'Silver Linings' brings local supporters together

Wearing a trash bag , like Bradley Cooper's character, Jim Mclaughlin grabs some champagne at the Llanerch Diner.
Wearing a trash bag , like Bradley Cooper's character, Jim Mclaughlin grabs some champagne at the Llanerch Diner.
Posted: February 26, 2013

Through pure luck and timing, a middle-aged couple from Lancaster County scored arguably the best spot on the East Coast for viewing the Oscars on Sunday night.

At 5:30 p.m., after driving in from Gap on a whim, Joanne Larkin, a teacher, and her husband, Gerard, who works for Verizon, waltzed into the Llanerch Diner and claimed The Booth. That now-famed square footage where Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence had a non-date over a bowl of Raisin Bran in Silver Linings Playbook.

"My friend made me promise I'd kiss the spot where Bradley Cooper sat," Joanne Larkin said, "so I did." Yuk.

"Actually," she confessed, "I just kissed my fingers and touched the seat."

The diner, one of two local eateries that held Oscar parties to celebrate Upper Darby's major role in the award-winning film, offered a free buffet and champagne starting at 8 p.m. for as many guests as could fit without breaking the fire code that set the limit at 84.

The other, Cawley's Irish Pub, was equally packed for the night. Both attracted scores of extras from the movie and locals who had watched Hollywood's magic wand cast a brief spell over the Philadelphia suburb.

Although the restaurants' owners cranked up the volume on the television sets to the max, over the laughter, talk, and clatter of dishes, it was nearly impossible to hear the award ceremonies. Tomato pie, hot pork sandwiches, chicken marsala, cake, Twizzlers, and pasta trumped the red-carpet chat, host Seth McFarlane's monologue, and most of the winners' speeches.

Roars, however, burst through the restaurants any time the Silver Linings' stars appeared on the small screen.

"It feels like we're in a dream," said Michele Mammele, who works at Episcopal Academy and who had come with her extended family to the diner for the night.

The dream certainly came true for Lawrence, who was named best actress.

The diner's owner, Mike Mihos, had planned a black-tie event. "You got to give back," said Mihos, who said that since the film's release, his business was up by at least 15 percent, and that he was making a fair profit on the T-shirts and mugs he sells with the Silver Linings tag.

More than half of the patrons ignored the dress code. Jim Mclaughlin, who lives two blocks away and is a friend of the woman who makes the "homemades" pasta referred to in the film, came dressed in sweats and a black trash bag - in honor of Cooper's running outfit.

Mary Susan Reilly, an assistant librarian from Upper Darby, came in a sparkling silver gown. The last time she'd worn it was at her daughter's wedding five years ago.

Mammele put on some of her almost finest. Having recently fractured her foot in a line-dancing class, she'd wrapped her walking cast with Mardi Gras beads.

"I might as well bedazzle it!" she said.

She and her family landed the booth next to the Larkins - inches from the very same padded benches and Formica table in the Llanerch Diner where Cooper and Lawrence have their non-date in the movie.

That scene, over a bowl of cereal and a cup of tea, promises to endure in the long afterglow of cinematic fame with the Katz's Delicatessen table where Meg Ryan faked an orgasm in When Harry Met Sally.

Pilgrimages are made daily to the Llanerch Diner booth, reported Richard Hernandez, the general manager. "The other day, a couple of college girls waited 45 minutes to sit there. And we've had people drive up from Florida."

Raisin Bran has been selling like crazy, too. "We keep running out," Mihos said.

The silver trays of penne and chicken had emptied by the time the supporting actor award was announced.

"Booo!!!!" the crowd cried when Robert De Niro was passed over, beaten by Christoph Waltz for his role in Django Unchained.

"What's that movie?" Janice Aruffo, a regular at the diner huffed. "Tango What?"

Contact Melissa Dribben at 215-854-2590 or mdribben@philllynews.com.

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