Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Tale of Two Diners

I once almost appeared in a Hollywood movie that was shot in St. Louis back in 1989. The film, White Palace starring Susan Sarandon and James Spader, was based on a novel of the same name by ad-man-turned-novelist Glenn Savan. Sarandon played the character of a middle-aged waitress who works at a White Castle-like hamburger joint. Spader played the lustful ad man. Savan, the author, made a cameo appearance as a bum.

The production company used the diner at 18th and Olive, refitting it with fake turrets, which the owner of the business kept after the film crew left town. My role as a extra was to simply drive up and down Olive Street in my car to give the illusion that there was traffic downtown after dark. We drove back and forth for several hours, shooting and reshooting the scene, but that particular camera angle must have been cut in the editing.

Nowadays, Sarandon, one of Hollywood's most outspoken liberals, would be appalled at the window display at the restaurant: "God Bless America and President Bush."
The sign of patriotic support for the president has been enough to persuade me to eat lunch elsewhere, too.

Personally, I prefer Eat-Rite diner at the opposite end of downtown on Chouteau Avenue near the entrance to the long-closed MacAurthur Bridge. Eat-Rite never received a Hollywood makeover, but there is a sign on the the side of the building indicating its historic relationship to Route 66.

When I last dined there, a wet snow started to fall, the first of the season. The waitress, who looked more like somebody's grandmother than a Hollywood actress, left her station behind counter momentarily, opening the back door to gaze at the sky in wonder.