Recently, while watching a favorite film of mine, Ron Howard’s Night Shift (1982)—about a pair of unlikely “love brokers” in early eighties New York City—I had an epiphany. Specifically, this moment of clarity occurred during an early scene when Shelley Long’s character Belinda, a gorgeous and statuesque hooker with a heart of gold, scrambles up some eggs for her neighbor down the hall, nebbish nerd Chuck, played by Henry Winkler. “How do you like your eggs,” she asks? “Scrambled,” he replies. “Of course. Men love scrambled,” she smiles knowingly, based on her copious amounts of experience in matters concerning men.
Let me back up a New York minute. You see, sweet and kind Belinda swings by uptight worrywart Chuck’s apartment because she realizes they both work the night shift—she turns tricks while he’s catching up on his reading down at the city morgue. They’d met previously, but this is the moment where they really connect, and sparks fly. Belinda cheerfully suggests they could have breakfast together every day since they work the same shifts. Chuck, who happens to be engaged to a neurotic and unloving woman, is already falling in love. And that’s before Belinda doffed her robe to reveal nothing underneath but a half shirt and polka dot bikini briefs. Chuck, and an entire generation who discovered this film in the early to mid eighties are utterly smitten.
There, in Chuck’s kitchen, countless Gen Xers witnessed Diane Chambers from Cheers, wearing just her underwear, whipping up eggs for Happy Days’s Fonzie. I was probably nine or ten when I first saw the movie, and this scene was easily one of the most formative movie moments of my young life. And it wasn’t just those polka dot briefs! Long is endearingly winsome in the role. She exudes warmth, making it nearly impossible not to fall for her as Belinda. It’s a lovely performance.
So, back to that epiphany I mentioned three paragraphs ago. I now firmly believe there are two kinds of people in this world: people who were the exact right age to watch Shelley Long bending over in her undies to ignite that gas stove, and people who were not. It’s that simple. People my age who grew up on eighties movies and cable television (shout-out to New York’s WPIX) are the former, while the latter will never understand. Ask any Gen Xer to tell you where they were the first time they saw Shelley Long cooking up eggs in her skivvies and they can probably give you a detailed answer. I was lying on my stomach on my parents’ bed, sneak-watching an R-rated movie on their TV while they were downstairs. See? Told you.
Shelley Long didn’t just ignite Chuck’s gas stove—she ignited our hearts and, um, uh, other things, too. If you know what I mean, and I think you do. Childhood crushes tend to be everlasting, which explains why just conjuring the mental image of that scene is still enough to make me sweat and stammer, just like Chuck when he’s around Belinda.
Ever since that first viewing of Night Shift, scrambled eggs always remind me of that time in the eighties when Shelly Long scrambled up my adolescent heart in a tiny kitchen in a New York apartment. She was right all along—men really do love scrambled.