In 'Harry Met Sally' salute, New York deli contest invites all to 'have what she's having'

NEW YORK (Reuters) – It was the orgasm heard around the world.

In the 1989 movie “When Harry Met Sally,” actor Meg Ryan’s loud rendition of a woman faking a climax while seated at a New York deli stands as one of the most memorable moments in film history.

Katz’s, the deli where the scene took place, is running a contest on Friday to mark the 30th anniversary of the movie’s release, inviting anyone who wants to “have what she’s having” to sit at the same table in the Lower East Side landmark and imitate Ryan’s famously feigned frenzy.

Popular with New Yorkers since its founding in 1888, the family-run business specializing in enormous corned beef and pastrami sandwiches became an international tourist spot after the film.

Competitors in Katz’s contest, whether female, male or otherwise, will have to record their performances, post the videos online, and wait for a panel of social media influencers to pick a winner, to be announced next week, the deli said.

The most famous line in the scene belongs to another deli customer, a middle-aged woman who watches Ryan’s table-pounding performance in awe and tells a waiter: “I’ll have what she’s having.”

The line, delivered by director Rob Reiner’s late mother Estelle Reiner, ranks No.33 in the American Film Institute’s list of all-time top 100 movie quotations, just behind “Round up the usual suspects” from “Casablanca.” (Ranked No.1 was Rhett Butler’s immortal line from “Gone With The Wind”: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”)

The appeal of Ryan’s performance is the way her character humbles her over-confident companion Harry, played by Billy Crystal, who insists women never faked orgasms with him.

“It’s just that all men are sure it never happened to them and most women at one time or another have done it, so you do the math,” she says. When Harry insists he surely would have been able to tell the difference, she begins fake moaning, building to loud cries of imitation ecstasy.

“Meg Ryan was so convincing – like an ego-busting butcher,” Ben Mankiewicz, a host on the Turner Classic Movies television channel, told Reuters in an email. “Men everywhere stopped kidding themselves after experiencing that scene.”

For Mankiewicz, what makes the scene work so well is Ryan’s sudden downshift after her moaning ends, when her expression morphs from one of pure pleasure to a sly “gotcha” smile that tells Harry that any woman is fully capable of faking it.

“‘I got you. And you know I got you. And now you’re questioning every single intimate moment you’ve ever had,’” Mankiewicz said. “It’s the greatest mic drop in movie history.”

Additional reporting by Alicia Powell in New York; editing by Bill Berkrot


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