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 I was on my way to Boston, my friend Stacey suggested when passing through, I should visit her in Albany for a couple of weeks.
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 mysterious 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 twist 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.