I’m sure you’ve seen Meg Ryan’s famous antics in When Harry met Sally–she fakes an orgasm so well in a restaurant that a lady seated nearby tells her waiter “I’ll have what she’s having.” It’s a great scene, hysterically funny and seemingly original … but if you’ve ever worked in restaurants or bars you might recognize where that line came from.

We hear it all the time. A customer joins friends and when asked about a drink, simply tells the bartender “I’ll have what they’re having.”

At some moment in bar history, a customer must have watched someone fall off their barstool and then joked to the bartender: “I want the same thing he’s drinking!”

It’s a classic bar line that’s been bounced around for generations, so when I heard director Rob Reiner tell how he and his mom (who plays the nearby lady) came up with this original idea out of the blue, I started to think of how many times I’d heard it before.

Here’s one example from a movie made in 1986–three years before the production of When Harry met Sally. In Round Midnight, Dexter Gordon has the role an American saxophone player living in Paris in the 1950’s. Waiting for a drink after his night’s performance, Dexter watches a customer gulp down his last cocktail … and then fall straight back onto the floor. Dexter turns to the bartender and says, “I would like to have the same thing he had.”

Rob and his mom may have spent more time in bars than they care to admit. Click the image below to watch.

(2) Classic bartender’s line …

We’ve posted this before but I have to include one of my all-time favorite bartender lines. I first saw it on TV as part of an Oscars show while working the bar–a short clip in a montage of movies scenes. It took quite a few years of watching old movies and asking friends but I finally found it again. You can read the story of that long search here, but the actual short clip is below. Henry Fonda asks the bartender if he’s ever been in love … and the gentleman playing the barman delivers his line with perfect, deadpan acting.

(3) There’s nothing like bar conversation …

When I was working in Albany, a young nurse came into our bar after a hospital shift. She wanted to know how I came to stand behind the taps at The Lark Tavern. It was a long story which I tried to keep short–that while on my way to Boston, my friend Stacey suggested I should visit her in Albany for a couple of weeks when passing through.

After running into trouble with a motorcycle gang and a big beef with Stacey’s ex-con boyfriend, I began slinging drinks at The Lark where I’d meet politicians and gangsters, undercover narcotics cops, shameless deadbeats, scheming housewives … and eventually, I’d wind up living with a tall blonde who loved to be tied up and spanked.

It took me three years to leave Albany.

Meanwhile, as I told the nurse a few of the twists and turns, a frayed sort of man sat alone two barstools away. Wearing brown pants and a shirt that might not have been changed for days, he’d been bent over his drink–but now he slowly lifted his shoulders and joined our conversation.

“Life is a path of many windings,” he muttered, looking straight ahead.

The nurse and I laughed out loud. A drunk sat up to deliver a line from Confucius. You just can’t beat conversations in a bar.

This entry was posted in Life on a Cocktail Napkin. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to CLASSIC BAR LINES

  1. Starbucks8294 says:

    I’ve said it many times myself, bud.

  2. Colleen says:

    Not exactly on point to your story, but I recall reviewing many ad lib lines that made famous quotes. I found them very interesting and you might as well:
    For example: In Pretty Woman “what became one of the most famous scenes from the film, Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) presents call girl Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) with a gorgeous and rather expensive diamond necklace. As Roberts reaches out to touch the precious jewels, Gere – in an unscripted playful moment – quickly snaps the box shut genuinely surprising her.

    Her laugh was so honest, and the scene so good, that Marshall decided to leave it in the film as is.”

    And this one surprised me, “Casablanca (1942)

    Director – Michael Curtiz

    The scene of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) putting Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman) and Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) on a plane bound for America with the help of Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) is chock full of memorable lines but the line listed as 5th in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes wasn’t even part of the original script.

    According to reports, Bogart said the phrase “Here’s looking at you kid” multiple times to Bergman while teaching her to play poker between takes.”

  3. Mike Q says:

    Starbucks8294: Good to hear from you, my friend! I know I’ve been a bit remiss here, but the book is done and now I’m trying for an agent.

    Colleen: Thanks, Colleen! I hadn’t heard either of those. Love the classic lines and their background. (A little Chinese this week … just egg rolls and dumplings. Don’t argue, just enjoy.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *