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‘Five Easy Pieces’ waitress dies at 85

Lorna Thayer famed for ‘hold the chicken’ exchange
/ Source: The Associated Press

Actress Lorna Thayer, the waitress who memorably refused to let Jack Nicholson order toast in the 1970 movie “Five Easy Pieces,” died June 4 at the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She was 85.

Her career spanned 40 years during which she appeared in more than 40 motion pictures and had dozens of guest roles on television shows. Most of her work, however, consisted of bit parts. She often was cast in movies credited only as “flower vendor,” “warden” or “suntan lady,” although she co-starred in the 1956 horror cult favorite “The Beast With a Million Eyes.”

It was her testy exchange with Nicholson’s character, Bobby Dupea, that made movie history.

The trouble starts when Dupea tries to order wheat toast, which isn’t included with the omelet he wants. After trying repeatedly to get around the diner’s “no substitutions” policy, he finally tells Thayer’s increasingly annoyed waitress to bring him a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast and to hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise and the chicken.

When she asks him sarcastically, “You want me to hold the chicken, huh?” he replies, “I want you to hold it between your knees” and sends everything on his table crashing to the floor.