Barefoot in the Park

Wild and Impetuous or a Stuffed Shirt? This was a big question during much of the 1960s in America, when being ‘square’ was going to lump you into a previous generation that was openly questioned on many important social issues.

1963’s Barefoot in the Park, by Neil Simon, was an early shot across the bow of ‘square’ America and was an unintended piece of the Pre-Chowhound Era. The newlywed wife (in the 1967 movie, Jane Fonda) is seen as being wild and impetuous, and the husband (in the movie, Robert Redford) was a stuffed shirt. In one important scene, the flamboyant neighbor, Mr Velasco, prepares a sizzling dish of salted eel that you ‘pop’ in your mouth while it is very hot or it will taste bitter. The wife ‘pops’ with much delight, but the husband nibbles.

A scene added in the movie (talked about in the play) has Mr. Velasco taking them to a secret Albanian restaurant on Staten Island on a cold February night instead of the steak-and-potato place around the corner.

It was pretty amazing and funny seeing this version of food enthusiasm vs MOR reticence played out circa 1963. Not just as a question of ‘personal’ taste (as often happens on Hungry Onion), but as a question of how attitude relates to life and social norms.


The film version of this is a classic. There is also a version of a filmed revival of the play from 1981, starring Richard Thomas (John Boy!) as Paul, Bess Armstrong as Corie, and the ever-delightful Hans Conried as Velasco. It aired on HBO back in the 80’s. I probably remember this version more than the Redford version…

And poor Velasco, after ages of eating exotic food, is prescribed ‘little pink pills’ by his doctor…

Food is STILL, in some parts, a shibboleth on what ‘side’ you’re on. I still run into folks who take the line “Salad’s not food. It’s what food eats!” to heart, and insist on calling sushi “bait”, all as some sort of weird cultural signifier.

To which I say “Great! More delicious stuff for me!” I’m personally of the opinion that if you’re a closed minded bigot who doesn’t like people from a different country / background / belief system than yourself, that’s fine. But then you must forfeit ALL the benefits folks like that bring to society, including, and perhaps, especially, their food.

If you go off about someone speaking ENGLISH, because this is AMERICA, well, no tacos or fried rice or humus plates for you.

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Yes, but there is so much in between. Anyway, “Barefoot In The Park” is a title I remember, but I am not sure I’ve seen it. Looking it up!

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thanks for the reminder. barefoot in the park is one of my favorite movies —the one with fonda and redford. just put it on my amazon prime video watch list.

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I just barely saw The Graduate a couple of years ago! I guess I need to catch up. Wasn’t The Apartment in that same time frame? Haven’t seen that either! So many to catch up on! Oh and Coming Home - same deal, but did finally watch fairly recently.

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It was surprising to me that, back in1963 (the date of the original play), they talked of going to a secret Albanian restaurant. Nowadays we are so used to hearing about that - especially on HO- but the sentiment is still the same: Would you pop or nibble?

BTW, Redford was in the original cast on Broadway. At the time, it was very unusual to cast a blond actor in anything, especially a comedy. Almost all actors on stage or screen had dark hair with the exception of Van Johnson and Van Heflin, but even then always in dramatic roles.

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I remember that version! Barbara Barrie was in that too.

HBO showed a number of filmed plays during that time. I loved “You Can’t Take it With You”, with Jason Robards as Grandpa Vanderhof and Colleen Dewhurst as the loopy Russian exile working as a waitress at Schrafft’s.

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There was also an African-American sitcom version in 1970 with Scooey Mitchell. It lasted one season, 12 episodes.

I distinctly remember one scene in which somebody comes up with the idea to manufacture rubber parsley. Why? Because a sprig of parsley was always placed on the plate in restaurants as decoration, but nobody ever ate it. Restaurants could save money by washing and reusing it…

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That’s one I don’t remember, but will make a point to look up now!

Wow! I have not heard that before.

“There was also an African-American sitcom version in 1970 with Scooey Mitchell.”

I wonder if that’s why it sounds so familiar.