The Crawling Ear: The Edge of Etiquette

Does the name "Kirk Thatcher" mean anything to you? James explains why it should...

I hesitate to say the name Kirk Thatcher looms large in the entertainment industry; I’m sure if you were to shout it out in the middle of any given Carl’s Jr. or Dutchess during peak dining hours, very few (if any) customers would raise their triple-stacked cheese melt in your general direction, coupled with a hearty “Hell yeah!”, to acknowledge the man best known for directing Muppets’ Wizard of Oz. Most likely, everyone in the restaurant would assume you were playfully calling out for a child in hiding, which would cause most patrons to take brief pause from their meal and dart their eyes around in a quick and vain attempt to spot your lost tot. God forbid there’s anyone actually named Kirk Thatcher in this hypothetical establishment – by screaming their moniker out, you’ve unwittingly set up an awkward encounter that’s going to end with you attempting to explain exactly what type of animal Gonzo is.

But I digress. Indeed, Kirk Thatcher is the man who helmed the last Muppet installment, but it would be unjust to label him a mere Kermit jockey. This man has worked in numerous capacities with all sorts of strange cinematic creatures over the years, from the denizens of Jabba the Hutt’s palace in Return of the Jedi to the riotous mob of slimy, spiky-toothed hell raisers in Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Of course, this is leading to a William Shatner joke – Thatcher was an associate producer on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. It must take a truly disturbed mind to willingly accept any position that involves close work with a jittery, rug-wearing Canadian known for his constant leering and fluency in Esperanto. A recent poll of co-workers in my office’s break room found that Star Trek IV is the most popular of the Star Trek movies, beating out the one where Dr. McCoy has a giant beard and also the one where Christian Slater plays a shifty-looking Vulcan. Turns out most people are suckers for wacky, fish-out-of-water comedies (especially ones in which time-traveling humpback whales play a major part).

Star Trek IV is certainly my favorite of the highfalutin’ “fogies in space” film series. As far as I can tell, Mr. Thatcher’s associate production work on said picture was top notch. It should be noted if you put a gun to my head right now and asked me to describe what exactly an associate producer does, I would be unable to come up with anything stronger than “get money or something? Please don’t hurt me.” That’s really no matter, for I am not here to sing Kirk Thatcher’s praises for his behind-the-scenes prowess on the movie “Bob the Moo” called “reasonable” in the User Comments section of its Imdb page. No, I am here to sing the praises of Thatch’s acting. The spunky young lad had something of a legendary cameo in ST4:TVH (how do you like that abbreviation?) as “Punk on bus.” Pardon what may seem like hyperbole, but it’s the film’s best scene and possibly the best two to three minutes of cinema produced during the heyday of off-the-shoulder sweatshirts.

Let me set the stage: Admiral James T. Kirk and Captain Spock are riding San Francisco mass transit in the year 1986, desperately searching for a couple of whiny humpback whales. Sitting across from them is Thatcher’s unnamed, mohawked rapscallion. This sneering, leather-clad ne’er-do-well is blasting some rather abrasive hardcore on a small jam box much to the dismay of our two intergalactic heroes. After several attempts to get the feisty rocker to lower/shut off his obnoxious late twentieth century rock music, Spock applies that famous Vulcan neck pinch of his (a finishing move that’s second only to the Camel Clutch). This causes the punk’s head to fold over like a wet napkin. Thatcher’s cranium slams down on the portable stereo and shuts off the horrible, horrible racket to scattered applause from other passengers on the bus. Thanks to the wonder of the Internetz, you can view this entire glorious scene here.

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You cannot deny this incredible sequence and the fine performances from all three actors (especially Thatcher; when he flips that bird, you really feel it). It might surprise you to learn that K-Thatch actually wrote and performed the wild punk song featured in that scene. According to this 2000 interview with Kirk, the studio was originally going to have him rocking out to some weak-ass new wave pop bullshit. Knowing damn well a true punk wouldn’t be caught dead listening to Duran Duran or Flock of Seagulls (at least not in public), Kirk quickly formed a punk band called The Edge of Etiquette with sound editor Mark Mangini and threw together the tune in question, which is officially titled “I Hate You.” It sounds a bit like early Vandals, which is eerie only because Thatcher bears passing resemblance to that band’s deceased original singer, Steve “Stevo” Jensen. Regardless, “I Hate You” is hilariously raw and full of great, laughable lyrics (“I eschew you/and I say, ‘screw you!’”). It kind of makes me sad that this was just a one-time thing. I bet Edge of Etiquette could have produced a fairly great album that danced the line between sharp parody and honest punk.

It makes me very sad that “I Hate You” has never been officially released on any of the Star Trek soundtrack albums, compilations, or boxed sets. This, I feel, is a musical crime against humanity. One of the rarest and coolest of all punk tunes, ironically in the hands of people who would have no problem mass distributing it – it just makes me sick. Oh, Mr. Thatcher, could you please put down your Muppets for one second, cut out the middle man, and post an MP3 of “I Hate You” somewhere prominent on the Internettles so we, the Edge of Etiquette-adoring psychos of Nebula Z, can finally be fully satiated? Maybe if Kermit and Piggy’s next outing does well, you can put out a limited edition seven inch with Shatner doing one of his patented “no singing” versions of the song on the flip side. I can already see the sleeve design: screen capture of you on the front cover flipping JTK and Spock the bird; screen capture of Spock pwning you Vulcan-style on the back.

Make it so, Thatch Man. Please. For the fans.

James Greene Jnr writes every week at Den of Geek. Read his last column here.