Category: fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe

SEPTEMBER 21: Fannie Flagg (1944-)

Happy birthday to Fannie Flagg!! The
lesbian actress, comedian, and author most well-known for her hit novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café turns
73-years-old today!

Fannie Flagg photographed by Andrew Southam in January of 2017 (x).

Patricia Neal was born on
September 21, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama (the name Fannie Flagg was to come
later!). Her family was comfortably middle class, with her father owning a small
business in Birmingham and affording the family trips to the Gulf Coast in the
summer. It was her father who encouraged Fannie to pursue writing and
performing when she was young, which lead her to writing her first play at just
10-years-old. As a contestant in the Miss Alabama pageant, she won a
scholarship to acting school which later allowed her to book a job as a co-host
of a local television show. After the station denied Fannie a pay raise, she quit,
took on the stage name Fannie Flagg, and moved to New York hoping to make it as
an actress.

Living in New York in the 1960s,
Fannie wrote comedy skits for the nightclub Upstairs Downtown. One fateful
night, she was spotted by a television producer after one of the regular
performers took sick and Fannie was tapped to replace her that night. Soon, she
was hired as a staff writer for that same producer’s series Candid
Camera
. In the 1970s, her acting dreams finally came true and she made appearences on several game shows, the popular series The New Dick Van
Dyke Show
, and off-Broadway productions such as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Her first novel, Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, was
published in 1981. The semi-autobiographical novel stayed on the New York Times’s bestseller list for 10
weeks and put the name Fannie Flagg on the map. Her most famous book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café,
was published six years later in 1987.

When Fried Green Tomatoes was made into a film in 1991, Fannie was
allowed to adapt the story to screenplay. The gig garnered her an Academy Award
nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay the same year. Although Fannie has been
secretive about her personal life, she is an out lesbian and had a public
relationship with the iconic activist and writer Rita Mae Brown in the late
1970s. To date, she has released a total of 10 books. Her latest, The Whole Town’s Talking, came out in November of 2016. 

-LC

AUGUST 12: Fried Green Tomatoes is published (1987)

Published on this day in 1987, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg is an
oft-overlooked and sanitized classic of lesbian literature. Weaving across time,
the novel follows a bored 1980s housewife by the name of Evelyn Couch as she
rediscovers her passion for life through hearing the tales of two women who unapologetically
lived and love in 1930s Alabama.

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While visiting her mother-in-law at the Rose Terrace Nursing
Home, Evelyn Couch meets an old woman named Ninny Threadgoode. Dealing with her
own issues of depression and loneliness, Evelyn ignores the chatty
Mrs. Threadgoode’s old stories at first, but with visit after visit she slowly
but surely gets drawn in by the stories of Mrs. Threadgoode’s hometown of
Whistle Stop, Alabama, the beloved long-gone Whistle Stop Café, and the love
story of the two women who ran it – Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison. Taken
in by the Threadgoode family from a young age, Ninny was given a front seat
view of a decades-spanning drama; after her big brother is unexpectedly killed,
tomboy Idgie is consumed by grief. It is only when an out-of-towner named Ruth
Jamison comes to stay with the family  that Idgie is shaken out of
her sadness and dives headfirst into a love affair with Ruth. Before long, Ruth
is forced to return home to Valdosta, Georgia and fulfill her promise of
marrying the wealthy Frank Bennett, but once Idgie discovers that Ruth is being abused by her new husband, Ruth is rescued and Frank Bennett mysteriously goes missing.

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Although the words “lesbian” or “gay” are never used in the
novel, it is obvious from the story that Idgie and Ruth are a couple; from the
multiple “I love you”s to the fact that they raise a child together, the novel
doesn’t waste time grappling with the idea of lesbians in the 1930s or going
over the obvious homophobia they must have faced, but instead gives readers a nostalgic
and endearing love story. When the novel was adapted into an Academy Award
winning movie in 1991, the writers left in all the intriguing bits of death,
murder, and depression, but Idgie and Ruth were gal pal-ed hard. In the film, the writers changed the story where Ruth was the grieving girlfriend of Buddy Threadgoode – the dead older brother – and Idgie
was constantly turning down marriage proposals by the good ole’ country boys
who just couldn’t get over the fact that she ~wasn’t life the other girls.
Today, it is this version of the story that is most remembered and cherished by
audiences and although the true, lesbian version of Fried
Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
has been forgotten and buried under
the legacy of its sanitized film adaptation, this only further proves the old
saying: the book is always better than the movie.

-LC