The Best Musician Cameos on 'The Adventures of Pete & Pete'

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As we reported, Nickelodeon plans to re-air some of their most beloved ’90s series in a block dubbed The ’90s Are All That. While some at Flavorwire worried that this resurrection of Kenan, Kel, Clarissa, and the like will rob these shows of the nostalgia that endear them to us (and make for such impassioned party conversations), others rejoiced. We poured ourselves celebratory orange sodas; we hung up our Fergface dart boards; we even went so far as to start our nostalgic navel-gazing a bit early and re-watch The Adventures of Pete & Pete. We discovered that a lot of our favorite musicians stopped by Wellsville during Pete & Pete‘s three seasons — from Iggy Pop to Michael Stipe, a surprising number of artists have made bizarre and wonderful cameos. After the jump, check out ten of our favorite guest appearances.

Polaris

Polaris served as Pete & Pete‘s house band throughout its run and, most famously, provided the series with its memorable indie rock theme song, “Hey Sandy.” Besides soundtracking in the show’s opening credits, Polaris also sporadically appeared in episodes. The band plays a prominent role in “A Hard Day’s Pete,” in which Little Pete grows obsessed with an overheard garage band’s song (“Summerbaby”). Comprised largely of members of New Haven indie rock act Miracle Legion, Polaris’s only album was 1999’s Music From the Adventures of Pete & Pete.

Iggy Pop, “James ‘Pop’ Mecklenberg”

Casting boldly against type, Pete & Pete chose the onetime Stooges frontman, an artist known for his outrageous live performances, to serve as the loving and overprotective father of Little Pete’s best friend. Iggy Pop played “Pop” Mecklenberg with the perfect balance of heart and surly cantankerousness, at times growling at Little Pete and Artie’s shenanigans, once serenading his daughter at her school dance, as seen above. Yet, the most brilliant moment of Iggy Pop’s time on Pete & Pete comes at the end of “Halloweenies” — looking down at Big Pete’s mortal enemy, Endless Mike, scrubbing pumpkin guts off his porch, Pop Mecklenberg slowly shakes his head and grumbles “stooge.”

Kate Pierson, “Mrs. Vanderveer”

Unlike Iggy Pop and Polaris, many of the musicians who appeared on Pete & Pete played very brief roles — take Kate Pierson’s cameo in “What We Did on Our Summer Vacation.” The episode revolves around the mythos and magic of those brief three months of summer and the eclectic characters they bring. Mister Tastee is Wellsville’s resident ice cream man, yet no one knows his true identity. The B-52s’ flame-haired singer shows up as a blind millionairess, Mrs. Vanderveer, who refers to the masked scooper as “Leonard.” In a perfect, Twin Peaks-esque scene, Pierson, wrapped in a peach scarf emotes: “You never understood me Leonard… you never really understood me.”

Michael Stipe, “Captain Scrummy”

“Summer Vacation” also sees R.E.M.’s brooding frontman Michael Stipe guest as Cloghaven Beach’s ragged ice cream slinger, Captain Scrummy. After Ellen and the Petes’ attempts to befriend the mysterious Mister Tastee scare him off, the gang goes on a hunt, determined to find their beloved vendor of blue tornado bars. After Big Pete’s questioning of Mrs. Vanderveer turns up no further clues to Tastee’s whereabouts (Pierson delivers a fantastic line about her eyes resembling the “bluest blue tornado bar” at 2:58), he travels to the beach and meets Stipe’s unenthusiastic Scrummy. After suggesting that Big Pete looks like a bonafide sludgecicle man, Stipe goes on to insist that some boundaries — like the one between an ice cream vendor and the child vendee — should remain intact.

Debbie Harry

In “New Year’s Pete,” Little Pete has resolved to save the world. All he needs to get the job done is a $456 jetpack. In order to raise the necessary funds, Little Pete conceives of some interesting ploys, starting with charging his neighbors for landmine inspections. Now, this may seem unnecessary in a suburban town, but the Wrigley brothers take care of that obstacle by rigging nearby lawns with landmines. The first neighbor the Petes approach is an impressively coiffed Debbie Harry. The Blondie singer bemoans her spinsterdom and sternly refuses Pete and Pete’s inspection — until her fluffy white pooch is shot into the air by a triggered mine.

David Johansen, “Park Ranger Thorsen”

In “On Golden Pete,” New York Dolls frontman David Johansen plays the quintessential humorless authority figure, an ironic choice considering his punk past. Park Ranger Thorsen pulls the Wrigley family over as they drive toward their fishing trip, determined to stop the speeding vehicle before it maims any of his beloved forest creatures. “What chance do nature’s furry little friends have against two tons of hurtling steal? You got an answer for that, Ahab?” Thorsen snarls. Fortunately for the Wrigleys’ trip, Johansen’s park ranger is ultimately foiled by Mom’s steal plate and Little Pete’s choice insult: “fungus lick.”

Richard Edson, “Mr. Beverly”

While Sonic Youth’s original drummer (who later joined post-punk/New Wave band KONK) Richard Edson has racked up a pretty impressive number of film credits by now, including a starring role in the live-action Super Mario Brothers, our favorite will always be his role as Mr. Beverly. Edson played the love-struck janitor and resident squidskeeper in the pilot episode of Pete & Pete, competing with Big Pete for the affections of Miss Fingerwood, a math teacher portrayed by indie rocker Syd Straw. The drummer proved the perfect fit for the fledgling series, adding his own certain brand of weirdness to the show’s already obvious eccentricity.

Gordon Gano, “Mr. Zank”

In “X=Why?,” Ellen catalyzes an uprising at her high school by continually asking her teachers their most feared question: “Why do we have to learn this?” After her query sparks an existential crisis in her math teacher, the class is subject to a parade of substitutes, each of whom suffers at the hands of Ellen’s philosophizing. The first (chosen by lottery) happens to be a Mr. Zank, played by Violent Femmes frontman Gordon Gano. Though Gano’s time on Pete & Pete isn’t very long, his scene is particularly dear to us — from the bolero tie at the base of his neck to his bizarre facial contortions after being stumped by Ellen, Gano is equal parts awkward and charming.

LL Cool J, “Mr. Throneberry”

Not all of the musicians on Pete & Pete’s came from the indie-rock realm. Somehow, James Todd Smith, aka LL Cool J, ended up teaching a class at Wellsville as well. In the first minute of “Sick Day,” an episode in which Little Pete fakes food poisoning to stay home from school, LL is seen at the head of Little Pete’s classroom taking roll call.

Luscious Jackson

Sometimes the musicians that came to Wellsville were allowed to just be musicians. Like Polaris, many bands, including The Apples in Stereo, frequented the set of Pete & Pete, playing themselves. The episode “Dance Fever” featured alt-rockers Luscious Jackson (who you’ll remember from their 1997 hit “Naked Eye”) performing at Little Pete’s first junior-high dance. Big Pete is the only kid who attempts to gain the band’s attention after falling for guitarist, Gabby Glaser — the rest of the middle-school students seem blissfully unaware that the music of most school dances is provided by DJs with poor monikers and penchants for Styx.