Thursday, January 03, 2008

How to Stage a Pie Fight

by Barbara D'Amato

We have had many deep and serious postings on The Outfit Collective. This isn’t one of them.

Let’s suppose you plan to stage a pie fight, for a convention, a party, or just because. I’ve been involved in a couple of these, and can say with confidence that it’s not as simple as it looks.

You don’t just walk up on the stage and start throwing pies. The audience needs to understand what you’re going to do. They have no chance to anticipate if you just jump up and throw a pie in the victim’s face. You need to build the moment a bit. Let the audience see the pie. They’ll wonder whether you really intend to go ahead. A little dialogue here helps. Something like:

“You wouldn’t!”
“Yes, I would.”
“You wouldn’t! I just had my hair done.”
“All the better.”

Of course, something wittier is always good, or something related to who the victim and pie-thrower are and what the event is.

“You wouldn’t do it in front of all these nice funeral directors!” Whatever.

Now, the pie itself is important. The shell can be the light aluminum kind or the fiberboard kind that real pies come in. But don’t use a real pie. There’s no point and it makes a mess. No hotel needs blueberries in its carpet. As to the filling, there are two schools of thought, whipped cream or shaving cream. Some fear that shaving cream will sting the victim’s eyes. Forget about it! Shaving cream is much superior to whipped cream. Whipped cream is sticky and doesn’t wash out of clothes or hair easily. Shaving cream, on the other hand, is sort of soap. Whipped cream may also start to break down and get soupy if it hangs around a while under hot lights. Not a good thing. The last pie fight I was involved in was with Parnell Hall, who insisted on whipped cream. Parnell is a splendid person, multi-talented and gentlemanly. He is, although you must already know this, the author of the wonderful Puzzle Lady mystery series and the Stanley Hastings mystery series. But he doesn’t know from pie fight fillings. Use shaving cream.

Okay, the pie is about to be thrown. But in fact, don’t throw it. Lift it more slowly than you would naturally, and place it squarely, flat-on into the face of the victim.

At this point the victim should freeze in place—and he or she may even be too surprised to move, despite having expected this—to let the audience see that the event has actually happened.

Have fun.
Photo: Parnell Hall, Barbara D'Amato, photo credit Bonnie Cardone


Sean Chercover said...

Thanks for the tips, Barb! I've always wondered about the shaving cream vs. whipped cream question. Now I'll be ready.

And for my money, Soupy Sales took a pie better than anyone.

Woodstock said...

I think my favorite pie in the face is the one Nora Ephron hurled at Carl Bernstein in the closing paragraphs of HEARTBURN, her thinly disguised autobiographical tale of the disintigration of their marriage. I laughed out loud.

Barbara D'Amato said...

Woodstock and Sean--
Soupy Sales was great, and now I have to read the Nora Ephron.

The greatest pie fight scene ever filmed was the one at the end of The Great Race, with Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. It takes place in the palace kitchens, where the celebration pies and cakes are being made. Pies and colorful frostings fly and Tony Curtis, in his spotless white suit, walks through the chaos unscathed, until--but that's a spoiler. Watch and enjoy.

Bob Liter said...

The How to stage a pie fight bit also explains how to stage a scene in a novel or short story.

Sean Chercover said...

Barb - Yes, The Great Race! Amazing pie fight! I'll have to rent that one; it's been years.

Also, the unorthodox pie fight in Bugsy Malone (pies being fired by Tommy guns). That's worth seeing again.

Barbara D'Amato said...

Bob--absolutely. You have to build a scene.
Sean--the splurge guns! I hadn't thought about them in years, but that was a movie unlike any other.

bob loewy said...

barb, will you put a pie in my face? I would be honored. Best filling is Gillette foamy lemon-lime!