"You want me to hold the chicken"
June 20, 2005 11:02 AM   Subscribe

(challenging him)
You want me to hold the chicken.
Yeah. I want you to hold it between
your knees.

Lorna Thayer, who died June 4 at 85 after 40 years before the camera, was remembered for one brief appearance: the waitress on "Five Easy Pieces." In that memorable moment in the 1970 film, as the voice of authority opposite Jack Nicholson`s rebellious Bobby Dupea, a classical pianist turned oil rigger, the middle-aged Thayer proved to be a formidable foil in what has come to be known as the "chicken salad scene."
posted by matteo (21 comments total)
"It's a striking movie, eloquent, important, written and improvised in a clear hearted American idiom that derives from no other civilization, and describing as if for the first time the nature of the familiar American man who feels he has to keep running because the only good is momentum."
-- Pauline Kael
posted by matteo at 11:07 AM on June 20, 2005

Jeez, for a sec I thought you were going to say she briefly appeared in Pink Flamingos.

Hold that chicken!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:13 AM on June 20, 2005

Pollomacho -- check.
now what this thread needs is stavrosthewonderchicken

posted by matteo at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2005

I once had a band called Five Easy Pieces.
posted by sourwookie at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2005

RIP Lorna, we barely knew ye.

OT: other than for that one scene, which is arguably one the greatest one-liner in the history of cinema, does anyone aree with the late great Mme Kael on 5EP? I guess I didn't get it. I found the movie to be an incredible bore. I don't really remember much of a plot other than: a self-centered asshole visits his dying father and in the meantime makes life miserable for himself and everyone around him.
posted by psmealey at 12:01 PM on June 20, 2005

Top 5 best scenes in a movie ever. I did actually like the movie as a whole, whoever it definitely struggles with pacing and I think it slightly loses it's focus at points. But I think it's a better movie than most of the crap that's out there.
posted by spicynuts at 12:14 PM on June 20, 2005

I agree with Pauline! The plot as psmealey describes it (pretty accurately, too) seems adequate to me. It's a character study, maybe a snapshot of its time. (I do have a soft spot for stories about self-centered assholes, though.)

My favorite scene in 5EP isn't the chicken salad scene. It's when Rayette shows up unexpectedly at the Dupea family compound for dinner, and all of Bobby's family is cordial and polite to her, much more so than Bobby ever is, even though they are obviously baffled by the whole situation.
posted by scratch at 12:18 PM on June 20, 2005

psmealey: dead right. I felt sorry for the waitress in that scene. I had no sympathy whatsoever with Nicholson's insufferable jerk of a character. I always say that being an anti-establishment, non-conformist, opinionated rebel is no excuse for bad manners. Actually, I don't always say that, but I don't give a shit. Fuck you.
posted by Decani at 12:27 PM on June 20, 2005

One of my least favorite scenes in one of my very fave films. 5EP is one of two American films I've seen more than 50 times (the other being Carnal Knowledge).

However, I agree with writer Carole Eastman that the "Chicken Sal San" scene is very misunderstood and taking it out of context (as many people do) takes away from both the scene and the film. (Sort of like how the "You talkin' to me?" scene from TD has been so watered down that it's useless within the film and its appearance in the movie--in that context--immediately takes one OUT of the film at a time when they're supposed to be most absorbed.)

The scene is often interpreted as "Look at how he manipulated the situation to get what he wanted. Genius!"... when the point is that he didn't get what he wanted (something that Bobby points out to Palm in the very next scene).

An interviewer once said to Eastman: "I've always felt sorry for that waitress."

To which she replied: "You should. So do I. ... I didn't intend to incite the audience to rise up against waitresses, or intellectuals." [Intellectuals referring to a later scene at the house.]

When asked about the Kael review Eastman claims to not have read it. When the quote above is given to her and she's asked if she agrees with it, she responds: "No. And if I really was writing some kind of 'generic' man, she'd probably have been more likely to kick me in my fundaments for it. And as to intentions or trying to impart anything to the world, the plain fact is, I don't always know what I'm doing other than feeling my way as I go. I mean, writing is sometimes like going around poking at lifeless things to see if they move. "
posted by dobbs at 12:29 PM on June 20, 2005

posted by shmegegge at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2005

"being an anti-establishment, non-conformist, opinionated rebel is no excuse for bad manners"

I think I have just experienced a life-changing event.
Thank you, Decani.

Back on topic: 5 Easy Pieces is one of those films I have always wanted to see but the opportunity never arises.
posted by mischief at 12:55 PM on June 20, 2005

Also appearing in the chicken salad sandwich scene as a lesbian hitchhiker was choreographer and future one-hit wonder Toni Basil.
posted by jonp72 at 1:10 PM on June 20, 2005

Metafilter: going around poking at lifeless things to see if they move.
posted by GrammarMoses at 1:49 PM on June 20, 2005

Although nobody mentions it anymore, "Five Easy Pieces" was like its contemporary "The Last Picture Show," a film that got its primary kick from having a country western score. Eastern intellectuals who thought they were being moved by this more-or-less vacant film, were actually being overwhelmed by the glory and brilliance of of Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man," "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and other songs. It was the first time most of these people were forced to sit down and actually listen to country music, which was not anywhere as near the mainstream as it is today. Unfortunately the effect was either subconscious, or the elite was too snobby to admit that everything but the music in the film sucked.
The same went for "Last Picture Show," where the audience was kicked in the ass by one sensational Hank Williams song after another -- and attributed their elevated emotional state to the banal crap on screen, earning the film all sorts of unmerited honors.
Toni Basil, by the way, was excellently sexy in this film (and her song "Mickey" is a greater work of art than "Five Easy Piece" and "Last Picture Show" put together).
posted by Faze at 2:22 PM on June 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

Not much of a movie fan, are you, Faze?

Thanks for the post, matteo -- I wouldn't have known.
posted by languagehat at 3:07 PM on June 20, 2005

Hey, Faze - I'm sure Bogdonavich just absolutely loves your work, you pretensious ass.
posted by billysumday at 4:22 PM on June 20, 2005

and her song "Mickey" is a greater work of art than "Five Easy Piece" and "Last Picture Show" put together

I dunno about that, but the version she did in Spanish is great for annoying your neighbors.
posted by jonmc at 4:28 PM on June 20, 2005

Oh, Mickey, Come Estas, Como Estas, Me Gustas Mas, Hey Mickey!
posted by jonmc at 4:30 PM on June 20, 2005

Just as the utter tripe of Bogdanovich and Rafelson was enlivened and uplifted by Tammy Wynette and Hank Williams, so was the relatively banal Breaking 2: Electric Boogaloo made immortal by the transcedent power of Ollie & Jerry and a young Ice-T. Those Eastern intellectual snobs couldn't wrap their minds around those solid grooves that rocked the party that rocked the movie. The subsequent bringing down of the hizouse was attributed by those effete elites to Sam Firstenberg's utterly workmanlike direction.

Toni Basil was excellently silent throughout Five Easy Pieces, if my memory's correct.
posted by palinode at 5:05 PM on June 20, 2005

FWIW, this scene was filmed in the Denny's on Interstate 5 in Eugene, Oregon.

When I first moved to Eugene a few years ago I said, "Hey, this place looks familiar." That was because it's where "Animal House" was filmed. (The Delta house no longer exists.)
posted by neuron at 11:19 PM on June 20, 2005

An interesting trivia category is otherwise little regarded actors who play pivotal roles in memorable movie scenes. One of my favorites is Henry Jones, the coroner in "Vertigo." And, of course, Alfonso Bedoya of "The Treasure of Sierra Madre."
posted by bluffy at 8:54 PM on June 26, 2005

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