In the 1972 film ‘Butterflies Are Free’, a curious exchange takes place in a clothing store. Jill Tanner (Goldie Hawn) has taken her blind neighbour Don Baker (Edward Albert) out to buy some new clothes: “I’d love to pick out something really wild for you,” she tells him. The pair set out into San Francisco, and soon pass a trendy clothes shop: “let’s go in here, they’ve got wild things,” exclaims Jill, and in they go.
The owner of the shop, wearing a fetching pair of red trousers and a pink vest top, comes over to help. Jill introduces the shop owner to Don as “Mr Asparagus”, but that is not his name. His name is Roy Stratton.
Here’s the exchange:
Found anything yet?
Don, this is Mr Asparagus.
No, my name is Roy Stratton. The shop is called Asparagus. I named it that ‘cos I always think of asparagus as being a friendly vegetable. I mean, you might see one potato, or one onion, or one corn, but you never see one asparagus, they come in bunches, they’re involved.
You never see one pea.
Well I don’t like peas.
I think this is the first and only time I’ve seen asparagus used as a metaphor, or properly discussed on the silver screen. The screenplay was by Leonard Gershe, who also wrote the play upon which the film was based. As soon as I can, I’ll check the play to see whether the asparagus conversation occurred on stage, or whether it was penned specially for the film.