomez, one of the stars of the show. “I’d go to a club to see Blues Traveler: Dude! It’s Endless Mike! F--ing stoned college kids.”
Added Out of Control's Marty Schiff, “There were some fraternities that would stay up and party, and because Out of Control was on at 4:00 a.m. there was a drinking game where every time Hern laughed, they did a shot. There was an underground movement for cable television very similar to what happened with viral videos on the Internet.”