Catching up with Boogie and his buddies in ‘Original Diner Guys’
Aspen Times Staff Writer
“We always got the diner.”
Actually, what film director Barry Levinson and his buddies will always have is friendship. That’s what Levinson has captured with “Original Diner Guys,” a home movie-style documentary presented Thursday at the Isis Theatre as part of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.
“Original Diner Guys” catches up with the men who came of age in the carefree ’50s ” and inspired the gang in Levinson’s directorial debut, “Diner” ” as they gather for a series of reunions in the 1990s. Among them is Aspenite Leonard “Boogie” Weinglass, philanthropist and owner of Boogie’s Diner.
“Diner” the movie, released in 1982, was written and directed by Levinson, who based the half-dozen characters who hung out at a Baltimore diner in the late ’50s and early ’60s on a much broader group of friends. They included Weinglass, played by Mickey Rourke in the movie. The real diner closed in 1967.
“Original Diner Guys” features the guys who inspired the movie, captured as they gathered for reunions, birthdays, a wedding and one memorial service over the course of seven years, starting in 1990. Graying, balding and, in some cases, sporting serious paunches, they rib each other, compete on the basketball court, reminisce and laugh.
“I don’t know that it’s finished, or if it’s ever finished,” said Levinson, who may film yet another get-together of the old gang in Baltimore this summer. Nor does Levinson know what, if anything, he’ll do with the documentary.
“It’s as simple as these guys have known each other a long, long time …,” he said. “It finally occurred to me, what is it like for the first generation of rock ‘n’ roll kids in middle age?”
It wasn’t middle age, though, that interested some in Thursday’s audience, which was peppered with a number of Weinglass’ friends and acquaintances. They pressed Levinson for “Boogie stories.”
“He did get into a lot of fights,” Levinson recalled.
He had a reputation as a tough guy, but the still-wiry Weinglass was regularly put to the test, according to Levinson, who remembers when a guy pulled a switchblade as he and Weinglass prepared to mix it up outside a dance.
“Without missing a beat … Boogie looks at him very calmly and says, ‘What is this, the comic books?'” Levinson related. While the circling onlookers laughed, Weinglass decked his opponent. “It was all over in 30 seconds.”
“Original Diner Guys” offers plenty of similarly colorful reminiscing and seems to appeal to audiences that have no connection to the guys in the film, according to Levinson.
“I think it talks about friendship, no matter where you’re from,” he said.
“Original Diner Guys” is scheduled for a second showing on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. at the Isis.
[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]