News Column

'Nighthawks': The parodies

February 20, 2014

By Robert Philpot, Fort Worth Star-Telegram



Feb. 20--It only features four people, in a sparse setting, but Edward Hopper's Nighthawks is one of the best-known paintings of the 20th century. All of which makes Nighthawks ripe for tribute -- and parody.

And thanks to social-media photo sites like Pinterest and Flickr, wow, have the parodies exploded.

It's hard to tell the amateur tributes from the "official" ones, because so many of the unofficial ones are so good (we've lost track of all the Star Wars ones). But here are some of official ones -- and this is still just a partial list. For more of our favorites, check out the slideshow above. (And in case you missed them, check out our story on late-night dining in DFW, and a little background on the original Hopper painting. There's also this fun interactive graphic of our cover image for this week, click, zoom and pan!)

Boulevard of Broken Dreams: Perhaps the most famous Nighthawks homage is this 1984 painting by Gottfried Helnwein that depicts Elvis behind the counter of a late-night diner where James Dean (sitting solo), Humphrey Bogart and Marilyn Monroe have stopped in for late-night fare. Dean looks at the viewer, unlike the solo figure in Hopper's original; Elvis is also facing the viewer, and Bogey and Marilyn appear to be having a moment. This was reproduced as a popular poster, and inspired Green Day's song Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

The Simpsons: The long-running animated series has spoofed practically everything in pop culture, so a Nighthawks parody was inevitable: It features Homer as the solo (d'oh!) diner, scarfing a mountain of doughnuts, pants not entirely doing their job; Chief Wiggums and Mrs. Krabapple as the man and woman; and a generic character behind the counter, where coffee urns have been replaced by soft-drink machines. Simpsons creator Matt Groening is apparently a big Nighthawks fan; a Nighthawks scene was featured in the episode "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment," and an edition of Futurama Comics features the comic's characters at the similar "Microverse Diner."

Muppets/Sesame Street: Although we can't find immediate evidence of the Sesame Street show spoofing Nighthawks, parodies of the painting have cropped up several times in Sesame Street media, beginning with a 1990 image of Cookie Monster at the counter of (Mr.) Hooper's Store in the 1990 coloring book Museum of Monster Art.

Santa Cafe: A set of Christmas cards depicts a tired Santa Claus and several weary-looking reindeer at a late-night diner. Added touch: The analog clock showing that it's 4 a.m. (They're finished? Isn't it midnight someplace else?)

Peanuts: The opening panel of a Sunday strip shows Woodstock and several similar birds at the diner.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: One of CBS' print promos for the hit series featured the entire cast at a diner much like the Nighthawks one -- except that coffee urns have been replaced by slot machines and the guy with his back to the viewer is slumped on the counter and bleeding.

Pennies From Heaven: The 1981 Steve Martin movie features a diner scene modeled after Nighthawks in which Martin and Bernadette Peters (a redhead, like the woman in the painting) have a downbeat conversation at the counter.

Glengarry Glen Ross: The movie version features a scene in "Zanni's Luncheonette," and although it shows the diner at a different angle; Ed Harris and Alan Arkin talking at a booth, not a counter; and a rainier, busier street outside, it's an obvious nod to Nighthawks, especially in the exterior shots.

The End of Violence: Wim Wenders' somewhat muddled 1997 meditation on violence includes a scene filmed in a diner similar to the Nighthawks diner. It's briefly visible around the 2-minute mark of the movie's trailer, which is on YouTube.

Tom Waits: If there's any musician Nighthawks calls to mind, it's Waits, and his 1975 live album Nighthawks at the Diner was reportedly inspired by the painting (Waits went as far as to set up a nightclub in the studio and invite an audience in for his late-night journey).

Whitney Museum of American Art: In 2013, when the Whitney featured Nighthawks as part of a "Hopper Drawing" exhibit, it erected a 3D version of the painting at New York's Flatiron Prow Artspace.

Pearls Before Swine: One of the book collections of Stephan Patsis' offbeat comic strip is titled Nighthogs, with a cover featuring a rat behind the counter, a pig and a zebra sitting together, and another pig solo.

Banksy: The street artist/prankster did his own Nighthawks in 2005, with the original characters distracted by the soccer hooligan outside, who's standing shirtless and in Union Jack boxer shorts after breaking the window, apparently with a couple of plastic chairs.

http://www.helnwein.com; Lightbox; Nighthawks Forever; tvtropes; Amazon.com; YouTube; AllMusic.com; Huffington Post; Mental Floss

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Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)


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