When it comes to movies, Eugene is famous for being the home of National Lampoon’s “Animal House”. Unfortunately, the actual animal house was torn down shortly after the movie was shot. And although all the other locations still exist, many or most have been remodeled or otherwise altered. But another well-known movie had a memorable scene shot in Eugene, and its location is remarkably well-preserved. How much longer is a question, as traditional diners like Denny’s are becoming endangered species in this part of the world, home to so many hip new restaurants.
Having driven by it for over 25 years, I decided I better stop and get a few shots, as I’ve learned to trust my intuition on these matters.
First, here’s the famous scene of Jack Nicholson trying to order a plain omelette and toast, from the 1970 movie “Five Easy Pieces”. Nicholson plays Bobby Dupea, a surly oil-derrick worker who comes from a privileged youth and was a piano prodigy. When Bobby learns that his father is dying, he goes home to see him, taking along his waitress girlfriend (Karen Black). They pick up two hitchhikers, who add some additional color to their journey up north to the Puget Sound.
And they get hungry along the way, and stop in at this diner just off I-5 in Eugene, which was not a Denny’s at the time.
One of the likely reasons this diner is still so well preserved is because it’s in a terrible location. Presumably it was built shortly after I-5 was built, along with a Motel 6 next to it, but this spot turned out to be rather awkward to get to, and nothing else was ever built there. meanwhile, two miles further north on I-5 is the huge and bustling Gateway area. But just as well, as it really does feel like a time capsule, tucked into this little crook of land off an exit nobody in Eugene ever takes.
I’ve driven by it forever, but did not know how to actually get to it, and botched my first attempt.
Which probably explains why it’s mostly empty at 11:45 AM the day I popped my head in to take a quick shot. The folks that were there all looked like local regulars. No tourists would ever find themselves here, unless they were coming to find the diner in this movie. The hanging lights are a new addition, but otherwise it looks mighty similar to the way it looks in the movie.
And no, I wasn’t tempted to stay and eat lunch (no offense to you Denny’s lovers). I looked at the menu and there are no sides of toast. That’s a must.