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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Diner - By Request

I must say that I am really happy that I have started up the “All-Request Wednesday” feature, because many of you have given me some fantastic ideas. I really do appreciate all of you for writing in to me via Facebook and Google+ and sending me your ideas. In fact, I am actively encouraging all of you to keep sending me your ideas on what you want to see in this blog.

In fact, why don't you also use the comments section in this blog to share with me your ideas on what subjects you want to see in this blog on a future Wednesday entry? I am always looking for new ideas, and I appreciate every one you send me!

Now, for this edition of All-Request Wednesday, I'm going to be taking a request from someone from Europe! (Well, okay, actually she was born in Canada, but works and lives in Italy). And, I want to extend a grazie to Cathy S. of Italy for giving me today's suggestion.

Before I go ahead with Cathy's great suggestion, I want to ask all of you something. And, I really want you to think about this answer, because for some of you we could be going back in time at least two or more decades.

Did you have a hangout during your teen years that you liked to go to?

I mean, in the world of pop culture, there are several examples. Archie and the gang hung out at Pop's Chocklit Shop, the Saved by the Bell gang hung out at The Max, the Happy Days crew had Arnold's, and the Winslows from Family Matters would spend time at Rachel's Place.

But, can you think of where you and your friends decided to hang out while you were teenagers?

I was really never one who did much hanging out in my own teen years (unless you could consider walking over to the local convenience store for a Slush Puppie with all the other kids as hanging out). But I think I know quite a few places in my hometown that could be considered hangout places.

There was the ice cream/tourist place on Block House Island which helped people meet and greet each other while indulging in frozen treats. And, well...I suppose that Dairy Queen has kind of become ice cream/tourist place 2.0 depending on the time of year one visits it.

Another place that some of the teens used to hang out at when I was a teenager was the local shopping mall. Back in those days, Walmart was the anchor store, and the food court was bustling with activity and delicious food. A lot has changed since then, but one thing I can say is that the food court still has delicious food...even though none of the original restaurants that were there fifteen years ago remain.

But you know something? There's a part of me that wishes that I had been born about ten years earlier than I was because there was one place in town that I used to love going to when I was a kid, and I would probably have loved to have hung out there in my teenage years.

Do you remember Woolworth's Department Store at all? We had one in town. And, I have likely told you several tales about how much I loved shopping in the toy department, and being able to choose whatever package of bubblegum I wanted to bring home with me whenever I took a trip to Woolworth's.

But the best part of Woolworth's was the awesome lunch counter. For some reason, I always found it a real treat to get one of those cheeseburger platters complete with french fries and gravy because it was a rare treat that I didn't get a chance to eat every day, and it was always a fun atmosphere. You got to sit on those awesome stools, watching the staff interacting with the customers. It was a really exciting time.

And, one memory that I had when I was a kid was seeing groups of teens hanging out at the lunch counter just having a good old time. I always thought to myself that when I was a teenager, I would have the same opportunity to do the same with my friends, but unfortunately, our Woolworth's location shut down when I was eleven. Still though, I think that's why I have such a love of 1950s style diners. The Woolworth's lunch counter kind of reminded me of being at one.

And, when you stop and think about it, I think that almost every teenager in the world has that one special dining establishment that they associate with their high school years. Whether it was a greasy spoon diner, a hot dog stand, or a Burger King franchise, we all had those special places where many of us spent our coming-of-age years.

And, that's why Cathy's idea is one that I wanted to feature, because her idea was about a movie that came out when she was a teenager herself...and it happened to take place at a diner.

In fact, that's the name of the movie. “Diner”, produced by Jerry Weintraub and directed by Barry Levinson.

As the tagline of the film promised when it was released nationwide on March 5, 1982, “suddenly, life was more than french fries, gravy, and girls”. And with a wonderful story and impressive casting, is it any wonder why “Diner” was one of the most well loved films of the year?

The film was set in Baltimore, right around the holiday season of 1959. Specifically, the days preceding the New Years Eve celebrations, which saw the end of the 1950s and the beginning of that turbulent decade known as the 1960s. And, the film depicts twentysomething men who have been friends since childhood, coming to terms with their adulthood, as well as the changing relationships that they have with each other.

The six friends are...

Edward “Eddie” Simmons (Steve Guttenberg) – a die-hard Baltimore Colts fan whose own wedding to Elyse on New Years Eve, 1959, is the event that is bringing all five men together again...but will Eddie be able to go through with the wedding?

Laurence “Shrevie” Scrieber (Daniel Stern) – the only member of the six-man diner crew who has already gotten married to Beth (Ellen Barkin), and who works as an electronics salesman...but when Eddie begins to ask Shrevie” for marriage advice, he may have to come to terms with the fact that he got married for all the wrong reasons.

Robert “Boogie” Sheftell (Mickey Rourke) – the womanizer and gambler of the group who finds himself in extreme trouble at the start of the film, and he is forced to confront the fact that his quest for fast money has gotten him off course.

Modell (Paul Reiser) - the timid one of the bunch - a very nice guy whose insecurities often prevent him from expressing what he really wants out of life.

Timothy “Fen” Fenwick Jr. (Kevin Bacon) – the rich kid of the group who has a trust fund as large as the hatred he has for his wealthy family, and who has dropped out of college to 'find himself'

William “Billy” Howard (Tim Daly) – the best man of Eddie, he is back in town to not only stand up for Eddie at his wedding, but to find out where things stand in his relationship with his girlfriend, Barb.

All six of these men have one thing in common with each other. They all loved to hang out at A diner that was located at the corner of Reistertsown Road and Rogers Avenue in Baltimore known as “Fells Point Diner”. And, because the film was titled “Diner”, most of the action took place at that very diner.

Now, I know what you all are thinking. How can a movie about six guys reuniting at a diner be anything other than...well...dull and boring?

Well, “Diner” certainly was not dull and boring. Not with scenes like this one...

...and this one...

...and even this one...

...or how about this one?

Now, I've purposely posted these clips randomly because of a couple of reasons. One, I think that all of these scenes are very well acted, and fit well within the film. And, secondly, because I think that in order to get a real feel of how good this movie was, you really would have to watch it in full by yourselves, because watching this film for research purposes, I can see why Cathy wanted to see a blog entry on this movie. It's a great film, and it seems to fit in with my opening spiel about teen hangouts. Everyone has a place in the world where they feel most confident and safe. For the guys in “Diner”, it was Fells Point Diner. Everyone has that one special place that they speak very fondly of because of the memories associated with the place. And for Eddie, Shrevie, Boogie, Billy, and Fen, those memories will always remain, even as they grow older.

By the way, just to put things into perspective, all of the men who had starring roles in the film were in their twenties or thirties when this film was shot. Therefore it makes me feel incredibly old to know that Steve Guttenberg and Kevin Bacon are now 54, Daniel Stern is 55, Tim Daly is 57, and Mickey Rourke is now 60! Funny how time flies, isn't it?

Since we're on the subject, since I usually provide trivia for Monday Matinees, why don't I do the same with today's subject too? After all, “Diner” is a movie, right?

01 – Did you know that many of the scenes in the film were improvised? Barry Levinson encouraged the actors to make up their own lines in order to make scenes more believable.

02 – Actor Michael Tucker (“L.A. Law”) played Bagel in the film, and he talks in his native Baltimore accent in the film.

03 – The diner scenes were filmed last on purpose. Levinson wanted the cast to get to know each other first before filming all of them together on screen.

04 – You know the scene in which Eddie forces his fiancee to pass a football quiz before he will marry her? Turns out that scene was loosely based on a real-life moment in Barry Levinson's family! His own cousin allegedly did the same thing Eddie did. Kind of makes one wonder if that marriage worked out...

05 – Paul Reiser (who played Modell) didn't actually plan to audition for the movie at all. He accompanied a friend to the casting call. While he waited for his friend to audition, he was convinced to come back the next day to give his own audition, and the rest is history.

06 – Elyse's face is NEVER seen during the entire film.

07 – Believe it or not, the movie was almost never released as MGM believed that “Diner” would be a complete flop. It was only after Pauline Kael of “The New Yorker” gave the movie rave reviews that MGM did an about face and released the movie.

08 – This was the first movie project that Kevin Bacon worked on after leaving the soap opera “Guiding Light” in 1981 – ironically enough, he played the role of another guy named Tim on that show!

09 – Kevin Bacon was not in the best of health when he went to audition, as he was very ill. But believe it or not, that helped him win the role of Timothy Fenwick as he believed that as a trust fund kid/slacker he would be half-drunk, so he went ahead with the audition. He felt lousy that day, but it earned him the part!

10 – Would you believe that on the set of “Diner”, there was a trailer known by the cast as “the comraderie camper”? It was used by Levinson to keep the actors there whenever any friction developed between them.

11 – The main actors in “Diner” met a week prior to the film being shot in Baltimore, and the majority of the actors would hit the Baltimore night-life to hang out at bars and clubs and schmooze with women. The lone exception was then newlywed Daniel Stern, who just like his character in the film stayed away from the excitement.

12 – Apparently, there is talks to bring “Diner” onto the Broadway stage as a musical, and names linked to the project include Levinson and singer Sheryl Crow.

13 – There's a bit of a goof in the final scene of “Diner”. The music that plays is Bobby Darin's “Beyond the Sea”. The problem is that chronologically, it would be an impossibility. The film's ending takes place on January 1, 1960. The song “Beyond the Sea” wasn't released until months later.

14 – A television pilot was commissioned in 1983 based on the film by CBS, but it didn't become a full-length series.

And, that's our look back at “Diner”.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your insights and your review. Well done, Matthew.