Boogie’s Birdseye Jacket and ’57 Chevy in Diner

Mickey Rourke as "Boogie" in Diner (1982).

Mickey Rourke as “Boogie” in Diner (1982).

Vitals

Mickey Rourke as Robert “Boogie” Sheftell, part-time law student, hair stylist, and degenerate gambler

Baltimore, Christmas 1959

Film: Diner
Release Date: March 5, 1982
Director: Barry Levinson
Costume Designer: Gloria Gresham

Background

This Car Week segment ends with a holiday-focused look at the ’57 Chevy driven by Mickey Rourke in Diner.

Praised by an astute IMDB reviewer as “a thinking man’s version of American Graffiti,” Diner follows a group of high school buddies reconnecting in their Baltimore hometown during the last week of 1959. The Christmas backdrop contributes heavily to the nostalgia of the final days of the decade preceding the tumultuous ’60s as each friend realizes the different directions that his life is taking.

Diner is a very entertaining exploration of the significance of immaturity and growth, propelled by witty dialogue and dynamic characters played by then-rising stars Kevin Bacon, Ellen Barkin, TIm Daly, Steve Guttenberg, Paul Reiser, Mickey Rourke, and Daniel Stern.

The diner itself that the gang frequents was the Fell’s Point Diner, originally located at West Rogers Avenue and Reisterstown Road in Woodmere, a neighborhood northwest of both Baltimore and the historic Fell’s Point waterfront neighborhood from which the diner takes its name.

What’d He Wear?

Boogie has arguably the most unique wardrobe of his group of friends with era-defining threads like a dark leather bomber jacket, brown tanker jacket, and gray atomic fleck sport coat that establish him as the group’s de facto “bad boy”. As Barry Levinson’s original screenplay noted:

Boogie is something of a "Dandy," flashier in dress than others in his crowd.

Boogie’s first on-screen outfit, worn for a Christmas dance and the following hours spent at the diner, is centered around a maroon birdseye wool single-breasted sport jacket. The distinctive pattern is a large-scaled birdseye weave created by dark maroon yarns woven over the lighter tan yarn. Smaller-scaled birdseye weaves often appear solid from a distance, but the large scale weave of Boogie’s jacket adds an interesting texture.

Yes, Mickey Rourke once looked like this. It was a long time ago.

Yes, Mickey Rourke once looked like this. It was a long time ago.

The maroon birdseye jacket has moderately slim notch lapels that roll down to the two-button front. The styling is typical for a late ’50s jacket with padded shoulders, single back vent, and two buttons spaced out on each cuff. The straight jetted hip pockets may have flaps that often just tuck into the jacket (and a devil-may-care type like Boogie wouldn’t give a damn either way), but he makes the most of his breast pocket by puffing out a red printed silk display kerchief with tan stripes.

Boogie's conspiratorial attitude may be a natural byproduct of his frequent conspiring.

Boogie’s conspiratorial attitude may be a natural byproduct of his frequent conspiring. Just a theory.

With his frequent gambling and consorting with shifty loan sharks with names like Tank (whoa!) and Bagel (oh…), Boogie is the closest to being a gangster within his group of friends, and he certainly dresses the part with his dark monochrome jacket and shirt, contrasted by a lighter-colored tie. His button-down dress shirt is solid maroon with white mother-of-pearl buttons up the front placket, buttoning down the slim collar points, and on each cuff.

Boogie’s tan silk tie has a pink-ish hue (or a rosy glow, as some would say). It nicely calls out the jacket and shirt with stripes of maroon diamonds that alternate with beige and black diamonds.

Fenwick may be fading after a night of drinking and diner-ing, but Boogie is still going strong the next morning.

Fenwick may be fading after a night of drinking and diner-ing, but Boogie is still going strong the next morning.

Boogie wears very dark brown flat front trousers, supported by a small gold square buckle. The bottoms are slightly flared and finished with turn-ups.

DINER

Boogie’s shoes call back the complexity of his jacket and tie. Seen most clearly in a dark nighttime scene, they appear to be tan basket weave spectator oxfords with a contrasting burgundy brown leather apron/moc-toe and closed, balmoral-style facing with four eyelets for burgundy laces. His dark socks are likely a dark shade of brown to continue the leg line from trouser into shoe.

Boogie admires the realistic effects from Fenwick's bottle of Heinz.

Boogie admires the realistic effects from Fenwick’s bottle of Heinz. (I think he actually uses Campbell’s brand of ketchup, but Pittsburghers like me can’t abide anything but Heinz.)

As Diner is set during a long, chilly December evening in Baltimore, Boogie supplements his outfit with an overcoat, scarf, and – occasionally – brown leather lined gloves. His single-breasted topcoat is dark brown wool and falls to above his knees. The slim notch lapels roll to the top of a three-button front, which he typically leaves open, with a long single vent in the back. The hip pockets are flapped and there appear to be two buttons on each cuff.

DINER

Possibly the yield from a lucky gambling streak or an investment designed to attract female attention, Boogie drapes a luxurious ivory scarf around his neck. The scarf is possibly cashmere or pashmina and has short fraying on the edges.

If Fenwick was actually hurt, is Boogie the type of friend that would sacrifice his luxurious scarf to help his bloody pal?

If Fenwick was actually hurt, is Boogie the type of friend that would sacrifice his luxurious scarf to help his bloody pal?

Throughout Diner, Boogie consistently wears a thin gold necklace chain with a gold ring pendant. It is clearly part of his outfit, even worn underneath the buttoned-down collar of his shirt. No mention of this jewelry was made in the original screenplay, and the closest thing I could find online was a reference to Rourke wearing a custom-made pendant to commemorate the life of his recently deceased 17-year-old chihuahua, Roki, in 2009.

Any idea what's up with that ring?

Any idea what’s up with that ring?

Boogie wears his pinky ring more conventionally by actually sporting it on his finger. It is a thick gold ring with a small round red stone, worn on his left pinky. Also on his left hand, he wears a gold identity bracelet around his wrist.

Or this ring, for that matter.

Or this ring, for that matter.

Go Big or Go Home

Eddie: When you’re making out, which do you prefer, Sinatra or Mathis?
Boogie: Presley.

Given his taste in music and the time of year, the perfect album to bring out your inner Boogie is the aptly titled Elvis’ Christmas Album, released in October 1957 and just in time for a musically brilliant Christmas season that also saw the release of A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra (which would be Eddie’s clear favorite). America agrees with Boogie, however, as Elvis’ Christmas Album remains the best-selling holiday album in the U.S. even sixty years after its release with more than 10 million copies sold.

Elvis’ Christmas Album leads with the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller-penned blues number “Santa Claus Is Back in Town,” also memorably used to introduce Geena Davis’ character in The Long Kiss Goodnight.

Other Christmas tunes that feature in Diner are a double dose of Chuck Berry’s 1958 holiday favorites: the energetic rock hit “Run Rudolph Run” and the bluesier “Merry Christmas Baby”. When driving Modell (Paul Reiser) after the Christmas dance, Boogie keeps the rockabilly flowing in his car with Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

How to Get the Look

dinerboogie1-cropBoogie dresses to impress and finds a way to incorporate the traditional reddish tones of the holidays into a distinctive outfit that says so much about him and his place in the ’50s.

  • Maroon birdseye wool single-breasted 2-button sport coat with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight jetted hip pockets, spaced 2-button cuffs, and single vent
  • Maroon shirt with slim button-down collar, front placket, and 1-button cuffs
  • Tan silk tie with printed maroon, beige, and black diamond-patterned stripes
  • Dark brown wool flat front trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
  • Dark brown leather belt with small square gold buckle
  • Burgundy brown leather & tan basket weave 4-eyelet moc-toe spectator oxfords
  • Dark brown dress socks
  • Dark brown wool single-breasted 3-button topcoat with flapped hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single vent
  • Ivory cashmere (or pashmina) wool scarf with frayed edges
  • Gold chain-link ID bracelet, worn on left wrist
  • Gold cluster pinky ring with small round red stone, worn on left pinky
  • Gold ring, worn on a very thin gold necklace

An extra dose of holiday red comes from the bright red silk display kerchief poking out of Boogie’s breast pocket.

The Car

The script called for a “cherry and white DeSoto,” but when Diner made it to the big screen, Boogie’s ride was a classic black 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door sedan. One of the most instantly recognizable in a decade full of iconic automobiles, the Bel Air was considered one of Chevy’s iconic pack of “Tri-Fives” produced from 1955-1957. A ’57 Bel Air was previously featured on BAMF Style when taking a look at the black two-door convertible that James Bond commandeered from an ineffective assassin in Dr. No.

Boogie's Bel Air during one of his many late nights.

Boogie’s Bel Air during one of his many late nights.

Chevrolet had first introduced the Bel Air model in 1949, but four-door sedans didn’t appear with the moniker until 1953, two years before the iconic second generation redesign that GM knowingly marketed as the “Hot One,” well aware of the external appeal of the Italian-styled grille and the internal draw of its innovative V8 engines.

Prior to the 1955 redesign, the last Chevrolet to be fitted with a V8 engine was the 1917 Series D, although the 36 horsepower produced by that car’s engine could hardly be considered competition for even a V8-powered car in the 1930s. Two-door models like the sport coupes and convertibles are the most sought after of the “Tri-Five” Bel Airs, but four-door options included a station wagon, the pillarless sport sedan, and the hardtop sedan (model #2403) that Boogie drove in Diner.

1957 Chevrolet Bel Air

dinerboogie1-car2Body Style: 4-door pillared hardtop sedan

Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)

Engine: 283 cubic inch (4.6 L) “Turbo Fire” V8 with Rochester twin-barrel carburetor

Power: 185 hp (138 kW; 188 PS) @ 4600 rpm

Torque: 275 lb·ft (373 N·m) @ 2400 rpm

Transmission: 2-speed Powerglide automatic

Wheelbase: 115 inches (2921 mm)

Length: 200 inches (5080 mm)

Width: 73.9 inches (1877 mm)

Height: 59.9 inches (1521 mm)

Boogie’s car, fitted with vintage Maryland license plates FX-41-89, is recognizable as an automatic transmission car when the column shifter is seen stuck in Park during several scenes where the car is supposedly “driving”. It’s likely the two-speed Powerglide transmission, but the three-speed Turboglide constant torque transmission was also a popular automatic option, introduced in 1957.

Fenwick and Boogie pull up beside Jane Chisholm. (Like the trail.)

Fenwick and Boogie pull up beside Jane Chisholm. (Like the trail.)

According to a commenter, “VinnyDaQ”, at CarsForSell.org, the car was originally meant to be a yellow taxi in the film but the producers were so impressed by the condition of the ’57 Bel Air that they used it as Boogie’s car, swapping out the scripted DeSoto.

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Buy the movie… and offer to give Paul Reiser a ride home even if he doesn’t come out and ask for it.

The Quote

If you don’t have good dreams, you got nightmares.

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